Travel

Holé Mole Mexico City

After years of reading rave reviews, I finally made it to the capital city of Mexico.

Street art in the Metro Station

There are endless lists, guides, and maps, especially from New Yorkers and Californians on CDMX. Read them! This is my particular view on the city and intentionally leaves out more common recommendations like the National Museum of Anthropology and the Teotihuacán ruins.

Learn Some Spanish

CDMX is a Spanish speaking city. Unlike Amsterdam, Montreal, or Hong Kong where you can get by on English, you will need some Spanish in Mexico city. Brush up on the language basics or keep Google Translate handy.

Book the Taco Bar at Pujol

Pujol’s soft and warm living room

Ok, fine. I’m starting with an obvious recommendation, but only because I really mean it. Absolutely have lunch at Pujol, one of the top rated restaurants in the world. Book yourself for the 1:30 Taco Bar, which is a 10 (?) course lunch for about $200. The lunch includes many riffs on classical Mexican dishes, excellent wine or beer pairing, a 5+ year old mole, never-ending desserts, and world class service, sight, smell, touch, and of course taste experiences. Get ready to eat some bugs! I absolutely recommend the Taco Bar over pre-fixe menu at the tables. It’s more relaxed and has a wider variety of tastes.

With so many drink pairings, you’re bound to pee a few times. I sure did. Enjoy the toilets: the lighting, scent, and sounds are a tropical delight. Our table spent a couple hours after the meal on the lush green patio digesting and trading stories. Take your time and soak it in, they’ll wait for you to request the bill.

Brush up on chef Enrique Olvera’s Chef’s Table Netflix episode before you go. Yes, make a reservation and ignore the haters who say it’s overrated.

After lunch, saturate your senses with a stroll around the corner to Xinu, a local, boutique fragrance shop. While yes it is pretentious, the curators source from local plants, and offer a full tasting menu of scents and ecological boutique packaging.

Take a Yoga class in Spanish

Mexico City, like most cities, has what seems like infinite yoga studios. On this trip, I took my classes in Spanish. Over time I’m realizing Vinyasa classes are the easiest to take in a foreign language since the sequences are somewhat predictable and often rely on Sanskrit for the brass tacks information.

Beautiful terrace view at Green Yoga

Green Yoga – I attended the Juárez studio for a Yin class the day I landed. Their first course is free so you have little to lose here. The studio was bright, clean, and friendly. My particular instructor was somewhat transactional from pose-to-pose, but I still left feeling refreshed, stretched, and reconnected. Immediately next door is Cicatriz Cafe, perfect for a coffee, snack, dinner, or drink.

Cafe Cicatriz
Blanco Yoga

Blanco Yoga – While Green Yoga wins on physical space, Blanco offered more skilled instruction, deeper poses, and more cohesion flow-to-flow. The Condessa studio itself was less inviting but none of that mattered once I began the practice. Highly recommend! Around the corner is Pasteleria Suiza with some stunning desserts, especially the puff pastry cream pies.

Pasteleria Suiza

City Art

Most of the big museums are situated by the park. I’ll skip my review on the big ones and recommend:

James Turrell at Museo Jumex – He has several new installations on view including previews from Roden Crater. Be sure to book in advance. I recommend taking the first showing at 9am before the crowds.

Skalar, Fronton Mexico

Skalar – Kangding Ray and Christopher Bauder, Berlin artists, brought an immersive light, sound, techno installation to CDMX. If you’re into electronic music or immersive art, it’s worth the trip to Fronton Mexico.

Galería OMR, Roma

Galería OMR – Lovely multi-floor gallery in Roma presenting local artists and contemporary work in a brutalists space and lush garden in the back. It’s near Rosetta Panaderia and the Museum of Objects, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Wide views of Mexico City from the Tower

Mexico City Tower – Ride up to the 37th floor for a drink and stunning view of CDMX. While I don’t usually spend time at these kinds of tourist traps, it was a nice place to rest after an afternoon in the Zocolo and shows how truly expansive Mexico City is! Check it out.

National Palace – Home to a huge Diego Rivera mural and several smaller pieces, this spot is unmissable. The wikipedia page on the History of Mexico mural was enough to help me orient the vast range of imagery. Murals aside, there’s a gorgeous desert garden, interesting sculptures, and lazy cats enjoying the sunshine.

Shopping Local

Roma Norte and Condessa didn’t have as many boutiques as I hoped for. However here’s some cuties for ya:

Carla Fernandez, Juárez

Carla Fernandez – fabulous haute couture designer. Though she’s outside price my range, the brutalist architecture of her flagship Juarez location is worth the trip alone. I enjoyed seeing a Mexican expression of avant-garde style.

Mercado Sabado – This Saturday Market was a day of commercial indulgence for me. Though it’s clearly marketed for tourists, the food, art, and wears are indeed local and well crafted. They range from street to boutique prices and is not far from here is Frida Kahlo’s home museum and neighborhood.

Xinu Perfumes

Xinu Perfumes – see review in the Pujol section

Utilitario Mexico – Simple home goods (around the corner from Green Yoga and Cicatriz)

The Shops at Downtown – Nice spot for window shopping, especially if you spend a historic afternoon at Zocolo. Azul Historico here!

180 Shop – has your hipster basics covered and is across the street from Rosetta and the Museum of Object.

Dining Quick Hits

You could come to Mexico City and only eat. I won’t even try to compete with the dining and taco guides. So here’s my quick hits on what to try and what to skip:

Azul – I much preferred the environment at Azul Historico to Azul Condessa. We ate at Condessa. The service was transactional but the mole was some of the best we’ve had. I regret ordering the enchiladas after I tasted the yellow mole and perfect steak.

Kura Izakaya – I highly recommend visiting Kura for a few Japanese bites. We had the delectable Chutoro Tuna and tea after a quick taco dinner. The interiors are beautiful and include a lush green garden en route to the bathroom.

El Moro – great spot for churros on the go, though a bit too crunchy for my taste. However, Pujol will ruin your churro palate for life in the best ways. If you go get the dark, not light, hot chocolate. Cute tote bags!

Rosetta Panadería – This bakery has serious Tartine vibes. If you’re in CDMX for a few weeks, this is a good dip into European breads and croissants. But if you only have a short time in Mexico, keep your eyes on the tortilla prize.

El Califa – no idea why people keep recommending this chain. Skip it.

Tacos – I don’t think we/I aced it on the taco front. There’s a lot of great guides here and my favorite bites were from unnamed street vendors.

Travel by car, bike, and train

Most guides recommend ubering everywhere since the cost is so low for travelers from the US and Europe. Do this instead of taxis.

I quite enjoyed taking the metro (about $0.25 USD a ride) during rush hour. My friend noted that each of the stops also includes a visual icon which I appreciated from a design, accessibility, and literacy perspective. This can be the better option when traffic is awful.

Uber Jump bikes are fairly pervasive around Roma Norte. On such a short trip, this nice pedal-assist ride let me see a lot of the neighborhood while preserving my energy. If you don’t have experience with acute driver awareness and city-biking, I do not recommend this option for you.

CDMX is Credit Card Friendly

Most shops and markets took credit cards. I only used cash on hands for street taquerias. If you plan to shop from local artisans, they pay an extra tax for credit cards, so the cash is appreciated.

Double check your Airport Terminal

Double check your departure terminal upon departing home. Some flights fly to the US from Terminal 1 (International) and some from Terminal 2. You’ll need to take a train to change terminals!

Travel

Illuminated Montréal

I love Montréal. Politics times south of the border in the U.S. does help make this French-Canadian city all the more lovable, but even on its own it’s hard to not adore.

June, I’m told, is one of the few months it’s nice to be here. The sun is out and festival season is in full swing. I came here on a little jaunt with my aunt to get lost on the city streets. Review the festival guides before picking your dates, we landed here on the one quiet week/end of the summer, and there really is something for everyone.

While you’re there, take special note of the light fixtures: in restaurants, bathrooms, hallways, museums, and nightclubs. I wonder if cities with long dark winters take more care on light design. Montreal certainly does and artfully so.

Hotel / Neighborhoods

I recommend staying in Le Plateau near the Mont Royal station or in the Mile End district for friends and peers in my demographic. However, if you prefer a hotel, I had a wonderful stay at Hotel Monville (and got a great deal on Hotels.com). This newly opened spot downtown near Old Montreal is in a touristy district but is close to a few primo museums and the Place d’Arms station which is on the Orange line (fun stuff goes on here). Monville recently opened and has a modern interiors true to their press photos, friendly service, reliable wifi, and a rain shower. Below I’ll link to a few fantastic restaurants in the ‘hood.

Dining

Food in Montreal is well priced and very delicious. I’m sure many people will give you recommendations but you can always rely on Eater Montreal in a pinch. We got gourmet poutine at hipster, open-air, slightly chic-punk spot Suwu. Have it somewhere! For a great view, book a table at Les Enfants Terribles at Sommet Place Ville Marie. A local friend took us there and several others recommended it. It’s a great way to start or end a visit to Montreal.

In old Montreal there are three yummy fresh, healthy vegetarian spots: Lov, La Mediterenee, and La Finca (a nice quick spot next to Hotel Monville)

Lov

Lov is a mid-range boutique vegan spot is full of plants, wicker, and botanical cocktails. An expert in millenial pink and mint must have done the interiors. While the color and styles are trendy, I have no problem with plants being a trend. And anyway, it’s done well here and the food was excellent–even for a carnivorous enthusiast like me. A few locals and blog posts pointed us here.

Botanical pleasures

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

La Mediterenee

We stumbled upon this understated middle-eastern spot when we first arrived and may have been our favorite meal of the trip. Fresh, light, herbacious, quick, and probably the best service of the whole week. Lucky for us it was closed on weekends or we may have gone three times!

Fresh, light, friendly welcome to Montréal.

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Bagels

Bagels in Montreal are a thing. If deciding between the Fairmount and St. Viateur’s, go for Fairmount (full review in my IG post). Although a friend of a friend recommended Real Bagel. I can’t say for myself, but it seems like there is no wrong path here.

Ssense

The cafe on the top floor of Ssense in Old Montreal is slick. But to get there you have to hustle through the rag-tag Gucci adorned hipsters on the ground floor and ride the elevator all the way up. You’ll either find yourself rolling your eyes, feeling unnecessarily uncool, or if you’re anything like my aunt, wonder why these young kids in expensive clothes have holes in their shirts and unkept haircuts. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy the bookstore and concrete on the top floor. Adore the beautifully designed stairwells on the way down.

I love me some good concrete

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Art

Biospehere

Architect futurist Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller designed the biosphere (not the biodome) on the island built alongside Montreal’s Old Port. I recommend reading the wikipedia page on the biosphere and Buckminster Fuller as a minimum. Save this activity for a sunny day, and if you can, plan to ride bikes around the island, I wish we did!

If you have some experience with light and music acts you can skip the immersive show. But it’s cute if you want to hang around. The coolest part is certainly the actual dome itself, and is indeed worth going. In fact, we went twice! Ok confession, we went twice because we needed to pickup something in the lost and found, but coming back a few days later, in different weather circumstances, did have a completely different feeling.


Société des Arts Technologiques

Check out whats happening at the Société des Arts Technologiques. We saw a lovely 45-minute immersive piano concert in their dome. There’s a proper bar and restaurant on the same floor if you want to bring a drink in with you or get a few recommendations for your next destination.

Debussy in space

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Murals

The painted walls were vibrant and and rich during our stay since we came just after the Mural Festival. Follow the links on the festival’s guide or stroll around the Plateau area off the Mont Royal Metro station.

Blanc in the Gay Village

The city is working on bringing in more public art, including this fantastic illuminated free open-air exhibit blanc. One of the exhibits (not pictured) had an Augmented Reality component. It was surprisingly not gimmicky, quite funny, and worth downloading an app for a one-time use.

Out in the wide open

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Music

Stereo

What a wonderful nightclub. This after-hours spot has great sound and a clean and positive vibe. They don’t serve alcohol but you can get a Redbull at the bar or a vitamin water from the vending machines downstairs. Full review in my IG post.

Very nice fitness centre! Stereo felt like a younger sister to Berlin’s Big Club (🏢). You can’t deny the reveal up the staircase. The crowd last night was diverse by style (athletic, nerdy, technosexual, clubby, street), age (college kids to senior citizens), and ethnicity. The absence of alcohol made this night with @djjohndigweed an intense but unaggressive and friendly dance zone. I liked that. Throughout the night I spotted people in corners doing runners stretches and wiping their brows with sweatbands. People come here to werk out and I would like to do so again!

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Picnic Electronik

It rained on Sunday during my visit so I missed Picnic Electronik but I’m told it’s a wonderful, sunny, day party with great bookings. Have a look.

Mightykat

Lovely lady and talented DJ, Dominique Thibault (Mightykat), is based in MTL. During my visit she was co-hosting a few all-female dj lineup parties. I remember her sound as bright and housey. See if she’s playing anything in the ‘hood on Resident Advisor or her Facebook page.

Things to skip

MTL blogs insist on going to the Jean-Talon market. It was yummy and cute. But if you’ve been to a half farmer’s market/produce market elsewhere in the world, you have been here too. I’m told the Botanical Garden is missable. We didn’t go, but a friend told us if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I like flowers so I think I’d still like to have gone. And finally, the famous underground city talked about in blogs seemed to be mostly chain stores. Don’t sweat it if you don’t find yourself accidentally wandering around down there.

 

 

Travel

These are very hard times

These are very hard times. It’s easy to look away and even easier to get angry. I feel the delicious temptation to start brewing hate against people who don’t want me here. But that, my friend, is the most important resistance. We must resist to retaliate with hate. The disgusting demonstration in Charlottesville feels so far away from California. It may as well be another country.

It is not.

These people are real. This is happening at home. It’s happening right now.

Do not confuse their anger with strength. These people are afraid. Their statues are being taken down. Their values are being challenged. Their country is changing. More people, different people, are here. Their slice of the pie is getting smaller. Well, to them, it looks that way. It’s not. They believe they are protecting themselves, their beliefs, their families, and this country. Their slice of the pie.

I see it with my eyes, ears, and heart. I see it in Silicon Valley. I’m sure the Googler who bemoaned racial diversity thought he was doing the right thing. Tech companies said to create a culture for vulnerability. Say what’s on your mind. We said all ideas are welcome. We said to accept different perspectives and share your wild thoughts. Be brave. Be bold. Move fast. Break things. That’s how we innovate.

That’s how we win.

We didn’t know to include an asterisk that said you must practice human decency and kindness. We forgot to say to use the intellect we hired you for. We forgot to tell you to think about the repercussions of your actions. We mistakenly thought that was implied.

We model behavior from our leaders. We model our parents, teachers, priests, managers, and too, our President. Be careful there. Many people in America are afraid right now. Some are afraid life will change and some are afraid it will stay the same. Show them strength and show them kindness. Show them what it looks like.

There is one thing, that I hope, to you, is self-evident. We are all created equal with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are in a deep conflict. This is happening at home. It’s happening right now. And these, unfortunately, are very hard times.

 

Berlin

Berlin’s House Dance Classes

All house dance classes are challenging. I've never been to one that's not. They're also a blast and a wonderful way to party early, sober. There are several studios in Berlin. I hoped to try them all and become a regular somewhere but never found a favorite. And to be honest, considering it's Berlin, I expected the music to be better.

Flying Steps Tuesday with Peeps (above)

This class is about DANCING. The class is influenced by salsa moves, teacher speaks in english french and german mix, hard to get into but is a lot of fun and a great work out. The music is ok, some unwelcomed pop tracks and no freestyle, there is a little dancing across the floor. There is a waitlist, so I highly recommend booking online a few days early.

D!'s Dance school: Monday at 19:00

This one is a bit technical. The music is better for people who like the more techno side of house music. This teacher focuses quite a bit on footwork and some on the soul of the music. The people in the class are not so expressive, but the end of the class ends with freestyle dancing and no choreographed dance. This teacher is clearly a house head and influenced by ballet. This class is taught in German.

MOTION * S Tanz

I heard good things about the classes here but didn't get to try it myself. It's around the corner from Flying Steps.

News Articles

Resident Advisor: Dancing in the Dark: Jon Hester & House Dance In Berlin

Meet Jon Hester, the Guy Who Teaches Berlin's Club Rats How to Dance

 

Travel

It’s free to hang out in San Francisco

The easiest way to meet up with a friend is for a coffee, beer, lunch, or dinner. Here’s a list of alternatives outside the house I have actually done when I feel sober, full, and cheap. And really, if you’re in good company even shopping for carpet will be fun! So also checkout the sf.funcheap guide.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on


San Francisco Botanical Garden

This is not the Butterfly Conservatory in Golden Gate Park. It’s a huge garden with plants from Chile, South Africa, a bamboo forest, and a delicious sensory garden where you touch and smell the most wonderful plants. It’s free for SF residents with ID and a really nice relaxing walk.

10888423_10105087298644599_6996219831888381301_n

Play 50c games at the Brewcade

Hey children of the 90s, this jam is for you! Arcade games are about 50 cents and pretty fun if you’re looking to hang and do something more casual. Plus you can make Michael Jackson moonwalk again. Like Tutu Tuesday it will require some self control to avoid having a beer, it is the Brewcade after all. But if you’re hungry for Tacos, do not go to Hecho next door. Not tasty. But El Castellito around the corner on Church is my go-to spot and I think has a Taco Tuesday special.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

James Turrell Skygarden

One of my favorite indoor San Francisco views is hidden on the 12th floor of the Federal Building on Seventh and Mission. It’s free to enter but you must show a legal ID and go through a metal detector. Unfortunately it’s only open from 9am to 3pm Monday-Friday. But if you work in Soma it’s an awesome place for one-on-ones and rarely crowded. Here’s a great self-guided tour of the place including history on the elevators, architecture, and beautiful art in the basement.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Dollar Days at the Golden Gate Fields

Horse Racing isn’t first on my list either. But it’s actually really fun and kid friendly. I love this activity because you don’t really have to pay attention but can if you want. The races are short enough that you can get engaged for a few races then wander off and see the horses, get a dollar beer, dollar hot dog, or get distracted hanging out. If you might drink the beers, please take the bus or an uber there.

Hot tubs and yoga

The SF Fitness Fillmore location has a hot tub! If you and your homies have membership there it’s a nice free alternative when you don’t want an entire day at Banya. Here’s the cheap yoga in SF but you can’t really chat during yoga so it’s not a great option.

A photo posted by morgan sfunny (@morgansfunny) on

Flora Grubb Garden

This is a truly incredible flower nursery. The plants are very tempting to buy and way beyond my personal price range which makes it easy. I generally wouldn’t recommend hanging around in a shop if you don’t plan to buy. This is one of my exceptions. And if do want a coffee, there’s  Ritual Roasters in there.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Visit the Parks

I can’t not mention the parks, there are infinite choices here. Dolores Park is an obvious choice. Sometimes I bring my Doodles coloring book which is a easy alternative to an accidental $50 BiRite picnic. Duboce Park is great if you want to watch some cute pups. I love Twin Peaks on a sunny day and Corona Heights at night on an evening with a bright moon. Of course you can visit one of the many beautiful ocean-side spots like Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, walk the Labyrinth and even the Embarcadero. There are enough guides to parks and nature in San Francsico. This is not that!

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Tutu Tuesday

Hosted on the second Tuesday of the month at Harlot SF in Soma is the cutest party with great Deep House in San Francisco. It’s $2 entry with a Tutu. The sparkling waters are free, hydrating, and come in the same glasses as cocktails so no one bugs you about not having a drink 🙂 But be sure to tip your bartender for the effort!

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Free Museum Days

Special exhibits are usually at a discount and most spots are free the first Tuesday or Thursday of the month. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in Soma has a beautiful well lit lobby with nice seating where you can bring your lunch or sit and talk for quite some time undisturbed. The Asian Art Museum is $5 every Thursday after 5pm. It’s a cool under the radar spot.

Berlin

Berlin in resolution

I came to Berlin with 4 things on my mind and now with some resolution.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Do I want my next job to be running a design team?
The answer for me is no. Well. Not yet.

Hiring, shaping, and leading the Pivotal Labs Berlin design team is one of my brightest professional accomplishments. I wanted a highly talented team with diverse skills that compliment each other. I fantasized about a collaborative, caring, and resilient team that has fun doing great work far beyond my time. I loved unblocking my people and nurturing their strengths to become their best design self and started a related writing collection called The Ligature. When I look to my design mentors, I know the next step for me is to return making, designing, and doing great work.

 

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

 

What can I discover about myself as an artist?
The darkness of winter makes Berlin such a wonderful canvas for light artists. It’s the perfect landscape for the kinds of galleries, installations, and types of spaces I love. I visited old power plants, dilapidated breweries, and other vacant spaces. Spending more time with these kinds of installations and and artists helped me give new shape to my perspective as a participant and creator.

Living somewhere new also gave me so much to write about. For nine months, every Saturday I wrote and posted something here. Though, the readership was sometimes an audience of one, I have a more intimate connection with my internal and written voice.

And finally living alone deeply changed my morning and evening rituals. Unexpectedly, my yoga and painting practice became intertwined. I deep dived into the original texts from the Bauhaus School teachers and specific yoga practices and started my Bauhaus Yoga collection a medium. Nurturing these two practices together brought me a intimate connection to my mind and body as they relate to my creative and sensual self.

 

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

What can I learn from the minimalists?
This one is quite simple. I wanted to live, breath, and immerse in the home of minimalist architecture and design I wanted to see it show up in my design work, home, mindset, and way of solving problems. I sold nearly everything I owned when I came to Berlin and I’m going home with half that. I want even more of less.

Where is home?
My stylist told me it takes a year, a bike, and a breakup before you’re ready to really live in Berlin. He’s right. I surprised even myself when I felt called back to San Francisco: to my family, a place I understand, and where I can have an impact. But, I’m leaving a suitcase here.

Berlin

Berlin’s San Franciscans

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Summer has passed which means at least a third of San Francisco’s nomads have wandered though Berlin. The two cities are obvious matches for one another: both with their own versions of alternative lifestyles, young spirits, immigrants, and deeply complex socio-political issues.
Bay Area techies and house heads love coming to this cheap, spacious, creative, more underground, concrete version of San Francisco. Berliners regularly seem charmed by the optimistic dreamers and coastal views.

“When the wall came down, everything became possible.” That’s what native Berliners tell me about the magic of the German capital.

And it’s that very ideal seems to draw Gold Rushers to Berlin: possibility. I’m curious how many will stay. San Francisco used to offer creative, expressive, grand possibilities. Almost anyone could try on a new religion, new style, new sexuality, new job, new politic, new beliefs. The city would celebrate whoever you want to be this year, this day, this hour, and it didn’t matter how much money you had.

Silicon Valley looms over San Francisco like the evening fog. If you’re unprepared, you’ll be left shivering in Dolores Park. Even if you can pull off living in SF economically (hello rent control!) and will put up with smelly streets and sloppy public transit, the new rich culture makes many other city charms, that possibility thing I was talking about, much more difficult.

Which brings us back to Berlin. It’s an incredible place for San Franciscans to take a holiday. But living here is not so easy. We are not so patient with inconveniences. Rules, paperwork, structure, and formalities. Learning German is difficult but I believe is necessarily if you will actually LIVE here. If you’re not white, some things just won’t come easy. Most of you probably read my racism post and a lot of you disagreed so let’s not get too deep into that here.

Several of my German friends have sadly left this city because they couldn’t find a work. People in my demographic want to live here but the money and jobs are in Munich and Frankfurt. Good work seems to be hard to find in Berlin.

There is a tech scene here but VCs seem hesitant to take leaps on innovative concepts and practitioners are only now starting to get permission to do user research. And I hear my German startup friends complaining about legal barriers. It’s hard to launch in Germany! Techies need to ship. Things get pretty rough if you can’t move fast and break things.

I love Berlin. I love it so much. I think I’ll live here again someday. But despite all the problems in San Francisco, I haven’t found another city that has both a fetish for fetishes and Redwood trees on demand

Travel

The Amalfi Coast & Capri: a warm and busy Big Sur

lil bae

A post shared by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Sweeping ocean views and charming winding roads draw people from around the world to the Amalfi Coast. However, if you live in California this is a place you can skip.
It’s obvious there was a time this Coastal paradise was a hidden gem. But it’s now discovered and congested with lost tourists, smoggy busses, and high prices.

No question, my friend, another California resident and I had a great time. But mostly because we had 9 months of life to catch up on–and Amalfi is great for that. It’s also an obvious honeymoon spot since there’s my much to do there but nestle up with a loved one and watch the waves roll in.
Capri is obviously more expensive but equally congested. The times we hung out by the pool or lazed at the beach or our hotel terrace were the highlights.

Surely having a car gives you more flexibility to explore the coastline (like big sur) but among the traffic and motion sick-inducing roads isn’t worth it for me. Amalfi is two hours from Naples and even getting to Capri from the airport requires a ride into town and a ferry. The boat rides for us ended up being more of a hassle than a charm. However, don’t be afraid to go up to the top “first class” deck, there seems to be no difference in tickets.
The food was good, but it wasn’t great. I’ve eaten better in other Italian cities so you’re defiantly going to Amalfi again for the views. Another perk over Big Sur is the temperature and access to beaches.


Though the beaches are rocky not sandy, the water is turquoise clear and refreshing on a hot day. We luckily stayed here during a harvest moon which mean light was always twinkling over the vast ocean.

If you go, here are a few recommendations.

– You need more than a long weekend to slow down your pace here.

– Choose a hotel with a good restaurant and far from Amalfi

– Choose the lemon over chocolate desserts

– Spend a day at the Artisiti Beach. For $40 you can rent two chairs, an umbrella, and get cocktails and a yummy lunch. They have changing rooms and kind people.

– Get an ocean view hotel and wake up for sunrise. Don’t worry, there is plenty of time for naps

– Ignore foursquare, the recommendations didn’t always match the experience

– There are less expensive places in the world to hang in your hotel with an Ocean View with fewer tourists

– if you do go, enjoy doing nothing fully!

Berlin

Berlin’s Burners

Most feedback I get about Burning Man in Berlin is:

  • We have a lot of events and places to go inspired/similar to Burning Man
  • I’d really like to go but it’s very far and expensive
  • I go to the regional burns
  • I’ve never heard of it

I was dancing at Berghain the day the man burned and saw a nice young man with playa goggles on his head. As a Bay Area American I really try not to talk about Burning Man especially at festivals and clubs. I’ve found some friends to (rightfully) get defensive about their events because Americans celebrate the desert festival so hard not making much room for other conversations. But in this case, I couldn’t not ask the goggled man if he too was having a little playa moment.

Unfortunately he had no idea what I was talking about. I’m more surprised how far of the the desert art festival has spread in such subtle ways and yet still barely exists.

14202754_10107623628698839_8293225428987136743_n

I put in a lot of effort in several forums and groups to get a group of Burners together, but no bite. People who had been to the original playa in Nevada.

In the end I had three friends over from very different worlds. We wrote down our new year’s goals, desires, and things to burn away and kept them in our pockets. The wood temple we intended to Burn wasn’t possible so we built our own man from my art supply paper and took it behind the RAW warehouses. In front of a rock statue on a bed of wet sand I lit two incense sticks, dropped in our wishes, drank some red wine from the bottle, and sent up some flames. It was sweet, primal, and intimate.

When Burning Man does come up in Berlin conversations, and sometimes it does, I appreciate the criticism. “Isn’t San Francisco trying to shape the future? How can all those people spend all that money and ignore the homeless? Isn’t it horrible for the environment? Why does it cost so much? Is it a techie networking event? ” The list goes on.

None of these criticisms are new. But in Berlin the criticism stand on their own compared to at home when someone will quickly reaffirm that we should go anyway because it’s; fun. I’m not feeling drawn to return after two years of horrible weather. But this year looked so good. And one week my friends decide to take a vacation at the same time with only the right distractions is temping.

Berlin

Berlin’s lakes

Escape from the concrete jungle during hot summer days seems to define the season. All winter and spring I heard the long fantasies for long days of light bathing in cool pools. On the hottest days the city empties and you know exactly where everyone has gone.

There are a few small lakes near Berlin but I’m told they’re accessible but dirty.

 

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on


Caputh Lake Potsdam (West)

This is my favorite lake near Berlin so far. I’m not poster child for hiking and camping so I appreciate when a few services are available on hand. With a 9 Euro entrance fee you can get a beach bed, access to an excellent cocktail bar, a shower, little changing area, and slightly maintained swimming area. There was a bit more a family crowd here but the sand (in and out of the water) was very soft and the children well behaved. There are two routes below but honestly they both felt like a zip because the whole ride is through the trees. There’s one especially good spot to eat nearby, I don’t know the name off the top of my head but I can get it for you. Foursquare kept yelling to me not to eat in the restaurant. I liked the lake because it felt slightly more private, cleaner, and had a little extra care. The mojiots were a dream come true and without planning all the logistics you’ll have time to make a bomb picnic.

 

2016-08-28 15.27.53

 

 

2016-08-28 12.25.50

 

 

for a more local feel..

 

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

1:24hr and 34km ride
40min and 12km ride to from Potsdam to Caputh

1:24 hours and a 35km ride
1:24 hours and a 35km ride to Caputh from Potsdam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liebnitzsee Lake (North)

This spot north of the city is a favorite to Berliners. It has calm, beautiful trails around, an island for camping, and an overall joyful vibe. A lot of swimmers bring rafts so they can swim from the main lake over to the island that has campers. The island has a tarzan style rope where you can swing off and land into the lake. Too fun. From the nearest train station it’s a 12km bike ride partially on the road and partially among the trees.

2016-09-01 05.56.22
40min and 12km ride to Liptzensee

 

2016-05-29 13.39.57

Flos und Los Boat

Of course some days are not for swimming in which case hopefully you bet on the weather, planned far in advance and rented a boat. Flos Un Los 10er Cabrio + Grill is our favorite ride. Good price, two floors, plenty of room for a sound system, a toilet, covered area, and doesn’t require a driver. It’s a little annoying to get here but that seemed to be the case with all the boat companies near Berlin. From their pickup you can take a very route through the greens or industrial former East Berlin.

And now onto something so obvious you might forget…

2016-05-06 12.28.43

Spreefahrt Tour

The “tour of Berlin” boat tour is an obvious move for parents, but actually I too had a great time. The BWSG Spreefahrt Tour was in English and German which is the first plus. They have drinks and food service and different length tours. The one-hour tour was a bit short for European style relaxing but still good. The pickup is centrally located near Hackershermarkt so you can fit into any kind of tourism you probably have that day. The best part? The tour guide didn’t talk the entire time. There was ample quiet time to enjoy the beautiful scenes of Berlin actually chat with the people you’re with.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on


And if you can’t make it on a boat, there’s one more option:

2016-08-29 18.11.41

Badeschiff

Leave it to Berlin to drop a pool in the middle of the Spree. Amongst the waterfront clubs like Club der Visionare, Ipse, and Watergate is this swimming spot. It’s open all day, serves food, drinks, has a beach, and most importantly a pool (overlooking my office). If you can’t or don’t want to do all the planning that comes with a boat, swim in the pool and watch them and the kayakers float by.