City on the bay: Trip recap from San Francisco

I absolutely love California. With that being said, I had only ever been to LA, but I loved it so much that I can’t wait to go back. I had obviously heard amazing things about San Francisco, but when I think about California I think of the more southern parts rather than the north. I knew I would make it down to San Fran one day, but it was never on my immediate bucket list.

Wednesday’s post I chatted about my time in Texas last week and we actually headed to San Francisco right after Austin. Thankfully we caught a direct flight, but even still it was over three hours until we actually touched down in the bay city (by comparison it was about the same amount of time from Calgary to Houston). San Francisco, like New York, is notorious for expensive hotels, but luckily my boyfriend has friends who live right downtown in one of those turn of the century houses on those iconic steep hills that the city is known for. The house was just above Chinatown so it was an incredible location due to its proximity of all the famous tourist attractions.

San Francisco Chinatown Walking in San Francisco Chinatown Mr. Holmes Bakeshop in San Francisco Mr. Holmes Bakeshop San Francisco
Lombard Street in San Francisco On a streetcar in San Francisco Sea Lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco View of the Golden Gate Bridge

Since all the touristy things in San Fran are actually quite close together, we hit off almost everything in one day. We started the day early on Monday walking through Chinatown and stopping to get some dim sum. After, we made our way through Union Square and then towards the pier, making sure to first stop off at Lombard Street, also known as the windiest street in the world (the street zig-zags as you drive down). Once we got to Fisherman’s Wharf I knew we hit a major tourist trap, which I don’t typically mind since there’s always tons of things to see and do. As we were walking by we noticed that there was this random one-hour boat cruise that took you on the bay around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve done boat tours in other cities and always find they are tourist traps, but this one was only $15 (well worth the money) and you could bring your own drinks on the boat. If you are heading to San Francisco, I highly recommend checking this out, the boat was called Wacky Jacky and they are located near the Applebees; it was well worth the $15 per person. After we got off the boat we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and made sure to stop by Pier 39 where the sea lions are. I was blown away by how many of them there were and how they were all just chilling on the docks. I didn’t think I would enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf that much, but it really is a cool part of the city (plus I love anywhere on the water).

I ended up visiting Alcatraz the next day, which takes off from Pier 33. I had bought my ticket about two weeks in advance since I had heard that it often sells out if you wanted to buy it the day of. If you want to visit Alcatraz (which is apparently the number-one tourist destination in the United States according to Trip Advisor), definitely buy your tickets ahead of time since my time slot was very full and I’m sure all the other times had limited tickets, if any. The ferry ride over is about 10 minutes and then you listen to a park ranger speak about the history of the island before walking up the hills to explore the former prison. I had known that it was a federal penitentiary that held some of the most dangerous criminals, however, I didn’t know that prior to that it was a military base and then after that a place where Native Americans went to protest in the ‘60s after their reserves were taken away. The island is also home to so many beautiful flowers, which were planted there by the inmates so many years ago. In the jail itself there is an audio tour which is really well done and it was super cool seeing how they have preserved the building (plus I love super old creepy stuff in general). They also had a former inmate there signing books, which was really cool (although if I did time there I don’t think I would want to go back).

Jail cells in Alcatraz Alcatraz Watertower on Alcatraz Island Administration building at Alcatraz Fauna on Alcatraz Island Castro theatre in San Francisco Walking in front of the Painted Ladies, San Francisco At the top of Mission Dolores Park Pretty houses in San Francisco

After Alcatraz my boyfriend’s friend ended up showing me around the parts of the city we hadn’t yet covered the day before. We went to Tartine for lunch, a famous bakery located in the Mission area, then walked around there before heading to the Castro district. Along the way we stopped at Bi-Rite for their ice cream (the salted caramel was incredible) and took in the views at Dolores Park. The last thing on my list of things to see was the Painted Ladies, so we actually ended up renting these electronic scooters which made the trip way more fun (seriously, I’m so sad I didn’t find out about these earlier, they were called Lime Bikes and you just find them randomly on the street and activate them via the app).

We headed back to Winnipeg on Wednesday but I would love to travel back again to visit. The city is so beautiful and really blew me away by how different the architecture is compared to the rest of North America. Obviously I had seen the style of the houses in the movies and TV, but I wasn’t expecting nearly every house to look like that (we stayed in one and it was super cool). I will say that I didn’t ride a streetcar, but I figured the photo was good enough (they are $7 to ride one way; we were going to catch one at Union Square but the line was too long. I’ll do it next time). I’ve been to a lot of beautiful cities, but I had to stop myself multiple times to really take it in. Whether it was on that boat overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge or on top of the hill at Mission Dolores Park, it really is a gorgeous city and I can’t wait to visit again.

Have you been to San Francisco?

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Everything’s bigger… Travel recap from Texas

The state of Texas had never been on my radar of places I would have wanted to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are tons of things to do there, but as a Canadian, there are so many other places I would want to travel around the United States. I mean if the opportunity came up to go there I thought it would be cool, but I wasn’t planning on going out of my way to visit anytime soon.

All that changed last week. My boyfriend was doing some work stuff in Houston, Texas, so I figured, why not go with him to visit. Luckily Westjet flies there from Calgary (from one oil city to another), so the trip wasn’t that long to make it down (also, all the wine in the Plus section didn’t help either).

Prior to visiting, I did do some research into the city, and I have to be honest, I didn’t really feel like there was much to do in Houston, for me at least. I did think about checking out some of the museums in the Museum District, but to be honest, I was kinda feeling over all those touristy things so I thought I would just keep it easy. Our Airbnb was located off Westheimer, which is a major street in a good neighbourhood, so it made it easy to take the bus to the places I wanted to visit. I had always wanted to try out SoulCycle, but since it varies in price by state, Texas actually ended up being the cheapest place to try it out of all the places I was visiting (New York it was $34 and San Francisco it’s $32). I ended up doing SoulCycle both the Friday and Saturday (you get a free class with the first class you purchase) and absolutely loved it. I have done spin before locally in Winnipeg (I actually had unlimited for a few months earlier this year at Saikel), but it was a different kind of spin class as it’s to the beat of the music as opposed to RPMs and watts. There are actually two SoulCycle studios in Houston, but I went to the River Oaks location since it was about a 10-minute bus ride from our Airbnb.

Bebidas in Houston, TX Street art in Houston, TX River Oaks shopping district in Houston, TX Street art on Westheimer in Houston, TX

Since it was so hot in Houston I made my way to the Galleria mall, which is also down Westheimer as well. The Galleria is one of the largest shopping centres in the U.S. and really did have every retailer you could possibly want in a mall. I probably spent about four hours there but didn’t really buy anything since most of the stuff you can get in Canada by this point. From there, I started walking back down Westheimer since I had seen some stores I had wanted to check out on my way there, including this ritzy shopping district in River Oaks which was an outdoor mall with luxury designers.

To be honest, I didn’t really do much in Houston since it didn’t really feel like a big tourist city compared to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. On the Saturday we were actually driving to Austin for a night before my boyfriend and I left for San Francisco, and just by looking online it did seem like Austin had way more fun things to do. After SoulCycle on the Saturday I did start to walk back down Westheimer to get back to our Airbnb and I made sure to stop in at Trader Joe’s and a few cute boutiques on the street that I was kinda disappointed I didn’t discover earlier.

Anyways, later that day we drove to Austin, Texas, which is the state capitol and much more laid back than Houston. Austin is smaller and seemed way more hip and incredibly Millennial friendly. Honestly, even as we were walking around there I kept saying that I couldn’t wait to come back. On our way down my boyfriend’s friend took us to a couple barbecue joints in this frontier town called Lockhart, which is about 30 minutes outside Austin and it was so cool seeing oil rigs in people’s backyards and old-time downtowns. It was that stereotypical Texas vibe you see in the movies (same with the barbecue joints).

Anyways, we got to Austin at about 7:30 p.m. and checked into the Fairmont Austin, which actually opened in March of this year. The Fairmont Austin is the largest Fairmont in the United States and the second-largest in the world and has all the amenities that I love so much about the luxury hotel brand. Since the Winnipeg Jets were playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights in round three of the Stanley Cup Finals, they actually had a bottle of prosecco and chocolate waiting for us in the room along with a card. I love it when hotels go above and beyond for their guests and this hotel did not disappoint. From the comfortable Fairmont beds to the spacious bathrooms, it was hard even leaving the room to begin with. Since we only had one night in Austin, we obviously ended up leaving the hotel, but first made sure to check out the property, which also boasts a food hall, a restaurant and lounge (which was playing the hockey game, might I add), a huge outdoor pool complete with palm trees and cabanas, and so much more.

When we did make it out of the hotel we went to the bar at the Driskoll Hotel, which is this historic hotel in the Austin. Afterwards we walked back towards the Fairmont but went down Sixth Street which was so cool to experience. I knew Austin had this party scene, but it was like anything I have ever seen before. The street was shut down between a few blocks and it was just bar after bar and music playing and a bunch of drunk college kids. If I was like 22 again, I would have total been into that, but since the crowds were so young, we headed to Rainey Street, which was around the corner from the Fairmont. That one wasn’t as crazy but still packed with people and had all these houses that were transformed into one bar after another. They also had tons of food trucks (there were food trucks everywhere in Austin), and by that point after a few cocktails I felt very inclined to pick up some mini donuts. Afterwards we stumbled back to the Fairmont and passed out in those ultra comfy beds.

Fairmont Austin lobby Welcome in Fairmont Austin hotel room Sitting at the Fairmont Austin pool Sitting outside at the Fairmont Austin pool Bed and prosecco at Fairmont Austin Bed at the Fairmont Austin Lobby in Fairmont Austin Food hall in Fairmont Austin Fairmont Austin food hall Street art in Austin, TX Street art in Austin, TX Cowboy boots in Austin, TX austin Motel in Austin, Texas

The next day we were flying out to San Francisco at 6 p.m. so we went for brunch at this awesome place called Odd Duck, which serve small plates, and then headed to South Congress Avenue, which is this street filled with super cool shops, bars, and restaurants. Honestly, walking around South Congress was so cool since there were so many people around and cool murals and food trucks, and honestly everything was just so awesome.

After about two hours there we headed to the airport and flew to San Francisco.  It was super cool visiting the Lonestar state, especially since I thought it was a place I wouldn’t ever really visit. The weather was incredibly hot, the food was amazing (and so much of it), and Austin is definitely on my bucket list of places I want to travel back to.

Have you been to Texas? Where did you go?

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Sun care, safely: LASPA mineral sun care protection products

So although the weather has been really nice lately in Canada, I’ve been in need of sunscreen early this year since I’ve been travelling a lot this month. I’m currently in San Francisco, but just got here via Texas (Houston and Austin), where the sun was shining and the temperature was super hot.

Since I was in need of sunscreen, thankfully these new products from Canadian-made LASPA arrived early, making them perfect to toss in my bag as I headed on vacation.

LASPA’s products are made only from plant-based ingredients, minerals and essential oils, without artificial fragrances, colours, or parabens, and are also gluten free, nut free, fragrance free, and hypoallergenic. Since traditional sunscreens use chemicals (which to be ironic, aren’t good for you either), LASPA uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which are natural mineral sun blocks that sit on your skin and stops both UVA and UVB rays from penetrating it. In comparison, chemical sunscreens use synthetic chemicals to reflect the sun’s rays after they have penetrated the skin’s surface.

LASPA SPF 20 Daily Sun Protection Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Currently the brand has two products in their line, an SPF 30 Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen (C$40) for face and neck and a SPF 20 Daily Sun Protection Mineral Sunscreen Lotion (C$44) for face and body.  Although it is recommended that you should apply sunscreen everyday, I have to say that I’m one of those people that doesn’t follow that rule.  To be fair though, I don’t even like the feeling of moisturizer on my skin during the daytime. For the face, I do try to incorporate a sunscreen into my routine in the summer (although this should technically be something you do year round), whether that is an SPF in my moisturizer or a sunscreen primer. I did pack the SPF 30 since it’s 80 ml (perfect for travel), and to be honest, I didn’t realize that this is technically for face and neck since it doesn’t say that on the bottle.  I did use it on my body as well and found that it applies really nicely and doesn’t feel slimy or greasy at all, which is what I hate about sunscreens.

As for the LASPA Daily Sun Protection, this one is also light and translucent, and can be applied on both face and body, where it also applies moisture.  When used as a daily regimen, it counteracts the aging and damaging effects of the sun’s rays and the antioxidants help to protect your skin. Total win-win.

LASPA SPF 30 Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen

When it comes to sunscreen, I typically go for something inexpensive and easy to find (like Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, etc.). With that being said, mineral sun care products have been on the rise lately as you should definitely be concerned about not only what you’re putting in your body, but also what you’re putting on it. Since sunscreen typically contains chemicals, I would so rather go with something that is made from natural ingredients rather than stuff found in a lab.

You can find LASPA products in salons or on their official site. 

Please note, this post contains products sent by PR. All opinions are my own.

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