Sunday, April 29, 2018

Year of YES.

If you know me, you know that I love podcasts and audiobooks. They help me to pass the time when I'm stuck in traffic to and from work. Recently, I finished the audiobook, Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. My friend recommended it to me about a month ago, and it really opened my perspective of saying yes to things. If you haven't read it, go read it! In my opinion, the first 3/4 of the book were great, but then things started to get dry for me. Let me know what your thoughts are when you finish the book!

As an introvert, it's quite easy to for me say no to a lot of things. To be at home or by one's self to recharge is to be comfortable. In short, I learned from Shonda's book that it's good to say, "yes" to things that scare you. You never know what you'll learn about yourself unless you say yes. Yesterday, I had a really good conversation with someone about what it meant to say, "yes". The worst thing that could happen when you try something new is that you might hate it, learn from it, and move on. It's all part of life, and who knows. Maybe saying yes for once will turn into something amazing.

I've been been trying to be more of a yes person in my daily life. Yes to new experiences. Yes to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Yes to more artistic liberties. 

This week, I had the opportunity to be part of a bridal photoshoot for the launch of my friend's new business, Yesterday, I explored some more places in LA on my bucket list like grabbing brunch at Gracias Madre and visiting the Star Wars themed bar, Scum & Villainy Cantina. Between working full time, prepping for grad school, volunteering in my free time, and exploring the city, I guess you can say my hands are pretty full right now. I love making the most out of my time, and saying yes to new experiences lately has definitely made me a happier person. 

Here's to many more yeses to come.

Until next time,


Thursday, April 5, 2018


One word: Spontaneous.

With one extra day to spare, we weren't sure about how to spend our last day in Italy. Do we stay in Rome? Do we go back to Florence to visit the Uffizi or Accademia Galleries? Or should we head south and explore Naples? With the day full of possibilities, we decided to get ready for the day and just go with the flow. 

My brother found some train tickets departing Roma Termini towards Naples (also known as Napoli) at about 11:45am, so we decided to head further south of the Italian peninsula for our final day of vacation. After a quick stop to Sant' Eustachio Il Caffè, for some Cappuccinos and pastries for breakfast, we made our way to the train station.

After experiencing a minor delay with our train, we were finally on our way. The ride lasted a little over an hour, and offered beautiful and scenic views of the countryside.

When we arrived, it was time to get some lunch. After losing our parents for half an hour, my brother found them standing in line for Zia Esterina Sorbillo, a local hotspot for fried pizza. My mother was pretty excited to be trying something new, and up until this point, fried pizza was a very foreign concept to us. When we got our order, we were met with a large, crescent shaped, hot pocket like fried pizza. It was delicious, light, crispy on the outside, and crisp on the inside. The pizza bread reminded me a lot of a pizza since the crust was so thin. Nonetheless, everyone enjoyed the meal.

After lunch, it was time to head to Santa Lucia. Considering the wider streets and heavier flow of traffic in the city, we were actually shocked that Uber was unavailable. As opposed to taking a taxi into the coast, we decided to walk instead.

40 minutes later, we arrived at Santa Lucia, the beautiful costal region of Naples. The water was this rich turquoise color, and there were empty row boats just floating in the water. We thoroughly enjoyed the area as the breeze was fresh, the views were gorgeous, and the dock was peaceful. That was the first time that we saw water on the western coast of Italy. It was absolutely beautiful!

After spending about 30-40 minutes on the coast, we decided to head to Quartieri Spagnoli, a popular area in Naples for local shopping. This area reminded me a lot of the cliché vibes that a lot of us foreigns think of when we think of Italy. The clothes changing across the buildings, narrow street ways, lots of vespas and vehicles, and of course artisanal and high end shopping. We managed to do some shopping before our train back to Rome, which was quite nice. 

The indoor shopping mall architecture was exquisite. The roof was a glass dome and and the brick buildings nicely complimented the overall design of the mall. I was blown away.

At approximately 6pm, it was time to head back to the train station. We boarded the train at about 7:25pm and headed back to Rome for our last dinner in Italy. 

Our last dinner was quite hysterical. With many places already closed, we settled on a mom and pop Italian restaurant. I was so tired, I can't even remember the name of it. We were greeted by the host as if we had just entered a Disney theme park. The loud music was that of what you would hear from a cliché version of an Italian restaurant, and the decor was a bit hokey. Nonetheless, we had an excellent dinner and some final laughs to wrap up our trip. Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel to rest up before our flight home the next day.

The following morning, we woke up early and departed for the airport at around 8am. It was a busy time, as we barely made it to our check-in time for our layover in Zürich. Once in Zürich, we did what any chocolate lover would do and stocked up on some delicious Swiss chocolates before boarding our flight home to Los Angeles. 

After a 12 hour flight, we finally made it home. I skipped dinner and went straight to bed from exhaustion and jet lag. It had been an extremely long day. I'm slowly getting better as we speak. I think I'm almost 100% better. Looking back, I had the most incredible trip of the year, and was glad to have been able to spend it with my family. It was nice to be able to introduce them to a part of the world that I love. 

Coming back to California, I couldn't help but feel a little bit sad. By the end of any trip, I'm usually so elated to return home. I genuinely had an amazing time on this trip, and I think part of me wanted to stay longer. Of course, it does feel good to finally be back home. I'm already getting the urge to travel again, but I think I'll wait a little bit longer before I take another big trip. 

Where should I go next? London? Brazil? Cuba? Tokyo? Greece? Morocco? Let me know your thoughts and recommendations! If you have any questions about anything from my travels, please feel free to reach out to me via Instagram or Twitter via @Tran_gerine

Until next time!



Wednesday, April 4, 2018


It's Wednesday morning (midnight) and day four of jet lag. I'd love to sleep a full night for once so that I don't have to be a sleepy zombie at work for once, but alas, I'm wide awake, so without further is blog 4/5 of my Europe series: Rome. Enjoy!

DAY 1:

No trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to Rome. At about 8:45am, we boarded a train from Florence towards Rome. The trip was quite short; about an ho ur and a half ride to the city. I slept the entire way there and woke up right as we were pulling into the station.

From there, we made a fifteen minute trek from the train station to our hotel in the heart of Rome. That morning was a busy one, as we only had enough time to drop off our bags before our scheduled tour at the Vatican Museums. The Uber ride from our hotel into Vatican City was a short one, spanning about 15 minutes. Once there, we were met with large crowds awaiting to get inside. The check-in process was quick and seamless, as we had made an online reservation prior to our visit.

Upon our tour time at 12:30pm, we were greeted by our personal tour guide, Isabella. Isabella was a delightful guide. She was warm and friendly, and was very knowledgeable about the artworks in the museum. The tour commenced immediately. While the Vatican was bustling with tour groups and activity, we managed to find a spot within each one of the exhibits to fully take in the sights and sounds.

The tour lasted roughly 2 hours, with enough time for Isabella to explain the different pieces and answer our questions. I had enough time to take photos, and felt that the timing of the tour was perfect. 

My two favorite rooms of the tour was the Room of Segnatura painted by Raphael, and the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. Up until our trip, I knew very little about the two artists. During the tour, I couldn’t help but find intrigue at their paintings and their seemingly competitive rivalry. I loved that fact that while both talented men were very competitive in nature, that Raphael had a great respect for Michelangelo, even including a portrait of himself in one of his murals in the Vatican.

Room of the Fire in Borgo fresco painting by Raphael.

At the end of the tour, Isabella led our family to the Sistine Chapel where we were left to explore the rest of the Vatican on our own. My brother and I stayed inside the chapel for maybe 10 minutes, taking in the beauty and awe of Michelangelo’s masterpiece. This is where we lost our parents.

Not knowing whether they exited to the left side to continue viewing the museum exhibits or exited right towards St. Peter’s Basilica, we had some tough decisions to make. Without having a means to contact them, we decided to continue through the museum to see if we’d have any luck. Sure enough, my brother found them about 10-minutes later through a window on our way to the restroom. Once reunited, we explored all of the exhibits in the museum one last time before ending our day at St. Peter’s Basilica.

In comparison to the romantic and often cheerful art of the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s Basilica had a more solemn mood to it. Opulent and extremely large, it was dimly lit inside. There we saw the final resting place of several popes, the alter place where St. Peter was buried, and had the opportunity to explore the different corners of the basilica. Once the basilica closed, we went outside to witness the entire square set up for the upcoming Easter mass. We also had an opportunity to see the Swiss guards at their post in full uniform. It was truly a surreal experience to see the Vatican from the outside and the statue of St. Peter holding the keys. We got to watch the sunset behind the basilica which was really special.

Once we headed back into the city, it was time to eat dinner. We decided upon Alessio, a popular and safe choice. There, we dined on artichoke hearts, thick noodle spaghetti, seared sea bass, and steak. After dinner, it was time to retreat to our hotel. It was another great day in the books.

DAY 2:

We started out our morning with a morning walk to Antico Caffè Greco, a historic and popular café in Rome. It first opened in 1760, and is known for famous visitors which included poets Keats and Shelley. There, we enjoyed Americanos and Cappuccinos as well as pastries on the go. My parents enjoyed a warm apple tart, my brother enjoyed a prosciutto sandwich, and I had a giant pistachio cannoli (so good).

From there, we made our way to the famous Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), then to the Pantheon, followed by the Trevi Fountain. 

The Trevi Fountain by far was the most crowded area we had encountered that day, with many visitors wanting to get an up close view of the fountain. In comparison to the grandeur of the Vatican a day before, these sights were not as awe worthy in my opinion.

Next, we made our way to the Colloseum (also known as the Coliseum or Colloseo). It was as big as I imagined it to be. Lined with tourists and tour services, we around around 1:45pm to check out the sights. Despite missing our tour, we enjoyed ourselves on the second story of the building. Being able to sit down and people watch for a bit was quite relaxing.

At about 3:10pm, we were led by a private tour guide to the top levels of the Colloseum. I was extremely excited to climb the top tier, having heard that it had recently opened (November 2017). The view was nothing short of a spectacle. Despite being afraid of heights, I thoroughly enjoyed the view down into the area and felt at peace in the quiet area. Since only a limited number of people were granted access into the top tiers, there were no mass crowds lining the observatory railings of the level. Thus, making this the perfect opportunity to take some aerial pictures of the Colloseum. Once our visit was over, we took a quick peek at the ground level of the Coliseum before heading out.

Now comes my favorite part of the day. The visit to the Mouth of Truth. Myth has it that if you place your hand inside of the mouth, that it will bite the hand of the liar. It was featured in my favorite classic film, Roman Holiday, featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. It’s a cute romantic comedy film about a reporter who is going undercover to try to get a story about a royal princess. Plot wise, I thought it was a much better film than Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve probably seen the film over a dozen times, and I still love it very much. Although the line to take a photo with the mask was quite long, I managed to get a quick photo of it nonetheless from the corner of the church were it was displayed. It was a great sight to witness to say the least.

Once we wrapped up all of our sightseeing activities, it was time to get dinner. We dined at Osteria da Fortunata, which was known for its fresh handmade noodles. Upon arrival, we saw some women through the window kneading out the dough, and forming noodles. There, we dined on spaghetti and ravioli. I hate to say this, but my brother’s spaghetti, bacon, and mushroom spaghetti was probably the best spaghetti dish I had tried in Rome. It was much better than my Ravioli, which was a pretty basic and classic platter. Ironically, we also ran into my brother’s friend at the restaurant which was pretty cool, considering we had separate itineraries.

After dinner, our family grabbed some dessert at Giolitti, a popular gelateria in Italy. At this point, I was pretty bias and picked the Amaretto again. This time, I also ordered, a Bailey’s flavor and Pistachio flavor as well. The cream on top was so good, and I really enjoyed the dark chocolate lined cone. The gelateria even had a Roman Holiday flavor which I thought was really cute!

By this point, our family was pretty exhausted, with only 4% battery left on my phone, it was time to get home. Luckily, we had a hotel map handy which helped out a lot. I tried to call an Uber, but at that point, it was just easier to try to walk home. We made it back to our hotel with only 1% battery life to spare. WHAT A RELIEF. By then, we were ready to call it a night. We needed to get our strength up before Naples the next day.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Be sure to stay tuned for the next post: Naples!

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave me a message on my blog or via Instagram or Twitter at @Tran_gerine.

Until next time!