10 Highlights Of Our Trip To Chile

Our trip to Chile was nothing short of AWESOME! The best trip I have had to Chile in a while. We saw a lot of family and friends. Everybody was happy, healthy, and very excited to be together. WE LOVE EACH OTHER, YOU GUYS!

The kids are at the age were they can interact with people without (many) meltdowns or conflicts, so they had a blast! Every morning they would wake up and immediately go out to play. No need for snuggles, which was a little sad for me.

The weather was beautiful. It was summer over there so Christmas day was a 100 degrees – bbq- swimming pool affair. Most of the time we stayed in Santiago, at my mom’s house, but we also traveled north, to my brother’s beach house, for a couple of days.

Here are my 10 favorite highlights of our trip.

1) Reconnect with family and friends

This is an obvious one! Of course it was nice to reconnect! Thanks to SM and Whatsapp, I am well informed about what my family and friends are doing at all times. We have the type of chats that get hundreds of messages a day with every detail of our lives, but is not the same as living together. The good news is that I am all caught up with news and gossip by the time I get to Chile, so I can dive into the daily subjects with no formal introductions.

My close family and friends are pretty amazing. All of them strong, smart, and funny people doing a lot of cool stuff. Each one of them is such a force. The two weeks in Chile were filled with conversations, laughter, and lots of love.

My younger brother (quite the hunk, ah?) with his daughter.
My mom, my nephew, and my niece.All the younger cousins. Look at how happy they are.

2) My dad’s burial

It was hard to say goodbye to my dad again, but it was also beautiful. You see, not everything about death is ugly and sad. There is something magical about the community that grows around you when loss happens. My siblings and I have never been closer.

We buried my dad next to his parents and sister. They all died many, many years ago. I didn’t meet any of them. The ceremony was short. Some of my siblings gave speeches, somebody played the guitar, it was a nice morning.

George with my older sister, Luchi.

My Irish twin, CocoThis guy not being able to act with the solemnity required by the event.

After the burial, we went for lunch to a nice restaurant. Many people joined us: aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc… it was a nice afternoon that ended with a cable car trip to the top of the hill. The kids loved riding the cars and the view was gorgeous. Although, waiting 20 minutes in a long line under the sun to go into a cable car wasn’t great, it was definitely worth it.

Me and my sisters. Yes, I am two feet taller than all of them and no, I am not adopted.Look at that cutie.Real paletasCable car

3) My older brother got married

The wedding was a private and small affair. My brother and his wife told us about their marriage two weeks before our trip to Chile. They rented the second floor of a restaurant, gathered their closest family members and got hitched. No band, no fancy dress , no months of preparation, just an intimate and stress-free event for everybody involved. I liked the concept. As I mentioned in this post, my chilean family is all about frugality right now, which makes me proud.

This wedding was a perfect way of ending 2016. Now we can’t say that this year was all that bad, can we?

4) Exposing my kids to a different culture

I live in LA so my kids are constantly witnessing different cultures, but going to Chile is different. Over there they actually live it.

In LA, my kids don’t get socially challenged that much because their surroundings are pretty controlled – school, small family with only two kids, adult supervised activities, etc. In Chile, things are not so structured. People are on your face constantly and you better get used to it or you won’t be having any fun. Activities are disorganized and involve a lot of yelling and craziness. I like my kids to be out of their comfort zone and fend for themselves.  It makes them savvy at dealing with frustration!

Fray Jorge National Park

5) Heated debates

My family likes long and heated discussions about what we “think” are important topics. In these discussions, it is hard to listen to each other, much less reason any logical outcome. We fight and we make up. We treat each other harshly but don’t take it personally. We say what we think. Our opinions about the other don’t stay silent, and if we are mad we talk about it pretty openly. I like that dynamic, but it is not easy to swallow for newcomers. We scream a lot.

Here is a funny example: one day I was sent out to buy fish. I went to the grocery store and bought the fish. 3 hours later one of my sisters gave me grief about the quantity and amount of money I had spent on that fish. Then my brothers jumped in and gave me more grief because they didn’t know how to cook the fish (how am I guilty of that?). I defended myself and yelled back. I didn’t make the decision about how much fish to buy, that was my sister Maureen’s decision, but she was having a nap so nobody could give her s**t. The topic of the fish went on for 2 hours until Maureen woke up from her nap and came into the kitchen, at which point we all yelled at her for being responsible for this big quantity of fish that cost so much money. She looked at us and gave us the middle finger. Conversation over. And this is how debates go in my family. Conflict / Conflict resolves / Conflict / Conflict resolves… over and over again.

6) Tongoy

My older brother (same one that got married) has a house right in front of the beach in Tongoy, a beach city in the north of Chile. We stayed in his house a couple of days with the whole family. Being there reminded me to my own vacations when I was little. My dad loved going to the north of Chile. It was his birthplace.

In Tongoy, we spent all day at the beach, playing in the sand, eating seafood, or visiting the farmer’s market. They were quiet days. There is not many people at the beach during the Holidays, so it is the best time to visit. The water was warm and clean. Some days were cold but still enjoyable. Kids got to see a lot of sea animals, we watched beautiful sunsets, and stayed up a couple of nights. I organized a children-dance party that was pretty successful. I wish I had videos of all the kids dancing in the living room for hours on end.

Palmeras. A beach delicatessen.

Exploring the sea.

7)Food

Chilean food is SO good. Fruits during the summer are the best ones you could ever eat. Seafood at the beach is fresh and tasty… everything seems to be taken right from the ground and into your plate. I like that my family is eating healthy now (no sugar, no processed foods). Every time I go to Chile I gain an average of 5 pounds because of so much eating and drinking, but this time, I didn’t gain any weight. It was a first one for me. I felt more energetic and happy throughout the trip and didn’t have to get back to LA in full diet mode.

8) Christmas

Christmas traditions in Chile are different depending on the family. In our family, kids open gifts on Christmas Eve. They wait for “midnight,” and go out looking for Santa Claus while some adults stay behind to place the gifts under the tree. I like this tradition: all the kids go around the block screaming at every light in the sky, believing that it is Santa

This Christmas was particularly exciting because when we went out into the street, we ACTUALLY SAW SANTA!!! It was incredible. A cart with Santa happened to drive through our street giving away candy at the exact moment we left the house. Let’s stop for a second here. Can you imagine how exhilarated the kids were at seeing Santa outside our home!!!! ?? It was amazing. After eating some candy and waving goodbye to Santa, we went back inside to find the presents under the tree. I wish I had photos of this moment but the kids jumped fast to open their gifts and torn the paper apart in a matter of seconds. There were only 3 gifts per kid. The reason why is here.

You must be asking yourself, how could you wait until midnight to open the presents??!!! Which normal parent could let their kids stay that late? Well, in Chile, tricking kids is not out of the question so we pretended it was midnight when in reality it was 9:30pm. Because it is summer time over there, it gets dark late, and the kids go to bed late too, so this schedule was not that crazy.

As for Christmas day, we spent it in the swimming pool, eating bbq, and having drinks. Heaven.

Searching for santa

9) Dancing until 4 0‘clock in the morning 

Every party in Chile requires dancing. In New Year’s Eve we danced until 4 am. It was only us, our significant others, plus a friend. We had the best dancing party I have been to in the last 10 years. We sang and danced like there was no tomorrow while kids slept. Here is the proof:

Welcome 2017!

10) I heard “I love you” a lot

My family is not afraid nor scared to say I love you. Every time I go to Chile I hear “te quiero” over and over again. Incredibly enough, my brothers are the ones that say it the most. Every hug goes together with a casual or heartfelt “I love you,” because we feel it, so why not say it? I am making this a new trend and will be saying “I love you” to all my friends from now on, because it warmth people’s heart, don’t you think?

I came back from this trip with a rejuvenated soul.

Ok. That was a long post. I hope you liked it!

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galveston

Galveston, Texas – A Charming Beach City

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I travelled to Galveston, Texas, a couple of months ago for a wedding. It was a pleasant surprise to discover how charming this beach city is. Green, colorful, warm, and with a good amount of vintage shops!

It has a cute and small historic Downtown surrounded by neighborhoods with Victorian houses, most of them colorful and adorable.

Galveston has two main geographical areas: the historic neighborhoods close to Downtown, and the beach life close to the sea. Everything within a short distance. Driving north of the city, you find modern and gorgeous homes sitting on columns and looking out at the ocean. This area is prone to hurricanes, so most homes are hurricane proof.

My favorite places to visit were Downtown, obviously, and the Galveston Island State Park, which has a gorgeous beach and a lot of beautiful hikes.

Here are some photos of the trip and some tips if you decide to visit:
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How To Get There And What to do

Galveston is a 1 1/2 hr drive from Houston. Not difficult to get to. I rented a car, which allowed me to explore more of the place. I like to be independent and not worry about mobilization. Although the city city is small, and you can perfectly well walk or take taxis around downtown, it is best to have a car to visit places far away from the city,  like Galveston Island State Park, or other northern beaches.

If you go with kids (or without), spending the days at the beach is your best bet (make sure you go to one where swimming is allowed). For short adventures, the Railroad Museum and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier are good options. The Pier, for example, has carnival games and souvenir shops. Also, as I mentioned above, the Galveston Island State Park is a must.

If you like vintage shops like I do, there are a few in this beautiful city. Spending and afternoon walking around downtown, looking at shops, having a coffee, and finding vintage stores are a perfect use of vacation time, don’t you think?

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Where to Eat

There are plenty of cute restaurants and coffee shops in Galveston.

I liked eating at Eatcetera. It has a couple of tables outside and a vintage shop at the other side of the street.

MOD Coffee & Tea House was my favorite to have a coffee because of the ambience. Lots of people in there, plenty of couches and chairs, plus a cute outdoor space for those who like to seat outside.

For breakfast, Mosquito Café is the place to go, unless you want to be closer to the water, in which case, Miller’s Seawall Grill is your best option, but beware, this restaurant is touristy and it gets crowded.

Go to La King’s Confectionery for ice cream and sweets. Kids love it here. Candies galore.

For dinner, your best options are Rudy & Paco, Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar, BLVD seafood or Mama’s Teresa Flying Pizza.

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Where to Stay

So many options here.

I stayed at the Four Points Sheraton. The hotel was fine, nothing special, but it had an excellent location.

Better options are The Tremont House in Downtown, or the Hotel Galvez & Spa, right in front of the beach. Although they are more pricey.

galveston Galveston Island State Park
galvestongalveston galveston galvestonSo many flowers, everywhere you looked. It was a beautiful scenery.galvestongalveston galvestongalveston galvestongalvestone-73galveston-34

Goodbye, Texas! It was a lovely stay.

Also, photos of our trip to Austin  here.

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Paso Robles, California

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From all the places I have been wine tasting (and I have been to a lot), Paso Robles is one of my favorites. The setting is what makes it for me. The narrow roads covered by trees make the drive between wineries as nice as the actual wine tasting.

It is a magical place.

My favorite area to visit is west of the 101, and my favorite road to drive through is Vineyard Rd. Here you can find wonderful wineries, like Justin, Halter Ranch or Lone Madrone… because WINE! Wine is a wonderful thing. Unless you drink too much of it and get a horrible hang over, which seems to happen often when you are older than 30.

To sleep, I like to stay in San Luis De Obispo, 30 minutes south of Paso Robles, because it has a fun downtown area and good restaurants. It is easy to find all kind of hotels and entertainment here. Among them,  is the Madonna Inn. Having brunch or dinner at the Madonna Inn is a must because the décor is kitschy and crazy, and the food is not bad. When you step into it, you are transported into an alternative world where hot pink and bright green are he main decorating dishes. It is fun and unexpected.

For a day trip, aside from the wineries, you can go to the Hearst Castle, located 40 minutes away from San Luis De Obispo. It was one of the homes of William Hearst, a media mogul that spent time here in the first half of the 1900s. It is an incredible sight. How did a man manage to create such a monumental place in the middle of nowhere, almost 100 years ago, baffles me. But he did. If you decide to go, make reservations! It can get busy and, this way, you don’t have to wait.

Here are some photos of a weekend trip we took a couple of weeks ago. Hope you like them.

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Camping At Buckhorn, Los Angeles National Forest

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Camping trips are a nice bonding opportunity for the family. I felt that on our trip to Idyllwild last year, where it was only the four of us for three days doing everything together.

This year, we wanted to have a similar experience, so we decided to take the kids to the Buckhorn Campground in the LA National Forest. 2 hours from my house and 1 hour from Pasadena.

What is nice about Buckhorn is that you are truly “incommunicado.” As soon as you start climbing the mountains, cell phone service is out. It is just you, your family, your car, and your fears, so make sure you bring everything you need-including a book!

Buckhorn is a first come, first served campground. No reservations needed, but you need to arrive early morning on a Friday (8-9am) to get a site. If it is a busy weekend, like 4th of July, you better arrive on a Thursday.

The bathrooms are not clean, there are no showers, and no park rangers on site, so it is a pretty wild situation for those city people that like the city life, but the place is beautiful and “remote”- if you consider a place that is 45 minutes away from a 15 million people city remote. In my dictionary (and the dictionary of every other human being I know), not having cell phone service “classifies” a place as remote, or simply hell. If you are in the “hell” category, don’t go to Buckhorn.

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FOOD AND FUN

This time, I wanted the experience of eating food to be a memorable one. There is no reason why you can’t bring nicer table clothes, serving plates, and food. I wanted to be able to have a nice meal, and that is what we did.

I like wildness with civility. Ugliness depresses me (I am a Taurus, there is nothing I can do to help this), so I made sure to bring a couple of things to beautify the table and my soul. It worked.

Good salads, appetizers, skewers, fruit, marinated steak were all part of the menu, and, for dessert, marshmallows (duh!) and cookies. Simple and sweet.

Wouldn’t you agree that one of the best parts of camping is eating (and drinking); well, in reality, one of the best parts of life is eating (and drinking), so I would recommend putting extra effort in that part of the planning.

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KIDS GO WILD

In the beginning, it was a little difficult for my kids to entertain themselves. A bunch of nature didn’t seem to be enough to stimulate their creativity. Well, by the end of the camping trip they were making up games and having fun in such a beautiful and valuable way. That change made the trip well worth it.

We went for a couple of hikes and I was impressed at how much these kids can walk. One day we went all the way up a mountain, away from trails. Kids loved that. Another day we went to a stream, the kids were so happy going in the water naked and free.

As a side note, don’t forget to bring a small First Aid Kit. At some point, your kids will need a Band-Aid, so you better have it on hand. This is the voice of experience talking.

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The trip was fun and easy. We are going to try to go camping again in September near Ojai.

Thanks for stopping by!

For more camping trips, here is a post about our trip to Leo Carrillo, Idyllwild, and Lake Arrowhead.

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Summer At The Cottage

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George’s family has been going on vacations to a cottage in Georgian Bay, Canada, for more than 100 years. Can you believe that? It shows a crazy amount of commitment and love for the place.

His grandfather found Point Au Baril before a road existed to get up there. He eventually bought a place, and the family has been vacationing in this beautiful cottage for more than a century.

This summer, George took the kids and I joined them later. I stayed for two weeks. My kids stayed for 3 ½.

When we take the kids up there, I can see a small evolution in my their behavior: from city boys to fearless wild animals, catching frogs, fishing, jumping in the water, driving boats, and running around connected to nature and their surroundings. They become bold and daring.

Up there they have no screen time whatsoever, no electric light, lots of cousins to play with, and opportunities to be in the water. It is a beautiful thing to see. It also makes me wonder if we are doing it all wrong by living in a city with so much noise, traffic, and smog the rest of the year, but then I remember the parks, amazing, food, access to music, the boiling world culture, and the doubts are gone. LA is still my #1.

The main cottage  has been around for as long as George’s family has been going up there, so it is filled with memories and vintage beauties. Cottage life is serene and fun. It is a real treat to have this place that is so close but at the same time so faraway.

Here are some photos of our summer this year:jestcafe.com-cottage38jestcafe.com-cottage27jestcafe.com-cottage1jestcafe.com-cottage3 jestcafe.com-cottage30jestcafe.com-cottage9 jestcafe.com-cottage10 jestcafe.com-cottage7 jestcafe.com-cottage6 jestcafe.com-cottage5 jestcafe.com-cottage4jestcafe.com-cottage8My husband IS product placement.jestcafe.com-cottage24 jestcafe.com-cottage22jestcafe.com-cottage28jestcafe.com-cottage25 jestcafe.com-cottage19 jestcafe.com-cottage18 Kids love riding in the front of the boats. No matter how fast or jumpy the ride is. jestcafe.com-cottage17jestcafe.com-cottage16jestcafe.com-cottage20 jestcafe.com-cottage15 jestcafe.com-cottage21Can you believe this guy was swimming by himself? He is only 2!jestcafe.com-cottage11Barefoot is the way to go…
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Old recipes from grandma.

Hope your summer has been fun so far! We are getting ready to start school in a couple of weeks. Victor will be going to Kindergarten… say what? He is very excited. Max is starting preschool and he is not that excited. We will see.

Have a great day!

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