New York City

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 New York, the city that never sleeps. A city one must cross off their bucket list. Known for the hustle and bustle. There are too many things to do that one week is just not enough. The culture, history, buildings, food, broadway, and fashion, just to name a few, are like nowhere else on earth.

I had been to New York a couple of years back with some friends on a road trip but my husband had never been. He would always make comments whenever we watched a movie on how one day he would like to visit. Although it was not too far from us whenever we go on vacation we pick locations outside of the country or a few hours drive from home. I love to travel! So when it came time for our first anniversary last year I decided to give him the gift of taking him to New York of course. What makes me happy is not just giving him something but the effort and thought that goes into it. So I went out of my way to go big! What did I do? I planned a trip to New York without telling him anything. I planned out everything from flights, hotels, transportation, places to eat, and sights to see. And if you go to the big apple you must act like a tourist with an “I love NY” shirt and on a big red bus.

I started planning everything from April and our anniversary wasn’t until July but we already had a vacation booked for that month so I decided to go with November. Perfect cold weather but not freezing, after all, anything under 70 is freezing for us Floridians. I had to keep everything a secret and for 7 months that was torture. I decided 5 months into it to give him a clue about the gift. I said “it’s something you’ve always wanted to do!” and his mind went crazy! There were too many things he always wanted to do, but he narrowed it down to the most exciting for him, a GTR. And we would kid around with him saying he was going to drive a GTR, his dream car and what he would do with it etc. We had a blast messing around with him.

A week before the trip I started packing everything. I took the suitcases to my parents and would take a couple things here and there so he wouldn’t suspect anything. He had no idea! The day finally came and I said ok we’re driving somewhere, wear something comfortable. So he puts on shorts and a short sleeve shirt, I made sure to pack a sweater in the carry-on. I blindfolded him, got him in the car and drove about 30 minutes. We get to the airport he takes the blindfolds off and his reaction was priceless! He couldn’t stop smiling and wondering where we were going and said I was crazy how was I so good to plan this. When we checked in was when he found out where we were going. “Are we really going to New York!? No way I can’t believe it!?” And next thing you know we were off on the plane and arriving. When we arrived it was in the mid 50’s people were all bundled up and there was my husband in shorts.

The private car I booked was there when we arrived, I was so thankful I pre-booked. I did underestimate the traffic and how long it took to arrive at the hotel, we were starving by then. We checked into Row NY, a very nice hotel in Times Square. Everything was nearby and walking distance. The room was small, small bed, even smaller bathroom, no space for luggage or mirrors which I had to get dressed blindly and just hoped at least it matched. But who cares all we did was sleep and out we were.

 

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Row NYC Hotel

Our main focus was to explore and eat. The first days we walked everywhere around Times Square. We were so tired from all the walking we would go back to the room take a 15-minute rest, change clothes, shower and back out again. The next 3 days we had the big red bus tours, which were great we would sight see get off at any stop and then get back on and it would go in a loop so we would always get back around. For the rest, we took the subway which that was an experience on its own and a definitely must do. We tackled each neighborhood per day. My favorite experience was the One World Trade Center. It’s the rebuilt of the World Trade Center complex that was completely destroyed in the September 11th terrorist attack. It’s one of those places you sit back and soak it all in and makes you tear up. Nowadays it’s the tallest building in the western hemisphere and has amazing views.

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One World Trade Center Observatory – 102nd floor

We also visited the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Trump Building, NYSE, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, China Town, and Central Park. Here’s some random building photography.

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Usually, in my daily office job I walk no more than 3 miles, in New York, I was walking about 10 miles per day. Which came in handy to compensate for all the food I was eating. I took a list of places I had done research on and that looked tasty. From breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between snacks, to midnight pizza and garlic knots.

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Dulce de Leche at Wafels & Dinges
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Strawberry Banana with ice cream at Wafels & Dinges
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Hop Kee in Chinatown
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Bubby’s Tribeca
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Carlo’s Bakery

Every week since we have been back, husband has asked me when we are going back. He loved the surprise and the experience. He could actually now say he was there when we watch movies. It is really a city that never sleeps and everything was amazing but I’m glad I’m back to my quiet home. I am ready for our next adventure… where will it take us?..

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-Dayana

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Buya!!… The restaurant.

I loveee Asian food all types and a lot of it! When I found this place called Buya in downtown St.Pete I fell in love immediately. It’s a Japanese ramen and izakaya restaurant. I remember growing up eating ramen noodles as something quick and “oh so delicious”, but what was izakaya? No worries Google knows everything, izakaya is a bar type of restaurant that serves small, usually inexpensive dishes to accompany drinking. Or what I would call tapas or side dishes, amazingness. Husband and I decided to check it out on a Monday night. When we arrived, the outside was very dark, not much writing or anything that looked like a restaurant, we walked right passed it. When we walked inside to our surprise it was very busy, that’s always good. We were checking the place out, it had dimmed lights inside, candles, nice hipster vibe and music. The tables were super cute wood and their silverware was a big wooden spoon and chopsticks. When we try new places we like to order a couple different plates just to cover as much that we possibly can from the menu, usually one appetizer and two main dishes.

We started with our izakaya plate. Pork belly buns, roasted pork belly pickled cucumber and sriracha aioli. Literally, this was the most amazing thing that my taste buds have experienced! It was a combination of fatty pork and the spicy sriracha sauce that made my taste buds explode! Ok, keep it coming! We next tried the braised short rib ramen and seafood ramen. They both had very different tastes but equally perfect. Good amount of chunky meat, a mixture of seafood, all accompanied by herbs, seasoning and even an egg. The braised short rib ramen was tonkotsu based which is a very famous Japanese stock in which pork bones are boiled for hours. The short rib was very tender, juicy and appealing. The broth had a subtle taste but combined with the short rib, ramen and my favorite scallions it all came together greatly. The seafood ramen was miso based which is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybean with salt and koji, this is then diluted with water to create miso soup. Doesn’t sound too tasty but I can have miso soup all by itself anytime! It had char grilled shrimp, sea scallops, lump crab and oyster mushrooms. All very tasty reminding me of back home as it tasted like paella, a famous seafood dish.

All of this left us not only full and satisfied but happy. I don’t remember when was the last time food made me so happy. This little place we didn’t know anything about has turned your everyday microwaveable ramen into a gourmet meal. And there we were eating ramen at a restaurant. The next few days we were left talking about it and craving ramen. We shall be back and very soon, thank you Buya!!

-Dayana

Buya

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Godzilla drink
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Damn Daniel drink

 

 

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Pork belly buns

 

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Pork dumplings

 

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Braised short rib ramen
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Seafood ramen

 

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Inside (we waited until almost everyone left lol)

 

Buya

Location: 911 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Hours: Sunday-Thursdays 11AM-10PM & Friday-Saturdays 11am-11pm

Happy Hour: Monday-Fridays 4PM-7PM

Ph: (727) 202-7010

 

 

 

Airbnb in Tokyo

My husband and I made a trip to Japan in April 2016 and it was the best trip we’ve ever had in our life. It holds a special part in our hearts that no other country will ever replace. I will be talking about our amazing trip in another post though. I wanted to talk about our experience about our first time using Airbnb. We had heard about this awesome website before, but we were a little skeptical about renting someone’s home or room. We decided to try it out for our Japan trip though because we’ve always heard about Japan being a “safe” country. We gave it a go and it turned out to be such an amazing experience! We really felt like we were actually living in Japan and with my husband’s basic Japanese we were able to go around neighborhoods with more ease than I would’ve ever imagined.

First off, let me just say that we rented two Airbnb places in Tokyo and we did this because we were going to South Korea after being a few days in Tokyo then we were coming back to Japan. We wanted to get the feel of two different types of neighborhoods in Tokyo.

When we arrived in Japan it was extremely cold and we weren’t that covered up. We found a foreigner, who happened to live in Japan, on the train to Tokyo from Narita Airport and she was nice enough to guide us in the right direction and get on the train to go to our Airbnb. By the way, we noticed Japanese people will try their hardest to help you with anything as long as you start the conversation in Japanese. Don’t walk up to a Japanese person and start speaking to them in English and expect them to want to speak it back (Remember you are in their country!). Most Japanese people are very shy and you might intimidate them. Once they see you trying your hardest in their language, they will start trying to speak back to you and probably in English. Most do know how to speak English, but are shy, so once they see you trying they will try also. Anyways, back to what we were talking about. Once we found the Airbnb apartment the one thing I was terrified that would happen, happened. It was midnight already and we were outside the apartment building, but there was no host. We texted him multiple times and there was no answer, but what really upset me was that I was texting him through Line (a free texting app used a lot in Asia) and I could see he was seeing my texts because the app tells you when the other person has read the message. I went into our Airbnb website and looked him up (he had plenty of good reviews btw) to message him through there as well when I noticed he was Korean. I know a little Korean and can read and understand the little words I know, so I decided to text him in Korean through the Line app. To my surprise he answered and gave us the number to text another guy, which would have the key to the apartment. This was all OUTSIDE of the building, in the cold, with our bags, standing up and past midnight already. My husband saw a few people go in the building, so we followed  and at least stayed in the lobby area (with no seats) as we texted the other guy. Turns out the other guy wouldn’t answer either, by now I was hungry tired and extremely pissed off. I tried the same thing and texted him in Korean and waited another 30 minutes. I told my husband we’d have to get a hotel at this point because I wasn’t going to spend the night in some cold seatless empty lobby area after a 12 hour flight. The guy finally answered and said he’d be there in about 15 minutes and when he finally showed up he deeply apologized saying he had confused us with another couple who had given him some trouble with booking. I thought, how could he confuse us with another couple if he didn’t even bother replying to our texts and even asking us who we were! Anyways, once he showed us the apartment I put my anger and frustration aside and started looking everywhere and admiring how pretty and new everything was. The whole building was modern looking and looked pretty new and just like the pictures in their Airbnb profile.

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Lobby area downstairs where we were about to stay the night 😕
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Hallway with washer/dryer to the left
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Kitchen area
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This sink is big so that you can wash clothing as well. Toilet was a modern one with all the extras, like the amazing seat warmer ❤
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Shower/bath room. See the shower curtain rod? It’s not for a curtain (thats what the door is for), it’s for hanging your clothes to dry in case it’s raining & you can’t hang them outside.
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Room (FYI: the beds are small)
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Excuse our mess!
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Balcony area
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The view (to the right) outside from the balcony
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The view (to your left) outside from the balcony

Other things we liked about this Airbnb was that the subway was right across the street as well as a seven-eleven which you could honestly find in any and every corner in Tokyo. There was also a McDonald’s in the corner when walking to the left of the apartment and if you turned right from the McDonald’s than you can find a whole street of Korean restaurants. My husband and I assumed it was a Korean neighborhood in Tokyo as we saw many Koreans around that area as well as many Korean tenants in the building we were staying at. We did try a few of the restaurants and they were very good, so definitly recommend staying around the Shinjuku area.

The Second apartment was in a different area in Shinjuku which was surprisingly far from the first apartment. Our host was so kind and very specific with instructions on how to get to her apartement. She even emailed us a map with pictures on which subway line to get and of the roads from the subway station to the apartment. It was truly helpful as we do not know the language and would take us a while to find someone for help. This Airbnb apartment was in a residential area, so we were asked to be as quiet as possible at night and there was a nice neighbor who was kind enough to help us get our luggage in the lobby area.

 

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Kitchen area
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Toilet had it’s own little room and a little sink right behind it
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Bathroom sink and washer/dryer
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Shower/bath room. It also had a drying system for your clothes
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Hallway area with closet to the left
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Bedroom
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Small couch next to beds
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Table with T.V.
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Ramen w/ ham
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Ramen w/ chicken, ham and pork dumplings

 

We arrived about 1am and were so hungry, but we didn’t know where we could possibly find something opened in such a residential area. Lucky for us Tomoko, our lovely host, had 2 booklets on her T.V. table (one in Manderin and the other in English). It had directions for all the buttons in the apartment (everything was in Japanese) and the last few pages had suggestions on places she recommends eating at around the area. What I loved most though, was her brief decription on what type of food the place serves, why she likes it, the directions and what times they were opened! It was so sweet that she took her time to make that awesome booklet. She had a variety of restauarants so her guests could choose from depending on the times they arrived. We found 2 restaurants that were opened till late or early lol, since it was about 2am by the time we were ready to head out. The restaurant was in a very high hilly street and to our surprise there were many more restaurants in the area that were opened. My husband and I knew it had to be good because of how many locals there were inside. The way to order was through a machine outside the restaurant. Of course everything was in Japanese, so we had to translate the dishes haha. We had no one behind us so we were able to take our time. Once we were done you’d click the button for the plate you wanted and you were seated inside to wait for your food and drink. It was truly wonderful and such a unique experience we would definitly recommend doing Airbnb through Japan! NOTE: please do your research as I’ve heard the Japanese are not happy with the whole Airbnb concept! Our trip was in April 2016 and Airbnb was rather new, but recently they have had some issues with Airbnb in Japan.

-Daylin

An afternoon at Rae Rae’s Cafe

So we were texting each other last night talking about where we should eat on the weekend. I asked Dayana if she had any suggestions as to where I could have brunch on Thursday and she texted back saying there’d be a problem. I couldn’t imagine there being a “problem”, but as I was wondering what she meant, she texted back saying “I have Thursday off too!”. We got so excited that we had a bit of difficulty trying to pick a place to eat. Today (Thursday) we decided to find somewhere new to both of us and picked a restaurant called “Rae Rae’s Cafe”. Little did we know how amazing their food was going to be. Everything from the cafe mocha, scrambled eggs w/ ham and French toast and the biscuits covered in sausage gravy were just perfect!

 

-Daylin

 

 

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Cafe mocha
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The “oven baked biscuits & sausage gravy” plate
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The “have-it-all” plate

Cake, cupcakes and more cake!

We were at a wedding at The Shuffleboard Club in downtown St. Pete on Saturday and thought their cake table was adorable! We actually had a wedding AND  a baby shower that same day, but we managed to attend both. Everyone was having a great time at both events and although there were games and dancing at both parties you can all guess where I was. The food table of course! Either admiring its beauty or just in line waiting for my turn to finally taste everything. Below I posted a few pictures of the cake table at the wedding. My apologies for not having any pictures from the baby shower, but since we attended the wedding first by the time we arrived at the baby shower all the prettiness was gone.

-Daylin

 

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Cake/dessert table at The Shuffleboard Club in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
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Absolutely loved the cake and how they set it up with such a beautiful mask!