Queso, Patios, and Margarita's: Helloooo Austin, Texas

Woah, guys. Austin is amazing.

From the cheesiest queso dips to the sprawling outdoor patios and endless tacos, Austin is a haven for a great time.

I just got back from a quick weekend trip and as my boyfriend and I were in the airport about to fly back (and snacking on our last taco), we declared that we must return. And soon.

We stayed in an Airbnb, near South Congress Ave. which is a great area for strolling through boutique stores and finding a tasty place to eat.

The first day, I wanted to stop at Jo’s Coffee to take the quintessential Austin picture near the “I Love You So Much” graffiti that is sprawled on the side of their building. So we swung by and stood in line next to other couples and a group of eagerly awaiting teenagers girls - much to the chagrin of my boyfriend.

Afterward, we wanted to grab a few coffees and decided upon their specialty “Iced Turbo” drink, which consisted of whole milk, half and half, sweetened condensed milk, coffee, espresso, chocolate and hazelnut...with that much sugar and cream, you can imagine just how delicious it was.

Throughout the trip we made a stop here almost every morning, sometimes accompanied by their hangover curing bean and cheese breakfast tacos.

For lunch, we headed to Torchy Taco’s, filled up on their queso and brisket, fried chicken and pulled pork tacos. Afterward, we decided to walk (/rolled) it all off along the “River Walk”. We really wanted to try this Hula Hut bar we heard about, so we walked a little over 3 miles to get there - but it was along the beautiful river and by the time we got there, we were more than ready for a few margaritas near the water.

At night, we hit up Rainey Street, which was a ton of fun. It used to be a row of houses that is now converted into bars with an array of live music, food trucks and dancing. A few of our favorite spots were Container Bar, which was made out of huge shipping containers, Parlor Bar which had a live band and a giant Jenga set and Bangers, a german-style indoor/outdoor bar with live music as well. Throughout the night, we made a few stops at the food trucks to fuel our debauchery.

The next day, we started off with an Iced Turbo and breakfast tacos and then decided to take advantage of the sunny day (and try to rid ourselves of a hangover) at Barton Springs. This is an amazing huge outdoor pool, filled entirely by nearby natural springs. It stays at about 70 degrees year round, which was a bit cold for early March, but made for a refreshing float.

We were in town for a wedding which was later that night and held at a beautiful outdoor venue, so we danced the night away and filled up on...more tacos.

The last two days were a blur of food, drinks and dancing. Some of the highlights include The White Horse bar on 6th Street, devouring BBQ at Cooper Old Time BBQ, having dinner at Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill, the one and only Yeti cooler store (which also has a great little bar in it) and Spiderhouse Ballroom - an odd name, but a great outdoor patio bar/coffee shop/food truck spot near the University.

I also had to make a stop at Lucy’s Fried Chicken (as we share the same name) and we had a basket of some crispy fried chicken, fried okra and deliciously crumbly mac-and-cheese. The chicken was so good, we brought home an extra order for late night cravings.

Most of the places we visited were great though and the people were very friendly albeit a bit odd, but hey “Keep Austin Weird”.

I might need a break from tacos for a month or so, but I’ll definitely be returning soon. We left with a list of other places we want to visit when we do and I’m especially looking forward to trying the Electric Jellyfish beer at Pinthouse Pizza.

Until next time, Austin!

- The Captain



Thanksgiving in Amsterdam

This past Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I decided against the normal family weekend and took an impromptu trip to Amsterdam. One day we found ourselves over a tasty cheese & charcuterie plate and a glass of wine at one of our favorite wine bars in the city. As that glass turned to a bottle and we started dreaming of our next travel destination, we thought we might as well take a peek at Skyscanner. We had been planning to go to Chicago over that Thanksgiving weekend to visit his parents, but we saw $500 round-trip flights to Amsterdam with WowAir. This was almost half the price it was going to be if we went to Chicago, which was too good of a deal to pass up. We giddily purchased our tickets that night and crossed out our “travel to another country” bullet on our list of things to do before the 2016 year was up.

The day finally came and we packed our bags up with puffy jackets, raincoats and walking boots and readied ourselves for the winter chill of Amsterdam.

Finally arriving in Amsterdam after a somewhat painful WowAir experience, we immediately fell in love with our Airbnb and neighborhood in between the Haarlemmerbuurt and the Jordaan districts. It was a four-level skinny (and steep) little apartment. It was the perfect spot to plan out our adventures over the next nine days.

There are too many things to go into everything in detail, but if I had to pick my favorite part of Amsterdam, it would have to be the canals. At that time of the year, all the trees lining the canals were full of golden yellow leaves that would fall to the surface of the water, creating a beautiful impressionist like scene from a painting. The architecture itself is also incredible...

One day we decided to check out the Van Gogh Museum, which I would definitely recommend, and when we came out we were met with the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. It was vibrant red-almost purple streaks painted across the sky with slashes of orange and yellow. Besides the breathtaking scenery, many parks and architecture, we had some amazing meals, took a boat cruise through the canals, experienced coffee shops, wandered around the different districts and found some incredibly old bars and hip new hangout spots.

Much to my happiness, we also ran into a few different cats around the city. It is definitely more of a cat vs. dog city, which makes sense with its tiny houses. The first bar we went to we saw a woman with her cat just curled up next to her. Another night we had a friendly, big, orange cat (we nicknamed him Nacho) follow us home hoping for more pets and treats. Throughout our trip we’d stop by restaurants that had their token cat hanging out under the windowsill, basking in the sun.

We also found the BEST apple pie I’ve ever had at Winkel 43. No exaggeration. After my first slice of the perfect mixture of thick slices of spiced apple and a melt in your mouth crumbly crust, I was tempted to immediately order another one. Pat wisely deterred me, but we definitely came back for round two on another day. We also got excellent mint tea, which was just a huge mint bunch soaking in hot water - straight from the source. 

One our second to last day, we celebrated Thanksgiving by cooking up a feast at home and stopping by the necessary coffee shop beforehand, which became an adventure in its own.

All in all, Amsterdam was a great city. I loved that you could walk everywhere, sit along the canals or stop by local bars to people watch. We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to bike, but next time it’s a must! My friend is just about to move to Amsterdam (sadly for me!) but I’m excited to have the chance to revisit Amsterdam again soon!

Below are a few notable places we loved on our trip:

  • Harlem - Bar/restaurant we went to a few different times. It has surprisingly great nachos and it’s where we discovered an amazing dutch IPA beer called Thai Thai from Oedipus Brewing
  • Vesper Bar - Tasty cocktails near our Airbnb
  • Cafe de Oranjerie - Great local bar + pub food, friendly bartenders that we played Jenga with and I repeatedly lost at.
  • Temple Doeloe - Awesome Indonesian restaurant where we got rijsttafel - 36 tiny portions of foods with varying spice temperature
  • De Blauwe Druif - Great bar, great Bitterballen
  • PIQNIQ - Great spot to grab lunch and walk around the Joordan neighborhood
  • Il Pacioccone - tiny Italian family-run restaurant, amazing pasta and Caponata
  • Brouwerij 't IJ - Awesome brewery in a windmill, they only have one english tour a day, so we missed it but great beer and tasty cheese + grilled sausages
  • G’s - Somewhat hidden breakfast place, the menus were on record players and they had amazing drinks and brunch-like options (think chicken & waffles and benedicts)
  • ‘T Blaauwhooft - first spot we visited, great local pub w/ good food

A Weekend Down the Coast

I once visited Manresa Beach a few months ago, while searching (to no avail) for a last minute camping spot and have always wanted to come back, with reservation in hand, to actually experience camping here.

Manresa Beach is about a 2-hour drive south near Santa Cruz on the coast and this past weekend we finally snatched up a camping spot for a night! We headed out on a Friday morning and on our way, stopped in Capitola for a few hours as I wanted to show my boyfriend this cute little surfing town.

We walked along the pier, watched the surfers catch waves and looked at my favorite part of Capitola - all the beautiful colored hotel houses dotted along the beach that looked like they were picked from an easel of a 7-year-old.

As we had some time to kill before lunch, we decided to check out the Armida wine tasting room, a micro-winery located off the main strip. It was a very relaxed, unpretentious tasting room unlike those usually seen in Napa and we were happy to chat with the staff, drink their delicious reds and take in the views. We walked away with their PoiZin, a great Zinfandel to drink around the fire later that night.

Afterward, we decided to take a detour along the Soquel riverwalk. The river is lined with houses, each with their own little dock or floating patio and all with abundant gardens filled with pink roses and white clematis that climbed up their front gates. Most of them also had paddle boats or kayaks tied up as the river flowed straight into the ocean - it looked like a perfect place for a waterfront BBQ with friends.

After an amazing lunch at Cafe Cruz and full of the tastiest clam chowder, we arrived at our campsite in Manresa. The campsite was a bit snug and full of screaming children at one point, but being so close to the beach and hearing the waves lull you to sleep at night was a much-needed escape from the city.

The beach was about a ½ mile trek down and so we grabbed a bottle of wine, eager to sink our toes in the sand and watched the sun go down. Afterward, we made our way back to our campsite, lit up the fire and made dinner, drinking more wine and chatting until we were sleepy enough to snuggle up in our tiny tent.

The next day we packed up, went down to the beach for one more frolic in the waves and sand and then made our way to Carmel for a quick stop before heading home.

Unbeknownst to us, when we made it to Carmel, it was the same weekend as the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a weekend for fancy collector car owners to meet and show off their latest treasures. Let me just say, It was quite the people-watching experience. We wandered around as gaudy dressed women with too much plastic surgery strutted their way past us and loud talking, slick suited men hovered around the Aston Martin pop-up.

We had lunch at La Biciclette, a tasty French-Italian restaurant with wood-fired pizza and fresh pasta and then made our way through the crowd of people and flashy cars, safely back to our little gray Zipcar.

We decided to take the long way home and drive back on Highway 1 along the winding coast, taking in the vast ocean views, towering cliffs and grazing cows. We stopped at Swanton Strawberry Farm, a favorite local spot to U-pick or grab a sweet treat - which we did! Gobbling up a Strawberry Shortcake and Olallieberry Crumble.

After a few more twists and turns on the road, we pulled over, curious to check out Highway 1 Brewery, a small brewery with an incredible ocean view. It was a divey, no-frills place to grab a beer- and just as we were about to finish, a band got together and started playing tunes in the back.

After listening to a few songs, we were tired and ready to make our way home, full after the adventures of the weekend and excited for the plush comfort of our bed.

-The Captain