[Thailand] My Friends, The Elephants

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

I can’t remember who was the first person to tell me to watch where I was going to see elephants in Thailand, I just remember knowing that I needed to educate myself instead of just showing up somewhere random. I knew I wanted to see these beautiful animals, I just wanted to do it responsibly so that I wasn’t contributing to their pain.

Through research and personal accounts of people living in Thailand, I found The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The elephants in the sanctuary have been rescued from riding camps or other places where they were treated unfairly and abused. There, they are provided with everything they need within a safe space. Some may argue that they are still not in ideal conditions, but it’s better than what they had before. Also, as one of the volunteers argued, they have been captive for so long, they are not fit to survive in the wild on their own. Elephants are not meant to be ridden, it’s not natural for them.

We arrived to the sanctuary on the back of a mini truck, well aware that we were in for adventure and that we were going to be in the throws with the elephants.

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We started by changing our shirts and wearing the traditional karen clothing so that the elephants would feel more familiar with us. In order to really win their friendship from the start, we fed them lots of bananas. Literally banana after banana, after banana… they can really eat!

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elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

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We walked around and brought them sugar canes for them to eat. Again, impressive to watch these beautiful beasts eat. This one even tried to eat my GoPro.

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I must admit I was a bit scared. They are beautiful, yet intimidating beasts. They were gentle and friendly and to me, it was scary to think they could be so friendly that they could hurt me without realizing so. For example, being together on the river, a quick playful roll could have basically killed me. Maybe it was just me being cautious, but those thoughts were always in the back of my mind.

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Still, I was able to enjoy and admire them up close and in their natural habitat. We literally got into the mud with them, I went in barefoot to a pile of God knows what. I legit probably stepped on their poop more than once but hey, I did not come all the way to Thailand to stay clean and watch from afar, right?

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The mud made jumping in to the river 10 times more amazing. Sure, the elephants still pooped on the water there, but hey, at least I could clean myself! It was really an experience like no other. The closeness with nature (think walking barefoot through the jungle) and the majesty of these animals (think huge elephant running around like a puppy) was just absolutely incredible.

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

This day really made me want to continue exploring ecotourism. It was interesting, yet not surprising, that the group was composed of people like me from around the world (mid/late twenties all the way to mid/late thirties) hungry for meaningful experiences that do not cause harm and help you learn about the awesome world we live in.

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[Thailand] Best Stay of My Life

There’s traveling. Then there’s traveling for your honeymoon.

Your heart is still full of wedding joy, eager to embrace whatever comes, thirsty for adventures. There are no limitations from the body, mind or even your wallet. With the excuse of “once in a lifetime” we say yes to everything that ignites a sense of passion for this amazing world we live in.

During our Thailand honeymoon, we decided to stay at the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas during our stay in Phuket and let me tell you, we were absolutely blown away. Never in my sweet life had I stayed in a place like this. We had our own private villa with a private pool, outdoor shower, lagoon cabana and excellent service. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

I know Puerto Rico is my paradise, but this place was out of this world. Outside of our villa, the views were not that bad either, including sunset cocktails up on a tree house. Every detail here was taken care of, from lighting up torches before the sunset to welcome drinks by the water so you don’t even have to sweat your check-in process.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Forget about work hard, play hard.

Work hard, relax harder.

[Dinner AND Brunch] Welcome to the neighborhood, Union Hall!

In case you missed it, Union Hall finally opened up its doors last week. I was skeptical going in but very hopeful that I could potentially find here my new favorite spot.

Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint.

The vibe is super chill and all their menu is based on small plates. I didn’t know this going in, but it’s the same owners as Brass Rail and Stewed Cow. The chef was also in Chopped and well, to me that’s pretty cool. Staff was super nice and you can tell they are excited to work there, which is always a plus.

Enough about people, let’s talk food.

Or wait, let’s talk drinks for a second. They have $5 martinis on Wednesdays! Their dirty martini is actually pretty darn good. I would have liked to have some blue cheese inside my olives but that’s ok, I’ll let it pass. They have great specials every day of the week including $2 Union Brew mugs every. single. day.

Ok, now for food, for real.


They may look like hush puppies, but these are actually french onion soup mac and cheese balls! They even come with their own little broth on the side, delicious. Tip: don’t be afraid to embrace the broth! (Did I say these were great?)


They had three sliders that you could order individually, but we decided to go all out and try the 3 of them out: veggie, turkey burger, and lobster. Brian and I both agreed the veggie slider was the best because the sauce was so good.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen plenty of pins on Pinterest and videos on Facebook about the wonder that is cauliflower fried rice. I’ve been meaning to cook it at home but I’m always too lazy. Union Hall is the first restaurant I’ve been to that offers cauliflower fried rice as part of their menu. It was probably the best part of the meal. Plus, it comes in this cute little take-out style box so, totally recommend it.

union hall steak

Source: Union Hall

We also got a hanger steak with blue cheese that made me think why I don’t order more steaks with blue cheese. I love blue cheese or any cheese for that matter, I guess.


That may look like a tall shot of something creamy but it’s actually a mini milkshake! The waiter explained how they have different special milkshakes every day and the day we went in it was fruit loops. I must admit I was waiting for a mini version of those Black Tap shakes that can give you diabetes so I was a little disappointed when it didn’t have an actual fruit loop in it, but boy oh boy, it was SO good. It tasted like those last drops of milk from the fruit loop bowl.

Noooooooooooooow… BRUNCH!

First, they have $2 mimosas! Can’t tell you how they were because I didn’t have one (stupid, I know) but I will be back and can update based on the verdict. Again, $2 mimosas!


Breakfast tacos for the win. Get them with bacon, it was actually quite perfectly crisped. I can get picky about bacon and there’s nothing worse than a soft piece of bacon. (That’s what she said? No? Ok, sorry.) Their avocado toast was ok, but not something to die for. (You should never die for an avocado toast, anyways.) It’s a nice side to share but by no means it should be one of your main plates.


Their skillets were actually really good. If I hadn’t been so full with the breakfast taco I would have killed them all but thank goodness I brought Brian along. We had one inspired by eggs Benedict and the other one had goat cheese and some other great stuff.

There’s still so much I want to try over at Union Hall so stay tuned on my Instagram for future posts. I’m determined to try everything on their menu so let’s see how it goes. 

P.S. Their coffee was pretty good too!

 

 

[Dinner] Casa Apicii

Do I try a new restaurant for a chance of greatness or do I go back to a restaurant I already know and love?

This is hands down my biggest challenge when deciding where to go eat. Sometimes I feel defeated by the realization that I will never be able to eat at every single restaurant in NYC and just opt for a classic spot, but more times than not I go to my ever-growing restaurant bucket list and just pull the trigger. 

Last week I went to Casa Apicii and despite the heat inside their back dining area, had an amazing meal.

casa apicii cocktail cristina nogueras beaches and brie

Let’s start with their house cocktail, the Casa Apicii. Their online menu says this drink is made with vodka, crème de peche, aloe, lemon and bitters… but I could have sworn the menu at the table said something about ginger. I love ginger. Still, whatever it had, it was absolutely amazing. Not too sweet or too bitter, and super refreshing.

burrata cristina nogueras beaches and brie

Next, the burrata. I mean, burrata by itself is already all my little heart needs but for it to come served on top of a pea purée with some crunchy, yet super thin bacon strips? Perfection. All the flavors came together nicely and took the burrata to the next level. Yes, such a next level exists.

pasta cristina nogueras beaches and brie

Last but not least (because let’s face it, am I really gonna have space for dessert?) … pasta! Now, before you go ahead and judge me for what looks like a very plain dish, let me tell you that the pasta was insanely good. It is as thick as pasta can be before it crosses the line to being too thick. It was also perfectly and evenly cooked. I don’t think I had ever enjoyed a pasta this thick. The sauce was not super heavy, yet it was loaded with flavor. Can’t go wrong with a classic! Brian had the pasta alla carbonara but was too hungry to let me take a picture of his plate. Ah, marriage.

Oh yeah, I got married. 🙂 (How about I tell you more about that soon?)

Back to Casa Apicii. Great meal, but come prepared to spend a little bit as things add up pretty quickly. Afterwards, you can enjoy a stroll through the neighborhood and admire the gorgeous buildings. Or you can be like me, get on the Path back to Hoboken and accidentally stop by Insomnia Cookies. 🙂

[Puerto Rico] Finding Your Oasis, W Hotel Vieques

vieques puerto rico cristina nogueras

Hm. So where did Summer go again?

It’s been ages since my last post. No excuses here, just a lot going on. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen that I was running around all summer for business and pleasure. Not sure if it’s too early for this kind of talk, but as 2016 comes to a close I definitely feel myself going into a bit of reflection mood. So, what really happened this year?

But let’s not get into that now!

Let’s talk about Vieques. This precious, little island is one of the most special places that Puerto Rico has to offer. In the midst of all the craze that was this summer, I was lucky enough to spend some days in this oasis.

Whether it’s drinking cheap wine and making new friends at a hostel or having (overpriced) mojitos and a relaxing stay at a wonderful hotel such as the W, there’s always so much to discover when you travel.  I’m all for adventures and activity, but every now and then we all need some well-deserved R&R. Just looking through my pictures makes me feel relaxed. I would be laying by the pool just looking at the palm trees and feel content. I wasn’t reading, I wasn’t listening to music, I wasn’t looking at my phone or talking to anyone… I was just being, and it felt both weird and amazing.

I will be sharing more about Vieques in coming posts, but for now I leave you with some of my favorite pictures of my stay at the W. Hope you can sense and appreciate the good vibes this wonderful spot has to share. 🙂

cristina nogueras w vieques puerto rico

w vieques puerto rico

vieques w hotel puerto rico

vieques puerto rico w hotel

vieques w hotel puerto rico

vieques puerto rico w hotel

vieques puerto rico w hotel

vieques puerto rico

w hotel vieques puerto rico

w hotel vieques puerto rico

Photography by Cristina Nogueras ©

[Lunch] Italian Patio Vibes in Greenwich Village

In the hustle and bustle that can be New York City, I am always delighted to find a little oasis that makes you feel like you’ve traveled elsewhere, even if it’s just for a moment or in this case, a meal. Romagna Ready 2 Go is an authentic Italian restaurant, you can taste their commitment to quality food from your first bite.

Instead of starting with an appetizer, me and my friend decided to split a piadina. It resembles a panini, but it’s not quite the same. The stracchino cheese used was excellent and left me wanting for more.

For the main event, we went with two of the classics: the traditional cannelloni with ricotta and spinach and the lasagna. Both were made with fresh pasta and the combination of ingredients was the perfect culmination to our meal.

Romagna Garden

Just like the food, the space is full of little authentic Italian treasures, like the owner’s grandfather’s racing bicycle straight from Italy. Even if you are not in the mood to stuff your face with fresh Italian food (which if you are not, I’m judging you) the vibe at their outdoor patio is always welcoming and perfect for anything from a business lunch to meeting friends for a drink after work.

 

* Thank you to Romagna Ready 2 Go for a great meal and lovely service. Opinions are my own.*

Governors Ball Recap: My favorite #EEEEEATS and where to get them

I’ll be honest, I have never really been a music festival kind of gal. Something about the amount of money you spend on tickets and the amount of people you have to deal with really kept me away for years. Don’t get me wrong, I love music but I guess I had been picky about where to enjoy it.

In a continuous effort to try new things around New York, I went ahead and got tickets to Governors Ball. I must admit, it was a picture of a ramen burger posted by @Infatuation that really did it for me (more on ramen burgers soon, promise).

I can now say, music festivals are an art and I am not opposed to continue practicing it. Especially when the festival not only offers good beats but also rocks it with the #eeeeeats. Don’t have to tell me twice. Sadly (or may I say, ironically) I knew the food line up better than the music line up. Oh well. Continue reading and you will find everything I ate during Governors Ball, together with info on how to get your hands on these awesome bits of happiness.


Ramen Burger from Ramen Burger

Is it a burger? Is it a mess of noodle fun? It’s both! I had  assumed that the sauce in this masterpiece was bbq but I was positively surprised to taste a special sauce that blew my mind (sesame based, maybe?). The noodles magically stayed in place and the rest is history. Go try it now at Smorgasburg!


Pulled Pork from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ

When pulled pork is messy, you know it’s good. My fiance Brian definitely hoarded this one! The toppings were a nice little addition that helped boost the already amazing taste of the pork.


Mac and Cheese from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

I can’t say no to a good mac and cheese. I should, but I usually can’t. You can tell the cheese they use at Beecher’s is a great quality blend that melts right into perfection, shouldn’t expect anything less from handmade cheese. It’s on my list to stop by their shop and go beyond the mac and cheese straight to the source of all the goodness, cheese.


Uma-ritto (Sushi Burrito) from Uma Temakeria

This is exactly what it sounds like. All the familiar flavors that can be associated with sushi, wrapped up in a handy burrito-like concept. To be honest, not the ideal music festival treat to carry around but man, it photographs so well, right?


Cheesesteak from Phil’s Steak 

Brian is from Philly, so we take cheesesteaks very seriously. We’ve ventured around New York and Hoboken trying to find that perfect, cheese-whiz infused bite and have not felt we’ve been successful just yet. Then Phil’s Steak came along and dare we say, this is the best cheesesteak in the area. Mind you, it is not my personal choice to add ketchup, I actually hate ketchup but Brian totally took over this round of food.


Grilled Corn Mexican Style from Café Habana

Nothing says love and commitment like eating some grilled corn under the rain. Yes, it was pouring at this point but that didn’t stop me from having one last bite. I am a big fan of Cafe Habana and use to get lunch there often when I worked in SoHo, definitely a fun place to go to.


BONUS: Shrimp Roll and Lobster Roll from Luke’s Lobster

Nothing says summer is real like a nice, flavorful lobster roll. Luke’s Lobster was also at Govball but I am cheating with this picture as it was taken the weekend before at Hoboken’s Pier 13. 🙂 Still, Luke’s is delicious. My favorite part (besides the actual seafood, of course) is their seasoning and the way they prepare their bread. It’s the perfect touch to accompany an already glorious seafood adventure.

Let’s be real, a girl can only eat so much in one day, even with the help of an equally hungry companion. Here are the other spots that I know and love that were also at Govball: By Chloe, Bluestone Lane, Souvlaki and Tacombi.

Can’t wait for next year’s Governors Ball, in the meantime, let’s keep on eating!