2 Tickets to Paradise, Please: 3 Days in Puerto Vallarta

Many months ago when we booked our flights to Puerto Vallarta, we planned on beach bumming the entire three days. Now of course we went to the beach – it was steps away from our hotel – but thankfully we were able to explore more of this resort town located on the Pacific Coast.

We found a steal on flights from Aeromexico and were excited to be flying on a Mexico-based airline. Everything was cool – different snacks, free liquor and well, free liquor.

We’ve traveled to Mexico before and know how much the locals love their alcohol. And that’s totally fine with us. We chatted with Rafael upon entering the airport and enjoyed a few tequila shots with him before getting our taxi to the hotel. What a welcome!

Our room was at the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa – a beautiful beachfront hotel located just a five-minute drive from the airport. We arrived a bit before check-in, so we had time to explore the massive hotel and grab a bite to eat before our room was ready.

But we didn’t explore too long because we had a tour booked with Vallarta Adventures, a popular tour operator in Puerto Vallarta. We definitely recommend them for any or all of your excursion or tour needs if visiting Puerto Vallarta. They literally offer a tour for just about everything! We decided we wanted to do the sea lion encounter (booked in advance online and got it for 50% cheaper). It was 60 minutes of fun – they teach you about the animals first, then – you guessed it – you get to play around in the water with them. They’re friendly creatures and 2 Girls Who Travel enjoyed it. You can also bring the whole family to experience it. If you don’t get in the water, you’re allowed to view from the observation deck. No pictures, though – it’s strictly forbidden. Photographers are on hand taking pictures and they give you the option to buy photo/video packages after. Note: They are very expensive, but again, it’s the only way to ensure you have memories from the tour.

These sea lions were so friendly!

We had dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants that night, La Estancia. Oh, did we mention our ocean view from the balcony of our room? Let’s just say waking up to that view or enjoying a morning coffee on the balcony is everything a relaxing vacation should be!

Shrimp tacos from La Estancia

The second day, we had a food tour scheduled in downtown Puerto Vallarta that started at 10:30am. This was booked through Viator, another popular tour company. The foodies in us were super excited to walk around downtown and sample Mexican street food.

This tour was awesome! It was a small group of us (5, including our tour guide Amanda), so we were able to do and see a lot more. Amanda made sure to teach us some of the history of the food, the street vendors and the city. Great photo ops, too! So if you want a food and walking tour in one, consider the Downtown Puerto Vallarta Food Tour.

The Food

Carne asada street taco

Mole – the brown one tasted like chocolate!

Learning the proper way to take tequila shots

This sweet drink had pecans, apples and other deliciousness inside!

Making fresh tortillas

Fresh red snapper ceviche – this was amazing!

Fun fact: In Mexico, Pico de Gallo is actually the name used for fresh fruit salad with chili powder. In the states, it’s commonly referred to as fruit cocktail.

That’s moonshine in that gun, there!

The Sights

Breaking for a quick pic

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Candy store!

Group selfie with our new tour buddies!

After filling up on the food tour – seriously, they feed you well – we changed into our swim attire and headed to the hotel pool. We were sooooo fortunate that the weather cooperated for our entire stay. Rain had been in the forecast, but not one raindrop was in sight. It was hot, sunny and the pool was spectacular and overlooked the beautiful ocean.

The pool was spectacular

Cocktails by the pool

Since we were already by the water, we opted to eat at Las Casitas, the hotel’s beachfront restaurant. Dinner was delicious (see spread below) and the views were unmatched. But the mosquitoes, not surprisingly, showed no mercy. Small price to pay for the experience, though.

Fried lobster tacos, pan-seared shrimp, steak …

After dinner, we decided to pay the beach a visit (we preferred this to going in the daytime when it’s busier). There’s something innately calming about listening to the crashing waves at night.

On our last day, we decided to wake up early, check out of the hotel and catch a taxi to see some of the other parts of Puerto Vallarta – there is seriously so much the city has to offer! This is something we also recommend – just getting a taxi, driver, whatever and letting them take you all over. In resort towns, it’s easy to get stuck in a few-miles radius of your hotel only. On our ride, we were able to see the Sierra Madre Mountains and decided we needed another trip to Puerto Vallarta in the future to explore even more!

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Sunday Breakfast at Baby Barnaby’s

It’s Sunday morning, and we’re looking for a tasty, early morning breakfast spot. We’d heard good things about Barnaby’s, so decided it was time to try them out! We opted for Baby Barnaby’s off of Fairview in Houston. This smaller neighborhood hot spot was super cute with an outside patio and modest indoor dining room.

Our server offered fresh orange and grapefruit juices. The menu was simple, but looked appealing. We had a long day planned, so we didn’t want to fill up. We opted for the breakfast plate with smoky thick-cut bacon and the banana nut pancakes with sausage. We did see some things for next time though – chicken fried steak and eggs and pork chop and eggs.

The breakfast plate with scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and wheat toast

The breakfast was a hit; no frills, but satisfying. The potatoes were crispy and well-seasoned. The banana nut pancake was fluffy and full of flavor. In addition to the food, the service was excellent. Our server was friendly and on point the entire breakfast. You know how we feel about great customer service. That wins with us every time! We’ll definitely be back. We are also excited to try lunch and dinner there.

All in all, Baby Barnaby’s has the 2 Girls Who Travel seal of approval.

On a sidenote, if after a lovely breakfast at Baby Barnaby’s you want a perfect latte, a nice drip or loose leaf tea, you should definitely visit Catalina Coffee just down the street at 2201 Washington Ave. We had the best latte and drip either of us has had in a very long time.

Delivery Italiano: A Taste of Italy in Your Own Home

With people working more hours and convenience becoming the method of choice for consumers (think Amazon Prime Now), meal kit delivery is huge these days! 2 Girls Who Travel have also tried out the meal delivery services. Check out our reviews of both Blue Apron and Home Chef.

We were invited to attend a preview for Delivery Italiano, an authentic Italian meal kit delivery service, and it immediately transported us back to our recent trip to Italy. Can you tell we miss Italy? We were instantly intrigued!

This family-owned and operated company manages to bring the taste of Italy to your doorstep with every new box.

So how does this work? Much like the other meal delivery services, you choose your box and subscription package. Subscriptions ship on the 1st and the 15th of each month. Then prepare your real Italian meal in about 30 minutes or less. Last step – Mangia!

Delivery Italiano also has a few other advantages – Italian chefs and a team of experts in Italy handpicking the boxes; plus they work with FOX’s MasterChef Season 4 Winner Luca Manfé who creates flavorful and inspiring recipes from each box.

In fact, Chef Luca was in the kitchen whipping up dishes during our preview!

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Chef Luca Manfe’

Chef Luca’s sous chef sauteing shrimp

We had the opportunity to speak with the founders of Delivery Italiano, Lance (President) and Brett Martin (VP of Operations). Here’s the scoop!

2 Girls Who Travel: Tell us about the concept of Delivery Italiano. How did it come about?

Brett Martin: We have a tourist company as well, called L&B Italian Tours. We’ve been doing that for about 3 years now … and I’ve been traveling back and forth, doing tours and tasting; they have all these small producers with all these fantastic products … and it just clicked …why not bring these products home?

2 Girls Who Travel: What can we expect in each box?

Brett Martin: Guaranteed two pastas, a red sauce or pesto, grilled vegetables, olives and oil, olives stuffed with cheese – every single product is from some point in Italy.

Lance Martin: Every box that goes out, we personally pack. The products are genuine, authentic Italian. We don’t want to sell something that you can buy locally. A lot of these products are from small producers that don’t sell in the U.S. A lot of these products have never been in the U.S. We’re the first company bringing them over … that’s where we stand out.

A typical box from Delivery Italiano

The boxes are packed full of goodies! We can’t wait to share the meal we make with our readers!

Be sure to visit www.deliveryitaliano.com to get a taste of Italy in your own home!

REVIEW: Sweet Times

If you’re familiar with the Oprah Winfrey Network’s (OWN) TV show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” then you already know that the show is based off the popular St. Louis soul food restaurant Sweetie Pie’s. And our fellow Houston foodies probably know that Sweet Times, part of the Sweetie Pie’s chain, made its way to H-Town in early February.

It took us a few months, but 2 Girls Who Travel finally made it out one Sunday to try it. You know we love some soul food!

We visited the restaurant on a Sunday around 1pm and even though there was a crowd, we were seated right away and given a quick rundown of the restaurant’s concept by a friendly hostess. So the Sweet Times concept is a bit different from the flagship location. As the hostess described it, it’s Mississippi soul food with a “sweet twist.” Our waiter explained it further this way: basically if you like sugar, this is the restaurant for you. (Because what’s a good soul food restaurant without a little diabetes? Val was all in – she’s a sugar fiend. Kim – not so much)

While we waited for the food, we were serenaded by the saxophone player. Yes, there was also live music – also something we love! And the walls of the restaurant were adorned with album covers as well as CD covers for you millennials who know nothing about a record player (ask your parents).

Sweet Times was brought to Houston by Tim Norman, son of Sweetie Pie’s founder Robbie Montgomery, and he was on-hand at the restaurant chatting with guests and even taking a few selfies. Sadly, we were too busy stuffing our faces to get a pic 😦

We got a pic with our awesome waiter Vicente, tho!

Oh, sure you want to know about the food. Here ya go!

We started with an appetizer of fried wings. They were good – about 6 wing pieces came with the order and they were seasoned well and fried crispy, golden brown.

Val’s Order: Smothered pork chops, collard greens, mac and cheese with cornbread; peach cobbler for dessert

Now we all know I tend to order my staple at every soul food restaurant so I grade smothered pork chops harshly. And these were very good. Not as tender as others I’ve had, but I got two nice sized chops, very flavorful and lots of brown gravy. The greens were sweet (as I was told they would be), but I decided I like my greens more salty than sweet. So I could take them or leave them. The mac and cheese made up for it. It was heavy (I hate runny or liquid cheese sauce) and it didn’t have those unnecessary bread crumbs on top. Great flavor and a nice portion. Oddly enough I was expecting the cornbread to be sweeter, but it was a good balance to the sweet greens.

Kim’s Order: Smothered turkey wing, cornbread dressing, collard greens, mac and cheese with cornbread; peach cobbler for dessert

The turkey wing was massive and covered with gravy – the lighter colored – and was very tasty. I highly suggest getting them with your Sunday brunch as they are only served on Sunday. Save your other entrees for other days of the week. I didn’t know what to expect with the dressing, but was very pleased with the flavor. It was light and moist. I don’t like dry dressing. Now all I needed was some cranberry sauce and I would be set! The mac and cheese was excellent and the greens were too sweet for my liking.

The verdict on the peach cobbler was mixed: Kim liked and Val didn’t really care for it. Definitely try for yourself!

One thing to note: Sweet Times is good at anticipating your needs. Every condiment you might ask for is already on the table when you sit down: ketchup, hot sauce, pepper sauce and salt and pepper. Of course we had to get some of our food to go, but we would definitely come back. There were so many other things on the menu we wanted to try – we didn’t even get to touch the seafood. Sweet Times is located at 6356 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX 77057. Check out their website for more details.

Part III – Italy: Rome and the Amalfi Coast

Hi Readers,

If you’ve been following 2 Girls Who Travel the past couple of weeks, then you know that I (Kim) have been sharing my recent trip abroad. The first installment on the blog covered Paris, France – a city that has my heart. The next installment was about the fabulous food we enjoyed in France and Italy. Now, the third and final installment will speak to all the beauty offered from Rome, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

When planning the trip, we decided that since we were in France, we may as well visit a neighboring country! We selected Italy and then narrowed it down to Rome and the world’s smallest country, Vatican City, which is encircled by Rome. Then we started thinking about the Amalfi Coast and all those picturesque views we see in the travel magazines and since we were so close, why not?

Next we had to figure out how we were going to do all of this. We figured the easiest way to get to Italy was by plane (while the trains were an option, they were overnight and time wasn’t a luxury on this trip). We found a reasonable fare and booked our trip from Paris to Rome! No return… let’s just get to Rome!

Rome

Rome and Vatican City were everything we had hoped for and more. Truly we didn’t have enough time in Rome; you need more than a few days there! But while there, we did manage to visit Vatican City, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Victor Emmanuel II Monument, Castel Sant’Angelo and more.

Check out the pictures.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument

The Colosseum

Trevi Fountain

The Swiss Guard at St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

Castel Sant’Angelo

Amalfi Coast

The beauty of the Amalfi Coast is literally jaw-dropping. We could have stayed in Amalfi – I mean stayed forever! The views were just gorgeous. To get to the Amalfi Coast from Rome, we used Italia Rail, a high-speed train from the Roma Termini station to the Napoli Centrale station in Naples. From Naples, we hired a car service. Sorrento 1st Choice Car Service was a highly recommended (amazing reviews) car service for Naples to the Amalfi Coast. I contacted the service and arranged for pickup from the train station, a tour of the Amalfi Coast (why not?) and transportation back to the Naples airport so we could fly back to Paris for our last night before returning to Houston. We had lunch in Sorrento, toured Positano and then stayed the night in Amalfi. We should have stayed for a week. That was the best investment we could have made. The tour of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast was enlightening and breathtaking.

Check out the pictures.

Amalfi Coast

This trip was utterly amazing! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Au Revoir.

Caio.

Part II – Food from Paris, Rome, Sorrento and Amalfi

This post is for all the foodies who love Parisian and Italian food. My recent trip made my dreams of having croissants in Paris and real Italian pizza a reality!

I want to share some of the stand-out meals across all the cities we visited.

PARIS, FRANCE

No visit to Paris is complete without trying fresh baked croissants.

Croissants are a Paris staple.

We decided to try a restaurant – Angelina’s – based on a recommendation from a fellow food blogger, Black Girls Who Brunch, who had experienced Paris and offered some awesome recommendations. Definitely check out her blog for some amazing pics and tips.

While at Angelina’s, we started with their famous hot chocolate. It was incredibly rich and thick. Since it was tea time, we decided to have hot tea with our meal. I decided on the truffle Parmesan ravioli and Gloria tried the beef fillet. The ravioli was tender, well-cooked and a nice touch with the arugula salad topping. The beef fillet was tender and juicy. This restaurant is definitely recommended!

Tea at Angelina’s

Truffle Parmesan Ravioli at Angelina’s

Beef Fillet at Angelina’s

Also while in Paris… we tried a trendy spot called The Fish Club. If you know me, then you know I LOVE seafood. The Fish Club is listed as a top 10 fish and seafood restaurant in Paris. We started with the flame cooked king crab with thyme butter. The king crab was fresh and tasty and the thyme butter was amazing! I hadn’t had drawn butter with thyme before, but I’m definitely going to make it at home.

Flame cooked king crab with thyme butter

We then had a huge platter for 2 and by the time we finished we were both stuffed full of lobster, crab, shrimp and prawns!

The red platter for 2 with lobster, crab, king prawns, jumbo shrimp and pink shrimp

Dinner and wine at The Fish Club

ROME, ITALY

Our next stop on this adventure was in the magnificent city of Rome. We had so many good meals in Rome… I’m just going to highlight a few of our favorite things.

Let’s start with the breakfast at our hotel, The Vatican Style Suite. As the name implies, it’s less than a 5-minute walk to the Vatican and is a small, boutique/apartment style hotel. Breakfast was delivered fresh to our room every morning. We would simply fill out what we wanted and return the night before with the time for delivery noted. Fresh coffee, teas, breads, bacon, eggs, meats and cheeses were all great!

Breakfast at our hotel – The Vatican Style Suite

One thing I loved about Rome was stopping for gelato… it was so tasty and refreshing, especially during the day when it was a little warmer than the evenings. I loved the fragola (strawberry) gelato!

Gelato… I opted for fragola (strawberry)

Dinner was a treat each night. We decided on Gusto the first night.

Gusto

I started with the Panzanella di gamberi (shrimp panzanella). I love shrimp, olives, spinach and tomatoes— just didn’t think I would really love them together like this, but it was lovely! I’d get it again!

Panzanella di gamberi (shrimp panzanella)

Next, I had the seabass – the special of the evening. They brought out the whole fish and offered to fillet it for me at the table – kind of cool! The vegetables along with the fish were perfectly grilled.

Also in Rome, I had PIZZA – finally!! And it was amazing! We went to a local, neighborhood spot, Trattoria Da Cesare, outside of the city center.

Trattoria Da Cesare came highly recommended. I had the pizza and Gloria had the pasta with pork cheek. I enjoyed the pizza. The cheese and sauce were perfection. Gloria enjoyed the pasta, but the pork cheek’s taste was somewhat off-putting. We also had wine (every meal had wine – lol) and an interesting Italian beer with the meal.

Sausage pizza

Pasta with pork cheek

Italian Beer

SORRENTO, ITALY

We did a tour of Sorrento and decided to have lunch at a cute little restaurant called Monnalisa, near the square.

I had the grilled lobster with a light cheese pasta… OMG— this was the best. Sitting in the square people-watching, with a wonderful meal!

Grilled Lobster and pasta

Outside dining in Sorrento with Gloria

AMALFI, ITALY

Amalfi was just beautiful… all I wanted to do was sit outside and have a drink on the balcony! How about a perfect margarita at our hotel, Hotel Residence Amalfi?

Drinks on the balcony in Amalfi

I hope you enjoyed this foodie journey. I can’t wait to experience it all again!

Part I – PARIS: 2 Girls Who Travel in the City of Light

Kim here, 1/2 of 2 Girls Who Travel, and this first trip abroad in 2017 encompasses my visit to three very different cities: Paris, France; Rome, Italy and Amalfi, Italy. We’ll share all the details in a series of weekly posts. We’ve got lots to cover on each city – food, monuments, travel tips, hotels and even transportation.

Let’s start with my first stop, the very cosmopolitan city of Paris.

I roped my sister Gloria into this trip with me (Val had a huge work conference – think oil and gas OTC week). Neither of us have ever been to Paris and decided that carpe diem (or seize the day) was our trip motto.

After spending this time in Paris, I’m in love – with its museums, shopping, cafes, architecture, monuments and of course the people! Let me first say that Paris cannot be adequately covered in just 3 days. A week wouldn’t be enough time and I’m seriously doubting 2 weeks would suffice either! So in 3 days time, I wanted to immerse myself in Paris as best I could.

This may be a little long (even after breaking this into a series), so please forgive me in advance. I want to give you all the details, tips and inside notes so that you can plan your own trip and enjoy it as much as I did mine.

I started this journey on a 10-hour nonstop flight from Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) on Air France. Now, this was not a bad flight at all, in fact relatively short. I recently covered a few tips for surviving long haul trips here. Once we landed, we decided to get some euros (€).  The exchange rate was not in our favor ($1 = 0.91€), but we expected this and came prepared to pay the price. You can exchange money once you land in Europe at banks, ATMs, the airport or local currency exchanges.  A couple of quick suggestions when traveling abroad: notify your credit card company so your account will not be flagged for fraudulent activity and be sure to check if your credit card charges foreign transaction fees.

Once we had cash, we ‘queued’ for a taxi (got in line) into the city. We arrived at our hotel, the gorgeous Pullman Paris Eiffel Tower and as the name implies, it was literally across the street from the Eiffel Tower. Our room even had a balcony and at night the view was Ahhhhh-maz-ing!! This hotel is highly recommended! The staff, food, service, room, balcony and views are all A+!

The balcony view from the Pullman Eiffel Tower

Next we decided on a tour of the Eiffel Tower. We opted to do a “skip the line tour.” Skip the line tours are definitely your friend. There are many tour companies. We chose Viator and purchased an Eiffel Tower Summit Priority Access with Host. Our tour guide was awesome. She showed us all the areas of the city from up high in the tower and shared the history of the city and the tower. The views were breathtaking and we just stared out at the city long after the tour ended. This tour is highly recommended. Check out the views below.

The next day we opted to do another “touristy” thing – the hop on, hop off bus. Now I’ve heard people say no and yes to the bus, but I’m saying YES – a big YES! The attractions of Paris are not all in one close convenient area, so you either take a regular bus (which is fine), an Uber (which we did use a few times – for dinner and airport runs), a taxi, your feet or the hop on, hop off buses! The hop on, hop off was actually quite informative. We learned about each monument and rode on the top section of the bus for the best pictures! Check out the pics from the ride.

 

The other item well worth it’s price is the Paris Pass. We opted for the Paris Museum Pass. It offers access to over 50 museums (including the Louvre Museum) and monuments in and around Paris. We even used this to visit the Palace of Versailles, which is about a 45-minute Uber ride outside of the city or you could also take the Metro – the most cost effective way.

I must say one of the most beautiful and sacred places we visited was Notre Dame. We timed the visit just right to attend Mass. Now the Mass was in French, but if you’re Catholic, you probably would be able to follow along somewhat. Between growing up Catholic and high school and college French, I managed to understand and follow the service. It was an awe-inspiring experience with the choir, the organ and all the diverse cultures worshipping together.

The Louvre Museum

In line at the Palace of Versailles

The famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles

Notre Dame

Another Paris must do is a Seine River cruise! It was absolutely spectacular. We loved this 90-minute scenic cruise. They do offer dinner and night time cruises, but loved the daytime cruise. See the pics below.

I did break up my Paris trip with a flight to Rome and train to Naples and car service to Amalfi.  We’ll cover that later, but it was so worth it. Let’s fast forward to my last night in Paris (after we came back from Amalfi).

The last night in Paris was spent at the Hôtel Champs Elysees Friedland by Happyculture, a stone’s throw away from the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. We enjoyed this hotel as well. The location, room and the service were great! Our room even had a balcony (you’ll start to notice – I love balconies). We spent the evening window shopping up and down the Champs Elysees and having dinner at a cute restaurant along the way.

The Arc de Triomphe

Whew! Are you tired yet? Lol!! Well this was our Paris experience and we LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it!

Next week, we’ll talk about the Parisian food we enjoyed. Needless to say, almost every meal had a croissant!

Au revoir!

5 Tips to Stay Sane During a Long Flight

If you are ever planning to take a flight out of the good ole USA, then you may be in for at least a nine- or 10-hour flight … and if you’re headed somewhere like say, Australia – that’s more than 20 hours in flight. Don’t know about you, but 20 hours cooped up in a cramped seat with nothing planned to do is not even an option for me.

There are many things to do on flights and conveniences that make long hauls totally bearable. This is from my (Kim’s) personal experience. Take a look at our list below and let us know in the comments how you survive your long haul flights without going insane!

  • Tip 1 Netflix and Inflight Movies are your best friends. I love that Netflix has movies and television shows that are available for download. The only catch: make sure your device has enough storage space to download those movies and Seasons 1, 2 and 3 of your favorite comedy! Inflight television on long hauls is actually pretty decent, but you should still be prepared with your own movies just in case something happens to the inflight movie screening. You never know, so just plan! Planning is our friend!
  • Tip 2 Read a book. You can go old-school on ’em and pull out a paperback/hardback copy. Or you can download a few books from iTunes or Kindle Cloud Reader. You can even do audiobooks. I’m a fan of those. Every now and then I like to hear a different voice telling me the story. While I like mysteries or thrillers, I’m also a sucker for a great biography or New York Times bestseller. What better time to catch up on the latest greatest business book? You’ll look great at the company happy hour talking about leading industry news.
  • Tip 3 Revive a lost art form. Write thank you cards and thinking of you letters to long distance friends and family members. They’ll truly feel loved and missed when they get this piece of snail mail in their box. You’ve gone the extra mile and took time to say hello in actual print rather than a text or email.
  • Tip 4 Go to sleep! It may not be the best sleep, but don’t knock it. Remember to bring earphones, an eye mask if you’re sensitive to light and a travel blanket. You’re all set to zone out and land feeling refreshed. Also bring mouthwash and toothpaste to freshen up your breath after that snooze fest!
  • Tip 5 You could actually do some work. I don’t know about you, but I’m usually staying late at the office the days before a big trip to make sure everything will run smoothly while I’m away, but if you have some work that you can do while you’re inflight, bring it. You’re not going anywhere … and I’m not saying do it 15 hours straight, but if you put your headphones on, hit your iTunes and put on your go-to Beyoncé album, I bet you could knock out a couple of nagging reports or small projects and have one less headache to worry about when you get back.

Who Wants a Taste of the Florida Keys?

2 Girls Who Travel love traveling … and we love to eat – seafood is one of our faves. So the Taste of the Florida Keys event at Oceanaire in the Galleria was right up our alley.

Representatives from The Florida Keys came to Houston and created a fine spread of Keys-inspired food and drink for us Houston food bloggers. We’re talking fresh shrimp straight from Florida, an exquisite cheese assortment and even a Keys-inspired cocktail! Did we mention the blowing of the conch shell? What’s not to love?

Rum? Why thank you!

Hey yall!

We definitely need to take a trip to Florida soon! Keep scrolling to check out all the deliciousness …

Fresh shrimp

Wonderful cheese and fruit assortment

Ceviche

Key lime cocktail

Drooling over these

And of course there was key lime pie for dessert!

2 Girls Who Travel Attend the Stage Play “Grand Concourse”

We had the pleasure of stepping away from the food and drinks this weekend and attending a stage play at Houston’s Main Street Theater in Rice Village.

First of all, how did we miss this gem? It’s so cute … and it’s a smaller venue than the ones downtown where we’ve frequented many times. The smaller venue makes for a more intimate experience and with a play as thought-provoking as Grand Concourse, that was a good thing.

The play is set in a soup kitchen in the Bronx and has four main characters: Frog, an older homeless man who is battling addiction; Oscar, the charming muscle of the soup kitchen who handles all the riff-raff; Emma, the young college dropout who strives to find her purpose by volunteering at the soup kitchen; and Shelley, the proverbial protagonist, who runs the soup kitchen and amid the chaos, somehow manages to keep everything – and everyone together.

The play runs 1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission. And it’s fast-paced. You’ll witness dialogue and conversations while the actors are chopping up real vegetables. Fewer characters allows for a deeper understanding of each and at times, you’ll wonder if there is really a “good” or “bad” character. Rather, they’re all just people – trying to figure life out. There’s subtle humor and sarcasm, some adult themes and emotional exchanges. We really enjoyed the play.

And after, we were able to snag an interview with lead actress Callina Situka, who plays Shelley.

Selfie with Callina!

TGWT: Are there any similarities between you and the character you play, Shelley?

Situka: Yes. We are both direct. We both have a lot of compassion and love. Or that’s me and I’m just putting that out in Shelley (laughs).

TGWT: You all perform this show four times a week. How do you bring it every show? Is it draining?

Situka: Yes, this show in particular because it’s an hour, 30 minutes straight and I get three breaks, it is very tiring. Herman (who plays Oscar) and I like to get on the stage before the show to warm up our voices, sometimes we do yoga together, and though I don’t think it will make it better or worse, I have weird things I do before the show. I’ll touch the microwave and I’ll touch the crucifix. I’ll touch things just so I’m centered and I’m present.

TGWT: What do you want people to take away with them after watching this play?

Situka: What I always want, specifically for this performance, is people to think and to feel something. But even more specifically I want them to analyze their own lives. A lot of people have opinions about whether they would forgive because of the situation on stage and one of the things I heard from a patron was that it made him think about who he hasn’t forgiven. I love that. I want people to think about what is it that they’re willing to forgive. Why am I not willing to forgive? Where can I give compassion where I’m not?

Grand Concourse runs at Main Street Theater through April 30. For more information, click here.