Category Archives: Travels

A journal of my travel adventures!

SF Sundays – Top Ten Musts for 2020

It’s February, can I still say Happy 2020? Probably not but I’ll say it anyways… HAPPY 2020!

It’s actually been a bit busy for me, with my full time work, side projects and recent certification exam (long story, short, I like to keep learning!). However, I have been making a list of all the things I must see, do and eat in the Bay Area when I realized, does everyone else know about these sweet delights in our backyard?

What must we see, do and eat in the Bay? Here are a few off the tip of my very long list for 2020:

50 Years! I can’t be the only one that didn’t realize there is a fantastic museum that encompasses our history as a state just off the Lake Merritt Bart Station in Oakland. The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is a fantastic space housing local art, history and culture with beautiful collections and visiting exhibits. This year, the OMCA is on my must revisit list as it celebrates it’s 50th anniversary of not just being a fabulous museum, but a welcoming “gathering place in the heart of Oakland”.

Let’s Eat! Reem’s has been added to my must eat list after seeing the nonstop hype behind it. Even the local news was all giddy when it was announced that this Oakland staple was opening up shop in San Francisco’s historic Mission District. Like a typical foodie, I went to check out the menu and literally salivated. It’s also worth mentioning that this is an Arab American lady owned business. So I’m biased in thinking it’s up to the hype and I can’t wait to eat it all up!

Up Above the Clouds! Taking a hot air balloon ride has been on my bucket list for a while. In looking to tick it off my list this year, I’ve come to find out I can do just that in the North Bay’s beautiful Napa Valley. We are spoiled for choice, whether going up with a group or privately, for an hour or so. Regardless, you can head to Visit Napa Valley to see which option best suits you, as well as other things to do while you’re up there.

Broadway! One of the longest running shows on Broadway is roaring it’s way to the Bay! The Lion King will be showcasing for a limited time this summer at the Center for Performing Arts in San Jose. As this is a limited engagement, it’s on my must see list because tickets will sell fast. Especially since it’s happening right after Hamilton’s extended run in San Francisco. What? You haven’t seen Hamilton in the Bay yet? What are you waiting for? It’s now extended through May 31st so add it to your 2020 must see list!

Frida! The most anticipated exhibit of the season coming to the Bay has to be Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving. Thanks to the Frida Kahlo Museum (aka The Blue House) in Mexico City, Mexico, we here in the Bay will get to see some of her personal items along with some of her magnificent works of art. As a fan of this prolific artist, this exhibit is on my must experience list, with the accompanying lectures, docent talks and much more at the de Young Museum.

Jazz It Up! The music scene in the Bay last year has been absolutely amazing. So much so, I started 2020 by heading to SFJAZZ‘s annual new year concert series of the legendary trumpeter Chris Botti! This concert was just a peak into the amazing line up happening this season. I’m now a proud member and so should you if you don’t want to miss out on great shows like this…

Hole In The Wall! Did you know, there’s a Peephole Cinema in San Francisco? Blink and you miss it! Peephole Cinema San Francisco is located in the Mission District at 280 Orange Alley, looping silent short films for those who’d like to take a peak. Another one was just added at SFO’s Terminal 1, thanks in kind to the curator, Sarah Klein. If you’re a movie buff or at least appreciate the art form, then add this to your must see list.

Yummy Delicious! The two day Eat Real Fest in Oakland’s Jack London Square has announced it’s dates for the year. What makes this food festival exciting is not only the great food expected to be shared, but the celebration of sustainable local ingredients and the craft behind the dishes and drinks served. I missed last year’s festival so I’m looking forward to eating my heart out while checking out all the cooking classes and demos that are being planned as we speak. Yummy!

Under The Sea! From the depths of the seas, statues of a three headed serpent and a mysterious deity were found, possibly lying in shipwrecks for centuries. The LOST AT SEA exhibit now through March is only happening at the Asian Art Museum. This tops my list as this one of a kind exhibit is only happening in San Francisco through March. You’re welcome to join our InterNations Culture and Art Group as we time travel and explore these wondrous beauties in February.

Just For Laughs! I LOVE the stand up comedy scene here in the Bay! We are truly blessed to get some of the best up and comers as well as established comedians stopping by to make us laugh. Ali Wong and Trevor Noah ended 2019 by coming through with sold out shows! 2020 shouldn’t be any different, if not better. I personally can’t wait for Michelle Wolf‘s return to the Bay later this week. Later this season, Jim Carrey, Whitney Cummings and Ali Wong will be in town too, woohoo!

So what’s on your Bay Area list for 2020?

Disclaimer: This rant was not sponsored or paid for by any of the above mentioned entities unless otherwise noted. Any and all sponsored or paid rants are for time spent, never for a biased take or review. If you’d like me to check out a happening around town or a local eatery to rant about, please email ha@mshala.co.

International Coffee Day

Wherever I’ve been in the world, I’m blessed to have sipped some ridiculously good coffee.

Happy International Coffee Day!!

Travel Link Up – Favorite Staycation Spots

Travel bloggers come together monthly for the Travel Link Up, a fantastic way for bloggers to come together to write and share posts of a particular theme. Even though I’ve been behind, I try to join whenever I can. This month’s theme is “favorite staycations” and I just had to take the opportunity to brag a bit about my hometown region and a far away favorite. 

Staycations are like adding a fun boost to the weekend that’s usually set aside for family, laundry, errands and TV binge. When you are in need of a vacation but can’t go so far or for so long, it’s good to hop in a car, a train, or even a short flight to enjoy a quick break from the mundane.

Here, I’m going to focus on two of my favorite staycation spots since I’ve lived in two different parts of the world. One being in my hometown of the Bay Area and the other being from my expat life in Qatar.

Let’s go far then bring it back home.

Muscat, Oman

IMG_20161209_112439-01.jpegDuring the five years of my expat life in Qatar, I was lucky to be able to go on weekend trips to near by countries like the UAE and Kuwait. Many of which literally meant time with family and friends or at a hotel spa getting a well deserved pampering session. I got to do a little bit of both with some adventure when friends and I headed to Muscat in 2016 for a long birthday weekend.

Barely an hour flight away (think SF to LA), once I landed, I went straight to the hotel where I indulged in a mani-pedi pampering session before chilling on the warm private beach with a good book. Yes, Muscat in December is like a sweet summer day in San Francisco. It’s seriously perfect beach weather, warm but not too humid, light breeze and clear skies for the most part.

As an IHG member, I got a sweet deal at the Crowne Plaza Muscat. It’s very much a chill out hotel that I’d go back to again. Great spots to eat, excellent services and did I mention they had a private beach?

IMG_20161209_165408-01.jpegOnce my friends caught up though, we went exploring! Headed to Bimmah’s infamous sinkhole and clear beaches before driving out the city to the canyons of Wadi ElSham. This is a trek everyone should do once in their lives, absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.

Canyons are no joke and as an out of shape person, it wasn’t too hard to trek through some of the rocky narrow parts. And if you’re a swimmer, you’ll love the varying spots where you can take safe dive, come back up and trek some more. I went as far as I could before the path was too narrow for me and alas, I’m no swimmer but I still enjoyed exploring and watching the waters ripple below.

Nature truly beckons here in Muscat, where you can lose yourself in awe of your colorful surroundings.

Monterey Bay, California

I’ve been a tourist in my hometown since repatriating back home over a year ago. There is still so much for me to rediscover as I eat my way through town and see the changes that have happened over the course of my absence. I did get to rediscover an old favorite for a few staycations, including a birthday weekend late last year (I know, I’ve developed a pattern! =P ). On a good day, it’s a short hour and a half drive to this small historical beach town.

IMG_20190331_134903-01.jpegOnce a mainstay for sardine fishing and canning, Monterey has become a hub for marine preservation and exploration. My brother got his scuba diving license there before we took my nephew to his first aquarium adventure. He got to see all the different kinds of jelly fishes up close before finally seeing his favorite, the hammer head shark, swim by.

Just a half hour away, one can head to Moss Landing for an afternoon of dolphin and whale watching. It’s an absolutely glorious experience, highly recommended!

Make it a true girls trip and head to the Monterey Plaza Hotel for a beautiful room, a day at the spa and dinner by the sea. The hotel even offers perks and packages, especially if they know you’re there for a special occasion. They were sweet enough to offer us freebies from my favorite coffee spot there, Tidal Cafe -home of the best chocolate scones, EVER!- as a birthday gift.

So tell me, where are your favorite staycation spot(s)?

Picture of the Day

Sometimes when you just take a moment to appreciate your surroundings, a beautiful blue jay will come to appreciate you. And allow you to capture it’s beauty. 🐦

Video of the Day

Happy Birthday to me
Let’s head to the sea
For the dolphins to cheer and glee
Happy Birthday to me!

Alhamdulillah for a breathtaking experience of being out in the sea and among seals, otters, whales and dolphins for my birthday this past weekend.

Happy Coffee Day!


For International coffee day today, I’m reminiscing about the morning filled cappuccino and granite during my fun week in Sicily. I’d go back just for those mornings! ☕ What coffee drink has you reminiscing today?