Madrid: Where to eat & run (Feb 2017)

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Madrid airport. I was in love with the architecture here already.

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Plaza Mayor at sunrise.

Many people told me I should spend more time in Barcelona and that I would like it more, but they were wrong. Not that I didn’t like Barcelona, but I feel like Madrid is underrated. I loved Madrid for its old cobblestone streets, the architecture, the random flower shops, the huge park where I went for a sunrise jog, and all the colors and history.

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CaixaForum 

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Templo de Debod

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Mercado de San Miguel was a food hall with lots of vendors selling jamon, wine, tapas, and I loved it. I loved walking around trying out different things.

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Tapas for 1 Euro each!

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Jamon everywhere.

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A glass of wine was only 1 Euro more than water, so I ordered wine everywhere I went.

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Chocolateria San Gines for churros and hot chocolate

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Street XO, a casual hip gastronomic restaurant whose menu features these:

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StreetXO is Chef David Muñoz’s more casual and affordable restaurant. We waited for maybe 15 minutes before getting a seat at the bar where we got to see the chefs work right in front of us.

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PORK BELLAYYYY! All of their dishes were creative and the decor reminded me of a Willy Wonka world.

And amazing, unique cocktails:

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Suckling pig at Botin, “oldest restaurant in the world” — tourist destination

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Rioja is a must.

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Of course I played around with some nighttime photography.

On my sunrise jog the next morning, I stumbled upon a glass palace inside el Parque del Retiro:

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Loved the details.

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This park reminded me of Central Park in NYC. I loved running solo here, and I felt safe. I used my offline Google Map (that I downloaded ahead of time) to get from the hotel in Plaza Mayor to here (~1.5 miles) and back. Highly recommended if you like to run on vacation.

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Sunrise + rainbow!

 

 

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2015 Nike Women’s Half Marathon – San Francisco (Recap)

On October 18, 2015, I ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco, infamous for the Tiffany’s finisher pendant in the little blue box. The weather was perfect in the 60s and the hills were challenging but SO MUCH FUN! The route was picturesque; I visited SF two years prior and already knew the neighborhoods, which added the nostalgia factor to the run. (Check out the route here)

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Saturday morning at Union Square:

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People lined up for hours to take a picture in front of the “We Run” sign.

I was surprised that there was no *real* expo; there was a packet pickup in the Westin, and everything else was scattered around Union Square.

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At the wall that has all the names of the participating runners.

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Inside the Nike store, where huge lines formed for the free earring (Note: ONE earring per location — Nike store was only one of them, and you had to go to another store to line up for another 1-2 hours to get more)

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The earrings. The Nike store gave out (big surprise) the Nike swoosh. You must have the QR code that was emailed to you in order to validate that you are, in fact, a runner.

I purchased a half zip-up long sleeve and a tank top with the Golden Gate Bridge on it:

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We then went to the Finish Line store inside Macy’s to get the wing.

I bought the special edition Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 32 with the Golden Gate bridge on the lip and the insole. They were sold at Finish Line as well as the Nike store. But at Finish Line, you also get a shoe carrier bag for free.

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We had brunch at Nopa:

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Ice cream at Bi-Rite, which was next door.

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The flavors were so unique and creamy, but I had to choose…

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A scoop of creme brulee on top of honey lavender.

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Since we were in the neighborhood, why not visit the Painted Ladies? Hellooooo ladies.

Dinner at Koja Kitchen, a new Korean-Japanese (hence, Ko-Ja) casual spot in Inner Richmond.

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Their garlic fried rice buns (in place of the traditional wheat buns) distinguish them from other places. You can add an egg to any dishes, which of course must be done.

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Short rib koja is where it’s at. Fantastic flavor in the galbi, add an egg to kick it up a notch. Their braised pork is also very good, but galbi has my heart. Umami fries also have pork in them. The ahi tuna bowl is a nice addition to your meal if you want something lighter. The tuna is also very fresh.

The next morning, we woke up around 5AM.

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The corrals spanned entire blocks in Union Square. It was not too cold, but totally dark. So many people, as this is one of the most anticipated races in the country.

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I was hoping to run and enjoy the moment and NOT take any pictures during the race… until Mile 10, when everyone slowed down and stopped to take pictures. So I figured, I guess I will too.

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Mile 10 is the hill that everyone talks about. It’s the steepest elevation in the entire race. I loved the hills, because I can finally say I ran the hills in San Francisco.

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Looking back at people behind me. They’re taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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People are walking now… Not a motivating sight.

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Another view of the bridge after “The Hill” — and that’s the last picture I take until after the finish line.

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There it is! I was expecting men in tuxedos with silver platters handing it to us like previous blogs have written about, but it turns out they had several lines where boxes were on top of boxes and a girl handed it to you after checking it off your bib. Not as magical, but I’ll still take it!

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At the marina, where everyone lined up for the finisher’s boutique inside a tent.

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I bought a finisher’s hoodie, which is extremely soft and comfortable.

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I also purchased the finisher’s t-shirt, and I LOVE that color.

 

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Inside the goodie bag every runner received.

And that’s it for the race recap! Now onto the rest of my trip (aka all the food pics)…

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We had lunch at Turtle Tower.

It was here that I learned about Northern style pho — no bean sprouts, basil, or hoisin sauce. The broth is also more bland but GOOD! The noodles were so different than what I’m used to; they’re wide and flat.

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BEST SPRING ROLLS EVER. EVER.

Around the corner was Brenda’s French Soul Food, where we got their beignets to go.

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We took them to China Beach… what’s in China Beach, you say?

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This was the crawfish beignet. The others were original, chocolate, and cinnamon apple.

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Bubble tea (or as they call it on the west coast, boba) at Purple Kow.

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Dinner at State Bird Provisions.

On my last day in SF, I woke up early to try to catch the sunrise at Twin Peaks. I ordered car service via Lyft Line, and they actually drove me up there. The other way is to hike up. Lyft and Uber are extremely cheap in SF because they’re in major competition with each other. During this weekend, I spent an average of $5-7 per ride using Lyft Line.

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It felt so peaceful being up there, a bit chilly but the sun warmed the whole place up.

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Before the fog set in, I made some new friends with strangers as we all took turns taking pictures for each other.

After that, I met up with my friends at Mr Holmes Bakehouse.

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The Cruffin, a croissant muffin.

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Inside the Cruffin — that day’s special was chocolate peanut butter.

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California croissant: a croissant with salmon and nori inside, and you dip it in soy sauce. As weird as it sounds, I actually liked it a lot.

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Boba Guys. Easily the best bubble tea (boba) I’ve ever had. I love that they don’t use powder, but REAL tea. I got a rose black milk tea and my friend got hojicha (I was jealous of hers, and very excited that they’re going to open a location in NYC soon!)

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Sushirrito. I had the Sumo Crunch: shrimp tempura & crab meat — like a giant tempura roll. So good. The fake imitation in NY can’t even compare.

 

Travelogue: San Francisco (Day 2 of 4)

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We woke up bright and early to grab a quick breakfast before we met our bus driver in front of our hotel — I booked a Muir Woods + Sausalito tour through Viatour. It was a half day tour, from 9am to approx 1pm.

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The bus dropped us off at the central Viatour place at Fisherman’s Wharf, where we switched to another bus that would bring us to Muir Woods. They gave us our vouchers and tickets there. After that, it was pretty much a self-guided tour, about an hour or so.

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I enjoy the sounds of wind sifting through leaves and the occasional birds. Once you reach the fourth bridge, you know it’s time to turn around and rummage through the gift shop for souvenirs.

After that, the bus took us to Sausalito, a quaint little town full of shops and cafes. I could’ve spent the whole day here sipping on coffee in front of an ocean view.

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This boutique is owned by a very nice lady who handpicks every item in her store; scarves, clothes, jewelry. My scarf still gets compliments to which I can reply, “Oh this? I got it from Sausalito/San Francisco!”

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On the way back, the bus driver paused at this lookout for us to take pictures. Very thoughtful. It was my mom’s dream to see the Golden Gate Bridge!

Tempura Udon
Tempura Udon
Tanin Don: barbecued marinated ribeye with egg over rice
Tanin Don: barbecued marinated ribeye with egg over rice
Sashimi Salad
Sashimi Salad

Early dinner was at Sushi Boat because we were tired of walking… 

My mom rested at the hotel while my friend picked me up to go running.

And guess where we ran?

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It’s about 1.5 miles one way — we ran across to Sausalito side and walked back to take in the sights.

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I have a thing for running bridges in other states/countries. Mission Accomplished!

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Art pieces at the park.

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She took the scenic route to show me the bay.

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Top left: Roti bun at Honeyberry.

I wanted to try pho in San Francisco since everyone keeps telling me it’s the best in the entire world except for Vietnam. So we went to Pho Phu Quoc. They’re famous for their 5 spices chicken and I can see why!