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Questheart – A new project on Findery

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Here at Findery, we love it when people use the platform for their projects. Photographer Robert Dawson used it for his public library project. Artist Femi Martin left notes about the places where her relationships ended. Now, a lovely new member is inviting us to participate in a tiny monuments project. Think of it as marking places where you feel inspired. We’ll let @Questheart do the explaining.

ABOUT THE PROJECT
A game to push tectonic plates of love, life, and communication apart and create new landscapes of empowerment and mirth.

How do you play? Make a tiny monument to experience, a pattern break, a love note, a dreamscape drop, and post it on Findery, tag #questheart. Every note is a point. Every point adds 32 minutes to your life (this is an irrefutable fact).

Wanna play?

Three Great Notemaps

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Alex Rodriguez is a CODE 2040 intern at Findery. He is on the engineering team for the summer. One more year at UCSD beckons him back in the fall!

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Are you in need of creepy notemaps or city exclusions? Have you visited Los Angeles or South of the Market, San Francisco? Here are a few of my favorite notemaps!

1. Haunted Los Angeles – I love the horror genre (from Carrie to the Shining to Rosemary’s Baby) and even more, creepy places to go to! Being from Los Angeles, I must pay a visit to these scary sightings!

2. SOMA – Living in the SOMA district, I have yet to explore all of the SOMA places to go to. This notemap places good locations to visit if you live there.

3. LAdventure – Being a LA native, I am one of those that has yet to explore the vast territories of Los Angeles. LostAndFound depicts great places, from letterpress locations to coffee boutiques, that you should dwell and see!

Three Great Notemaps

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Nicollette Lui is a back-end engineer at Findery. Three Great Notemaps is a blog series, in which each Findery team member chooses their favorite notemaps – that’s our word for a collection of notes!

When I’m not traveling, I like to daydream about traveling. I love the feeling of being somewhere new, with so much to explore. It’s invigorating. But traveling doesn’t have to mean taking a five hour plane ride. That feeling of being somewhere ‘new’ can happen in your very own city! All you need is open eyes and a curious mind. Findery is great for discovering interesting tidbits about places and for marveling at your next destination (I confess, I do both). Here are three of my favorite notemaps:

Iceland Trip 2013 by @firda. Gaze at the beauty of Iceland and read about firda’s experience! A friend and I want to visit Iceland soon and this notemap has lots of great ideas for our trip.

Trees of San Francisco by @tree. Discover the different tree species growing in San Francisco (photos, locations and descriptions included). Tree has a wonderful series of notemaps cataloging trees in different cities.

Pink Lakes by @jessajames. PINK Lakes, what?! I know, I know, it sounds bizarre. But they exist! Look at the different shades of pink and read how these lakes came to be.

9 Cones for National Ice Cream Day

President Ronald Reagan was really on to something. I’m not talking about his “Reaganomics” or “War on Drugs.” He designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday (or shall I say Sundae?) as National Ice Cream Day. Recognizing ice cream as “fun and nutritious” I fulfilled my civic duty by trying nine ice cream shops across SF. I wanted to see how these shops and their ice cream, gelato and sorbet scoops stacked up. Literally. With so many “fresh”, “artisanal”, and “organic” options out there, it can be difficult to decide what cone is right for you. Do you value humor, sophistication, or something a little exotic? Use this as your guide to find your match in ice cream heaven. (Warning: This “research” was not condoned by my doctor, but was fully endorsed by my sweet tooth.)

The Clever Cone

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Pictured: Breakfast of Champions and Brown Sugar Fennel. Photo by Erin Fong.

Humphry Slocomb is a scoop with a sense of humor from the two headed calf bust hanging in the shop to their clever website. (Be sure to browse their “ingredients” section. With flavors like Breakfast of Champions (bourbon and corn flakes), Harvey Milk, and Pepper & Mint Chip, you can have a belly full of laughs with a belly full of ice cream.

The Rite Cone

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Pictured: Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel Swirl and Honey Lavender topped with rainbow sprinkles! (Duh!) Photo by Erin Fong.

Bi-Rite is my long go-to ice cream parlor, even before a shop opened up a block from my house. I used to balk at the line twisting around the corner on 18th Street as eager sugar fiends melted for the salted caramel ice cream, and then of course, I promptly lined up before more people got in front of me.
Bi-Rite may be the pioneers of artisanal ice cream as they were the first SF shop to use Straus Creamery in 2006 (which was the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi!). Their rich ice cream is simple and balanced utilizing only 5 fresh ingredients to create flavors like Ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodle cookie pieces), (vegan) Chocolate Coconut, and Basil (sourced from Full Belly Farms).

The Exotic Cone

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Pictured: Dragon Fruit Sorbet and Yogurt Gelato. Photo by Erin Fong.

Literally translating to The Crazy Cup, La Copa Loca has some of the craziest flavors around. Owner Mauro grew up in a northern Italian kitchen and went back to master the art of gelato making in 2001. With a traditional gelato background that focuses on fresh ingredients and seasonal fruits, Copa Loca offers a wide selection of gelatos and sorbets in colors and flavors that I didn’t even know could exist…dragon fruit, soursop, camu camu. You see what I mean?

The Unsung Cone

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Pictured: Scotch & Cigar and Thai Iced Tea. Photo by Erin Fong.

DeLise is in uncharted territory for me hiding in plain sight in North Beach. The ice cream aspect can easily be overlooked as they are also a cafe, bakery, and a great lunch spot. Using Straus Creamery and Clover Dairy products, husband and wife team Dennis and Eloise Leung (whose names combined create DeLise) are on top of their flavor combo game without getting too obscure. Offering new and inventive tastes by blending western and asian elements, the duo have developed some unexpected and seasonal flavors. Mooncake ice cream is in honor of the Moon Festival mixing lotus root paste with crumbles of pastry crust and salted egg yolk. Lucky for me their Father’s Day special, Scotch & Cigar, was still around, made from scotch and chopped up cigars (don’t worry, they are filtered out of the liquid) which leaves a lingering burnt flavor that’s so unique one lick just isn’t enough. I was incredibly impressed by DeLise and couldn’t believe I had never even heard of it before!

The Anywhere, USA Cone

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Pictured: Their new flavor Chai Tea and the flavor of the month Bubble Gum (because that’s what I ordered as a child – exclusively). Photo by Erin Fong.

It seems like not much has changed at Joe’s Ice Cream, which has been serving the heart of the Richmond District since 1959 with its diner style service and parlor. It’s the type of ice cream parlor that you and I went to as a kid (if you lived anywhere other than San Francisco) and long before “artisanal” and “ice cream” were married. I was surprised to find flavors like Caferio (coffee and oreo) and Salted Caramel, and if you ever need a Chocolate Covered Banana this is the spot!

The Dainty Cone

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Pictured: Summer Strawberry and Goat Cheese in a dainty little cone. Photo by Erin Fong.

Yo! There’s a new fro-yo in town. Eatwell Farm’s Icebox (in the Second Act Marketplace on Haight Street) swirls 4 artisanal frozen yogurt flavors using Straus Creamery alongside their organic and hyper-local ingredients from their very own Eatwell Farm just outside of Dixon, CA. Swirl the tried-and-true combo of Classic Vanilla and Stoneground Chocolate or get a little adventurous with Summer Strawberry and Goat Cheese. The handmade butter waffle cone is a no brainer and is the perfect size for a little summer pick-me up.

The Nostalgic Cone

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Pictured: Blueberry and Caramelized Honey. Photo by Erin Fong.

Ice Cream Bar tugs on my Art Deco heartstrings. The place is adorable with black and white tiled floor (the cute hexagonal style tiles-not the squares), curved counter seating at the ice cream counter, AND a boozy soda fountain to boot. Its old-timey feel is authentic from the soda jerks (I’m not being a jerk, that’s what they were called) dressed in white aprons, hats and bow ties to the actual interior that was an original 1930s soda fountain driven out from its original location in Mackinaw City, Michigan. The nostalgic feel is countered with modern in-house flavors created daily with local and organic ingredients from Petaluma. It was a toss up between the Speakeasy Payback Porter, Snickerdoodle Cookie in Cream Cheese Ice Cream, and Creme Fraiche.

The Sophisticated Cone

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Pictured: Olive Oil and French Lavender. Photo by Erin Fong.

Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous are mysterious types. Their website is non-existent and a Google search only pulls up rave reviews. I made my way down to their cute brick building in Dogpatch and sampled from their limited selection of homemade ice creams. (Word on the street is that you can only sample 3 flavors, so I dared not ask for a 4th.) With flavors like Olive Oil, White Sesame, All American Bitter IPA, and Young Coconut, they really put the cream in ice cream with rich and sophisticated flavors, just like the shop itself.

Your Father’s Cone

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Pictured: Turkish Coffee and Thin Mint. Photo by Erin Fong.

Swensen’s is in fact your Father’s ice cream cone, but that’s not a bad thing. In 1948 Earle Swensen opened up shop on Union and Hyde Street focusing on using the finest ingredients available in a perfect blend that was as ”Good as Father Used to Make.” Swensen’s became widely popular and was the first national Ice Cream Parlor to serve a natural premium ice cream. The landmark parlor still stands in Russian Hill scooping up a handful of the 150 flavors that Swensen developed (Swiss Orange Chip, Sticky Peanut Butter, Caramel Turtle Fudge). Despite all the flavors, Mr. Swensen still said classic vanilla was his favorite, and classic is exactly what Swensen’s is!

Like any relationship, sometimes the first one’s not right for you, and that’s ok. Get back out there and try again. There are plenty of scoops in the ice cream sea. And trust me, two scoops are better than one.

For more ice cream around the world, go here!

Come for the Music Festivals, Stay for Chicago

Festival season is officially underway in Chicago. If you’re coming for Pitchfork or Lollapalooza, don’t miss out on what the rest of the city has to offer. We wait all year for summer – you may have heard that we just had an epically terrible winter – and this is the best time to take in all that’s awesome about Chicago.

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Part of the Art In Public Places project on 16th Street. Image: Libby Lowe.

Go Ahead, Be a Tourist
There’s no shame in getting your tourist fix–Chicago has some awesome things to see and do. If you want a break from the heat, The Art Institute is right near Lollapalooza and is home to some of the best art in the country (and the cleanest bathrooms). If you’re more into street art, go directly to Pilsen. While there’s amazing art to be found on almost every flat surface, the 16th street murals project sponsored by the neighborhood’s Alderman features block and blocks of murals by famous and not-so-famous artists. While in Pilsen, eat at any Mexican restaurant, The Honky Tonk BBQ or Nightwood.

Take in a day game at Wrigley Field. (Do it even if you don’t like baseball; the Cubs are terrible and it’s all about the people watching anyway). While you’re in the neighborhood, drop into The Alley to get something pierced, or just check out the corner that made the 90s cool for many of us: Clark and Belmont.

People in Chicago like to go to the top of things. If that’s your jam, head to The Sears Tower or to the Signature Lounge at the Hancock Center. To see the city’s great architecture without spending a nice day inside, get on a boat. The Architectural Boat Tour is awesome. Locals use out-of-town guests as an excuse to go again. While you’re downtown, check out Millennium Park, have yourself a little photoshoot at the Bean and splash around in the water with the kids.

Bikes
Divvy bikes, conveniently located across from the Gold Star. Image: Libby Lowe.

Getting Around

With all of your festival revelling, you’ll be glad to know that public transportation in Chicago is relatively safe, easy and—in many cases—available 24 hours a day. The Green Line L train will take you to Pitchfork (as will the Ashland bus if you are coming or going from Wicker Park), the Blue line will shuttle you between Logan Square, Wicker Park and downtown, and if you’re here for Lollapalooza, you have your choice of trains and busses. Uber is everywhere, too.

Divvy, the city’s bike sharing option, is a great way to get from here to there—BYO Helmet. Tip: Google your route to check for bike lanes and avoid biking on Ashland. Cut a few blocks west to Wood Street where traffic is lighter and there’s a bike lane in place. Milwaukee Avenue and Damen are also bike friendly. If you’re going to and from the heart of the city for Lollapalooza, Kinzie (hello protected bike lane!) is your best bet.

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A beautiful selection of tacos at Big Star. Image: Bing.

Join the Taco Party
For post-festival eats, skip the hot dogs and pizza, and have some tacos. There are a number of neighborhoods where you can stumble across $2 taco bliss. But, let’s focus on what’s close to festival central.

If it’s late and you want a quick fix, your best best is to head to West Town. On Chicago Avenue, you’ll hit the goldmine of open-late, cheap taco shops. The best is Taqueria Traspasada (cash only, open until 1am).

The best place to be part of the hispter taco revolution that has swept the city in the last few years, is Big Star in Wicker Park. If the patio is packed, order from the takeout window and plant yourself across the street in on the grass in Wicker Park. Antique Taco (just down the street) is another local favorite. To beat the crowds, make your way to Bullhead Cantina in Humboldt Park. All offer relatively cheap tacos with interesting combinations, great drinks and solid chip and guac options. If Michelin Star Mexican is more to your liking, make a reservation at Mexique in West Town.

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Rainbo, home of—maybe—Chicago’s most made-out in photobooth. Image: Libby Lowe.

Drink Like a Local
Wicker Park is one of Chicago’s main nightlife hubs and many festival-goers head to the neighborhood after the last act. Lots of locals complain about how much the area has changed over the last 15 years—the Marc Jacobs store moving in on Damen a few years back really pushed people over the edge—but there are still great places tucked in among the new sports bars to grab a drink.

If you want to get a taste of what the neighborhood was like back in the day, take a photo in the photobooth at Rainbo (Liz Phair did and it became the cover of Exile In Guyville), play pool at Gold Star, shoot hoops at Phyllis’ Musical Inn, join a ping pong tournament at Happy Village and feel like you’re drinking in the best creepy basement ever at The Innertown Pub.

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Wooden postcards and other must-haves at Paper Doll. Image: Libby Lowe.

Pick Up Some Souvenirs
If you’re taking a break from festival life and want to do some shopping, avoid Michigan Avenue—there’s not much there you can’t find at your average mall.

If you don’t know what you need, you will find it at RR#1 in West Town. Once your eyes adjust to all of the stuff in this small spot, feel free to go candle crazy, get a Chicago flag onesie for your pregnant friend or a new bag. Get old school and send some postcards to your friends back home—or pick up some easy-to-pack paper momentos. The happiest paper shop in Chicago is Paper Doll on Division.

And, while you’re on Division, do some clothes shopping. Centrally located among lots of small boutiques, Penelope’s was one of the first on this now-popular stretch and remains a great place to shop for clothes, accessories and more. Venture a little further north to Milwaukee Ave. and hit the SIlver Room for super cool jewelry, Ragstock for resale and Una Mae’s for a mix of new and vintage clothes.

From Wicker Park, hop the Blue Line L to Logan Square and stop in at Wolfbait & B-Girls. Logan Square is the next Wicker Park, so while you’re there, have brunch at Lula and check out the scene at Longman & Eagle—which also has a few rooms to rent if you’re looking for a cool place to stay.

Three Great Notemaps: I Love Summer!

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Jessica Jordan is on the Content, Community and Marketing team at Findery. Three Great Notemaps is a blog series, in which each Findery team member chooses their favorite notemaps – that’s our word for a collection of notes!

Looking for Summer adventures? I love using Findery to discover new places that inspire me to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather in Northern California. I spend my weekends relaxing by the coast, hiking, wine tasting and exploring. I hope you enjoy my three favorite notemaps, be inspired!

Sonoma County by @Jessica. I recently enjoyed an amazing weekend in the wine country and explored several of her favorites, can’t wait to try the rest!

Great Outdoors Wishlist by @ECWC makes me want to pack up the car and drive to the nearest National Park. My son and I have a National Park bucket list and look forward to planning all of our adventures. Power down the Wii U and give your kid the gift of Summer memories full of nature and wonder.

Beaches by @jessicaj. Adding notes to my notemap, Beaches, instantly relaxes me and transports me to the coast. I love everything about coastal living and cherish summer days spent at the beach. I was lucky enough to live on Maui for many years, so I’m always looking for the next beach, check it out!

The Biggest Little (Underrated) City

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Image via Wikipedia

Reno is the biggest little city in the world with a long history of gambling, not to mention a shout out from Johnny Cash who “shot a man in Reno”. Forget the flashy lights and cigarette stench of the casinos and come discover the other side of small business owners and artists that make this place a community. (However, if you are into all that, find the Reno Arch and gamble your heart out.)

From its seedy past as the gambling, legalized prostitution, and divorce capital U.S.A, the local business owners in Reno have really started to clean up its act. Most notable is the emerging Midtown District, just south of downtown, that is now overflowing with shops, restaurants, and bars due to the support of Midtown District Reno and the Creative Coalition of Midtown. I’m positive that all you need is 24 hours to fall in love. In fact, I’d double down on that.

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Image via Hub Coffee Roasters

To start any day off right, go meet your local, friendly barista. In Reno, this means The Hub Coffee Roasters located in a tiny little brick building with a roll-up garage door, offering fresh roasted beans and single drip coffees.

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Image via Tyler Turtle

Once the caffeine is coursing through your veins, master the art of brunch with live jazz and bottomless mimosas at Chez Louie in the Nevada Museum of Art. Then check out the rooftop sculpture garden with views that will blow your hair back.

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Image via Reno Has Style

Walk off that brunch (or that buzz) to Never Ender, an independent retail shop and art gallery selling handcrafted artisanal goods started by Amber Solorozano, who also happens to be a co-founder of the Creative Coalition. Shop the hip desert vibe Gold Seam Vintage which is so reasonably priced that you will go home with a pair of velvet leggings with stirrups…I know I did.

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Image via Erin Fong

If you’re looking for a little more character in your used clothing, head over to Junkee, which is jam packed with used/vintage clothing and accessories with an entire antique mall on the other side. I like to call that a two-for-one deal. There’s even stuff for the little ones across the street at Sippee’s, which feels like a ride at Disneyland!

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Image via Old Granite Street Eatery

By this point all this shopping is making you hungry. Respite is near! Old Granite Street Eatery is an all-round leader. With a great brunch selection and possibly the best happy hour in town (half off draft beers and wine AND 3 for $10 snacks), it’s perfect for any time or day of the week. I’ll have three orders of the shisito peppers please.

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Image via Erin Fong

If you’re searching for the fountain of youth, Brasserie St. James is the closest you will find in Reno. Renovating the historic Crystal Springs building, the brewery retained the rights to the natural springs below which is paired with Pilsner malts and hops from a small family farm in Sonoma Valley to create craft brews. The roof deck can’t be beat on a warm summer night.

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Image via Erin Fong

Speaking of craft brews, Craft Wine and Beer walks the line between being a liquor store and a bar with a gigantic walk-in fridge of specialty beers and crates of wines strewn about. With a “for here” option, most people opt for cracking their beers open and enjoying with friends at the inside picnic tables.

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Image via Erin Fong

Craft cocktails on the other hand are a sure bet at Death and Taxes. This dark speakeasy style bar is known for pouring big city cocktails at big city prices. (One too many and you may be taking this Hearse home.)

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Image via Lincoln Lounge Facebook

If all this “artisanal” and “craft” talk has you searching for the nearest dive bar, I suggest swimming over to Lincoln Lounge on 4th street. This once VERY seedy locale housed what may have been an illegal brothel upstairs but has become more respectable with portraits of Honest Abe lining the walls by local artist. (This watercolor by painter Jaxon Northon is my favorite.)

Kill a few hours by starting your Mug Club membership which entails drinking all 60+ beers here and get your very own Abe mug on the wall. It’s like a trophy for adults! Or better yet, burn those beer calories at their monthly Soul Night with DJ Andrew.

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Image via City of Reno

A handful of artist studios are in the area and if you’re lucky enough to go by Cuddleworks when someone is around, be sure to stop in! Cuddleworks is home to Bootleg Courier, the best (and only) bike messenger service around, who share a large converted warehouse with local artists like Erik Burke, Anthony Arevalo, Nick Larsen and Omar Pierce.

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Image via Erin Fong

The most important part about your stint in Reno is be sure to be friendly to your local bartenders, servers, and fellow patrons because chances are you are in their establishments. If you’ve fallen madly in love with Reno, stop by the drive-thru wedding chapel on the way out of town and seal the deal!

Three Great Notemaps

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Image: Spring has Sprung, by @johnfox.

John Fox is an iOS engineer at Findery. Three Great Notemaps is a blog series, in which each Findery team member chooses their favorite notemaps – that’s our word for a collection of notes!

I caught the travel bug way back in the early ’80′s when I went on a high-school student exchange trip to a small seaside town in France called Les Sables d’Olonne. At the time, everything about France and the students I spent time with seemed so different: the fashion, the music, the food all so delightfully “foreign”. Fast forward to today, and things seem much less different. The French in particular have long been concerned with preserving the “Frenchness” of their culture, but in the Internet age, that’s a hard battle to fight. Franglais is a durable cultural phenomenon, and its analog exists in most other non-English speaking cultures as well.

These days, wherever I go, I’m fascinated by the signs all around me of one big global cultural re-mix, and that’s exactly the type of stuff I love to document then present using Findery. This Spring I took a trip which took me to London, Leicester, and Athens. During this time, I was that annoying person who was constantly taking pictures, recording audio and shooting small snippets of video. I drive my wife crazy when we’re walking down the street, and I’ll just stop for no apparent good reason. Good thing she wasn’t with me for this trip.

Why do I do this? Mostly because I can’t help myself: I’m fascinated by signs, graffiti, street art, mainstream commercial marketing, and how they all borrow from, and re-shape each other. As a result, when I take pictures, I tend to favor the oddball and the ephemeral. There are no fewer than 1.4 billion photos of the Eiffel Tower on Flickr and other similar sites. Am I going to take a better one? Probably not. The funny sticker attached to a trash can, or a bit of insightful graffiti? That’s what I’m all about! I like to pretend I’m an archaeologist from the future trying to make sense of the culture whose artifacts I’m digging up.

+ With that thought in mind, here are three notemaps I enjoy, starting with the one I made about Athens called Observing Greece.

+ Punny Business Names by @keandrews is a notemap I would have created myself if she hadn’t beat me too it. Let the pun bell ring out.

+ Finally, Findery Field Trip by @derekeb reveals his varied and excellent taste in interesting destinations.

Three Great Notemaps

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A MONSTRUM playground in Denmark.

Maggie Nelson is a lead engineer at Findery. Three Great Notemaps is a blog series, in which each Findery team member chooses their favorite notemaps – that’s our word for a collection of notes!

What will our civilization leave behind? What will puzzle the archeologists thousands of years in the future? Let’s not worry about that and instead enjoy the wonders and ingenuity of humankind around the world… on Findery:

* Unusual Collections – Editing, applied to real life!
* Funicular – “Let me pull you up this mountain… in a railroad car!”
* MONSTRUM – Unusual and practical meets in the most fun playgrounds you’ve yet to see!

Vietnam: Beyond the Hostel

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Image: Libby Lowe

Maybe you went to Europe after college. Maybe you had that experience of staying in a hostel and getting by on $10 a day. Maybe you’re totally and completely (said with love for having had the adventure) over the idea of ever doing that again.

In your 30s, you hit a travel sweet spot. While you may not be flying first class, you don’t have to change planes four times and leave at 4am to save $100 or share a bathroom with 9 strangers. Welcome to traveling like a grownup!

Vietnam is a great destination to test out traveling like an adult because you can create an experience that affords you a little bit of luxury for not a lot of money — and hang on to that feeling that you’re really traveling, not just hanging out at an all-inclusive resort and never leaving the property.

Let’s start in the north (because grownup trips usually have at least a loose plan), and take a trip to Vietnam.

Hanging in Hanoi
Of the larger cities in Vietnam, Hanoi definitely feels the oldest, least westernized and most traditional. If this is the first city on your tour, get a decent hotel room. This isn’t the time to shell out — it’s the beginning of the trip and you will be out and about a lot — but it is the time to make sure you have a private bath and a quiet place to sleep.

Most hotels offer free breakfast, and this is a time to cheap out. While there are often options like eggs or pancakes, eat like a local and fill up on pho. Soup for breakfast? Yes!

Once you’re ready to hit the streets, a walk through the city is a great way to explore—but tread carefully, traffic in Vietnam is terrifying. Understand this: You just have to go. The traffic lights don’t matter and no one is going to stop for you. Keep an even pace and find a local and walk as close behind them as possible. This will make you seem creepy. Do it anyway.

To meet some locals and see the city’s main tourist attractions, like the Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh‘s residence and mausoleum, sign up for a tour with Hanoi Kids. Not only will you get knowledgeable guides, they will take you to hard-to-locate places like Ca Phe Trung where you can have a legendary egg coffee.

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Image: Flickr, Brian Fagan

Do Not Miss Halong Bay
Arrange for an overnight trip to Halong Bay, a two-hour bus ride from Hanoi. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and if you are that close and don’t go, you kind of messed up. An overnight in a non-fancy room on the fancy New York Times-recommended boat, Emeraude Classic Cruises, will run you about $300, which includes transfer to and from the city. You’re going to be spending the night on a boat—now is not the time to go bare bones.

While out to sea, be sure to tour Hang Sung Sot, an amazingly cool cave that will not make you claustrophobic—it’s that big.

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Image: Libby Lowe

Get All Touristy in Hoi An
Now! Now is the time to shell out for the fancy beach resort hotel. You’ve been traveling a while and probably need a break. Many of the hotels have free shuttles to and from the center of town (and cabs are cheap). Here’s the awesome thing about Vietnam: A fancy beach resort can cost as little as $200 a night depending on the season.

Hoi An itself has amazing food (so aside from breakfast which might be included with your room rate) don’t eat at your fancy hotel. When you get to town, be sure to try the local dish, Cao Lau (pictured above).

Plan to stay at least a few days so you can have clothes custom made. Hoi An is known for amazing tailoring—bring photos from websites or magazines to have dresses or suits replicated. Typically, turnaround is 24-hours.

Glimpse the Future, and Visit the Past, in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon by many) is a fascinating mix of new and old, East and West. There’s a large backpacking district with really affordable good food, but, remember, it’s loud and crowded and as a grownup, you can eat there but you don’t have to sleep there.

If you are a history buff, check into The Rex Hotel. During the Vietnam War (or the American War depending where you are) the rooftop bar at The Rex was the place to hangout as a reporter. It was home to the American military command’s daily briefing, nicknamed The Five O’Clock Follies.

Also, be sure to take a trip to The War Remnants Museum. It opened in 1975 as the Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes and, in 1990, became the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression. As tourism in the country increased, the name softened—but the contents didn’t. This is a tough visit for many Americans, but an important one and a good reminder of just how recent the war was and just how lasting its effects have been.

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Image: Libby Lowe

Detour Down the Mekong
From Ho Chi Minh City, take a bus out to the Mekong Delta and spend a day (or an overnight) on the river. There are a number of bus trips that depart from the center of the city. The ride is about 2.5 hours and once you’re off the bus, you’ll get on a boat. Be prepared for a day of multiple kinds of transport.

On the Delta, depending on what tour you choose, you may see rice paper and coconut candy being made, listen to local music or eat lunch with a python. This is also a good opportunity for a hat montage to round out your adventure.

Pro Tips for Your Multi-City Trip to Vietnam:

– Pack layers, but don’t overpack — in February, for example, there can be a 50 degree difference between the temperature in Hanoi and the temperature in Ho Chi Minh City.
– If you travel through Seoul, which many flights do, but don’t have time to explore, visit the in-airport cultural center. It’s fun to try on traditional Korean clothes when you’re totally jetlagged and confused.
-The locals are nice. Talk to them—you never know what adventure you will find.
– When traveling between cities in Vietnam, you can take a train or a plane. The internet will tell you that the train is “not luxurious but okay.” You are on an adult vacation. Take a plane if the train ride will be more than a few hours, unless you’re into standing in pee.
– Eat the street food. You’ll (probably) be fine.

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