[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.

Where I Ate (Stuffed My Face) In Nashville

They say Nasvhille is the new Vegas when it comes to bachelorette parties. This post has nothing to do with that.

Recently, I was lucky enough to be in Nashville for business. Work all day meant dinner was my way to get to know this awesome city, and boy did I eat…

Below I share my main meals in Music City, there’s really something for everyone. Please follow along in chronological order of my trip and no, I am not including Panera meals during the event, sorry.

Biscuit Love

This was the main place in my list. Not only did it come highly recommended by several trusted food sources, but they honor biscuits which is one of the best things in this earth. I went straight to business and ordered the fried chicken biscuit with gravy.

We were told, however, we needed to order the signature plate…

Just by looking at that picture I swear I lose my focus. These little babies are made of fried biscuit dough, lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote. We got to meet the owner and it turns out this was a special recipe her husband use to make her all the time. Talk about true LOVE.

The Standard at The Smith

We stumbled upon this place our first night in Nashville. We were hungry, had no reservations and just wanted to have a nice meal before a busy day ahead. A little off the hustle and bustle from Broadway, The Smith is the only grand townhouse remaining in downtown Nashville. As you walk in you are immediately transported back to an era where sophistication and good quality reigned.

I am not usually a dirty martini fan, but my colleagues said The Standard’s iteration was the best. Blue cheese-stuffed olives? I can get on board with that. Oh, and also, red velvet cookie for dessert.

Martin’s BBQ

I may not be a bbq connoisseur, but my oh my, this may have been the best bbq I’ve ever had. Just thinking back to it makes me salivate again. Fortunately, my coworkers also take bbq seriously and we ordered the Big Daddy Sampler: half a rack of ribs, half a pound of pork, half a pound of brisket, half a chicken, six wings, cole slaw, mac and cheese, french fries and baked beans. Oh, and bread. Safe to say we did some serious damage.

Union Common

Nashville Food Smoked Chilled smoked mussels. At first we were confused at the thought of something that is both chill and smoked. It turns out they smoke the mussels to give them that authentic bbq taste, then they are served chilled with a special hot sauce. The result is an explosion in your mouth that your brain can’t put together. Is it bbq? Is it sea food? It’s a total experience.

Chuy’s

Chuy's Taco Salad

Funky, chill and delicious. That’s how I would describe Chuy’s. This wouldn’t be my first stop in Nashville because it’s a chain, it’s the kind of food that I can find elsewhere and it’s not even from Nashville, HOWEVER, it did not disappoint. It was a nice break from all the smoke and bbq, the ambiance in itself makes it a great night.

The Southern

The Southern Nashville Food Oysters

We ended the trip with one of the places that was on my list to begin with. We definitely recommend reservations. My favorite part? They fly their oysters in fresh every single morning. I personally love that kind of commitment to sea food! They had a nice selection of cocktails, definitely try something a little bit out of your element, you might be surprised!

Due to lack of reservations and time, I was not able to hit all the places in my list. Etch, Husk, Acme Feed + Seed, Loveless Cafe, Pancake Pantry and Rolf & Daughters were also recommended and they will be top of my list next time I am in town!

Here’s to country music, nice people and cowboy boots!

Nashville

[Atlanta] Parks, Cocktails & Tiny Doors

atlanta beltline art

When you travel, you get a sometimes annoying urge to compare everything you see with something back home. Whether it’s intentional or not, there seems to be a need to call out how certain things remind you of home or mention how you’ve never seen anything like this back home.

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That being said, I really enjoyed my walk through the Atlanta BeltLine. Basically their own special version of the High Line in New York City. 🙂

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I only got to walk a section of the trail, but it was a nice escape from the city. Even though you’re still technically in the city and it’s not that far at all. My sister told me about a series of tiny doors that you can find throughout Atlanta and just the idea of the hunt got me excited. There are currently 8 tiny doors. I was only lucky to find one along the BeltLine, but I was very excited that I did! Learn more about #TinyDoorsAtl here!

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Through the BeltLine we got to Ponce City Market and let me tell you, it’s probably my favorite spot in Atlanta at the moment. Warning to my fellow Puerto Ricans, they pronounce it “Ponz”, I know it’s weird. Still, it’s such a cool spot. It has a trendy, old warehouse vibe with a booming marketplace and food hall. To me, it felt like a better version of the Chelsea Market in New York (there I go again, sorry).

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We stopped at Mineros for drinks and had the best chips I’ve had in a whiiiile. They were the perfect state of crunchy and came with a set of salsas for dipping, all of them delicious. I wish I had had more time and stomach space to go through all the cool food spots in Ponce City Market but hey, I will be back!

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Here are some other pictures of my walk that day through Piedmont Park and stay tuned for more Atlanta posts sharing all the delicious food I ate during my trip!

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5 Places I am Thankful for

I love this time of year. There are so many reasons to celebrate, be with family and EAT. In spite of everything people have to say about Thanksgiving and how we are superficial for celebrating one day and then shopping our lives away the rest of the season, I still love this day.

This year, I decided to  count my blessings in the form of places, thankful for everything these places represent and what they have offered me.

IMG_13055. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The oldest settlement in Puerto Rico, this old town is full of wonders. You can’t get bored in Old San Juan. You can find all types of food, from food trucks to fancy latin fusion cuisine. You can also find all sorts of drinks, from Puerto Rican “moonshine” or “chichaito” to a classic passion fruit sangría. I am thankful for all the fun times Old San Juan has given me, from late night with friends to fun days with family, it all happens here.

 4. Strasbourg, France

Yes, I love Paris and all of its enchantment. Still, I am completely biased to Strasbourg. This city in the region of Alsace, just minutes away from Germany, is very underrated. The unique fusion you find here is quite incomparable. L’Alsace for dummies? Like if France and Germany had a baby, but of course, there is so much more to it. I am thankful for Strasbourg’s culture and history, this city opened my eyes to so many things and I will always be thankful for that. Thanks to Strasbourg and my wonderful host family, I also discovered my true love for food.

 3. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is always on my list. It is a special city I am always waiting to return to. Have only been there for a few days, but I fell in love with it. I’m thankful for this city’s vibrant colors, inspiring architecture and delicious food.

 2. New York, New York

Ah, where to begin with this little gem? I have a love/hate relationship with this city. It is easy to forget it’s electric magic when you are deep in the trenches questioning your life choices, but this place makes you better and stronger by just being there. I am thankful for everything this city inspires me to be and for all the food from the world I have at my reach. New York, you make me stronger and wiser with each passing day.

20131226-170718.jpg1. Puerto Rico

You think I would limit Puerto Rico to just Old San Juan? Wrong. Puerto Rico is my favorite place in the world. I doubt any of the places in my bucket list could ever change that. I am thankful for Puerto Rico’s people, we are not perfect, but we are pretty awesome. I am thankful for the incredible ecological diversity you can find in this little island. I’m thankful for all the amazing food you can taste here, from my mother’s cooking to the many restaurants that offer hundreds of plantain plate varieties. I am thankful for Puerto Rico because it is an intrical part of who I am.

What places are you thankful for? Would love to hear your stories!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall Foliage, Sleepy Bee & Cow Poop: My Trip to Ohio

  
I was in Ohio last month for work. Being the lucky girl in charge of driving the rental car, it felt kinda cool to drive from the airport in Kentucky all the way up past Cincinnati. The fall foliage was just beautiful! Maybe it was best that I was driving, otherwise I would have filled up my phone with pictures.

Still, I got a chance to walk around and briefly hang out with nature at Sharon Woods Park. See some iPhone shots below.

   

   
Also, if you are ever in Cincinnati, I recommend you drive to Oakley. From what I’ve heard, it’s up and coming and from what I saw, it’s very lovely. I had lunch at Sleepy Bee, delicious food and great service.

  
I had the Beekeper, which takes your BLT up a hundred notches and right up to the perfect level. Ideal first choice would have been the Buzzy Grilled Cheese but I felt that was too much cheese before a work event. You know how it is.

I have officially added a trip to Kentucky and surrounding areas to my travel list. I’m interested in checking out the bourbon trail and see a very unique and interesting part of the US.

P.S. You can buy Ohio Cow Poop at the airport. Not interested? Maybe you would like to purchase Cincinnati Pig Poop instead. Yes, it’s a real thing. Yes, I almost bought a bag for my boyfriend.

P.P.S. Reading around about Cincinnati, I found that some people call it the Paris of America which is funny since I just heard Chandler say today that Tulsa is the Paris of Oklahoma. With that, I leave you.

First Time Apple Picking + Fall Sangria

Deamarest FarmsI grew up in a tropical island. The closest I had to apple picking was having a lime tree in my backyard or grabbing a fallen coconut from the beach. You got apples from the super market, that was it. The concept of making it a full day activity to go apple picking, riding on the back of a truck, wearing boots, eating apple cider doughnuts and drinking apple cider was totally foreign to me. To me, it was all fun because it was a new experience. To my friends, it’s a tradition and a moment to relive memories from growing up.

Demarest FarmsSummer is my favorite season but fall comes in second, bringing with it so much beauty… and apples!

I tried out this great sangria recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, it was delicious! I followed the recipe pretty closely, except I did not add the orange slices and I went easy on the club soda. It was a nice twist to my average sangria and it allowed me to use my freshly picked apples in a fun way. I also realized that nothing tastes bad with cinnamon.

This apple picking thing, it’s not bad at all. Next time though, I really need to get one of those famous apple cider doughnut.