It’s not secret that I love to travel. Whether it’s down the street or around the world, I love the journey and exploring the destination. I’m extremely fortunate in the fact that I got to grow up between 2 countries, study abroad 3 times in college and went to grad school overseas as well. I have lived in some of the best cities in the world and I’ve been able to explore a whole lot of awesome places.
Here are some brief travel and restaurant tips to a few of my favorite cities.
London is probably one of the most touristy cities in the world. Despite having visited London many times, I really had no idea what I was getting into when I moved there for my first year grad school. It’s a completely different experience living there. I miss it every day. There are so many amazing things to do and see in London, it’s almost completely overwhelming.
- Museums! – Most of the major museums in the UK are FREE to get in to! Umm. Awesome, right? (You do have to pay for special exhibits, but general admission costs nothing.) London definitely has some of the best museums in the world and regardless of your interest you are bound to find something to interest you. My favorites include The British Museum, the Tates (especially Tate Modern) and the Imperial War Museum.
- South Bank – Nothing beats a Sunday stroll along the bank of the Thames. There are tons of things to do and definitely something to pique everyone’s interest. I used to love wandering around with my friends going to Tate Modern to ‘discuss’ art, then stopping by a few different pubs, sitting outside when the weather was nice, enjoy the view of the city. There are tons of pubs, restaurants, random street vendors and when the weather is nice there is always something going on.
- Parks – London has some of the best parks. There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting with some wine, cheese and good friends on a late spring afternoon enjoying the wilds of the city. I’m a fan of Regent’s Park and Greenwich Park in particular.
- Preem and Prithi – 120 – 124 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RL (there are 2 P&P’s across the street from each other, it’s the 1 on the left) – You will quickly learn that the title of best curry is one of very contentious debate in London. A sure-fire way to get at least a decent meal is to head to Brick Lane (which is conveniently located close to Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfields Market, and is definitely worth a visit as well). Brick Lane can be one of the most overwhelming places in London, especially for the first time visitor. Nearly every restaurant on the street has a guy outside heckling you to come in for discounts and food. I first went to Preem for Lauren’s birthday when we lived in London. It quickly became one of our go to places when we wanted to start a night out with a great Indian meal.
- Wahaca – 4 locations in London – Amazing Mexican food in London. It’s almost on par with you will get in California. I can’t say enough about this place. All the food on the seasonal menus is made to order and served as it’s ready. Everything is delicious and pretty authentic. There are a few items that definitely lack authenticity, possibly due to what’s available in London, but what the food might lack in authenticity, it definitely makes up for in creativity. Also, get the Tamarind Margarita and thank me later.
- Coming soon!
Budapest is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated cities in Europe. Budapest is a big city, with a long, rich and active history. Despite being a big city, the center (or most touristy area) is very walkable and well connected by public transportation (when it’s not on strike or broken down…). There is a lot to see and do in Bp. and it’s very different than other cities you might visit in the region. Obviously, I’m more than a bit biased, but if you had to pick between visiting Budapest or Prague, it wouldn’t even be a contest…
My first time in Budapest was in the Fall of 2006 when I went to study abroad there for the first time. I didn’t know a single person, word of the language or what I was getting myself into. I ended up loving it. Every day was a quasi-adventure, never quite knowing what you might see or what kind of crazy characters you might encounter. I liked Bp. so much, I ended up going back to finish my second year of grad school there, which ended up being one of the best years of my life.
- House of Terror – The House of Terror is probably one of the most interesting museums I have ever been to. It’s very modern and makes great use of technology to tell the story of Hungary’s past. The museum is house at number 60 Andrássy Aveune, which formerly housed both the Nazi and Communist secret police headquarters.
- Parliament – The Parliament building is probably one of my favorite buildings in Budapest. It is such a beautiful building. The architecture is absolutely amazing and it’s really fascinating to see up close. You can also go on tours, but make sure you bring your passport, otherwise you won’t get in.
- Hummus Bar – Not exactly a Hungarian restaurant, but it’s a great place nonetheless. Hummus Bar is perfect for a quick, healthy, cheap, vegetarian friendly meal. I probably ate here every other day when I was working a couple blocks away. There are a few locations around the city. The staff are always friendly and helpful and every meal is accompanied by an amazing mint tea. I dream about the tea and hummus.
- Gerlóczy Café – I’ve only been here for breakfast, but it was great. Really good coffees and everything we ordered to eat was also very tasty.
- Café Lugas – Probably one of my favorite Hungarian restaurants in the city. It’s located behind the Basilika, so it’s very easy to get to. During the summer there is a few tables out on the patio/street. It’s good, cheap Hungarian food and it offers a lot of vegetarian options, which can be rare in Hungarian fare.
- Arriba Taqueria – Another not so Hungarian place, but trust me, when you are born and raised in Southern California, you will do just about anything to get a decent Mexican food fix. Arriba is kind of like Chipotle. Everything is made to order at the counter. It’s owned by a Texan, so it’s about as legit as you can get when it comes to Mexican in Hungary. There is also Iguana’s, which is owned by the same guy and is more of a sit down Mexican place and has excellent mojitos and margaritas.
- Ötkert – Ötkert is one of Bp.’s newer and nicer bars. During the day it’s a nice cafe with really tasty food, but turns into a very, very busy bar/club at night. The main patio area (which is enclosed in winter) is cleared of all tables at night and turns into a huge dance floor. Every time I’ve been there, the DJs have always been great. Show up before midnight if you don’t want to wait in line to get in and be sure to check out the wall paper in the bathrooms.
- Szimpla Kert – Szimpla is probably mentioned in every guidebook written about Budapest, but despite being over exposed, it still remains a very laid back bar. They have DJs on the weekend, but it’s mainly just for musical ambiance rather than dancing. Regardless of the day of the week or the time of year, you can’t really go wrong with Szimpla.
So growing up in Santa Barbara, I never really got what was so special about it. I wanted to get out of town as fast as I could and never look back. Having travelled and lived in many places, I learned just how lucky I am to call Santa Barbara home.
- Wine Tasting – Santa Barbara is lucky enough to be located right next to an amazing wine region, which is great because many of the vineyards have opened up tasting rooms in town. Even though going to the vineyards is nice, being able to visit several tasting rooms all within ‘stumbling’ distance of each other is definitely more convenient than worrying about driving, directions and all that. My personal favorite is definitely Santa Barbara Winery (nebbiolo, I love you!).
- Los Arroyos – This is my favorite ‘sit-down’ Mexican place in town (I’m keeping my favorite taquerias a closely guarded secret for now). There are two locations, one downtown and one in Montecito, which has a great patio that’s really nice on sunny days. Make sure you check out the fresh salsa bar! If it was socially acceptable to live on salsa, I would be more than happy to consume nothing but their Chip Salsa and Chipotle Salsa for the rest of my life.
- Edomasa – One of my favorite sushi places in town. They have some pretty creative rolls and the staff is super friendly. Plus, it’s open until 1 am on the weekends, which is perfect for any late night sushi needs.
- The Natural Cafe – The Natural Cafe is a local chain offering tons of healthy, fresh options to fit everyone’s taste. They have fish and poultry, vegan, vegetarian options and it’s pretty easy to get a good gluten-free meal as well.
- Enterprise Fish Company – This seafood place has a great happy hour, so great that they actually have 2! I definitely recommend heading to the late night happy hour for nibbles after you are all done wine tasting across the street.
- Shoreline Beach Cafe – I love this place. It’s right on the sand (you can sit on a deck or actually on the sand, your choice) and the breakfast is amazing. I’ve never had a bad meal there. I’ve been meaning to check out their happy hour and lunch, but their breakfast is so good, it’s hard to skip it. Order the chilaquiles and be prepared for your life to be a little more complete.
- Joe’s Cafe – Joe’s is an old school steakhouse and bar and has the stiffest drinks in town. Definitely a great place to start the night or grab some late night food (grilled cheese please!). They also have an amazing breakfast, which I only recently learned about. Having drinks and getting breakfast in the same establishment just few short hours later can be slightly disconcerting at first, but once you have your first sip of their delicious coffee you will quickly forget that.
- Old King’s Road – Located right next to Joe’s this bar has tons of proper beer, ales and cider on tap along with a jukebox and pub quiz machine. There are big booths right past the bar and a patio with a pool table and Big Buck Hunter out back.
- Dargan’s – Dargan’s is an Irish pub and restaurant (potato leek soup anyone?) and usually serves as our standard starting point for a night out. Lots on tap, decent food, tons of pool tables up front and live music on the weekends.
- Washington, DC
- San Francisco
- Dublin/Edinburgh/London for New Year’s
- Costa Rica for spring break!