Travel: Day Hike from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach

The first weekend of March, we did the 10-mile hike from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach. It was a Friday and the woods was absolutely empty. You have to reserve a parking spot ahead of time and pay for two entrance fees into Muir Woods. The entrance fees were $15 per person and the parking lot fee was another $8.50. You can absolutely do 90% of this hike if you start at Stinson Beach, but just know that you cannot enter Muir Woods without a pass (or well, you risk being stopped and checked for a ticket). To be honest, no one stopped us on the day that we went, but then again, no one was there. It was magical. If you ask me if the fee was worth it, I would give a resounding 100% YES, but only because we literally had the park to ourselves. We arrived at the parking lot and stopped by the restrooms before heading into the woods. The first part of the hike is easy. I recommend taking a left turn at the first bridge and hiking above the woods to begin. You can hike the bottom half of the woods when you return.

If you take my suggestion to start hiking up after the first bridge, you would be up in the treetops walking above the quiet trails below. You’ll reach a dead end eventually, at which point you make a left to continue onto the trail. If you chose to stick to the forest floor, make a left at the fourth bridge and you will end up on the same spot.

The first half of the hike takes you steadily along a wide dirt path underneath the shade of magnificent Redwood trees. The trail is well-maintained and well demarcated. There are some steps, but nothing stressful on the way to Stinson. I must warn you that the way back is much more difficult, as you’d have to climb many consecutive steps returning from the beach. If you aren’t an avid hiker, perhaps doing a one-way trip and catching a lift back to the parking lot is best. We were just fine, but my thighs were a bit sore the next day. Then again, they weren’t sore enough to stop us from going on a 7-mile hike. Enjoy the shade of the trees, the silence underneath the canopies, the soft Earth underneath your boots, the smell of sap and the occasional breeze. Eventually, you will pop up on the hillside and if you’re lucky, it’ll be a charmingly sunny afternoon with blades of green grass lining the hills.

The views from the top of the mountainside are beautiful on a clear day. You can see the Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco, as well as Marin County. You’ll see mountaintops peeking over the ocean. I saw a couple, far out in the distance, hand-in-hand frolicking quite literally down the hillside. I must say, I felt the same way.

Eventually, you will re-enter the trees again, but the second half is different. Less moist, less coverage, more sunlight. Plus, this portion is all down-hill. Don’t let that deceive you though, as the rough part lies in the return journey. But for now, enjoy the branches and tree trunks. They’re kind of fun to look at whether they be stick straight or wavy.

Eventually, you’ll come to a clearing which is the first time you’ll see Stinson Beach. You are almost there! Perhaps another mile to go at this point.

You can hear the cars on a nearby road passing by. It made us turn around and Mike spotted two deer. The next series of photographs shows the two deer looking at us as we were looking at them. They ambled over for a second, until the sounds of other walkers shooed them away. See if you can spot their curious selves trying to discreetly peer at us from the bushes.

Of course, the deer wasn’t the only cool wildlife present. We saw hawks circling above us in search of bunny rabbits, or so I gander. A banana slug or two made me jump in surprise. A few colorful mushrooms popped out of the forest floor, and even a beautiful lone flower said hello on our walk home.

Once in a while, do look back. This is a photograph I snatched after realizing that behind me lay a bundle of rocks hidden in the hills. We finally arrived at Stinson Beach after 2.5 hours of walking. To be frank, we were going at a relaxed pace, stopping every so often to snap photographs and observe the wildlife. At Stinson, we ate at Parkside Cafe, which I would highly recommend. We walked to the beach and stepped into a few tiny shops before heading back.

On the way back, I would cross the 4th bridge back into Muir Woods and walk the wooden boardwalks within the park. If your legs have it in them, I would recommend some of the side paths to the east of the park. Please do take note, if you are trying to catch the gift shop, they close earlier than the park does and I would recommend getting back by 3pm to check out the souvenirs by the entrance. We were hoping to snag one for Mike’s mom’s birthday but we returned to the entrance a little after 4pm, which is right when the gift shop closed. You can always return to the eastern trails (which are fairly short) until the park closes (around 5pm).

Overall, this was one of our top five day hikes that we have ever done. There’s a lot to see and experience, and the terrain had a good mixture of everything. Now that we’ve walked Muir Woods though, I would skip the entrance fees and the parking fees next time and start on the trails elsewhere. I feel like everything in the park can be seen in one day. There are many other trailheads that have free parking and that land you in similar areas. Just make sure to arrive early enough to snag a parking spot along scenic highway!

If you liked this post, you may like the other hikes I’ve written about.

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A Review of GetAway House: The Disconnect City Dwellers Need

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

For the average city dweller, daily living can feel a bit too connected at times, even after months of isolation and quarantine. I would know. Inhabiting a live-work loft in the middle of a busy downtown street has its quirks. Our lives are interwoven with the thrumming of daily activity; Cars honking at the corner stop sign, music blaring at the neighboring bar, sirens wailing in the distance, and ding-dongs hanging in the air after ditchers have made a run for it. Couple that with the demands of what I now call a modern life – work tasks available 24/7 thanks to our WFH lifestyle – and you’ve got yourself an existence wherein even our cellphones and inboxes are buzzing. So what can urban dwellers do to escape the city’s incessant rhythm?

Book GetAway! GetAway House provides tiny “cabins” for those in search of rest and recreation, or those simply wishing to disconnect in order to reconnect. You may have seen these golden-yellow, wood-paneled container homes plastered all over Instagram.

We quickly traded in our fast-paced city flow for a chance to hover and float above the mountains and amongst the stars in the night sky. In this post, I share all that you need to know about these magical city-escape pods. Spoiler Alert: They are awesome! And just as an aside, this is not a sponsored post. We paid full price in order to try GetAway, and we have already made plans to do it again in a heartbeat.

What is GetAway House?

GetAway cabins are essentially shipping containers that embody tiny home dreams come true. Well, mine anyway. The company’s focus is to provide repose to those living amidst the hustle and bustle of America’s largest cities. That’s why most GetAway cabins offer escape from locations such as Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C., to name a few.

Popularized on Instagram by their iconic bedside windows overlooking tree-lined cliffs and blankets of snow, it’s no wonder these “cabins” are coveted by many. GetAway beckons even the non-recluse to immerse themselves fully in nature, without the need to separate oneself from city comforts.

What To Expect In Each Cabin

Each cabin is furnished with a comfortable mattress, plenty of pillows and white fluffy sheets. For those who have little ones or prefer to travel in groups, bunk bed options are available. However, I really enjoyed having a single bed unit, since the bunk beds could impede the large window’s views.

The kitchenette is equipped with a small fridge, a functioning sink which provides drinkable water, an electric stove, and all the utensils and appliances needed for the most essential cooking.

There are also provisions for purchase, such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and a sustenance box that includes pasta, soup, oatmeal, cookies, and beef jerky. The sustenance box costs $30 and is useful for those who wish to bring only themselves and the most minimalist of essentials. For the more frugal, I would recommend swinging by a grocery store prior to your arrival to pick up your favorite food items.

Each GetAway House has a full bathroom. The camping averse will be excited to learn that there is a flushable toilet and a stand-in shower that spits out hot water, with good pressure to boot! They provide all the necessary textiles as well as biodegradable body wash, shampoo and conditioner. In order to protect the environment, they request using only biodegradable products during your stay.

Lastly, the cabins have a bench, small desk, and chair – enough space to perform all sorts of activities. Having thought of it all, GetAway provides plenty of reading material, a lamp, outlets with USB charging stations, a deck of cards, and a pamphlet full of activity ideas.

We were able to lay out a 500-piece puzzle, as well as eat our meals comfortably on the table. Those hoping to get away and write have an inspiring view of the outdoors while sitting on a writer’s desk. There is even a cellphone lockbox, to help keep phone addicts disconnected thus allowing for more introspection and rejuvenation.

Other Things To Look Forward To

Outside each cabin is a picnic table and two deck chairs looking out over the mountainside. There is a fire pit, however, California had a state-wide fire ban in effect during our stay so we were not able to roast marshmallows over an open fire. When the fire ban is not in place, Los Angelenos can grill veggies and meat and gather with loved ones outdoors. We tried our best to sit on the deck chairs in the middle of winter with mugs of tea in hand, but the air was still cold. One tip I would tell guests is to bring a warm blanket, for star gazing and lounging around in the late evenings.

As much as we avoided the outdoors after sun down, we were frolicking in the wild during the day time. GetAway Los Angeles provided a list of nearby hikes to try, and we were very pleased with their suggestions. We took an especially long, 5-mile trek in Lake Arrowhead called Pinnacles Trail which took us through desert lands and had us clambering up boulders to its peak. We balanced it out the next day by meandering along the Heaps Peaks Arboretum’s 0.8-mile loop in search of bobcats. On the campground itself, there was a beautiful 2-mile nature walk for the taking. Since it was winter time, we had the pleasure of traipsing through snow on a bright, crisp March morning. Canine companions are allowed in the GetAway cabins for a small additional fee, and we saw many dogs walking excitedly in the area. Unfortunately, we could not bring Theo along since feline friends are currently not allowed, but I was okay with it since it allowed us the freedom to do more activities.

For those who are worried about the weather, there is an AC unit and a heater in each GetAway home. We stared at the snow outside cuddling in the warmth of our space. As much as I loved the sunshine, my favorite times were those evenings. Watching stars move across the night sky whilst wedged against the glass window pane underneath warm sheets was seriously otherworldly. I woke up several times at night just to stare at the sky and spot movements in this vast universe I call home. Our little hide-away boxcar was so comfortable and relaxing, I truly did not want to leave.

Is GetAway Worth It?

Nothing compares to my experience at GetAway in terms of unplugging from daily activity and finding true isolation – the kind that doesn’t leave you feeling lonely. It was worth every daily struggle, every waking moment, every penny spent – and I don’t say that often.

It’s ironic, really, that every time I disconnect from daily life, the more grounded I become. I think more people need to incorporate some sort of unplugging habit into their life – whether that’s dedicating one day a week free from screen time or creating limits on social media apps. It really does affect my overall happiness. Creating boundaries for myself is now more crucial than ever. I love that GetAway provides that physical boundary that is so essential to disconnecting.

Making Getting Away a Habit

If you want to make getting away a habit, you most certainly can. GetAway House has a Getaway Often Club, and I definitely aim to be a part of it. After booking seven nights, you receive credit for one free night. Make your first booking with my referral link and receive $25 OFF your first stay (minimum two nights required, but you’ll thank your lucky stars for it!). Every friend who has experienced GetAway has told me they can’t wait to do it again. What can I say? The mountains, they are calling.

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Travel: Montana De Oro State Park and Baywood-Los Osos, California

In December, we took a mini vacation up the California coast and discovered the little town of Los Osos slightly north of SLO. Our main reason for staying here was to explore Montana De Oro State Park and Morro Bay. To my surprise, it offered so much more than I was expecting, but isn’t that always the case with surprises? I had a rejuvenating few days in the area and my only regret was leaving so soon. This is hardly a travel guide, but rather, a reminiscence of the quiet neighborhood in which I felt I belonged.

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We stayed at an AirBNB, which is our preferred way of traveling. If you’ve never tried it before, I invite you to try it and if you use this referral link, you can get up to $65 off your first booking. The place was at the end of a dirt road in the middle of farm land. As we drove up to it, a giant black dog slowly lumbered towards our car to greet us welcome. The room was above a garage and had a tiny electric fireplace which kept us warm during the cold nights. In the morning, we could see the sun rise over the hills on their deck, and made our coffee in the mini kitchen while watching condors land on the poles of electric lines. If I had to get away from city life, this would be where you would find me.

The pace of the tiny town is slow and kind. Restaurants opened late, and shops closed early. People liked to sit and talk and the most poppin’ place was a humble diner with plastic tables and chairs serving large biscuits with gravy and greasy eggs. Meanwhile, the best croissants we have ever had (and that’s saying a lot) came from Pagnol Bakery who doesn’t even have a website and is located on a residential street, wherein a home owner turned the downstairs floor into a bakery storefront. There was also a Japanese ramen place called Kuma situated in the middle of an overgrown courtyard, extremely empty which would signal to me of their quality but the ramen was delicious and you can get sake for $1.

Not far from the town is Montana de Oro State Park. We traversed both Valencia Peak and walked along the Bluff Trail. We collected rocks on Spooner’s Cove when the sun was setting, and walked the harbor near Morro Bay. A twenty minute drive away is a breeding ground for elephant seals and if you’ve never seen them before they are a site to behold. And just to the south east lies SLO, where you can hike multiple morros to view the central coastline from above. I’ve been wanting, for a very long time, to find a place like this. It reminded me of New Zealand and even though we can’t travel around the world during this time, I would gladly drive up the coast to revisit this place over and over again.



Travel Packing Tips from a Minimalist

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Minimalism is the practice of surrounding oneself with less stuff in order to decrease what otherwise would be distractions from a life well-lived. I have found this lifestyle especially useful when traveling.

When I travel, I want to be focused on learning about different cultures, immersing myself in history or nature, connecting myself to others, or simply collecting experiences and memories. I don’t want to be physically burdened by the weight of the things I carry. I wish not to be mentally exhausted from keeping track of my belongings when I move from place to place, which when traveling, I frequently do. Lastly, I don’t like the emotional toll of losing checked-in luggage, forgetting belongings at a hotel room, or ruining a sweater during one of my wild adventures. In order to make sure I soak in the joys my travels have to offer, I practice minimalism exuberantly while jet-setting around the globe.

Intentionality is key when packing one’s belongings for an upcoming trip. As long as both the purpose and the value of each item are well considered, one can not go wrong. However, while there are no rules to minimal packing, I do have a few guidelines that I personally follow, which might prove useful for those just starting to give this a try.

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10 Packing Tips from a Minimalist

1. Find the perfect suitcase. When it comes to suitcases, I have a few requirements. First, I prefer small suitcases. I travel with only a carry-on and personal item, no matter how far the destination or long the vacation. Not only do I like to keep my belongings with me at all times, avoiding baggage claim hassles and potential loss, I also like to bring only the few things I need. Second, I look for light luggage. I am petite and 5’1″ tall. Being able to easily lift my case into the overhead bin is important to me. Third, I look for suitcases with ease of use. I want the ability to roll in different directions and I prefer a handle that extends to multiple different heights. I used to struggle with my previous suitcase, which only had two wheels and a finicky handle. After I finally said goodbye to it, I whole-heartedly decided that ease of use was going to be one of my must-have requirements. Lastly, I like the suitcase to be durable, favoring hard-shell exterior over a soft exterior. I want something that protects my tech, such as laptops and cameras, which I usually bring along on my trips for my blog work.

My case is from InCase. I wrote about it here, once.

2. Practice capsule ward-robing. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of versatile clothing from which one can create many different outfits. Ideally, you want your capsule wardrobe to contain only your most beloved things, so that on any given day, you would be willing to wear anything. I think that travel time is the best time to practice capsule ward-robing. It is a stage in your life where you will be in a particular place for a certain time period, which makes it very easy to hone down your wardrobe. And hey, perhaps after all your adventures, you decide to keep your capsule wardrobe for your daily living.

3. Pick neutral colors. Hand-in-hand with selecting versatile pieces is purposefully choosing neutral colors to mix-and-match with. That doesn’t mean bring only black, white and tan clothes. Some of my favorite “color neutrals” are Terra Cotta, Olive Green, Navy Blue, and Beige. Together, these colors create a palette that looks as good together as they do apart.

4. Compartmentalize the suitcase. I am an organized minimalist. Meaning, I have no qualms about adding extra stuff for the sake of organization. As they say, minimalism isn’t about having the least amount of things possible. It’s about having the perfect amount. And these compressible packing cubes are perfect additions for neatniks such as myself.

5. Wear the bulkiest items on the plane. This is a trick that I constantly use. In order to make my suitcase as light as possible, I layer on my bulkiest items when I travel. I usually wear a sweater and a jacket on the plane, paired with my hiking boots and favorite leggings. It works out really well for me since I am always cold on the flight and I try not to use the provided blankets due to an aversion to the plastic packaging. My husband also does the same, since his hiking boots take up half of a carry-on and his clothing takes up twice as much space as mine. For outerwear that I choose to carry in a suitcase, I store them in a separate compartment, providing plenty of breathing room for my coats and jackets. The last thing I want is to have wrinkly outerwear, since that is the most presentable thing in my arsenal. I would rather sacrifice bringing a few items if it meant I didn’t have to stuff my bag to the brim.

Outerwear goes in a separate compartment.

6. Bring only two pairs of shoes. I will have one pair in my luggage and another on my feet. Usually, one shoe option will require socks and other does not. Since we are avid hikers, I usually pack a pair of hiking boots and a pair of slip-ons. Having both options allow me to travel comfortably no matter the weather. And the slip-ons double as slippers at the hotel.

7. Pack zero-waste, if possible. Traveling zero-waste can seem difficult, until you realize that you don’t need those disposable travel bottles. I bring a bar of soap, a shampoo bar, a bamboo toothbrush, Bite toothpaste, Cocofloss, and amber bottles galore. I try to avoid all sorts of disposable things, and it actually reduces the amount of things I take along.

8. Bring only one jewelry set which you wear onto the plane. I tend to choose simple jewelry that go with all my outfits. I go through seasons, but for the past year and a half, my go-to has been a pair of Gorjana mini studs and gemstone bracelet (both gifts from my sister-in-law), two Mejuri cuffs, and my wedding band. Since I am wearing all of my jewelry the entire trip, I don’t have to worry about packing it, ever. This gets rid of an additional jewelry case in my bag, as well as the hassle of keeping track of tiny belongings.

9. Take only a handful of underwear and socks. As rule of thumb, I never take more than a week’s worth. Even if I am traveling for three weeks! I simply hand-wash and hang-dry to cycle through them. Some AirBNBs even come equipped with washer and dryer, these days.

10. Make your personal item a backpack. Mine is this sturdy, leather pack from Nisolo, which holds my water bottle, a book, a notebook, an extra sweater, my Nutrient Mist, any important documents that I need to travel, as well as a pouch (yet another compartment!) that keeps my lip balm, hand-lotion, pens, and wallet together. There are many reasons why I like having a backpack. It can hold many things, is equally useful for sight-seeing as well as grocery shopping, is usable by both my husband and I, and is an ergonomic method of toting things around.

Of course, the best piece of advice when traveling is to enjoy the journey, searching for memories, not the destination. As long as you do that, I have no doubts you’re already on your minimalist way.

This post is sponsored by Monos Travel. I am absolutely in love with this company. They recently released compressible packing cubes for easier organizing when traveling. The cubes come in three colors (tan, black, or grey) and in two different pack sizes (one with four cubes for a carry-on luggage and another with six cubes for a check-in luggage). They sent me the six pack in Tan and the compression allows me to use all six to organize my carry-on. If these cubes aren’t your jive, Monos Travel is currently hosting a sale and TheDebtist readers can get 30% off all luggage with the code SUMMER30. This promotion ends on the 30th of September, 2020. Of course, my go-to Monos luggage choice is the carry-on in either Desert Taupe, Terrazzo, Terra Cotta, and Olive Green. I would also like to draw attention to their CleanPod UVC Wand Sterilizer, a worthy addition for all travelers, especially post-COVID-19 era.

If you really got value from this post, don’t forget to pin it on Pinterest for easy referencing in the future! Happy Travels!

Travel: A Weekend in Boulder, Colorado

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Colorado never crossed my mind as a place to visit until my brother and roomie brought it up. Mike and I ended up going by ourselves due to a change in plans and instead of staying in Denver, we thought that being in Boulder was more in line with what we wanted to do – which was to be outdoors in nature and hike. Little did I know that Boulder was actually a hipster town with a hippie history that is very much in line with the values of a ChooseFIer. We were surprised to see everyone donning hiking boots, active shorts and sports bras. Most cars that drove past either had a dog sitting in the rear seat or a bike on the rooftop. Every hiking trail had kids, families, young folk, old folk, rock climbers, trail runners, and more. It was like outdoors was what people lived for, and I loved it. In California, I see most people dressed up as if they were going to the movie set every day. In Boulder, there was an understated style, one that said, “I just spent all morning rock-climbing and here I am in my gear picking up organic yogurt and fruit at Whole Foods.” Of course, within minutes, I was making plans to move here, in true style. We only had a weekend to spend in Boulder but I fell in love with this city, and am seriously good with upping life and living here for a while. Of course, I have yet to experience living in snow….

In the meantime, here’s a quick city travel guide.

PS: We spent $0 in flights and hotels for this trip. We travel hack our way around the world, and for this trip we spent Southwest points which we earned by opening Southwest credit cards and Marriott points which we earned via the Marriott Bonvoy card. Sign up to start traveling the world for free, or check out my post on how to budget for travel.


♦◊◊◊
Not worth the time.

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Good, but ordinary.

♦♦♦◊
Great. Worth a visit.

♦♦♦♦
Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Stowaway Kitchen

♦♦♦♦
2528 Walnut St #104,
Denver, CO 80205
$$

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This place used an amazing ciabatta for their BLT sandwich. If that is my opening sentence, then I hope you know just how good it was. Mike also said that the Chicken Sando was much better than our local favorite in SoCal – which is saying something since we ordered from our local fried chicken joint every week during the start of COVID! The vibe was very hipster-modern, with large ferns and lively tendrils hanging past white-painted ledges, wooden tables spaced six feet apart on cement floors. It had both outdoor and indoor seating, and the service was fantastic! I do recommend.

Woods Quarry Loop

♦♦♦♦
LEVEL: EASY

This hike is a great introduction to Boulder. It starts off from a parking lot that meanders through a quick loop trail with signage introducing visitors to a few facts on the terrain found in this area. The path continues into a meadow clearing, with the rocky mountain-side as the backdrop. Butterflies flew around us as we hiked past flowers and green grass.

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Eventually, you will be led to the trailhead for Woods Quarry, which begins with a short incline that I would rate as “easy”. The top of the hike has a great view, but the best part is the collection of stone-stacked “chairs” that locals have created. Flat rocks warmed up by the summer sun serve as great rest points, wherein one can eat a sandwich while taking in the views.

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Stacking mini flat rocks.

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Stone “sofa”.

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The sky that day was very clear, although I must warn you to take note of any clouds rolling in. Lightning and thunder are common visitors in the afternoon, and many unsuspecting people get caught on top of a mountain exposed to storms.

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The Oak at Fourteenth

♦♦
1400 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302
$$$

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The thing I want to say is that this is really pricey fare for (if I’m being honest?) mediocre food. Maybe it’s because we are Californians surrounded by a plethora of great food options. We ordered five items, and three were really good, but two of them I disliked. The three pictured here are our top choices. Unfortunately, the drink, was not as great to me. A little heavy on the alcohol, and they brought it over as a make-your-own-drink with the sparkling water on the side so that we could “dilute the alcohol to our liking”. Despite all this, they do have interesting menu items and when I looked across the table behind Mike’s head, I was very, VERY interested in the desert cake that our neighbors ordered – so much so that I actually regretted ordering fries! I was way too full to order dessert.

First and Second Flat Iron

♦♦♦
LEVEL: DIFFICULT

This hike was rated moderate, but I would actually classify parts of it as difficult. First, it starts at the Chataqua trailhead which has a steep incline. The road itself is paved but there is no relief from the sparkling sun. It beats down on you like a hammer, which makes the climb rough. We set out before 8am but still had to stop for water breaks multiple times. I would highly recommend starting out early.

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Once you switch from the Chataqua Trailhead to the First and Second Flat Irons Trail (an out-and-back trail, not to be confused with the loop), the ascent becomes rockier and rockier. You may not see it here, but this is actually the “path” to the top. Somewhere in that stone pile is a trail of flatter stones on which to step.

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This is the view from above. But if you think the scrambling is over, you would be wrong. I was not prepared to scramble up a rock face but that I did. In retrospect it wasn’t that bad, what with footholds in the giant boulders. I looked over my shoulder to watch other, more experienced climbers ascend via the flat faces of exposed rocks – definitely not something I would dare try. This photo shows the spot after the “bouldering” that we did.

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After this, there’s a series of switchbacks like a stairway to heaven leading you up to the very top part of the second flat iron. The lime stone around the rock is gorgeous. We leaned against them as we ate our snacks, with squirrels running around us trying to catch stray crumbs. By then, it was around 10am, and the sun was unbearably hot. We decided to head back after reaching the top, a one hour descent ahead of us. I do have to say that the return journey down Chataqua was very pleasant. Gorgeous views of the valleys below the entire trip down.

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Avery Brewing Co.

♦♦♦
4910 Nautilus Ct N.
Boulder, CO 80301
$$

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When you go to a brewery, you kind of know what to expect. Avery Brewing Co. did not disappoint. From their barbacoa nachos to their beer, I thoroughly enjoyed what they had to offer, especially after hiking up the flat irons. I must also say that their upside-down pineapple cake was the best thing I ate on this trip. The caramel-like sauce was made with their Quinntiki beer, which was fermented in rum barrels with pineapple, coconut, orange, and nutmeg. The waitress brought over the beer to sample, but the dessert was much better. The two beers that I ordered were the White Rascal and the Paws & Claws. The first was very refreshing and the second was the perfect hazy pale ale. Yum!

Sforno

♦♦♦♦
1308 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
$$

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We were actually supposed to dine in at a hard-to-reserve farm-to-table restaurant the evening we went to Sforno, but our decision to cancel and get pasta at this little Italian spot was one that led to zero regrets. I recommend sitting inside the restaurant, which was renovated to look like a tiny nook in a tiny alley transported straight from Italy. I don’t know what was more endearing – the fake planters, the cobbled walls, or the string lights. The food was very good – pasta that you would imagine an Italian grandma would make, paired with a nice glass of wine. For dessert, we ordered the Creme Brulee. All that was missing was a violinist serenading our table. (Do they do that?)

West Mesa Loop Trail

♦♦♦♦
LEVEL: EASY

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This trail was perfect for a leisurely morning stroll! If I were to walk it again, I would recommend taking the path to the left to start. That way when you return downhill, you have wide-open views of the green grasses below. It begins with a mini bridge that crosses a babbling brook. If you took the path to the left, you will ascend in shade. On the return hike, the hill is exposed to the sun but that isn’t such a bad thing when you are traversing down-hill. I try not to let the rattlesnake that almost attacked me cloud my judgement. Just keep an eye out because it is the season, and I guess rattlesnakes are not very happy to see visitors tramping their terrain.

Dushanbe Teahouse

♦♦♦
1770 13th St
Boulder, CO 80302
$$

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They say that you must check out the Dushanbe Teahouse for it’s interesting interior but also, for it’s wide selection of teas. We don’t know much about tea but the waitress recommended we try one that smelled like butter popcorn – a white tea without any additions to it other than the tea leaves themselves. It was the most interesting drink I have ever had – a must! We also ordered food, and the pan-fried noodles with tofu was so good, but the samosas and the xiao buns were mediocre, which explains the triple-diamond rating. We ended with a gluten-free almond cake with figs and apricots, thereby a high note. I suddenly thought of moving to Britain to see what tea time was all about.

Basta

♦♦♦♦
3601 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80303
$$

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Can I give this place five diamonds?! I mean, freshly milled dough is my jam. But this pizza was more than that. Perfectly thin but gummy, thick crust but soft. Charred in a brick fire oven (which they also had at Sforno by the way!), and topped with the most simplest basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella. It was heaven.

Boxcar Coffee Roasters

♦♦♦♦
1825 Pearl St B,
Boulder, CO 80302
$

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If I am being honest, the lack of coffee roaster options in Boulder would be the number one deterrent for moving there. I am so spoiled with California’s long line of roasteries competing to make the best pour-over. As a coffee fanatic (my husband has diagnosed me with a coffee addiction, which I think is extreme since I only drink one cup a day), I really value innovative third-wave roasters. It was something that I sorely missed in Boulder. The town’s only saving grace was Boxcar Coffee Roasters. We ordered two filter coffees to go and I must say, I was very pleased with their batch coffee! I think they would be the place to hit up if you are a fan of a good cup of Joe. We sipped on it on our car ride to Louisville heading towards Moxie…

Moxie

♦♦♦♦
641 Main St
Louisville, CO 80027
$$

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Of course, before we left, we had to search for a good bakery. We traveled to a little town in Louisville outside of Boulder just to pick up pastries on our last morning there. If you are a bread/dough/flour/grain lover, you may want to check them out. Great croissant, great vibe, great service. If we were staying longer, you know I would’ve ordered all the bread loaves.

 

How to Get Companion Pass for 2020

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I wrote previously about how to travel for free using Southwest. I also alluded to the Companion Pass, which allows you to take someone with you at NO COST, neither in points nor dollars! The Companion Pass is by far our favorite perk for travel hacking. We essentially purchase flights using points for one person and the second person gets to tag along for zilch. When done right, it can last TWO YEARS! You can change your chosen companion thrice a year, like a piece of luggage or carry-on, but with significantly more endearment. How amazing is that?!

How to Get Companion Pass

Getting an elite status of having a Companion Pass requires the accumulation of 110,000 points in one calendar year. The Pass lasts for the rest of the year through the following year after. It is more beneficial to achieve Companion Pass status towards the beginning of the year than in the later part of the year. For example,  if you get the Companion Pass in February, you will have 10 months for that year plus an additional 12 months for the following year, summing up to a total of 22 months of privilege! Compare that to getting the Companion Pass in October, which would result in only 14 months of privilege.

The 110,000 points that you’ve accumulated in order to get Companion Pass status goes towards purchasing your future tickets from Southwest Airlines. Even though 110k points sounds like a lot to accrue, it is easily achievable using the credit card sign-up bonuses. It has never been more achievable than now, because for a limited time (until October 16, 2019), the new Southwest Business Performance card comes with an $80,000 sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 in the first three months! This is the largest sign-up bonus that I have ever seen with Southwest.

How to Get Companion Pass for 2020

Because of this new deal, you can easily reach the 110k points needed by pairing the SW Business Performance card with a SW personal credit card of your choosing. The personal card will give you 40k points in sign-up bonus after you’ve spent $1k in the first 3 months. Together, both credit cards will get you 120k in points, thus reaching the minimum 110k threshold for Companion Pass. It is important to get both sign-up bonuses in the same year, preferably towards the earlier months. The Companion Pass considers when you get the bonus points only, not when you opened the credit card. So if you want to get companion pass for 2020, you can open both credit cards 2 months prior to January and hit the minimum spends IN JANUARY.

Here is a how-to guide for getting Companion Pass

  • Sign up for the SW Business Premiere CC sometime between now and when the deal ends (October 16, 2019). You want to make use of the 80k sign-up bonus deal. If you miss this time frame, you will only get the standard 60k sign- up, which will not meet the minimum 110k even if you pair it with a personal card.
  • Plan ahead on how you will spend the 5k minimum spend within the first three months.
  • Do not spent all 5k in 2019. You want to make sure that you get the sign-up bonus in 2020. For us, we plan to use the credit card for everyday spending, the holiday season, and booking AirBNBs and transportation for our Japan trip in March. We will spend only 4.5k on the credit card, which will give us a healthy buffer that ensures we do not accidentally overspend. In January, we will be spending the first few days of the year on a short trip to celebrate our third wedding anniversary, where we will likely hit the minimum spend.
  • Sign up for the SW Rapid Reward Plus personal credit card in November or December. I like this one because it has the lowest annual fee ($69) with $900 worth in bonus points, which makes it very worth it! If you would like more perks, applying for another personal credit card at a slightly higher annual fee may be for you. The Points Guy details them well in this chart.
  • Spend only $500 on this credit card in 2019. The minimum spend is very low ($1000) and you do not want to go over this amount! If you do, you cannot count these points towards 2020. In the first few weeks of January, you can easily spend the $500 on utilities, internet, groceries, and other everyday spending.

Tips on How to Meet Minimum Spends

If you are having trouble reaching minimum spends, here are some ideas:

  • Pay bills ahead, whether it be utility bills, insurances,.
  • Buy non-perishables that you will definitely use for the home.
  • Buy non-perishable staple food from the grocery store.
  • Purchase big ticket items during this time period.
  • Book future travel plans.
  • Offer to buy gifts for friends/family ahead of time.
  • Offer to pick up the tab for all your friends when you dine out, and then just have them Venmo you their fair share.
  • Ask friends and family if you could use your credit card to make big ticket purchases for them and have them e-wire you the cost. (Of course, choose your friends and family wisely).

Roadblocks You May Encounter

  • Being Denied a Business Credit Card: Gone were the days when you could apply for two Southwest personal credit cards. This method was how we got Companion Pass two years ago but alas, it is no longer an available one. They now allow only one personal and one business card. Thankfully, there is still a way! However, qualifying for a business card may be difficult if you do not have a business. Previously, I’ve written about the cons of depending on a single income stream, and credit-card-hacking-made-difficult is one of them. Off course, your life’s work shouldn’t depending on card hackability, although it’s yet another example why multiple modes of earning money could be beneficial. Often times, as reliable as they are, single income streams may lead one down the path of working for another rather than working for the self. Side hustles, however, open way for your own business. Take myself for example. I opened an S-corp for my dental practice which makes ME and MY SKILLS “the business”. My dental office pays Samantha De Leon Tillapaugh DDS, Inc. via a 1099 who then pays myself via a W-2. But even without that, I could also demonstrate my income and spending reports for Aero Bakery. I could demonstrate the dog-sitting business that I’ve grown via Rover, with letters of reference from dog owners. I can demonstrate this blog as a business, listing the affiliate marketing that I’ve entailed as well as the upkeep spending reports. Those are four “businesses” that I could use to justify the loose qualifying terms for a business credit card. Note how none of those have LLCs. I had a friend who got a business credit card from Chase when he detailed a business he wanted to start, indicating why he needed a business credit card to get the business off the ground. There are many creative ways to do this, and side hustles definitely help. If you babysit children, or tutor teens, you can rationalize why you need a business credit card. If you hold creative workshops or cook for others, you can again rationalize a reason. If you do photoshoots for special events or play music as a DJ …. well, you get my drift. Having hobbies turned side hustle can help avoid this pitfall.
  • Hitting the minimum spend in 2019 – This is definitely not a problem you want to have. Because you apply for the credit card earlier than 2020, you run the risk of hitting the minimum spend the year prior. You definitely do not want to split the sign-up bonuses between two years, because then you will have a very tough time reaching the 110k points. My advice keep track of all spending on the credit card and stop short a few hundred dollars. You can then resume spending on the credit card in January to make sure that both reach the minimum spend in 2020.
  • Not hitting the minimum spend in 3 months – If you fail to hit the minimum spend in three months, then the benefits of the card that would have outweighed the annual fee would be gone. It would defeat the purpose of travel hacking altogether. Since hitting $5k in 3 months may be difficult for frugalists, check the list above to see how you can actually use that $5k to plan ahead and relieve some of your future spending! However, beware of falling into the habit of spending just to spend. The purpose of the credit cards is not to allow you to buy more than you need. Rather, it is a tool to get you what you want without having to spend money for it (travel!). As always, spend wisely and well below your means.

Minimalist, Sustainable, and Frugal Suitcases with InCase.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

My carry-on gave out. It was bound to happen. After all the years we’ve been through, hopping from AirBNB to hotel, thrown into multiple airline bins, and staying with friends and loved ones, it was time for my carry-on to move on with its life. Unfortunate that it happened to be as we were heading to our Alaskan destination, already at the airport and too late to do anything about it. Probably its way of protesting against being selected at the TSA check, inspected for “Taboo” of all things. (The boardgame, I mean.) Afterwards, the handle refused to unlock, as if to say, “Enough!” I respected its resistance. It was gifted to me by my parents when I turned twenty-one, right before Mr. Debtist and I took our first trip as a couple to Hawaii of all places. Nine years of hard work should always be respected. But as kids these days say, the struggle was real. I tried sitting on it and wheeling myself around like the five-year-olds sitting on their dog-leashed suitcases. I tried carrying it but obviously did not pack light enough and I did not go far. Mostly, I broke my back pushing it down airport hallways in this weird half-lift yoga position.

Since then I’ve had to do without, borrowing my husband’s carry-on thereafter and trying the hiking backpack strategy, without any luck. So when we were lounging poolside with a few friends at Santa Rosa on one particular wedding weekend, a friend of mine made a recommendation to buy an Away suitcase. Seemingly a very popular brand these days, I had to look into it. But despite all its allure as the suitcase every millennial needs, it just wasn’t for me. The price range was out of reach, even though affordability was one of its selling points. Additionally, research into the company yielded no efforts to be sustainable. And it was too trendy and not minimalist enough. But her comment did lead me down a rabbit hole, and I happen to find a solution with InCase.

I’ve heard of InCase previously as a company dedicated to creating cases for Apple products. That was as far as I went, since tech isn’t exactly my forte. Maybe I saw an Iphone7 case years ago when I went to Best Buy last, who knows. However, I was not aware until recently that they also make luggage. They have some really nice options for different types of people, including techy, minimalist, frugal friends, and environmentally conscious consumers. Okay, so it isn’t posh and trendy like Away bags, but isn’t minimalism its own trend these days? Seeing Marie Kondo on the cover of magazines and Netflix make it seem like so.

Regardless, I’m in love and I’ve jotted a few thoughts of my new InCase luggage below.

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WELL-PRICED

While Away has disrupted the suitcase market for its accessibility, I would love to point out that I nabbed my InCase Novi 4 Wheel Travel Roller at $59.99 when a similar carry-on from Away costs $225! You can also get the larger check-in versions of the Novi luggage at $67.49 and $74.99 now! Compare that to $275 and $295 at Away, and I think it’s pretty obvious which choice the frugalist would go for. At least, which one this frugalist chose. Plus, it’s quite simple to order online. Since the San Franciscan based company is only a short way from SoCal, I was able to receive my suitcase within a few days. Talk about accessibility!

TECH-FRIENDLY

Techy geniuses out there will also have plenty to appreciate with this brand. In particular, there are suitcases that open to display all your tech gear in a TSA approved manner without removing your digital-ware. Multiple pockets allow for easy organizing of chords, chargers, and other gadgets. As a blogger and photo-enthusiast who is always carrying around her camera, I love that their suitcases are well designed for tech. I also like that their cases sport a built-in TSA approved lock, which gives me an added feeling of security for my carry-on.

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MINIMALIST STYLE

In contrast to Away’s multitude of color options, the InCase luggage sports only a few neutral  colors. For example, the carry on that I purchased only came in sleek black or asphalt grey. As a huge proponent of eliminating the paradox of choice, I appreciate that the color choices are minimal, which prevents overwhelm (or worse, the feeling that you need a suitcase in every color to match your mood). I am a true believer in limiting options, to save our brain power for more important, relevant, novel, and progressive thinking. Their medium check-in luggage has more color options and to rid myself of the noise, I refused to even consider it. I chose the small carry-on in asphalt grey and am very happy with its sleek look. If you are worried at all about scratching the hard shell, the case comes with a fabric protector that you can slip on once everything is packed and you’re past the TSA check (assuming you don’t open and close your luggage frequently). Then you can throw it into the overhead bin with ease of mind. However, in my most honest opinion, I don’t think I’d bother. That’s just one extra thing you’d have to do (another example of intentionally saving brain power), and I greatly enjoy the aesthetics of the asphalt grey. Lastly, I am not a big fan of brand labeling and would much prefer the understated tiny font on the suitcase over the bold printed branding on the fabric cover. That may just be my own personal protest.

Other details include removable wheels in case you’re living in a tiny home with a lone closet and wanting to store a carry on inside a bigger luggage to save space (which I do). The interior the luggage is very minimal. It unzips in the center, and there is a mesh cover for the top half of the suitcase so that clothes remain well organized and intact upon opening. The center divider is a ziplock bag perfect for laptop storage, thus making it very easy to remove or access. The divider also doubles as a separator for the bottom half of the case. There is also a tiny pouch big enough to hold the most basic necessities (such as toothbrush and toothpaste). Some may argue that the interior does not have enough pocket space, but a minimalist would disagree. If anything, time to practice those light-packing skills and welcome to the club. The suitcase also comes with a draw-string laundry bag, which I love since we usually bring carry-ons on our longest of trips so it comes useful when separating used from fresh clothes. My only gripe with the case is that there is only one handle at the top, when I think a second one on the side would help with loading onto an overhead bin. But since I always travel extremely light, lifting the thing can’t be too much of an issue.

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SUSTAINABLE OPTIONS

Also, this case in particular was made with (dare I say it?) plastic! And while there was a more sustainable option within the company,  price and minimalism outwon sustainability. But, I still felt comfortable with my purchase knowing that it contributes to a company that is making efforts to be sustainable and eco-friendly. Their Ecoya line has a carry-on called the EO Roller that is catching the attention of many frequent fliers. It was voted a top pick by Business Insider and it’s easy to see why.

Ecoya fabric is used for this case which is created through an eco-dyeing process that introduces coloration in the raw material stage instead of at the traditional yarn phase. This process reduces CO2 emissions and uses 89% less water than conventional yarn dyeing methods. It also results in a more colorfast fabric that stands up better to light, water and washing.

AND MORE

In terms of practicality, I love the four wheels. The case glides very easily and doesn’t get hung up when I do 360 degree turns. In fact, the wheels are one of my favorite features. Hubless, they make the case feel much lighter, and the double wheel gives it a great aesthetic, and added bonus to its exceptional function. The handle easily unlocks with a simple push button. The exterior is hard cover but extremely light. I feel quite relieved knowing that the laptop lies in the middle divider at the center of the bag, so even if the case gets dropped, it will be cushioned in between soft clothes. And quite honestly, I like that it looks good. The asphalt gray reflects natural sunlight and has a sheen to it. It matches every outfit and is unlikely to get dirty. I expect scratches and scuffs to be better hidden in the gray than in the black. Overall, I know that I will be traveling well with this case and could not be more happy with my purchase.

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If you are looking to shop InCase for your travel needs, you can use my affiliate link and the code AFF151 to receive 15% off.

Save 15% Off at Incase

Travel: City Guide to Seattle, Washington

Seattle has been on our radar for a very long time, so it was nice to finally get away for Memorial Day Weekend after experiencing an unintentional traveling hiatus the last few months. As usual, we were able to get plane tickets for free, and if you’d like to do the same, here’s how! If you frequently fly Southwest, learn how to fly for free AND take someone with you (also free). The getaway consisted of only two days and to save on travel expenses, we’ve decided not to get a car. This meant that we got a lot of walking in (steep hills in the city resulted in sore (STILL!) calf muscles … but great exercise!) and this also meant that we were stuck in Downtown Seattle proper. For the length of our stay, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this trip IS a bit different from our other ones which are usually filled with nature and outdoor hikes. This trip was mostly about eating, and drinking, and mild site-seeing. If we were to return, I think that a trip to Mount Rainier would be the thing to do, seeing as how we pretty much saw and ate our way through Seattle. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this city guide, and may you go to Seattle hungry!


♦◊◊◊
Not worth the time.

♦♦◊◊
Good, but ordinary.

♦♦♦◊
Great. Worth a visit.

♦♦♦♦
Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Starbucks Reserve

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♦♦♦♦
1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

I take the liberty in speaking for Mr. Debtist when I say that this was by far our favorite experience on our trip to Seattle. Before coffee snobs start to turn their noses up at the name Starbucks, may I just mention that Starbucks was historically the company that paved the way for third generation coffee roasters and allowed them to exist. They made it socially acceptable to pay $5 for a cup of coffee. Additionally, to this day, they source only coffee beans that are scored with 80 points or higher. I cannot say the same of other third wave coffee shops. As much as you’d like to look down on Starbucks as being heavily diluted, mass-produced coffee, you cannot fault them in the actual quality of the bean, from which everything starts. As I finish up that rant, I want to say that the experience at Starbucks Reserve was definitely not the same as the experience in a regular Starbucks shop. I would skip visiting the original Starbucks which is reminiscent of any Starbucks you’ll see around the world, and I would even suggest you visit this twice if you had the choice. My favorite part about this place was the bar that serves cocktails mixed with coffee and tea. Our first ever experience in drinking a cold-brew coffee martini was at a five course dinner at a restaurant called Roots in New Zealand. The taste was so clean and the drink went down so smoothly, it was like a moment of clarity. Until this past weekend, no alcohol paralleled that drink. At Starbucks Reserve, there were two that compared. The first was the Boulevardier, which is made up of barrel-aged vanilla syrup, Campari, sweet vermouth and bourbon poured over freshly ground Starbucks Reserve coffee, finished with lavender bitters. The second was a shot of whiskey barrel-aged cold-brew coffee. At $80 a pound, we only brought back 1 pound of beans to experiment with at home. The cold brew was reminiscent of root beer, without the carbonation, and with a hint of a caramel-y, vanilla-esque whiskey coffee. Obviously, it’s enough to inspire word invention. It has no alcohol content, since what little is obtained from the barrels goes up in smoke when the green bean is roasted and cracks open. Two other mixology drinks that we tried included the Whiskey Cloud (Pressed Starbucks Reserve coffee, Amaro Averna, orange-piloncillo syrup, local single malt whiskey and chocolate bitters. Served hot with shaken cream and nutmeg) and Cold Brew Spiced Rum (Teavana Dosha Chai rooibos tea, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, cold brew coffee, white rum and black lemon bitters. Shaken and finished with fresh cinnamon). In the hot afternoon heat, the affogato (espresso with a generous scoop of Mora’s locally made ice cream) was a delight! However, I prefer the affogato being served at Patricia’s in Melbourne. Either way, this isn’t a stop to be missed. I would skip the trinkets (famous last words of a minimalist), and head straight to the counter. Also, be prepared for the crowds.

Pike Place Market

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♦♦♦♦
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
$-$$

This is definitely a must-see, even if you do not buy anything from here. They have many stalls that showcase a number of products with samples. Walking around and tasting everything was a lot of fun – most samples use wooden sticks to taste. It helped that the weather was lovely. The market is by the water and you can walk along it down to the pier. There are also many eateries and restaurants, as well as vintage shops and artisan crafts. It took us about two hours to walk around, three if you include the pitstops we made. See below!

Ellenos Greek Yogurt

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♦♦
1500 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101
$

I would love to give this more stars, but unfortunately, I think this place is over-hyped. I am not even docking it for the fact that everything comes in plastic. While I would agree that the yogurt has a unique, creamy taste, I think that it was short of anything memorable. We split a marionberry pie yogurt, and it was really OH-KAY. Not worth the plastic waste, though.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

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♦♦♦♦
1600 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

Get the World’s Best Mac and Cheese! The grilled cheese sandwich was a bit sub-par (unfortunately, I judge most sandwiches by the bread, and it made the taste of the sandwich a bit less than), but the mac and cheese was deemed BEST by Mr. Debtist. And he is a true mac and cheese fan! You can also sample a few cheeses, and buy any of their pre-packaged flavors. The line may be long, but the mac and cheese is worth the wait. Meanwhile, you can watch through the window the cheese being made, or in our case, listen to the two toddlers behind you driving their parents a little insane.

Daily Dozen Doughnuts

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♦♦♦♦
93 Pike St #7, Seattle, WA 98101
$

If one thing surprised me, it was these doughnuts. When you walk up to the stand, it seems like a dingy little thing. A green pushcart was all it was, and a small machine was making doughnuts behind a sneeze guard window. As someone who just recently delved into the making of doughnuts using a brioche dough at my bakery, I honestly was not expecting much. There were only six flavors to choose from, all mini-sized doughnuts, including the special for the day which was bacon topped maple. Since we were feeling full from lunch, we ordered six mini doughnuts with some repeats. We skipped the chocolate sprinkle doughnuts and instead ordered 2 powdered sugar, two cinnamon, one maple and one maple bacon. They were delicious! I liked the maple bacon least, followed by the maple and then the powdered sugar, with the cinnamon doughnut being the best. Reason being? The cinnamon and plain doughnuts were freshly made, and still warm! They grab fresh doughnuts and toss in a bag with cinnamon and sugar. The other doughnuts were already pre-made and have cooled slightly. If I could have a do-over? 4 cinnamon and 2 powdered sugar. But that’s just me. This doughnut cart totally took me by surprise, but it was one of my favorite stops during our trip!

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

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1530 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

As much as I’d like to say this place was great, I think it was another case of being over-hyped. Firstly, may I clarify that neither of us drink soda. And while Mr. Debtist can appreciate ginger beer once in a while, these flavored drinks were similar to Fanta flavors. We just couldn’t be appreciative of it, especially for the cost. If we got the boozed version, maybe it would have been different. Joking aside, this is the only place on this trip that I gave such a low rating for.

Pinball Museum

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♦♦
508 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
$$$

I love pinball. If I was born in another decade, I would probably become one of those pinball addicts. The type who stands by the machine so as not to lose one’s spot and refuse to eat or drink for as long as my body stays upright? Yeah, that’s me. So making this pit stop was definitely in the books for us. I did dock it in rating because it’s fairly pricey ($15 per person)  and unless you are planning to spend your entire day there, I am not sure it is worth it. There are about 30 machines, a few of which were broken. There are two levels, and plenty of people, so sometimes you’ll have to wait patiently for a pinball machine that you’d like to try if someone is continually using it. The plus side is, after the entry fee, all machines are free (except one). So if you played more than 60 times, then it was worth your fee. Since we got there a bit late, I doubt we reached 60 plays. But! If you are a pinball fan, it was absolutely cool to see the difference in handling of the machines. Some were very old and only had two plastic flippers that lagged when you pressed the buttons. Playing pinball back then must have been extremely frustrating! Others were seizure inducing. Overall, though, I had a great time and would go again. PS: There’s a sweet labrador who walks around and greets you right when you walk in. Make sure to say hi to him!

Ramen Danbo

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♦♦♦
1222 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

Not one of my top five ramen, but still, really good! We got the white sesame seed oil ramen, and it had a lot of flavor. What we liked most about this place was how customizable the ramen is. You can choose from noodle thickness, noodle firmness, thickness of broth, richness, and the level of umami spicy sauce. As customary, I ordered Kaedama (extra noodle) and a side of egg. Also, the service was fast, but the wait time was pretty long since it’s a popular place. Our wait time was thirty minutes at around 7pm on a Sunday night.

Molly Moon’s Ice Cream

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♦♦♦
917 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

It’s not Salt and Straw from our Portland City Guide, but it was still good ice cream. I got the Earl Grey ice cream, which the guy behind the counter very accurately described as tasting like the left-over-milk in a Froot Loops bowl. I would say it is worth swinging by just to try, but then again, I am heavily biased towards ice cream consumption.

Elysian Brewery

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♦♦♦
1221 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

On the way home from an extremely long day of walking and eating and drinking, we stopped by this brewery and ordered a flight. They showcased a number of different types of beers. I ended up liking a Gose that Mr. Debtist ordered, as well as an Elderflower IPA. They also had pub food which looked very good, but we were not able to try after all the ramen and ice cream! I would go back to this brewery though! Very lively, a great place to meet up with friends.

Elm Coffee Roasters

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♦♦♦
240 2nd Ave S #103, Seattle, WA 98104
$$

Our second day began with coffee from Elm Coffee Roasters. The decor of the shop was just my style. Located in an assuming part of town, the inside was bright, and there were surprisingly not many people. Those who did stay seemed to be enjoying their Memorial Day off, reading newspapers and typing on laptops. The crowd seemed to be slow livers who preferred enjoying their coffee, rather than quick passer-bys taking their drinks to-go. They roast their coffee in the back three days a week. My favorite part of the menu is the flight version of coffee. You can order One & One (espresso and machiato), One of Each (espresso and brewed coffee), and One of Everything (espresso, brewed coffee, and a machiato). Plus they house pastries from Macrina Bakery and Cafe, so it’s a one stop shop if you also were trying to try their pastries!

Salumi

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♦♦
404 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
$$

Another sandwich place, getting another mediocre review from a baker. I am judging the entire sandwich as a whole, but the salami was mediocre. I got the Salumi Salami which is a cold sandwich with peppers and cheese, and Mr. Debtist got a hot sandwich with pork belly, which looked too greasy. The upsides? The servings were pretty big (we should have split!) and the cold sandwich kept well until the next day (refrigerated) and I was able to eat it for breakfast. But I wouldn’t say I’d rave about this place after the trip.

The Elliot Bay Book Company

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♦♦
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
$

This is the Seattle version of Powell’s Bookstore, or so they say. It’s much smaller and resembles the size of a Barnes and Nobles, but with a better book selection and book features. We enjoyed perusing the shelves and even sat down to read. We spent probably an hour and a half here. I ended up finishing this book, and collected a long list of ones to read. This would be a good stop for book lovers, or if you are trying to kill time. Not exactly a must-see.

The Pink Door

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10662 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843
$$

We ended our trip with a dinner at The Pink Door. Close to the Pike Place Market, this restaurant repeatedly showed up in all the reviews. The food and drink was better than average, but not outstanding. There was an aerial performer and we stuck around for her first show. If you come for the show, do ask to sit at the bar rather than on the patio. It happened to be a very sunny weekend in Seattle (which the locals never failed to comment on) and so sitting on their rooftop patio would have been lovely too. I would likely come back, for the food more than the vibes. We ordered the Tajarin (prosciutto cotto, asparagus, sugar snaps, green garlic, organic egg), the Linguine Alle Vongole (baby clams in the shell, pancetta, garlic, chilis and white wine), and doughnuts which reminded us of the Ableskivers in Portland.


For those who are interested, what I packed:

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