Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘California’

City of Angels

LA City View

I LOVE LA

There, I said it. I, a native New Yorker, loves the city of freeways and urban sprawl.  My first visit to Los Angeles was with my family when I was in college and similar to the experience of many people I knew, I was not too impressed.  I pictured palm trees, beautiful sandy beaches, and Hollywood glitz.  What I was met with was homeless people on Hollywood boulevard, traffic, mansions hidden behind massive gates, traffic, fast food signs and pawn shops along Sunset Boulevard, and more traffic.  I left thinking I’ll never come back.  But I did.  For grad school.  And I loved it.  I think now that the traffic and the sprawl and the pollution is the city’s way of protecting all the wonderful spots for its own residents.  And now I’m here to reveal my favorite spots (don’t hate me Angelenos).

So here is how I would plan a trip back to Los Angeles, because believe you me, with negative temperatures in the Northeast, I sure am wishing I can go back to LA soon! First thing, remember all the traffic I talked about? Yeah…that’s real.  You want to plan your trip based on sections or neighborhoods of LA so you’re not zigzagging across the city getting stuck in traffic while trying to make it from one attraction to another.

Day 1 – Beach Day

Ease into your trip by enjoying a laid back day at the beach, Cali style.  Pick up some delicious pastries at Huckleberry for a morning picnic at the beach.  Head to Malibu to Leo Carillo State Park.  There’s rock formations for pictures, climbing, and resting, tide pools, and also a dog friendly area so you might even catch some happy dogs frolicking about.  I found the beach clean, the sand soft, the waves calmer, and less crowded than other beaches.

Malibu

My dog frolicking at Leo Carillo State Park Beach

After a few hours of sunbathing, you’ll want some lunch.  Drive back down the Pacific Coastal Hwy to Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market Market for what else, fresh seafood and views of the Pacific Ocean.

Malibu 2

View of Malibu from Santa Monica

After lunch, head to Santa Monica for some activities.  If you have kids or you are a kid at heart, hang out at the Santa Monica Pier.  There’s rides, games, and an aquarium.  If you want retail therapy, head to Santa Monica Place for a cool open air mall.  Go to the top floor for an awesome dining area with loungers and fire pits, and great views of the beach.  Also, walk down 3rd Street Promenade for more shopping and performance artists.  If you like to chill like me, walk along Ocean Boulevard, which is a tree lined boulevard with views of Santa Monica Beach.  Make sure to also stop by the new Tongva Park located across from the Santa Monica Pier.  It’s a small park but very well designed and also offers nice views of the beach.

Santa Monica Pier

Image Source

For dinner, what’s more Cali then having a gourmet burger at Father’s Office? There’s other items on the menu but the standout is the burger which is made with gruyere cheese and blue cheese.  It’s a gastropub with a great selection of beer, making it a 21 and older only crowd.  If you have kids, try the more family friendly, but equally famous and delicious Umami Burger.

Umami

Image Source

Other things to do in this area:

The Getty Villa – Beautiful art museum housed in a Villa.  Located between Santa Monica and Malibu.  Requires advanced reservations though.

Getty Villa

Image Source

Malibu Creek State Park – Scenic hike overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Easy to Moderate intensity.

Malibu Hike

Random fireplace found at Malibu Creek

Malibu Lumber Mart – Don’t let the name fool you.  It’s a high-end shopping plaza with cool architecture, nice resting areas and even a playground.  Go if you feel like splurging or people watching!

Other places to eat:

Dukes – Kitschy Polynesian themed seafood restaurant known for it’s views.  It’s a fun place to get cocktails and chill.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco – Fast casual fish taco spot.  You can’t leave Cali without eating fish tacos and this place does it well if you’re looking for a quick meal.

Bay Cities Italian Deli – Great deli for picking up cold cut sandwiches and antipasto for a picnic.  Get the Godmother, so good!

BOA Steakhouse – Excellent steakhouse for a night on the town.  You may even spot a celebrity or two!

Stay tuned for more!

Read Full Post »

Hello again!

I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a long while, but I had good reason! I had a new addition to the family and she’s now at the wonderful fun age of 20 months! I also moved back east to New Jersey to be closer to family and friends so the last 2 years have been quite a whirlwind.  Having moved back a few months ago in the dead of winter has me feeling very nostalgic for California.  So I want to devote the next few posts to where I’ve called home for the last 5 years, Los Angeles, a brief stay in Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

One reason why I’m blogging again is that I view this as a living journal of my travels and I don’t want to forget my wonderful time on the west coast.  The other reason is that I hope share some of my favorite places with you all and hopefully inspire some of you to take a trip out west!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite spots in LA, the promenade on Ocean Blvd. overlooking Santa Monica Beach, magical!

misc 748

Read Full Post »

It’s been 3.5 years since we moved from the East Coast to sunny California!  In that short time, we’ve been so fortunate to have visited so many of California’s great attractions and cities.  Seriously, California truly has it all.  Where else can you go soak up the rays on a beach, ski down powdery slopes, hike to through a breathtaking national park, and eat amazing food, all within a few hours of each other?  I highly recommend a roadtrip through this great state!  Here are the breathtaking sights and cities that we’ve visited.

San Diego/Coronado/La Jolla – Highlights include over 300 days of warm sunshine a year, pandas at the San Diego Zoo, and a laid back Cali vibe:

cali 1

Los Angeles – Where to begin? Santa Monica beach and boardwalk, Hollywood hike, Venice Canals, and food trucks!  Stay tuned for future posts on La La land!

cali 2

Joshua Tree National Park – Love those Joshua Trees!

cali 3
Santa Barbara/Solvang/Santa Ynez Valley – Great wineries, quaint Danish town, and gorgeous Spanish style architecture:

cali 4 San Francisco – I love this city! SF is a charming city with amazing views throughout and an overabundance of great food!

cali 5

Napa Valley – Delicious wine and food, and gorgeous scenery to boot…. what else do you need?

cali 6

Tahoe – Powdery slopes in the winter, beautiful lake and hikes in the summer:

cali 9

Yosemite National Park – One of country’s most beautiful national parks, Yosemite has breathtaking scenery and if you visit from May through September, gushing waterfalls!

cali 7

Mendocino – Rugged coastlines and a slower pace of life, this is the perfect area for rest and relaxation!

cali 8

And 2 places I haven’t visited  yet, but will eventually!

Death Valley National Park:

cali 10Image Source

Redwood National Park:

cali 12Image Source

Read Full Post »

The hubs and I celebrated our 3-day President’s Day weekend with a getaway trip to Mendocino.  I’ve been wanting to check out this northern coastal town for a while now and I’m so glad we went.  Mendocino is like stepping back in time, the pace is a little slower, the people are friendlier, and the landscape is amazingly raw and beautiful.

First off, Mendocino is 3.5 hours north of San Francisco.  On the way up though, we made a slight detour to Tomales Bay for oysters, which I highly recommend to anyone heading up.  They were oh so delicious and so worth it despite having to eat outside in the freezing cold because of our dog.  I’ll blog about the oysters and surrounding Point Reyes area in another post though 🙂

We stayed in Fort Bragg, a bigger city just 10 miles north of Mendocino.  It’s not as quaint as Mendocino but offers great coastal trails, cheaper lodging options, and a less touristy feel.  Although I would’ve loved to stay at one of the B&B’s, we opted for a more economical option since we were also bringing along our goldie.  At $60 per night and a $10 pet fee, Super 8 Motel was just what needed, simple and clean accommodations at a good price.

Just 5 minutes from the Super 8 is North Harbor, where there are numerous seafood restaurants:

And across from the Super 8 Motel, there’s a trail right by the Cliff House where you can walk you dog and take in the fresh ocean air.

We went to Cafe Beaujolais for an early dinner since we didn’t make reservations.  Cafe Beaujolais is an intimate French restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal ingredients.  Everything about our meal was amazing.  For appetizers we had the soup of the day, which was a creamy tomato bisque and the local Dungeness crab cakes.  Entrees were the Niman Ranch steak and the Kurobuta pork chop.  And for dessert we shared the flourless Callebaut chocolate lava cake, which was a mistake since I wanted it all to myself!  The restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Mendocino and I highly recommend you make reservations, unless you are willing to eat dinner at 5:30pm like we did.

We started our second day with brunch at Eggheads and coffee from Headland’s Coffeehouse.  Eggheads is your typical no frills neighborhood breakfast joint.  They’re known for their kitschy Wizard of Oz decor and their large variety of omelets.  The hubs had the house special Dungeness crab omelette and I had the garlic special omelette.  I’m pleased to say Eggheads was quite generous with both the crab and the garlic! The food is not going to blow you out of the water but it is a good hearty breakfast.  There is often a wait for the restaurant but they give you a call on your cell phone so you can wander around town while you wait, which we did.  We grabbed coffee at Headlands, which offers a dozen different coffee flavors (pic below) and walked around downtown Fort Bragg which looked like it had been frozen in time.  There are tons of unique stores to keep you occupied for at least an hour and also a good number of art galleries.  We particularly enjoyed the photo gallery just down the street from Eggheads.

After brunch, we picked up Hansel from the hotel and headed to Glass Beach.  The beach is known for the abundance of sea glass from the dumping of garbage many many years ago (back in the early 1900’s).  Overtime the beach was cleaned up and the ocean water eventually wore down the glass from discarded bottles into smooth colorful glass pieces.  Nowadays tourists go to the beach and pick up the glass pieces as souvenirs even though you’re not supposed to.  We didn’t go down to the beach but stayed on the coastal trail walking north.  The trail follows the curves of the cliffs and eventually turns into MacKerricher State Park.

MacKerricher State Park eventually leads to a dog friendly beach.  Hansel definitely enjoyed his time here!  The beach was so pristine and there was only a handful of other people around, I can imagine that it would be so nice on a warm summer day.

After we sufficiently tired Hansel out, we brought him back to the hotel and headed into Mendocino to walk around town.  We grabbed a snack at Frankie’s, which serves pizza and locally made Cowlick’s ice-cream.  They have interesting ice-cream flavors like mushroom, ginger, and egg nog.  And if you eat in, you can amuse yourself with their “questions people ask”!  With questions like “is the mint chip minty?” and “what kind of bread does the ice cream sandwich come with?” it makes you wonder if people really did ask those questions!

Mendocino is definitely a charming little town full of little boutiques and art galleries.  Stop by one of their many fudge shops for a snack.  And for a real hidden gem, stop by the Garden Bakery for their pastries, in particular the apple turnover, which was so yummy and not too sweet.  It’s tucked away in a little alley with a small garden seating area.

We ended our night and our stay with dinner and beer tasting at the North Coast Brewing Co.  The food is nothing to rave about and if you must order food, stick to the fish and chips.  They’re known for their craft beers and their tasting was worth it, $15 for 12 different 4 oz beers.  It was certainly a good end to a relaxing trip!

We took it easy in Mendocino but one can easily fill an entire weekend with activities there.  The Botanical garden is highly recommended and dog friendly.  There’s numerous hiking trails, whale watching trips, and wineries in nearby Anderson Valley too.  The best part about it for me was that it was so dog friendly there.  Most of the hotels and B&B’s allow pets and with the abundance of trails, we were able to keep our dog happy as well.

Here are the details of all the places we visited, which are all recommended:

Cafe Beaujolais – 961 Ukiah St, Mendocino

Frankies – 44951 Ukiah St, Mendocino

Garden Bakery – 10450 Lansing St, Mendocino

Eggheads – 326 North Main St, Fort Bragg

Headlands Coffeehouse – 120 East Laurel St, Fort Bragg

North Coast Brewing Co – 455 North Main St, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach – 320 East Oak St, Fort Bragg

MacKerricher State Park – 24100 MacKerricher Park Rd, Fort Bragg

Read Full Post »

I had such a good time last weekend visiting friends and exploring San Diego/La Jolla from a local’s perspective.  Although I really love Nor-Cal, the wonderful weather and beaches were enough to make me miss living in Southern California.  I didn’t have much time to spend down there (less than 48 hours) but we still managed to fit in so much, especially in the food area!

Friday night was spent at Harney Sushi in Old Town.  Not only was it close to the airport and bus station, making it a convenient stop after everyone arrived, but it was a great spot for late night dining.  We arrived there at 10:30pm and the place was happening! The ambience was great, the scene was lively, and as a bonus, they also had a half price late night dining menu!  Definitely check this place if you’re looking for a place for drinks or late night cheap sushi.

 Image Source 

There’s nothing I look forward to more than brunch on the weekends and Hash House a Go Go definitely delivered.  It’s one of the more popular brunch spots so make sure you make a reservation or be prepared to wait.  It is located in the Hillcrest neighborhood though so you can definitely explore the neighborhood while you wait for a table.  Hillcrest is a hip area filled with unique restaurants and shops and also borders the northwest corner of Balboa Park, close to where the San Diego Zoo is located, so it’s a fun area to visit.  But back to Hash House.  They serve what they call “twisted farm food”, but I basically call it yummy comfort food on steroids.  One meal there and you’re good for the whole day!  They have all kinds of hashes, scrambles, benedicts and pancakes.  Everything we ordered was delicious so you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

After our hearty breakfast we headed to Coronado Island for the Annual Artisan’s Craft Fair and to check out the famous Hotel Del Coronado.  The craft fair was a good way to walk off all the food we ate and a good place to pick up some holiday decor and gifts if I didn’t have to carry it back on the plane with me.  Even though Coronado Island is separated from San Diego by just a short bridge, you feel as though you’ve been transported to a small island village.  The homes on the island are incredibly charming, the people are so friendly, and the beaches are vast.  The Hotel Del is a beautiful beachfront hotel that’s conveniently located by the main drag.  The town center was already decked out in holiday lights making for a very festive atmosphere.  We toured the hotel grounds, taking in the various Dr. Seuss sculptures, the ice-skating rink set amidst the palm trees, and the ocean views.

Since it was only about an hour to sunset, we decided to take a stroll on the beautiful beach (one of the nicest in So-Cal!), grab a cup of hot tea and wait.  Seems like everyone else had the same idea since all the ocean facing tables with fire pits were taken! The sunset definitely did not disappoint, it was so beautiful.

Afterwards we drove back into the city for dinner at Oceanaire Seafood Restaurant in the Gaslamp District.  The service was impeccable and the seafood was delicious.  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for fresh seafood or just a nice night out.  We had the Whole Flash Fried “Angry” Mexican Lane Snapper, the Boston Pan Fried Scallops, and the “Drunken” South Pacific Swordfish.  All were extremely tasty.  After dinner, we strolled through the Gaslamp District, which is chock full of bars and nightclubs if you’re into that sort of nightlife, and headed straight to what else, desserts, or more specifically Extraordinary Desserts!  This place was a-mazing.  There’s all sorts of desserts that you can pick from including a handful of daily specials.  The place is also open until midnight, making for a great spot to hang out post-dinner.  I wish there was a place like this in SF, or maybe there is but I’m not aware of it (if you guys know of any, I’m all ears!).  All the desserts were giganto so I’d suggest sharing and were beautifully decorated with fresh flowers.  Needless to say it was all delicious and we were plenty satisfied.  They also have an extensive drinks list, all kinds of specialty teas and food if you want to have dinner there too.

Our final day was spent in La Jolla.  We started the day off going to the La Jolla Open Aire Farmers’ Market where we sampled in-season fruits.  The market is not too big but there’s still plenty of produce vendors, cooked food stands, and a live band, lending to a fun Sunday activity.  We had brunch at The Cottage, another great brunch spot.  That Sunday happened to be the annual Christmas Parade in La Jolla so we caught part of it walking down Girard Avenue.  There’s definitely a great community down there with families and pets all dressed up in holiday garb getting into the holiday spirit.  We then headed towards the ocean and saw the birds and sea lions at La Jolla Cove, Scripps Park, and the seals at Children’s Pool Beach.  I don’t think I can ever get sick of seeing those seals and sea lions, they are so amusing sometimes and the seals have such cute faces!

Sadly it was time for me to head back home to reality.  There’s still so much that we didn’t get to, like Balboa Park, Old Town, and spending more time in Hillcrest, that I definitely see another trip in the future.  Thanks so much for a wonderful time ladies, and special thanks to G for driving us around, planning activities, and hosting.  It was so great to catch up with you gals.  I hope to see you guys soon in San Francisco!

Read Full Post »

TGIF! I’m so excited because I’ll be spending this weekend in La Jolla visiting friends.  I’ve been to this lovely village twice before but this time I’ll be looking forward to just catching up with friends and relaxing.  Most people tend to visit La Jolla as a day trip from San Diego but there’s plenty to do there to make it a nice weekend getaway destination.

Featured Travel Idea: La Jolla


 top: harbor seals, grande colonial*, 7 caves kayaking

middle: panda*, la jolla cove*, la jolla shores surfing

bottom: sea world*, geisel library, mt soledad

La Jolla exudes the typical beach culture you’d expect to find in Southern California.  Sun, surf, and seals! Head to La Jolla Shores and spend your morning trying to catch waves.  If you’re new to the sport, sign up for a class at the Surf Diva, known as the #1 surf school for women.  Or you can try your hand at paddle boarding.  Make sure to stop by their shop and pick up some fun beach attire.  If you’re like me and prefer to stay relatively dry, then go on the original La Jolla Kayak tour and explore La Jolla’s Seven Caves and Underwater Park.  After an active morning, go for a stroll and head to La Jolla Coves for a picturesque view of the coastline.  Then continue on to Children’s Beach for a look at the harbor seals, just don’t get too close!  Head to Prospect Street for lunch and window shopping, stopping along to admire the beautiful architecture of the Grande Colonial Hotel nearby.  For something “off the beaten path”, drive to the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla and visit the Geisel Library, named in honor of Theodore Geisel or more famously known as Dr. Seuss.  The campus is beautiful and you’ll be amazed by the unique architecture of the library.  Finally, take a scenic drive up Mount Soledad, past the million dollar homes, and enjoy a panoramic sunset view.

Do you guys have any recommendations for me? I’ll fill you guys in on any fun things I do when I get back!

*pictures taken by me

Read Full Post »