Some Down Time in Hong Kong

It was time for me to adventure out in my own since Leslie had to go to work. I decided to take the day and head to Kowloon and conquer the Ladies Market. I had a friend that requested a few items and I took my negotiation skills and pictures to the market to find some purses and belts!

The market was not nearly as overwhelming as Beijing or Shanghai but walking through the streets, a constant comment of “copy bag or copy sunglasses” was whispered under hushed breath breath. I was looking at some sunglasses just because I thought they were cute and the guy asked to see my Jimmy Choos I was wearing and told me he had a copy. I pointed and said “these are real” and walked away.

Having had my adventure and also just wandering the streets, I relaxed a little bit back at the house before heading to dinner at Oola Petite. This is another local spot for Leslie and we opted to order some fajitas. With all the various cuisines I was consuming, why not throw some Mexican in there?

The next day Leslie had to work again and I was just plain old tired. I took the day to Netflix and chill. When Leslie got off work, we went to dinner for bottomless sushi! It would seem my last few days were focused on food which is absolutely okay with me!

Shopping Alert

I have USAA for my bank account and they are usually absolutely fantastic! ATM fees are waived and I have never had any issues getting out cash. That all changed when I attempted to get out some money for the rest of my trip. I tried 5 different ATMs and they all failed! I googled USAA in Hong Kong and apparently this is a huge problem and the card can’t be read. I wish I knew this BEFORE I left. After a very frustrating conversation with USAA they finally suggested I find a Citibank and thankfully, that worked! From here on out, I will make sure to always have some cash on me to at least exchange at a currency place.

After that little adventure, we headed towards the bus to head to Stanley Market but of course we hit up a few random stores to browse in along the way. I picked up two necklaces since they are small and easy to pack.

The bus was only 7.90 HKD which is about $1 USD. We browsed through the market and stumbled out onto a Christmas Market. There was mulled wine, wine tasting, food tasting and so many cute Christmas trinkets! It made me feel like I was in the holiday spirit. On our way home we stopped at the grocery store so I could make a home cooked meal and just relax.

Something other than Quito

I had two nights to spend in Quito between Bogota and The Galapagos. Quito airport isn’t exactly near Quito (think about a 30-45 minute drive) and I had some friends that were renting a car and traveling to some other cities Ecuador has to offer so I decided to tag along with them. I stayed at a cute little place called Hostal El Parque and had my own room with a king bed for just $20USD/night!

I don’t think this is a legal plate

We took a day trip and went to Otavalo and Cotacachi which means as we were driving, we crossed the equator. I thought there would be a line down the middle of the road or something to show it, but it was just a sign. Anyhow, Otavalo is a cute town about 90 minutes from the airport with a HUGE market with tons of local handicrafts and food. I managed to escape with just a few bracelets and some delicious food and good times.


   Our next stop was to Cotacachi which is known as the leather village. I thought Florence had great leather but this place was fantastic! I wanted every purse and jacket and was drooling over some of the prices. Handcrafted leather coats for $150USD or less!!! I had to remind myself that I was I was backpacking and did not have the space or the need for a leather coat in my bag. I did splurge a little and bought a cute pair of leather shoes that were on super sale and I just couldn’t resist.


    We intended to head to Laguna Cuicocha but got a little distracted with shopping and missed the 5:00pm park closure. We drove to the gate and still managed to see some amazing views. The entire drive was full of gorgeous views of volcanoes and cascading landscape with a layer of fog that hovered at all the peaks. It was a beautiful day and a perfect way to not be in the city!

One day in Sofia

I arrived to Ten Coins Hostel in Sofia, Bulgaria around 7:00am absolutely exhausted! Why so exhausted? Let me recap the previous 14 hours. Rushed to my bus since I was an idiot and had the wrong time on my computer and barely made it. Took a 12 hour overnight bus from Athens to Sofia that I barely slept on because of a crying child. Found my way to the hostel via the metro…exhausted.

I did not expect a bed to be ready so early in the morning, but I was delighted to be able to drop my luggage and sit. I ended up falling asleep at a kitchen table with my USC hoodie on and my teddy bear as a pillow. The hostel owner woke me up about 10:00am and told me there was an early checkout and he had a bed ready for me. I immediately crawled in with all my clothes on and finally went to bed.

Flash forward to 2:00pm when I woke up and needed to get my day going. I went into the city center and walked around for a bit and had a great lunch (12 USD for two beers, a salad and fish). Then I went on a free walking tour with Free Sofia Tour and took in the sites of the capitol of Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

View down the street

View down the street

Bulgarian crest

Bulgarian crest

Central public bathouse

Central public bath house

Creepy empty train station

Creepy empty train station

I also maybe accidentally bought some new shoes. 🙂

New shoes...whoops!

New shoes…whoops!

Anyhow, fun facts I learned on the tour:

– Sofia s over 6000 years old

– Bulgaria was established in 681 and the name has never changed

– Apparently when Bulgaria joined WWII they declared war against the USA and UK thinking nothing would happen since they were so far away. The US bombed Sofia.

– People from the country still come to Sofia to take a selfie at the communist department store as this was the first place moving stairs were in Sofia

A weekend in Paris with my sister

My sister was working in Versailles and some of the surrounding gardens for the last 6 weeks. Our parents decided that since we were both in Europe, we needed to meet up for a weekend of sister time in Paris.

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My sister has been living the life of luxury in beautiful chateaus, while I have been sharing my life with complete strangers in hostels. Needless to say, we spoiled ourselves and booked the BLC Design Hotel in a cute part of Paris. We were surrounded by cafes and restaurants and incredibly close to a metro stop to make everything a bit easier for us.

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We spent our first day having a great lunch and going on a huge shopping spree. And by that I mean, Sophie went on a huge shopping spree and I watched. I found the shirt pictured below and was tempted to buy it, but just couldn’t do it.

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For dinner we opted out of traditional French food and had some amazing sushi. Instead of the usual sake we opted in for a bit of rose.

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We had a very leisurely morning the next day and had a lovely brunch with our coffee before jumping on the metro to explore La Petite Ceinture. This is a really cool strip of railway that gives you a different perspective and walk through Paris. Finding the entrance was not as easy as we thought and we ended up walking about 2.5  miles before we found the entrance. For those that would like to enter, just take the metro and get off at Balard.

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One of the things we really wanted to do was get manicures and pedicures. We hunted for a mani/pedi place and could not find one that allowed walk-ins, so we got creative and gave ourselves hotel room mani/pedis with some champagne and room service.

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Being a tourist and doing all the touristy stuff was not exactly our thing, but we thought we would have lunch on the water by the Eiffel Tower. We were rewarded with an awesome Sunday market and a delicious lunch and a token Eiffel Tower picture.

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Our day continued with a leisurely stroll to Luxembourg Gardens to explore and relax on the grass. It was a great last sister activity.

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Finally, we had a lovely dinner at a great little bistro with some delicious rose and a little champagne to toast our final night.

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Little breaks from backpacking and seeing friends and family are a very important part to keeping some sanity while traveling.