Milan in a Day

Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't burry thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and live.

I originally had no plan to visit Milan this summer. But then after searching forever, I realized that Milan was one of the only cities that had nonstop flights to Santorini, Greece. That being said, I was really amazed by the city, however brief it was! Milan has (obviously) amazing shopping, tons of Italian fashion brands that I’ve never heard of, and practically every brand. I would say that Milan is probably better than NYC for shopping! Not only that the city was beautiful, green, clean, and felt pretty safe. The local Italians were very friendly too, probably because they deal with so many famous models visiting all the time (I saw a male model walking around in front of the cathedral so who knows who you will see when you go)!

When we first arrived we took a taxi to our airbnb, we had a convo with our driver and he asked us how we felt about Trump, lol. We said “it’s not good” and he said that most Americans he had asked felt the same way (but then again people who voted for Trump probably won’t be visiting Milan anyway?). Milan has quite a few famous places to eat and shop, but the main square with the Milan Cathedral is right next to the famous mall or the Galleria Vittirio Emanuele II.

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We went shopping at Inglot and a few other places. We got a treat at Cova. I would recommend for breakfast either Cova or Pave’, for dinner/lunch visit Carlo E Camilla or Tagiura Di Angeloti Rino Snc (they have a beautiful covered courtyard and delicious affordable food) or Da Michele I Condurro for pizza. I wanted to visit LuBar a new place to eat inside of the GAM Museum but we just didn’t have the time. Uber exists in Milan. Milan has a good public transportation system and the city is walkable.  It’s a good idea to have reservations for dinner. Most restaurants are closed on Monday and a lot of places have random hours or days that they are not open. So double check! Another option is to visit the Brera design district and walk around to see.

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Fancy Cova! I loved the cannoli!

On our second trip to Milan (after we returned from Oia, Santorini Greece) the taxi driver couldn’t find our new airbnb! Our new airbnb was in a newly build apt complex not too far from the city. A lady (more like an angel) appeared out of nowhere. She said she’d help us find our airbnb. She was with her daughter and spoke English. She was so kind and helpful! Without her help we would have been stuck outside or had to turn back! She invited us into her apartment and out of the heat. When we finally got in touch with our airbnb host, I forgot my phone in her apt! When I realized I forgot it my friend called the lady and she had been waiting outside the apartment building trying to return it! She was a Godsend for sure! It’s moments like these that make travel so special. To see the humanity and kindness of strangers.

At our next airbnb, there had been a place I wanted to eat and had done research about in America before arriving, but felt it was too far away. It had amazing reviews and a beautiful courtyard. It was called da Kico amazingly the restaurant was walking distance from our airbnb! How things fall in place!

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Beautiful restaurant with buffet menu. Not expensive at all for the quality! It was jam packed with locals and served delicious seafood among other specialties of the region (a lot of octopus which I found surprising in Italian cuisine)!

I hope you enjoyed this mini guide to Milan. I would totally visit again (Milan is only a few hours from Lake Como)! Thanks again!

 

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Florence Italy Guide

Travels in Firenze Italy

For many years, I had wanted to travel to the Tuscan region of Italy. Florence, or Firenze, is one of the main cities in that region. With beautiful greenery, hills, famous sights, it’s also the home of famous fashion brands, such as Gucci, and has delicious food.

I did alot of my research about Florence, from an American girl who lives in Florence: Girl in Florence. Thanks to her recommendations, me and my friend had delicious food, gelato, and brunch in our time there! Check out her blog for other recommendations!

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The kitchen of our cute airbnb! The lady was so nice! Me and my friend wished we had asked her what she does (I suspect she made jewelry), because she had a amazing place in Florence!

Florence is a city for walking or riding the bus (there is no metro!). Bus tickets are sold at tobacco shops or other convenience stores. Almost everything is closed on Sunday, except for some places to eat, so make sure you buy your bus ticket before Sunday (you can buy your ticket on the bus too, but need exact change, even so by Sunday afternoon they stop selling tickets, even if they still run). Most restaurants are closed on Monday in Italy, so double check if something is open. For dinner I recommend that you make a reservation. This is the rule of thumb I would apply for most cities in Europe (because some will turn you away). Walk in and make a reservation or call (if you have international phone service or ask your hotel). I would suggest you book a hotel or airbnb close to the places you want to see, because really walking is your best bet. Google maps can also tell you which bus to take to get to where you want to go or ask someone.

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Bardini Gardens or Giardino Bardini 
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Many do not know about this park which is a easy climb not too far from the main river. One can see the beautiful Duomo from here. 

There are tons of tourists in Florence (rightfully so)! We went to the Bardini Gardens which I had read about on many blogs of female travelers. I loved the views and the fact that no one was around! It’s not too big and easy to see and walk around with panoramic views of the city! A great way to start your day (most parks are closed by sunset).

There are many famous sights to see, try to book online in advance to save time (you may have to pay a few Euros more), and don’t believe individuals standing around trying to sell you a ticket or telling you you will have to wait a long time before you can go in, unless you buy their ‘special’ ticket.

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What I love about Tuscany is the green hills and beautiful homes. Florence is also known for a famous bridge called the Ponte Vecchio. It has nice jewelry shops, though expensive. 
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Per recommendation from the blog I mentioned above, we tried Gelato from My Sugar. This dude who makes the gelato (fresh by hand) won awards for his unique orange-cinnamon flavor. I usually don’t care for fruity ice cream, but it was so good! I also loved his pistachio and hazelnut flavors!  We kept going back it was so good!
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Brunch at Ditta Artigianale. It’s popular with foreigners and locals. I ordered a Turkish breakfast with a side of pancakes and a couple of lattes. So good! It’s also not too far from the famous sights and has multiple locations. 
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The beautiful Duomo
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Naked David. This is the original David carved by Michelangelo. Statue is located in Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze  that can be seen in about 15 to 30 minutes. He’s amazing to look at, but I find it weird that some were taking selfies with his big ‘package’ in the background (ahem). 
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We had our dinner at this beautiful restaurant. Make sure to have reservations for dinner! They also have a bar with desserts on display! 

I would suggest that even if you are on vacation it’s a good idea to have one chill day out of the week. We actually used that day to go do laundry, lol. Now coming from Atlanta, most people do not use a laundry mat unless their’s is broken or they broke. In other big cities it’s normal to use one and looking back for the long trip we had (or if you don’t like to travel with too much luggage), I’m so glad my friend pressured me into going. We went to a local grocery store called COOP, bought detergent packets, zip laundry bags, and I bought some things like, locally made coffee beans and soaps that made such neat gifts! We got fruit to snack on and went to a cafe for coffee that was inside the store. Let me tell you, I had such relief to do our laundry, be chill, and do as the locals do. Traveling can be exhausting. It was a lot of fun to see all the cool ingredients for Italian food that they use in their home too! The laundry mat’s in Euro are super fancy: they have music playing, a coffee machine, and are pretty cheap (the one we went to had a machine that exchanges bills into coins).

To get to Florence you can ride a train into the city from most other cities. We flew from Berlin to Bologna, Italy then rode a 35 minute train into Florence. I bought my ticket online in America before arriving. I chose that route because it was difficult to find affordable flights straight into Florence from Berlin. Florence has a main train station the Santa Maria Novella train station (but no train stops throughout the city). Most of the famous sights are not too far from this train station. Also I suggest day trips into the Tuscan countryside, check out the Girl in Florence’s blog I mentioned above!

For shopping: the lady I mentioned also suggested a bunch of stores whatever you are looking for. I love Italian bags so I suggest going to Mia Bag. They have a store right by the Duomo and they are so stylish and trendy. Most of the bags are in the 200~range or below, but I feel like for the price you are getting a beautiful bag that other more known brands would double if not triple the price. There’s also Liu Jo which sells beautiful clothes and bags that are little more affordable. Mia Bag also has a store in Milan.

Well I hope this guide helps in your next Italian adventure! Stay posted for my trip to Milan next mA! Thanks again!

Berlin on a Budget

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I had always been curious about visiting Germany. When my friend suggested visiting Berlin, I was like sure thing!

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Outside of our airbnb. 

First thing, when we arrived in Berlin it was super warm out. We reached our airbnb and decided to walk around the neighborhood to eat. That evening we tried to think of what to do next and my friend found on a website ‘free things to do in Berlin’ and found out about watching a outdoor movie! It wasn’t free but she bought our tickets online. They were pretty cheap I think around 7 euros which isn’t bad for a evening show.

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We ate this delicious pasta at Mirabelle. It was across the street from a park that had bee farms! Food is (usually) uber cheap in Berlin and there’s a lot Turkish places to eat kebabs. 
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When the weather is good, Berliners go outside! It was an awesome experience as I love doing what the locals do! They provide chairs/blankets (and you can buy drinks/snacks). When we 1st arrived we were kinda nervous because the park is kinda hidden behind broken buildings and graffiti (Berlin is covered in ‘cool’ graffiti we came to learn), but it was cool when we figured out where it was. 

It became packed soon enough. That was like the most fun thing we decided to do! The movie we watched was hilarious and it was so fun to watch the movie (with English subtitles) with other young German’s and foreigners. Here’s the link: Freiluftkino Kreuzberg

Once you figure out the metro system it’s pretty efficient and safe. It’s also really cheap! The next day we went to the German landmarks which are kind of situated in a particular part of the city and easy to walk around. It was also great because the weather was so sunny and amazing mA!

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Berliner Dom. It has a river right by it and is beautiful!

We also went to the Do You Read Me?! independent book store which isn’t too far from the sites. Berlin has some alot of cool shops to see here and there as you walk around and you can find affordable options. We also headed to the Bikini Mall which is mix of price ranges. We also went to museums. The DDR museum is really small (like you can see everything in 15 minutes). We went to the Neues Museum, which has the sculpture of Nefertiti’s head, she’s a beauty. The museum’s are walking distance from the Berliner Dom. They are not free, but the Neues Museum is worth checking if you are into Egypt and German history.

For dinner we were famished and decided to eat Turkish kebab! I was so happy. The place we went to is called Ruya Gemuse Kebab. It’s highly rated, and hot dudes were like gorging on the wraps in the middle of the street, lol. It was super fresh and the staff were uber friendly. Well I hope this guide helps in your stay at Berlin! I wish I could have stayed longer and I really liked the vibes of the city! It’s fascinating to see how a people and a city picked themselves up after everything they have been through. Still just goes to show the human spirit and its capability for change and growth.

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With fried veggies, mint leaves, sauces, cheese, and chicken…everything was so delicious and fresh. It was huge and so flavorful! For me and my friend plus water we paid only around 10 euros! Super!

Manchester in a Day

Exploring Manchester

Manchester is a cool city with hipster vibes, a lot of street art, and friendly people! I really enjoy visiting cities that are not super crowded, and are easy to get around. The reason I ended up visiting Manchester was because I found a deal to go there from my home city and that way I was able to continue on to other cities in Europe! The best way to find a deal to travel is pick non traditional routes to visit then fly out to other cities you want to visit. For instance, if I chose to fly to London, it would be uber expensive, but Manchester is just over 2 hour train ride from London, and I can still go to other cities in Europe as I choose! Another way is to sign up with apps or websites that alert you to deals for routes you like. That’s how I found out about a deal to Europe. Another tip is to buy your ticket for trips abroad (or locally) in January-February, March at the latest. That’s when airlines post cheap deals. Also consider alternative means of travel for instance, train or bus. In Europe, sometimes, trains are faster and cheaper to travel than airplanes.

I had visited Manchester before, after graduating high school, and didn’t know what to think, but I was pleasantly surprised. However I have some unfortunate news though, it was one week later, after my day there with a friend, that the Manchester bombing happened. It was shocking to read about it while still being in Europe. I feel I should mention that the entire time I was in Manchester I felt safe, welcome, and everyone I spoke to was very warm and friendly (a vibe you don’t get everywhere in Europe towards Americans these days). Unfortunately, terrorism or mass attacks are happening in the world and it really is sad that it makes traveling risky and puts everyone’s lives in danger. Still, I believe that the ‘war on terror’ is making things worse for everyone, and it is foolish to believe that war will end the attacks. However, I want to discuss the positive things about his cool city and hope that this blog post will help people, and encourage others to visit Manchester!

Me and my friend stayed at an airbnb (my first foray into airbnbs) and it was absolutely perfect! The airport is not far from Manchester city and it helps to have international phone service (which my friend got a phone plan for her travels from Sprint) to be able to call the taxi (I’m not sure if uber is in Manchester? Still you can ride the train into Manchester city too).

The lady we stayed with in her pretty home was walking distance to the tram (more like a train) and we rode into the City Center. Tickets are pretty cheap and it’s easy to navigate. We had originally planned to go to the Peak District, the English countryside, and go to Bakewell, a English town/village, eat Bakewell tarts, and visit Chatsworth House a castle where some films have been made. Sadly, it was supposed to rain so we opted to stay in the city (I still got to try the famous Bakewell tart towards the end of my trip to Europe! It was delicious!).

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Street art in Manchester

First order of business was grabbing coffee. We went to Moose Coffee, and we got latte’s to go, it was really good. We went to Primark, M&S and looked at cakes to eat (really good and cheap), and checked out other shops. We wanted to have afternoon tea and looked up Sugar Junction, but it was under renovation so we couldn’t go that day! Still there’s lots of places to have high tea or afternoon tea. You should make reservationsf for high tea and can also do so online at Sugar Junction. Perfect for out-of-towners!

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Inside Moose Coffee. It also sells American food. I was surprised by how many ‘American’ restaurants there are in Manchester. I feel it’s difficult to classify American food. But going to Europe this time around, a lot of the popular places to eat and especially grab ‘brunch’ and lattes (American style with a glass cup and latte art) were everywhere. Even in cities that traditionally pride themselves in their own culture, maybe the hipsters/millennial/ broke young person (LOL) is too hard to resist or easy to relate to? Or maybe gentrification and it’s effects on culture and cities is a thing everywhere? Maybe in Europe it’s different, certainly American style places have been popular, but makes me wonder how do these things catch on and why. Still I was happy with my delicious latte! 

I wanted to visit Selfridges at Manchester Exchange Square. At that particular Selfridges, in the beauty section they sell the brand RMK

I have known about that brand for years. It’s Japanese, and I believe only sold in the U.K. outside of Japan. I had bought their foundation which I LOVE. I originally bought some foundation from the airport in Japan on my way to China, and it is also recommended by many Japanese magazines. If you happen to be in the U.K. I suggest checking online on RMK’s global site to see which store carries the RMK brand and try their makeup out!

Right across from this particular Selfridges, is a famous cathedral and we also grabbed food at the pub across the street. Got to eat a pub at least once, which is kind of part of English culture and food is pretty cheap in there too!

All in all I enjoyed my time in Manchester, even if it was for just a day. I hope this short guide helps!

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Got my Bakewell Tart! I just randomly stumbled upon this cafe in the airport on the way out back to America. God listen’s to every little wish we make, even a wish to eat a tart from a small town in U.K. haha. From Pork & Pickle (there is no pork in this tart, just saying)!

 

Venice Italy: Short Guide

We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.

Once when I was a child, I read a piece about Venice Italy in National Geographic. As I looked at the photos, one stood out to me: of a long-legged woman dressed in all black walking on a narrow path with both sides lined in water. A city on water. I also read that the city, because of global warming, was slowly sinking, and I imagined that woman running out of space to walk…the beautiful Italian architecture gone. That’s when I made a small wish to one day see that city.

Venice has huge appeal and is known to be a romantic spot, but one doesn’t have to wait till their honeymoon (or romantic interlude) to visit. Venice itself is very close to the mainland, and the Marco Polo airport (Marco Polo was from Venice!) is a short bus ride away. You can purchase your ticket to ride the bus without having to make reservations in advance. I’ve also heard of trains going into Venice from other cities. Once in Venice I would say just roam around and enjoy the views. It is hot in the summer, and cools down in the evening. There’s walkways and bridges everywhere so it’s easy to get around on foot. Try to get a hotel close to the entrance of Venice, that way you don’t have to lug your luggage around as there are no cars/roads in Venice! Me and my friend stayed at the Venice Hotel Arlecchino . It was right by where the bus’s drop off from the airport. You can see the famous sights in a day. Gondola rides are kind of expensive, almost 100$ but you can split the cost with up to 6 people.

Venice is known for some things, such as glass products, but what I love about Italy is: the cheap coffee,  delicious food, desserts, and Gelato! You will see leather goods too, another thing I love that Italy is known for (if you buy from a local craftsman or lady, the prices are really good, some leather products being less than 100$). There were also some affordable clothing stores as well. The only thing I regret not doing is seeing the Bridge of Sighs and the Da Vinci Museum however there are other Da Vinci musuems such as the one in Florence. Here are some places I went to eat and try that I observed were less touristy (I’m not a snob! Lol what I mean is I observed Italian’s eating from these places):

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A nice break from walking. I think that the cafe was called Hausbrandt (as written on the dishes) Their dessert was fresh and delicious! In Italy you drink coffee at the counter. Take away/table service is an additional charge. 

 

 

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This is a chocolate shop that makes other things including pistachio spread: Italy has amazing Pistachio’s! I bought some chocolates to gift to my family, and they loved it! 

Atlanta: city guide

NYC

I have lived in Atlanta for almost twenty years. I moved from up north, down here with family, and though at first had mixed feelings about my home city, I came to really appreciate it after living in DC for a year (and traveling all over the world). For one thing people are really friendly here (out of all the cities I have visited in America), the weather is great, lots of food options, and (if you have a car) its got culture too. The thing is that there is urban sprawl so you may discover a neat place in a random corner of the city. It’s got a little bit of everything with different (though smaller) unique hoods. Whatever your tastes, background, and style, there’s something for everyone.

Pro-tip*: Atlanta has gotten to have really bad traffic. So if you are out of town here are some suggestions before beginning your travails: You can take the train to the airport and to other parts of Atlanta, but not all sadly. Traffic is low between Mon-Wednesday from 10 am to 2:30pm. Before and after that it gets crazy, but traffic dies down after 8pm again. Try to coordinate your plans during those times. Thursday and Friday people seem to get out early so those days are kinda busy. As for the weekend, Saturday popular areas will get busy by 2:00pm as people go out for lunch. Sunday is usually the best day to do whatever you need to. Start early.

Where to grab coffee: Chattahoochee Coffee Company,  6640 Akers Mill Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30339

They have a few locations, but this location is situated inside of a apartment complex right by the Chattahoochee river. They have great coffee and the views are beautiful, a really unique experience. They are open Mon-Fri to the public and have limited parking. Come early!

Another option I like is Rev Coffee in Smyrna by Cumberland mall. They have ample parking in the back. The only thing though is that it’s a suburban kind of location, so they may be out of the way for some. For those looking for a something closer to the city try Octane. They have a few locations including one by Lenox Square mall, one right by the High museum of art, and one in Grant Park.  If you are a animal lover, like other cities Atlanta has jumped onto the cat cafe bandwagon: Java Cats Cafe and I’m so happy! Must make reservations (can find link on their Instagram).

Where to get a unique cultural experienceBuford Highway. It’s basically a long road with Asian cafes and restaurants. Check out the Buford Highway Farmers market: they have international offerings and fresh Korean food served everyday. If you want bubble tea check out Quickly, hot pot check out Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot or traditional Korean food Cho Dang Tofu House-Korean Restaurant  . I personally love Asian food and this area has it all.

If you want a Euro experience try Chateau Elan , it has a winery, spa, and beautiful grounds at just an hour outside Atlanta. I’ve been many times and they have excellent food.

Atlanta, historically, is known for the civil rights movement, civil war sights, Gone with the Wind‘s author Margaret Mitchell House, and my childhood favorite Etowah Indian Mounds about an hour outside of Atlanta. Many native American cultures are represented in GA.

Now the next recommendation is something I try to take everyone from out of a town: a 24/7 Korean sauna/spa Jeju Sauna this would be a great option for travelers as it is a cultural plus spa experience for every gender. They have a mixed area and then a private area for the sexes. Just be prepared to see naked people on whichever side you enter. But when you get out to the main area you’re supposed to wear the pjs they provide for you (ladies the pjs are a tshirt and shorts, so if your legs arn’t waxed I would recommend wearing leggings under the shorts, when going into the mixed area). They also have Korean food to eat (not included in the admission price) but it’s pretty cheap. I believe the cafeteria closes at 2 am but double check if you’re coming in late and need food.

Where to get dessert: This is a place that does not compare nor exist in other cities! A European cafe with delicious dessert selection including, cheesecakes, cake, pies, tarts, and sometimes tres leches, not only that they have delicious drinks, and are open late with reasonable parking: Cafe Intermezzo . Their food is ok, but much prefer their dessert. If you are looking for ice cream try: Yogurtland they have the best fro yo flavors; this a brand originally from California.

Where to eat: I suggested some authentic Asian places above. I would generally avoid places where tourists go because the lines are crazy. Here are some great suggestions: For burgers Bocado get the herb fries they are worth it (and supposedly the place serves halal), a famous spot is The Varsity, and we got a Shake Shack too. Pizza: For Italian style I like Antico Pizza (though usually busy), Fellini’s, and the reliable Mellow Mushroom. For southern food try JCT Kitchen, Empire State South (pricey), and The Southern Gentleman, all are super fancy and the last one is located in a luxury shopping area. Cheap sushi? Try: Ru Sans. Another southern tradition among the fancy/cultured set is High tea or afternoon tea. I have yet to try that out here.

Where to Play or go out: Top golf, great for groups. Crescent Avenue has a bunch of clubs, as does Buckhead area. There’s some places on Edgewood, but if it’s early, the weather is freezing, or there is no major celebratory event (like Cinco de Mayo), it’s usually empty at night. Ponce City Market has a rooftop golf area. Run/walk see the Beltline, it’s basically a long road that cuts through different areas but on google its called Eastside Beltline Trail. Count on southerners to give their own name to everything. The website I provided gives more things to do along that route.

Where to shopBridge Boutique a small shop with different brands. It’s very small, but I’ve gotten some unique pieces. Besides Lenox Mall which is a favorite (it’s like one of the best malls I’ve been to in America, for one it’s not too big, and it has a range of stores), luxury brands are in Phipps Plaza and The Shops Buck Head Atlanta, there’s also a Nordstrom Rack not too far from Lenox Square mall. For ethnic clothing (like Pakistani), there aren’t a lot to choose from as there would be in Chicago or online. Imitation jewelry would be Kendra Scott (pricey), Tootsies for gowns/party wear (pricey, but great sales). I haven’t really checked out second hand shopping in Atlanta as Atlanta usually has great deals throughout the year. For cheapest brands of shopping try Cumberland Mall or t.j. max and/or marshalls.

There are many areas of Atlanta with their own reliable staples for food, fun, and entertainment. The main thing that Atlantans like to do is spend time with close ones either at home or on their porch sipping tea or lemonade, I guess that’s why so many people are moving here, besides the weather of course. I hope you enjoy my suggestions. Thanks for reading!

T.