Austin, Texas

Austin was my first solo trip since getting back from Europe, and it was awesome! What a cool city.

CITY: AUSTIN

HOW LONG: 4 NIGHTS

ACCOMMODATION:

I stayed at my first hostel in the States! Drifter Jack’s was located near UT Austin and about a 10 min bus ride to downtown Austin, which was perfect. The hostel, while not my favorite, was overall pretty good. It was fairly easy to meet people in kitchen, common room, or the pool table outside. There was no free breakfast, but there were lockers in the room (although mine was hard to reach because I had the one on top unfortunately). The rooms were spacious and clean. Overall would stay here again.

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One of the walls within the hostel

WHERE TO EAT:

WOWOWOW Austin has some amazing places to eat. I was here for four days and felt like four weeks wouldn’t be enough time to try all the places I wanted to try. I started with Waltons Fancy and Staple, a yummy, clearly popular, brunch spot. I tried a biscuit sandwich, which had eggs, smoked cheddar, bacon, and an aioli. It was delicious.

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My biscuit sandwich

I couldn’t go to Texas without trying BBQ so with the group of British guys I met at my hostel, we visited Freedmen’s Bar. I ordered a barbecue benedict and was not disappointed. Meanwhile the guys ordered one pound of meat each and ate every last bite.

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The Brits enjoying the BBQ

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BBQ Benedict

Voodoo Doughnuts, made famous in Portland, OR, also has a location on 6th street in Austin. In my time in Austin, I tried 3 doughnuts: Maple Bacon Bar (Raised yeast doughnut with maple frosting and bacon on top), Old Dirty Bastard (Raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo cookies, and peanut butter), and Blueberry Cake (Blueberry cake doughnut with a glaze). Hands down the best one is the Maple Bacon Bar. After the pub crawl we can came here and the Brits were asking which one to get and I told them to get the Maple Bacon Bar. They were skeptical going in, but after trying it they couldn’t stop talking about how unbelievably good it was. ALSO it’s a great spot for pictures!

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Inside Voodoo

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The long line for DOUGHNUTS

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Maple Bacon Bar

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Old Dirty Bastard

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For a quick and easy breakfast, Blenders and Bowls is perfect. I ended up eating there twice it was so good. Both times I had the O.G. acai bowl and added spinach.

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O.G. Acari Bowl

I was delighted to spot a Modern Market while in Austin as I used to eat there probably 3 times a week when I lived in Boulder! They have great, healthy, fresh food with plenty of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. I ate a yummy truffle potato pizza and side of sweet potato mash.

Last, but not least, was The Grove Bar and Kitchen. The reason I went was to try the Impossible Burger, but I ended up having the best bruschetta I’ve ever had (outside of Italy of course!). But honestly it was so good!!

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The Impossible Burger!

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I tried three: Heirloom tomato, garlic, basil, & mozzarella. Avocado, bacon, tomato, arugula, & aged balsamic. Apple, fig chutney, & brie. I can’t even pick a favorite because they were all delicious in different ways.

WHAT TO DO:

Austin has so much to do! You definitely need more than 4 days to do it all. The first day I was there I spent the day walking around the city. I probably walked for over 8 miles. Highlights include walking along the Colorado River, which runs through Austin. I would walk for a bit then stop at a bench and read my book. I also ended up walking through the capital building which was a highlight.

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Walking along the Colorado River

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View of Austin

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Capital building

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Hinges in the Capital building

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View of looking up at the dome

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Underneath the Capital building

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Austin

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View from the Congress bridge

6th street is famous for its great bars and nightlife and it didn’t let us down. I went on the pub crawl through the hostel and was headed straight for this spot on Saturday night. Among our crew was four Americans, one Australian, and five Brits so I knew it would be a fun group. Essentially 6th street becomes a city sponsored block party every weekend starting at 11pm as they shut down access to pedestrians only. Such a cool idea and it ends up being one big party in downtown Austin. We had a great time going from bar to bar.

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6th Street

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Enjoying the live music

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Friday night

Rainey Street is one of the coolest spots in Austin. Each building houses a different and unique bar with cool food options (some restaurants and some food trucks). It definitely has a more laid back vibe compared to 6th street, which houses more club-like bars. I was here with the Brits and we spent our night at a bar that a grassy, backyard space with giant jenga, picnic tables, and cornhole. They had never played cornhole before so it was a blast teaching them!

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Backyard at one of the bars on Rainey Street

Anther great activity is watching the bats at dusk. Over 1.5 million bats roost under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. This makes it the largest urban bat colony in the world. Crazy right?!

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Waiting for the bats to come out

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

I really liked Austin! There were so many cool things to do, and I can’t wait to come back when it’s a little warmer to explore all the water activities Austin has to offer between the lake and the river! There is such a young, hip vibe to Austin and I think it’s only going to get cooler. Other than the blistering heat during the summer, Austin seems like an amazing place to visit and live. No wonder so many start-ups have started to move to this incredible city!

 

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Vancouver, Canada

CITY: Vancouver

HOW LONG: 2 NIGHTS

ACCOMMODATION:

While in Vancouver, my mom and I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. It was a very nice hotel and the location couldn’t have been better. It was very central and close to the waterfront. Plenty of good restaurants were within a 15 minute walk. Definitely would stay here again.

WHERE TO EAT:

After landing in Vancouver, we headed into an area of Vancouver called Kitsilano. It had a hippie-ish vibe and it was very low-key. No towering skyscrapers to be found here. We were hungry and trying to eat healthy so when we found The Naam, it seemed like the perfect match! It was a vegan restaurant and apparently very popular for UBC students as it is open 24 hours. I got sesame-honey fried tofu and it was delicious!

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Looking at downtown Vancouver from Kitsilano

That night we headed to Pacifico pizzeria for dinner. It did not disappoint! My mom had a yummy caesar salad with prawns on it, and I had a butternut squash ravioli dish. The atmosphere was great and this place is centrally located in downtown Vancouver. Definitely recommend this place.

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Mama!

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Enjoying our meal

My favorite restaurant of the trip was Vancouver Urban Winery. One of my good friends from while I was studying in Barcelona lives in Vancouver so he took my mom and me to this restaurant on our last night here. THIS PLACE WAS AWESOME! Great atmosphere. Great open floor plan where the kitchen was exposed. Tons of great alcohol. The food was fantastic. I can’t recommend this place enough.

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The waterfront with Ryan after going to the Vancouver Urban Winery

Our last meal was lunch at Cactus Club right on English Bay Beach. It was a great location and had a really diverse menu, which is great for a group that has varying tastes! I had a yummy frozen cocktail called a Frosé!

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Frosé all day 🙂

WHAT TO DO:

Other than just stroll along the beautiful waterfront pedestrian path, the highlight of our time in Vancouver was renting bikes and exploring Stanley Park. Stanley Park has 27 km of forest trails and a 8.8 km seawall path. THIS PARK WAS INCREDIBLE!! It was such a great place to go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or just a snooze in the sun. There were beautiful views and play structures for kids. There was something for everyone!

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Vancouver on a beautiful day

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Mom struggling on her bike

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Taken from the bike path around Stanley Park

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OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Vancouver was incredible!! My mom and I were just about ready to move here! The sun was shining the whole time and it was 75 degrees +, however, everyone was all too happy to inform us that we happened upon the best weather they have had in months and it wasn’t normal. The normal weather is gray and rainy– which put a damper in our plan to move here. We just couldn’t get past leaving sunny California. Overall, my mom and I couldn’t get over how awesome Vancouver is. There is a modern, beautiful skyline and bike paths all over the city. Stanley Park offers a nature refuge in the middle of an urban environment. Public transport seemed to be everyone and there were beautiful waterfront walking paths. All in all, Vancouver is a must!!!

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Drinks with Leanne, who I met while I was traveling in Porto, Portugal!

After Vancouver we headed up to Whistler for a night! After dabbling in some hitchhiking in Europe, I made my mom stop for 3 hitchhikers on our way to Whistler. Two Germans and one Italian!

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German, German, American, Italian

CITY: Whistler

HOW LONG: 1 NIGHT

ACCOMMODATION:

We stayed in the Hilton while in Whistler. Again, this was a nice hotel, but what made it super special was its location. You could exit the back of the hotel onto the village stroll, which is the pedestrian street through Whistler village. Definitely would recommend this hotel.

WHERE TO EAT:

The standout meal in Whistler was at La Bocca. We sat outside on a beautiful, warm night and were able to enjoy people watching while enjoying our meal. It was bustling on the Saturday night we were there with plenty of bachelor/bachelorette parties along with families, couples and groups of friends. The food was delicious and I had a yummy cocktail as well. Would 100% go back here.

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Life is good

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WHAT TO DO:

Our stay in Whistler was short, but we managed to pack a lot in! Our first stop was at Scandinavia Spa, which offers a traditional Scandinavian baths experience in a peaceful and natural environment. We enjoyed the many pools and solariums before our 60 minute massage. Unfortunately there are no phones allowed (although it was great to unplug) so I don’t have any pictures, but this place was magical!!

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The entrance

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Beautiful walk to the spa

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The spa itself (they have done a nice job of keeping it private and integrated into the nature!)

The other awesome thing we did while in Whistler was take the gondola up and hike on Whistler Mountain. There was so much snow still, it was incredible! After our hike we took the peak-to-peak gondola to Blackcomb before taking the gondola back down to the village! Super fun experience with amazing views!

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On our way up! (Mom was talking to a nice Iranian couple)

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Up and up we go

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Mid mountain views

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CANADA

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The lift up to the peak

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The lift

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Starting our hike!

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Plenty of snow

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!!!!!! SNOW !!!!!!

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Cant’ get over the views

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On our descent towards greenery

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Whistler was incredible!! We were blown away at how dialed in Whistler was for both winter and summer. They know what they are doing!! Between mountain biking, skiing, hiking, swimming, and all the great restaurants and shops, you will never be bored in Whistler- no matter what season you are in!!

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From the Vancouver Olympics