Weekend Getaway: Isla Mujeres

Personally, I am not one for Cancun... it's a little too fast and hype for my taste, but a weekend on Isla Mujeres is something magical. From the first time I stepped foot off the ferry, I was smitten. It is a place that I will always return to, and if were any closer to Playa del Carmen, I'd probably be there every week. From PDC you have to take the ADO bus to Cancun (68-130 pesos), then a colectivo (8 pesos) or cab (30-40 pesos)  to the ferry (300 pesos, roundtrip), and then boat across to the island. A small adventure just to get there-- but boy is it worth your time.

What to do:

Golf cart the island. Get there early, like 9-10 am and just rent a cart for the day. it's 700-750 pesos and the fastest way to get around and see the most that this beautiful island has to offer. The best thing about it is that you can stop all up and down the back streets and discover beautiful, locally created murals or have an impromptu photo shoot literally anyplace along the shore. Instant IG gold.

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Visit the ruins. You can bike there, or golf cart. I've done both, and I definitely recommend the latter. Biking will take you about 30-45 minutes if you pedal vigorously with out stopping to catch the views. However, on my last visit, we bought a bottle of champagne and vodka and mixed it with mango nectar and cruised to the south end in about 10-15 minutes. We had a bit of a detour for about 20-30 minutes, which we spent watching some local kids skateboarding (dangerously fast down a hill) because our cart wouldn't start and we had to call the shop for a replacement. But even that was a pleasure and bought us some extra time with the cart that we ended up not having to pay for. (We'd only planned to have our cart for 2 hours (@500 pesos).

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Nevertheless, the Ruins of Ixchel are a must see. She was the goddess of fertility and the energy on the site is definitely palpable.  Pictures really don't do it justice. But, I tried my best...   

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Ixchel Ruins Isla Mujeres
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Hit up a beach club. My personal fave is the Mayan Beach Club, which has a great Afro-Caribbean band that place on Sundays. Get there early (12-ish) if you want to to snag a beach chair and umbrella. The fee is just 150 pesos, which you can completely apply to your food and beverage bill. The tacos and margaritas are my go-tos, pretty much everywhere. And they did not disappoint. Honestly, I haven't had any bad food or drinks anywhere on the island, so that's a full plus in my book.

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Watch the sunset. The sunset on Isla the second time I saw it was pretty epic. The first time I was kinda confused about what all the hype was. But vantage point is relative. Where you are during the golden hour definitely makes a difference. We took in the best one right in front of the aforementioned Mayan Beach Club.   

Where to stay:

I don't have a lot of suggestions here, as I'm still figuring out the best options. However, because the island is rather small the best I can tell you for now is to head to the South end for seclusion and romance. Or stay on the North beach to be close by the action. Where to stay is really relative to you budget. There is no shortage of AirBnBs and hotels to choose from.

Where to eat:

Like I said previously, I haven't eaten one thing that I disliked on Isla. The portion sizes are larger and the drinks are much stronger than what you're going to get in PDC. But here are a few of my faves:

Mogagua & Rooster for breakfast.

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Ballyhoos for lunch and working seaside.

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Fénix to chill out for a respite, eat and drink. Their ceviche, I remember was pretty epic and come as a small or large portion-- which is plenty big enough to share. 

Other places of interest:

Garrafon Park: If zip lining is your thing, be sure to check out this seaside park to zip across the ocean. You can also snorkel or chill at the beach for the day. It's literally right down the road from the Ruins; so, if you're on the south end, you can't miss it. 

Other beaches: There are a number of beach clubs on the way to the south end that you can explore. While the names escape me, they are un-missable from the main road.

King's Bath: This is one spot that I'll admit I haven't been able to get to. I always seem to run out of time, but it is high up on my to-do list for Isla. King's Bath is a public space, but it's behind a resort property. So, you'd kinda have to trespass (or pretend to be checking in or going to the front desk to ask for a tour, maybe) to get back there. Here's a quick video of what you're looking for as you creep around to the back. Also, please forget about trying to swim there, the waves behind the resort are no joke since there is not break in the water.

What to pack:

Yo patience... like I said, from Playa it's a mini journey to get to Isla. But if you happen to be in Cancun, there's really no excuse to miss out since only a quick 10 minute ferry ride away. It's the perfect day trip to get your chill on.

Yo sunscreen. I mean, like anywhere in Mexico. It's not advisable to even step outside without it. I mean, I don't recommend it. 

An umbrella. Pop up storms happen, don't get caught out there. But also it's great protection from the sun. Ayyyye... double duty!

Water proof camera or at least some protection for your cell phone. God forbid you drop your $1000 iPhone in the ocean trying to get the perfect shot. I'm certain they haven't water-proofed them just yet.

Bring a friend. Isla is the type of place you can explore solo-dolo, but is also fun with a crew. I suggest both.

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Have you been to Isla Mujeres? If so what were some of your highlights and favorites. Leave a comment below or on social.

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Getting Baked: Safe Tanning for Brown Girls

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Summer may be over, but for those of us who travel, anytime we can get away, even for a weekend in Miami, is a good time to activate our beautiful melanin.

While safe tanning may sound a bit like a misnomer, hear me out. We all can agree that due to the deteriorating ozone and the, let's face it, the sheer magnitude of the sun-- tanning on a regular basis is not advisable. But if you're on vacation someplace warm, it's bound to happen. In fact, I can't say that I know anyone who plans to go on a holiday and NOT get tanned. So, you may as well be smart about by showing the sun the respect it deserves and slather yourself properly.

To this point, let's talk about some myths as it relates to tanning while brown.

Myth #1 Black and brown people do not need sunscreen. 

Just go ahead and throw that whole theory in the trash. I'll wait. Some of us mistakenly think that just because you've been blessed with the melanin that you don't need to use sunscreen at all. We protest that our color will protect us from the sun, so why bother. Ok-- but consider the fact that decades ago, we had much more protection from the sun's UV and UVB rays because of the natural shield that was the ozone layer. Due to our rampant use of aerosols and general air pollution, that divinely created layer of protection is not nearly what it used to be. So, while your grandma and them didn't have to worry as much about protecting their skin, you should be a little more concerned and diligent about it. And just because melanated skin is able to withstand the sun better than fairer skin doesn't imply invincibility. Automatically assuming that we don't need protection, too, is reckless and a complete farce.

The rate at which Black people are getting skin cancer has dramatically increased in recent years (go ahead and look it up). One could pontificate that this is because of the toxic products that we are all using, but we'll save that conversation for another day. But would you really want to roll the dice on this one?

Myth #2 Sunscreen will keep you from getting tanned or burned.

As much as I'd like to tell you that sunscreen is the antidote to all of your sun related woes, I can assure you that using sunscreen, no matter the brand, will NOT keep you from getting tanned or burned. Especially if you are exposed to it for a prolonged amount of time. Only staying indoors can prevent sunburn. Sunscreen is meant to protect your skin from damage while out in the sun. That's it. 

Myth #3 If you wear a hat or sit in the shade, etc., you don't need sunscreen.

While you can keep from getting tanned in the shade, yes-- but, did you know that UVA and UVB rays can dance and bounce off of surfaces and hit you right in your pretty little face? It's true. This is the reason why sunscreen usage is advised, even when it is cloudy outside. Even though you may not be able to see the sun and its rays, they still see you.

Myth #4 Your makeup has enough sunscreen, so you're set fo' life!

Loved one, I am so sorry to tell you that the sunscreen under that beautiful, beat face of yours is only going to withstand about 2 good hours of sun. Sunscreen is like deodorant, if it's sunny out, chances are you're gonna need to reapply it at some point. Plus, what about your beautiful goddess body? Just because you've got your face covered, does that mean you're gonna skip the other 95%? Does that even make sense? IJS.

Myth #5 Sunscreen makes me look ashy or ghostly.

Piggybacking on #4, in the past, formulations for sunscreen were limited. But the market has opened up vastly, and introduced a slew of melanin-friendly options that blend on your face and body superbly, regardless of whether you use it with heavy makeup, powder or simply on a fresh face. Don't let this be your excuse. We've got options. Let Jackie Aina break it down for ya.

Myth #6 Black Don't crack

Keep going out without your sunscreen and you'll soon find out that's just not the case. Let me just say that I'm old enough to see the obvious difference between how my skin is aging compared to many of my peers, men and women, of an array of skin hues. And other people who I know that religiously use sunscreen will testify to the same noticeable differences.  If you want to keep flexin' in your complexion, there are some precautions to consider.

I live in a tropical climate part-time, and like to do what I call a gradual tan. But even if you're only vacationing and working on your tan for a couple of days, you can adopt a similar method. 

First things first, get you a good tanning oil. I'm an advocate for coconut oil or something natural-based. Coconut oil has a natural SPF of 5... not nearly enough to be considered full coverage, but it's better than nothing, eh? Plus, many tanning oils on the market average an SPf of 5-8. So, you mine as well go natural, in my opinion.

However, if you're like me and tend to get splotchy, I'd suggest going with at least 30-80 SPF. Also, consider only "baking" yourself gradually in 10-15 minute intervals per day. Trust me, this is PLENTY of sun to get the desired results. Also, I've found that using a higher SPF will result in a more even browning. 

ALSO-- this is super important... be sure to apply extra (meaning a thick white layer that you will not rub all the way in) on the areas where you may be hyper-pigmented-- i.e., knees, elbows, scars, even tattoos. This will lessen the likelihood of darkening your parts that are already dark. 

So there you have it girls... that's what I know about safely tanning while melanated.

What are your tried and true tips for safely activating your melanin? Share in the comments or on IG.

How to Protect Your Hair from Damage When Rocking Braids & Twists

No matter the season, a protective style, like braids, can be the perfect solution for your busy life-- as long as you maintain them and treat them right. I've been LOVING rockin' my Goddess Braids all summer long! I get compliments on them nearly everyday.

I only seldom wore braids in the past, so I consulted with my #StylistBae, Atlanta-based master stylist and owner of Amoré Salon, Shannon Henry to get tips on best practices and staple products to consider when caring for braids and twists.

If you're looking for an edgy look you can opt for cornrows or some sleek and sophisticated Goddess braids. Henry explains that to install this style, one should always "start with hair [that] has been shampooed, conditioned and blow dried. I always use a leave-in conditioner [and] any kind of oil, [like] coconut, jojoba or a pomade. This can be [used] on the hair as well as the scalp. Also important, you don't need to use a lot of oil or pomade, just enough on the finger tips while you are braiding." 

If box braids are more your style Henry suggests: "Use a spray leave-in conditioner on the scalp (near the roots) When I had [this style] I actually shampooed & conditioned my braids every two weeks in the shower, which made it much easier. It's a plus if you have a hooded dryer. I would sit under the dryer to dry my hair (braids), or just towel them very well and let [them] air dry. I applied jojoba oil by using a few drops all over and massaging my head. This keeps the scalp [and hair] clean and hydrated by removing oils, products and pollution, while refreshing the braids. Another way to revive old braids [is to] re-do them around the hairline and nape for an additional couple of weeks of wear. 

Senegalese, Marley and Havana twists have recently become widely popular. As far as difference between the styles and methods of care, Henry explains, "The difference between Senegalese, Marley and Havana twists are the size. Senegalese twists are actually very small. If you are familiar with micro braids, Senegalese twists are about the [same] size, and are twisted instead of braided. Marley and Havana twists are larger, and their names are from the [type] of the hair used." Henry doesn't recommend shampooing or conditioning Marley and Havana twists. Instead, use an astringent to cleanse the scalp and braid spray or a leave-in spray to re-hydrate the strands.

When asked what type of products are recommended for Crochet braids? Henry explains, "Depending on the type of hair you use, you can treat this [style] just like your own hair." She suggests using coconut oil, jojoba or other oils for shine. Also, perm rods and flexirods are good tools to maintain the curl or a twisted style with crochet braids.    

Overall, Henry says that maintaining braids and twists is a whole process. All of the steps and products-- hydrating (moisturizing) shampoos and conditioners, a liquid or creamy leave-in conditioner based on one's hair texture and type needs, plus light oils and pomades are all relevant to complete care. Also investing in silk or satin pillowcase to sleep on at night will help to extend a braided protective style. Henry's parting advice is not to put too much tension on the hairline and nape in order to preserve edges and avoid keeping protective styles in for longer than two months. "I do recommend getting hydration and protein treatments before and after braid services. A healthy scalp equals healthy hair," she says. "And always ask your stylist for their recommendations for maintaining your protective styles."

 

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When in Paris... Pt. 2: Eat, Drink, See!

Paris has been on my mind a BUNCH this past week or so. Therefore, I felt it was the perfect time to take a little stroll down memory lane and share Pt. 2 of our Paris family vacay. Although, I didn't expect to hate it there, I also wasn't expecting to love it either. I was kinda indifferent about going. To my surprise, I enjoyed my trip so immensely, that I hope to spend at least a month in the South of France next summer, with at another jaunt in Paris to take my time and catch a few more of the sights that I didn't have time to see the first time around.

If you're thinking about going, here are a few of my recommendations:

Where to Stay:

Our boutique hotel, The Hotel Latin Excelsior looks quaint and unassuming from the outside. However the rooms are modern-styled (my taste) and the housekeeping is immaculate. The walls are a bit thin, but the free coffee from the machine in the lobby, no BS, is A1. That's saying a lot from someone who doesn't drink coffee regularly (yet fancies herself as a coffee snob. Blame my first college job). The location is situated about 1 block from Sorbonne Square and 2.5 blocks from the Latin Quarter, which made the daily walk to breakfast cafes and dinner restaurants quite convenient. Although, I got a bit of a tourist vibe in the neighborhood thick of all of the bustling shops, it wasn't overwhelming; so, I honestly didn't mind. We took Uber vans whenever we needed to get to places further away. This worked to our advantage because there were 8 of us, and we took turns using the app. Each time, we "paid our fare" to whoever called, which typically equaled out to 2.50-5 Euros max per trip. If you have less of a crowd with you and prefer public transportation, the proximity to the metro train is ideal and just around the corner.

1 block over in Sorbonne Square

1 block over in Sorbonne Square

Outside of the Excelsior Latin

Outside of the Excelsior Latin

Where to Eat and Drink

So many people told us that the food wasn't really all that in Paris, but I beg to differ. We had some GREAT experiences at the following:

La Coupe d'Or had the, hands down, BEST crepes* I had the entire time I was there. It's a little on the pricy side, but was super fresh and delish. A very safe bet if you happen to be shopping at the high-end stores near rue Saint-Honoré. 

Le Paradis Du Fruit was a delightful recommendation from the staff at the Louis Vuitton store near Champs-Élysées. Their signature drink, La Vie En Rose is a refreshing blend of Vodka, fresh strawberries, mint, basil, lemon and brown sugar. I had several. I recommend selecting from the 3 Assiettes saveurs à composer menu where you get to put together a combo of your liking. The shrimp curry with rice and salad was the perfect lunch at a reasonable price after we hopped from store to store, up and down the avenue in the summer sun. 

L'Écritoire in Sorbonne Square square stays open late if you're looking for a night cap or a pleasant lunch (the salads are super-filling) with a side of ah-mazing service. It is conveniently wedged between the Hotel Excelsior and the Latin Quarter.

Café Le Dante Served up great drinks, pasta and service and atmosphere if you're wandering near Notre Dame looking for a bite and a place to rest.

RIM Café Trattoria Pizzeria was the first place I had dinner in Paris. I tend to judge unknown restaurants based on whether or not they seem to draw a crowd. This place was decently packed, and I was substantially hungry, so in we dove. My pasta was cool, but I was mildly concerned about the size of the so-called calamari in the mix. I just shoved that to the side and carried on with the get down. Overall, I was very satisfied with the choice.

Le Sainsev' is one of those "service non-stop" restaurants with a decent happy hour. The food didn't look very appetizing to me, but the drinks were cool (and cheap). 

Mark & Spencer Food  I won't go as far to call this place the Whole Foods of the neighborhood, but maybe Harry's in a Hurry. The location near us on Boulevard Saint Michele was quaint and popular. It's a good place to grab relatively healthy snacks or lunch on-the-go. They have a pretty decent wine selection too, if you're looking for something to uncork and relax with in your room at the end of the day.

La Crêperie has an amazing expresso, ice cream dessert that will send you on a caffeine and sugar high like no other. The tea service is respectable and the savory crepes, decent. Because of it's proximity to the university you can eat for the cheap then post up and bang out a few hours of work while on their free wifi. There's plenty of seats in and outdoors, so you don't have to worry about taking up needed space. Plus, European-style dining is of the lingering variety, so the staff pretty much gives you space and time to do your thing.

Whippin' work at La Crêperie

Whippin' work at La Crêperie

La Coupe d'Or

La Coupe d'Or

Cafe Le Dante

Cafe Le Dante

Go See...

What would a trip to Paris be without hitting up the Musée du Louvre? I, for one, was especially excited to see the Egyptian collection. And was completely disappointed that on the Friday we decided to go, that particular exhibit, among a couple of others, was closed. The staff explained that they do not have the manpower to keep all of the exhibits open each day. So, if you're like me and have your heart set on seeing something specific-- be on the safe side and call or check the website ahead of time.

Also, the Louvre was like a maze to me. I never could find my way to all of the African art that was available for viewing that day. I kept getting turned around and around. Plus, I substantially cut into my limited time there fumbling around trying to return my headset after I found out the Egyptian section was closed. Then I ended up losing my ticket and had to convince the staff to find me a manager to give me another. *le sigh*. Needless to say, I'll have to get back to it next summer.

Statue photos courtesy of my sister, @ChristinLeonna, who found her way to the limited collection.

Statue photos courtesy of my sister, @ChristinLeonna, who found her way to the limited collection.

If time permits, taking a day to explore the city and Castle of Versaille is well worth the trip outside of the city. And you can even get there from the metro, if need be. My family and I booked a tour of the castle grounds with Blue Bike Tours, which was a perfect way to spend the day. The guide will meet you at the train or in our case, the local market. We were late due to a fiasco that kept us up until the wee hours of the morning. However, when you get there, you can spend a bit of time putting together a picnic lunch to carry with you to the grounds. They encourage you to bring your own food, because the stops on the bike route do not really allot time to run into one of the cafes on the palace grounds. Although, you can definitely make a pit stop if you needed to, its just not advised since you're on schedule. Nevertheless, the ride was peaceful, the air was fragrant, and the grounds were beautifu. The tour takes you far around the outskirts of the castle grounds. We didn't know the outer area is public and anyone can come with their personal bikes and ride or jog the grounds. Our guide was very personable and knowledgeable, and gave us a list of suggested restaurants after the tour was over. One thing to be aware of, however-- the area towards the grounds where Marie Antoinette built her little English village has a great deal of walking, which we weren't entirely prepared for. So... FYI.  

After we returned our bikes, our tour guide led us back to the castle and escorted us through the entrance for tours. Be aware during the busy season that the castle does not seem adequately organized to handle the large groups of tours that are often scheduled at the exact same time to come in. Someone, I'm not saying who, got into a shoving match outside trying to get in. Just know that this time it wasn't me. Thank goodness I came prepared with my patience.  

The palace strut

The palace strut

The Hall of Mirrors. 

The Hall of Mirrors. 

Of course we had to make our way up to the Eiffel Tower to catch the 360 view of the city. I know the tower itself is the attraction, but to me, the birds-eye view of the city was the real treat. We spent the majority of our time going back and forth to the champagne counter, eating macaroons and soaking up the sun whilst snapping pictures and taking in the view.

Views from the Eiffel

Views from the Eiffel

Toast to the good life!

Toast to the good life!

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Overall, I had a beautiful time in Paris, and I look forward to making my way back next year. Some things I will do differently is to make time to see the sights that I want to see and learn more about the history of Black Paris. Like I said in Part 1 (go on over and read that, now!) I was not a part of this year's planning committee. Next year I'll be ready and armed with my own plan, which will definitely include some time in southern France. Wine Country, look out!

More views...

More views...

Share your Paris, France adventure below in the comments or on social. What do you suggest I see and do next time? Follow me on, The 'Gram for more pics and whatnot not.

Au Revoire! 

 

Oakland, Ca: The Delicious Weekend Getaway

Where to stay:

The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa

When I want to get away from family during extended stays, checking into The Claremont is the honeycomb hideout. Technically, located in the Berkeley hills, this is probably one of the only places where I’d plop down some cash in the Bay, outside of San Francisco. Plus, it is close to the Oakland-Berkeley border and San Francisco is only ten minutes away, across the Bay Bridge. Aside from the location, The Claremont is a gorgeous, vintage property with a spectacular spa — which you can lounge in for hours, even without an appointment — a heated pool, tennis courts, a classy gym, a tinge of The Shining and a view of the Bay Area that screams ‘Forget Instagram, this deserves a long stare over a brown drink.’

Bonus, The Paragon Restaurant & Bar at The Claremont is popular with upwardly mobile young people, and usually a festive place to hang out for music and drinks on the weekend.

Where to eat:

Breakfast: Mama’s Royal CaféOakland GrillBlackBerry Bistro

Because I am so much of a breakfast person, this was the hardest to narrow down. Here we go …

Mama's Royal Cafe: Egg white crab omelette 

Mama's Royal Cafe: Egg white crab omelette 

Mama’s Royal leads the pack for being the most consistently good, no matter how busy they get — and this place stays busy. I almost always get the crab, spinach and jack cheese omelet. The pancakes are surprisingly light, despite their dense appearance, which is a win in my book.

Oakland Grill has some of the best brunch specials in town and their food is always extremely fresh. My theory? The restaurant is close to the docks of the city’s Jack London Square. Plus, their mimosas are served in tall glasses and flow endlessly on weekends, and for $4.95 you really can’t help but to toss back a few.

Blackberry Bistro

Blackberry Bistro

Blackberry Bistro is still in my heart and makes the list, despite long wait times for the food to get from the kitchen to the table on busy weekends. The best of the menu is a tie between the southern plate (shrimp and grits) and the berry french toast. *Insider’s tip: Order the french toast with the Gran Marnier sauce that is usually served with the crepes. They may or may not charge you extra, but don’t let them punk you by telling you they can’t make it. Be persistent and you’ll be glad you stood your ground because it is well worth fighting for.

Lunch

Suya African-Caribbean Grill 

I found Suya thanks to the God-send that is Instagram. Their mouth-watering posts drew me in and it was love at first bite. Parking can be a bit of challenge since it's located in the downtown area. But don't let that discourage you. It's worth the fight for a parking space.

Little Shin-Shins

If you want to sit down and get cozy, by all means, pull up a chair and stay awhile at Little Shin-Shins. My family and I have been eating at this family-owned restaurant since I was in elementary school. Amazingly, the food has been consistently delicious every. single. time. When I ate meat, I lived for the szechwan chicken. But no matter what you order here, it will be awesome.

Dinner

Luka's  

If California cuisine in an unpretentious atmosphere is what you're after, Luka's is your spot. The drinks are unwatered down and they've got a taste of everything on the menu. Of everything to  choose from, that shrimp and crab louie salad is not playing a game. It's only rivaled, in my opinion, by the shrimp and grits. It's good and spicy, just the way I like it. When I first returned to the bay, Luka's was at the top of my list for places to go eat.

Enssaro Ethiopian Restaurant

 

Enssaro is another fortunate neighborhood gem I found thanks to a Tinder date I went on last year. The date itself wasn't bad (no shade to Tinder), but the food was the real winner. I'm picky af when it comes to my Ethiopian food, and Enssaro is the real deal. I mean, just look at this plate, need I say more?

Picán [CLOSED, temporarily]

Picán’s is a great example of how California, a state filled with southern transplants, does cooking below the Mason-Dixon. The ambiance and and down home cooking strikes the perfect balance between elegant and unpretentious. Decadence is the word, so leave your diet rules at home. Who can say no to crawfish mac and cheese with bourbon and chili glazed salmon? I didn’t think so.

Dessert: 

Merritt Bakery & Fenton’s Creamery

Depending on what you’re in the mood for, cake or ice cream, determines your best bet for a dessert choice. If you fancy cake, go with Merritt Bakery and be sure to order the infamous fresh strawberry. Warning, after one bite, every other strawberry shortcake you try thereafter will disappoint you. Trust me, I’ve long since given up my search for an equal. Prepare to be hooked for life. Visit their new location at the old Quickway on Grand Ave., just steps away from the Grand Lake Theater.

If it is something cold and creamy that you seek, Fenton’s is a must. The ice creamery itself has been in the same spot for well over 50 years but its roots as a dairy go back to 1894. There was a dark period of absence from 2001-2003 when the creamery suffered a major fire and closed indefinitely. But oh happy day when Fenton’s returned with full force. No matter what you have a taste for, Fenton’s probably has a flavor to match — it is truly ice cream, your way. I’ve never once gotten the slightest side-eye or a look of confusion when ordering my Rocky Road milkshake un-blended. Don’t judge me.

Where to play…

Yoshi’s Oakand & Mua

Yoshi’s, Oakland’s sushi and Jazz bar and restaurant is where grown-ups go to play. Catch a live show from local legends like Najee or Goapele or preview up and coming artists like Mara Hruby and Christin Leonna. Your best bet is to buy tickets in advance because the line starts early for each show and will sometimes sellout, especially when well-known acts are on the bill.

If you’re looking for an early night full of cocktails and conversation in an upbeat atmosphere, head to Mua’s industrial-styled bar and restaurant. There is plenty of room to flutter about and socialize upstairs and down. Or, if you’re with your significant other, there are some nice, dark corners made for cupcaking by candlelight. Sweet.

Best place to people watch…

Lake Merritt

Bring your walking shoes with you to Lake Merritt. On sunny days, it is sure to be populated with people, young and old, leisurely strolling or sprinting along. After all of the eating, drinking and hanging out around The Town, you may very well need to take a lap or two to soak up some of that good old California sunshine.

Originally published on ParlourMagazine.com