Istanbul, Turkey was never on my list of places to visit I didn't know anything about this country good or bad. My boyfriend Jay found a cheap airfare flying out of Chicago for $400 so we decided if we are going to be world travelers we need to have an open mind and I was craving for some culture. After I started telling people I was going they were starting to make me worried because everyone was telling me it was a bad place to go a lot of danger and terrorists there. I googled news for Istanbul and couldn't find anything frightening enough to cancel our trip. Surely there are bad people there but there are bad people all over the world! I think as long as you respect the culture, use common sense, go with your gut ..if something doesn't feel right don't do it.

About halfway through our day tour in Istanbul our best taxi driver Ihsan took us to a restaurant that Anthony Bourdain had ate at located under the shadows of the Valens aqueduct. When I saw Bourdain eating at this restaurant in the TV show they brought him all of these huge plates of food and were greeting him kindly and explaining everything to him in English  Surely I thought I would not get that treatment but surprisingly this was the most welcoming restaurant we ate at! We walked in and there were about 3 workers there who greeted us and Ihsan. Our table was upstairs and the restaurant was packed for a 4 PM dinner. There are seats by the windows so you can people watch, and check out framed articles from all of their known press on the walls.

Sur Ocakbasi, Istanbul

Update: 3/21/14- I will probably start a new post on this but just wanted to get this tid-bit out ASAP.
I don't know if we got lucky or what but the weather in Paris this past week was INCREDIBLE!! Nothing was busy it was actually even less busy than in November. Who would have thought? Oh and the trains were free!! We found our old love locks finally!! So we added these on. I wanted to post some links below of where to find the "cool" locks so just in case you ever make it back it will be easier to find! Now we have 3 locks linked together :) I am going to start a fun love lock bridge contest here soon! It involves locating our locks and there will be fun prizes!!

Updated: 11/8/13
-Jay and I went back to Paris this last week and we couldn't find our lock :( After speaking with some locals we were told that if you use the cheap locks they just come through and "prune" them. We were able to find most of the ones by where we had ours last year. Anyways I surprised Jay by getting a big heavy lock engraved. Good luck trying to get this one off the bridge!!

Love lock Bridge in Paris, france
Love lock Bridge in Paris, france

"We'll always have Paris"

I was one of those people who thought I would never get a chance to go to Paris but after losing my job my boyfriend decided to cheer me up in a late night email with a Paris itinerary leaving in 2 weeks! I was pretty much the happiest person on the planet! I called everyone I knew and stayed up till 7 AM doing research.

It all began when Jay magically got us upgraded into first class on our way to Hawaii!! This was my first time sitting in first class and I was so excited. One thing about first class is that there are a lot of cool people to talk to since it's quiet there and you get free alcohol. It's like a club hang out up there! We were talking to this guy who was from Kailua, Hawaii (where we were headed on Oahu.) We talked about the different islands and his living experiences here. Eventually he brought out this little gem near the beach called Buzz's its a local hangout definitely not very fancy. He said when he is home the family always gets together there for a good meal and they make a mean Mai Tai.

Since Jay and I are trying to get our frequent flyer miles we took a crazy course to Puerto Rico. We went from Cincinnati, Detroit, LA, New York, then San Juan. He booked the flight to LA separately so that left us with a 9 hour layover in LA. My Dad took me to LA when I was little and I don't really remember it but after talking with him he reminded me that Venice Beach Boardwalk is about a 15 minute drive from the airport. We made the decision to rent a car for half a day instead of taking a taxi. We chose the cheapest one available and if you top off the gas tank before you return it and bring a receipt they will refund you for it.  At the end of the day it ended up costing about $40.00 which I thought was a good deal especially because we were able to leave our luggage in the car, walk around and get some fresh ocean air!

So you can't go all the way to Hilo, Hawaii and not go to the Volcano National Park! We stayed about 45 minutes from Hilo city center to be near the lava. From what I remember this was about an hour drive from our place to the national park. We had a 4PM lava hike scheduled so minimal time at the park. We took an extra hike and after leaving realized that we had not eaten with a 6 hour hike ahead of us we had to stop somewhere!! When you are driving out in the middle of no where that's not as easy as you think missing one single turn can take you miles out of your way before you can turn around and you'll be lucky to get a phone signal here. Battling through all of this we discovered Cafe' Ono!

It turned out to be really freaking organic and vegan friendly. I think it was completely vegetarian actually which made me feel good because I knew we would be getting feel good food! When drove in it's a little confusing to park because there are art tents everywhere and private dining parties so we did not know where to go at first. The restaurant is around back, the dining room is very small about 4 tables and they have a small menu. Outside they have about 6 tables you can eat at as well. While we were waiting for our food we went shopping the local arts and jewelry. I found a bracelet I really liked it was $180 so I just took a picture will post below! Jay bought me these really cute earrings made out of local nuts! I love them will post a picture soon.

This was the super cute cuff I found but its not worth $180 to me and the lady was not willing to haggle with me. I settled for $32 earrings made out of nuts they are really cute too. 

I ordered the Spinach Quiche at about $15 and got all of this. Everything is homemade and locally grown you can taste it. The garlic bread was very tasty and flavorful! The Quiche was also on point. However this soup was a little weird. It was some kind of tarrot root soup and it tasted like nothing even after I added salt and pepper. The salad dressings were good I got some extra and dipped my bread in it. I think I had the Tahini dressing made from ground sesame seeds. 

cafe ono

This is the little outdoor eating area. Its a very peaceful and tranquil place to eat as you would read in reviews on trip advisor. There is also randomly a goat. Just one goat and they tell you not to go near it. 

Jay got the spinach vegetarian lasagna (even though he swore it had meat in it) He had a mushroom seaweed soup and it tasted more like sea weed than mushrooms! Mine was better than his by a long shot unless you have a flavor for sea water do not order this! We never found out what the white things were floating in that soup. He had a garlic herb dressing and it was also good. 

Bottom Line-- 
I think this was a great stop! I got a new pair of earrings and a full belly even though neither of us really cared for either of our soups we were still full. I am sure if you asked them for more bread instead of soup or more salad that would be fine but we were trying to be adventurous. The staff was friendly and informative and the atmosphere was boutique and peaceful. We were lucky to find this little gem and still get to our hike on time!! The lava post is coming soon! Stay tuned! 
When Jay and I went to Hawaii I was determined to see lava!! Since this is only at the Big Island on the Hilo side we had to go!! It's about $100 a plane ticket to get from Oahu to the Hilo Airport. It is annoying because you have to go through security and all the BS that goes along with airports but in the end it was worth it! I will write about my lava experience in another blog post. This one will be about a restaurant I found on my phone as we were waiting for the plane to taxi in. We were SO hungry!! Hawaiin airlines does not take care of you like Delta does and we didn't eat anything before leaving. After a long wait in the rental car line we were off to the Hilo Bay Cafe! I didn't know much about this place other than these Guinness Onion Rings I was dying to try. The guy at Hertz told us this grill place down the street was good but we drove by and it didn't look good.
Our GPS directions took us through a loop trying to find this place though!! Since I saw it was ranked number 1 on tripadvisor I was looking for a singled out fancy restaurant type. Not the case!! I called them and they are about 3 stores away from a HUGE Walmart super center. So I have to say after that I was a little skeptical. The Walmart in Hilo is the place to be! Probably because there is not a whole lot else to do Hilo pretty much shuts down at 9PM you will not find a restaurant opened.
This place is very small, it is jammed packed with as many tables as they could fit in and you can barely open the door without hitting the host stand! Luckily we got here about 5:00 PM and were seated immediately after every single table was full and they were on a 2 hour wait! Once I saw that I knew this place had to be the bomb. As I scrolled through the menu I noticed that the Guinness Onion Rings were not on there and the waitress said they were a special they only do some days. Darnit!! I settled for some fried mac and cheese bites and Jay cringed at me. He thought that they sounded disgusting.
The drink menu is happening! They have a great selection of traditional drinks with a twist. Since I used to be  a bartender and love alcohol I was very excited about this as well. Went ahead and ordered a Cilantro Mojito which was just a blend of Cilantro and Mint I thought it would pair well with the fried mac n cheese and it was fabulous. The herbs and limes were very well muddled. I always drink these without the straw because it tends to get clogged easily.
The fried mac and cheese was really delish! They have like half marinara and half pesto sauce on the plate and they are fried in these perfect little cubes. We thought they probably put them in ice cube trays and refrigerated them to get that perfect cube size. I thought it was cool! Afterwards I ordered my next drink! The strawberry basil spritzer! It was not what I was expecting, the basil was faint and they just used real crushed up strawberries and sugar. Not sugar syrup like most bars and restaurants use. I was surprised and happy because I felt more healthy drinking it! ;)
For dinner we had a filet cut of a sirloin meaning it was a thick cut of meat. It was OK I am a huge fan of Filet Mignon and it's pretty much the only steak I will order. The potatoes are probably the best potatoes I have ever had in my life! They were perfect texture buttery and rich! It wasn't until after the dinner I found out everything was grown local and organic so that's why all of the food was so amazing because I am not used to that!

Below is my Cilantro Mojito! It was refreshing and paired well with the fried mac n cheese. 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

As you can see I am looking very refreshed after my flight! 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Fried mac n cheese twas delish! 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Strawberry Basil Spritzer

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Our dinner! Forgot to take pictures of the salads!! They were very tasty and refreshing as well! We also had a soup it was a mushroom bisque that tasted obviously homemade and was so amazing!! 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii
Bottom line- This was one of my favorite restaurants that we ate at! The food was fresh, local, and delicious although service was not on point we left satisfied. I would totally come back here it's a perfect stop because once you drive out of this little area there is NOTHING!! No grocery stores or restaurants that will guaranteed being open a lot of these places are family owned and when they are not busy they close shop! Always call ahead before visiting a small restaurant in Hilo. It was nice to eat and get some food items for a reasonable price at Walmart before heading back to our guest house. Even though half a carton of milk leaked out of the bag onto my jacket it was still a good stop. (who still sells cartons of milk?!?!?)  (they also sell liqour there)

So good we came here twice!! Lunch the day we left!! 
Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Jay (my boyfriend) and I are crazy when it comes to traveling. We always fly delta and I am not working right now, so when cheap tickets pop up we just pack our bags and go! This trip was perfect because we were able to rack up 18,000 miles for 2 days of travel including a 9 hour layover in LA where we rented a car and hung out at Venice Beach and we also had 2 nights in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Since we only had 2 days here and ended up sleeping mostly through the first day I was determined to find some good eats here in Puerto Rico. While we were walking I found this place on trip advisor it was an easy walk from Castillo Del Morro and perfect time for a light lunch. 

It's a little confusing when you first walk up it's more of a hang out, small plates kind of place. Everything is outside and it's set in a decorated patio full of green leaf plants all around it's very quiet. A perfect place for a causal lunch and drinks. We just asked someone who worked there where we should sit and they let us choose any table. I had a mojito first it was small for the $9 price tag after that I had a sangria that was OK. They have a decent menu like I said lots of small plates hence the tapas.

I thought this was pretty cool when we walked in they had this huge mass of melted candle wax. 

We ordered Chorizo and butter bread. 

Salad was traditional and had a herbed olive oil dressing. I added a lemon squeeze and it made it much better. 

These were the best!!! Fried Chorizo stuffed olives!!! I am going to attempt to make these sometime soon they were so good. I never thought to stuff olives with sausage then frying them ontop of that!! Amazing!! 

Bottom line I would come here again! I thought this was a really cute little lunch place. Not sure if they have a separate dinner menu? but I think its more of a lunch and cocktail outdoor lounge. It's really close to everything in Old World San Juan and a quiet cool place to hang out. A lot of the other places we passed by looked pretty questionable so if I came back I would walk the extra distance to come here! Another plus was that we had to walk pass this place on the way back so I was able to use the restroom a second time! Most places will charge you or not let you use the restroom unless you buy something and usually they are nasty.