Month: January 2019

Grace Lee, Creative Director, Restauranteur, & DJ

Founder of female music collective LIAISON FEMME, Creative Director of LA’s Runyon Group, Co-Founder of NYC restaurant De Maria, and DJ –  Grace Lee is a multi-faceted force to be reckoned with.

Born and raised in New York, spending much of her childhood in Korea, and now residing in LA – Grace is no stranger to travel as a way of life. She once planned a trip to Nicaragua to get away from the city life – and ended up staying for months (and falling in love).

Though Grace now splits her time between music and hospitality, the beginning of her career was focused on the DJ life. Playing venues like The Boom Boom Room, affiliated with artists such as Mia Moretti and Venus X, and working for Warner Brothers Music Group – music was her main game.

Since opening James Beard award-winning restaurant De Maria with co-founder Camille Becerra, Grace has dipped her foot into the hospitality industry, and is taking LA’s Runyon Group to new heights. This all-around creative super soul is the lady to bring us the next big thing, we just know it.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Amangiri Resort in Utah, Bowery Hotel in New York, and Maderas Village in Nicaragua. 

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

Complete custom menu based off my Blood Type at a hotel in South Korea. Very personalized service. 

What hotel room design element can you not live without? 

An ambient bedside lamp (lighting can completely change a mood).

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

Rooftop of Boom Boom Room at the Standard Highline, or back patio of the Bowery Hotel.

Where would you go to digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Meditation and solitude is usually found when I go to the desert or the woods, anywhere in the world. Being in LA – Joshua Tree is a great place to access that sphere. 

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

Absolutely. As a multi-faceted creative, I believe fluidity is so healthy, and  surrendering to the notion of how other parts of the world can inspire us is really important. It’s a gratitude to travel – an ode back to our world to truly embrace and nurture it. I always make sure that I bring my personal relics and totems with me to remind me of a sense of home and comfort. That entails my journals, typewriter, orca sculpture, marble globe, frankincense + myrrh incense, palo santo, and golden flask (for solo wine or mezcal adventures). I like the simplicity of applying your “tools of influence” and bringing it wherever you go. To me, a huge purpose of travel is to find your relationship with yourself, and with your work- and I feel so fortunate that it is a part of my career. Ultimately, I love that (upon a return back) it makes home feel like home, too.

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Thom Yorke – Daydreaming

Philip Glass – The Poet Acts

Bjork – Human Behavior

What is your most used travel emoji?

Rainbow. 

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Bible, Tea Tree oil, Tea Tree toothpicks, noise canceling ear plugs. 

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

YES. We’re designed to understand our origin in the movement of pilgrimage. It’s in our science to be alone, because silence also creates expansive reflection. So when you travel alone, the individual spirit is at a space to find a deeper self.

What’s your favorite room service experience ever?

It’s hard to choose one. When they have a really nice pot of tea and fresh flowers, (the hotel)’s usually a winner.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

My mom. I would love to see us both in the air, journeying somewhere new. 

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

Meditation is key for me. Without aligning yourself in the beginning of the day, you can reduce clarity and increase anxiety. Through reflection, I acknowledge stress, anxiety, or any other emotion that comes to the surface. Really finding “flow” is the core of it all. Without a good flow, the disarray can really complicate my day of travel, or even the entire trip. So meditation is my center, wherever I go.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

I get out in the sun! The sunlight adjusts our body clock. Beautiful, eh?

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a really amazing meal. Where was the best one you’ve had?

Garlic grilled octopus and aji roasted potatoes at NOMADE in Tulum. THE BEST octopus I have ever had.

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

Sufi poems and Arcana Volume 5: Magic, Mysticism, and Music.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

My soft blue General Admission trouser pants, a light-colored t-shirt, beige Birkenstocks, and my custom beige Gucci-Stetson hat.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Iceland, South Africa, South of France, Mexico, or South Korea.

Alone or with someone else?

Someone else. 

In flight WiFi – Y/N?

No!

Early check-in or late check-out?

Late check-out.

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?

Organic Asian tea selections: Oolong, Hojicha, or Barley Tea. Also mezcal either from Madre Mezcal, Yola Mezcal, or Lost Explorer. And definitely Kimchee. 

L.A. – Mid-City

In the second installment of our LA guide, we’re here to focus on what lies between west and east Los Angeles. Though true Angelinos understand that “mid-city” defines an actual LA neighborhood, we are using it here to describe the areas between West Hollywood and K-Town.

So much of what defines “old LA” style can be found in and around the central part of the city: Art Deco signs that rise above classic hotels, restaurants that hark back to old Hollywood glam, and surprisingly excellent shopping that gives residents their defining laid-back look.

With areas like Korea Town filling its streets with trendy new bars, there is a sense that parts of each neighborhood are changing. The change isn’t all bad (though some really great hole in the wall food has been sacrificed), and it has even made some ‘hoods more diverse and exciting to visit.

Check out what we love about all that space between the beach and the LA river. We are pretty certain you’ll dig it, too. If for some wild reason you missed our “Westside” guide – check that out, too, for even more spots to hit on your next visit to LaLa Land.

Where to stay

Hotel Figueroa

This place has a rooftop pool. We could probably end our recommendation there, but alas – it does a few other things well, too. The Spanish colonial-style interior is gorgeous and translates well to each of the eateries inside the hotel. Drinks at Bar Figueroa are brought to you by the cocktail guru from Employees Only in NYC, and we can attest to the fact that the booze here is just as fantastic. Make a reservation at Bar Alta afterward. Just trust us.

Petit Ermitage

Petit Ermitage is very much a West Hollywood hotel. It has a private rooftop pool that feels so “LA” that you could probably spend your entire visit up there. If you happen to make your way back to your bohemian-inspired room, only do so to change into something warmer and then walk right back up to the roof to sit by the fire. It’s a transportive, leafy oasis. We’ll meet you there.

The Line

You’ve probably seen this hotel pop-up on your social media feed the last two years or so, and with good reason. Koreatown is increasingly popular with Angelenos from all parts of town, and has bars and restaurants popping up everywhere (please note: it ALWAYS had good bars and restaurants). This Mid-Century Modern-doused hotel came was opened in the last few years, and recently added a new section of rooms that were designed by the brothers behind Houston Hospitality (Good Times at Davey Waynes, Dirty Laundry, and about 5 other places you have definitely been to). Oh, and if you head upstairs you can dine in a greenhouse which makes for fabulous #content.

Image via The Line Hotel

Where to eat

Jon & Vinny’s

If you can get a table, this is some of the best pizza in LA. We recommend going for a late lunch or at some odd hour in order to grab a seat, but in the event you attempt to go when the crowds hit, don’t worry – know it’s 100% worth it.

Animal

This is not the place to come for your “light dinner” of quinoa and lentils. As the name suggests, this place doesn’t F around when it comes to shared plates for carnivores. Be prepared for one of the most unique experiences in LA, and to leave with the meat sweats. Come here with a date, specifically one with an adventurous palate, or with a larger group of friends. If pig ears or the beef tendon chips are too out there, don’t worry. Animal has added some more approachable items to its menu, including the Hamachi Tostada and Spaghetti Dan Dan. But you should seriously get the pig ear.

Guelaguetza Restaurant

Great Oaxacan food in Koreatown. “Great” might be an understatement being that Jonathan Gold (the first food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize!) actually named this “the best Oaxacan restaurant” in the entire country. Opened by a husband and wife team from Mexico, the restaurant is still a family business. Expect a live mariachi band (huge bonus)- and you should definitely order every type of mole on the menu.

Sushi Park

There is a sign outside of Sushi Park that basically reads “No Bullshit.” They don’t serve California rolls or teriyaki, they don’t do veggies or salad, and don’t even utter “spicy tuna” here- they admittedly display that they don’t partake in any “trendy sushi.” If that doesn’t get you in the door immediately – just walk away. Sushi Park is where you come for high-quality fish and super authentic Japanese sushi. Even though it’s in a strip mall, it isn’t cheap- and it’s worth it.

Rosaliné

On Melrose Ave sits this beautiful Peruvian restaurant. Full disclosure: we love Peruvian food, and could eat it for most meals of the day. Rosaliné does a great job at the classic ceviches, lomo saltado, and vegetarian options. The interior is worth the trip in itself, as is the food presentation.

Otus Thai Kitchen

If you’re looking for a solid breakfast with good coffee – but you’re sick of hearing how this “avocado toast” is the best in town – head over to Otus Thai Kitchen. We order the “Kai Kata” and a latte, and take a seat in their sunny backyard. We recommend you do the same. 

Gracias Madre

We aren’t vegans and therefore we don’t typically take our Mexican food in vegan format. But if you do – this is your place. Gracias Madre has a gorgeous tiled courtyard and interior. We promise they don’t skimp on the food, so don’t let the “vegan” prefix detour you.

Where to break

Liquid Juice Bar

If coffee isn’t a part of your “I just got to LA” cleanse, then head to Liquid Juice Bar for a green juice fix. It doesn’t look like much from the outside – but we love the quality of their product. They are also known for one of the best acai bowls in the city. 

Paramount Coffee Project

This small coffee shop on North Fairfax serves a great cup. This Sydney outpost is another Aussie coffee project – so you can trust their flat whites, gibralters, and other fantastic specialty drinks. They have good food in case you need a bite, and a small but cute backyard. We wouldn’t recommend coming here to work, but it’s a perfect place to meet your old co-worker for an afternoon break.

Go Get Em Tiger

Though not very big, Go Get Em Tiger is a great place to grab a coffee in central LA. Located on Larchmont (which happens to be the unicorn of LA streets – one you can actually leisurely walk and shop on), you can peruse any of the stores around the area. If you happen to get hungry, turn right around and go back to Go Get Em Tiger because their food is solid, too.

Where to shop

American Rag

This is an LA mainstay- and you’ve probably come here before. American Rag is still a great place to find denim staples and great boots to match. Selling cool brands like Ulla Johnson and Norse Projects, there is something for everyone.

Des Kohan

Selling high-end jewelry, clothing, and accessories, Des Kohan is the upscale boutique that makes us wish we had a black card. Collaborating with emerging designers, this shop has both unique pieces and major staples.

Denim Revival

Did you rip those vintage Levis that make your butt look perfect? Denim Revival can repair them. Did you never even have your dream jean that made your butt look perfect? You can buy those at Denim Revival. Do you need a trendy vintage leather jacket to go with your new pants? Denim Revival has you covered.

Mister Freedom

Though this is a store for both men and women, we truly feel like the vintage finds for the gents are why Mister Freedom shines. Alongside rows and rows of well-curated vintage is the Mister Freedom in house label, as well as finds from around the globe.

What to do

Cinespia – Hollywood Forever Cemetery

On Fairbanks lawn insider the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is where you’ll come with big blankets, pillows, and picnic supplies. Get cozy and gear up to watch a number of different films. You’ll see other Angelinos enjoying a date or a night with their friends here. If you’re thinking “this is in a cemetery – I bet they only show horror movies,” you’d be wrong. With past films like Dazed & Confused, Almost Famous, and season finale screenings – there is something for everyone.

Hollywood Bowl

Check out the schedule of acts coming into the historic Hollywood Bowl. This is one of our favorite venues….ever. With the Hollywood Hills in the background, and the natural acoustics, there isn’t a better place to see music. We recommend getting a table and bringing a picnic.

LA Farmers Market

LA has a ton of farmers markets, but the original one on Fairfax is a must visit. You can get everything from produce to homewares to prepared food. The flowers are also to die for (in case you need to pick up a little something for a dinner party you’re planning to attend later). 

Olympic Spa

Korean Spas are a way of life in LA. We’ve tried a bunch, and Olympic remains one of our consistent go-to spots. Don’t come here for the luxury experience you might expect at the Four Seasons – but if you want to feel like your skin has returned to baby form after a great salt scrub – this is your place. 

The Comedy Store

This is an LA institution. From Whoopi Goldberg to Eddie Murphy to Robin Williams – this place has seen some legends. Grab tickets to either stage and don’t be shocked if you get a surprise celebrity comic crashing the performance.

Where to get your hit of culture

Barnsdall Art Park

Okay, so technically Barnsdall Art Park is in “East” Hollywood but we are including it anyway. An 11-acre park, Barnsdall is home to a Frank Lloyd Wright structure, a phenomenal art gallery, creative classes for kids and adults, and views.

LACMA

This might be surprising, but if you walk past the famous lamp post installation that has been Instagrammed thousands of times, there is an incredible collection of art inside LACMA. With fantastic exhibits and a staple collection that people travel to see, LACMA is one of our favorite museums in LA. And yes, you can still take photos of the lamp posts. 

La Brea Tar Pits

Off of Wilshire Blvd are the centuries-old La Brea Tar Pits. One of the worlds most famous fossil excavation sites, you can take a tour of the natural history museum that sits behind the viewing area. We love the fact that this is right in the middle of Los Angeles.

Where to work out 

Wanderlust Yoga Studio

Wanderlust goes beyond just a yoga studio. With Vinyasa, Kundalini, Mindfulness classes and more – you can definitely get your mat time in. They also have a cafe, a collaborative studio space, and they host events.

Modo Yoga LA

Modo has made its name across America, but we love their LA outpost. This hot yoga studio has great teachers and is exactly what we need after a night of drinking and eating tacos at 2am.

Edge Dance Center

If you want to take it up a notch, head over to Edge Dance Center to take a class. This famous academy offers classes for all levels – but any of them will get your sweat on. 

The Wall Fitness

With 5 unique classes ranging from cycling, to interval training, to stretch – Wall is where we go to kick our own ass. Their signature 123 Stack class is the perfect antidote for jet-lag, and will keep you coming back for that adrenaline high. We also love their facilities.

Where to drink

The Dime

A Los Angeles classic. The Dime is still running and it’s still as great as it ever was. If you get here early, you can slip into one of the banquets and avoid the crowds that start coming in around 10pm. It isn’t a big place, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in great music. Drinks are strong. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

Jones Hollywood

Jones is also a restaurant, but we usually come here for a martini or another self-important drink at the bar. The interior is the classic LA vibe you’re looking for, and the bartenders have some stories. The last time we were here, the power went out and even though they couldn’t pump out food or…see, they lit the entire place in candles and let the drinks flow. That’s the kind of place Jones is.

The Normandie Club

If you’re looking for a fancy cocktail or an impressive date spot, head to the Normandie Club in K-Town. It’s a dark, beautiful bar and we feel like you should probably order a really nice whiskey on the rocks. If for some odd reason your date isn’t impressed by the bar itself, take her to the secret bar inside the Normandie, called Walker Inn

Kibitz Room

This dark bar might smell like corn-beef and mustard – and that’s because it’s attached to Canter’s Deli (a moment of silence for this LA staple). The bar is kind of a dive but that is why we love it. You will pretty much exclusively see LA locals and the rare but real LA native. 

El Carmen

Tequila on the rocks. Tequila cocktails. Tacos to go with your tequila. This is El Carmen. 

Where to dance

Break Room 86

This is an 80s-themed karaoke bar in Korea Town. And yes, we know what you’re thinking: dreams really do come true. Walk through the secret entrance through a loading dock, and just know that one of the best bars in LA is waiting for you on the other side. 

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s

Brought to you by the Houston Brothers (like Break Room 86), this is a 70s bar that you get through via a secret entrance (see a theme here?). There are mustard colored couches, hammocks on the patio, and really, really good tunes. One of our favorite places in LA. 

Dirty Laundry

Okay fine – all of our places to go out are Houston Brothers establishments. We don’t care – because they all serve their purpose, and Dirty Laundry’s purpose is to be sexy AF. With a speakeasy vibe, candlelit bar, and good cocktails, this is one of our favorite places to come. The real kicker is the secret dance room with fantastic DJs, hidden in the back.

Where to work

Verve Coffee Roasters

The Melrose location of this LA coffee house is large, airy, and has great outdoor space. Some of our favorite coffee (we buy the beans every time), Verve also has food. Take a seat on a comfortable cushion or at a table outside to get some sun while you work. 

Bricks & Scones

Located on Larchmont in Hancock Park, Brick & Scones is huge. Head to the second floor and make yourself comfortable for the day. Plenty of outlets and, yes, scones to keep you charged. 

The pool at Petit Ermitage

Listen, you’re in LA. That means that you should be in a bathing suit at least 50% of the time. If that means suffering from a little screen glare while you soak up the rays while writing a few emails, so be it. Head to the bohemian-inspired rooftop of Petit Hermitage and plug away.

Dayo Olopade, Content Partnerships at YouTube & Author

Author and all-around media maven, Dayo Olopade, currently leads content licensing and engagement strategy for sports, news, and entertainment partners at YouTube. She is also a reporter in Washington and in Nairobi, a Yale Law School Knight Law & Media scholar, and a council member at Reuters…plus, she’s helped build and launch consumer products at the New York Times and Facebook. Also- she’s a blast to have a margarita with.

Though Dayo was raised in Chicago, her parents immigrated to the US from Nigeria in the 80s. Maintaining a deep connection with Africa, Dayo moved back to Nairobi for 2 years, and traveled through 17 countries on the continent.  The cumulation of her experience became her book, The Bright Continent, which outlines the new narrative surrounding modern Africa.

Between her job at YouTube, speaking about the future of media to world class institutions like the London School of Economics and Google, and writing for a number of top publications- we classify Dayo as a certified boss.  

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

Rooms with wall sockets designed with different voltages in mind. I constantly toggle between European, American, and South African hardware. We have to respect diversity in devices.

What is/are your favorite “offices” while traveling? 

I am an airport lounge lizard and proud of it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into the travel industry, or have travel as a critical part of their job?

Invest in functional luggage, and noise cancelling headphones.

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Young Forever – Jay Z

Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones

Too Much Informatio –  Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra

What is your most used travel emoji?

Probably the smiley with sunglasses.

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Whomever was styling Kerry Washington on Scandal.

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice? 

I will always have a soft spot for the New York Times’ 36 Hours series, and if it’s been updated within the past two years, Wallpaper guides usually offer a welcome focus on architecture and design. I run some 40 miles a month, so on the road I will also check out Strava, the fitness app, for any well-loved routes in a new city.

Best Travel advise you’ve ever received?

Don’t drink on the plane – and always take the trip!

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

Once in a while I will tack a Friday night onto a work trip, and spend it in a hotel bathrobe catching up on TV, email, and beauty rest. And if you can fly business, you should!

Do you have any favorite travel hacks (ways to score an upgrade, methods of getting your meal first on a flight, etc)?

I’m someone who always boards last – just in case there’s an open seat in a comfier class, or closer to the front of the plane.

On any flight over 6 hours, I am doing active leg stretches and hydrating in the galley mid-way.

What’s the craziest & unpredicted travel experience you’ve had?

I received a mysterious upgrade to Air France Premiere, and was whisked directly from plane to connection in a posh Jaguar sedan. No idea why! 

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

I’ll name my own book, The Bright Continent, which is an investigation of technology and development in Africa. I reported it across 17 countries in two years, and while it covers meaty issues like education, health care, and finance in Africa, it’s also a contemporary travelogue that brings back memories of some of the most unusual and fascinating places I’ve been.

What’s your favorite room service experience ever?

I tend not to order in!

Beach, city, or mountain?

City.

Alone or with someone else?

Alone.

Favorite travel app?

Google maps is best in class.

Fantasy mini bar/fridge items?

Avocados.

In flight WiFi – Y/N?

No!

Cartagena

With cobblestone streets and colorful mansions, it’s hard not to be immediately charmed when you set foot in Cartagena. If the Caribbean getaway you’re after is complete with breezy, quiet days by the ocean and taking pleasure in solitude – this is not the place for you. The palm-lined plazas that fill the walled city are humming with people at any hour of the day, and you would be remiss to not catch a salsa party or eat a world-class arepa in one of the squares during your stay.

With Cartagena’s increasing popularity has come an influx of awareness around tourism. The city has become much safer, but it is also much more geared towards visitors. That means a growing number of vendors crowding the streets to sell their goods and climbing prices for locals and tourists alike.

Though most people will tell you to stick within the limits of the old city and its beautiful homes, the probability of you getting woken up by a group of large, drunk men who just landed for their friend’s bachelor party is…high. We usually opt for Getsemani as our home base while visiting the coast. However, with all the gorgeous places to stay in the old city, and the privacy they afford their guests, you can’t really go wrong. In fact, Cartagena is one of our favorite places to explore hotels because of the individual boutique lodgings that are housed in old mansions. We sometimes just pretend we are in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel (until we realize that we don’t, in fact, own a colonial home on the beach and need to log back into our Gmail).

Between the beautiful scenery, short boat trips to stunning beaches, great dancing, and the fact that it’s a direct (and relatively painless) flight from most major cities in the Northern Hemisphere, Cartagena is one of our go-to trips for that necessary weekend getaway.

Where to stay

Hotel Casa Don Sancho

One of our top picks, Casa Don Sancho is housed in a renovated townhouse on the edge of the walled city. We love the location – away from most of the crowds but still in old town – and the 6 bedrooms are spread across 3 beautifully designed floors. Bright rooms and neutral colors give this place a peaceful energy amongst the buzz of colorful Cartagena. Head up to the rooftop patio for sunset.

Casa de Alba

Right next to Bolivar Park, Casa Alba is an old mansion located in the city’s historic center. With an outdoor pool and courtyard garden, this hotel is a perfect option for larger groups or for a romantic getaway. We love the individual decor of each room, ranging from stunning canopy beds to a set of perfectly placed twins. If for some reason the courtyard pool isn’t getting enough sun exposure for your perfect tan, just head upstairs to the roof for their second pool and A+ views.

Hotel Capellán de Getsemaní

Hotel Capellán is one of our top picks in our neighborhood of choice. The minute you walk in, you get a sense of the Caribbean inspired design elements – beautiful fountains, white cushioned chairs, and dark wood accents. The rooms are bright and airy, and the rooftop pool is second to none. They also have a pretty good spa if you are looking to indulge. 

Tcherassi Hotel

The Tcherassi Hotel is one of the chicer options in the old city. Owned by fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi, you can tell that the minimal, elegant interiors were created by someone with two feet in the design world. With a beautiful pool on the roof, we also come here for one of our favorite spa experiences in Cartagena. Both restaurants in the hotel are fantastic, and we recommend indulging in one if not two dinners on site.

Casa Lola

Located in Getsemani, Casa Lola is a great price-conscious choice. This quaint but perfectly styled hotel has a fantastic roof top pool and bar. Down the street from Cafe Havana and Bazurto Social Club, you can dance your way home in about two minutes.

Casa Venita

For those of us on a budget, Casa Venita is one of our favorite places to stay in Getsemani. Though it does have hostel-type accommodations, Venita also boasts both queen and king size rooms. With an adorable cafe serving acai bowls and other healthy eats, we opt for the “breakfast included” option. There isn’t a better way to start your day.

Where to eat

Demente

This is our favorite restaurant in Getsemani for a few reasons: the location right on Plaza de la Trinidad gives way to pretty spectacular people watching, the tapas style menu, and the really good cocktails that will start your night off in the best way. 

Moshi

Brought to you by the owners of Colombian institution, Carmen, Moshi is their Japanese sister restaurant. We say go here over Carmen because the tasting menu is where it’s at. We think the 7-course is the way to go, but they also have an 11-course option if that’s your style (which we would highly respect). The food is inventive and the fish is fantastic. This is a must visit during your time in Cartagena. 

Pasteleria Mila

A perfect place for a breakfast pastry or a morning bite, Mila is located in the center of the old city. They also have brunch, but it wouldn’t be our top choice. We recommend grabbing something sweet and a coffee, and relaxing before kicking off the day in the sun. 

Candé

Serving high-quality Colombian cuisine, Candé is what we would label “upscale authenticity.” This basically means that the traditional food they serve is the real deal, but you are also eating that food while sitting in gorgeous banquets, in a courtyard with plants hanging above you. Definitely make sure there is fish on your table, and you’ll thank us for sending you here.

Bonche

This Getsemani bar was started by two young locals who were in need of a great cocktail bar that would serve quality without the American price tag. Enter Bonche. The cocktails are good, the food is also good (though not necessarily healthy), and you can absolutely find a party here any weekend you visit. You’ll meet young locals and visitors alike, and we recommend the burger.

Cafe Stepping Stone

An Australian cafe that most of our America friends will be very excited about. Yes, that means you can find avocado toast, acai bowls, and other vegan-friendly options on this menu. Though we fully admit we are to blame for loving the Aussie health trend – we actually come to Cafe Stepping Stone because of their mission. They work to shrink the gap between the “two Cartagenas,” and employ young teens and adults from around the city. They teach them English, how to serve, how to cook and make drinks, and overall hope to jumpstart their careers. Yeah – so go order yourself an almond milk latte and feel really, really good about it.

Street food

On the corner of Carrera 11 and Calle 38 is our favorite arepa stand. Come here in the morning to get a ham, cheese, or veggie arepa freshly made. This is a Cartagena staple and you need to grab one (from any stand) before you leave.

Where to drink

El Barón

This upscale cocktail bar will feel very familiar to those traveling from America or Europe. Though it’s rather small, the romantic decor and great drinks make you feel like you could stay for hours. The bartenders are half the reason to love it here – and they also serve small bites. 

Alquimico

This three-floor bar looks like something out of a 1920s novel. Each floor is distinctively designed with beautiful attention to detail. Once a worn down warehouse, the owner has renovated it but kept the integrity of Cartagena architecture. With a first floor bar that gets fairly crowded, a second floor with blue velvet chairs and beautifully tiled floors, and a rooftop patio that plays great tunes – you definitely have options here. All the cocktails are good, but we recommend the mezcal concoctions they do so well.

La Jugada

This could technically be put in our “where to dance” category, but being that La Jugada serves wine, and there are so many incredible salsa clubs to shake your thing at in the city, we are leaving it right here. This bar is relatively expensive and is mostly geared towards tourists, but well-heeled tourists. The art deco design and crowded basement prove for a truly great experience. 

Beer Lovers

For those of you that aren’t big on cocktails, come to Beer Lovers for some of Colombia’s best brews. They serve more than what the country has to offer, but we recommend sitting at the bar and trying what’s local on tap. 

Where to dance 

Bazurto Social Club

Hands down, our favorite place to get down. Bazurto has no rules, except the fact that you hit the dance floor with conviction. There are live bands performing cumbia, salsa, reggae, and more. You can dance the night away, or watch the performance and order calamari. This place is pretty much everything you want in Cartagena. 

Quiebra Canto

The third of the Getsemani club staples (Cafe Havana and Bazurto being the other two). Though we love Cafe Havana and would put it on our list, we figure that most people in search of dancing will head there. Quiebra Canto is geared more towards the experienced salsa dancers -but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time for everyone.

Mister Babilla

This isn’t where you go to get the local flavor. That said, if you want to listen to some good DJs who play a mix of Latin music and the usual hits – this is your spot. In any other country this bar wouldn’t be anything special. In Cartagena, where beautiful cocktail bars are easily found, this straight-forward establishment is a breath of fresh air. Be prepared to find loads of tourists – also be prepared to dance your heart out.

Where to break

Cafe de la manana

A recommendation from Cartagena native, Ernesto Roman, Cafe de la Mañana is a perfect place for a morning or afternoon break. If you need a cup of coffee, a $6 breakfast of eggs, bread, fruit, and juice, or a mimosa midday – this place if for you. Feel free to post up here with your laptop or journal.

Café del Mural

On a quiet street in Getsemani, you’ll find this adorable cafe. Cafe del Mural takes pride in the coffee they serve. Though Colombia is a huge exporter of premium brew, the country doesn’t keep the high-end beans within its borders. This cafe has a mission to showcase the true beauty of Colombian coffee, and serves some of the best cups in town. Take a seat outside and look at the beautiful graffiti art that this neighborhood is famous for. 

Beiyu Cafe

If you aren’t in the mood for caffeine, head to Beiyu Cafe in Getsemani for a smoothie or juice. This adorable cafe has seating inside and great A.C. (which is important in the summer months). They also have reliable wifi – so if you need a healthy snack and an e-mail break, this is your spot. 

Epoca

Our favorite place for iced coffee is Epoca. We get a blended iced coffee and call it a day, but there are so many options at both locations. The food they serve is a great breakfast choice, but you can’t go wrong with simply taking advantage of their beautiful interior and a refreshing caffeine fix. Make sure to check hours, as it opens a bit later than most shops.

What to do

Day trip to Rosario Islands

When people think of Cartagena, they usually think of the beach. You won’t find that beach in the city, which is why we are sending you to the Rosario Islands. Technically a national park, the Rosario Islands (or Islas del Rosario) are about an hour boat ride away from the Cartagena port. Feel free to stay overnight at one of the hotels, or just visit the stunning beaches for a day. This is where you can swim in the calm, aqua blue water you dream of when thinking about the Caribbean. 

Walk the wall of the walled city

Built in the 1500s, Cartagena’s historic walls run 4km around the center of the city. It was previously used to protect the city from pirates, and you can now take a romantic stroll or come here to catch the sunset.  

Tierra Bomba 

Another beach getaway for when you want to hit the ocean in Cartagena. Closer than the Rosario Islands, Tierra Bomba is easily accessed via boat. If you opt for an overnight mini-vacation, we recommend Blue Apple Beach House. You can also pay for a day-pass to this adorable hotel – but we think you might as well stay a night or two.

Las Bóvedas

Las Bóvedas is a series of 23 structures built into walls that were originally purposed to vault weapons or anything else the Spanish wanted to hide. Later, these same vaults were used as prison cells during the civil war. Very charming. Today, these historical structures are used as markets stalls. Come here to find local goods and souvenirs to your friends back home.

Where to get your hit of culture

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

When going to Cartagena, you need to visit the fortress that overlooks the city. A 15th-century structure, you can tell that the conquers of this land weren’t messing around. Make sure to come here on a sunny day, because it can take a minute to walk around the preserved site. 

Museo del Oro Zenú

Exhibiting a fantastic collection of gold pottery, Museo del Oro Zenú showcases the work of pre-colonial times, with a strong focus on the indigenous Zenú culture. Definitely one of our favorite museums in town.

Salsa classes

Technically Cali is the salsa capital of Colombia. Admitting that, Cartagena is still a great place to take classes. Check out Crazy Salsa for to learn some moves. After you’ve been schooled, head to Cafe Havana or Quiebra Canto to show off your skills.

Getsemani street art

Colombia has incredible street art. Within Cartagena, the best place to see this is within the Getsemani neighborhood. Walk around the winding streets and discover gorgeous murals everywhere.

Where to shop

St. Dom

This concept shop is one of our favorites. With over 100 Colombian and international designers, St. Dom has something for everyone. If you forgot sunglasses but don’t want to buy the cheap options on the street – St. Dom has you covered. If you need a gorgeous dress that is sure to impress for New Years – St. Dom is your place. You can’t go wrong at this multi-faceted fashion mainstay. 

Silvia Tcherassi

With stores in Miami, Madrid, and Cartagena, Silvia Tcherassi is a household name. Making the “Latin flair” look exponential more popular, Silvia is also a hotel owner and overall Colombian chic-queen. If you need a dress for a wedding, party, or really anything at all, check out her store.

El Arcón

If home furnishings are what you’re after, come to El Arcón to find adorable antiques. It’s also one of the only places we found you could buy the famed door knockers you see throughout the city. 

Where to work

Selina Hostel

Though we wouldn’t recommend staying here, Selena Hostel is a popular place for young people working remotely. That being the case, they are set up with great facilities (and fast wifi). They have decent food and you will inevitably meet someone who knows someone who knows someone you used to work with.

Folklore Colombian Café

A large space with great wifi and lots of outlets. You wouldn’t think that these 3 qualities are super hard to find in a place like Cartagena, but you would be wrong. This cafe is a diamond in the rough, and a true gift when we need to power through some work.

Abacus Books & Coffee

Part bookstore, part coffee shop – Abacus is absolutely adorable. The wifi isn’t super reliable, but that doesn’t really matter when you are surrounded by tall shelves housing hundreds of books. We aren’t going to lie – it’s also one of our favorite places to take an IG photo. Come here for good coffee and solitude when you need to focus (but make it cute). 

 

Amelia Mularz – US Editor for Mr. & Mrs. Smith + Travel Writer

As US Editor for Mr. & Mrs. Smith and bad-ass travel writer for publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Travel + Leisure, The Coveteur, and Refinery29, Amelia Mularz has certainly been on her share of airplanes.

Starting off her career in NYC, this wordsmith has truly done it all. From getting coffee, to writing TV recaps and encyclopedia entries, to getting thrown into a photoshoot with a professional hot dog eater (true story) – you can bet that nothing catches Amelia by surprise. After her stint as a hot dog model (which, technically, she can claim), she held it down as a research editor in NYC for Vogue, NY Mag, HGTV, and The Knot.

Now an LA resident, Amelia travels the world reviewing some of the world’s most beautiful hotels and the cities they’re built in. With tons of experience in hotel lobbies, she certainly knows a thing or two about checking a bag – which she admittedly prefers over carry-on luggage.

Follow her adventures on Instagram @ameliamularz.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Phum Baitang in Siem Reap, Cambodia for the setting. The rooms are individual wooden villas connected by planked bridges over a sea of rice paddies.

Zaborin in Niseko, Japan for the food and attire. Dinner each night is 11 courses of locally foraged deliciousness, and the hotel provides loungewear to sport during your entire stay.

The Native in Malibu, California for the people. I stayed for just two nights and still speak regularly to their general manager and sound bath practitioner (yes, I realize that was the most LA thing that has ever been typed).

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

Zaborin has an in-house matcha master who will teach you how to whisk the perfect cup. He’s basically a beverage sensei.  

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

I’ve always got my sleep pouch in my carry-on. This a silky bag filled with various sleep aids (I’m a really shitty sleeper). I’ve got the usual suspects in there – earplugs, a sleep mask, and Tylenol PM – as well as some more homeopathic items: lavender essential oil, worry dolls from Mexico, a piece of selenite crystal, and a photo of Lil Wayne sleeping on a private jet (for inspiration).

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Dolly Parton, hands down. Just imagine the sequins, studs, and denim doo-dads you’d find in there. I bet even her suitcase itself is covered in sequins. And the wigs! I love checking luggage (packing light is seriously overrated), so I appreciate a woman who overdoes it. Dolly is definitely a more is more kinda gal.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I love traveling alone – you have free rein to visit every cat cafe and banana museum you come across without fear of judgement. Thanks to my solo trips, nobody has to know that I once fell in love with a bartender at a TGI Fridays in Paris.

What was your favorite room service experience ever?

When I lived in NYC, my mom and sister came to visit and we splurged on a room at the Plaza. We couldn’t bear the thought of leaving our ritzy digs, even for dinner, so we ordered a room-service meal of pasta, french fries, and charcuterie. We’d also seen Michael C. Hall perform that afternoon in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway and, because it was a decadent weekend all around, we’d even bought souvenir t-shirts from the show. As I shoved salami in my mouth and stared at the image of Michael C. Hall in blue eyeshadow stretched across my sister’s chest, I thought to myself, THIS IS HEAVEN. Spiritually, I now know that when we die, we head to the pearly gates and St. Peter is like, “Here’s your Hedwig shirt, cheese tray is in the back.” 

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

I was named after Amelia Earhart, so that seems simultaneously like the right choice and the absolute wrong one…

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

Among classics, I love Joan Didion’s The White Album for her packing list on page 34 and her devastating essay on Hawaii. Among new works, I’m obsessed with Flights by Olga Tokarczuk for her beyond-inventive descriptions of airports and travel-sized toiletries.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

I have a t-shirt that’s white with large block lettering in black that just says, “NICE AS FUCK.” It’s actually a reference to the Jenny Lewis band, but I find that TSA really takes to the message whether they’re fans of the music or not.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Wisconsin. I grew up in the Midwest and spent summers vacationing “up north” in the land of cheeseheads. It was those trips – swimming in Lake Delton, exploring the bluffs along the Wisconsin River, hitting up a water park or mini-golf spot – that sparked my love of travel in the first place. I’ve been lucky to visit some incredible places around the world, but I still dream of Wisconsin. So if I were to open my own hotel, I’d want it to be in a place where the same family might visit year after year. I like the idea of worming my way into their family lore.

In flight wifi- good idea: yes or no?

No! You are defying every law of logic by floating 35,000 feet in the air while eating pretzels and watching a rom-com. Don’t ruin it all by doing something responsible like checking your email.

Early check-in/ late check-out?

Late check-out – gotta maximize my slipper/robe time.

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?

I think it’d be cool to create a mini bar that’s an actual miniature bar – tiny neon beer signs, a little dart board, and a pint-sized sticky floor to go with those nips.

Cusco

Machu Picchu has put Peru on the tourist map for quite some time. In fact, it has made Peru one of the most popular destination in all of South America. We aren’t trying to hate on Machu Picchu, and are truly shocked that the Incas created that masterpiece, but we think there is much to see before you even get to the famous ruins.

Cusco was the Incan capital and declared a UNESCO world heritage site in the 80s. Though we love the cultural significance of the city, there is so much more to Cusco than the ruins. The food is top notch, and we love exploring the cobblestone streets and colonial style houses in search of art and textiles. The city is home to great markets, and as the entrance to the Sacred Valley, it’s a perfect home base for exploring the rest of the region.

The city sees a fair amount of tourism, and that is apparent when you’re visiting. Around the Plaza de Armas, there are a lot of shop owners that come out to encourage business. The smaller streets in the main area get crowded, and the major attractions will get busy. Some of the indigenous culture has been intensely commodified, so we encourage visitors to shop and explore responsibly (especially when it comes to dipping into the “medicine” experiences).

That being said, we completely understand why Cusco is so popular, and we honestly wish we could have made this guide way longer. Out of respect for you, and your scrolling thumb, we decided to pick out a few of our favorite places – but keep in mind there is so much to see in this great town and beyond its limits. The Sacred Valley is truly a magical place, and this is just your first stop.

Where to stay

Nao Victoria

If you’re looking for a less expensive, hostel option – Nao Victoria is your best bet. This design conscious hideaway is perfect if you aren’t in college or into taking shots at 4am, but you are on a bit of a budget and wanting to meet new people. Basically, a good hostel for those of us who don’t happen to be 21 and backpacking. The shared rooms come with comfortable, lofted beds, nice sheets, and privacy curtains. If sharing isn’t your thing, Nao Victoria also has standard private rooms and a superior private room. The cafe on the second floor serves food all day, and is a great place to get some work done.

Belmond Hotel Monasterio

This is the idyllic luxury hotel you dream about staying in when you come to Peru. Probably Cusco’s most high end option, The Monasterio is housed in a 17th century Baroque seminary. Though the outside structure has been perfectly maintained, the interiors are up to the Belmond standard (which, if you haven’t stayed at a Belmond, is…high). The courtyard is the perfect setting for morning coffee or an afternoon glass of wine, or really anything you could possibly think of enjoying.

El Balcón

Our favorite hotel in Cusco, El Balcón, is one of two hotels created by Wendy Weeks. We love the intimate vibe, the minimal but perfectly tasteful design elements, and the fact that it’s housed in a pre-colonial house from the 1600s. The gardens that lead to the rooms are perfect and you can choose between balcony level and ground level quarters. The wood balcony  (as the name suggests) has stunning views and the dining area offers complimentary coca tea. Don’t skip on the breakfast either – it’s exactly what you need to start the day.

Where to eat

Organika

If you get to Cusco after traveling throughout other cities in Peru, you might be in need of some lettuce. This is where you will procure those much needed greens, and they will be presented to you in a truly gorgeous fashion. Edible flowers, big salads, Organika has it all. Tucked away on a side street, the restaurant is small but the food is healthy. Most ingredients come from their farm in nearby Urubamba.

Chicha

We don’t like Chicha’s Cusco location quite as much as their Arequipa restaurant, but we still love the food. Come here for high quality Peruvian cuisine. They stick to the traditional flavors and use the highest grade ingredients from local farms. Their desserts are equally as good as the mains, so save some room.

Pachapapa

Pachapapa restaurant is right off of the San Blas plaza. Though it’s a bit touristy, the courtyard is adorable – complete with wooden banquettes and heaters (which is a huge win during the evenings in Cusco). Get the Alpaca skewers or the trout.

Qura

If you need a healthy breakfast, we love this little San Blas cafe. There are only 3 tables, so don’t count on coming here with a large group, but if you are on the go and need an acaí bowl or some avocado toast – this is your spot. They make bread in-house and have treats to go.

Green Point

We love this vegan restaurant, and we aren’t even vegan. Down an alley you’ll find the sign to this quaint restaurant. There are two floors, and more seating than you would imagine. You can honestly order anything on the menu and be in good shape. We love their tea selection for when you want to take a break from the pisco sours.

Where to grab coffee

L’atelier Cafe Concept

This is that boutique/coffee shop set-up that many of us are familiar with. Owned by a French woman, L’atelier has adorable goods downstairs, and good coffee and pastries upstairs. Grab a cup and sit at the window seats overlooking the street. It doesn’t really get more adorable than that.

Monkey Coffee

Hidden away is this gem of a coffee shop. They have homemade baked goods (we had their delicious carrot cake with edible flowers) and can do specialty drinks like lattes. It isn’t big, but make yourself cozy in one of their benches. Not a bad place to do some journal time and step away from the crowds.

Cocoliso

Similar to L’atelier, Cocoliso is a clothing store that also has a coffee station in it. There are little tables outside so you can break with an espresso if you feel like you need to get off your feet. It’s fairly close to the Plaza de Armas, but you aren’t stuck with too much foot traffic which is a huge plus.

The Meeting Place

This is a no frills coffee shop that gives back to the local community. It’s run by volunteers, and has an inviting atmosphere for whoever walks in the door. We love that. They also have super reliable WiFi and lunch options if you need! 

Where to shop

L’atelier Cafe Concept

Not to sound redundant, but this place deserves a second mention. As good as the coffee is, the jewelry, accessories, and home goods are even better. Come here for that pair of earrings you are telling yourself you’ll give to your roommate, but will actually end up keeping. 

A La Lau!

This is a cute shop in San Blas that carries leather purses, ponchos, handmade ceramics, and more. Everything you see is made by local artisans, and the store itself is owned by a Cusceña – so you know you’re supporting good work!

Cocoliso

Even though we love grabbing coffee at this cute shop, it’s primarily a clothing store. It has adorable baby clothes and beautiful sweaters. We also might have picked up a leather pouch – but really anything you buy at this store is high quality and you won’t regret it. 

Iya Mayta

A bit more upscale, Iya Mayta sells beautiful sweaters and gorgeous jewelry. There is quite a bit of fringe, so you could kind of dub more than a few items “high fashion” Coachella wear. But don’t worry, it’s all made by Peruvian artisans so it’s actually authentic. Plus, a portion of your profits go towards a local non-profit. 

Xapiri

Xapiri is a gallery space that showcases and sells photography, art, and other craft goods that support the indigenous cultures of the Amazon. They have various events that are open to the public which we definitely encourage you to go to.  

Centro Artesanal

Located on the corner of Avenida del Sol and Tullumayo, this market is where you get your classic kitschy souvenirs. Think ponchos, bags, pillow cases, and beyond. Most aren’t made by hand, so just know that going in.

Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco

Located in the museum under the same name, this place aims to preserve the traditional Peruvian textile techniques. They support local communities and weaving communities. Today, the organization works with nine different communities. You can buy high quality textiles after going through the museum. 

What to do

San Pedro Market

You can’t come to Cusco without visiting the San Pedro market. This is a large scale, classic mercado with everything you can imagine. They have food stalls, where you should absolutely try Caldo de Gallino, and isles of fresh vegetables, grains, herbs, and fruits which you can have made into fresh juice. Make sure to pick up maca powder and chia seeds for your trip home. 

Temple de La Luna

This is one of the lesser known ruins to visit in the Cusco area. It’s a good hike to the ruins, and the walk takes you through a beautiful meadow and along a trail. There is a bit of mystery revolving around the origin of the ruins, which makes them even more magical.

Planetarium Cusco

The Incas designed much of their lives based on the stars. Agriculture, city planning, and spiritual practices were made with the stars in mind. At the planetarium, you can take a peak into what they saw in the sky – which looks quite different if you’re used to looking up in the Northern Hemisphere. The planetarium is a family owned operation and the staff is super friendly. They pick you up in town, and take you to the observatory up by Sacsayhuamán.

Písac

If you want a day trip into the Sacred Valley, check out the town of Písac. Known for one of the best markets in the entire valley (and we are here to say – after many, many purchases – we agree with that statement), Písac has beautiful hikes, great spas, and some of the most intact ruins in Peru. 

Where to get your hit of culture

Sacsayhuamán Ruins

A citadel on the outskirts of Cusco, Sacsayhuamán is a great option for getting your fix of Incan ruins without the car rides. Some sections date back to early 1000s, and you can spend a few hours exploring each area. Get ready for some spectacular views of Cusco.

MAP Museum

This museum showcases Pre-Columbian artwork from cultures drawn from all regions of Peru. Many works have been loaned by the Larco Museum in Lima, which date to 1250 BC. Yeah – some pretty old stuff.

Museo Casa Concha

Just a little south of Plaza de Armas is Museo Casa Concha. Once a colonial mansion, the house is now a museum where you can see archeological finds from Machu Picchu. The exhibitions are diverse, and include an “Ongoing Research Room” where you can see how modern science has led us to discover more about the lifestyle of the Incan people.

Cooking class (TASTE Peruvian cooking studio, Marcelo Batata Cooking Experience)

Peruvian cuisine has been increasingly popular all over the world, and with good reason. While you’re in the mecca of Peruvian flavor, take a cooking class to make sure you can bring home one of the best things about this country – the food. 

Where to work

The dining room at El Balcon

The light-filled cafe area of El Balcon is the perfect place to get work done. We know, because it’s where we plugged in for a week or so during our stay. The space is warm and quiet, and they offer free teas. If you get hungry, they have great food and the staff is super sweet.

Cafe at Nao Victoria

Not to tap into our “To Stay” section too much, but it turns out the communal spaces in the hotels we choose are just really great. The cafe on the second floor has great music, good coffee (or a beer if it’s a bit later in the day…), and outlets. 

La Valeriana

This spacious cafe is in the center of town and super comfortable. There are outlets galore and good sweets to keep the sugar rush going. 

Where to drink

Los Perros

This is is a great bar option owned by an Australian-Peruvian couple. There are couches in the back room so you can cozy up for hours. The drink options are solid, and the food menu is good too. We recommend the yucca to soak up some of the alcohol. Also, on Sundays they have live jazz.

Barranco Beer Company

BBC is a Lima based brewery, and this is their Cusco outpost. The space is slightly small, but this is some of the best beer in all of Peru. 

Limbus Restobar

This place is a bit touristy, but if you are able to snag a spot on their balcony it’s absolutely worth it. Order a glass of wine or a cocktail and take in the view of the entire city. 

Belmond Hotel Bar

Yes, this is a hotel bar, but we love hotel bars – and this is an exceptionally good one. Order a pisco sour and make yourself comfortable in front of the fire. The large wood bar and the friendly bartenders make this somewhere you could hang for hours on a chilly night.

 

Tonya Papanikolov, Founder of The Well Woman & Holistic Nutritionist

After a few years of working in fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, wellness guru Tonya Papanikolov decided to ditch her desk job and go back to school for what she is truly passionate about: using food as an avenue to physical and mental health, and showing others how to do so.  Tonya is a nutritionist, plant-based chef, and founder of The Well Woman (and Rainbo – which will be launching soon!). A Toronto native, she is a graduate of the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, holds a BA in Nutraceutical Sciences, and is certified in Reiki level II. Basically, she knows her stuff.

Though she calls Canada home, Tonya has traveled around the world learning new practices, techniques, and a deep understanding in perspective when it comes to the culture of health. She has been featured in Cap Beauty, The Moon List, and Lived Planted, and is an authority we look to for all things wellness. Naturally, we needed to find out how she keeps healthy, mentally and physically, while on the go.

Follow her on Instagram @thewellwomanco.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur – Big Sur is one of my favourite places, and the hotel is gorgeous with stunning views.

2. IceHotel, Sweden – Because ice + hotel. It was the craziest, coolest thing ever.

3. Azulik, Tulum – Gorgeous architecture and spaces. Made with natural wood and branches. There is a beautiful ethos behind the hotel and community.

Photo via Azulik Hotel

What are your travel wellness tips for staying healthy on the go?

Stay hydrated! Especially on the plane – this will help with jet-lag, too.

I travel with oil of oregano and probiotics (ones that don’t require refrigeration). I also travel with Rainbo mushroom tincture to boost my immune system and stay protected on planes, in airports, and in hotel rooms with blasted AC.

Noise-cancelling head phones – the loud noise of the plane engine is very unnatural for the ears and body to be exposed to for long periods of time.

EMF protect yourself – with a necklace, sticker on your devices etc.

Pack your own plane food. I usually pack homemade hummus and vegetables, seed crackers, green juice, and fruit salad. I also make and pack a batch of granola or nut/seed/dark chocolate mix, store it in a mason jar, and keep it in my bag so that if I’m in a remote area while traveling, I don’t have to starve! It can be tough finding healthy, vegan food in many parts of the world.

A Keep Cup, or any eco-friendly travel mug and mason jar is a must-have so you don’t have to use a bunch of coffee cups.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

The forest. I do this often and it’s the closest place I can go (from Toronto) when I need to leave the city.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel?

Travel was absolutely something I was seeking out in a career. I knew after a couple years in an office job that it wasn’t the environment I thrived in. So, when I started my own businesses (The Well Woman and Rainbo), I knew that I would find a way to make traveling part of my work. It didn’t take too much more than having an idea, setting the intention, and following through with action, planning, and initiative.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

Yes, absolutely! It’s so important for me to travel solo and I think the experience is important for everyone to have regularly. When you travel alone you are much more open to experiences and serendipitous moments with strangers. You’re more open to the world, you watch it, you’re able to follow your instincts and intuition more than if you’re traveling with others and trying to satisfy everyones agenda. I really love the adventure of it all.

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

I’d ask the Well Woman community via Instagram and also consult books and google. I have many saved boards and lists of places to refer to if I’m visiting somewhere new. I almost always, through a friend of a friend, find someone to give me insider tips, too. I’ve also created and saved many maps of new cities, and must-see places in them, that I share with people when they ask me for recommendations.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why? 

John Lennon. We’d travel to India together, stay at ashrams, do yoga, head to the Himalayas with our yogi guru to meditate in the mountains and have deep philosophical conversations and eat delicious vegetarian Indian food. How epic!

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

I really loved an experience I had in Paris at Café de Flore. I loved their cappuccino but even more than that, I loved how much branding they had on everything. Spoons, coffee cups, tiles. Café de Flore was elegantly written everywhere. It was beautiful and it felt like I was in a special place, which I was.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Oh I love this idea! I would open a wellness/eco retreat center in Patagonia.

Beach, city, or mountain?

Mountain (but near water).

In flight wifi – Y/N?

YES

Airplane food?

Never.

Window or aisle?

Always window!

Angela Kusen, Fashion Stylist & Art Director

We are going to be really honest here: we have a major crush on Angela Kusen. This Peruvian is a top notch stylist, and has done work for photographers like Mario Testino, publications like Vogue and L’Officiel, and brands such as Adidas and Ayni.

Though she calls Lima home, Angela has been living in New York, NY for the past few months and has spent time in London, Madrid, Paris, and Uruguay. She is constantly on the go for work, and has become very familiar with packing up her styling kit and landing in a new city ready to roll. Check out Angela’s tips on how to try and achieve the level of  travel-chic that she does (we tried – we can’t. But maybe you can).

Follow her adventures on Instagram @angelakusen.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. Kichic,  Mancora, Peru – I absolutely love the design elements in this hotel. The indoors blend with the outdoors seamlessly, which is perfect for the climate.

2. El Libertador, Paracas, Peru – The spa. This is by far my favorite hotel spa I’ve been to, and it’s so good that it makes El Libertador one of my top favorites.

3. Papaya Playa Project, Tulum, Mexico – The location. I love eating lunch right on the beach and getting comfortable on one of their couches, or laying on the hammock looking at the ocean.

Photo via Papaya Playa Project

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

Master switch by the bed and a good speaker.

Where would you go to digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Los Organos, Mancora in Northern Peru. It’s a short flight from Lima but feels worlds away.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career?

 My dream was to work in fashion or art. I work in fashion which, for me, is a global language and art form. It’s always reinventing itself and seeking new things. I feel there are no boundaries and being able to discover new cities and cultures through my work is a huge blessing. At the end of the day, travel opens up your mind to visuals from other cultures, and stimulates new concepts and inspiration. 

If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

It’s hard, because when I travel I want to know everything about the place I’m in. In reality, I’m there to work. I try to stay super organized and separate the hours of work and play so I can properly turn “off” when I’m not on set. I also try to extend trips so I can get the work done first, and then relax after. 

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

GOD’S PLAN BY DRAKE

ESTAMOS BIEN BY BAD BUNNY

AFTER THE STORM KALI UCHIS

What is your most used travel emoji?

🙌

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Headphones, pens, and a notebook. I usually use my plane time to write.

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Honestly? Another fashion stylist! 

Have you or would you travel alone?

Yes! I’m actually very used to solo travel because of work. I like to have the freedom to do what I want in my own rhythm.

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

I love the meditation app Inscape.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Whenever I am changing timezones – I always make sure to get a good 8 hours of sleep on the first night.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

A loose fitting, mid-length dress. You can put a sweater over it on the plane if you get cold, and dress it up quickly once you’re off the plane.

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience:

Architecturally intriguing,  design, location, has a pool, and  comfort. 

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it? 

It would be hard to choose but I’d say Bali, Indonesia. 

Travel alone or with someone else?

Someone else.

Favorite subscription service you’ll never delete?

Spotify 

In flight cocktail?

100% – I order wine. 

Seattle

Seattle was a fantastic town long before Amazon set foot within its limits. With more attention being brought with the growing tech scene, it’s worth noting that Seattle has a longstanding history in music, art, and food. With musicians like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix having made footprints in the city decades ago, artists like Dale Chihuly calling it home, and chefs like Tom Douglas cooking….Seattle has had the “it” factor for some time.

In recent years, with more young professionals moving in, the laws surrounding cannabis production changing, and, of course, Amazon: Seattle real estate is booming. With that, comes the pros and cons of an expanding city, but it also means more tourism –  which is likely why Seattle has become a top destination in recent years.

For better or for worse, we are here to say we love this Pacific Northwest town (and we have to say this, as our CEO is from Seattle). It’s surrounded by great weekend getaways, has a vibrant creative culture, and world class restaurants. We could easily spend a day in one neighborhood alone, lazing around the famous coffee shops and eating seafood.

Where to stay

The Palladian

This is our favorite Kimpton hotel within the city. They have a few, but Palladian has the quirky yet refined design elements we love. It’s located in Belltown, so you can easily walk to Pike Place Market and the waterfront. The rooms range in size, but we recommend getting at least a Deluxe Guest room so you can take advantage of the clawfoot tub.

The Ace

This is the OG Ace Hotel. A former workers hotel, the structure was built in 1909, and the owners have maintained the loft ceilings and gorgeous windows. Choose between a standard room with a share bath, or a deluxe room with private amenities. Either way, you are to see stunning artwork and the minimalist design they are known for.

The Thompson Hotel

Designed by Seattle’s Olson Kundig Architects, The Thompson sits on top of Pike Place. With floor to ceiling windows, the views from this hotel are gorgeous. The rooms are spacious and perfectly set-up for a “work-in-room” experience if you need to hammer out some hours on the computer. If that doesn’t get you, head up to their rooftop bar, The Nest. Because that will.

Where to eat

Walrus and the Carpenter

If you’re familiar with Seattle, you’ve probably heard of this Ballard oyster bar. This is probably Sea Creatures restaurant group’s most popular haunt, and we completely understand why. The decor is complete with a marble bar and oyster baskets – the food is truly amazing. Come for happy hour if you can get a table. 

Ba Bar

Seattle is famous for it’s Vietnamese food, and this is not one of the tiny hole in the wall, strip mall places that you might associate with the real deal grub, but it truly is. Dishing up great phở and fantastic cocktails made with fresh juice, it’s a perfect spot on a cold night when you want a bit of ambiance as well. They have three locations – we love all of them.

Eve Fremont

Eve is one of our go-to restaurant in the Fremont neighborhood. The dishes are consistently intriguing and delicious, and we love the large mural that makes up their far interior wall. The cocktails are delicious and we usually come here to split a few dishes. You won’t regret it if you stop in for a late lunch.

kamonegi

Named one of the best new restaurants in America by Eater’s Bill Addison, kamonegi is a Japanese standout in a city with a lot of great Japanese food. Their soba is made in-house and a must order. They also have a seasonal sake list that we encourage taking part in.

The London Plane

Seemingly taking in all the light Pioneer Square has to offer, London Plane is a gorgeous, bright restaurant perfect for any time of day. There is a flower shop and a bakery in front, and casual pre-fix meals if you decide to sit down. We love this place, and find it to be a must visit when we are in town. 

Hương Bình Vietnamese Cuisine

Remember that hole in the wall, strip mall Vietnamese place we just mentioned above? Well, this is it. Come to Huong Binh for an incredible, cheap bowl of phở. Some people say it’s the city’s best, but we won’t venture that far – mostly because we haven’t had the year it would take to try every single bowl in Seattle. Just know that it’s really, really good. 

Where to break

QED

On quiet 31st Ave, this small coffee shop is one of our favorites. Selling sustainable coffee, baked goods (vegan options too – this is Seattle), and breakfast tacos on weekends – you can’t really go wrong. If you need a place to plug in, they have tables to sit at as well. They also have a great glass of Kombucha. 

Elm Coffee Roasters

This might be our actual favorite cup of coffee in Seattle. They roast their beans in house and if that isn’t enough, they also sell fresh baked goods from Sea Wolf Bakers. Come here, order a latte, and take a seat on one of their bar stools. We will also admit we are a huge sucker for their branding.

Little Oddfellows

Located in the back of Elliott Bay Bookstore, this is the sister cafe to larger restaurant, Oddfellows. We are going to be honest with you here – we love cafes in bookshops, and we would be lying if we didn’t say that was some of the appeal. The good news is that they carry the same standard as the larger restaurant which means great coffee and snacks.

Milstead & Co

Milstead & Co is where you take your coffee snob friend that seems to fuss over every little detail. In fact, this shop truly owns the refined, snob factor and we love that. It rotates renowned roasters like Kuma and Coava, but the espresso drinks are really what hit home. Take a seat outside and enjoy. 

Where to get your hit of culture

Chihuly Museum

Chihuly is a household name in Seattle. Opened in 2012, this is his longstanding exhibition in his home state of Washington. The glass structures are other worldly and you can spend hours in each room. The museum has pieces inside, and outside interwoven with the garden, as the name suggests.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Outside the Seattle Art Museum is Olympic Sculpture Park. The design has won international competitions and is looked at as a model for outdoor sculpture parks across the US. Home to sculptures by Richard Serra and Alexander Calder, it has it’s own cache as an art exhibit itself. The architecture of the walkways and landscape is all part of the experience. 

Museum of Pop Culture

Previously EMP (Experience Music Project), The Museum of Pop Culture is dedicated to the art and ideas that have come about in…pop culture. Though it includes various art forms (film, art, etc), we love it for it’s touch on music history, specifically Seattle’s. With more than 6,000 Jimi Hendrix related artifacts, it also gives homage to the inspiration for the first museum (EMP) funded by Paul Allen.

What to do

Langley

If it’s warm, test out Seattle’s ferry system by heading to Langley on Whidbey Island. Only a 30-minute boat ride, Langley is a seaside town. Grab coffee at Useless Bay Coffee and stop by home goods shop, Edit.

Ponder Cannabis Shop

Instead of stopping by the multi-location Uncle Ikes, support the underdog by going to Ponder Cannabis Shop. In Seattle’s Central District, this will give you a taste, and puff, of legal marijuana culture. The staff is super friendly and informed. Make sure you are of age and have your ID on you to prove it. 

Pike Place

Okay, we know. You know. Everyone knows. But you can’t go to Seattle without stopping by Pike Place because it’s actually still really great. It will most likely be crowded, but don’t let that deter you. Stop by Market Grill for a blackened fish sandwich (a must order). If you head downstairs (yes, Pike Place has many levels), check out the little bookshops for some great deals.

Where to shop

Totokaelo

This store has been around for years and now has a location in NYC. We still love Totokaelo and go here for all our high end designer needs. It never fails to surprise you by being a bit ahead of the curve. For what it’s worth, we love the store design

Moorea Seal

Moorea Seal is just north of Pioneer Square and sells clothing, beauty, and home good products. It’s a great place to come for gifts, and tend to skew towards “on trend” (think blush pink walls, succulents, and mid-century modern furniture). We love the jewelry and their arrays of candles.

Peter Miller

Seattle is a bit of a bookstore hub, and Peter Miller is the design centric shop that has earned fame in the city. Alongside gorgeous coffee table books that line the wall, you can also buy home goods, drafting supplies, and more. 

Where to drink

Bottlehouse

This is one of our favorite wine bars.  The interior is a mix of rustic wood and gorgeous wallpaper, and the wine rotation is top notch. They also have oysters, small plates, and wine on tap. Do we need to say more? Because we will – there is also a gorgeous patio that we would probably stay at the entire weekend if we could. 

Tula’s

Tula’s is a bit of a jazz institution in Seattle. Walk in six nights a week to grab a drink and listen to some of the best jazz Seattle has to offer.

Perceys & Co

Serving “apothecary” style cocktails and Creole food, Percy’s has long shared tables and is garnered with hanging plants behind the bar. We also love cozying up in one of their big booths during the rainy months.

Twilight Exit

Seattle is kind of weird. And we like that. And if you want a weird “sort-of” dive bar and a great burger, Twilight is your place. It has stickers on the ceiling and random trophies displayed – but that is all part of the magic. 

Where to sweat

Urban Yoga Spa

One of our favorite yoga spots, and a huge bonus point because our /Insider, Anna Douglas, is a teacher here. They have group and private classes, but what we love most is the ability to get a massage right after our class.

Seattle Bouldering Project

If you’re wanting to get your sweat on but have a great time – head here. You can choose between Bouldering Basics, and Bouldering 1-3 depending on your skill level. If you get hungry or need a caffeine fix after, check out their cafe, West Wall. 

Green Lake Path

The weekend can get a bit crowded here but we don’t mind too much. If you need a good place to hit the pavement while you’re in Seattle, definitely come to Green Lake Path. The inner loop is 2.8 miles and the outer loop is 3.1 miles around the lake. If you want to go further, head towards Woodland Park attached to the south end of Green Lake. 

Where to work

La Marzocco Cafe

Housed in a garage space, there is ample room to spread out at La Marzocco. The espresso drinks are what we opt for here and the pastries are top notch. The space also happens to be the HQ of KEXP radio, so you can guarantee good tunes while you work. 

Victrola

Victrola has a few locations but we usually head to their Capitol Hill shop. It’s built in a 1920s auto row building and it has kept a lot of the architectural integrity. We love the big communal tables and the fact that they roast their own beans. 

 

 

Zach Para, Drummer for City of the Sun

Zach Para is the drummer for Brooklyn based band, City of the Sun. You might have seen him on stage at Brooklyn Steel, The Troubadour, or playing events for brands like Chloe, Vans, and more. If his face is more familiar than his sound, we wouldn’t be surprised if you caught up with him and his bandmates through Billboard Mag articles or various partnerships with Gilt Groupe, Sunglass Hut, or Ilegal Mezcal.

Hailing from Seattle, Zach found his way to NYC via Boston where he graduated from New England Conservatory. Since then, his music has taken him everywhere from Brazil, to Spain, to Indonesia, and back again. He is no stranger to getting creative when it comes to packing a bag meant for 5 different climates, and somehow tends to look good no matter where he steps off a plane. 

City of The Sun is one of our favorite bands to include on our playlists (shameless plug to head over to our /Playlist page!) and brings together so much of what we love in global tunes. With a musician on our books, don’t think that we didn’t tap Zach to curate this weeks playlist himself and get his intel on his home city for our Seattle guide.

Follow Zach’s adventures via Instagram @zachpara and his band @cityofthesun.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. The House – Athens, Greece. Quaint hostel feel with great rooms that are inspired by the Greek Islands. Rooftop with hammocks and plant life that take you away from the bustling city life below. I’m pretty sure you can share rooms, but the private ones are perfect for a few nights going out in Athens.

2. Museum Hotel – Nashville, USA – Who wouldn’t want to walk through a tasteful, modern art museum after a long night out in Nashville? I don’t recall ever getting this two in one deal in my life but now a new standard is set. Rooms are spacious with high ceilings and attractive stone walls. And the fitness center felt like I was walking into a spa.

3. Hotel Unique – São Paulo, Brazil. Stunning modern architecture, amazing views of the city scape, with one of the best rooftop bars/restaurants I’ve seen.

What hotel room design element can you not live without? 

Lots of sunlight – the bigger the windows the better.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling? 

My “offices” usually consist of recording studios, stages, and practice rooms, but when I need to get some computer work done, I would say the pool/spa at The Standard Hotel in Miami Beach. Not a bad place to hang with your laptop.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Uvita de OSA, Costa Rica or Lake Chelan, Washington. I have family in Costa Rica with a gorgeous AirBnB by the ocean. The gardens are a perfect place to disconnect. Lake Chelan is a special place for me. My dad’s family has had a cabin there for generations. You literally have no cell service unless you head into town – so it forces some peace. 

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Yeahnoh – Powe Handa Blingabe

Jordan Rakei – Cloak

Pionel – It’s All Over

Do you have any favorite travel hacks?

When flying, try not choosing your seat. It’s a gamble, but on the right flights they’ll upgrade you simply because they are the only seats left on the plane!

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Sennheiser headphones and a MIDI keyboard.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

Definitely.  I actually traveled to Zakynthos, Greece, solo this past year. It gives you the space to focus on yourself and truly tune out the noise.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

Anthony Bourdain, hands down.

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee or tea. Where was the best one you’ve had?

Xi’an, China at Lubai Farm Wu. It’s a tea farm and I had a cup of freshly dried Pu’er tea straight from the source. 

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Sifnos, Greece.

Beach, city, or mountain?

Beach!

Fantasy mini-bar/fridge item?

Kombucha.

Early check-in or late check-out?

Late check-out. 

Along or with someone else?

Someone else…if I can choose who that someone is. 

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