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Author: rubymary

Inferno: Traveling around Milan and Florence in July

Inferno: Traveling around Milan and Florence in July

Infero. It was a fitting name for our July trip to Italy because we were going to Florence, the hometown of the writer Dante and his works on hell. Inferno is also the name of the famous Dan Brown book featuring Robert Langdon, symbologist hero extraordinare, who ventured through the nooks and crannies of Florence and Milan to ultimately save the world.

Inferno was the perfect word to describe our late honeymoon because, well, it was hot. Really hot. Like, hotter than Dante’s inferno hot. In fact, it was so hot, it was the the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe. read more

Barcelona in February: A Tale of Two Stomachs

Barcelona in February: A Tale of Two Stomachs

Chances are, you have a friend, family, or coworker who has traveled to Barcelona in the last few months. Barcelona is a hot destination, especially in the winter months like February, because it’s a city with plenty of sunshine, fairly warm weather, and sandy beaches to lounge around on.

Last year everyone, including my best friend H and her husband, were fed up with winter. We had it with scraping ice off the windshield, walking around in freezing wind with rain and snow, and never seeing the sun. Our friends raved about Barcelona’s good food and weather and, after googling a few photos of Spain and Catalan cuisine (and consequently drooling on the keyboard), we ended up booking February flights for Spain. read more

The Ruby Ronin’s 2019 Year End Roundup

The Ruby Ronin’s 2019 Year End Roundup

Tulip Festival March 2019

Happy 2020 everyone! While this post is very tardy, I will reply with the age-old excuse: better late than never. And honestly, no one probably gives a flying crap about how my life went in 2019, but I like to write these kind of posts for myself. It’s always interesting to look back on my year-end summaries and see just how much my life has changed in 2, 5, and even 10 years (wow, this blog is so old).

Compared to my whirlwind life in 2018, I have to say that 2019 was much more “calm”…. and that’s exactly what I needed. It’s been the year to sit back and settle down (somewhat), and figure out my place in life in this new city called Portland, Oregon. read more

Need a good rom com? “Love the Way You Are” is one of the best Chinese Love Stories of 2019

Need a good rom com? “Love the Way You Are” is one of the best Chinese Love Stories of 2019

I was on a Delta flight and saw “Love the Way You Are,” or 我的青春都是你 as a Chinese film up for viewing. It looked like a sub-par romantic comedy, but I was surprised to find it a sweet Chinese love story that, even after the credits rolled, I still find myself thinking about it with a smile on my face. It’s definitely the best Chinese Love Story (rom-com) I’ve ever seen.

The rom-com has become a formulaic and a nearly dead genre in the West. Aside from “Crazy Rich Asians,” the rom-com has failed to make cinematic profit in decades. Hell, the genre has gone so downhill that there’s even a rom-com about how ridiculous rom-coms are. read more

How studying Italian helped me learn Japanese

How studying Italian helped me learn Japanese

I recently fulfilled my lifelong dream of going to Italy, but many (including my husband) wondered….

Why Italy?

As many of my long-time readers know, I’m half-Vietnamese. My mom is a refugee from Vietnam and her native language is not English. While I grew up in an English speaking home, my mother struggled to adapt to her non-native tongue. Not being able to fully communicate with my mother made me feel like a stranger in my home.

Since I cannot speak Vietnamese, many of my friends often assume that I was not exposed to Vietnamese whatsoever. However, while my mom never spoke Vietnamese directly *at* me, the language was actually all around me growing up. My mom watched Vietnamese music videos and dramas constantly. In fact, whenever I hear the string of an erhu and guqin with the long winded cry of traditional Vietnamese singing, I am immediately taken back to my childhood living room. read more

Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

Ah, seems like only yesterday I was writing about what it was like to live in Dallas, Texas. One year later here I am, in the heart of the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon. While the vibe of the Pacific Northwest is a much better match for my lifestyle and values, not everything is perfect. Here are my thoughts on Portland after two months in the city of roses:

1 – Is Portland like the TV show Portlandia?

Yes. Very much so.

This is doubly true for my particular neighborhood (east of downtown). Most restaurants are very vocal and transparent about where their produce and meat comes from; there are cute boutique shops on every corner that sell the most random stuff (including bird-stamped goods), and I’ve been in not one, but two feminist book stores within walking distance. And it’s only been two months! read more

I Did Not Like Crazy Rich Asians, and I’m Half-Asian

I Did Not Like Crazy Rich Asians, and I’m Half-Asian

Crazy Rich Asians broke all sorts of records.  It was the first American-made film to feature an all-Asian cast.  In the US alone, it pulled in over $175 million dollars–and only cost $30 million to produce.  It has a 91% positive  score on Rotten Tomatoes and received praise from a diverse range of audience that includes Asian-Americans, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics–and just about everyone.  With such glowing praise and rave reviews, I just had to check out the movie for myself. read more

How to Split the Check in China, Japan and in America

How to Split the Check in China, Japan and in America

I think all Americans have at least one extremely unpleasant memory of splitting the check at a restaurant with friends. Let’s face it: in the states, when you go out with a group of friends and the check comes at a restaurant, it ain’t a pretty sight. You whip out a pen and a calculator, ready for the math to begin. You beg the server to swipe six separate cards, since no one ever brings cash anymore. You start fighting over who should pay for the appetizer, based on bites taken.

While Venmo and other money transferring apps have alleviated some of the headache, there is no denying one fact about splitting the bill in America: read more

How to Hike the Kumano Kodo in Japan – Nakahechi Trail

How to Hike the Kumano Kodo in Japan – Nakahechi Trail

Almost three years ago I hiked the Kumano Kodo trail, one of Japan’s holy pilgrimages and only one of two UNESCO recognized pilgrimages in the world. I wrote about my experience here, but I did not follow through on my promise to write a guide.

Three years ago it was extremely difficult for me to find a blog post that detailed an itinerary on how to do the most frequented trail (Nakahechi) on the Kumano Kodo. I spent hours researching and I guessed on so many items. Even with my Japanese skills, planning this trip was tough. read more

Why Montreal is my Favorite City in Canada

Why Montreal is my Favorite City in Canada

Notre Dame Basilica

Many are surprised to learn that my husband is a Canadian citizen. Before his parents took the plunge and moved to the United States, they started the first chapter of their North American life in the frozen North of Canada. My husband waxed poetic about Canada like it was a lost paradise. Mary, he often told me, I will take you to Canada–the country of my childhood–and I will show you why I love it so.

Well, husband came through. I’ve not only visited Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver–but to my surprise, my husband proposed to me on the top of Mount Whistler in Whistler, Canada. Like husband predicted, I fell in love with Canada. From my point of view, Canada is basically a friendlier, cleaner, and more egalitarian version of the United States. read more