Cocola | Santana Row – San Jose, CA [Best Coffee Spot in San Jose]

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Cocola is my favorite coffee shop and bakery to go to in the South Bay! On the weekdays, I love coming here because it is quiet enough to study from. In the evenings and weekends, I love coming here to people watch and for the lively vibe. I am currently typing this review as I sit inside Cocola at their beautiful marble tables.

There are so many drinks that I recommend from Cocola. On a hot day, my go to is the iced Chai. It is not overly spiced but not underdone. They do a wonderful job with the chai. On a cold day, I recommend anything from a chai latte to a hot tea. Since the coffee shop is open so late, I recommend drinking their decaf teas in the evening so you are not up all night.

My favorite thing to eat from Cocola is Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil sandwich. The sandwich is served on a crispy but soft little baguette and is drizzled with vinegar. The side salad along with the sandwich is enough to fill you up for lunch.

For dessert, you can honestly eat anything here and be happy. The macarons are delicious, the tarts are mind numbing, and the cakes are fluffy. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied when you get dessert here.

Cocola can get extremely busy at times which can irritate a person like me. Finding the right time to go is key to your experience. There have been so many stressful school nights that I have gotten a decaf tea and walked around a deserted Santana Row to clear my mind. This place has been my savior during my 1L year at law school. So many of my friends and classmates rave about Cocola. I have never heard a bad thing about the coffee shop and bakery other than “I wish I was capable of eating all of these desserts and not getting fat”.

Cocola is bae.

Tacolicious | Santana Row – San Jose, CA

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This taco place is a rather new addition to Santana Row. So many of my friends have raved about the tacos here so I decided to give it a shot. While I was disappointed at first, I definitely ended the dinner on a good note.

As a lover of Mexican food, I was sad to see that the vegetarian options for tacos included asparagus and mushroom. Is this normal for a taco? Not in my experience. The tacos at Tacolicious suddenly became a hard no for me. Since I only eat halal meat, my limited food pallet was thrown off with the confusingly off vegetarian options.

Instead of tacos, I opted for the empanadas from the appetizer menu. First, I was irritated that I was not eating tacos at a restaurant that had ‘taco’ in the name and second, I was lucky I had just finished Ramadan and did not have a normal appetite.

The empanadas were delicious. They were stuffed with chard, sweet peppers, goat cheese, and covered in tomatillo salsa. My friends each had a meat filled taco that they were clearly satisfied with. Though I was salty that I didn’t eat the tacos, I’m glad that they at least would. Service was normal and nothing above the norm for a restaurant that was not busy.

I would not go again only because their vegetarian menu was depressing and odd to see. For those who are not vegetarian, I would recommend coming since all my meat-eating friends rave about the tacos. I cannot speak per se what they love exactly but my friends are at Tacolicious at least twice a month to eat.

Smitten | Santana Row – San Jose, CA [Cute Ice Cream Spot in San Jose]

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This cute ice cream shop is tucked behind the main row of shops at Santana Row and in its own little courtyard. The reason why I love this ice cream spot so much comes down to location, uniqueness, and flavor.

The location is perfect since its located in Santana Row. Not only is there ample parking, but the vibe is perfect for girls night, family outings, and dates. The ice cream shop is located outside so it forces you to enjoy the summer weather after you have been cooped up al day.

Smitten isn’t a normal ice cream shop. It is unique because the cold treats are made with liquid nitrogen. A technique that is not traditional and quite new. The glass panes around the shop give a chance for people to watch as the ice cream is made using this new technique. Not only does it look like a science experiment but you can taste the quality in the ice cream.

The flavors at Smitten are wonderful, my favorite being Earl Grey. Unlike many traditional ice cream shops, Smitten offers 3-4 ice cream flavors and a limited amount of toppings. For some this can be restrictive however, for someone who has trouble deciding what they want, this is perfect. My most recent trip to Smitten involved Early Grey ice-cream in a waffle cone with caramel sauce drizzled on top (pictured).

I would recommend Smitten to anyone who is craving a sweet treat but doesn’t want to go the normal route of choosing between 24923 flavors of ice cream and toppings from a shop in a run down strip mall. As a person who loves ice cream, I would recommend Smitten on a summer day and on a cold winter evening (yes, I love ice cream that much).

Swing Alert: Kirby Cove with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, CA) 

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I don’t know about you, but I’m completely obsessed with swings! They take you back to our worry free days. So many people have been asking me about the swing at Kirby Cove so here is a guide of how to get there and general tips & tricks. *Make sure to follow me on Instagram to see more! @kaval.sultana*

Step 1: Battery Spencer

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Getting to Battery Spencer is as easy as typing it into your GPS. The route takes you across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito. The directions will take you straight to a road where you can (attempt) to find parking in the limited spaces. We got lucky and found a spot a short distance from the path to Kirby Cove and another look out point.

**UPDATE 2/20/17** I went to this area on Feb 20th and the parking was barricaded. I don’t know why so I didn’t attempt to visit Kirby Cove. There is a parking lot at the bottom of the road (right before you can get on the road to go back over the bridge). Apparently you can access Kirby Cove from this lot – through the white gates and down to the Kirby Cove Campground.

The path we took to Kirby Cove Camp Ground was on the right of a shabby looking building. If you follow the people going to the shabby building, you will get to an awesome look out point of the bridge.

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Step 2: Kirby Cove Camp Ground

The walk to the camp ground was a 1.1 miles downhill through many beautiful trees. I didn’t plan accordingly so I wore heeled booties… Don’t be like me – wear comfortable shoes. Change into cute shoes for the picture if it’s really that important! After walking for about 20 minutes, you get to a campground that leads to the beach. Once you are on the beach, you’ll see a beautiful tree on the left with a swing hanging from it.

**Disclaimer*** The swing isn’t always there. Sometimes it is taken down and sometimes its available for use. I would recommend checking if anyone has posted on Yelp about the status of the swing or on IG (via the places search option). You don’t want to go all the way over there not to have the swing. The views are beautiful but a swing is a swing!

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Step 3: Getting on the Swing

When I went, the swing was a little too high for me to reach. Thats saying a lot since I’m pretty tall. My friend had to boost me up to the swing and give me a little push to get me swinging. Luckily, I was with one of my amazing photographer friends. While we were waiting in the line to use the swing, he was finding the perfect angle to take a good shot (visit his Instagram @prezbigdeli). Its worth taking someone who knows how to take pictures! Remember people come from far to visit San Francisco so don’t hog the swing. Use it for a little bit and if you really don’t like your shots, get back in line. The line wasn’t more than ten minutes for us.

After you’re done with the swing, spend some time on the beach. Its beautiful!

 

I hope you have as much fun visiting the swing as I did! If you know about more swings in California, I would love to hear from you!

Enjoy!

 

*Make sure to follow me on Instagram to see more! @kaval.sultana* 

Adventure Time: Catalina Island, California [Places to Visit in California]

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Catalina Island is a small getaway off the coast of Southern California. It was my first time there and I would definitely recommend it as a short trip! We stayed in Avalon which is a popular destination on the island.

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  • Travel:
    • We traveled to the island by boat. The Catalina Express from the Long Beach port to Avalon was easy to book and very comfortable. For those who get seasick, I recommend taking nausea medicine before you get on the boat. I only felt a little “off” when I decided to read during the short ride.
  • Stay:
    • We stayed at the Hermosa Hotel. The island is limited in hotel space so it would be best to book as early as possible. By the time we had booked, there were only a few hotels left to choose from.
      • Cute little hotel that is less than a five-minute walk from the beach
      • We stayed in a suite that had three bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen
  • Eats:
  • Activities:
    • Enjoy the beach – or what little of it there is! There are a couple of beaches that you can relax at. There is limited space at the beach so get there early or go later in the evening when people are getting ready for dinner.
      • South Beach
        • Access to water
      • Step Beach
        • No access to water
      • **Tips**
        • Get to the beach early, there is limited beach in the area
        • You can rent umbrellas and beach gear from Green Pleasure Pier
    • Snorkeling
      • Snorkeling was so much fun here. I usually don’t like going into the ocean for the most part because the water isn’t clear but I made an exception this time. The water around Catalina is clear and beautiful! We rented snorkeling gear locally from a little shop along the main road. I didn’t get a wetsuit since the water is warmer in the summer (in the low 70s). The fish were beautiful! My favorite was the Garibaldi – the state fish. It’s essentially a giant gold-fish! Can’t go wrong with that.
      • Locations to snorkel:
        • Lover’s Cove
          • I loved snorkeling here since there was a pebble beach to set your stuff on and it was easy to get into the water
          • There were fewer people here
          • Be wary of the pebble beach. The pebbles can start to hurt your feet and getting out of the water means waves will push you against them. I had a few bruises on my legs from that.
        • Casino Point Dive Park
          • I didn’t snorkel here because there were a lot of people and the concrete steps went straight into the ocean
          • There was no beach leading into the water
        • **Tips**
          • Buy a bag of frozen peas to feed the beautiful fish
            • Locals told us that the fish are accustomed to being fed
            • I swam out with a handful of peas and the fish were not shy at all!

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Overall, Catalina Island was a cute place to explore for a couple of days. Personally, I would not have stayed more than four days because there are only so many places for you to go. The island is a great way to feel like you are vacationing far away but only a short distance off the coast of California.

L.A. Murals – Colette Miller (Angel Wings) and Retna [Fun Murals in LA]

This summer I decided to explore L.A. I had heard about the gorgeous murals scattered throughout the city so my best friend and I decided to see a couple.

The first mural, “Angel Wings” by Colette Miller is located at 8401 W. 3rd St. (at S. Orlando Avenue), Beverly Grove. They are painted on the side of St. Regis Wine & Liquor. It was very easy to find! What I love about these wings are the colors Miller used – evoking a fairytale feeling for me. The wings are part of the Global Angel Wings Project, reminding us that we are all angels of this earth. Many more wings are located all over the world! A simple tag search on Instagram for “angel wings” will help you find all the other locations. My goal is to see as many of the wings as I can. They have such a beautiful message! Check out @colettemillerwings on Instagram!

The second mural, by Retna (Marquis Lewis), is located at 8826 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. The mural is right next to Craig’s Restaurant. This mural was amazing to look it. You can’t see from the picture, but the black paint has glitter in it! I was mesmerized looking at the mural (hence why I’m not looking at the camera). Like the wings, Retna’s murals can be found everywhere. According to LAist, this is what Lewis had to say about the meaning of the murals: “There’s a verbal element. It could be a poem, it could be just stuff that I’m thinking about, for me it’s just a very meditative process; I’m just having a conversation with myself. Sometimes I allow the music to influence what I’m writing. A lot of them are names my mom would call me when I was growing up, and some are things I’m talking about, friends who have passed away—they’re interactions with what’s going on with people who I just meet, or a conversation I just had. I hear a word or a phrase or a dialogue, and then that becomes my response. They all say something”. Amazing! I can’t wait to see more of Retna’s murals. Check out @ironeyeretna on Instagram!

There are so many more murals to see in L.A.! I can’t wait to share some more with you!

xoxo, Kaval