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Travel Log: Montréal, Canada 

January 11, 2018

This Travel Log also doubles as a Throwback Thursday, as this epic girls trip to Montréal, Canada, took trip place last August. Click through the slideshow for a glimpse at some of the highlights.

Me and my boos — Yvette, Sierra and Andrea — wanted to get some travel in together. But where to? Savannah? Santa Fe? Boulder? Suddenly, Canada looked pretty good since we could go international without going too far for our weekender. As a kid, I took a day trip from Detroit to Toronto with my brother Robert and my aunt Betty, but I had been wanting to give Canada a real go. I’m so glad we settled on Montréal. And thus began a new tradition for our crew.

Sierra and I arrived within an hour or so of each other on Friday, Aug. 25, so we met up at the airport and Ubered to our Airbnb, which was located in Old Montréal and not too far from downtown. Yvette was next to arrive, and the three of us wandered to find a brunch spot. Immediately, I was charmed by the architecture and foliage everywhere. It felt like we were in France. Oui oui! We soon met up with Andrea, who arrived a few hours later, and set out to have a proper lunch. I was pleasantly surprised by how accommodating the locals were by offering double-sided menus in French and English because I tried Duolingo and my French accent is especially atrocious. We wandered a few blocks away from the square where we brunched and were enchanted by a quaint restaurant that had corks on display. I had a delicious steak and fries and the girls feasted on clams, and all enjoyed a bottle of red wine over lunch. I could get used to this cosmopolitan-ladies-who-lunch life. The rest of the evening consisted of a fancy dinner at L’Original. The smothered pork chop and spaghetti was everything. On the way to find a bar for a night cap, we encountered a movie playing on the side of one of the buildings. It turns out it was part of an art installation for Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebration. We ended the night at Saint Pierre, a newly opened bar run by a black woman (aaoooww!) and playing dope music. I had a refreshing drink called “Respect Your Elders,” which included elderberries. Who would have thunk?

The next day, we got an early start and went on a dining walking tour that left from the steps of the Notre-Dame Basilica, which we would find out was Celine Dion’s church. It was there where she got married and had the funeral for her husband. The tour guide pointed out important landmarks and gave us tons of historical anecdotes (Did you know that Montréal was named after its proximity to Mount Royal?), plus we got to try some great traditional bites along the way. Delicious custard-filled tarts, duck and pork patés, macarons and a smoked meat sandwich made the tour well worth it. The awkward mix of outlandish characters on the tour was memorable, and also a point of contention as we wanted to slap one of the ladies for making a borderline racist comment about an interracial couple. Folks be wildin’. Of course, we ate again shortly after the tour, but this time we felt better equipped to pick a place and had a good lay of the land. I tried my first poutine (Fun fact: It’s really pronounced “poo-ten” — far less fun to say than “poo-teen” in an aggressive Southern accent, which is how I still choose to pronounce it) and a tasty flight of local beers. We went back to the Airbnb to rest from all the walking we had done. That evening, we took a short Uber drive to a fun restaurant, where we ordered a number of dishes to share and proceeded to do shots like college girls on spring break. Hahaha. We still got it!

On our last full day in town, we had a lovely brunch after being lured in to a swanky hotel restaurant with the promise of a free mimosa. I mean, why not? We went to see the rainbow balloons lining the LGBT neighborhood and stocked up on last-minute souvenirs. Those Coffee Crisps — imagine a coffee-flavored Kit Kat candy bar — that we discovered at the grocery store were smackin’, and I left with several to bring home. We finished the night at a cute little tiki bar called Le Mal Nécessaire, which translates to The Necessary Evil, where we drank some potent punches and lamented the early morning flights we had back home.

Montréal, you beautiful beast. Thanks for your hospitality and the adventures I had with my girls. I could definitely see myself living here if I had to live in a foreign city. Either way, I will be back.

To see previous places I’ve jetted off to via my Travel Log, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: California African American Museum

December 11, 2017

I’ve lived in Los Angeles County for 11 years and I finally made my way down to the California African American Museum a little while ago. I know. I’ve gotta do better. But I was glad that I went when I did. I heard that the “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” exhibit — focusing on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots that came on the heels of the Rodney King verdict — was closing, so that seemed as good a time as any to visit. When my guy and I arrived, we weren’t prepared for the emotions that took hold of us as soon as we stepped into the exhibit. Heavy doesn’t even begin to explain it. There was a police vehicle from the era right in the middle of the floor (it’s unclear if that was the exact car involved in the King incident), and images of the King beating and news footage of the subsequent riots played on TVs across the room. There were also artifacts from some of the people, even a 13-year-old girl gunned down by a store owner, who were unfortunate casualties of the unrest. Our eyes filled with tears reading about the loss of innocent lives, and the complete disregard for black lives that’s still prevalent to this day. Maybe that’s why it was so gripping. In short, the exhibit was powerful and one I won’t forget. There was also an intriguing exhibit about black women in silent films that provided a rare glimpse of our people’s first appearances in motion pictures. The images above don’t capture those exhibits — my pictures wouldn’t do them justice. But on the lighter side of the museum were these marvelous works by African-American artists. They each evoke a sense of pride and wonderment in their own unique ways. Click through the slideshow to see a few of my favorites from that day. If you’re in LA and you haven’t been to the California African American Museum, run, don’t walk, over there. It will fill your soul and make you think.

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Coachella 2017, Weekend One

May 2, 2017

I headed out to Indio with every intention on making my first Coachella a memorable one, and it’s safe to say that I succeeded. Not only did I get to spend time with some of my favorite people, I also got to make new friends, experience music with fresh ears and have the time of my life in the middle of the desert.

Determined to get my $500’s worth, I drank in every act I saw and relished the opportunity to get acquainted with some new favorites. These included GoldLink, Majid Jordan, Kaytranada and Thundercat, who brought out the legendary Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers. He did “What a Fool Believes” and my bestie, Yvette, and me just about collapsed from the sheer iconery (yes, that is now a legitimate word — you heard it here first) of it all. Then, of course, there were the big names that I’ve wanted to see for a while but hadn’t yet gotten the chance. Future was phenomenal and “Mask Off” was definitely the song of the weekend. Kendrick Lamar’s whole production was everything and more. Empire of the Sun sounded incredible live and the lights really brought their set home. If only I wasn’t so vertically challenged, I could have observed their full vision. The crowd eclipsed my view, and I had to jump up to catch a quick glimpse at what was happening on stage. The running joke was, “Wait, there’s background dancers?”, as we short folks didn’t even know they were joined on stage by dancers in elaborate costumes until our friend commented about them. But I digress … We also saw DJ Khaled, Gucci Mane, Schoolboy Q and Travis Scott — a very hip-hop friendly Coachella indeed.

I wish I could have seen a few others, such as Capital Cities, Lorde and Grouplove, but there weren’t enough hours in the day. Plus, the Antartica installation was a missed opportunity. It was extra dope, according to my coworker’s snaps from inside the air conditioned dome.

The music was a big part of that weekend, but the tons of tiny, precious moments that don’t fit neatly into categories were amazing, too. Something magical happens when you’re intent on living your best life and facing the day with nothing but positivity at top of mind. Reflecting back on those such times from that weekend, I’m reminded that the strength of my bond with friends comes to light in the sacrifices — big and small — we make for each other. Going with the flow when plans change or walking what feels like a country mile to get water bottles to hydrate the entire squad. That all matters. We created tons of new memories over those four days. I cherish them all. What a whirlwind Coachella was. Until next year … possibly!

Some photos courtesy of Sisterfrands & Co.

ashley ♥ adores

Travel Log: Orlando and Bahamas, 2/17 – 2/20

February 28, 2017

It’s the dead of winter, so a trip to a tropical atmosphere was in order, starting first in Orlando, Florida, then taking us to Nassau and CocoCay, Bahamas. I mean, I can’t really complain living in Southern California, but my good friend Zita is going through it with snowstorms in Boston. So we got out of dodge and spent four glorious days and three lively nights on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, we cruised it up! Click the slideshow to see some fun visuals, and read all about it below.

DAY ONE: Friday, Feb. 17
I landed at MCO (Orlando International Airport) bright and early at 6:30 a.m. and waited for my pal, Zita, to arrive. I posted up for a few hours and got caught up on some episodes of “Z” on Amazon Prime. Thank God for WiFi and headphones. When, she touched down, we fueled up on some light snacks then boarded a shuttle for the port at Cape Canaveral. Off in the distance, we could see our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, which would be our home for the next four days. We breezed through security at the port and checked in on the gangway, where we were greeted by Jock Jams blaring through the speakers. “Y’all ready for this?!” Why, yes. Yes, we were. Our first stop: the pool bar.

With unlimited drinks available (Hot tip: You’re gonna want to buy the drink package in advance!) at the swipe of our Set Sail card, we ordered our first libation of the trip — an ice cold piña colada. Zita immediately began mapping out the day’s plans as outlined in the Compass. Should we dance under the stars or hit up bingo? The world was our oyster! At about 3 p.m., we were able to go into our stateroom, located on the third deck. We would later find that this was actually one of the better decks on the ship. You felt the swaying most on the upper decks, and Lord knows ain’t no body got time for sea sickness. As our ship departed Orlando, I observed from the room’s porthole a flock of pelicans flying in a perfect V formation. It was truly magical. Something I didn’t catch on camera because I was immersed in the moment.

After a bit of a fiasco with the dining room assignment for our 8:30 p.m. dinner time, we were seated at a table among a crowded sea of people. We were surprised that we were expected to eat dinner with complete strangers, but thankfully, our table mates, Sarah and Lacey, were good company. We kinda felt bad for Kelly, another table mate who was ditched by her 17-year-old daughter, who was busy meeting boys in the teens-only section of the ship. Shame! After dinner, we found our way to the seventh deck, where we were promised free champagne and the possibility of winning raffle prizes (the magic words). We both made off with a free print and were encouraged to return the following afternoon for an art auction with even more raffle prizes. Exhausted, we called it a night early.

Find out how the rest of my cruise went after the jump!

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Out and About: Art From Tate Britain

November 1, 2016

Remember when I was Out and About in London last month? Well, this post is a continuation of that romp, detailing my visit to the Tate Britain. It is a lovely museum with tons of classical works — a must-see if you’re ever in Londontown, and not to be confused with the Tate Modern. Many of the popular pieces, which range from the 1500s to present day, inside looked familiar, although I had to dig through the interwebs to remember the paintings’ names and their artists. Click through the slideshow to see some of my favorite works on display. There was the one with the stately peacock (“A Peacock and Other Birds in a Landscape,” 1700), the one with the gruesome British battle scene (“The Death of Major Peirson,” 1781) and the one with the iconic pug and his human (“The Painter and His Pug,” 1745). Skewing toward the contemporary side, a piece that I saw toward the end of my visit was the wordscape by British artist Fiona Banner. “Break Point,” created circa 1998, merely describes a car chase scene from the Keanu Reeves blockbuster “Point Break” with red text of various sizes to the point where some of the words are illegible. All in all, it was a fantastic cultural experience!

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: 826LA’s “Let’s Do the Time Warp (Again!)” Dance-a-thon

October 25, 2016

I don’t need much of an excuse to put on a costume and get into character, but I had a pretty good reason a couple weeks ago. 826LA, the nonprofit writing and tutoring center I had the privilege of working at for a year in my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, was having its second dance-a-thon fundraiser, and I recruited my pal Kate to join my team to raise money. You may recall me and my homegirl Zita dazzling the masses as we dressed as the dancing girls emoji for the first dance-a-thon in 2014. Dubbed the “Doo-Wop Divas,” Kate and I harkened back to the ’50s and ’60s to sashay and sway for the students across Los Angeles who benefit from 826LA’s support. We donned floor-length, sequined mermaid-style gowns, beehive wigs, long gloves, winged eyeliner, fake eyelashes and – the pièce de résistance – old-timey microphones on wheels, thanks to the ingenuity of Cord, Kate’s hubby. Needless to say, we were the belles of the ball! As soon as we hit the door, we were greeted with oohs and ahs, chuckles and high-fives. We nailed it! And the custom Snapchat geofilter (it’s on a couple of the photos in the slideshow) designed by my guy Dash was a major key! For our efforts, Kate and I were crowned Best Dressed and won trophies, posters and a year subscription to Headspace.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important part! Kate and I shook down our family and friends raised a combined $1,308.83 to support 826LA’s programs, which help students across LA find their voice and write with confidence and creativity.

To see previous events I’ve gallivanted through, click here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Travel Log: Munich, Germany, and London, England 9/29 – 10/4

October 20, 2016

We came. We saw. We conquered. Me and my pals Yvette, Sierra and Tyler traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest, which was something I always wanted to experience but wasn’t certain if I’d ever find the time to visit. We also had a quick jaunt in Londontown. These were two destinations that I can now cross off my bucket list. Read the nitty gritty of my adventure in my latest travel log.

DAY ONE: Thursday, Sept. 29
After a more than 11-hour flight that began the night before, I was eager to get off the plane and see what Munich was all about. I exited the airport determined not to freak out, as I had to buy a train ticket and get on the correct train, then take a bus, to our Airbnb located about an hour away. Of course, everything was in German but a kind gentleman helped me pay for my ticket and pointed me in the direction of the correct train. More confusion ensued as I exited the train looking for the bus that would take me within a block of the Airbnb. After asking a few people, I finally found the bus stop and made me way on board a short while later. I arrived safely at the one-bedroom apartment about 15 minutes later, and seized the moment to catch my breath and relax while I waited for my bestie, Yvette, to arrive. Local TV was broadcasting live from Oktoberfest, which got me juiced for the festivities that would take place the next day. I also caught an episode of “The Simpsons,” in German, of course. A few hours later, Yvette made it to the Airbnb. We ventured out to find a walkable biergarten and came up short, so we took the bus back near the train station to grab some grub. We settled on an Italian restaurant called Da Peppo. I know, I know. We didn’t come all that way to just eat Italian food, but it was all that we could find open that late in the evening. I will say that I was surprised at how tasty the pizza was. We washed it down with ice cold German beers, which made up for the lack of authentic local fare. Next door was a divey bar, so we stopped there for a couple of drinks. Our friends Toccara and Tyler joined us there. We were tired from travel and needed to prepare for Oktoberfest the next morning, so we headed home to the Airbnb.

Read more about my exciting European vacation after the jump!

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Travel Log: Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon 8/12 – 8/15

August 22, 2016

I’ve long wanted to visit Portland, Oregon (“Portlandia” is my jam and I’ve heard such great things about the city), so when my friends Sierra and Jesse moved to neighboring Vancouver, Washington, I really had an excuse to visit. Read all that went down during this jam-packed weekender in my most recent Travel Log.

DAY ONE: Friday, Aug. 12
When I touched down late that night, I couldn’t wait to plant my feet on that deliciously retro PDX carpet. I immediately caught the gaze of one woman who was staring intently at me like I was a unicorn, so that was real fun. By the way, Portland has all of five Black people total, and I’ll just leave this clip about its unsavory past here. But I digress. My pals Sierra, Yvette and Khalid were waiting for me when I exited the airport. We took a short drive to Sierra’s house in Vancouver, Washington, to drop off our luggage, and then headed to a divey bar that had karaoke. I tried a tasty Ace Pineapple Cider, knowing that I had to take it easy to prepare for the Vancouver Brewfest the following day (more on that later…). A kindly redheaded man asked me to sing “Summer Nights” from “Grease” with him, and I obliged. And Yvette shut the whole place down with a soulful rendition of Journey’s “Separate Ways.” All in all, a nice introduction to Vancouver, which is all about “big trucks, bebes and big attitudes,” according to Jesse.

Read more about my amazing Pacific Northwest weekender after the jump!
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Out and About: Art at San Francisco MoMA

August 16, 2016

You may recall my previous Out and About post, chronicling the pieces from the Andy Warhol exhibit at the newly renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Well, these are some of the other works that caught my eye while traversing the museum’s expansive seven floors last month. My homegirls Yvette and Toccara and I started at the top and worked our way down, playing a rousing game of “Art or Nah?” along the way. Immediately upon coming off the elevator to the seventh level, we were greeted by this big, robust sculpted floral arrangement called “Large Vase of Flowers” by artist Jeff Koons. I wanted to take it home, but my purse was nowhere near wide enough to fit it inside. Too darling! “Double America” by Glenn Ligon, a.k.a. the neon sign with the word “America” stacked on top of another, was an interesting change of pace from the abstract paintings dominating the wall space. There was this really dope installation (not pictured) in which you enter a pitch-black room, where in the middle is a metallic spinning sphere with light cast upon it. The piece, “Melter 3-D,” morphs and twists and turns like molten lava. I, like most of the other museum-goers, stood there transfixed, trying to figure out how in the heck it came together. Compliments to the artist, Takeshi Murata! Check it out here, but not if you’re worried about the trick being spoiled before you see it in person. Click through the slideshow to see some of the other pieces that captivated me that day. When we reached the bottom, we checked out the Living Wall installation, which is just a fancy way of saying wall of plants/leaves/greenery. Also, shout out to the docent/employee in charge of guarding the wall. You’ll notice him as the guy yelling at you for getting too close to the plants. Send him my love! All in all, there are some fantastic works inside the revamped museum. If you’re an art aficionado, run, don’t walk!

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Andy Warhol Exhibit at San Francisco MoMA

August 2, 2016

There’s nothing like getting lost in the magnificence that lies within an art museum. That’s what I felt while out and about on my first visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art a few weeks ago. Apparently, the museum was newly remodeled and had an impressive Andy Warhol collection, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. If you ever go (which I strongly recommend), it’s on floor 5 as part of “Pop, Minimal and Figurative Art: The Fisher Collection.” Click through the slideshow to see some of the iconic Warhol pieces that captivated me. Warhol’s pop art was striking when viewed blown up several feet wide and up close. And to be within an arms reach of something that was created by someone as praised and respected as Warhol was humbling. I often wonder what artists were thinking at the time they were creating. Did he know his art would resonate with so many people while he was dabbling away making these pieces in the 1960s? Among some of the famous faces depicted in this collection are former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (“Jackie Triptych”), actor Marlon Brando (“Silver Marlon”), singer Elvis Presley (“Triple Elvis,” a Ferus type) and actress Marilyn Monroe (“Nine Marilyns” from the Reversal series). These famous figures may have passed away, but their spirits were very much alive on the walls of SF MoMA. Check back here next, next week to see some of the other great works I spotted throughout the museum.

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores