Peru Expedition, Part One: Getting there + Arequipa

As those of you who have been following my overactive Instagram account  know, in June Charlie and I explored Peru. It was our first time in South America, and Peru has been on the top of Charles’s bucket list since before we were married. Honestly, almost every country is on the top of my bucket list, so I was pretty excited as well, and the trip was just as much of a dream as we had imagined. Excepting Charles’s brief bout with food poisoning and some mild altitude sickness symptoms, we couldn’t have asked for a better adventure vacation.

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I’m dividing the trip up into several posts to highlight each region we explored, as well as some tips and tricks for planning a vacation to Peru as several of you have messaged me about what hotels we stayed at, what guides we used, how to arrange certain plans, the restaurants we went to, etc.

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Write Like You Are Running out of Time (The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits)

 

Hey there, everyone. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? We’ve spent the past few months house hunting, buying, moving, and organizing, in between work and several trips (more on those in upcoming posts), so this spring and beginning of summer has been one big blur. I keep reaching out to grab a hold of time and let each day last a teensy bit longer, but it always evades my grasp.

Peru The Folded Clock

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3. “Marlena” of Michigan, AKA the Book that took me back to High School

(I’m trying to read a book from each state this year for my Make America Read Again project. This is my Michigan pick.) 

 

So remember how last week’s book review was light and frothy? Well. This week’s book for Michigan is the exact opposite. Instead, it’s a story of an intense high school friendship, the lure of addiction, and the spiraling effect of small events in life.  This book swept me back to my own high school years, the (mostly) pre-Facebook and smart phone and economic collapse era, the years of locker room rumors and AP testing and field parties that, despite your best intentions, shape a part of your adulthood in ways you don’t always realize until much later.

Let’s get into it.

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Roadtrippin’

 

This weekend I’ve been reading a road trip story called The Last Days of California by Mary Miller. Although so far it’s been a fun rollicking story to read, this post is not a book review.

Instead, it’s about my own road-trip story. Reading the book has reminded me of all the adventures from that trip, though one rather creepy encounter sticks out the most.

 

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Literary Escapism with “Crazy Rich Asians”

 

This week was not exactly a stellar start to the summer, now was it? Between the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and yesterday’s London attacks, the world isn’t looking so sunny. I’m currently bed-ridden with a bout of a lovely strep throat/cold combo, and although usually I enjoy any excuse to read all day in bed, it’s been more difficult to concentrate on any book of depth while nursing a fever, aching limbs, and grieving and angry for a city I was lucky enough to call (for a short time) my home. Why does this keep happening? What can we do to put a stop to this violence? I’m way too hazy from my cough medicine to answer these questions with any semblance of wisdom, though no one else seems to be able to answer these questions either. The scariest part to me is how each attack becomes less and less shocking – we are becoming desensitized and grow jaded with the well-meaning Facebook flag pictures and the “Praying for London” tweets. I think I’m undergoing a short term version of a funk.

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That time in London I was THISCLOSE to the royal princes (Quantum of Solace World Premiere)

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Chasing West End celebrities with my fellow study abroaders

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Couldn’t resist the tourist pic of Buckingham Palace

 

 

“Rich People Problem” books are my go-to for whenever I’m having a rough week, when I just finished a rough semester in school, or whenever I need a palate-cleanser after reading an intense or depressing story.   So this weekend I needed something light and frothy, perhaps even downright superficial, to give me a temporary reprieve from the real world.  Fortunately, the novel Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (published in 2013) fit at least two of these three characteristics, and took me to a completely different part of the world without having to leave my couch.

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What’s it All About? 

The international bestselling novel is the first in a trilogy (the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, was published in 2015, and the finale Rich People Problems was just released this past month) and centers around 29-year-old Economy professor and ABC (American Born Chinese) Rachel Chu and her dashingly charming boyfriend, Nick Young. Nick is heading back to his home country of Singapore for his best friend’s upcoming nuptials, and he invites Rachel along as part of a summer-long tour of Asia. What Rachel doesn’t know is that her low-key PhD lover is actually a favorite grandson of one of the richest Singapore families…in other words, she’s about to be immersed in the world of some Crazy Rich Asians.

As she is interrogated and judged by various friends and family of the Singapore elite, Rachel begins to question her relationship with Nick and her place in his life. Will they survive the pressure?

Personal Thoughts

At first, I honestly thought I was going to loathe this book. The opening chapters that are narrated by Nick’s more sartorial-focused family members include an endless number of designer brand name-dropping and Michelin-star restaurant references that made me cringe and roll my eyes.  There’s a reason why I’ve never been tempted to watch the Kardashian’s or Real Housewives shows; even for me there are limits to how basic I’m willing to go (though I’ll never say no to a SoulCycle class or a glass of bubbly, so I’m still pretty far gone on the Yuppy spectrum).

…eventually though, I realized that the whole point of the book was to gently satirize this culture (although the author himself seems to genuinely love a good Gucci loafer, as much as he talks about them in the book). I blame the cough-medicine-induced haze on my delayed reading comprehension. Then I started really enjoying myself and got immersed in the world of Asian elite society, the clash between Mainland Chinese and Overseas Chinese, as well as the New Money versus Old Money tensions that are scarily similar to American society except on a grander scale – in Kwan’s depiction of Singapore, those that make a mere four million a year are absolute paupers.

I also surprisingly found myself gleaning little tiny peeks into Singapore and Chinese culture – the rituals and traditions, the mouth-watering cuisine that sounds like a mix of Indian, Asian, and European cuisine (I have been craving satay and coconut rice and laksa and chili crab for several days now, as well as many other dishes that I don’t even fully understand).  Also, did you know that Singapore actually gives dividends to its citizens when the economy is doing well? This island, and really this area of the world, holds so many secrets I was completely unaware of until this book. Unsurprisingly, I am now desperate to plan a trip to this part of the world.

 

Read this book if…

At its heart, this novel is a rom-com, albeit one sprinkled with designer dress names and private-jet trips to Indonesia and Australia. I do think Mr. Kwan brings a perceptive eye to this genre, so if you’re looking for a fun summer read with hints of character development and sly humor, while understanding that this book is definitely NOT going to change your life, this is a good pick. It will definitely make you smile on those rough days, if also feel a bit gross about how materialistic we all are.

 

(P.S. For those of you in the London area, you can offer to help victims in the London attacks via the Facebook Safety Check app, which has volunteer resources. If anyone knows how those of us in the United States or other countries can help, please comment below.)

 

 

 

Technicolor Dreams in Miami

Sometimes, life gets too chaotic for reading…ok, who am I kidding? I always make time for reading, even during last week’s dental conference in Miami (I flew through Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies in preparation for the HBO series coming out, and it did not disappoint! Will have to write a review later this month). I also got to reunite with one of my best friends from dental school, who gave me the grand tour of Miami and made both me and Charlie boy fall in love with this vibrant city.

We ate delicious Cuban and Jamaican food, explored the intricately graffitied arts district, sipped mojitos along the beach, and fell asleep to the sound of salsa music and ocean waves with our open balcony door. Couldn’t have asked for a better mini-vacation. 

Check it out!

(PS this is mostly just going to be a picture post, because my original draft got deleted when my laptop finally decided to collapse after nine years of devotion. RIP, MacBook. I’m quickly cobbling together a post on my iPhone of all things, but I’ll be back with some more legit blogging  once I find a new laptop). 

Live music and people watching in Bayside

Enjoying the city views of Brickell

Eating at the infamous Versailles cafe for Cuban sandwiches in Little Havana.

 

Checking out the vast street arts district in Wynwood

Bayside strolling

Grabbing burgers at the Lokal in Coconut Grove

View from our W hotel balcony in Brickell

Love these beach views

Grabbing drinks at the Broken Shaker in South Beach

A very dental dinner with the newlyweds!!!

Southern Stereotypes

As a well-trained Southerner, I always maintained the habit of saying yes ma’am or sir to my dental school faculty and patients. Instead of the reaction I was used to back home (which was no reaction at all, since saying ma’am or sir anywhere south of Maryland is about as automatic as saying “hello,”), I would often receive a confused and borderline offended glance and a high-pitched “What did you just say to me?!

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Weekend in Louisville, Kentucky

Last month, Charles let me tag along on a work-related road trip to Kentucky. As usual when I’m about to head to a new city, I spent hours researching and planning all the adventures I would have while Charlie boy was stuck in meetings. I maybe had even let my OCD self go wild by creating an hour-by-hour itinerary based on site locations.  I wanted to make sure I had time to tour the Derby Museum, the 21c Museum hotel, and walk along Waterfront Park.

…none of these things happened.

The trip coincided with the “snow storm” that hit the South this January, and although Kentucky didn’t actually get hit with a lot of snowfall, it was absolutely frigid there. With the windchill, it was -9 degrees, and since I would be without a car and would need to walk (or Uber) everywhere, some of the outdoor and out-of-the-way tourist sites had to be nixed from my list. Plus, I seemed to have developed some sort of sinus congestion/cold virus that week; nothing that was serious enough that I could make a legit excuse to lay in bed all day, but enough to make me feel like that’s all I wanted to do.

And you know what, reader? That’s (basically) what I did.

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Charles and I spent the weekend at The Brown Hotel, a gorgeous historical Louisville mainstay dating back to the 1920’s.  It houses a well-known lobby bar and three restaurants which all serve the infamous Hot Brown (more on that later).

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So while Charlie boy spent the day getting #lawyered, I spent a delightful morning curled up in our hotel room sofa, reading and snacking on room service. Eventually I ventured out of my room for a small work out and then explored the hotel, taking way too many photos of the gorgeous lobby area while the bar pianist played jazz music. I felt like I had stepped back in time and half-expected Zelda Fitzgerald to pop up at any moment like in Midnight In Paris.

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That night, Charles and I had a ramen dinner at Milkwood  (absolutely delish, by the way) and then returned to the hotel bar, where we tried bourbon Manhattan’s and, at the end of the night, the famous Hot Brown. This is a dish created by the original chefs of The Brown Hotel restaurant, and it was often ordered as a late-night menu after a night of dancing at a wedding or party. The dish is basically toast in a creamy sauce and covered with turkey, bacon, tomato, tons of Romano cheese, and a thick gravy. In other words,prepare yourself and wear your elastic waistband pants when you order this monstrosity.  It’s just as delicious (and dangerous) as I imagined, and if you’re willing to risk the potential heart attack, it’s worth it. You can also make the dish at home using this recipe.

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The next day, Charles and I did actually manage to venture out together in the cold to work off some of that Hot Brown (though not for long). As on any trip, I am a brat and demanded we find the best independent bookstore in town, so we stopped by Carmichael’s bookstore to explore the shelves. I picked up a copy of The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan. As it is set in Kentucky and is, to some extent, about horse racing, I figured this would kinda-sorta-not really make up for the fact that I did nothing cultural in Louisville. I’m in the middle of this book as we speak and thus far no regrets for forking out the $25 for this book.

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So, I definitely loved our trip to Louisville, even if it wasn’t my typical action-packed road trip weekend! The hotel was a kind of historical site in and of itself, so we weren’t COMPLETELY lame. Plus, sometimes it’s fun to just have a lazy weekend in a fancy hotel! 😉

We do want to make another trip to Louisville in the future, when we can ACTUALLY explore the city – what should be on our cant-miss list? What should we skip? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide for the Jet-Setting Bibliophile

With the holidays quickly approaching, I’ve been spending a good deal of my free time shopping for friends and family, so I’ve got gift inspiration on the brain. And since my blog is all about some book-loving and wanderlusting, I realized that a gift guide combining these two interests was a natural fit. Here’s some holiday inspiration for any traveling bibliophiles in your life :).

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