Local Bloggers and Influencers Are The Secret for Insider Scoop

A wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction?

Yup, been there; it has happened before.

A clear memory of this was in 2009 on a trip South America; getting stuck in the tourist trap that is La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known as the birthplace of the tango, La Boca, a one-time shipyard has a famous walkway, El Caminito, where tango dancers perform and artists exhibit their work on this colorful street.

The true grittiness of the neighborhood is lost and now it is essentially a tourist trap, full of people touting for business. It is filled with over priced tourist trinkets and t-shirt heaven; faux tango eatery and photo hustlers are in abundance. The only genuine thing left is Boca fútbol stadium 4 blocks north, with a soccer museum charging $12USD entrance. A wasted afternoon indeed.

I wish we would have been warned that this place was the equivalent to San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf or Khao San Road in Bangkok. If only we would have known a blogger... or local for the inside scoop!

Every major city has bloggers obsessed with what's new and great in their backyard, particularly in regard to restaurants. Using Google Blog Search to find bloggers in whatever city you are visiting is a great place to start. You can also use Instagram by searching in the search or through geo tags.

Bloggers and influencers are a phenomenal resource but do not just read what they are writing: Contact them for personal recommendations. The more specific your request — and the more you flatter them for their insight and wit — the more likely you will be to pique their interest and get a response.  

Being from San Francisco, there is no denying that it is a foodie's mecca of must-try places. One might ask: "What's your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Vitale on Mission Street? We are looking for a place with a romantic vibe, ideally because it is our anniversary. We'd be so grateful for your help because you obviously know what's going on in San Francisco!" Bloggers love to provide tips and recommendations on their city!

Have I tried this? Yes!  

I've had plenty of people ask me as well via Instagram, and I've shared some of my insights as well.

While in Hoi An, Vietnam, I got in touch with via Twitter with Jodi from Legal Nomads, connected me with two bloggers that were currently in Hoi An--James from Nomadic Notes and Leif, a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet author.

Gregg and I got the opportunity to have a Cao Lau dinner and share travel stories with James and Leif, followed by a fruit shake along the river. We also did research online as to what online travel bloggers recommend. Many recommended Ms. Chien's Pho Cao Lau Hu Tieu in the Central Market. The steaming bowls of pho were amazing!

By browsing Instagram, you can also get ideas in where to venture next. So, if you are unsure of where to head to, ask local bloggers!

Cover Image Credit: @amybuglione, Instagram; First published June 25, 2013; Updated August 14, 2017.

Kale Banana Smoothie

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I love LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto and the gluten-free menu--what I absolutely love is the Kale-Banana smoothie. I probably frequent LYFE about 2-3 times per week, specifically for this after a spin session or aerial yoga class. I had been trying to recreate this smoothie at home and after many attempts, I have finally found the recipe. gluten-free, gluten-free palo alto, palo alto gluten-free, gluten-free fare, gluten-free smooties, kale, banana, banana smoothies, kale-banana smoothies, lyfe kitchen, lyfe kitchen palo alto, lyfe kitchen kale-banana smoothies

I like that this recipe does not have milk (dairy, almond, coconut...). Sometimes, somethings are best kept simple. This smoothies proves just that. Plus, the bananas add the creaminess and smooth texture that milk would.

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Here it is...Enjoy!

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[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:11]

Follow @valeriefidan and tag your awesome food photos with #letsregale! As always, all opinions, as always, are my own. Photos taken with iPhone; edited in Camera+ and instagrammed.

Wildlife, Wallabies and Wine Instagrammed in Hunter Valley

IMG_2462Gregg and I opt not to celebrate the commercialized Valentine's Day, because, well, if I must say it...I love my husband 365 days out of the year, not on just one day out of the year; I know he feels the same. I think it is ridiculous to pay a premium price for flowers, chocolate, gifts, and the stress of not being able to secure a table at the trendiest restaurant where one will pay a prix fixe menu cost. Unless it is your first year of dating, there really isn't a need to celebrate. This year was no different. Except, we were in Australia!

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We decided to take a wine tour of Hunter Valley. Surprisingly, the only date that was available for the week and that coordinated will with our plans was February 14th with Kangarrific Hunter Valley Wine Tour.

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The tour looked and sounded fun. The tour started off with a special morning tea with friendly wildlife and wallabies at a wildlife sanctuary outside of Sydney. From there we made our way to Hunter Valley, the oldest and prettiest wine country in Australia. We got a chance to taste wonderful wines, indulgence in locally made chocolate, fudge, wine, cheese, gelato, olive oil and beer!

It's not only a wine tour, but a wildlife, chocolate, cheese, wine and beer tour! Try not only some amazing wines at small picturesque boutique wineries, but visit a chocolate factory, taste some local cheeses and visit a brewery. Our morning tea with kangaroos, koalas and other native animals is a very special experience too.

Here is a taste of Hunter Valley, instagrammed:

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xxo, valerie

Are you on instagram? Follow @valeriefidan and tag your awesome travel photos with #ramblist!

Instagramming Two Weeks in Sydney in 20 Photos

Known as the Harbour City, Sydney is on the largest, the oldest and one of the most cosmopolitan city in Australia. Like San Francisco,  Sydney has earned an enviable reputation as one of the world's most beautiful and liveable cities. The city is home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two of the most iconic structures on the planet. Two weeks in Sydney were just the right amount of time to enjoy the city sites. Much of our stay revolved around checking out the famous sights (you know, the touristy things), going off the beaten path (the not-so-touristy things), strolling Bondi, ferry rides to Manly and North Sydney, noshing on gelato from Gelato Messina in Surry Hills; and getting lost to genuinely discover the Harbour City in a non-tourist way. We even ate our way like Bourdain, ate Mexican Food (Yes, Mexican...as in cuisine south of the border from California. Shocked? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!); and walked our way all around town. (Sydney is a very walkable city)

Where we stayed: Our first few nights we stayed in a hotel in near Kings Cross. We quickly learned to not trust the guidebook, based on this recommendation. Not to mention the cost of internet (or lack of). We quickly switched gears and found a lovely room-share via Airbnb in Surry Hills; Surry hills reminded us much of San Francisco's Mission-meets-Marina district in terms of the vibe, the coffee culture and foodies. The last leg of our stay here we also opted for a room share via Airbnb in the charming suburb of Redfern near Surry Hills. The place where we stayed was a penthouse with stunning views of the Sydney city scape, close to virtually everything. Our hosts at both locations made our stay feel as if we were at home.

Insider Tip: If you are planning a trip to Australia , DO keep in mind that this is a VERY costly city. Whatever your budget is, double it! Even Londoners were complaining about how darn expensive Sydney is.

This trip seems like it was long ago, and it was difficult to select 20 photos. Two weeks in Sydney, Instagrammed in 20 photos

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Flying into Sydney

xxo, valerie

Are you on instagram? Follow @valeriefidan and tag your awesome travel photos with #ramblist!

A Vacation From Your Vacation

We have all heard the phrase "I need a vacation, from my vacation." Personally, I know I always have a difficult time getting back into the swing of things when returning from traveling. It can be a dull and tiring start to get back into my normal routine partially because travel, getting from point A to B, can be exhausting. Why is it that?

Well, for starters, you are taxing your body. The changes in time zones, environment and, in planes especially, the exposure to viruses, is hard work on the body. Anytime one does something the body is not accustomed to, you are forcing the body to acclimate, which creates many micro-stressors. It may not be lifting weights, but it is still hard work. Staying hydrated and staying nourished will help minimize this.

Most travel is dull. Even if you are excited about getting to your destination, the journey toward that destination is always a dull process. While flying is faster than driving and driving is usually faster than public transportation, both methods are, truthfully, very boring. You start your trip you travel and then you arrive. At the end, you repeat the process.

Travel means lost sleep. Unless you are the rare person who can soundly sleep the night before they travel or can sleep like a baby on a planes, trains and automobiles, most of the time travel entails some measure of lost rest. That lack of sleep causes you to be even more tired than you would be, given the relative lack of effort required from traveling.

Travel requires a considerable deal of concentration. You have to think about your journey, what you are going to do when you arrive, things which you may have forgotten, things you need to remember and a lot of other of issues. All of that thinking is mentally draining, and being mentally exhausted causes most people to be physically tired.

Next time you travel, just keep all of this in mind. Remember to stay hydrated, keep your body nourished and get extra Z's.