Day Tripping at Treasure Island Flea

View of the Bay Bridge from Treasure Island.
The quirky Treasure Island Flea market opens up the last weekend of every month on Treasure Island. It’s an eclectic mix of hipsters, local entrepreneurs and traditional flea market finds. Most of the displays/booths are so well done, you’ll feel like you are at an upscale street fair or high-end pop up market rather than a traditional flea market. The event features live music and some of the Bay Area’s Best food trucks. No fear, drinks are near, they have a roving drink cart with mixed drinks available…yes, I’m talking Bloody Marys, Mimosas and a variety of concoctions available while you peruse and find your treasures. It’s a perfect way to spend your Saturday soaking up some sun whether you’re single, have a sweetie, hanging with friends or with the family. 

Traditionally I look for unique used goods or antiques at flea markets but on my last visit to the market I fell in love with several of the local business vendors. Here are a few of my favorites, check them out;

Let’s face it, if you are carrying around a camera or guitar you already ooze coolness, so why not add some more style and up your cool factor even more. I want one.

One of my favorite Korean food trucks at the market, HiYaaa! 
This collection of witty named teas will attract you with its slick packaging but it doesn’t stop there, the teas are tasty too. Try the Hipsters in Wonderland, Sexpot and Bad Bromance...there are plenty of other blends to choose from too.

This Etsy jeweler uses raw cut stones and natural elements to create stylish and earthy pieces. 

These handmade goodies utilize the look of a Polaroid and vintage pictures to create unique handmade cards. Little art pieces in themselves, I want a collection.

They take the leftover products from brewing beer and use the healthy ingredients to create snack food, think bars and granola. How’s that for efficiency?

Now go, it's your turn. Let me know what treasures you find!

Click here to see upcoming dates and events for Treasure Island Flea. Note events have free parking and are dog friendly. Also It gets windy and cold, especially now that we are in the winter months. Layer up with jackets, warm socks and beanies.

Like this market…but wait there’s more!
The same group just launched the Jack of all Trades Market at Jack London Square in Oakland, which is held every second Saturday of the month.

Other things to do on Treasure Island…
If you are looking for more to do on Treasure Island there are several wineries you can visit there as well, so make a full day of it. Wineries include; Treasure Island Wines, Fat Grape Winery, The Winery SF, Bodega Wine Estates.

Don’t forget to take a pic of the great views of the Bay Bridge and Port of San Francisco. Check out the view of the new span of the Bay Bridge and see the mysterious Google Barge.


Venice Photo Essay - A Day in Venice, Italy

The photos below are some of my favorites from wandering around Venice this past September.

Gondeliers taking a break
The back side of the Doges Palace
A waterway in Venice, Italy
A woman begging for money
Produce market on a boat

Actors in costume
Venice delivery service

The crowds in St. Marks Square


Get Lost in Venice, Italy

I love Venice. When I talk to most people they either love it or hate it. Those who hate it rattle on about the high prices, crowds and heat. To a certain extent they are right. The main attractions, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doges Palace, had a steady line of at least 100 people when I visited in September. The soaring mid-day temperatures and crowds sent me steering clear of all the packed alleys, streets and tourist sites. Of course I wanted to see the sites, they are spectacular, but what I realized is that the true romance and beauty of Venice is found when you simply wander the city and get lost.

No city map seems to be exact or to scale. Streets are alleys with hidden twists, turns and dead ends. It’s an open labyrinth that’s big enough to get lost in but small enough to always find your way back. The labyrinth of Venice has endless bars and eateries offering one of a kind wines, prosecco, and small bites of delectable food around every corner. The city's unique romance and magic truly comes alive when you are wandering. I'm not suggesting that you skip the famous sites, but be sure to plan on spending a day just getting lost.

A few recommendations for getting lost:

Bring a map – it’s always nice to be able to find your way back when you truly have no idea where you are. I consider myself good with directions and Venice had me all turned around. It’s fun but you’ll need a map to reference when you want to get back home.

Bring your Camera – the beauty of Venice is more apparent then ever in the quiet alleys and waterways. Bright colors and aged walls, it’s a photographers heaven.

Wear comfortable shoes - I know, you are in Italy and everyone around you is in designer heels and boots. It’s tempting to join in, but trust me if you are going to put in three to six hours of exploring this city, wear your tennis shoes. Save the heels for dinner.

Know anyone visiting Venice soon? Please feel free to share this article with them. Here are a series of photos from my time getting lost in Venice. 

Hitting an unexpected dead end
Bridge and waterway in Venice, Italy
Signs leading to Piazza San Marco are throughout the city
Aged walls in Venice, Italy
I love the color of the boat in this picture
For more pictures from my adventures in Venice visit my Venice Photo Essay: A Day in Venice.


A Sign of Change

I arrived home from my trip to find that the Dhalia I planted in March had finally bloomed! I swear I checked the plant every week to see if it had bloomed and the moment I'm out of town, voila, there it is, just like magic.

Every time I return home from a trip I consider it a new beginning, just like the new year. I have a fresh perspective on the world and home, so it's a great time to make changes and see my life in a new light. Judging by this gorgeous bloom of my favorite flower, I think it's a sign that the next chapter in my life is going to be a bright and beautiful one. I'm excited!

What signs have you noticed in your life, are you paying attention?


Tips for Visiting Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina

View of Stari Most or the Old Bridge in Mostar
Mostar is a lovely city with a rich and turbulent history. I was excited to be visiting for the first time and for the opportunity to get a better understanding of the region and meet the people that live there. Prior to visiting, the only thing I knew about Bosnia Herzegovina was through media reports and images I saw during the war.

I had a wonderful time, the trip opened my eyes and heart to the region. I met wonderful people and heard powerful first person accounts of love, life, war and survival. I visited while on a road trip through Croatia. Here are some suggestions if you are planning to visit the city

If you are visiting from Croatia, rent a car and drive to Mostar. I’ll be honest from what I had read about Bosnia Herzegovina we were somewhat cautious and a little bit concerned about driving in the country. Once we arrived I felt like our concerns were a misconception. The roads were fine and it was nice to have the freedom and flexibility of having our own car. Many day tours are offered from Split and Dubrovnik but it’s a long and twisty trip for a bus tour. It was an interesting drive and the border crossings were easy. If you are staying overnight make sure secured parking is available.

Hire a tour guide so you can get a more detailed and local view of the cities rich history. Private car tours are available for a broader experience or you can arrange for a walking tour. We booked our walking tour through Fortuna Tours and they were wonderful.

Mostar Old Town
Stay overnight so you can enjoy the city as it truly is, not just the tourist aspect during the day. There are plenty of day trips offered here but in my opinion it’s a long way to come just for a day. I'd recommend staying at least one night. The Old Town can easily be seen in one day but if you stay overnight you can enjoy the surrounding area to see how people are living every day in the city.

The evening we stayed, we came across Mostar's Summerfest, a summer concert series. We could see the lights and hear the music from our hotel, so we met up with a fellow tourist and simply followed the lights. We had a blast, mingling with the young locals of Mostar and watching The Beat Fleet a popular reggae and experimental Croatian band for around 10 Euro a person.

Where to stay
We had a lovely stay at Villa Fortuna a Bed & Breakfast and a travel agency. The rooms were clean, spacious, pleasantly decorated and well priced. Above all the best part was the simple touch of good service. It’s a quaint spot where you will feel right at home and within easy walking distance to the Old Town. They have a lovely courtyard where you can enjoy a local glass of wine or beer after a day of sightseeing. In addition they have a secure parking area.

What to Eat
Cevapcici is the local tourist thing to try. It's a grilled meat dish often served with flatbread, chopped onions and ajvar, a roasted red pepper sauce. There is an overwhelming number of places that offer the dish so ask your guide which place they recommend or go with your gut and try a place on your own. 

Sit down and enjoy a Turkish coffee from one of the cafes.

Other Thoughts
No regrets but looking back if I could have adjusted my itinerary I would have scheduled a few days to go to Sarajevo.

Have you been to Mostar before? Do you have any tips to share?


Today I am leaving on a trip to Europe...

I am anxious, nervous and excited. It reminds me of a wedding. No matter how much you do to prepare, the closer it gets you just start to let some things go and time seems to move faster. You wait and wait for months and then the day or two before you are so busy you can’t have enough hours in the day. Then you are at the airport, not even sure how you got there because time has moved so quickly, your journey has begun. It’s scary, but it feels good. I have to remind myself to enjoy the excitement, that’s the rush I look for when things feel stagnant. It’s funny how I fear the feeling that I crave so much. That thrill and excitement for life is one of the reasons travel is so wonderful, it’s the feeling of freedom.


12 Tips for Your First Trip Abroad

Tickets are booked, passports are secured, you are ready for your first international trip. If you are making the plans on your own and not through a tour or travel agent, there are a lot of pieces to pull together to make the trip as smooth as possible. Below are a few things to consider and to help you prepare for your adventure. 

1. Re-think backpacking, it’s an easier way to carry your gear if you’ll be taking public transportation and covering a lot of ground
Taking a backpack doesn’t mean you need to be hiking the Andes or staying strictly in hostels. I made the mistake of bringing my Tommy Hilfiger rolling luggage to Italy on a trip where I was moving a lot from city to city; the cobblestones and stairs didn’t treat the luggage wheels so well.

2. Be prepared for the fact that you will never be fully prepared
This is where the thrill comes in. Do your best to prepare and then just let go and enjoy the ride.

3. Expect the unexpected
Don’t let your tail feathers get ruffled easily. If something isn’t like home, let it be interesting, not annoying. It’s the reason you are traveling, to see what is different about the world. Need I say more?

4. Know your self and plan accordingly
When I arrive at a destination to kick off a trip, I like to rest for a day. I often get so excited I push myself to explore and that’s when I get run down and catch a cold or get sick.  Now I always plan to spend my first day resting, it's a great way for me to start a trip on the right foot.

5. Your travel experience outcome is directly correlated to your attitude and expectations
I had a coworker who once told me she would only travel to places that had her favorite vodka and wine accessible. On one hand I applaud her for knowing herself, on the other hand I can't help but think about all the wonderful new experiences she will miss out on in life with such limited thinking. You have to be open to try new experiences, have a positive attitude and expect that things will be different to enjoy your travel experience.

6. Choose a travel partner wisely
Traveling with someone is different then just hanging out at a barbecue with him or her. It can be challenging to find the right person to travel with. Sometimes it’s the person who complements you in a unique way, for instance, they love to plan things so they can take on the planning role while you relax or vice versa. If you don’t think you can find a good travel partner, read my article on why you should travel solo.

7. Socialize
The biggest mistake I made the first time I traveled abroad was not opening up to others. I was nervous, I didn’t speak the language and I felt isolated. It takes courage to not only learn new phrases but to also  speak up and practice a foreign language by interacting with others. You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself, not an easy task for some of us. You have to challenge yourself. Learn some phrases and tell yourself no matter how nervous you are, you will walk into the shop/restaurant etc. and communicate with someone. Trust me, most of the time people will appreciate it and open up to you. If not, it’s no sweat off your back, just move on to someone else, don’t take it personally. Communicating with others will make you feel connected and ensure that you don’t unnecessarily isolate yourself and block out wonderful new experiences.

8. Plan/book in advance with the opportunity to change your plans if necessary
I always thought it would be more spontaneous and exciting to decide where you are going on a whim. The truth is I find it a little exhausting. The need to constantly make new decisions gets in the way of enjoying myself. Now that I know this about me, I like to plan with flexibility. I book most of my lodging in advance, with the ability to cancel/change plans in case something else comes up.  I enjoy always having a place to go with the ability to still be spontaneous and change plans if needed.

9. Make sure to plan down time
When I look at a map, I tend to go a little crazy, I want to see every place possible. By the end of my initial planning, I’ve created a non-stop exhausting itinerary that is above and beyond my normal capacity for enjoyment. I’ve had to learn to edit myself and pull back. For some of you, if you like being on go constantly; by all means go for it. What I’ve learned about myself is that I am a better person when I take it a little slower. I always stay somewhere at least two nights (unless it really just warrants a one night stay) so I have time to look at sites and down time, not just running from place to place. In those moments of down time I often experience the most rewarding moments of the trip.

10. It’s okay to be a tourist
Ok, I hate to break the news to you but you are a tourist. I hear so much about going off the beaten path, not doing tourist things, I believe there really is value to both. In the past I often refused to go with tour groups or go on any tours. When I got pulled into a walking tour of Berlin I was not very thrilled at the thought of hours stuck with a guide rambling on while I wanted to explore. I was completely wrong. Not only was the walking tour entertaining and educational but it gave me the full lay of the land in the city and saved me an enormous amount of time when I was left to explore on my own. After the tour I was able to roam freely off the beaten path. I learned way more then I ever could have. Don’t be ashamed that you don’t know the ins and outs of a city, how can you, you’ve never been there before.

11. Get the museum audio guide or tour
Visiting the Louvre in Paris, France without any guidance was like…so overwhelming. My two years of Art History in college were not enough to prepare me for freely wandering a huge museum and understanding and appreciating what I was seeing. I had no idea what I was looking at most of the time and was completely overwhelmed. We shuffled through the museum in a zombie like crowd to stare at the Mona Lisa surrounded by 100 people. I remember being in awe of everything but it was just too much to look at and take in without any guidance. It's very helpful to have the highlights and details explained to you in a personal or audio tour the first time you visit a museum. Save the wandering for a future trip. 

12. Have fun

What are some travel tips you have? Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who may find it useful. Cheers!