#HottsinCharleston

Hey y'all! Happy Friday!! How's your week been?  Mine has definitely been funner than last week, when I was wining and dining my way around sunny South Carolina. Office Life > Lowcountry Life, any day.

APRIL FOOLZ!!!!

Real life is garbage, vacation is the best.

Would you, too, like to make a little jaunt down to historic Chucktown? Of course you would! It's the best!  Allow me to regale you with some Hott Tips to help you make your visit the very best it can possibly be. Trust me. When it comes hanging out in Charleston and looking good doing it, I'm pretty much an expert.

HOTTSAUCE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO CHARLESTON, SC

Liz Hott so hott charleston awkward childhood travel

Where to Stay:

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Take your pick from any of these gorgeous historical mansions!

Just kidding, stay in this parking garage. 

  (photo via parkme.com)

(photo via parkme.com)

No SRSLY we stayed in an AIRBNB apartment directly adjacent to this parking garage. To enter you would walk up the steps to the second floor and then through the garage, past all the parked cars to a metal door on the far back wall, enter a code into the keypad et voila: your home for the week! Narnia meets the sharing economy.

It was actually a really nice space, probably some kind of office turned into a rental unit, with one big room with a king bed & sitting area, a smaller bedroom with queen bed, and a fancy ass bathroom. There was no stove or kitchen sink but there was a Kuerig, a mini-fridge stocked with those little half-and-half cups you get at diners which are so gross but I adore, and an ice maker that rattled all. night. long. 

The other thing that rattled all. night. long was the old windows. It legit sounded like someone was jackhammering all the live long night. OR it sounded like someone was opening and closing a door...aka it constantly sounded like someone was breaking into the apartment. Y'all know I think a serial killer is going to get me at any moment so you can guess how well I slept in a parking garage where everything constantly went bump in the night.

Not great.

Still, I'd recommend renting this space! SUPER centrally located right in the downtown area, walkable to everywhere, and a solid price. Pack ear plugs. And by earplugs I mean Ambien. 

What to Do:

hotts in charleston couples vacation travel blog

Whatever you dang well please! Don't make an itinerary. Don't even get a map! Just walk out your door and see where the day takes you. You can ask our couple friends (with whom we got along swimmingly and did not have a fourway), Brian and I were LEGIT chill on this trip. A couple of cucumbers, I tell ya. Fresh out of the garden. We pretty much walked and walked and talked and ate and drank and popped into shops and napped and took a million photos and enjoyed the slow speed of life and the warm weather and crushed the pants off life. If we can survive three easy-breezy, unplanned vacation days, I'm prettttty sure you can too. 

Where to Eat:

hominy grill charleston food blogger hottsauce

Well you should probably eat at Husk because apparently it is delicious and also every time you instagram a picture from the city someone will comment "omg eat at Husk!!" and then when you don't in fact eat at Husk you'll just feel weird and stressed and guilty about it as if you're doing everything wrong in this world and need to defend your life choices. 

GUYS I'M SORRY WE DIDN'T EAT AT HUSK!!!! WE JUST DIDN'T OK???

Don't worry tho, we def didn't starve. Here's what we'd recommend - have The Hotts ever led you astray when it comes to food?? 

For some goddamn good sandwiches: Artisan Meat Share

For raw oysters: Pearlz

For biscuits so good you'll want to take them behind the middle school and get them pregnant: Callie's Hot Little Biscuits (I now look like someone took me behind the middle school and got me pregnant but that ain't a baby, it's biscuits and pimento cheese. mmmm.)

For fresh modern Mexican by the guy who runs Husk so you can say that at least you ate some Sean Brock food while in town: Minero

For LITERALLY the best and freshest small plates of seafood your body will ever consume you'll be ruined for fish for the rest of your life: The Ordinary (this was our favorite! Beautiful restaurant in an old bank building, we sat for 3 hours and dined on plate after plate of the tastiest seafood dishes, washed down with delicious wine and I wore a fun top with NO cardigan and really what a night, gang, would highly recommend this joint if you're in town and looking to get a little schmance.)

For indulgent brunch that includes macaroni & cheese and fried cheese grits on their vegetables menu: Hominy Grill

For greasy dive bar treats with a fancy twist (think duck BLT): Tattooed Moose

For light & healthy fare: LOL go home, you're boring. 

Where to Drink: 

gin joint charleston travel blogger hottsauce

Assume you'll be partnering all of your meals with at an adult bevvie or twelve, but if you're looking for a place to imbibe while digesting, here are a few places we liked.

For Oyster Shooters: Pearlz (it's like a tiny shot of bloody mary with a raw oyster inside. SO GROSS! By gross I mean great!)

For great views and horrible service: Vendue Rooftop

For a long list of delicious craft brewz: Craftsman Kitchen & Taphouse

For touristy but surprisingly well-priced al-fresco cocktails: Fleet Landing

For creative mixology: The Gin Joint

Where to Caffeinate:

hottreads charleston city lights cafe travel blogger

You're going to need a lot of coffee to counterbalance the downer effect of all the sweet tea vodka and lard you're consuming. Might we suggest:

For charming Southern service & yummy lattes served in mismatched Fiestaware: City Lights

For "good cold brew": Black Tap Coffee (We popped into the local indie bookstore Blue Bicycle, more on dat below, and asked the tres too cool for school proprietors where we could get a good coffee nearby and were met with the following conversation:

Me - "Where can I get some good coffee nearby?"

Her - "Question: Do you want your coffee good or do you want it nearby?"

Me - "Um, I guess good? I just want an iced-coffee to go."

Her (dripping with pretension) - "Sub-question: Do you want iced coffee or do you want cold brew?"

Me - stares blankly

Her mustacioed colleague (proudly) - "we're hipsters."

Brian (valiantly saving the day) - "We'll take some good cold brew, I guess!"

Them (together) - "Black Tap."

And then they ignored us and had a private conversation about the various artisan coffee bean subscription services they use. This interaction made us laugh and laugh but also made me a little sad because bookstore people aren't supposed to be hipster douchebags! They're supposed to be the best people in the world!! I'm chalking it up to an off day. And I gotta admit, the cold brew was pretty damn good.) 

Where to Shop:

  oops, I don't have any pics of stores so here's some more gratuitous house porn

oops, I don't have any pics of stores so here's some more gratuitous house porn

For Books: The Blue Bicycle! Adorable indie bookstore with new & used titles and a teeeeeeny tiny shop dog that even I thought was adorable and I'm a monster. Give the benefit of the doubt to the snoots magoots staff mentioned above!

For toiletries you forgot to pack: This Walgreens. Centrally located! Great selection! And they sell WINE!

For sweetgrass baskets and kitschy crap: Historic Market. If you want a hilarious sign about boobs for your man-cave, this is the shopping mall for you! (Also I don't think we can be friends anymore.)

For antiques and art and fancy shit like that: Everywhere!!! Charleston is overflowing with high end homegoods stores but I'm poor and think the Pier One Outlet is a sophisticated place to buy furniture so I can't really help you here, folks. 

How to Pose:

Just like this, folks. Just like this. 

Liz is still so cool!

And there ya have it. The definitive guide to the very best Charleston visit a person could ever possibly dream of. Have a great trip! Take me with you!!!!!

xoxo Liz Hott 

79 HOURS AND FIVE MINUTES IN PORTLAND, OR

Hello! Remember that time I went to Oregon? Yeah, I barely do either! It's taking me about twice as long to recap this vacation as it took the early settlers to haul across the continent with just a few sickly oxen to lead the way.

But like my pioneer heroes, I shall forge ahead in the face of great adversity (mild head cold.) 

To the Pacific or BUST! 

Without further ado, allow me to present the third and final installment of our Epic First Anniversary Romantical Adventure, a la NYT's 36 Hours Series. Parts Uno and Dos aqui! 

79 HOURS AND FIVE MINUTES IN PORTLAND, OR

TUESDAY

WELCOME PIONEERS | 10:55 p.m.  

Arrive at Portland International Airport, which you will later learn, thanks to a pack of Oregon trivia souvineir playing cards, was named the top domestic airport in a 2006 Conde Nast Traveller Magazine poll of business travellers. Very neat! 

Shuttle it to your chalet for the evening, the La Quinta Airport Inn where, thanks to a booking error, you're upgraded to a suite that is literally larger than the apartment you live in, with two queen sized beds, two couches, two very huge flat screen televisions ... and one very small bottle of 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner Blend. 

FINALLY shower and pass out face down in the closer of the two beds, marvelling over how much you've done in one long, sweaty, flustery, day - was it just this morning you were at the Native American Museum? What time zone are you in now? How good was that wedge salad???

Anddd ZZZZZ. 

WEDNESDAY

OH NUTS | 8 a.m. 

Wake with the sun, because you're insane, check out and call an Uber to take you into downtown. Whilst you wait, spot the first of TWO food-mobiles you'll see on this trip, a Planters Nut Wagon.

nutz!

Sure why not.

Have your Uber driver drop you in a random parking lot, pick up your waiting Zip Car and hit the town. This party's just getting started!

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS | 9:30 a.m.

Portland is known for its vast and plentiful food and drink options and you've rolled in with a list of about 78 "must visit" establishments. You know there's no way you can hit them all...but oh, you'll try! First up: Pine State Biscuits in the hip Alberta Arts District. Order The Reggie Sandwich (fried chicken, gravy & cheese on a biscuit) while your husband opts for The Moneyball: a biscuit, topped with a huge slab of fried chicken, smothered in gravy annnnnd topped with a fried egg.

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Clean your plates.

Wander up and down Alberta street, peeking into hip shops and marvelling at the amount of people aggressively brunching - cocktails and all! - on a Wednesday. Does no one in Portland work?! 

PORTLAND AF | 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. 

Cross the bridge into Portland's touristy Pearl District and visit PDX's two most recognizable hotspots....

Powell's City of Books: EVEN BETTER THAN YOU EVER COULD HAVE DREAMED!!!

POWELL"S!!!!!!!!
donuts suck

What's the deal with doughnuts? Why are they so trendy? They're not that great! 

BEER ME  | 3:00 p.m. 

Find yourself once again killing time before picking up keys to an Airbnb - reazing this might be the fatal flaw of the whole Airbnb situation. Spend an hour or so sampling local microbrews at The Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom. 

Imperial Bottle Shop

Then pop over to one of Portland's legit super duper cool "Food Pods," organized groupings of food trucks parked year-round to create adorable outdoor eating spaces. Order a salad (lame!) because you think your body needs some greens...instantly regret it when you get a glimpse of your hubz' loaded ramen. 

hot guy eating ramen

Fiyiyiynallly check into your Airbnb only to literally leap back in the car and head west, young men.

PACIFIC OR BUST | 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE COAST FOR THE SUNSET!! Maniacally drive 1.5 hours due west to the town of Astoria, OR, home to the famous and oft-photographhed Haystack Rock. The scenery surrounding you is beautiful - tall, piney trees, gold-hued farmland...but there's NO TIME to take in scenery! The sun could set at any moment!! 

Begin to realize, for neither the first nor last time this vacation (and let's be real, your whole lives), that you two both need to learn how to fuckin' chill. 

(Frantic drive totally worth it tho!)

Haystack Rock beautiful view travel blogger

(And!)

#hotts at haystack rock

(And!)

cannon beach baby

And!

pirate man

I mean! If you' hadn't made the drive, you never would have seen this adult man dressed in FULL pirate regalia, standing in the freezing surf up to his waist, letting the waves crash upon his be-buccanneered torso. 

Did the Booze Cruise follow you to the Pacific?! 

Marvel in the majesty, hop back in the car, return to Portland, crash into bed.

WINGS -N- THINGS | 10 p.m.

JK y'all, the sun may set on the earth but it will never set on FUN! Your night is still young. Realize that A) it's been like, hours since you've eaten anything deep fried or consumed any liquor and B) the famed Thai hotspot Pok-Pok is literally across the street from your apartment so all signs are pointing towards late-night spicy wings and cocktails. 

Ok, NOW crash into bed. 

For real this time. 

THURSDAY

DO GO CHASING WATERFALLS | 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. 

Sleep in. JK again!! Vacations are NOT the time to rest! Up, up, up and at 'em. It's hiking day! Grab coffees from Roman Candle Baking Co and several sandwiches from St. Honore Boulangerie and hit that road. 

Park your car at Multnomah Falls Lodge next to the second snack mobile of the trip, the Oscar Mayer Weiner Mobile!!!!!!

If I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner...

Again, sure why not. 

Now into the woods! Follow the admittedly VERY poorly marked 8-mile Wahkeena Falls Trail Loop towards Angels Rest Overlook. Pass a family blasting "Who Let The Dogs Out" on a boombox (normal), a group of stoned teens (actually normal) and a cute older couple with matching windbreakers, until you are basically the only people on the trail. Totally don't panic about being lost! You're calm at all times! Achieve bonus Crushing It At Nature Points by getting stung by a bee in the back of your knee. 

Now you know where that phrase "Bees Knees" originated! (Ba dum, ping!) 

Push through the peril, the view will be worth it. 

Angels Rest View

Hike back down, passing half a dozen more waterfalls on your return, each one more gorgeous than the last. 

Do go chasing waterfalls

But none more gorgeous than your pale bod gleaming in the sunlight as you bravely wade out into the frigid waters of a glacial swimmin' hole in your undies and soon to be ruined running shoes. 

swimmin hole

Swimmin' Hole Pro-Tips: Bring water shoes, the rocky ground is painful. Don't sweat it if you chicken out before getting all the way to the falls. DO make sure to train your video camera on your wife as she's scampering out of the freezing pool because you "know she's going to fall and it will be hilarious." (SUCK IT HUSBAND I DIDN'T FALL!!) (Well, I mean, I feel earlier but not this particular time so ha! Not on camera. Boom.) 

Haul it back home for a much deserved nap. But only a short one! There's no crying in baseball and no relaxing EVER in your household. 

PAINT THE TOWN (PINOT) NOIR | 7:00 - 11:00 p.m. 

Bundle up (Portland gets legit breezy in the evenings, even in August!) and take in the best of the hip Clinton/Division neighborhood, where your rental is located. First up: a tasting of local wines (and some bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed dates, YOM) at the Southeast Wine Collective. Then pop over to newish hotspot Ava Gene's, put your name on the long wait list for dinner, and kill your wait on the front porch of the a-dorable Hedge House across the street. It's a former home turned into a restaurant, with the bar in the old dining room, booths in the living room and cozy rockers right on the front porch.

Hedge House

Portland, you charmer you. 

Then mosey back to Ava Gene's where, luck of luck, the only seat available is at the vibrant chef's counter. Spend the evening sipping yummy Oregon Pinot Noir, devouring locally sourced salads and home made pastas while watching the hustle and bustle of (v v cute) chefs turning out dinner orders. 

A true must-visit! 

FRIDAY

SLEEP IN! | Nighttime - like, 10:00 a.m.!

No for real, sleep in today! 

BLOODY GOOD | 11:00 a.m. 

Wander up to the nearby Hawthorne district, stopping for a brunch at Trinket along the way. Order the bloody mary. You will not be disappointed!

Bloody handsome!

(Hot babe not included.)

Meander around Hawthorne, popping into cute vintage shops, bookstores and boutiques. Stop into Blue Star Donuts, order a blueberry bourbon basil and a lemon poppyseed and proceed to question everything you thought you knew - and hated! - about donuts. Is it possible you actually...like doughnuts?! (Also proceed to question why you keep spelling it differently every time you type it. Do-nu-t-gh-tnuts!)

BUILT TO SPILL | 2:00 p.m. 

Journey back to the Pearl District to spend the rest of the afternoon doing what you do best, playing cards and sipping craft beers at 10 Barrel Brewery.

While there, enjoy a visit from an old pal who now calls PDX home.

Keely and Liz!

 (Hi, Keely!)

Catch up. Spill your beer on yourself. Leave. 

LARD-OHHHH | 5:00 p.m. 

Soak up that beer with a DELICIOUS pork meatball banh-mi from Lardo and a side of dirty fries, a dish that will blow all other fries - and possibly foods as a whole - out of the water forever. Crispy, salty hand-cut fries topped with zesty melted parmesean, bright fresh herbs, chewy bacon bits and tart, crunchy pickled peppers. Break your 36-hours writer character to say OH HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS THESE FRIES!!!!!!!!

LARDO FRIES!!!!!!!!!

Grab one more drink at a nearby bar, forget the name of the establishment but DO remember that the bartender spilled a drink on you bringing your tally to TWO drinks poured on yourself (and your Keely!) that day.

But only one that was your fault, so, win! 

THE BIG CHILL | 8:00 p.m  - 11:00 p.m. 

Go home. Take a nap. Uber up to the Alberta Arts district, wander around, stumble into a cute bar, play funny trivia games, eat vegan chick pea fries, guzzle moscow mules, learn a new two person card game, realize you're finally, at last, really, truly, totally relaxed...just in time for vacation to be over. 

Le sigh! 

SATURDAY

COAST TO COAST | 6:00 a.m. 

And back east you go. Watch the sun rise through the clouds as you fly over the Rockies, equal parts sad the adventure is over and happy to be headed home.

rocky mountain high

The end! 

This trip was truly fun and gorgeous and in many ways a grand adventure, but it was also exhausting and often stressful, due as much to our own neurosis as our packed schedule. We joked around a lot about marriage suddenly getting hard in the second year but I really do think we learned a surprising amount about ourselves and each other and what we need to successfully travel and co-exist as a unit. I won't get into that here because this post is long enough, for sure, but juuuust keeping it a little real. LIfe is not always all fried chicken and piney trees! Sometimes it's a bit of a mess. 

But I still love it all. 

Ok now the end for REAL. 

Thanks for reading along! I know this was longer than long but I DO hope it was more enjoyable than getting stuck in a mountain pass and having to eat all of your frozen loved ones, Donner Style. 

When you start making bad canabilism jokes, it's time to shut it down. 

Liz Hott, Over & Out. 

Bye! 

 

She's Cheer Captain and I'm on the Bleachers

Oh HELLO there. And how are you? I know I've been absent from this blog for quite some time but I return to you a new woman! During my time away, I experienced a transcendent spiritual awakening. I traveled a great distance to join thousands of fellow acolytes in worship of a great and powerful figure, one with the strength and conviction to compel the masses and lead us into a brighter future. Joined together in spirit we stood, enraptured, some crying tears of joy, others screaming in exaltation, yet others rendered unable to speak for the glory of it all, humbled by the presence of this blessed being, known to some as The Holy One and others as simply Taylor Swift.

 Photo via USA Today

Photo via USA Today

What did you think I went to see the pope or something? Have we met? 

No, no I just packed up my cowboy boots and hot pants and, along with my BFF / FBW (Facebook wife, duh) Maureen, made the pilgrimage to Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee to see our gal.  

If you ever get the opportunity to see Taylor in concert, I can not recommend it highly enough. Unless you don't like her in which case, yeah, no don't do that you'll hate it. The whole thing is just a complete love fest spectacle. Lasers! Photos of cats! Light up glow bracelets! Awkward stage sets that bring to mind the Rockette Christmas Show! AND MORE!!!!! In between sets, Taylor goes off on earnest, impassioned, long (maybe a little too long - love you girl but brevity is a virtue!) speeches about following your heart and love and haters and cynicism and friendship and the audience screams and screams and cries (no? just me?) and it's wild.

Lindsay Zoldaz wrote a great recap of one of Taylor's early shows in New Jersey that perfectly sums up the whole scene, deeming Taylor the Cheer Captain of the Universe

"Projecting a lifestyle that’s more aspirational than relatable, Swift has finally ascended to a level where she’s no longer believable as her fans’ imaginary best friend, even though she still wants the best for them. She’s transitioning into a role that’s something more like their fairy godmother, or — as she continues to shed the sparkly tulle of her adolescence and focus her shrewd eyes on dividing and conquering — maybe she’s on her way to becoming their Oprah."

Pretty much! 

At times it's really saccharine and kind of over the top but I'm all in. Even if you find Oprah to be pandering and schmaltzy you can't deny that she's helped a lot of fans find ways to empower themselves and the same for Taylor. Yes she's nuts but her particular brand of nuts has a lot of young women (and men!) (but mostly women!) to feel like it is OK to be earnest and enthusiastic and nice and just a little bit weird and those are all virtues I treasure dearly so if she's the Oprah of the next generation, I'm all in.

ALSO her music is amazing and she's really, really, REALLY pretty and I love her, guys. I love her. 

At the show, lots of fangirls wear elaborate costumes inspired by Taylor's songs or outfits - some even including LED lights so they glowed down at Taylor from the balcony. It was awesome! I had high intentions to put together something fuh-lawless but life got in the way and I never got my shit together. Oh well.  But OHH the winner of the night was dear Maureen, who wore the most A+ of ensembles, this spot on replica of one of Taylor's costumes from the show: 

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Actual twinsies!!! People kept coming up to her all night gushing with compliments. 

(And yes, I look like a 14-year-old circa 2008 and I feel pretty great about it, thanks!)

So the show. The opening acts were Vance Joy (great!) and Haim (SUPER great!), which is either pronounced like "Hi, I'm" smushed together really fast or "hah-eem," depending on who you're asking. I'm still not sure! I am, however, very sure that they are RAD. Big fan!

And thennnnnnn and then. The hour of our lord was upon us!! The lights went down, the bass began to boom and the crowd lost their collective shit and THERE. SHE WAS. 

 Photo via Billboard.com

Photo via Billboard.com

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

Our goddess! 

Taylor primarily performed songs from 1989 (if I need to clarify what that 1989 is...we may not get along) with a few greatest hits thrown in there, including her oh-so-classics "Love Story" and "You Belong to Me." Her stage is set like a runway and she struts up and down, up and down and dances a little and flips around and I swear to you, DOES NOT BREAK A SWEAT. 

Not a single drop!

And her hair, that perfect choppy, swishy bob that I covet OH I COVET (even though I think curly hair is the best hair and would never want straight hair, how boring!) stayed pristine. The whole time!!

Yes we were prettttttty far away, but they had cameras projecting her at close range onto big screens and you could tell she wasn't even lightly perspiring. Not even a dewy glow, much less the greasy, sweaty mess any mortal would be after that amount of strutting and singing. 

Is she an alien? 

MAYBE!

Take me to your home planet, Taylor!! 

It is Taylor's custom now to bring out surprise ("surprise") guests during every show (this video parody is a MUST WATCH) and we spent most of the last weeks speculating who she might have join her in Nashville. We assumed she'd go back to her country roots (and by "country roots" I mean "she's from Allentown fricking Pennsylvania" but her pretending to be southern is one of those things I find annoying about her so I have to ignore it to preserve our relationship) (and by "relationship" I mean "she has no idea who I am.")  (And by "could you use any more parenthesis?" I mean) (watch me go.) We had high hopes for the following: Faith Hill and-slash-or Tim McGraw,  Connie Britton, Lennon and Maisie or any of the cast of Nashville EXCEPT Hayden Pannetierre (no offense HP!), Ryan Adams (whose 1989 cover I adore, but do find troublesome in its reception, this is such a great criticism!), Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or our dream of dreams, either Dolly Parton or Reba Mcentire. 

Any Reba fans out there?! Just us? Fancy

In the end she delighted us with a truly random smattering of treats. First, some up and coming CMT star named Kelsea Ballerini who seems like she's basically the Hayden P character from Nashville, total country pop nonsense.

AKA I love it.

And THEN, after a long introduction about his many awards and millions of albums sold and various hall of fame inductions she brings out a one Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. Sure why not!! He played "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" which was PERFECT for his audience of current and former teenyboppers who likely couldn't name any other Aerosmith songs (guilty as charged!) (No wait! "Dream On!") but DO have fond, fond memories of the hit film Armageddon in which this jam was featured. Fun fact: I saw that movie in the drive in for my 14th birthday party. 

Maureen and I basically clutched one another the entire time, scream-sang the lyrics and wept for the memories of poor Bruce Willis. He just wanted to make his daughter proud!!!!

Finally she welcomed to the stage actual bluegrass legend Alison Krauss and they did a truly gorgeous duet of "When You Say Nothing At All" with Alison on the fiddle and Taylor on the piano and it was (insert two thumbs-up emojis riiiiight here.)

The following morning, Taylor instagrammed a photo of herself and Alison on stage and I commented, saying "Taylor you and Alison were amazing together I love you!!!!" or something equally dorky and within moments someone replied to my comment, and I quote: "please do not compare Alison Krauss and Taylor Swift. Alison Krauss has an amazing voice with an incredible range. Taylor Swift is mediocre at best."

Mediocre at best!!!

Cool!

This is representative of a phenomenon I find utterly fascinating, well, two worlds: social media fandom and comment trolling. You see it all the time, people making really mean comments to celebrities (or reggos!) on their social media feeds, or getting into fights with one another in the comments sections of posts. I SORT OF get the concept of getting into heated internet discussions about politics or current events (I said sort of, do these ever result in minds changed?) but if you hate Taylor Swift so much, why are you creeping around in her instagram at 8 AM on a Saturday making insults and getting defensive with random other commenters? Do you really have nothing better to do with your life? It makes me laugh and also  makes me kind of scared for the future of the world. Get it together, world.

The following night, Taylor first "Welcomed to the Stage" Leona Lewis of "Bleeding Love" fame (what's she been up to since that song?) and then brought down the house with none other than Mick Jagger.

MICK JAGGER! What! What are you doing there?! 

 Photo via USA Today

Photo via USA Today

He's definitely a cooler person than anyone we got to see but I'm not that sad about it because those 4 minutes of belting the Armageddon theme song are 4 minutes I'll treasure forever.

Also if Mick Jagger had played the first night, this amazing grandma wouldn't have gotten a chance to see him and that would be the saddest! 

This story is SO LONG I have completely lost track of what I'm even talking about. Basically Taylor is amazing and this was the best night ever. After the concert, there were literal fireworks over Nashville, our collective post concert glow bursting in midair.

Sparks fly, you might even say!

 Photo via ME!&nbsp;

Photo via ME! 

And that was THAT. Again I say, if you get the chance to see Ms. Swift, I can't recommend it highly enough.

And also if you get the chance to go to Nashville, you should probably do that too. It's kind of a ridiculous place but in a very good way!

Nashville is full of acclaimed restaurants and interesting shops and quaint neighborhoods which is my usual go-to travel scene but wahoooops, we didn't really do any of that. We DID go to Hattie B's for famous Nashville Hot Chicken with my sweet friend Nikiand her sweet pup Mary Todd Lincoln (full name), who has her own instagram if you're into that kind of thing. Trust me, you are. Even if you are like me who is, at best, agnostic towards pets (like, they're there I guess, I just don't see the point of it all) you will be SMITTEN within seconds. 

And we dined at this sort of trendy restaurant and poked our heads into this park to see a large replica of the Parthenon (sure, Nashville, makes sense) but otherwise we mostly just wandered around the super touristy Broadway strip and drank and drank and drankkkkk. 

And it was really fun!!!

 very blurry photo via drunk strangers, thanks guys!!!!!

very blurry photo via drunk strangers, thanks guys!!!!!

You might not know this about me (LOL you totally do) but I'm kind of a huge snob sometimes and I'll admit when we first arrived I turned my nose way down on the Honkey Tonk scene, thinking it basic at best, trashy at worst. But THEN!!! Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn in and within a few minutes of sipping cheap beer and bopping my head to live country music I was HOOKED and now I'm all in. Maybe there's a little bit of a trashy basic B in all of us and we'd do well to stop being so uptight and embrace it, girl.

Pep talk to mah-self! 

Next time I go to Nashville I'll hit up the classy joints...mainly because I don't think my old body could withstand another night of Brodway Honkey Tonk hopping. I swear to Taylor, you guys, I'm STILL hungover ... 72+ hours later.

A world of woof! 

Soooo yeah, I guess I come back to you as mainly the same person, albeit one who is now even more obsessed with TSwizz than she was last week (a feat in and of itself!) and also, if the pattern of the last three days is to persist, one who now has a permanent hangover. Which is to say, a way worse version of myself!

Probz should have just stayed here and hung out with the pope.

NAH. 

roses are rad, etc

THE END. Roses ore rad, guys. And so ore YOU!!! 

xo Liz Hott 

 

 

2 HOURS & 26 MINUTES IN THE DENVER AIRPORT

And thus continues this recap of our epic anniversary adventure / my awkward attempt to emulate the New York Times travel section. Catch up on part one right HERE and read part three whenever I get around to writing it. COOL!

2 HOURS & 26 MINUTES IN THE DENVER AIRPORT

TUESDAY

Get In The (Time) Zone | 6:59 p.m. (MST)

Land in Denver for your two-ish hour layover, realize you started your day in EST, are now in MST and will end up in PST and you have no idea what's going on. 

Say Cheese (times two!) | 7:01 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (MST)

good times in the Denver airport, y'all!

Indulge your narcissism at the airport's handy photo booth. Lookin' good, girl! It is definitely not apparent that you're unshowered and fully delirious! Not even a little. Try to convince your husband to pose for a photo too, express zero surprise when he declines. What a party pooper. Then pop over to the Denver Chophouse restaurant located right here in Terminal A to discover the magic that is the wedge salad...basically just a chunk of crispy (nutritionally void) iceberg lettuce serving as an edible vessel on which to transport heaps of blue cheese dressing and bacon into your gaping mouth hole. What a salad! What a delight! What a world we live in!!!  

Westward Ho! | 9:25 p.m. (Yes, still MST) 

Board that plane and reset those clocks, kids, you're headed to Oregon! 

mount hood from the air

And THIS was exciting now wasn't it. Portland recap coming right on UP, I swear. See you then! 

xoxo Liz Hott 

73 (ish) HOURS IN (and around) WASHINGTON, DC

In order to best recap our absolutely jam-packed, kind of hectic but still fun (I swear!) First Anniversary Romantic Adventure, I shall now attempt to pay homage to one of my very favorite series, the New York Times’ 36 Hours travel articles.

Won't you join me on this journey?! 

73 (ish) HOURS IN (and around) WASHINGTON, DC

SATURDAY

Smooth Criminal | all day

Spend the full day at the National Harbor Resort, just across the river from DC attending a delightful Indian wedding. Marvel for not the first time (and likely not the last) how much more fun Indian weddings are than white people weddings. Videotape your husband and his buddies doing a choreographed dance to a Michael Jackson song.

Gul + sandya indian wedding hottsauce

Save the video for later blackmail purposes.

SUNDAY

Undocumented Citizen | 11 a.m.

Awake hungover and give your wedding attire to your responsible friends who are driving back to Brooklyn so you don’t have to lug them on the rest of your trip. Go to buy a Diet Coke, only to realize that you’ve left your credit cards and government-issue ID in the pocket of your suit pants...which are now an hour and a half north, hurtling up the freeway back to NYC. Good thing you’re not due to take a cross-country flight in two days or anything. Oh no wait, you are. Panic. Call your friend. Craft half-baked recovery ideas. Panic some more. Eventually settle on a plan: your friend will mail the ID to a Fed-Ex storefront nearby where you are staying in DC for the next two days. Crisis hopefully averted.

The Two Year Itch | 1:30 p.m.

Hitch a ride into downtown DC with another couple and attempt to pleasantly kill time before your 2 p.m. Airbnb check-in, despite the fact that it is literally 98 degrees of solid humidity, one of you is still stressing over his forgotten ID situation and the other of you is pretty sure she might poop her pants. (As fun as Indian weddings are, they’re rough on the old digestive track. All you can eat curry + open bar do not a happy gut make. Woof.) (TMI? Never!) Try not to kill one another out of sheer frustration and exhaustion, realize you’re only 13.5 hours into your second year of marriage and already experiencing an unprecedented tension you never realized existed between the two of you.  Make lame jokes about the honeymoon being over. Take comfort in the fact that if you can joke your way through it, it’s probably not that bad.

(Right?? Just say right.)

Buccaneer Booze Cruise | 3:30 p.m.

happy birthday Mo!

Beware, the Boomerang Pirate Ship stresses aggressive ID checks.  Just to be prepared, at least try to have some kind of photo ID like a passport or a college ID or a color copy of an expired Cambodian tourist visa that you found deep in the recesses of your email and sent to a friend to print out because fuck the TSA, you ain’t worried about getting on that plane to Oregon...will you get on this pirate ship???

You will. They won’t even check!

boozy pirate ship hottsauce

Burgers, Beers, Bed | 7 - 11 p.m.

Pretty self explanatory.

MONDAY

Bernie Jr. | 7 a.m.

Wake with the sun, leap out of bed, dress in a breezy outfit + sensible shoes, shove some granola bars in your backpack and shake your beloved awake, ordering “Babe! Babe! You gotta wake up! It’s 7 AM and I’ve downloaded all of these self-guided walking tours!”

Realize, in a harsh, bright flash: you are your mother.

FEEL NO SHAME!! You’ve been raised well. There is no better way to spend a vacation than with an educational - yet fun! - death march through an historical city. If you don’t limp out of a vacation with 85 blisters and enough knowledge to write a humanities thesis, you’re doing it wrong

Monument Valley | 8 a.m.  

Lincoln Memorial with hot guy standing in front of it weirdly

Hit the town! Rack up 5 miles and a dozen monuments before 11 AM, at which point it will already be a crisp 99 degrees fahrenheit in the shade.

look how cute we are!!!

Froggy Bottom | 11 a.m.

Walk back to your Airbnb like a totally normal person. As you’re standing at a stoplight, a man will grab your husband’s arm and ask “Sir! Are you lost? Do you need help???”

What the WHAT. You’re not that touristy.

Realize that you’ve been calling the neighborhood where you’re staying “Froggy Bottom” when it is, in fact, “Foggy Bottom.”

Maybe you are that touristy.

Paddling into a New Decade | 3 p.m.

paddle boards and such and things

Meet your bestie in scenic Georgetown for an afternoon of 30th Birthday Stand-Up Paddle Boarding. It’s really not as hard as it looks, especially if you spend most of the time just laying on your board, frying in the sun like a lizard.

three's company too

Make your throuple really stand out by inadvertently wearing matching outfits.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Drink | 8 p.m.

End the evening toasting your gal’s birthday among a gorgeous group of her buds at a Teddy Roosevelt themed restaurant because yes DC is that much of a cliche of itself and YES you love it.

Happy Birthday Maureen!!!!!!!

(Happy Birthday Maureeneyface!)

TUESDAY

Mall Madness | 9 a.m.

Don’t get your hopes up walking the National Mall anytime soon because whoops, it’s under construction until early 2017.

National Mall is so beautiful right now!

Do however, spend the rest of your morning visiting the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s incredibly well curated, accessible and doesn’t shy away from reminders on the historical and present realities of Native American tribes. Feel sad and a little guilty. This nation was founded by some reallll dicks, y’all.

The Citizen Becomes Documented! | 11:30 a.m.

Make a brief pit-stop into at the Fed-Ex store where praise be to Vai, your ID is ready and waiting. Enjoy a brief moment of angst when they ask to see ID in order for you to claim the package (oh, the irony!) and don’t really seem to find the Cambodian visa thing as cute as you do.

Rejoice when they accept your work ID as a valid backup and graciously return your driver’s license.

Readin’ & Eatin’ | 12 p.m.

Round out your visit by indulging in your two passions: literature and sandwiches. First up, a visit to Kramerbooks and Afterwords, where you snatch up this delightful novel (coming soon to a Hottreads near you!). Where better to shop for souvenirs than at the local independent bookseller?! (ANSWER: Nowhere!!) 

Then head a few blocks south for BOMB DOT COM hoagies at Bub and Pop’s.

Bub and Pops dc hoagies yum

I mean...can you even?!

You can’t.

You Can Checkout Anytime You Like… | 1:30 p.m.

Return to your Airbnb to shower and finish packing before leaving for the airport only to find there has been a mixup between the host and the cleaning staff. You’d discussed a late check-out...and put off bathing and packing as a result...but the cleaning woman never got the message and is already hard at work. Feel awkward. Stammer a lot. Frantically shove your belongings into your suitcases and flee into a waiting Uber.

(Realize, just this moment, how dependent you’ve become on the “sharing economy.”)

A New Frontier | 2 p.m.

Arrive at Reagan Airport three hours early for your 5 p.m. flight to Portland. Marvel at the fact that Reagan is apparently America’s pre-eminent airport for international diplomats, which is highly surprising because it doesn’t seem like it’s been updated since about 1904 and is smaller than your one bedroom apartment. Discover that, for some inexplicable reason, no Fronteir flights leave before 5 and the desk (even the automated kiosks!) does not open until two hours before.

good times at Reagan airport guys!!!

Find yourself back where your journey began, just days ago, sitting on the ground, frustrated with the world.

Finally check-in. Learn that Frontier charges $40 PER ITEM for carry on luggage (and only $30 for checked!), explaining why you got that good deal on tickets in the first place. Feel badly for not realizing this fact in the first place / try not to get mad at your husband for not realizing this fact in the first place, respectively. (You know it’s not his fault. You’re just tired!) Haul ass to security. Discover that the woman at the check-in desk has printed the wrong tickets. Haul ass back to get them fixed and then back again. Send your $80 worth of carry-on luggage through the x-rays. Have one bag flagged for additional search. Stand around trying not to panic that you’ve somehow ended up with a backpack full of hashish in some sort of horrific Locked Up Abroad situation. Unclench when it turns out to be a false alarm.

W(h)ine About It | 3 p.m.

Flop around the terminal. Call your mom and bitch about how traumatic your life is. Feel mad at your partner for unspecified reasons. Buy hand lotion from a drugstore kiosk. Wallow, wallow, wallow and THEN (!!) remind yourself that, no matter how stressful the past few hours have been (not actually that stressful, in the grand scheme) and how long (very!) a flight you have ahead, you’re still on friggin’ vacation, baby. And what better way to unwind than by ponying up to the airport bar for a cool, crisp ($13) glass of sauvy b.

Wheels Up | 5 p.m.

Wave farewell to the Great City of Magnificent Intentions. You’re airborne and headed to the West Coast!

Hotts Head West!

But that, dear readers, is another tale for another day. I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of 36 (or more or less!) Hours in (or around or near!) A Great American (or wherever!) City. I know I sure have.

See you in the PDX, babes.

xx Liz Hott



 

 

Beers, Bras, Bucket Lists: A Coney Island Travelogue

Summer is upon us and with that comes the Summer Bucket List. The Summer Bucket List is like a real Bucket List except that instead of being a list of things to do before you die, inspired by a Morgan Freeman movie, it is a list of things to do before Autumn comes, to make you feel really stressed and anxious about each passing day and convince yourself that sweating your teats off waiting on a nine hour line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets is a rational idea because, SUMMER!

On my SBL: oyster happy hour, outdoor movie in the park, acquire a tan. On my bff Kathleen's list: an evening in the seaside haven of Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Coney Island is one of the strangest microcosms on earth, at once quintissentially summer and quintissentially New York. You've got a beach, a boardwalk, an amusement park, the subway, housing projects, a convergence of overpriced foodtrucks known as Smorgasburg ("The single greatest thing I've ever seen gastronimically in New York City" - Mario Batali) , a franchise of the Wahlburger chain of restaurants owned by the Hollywood Walburgs, ladies wearing fur coats in mid-July, the works. It's crowded, diverse, incongruous and so. much. fun. 

I will admit - ok I'll admit!! - that when Kathleen floated out this idea I was not fully convinced as to the wonders of Coney Island but I went along with it because I like her and I like friends and I heard they sold funnel cakes. I was in for a great surprise, then, because Coney Island is the funnest! 

I hearwith recommend that ALL New Yorkers add it immediately to their summer bucket lists and all non New Yorkers add it as a sub-category under the Visit NYC bullet on their list. And yes OBVI I assume all non New Yorkers have "Visit NYC" like, top spot on their bucket lists. It's the greatest fuckin' place on earth. And no we're so not snobs about it..who said that?! 

Anyway, to entice and delight you, I've put together a little list of tips to help you make the most of your trip to America's Boardwalk Paradise. 

That's not what anyone calls it but now I do so...let's go! 

DO: Bring your camera. This joint is an instagrammer's paradise.

Coney Island Hott Sauce Beach Fun Boardwalk
coney island is cute!
buddies at Coney Island yay!

DON'T: stare. No matter how weird someone looks because trust me, there's someone even freakydeakier like 3 feet behind them. Women in pleather bikinis cracking whips? Check. Men carrying live 80 foot (approx) boa constrictors? Cha-heckkkkk. DOZENS of people in minion costumes, one of whom appears to be touching himself inappropriately? Check, checkty dozens of checks. Coney Island is like the county fair meets Times Square meets the Jersey Shore boardwalk with a dash of the G train at 3 AM. Delightfully repulsive. Charmingly horrific. 

DO: However, soak up all the good diversity of this mishmash of humanity. Unlike the county fairs where I grew up, where I actually literally was once handed a pamphlet on being kind to Jewish people, Coney Island (like the city that calls it home) is full of people of every caste, color and creed. The night we were there was the start of Eid and the place was teeming with Muslim families all celebrating the end of Ramadan, women draped in gorgeous colorful, festive hijab. I kept thinking how lucky I am to be surrounded by this variety of cultures on a daily basis. 

Well, JK mostly I kept thinking how I hoped I wouldn't be trampled to death by hoardes of sugared up children and their exhausted parents but upon reflection, I'm lucky and happy I get to soak this all in. 

DON'T: Wear clothest that can't withstand breeze and movement.

IMG_4343.JPG

I scooped up this shirt, above, on one of my thrice weekly visits to my mothership, Old Gravy. This particular trip I was on a hunt for "fun tops" after realizing I basically only own grey and white v-neck t-shirts and like, professional work blouses. #thisis30. In case you can't tell, it's basically a regular crew neck in the front and then a glorified hospital gown in the back. Hot? When standing still it's totes adorbs and shows just the most amount of skin I feel OK flaunting. However, when you move or when anything more than the gentlest of breezes blows, it flaps wiiiide open. 

I decided Coney Island was the perfect occaision for this shirt's inaugural outing. Big mistake. Huge! It was reasonably breezy, windy, even, on the boardwalk and my shirt was flying open like curtains in a rainstorm, exposing my sensible nude bra to the world. I managed to solve that situation by tucking the tail ends of the open back into the butt pockets of my jeggings. 

Cute look. HOWEVER this makeshift fix was no match for such vigorous activities as Whack-a-Mole, which left me fully exposed. And I didn't even win! 

Not to mention for scratching my legs while walking, which sadly did was not captured on phtograph, as this multi-tasking led to me falling down on the sidewalk, the flaps of my tshirt falling wide open.

Per a friend who witnessed, I was "like, nakey."

LUCKILY as previously mentioned, there were so many freakydeaks strolling the premisis, my sensible nude bra was the least scandalous sight but still, guys. BUT STILL. 

DO: Eat fried clam strips even though you can't really be certain they're you know, fresh or fit for human consumption. You're on the boardwalk...YOLO. 

DON'T: Be so uptight! While we were downing our clam strips, a woman with came up to our table and said "hello! Do you have a moment I could speak to you about these oils I am selling" and we said "no thank you!" and she, boldly replied "don't just shut me down! Let me finish!" and prodeeded to randomly single in on our friend and lecture him, MUCH to our delight, on how he should stop being such a prude, investin in some of her sensual oils, and get way freakier in the bedroom. 

He did not take her up on the offer so, good luck with your boring sex life, friend. You know who you are! 

DO: Be alert for strollers passing on your right, lest you find yourself running head on into a father and child, losing a toenail and spilling your beer ON A BABY in the process. 

I repeat: Spilling your beer. ON A BABY. 

Hypothetically, of course.

DO: Ride the Cyclone, even if it seems rickety and terrifying.

cyclone!!!

It IS rickety and terrifying but it's an American icon! 

roller coaster of love

Can you spot us?! Wheee! 

DON'T: Allow FOMO to convince you to ride ANY other rides, such as this nightmare contraption:

NO THANKS!!!

Um. HARD PASS. It is perfectly acceptible to stand to the side, hold the bags and video tape like a suburban stage mom. Someone has to capture these memories! Might as well be you.

DO: Be wary of Dark Haired Strangers.

ZOLTAR!!!

My girl Jamie gave one whole American dollar to Zoltar the fortune teller and her fortune was SO TRUE! It said she loves art and people go to her with their problems and...lots of other good things that I now forget because they didn't directly involve me so who cares. But ALSO it said that a dark haired stranger was out to do her harm. 

Dun dun dun.

WELL! Jamie has this new-ish boyfriend and he SEEMS great but guess what: dark hair! So I'm not saying he's a serial killer but I'm also not saying he's NOT a serial killer, you know? 

Jamie, GURL, you know I love you and just want you to be happy and I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this but, you're dating a serial killer.

DON'T: Listen to Zoltar. He's probably full of shit. 

DO: Stop at the original Nathans (now in its 99th year!) for some dawgs, fries and gigantic beers. And if anyone knows how many hotdogs Nathans sells per day...could ya let us know? We spent the whole night trying to find stats on the interwebs but couldn't find them anywhere!

DON'T: Miss the fireworks! Every Friday at 9:30 PM. I don't have any pictures but...you've seen fireworks, you get it. 

DO: Go with great friends. 

budz!

Friendships are the best ships! 

DON'T: Worry that's the last time I say something that cheesy everrrrrrr again. 

And now you are SET for your dream night in Coney Island. Enjoy!

YOHF-NDOSLSDGLLTTF!!!!! 

(You Only Have Forty-Nine Days Of Summer Left So Dear God Live Life To The Fullest!!!)

XOXO Liz Hott (Diggity Dawg!) 

 

#HottsinVietnam: The Honeymoon is Over

GUYS. This post is the saddest. The honeymoon is over. 

Well, I mean, yes, technically our trip to Vietnam & Cambodia has been over for months, but the recap portion we all can enjoy here on the interwebs is now reaching its culmination.  The world mourns, I'm sure!

(And for the record the "honeymoon" is still very much alive in the cliched sense of the word, wherein we're in love and gross and smooching all over town. That 'moon shall nevah end!) 

The return from 'Nam to the U-S of A was essentially equivalent to Matthew Mcconaghey's flight to space in that Interstellar movie, which they showed on the plane, but I did not watch because sleeping pills + lack of actual sleep = my brain not being able to comprehend anything with even the slightest hint of narrative complexity. Our flight left Hanoi at midnight on Friday and landed in New York City at 1 PM on Sunday. On paper this amounts to 37 hours but we skipped through numerous time zones - our 1 PM Sunday afternoon landing in NYC was 1 AM Monday morning in Hanoi and I don't really understand how time works so we may have actually been travelling for more time than that or maybe even less. Basically it was the longest ~2 days ever and I think I might still be slightly jet lagged lo these two months later. 

But, as always, I'm getting ahead of myself! I need to put my thang down, flip it and reverse it. Before our long journey we still had one more fun day in 'Nam and I'm about to go into grrr-eat detail all about it...because when do I ever not?

SO! Here we be, Friday, March 27, 2015, rising and shining in Hanoi. Adding to the length of our return home, we had to check out of our hotel by noon that day so we had many, many hours to fill wandering the town before leaving for the airport. #blessedly our best friends at the Hanoi Elite Hotel, about whom I still can not say enough good things, allowed us to stash our luggage in the lobby so we didn't have to lug that nonsense all over town. We kept popping back in to the lobby to drop off souvenirs, change our shoes, use their bathrooms, awkwardly linger in the air-conditioned lobby as a way to kill time. They never once complained (to us, anyway!). Pros, each and every one of them. 

Our first stop of the day: pho, bitches. 

pho sho

In Vietnam, pho is traditionally a breakfast food. Amazing. I will save my diatribe on the importance of a full and hearty breakfast for another time but let me just say that if given the choice between a bowl of cereal (a waste of a food, I tell you!) or a bowl of soup for breakfast, I am all about that broth. 

We'd been playing it pretty safe after our whole street food poisoning ordeal (#neverforget!) but didn't want to leave 'Nam without one traditional pho for breakfast experience. We did some research and found Pho Thin, a little hole in the wall recommended by Tripadvisor as perfectly balancing the line of appealing to locals while not giving tourists the trots. A win-win! Pho Thin, like many small restaurants in Hanoi, serves just one dish. Spoiler alert: it was pho! When we arrived, the place was packed with local families and we were the only Western tourists in the place. We were seated in at a tiny table in a courtyard behind the restaurant, and quickly delivered two steaming bowls of soup, overflowing with noodles, broth and sliced beef, plus herbs, pickled peppers and spices on the side to dress it up.

It was one of the best dishes of our whole trip! Fresh, spicy and insanely delicious. 

We then popped back to our favorite joint Caphe Pho Co for a caffeine fix, and to re-take the same goofy mirror selfie as our first day. But this time we're sadfaced to be leaving :( :( :( 

sadface selfies

(Though Brian is wearing the same shirt & I'm wearing the same pants, ha. Joys of packing light!) 

Post cafe, we visited the Vietnam Women's Museum, which was incredible. The museum had five floors with exhibits dedicated to the history and daily life of women in Vietnam. What I loved was that this was, to me, a truly feminist museum. There were exhibits celebrating every sphere of female life in Vietnam: in the home, in the workforce, in religion, in the military. They gave as much emphasis to the importance of motherhood as they did to the importance of female scientists and I think it really embodied the ideal of feminism as a movement that is about celebrating and empowering all of the various roles and strengths of womankind. 

One part of modern Vietnamese life that kept popping up throughout our trip was that many men are, well, deadbeats. In Hanoi, women make  up a huge swath of the workforce - even things like construction and sanitation, jobs in America which are traditionally held by men. At first I thought this was cool and egalitarian, until our tour guide pointed out that the women are doing all the work while men sit around all day drinking beer and playing cards. Every tour we took, the guide would end up telling stories with the same endings, women working hard to feed their families, while the men went out drinking with their friends. Despite this - or, perhaps in a way, causing this - Vietnam remains a generally patriarchal society. 

Modern generations are getting more and more egalitarian, but it was food for thought to consider. I adored seeing this museum dedicated to the every day challenges and triumphs of the women of Vietnam.

My favorite exhibit was dedicated to women warriors throughout Vietnamese history. Ladies played huge roles in Vietnam's various wars and uprisings in the 20th century and I learned all about some truly badass female soldiers. During the American/Vietnamese war, women made up 40% of the guerrilla forces in the Southern Vietnamese Army. I was pumping my fist reading about these women shooting down fighter planes and taking hostages when I realized the enemies they were fighting were us.

For whatever reason, we didn't end up seeing much associated with that war, sort of keeping that dark patch of history off to the peripheral. This exhibit forced it to the forefront and was a jarring reminder of the other side of the story. These women and men were fighting for something they believed in, for what they felt was right. I don't know anything about foreign policy or have any real answers as to world peace, but this exhibit was a helpful reminder that there are human people on every side of every war. 

MORE food for thought! I am a veritable Ponderosa Steakhouse All You Can Eat Buffet of thought right now. 

THAT said I would, with a clear conscience, go to a VERY violent war with the family of monsters who were touring the museum at the same time we were. This group of four adults (I"m thinking a couple & one set of grandparents) and three children kept popping up at every exhibit, no matter how we tried to dodge them. The adults essentially ignored the children while they, and I am not using this word incorrectly, LITERALLY ran amok. They were literally literally literally amok. Sprinting in circles around the exhibits, touching things, yelling, pushing each other, and their guardians didn't bat an eye. Again, I'm not a parent yet so I don't know any hard truths about keeping your kids under control in public, but I feel like maybe at least  you know, trying, is sort of a basic principle? Am I wrong?

The most grave offense came when Brian and I were playing with these fun interactive exhibits - one place you are allowed to touch - where you got to try out the insanely heavy, somewhat primitive contraption that women still use to grind rice flower and the straw baskets they use to carry their goods. We were VERY CLEARLY using these exhibits when the little beasts rushed in and physically pushed in front of us so they could play. We made eye contact with the parents who didn't so much as shrug , just went on ignoring their gross stupid offspring. They spoke a language different from our own, so we couldn't confront them (not like I would, probably, I'm such a pushover) but we loudly and passive-aggressively complained about them, just in case they did understand English.

MUSEUM  MONSTER PEOPLE, If by some miracle of miracles you happen to be reading this: YOU ARE THE WORST!!!!!!

Anyway, all's well that ends well, we circled back after the kids were done terrorizing the exhibit and still got to play with the toys. YAY. 

basket fun
toys and fun.JPG

Despite these idiots, the museum visit got a two thumbs way up from us, would absolutely recommend to any future touristas! We spent the rest of the day doing what we do best: wandering, eating and drinking. First we bopped around the French Quarter a bit, marveling at how French the streets really did look (duh!) and taking some photos of the gorgeous Hanoi Opera House.

french quarter
opera house

We then had lunch at Hanoi Social Club, a hipstery, Western influenced cafe my cool boss recommended. They had pretty good (but expensive) vegetarian food, lots of baked goods and seemed to cater to the arty ex-pat crowd. I like to think we fit right in!

hanoi social club

After a sufficient beer, food and rummy break we wound our way back to the Old Quarter to finish up some gift shopping and sat for a drink to watch the sun set over the lake.

lakey lake

While we were walking about we saw two of the greatest sites of our trip.

Numero Uno: The Brides

brides

A white van pulled up to the sidewalk and half a dozen women in wedding gowns poured out, accompanied by a few men in suits. We were, obviously, a little confused, but assumed it was for some kind of photo shoot. We then saw dozens more brides and wedding attired couples around the city for the next hour. Who were they?? What were they doing?! We tried to look it up but never did find out. Fascinating! 

Also how did I not know about this? I totally would have packed my wedding dress!

And Numero Dos: PUPPIES IN A MOTHER EFFING MOTORBIKE BASKET!!!!

PUPPIES!!!!!

No further explanation needed. 

 We ended the night where we ended all of our Hanoi nights, on stools at the Bia Corner, watching the evening unfold. 

bia

The thing about the Bia Corner is that these little hole-in-the-wall bars are pretty much just well, holes in the wall, with fridges full of beer and some plastic chairs out in front. They don't have many amenities we come to expect, such as, say, full sized tables or air-conditioning or, oh, bathrooms. 

We saw a few people ask the proprietor if the had a restroom and he pointed all of them up the alley. We'd struck up a conversation with a few other tourists - an American girl travelling on her own and a few hilarious Aussies - and they all warned us that the restroom was disgusting. But the beer was racing through me and I've peed in some gnarly spots, so I figured I'd give it a go. How bad could it be?  I bravely walked myself in the direction the man pointed, down an alley, to a chalkboard sign and then down an even narrower alley between two buildings. I was beginning to get nervous but didn't want to seem chicken, so I powered on. A man popped his head out of a window and demanded a bathroom toll - totalling two American cents. 

why

I paid the man.

The alley came to a dead end at a small, dank courtyard. Along the interior wall was a stall, I suppose you might say, though that would be stretching it. More like a cinder block cell with a wooden door and a hole in the floor. 

why god WHYYYY

Still I refused to be deterred. 

I gingerly stepped into the cell and began to shut the door when I realized there was absolutely no light in the stall. I could either pee in the dark or keep the door open. Leaving was still not an option, for some reason.

Damn my pride and tiny bladder!

I lowered my pants, hovered my business over the hole and began, tentatively, to let it go. I think I made it about .3 seconds before hearing the sounds of another person in the courtyard, panicked that I was going to get murdered while squatting to piss over a hole and bolted out of the "bathroom," pulling my pants up with me as I ran. 

I'm pretty sure I was still peeing.

As I returned to our bar seats in a frenzy, I was greeted with a cacophony of applause. Apparently as soon as I'd left, the funny Aussie guy turned to Brian and said "you're going to want to get your camera ready for when your wife gets back. Her face is going to be priceless."

Sadly Bri Guy did NOT take this advice, because I can only imagine my expression!!

Sadly, like all good things must, our final day in Vietnam came to an end. We gathered our belongings from the hotel, hopped in a taxi to the airport and made our way back towards America.

BUT! Though Vietnam was over, we still had a little more adventure left. HOORAY! 

Our flight had a six hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, from midnight until 6 AM. We still had a 12 hour flight back to the US, during which we wanted to suh-leeeep so we needed to keep ourselves awake. It's a good thing, then, that Seoul seems to fashion itself as THE premier layover destination on the East. They had a whole suite dedicated towards layovers, complete with chaise lounges for napping, a spa, a player piano and free showers. 

bathroom party.JPG

We took full advantage of this opportunity to refresh/have a weird story to tell and showered it UP. It wasn't that strange!! There were about eight stalls, each basically the size and layout of my own bathroom at home: a toilet, a sink with mirror and a standup shower. They even had hair dryers and free shampoo and shower gel! Every customer got 20 minutes to shower and change and what have you. It was awesome. I wish all airports had this! I mainly just went for it to be weird and have a story to tell but getting to clean up in the middle of a long travel day made it feel a million times more bearable.

I also toyed with the idea of inviting my hubby in for a little honeymoon extension, if you will (wink!) but FULLY chickened out and did not do that. Sigh. Now I can never say I got busy in the Seoul airport.

Not like I'd tell you if I did but unfortch I definitely did not. Don't worry, Korea. I kept it classy.

TMI? Always.

Post shower we stopped by the airport's Korean Culture museum (sure) where we took an arts and crafts class. It was terrible!! Our craft was to make these little paper lanterns lit by LED candle bulbs. We were seated at a table with a few other adults on layover and given a little packet of materials and very detailed instructions. We no sooner started to try our hands at lantern making when the two bossy instructors - a young Korean man and woman, each dressed in "traditional" attire, like you might see at Epcot Center - got all involved, giving us contradictory instructions than what the sheet told us to do and, at one point, pulling the lantern out of Brian's hand saying "oh, I'll just do it for you."

HA! Brian was getting SO flustered "just let me do my craft! I can do it! Stop touching my stuff!" and I was delirious and exhausted and couldn't stop giggling. The instructors clearly hated us. We weren't too fond of them right back!

That said, I can't imagine either of their dream jobs was to dress up in costume and teach adult tourists crafts at the airport at 6:05 in the morning so I'll cut them a pinch of slack.

But just a pinch! 

In spite of (or thanks to) their meddling, our lanterns turned out pretty ok!

lantern.JPG

(P.S. I know that laughing at bad translation is basically item number one on Stuff White People Like dot com but LOL "enjoying craft experience.")

We threw them both immediately in the trash. Whoops. 

We then played some cards, blopped around, ate udon noodles (as if we weren't noodled out by that point!), looked into high end luxury stores, bought nothing and fiiinallyyyyy hopped aboard our sky chariot home. 

In an act of TRUE honeymoon good karma, the flight was entirely full except for ONE seat: the third seat in our row!!! We ended up getting three seats for just the two of us. 

#BLESSED

#SOBLESSED

I popped an Ambien and stretched out and went in and out of sleep and watched a weird Korean movie about pirates in subtitles and Brian did...I don't know what he did. Slept? You don't need the play by play. They also fed us several meals and none of them were bibimbap but I can't remember what they were. Like, pasta or something? Who cares. 

Long story oh so long, we finally landed in beautiful John F Kennedy Airport in Queens, NYC, USA, booked it through customs, leapt into a taxi and returned to our beloved little abode in Park Slope.

The journey was over. The jetlag, however, was just beginning! I was a zombie monster for at least a week and Brian kept going to bed at no joke,  7 PM. Neither of us had ever experienced that kind of a time change on our bodies and daaaanggg guys, that jetlag is no joke! 

I feel like I should say something profound now, about what I learned or how this trip changed my life or how Brian and I are bonded like never before but I'm not good at succinct, deep endings so I'll just say it was the BEST. TRIP. EVER! 

And so much fun to recap, thanks for reading along! I highly recommend everyone add Vietnam (and 48 hours in Cambodia) to their travel bucket list. Worth the jetlag and peeing in holes and vomiting up BBQ quail bird. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

Well, maybe minus the vomit part...

Tạm biệt! 

Liz Hott

Honeymoon Day 12: Cats, Couples Massages, Coleslaw

Ok! Let us return our gazes eastward, and finish up this honeymoon - the trip is almost coming to an end. Boooooo!!! I am already mentally mapping out our next getaway - I'm thinking the American West. Or Argentina! But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's take it one trip at a time here.

While planning the last leg of our itinerary, we were debating between a relaxing beach resort or an adventure to Cambodia to see the Angkor temples. Adventure won, of course, it really always should, but we compromised by booking a resort style hotel in Siem Reap, with a pool and a spa, and decided we'd give ourselves one lazy day in the sun before returning to Vietnam to fly back to the boring old U-S of A.

It was the right choice. Neither of us is very good at sitting still for long periods of time, this gave us juuuust enough time to be bougey, lazy, vacationing lumps before getting bored ant antsy. 

Just sub us for these two cats and that's pretty much what the day looked like.

cats cats cats

I kicked off the morning relaxing on our little balcony with coffee while Brian slept in, then we tackled the hotel's awesome breakfast buffet which included all the best western brekkie staples: eggs, toast, bacon, muffins, cereals, etc as well as a huge, iced chocolate cake. Ha! Just chilling, in the middle of the breakfast bar, a big old cake. One thing I love travelling between cultures is these small cultural or traditional confusions. Imagining the manager sitting down with the chef saying "What do western tourists like? Oh cake! Let's serve it for breakfast!" 

(And for the record, I mean this in a nice way, I assume foreign tourists come to the US all the time and see all the things we're getting wrong.) 

After breakfast we lounged poolside and swam around a little bit. We were pretty much the only guests hanging around during the day, the rest had gone off touring, so we had free reign of the common areas to splash around and smooch and be really gross and weird. 

Then it was spa time!! We embarked on the most romantic of endeavors, a couple's massage! Have you ever had a massage? Do you like them? I know some people are all about that life but somehow I'd never had one before, unless you count getting my butt cheek massaged in physical therapy which I'm pretty sure you don't. 

Now that I've dipped my toesies into the massage water, I can confidently say I don't think I was missing much. Why the hype?!

I honestly think I might not be cut out for them, I am just too high strung. My brain is not good at forced relaxation. All these things that allegedly should be beneficial for an anxiety monster like myself just send me into a tailspin: yoga, meditation, pedicures, apparently massage. The second anyone says "breathe and relax" my brain is like "RELAX! RELAX! Why aren't you relaxing????" and then I panic about not relaxing and just end up mores stressed than when I started, if that's even possible. 

(For the record I am VERY aware that I could use some professional psychological help, thanks!) 

So anyway, B and I checked in with the spa attendants and were showed to our room which was very peaceful and zen with little jars of stones and plants and gentle music, you know, massagy spa shit, all over the room. I thought we'd be nakey or at least wrapped in a towel - that's how all massages work on TV anyway - but instead they gave us these special outfits to wear which were basically like, one size fits all (aka GIGANTIC) navy blue scrubs. We looked like children dressing up in doctor outfits for Halloween or cast members of Orange is the New Black. Except here Navy was the New Black. You get it. The pants were so big, holding them out to the side looked like Jared the Subway Guy. 

BTW: What is he up to?!?! 

The room was divided by a curtain, one hospital bed with a face hole in it on each side. We lay on our respective beds and the massage artists (is that what they're called?) got to work. I honestly can't remember a THANG they did to my body because I was too busy going bonks in my mind. 

First there was the whole class guilt issue which, I KNOW, get over yourself, Liz, but I was already feeling gross laying by an infinity pool in a resort hotel while literally feet away from me, local families were lacking for clean drinking water and then here I was having this lady who probably makes less in a whole year than I do in fifteen minutes massage me, because I was so stressed and tired from my two week indulgent vacation. And then I had to feel bad about feeling bad and guilty about feeling guilty and cycle through that whole shame spiral for a while, which is honestly your pretty standard look into my brain. 

Thennnn I kept getting ticklish and trying not to squirm and worrying about how weird it would be if I farted and THEN I started thinking about Brian laying just across the curtain from me and wondering about, well, not HIM in particular, but you know, men in general and wondering if they become involuntarily aroused during massages and how uncomfortable that must be. And then I just started thinking about boners and giggling because boners are SO FUNNY and like, as much as the female reproductive zone is generally a walking nightmare, at least we don't have to worry about popping a woody at an inopportune time, you know? We can read Outlander on the subway alllll we want and no one will be the wiser. One small victory for the vajayjay...one giant leap for womankind. 

So basically I just spent the hour flipping back and forth between anxiety and immaturity. Par for the course! 

When it was over, did I feel relaxed? Not really! Did my muscles feel better? Meh. Would I do it again? Honestly, guys, probably not. I just don't get it! Seriously someone tell me why massages are fun.

ALSO seriously, fellas, please tell me a story of an awkward massage boner, because that sounds hilarious

Post massages, we went full colonial, laying by the pool eating BLT's and drinking Gin & Tonics delivered right to our chaise lounges. It felt really authentico sipping all that quinine just the way god intended. 

G&T life

But, true to form, after a few hours of lounging, we started to get very nutty and spent like, an hour goofing around with the panorama function on our iPhones, taking really strange and unflattering photos of each other. 

panorama baby
panoramoa dos

PS: those basket chairs are actually very uncomfortable and hard to sit in. 

See what happens when we spend too much time sitting around? We start to get REAL weird, real fast. 

Luckily for us and the world, just as we were starting to get super silly, it was time to jet back up to Hanoi. The flight was two hours of bumpy terror, made ever-so-slightly better by one of the strangest in-flight meals of my life. We were served a roll, a bowl of cole-slaw, a pale tomato wedge and several pieces of cold, pale sausages. I don't know if it was to be like, picnic themed or vaguely American or what they were going for. I shoved it all together to make a lumpy sandwich and it wasn't too bad. It almost had me yearning for another bibimbap! 

At least they fed us, which is more than I can say for most flights so I'll take all the pale cold sausages I can get! 

Upon arrival we checked in for one more night at the Hanoi Elite, popped down to the Bia Corner for a nightcap and then tucked in for one more sleep in 'Nam. Waah! 

 

Honeymoon Day 11: Angkors Away! (Get it?)

When initially planning our big trip, we had this wild idea that we'd visit basically all of Southeast Asia in a two week timeframe, an itinerary we quickly realized was, perhaps pushing it. After making Vietnam our primary focus, we decided we'd gone so far, we might as well take advantage and add on juuust one more country, a fast hop-skip over to Cambodia to visit the Angkor Ruins. One of the most famous (and heavily visited!) ancient sites in the world, 'twas too good to pass up. So we booked ourselves for essentially 48 hours in Cambodia, including transit time. It was bonkers and exhausting, and with the flights, additional Visa and other fees, expensive, adding at least $500, if not way more to our "budget" trip. Whoooops! 

But despite all that it was 100 million percent totally worth it! 

I MEANNNNNNN...

Angkor Sunrise

...and that's just the beginning! 

We arrived in Siem Reap around 6 PM, encountering truly the most insane airport experience of all time, which I will not recap here because that might take all day. Essentially it involved grouchy security guards, mysterious paperwork, fingerprinting pads, hordes of Chinese tourists plowing people down with their matching rolly suitcases, sneaking past customs because we somehow never got a customs form, invisible ATMs and a lot o' stressing on the part of your chill, intrepid world travellers.

Now that we've done a big, crazy foreign trip, we swear we'll be calmer on the next one. (Yeah! Right!) 

We checked into our lovely hotel, had a delicious dinner at their restaurant and a night swim in the pool, before tucking in for an early night's rest, as our Angkor tour guide was due to arrive at 4:50 the following morning. 

The Angkor Archaeological Park, now around the modern city of Siem Reap, houses the ruins of the ancient city of Angkor, which thrived from around the 9th to 15th Centuries and was believed to house .01 % of the whole world's population at one point. I had gone into this trip thinking it was just one or two temples next to a town - big and old, but just a few - when in fact the whole Angkor region consists of 500 acres, housing the ruins of over 250 buildings, primarily temples and palaces. I sort of described the experience as visiting Yellowstone but with old crumbly ruins instead of mountains. Not at all an equal equation but you get the picture, I hope! 

It's a LOT to see and do in one day but not impossible. Basically you have to book a great guide, start early and be cool with knowing you won't see everything there is to see. We read a lot of reviews of other people who visited and all said it's possible to get "templed out," which is kind of true, so if you have the time, do maybe 2-3 shorter days but it's absolutely possible to see a TON and have a worthwhile trip in just one day! 

A word on booking a guide: Just do it. You could probably tour around on your own but it is SO big and vast and there is so much to learn, it's best to have an expert by your side. This was one thing we failed to do before leaving the US, thinking our hotel would just assign us one, and it led to our one and only mini-fight of the trip as we stressfully poured through TripAdvisor the night before we left Vietnam. Somehow we managed to hit the jackpot despite our delay, booking Guide Pal Sauron and tuk-tuk driver David, both of whom were funny, intelligent, charming and so knowledgeable about the area. A tuk-tuk is basically a little cart pulled behind a motorbike. The funnest!!!  Sauron knew the history and legends of the temples but, more importantly, had such an genuine enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge and for being a tour guide. They kept us well supplied with water bottles and cool towels at every stop. There are about five hundred zillion tour groups available on Tripadvisor, from solo guides to bike tours to big bus trips to hiring someone to drive you around in an air conditioned BMW. I'm sure most of them are fantastic, but we couldn't recommend these two higher!

Sauron and David!!

I suppose now would also be a good time to explain our ensembles, huh? SO! Angkor is considered a sacred site and some parts are still working temples. Because of this, it is asked that guests cover their shoulders and knees. This is just a courtesy in most parts of the park, but in some areas you are not allowed to enter if not appropriately dressed. This primarily applies to women, which I, of course, irks me, but I try to be gracious to other schools of thought and respect mores and traditions of other cultures and religions even when they are directly opposing to my own. (Brian tells me this called moral relativism , a topic I've been reading up about lately, super fascinating stuff!) The dress code is heavily communicated, too. We of course knew all about it because we did our research, plus our tour guide told us in an email AND our hotel told us when we checked in, so it's not like we didn't have a clue what to expect. We were blown away by how many other people rolled up in inappropriate attire - both too skimpy and just generally inappropriate for the zone, wearing high heeled sandals, dresses, carrying white leather handbags around a dusty archaeological site. Like, where do you think you are?? I know Brian and I tend to over plan and research but truly how did you arrive here, after all these warnings and things not appropriately dressed? Did you fall down from another planet? Sometimes people are morons. 

On top of these restrictions, Cambodia is hot as all get-out. It was 85 degrees when we left the hotel before sunrise and eventually peaked in the high 90's, with blazing sun. We knew we needed to figure out attire that was both full coverage and fully breathable AND comfy to walk in for many hours soooooo we picked up a few pairs of these breezy "pillow pants" from the markets in Vietnam (all the idiot tourists walk around in these. I now own three pairs!), Brian brought a hat and an extra t-shirt to cover the back of his neck and I packed a light scarf, which I  rocked Virgin Mary style, to protect mine. We also wore sneaks for all the stair-climbing we were set to do. My sneakers had been rubbing my heels, so I wore a pair of Brian's higher socks which happened to be bright blue. All of this together, coupled with our awkwardly lanky limbs made for quite the look. 

ANKLES

Greatest photo of all time? LOOK AT OUR ANKLES!!! Brian showed this to me while we were had braked (breaked? Were on a break?) for lunch, and I may have been a little delirious from heat and hunger, I almost passed out I was laughing so hard. We look like cartoon characters. Like Doug and Patti Mayonnaise: 

doug doug doug

Amazing. The best-best part of this is all is that for once on our whole honeymoon we had a third party to take couple photos and Sauron LOVED taking pictures of us. At every stop he'd have us pose for a dozen pictures, it felt like our wedding day. So of our whole two weeks of looking mostly cute but having no one to commemorate it, all of the photos of the two of us from our trip we look ridiculous. 

Totally worth it. We stayed cool and fit the dress code and now I can look at these pictures and laugh and laugh and laugh. 

OUR ANKLESSSS. 

Ok, moving on. Angkor is so big and expansive, to recap fully would probably take a year and a half, so I'm mostly going to let the pictures do the talking. (Yeah, right, you know me I'll ramble endlessly at every pause...but I'll at least try!) We visited basically five temple sites and took a few stops to see other places along the way. I'll give a little intro, show photos, pepper with my witty commentary and link to Wikipedia for all the educational stuff. Sound like a plan? Great, let's go! 

Angkor Wat: The most well-known and recognizable of the temples, it is actually the largest religious complex in the world! Built in the 1100's, it has served as both a Hindu and Buddhist worship site. We (and eleventy hundred other tourists) arrived before dawn to watch the sun rise behind the towers. It wasn't the transcendent experience the internet had made it out to be - again with these high expectations! - but it was a gorgeous way to start the day.

Angkor Wat
angkorr wattttt!
again with AW
relief sculptures

Angkor Wat took about two hours in total to poke around, and none of these photos really do justice to the sheer magnitude of it all. Crumbling stone walls covered with intricate relief carvings telling Cambodian history and legend, steep stone staircases leading to imposing towers, statues of Buddha or Hindu gods watching down from every corner. It was mesmerizing. 

While at Angkor Wat we experienced our VERY BEST moment of the whole entire trip. While waiting for sunrise, we were people watching / people judging hardddd because that is our number one favorite thing to do as a couple. There were these two idiot women just prancing around totally underdressed, one was wearing a spaghetti string mini romper and the other was essentially wearing a bra and underpants, each carrying their own selfie sticks, posing duck-face in front of the temples, pushing their cameras up in the faces of little Cambodian children who were begging or trying to sell trinkets. They were truly disgusting examples of humanity. 

AKA our dream people to judge. 

Angkor Wat is three levels and the top one is a working temple, so it is one of the zones where modesty is required. You actually had to line up and go through a check point before climbing the steps up. Guards were fully turning people away for super small infractions - a hint of knee, the outline of a shoulder or tummy. Like, Catholic School nuns are lenient compared to these guys. Our two girlfriends were right behind us in line, taking NO notice of their surroundings and we waited gleefully for them to get turned away. And OH IT WAS AMAZING. Even before they reached the checkpoint, a security guard pointed to them and said "no," motioning for them to get off line. They were completely dumbstruck and had no idea what he was telling them. "Out of line?" they asked in accented (I think French?) English, "but why?!!" When the guard told them they were not dressed right they argued with him, then asked him if they could rent clothes somewhere, then got mad at him that he didn't have any clothes to rent and then he yelled at them for holding up the line and was about to forcefully remove them before the finally flounced out in disgust. 

GLORIOUS!!! We saw a lot of beautiful things on our trip but there is truly no more wonderful sight to behold than douchebags getting a public comeuppance. 

#blessed.

Thanks for the memories, ladies, I'll cherish you forever. 

Ok that's the wordiest I'll get about a temple, I swickety swear! Onto the next one! 

Angkor Thom: This was the last and longest running capital city of the Angkor region, operating until the early 1600's when the whole region was abandoned. Within Angkor Thom are dozens of temples, palaces and monuments. You enter across a long bridge and through a stunning, imposing gate. Our guide helped us scramble up to the top of the gate to survey the land...clearly there were a LOT o' tourists visiting! 

bridge to Angkor Thom

The bridge is lined with sculptures of warriors on one side, demons on the other. Sauron made us pose like this, I swear! 

DSCN1066.JPG

The gate is carved with four faces on either side, the face of Buddha and of the King Jayavarman VII, who comissioned the building of the city. He was a humble guy! 

Gate of faces

Bayon Temple is one of the most famous sites within Angkor Thom, again with faces of Buddha/the King carved into the temple towers, 216 smiling faces looking in every direction!

Bayon!
close up face

All the cool tourists pretend to be smooching the faces. Brian's NOT feeling this... 

bayon kisses
smooches!!

Again. Cheesy pose not our idea! 

We then bopped over to Baphoun, which was originally constructed as a Hindu temple, before being reconstructed by the Buddhists, including a 70-foot reclining Buddha carved into the side. This temple was big and gorgeous with lots of steeeeep stairs and a thin long bridge that I can only imagine is gorgeous during the rainy season...but fun to play under when dry! 

Baphoun
Bridge to Terabithia
Atop Baphoun

Brian was feeling pretty fly in his hippie doofus backpacker ensemble. 

hippie doofus

(He's so cute!!) 

Next in Angkor Thom we visited Phimeanakas, a temple that only the king was allowed to visit. According to legend, he spent every night there laying (biblically) with a Naga woman - a snake who became a woman at night. If they did not meet every single night, a curse would fall on all in the kingdom. Oooooohhhhh. 

Snake sexy stuff

We then walked through some ruins of the king's palace, pretty much only some foundations and old pools (where he would bathe with his literally thousands of concubines) remained. Seriously on the thousands, though. These guys LOVED them some concubines. I don't know where anyone gets the energy for that, you know??? 

palace things
concubine swim lessons

And then to the Elephant Terrace and Leper King Terrace, stages where the king would sit and watch people perform for him ... or watch executions. Fun stuff like that. Fun fact: These are built at this height so he could ride up on his elephant and step right off onto his stage! 

elephant terrace
elephants!
Leper Kings

Still with me? GREAT! 

Bantaey Srei: This was one of my favorite temples, known as "Lady Temple" (not, as I thought, because they worshipped women there, but because it was small, delicate and pink...whomp whomp!) It was about 40 minutes tuktuk ride away from the downtown area and the journey there was a site in and of itself, giving a glimpse of the Cambodian countryside and rural life. (I'll get into this another time, but Cambodia is VERY VERY VERY poor and it was eye-opening and difficult to see and process. I'm still processing, I think.)

countryside

Built in the 900's, it wasn't discovered until 1914. Can you imagine that? This whole beautiful ruin just hiding away in the jungle for years. Gorgeous. Bantaey Srei is almost Angkor Wat in miniature, little doors, little towers, tiny, intricate carvings along every wall.

Banteay Srei
lady temple!
nerd sauce

This particular pose WAS my idea... and we don't look too bad in the pants, so long as you can't see our ankles! 

carving

Maybe the second funniest moment of the Angkor trip (after the banishment of those idiot ladies from Angkor Wat, of course) came at Bantaey Srei. As you'll have noticed, there are a lot of towers present in the architecture and the phallic symbolism is very, very much on purpose. Apparently these are "lingam" a form in Hindu culture that among other things, yes,  represents the big D. Every tower, our guide kept pointing out all the "phallic lingas" and was not shy about it. I feel like in Western architecture, everyone's like "Whattt? That monument looks like a penis? I had no idea!" but he was like, "yup, dick, dick, dick." It was awesome. 

AND: in addition to lingam, they have "yonis" which represent female fertility. Or, as our guide said, AND I QUOTE:

"The yoni represents the woman. You know, the pussy."

Andddd we died. We are so mature. I do kind of feel like a jerk laughing, I imagine that somehow the slang term just made its way into his English and he now he just drops it like it ain't no thang and I wouldn't want it to embarrass him - lord knows what kinds of accidentally dirty words I'm saying in other languages, but OHHH how we laughed. 

So here you go, a statue of a pussy:

uni

Nice, bro. 

(PS: forgive me if you are Cambodian/Hindu/Buddhist and I'm mixing up all of this history & religion...I'm basing ALL of this off the notes I took in my journal from what I remember hearing a tour guide tell me so I could be messing it up bigtime. Which also  means if you're using any of this info to write a research paper on Angkor, um, you may want to consult some other sources.) 

After all this sexy talk,we'd worked up quite an appetite, so we tuk-tuked back towards town for a traditional lunch, well, "traditional Cambodian" in the way that a pizza place next to St. Peter's Basilica is "traditional Italian" and a little rest. By this point we'd been up for about a million hot sunny hours and getting a bit nutty. But we were rejuvenated by coke lights and curried rice and soon were on the move again! 

TaPhrom: Known as the "Tomb Raider" temple, they famously filmed the Lara Croft movie here, and elsewhere in Angkor. This may have been our favorite spot. Built in the 12th Century, and abandoned in the 1700's, it lay neglected by man for centuries, but not by nature. The jungle essentially overtook it again, with trees and vines growing right up and over the rocks. After its discovery in the late 1800's, conservationists have worked to preserve this mix and I think it is just astounding and humbling, the reminder of the power of the natural world. 

Tomb raider!
nature!!

Can you see the little face peeking through the roots in this one?! 

hidden face
trees!

We were getting prettttty loopy and delirious at this point. Not gonna lie, this pose was totally my idea.

badass

How cool is nature, guys??? And how cool are humans too? Like, people built these immense structures over a thousand years ago before electricity or bulldozers or any of the technology we have today. Mesmerizing. What a world!!! 

Kravan: This was our last stop of the day, a small but super old temple, built by a king to honor his parents in 921. NINE!! It blows my mind that we touched and saw something that was constructed over one thousand years ago. 

kravan
kravan 2

And that was our trip! By this point it was about 4 PM and we'd been out exploring temples for coming on 12 hours and were b-e-a-t. So we hopped in our chariot and tuk-tuked home. 

lovers in a tuk tuk

We again had dinner at the restaurant, cooled down in the pool and crashed, hard. It was a hot, long, exhausting, AMAZING day. Absolutely worth the travel insanity and money, and then some.

And on the next day, we rested! But I'll save that saga for the next post. This is long enough as it is! Just two more days to go (plus a hilarious flight home). I'm getting kind of sad as we come to the end here, I've been enjoying reliving the trip by blogging about it and now I'm reliving the sadness of it ending all over! 

Whomp. Time for another vacation I guess!!

xoxo Liz Ho 

Honeymoon Day One Million: Haute Couture (more like HOTT Couture!) in Hoi An

Ok! After a brief respite for books & nonsense it's back to 'Nam!

I know, I know ya can't say that

One of the main highlights / tourist traps of Hoi An is to have clothes tailored. Basically every other store front, if not every single one, houses a tailor shop, samples of their wares hanging in the front window, everything you could imagine: leather goods, handbags, sun dresses, pants, baby clothes, all fit to order and in a few-day turnaround, too. One night at dinner we overheard a posh British couple discussing their purchases, the gent had stocked up on two tuxedos and a linen suit which Brian and I found HIGH-larious, like, what is your life, sir that it requires so much formal occasion suiting? But then recounting the tale back in the states, a friend revealed the he, of course has several tuxedos and a linen suit. Are these normal items to own?? Is Brian an unsophisticated, underdressed louche? Is everyone going to fancy parties without us???

I digress.

Our handy-dandy Lonely Planet: Vietnam writes "The tailor-shop business in Hoi An is out of control" and they are completely correct. Actually all shopping in Hoi An  - and Vietnam as a whole is out of control. The nicer stores keep it slightly calmer, but some places you can't so much as glance at out of the corner of your eye without the salesperson yelling at you "you buy? you want? buy! buy! buy!" and good luck doing something like calmly rifling through postcards without them physically shoving things in your face. On top of that it's all about the barter. No stores list prices, you have to ask how much it costs and then haggle with them until you find a price you like. Some people get off on this sort of thing and it just makes me want to barf. Neither of us is good at it. Brian gets frustrated and impatient and just leaves and I get so worried about upsetting the store person that I end up stammering and stalling and then getting in too deep and then panicking and just like, running away.

Which doesn't always work! At one store, I looked at some bowls, talked to the shopgirl, decided it wasn't worth the price we settled on and wandered away and she CHASED ME DOWN THE STREET screaming after me. 

I don't understand the economics behind it all. Does this earn you more money in the long run? Just tell me how much it costs! Give me some space and breathing room and don't physically touch me and don't try to tell me that the exchange rate is 22 cents on the dollar when I KNOW it is 21 cents on the dollar and I might be more inclined to spend money in your terrifying store. Gah! I'm getting physically stressed just thinking about it again now. Oy.

This obviously did NOT stop us from throwing down some cold hard DONG (um, is this the first time I mentioned how the money is called "dong"??? BECAUSE IT IS. Never got old and never will.) We whipped the dong out all over Vietnam, eventually bringing home a bunch of scarves, some bamboo baskets which were um, interesting to cart home, pillow cases, some handwoven coinpurses, many, many pairs of pillow pants (which you'll learn more about in the next installment) and several couture ensembles. 

We'd read up a ton about the made-to-order clothing industry in Hoi An before we went but still were woefully unprepared. I had a vague idea of one dress I wanted to have made ... and that was about it. We were overwhelmed by the literally hundreds of options, some seeming super fancy and others possibly trashy and the rest somewhere in the middle. We ended up visiting a few based on Tripadvisor reviews and after a bit of a Goldilocks scenario we finally found one that seemed just right

An Na (two words! Not Anna! I kept wanting to call our tailor...whose name I now forget, I'm the worst..."Anna" but that's not it!) was this cute little shop off of the main drag in between downtown and our hotel, run by a woman (who I now know is named Phuong, because I just looked it up on the internet!) with the help of her sister. It was totally cozy, homey and low-key, unlike some of the bigger, crazier stores. She didn't try to haggle us, just talked with us about what we wanted and showed us some photos of her past work. 

It was suuuuuuper easy to get swept up into the enthusiasm. We had to wait a few minutes while another couple tried on their wares and her work was so good and the other couple so effusive. Suddenly my one dress turned into three dresses, a shirt and some pants and Brian was getting fitted for a full suit and three button-downs.

Whoops? 

I wasn't blown away by the fabric options in her store, so she took me to her storehouse nearby. I hopped on the back of her motorbike and we rode ~5 minutes to a small store literally stacked floor to ceiling with fabric. It was wild! Other seamstresses were there grabbing various cloths and I climbed around and found a few I liked. So fun. 

off to fabric shop!
make it work!

While I was away, Brian befriended Phuong's little nephew, this amazingly chubby toddler with a bowl cut who was scooting around the shop. Brian had purchased a beer from the corner store while I was gone and sat on a stool on the patio outside to wait for me. When I returned, his little pal had pulled up his own stool, grabbed a can of soda and was "cheersing" Brian over and over again and giggling every single time. 

It was SO EFFING CUTE I was ready to get knocked up right then and there AND adopt a couple of Vietnamese babies and return to the US a poorer, uglier Brangelina, but somehow managed to calm down and return to my senses. 

So our tailoring process ended up involving four visits, which was sort of annoying, having to constantly stop in every single night on our way home but like, not actually that hard, let's be real. The first visit we picked styles and fabrics and were measured, the second we tried on the first drafts, the third we did our final fitting and then, at last, moments before we headed out of town, we returned to pick them all up. It was a bizarre roller coaster of emotions. At first we were SO THRILLED AND EXCITED and then we tried them on and were a bit let down. I mean, everything looked great but was just, you know, clothes. Somehow I think we both expected these outfits to have some kind of transformitive, magical powers, like we'd wear them down the street and people would step out of our way and fall all over themselves to compliment us and beg to know our secret. 

Instead we got some normal person clothes. Well fitted, to be sure, but not quite magical. 

Enough talking! Let's see the goods!

Dress One:

maxi to the max
maxi baxi

 

An impulse purchase that I'm way into. Look at the cutout back! I'm adorable! (PS It has taken me HOURS to figure out how to make photos side by side, I may never succeed again, soak this up, world.) 

Dress Two:

mehhhhhhhh

I loved this fabric and loved the cut of this dress when I saw a sample on the mannequin at the shop but then remembered I HATE this silhouette on me. I feel it makes me look at once childlike and with child. 16 and Pregnant is some quality television but not quite the look I'm going for. Whatever, I guess I'll wear it?

Dress Three: 

too sexy for my shorts?

And a peek inside the tailor shop! This was the dress I had envisioned from the start, I essentially wanted a cocktail length version of my wedding dress. I mean, if I can't wear my gown again, the least I can do is copy it in knee length navy, right? Not quite the same thing but still fab. But now I'm actually afraid it's too slinky and I may never wear it in public. It's just kind of snug and low and I'm so weird about being "sexy" it makes me so uncomfortable. GAH. Whatever, I'm in pretty good shape at the moment and from what I've heard, it's all downhill from here so I guess I better flaunt it. Brian's BFF is getting married Memorial Day weekend, and I'm planning to wear this. Friends attending, could you do my fragile ego a favor and pretend I'm knocking your socks off? Thanks in advance! 

I also had pants & a top  made but I forgot to take photos of them which is fine, your eyes would have glazed over anyway they are both the very definition of MEH. A sleeveless button down and black work pants. YAWNNNNNNNNNN. These were the most disappointing to me, I think, not any fault of Phuong's, but just because they are so basic and sensible and boring and like all the clothes I wear all the time. I mean, I had a chance to get ANYTHING at all made to fit my bod and the best I can come up with is this sort of grandmotherly blouse and some friggin' slacks? And yes, these are slacks. I mean, great for work but SLACKSSSSSSSSS. Slacks. Merp merp, boring. 

And for the men's competition, let's take a look at Stanley Supermodel over here! Who are some male super models? Tyson Beckford? Yes, him. So here we have a slim, white Tyson Beckford modeling his bespoke grey wool suit. 

hot hot hottttie male model

Shake that little thing on the catwalk, on the catwalk baby yeah! 

Additionally, Brian got these three shirts, all of which are now somehow too small, though they seemed to fit in the shop before we left. 

shirts!

It is possible they weren't pre-shrunk and got ruined at the dry-cleaner upon our return or that Brian just got a little overzealous when telling her to make them snug in the fittings. We may never know the truth! The way they're tailored, he should be able to get the seams let out so there's hope for him yet. 

So in the end, our tailored clothing experience was kind of mixed, but possibly a result of our inflated expectations. Should you find yourself in Hoi An, I'd still recommend it, but be VERY prepared on what you want and like: images of styles, knowledge of fabric, etc and do your best not to get swept up too much by all the options. 

And that about sums up our time in Hoi An! We had an afternoon flight into Cambodia, so we spent our final morning just kind of bopping around town, finishing up our nightmare shopping, sipping out of coconuts on the riverfront and dining on craaaazzzaaaay good banh mi at the suggestion of our good friend Tony Bourdain. 

biker babe
Ruby Villa
flowers
coco NUTS
banh mi

And that was that! Next up: Cambodia, where we tour some ruins, wear some hugely embarrassing outfits, face some harsh realities about financial imbalance in the world and drink a whole BUNCH of gin & tonics. Who's excited?! 

xoxo Liz Ho 

 

 

... 

#HottsinVietnam Days 8 & 9: In Which We Bike, Cook and Wear Matching PJs

Hello! How was everybody's weekend? Mine was great...until I signed onto facebook and saw a notification on my blog page that I hadn't posted in six days and started feeling all sorts of shamed. Like, lay off, Zuckerberg, I'm busy! But fo' real I should probably hop to, this honeymoon recap is threatening to last longer than the French occupation of Vietnam, or as it was known in those days: Indochina. But enough trivia, let's get back to the good stuff, me! 

After our few unstructured days of wining and dining around Hoi An we were back on the adventure circuit with two of my very favorite days of the trip. Which I know I already said about every single other day of the trip...but this time I mean it. 

First up: biking around the countryside around Hoi An with Heaven & Earth Bicycle Tours for their "Real Vietnam" tour. As with our day in the Halong Bay, it was so much better, even, than it seemed on already impressive paper! We met our group - six other bikers and two amazing guides - bright and early at 8 AM and all boarded a small wooden boat, riding about an hour to an island off the coast of Hoi An. 

fishing nets

We weaved around fishing nets, men digging for clams on the bottom of the river and even a few people filling up boats with sand - apparently there is a black market for sand from contractors who need to landscape new developments but want to keep things on the cheap. Interesting!

island house

Upon arriving at the island, we hit the trails. Again, as with kayaking in Halong or motorbiking in Hue, I learned that some of my  favorite parts of the trip were also the moments from which I have the least photos, I was too busy actively soaking up the day to take too many photographs. And when I do look back on pictures, as pretty as they are they don't capture the feeling and essence of being there. 

Not to stay I didn't still try! 

bike trails!
fishing village
ride paddies, yo

The route was outstanding, winding through rice paddies, along the river, into tiny, bright villages stopping often for water, snacks and photo ops. 

dragonfly

We rode over a number of increasingly scary bamboo bridges, each barely wide enough for a bike to scoot through. Most of the bridges were public but one was a private bridge with a toll booth on one side - essentially a bamboo lean-to with a lady sleeping inside and collecting coins.

bridge uno
bridge dos!

At one point we took another wooden boat, this one literally big enough for our group of ten, a driver and our bikes...and no more. We had to strategically sit in very specific spots based on size and weight to keep the boat from capsizing! We were served an insanely delicious lunch of fresh caught fish and the whole day was wonderfully paced, adventurous and active without ever feeling rushed or stressful. 

What made it the "Real Vietnam" tour was a series of visits to the homes and studios of, well, real Vietnamese, living and working on the island, many continuing to practice traditional crafts and often quite poor. We saw how they make rice noodles, rice wine, bamboo sleeping mats and bamboo "basket boats," which we then got to try our hands at paddling. 

paddleboat failure

These boats are perfectly round and you use a single paddle in front, sweeping in an "S" formation to move the boat front and back. Or, like, allegedly that's how it's done. We never really got the hang.  EVERY SINGLE OTHER person in our group completely nailed it, including a ten-year-old child, and Brian and I just spun the stupid boat in circles.

stupid boats!!!

Fail!

Our route took us all the way back into town, returning us to the Heaven & Earth offices around 5 PM, sweaty and sunburnt and happily exhausted. We had another delicious dinner in town that night, including these fried crab dumpling thingies which I proceeded to drop all over the table and my lap...and photograph just for my dear cousin Marikay who predicted I'd bring my usual table manners across the world. 

dumpling time!

For you, MK, just for YOU!! Pretend I mailed you a postcard. 

My table manners were put to the test again the following day as we took an all day cooking class with Red Bridge Cooking School. Again, eleventy billion times better than our already sky-high expectations! Every single restaurant in Hoi An offered cooking lessons and we saw a number of classes taking place right in the middle of crowded dining rooms, very low on the ambiance front. Our class was held at a restaurant/school outside of the city limits, a stunning venue overlooking the river with an outdoor kitchen, crystal clear lap pool and flowering trees all along the grounds. 

Red Bridge Cooking School
cooking buddies!

Again we were in a group of eight, two other couples and two girlfriends on vacation (or holiday, as the Europeans call it!) (Europeans who, btw, were horrified to hear that our two-week trip was a full on luxury, most of them start their jobs with a minimum of six weeks paid vacay. Er, holiday. Tomaytoh tomaahhhto, we're doing it wrong!) 

First our chef guide took us to an herb farming village just outside of town. The farmers live along the outside of the village, with the herb gardens in the middle laid out in beautiful, tidy rows of basil, coriander, lemongrass and more. Each family specializes in a particular herb so that all are grown in equal quantities. 

herb gardens
DSCN0858.JPG

We then went to market to purchase ingredients for class. Hoi An has two markets, one downtown with a heavy tourist presence and this one, frequented by locals. We ran into the woman who was tailoring clothes for us buying supplies for her lunch - we were pretty clearly like, 2 legit 2 quit, shopping where the locals do!

to market, to market
stingray!!!
IMG_1853.JPG

The market was a blast, cranned with busy stalls selling fresh fish - including STINGRAYS! - veggies, meats, fruit and spices, everything bursting with vibrant color.

bean ballz

We got a tasty snack of rice flour balls filled with a red bean paste, #nom, and then headed out to the Red Bridge School. 

red bridge lovebirds

The best part about group activities is that you have lots of other people you can ask to take couple photos, so you don't have to resort to selfies or those awkward solo person standing in front of a monument shot. 

Once again our day was leisurely paced and relaxing. Beverages were included with the class fee so we all started boozing right away, we'd cook a little, sit and drink a little, stare at the scenery a little, eat a lot, repeat, repeat, repeat. It was glorious. 

cooking class hottie

We made four dishes: beef pho, grilled shrimp in banana leaves, claypot fish with lemongrass (my favorite!) and papaya salad with chicken. The actual cooking was pretty low key - mostly we just pounded up a bunch of ingredients with a mortar and pestle and threw meat onto the grill and I don't know that we necessarily learned anything super groundbreaking, but the results were oh-so-tasty and the day was a delight so I'd recommend to anyone.  We're planning to have a pho party at some point and invite friends over to show off our skillz. 

PHO!!!

You're all invited! BYO cow bone. 

After scarfing all of our doofs, we swam around in the gorgeous pool for a while, feeling chic and fancy, then took a boat ride back into town. The weather had been predicting storms - our first bad weather of the trip - and as we were on the boat the sky opened up and absolutely POURED and poured and poured complete with thunder and lightening.

rain storm on the river

It was kind of scary and truly awesome in the most direct definition of the word, seeing nature at work. When we got off the boat, we still had to pick up our bikes at the dock and get ourselves back to our hotel - we debated waiting it out, but saw it was making no signs of letting up, so we just went for it. It was wild! At one point we had to pedal through a puddle so deep we were submerged to our hips! Somehow we stayed upright on the bikes (#blessed!) and didn't get washed away to sea. It was so intense!

stormy sky

This was the view from our room during a slight respite in the rain, I thought that skinny tree in the middle was going to blow right over to Laos.

It continued to pour for the rest of the night. We debated taking a taxi into town for dinner but, truly were feeling a little homebodyish after so many days of activities and were getting a little sick of eating at restaurants every night (ugh, exotic honeymoon travel is so hard, pity us!) so we talked to our hotel staff about room service, andddd the only food they could get us was pizza!

'za

CHA CHING! Full disclosure: that's totally what we were in the mood for. Love me some rice noodles, oh, I do, but anything eaten for two dozen meals in a row begins to lose its luster. Sometimes you just have to sit around your hotel in matching hippie tourist pajamas, taking self-timer photos of yourself eating below average pizza, you know what I mean?

Not even lying, it was super fun (and the pizza was actually pretty delish) and I regret nothing.

 

we are idiots

 (Except including my feet in this photo. I have really creepy toes...) 

Up next, a little interlude on tailored clothes and the madness that is shopping in Hoi An before we hop-skip-jump over to Cambodia for a hot second. Yay! And then we're almost done! I'm sure you're thrilled. Even I'm getting a little sick of hearing myself talk about my vacation and I love hearing myself talk. But now that I've started, there's no turning back! I never quit anything! Well, except volleyball...and Girl Scouts...and every musical instrument I ever attempted...and lots of other things...but that was the old me! The new me just slogs on and on and on and on and on annnnddddddddddddd

ON. 

See ya later! 

Peace, Love & Pho, Liz Hott