Curaçao: Unspoiled Island

Curaçao is a Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, known for its beaches and colorful architecture in its capital – Williamstad. Curaçao is part of the ABC islands, which consists of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. They are currently working on a ferry that will allow for transportation between all three islands. 

Curaçao is truly an unspoiled island. It is not visited enough. The island is so beautiful, filled with life and the natives are super friendly. By far, it is my number one favorite island that I have visited. 

If you decide to travel to this beautiful island, I would highly recommend renting a car! The island is small, making it easier to explore with the assistance of a car. Curaçao does have public transportation. However, it doesn’t run frequently.

My travel buddy and I rented a car through ACE Rent a Car. It was a total of $200 between two travelers including full coverage for 5 days. ACE is about a 3 minute drive from the airport. ACE Rent a Car provides free shuttle service from the airport to their facilities down the road.

Curaçao accepts US dollars, so don’t feel the need to exchange your money while you are there. Unless you want to keep it as a souvenir. #guilty – yes, I do that. 

Fun Fact: natives in Curaçao speak four languages, English, Spanish, Dutch and Papaimentu. Papaimentu is a combination of English, Spanish, and Dutch! How freaking cool is that?! ​

Where to Stay

Highly recommend staying in the downtown area of the capital, Williamstad, also known as Punda. I stayed in Villa Amalie (ig: @villaamaliecuracao) for the entire duration of the trip. For the specific room I stayed in it was $45 a night. You can find Villa Amalie on Airbnb and on booking.com. (If you have never signed up for an Airbnb account, use this referral link to save up to $55 on your first stay.)

​ Villa Amalie is a newly renovated guest house in the city center. This villa is super close to many restaurants (scroll down to the restaurants section), bars, and must see places. Not only is it affordable, the hosts Poul and Royer are super nice and attentive to their guests. The villa has 5 private rooms and they each have their own private bathroom. I highly highly recommend staying here for solo travelers and couples on a budget.

Other places you can stay at:

Bottelier Apartment – located east of the downtown area of Williamstad. However, it is about 5 minutes away from Mambo beach, which is a super popular beach in Curaçao (make sure to scroll down to beaches). Bottelier Apartment (found on Airbnb) offers two bedrooms and two bathrooms with free WiFi, cable, and a balcony. Cost per night ranges from $39-$43, depending on the time of year. I would recommend this space to group trips of 3-6 people. 

Saint Tropez Beach Club – located in the downtown of Williamstad, it provides double rooms to two-bedroom apartments with oceanfront views. This option is definitely on the pricier side. However, you won’t regret the ocean view and infinity pool (check out the photo on the home page – yup that was at Saint Tropez). Saint Trope has its own restaurant, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a reasonable price. Drinks are around the same cost in the United States, approximately $8-$10. Cost per night ranges between $150-$250, depending the time of year you travel, and the type of room/suite/apartment you select. I would definitely recommend it for couples and group trips. 

ACOYA Curaçao Resort – located a couple miles from Mambo Beach, this resort provides either an all inclusive stay, or a stay without all inclusive. It’s really up to you! ACOYA Resort is a 4-star hotel with three restaurants, free WiFi, free parking, outdoor pool, fitness center, free children’s club, airport shuttle, and more! This resort offers a deluxe room up to a two bedroom villa with a private pool! The photos look amazing! You can book ACOYA Curaçao Resort on hotels.com or booking.com. Prices per night here have a greater range of $134-$950, since it depends on the room selection, and if you decide to go with the all inclusive option. I would recommend it for couples and group trips. 

Beaches

Playa Piskado – if you want to swim with tortoises, for the free, this is the place to be. There is a man on the dock that will throw fish at the tortoises and they will come super close to you. Although, it is recommended not to touch them, you will still end up making physical contact because the tortoises will touch you! It was a little nervous with the smaller fish swimming around, but all in all, it was a cute experience. This beach has a lot of rocks, so I would recommend putting on water shoes to make it easier to maneuver while inside the water.

Porto Mari – I absolutely loved this beach! Definitely in the top two of favorite beaches in Curaçao. Porto Mari is a white sand beach with friendly pigs, Willy and Woody, roaming the area. If you are interested you can find Willy and Woody on ig: @willyandwoody. When I went, I couldn’t find Willy and Woody, but I did find two other pigs and all they did was sleep the whole time. It’s okay though, I was pretty occupied with getting a tan. Porto Mari has a really good restaurant with a bar. I ordered a smoked salmon sandwich with cream cheese, it was delish.

Kokomo Beach – didn’t stay here for too long. We came to enjoy the subset and take a quick photo on the Kokomo beach swings located in the middle of the beach! It was a struggle to get on the swing because it was super slippery.

This beach also has a lot of rocks, especially by the shore. I would recommend wearing water shoes, again to make it easier to maneuver while inside the water. Kokomo Beach has a restaurant and bar as well.

Cabana Beach – this was my favorite beach, for sure! About a 7 minute drive from Saint Tropez, it is similar to Porto Mari. It is a white sand beach. However, it is bigger! Cabana Beach has a lot of restaurants and it is on the same beachfront as other beaches as well. If you walk the shore, right or left, you will enter another beach. Cabana Beach has super clear water. There are small fishes swimming by the shore, but you can barely see the fishes because they are almost transparent.   ​​

Mambo Beach – this is the most known beach in Curaçao. This beach has its own boulevard with shops and restaurants. Also has white sand. Great for swimming, relaxing, and snorkeling if you so choose! I did not go to this beach, and I am okay with that. I went to 4 beaches and an infinity pool during my time there. 

Note: Beaches in Curaçao are free, what is not free is the beach chair if you want to use it! Beach chairs ranged from $3-$7, depending on the beach and the type of chair you rented out.

Other Things You Can Do Besides Beaches

Aloe Vera Plantation – great place to go if you are interested in learning the history of the aloe vera plant, and it is for the free! There is a shop inside with both of healthy products made from the aloe vera plants if you want to purchase. 

​Ostrich Farm – they offer guided tours and the opportunity to feed an ostrich if you want! I didn’t get to make it here, I definitely have it on my list of things to do when I return to the island. They also give you the opportunity to get on an ostrich if you want, but it’s at your own risk. Not sure how safe it is. The reviews look great though! 

Visit Otrobanda – from downtown Williamstad, also known as Punda, hop on the floating Queen Emma Bridge, and cross over to Otrobanda. Otrobanda translates to the other side. This side feels a little less tourist, with many restaurants and shops. From this side you can see a beautiful view of downtown Williamstad with all of the beautiful, and colorful architecture. 

The Blue Curaçao Experience – the Blue Curaçao Experience offers a great opportunity to learn the history of the world face blue liqueur produced in Curaçao. There are three different tours offered here: orange, blue, and gold. Pick whichever one suits you! The gold tour includes the walking tour, games, tastings, cocktails, and workshop for $27. Tour lasts about 1.5 hours. 

Day Trip to Klein Curaçao – you can book a day trip to Klein Curaçao, which is an uninhabited coral island. This island is mainly known for its white-sand beaches, lighthouse and an old shipwreck. Fun fact: Curaçao consisted of Curaçao and Klein Curaçao, which is why on the Curaçaoan flag there are two white stars instead of one. You can book this day trip on expedia.com, viator.com, and tripadvisor.com. 

Curaçao Sea Aquarium – this aquarium is great if you are traveling with children, or if you like aquariums like myself. They offer live dolphins and sea lion shows throughout the day. Admission prices are $21 for adults, $11 for children between the ages of 5-12, and free for children between the ages of 0-4. For more information, please visit their website.

Restaurants

Bijblauw – loved this restaurant for breakfast. Offers a beautiful oceanfront view with the sound of the waves while feeling the light breeze. Check out their menu. 

La Boheme – Also came here for breakfast. I enjoyed a Caribbean passion smoothie with scrambled eggs, croissant, and cut up fruits. Check out their menu


Fusions – Asian based restaurant. Came here to eat dinner the first day we arrived. Super hungry and just wanted to eat something. Ordered a shrimp Alfredo pasta. Not too bad. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find their menu online. Tear tear.

Kome – Omg omg omg! Went here for Saturday brunch and it was Amazing with a capital A. Highly recommend going to this restaurant. I had an avocado egg toast with a side of mac and cheese. Keep in mind the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Make sure to plan accordingly. Check out their menu


Blessing – so what used to be a monastery is now an amazing restaurant. Ate dinner here last night and it was delish! As a starter, I had their shrimp option. For the main course, I had their plaice fillet, and for dessert I had their tompouce. Highly highly recommend going here for dinner! You won’t regret it. As long as you’re open to trying something new! Check out their menu.

Ginger – another great dinner option located in Punda. Ginger is a Caribbean, Asian, and Indian Cuisine. The ambiance was so relaxing. It was great for a chill night. Would recommend it for couples. FYI: the owner of the restaurant lives upstairs and he has a dog. Check out their menu.

Note: All of these restaurants mentioned above are all vegetarian and pescatarian friendly. Something to keep in mind if you have dietary restrictions. 

CURAÇAO, I TRULY FELL IN LOVE WITH YOU. I CANNOT WAIT TO MAKE IT BACK TO YOU IN THE FUTURE. YOU WILL FOREVER BE IN MY TRAVEL HEART, DUSHI.

Panamá: Abundance of Fish

Panamá is a Latin American country connecting Central America to South America with Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the east. Panamá is globally known for its canal which connects the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. This canal has positively impacted Panama’s economy as well as some of the world’s main trade routes. 

The direct translation of Panamá is abundance of fish. If you are a seafood lover, Panamá is the place for you! As a pescatarian, I enjoyed every seafood meal I had the chance to indulge in (make sure to read the restaurants section for some recommendations). ​​

Transportation is extremely cheap! I used Uber and each ride was no more than $3 USD.

In terms of currency, there is no need to exchange. $1 USD is equivalent to 1 Panamanian Balboa.

Definitely use US currency for easier transactions. This is as a result of Panamá being the first Latin American country to adopt the U.S. currency as their own. However, if there is any change less than $1, expect Panamanian cents in return.

Best time to visit Panamá is during their dry summer season which is mid-December to mid-April. I went in September where I did experience some rain, but not a lot. The sun definitely came out to play, especially during the day trip to San Blas!

Fun Fact: Panama is the only country in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and the sun set on the Atlantic.

Where to Stay

Hotel San Remo – My travel buddy and I stayed in Hotel San Remo located in Panamá City, about a 15 minute drive from the airport. I had a love-hate relationship with this hotel because the first day we got there it took us about 2 hours to get us checked in to our room. I definitely started to get hangry while waiting for our room to be ready. The communication was not that great, but honestly it was located pretty close to some tourist attractions. Hotel San Remo also has its own restaurant which is open to all their hotel guests, and the public. Only downfall about the restaurant is that when we went to breakfast they would often run out of ingredients so having a legit breakfast was difficult at times. Breakfast was included in the nightly rate – for a total of 4 nights we paid $133. Price wasn’t bad at all taking into account the rooms were small, bathroom was small, WiFi was free, and omg there was no hot water! Every day was a struggle taking a shower. I love me some hot water or at least lukewarm.

Other places you can stay:

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Panamá City – 4 star hotel located in the downtown area of Panamá City. The hotel has a rooftop terrace, restaurant, bar/lounge, and outdoor pool. Also with a 24-hour fitness center, free WiFi and parking. This hotel is $54 a night and I would highly recommend it for families. All booking options within this hotel includes a free stay for one child, as well as the option of getting breakfast on the property. Also a great option for solo travelers, couples, and groups of no more than 4 travelers.

Hyatt Place Panama City/Downtown – 3.5 star hotel located in the downtown area of Panamá City. This hotel has a restaurant, bar and outdoor pool with a 24-hour fitness center, free WiFi, and free parking. Not bad at all for $63 a night. I would recommend it for solo travelers, couples, and groups of no more than 4 travelers. 

I would recommend staying anywhere in Casco Viejo. There are a number of hotels and airbnb options all within a good/inexpensive price range if you book in advance and off peak season. Overall, stay in Panamá is extremely inexpensive, especially if you are working within a specific budget.

Restaurants

Restaurante El Caribe – located in a multicultural neighborhood El Cangrejo (directly translates to crab), this restaurant was opened by a Panamanian with Jamaican heritage. I absolutely loved this restaurant. The food was delicious, and so was the vibe. I ordered garlic sautéed shrimp with coconut rice and beans, sweet plantains and salad on the side. Highly highly recommend it. You will not regret it. For more information, and to see their menu please visit here.

Orale Tacos y Tequilas – Mexican food in Panamá? yup you got that right! Ate here after a long day exploring a couple islands in San Blas. This definitely tasted like authentic Mexican food. I ordered a shrimp alambre, which is grilled shrimp on soft flour or corn tortillas, with cheese and vegetables. I ordered a side of guacamole because I love dipping my shrimp flour alambre in guacamole to give it its finishing touch. The menu options aren’t expensive and they cater to most dietary restrictions. For more information and to see their menu please visit here.

Coliseum Roma – located in Casco Viejo, this restaurant has Italian cruise. I love the ambiance in the space, with music playing in the background and good service. Here I was in the mood for some fried fish, and that is exactly what I ordered with a side of fried plantains (patacones). If you are in the mood for some drinks with an amazing view of Old Panamá, make your way upstairs to Gatto Blanco, a rooftop bar. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the menu online. However, they do have a Facebook page. Check it out!

​Ay Mi Negra – you scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream! If you are an ice cream fan like I am, I would definitely recommend checking this place out. Ay Mi Negra is an exotic dessert bar with crepes, ice rolls, waffle pops and more! I ordered a fruity pebbles ice roll and it was absolutely delicious. This was my second time ever having an ice roll, and I truly enjoyed it. My tummy was happy for sure! For more information and to see their exotic dessert bar menu please visit here. Feel free to check out their ig as well – the photos are pretty cute!

Boba Town – located in Casco Viejo, if you enjoy bubble tea, check this place out! I kid you not, I probably stayed here for an hour and a half, charging my phone and enjoying some bubble tea waiting for the rain to stop. I ordered Honey Jasmine with boba, which consisted of Jasmine tea, honey and boba. It wasn’t the best bubble tea I had, but it was decent. If you are in the mood for food as well, they also serve that here. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the menu online. However they do have a Facebook page. Check it out!

Mahalo – ​has the most vegan and vegetarian friendly menu I have seen during this entire tip! Also located in Casco Viejo, Mahalo has a variety of options for meals and fresh juices with a tiki bar, and a bunch of board games. I absolutely loved the vibe here. It was so chill. It is safe to say I had breakfast for dinner. I ordered the lox from the Snack Shack menu. The lox consisted of an avocado toast with dill cream cheese, smoked salmon, fried egg, and arugula. It was the best avocado toast I have ever had the pleasure of consuming! I would eat here again in a heartbeat.

If you make your way to Casco Viejo, please please please make your way to Mahalo. For more information and to see their menu please visit here.

Things to Do

Day trip to San Blas – book a day trip to San Blas you will not regret it. We booked our excursion through Visit San Blas Panamá. The excursion included roundtrip transportation from our hotel to Puerto Dibin (the boat port), which was a two hour drive from Panamá City, lunch including a drink, and transportation to two different islands owned by Guna Yala: Isla Barco Hundido and Wailidub, and a natural pool with starfishes.

For lunch, I had fried octopus with fried plantains and a salad! It was delicious – I kid you not!

​Guna Yala consists of 365 mini islands, all owned by the indigenous Guna people. I would highly recommend taking this day trip! It is super relaxing. I absolutely loved the natural pool with the starfish. However, my favorite part was talking to our tour guide and learning about the history behind the Guna people fighting for all 365 islands not that long ago in history.

Bocas Del Toro – is a province in Panamá located on the west side of the country, not that far from Costa Rica. It is famous for its beaches, dining, nightlife, and shops. Can you travel from Panamá City to Bocas del Toro, however, it will take you about 10-11 hours. You are better off catching a one hour flight from the city into Bocas del Toro if you are willing to pay around $200. Transportation by land would cost you roughly the same thing. 

Panamá Canal – ​​take a tour of the Panamá Canal. This is an artificial 50 mi canal connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Learn about how it was created and its positive impact to the trade market. For more information please visit here

Museo de Afroantillano – The Afro-Antillean Museum. This museum focuses on West Indian Panamanians and their contribution to the creation of the Panamá Canal and its railroad system. Entrance to this museum is only 1 Panamanian Balboa. The museum is a little hot inside, and small – they do have a couple fans on. I promise you it is worth it. For more information please visit here.

Roam the streets of Casco Viejo – also known as San Felipe, Casco Viejo is Panamá’s old city. It is filled with many restaurants, rooftop bars, cocktail lounges, local shops with many traditional handicrafts, and more! I spent the rest of an evening just exploring Casco Viejo, ate at two different restaurants, grabbed bubble tea and enjoyed some ice cream. I was also able to see the Panamanian skyline from this area, which was absolutely beautiful!

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo – this museum showcases artwork from Panamanian and Latin American artists. Museum is open everyday with the exception of Mondays. Make sure to take that into consideration when you are planning your visit. The museum is free. Unfortunately, I was not able to see it because it was under construction while I was there. For more information please visit here

Please note that I did not capture everything that you can do in Panama. These are only some of many options. The list goes on. 

PANAMÁ YOU WERE A DOLL! TRULY ENJOYED MY TIME HERE. HAVE YOU EVER VISITED PANAMÁ? WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE TRIP?

Dream Come True: London

For the past three years, my mother and I have traveled together on Memorial Day Weekend. Not so much because of the federal celebrated holiday, mainly because every year Mother’s Day in the Dominican Republic falls on the Sunday before Memorial Day. (Yes, I am Dominican. Both my parents were born in the Dominican Republic.) Okay, where was I? Traveling to a new location has been a great way to spend mother-daughter time at least once a year, especially now that I moved to DC. This year’s location was really based on the question: where can we fly to for the cheapest, knowing that we are about 4 weeks out. After hours of searching for flights and destinations around the world, the cheapest flight I found was London! Shoutout to Heathrow Airport! I was able to find a roundtrip flight to London, departing from Boston Logan International Airport for $382 flying with American Airlines. The minute I saw that flight, I said to my mom: “HECK YEAH! Mami we need to get on that! I’m not trying to snooze and lose.” I was really surprised at the price. Like I said, we literally waited for the last minute to find a designation for our mother-daughter trip. I assumed it would be more expensive as a result of the time of year. You know what they say when you assume…assuming makes an……. yeah yeah yeah. 

Anyways, the first step I usually take after purchasing a flight is checking for Airbnb accommodations. However, there weren’t many listings for that specific weekend and the cost was very close to the cost of a 3-4 star hotel. I went on hotels.com and found a great deal at Doubletree by Hilton Hotel London – Tower of London, $500 for 4 nights. Super happy with the price and pictures online so why not?! My mother and I ended up having an amazing experience. The service was amazing! Our cleaning came everyday of our stay to check in with us and personally ask us if we needed anything for our room. She gave us extra toiletries, mainly for my mom because she loves herself some free hotel shampoo and conditioner. The actual room that we stayed in was super clean. I am a huge: bathroom needs to be on point anywhere I stay type traveler and this bathroom was sparkly clean. Another great perk was the location! When I tell you the hotel was legit within a 2 minute walk to the nearest metro stop: Tower Hill, and a 5 minute walk to the Tower Bridge of London. ​It literally made all our city exploration that much easier. 

Day One

How do y’all feel about red eye flights? This was exactly that! On the flight here I watched a couple movies, the main one that stood out: The Hate U Give. Had me bawling my eyes out on the flight. Flight was super smooth and we ended up arriving earlier than expected. We landed in Heathrow Airport around 8am. First time standing up after the entire flight, my legs were feeling weird, that’s for sure! After we went through immigration customs we hopped on the Heathrow Express train which takes you from the airport to Paddington in 15 minutes. I would highly recommend hopping on this express train if you are looking for a quick, easy way to get from Heathrow Airport into the city (Paddington Station is the stop). I purchased a roundtrip ticket for $50 each for my mother and I. Once we arrived at Paddington we hopped on another train to Tower Hill, which is the closest metro stop to our hotel. All in all, it took us about an hour to get to the hotel. It would have taken less time, but I was trying to figure out which direction to take (kind of got lost), how to read the metro map and we squeezed in a quick info session on the perks of an Oyster card. If you are going to be in London for more than 3 days, I would highly recommend getting an Oyster card. It makes the paying process so much easier and it’s a great souvenir at the end of your trip! 

Once we arrived at our hotel we were greeted with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at the front desk! I don’t know what I was more excited about, the freshly baked cookies or the fact that our hotel room was ready and the person at the front desk allowed us to check in early! We were tired from the overnight flight. All we wanted to do was put our bags down and take a quick 2-3 hour nap. Luckily, that is exactly what we did. Flash forward to 1pm: mother and I are out, and about. Roaming the streets of London. We woke up extremely hungry from our nap so we went straight to the Tower of London to find something to eat. The most traditional meal in London is fish and chips! Great for me since I am pescatarian, and my mother rarely eats meat! We managed to get fish and chips for 7 euros from Tower Vaults. We ate that while walking around the area and enjoying the view, including the London Bridge. After our tummies were satisfied, it was a mutual agreement that our next stop should be: the London Eye

We purchased a ticket combination of fast track entrance to the London Eye and one more London attraction (keep reading to find out the second attraction). Fast track entrance was totally worth the extra money to avoid a long line, and to mention the views from inside the London Eye was absolutely breathtaking. Did you know the London eye has 32 ovoidal capsules, one for each of the London boroughs? The capsules are numbered 1 to 33 – with no capsule numbered 13 for superstitious reasons. ​

After taking a ride on the London Eye, we took a stroll to find a red telephone booth. On our way to a red telephone booth we came across the Big Ben. However, it is currently under construction so we were only able to see the outline of the building as well as the clock face itself. A few steps further down we found the Westminister Abbey and a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at a nearby park. We were super drained after all the walking that we decided to catch the nearest underground train back to the hotel. All in all, day one was super productive, keeping in mind that we arrived in London early this morning on a red eye flight. We were super satisfied with what we were able to see and do.

Day Two

Woke up bright and early. The time difference truly made me feel like my body just received 24 hours of sleep. Remember when I said to continue reading to find out the second attraction we opted in to experience. We went to the Sea Life London Aquarium baby! I’m a huge animal person, whether it is an animal on land or in the sea. I usually try to make it a thing to directly or indirectly interact with an animal on all of my trips. The line to enter the aquarium wasn’t too bad because we went super early. Entry is based on your specific time slot so I would definitely recommend going first thing in the morning so you hit less human traffic as possible.  

The entire aquarium experience took about 1.5 hours. My favorite part of the aquarium was definitely the penguins. Super super super cute! If you are traveling with little ones or simply love animals like myself, head over to the Sea Life London Aquarium. You won’t regret it!

After the Sea Life London Aquarium we walked over towards the Westminster Bridge, where my mom was able to capture this beautiful picture of me with the London Eye in the background. I am surprised I was able to get a decent photo without a photo bomber. The Westminster Bridge was super packed with tourists and natives attempting to do magic tricks in exchange for money. This is the part of the trip where my mother and I were hypervigilant of our surroundings because we were informed that there are a bunch of pickpockets in London. I figured if it was going to happen to us at all, it would happen here. I moved my backpack to the front and just kept it pushing. We walked about a mile to get to Buckingham Palace. I was hoping to see the Queen, but that for sure wasn’t a thing. I was fascinated by the Queen’s guards (guards dressed in red). They legit were not moving at all. Imagine having to stand for hours at a time without making a sudden movement. I think I’d cry. I give props to them! Unfortunately, the changing of the guards ceremony was not scheduled for today, but if you are interested in seeing the changing of the guards ceremony you can access the schedule here. 

After we took in the view and all the pictures we wanted to cut through Green Park, located on the right of Buckingham Palace, and hopped in the Green Park underground line to do some window shopping in Oxford Street (underground stop = Oxford Circus). Although the only shopping I did was purchasing a London double decker bus charm from Pandora, I truly enjoyed walking around and seeing all of the (designer) stores  they had in the area. If you are into designer fashion, this would be your happy place. I’m talking, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel, Burberry, Tory Burch, Moschino, Saint Laurent, and more!

Seriously, it was designer galore. The great thing about purchasing designer things in London is that you do not have to pay London tax (well you pay for it up front and then they reimburse you). All you have to do is fill out a tax form, bring it with you to the airport, and before you check in at your terminal, you show your receipt of the item(s) you purchased, and they give you back the amount you paid for taxes.

After window shopping for about 2-3 hours, we decided it was time to grab something to eat! We hopped back on the underground train and made a stop at St. Paul’s (metro stop for St. Paul’s Cathedral). We originally walked to Nando’s, but realized this restaurant was big on meat, we should have definitely looked up the menu beforehand. We ended up eating at Pho St.Paul’s, which was literally right next door. (I hyperlinked the main menu.) The food was pretty good! I ordered a king prawn (shrimp) vermicelli noodles, and my mom ordered chicken vermicelli noodles. It was a legit authentic Vietnamese restaurant. I give it a solid 8. 

After we indulged in such amazing Vietnamese food, guess what happened?! Yuuuupppp, the itis! I was ready to go to sleep! My mom was really pushing for us to walk home, and my response was, “absolutely not!”. My mom loves walking! I do too, but I have my limits. We hopped back on the underground and went back to our hotel room. Quick 15 minute train ride. Once we got back to the hotel room, it was wrap. I knocked out cold. Woke up about two hours later wanting to explore. We got ready and took a walk down to the Tower Pier, which is super close to the Tower of London.

Here you can take a water form of public transportation up and down the River Thames. We didn’t do the little water taxi, but we definitely took a few pictures with the Tower Bridge in the background. I was so happy there was another family who were able to take our photos because I have yet to invest in a tripod! After our mini photo shoot, we tried to find a bar nearby, but everything was closed in our area. We didn’t feel like going too far away from the hotel since it was close to midnight, so we just decided to go back to the hotel and call it a night (for real this time).  

Day Three

Everyday we spent in London had its own unique experience, but hands down day three was my favorite day! From the beginning of the day to the end it was amazing. Let me tell you why. We started off the day with a walk to the Tower Bridge, we did not go inside to the top but, you can if you want. Check out the hours and admission prices here. Captured the view from different angles, and even managed to get a cute picture of my mom. As you can see she was super happy! Then we walked about a mile to get to Tate Modern, London’s contemporary museum.

(Remember when I said I try to directly or indirectly interact with an animal when I’m on trips? Same thing with contemporary art museums! I absolutely love them!) Tate Modern Museum has four floors of just amazing pieces of art. Highly, highly, highly recommend going! The museum is absolutely free, and I promise you it is worth your time. We spent hours there, truly appreciating every exhibition. 

From Tate Modern we made our way to Brixton, which is located south of London. Brixton has such a different ambiance compared to the other parts of London. It has a Caribbean feel to it with more people of color. We came across a Jamaican restaurant, Turtle Bay, and we loved it! We went during happy hour time! They had the option of selecting three appetizers for the cost of 18 euros, and drinks were equivalent to $4 USD. As you can see in the photo below, the three dishes we selected was king prawns, duck (strictly for my mom, #pescatarianlifestyle), and crab cakes. The food was spicy, which I should have known. I literally had to take a gulp of water after every bite, but honestly, it was so worth it! The food was really good. My mom loved it as well. I would highly recommend it! Not only is the food good, the service was amazing as well. Drinks were great in taste and portion for its cost. 

After spending a couple hours at Turtle Bay for happy hour, we decided to continue our roaming. We spoke to a few locals and we were informed of a Dominican community in Elephant and Castle (underground metro stop). Once we were informed, it was a wrap! We both knew we needed to find this Dominican community. Imagine Dominicans in London. Oh snap, oh snap, oh snap! Imagine it and believe it because it is a real thing. We hopped on the metro and found our way to Elephant and Castle. There is in fact a Dominican community with corner stores similar to colmados/bodegas and restaurants with Presidente beer, traditional food, and Bachata. For the duration of our time in Elephant and Castle, we truly felt as if we were in the Dominican Republic. We forgot we were in London for a second. Aside from Dominicans, there were a lot of Colombians present in the community as well. So for all of my Colombians out there, there is a mini Colombian community for you in London!

Before the end of the day, we did one more stop: Shoreditch! Talk about street art galore! If you love art, street art in fact, this is the place to be! The neighborhood of Shoreditch is legit filled with streets, alleyways, and buildings of pure street art! My camera roll probably has a good 50-100 photos of beautiful street art. I could not stop snapping photos. In this area, I put my mom to work with her photography skills! (Thank you mom!) Aside from all of the artwork, Shoreditch has a number of restaurants. A lot of Indian/Halal food options. If you are a fan of Indian/Halal food this is also the place for you to be! My mom didn’t eat here because we were still pretty full from eating at Turtle Bay, but we were definitely tempted. We literally walked in the neighborhood for a good two hours; didn’t leave until the sun started to set. That was our cue to head back to the hotel. For this night, we decided to have dinner at the restaurant located in the hotel because we received a 5 euro coupon for being great guests at the hotel. The coupon is to only be used at the restaurant located in the lobby. A 5 euro coupon sounds like nothing, but I swear a little goes a long way! My mom and I were able to share a whole margarita pizza for half the price because of our coupon. We are all about saving and traveling on a budget! 

Day Four

Ugh, day four = last day in London. More like the last couple of hours in London before having to head to the airport to catch our flight back home. My mom and I woke up super early, and were roaming the streets by 9am. We weren’t really on a mission, mainly just wanting to go to a souvenir shop to perfect shot glasses (I always buy a shot glass from every country I visit). We went to the Tower of London area, and shopped around for the best prices on shot glasses. Managed to get 4 shot glasses for 10 euros, which isn’t too bad. We continued walking west and realized we weren’t that far away from St. Paul’s Cathedral, which we saw on day two.

We returned to the hotel, took one good last view outside of our hotel room floor to ceiling windows, and hopped on the train to Paddington station. One return ticket to Heathrow Airport please! Again, a quick 15 minute ride. Thanks to Heathrow Express! Totally worth it. If you are traveling to London, I highly recommend purchasing this service. ​

We also came across the London Monument, which is another underground metro stop. There wasn’t much time left before we needed to head to the airport, so we cut the exploring short on this day. 

LONDON, LONDON, LONDON. YOU WERE FAR TOO KIND. I TRULY ENJOYED MY STAY, AND I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AGAIN IN THE FUTURE. IF LONDON IS NOT ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST, PLEASE CONSIDER IT.