havana, cuba

One week before Christmas, Cameron and I set off for the Caribbean. A new country and region for both of us. It was a spontaneous trip that we managed to plan just one week prior to leaving. And it was completely worth it. An escape from the negative degree, cold weather taking over Denver, and arrival to a mid 80s, warm, and tropical island was absolutely perfect. In six days, we were disconnected from any wifi (you can choose to pay for cards that get you wifi access at hotels, but we chose to just abandon wifi altogether) and transported back in time to when the days were slow, when the cars were sleek, when media had little to no presence, when being present in the moment was all you could do.

Although getting to Havana proved difficult (my flight got cancelled, yet I luckily managed to book a different flight without losing much time or spending too much more) with all the mishaps that happen during holiday travel, it was all worth it in the end.

First things first – the cars! There were so many 1950s automobiles in various, vibrant colors that it truly feels like you’ve been transported back in time. It amazes me that there are still so many being driven on a daily, frequent basis and manage to stay in good condition.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetimg_1072img_1071img_1068img_1067Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The Malecón: a stunning esplanade where locals gather along the coastline to enjoy the ocean and fortress views, watch sunsets, and pass time with good company.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Cuba has two currencies: the Cuban National Peso (CUN) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUN is mainly for locals, while the CUC is used primarily by tourists. 1 CUC is equivalent to 1 Dollar, whereas 1 CUN is equivalent to about 4 cents.

We stayed at a Casa Particular (or Airbnb) in Miramar, a quiet neighborhood outside of Old Town. There is a bus stop near the apartment that locals take, which takes you into Havana Vieja for only 1 CUN per segment, or 4 cents! Not only was it close to the ocean, but the host also offered us the option to pay 5 CUC per person for a homemade breakfast of fruits (guava, banana, and papaya), bread and butter, ham, egg, and excellent coffee. Look at this feast!


While the local living cost is very low, taxis and certain tourist shops and restaurants charge much more. Definitely bargain with taxi drivers on prices, whether it be legal taxis (yellow), 1950s cars, or the yellow taxi pods; otherwise, you will be paying much more than you should to get around.

Habana Vieja, or Old Town Havana, is absolutely captivating with its vibrant colors, slow pace, rugged buildings and streets, 1950s cars, and variety of sights to see. I was surprised to see how much Communist influence permeates the city. The supermarkets are scarce and small, fresh produce and meats are uncommon and almost non-existent, fewer cafes and restaurants are prevalent, there are state-owned versus privately owned restaurants, and very little media and advertisement exists. It’s a unique, musical, and fairly untouched destination.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetimg_1178Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetimg_1267Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Besides exploring Old Town, we had a beach day at La Playa del Este (specifically Playa de la Santa Maria)! It was absolutely stunning: cascades of ombre blue, palm trees, very few tourists, vast surrounding land, and a new dog named Fidel (a little pup that clung to us, while at the beach). We also tried some of the best Cuban food we had during our trip at the only restaurant at the beach, which consisted of black beans and rice, pork, plantains, and Cristal beer.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetimg_1385Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

A Chinatown, in which there are no Chinese people…

img_1275Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The largest state-run ice cream parlor in the world, initiated by Fidel, where locals joyfully enjoy various flavors scooped in a generous bowl…for about 14 cents.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetimg_1199img_1198

State-run pizza parlors that serve questionable 1 CUC pizza…


Hidden, lush gardens inside Church buildings…

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Rides on yellow taxi pods that go at whopping 17 mph speeds…


La Bodeguita del Medio, where Ernest Hemmingway frequented for its famous mojitos…

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

The National Revolutionary square…

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

One last ride in a 1950s Chevy before heading to the airport…


Havana, you were amazing. We’re so grateful we were able to visit and cannot wait to make go back in the future and add Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba on the list. Another incredible trip with the best adventure partner!




my first trip to portland

Portland is cultured, quirky, overcast, green, calming, colorful, and simply beautiful. I got to explore this city during fall (my favorite season), which was the best choice ever. The leaves were incredibly vibrant in ombre shades of red and gold. Not to mention, there is an abundance of lush, tall trees and shrubs throughout the entire landscape. This was my first time visiting Portland, and this trip definitely surpassed my expectations in ways I couldn’t imagine. I met up with my dear friend, Hyunah, and we set out to see and do as much as possible with 72 hours in Portlandia.

First off, Portland is weird.

Beginning with my Frontier flight from Denver to Portland, I already experienced having a pink parrot on board. This pink parrot was not only perched on the shoulder of pony-tail man inside the plane, but this pink parrot also laughed like a human. Pony-tail man also had on flight a clear cage with five baby birds in it. Also, filling up your own gas tank is illegal; it must be filled up for you by a gas attendant. Gas stations openly sell a variety of 6.9%, local craft brewery beers – not your grocery store 3% beer like you’d expect. Starbucks also sells craft beers in the evening. No sales tax. Food trucks aren’t just a small thing downtown. They are spread throughout town and have most cuisines you could think of. Even the ice cream flavors offered at the famous Salt and Straw are weird: Pear and Blue Cheese, Blood Sausage, and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper? Well, weird is good. It’s actually a compliment.

Hyunah and I stayed at an Airbnb in the residential area of Happy Valley in Salem, Oregon. We booked a shared room with a private bathroom in a large, suburban house. The house was only a short 25-30 minute drive to downtown Portland, 40 minute drive to the famous waterfalls and gorges, and a 2 hour drive to Cannon Beach. It was perfect for our weekend stay and was a great, affordable option for us!

We started Saturday morning with a Southern brunch at Screen Door. While there were many people, the wait actually went by quite quickly. Hyunah ordered jumbo shrimp cheese grits with biscuits and eggs, while I ordered a sausage over-easy egg biscuit sandwich with a side of cheese grits. The service was excellent, and it was absolutely delicious.

After brunch, we drove to the Colombia River Gorge to see the Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Oneonta Gorge. All of these sights are close to one another. They were some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Especially during autumn.

Later in the evening, we explored downtown by foot and made a stop at the world’s largest independent used and new bookstore, Powell’s Books. The bookstore is huge (68,000 sq. feet) and seems to sell almost every book you could think of. It was fun getting lost in rows and rows of floor to ceiling shelves.

Alas, it is time to tell my story of how I ran into Fred Armisen from Portlandia in Portland! I truly believe this moment was meant to happen. What are the odds that I would cross paths with him in a split minute!?

So, Hyunah and I were walking back to our car downtown, getting ready to drive to Salt and Straw for ice cream. We were parked outside a grocery store called World Foods. As I was walking towards the car, I looked inside the glass windows of World Foods and saw a man paying for his groceries and thought, huh, he looks an awful lot like Fred from Portlandia. Must be his doppelgänger or something. There’s no way. I only saw him from the side and did not see his face clearly. I got in the car, and my mind already moved on. I see a man walk in front of the car and see his face, and IT WAS FRED. I lost it and was rambling to Hyunah in shock. I asked her if I should run, and she just told me to run. Fred had already walked to the street curb and was going to cross the street. It was my last chance. I got out of the car and ran towards him. Apparently, Hyunah says he greeted us with a ‘bonjour’. I asked if he was Fred from Portlandia, and he said ‘yes’. In that brief moment, I told him his show was awesome and asked for a picture. He was kind, low-key, and quiet. I still can’t believe I met Fred, while in Portland. What a trip.

We ended the day with some homemade ice cream and waffle cones from Salt & Straw. Even at 9:00-10:00pm, there was such a long line. I ended up getting a scoop of Pear and Blue Cheese and Cookies and Cream with Raspberry Swirl. Hyunah got the Pear and Blue Cheese and Freckled Woodblock Chocolate.

Sunday morning we set out for the coast! The scenic drive to Cannon Beach was stunning. Endless forests of tall pine trees and golden shrubbery. Luckily the rainstorm that was supposed to happen this weekend did not pick up. There was just light to normal rainfall, which simply added another depth to the leaves and trees.

What is a stop at the coast without fresh seafood! We stopped by Ecola Restaurant and Market for homemade clam chowder, fish n’ chips, and fresh crab. It was perfect for warming up from the cold winds.

Once we arrived back in downtown Portland, we decided it was only fitting to have some hot tea at the Boulangerie Cafe on such a gray, rainy, and cold day.

Our last day in Portland.

We first got some gourmet donuts from Blue Star. We decided not to visit Voodoo Donuts since we have one back home in Denver. I got the Buttermilk Lemon Poppyseed cake donut, which was delicious (but also quite rich), and Hyunah got the Valrhona Chocolate Crunch (which she says was too sweet).

Our visit to the International Rose Test Garden was an absolute dream. The flowers, trees, shrubs, and leaves, are absolutely gorgeous. There was something so romantic and magical about walking through a lush garden. The garden is also free to the public, which was a definite plus.

For our last meal, we had ramen at Boxcar Ramen downtown. A great choice for warm broth and noodles on a rainy day. The ramen was authentic and very delicious.

With two hours to spare before having to head to the airport, we decided to make one last stop at Crown Point for a scenic outlook of the Hood River. It was so worth visiting with the time we had left! Stunning views.

Hyunah and I had talked about visiting Portland for almost a year – I’m so glad we finally made it happen! Portland is such a unique and beautiful city with a lot to see and do. Overall, a fun weekend with lovely company, great views, and tasty food. I will definitely be visiting again when I can, and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been! Who knows, you might also run into Fred.

– Angela

changing landscapes: one month in europe

Hello! I am back on the blog, I know it’s been a while since I last posted. Things have been quite hectic the past few months with some big changes. I have moved back to Denver and left my job in investment banking in Salt Lake City to pursue new opportunities this city has to offer! Before starting a new job, I wanted to make the most of summertime by exploring more of Europe. I would describe this trip as one of city exploration – cities with changing landscapes.



The trip started off in Salzburg, Austria where the hills are literally alive with the sound of music. Acapella groups, opera singers, and string quartets echo from almost every corner of this quaint city.  Mozart chamber concerts at the top of a fortress, winding cobblestone paths, crisp beers overlooking Austrian sunsets, summer florals, mountain backdrops, and walking every square inch of the city.


Gosau // Hallstatt

From Salzburg, my boyfriend and I headed to Gosau, a mountain resort village in the Austrian Alps. Through Airbnb, we booked a traditional Austrian farmhouse with white and brown wooden structures, overlaid with vibrant flowers. We easily visited nearby towns by bus, which gave us plenty to explore in the area. The intent of staying in Gosau was to be close to Hallstatt, Austria’s oldest village known for its historic charm, lakeside views, and salt mining, while also being able to have a remote and idyllic experience in the spacious land that Gosau offers. Gosau is truly a living fairytale.

Airbnb stay // traditional Austrian farmhouse

View of the Dachstein mountain range from Gosau

From Dachstein, you can purchase a ticket for two scenic lifts that include an ice cave tour (first scenic lift) and access to the Five Finger Lookout (second scenic lift). The ice cave tours are extremely cold (definitely wear a coat and long pants!) and feature ice formations that date almost 600 years old. The Five Finger Lookout gives you incredible views of glaciers and endless mountains and lakes.

Inside the prehistoric Ice Cave

Five Finger Lookout

We made a day trip to Lake Gosausee not really knowing what to expect, yet we ended up arriving to the most stunning, close-up look of the Dachstein mountains. We spent the day taking a stroll around the lake, cliff jumping, and sun bathing on a small beach front. A relaxing day with jaw dropping views.

 Lake Gosausee

An evening bike ride through Gosau after a rainstorm

Hallstatt epitomizes traditional Austria with with its wooden houses stacked at varying angles, colorful flowers dressing the streets and windows, and lakes and mountains visible from its entire parameter. Hot chocolate rum, apple strudels, sausages and hot dogs, and beef goulash make up some of the Austrian delicacies common in these mountainous towns.


Vienna – a vibrant, detailed, and bright city. Beautiful, white sculptures are commonly sighted at all corners. So much art and so much history. While exploring downtown Vienna, my boyfriend and I started with a tour of the Schonbrunn Palace and garden. The garden is abundant in flowers during the summertime with a paved horse carriage path that leads to a large fountain and the summer palace. After palace romping, we visited Vienna’s largest food market, Naschmarkt, to only end up continuing our gyro diet. Gyros, after all, are cheap and tasty. Anyways, I digress. After eating gyros, of course it was only fitting to go to the Prater (Austria’s largest amusement park) to ride the Black Mamba – a 360 degree rotating ride that gives you an incredible view of Vienna. At the Prater, you pay by each ride, which lets you be in control of how much you want to do. For us, one ride was plenty before feeling sick.

Next stop: Stephansplatz, renowned as Vienna’s busiest square and shopping area. Here you can see St. Stephen’s Gothic Church and eat cake like a royal at Demel’s (a bakery known for its history of cake baking for royal families). Almost all large sites in Vienna are easily accessible by metro. Just a few stops away, we went to the Leopold Art Museum, which featured exquisite artwork by Klimt and Schiele, as well as your abstract, and well, let’s just say, very interesting modern art displays.

Town of Krems-Dunnstein-Melk



Just a one hour train ride from Vienna exists a completely different landscape. One day is more than plenty to explore, as there are not many sites to see. It is more about feeling the change in atmosphere, language, and customs in such a short distance. Bratislava definitely exudes Eastern European vibes in contrast to Vienna’s Western flare. This short day trip was meant for exploring a new place by foot, not knowing what to expect, and simply experiencing a new region.



Berlin definitely exceeded my expectations for its incredible art scene, depth of history, and sheer variety of sites to explore. Not to mention, it’s one of the most affordable cities to travel in Western Europe. My cousin and I spent a total of five days here, while four days would probably have been more fitting. What surprised me the most was the cultural diversity of Berlin. With several Syrian and Turkish refugees coming in to Germany, as well as immigrants from all over the world, you can feel its eclectic culture in its food, residential neighborhoods, art, and general ambience. In fact, Berlin is known for its currywurst (a hot dog dusted in curry powder with ketchup or mustard) and doner kebabs. They are literally everywhere.

 Checkpoint Charlie: the official border between communist East Berlin and democratic West Berlin

Remains of the Berlin Wall

Berlin Dome

View of the TV Tower

 Brandenburg Gate

The Holocaust Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe was probably my favorite visit while in Berlin. The exhibit was uniquely and creatively constructed with a sea of uneven, concrete blocks that grow taller as you walk deeper within the maze. As you walk throughout, the floors ebb up and down, a metaphor for a time of instability, disillusionment, and confusion. Besides the exhibit’s incredible maze of blocks, the memorial also features several, detailed stories of Jewish families from all over Europe during the Holocaust. These stories delve deep into individuals’ journal entries, personal letters, and day-to-day lives that truly allow you to feel the heaviness and sadness of this time.

Holocaust Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe

Hummus & Friends (a nice break from currywurst and doner kebabs)

Bode Museum: one of three on the Museum Island

Bebelplatz, notorious for Nazi book burning ceremonies

 View from the Reichstag Dome

The Reichstag

Dusseldorf // Cologne

While in the area, I made a weekend visit to Dusseldorf to reunite with my other cousin who is currently studying medicine here. She and her friends kindly showed me the best of Dusseldorf and Cologne, despite how ‘boring’ or ‘ugly’ they claim it to be. Overall, it was a great weekend spent reminiscing with cousins and making new friends and memories.

Reunited with cousin Susi after four years

We all made a day trip to Cologne, only a short thirty minute train ride away, known for its great shopping, cafes, and colorful houses such as these.



Amsterdam is a quirky city of charming, narrow houses, pretty tulips, canals and boats, more bikes than people, cannabis readily abundant in all forms, and a controversial red light district where prostitution is legal, attracting large groups of tourists every day. Spent about two days here exploring the flower market, taking a boat ride through the canals, trying different cafes, and visiting the Vincent Van Gogh art museum, which features the artist’s incredible collection across his entire career in different periods.

I made a visit to the red light district during the evening and all I could wonder was, does the legalization of prostitution actually just encourage it further? Is it a good or bad thing? Large groups of mainly male tourists walk the streets, and it saddened me that the vulgarity of the shows were being praised, paid for, and receiving so much attention. Prostitutes stand in the windows glowing with red light in lingerie, while casually looking at their phones, waiting for their next customer. They are human, people, individuals, and yet on display as objects at public disposal.



So grateful and glad I made a visit to Portugal during this trip. Lisbon is absolutely beautiful with colorful buildings lined with ceramic tiles of all kinds of patterns. Smooth cobblestones pave the sidewalks of endless hills throughout the city. The coast is just a short walk away from the city center where you can see a red bridge – similar to the Golden Gate Bridge – and a large statue of Jesus Christ – similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Sao Paulo. Lisbon feels reminiscent of San Francisco with its bridge, hills, and trams, Brazil with its Christ statue, and Spain for its history, monuments, and food.

 Jeronimos Monastery

Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Pastel de Belem’s original pastel de natas

Tower of Belem

Mountain city of Sintra

Portuguese tiles

Gothic ruins


Porto itself is smaller than Lisbon, and for that reason, I may just like it a tad more. Known for its port wine, cork crafts, eiffel tower inspired bridges, and excellent seafood, it easily kept me in awe. I began the solo travel part of my journey near the end of Lisbon and while in Porto, my last destination before heading home. Staying in a hostel dorm room with eight other girls was a great way to meet new people from all walks of life. I was at first a bit nervous to travel a new city on my own for the first time, but I am so glad I did it. I learned more about myself, and it forced me to make new friends from all over the world I would otherwise have not made. Who knew I would be having dinner till 1 am with a girl who works for the European Parliament at the Reichstag I visited just weeks prior? Who knew I would spend my day walking the city by foot, wine tasting, and cafe lounging with a girl from Innsbruck, Austria, a small mountain city just near where I had began my trip? Who knew I would be sampling pastries, sipping coffee, and shopping with a girl from Taipei, Taiwan, where my family comes from? I’ve learned life really is about the journey, not the destination.

Dinner with new friends

Wine cellar tours with Anja from Innsbruck, Austria

I wasn’t aware of this bookstore until I arrived, but the Livraria Lello & Irmao is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and ranked third most beautiful bookstore in the world! It is said that J.K. Rowling was inspired by this bookstore, while writing Harry Potter. She lived in Porto for about 10 years, which would explain how many of her ideas for Harry Potter were likely influenced by this magical city.

Harry Potter inspired bookstore

Overall, this was truly a fulfilling trip across changing landscapes. In one month, I was constantly learning new things: new norms, foods, languages, laws, history, art, and ways of life. The world got so big, and I became so small. I drank lots of coffee, snapped lots of pictures, wrote several entries, rode many trains, took many cat naps, read many maps, and walked more kilometers than I ever have in my life. Happy to have added more stories to my book. Now, what’s next!?

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us – unknown

Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show. – unknown

Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fill your soul. – Jaime Lyn Beatty

Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times. – Asian Proverb