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6 THINGS I LEARNED LIVING IN HONG KONG

What I learned living in Hong Kong

 Many times I found myself fantasizing about beautiful European cities and tropical islands I would eventually like to move to.  Asia and Hong Kong were the furthest from my mind.  

I got a job offer to be a part of a team that was opening a nightclub in HK.  I wasn’t exactly shocked, I had put blood, sweat, many tears and years in the nightclub industry.  What actually surprised me is I found myself saying “yes,” and booking a ticket directly after I got off that phone.

These are the six things I learned living in Hong Kong for six months.

1.  Speak Enough Cantonese to Get Around

Shortly after arriving in Hong Kong, I quickly realized the language barrier was not going to be a huge obstacle.  With a large number of expats and the former British rule, English was widely spoken.  Except for when… I got into a taxi cab.  I quickly learned how to give directions to my driver in Cantonese.  Most important to learn…  “turn left, keep going straight, on the right,” or even the specific dropping off address of where you are going. 

I know I am saying this wrong but it was something like “Yat Ling Bat Hollywood Doe,” which meant 181 Hollywood Road.  I will be absolutely mortified if someone who speaks Cantonese ever reads this.  

2.  My College Degree Finally Got Me Somewhere

Since I had moved to Hong Kong for a job, I had to apply for a work visa, so I could legally work in China and accept a paycheck.  My friend, who also applied for a work visa at the same time,  took considerably longer to secure hers.  We assumed due to the fact she did not have a college degree.

Hers only took a few more weeks, I am being a tad dramatic.  I would like to believe something came out of my grueling college education.  Haha

Macau is a mini Las Vegas

3.  There is a Mini Las Vegas 40 Minutes Away

Macau is about a 45-minute boat ride from HK, less if you have the baller dollars $$$$ to take a helicopter.  I was in complete shock when we arrived.  I had spent years living in Las Vegas and had no idea there was a Chinese counter-part halfway around the world.  One look at the Venetian and I thought I was home.  We visited Hard Rock Hotel and gambled at the MGM casino and the similarities kept coming.  What stood out to me as very different though were the VIBES!  Hardly anyone was drinking.  And the people that were drinking, us, were ordering nice bottles of red wine.  No one was acting foolish, and everyone took their gambling very seriously.

I have to say the service was incredible.  We were in the chilly casino and two hotel workers named “Banana” and “Cinderella” delivered some robes and slippers to us at the craps table because they saw we were cold.  Super sweet!

4.  Kowloon Side VS. Hong Kong Island VS. Lantau Island

Did you know that when you fly into Hong Kong you are actually on Lantau Island, HK?   Not only is the airport located here, but you also have Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island.  It is right next to Discovery Bay (which is a residential neighborhood known for its large expatriate population).  Also that Big Buddha everyone goes to visit, is on Lantau.  Now Kowloon, Hong Kong (nicknamed the Dragon city) is a peninsula situated along mainland China.  It is located across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island. 

Most of the friends I met lived, worked and went out in Hong Kong Island. This is where I would stay if I went back to visit.  The very popular place to party in Hong Kong is named Lan Kwai Fong , where bars, restaurants, and nightclubs flood the streets and come alive after dark.

Hong Kong Island at night

5.  We are Not in Cali Anymore (Cultural Differences)

I had a feeling I may be in the minority as a large breasted American woman walking the streets of Hong Kong, and I was pretty much right.  I just learned to cover the puppies up if I didn’t want the stares.  What I found that took a little more getting used to was the lack of personal space.  I am not trying to generalize because I realize not everyone was doing this and of course I have felt it at home in the U.S. from time to time.  But for example, I had never experienced a lady literally emptying the contents of her purse out on my back looking for her wallet while we were standing in line at the market in the U.S…..haha, true story.  

None of this really ever bothered me, because I knew it was not intentionally mean-spirited, but it was a little different than I was accustomed to.  That’s all.

6.  I Felt Safer Than Ever

Walking down the streets of Hong Kong Island by myself at night, I never once felt scared.  I cannot say this for most if any other cities I have lived in.  I mean forget about downtown LA, I feel like Michael Jackson’s girlfriend in thriller video, trying to get to the parking garage late at night.  To be a woman and feel completely safe is a beautiful thing. 

I am not saying that there is no crime in HK.  I just personally always remembered feeling at ease by myself.  I’m a big scaredy-cat so this feeling was awesome!  

Late Night's in Lan Kwai Fong
Nightclub Managing in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong 2011
What I loved about living in Hong Kong

EASY ERRANDS TO RUN WITH YOUR DOG

MAXIMUS THE ITALIAN GREYHOUND

Whether we feel guilty for leaving our fur babies at home too long or we just enjoy their company, why not bring them along if it is possible.

Maximus (my Italian greyhound) loves running errands because he enjoys car rides and is slightly obsessed with his Mommy.  The reason why I love bringing Max or Winston (my baby brother Frenchie) on weekly errands is that I never feel like I am alone with my fur squad in tow.

If you are unsure of visiting specific stores, a good rule of thumb is to call ahead.  You can also check with the manager upon entering.  Some store policies may vary according to its specific location and state.  

Maximus Waiting for his quarter annual  puppuccino from Starbucks

PET-FRIENDLY ERRANDS

COFFEE SHOP DRIVE-THRU

Max lives for just about any drive-thru experience, but there is something about going to Starbucks that gets him “next level” excited.  For those of you who don’t know, Starbucks will give your pup a complimentary puppuccino (whipped cream made of cream and sugar) off their secret menu.  On Max’s birthday and special occasions, I let him have a reward for being a superstar.  Definitely not the healthiest choice of treats, but the joy he experiences is reminiscent of the first time I bit into a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

Unfortunately, most Starbucks will not let you bring your pets inside, but some do have dog-friendly patios

We are also fortunate to have a drive up window at our favorite breakfast bagel and smoothie joint in Huntington Beach, Bagelmania.  They sometimes even offer us some of Max’s favorite healthy treat sample bags from Just Food For Dogs.

THE BANK

Most banks these days have a drive-thru.  I am at the bank at least once a week and my pup loves going for the short ride with me.  

MICHELLE AND MAX AT THE BANK
Always jumps into my lap when I put the car in PARK.  

CVS

The CVS near our home is wonderful to us when we come in.  The first time I brought Max in I was carrying him and I asked if it would be ok to bring him inside.

They insisted I put him down… so they could play with him. 

HOME DEPOT

I don’t know about you, but I feel like an Alien from another planet when I enter Home Depot.  Let’s just say I feel more comfortable at  Sephora.

Now that I have a man, hallelujah, I have become more of a fixture on the Home Depot scene.  Literally, Ryan took me here when we were barely dating a month.

I have to say they have great prices and I love their plant section.  Is that what it’s called? Haha

MAXIMUS RUNNING ERRANDS IN THE CAR WITH HIS MAMA

MORE DOG-FRIENDLY SHOPS TO CONSIDER

  • Bed, Bath, and Beyond
  • Macy’s (unless specific location malls restrict)
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Lush Cosmetics (who are a cruelty-free brand we love)
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Ross Dress For Less
  • Urban Outfitters 
  • Pet Stores (Need food, treats, toys, a new leash…bring your pup with you)

I absolutely love that more and more stores are slowly becoming more dog-friendly!

Let’s all make sure they stay that way.  If your dog is not well-behaved or is having a bad day, probably best to run your errands solo until the day comes when they are ready.

DOG-FRIENDLY SPOTS IN OC TO GRAB A QUICK BITE

french bulldog and italian greyhound and michelle

With time being one of the most valuable commodities in our lives, multi-tasking is of the utmost importance.

I appreciate a dog-friendly spot in which I can pick up a quick bite without making a big production out of it.

Luckily there has been an increase in dog-friendly restaurants, hotels, and shops in the last few years in Southern California.  So much so,  in fact, I sometimes forget there are still places around that do not appreciate my dog’s presence as much as I do.

Convenient 15- 25 Minute Spots:

  • BEAR FLAG – In Lido Marina Village, Newport Beach and Pacific City, Huntington Beach.  We love sitting out on the patio with our fur baby while enjoying Peruvian ceviche and fish tacos.  The HB location has a killer ocean view that is worth checking out!  
  • IKE’S PLACE – We are slightly obsessed with their yummy specialty sandwiches.  With only a few outside tables, we have always been lucky enough to score one.  Located off Brookhurst and Ellis in Fountain Valley and Macarthur in Irvine (Orange County Locations)
  • CHICKEN MAISON– If you are looking for a healthy way to quickly fill your belly, Mediterranean style, look no further.  The Salmon Kabobs with spicy cabbage slaw and brown rice are delightful  What may be good to know as a pet owner is… it is situated on a very busy street, Bristol in Santa Ana.  If there is even the slightest chance your pup likes to wander off, I wouldn’t recommend bringing him/her!    
  • MILK AND HONEY a trendy coffee joint at “the Camp” in Costa Mesa.  If you are looking for tea and acai bowl with a charming garden terrace…try here.  I recommend the Spiced Chai latte and visiting during the week when its a little less busy.  My dog loves this spot!  If you have more than 20 minutes to spare…check out Old Vine Cafe.  Also located in the Camp.  The food is bomb and the employees are always so sweet to our pups!
Maximus in a Car at the Camp in Costa Meds
Maximus at the Camp in Costa Mesa

YOUR WANDERLUST SOUL-MATE

my travel wanderlust soul-mate is my boyfriend

Travel and Leisure Magazine posed the question a few weeks back on who was the best companion to travel with and it reminded me of all the great and not so great travel experiences I have had over the years.  Who I have chosen to travel with has directly affected the outcome of my happiness on many holiday excursions.

I highly recommend everyone think long and hard before choosing your travel mates. 

Why?  Some friends, family, and significant others (hopefully not your forever person) are just not meant to travel with.  Knowing this before you choose to spend your hard earned money and time is extremely beneficial to your sanity while vacationing.

Most likely there are people in your life that are amazing to explore the world, your country, city, or state with.

These people are your wanderlust soul-mates and the only people you should travel with!  Or at least for an extended amount of time.

You can always choose to go it alone.  This takes some balls, but can be super rewarding and terrifying all at the same time!

Either way,  I emphasize “choosing wisely” because this can really make or break your experience and possibly even the relationship

Let me break it down for you in categories and you choose what best suits your travel needs!

1Your Doggie

Maximus is one of my all-time favorite travel buddies.  And quite honestly in the running for my number 1 wanderlust soul-mate.

Max is definitely bossier at home, meaning he really is on his best behavior when we travel.  He also tends to be a bit more carefree (no demanding dinner at 5 pm on the dot).

We both enjoy road trips, good food, and relaxing in a nice cozy bed.   Preferably in a luxurious hotel.

I don’t know if he truly enjoys our road trips and staying in new places or if he is just grateful his Mommy did not leave him.  Either way, I don’t have to wait for him to get ready…bonus!  Although… he does usually have a slightly bigger travel bag than his Mommy’s. ♥

2Mom

My mom is my best friend, and I feel truly blessed that we have a super close relationship. 

That being said, we have traveled so many times together that I know there is a time limit on how long we can be abroad together. 

Five to 7 days is our sweet spot.  Anything longer than that we will come home mad at each other and probably not talk for a week. YIKES!    Knowing this truly makes all the difference in the world when it comes to planning our adventures together! ♥

3Boyfriend/ Significant Other/ Babe

Ok, now it starts to get a tad more complicated.

Don’t Travel With…

◊  Someone that you do not know extremely well ◊   

It’s awkward sharing a bed, bathroom, etc… unless you have been together for a while.  I know my mother would say “get your own room,” but in 2018 who does that?  Additionally, you may hate your hotel, the restaurant, whatever…but it may be too early to show your true feelings without coming off as a total diva.  It’s just not the ideal vacay situation.

Or you can be like me and find this out the hard way.  If you agree too quickly and accidentally to an ALL DAY date, please cancel when you have a bad feeling about it.

Case in point…Picture a cold Big Bear California day.  I got tired after skiing for a few hours and went to the lodge lounge by myself to enjoy a frosty beer.  My date was not finished with the slopes yet.  Hours later the douche came back to the lodge from snowboarding and I was innocently chatting with an older man at the bar, seeing as I had nothing better to do for all of those hours left alone.  He screamed at me the entire drive back (2 hours) to Los Angeles.  Needless to say, we never spoke again.  Please, someone, learn from my mistakes!! Do not go two hours away from home with someone you are unsure of, even if it is only for the day!  

♥ Do Travel with…”the One” ♥

I love traveling with Ryan.  Sometimes I feel as though we were separated at birth (if I was born 14 years later).   Despite the fact we come together as one with our similarities, it can potentially have its downfalls.  We are not huge planners.  You could probably classify us more as the “fly by the seat of our pants” type of people.  So it’s nice to bring along another couple who likes to throw together some loose laid plans so all we have to do is show up.  I am not quite sure if that makes us lazy or just spontaneously adventurous.

Just make sure and choose the right couple to hang with!

4What about your FRIENDS

Friends as your travel partners in crime can be a really beautiful or a very ugly thing.  Just saying.

I always have preferred to travel with two other girls.  3 total is my magic number.  Do you know what your magic number is?

If it is just two of you it puts an enormous amount of pressure on your friendship (especially if it is a long trip), so make sure you are on the same page with finances and the activities you would like to participate in while you are planning travel.  This way it’s not a surprise once you are already in vacay mode what someone else’s view of your travel should look like. 

With Bachelorette and Birthday party trips you are most likely going to be traveling with a bigger group.  Make sure you pack your patience!  Coordinating a bunch of girls to be ready to go somewhere at the same time can be tremendously difficult and extremely frustrating.  Just remember this is particular trip may not be about you, so either skip it or go with the flow.

PET INSURANCE…WHY IT IS A MUST!

Michelle DaVania and maximus

Italian Greyhound after surgery

Is it a yes or no for you?

For me…its a hell yes!  If you are like me, you may sometimes unknowingly, even place your dog’s health before your own.

WHAT I HEAR PEOPLE SAY

“Well my dog is not a puppy anymore, so I am not sure if it is even worth it for me to get insured.”

It is a myth that you have to get your dog covered the minute they come into your life.  Your dog does not have to be a puppy to receive pet insurance coverage either.

Michelle and Max on the Beach

Although if you do have a puppy… I recommend purchasing an insurance policy asap!

There is a waiting period (see below) once you sign up for MOST pet insurance policies.  Usually 10-15 days.  So even if you enroll and pay today, the coverage will not start until weeks later.

Maximus, my Italian greyhound, did not get medically insured until he was 6 going on 7 years old.  We have had pet insurance on him now for over 2 years, and boy has it come in handy!

dog insurance

WHY PURCHASING PET INSURANCE IS A NO BRAINER

The main reason I got pet insurance is out of fear.  I saw my mother spend 10’s of thousands of dollars on her two boxers when they were sick.  I have also watched my sister on many occasions rack up $1500-$3000 bills with single trips to the animal ER for her french bulldog.

Do you have an extra $10-25k lying around to spend on your pooch?

I didn’t.  And it scared the holy crap out of me that something could happen to my fur baby soul-mate and I couldn’t afford to take care of him.   insurance for your dog

ALL THE NEED TO KNOW JUICY DETAILS

When I googled all the Pet Insurance carriers I could find, two years ago, one particular name kept popping up.

My choice was Healthy Paws.   Their glowing reviews and impressive coverage plans hooked me.  Healthy Paws was named the top customer-rated pet insurance the last 3 years running (2016-2018).

♦I am not getting paid by Healthy Paws for this post♦

This

is how it works…

I go to any Vet or Animal hospital.  I pay my bill and get a print out a receipt with the information and description of what I have paid for.

    • I go home and take a photo of the receipt, and save it to my phone.
  • I open the Healthy Paws APP on my phone, hit start a new claim, and upload the photo(s).
That’s it!  Super Easy…you can expect to receive a refund in about 7-21 days via check in the mail or direct deposit (faster).
Dog with donut on after surgery
THE PLANS70%, 80%, 90% coverage…$100,$250, $500 deductibles
Obviously, if you choose the 70% coverage plan with the $500 deductible you will be paying the least amount monthly.
This could be a good option for you
→ if you do not think you have a strong need for pet insurance.  I think you do, but hey that’s just me.
You will be paying the most monthly if you choose 90% coverage and a $100 yearly deductible.
This is good for you if you are less worried about monthly costs and more worried about sticker shock on your doggies late night run to the hospital or random surgery they may need.
⇒This coverage is music to my ears.  I am only paying 10% of my pet’s total bill plus $100 if I haven’t met my deductible for the year yet.

What is Covered?

  • X-rays
  • Ultrasounds
  • Accidents
  • Blood Work (Diagnostics)
  • Surgeries and Surgical Supplies
  • Hospitalization (including trips to the 24 hour ER Animal Hospital)
  • Prescription Meds (this is a wallet lifesaver, medications tend to be very expensive and your pet may have to take them on an ongoing basis)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Congenital and Hereditary Conditions
  • Rehabilitation/Acupuncture/Alternative Treatment (love this)
  • Taxes on all products and services

What is not Covered?

  • The Office Visit Fee or Examination Fee (This is a flat rate, my vet, charges every time I see her…I’ve seen prices vary from $30-$80 depending on where you go)
  • Pre-existing Conditions (See below…VERY IMPORTANT EXCLUSIONS)
  • Wellness/Preventative (Flea Meds, Dental Cleanings, Grooming, Vaccinations, Spay, and Neutering)
  • Illness related to hip dysplasia (that occurs within the first twelve 12 months of pet policy effective date or dog older than 6 years old when the policy was purchased)
  • INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL EXCLUSION Your dog is only covered under the policy while in the US, or temporarily away in Canada.
Example 
If you go to Healthy Paws
the website, which I did on 8/22/18, and give them your pup’s name, bday (I said my dog was 2 years old), address (Orange County), size (medium dog 31-59 pounds) and email… they will give you rates right away.
The cheapest rate was $29 per month and the most expensive for a dog that age and weight with our zip code would cost $56.  Prices vary on your address, dog’s size, age, etc…
Michelle and Winston Huntington Dog Beach
important

Pre-existing Conditions

Just like our human medical insurance, most pet policies do not cover pre-existing conditions.  Meaning if your dog has already been to the vet before for a chronic problem, they are not going to cover any upcoming trips to the vet for that same problem.  That issue arose pre-pet insurance coverage.
If this is a concern…best to call and talk to someone about what they will and will not cover, to see if this is the right option for you.
Still, I would not be dismayed.  Your dog is growing older by the minute and just because insurance may not cover a pre-existing problem, it can still save you money in the long run.

The Waiting Period

WARNING→PLEASE READ…
“Waiting Periods After Enrollment. Your Healthy Paws Pet Insurance policy has a fifteen (15) day waiting period after your policy effective date for accidents and illnesses. Your policy is effective 12:01 a.m. of the day after the date you enroll your pet.” QUOTE FROM HEALTHY PAWS
Read the fine print!  Unfortunately if you don’t, it could cost you.
Someone I know got a puppy and signed them up for Healthy Paws.  She even purchased the policy before she picked the pup up.  Two weeks later, and about 40 minutes before her policy went in to effect, her puppy became extremely ill and had to go to the ER.  The puppy was there for 2 days.  Healthy Paws did not have to cover any of it, because it is now considered pre-existing.  Her bill was 1000’s upon 1000’s of dollars.
What was most worrisome to her, was she was going to have this dog for many years to come.
If anything looks similar for insurance purposes to this specific illness again in the future…does she have to worry this cute little puppy could put her in the poor house?
Italian Greyhound in Bed

I AM SCARED THIS COULD HAPPEN TO ME

You are concerned this could happen to you, so try a Pet Insurance Carrier that does not have a waiting period.  They most likely will not cover pre-existing, but your pup is insured as soon as you enroll.  

MY POSITIVE EXPERIENCE

Maximus and I have had nothing but great experiences with our pet insurance coverage.  Every time a reimbursement check comes through,  I am always pleasantly surprised.  So much so, in fact, I tell my friends,

“Max has better medical than I do.” 

IN CONCLUSION

No one ever said having a dog was cheap.  There are always expenses you forget to factor in your budget as a pet owner, but the unconditional love you receive from that animal is priceless.

I don’t mind paying $59 per month for peace of mind.

If my pup gets sick, I will not go into serious debt because of it.

VINTAGE VIBES AT THE BEACHCOMBER

Crystal Cove HISTORIC beach

Walking to the Beachcomber Cafe

Walking

down the pathway to the Pacific Ocean, I had no idea what to expect journeying to a beach side restaurant I had only heard about.  A cozy cottage appeared with a stunning view all the way to Catalina Island, the Beachcomber Cafe.

Vacation Vibes

Driving down to The Beachcomber on a Monday afternoon the June gloom had cleared to sunny skies.

Once we arrived, to our delight, the hostess sat us immediately on the patio.  We enjoyed a stunning view of the ocean.

No longer feeling like we were in Orange County, I ordered a cocktail at lunch (which I never do), because I immediately felt transported to vacation mode.Margarita at Beachcomber CafeVintage Vibes

With sounds of the the waves crashing in front of us, I watched the families with their kids in tow searching for that perfect beach dwelling. the Beachcomber Cafe ViewAs I gazed over at the body surfers waiting to catch that perfect ride, I started daydreaming of what it was like here 50 years ago.

I imagined driving down to Crystal Cove in a classic VW Bus with a surfboard racked on top. This delusion even included an image of myself in a red polka-dotted high-waisted bikini with the “Beach Boys” defined niche tunes on the radio.    OC Beachcomber CafeSomething about the Beachcomber Cafe made me feel like I was in a 1960’s Coastal California Surfing movie, and I dug it.Crystal Cove HISTORIC beacheats

 

We ordered the grilled artichoke, fish and chips, and fish tacos.  The tacos were my favorite of the bunch.  The service was friendly and the atmosphere relaxed.Lunch at Beachcomber

extra  

 

 

An attention to detail that I LOVED was that every outside table came with a cozy red blanket (hallelujah).  This makes me happy.  I am always cold, especially once I start eating.  I didn’t need a blanket on this particular sunny day.  Although to know one was available, was extremely comforting.Blanket picture

How to get there…

 

and why it was confusing, even to an OC local.  Crystal Cove is nestled between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach, next to Newport Coast.

Do not park in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center (They may ticket you and it’s not the right place).

Do not park on the ocean side entrance at Los Trancos street.  They will make you turn around.  ♦Drop off at this entrance for a Uber or Lyft

DO Park at Los Trancos Parking lot on the east side of PCH ♦ meaning across the street from the ocean

Choose your own adventure by walking 10 minutes downhill from where you park… or take a 2 minute shuttle from the parking lot for $1.50 per person, one way. $3 roundtrip. CASH ONLY

Bring your parking ticket with you for the Beachcomber Cafe to validate (3 hours is complimentary).the Beachcomber Shuttle Crystal CoveI would recommend walking down the hill and taking the shuttle back up.

We opted for the lazy route and took the shuttle both ways because we hit the gym together that morning, so we felt validated to do so ♥.

Hours:  Daily Breakfast 7:00 AM to 11:30 AM.
Daily Lunch 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
Nightly Dinner 4:30 PM to 9:30 PM

Crystal cove beach
Just my Babe, naturally posing for a photo he has no idea I am taking.

Recommended for a date!

…unless you want to make a quick getaway…

The view from Crystal Cove's Beachcomber Cafe
A stretch after lunch?  Sure…why not.

TOP OF THE WORLD HIKE: LAGUNA BEACH

Top of the World Hike

Top of the World Laguna Beach

     When I think of the outdoors in Orange County, the beaches are always the first thing that come to mind.  I just discovered the Aliso and Wood Canyons Hike very recently.  Which is not super surprising, because I wouldn’t exactly call myself a hiking enthusiast.  Hiking in the past has always come with an ulterior motive, such as…going along so I can swim in a Hawaiian waterfall after wandering up a bunch of hills.

Being an ocean lover, this trail truly has the best of both worlds.  You get the outdoor nature vibes with the panoramic Pacific Ocean view.  You can see out all the way down to San Clemente and out to Catalina island on a clear Southern California day.  SCROLL DOWN TO BOTTOM TO CHECK OUT THE SCENIC PHOTOS♥

This is definitely a trail you’ll want to cross off your bucket list.

Map
Top of the World/Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park Map

Thankfully I did not see a snake or I would have lost my shit.

 

IF YOUare a BEGGINER = BEWARE…When you do not pay attention to where you are going, you can easily end up on a moderate or difficult trail by accident (like I did…oops).


 

Top of the world hike
Babe 

A great aspect of this particular hike is that it contains all different experience levels (beginning, intermediate, and advanced) with numerous trails leading in all different directions.  Locals like to refer to this spot as the “Top of the World,”  because of its amazing 360 degree scenic views.


WHENDRIVING…up the windy Laguna Beach roads you will reach a dead-end and the million dollar view of “The Top of the World.”  The trail entrance is off Alta Laguna Blvd, one of three entrances which tends to be the most popular.  There is ample street parking during the week for free.  Even if you do not want to attempt any actual hiking, it still has a great area to park your car enter to snap some beautiful pictures without having to choose a trail.

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Good to Know:

  • Doggies are allowed; but ONLY on certain parts of the trail.
  • There is not much shade up or there.  So make sure you have enough water, a hat and sunscreen (or else you may end up like Babe, burnt to a crisp for days because he never listens and thinks overcast weather won’t give you a sunburn).
  • Mountain Bikers speed through here, best to give them space so they don’t run into you.
  • The trails beginning at the Top of the World start out very easy and mellow.  Save all of your energy for the way back, when you have a literal uphill battle ahead of you.
3250 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651 Top of the World
3250 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651

BEST ORANGE COUNTY HAPPY HOUR 2018

tanners hb
courtesy of Tanner's HB

Happy

Hours

In OC

      Four years ago I moved back to Orange County and quickly realized that Happy Hour was a popular social event here…and kind of big deal.  Working prior to this in Las Vegas nightlife, I didn’t really understand why all of my friends in OC constantly wanted to meet up for Happy Hour? 

I always thought of Happy Hour as a little added bonus if you happen to be at the right place at the right time.  Definitely not an occasion I would actually make my plans around and according to.  So I started google searching “Best Happy Hours in Orange County.”  Unfortunately at that time, I was not finding the information I wanted.  Not many happy hour menus were posted on websites.  I began to wonder if only locals were in the loop on where to go.  I obviously missed that memo when I rejoined Orange County society.  

FINDING A GOOD HAPPY HOUR

    What I was looking for in an amazing happy hour is a good mix of cocktail and food options.  Preferring quality over quantity.  Location and ambiance are a huge part of the experience as well.

I spent most of my life in the hospitality industry so I guess I am slightly pickier than the average bear, but it probably makes me qualified to write about it.  

 Over the last few years I have hit up many Happy Hours in Orange County (there are seriously so many spots).  I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface, but I have certainly tried!  

In my long and boozy search for the perfect OC Happy Hour, I found the following…my Favorite Top 5.  (See Below)


EXPERT TIPS

 

  • Now that Summer is here…the busier all happy hours will be.  Although we enjoy nice weather year around, people come out in droves to OC beaches and restaurants from May until September.
  • Most importantly remember, after all, it is a discount your receiving so you should tip accordingly (like you are paying full price).
  • Also don’t be a muppet and show up 5 minutes after Happy Hour is over and still expect to receive it.
  • If you are looking for a more low-key, quiet happy hour…head in to happy hour towards the beginning of the week.
  • If you like crowds and people watching… head in on a Thursday or Friday towards the end of happy hour and you will get what you came for.

Whichever Happy Hour spot you choose to catch, choose your company even wiser.  These spots won’t disappoint, but your blind date might.

Cheers!

1. MESA, Costa Mesa

Courtesy of Mesa, Photographer-Anne Watson

WHY-ITS THE HOLY GRAIL OF HAPPY HOURS…Mesa really has it all. Conveniently located near the hub of South Coast Metro it is situated inside the Camp.  The food is yummy, the drinks are heaven, the bartenders are awesome, and Mesa just has that cool sort of ambiance.  This sets the tone for a perfect happy hour atmosphere which also happens to bring a nice professional crowd.  Inside Mesa you will find a retractable roof which gives you a nice breeze and outdoor feel…without actually being outside. 

Big props to Mesa for mixing their cocktails for a half priced happy hour in the EXACT same way they craft them during regular business hours.  With fresh juices and high quality spirits.   

Social Hour: Tuesday through Friday 5pm to 7pm – $7 hand crafted margaritas, old-fashioned, manhattan’s, moscow mules, sangria, and aviations (all super solid choices).  Try the shrimp or brussel sprouts-both served with chorizo…or Mesa’s Happy Hour pizzas…obsessed!  725 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626.

2. TANNER’S, Huntington Beach

Courtesy of Tanner’s HB

WHY-THE SICK OCEAN VIEW, DRINKS AND BEACH VIBES Tanner’s Huntington Beach, located in HB, my all time favorite beach city…conducts their Happy Hour at the outside and upstairs Treehouse Rooftop Patio.  Let’s face it, Rooftop Patio boozing is a summertime must and Tanner’s is the spot to do it!  Located right next door to the newer developed community of Pacific City, Tanner’s is a part of the Pasea Hotel off Pacific Coast Highway just south of Main Street.

Go check out Tanner’s for the perfect date night during the week.  Or meet up with friends to people watch on the weekend.  Its idyllic setting and awesome surroundings are a must see.

Last time we visited, I enjoyed the mezcal craft cocktail the bartender whipped up for me.  My Babe was stoked they had one of his favorite – hard to find – craft beers on draft available.  Score!

Happy Hour: Monday through Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00pm $5 beer, $8 wine, and $8 specialty cocktail of the day.  21080 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA, 92648.

3. Tommy Bahama’s, Laguna Beach

Courtesy of Tommy Bahama’s Laguna Beach, Macadamia Encrusted Goat Cheese with Mango Salsa….yum!

WHY-LOCATION AND DEPENDABILITY At Tommy Bahama’s every hour is happy hour, but from 3-6pm on the weekdays, catch some of my all time fave.  Tommy Bahama’s is nestled on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Laguna Ave, in the beautiful downtown area of Laguna Beach.  The food and drink at this island inspired restaurant are tasty.  I consider it an oldie but a goodie.  The happy hour includes Tommy Bahama staple PuPu’s (Hawaiian meaning appetizers); coconut shrimp served with island slaw, and macadamia encrusted goat cheese. 

A big bonus is that TB’s is so centrally located, you can walk to the beach and watch the sunset or even bar hop to places like the next door rooftop, Skyloft.  Tommy Bahamas also has a sister property in Newport Beach, offering the same great happy hour 7 miles north, on the border of Corona del Mar. 

Aloha Hour: 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday well drinks, beer, and wine all half off.  Select small plate options with happy hour prices including my 2 favorites (see above).  400 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651.  854 Avocado Ave, Newport Beach, CA, 92660.

4. SOL Cocina, Newport Beach

Courtesy of SOL Mexican Cocina

 

WHY-FOOD AND VIEW  Did someone say Mexican food?  Count me in!  SOL Mexican Cocina sits on the waterfront overlooking the stunning Newport Beach harbor.  As you walk into Sol and look to the left, you set your gaze on an extensive display of tequila and mezcal bottles behind the bar.  Street tacos, grilled corn, and guacamole are all on deck for happy hour. 

Anyone who knows me can tell you this is all music to my ears.  

Sol has a very popular weekend brunch perfect for crowd watching and meeting up with friends.  Check out the ever so trendy So CAL tradition of “Taco Tuesday” at Sol.  With live music and food plus drink specials all day 3pm until closing…on Tuesdays of course.  

Happy Hour: Monday-Friday from 3 pm – 6 pm.  Sips and Eats Happy Hour prices ranging from $3-$9.  251 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA, 92660

5. The Corner, Huntington Beach

Courtesy of The Corner HB

WHY-THE FOOD IS BEYOND  My mouth is watering just thinking about this cozy farm to table spot.  Located in an unassuming strip mall off of Beach Blvd, the chef owned and operated Corner in Huntington Beach is sure to please.  Unless you have heard of this place, you probably will not stumble upon it, but if you do consider yourself lucky.  Every single thing I have eaten here has been absolutely delicious. I tend to eat dinner early so I have only hit the happy hour here by accident, which is easy to do considering they have a 4 hour happy hour window.  My Mom is even obsessed with the Corner.  She’s picky and an old school meat and potatoes type of gal, so to see her eating newer generation, sort of hip food (which is way out of her comfort zone), warms my heart. 

The Cocktails look very tasty here.  Unlucky for me, I somehow always end up the designated driver to the Corner= meaning I have not had the opportunity to try the mouth-watering looking adult beverages…yet.  I heard they were delightful.  I am taking an Uber or a Lyft next time for sure! 

Happy Hour Daily 3pm to 7pm on certain food and drink.  Must try non Happy Hour items = tuna tartare tostadas and calamari steak piccata.  8961 Adams Ave, Huntington Beach, CA, 92646

MEXICO: ALL-INCLUSIVE ROUTE OR NOT?

Cancun

which option

 

Is Right for you?

CAncun dream pic
Secrets the Vine Cancun – All Inclusive (Life with Michelle Recommended!) Amazing service, good food, great for couples.

Whether you are traveling to places like Mexico or the Bahamas there are so many options for all-inclusive and non-inclusive hotels.  It may be confusing whether the package would be worth purchasing or you should just choose your own adventure once you get there.  When people ask my preference on exclusive and non-exclusive hotels, I usually need a little more information before I can recommend what is right for their particular getaway.


Breakfast in Cabo

Going the 

ALL-Inclusive Route.  The great part about all-inclusive hotels is that you really do not have to worry about making very many decisions. It is not even necessary to leave the resorts property at all if that’s what suits you.  In choosing an all-inclusive hotel, internet research and word of mouth are gold!  There are so many experiences you can have with an all-inclusive package, and each one may be totally different from the other.

Pueblo Bonito Pacifica drinks

The Mega All-Inclusive Resort is that resort in which they have a nightclub, multiple pools, and the property is so grand you will definitely get lost at some point, particularly after lying in your beach cabana and indulging in an open bar.  Why its not ideal for everyone is the adult beverage options. The cocktails and wine are not exactly what a sophisticated palette is looking for.  If you are a Corona drinker, your set!  Also with the properties are so massive that its challenging getting a personalized guest experience, as regards to service.  

What’s great about these large mega all-inclusive resorts is they are so huge that you have a lot of food options and rarely need to worry about making dinner reservations (which you may have to at the smaller type resorts, depending on the time of year and hotel occupancy).  Other perks consist of karaoke lounges, hotel activities, kids clubs, and lazy river pools and slides.  Personally, I think these type of properties are conducive to families or a big group.  These resorts also are more budget friendly than others.  Cabo PB pacifica

The Smaller Luxury Adults Only All-Inclusive Resort  is one I am a fan of.  When I say smaller, to clarify, I mean it doesn’t need its own area code but in no way is tiny.  I find this type of all-inclusive hotel a tad more relaxing.  I appreciate the attention to detail I see from the second I walk in to the second I leave.  These properties have more of a modern spa like decor for ultimate relaxation.  They also have cool activities such as premium tequila tastings. 

Tequila Tasting

Swimming up to the bar and plopping down on an underwater bar stool you have top shelf spirit options available for complementary consumption. 

I recommend this option for couples traveling or even if going with a friend.  —Although let me warn you…if you DO decide to go with a friend, be careful in which one of these hotels you choose before you go.  Do your research.  Some adult only hotels are literally ALL COUPLES.  If you are looking to meet hot guys and party with your bestie you need to look for a different scene.  Although luxurious, some of these resorts = not the place to meet single dudes.


Just a heads up, even the pricier all-inclusive experiences do not include EVERYTHING

This is common sense to most, but I did see some loser argue over this at a hotel because it wasn’t obvious to him that the super premium Don Julio 1942 Tequila is available but not included.  

You still will have to pay for the optional add-ons as well such as a massage, private beach cabana, and that Napa Valley $150 bottle of Cabernet you want with dinner.  


Wine Cabo beach

One of my favorite advantages of any and all of these all-inclusive resorts I have visited is the included 24 hour room service and the stocked mini fridges.  This leads to an overindulgence, but you are on vacation so I say go for it!

Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Poolside
Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Poolside – All Inclusive, CABO (Life with Michelle Recommended!)- You get access, shuttles, food and drink at all the Pueblo Bonito sister properties.  If you want to stay at a swimmable beach try Pueblo Bonito Rose or the next door, Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos (Blanco).

Not

Opting for everything included.  There is a strong argument for going it alone if exploring is more your thing.  Some people prefer this, and I get that.  Discovering new restaurants in  different parts of the city or town you are visiting makes the experience that much sweeter.   On the occasions where I have opted for the all-inclusive packages, I only eat meals at the hotel and I later wished I would have tried some of the local fare.  Stumbling upon some of the best food I have tasted in my life often began with me walking down a random street in Greece, Italy, or Hong Kong and just taking a chance on a spot that was unknown to me (aka not recommended to me by a friend or in my Lonely Planet Guide).


I have enjoyed 

 

both experiences.


When traveling sometimes I want to be a princess and have it all waiting for me upon my arrival.  I am in full on vacation mode and want everything as convenient as possible.

As where other times I am on a mission to discover and immerse myself in more of the local culture, food, drink, adventure, and nightlife.Cancun

PRO-TIP #1  Bring as many $1 and $5 US dollar bills as you can (for TIPPING, shopping, taxi’s, jet ski rentals-$20’s, etc…) when you go to Mexico.  Most resort type areas take U.S. currency so there is no need for exchanging your money to Pesos.  Also, just bring cash in general because if you have to go to the ATM you are only getting Pesos back out of the machine and you never know exactly how much you will need.  You could end up having left over pesos and by the time you pay the currency exchange rate to get U.S. dollars back, it may not be worth it.  


PRO TIP #2 FOR ALL-INCLUSIVE-  TIPPING = goes a long way and a lot of people just don’t do it for whatever reason.  Yes, some of these resorts state on their website that gratuity and/or a service charge is included.  From my experience, working in hospitality across the U.S. and  internationally, I have seen ALL;SOME; or NONE of the “service charge” filter its way back to the actual staff that is taking care of you.  Granted, I have never worked at an all-inclusive hotel, but I find it natural to tip someone I see hustling poolside to bring me drinks and food.  I enjoy the attention and care that I get when I show my appreciation through a tip, and the gesture can go a long way in providing outstanding service (just like being nice to a person can…duh).

And yes I know I have heard the argument “well the point of an all-inclusive is the carefree – travel light – attitude of not having to bring money with you.  To that I say, you are bringing your phone, sunscreen, camera, etc.. with you to dinner or to swim, so why can’t you throw some cash in your pockets or purse to tip?  Right.


PRO TIP #3  Airport Transfers, Activities, Etc…  Do not pay for these before arriving, especially if you are on any sort of BUDGET.  Paying ahead of time usually = overpaying.  Price things out once you are there.

I went to Cabo once and I pre-paid my airport transfer (basically a van taxi) and charged at least double what it would have cost me to get to the airport if I would have just paid once I arrived and departed.  Also fun fact-there was no record of my arrival or departure.  Obviously you do not want to skimp on your safety, but I find it easier to get a lift spontaneously for a lower price.


Me Cancun Beach

NAPA’S BOTTLEROCK MUSIC FESTIVAL 2018

bottlerock napa 2018
2018 at Bottlerock Napa

Through the eyes of a…

A NAPA NATIVE

 

I recently had the opportunity to interview a local Napa Valley female who attended Bottlerock 2013-2018.  Bottlerock is Napa’s first large-scale music festival that began five years ago in California’s destination wine valley.

This past month (May 2018) Bottlerock Napa featured acts such as Bruno Mars, Billy Idol, the Killers, and Incubus.

◊Scroll Down For Photo Gallery◊

I got the scoop from this Napa resident on Bottlerock’s rising success over the past few years, and how it compares to others in this genre.  Curious to see from her what this particular event is like,  I ended up finding out that it brings a unique flavor to the music festival scene due to its site.  The lovely green rolling hills of Napa Valley and it’s culture are a perfect back drop for this more sophisticated outdoor concert experience.

Me:  For those who don’t know much about Bottlerock Napa, how would you describe it?

Her:  Bottlerock Napa is a musical and cultural event that takes place over a 3 day weekend every year in May in downtown Napa, and started in 2013.

Me:  Which year was your favorite?

Her:  Last month’s was amazing and I think maybe my favorite to date.  Last year mega entertainment company Live Nation partnered with the Latitude 38 OG owners.  I believe this has given them the ability to bring on some very talented and relevant artists and a strong line-up!

Me:  Who was your favorite performer?

Her:  The Chainsmokers!  Their set blew me away.  They had an amazing stage presence and the crowd’s energy was insane.  I haven’t seen an EDM performance like that in a long time!

Me:  I know you have been to a ton of musical festivals including Coachella and Burning Man.  What makes Bottlerock different from those or say something like a Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas?

Her:  Napa brings its culture.  Obviously up here we are known for our delicious food and most importantly our world-renowned wines.  Many of the wineries and restaurants represent at Bottlerock here in Napa.  From wineries like Schramsberg (the most delicious sparkling wine ever) to Silver Oak Cellars (their Cab is a must try) and even award-winning Chefs like Giada de Laurentiis and even the Iron Chef himself, Morimoto.

I would also say the average age is much older than the other festivals you mentioned.  I’m 38, and I felt slightly younger than most people in the VIP sections.  Definitely would not be the case if I were at Coachella.  LOL

Me:  I get it.  Age demographic becomes important when you get older because your experience possibly will be either enhanced or ruined because of the environment around you. AKA you don’t want to hang out next to a bunch of screaming teenagers when Bruno Mars performs.

That brings me to my next question.  Are buying VIP tickets worth it?

Her:  I think so.  The first couple years I didn’t opt in for VIP, but now it’s the only way to go for me.  Of course it has grown exponentially in crowd size over the years, so if you want to get anywhere near the stage and see the performances VIP is the answer.

(See more details about VIP tickets below)

Me:  Would you say Bottlerock is kid friendly?

Her:  Yes and No.  The artists do not tone it down (profanity, middle fingers in the air, etc..) because of children being present.  It’s still a concert at the end of the day so that’s to be expected, artistic freedom.  My kids are obsessed with the silent disco (a rave like live music experience with wireless headphones where the music transmits to the headphone wearing participants).  White Panda was an awesome silent disco and I believe one of the largest in the U.S.

Me:  If you would have to guess, how many Napa locals do you think attend Bottlerock?  Or is it more of a tourist attraction?

Her:  I would say 80% of the people I know in Napa attend.  We don’t have anything else like this in the Valley so we all want to experience it annually.

ME:  It’s like having a luxurious community backyard BBQ only on a grander scale.

HER:  Haha, definitely -just a wee bit larger.  It has already grown so much in the past 5 years, not sure what it will look like with an even bigger crowd in the upcoming years.  They may have to find a new venue!


need to know


If you are interested in attending Bottlerock 2019… It sells out in 8 minutes.  Set your alarm clock and purchase!

ABOUT VIP– There are 4 different levels of VIP.  The first level VIP is great for those who don’t want to splurge for the top premium Platinum package, but also want to have more of a luxury experience over general admission.  Some other VIP perks include your own entrance, your own food and drink tents, full bar, and… if you splurge for the higher level VIP, you can even score some acoustic set invitations by the artists.

FYI- my source told me if you are more of say a vodka lover or spirits drinker in general, it is almost impossible to find unless you are in a VIP section where there is a full bar and craft cocktails available.


Recommended Craft Beers to try:  Voodoo Haze IPA and Man Juice Mandarin IPA

Recommended Favorite Food Truck:  Curry It Up


2019 Bottlerock Napa

 

 

I’m coming for you.  Sign me up!

Check out the photos below if you are interested in going♥