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.

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Why the DAPL is a Human Rights Issue

The militarized response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters appears shocking if not extremist to say the least. Native American tribes, and many others protesting the pipeline, whatever their motivations, have not done anything to legally justify this kind of response. The purpose of police is to ‘Serve and Protect’ not become the goon of the government or a corporation.

There are many reasons why people are protesting the pipeline, but the main issue is that it violates Native American land rights. The legitimacy of their concerns is followed by the fact that the pipeline was moved from a another route because it could pollute the land/water supply:

“Early in the planning process, Dakota Access considered but eliminated an alternative that would have crossed the Missouri River about 10 miles north of Bismarck instead of the route currently under construction.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the Bismarck route and concluded it was not a viable option for many reasons. One reason mentioned in the agency’s environmental assessment is the proximity to wellhead source water protection areas that are avoided to protect municipal water supply wells.”-Bismarck Tribune

The fact is that the environmental rights of individuals who would be affected with the original route were respected and given priority. But when it comes to Native American lands the issue is moot. Why?

America has a long history of making treaties with the Native Americans, but then when it serves a personal, political, or financial gain, to just as quickly break their promises and agreements—with a violent and deadly response. When will we learn from history and respect the rights of Native Americans who themselves have no personal profit from the pipeline, but instead are only looking out for the land that we all live on that they rightfully desire to protect?

The Best Local Places for Pastries and Dessert in Paris

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There are many places to grab dessert in Paris. But what are the local specialties? What if you are on a brief trip and want to try as many local favorites as possible? Here’s how to pack in as much sweets in a day of Paris favorites:

For breakfast start off with freshly made pastries and a coffee. You could grab some from any bakery (boulangerie in French), that’s what me and my friend did on our first day we were there. I really wanted to have a beignet (kind of like a fritter or donuts with filled hazelnut chocolate creme or preserves). I tried one at a local bakery near our hotel but it was overloaded with chocolate. For the next breakfast we grabbed pastries from Liberte . It has a very modern look to it, and beautiful pastries. I bought a whole box for us to eat with a friend we were meeting that day.

Around later that day we went to the Notre Dame and happened upon a pastry festival. They had live music, baking, and pastries for sale! We tried Pain au raison and Pain au chocolate. I don’t usually like desserts with raisins, but that was actually better than pain au chocolate.

After lunch we craved a pick me up so stopped by my favorite: Lauderee

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With many locations through out Paris, it is known for its macaroons, another famous French treat. This is definitely a Instagram worthy place and is extremely fancy (I even saw a Asian Instagram star with many cameras there taking a million photos of herself). They have a huge dessert, coffee, tea menu and it is impeccably served with beautiful china. Luckily Lauderee has locations in New York city and is just as good!

After the excitement of the day we thought we shouldn’t go to bed early. Why not explore late night Paris? Searching for a nightly haunt, we came upon a part of Paris that was packed with locals and wished we had known about it earlier. The area around the bookstore/cafe La Belle Hortense has restaurants to eat and the cafe itself, though small has dessert and meals. I had some of the best creme brulee there in my entire life.

So there you have it. Some hints on what to try and where to find them. Bon Appetit!

 

Barcelona: a beautiful city

An artsy, modern city with a Roman wall, beach, Picasso, tapas, and Gaudi, to name a few.

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A street near La Rambla

When I first arrived in Barcelona with my friend, I had great expectations for the city. For years people told me “visit Spain!” That they loved the “vibes of the people”. On our way from Rome to Barcelona, a Italian man told us of all his favorite spots to visit and that Barcelona was one of his favorite cities in Europe. Barcelona was so clean and modern (Free wifi in the streets!) yet artsy. The people were very friendly and there were many other Americans visiting too.

We stayed at a boutique hotel that was a converted convent (figures) and were pretty pleased with our choice right by La Rambla

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Hotel Peninsular

La Rambla is a long street lined on both sides by restaurants and some small shops as well. It’s great for people watching and checking out what you are in the mood to eat. As tapas are a pretty popular thing for visitors to try we got our taste of some on our first day, but learned that many tapas are made with pork (insert sad face).

But no matter! We found a Kosher restaurant to eat at. At first hesitant to enter, when we finally decided one night in starvation to go. We just kept walking and a server came to seat us quickly. I left for the restroom and when I had returned, my friend informed me that the server’s name was Mohammad and he was from Morocco. He treated us so well and we had an amazing dinner there enjoying the food!

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Paella made with chicken

One of the amazing things about Barcelona is that you will never know what you will find or run into. Cute stores, a ROMAN WALL(!), and hidden museums. One thing that was a last minute decision, was to visit the Picasso Museum. There was a long line in an alley to enter, and one could not take pictures inside. Once inside, I marveled at all the artwork that could not be Picasso, but was, while my friend explained to me his history: that Picasso traveled and lived in different cities, mingled with the artists there, gained inspiration from them, and grew his craft. That Picasso painted, sculpted, and drew many thing in so many different styles before the art he is famous for today. That his father actually supported him to be an artist from a young age. These golden nuggets of information, what I would later read in Robert Greene’s book Mastery are some of the patterns of other geniuses.

Prior to leaving for Europe, I had hoped that this trip would be trans formative or at least maybe give me some direction. It inspired me to focus in on my own possibilities and I think that can happen to anyone who goes beyond their comfort zone whether in their own city or even from listening to someone’s ideas that are different from ones own.

 

 

 

How to unwind without sex, drugs, or alcohol

Wait a second! There’s another way?! Yes, why yes there is.

In a society that has a tendency to project what is fun, cool, or popular, these may not work for everybody. Individuals with health problems, religious guidelines to follow, or who have just become fed up with the hookup culture of their city; maybe you or someone you know is looking for alternatives to that lifestyle.

I personally don’t care what people are doing in their private time, but what I do not like is that people can get so caught up in these behaviors that it can become toxic, unhealthy, or disruptive, and possibly, just not make you happy at the end of the day.

For example, think about what you used to do as a child. What were the things that made you happy? Things you could not, not do. You got so caught up that it wasn’t a chore or task. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Look through your old music collection. Music especially music without words, is a great way to center oneself, and scientifically there have been studies that music can affect our brain: Brain and Music there’s tons of other articles to read about it.
  • Go to a sauna or salon and or get a massage done more frequently. In other cultures, people go to the salon or sauna every week or so. Its relaxing, and a way to de-stress your mind and body. OR do a at home spa/sauna stay-cation.
  • Take classes, keep learning, and read. Read whatever you like to read (even a guilty pleasure romance). We as a society have fallen out of this great habit and mind release. Concentrating on a text and focusing to read can take our minds and thoughts to a different place and is a great way to learn. Books are free! You can even download books for free from Project Gutenberg and catch up on the classics. It will make you look smart and sexy while having cool things to talk about beside silly “stories” on social media that everybody has already seen or heard.
  • Plan a weekend getaway. Go somewhere whenever you can. Even a local trip or trying a new spot can make you feel more rejuvenated.
  • Get a pet or play with someone else’s pet or walk someone else’s pet. Pet’s and animals in general, can be very soothing and pleasing to care for. I realized that after I moved away, I really missed my pet and the comfort that she provided.
  • Play games. Games challenge our minds and help us feel motivated because for every win or problem solved it teaches us to keep trying and to not fret the small stuff. Every challenge in life can be approached with this positive mindset.
  • Keep a diary, blog, or daily journal. Keep track of things you want to do, eat, talk about or think about. Sometimes we can’t find someone to talk or share our thoughts or we need to process them more before sharing. Maybe somethings don’t need sharing but personal understanding.
  • Have a group of trusted friends. You don’t need a lot of friends just a few gems will do. Keep them close and text/call whenever you can. Meet up for coffee or have them over.

I hope these suggestions help. Stay happy and healthy!

Easy Parisian Chic

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The museum Louvre in Paris

As fall approaches, one can learn a thing or two about updating the warm winter essentials from Parisian women. There is nothing really to it, actually you may find you already have what you need.

When I visited Paris earlier this year in late May, it would get chilly at varying times of the day then the sun would magically appear warming things up. In Atlanta, we have sporadic weather sometimes as well in the fall. But while walking around Paris and observing what is it that Parisian women wear, I noticed a pattern.

Women would wear either a wool blazer, leather jacket, or a dark trench/parka. They would usually carry a understated bag (not necessarily a brand name), a simple light colored scarf around the neck, dark sneakers or ankle boots, and dark fitted jeans or fitted trousers. Hardly if no makeup, and simple undone hair. Parisian chic really is effortless.

Instead, I would say, Parisians emphasize: layers, easy reliable go to pieces, a carry all simple bag to use while commuting, and more importantly: Parisian women probably emphasize skincare. Their skin, no matter what their race, was flawless. Organic food probably helps a lot as well, and the fact that French skincare works great. Some of my favorite French skincare brands are Clarins and Loccitane  because they include a lot of natural ingredients from plants. Having Asian skin, those work for me as well (though my favorite skincare brands are Japanese and/or Korean and they have become pretty trendy as well in America, which makes me so happy!).

Thanks for reading my blog post about how to be fashionably effortless like Parisian women! I hope this helps save you time (and maybe some money) with the variety of choices for fall, these go to pieces you can use season after season!

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Me and my friend were walking around the Eiffel tower and it became hot again after a chill spell! I had to hang my bulky sweater coat over my shoulder ha ha.

Impressions of Istanbul

 

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Nestled between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a city of movement, water, and light. Having just returned to the states a week ago, however, a bomb blast took place in Istanbul just a few days ago during the holy month of Ramadan. The people though carry about living their lives almost as if unawares: even the area where a bomb blast took place in Beyoglu, Istanbul’s popular shopping and entertainment destination. Syria borders Turkey to the south and Turkey has engaged with fighting DAESH there, while Turkey also has been having conflict with the ethnic Kurd’s who live in and around Turkey.

While there, me and my friend, two females, we traveled freely in Istanbul. Young couples, girls wearing hijab, with their husband or boyfriend held hands, some kissed on the cheek. For me, this seemed pretty liberal for a country that is majorly Muslim but claims to have a secular government, if at times conservative.

Hailing back to the time of Ataturk, Turkey has been trying to assert itself by modernizing through “westernization”, and with that trying to join the European Union. Westernization was seen as a necessity to modernize and innovate Turkey. While walking around the Sultanahamet area, me and my friend got lost on our way to the shore. We walked into an alley and met a kind gentleman that said we could get through his leather factory and walk easily to the view of the water. He did try to sell us his leather jackets (Turkey manufactures clothing for many couture and designer western brands) which were for the western market at a quarter of the cost. He spoke some English and told us he was a Kurd. I asked him how he liked Turkey and living here. He said that he came for work and to support his family which he would see once a year. We took pictures of the water and walked back through the factory. The EU sights Turkey’s treatment of the Kurd’s as one of the reasons for not allowing it to join the EU so far.

After our short reprieve in Turkey we headed to Italy and the rest of Europe, and eventually, returned for a final day in Turkey before our return trip back to the States. Recently Germany acknowledged the Armenian genocide which took place in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire. For Turkey (or at least Erdogan), this was a sting for their relationship. Will Turkey be able to join the EU like it wants without acknowledging the past? For Turkey its identity, culture, and history as well as its internal struggles seem to keep it from doing so. At what cost will Turkey have to change and or give up to become the model country in the eyes of the EU? Turkey’s strategic location, it’s fluidity and adaptability of its culture and people, its willingness to embrace modernization, hopefully will not come at the expense of its identity to the point that Turkey is no longer a possible leader, but a follower in the region. With so much potential, so much to offer as a culture and people, chasing after the shadow of power and influence at the expense of their own civil liberties or the rights of minorities in the region, Turkey once again must channel a balancing act or else go down the slippery slope of another repressive state as its enemies (such as Daesh) would like the Turks to become. Still I have hope for Turkey and I believe it can repair relations with its neighbors, the minorities in the region, and come to grips with its past. The beautiful city, people, and ancient history are testament to Turkey’s potential for growth and longevity into the future.

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