11 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

I just came across this awesome article : 11 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries.  How inspiring!  It combines my two passions – travel and reading.

I tried to visit the famous Biblioteca Vasconcelos when I was in Mexico City back in December, but due to Mexico’s devout Catholic presence most public buildings are closed between Christmas and New Years.  Oh well, guess I will just have to plan another trip!  How amazing would it be to travel the world in search of the best libraries and bookstores?

Check out the pics below (and you can read the full story on POPSUGAR) – have you been lucky enough to visit any of these awe-inspiring places?

Stockholm-Public-Library-Sweden

Stockholm Public Library, Sweden

Boston-Public-Library-MA

Boston Public Library, MA

Biblioteca-Vasconcelos-Mexico

Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City

New-York-Public-Library-NY

New York Public Library

Library-Parliament-Canada

The Library of Parliament, Canada

Admont-Abbey-Library-Austria

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

(Ok there’s no way this one WASN’T the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast, amirite?)

San-Diego-Central-Library-CA

San Diego Central Library, CA

Handelingenkamer-Netherlands

Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

Adelaide-City-Library-Australia

Adelaide City Library, Australia

Leeds-Library-England

The Leeds Library, England

Beinecke-Rare-Book-Manuscript-Library-CT

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, CT

Advertisement

SURF(Liner)IN’ USA

   
Oh heyyyyy!  I’m writing to you from aboard the Amtrak Surfliner train from LA to San Diego.  Sorry for my slowness in posts of late; I attribute it to a cray work life plus an excess of weekend adventures – gathering plenty of fun content I’ll share soon.

Speaking of adventures, remind me why I ever drive anywhere?  I visit SD fairly frequently, but this is my first time riding the Surfliner.  It’s as nice as any European train I’ve ridden, PLUS they serve Stone IPA in the cafe car👌🏻.  And at $37 each way it might not make sense for a big crew, but it’s more than reasonable for rolling solo (as I currently am).  Round trip would be just a touch above a tank of gas but with the added advantages of cruising free wifi, reading a book (obviously), & enjoying a cold beer.  Solo adventure win.

If public transportation were easier in LA, I would take the train way more.  Do you take the train to get around where you live? I would love to know!

THE GREAT DEBATE // Hotel or Airbnb?

Airbnb Tulum 1

When planning a new trip, one of the chief decisions you’ll likely need to make is where to call home throughout your travels (unless you’re some kind of sleep/shower-defying rebel ninja).  In my early adventure days, I was ’bout that hostel lyfe as much as the next guy.  But since the rise of Airbnb and other vacation rental sites, it’s now easier and more affordable than ever to dream a bit bigger.  Now each time I travel, there’s the internal debate between staying in a hotel or renting a private home.  And while hotels are generally considered the more “convenient” alternative, I’ve found that rentals usually provide a lot more bang for your buck.

Setting aside any political leanings (because I don’t have any), I’m a big proponent of Airbnb and other vacation rental sites.  I’ve rented digs in domestic cities like New York, Austin, and Portland, as well in reaches as far as Croatia, France, and even Cambodia.  I’ve often found that for the same rate (or less) of the average hotel room, you’re afforded way more in terms of space, privacy, and amenities.  Take, for example, our stupid amazing lodgings from Tulum this past spring.  For less than a room in a nearby hotel, we had our own 2 br/2b HOUSE.  Sure, we had to drive to the beach, but whatever, we had our own POOL!

If money were no object, maybe I’d opt for hotels more often.  After all, when you’ve travelled hundreds or thousands of miles from home and are feeling jetlagged, sticky, and hungry, it’s pretttttty gratifying to wrap yourself up in a fluffy white bathrobe and order room service.  And without that handy concierge and housekeeping, you’ll have to fend for yourself in terms of getting around, doing laundry, finding food, making the bed…you get the drift.  However, there’s something about the more local experience of rentals that really can’t be paralleled.  I love the feeling of a “home” away from home that I don’t share with hundreds of strangers.  I like having a kitchen – or at least the OPTION of a kitchen (I might not cook but the full-size fridge sure is handy for beer).  If your host is super legit, you’ll often get the guidance and amenities that you’d find in a hotel (neighborhood tips, snacks, in some cases a MOTORBIKE – true story) thrown in fo’ FREE.  And above all, I relish in the challenge that comes with navigating new territory; the validation that comes from just getting somewhere and figuring it out.  Sure, I’ve gotten lost…a lot…but aren’t the best gems always off the beaten path?

What kind of traveller are you: A posh hotel dweller?  Or an Airbnb adventurer?

Airbnb Tulum 5Airbnb Tulum 3Airbnb Tulum VignetteAirbnb Tulum 10Airbnb Tulum 9Airbnb Tulum 4

Mesh swimsuit by Topshop. Lace top by Lovers + Friends. Vintage Levis shorts.  Black dress by Reformation.

(Somewhere Over the) RAINBOW SHELF

Just bought a great new bookshelf and made a little weekend project out of organizing it.  Here’s a section in progress – recognize any of your favorite titles?

And real talk to my book blogging homies – guys, how do you organize your shelves?  Is it by color, author, genre, series…? This rainbow theme make me SO HAPPY but I had to split some of the series up, which gives me anxiety…what if they miss each other??

Hope you’re all having an awesome week xx

Photo from my Instagram.  Let’s be insta-friends!

HOW TO // Make Cold Brew Coffee

Cold Brew Coffee Vacation Mode

Trying something new on the ole’ site this week – video! I love web videos so thought I’d try my hand at some content of my own, with the help of some badass friends.

In this vid I’ll walk you through the steps to making cold brew coffee.  Ah, cold brew…that smooth, rich, refreshing delight that blows your boring iced coffee out of the water.  Coffee that is cold-brewed has a lower acidity than coffee brewed with hot water, plus the taste is incredibly robust/awesome.  Ever wonder how your local café makes it so delicious? The trick is in the timing – and it honestly couldn’t be EASIER to do at home.  Here I’ll show you how to make the perfect cold brew in just 5 steps – mix it up, grab a book, and let the clock work its wonders.

It would mean the world to me if you clicked “play” and gave it a little watch.

Continue reading

COBA Coolness

Coba Ruins

So much content captured from Mexico, so little time. The ruins of Coba are a quick, fun, easy daytrip from Tulum town, and truly spectacular to behold (if you’re into the whole ancient ruin thing).  Hop in your rental car, turn west and you should arrive in under an hour.  If not, you may have a worse sense of direction than me – there’s one convenient main road almost the entire journey, with clear signage pointing you along the way.

Tips:

– This is a no-brainer for most fully-functioning adults but when setting out from Tulum, make sure you have a full tank of gas.  If nothing but for the peace of mind…there are zero gas stations between Tulum and Coba.  We found ourselves running mysteriously low and had a very anxious last few miles.  There are stations in Tulum town and another right outside Coba.

– Don’t buy dreamcatchers or souvenirs in Tulum town. Wait for your Coba excursion day and stop at the many stands lining the highway along the way.  Beautiful housewares and other trinkets from Mayan artisans abound, with lower prices than what you’ll find in town.  They’re so legit, you might actually spot one of the ladies weaving dreamcatchers as you shop.

– Same goes for food: stop for lunch at one of the roadside spots set up along the way and enjoy a true local experience (not that they’re not catered to tourists – but you will probably be the only ones there). Our lunch spot of choice consisted of an outdoor grill, a couple of rickety tables, and some cute pooches to keep us company.   When I ordered a beer, the guy taking our order ran to the convenience store across the street to buy it. The food tasted as fresh as if they owners had raised the chicken, lettuce, and beans in their backyard – no info on if that’s actually true.

– Once you reach Coba, spring the extra few bucks to rent a bike or opt for one of the pedicabs they offer, otherwise you’ll spend a majority of the day hoofing it from site to site.  You may think you’re being cheap/lazy until you actually start out on the path and realize how truly vast the ancient city is.  It you come in the morning and have a few hours ahead of you, then a leisurely jungle hike probably makes for a nice day. However, our too-relaxed selves showed up with limited to spare before closing.  Our driver (cycler?) was very informative so we learned a lot about each individual ruin we visited.

– Climb the pyramid.  Coba is one of the only Mayan ruins that you can still climb.  Just do it – you can clock your cardio to justify extra margs later, and the 360-degree view of the surrounding jungle is unmissable.

Coba 16Coba 14Coba 6Coba 7Coba 8 Coba 9Coba 11Coba 12Coba 13Coba 2Coba 3Coba 5Coba 4Coba 1

Dress by Nasty Gal.  Teva sandals.

EL GRAN CENOTE

Gran Cenote 13

If you’re planning a trip to the Mayan Riviera, make sure you make time to visit at least one of the famed cenotes that are native to the area.  Cenotes are limestone sinkholes – stunning natural wonders that formed a gajillion or so years ago from an intricate system of subterranean rivers.  Erosion and other elements caused the earth above parts of these rivers to cave in over time, exposing this mysterious underground ecosystem to our world in the form of gorgeous, mineral-rich swimming holes.

Located less than 10 minutes from town and easy to spot from the freeway, El Gran Cenote is an absolute no-brainer for anyone visiting Tulum.  Entrance is 150 pesos per person, with an additional 80 pesos for snorkel gear rental (scuba tours are also offered).  All in all you’ll pay the equivalent $15 US for a pretty priceless experience.

Once past the entrance, you walk a few yards inland along a little sandy path with well-manicured gardens.  As you approach, the cenote reveals itself sunken deep into the earth.  Gazing down from above, it’s kind of wild to see this shockingly blue amazingness that lies just beneath the ground at your feet.  Once you descend the manmade platform into the water, you’re greeted by a labyrinth of mind-boggling underground caves, stalactites and stalagmites, bats, birds, little fish and turtles…exploring a cenote can make you feel privy to some secret place that’s not of this world.  But that’s probably just the nerdgirl in me talking.

Gran Cenote 18Gran Cenote 2Gran Cenote 17
Gran Cenote 12 d
Gran Cenote 7Gran Cenote 15
Gran Cenote 11Gran Cenote 13Gran Cenote 16Gran Cenote 4Gran Cenote 10Gran Cenote 6Gran Cenote 3Gran Cenote 9

TULUM GUIDE Pt. 2 // Playa

Before we begin, if you’re interested in reading about Tulum TOWN – make sure to read my Tulum Guide, Pt. 1 here!  And prepare yourself for intense food fomo (foodmo?), I definitely got some while writing.

Shifting focus now to the beach zone, ie, the sexy, relaxing, white-sand, resort-y aspect of Tulum.  We didn’t spend as much time here as in town, but I can’t wait to come back again and bliss the F out.  It’s the laid-back, eco-friendly yin to complement the grittier, pseudo-bustling yang of downtown.  As I mentioned in my last post, the Playa is about 15 minutes inland from downtown by car.  As you turn off the main highway and enter the environs of the beach, the decompression begins to take hold.  Tons of sleepy/stylish hotels and palapas are sandwiched between the ocean and jungle along one main road among unique boutiques, inventive restaurants, and nonchalant bars.  There’s a big emphasis on eco-friendliness here, with a majority of the properties boasting solar power (and lacking in electricity at certain hours of the night). There’s even an entire “yoga zone”, if that’s your thing…  the whole area maintains an atmosphere of supreme chicness without coming off as over-pretentious.  Just like me.

Here are a couple must-see’s (must-eat’s, really) while exploring the Tulum Playa:

Posada Margherita

IMG_9822 webIMG_9780 webIMG_9783 webIMG_9782 webIMG_9784 web IMG_9790 web IMG_9791 web

I love the peaceful, Italian-riviera vibe at this beautiful hotel & restaurant.  The friendly and well-informed staff ensures that you feel at home, whether you’re stopping in for a quick coffee or spending lengthy hours over dinner with friends.  There’s a very un-rushed, homey attitude here.  Their little boutique is very well-curated and it’s also fun to explore the impressive garden.  Also, their (HUGE) fresh-squeezed juices are a welcome afternoon reset between al pastor binges.

Hartwood

If you so much as breathe “Tulum” to anyone who’s been there, “Hartwood” is usually what you’ll hear in response.  It’s word-association for the wining and dining generation.  No bones about it, Hartwood is a pain in the ass to get into.  Reservations are only accepted in-person, day-of, and you’ll more than likely need a reservation.  But, if you don’t mind lining up in the afternoon to put your name in, the oh-so-fresh, wood-fired fare and vibey ambiance (owner/chef Eric Werner is a Brooklyn transplant) are well worth the trouble.

Casa Banana

Contrary to Hartwood, they don’t accept reservations but do invite you to have a seat and enjoy a handmade cocktail while you wait for your table.  The influence is Argentinian, think amazing skirt steak with chimichurri sauce and whole roasted fish served with mashed sweet potatoes and local vegetables.  Bonus star for the eclectic house music, complete with an acoustic George Michael cover that was all-too amusing after mucho mezcal.

Thanks for reading!  What are your favorite spots in Tulum?

 

TULUM GUIDE Pt. 1 // Pueblo

flor de michoacan

Tulum.  There’s a reason everyone is obsessed with it – within one municipality exists all the components you need to design the vacation of your dreams.  It caters to the fashion-y crowd and budget backpackers alike, all while remaining so very relaxing.  I just returned and already can’t wait to go back.

Tulum town (“pueblo” en español – isn’t my Spanish great?) is about 15 minutes inland by car from the beach (“playa” – I’ll show myself out) and a fairly different experience.  The beach zone is chic to death but manages to maintain a very unassuming vibe throughout.  You’ll find most of the luxury hotels here lined up side-by-side with a plethora of intimate restaurants and bars.  The town offers tons of eateries and shops as well, but in less of a resort-like atmosphere.  In town is where you’ll enjoy a slightly more “local” (/economical) experience.  Since we had a rental car at our disposal, we opted for an insane Airbnb in town (more on that later) and took daytrips to the beach area.  ‘Twas the best of both worlds, and I’d advise doing the same if you’re a bit more on the adventurous side.  If you have the pesos to spend and are seeking a bougier, sexier experience, stay in one of the many gorgeous boutique hotels along the beach instead and never leave.  I think I’ll try that next.

The town is excellent for spending a morning or afternoon wandering on foot.  It’s pretty teeny, so you can likely eat your way through enjoy it in one go, or, like we did, explore on separate occasions throughout your stay.  Before embarking on this trip, I’d done a bit of research between knowledgeable good friends and (my most knowledgeable and bestest friend) the Internet, but my favorite discoveries are always the places I’ve found via my own trusty feet, eyes, nose, and mouth.

So, with those resources in mind, here are some of the standout spots in Tulum pueblo (IMHO).

Ki’bok Cafe

Stop in here before you head out on a daytrip or tour to fuel up on your artisanal crack of choice.  This place is run by fellow Californians and serves up a mean cold brew coffee.  It was one of the only spots we found cold brew in Mexico and really, who wants a steaming cup coffee when it’s 90 degrees at 9 am?

Ki'bok cafe ki'bok cafe 2

Flor de Michoacan

Satisfy your sweet tooth here with one (or more) of the dozens of fresh fruit “paletas” (popsicles!  Bet you needed the translation this time) offered.  There is such a large and delectable assortment here you might want come back on multiple visits to ensure you get to try everything you wanted to.  I won’t judge you.

flor de michoacan storefrontflor de michoacan fruit

Local Artisans

There’s an eclectic selection of art, textiles, and knickknacks from Mayan artists and artisans on display along the main strip.  Prices are a bit higher if you buy from here vs. a bit outside of town, but you have the convenience of knocking out all of your gift shopping at once.

tulum artisan 1 tulum artisan 2 tulum artisan 3 tulum shoppingtulum art

Pick up freshly cut mango from this dude while you shop.

tulum fruit

Burrito Amor

This spot was brand new during our stay – still working out their alcohol license so we stopped in for a breakfast machaca burrito.  I can’t vouch for the cultural authenticity of said burrito, but it was definitely appreciated after a night of enjoying the local bars.  You’re served popcorn while you wait and every order comes with a set of homemade salsas (the coconut one in particular is, uh, bananas).

burrito amor burrito amor 2

El Gourmet

A fresh Euro-style panini joint that boasts a little market for imported cheeses, charcuterie and other yummies.  This might sound weird but the lettuce and tomato they used gave me a new appreciation for local produce…it’s like I’d forgotten what these vegetables are truly supposed to taste like when doing all my shopping at Trader Joe’s.  Also, they bake their own bread here so if you’re going to indulge in some gluten on vacation, this is the spot.

el gourmet breadpanini

El Capitan

One of the many, many excellent places to go for seafood.  The ceviche was so sensationally fresh that my mouth is currently filling with saliva at the memory.  Bonus: cute kitty as dining companion.

ceviche kitty

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

This place is always packed with locals and GOES OFF at night.  Get your tacos al pastor, tortas, and other classics here for el cheapo.  And warning, go easy on the orange-colored salsa if you’d like to retain any tastebuds for the remainder of your trip.  Seriously, your whole face will thank me.

antojitos la chiapanecaTacos

Not pictured, because tequila:

There are lots of eclectic little bars lined up along the main strip.  I don’t remember most of their names but you can start at one end of the strip and wander down on foot til you find the vibe you like.  Or, stop in for a drink at each and see what happens.

Have you visited Tulum pueblo?  What did I miss?  Add your favorite spots in the comments!

PS – If you’re visiting via the Cancun airport, be sure to stop through Akumal on the drive!  Check out my tips from Akumal here.

ROAD TRIPPY // Akumal, Mexico

DSCN1992-web

Ahh, Mexico – the ideal getaway for Californians looking for an international adventure without spending days in transit or months in debt.  Olé!

IMG_8981-web

We took 6 beautiful days to explore the Mayan Riviera.  Not as long as I would have liked but when it comes to adventuring, I’ll take what I can get.  The ultimate destination was Tulum, via the Cancun airport and a 2-hour drive in a temperamental Volkswagen rental.  I would begin with Cancun, but our time there filled me with such loathing that it couldn’t defensibly account for its own post.  I’m sure it has tons of appeal for some and all due respect to those individuals – but alas, not me.  Massive Vegas style-hotels, giant luxury shopping centers, wasted Spring Breakers, and commercialized restaurant chains (I can go to Outback Steakhouse in my own town, thankyouverymuch) are not really my travel/life vibe.  The beach was nice, though?

DSCN1985-web

So, upward and onward to Akumal.  It’s a quick trip south from Cancun, but feels like worlds away.  We stopped through for the afternoon to enjoy the proverbial white sand, palm trees, and also look into this sea turtle snorkeling situation I’d been reading about.  We’d been a little too leisurely to make it in time for the snorkeling – rentals/tours end around 4pm there and we were too busy doing nothing to make that deadline.  I was dying to see a turtle up close but didn’t let it get me down, as we were still early in the trip.  The main heartbreak occurred from not being able to make good use of my new fancy underwater camera.  Akumal is gorgeous and refreshing – all the views and vibes you’d expect from the Mayan Riviera without (or at least less of) the commercialism of Cancun.

DSCN1982-web

Akumal Tips:

– Snorkel tours from the main beach run $25 US per person, but are completely unnecessary.  Rent snorkel gear from one of the dive shops (or better yet, BEFORE you enter the beach area altogether) and swim out to all the same spots that the tours go.  You can literally just watch them move in their crowded, cattle-driven groups while you sip a cervesa from the beach, then wander out to the same spots at your leisure.  So much sexier.

– Skip the overrated beachfront restaurants packed with (other) gringos and walked the 50 feet into “town” for some amazing tacos from sidewalk spot El Comal De Akumal for 65 pesos (about $4) a plate.  You can also BYOB practically anywhere.

– When restaurants in Mexico say a salsa is “spicy” – they mean it.  Heed warnings.  Don’t be a hero.

DSCN2003-webDSCN1990-webDSCN2007-webDSCN2009-webDSCN2006-web