HALCYON COFFEE BAR & LOUNGE - [THE PORTLAND| GRACE GUIDE] // DALLAS

Halcyon

For the last few months, I have been working on a new series for the blog; I am excited to publish the first in the series. The gist of it - I love to eat; explore new places and I thought I will start sharing my favorites in this space. Most of these will be spots in Dallas but if I find a must try on my travels - you will be the first to know. First up, 

Halcyon Dallas.

Location - 2900 Greenville Ave   •   Dallas, TX 75206

Hours - Monday to Friday: 7 am - 2 am; Saturday and Sunday: 8 am to 2 am

Halcyon (pronouced Hal-See-On)  which means carefree ; untrobuled and propeous. The ambience of this restaurant mirrors the name with its laidback atmosphere. It is a coffee shop and cocktail bar with an excellent menu of breakfast/brunch items; sandwiches; and salads. They have a menu section for espresso cocktails (need I say more). They also have a kids' menu if you want a family day out with your littleS. There is also a patio area that is great to hang out for those ten days of Spring we get in Dallas.  

On any given day, you will find patrons studying; catching up; working; and/or eating. On weekends, when I can muster the energy to get off the couch and out of my PJs - you will find me at Halcyon tapping away on my laptop.

My favorite things on the menu is the Veggie Monster Egg skillet and Vietnamese coffee. If you stop by on a weekend I am camped out here - come say hello.

Halcyon

This is NOT a sponsored post.; just a foodie's opinion.

10 TIPS TO HELP YOU AFFORD TO TRAVEL MORE THIS YEAR

One of the most asked questions to me - how do you afford to travel?

I am a believer that we give value to what matters to us and because of travel matters to me - I give value it in small and big ways. This has allowed me to travel frequently than most. However, as much as I have traveled, I would love to increase the frequency in the coming years, so the first half of this year is a lesson in discipline to pay off debt and save. 

1. Travel budget. I have a travel line item in my monthly budget so I can set aside money that only gets used for travel.

2. Make credit card(s) do the work. If you are going to have a credit card, might as well make it work for you. I earn miles on my credit card that I use for flights, attractions, and hotels. I try to accumulate my miles to use towards international trips. I save an average of $1,500 by using miles.

 3. Travel in off-peak seasons. Even with miles, it is best to travel off peak. The flights and hotels are cheaper. Travel to Europe is about fifty percent cheaper between October and December compared to the summer months.

4. Go where the deals take you. This is great for domestic trips and if your schedule is flexible. I have a bucket list of place I want to visit stateside. if I find a great deal that works with my schedule, I take advantage of the deal. 

5. Start planning early. Sounds simple enough, right? Planning early makes a huge difference. Next year, I want to visit Southeast Asia for at least three weeks. My current travel budget won't cover the trip. I started planning this year. I know what the trip will cost; how much I need to save and what adjustments I need to make to my finances to afford the trip. 

6. Hotels. An expensive line item in travel is the accommodation. Unless I am traveling with friends I can split accommodation costs with, I tend to go for average; clean and safe hotels. No need for a four or five-star hotel when I get need the room to sleep in.  

7. Make the sacrifice. I am prepping for a month in Europe and another month in Asia sometime in the next eighteen to twenty-four months. I am making the sacrifices like packing lunch, spending freeze on no essentials; limiting those fancy lattes to once a month; cutting cable and hulu to save up for the trip.  

8. Find the second stream of income (if you can). I have the print shop which brings in a few extra dollars every few months. Everything I make from the print shop fewer expenses of running the shop goes towards travel.

9. While traveling - consider doing more on the free things. During our Highway one road trip last fall, we tried this out, sticking to mainly free attractions. Ninety percent of our itinerary were free things - We did not feel like we missed out on anything. It was one of the best trips to date.

10. Go with friends. The benefit of traveling with a group, you can split expenses for accommodation and commute (even food, sometimes). Having someone to split the cost with making it less daunting.

Now over to you, any tips for traveling without breaking the bank?

HALF MOON BAY IN PHOTOS

My favorite thing about our highway one road trip last fall - The unplanned detours. Some were more eventful than others, but we left with memories that will stay with us for a long time. Like our quick stop in Half Moon bay on day three of the road trip. We spent the morning on Asilomar beach and made a quick pit stop in Santa Cruz before heading to San Fransico. About an hour from San Fransico, we saw the exit sign for half moon bay and could not resist making a quick stop. This is not one of those stops with laid out itinerary - we saw the exit signs and made a split second decision to stop. The first few beaches we wanted to visit required a entry fee which was not in the budget and just as we were about to write off this top on our 7 day road trip - we stumbled on a beach with free access. Like many photo diaries that graced this space - there is noting much to report. We visited, snapped shots and continued on our journey. 

HOW TO HAVE A DAY-CATION IN OXFORD // OXFORD, ENGLAND

For more than five years, the sight of Oxford on my bucket list has haunted me. Only an hour from London Paddington and I could never manage to fit it into my UK itinerary. Until last December, when I braved a  blistering cold morning for an (overdue) Oxford daycation. The only thing I had on my Oxford itinerary was the University. Not having a detailed hour by hour itinerary is very unlike me. I blame the hangover of the flu virus that started three days before in Spain for this lapse. Me, without a plan, only lasted till the train pulled into the Oxford train station and I made a b-line for the information booth to get recommendations and directions to the University and city center. About a mile into my walk to the city center, I started to regret my decision to come to Oxford. It was frigidly cold and the remnant of the flu virus was kicking my tail and threatening my day-cation.  Just as I was making a mental pros and cons list of this trip, I found the open market. Tents set up with everything from antiques, used clothes, Jamaican cuisine and mulled wine. I went straight for the mulled wine. Two cups of mulled wine and a vintage LBD purchase later, I felt better about my daycation decision and was ready to explore Oxford. 

My first stop was Oxford University. Well, sort of.  The attendant at the train station gave me a little history on the famous University. Essentially, it is not one place; but a collection of colleges around the city. Together, these colleges make up what we know as Oxford University.  Did you know that? 

While trying to decide which of the colleges to visit first, I found Carfax tower. There was a sign out front boasting the roof top had great views of the city. If you don't already know, I cannot pass up the opportunity for a great cityscape. I paid the three-pound admission fee to access the rooftop. Making my way up a very narrow stairway (It was not fun for my hint of claustrophobia), but I was willing to push through that for the promised cityscape. The view was great but the wind gust at the height was unpleasant. I gave up after fifteen minutes. 

I walked around the pedestrian area for a bit stopping to peer into shop windows and watch street performances. It had been two hours since I arrived in Oxford and my lack of planning was hunting me. I caved and signed up for one of the "free" walking tours.

Most of the tour focused on the colleges of Oxford University. The guide shared stories of famous Oxford alumni as we walked the grounds of the colleges. Some of the colleges had free entry and others require an entry fee. The entry fees range from a pound to three pounds. We visited the University Church of St. Mary's; Bodleian library, Radcliffe camera and the School of Divinity. Several spots we visited were the inspiration or actual filming site the Harry Potter movies. No tour of Oxford is complete without a stop at the famous whispering arch. 

Although the tour was "free" tips. The pamphlet recommends a minimum eight-pound tip.  I still had some time to explore on my own. I started at the Museum of History of Science to see Einstein's blackboard while he was at Oxford. I also made stops at Eagle and Child and the Covered market. I ended my time in Oxford with (late) afternoon tea at The Rose on High Street. It was the perfect way to wrap up my Oxford day-cation. 

For travel inspiration , check out the Monday Escapes link up

Tin Box traveller

WHAT TO SEE + DO IN FLORENCE (WHEN YOU ARE SHORT ON TIME) // FLORENCE , ITALY

After spending the morning in Pisa; we arrived in Florence with about four hours of daylight left ( a downside of winter travel).  First stop, food; we found a lovely spot by Mercato Centrale called Vecchio Mercato.  The food was excellent and I am still in search for the house wine - Grannie chianti (If you have any tips - I am all ears). It was an excellent wine. Now that we were fully fed, it was time to explore Florence.

Before leaving Rome, we each picked one thing we wanted to see in Florence due to our time constraints. We started at the leather goods market. Florence is known for leather goods and "B" really wanted to pick up something. Unfortunately, she could not make up her mind and no leather goods were purchased, but we stumbled on a scarf shop where we haggled and bargained for great deals on scarfs for Christmas presents back home. Next, the Duomo.

The intricate detail of the exterior design and the size of the Duomo is breathtaking. We walked around the Duomo, first before heading in to explore the interior. In my opinion, the exterior is what sets this cathedral aside.  We did not get a chance to explore the interior, it was crowded, and parts were closed off for mass.  

Next, we walked down one of the side streets from the Duomo to arrive at Piazza Della Repubblica where we were entertained by street art, dance performances and musicians. It was a bit cold out and although the sweets at Gilli caught our attention, we opted for hot chocolate from Vendii (best idea ever). 

Right off our sugar high, we moved on to Piazza Della Signoria. This L-Shaped square has impressive architectural details that made my heart sing (I am obsessed with architecture).  We were running short on time and could not linger at Piazza Della Signoria. There was still Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall) - this is where you will find a copy of Michel Angelo's David statue. We walked around the courtyard admiring the intricate details that make the Palazzo a favorite part of our visit to Florence.

We stumbled on the Gucci museum. Who knew there was such a place. I was willing to shell out the entry fee of six euros to explore the home of Gucci designs, sketches, and collection from the beginning of time, but time was not in our favor. I made a mental note to return on my next trip to Italy (and Florence).  We walked back to Piazza Della Repubblica for one last look before heading back to the train station for our ride to Rome. 

See you again Florence !