Germany Travel Guide

Guten Tag! Germany is full of amazing history, vibrant culture, interesting street art, hip urban cafes & bars, delicious street food – bratwurst & pretzels, Haribo gummies, BMW/Mercedes Benz, tall skyscrapers, Oktoberfest and beer halls. My favorites of Germany are listed below:

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BERLIN

Berliner Dom – Go to the top to see the panoramic view of the entire city, one of the best things I did in Germany. The inside was ornately decorated and beautiful as well. Has the best views of the TV Tower and down the Spree River (located on Museum Island)

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Brandenburg Gate – From 1961 to 1989 this gate symbolized divided Germany, it’s one of the iconic monuments in Berlin

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East Side Gallery/West Side Berlin Wall – Rich with historic past, the Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Very interesting to see – the murals were amazing and I heard some of them have rotating artists who change the art work. We got to see the famous Socialist Kiss mural

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Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower)/Alexanderplatz – One of the main squares and the tv tower was intended to be both a symbol of Communist power and of Berlin

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Holocaust Memorial – Very somber place, interesting to learn about all the history

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Berghain – One of the most famous nightclubs in Berlin, iconic DJs have played here and it’s one of the hardest to gain entrance to. We biked by it and it was pretty neat to see

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Ritter Sport Chocolate Museum- Iconic chocolate of Germany, one of the best European chocolates I’ve ever had. Loved the cute square packaging. Do the create your own chocolate bar – Meine Schoko Kreation – I selected the milk chocolate with strawberry pieces, raspberry pieces and rice crips. Best souvenir ever so amazingly delicious!

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Checkpoint Charlie – Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Just north of here during our historic walking tour we also got to see where Hitler’s underground bunker remained – it now stands as a dirt parking lot

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NH Hotel Berlin City Ost- We stayed here and it was great, so much variety for breakfast and can we tell European breakfast was one of my favorites

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MUNICH

Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall – Multi floor beer hall with intricate paintings and massive long tables, fun atmosphere

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Beer stein – Such an iconic souvenir to bring home. These were super neat and they sold all different kinds and sizes. Lots of them hand made – we learned how beer steins were crafted at this little shop below

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Rathaus-Glockenspiel – Famous clocktower in Marienplatz. It’s huge and has the most beautiful architecture, such an amazing town square to see

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Birkenstock – There’s Birkenstocks sold everywhere in Germany since they were founded here. I didn’t think these were my style before, but the more and more I saw locals wearing them the more I started to like them

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Cuckoo Clock – These are iconic in Munich and can be found everywhere, saw one of the world’s largest hanging cuckoo clocks in St. Goar

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RHINE VALLEY/ST. GOAR

Rhine Valley and the German Countryside were absolutely beautiful. It’s a cute river front town along the Rhine. Probably one of my favorite places in Germany besides Munich. Loved the nature, so peaceful. Charming fairytale town with castle like buildings

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ARCHITECTURE – some of my FAVORITE views throughout Germany of the ornate intricate architecture in the beautiful towns

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FOOD – some of my FAVORITE foods I had in Germany were the pretzels, apple strudels, chicken, sausage/bratwurst, potato dumplings, beer (my go to was the Radler – half beer half lemonade), gelato, gyro, pasta and schnitzel. I’m always on a mission to try gelato everywhere I go

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And even the police cars are BMW! How cool – we witnessed some crazy driving on the Autobahn

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Auf Wiedersehen! Time to head back to Tegal Airport.

To See/Eat Next Time: 

German Ice Wine

Neuschwanstein Castle

Reichstag Parliament Building

 

 

Orange County Travel Guide

I love orange county so much! When I think of Orange County I picture sunny skies, sandy beaches, palm tree lined avenues, tropical smoothies and fruity acai bowls. Here’s all my favorites by city:

IRVINE 

FOOD

Il Fornaio – Easily one of my favorite Italian restaurants, their pasta is amazing. Dare I say maybe even better than some of the authentic stuff I ate in Italy. My top three favorites are shown below: Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese (pasta ribbons with traditional meat ragu & Grana Padano), Pennoni Alla Vodka (large pasta tubes with bacon, vodka-cream-tomato sauce & Grana Padano) and Conchiglie Al Pollo (shell pasta, chicken breast, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, pecorino cheese, roasted garlic & Trebbiano wine).  For dessert, my favorite is the spumone gelato (strawberry, chocolate hazelnut & pistachio gelato, folded together with cherries, chocolate chips & pistachios; served with raspberry & chocolate sauce)!

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North Italia – Another Italian favorite, tied with Il Fornaio above. Bolognese House Specialty is hands down my favorite. It’s traditional meat sauce, tagliatelle noodles & grana padano cheese, yum!

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Urban Plates – Grilled grass fed steak plate is my go to order. They have so many delicious sides like the roasted rosemary potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted brussel  sprouts with turkey bacon, macaroni and cheese and sesame broccolini (my favorites). Definitely prefer Urban Plates to Tender Greens, but both are amazing for great healthy meals.

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Stonefire Grill – Amazing generous family style portions, my favorites are the Stonefire’s BBQ chopped salad, tomesto pasta (marinara & pesto mixed) , garlic mashed potatoes and BBQ tri-tip. Quick and easy place to eat.

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Pressed Juicery – I love the freezes, my favorite over the traditional frozen yogurt places. I always get the vanilla freeze, which has a base made of filtered water, dates, almonds (pressed nuts), vanilla extract and sea salt. It has 4g of protein which is amazing for a treat.

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Gullivers – If I’m going for lunch I love the filet mignon medallions, which are thinly cut filet medallions with mashed potatoes and pepper cognac sauce. If I’m going for dinner, the filet, new york steak or prime rib are amazing! They’re known for their really delicious creamed corn too.

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Nekter – Not my absolute favorite acai bowl place, but definitely good enough to highlight and mention. I love the acai banana berry bowl (açaí, strawberry, blueberry, banana, and housemade cashew milk blended together and topped with hempseed granola, fresh strawberry, blueberry, banana, and agave nectar). For smoothies, my favorites are orange crush (orange juice base, strawberry, and agave nectar blended with ice) and pink flamingo (pitaya, strawberry, pineapple, agave nectar, and coconut water blended).

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California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) – Probably my favorite chain restaurant and definitely has my favorite salad. I love the classic original BBQ chicken chopped salad with avocado (black beans, sweet corn, jicama, fresh cilantro & basil, crispy corn tortilla strips, monterey jack and housemade herb ranch, topped with BBQ chicken, tomatoes and scallions). Also love the avocado club egg rolls, easily my favorite appetizer (hand-wrapped crispy wonton rolls filled with avocado, chicken, tomato, Monterey Jack and Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, served with housemade ranchito sauce and herb ranch). The spinach and artichoke dip is good too. Also a favorite is the bolognese spaghetti when I’m craving something simple. Favorite dessert is definitely the warm butter cake with vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Celebrated my birthday with the cute new sangria flight (Three 3 oz. pours of Orchard, Beehive and Red-berry Sangria – my favorite was the Beehive – sweet blend of white wine, Cointreau, Monin Lavender, Perfect Purée Strawberry, honey and lemon)

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BJ’s Brewhouse – I always order the BBQ chopped salad, my second favorite behind CPK. Their pizzas are amazing and probably my favorite deep dish even over the ones I’ve tried in Chicago. The sweet pig is my go to (Hawaiian pineapple & ham). Lastly the cookies n’ cream pizookie is amazing (chocolate cookie with the taste of Oreos, rich vanilla bean ice cream and a dollop of oreo mousse).

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Luna Grill – Just got introduced to this place and it’s quickly becoming a favorite for Mediterranean food. I love getting the chicken kabob and gyro plate with the delicious basmati rice and grilled carrots –probably my favorite part. Love!

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Paradise Bowls – 2nd Favorite acai bowl place in Orange County tied with Banzai. Similar to ones I’ve had in Hawaii which are the best I’ve ever had. I have yet to try a bowl here that I don’t love. The gaucho is incredible (blend – banana, strawberries, blueberries, acai, apple juice; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries, blueberries). The peach bum was great, but I always get it without the coconut shavings (blend – bananas, strawberries, peaches, acai, coconut milk; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries, coconut shavings). Also enjoy the guava sunrise (blend – banana, mango, peaches, acai, guava juice; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries, kiwi). Lastly razz party is another favorite (blend – banana, strawberries, peaches, acai, raspberry lemonade; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries).

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Churned Creamery – Cute place within Union Market at the District. Their ice cream is cute and I always get the sorbet. They have blood orange, mango, pineapple and strawberry. They’re known for their cro-creams (pictured below). Tasted like a croissant with ice cream and strawberries. Really want to come back to try their acai bowls and the color changing mason jar teas look interesting.

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Mochilato – I love coming here to get different flavored mochi ice cream. I grew up on mochi ice cream so the taste reminds me of childhood. Mochi ice cream is a confection made from Japanese mochi with an ice cream filling. Mochi is essentially rice cake pounded into a paste and rolled into round forms. To me, mochi tastes flavorless – the ice cream is what really adds the flavor to this sweet treat. Mochi has a gooey like texture.

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Tender Greens – Similar to Urban Plates, I get the backyard marinated steak with mashed potatoes and usually the tender greens (Scarborough Farms greens, sherry vinaigrette) or baby spinach salad (Scarborough Farms spinach, hazelnuts, goat cheese, cabernet vinaigrette).

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Dada Shabu Shabu – Shabu Shabu all you can eat buffet style, Korean hot pot. I always try to get the less fatty thinly sliced meat. Think I got the prime beef chuck top blade (meat #1 on the menu) which was great.  I’m in love with goma sauce too, delicious.

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Izakaya Wasa – Used to go to the location in Irvine Spectrum but I’m so sad it closed since this was my favorite Japanese food place. The combination plates were amazing and they had the best chicken and beef teriyaki and chicken katsu. Also came with miso soup and gyoza. They’ve turned it into Robata Wasa, which I haven’t tried yet.

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Mokkoji – Shabu Shabu bar, love the goma sesame sauce with the new york shabu meat. Super thin with very little fat, my favorite. Also always get the miso broth. One of my favorite shabu places.

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Krisp Fresh Living– Another favorite açaí bowl place, I always order the berry orchard bowl and it is delicious! The blend is made up of açaí, strawberries, bananas, blueberries and cold pressed apple juice. The toppings include strawberries, blueberries and bananas.

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Halal Guys – Favorite fast food Mediterranean. Always get the combo platter with chicken & gyro with the white sauce. Delicious, comes with rice and pita.

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Burntzilla – I first heard about the Burnt Truck food truck which served awesome sliders, then found out they made a permanent location combining the Burnt Truck and Dogzilla food trucks. My favorite slider is the fried chicken which has buttermilk fried chicken, garlic potato spread and country gravy. Also pictured below are the cheeseburger and fried cheese sliders with the fried chicken bacon loaded tater tots.

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SIGHTS

Irvine Spectrum Mall – Love this mall centered around a giant ferris wheel. Lots of my favorite stores and restaurants. Highlights for me include Drybar, Loft, Lululemon, Nordstrom, Sephora, Tender Greens, Pressed Juicery, Luna Grill, Javiers, Corner Bakery, CPK, Cucina Enoteca and Brio Tuscan Grille.

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Divine Nails & Lashes – My favorite and best nail salon I’ve ever been to. They do such a good job. I always love how my gel nails turn out and they last for weeks (usually 3-5 weeks before they grow out). I never have any issues with chipping at all. I typically opt for a french tip gel manicure.

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Huntington Beach

FOOD

Duke’s – The prime sirlon was absolutely delicious (double r signature ranch, miso brown butter, mashed yukon gold potatoes, roasted broccolini). Kimo’s original hula pie is one of my all time favorite desserts (chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted mac nuts, whipped cream). Lastly I always have to get a Volcano drink when I’m here (blended coconut and strawberry virgin tropical drink). Also come for Sunday brunch which is a neat array of Hawaiian food served buffet style – get the island mimosa. They also have really great lunch options like the ribs and chicken Hawaiian plate lunch (pork, mango bbq sauce, grilled huli chicken, jasmine rice, macaroni salad, bok choy macadamia nut slaw) and fish and chips.

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Banzai Bowls – Tied with Paradise bowls as my 2nd favorite acai bowl of the OC. I usually get the OG bowl (blend – apple juice, acai, banana, strawberries; top – granola, banana, honey) or Sharks Cove without goji berries (blend – apple juice, acai, banana, strawberries; top – granola, banana, strawberries, blueberries, honey, goji berries).

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Norms – The best fruit pancake stacks! I loved the strawberry and cinnamon apple. It was like having dessert for breakfast.

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SIGHTS

Huntington Beach & Pier – Prettiest pier in all of the OC. One of my favorite spots and it holds a special place in my heart. Where I went for my 21st birthday and had my 1st date with my boyfriend 🙂 I’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets while overlooking these waters.

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Pacific City Shopping Center – Another favorite shopping center. Lots of cool stores and eateries. They’ve got an Equinox, Sephora, Drybar, Hans’ homemade ice cream, Popbar, and Lemonade.

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International Surfing Museum – Cool to see once, history of surfing. Lots of neat surfboards and memorabilia. Closed Mondays and admission is $3.

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Surf City Half Marathon – My all time favorite half marathon race, the course is amazing and I love this city so much. Plus they had the best race expo and the coolest surf board medals.

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LODGING

Hilton Hotel Huntington Beach – waterfront resort and beautiful. Central location on PCH.

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach – another waterfront resort next to the Hilton. Perfect location central on PCH.

Newport Beach

FOOD

Bowl of Heaven – Decent acai bowl place. Ranks for me above Nekter. My go to is the North Shore Original Bowl (blend – organic acai, strawberries, banana, blueberries, 100% apple juice and Maq 7; toppings – organic hemp flax seed granola, banana, and honey).

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Javiers – Great Mexican food place. The tacos and quesadilla are really good! Super cool atmosphere. I always get the combination plate.

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Champagne’s – I really like the homemade chicken noodle soup, bbq tri-tip sandwich, club sandwich and the shoestring fries with garlic aioli dipping sauce.

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Great Maple – Cutely decorated, the fried chicken and donuts is yummy. I’ve had the prime rib dip which was good. The turkey bolognese was delicious. Really want to try the steak frites next time.

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Cucina Alessa – One of my favorite Italian places. I loved the pappardelle al sug d’agnello (ribbon shaped pasta slow cooked braised lamb shoulder and shaved ricotta salata).  The spumoni was an amazing finale!

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Lette Macaroons – My favorite macarons even over the famous Ladurée and Pierre Hermé of Paris.  The chocolate is my favorite, but I also love the passionfruit, raspberry, violet and blueberry lemon. The cookie is cooked perfectly and the filling is not too sweet which I love.

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Mama D’s Italian Kitchen – Great pasta and the pink sauce is so different. Usually I’ll get the penne, rigatoni or bow tie pasta with meat sauce, but the pink sauce is amazing. I really want to go back to try the stuffed shells of ricotta, yum! So much food that I definitely had leftovers.

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Dad’s and Sugar & Spice – Known for frozen bananas and balboa bars, delicious cute shops. I tried a frozen banana with rainbow sprinkles and a balboa bar with oreo topping. Next time I’ll try the everything topping.

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Gelato Paradiso – The best gelato place I’ve ever been, it’s so good it competes with my favorites from Italy. This place is amazing! I love all their flavors, but my usual go to is the mango, strawberry, lemon sorbet and chocolate gelato. Also love the blueberry chip gelato too.

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Atomic Creamery – All natural liquid nitrogen ice cream. We had the grasping at straws (housemade strawberry puree with local strawberries) and chocolate^3 (chocolate, brownie bits, oreos and hot fudge).

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SIGHTS

Fashion Island Mall – My favorite mall with the best shops, stores and atmosphere. My favorites include: CPK, Drybar, Gelato Paradiso, Gorjana, Kendra Scott, Lette Macarons, Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines, Loft, Lululemon, Nordstrom, Pressed Juicery and ULTA. Plus from the Macy’s side you can see the view of Catalina and the ocean.

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Balboa Island / Peninsula & Village – Cute quaint community with lots of docks with yachts. Fun to walk around and see the cute little houses. Super crowded though and hard to get around by car.

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Laguna Beach

FOOD

Splashes – Best restaurant experience in Laguna. Loved the table side beach views. We watched the sunset during dinner and it was one of the best moments. Located right on PCH. My favorite was the filet and the sorbet trio was amazing. Below is the view from our table, we were so close to the beach!

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The Cliff Restaurant – Gorgeous views of the ocean from the table (see below). Love Laguna so much! I had the prime rib dip sandwich which was great, but next time I’ll try the classic club or a wrap.

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Nick’s – Cute place right off PCH by Main Beach. We got the prime rib dip sandwich and buttermilk fried chicken. Both were delicious. Dessert was butter cake, which we loved.

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Tortilla Republic – Located right by Main Beach, down the street from Nick’s on PCH. The chicken flautas are amazing! The atmosphere of this restaurant is very hip, modern and cool.

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SIGHTS

Main Beach & Lifeguard Tower – Beautiful beach located centrally in Laguna. There’s a lot happening here between the volleyball courts, lifeguard tower picture spot, hotels galore lining the streets, etc. Right near all the restaurants so it’s perfect to watch the sunset from after dinner.

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Top of the World Hike – One of my favorite hikes, the views up here are beautiful. Gets pretty foggy if you go really early in the morning since it’s by the ocean. Parking is slim, but there’s a tiny parking lot at the park if you get there early.

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Heisler Park / Recreation Point – Some of the best views of Laguna. I love this cute little nature walk trail along the beach. It’s paved and easy to find metered parking. The scenery is breath taking.

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Catalina Island

Quick 1 hour ferry ride on Catalina Express from Dana Point Harbor. Cutest little summer island getaway perfect for a short day trip or a mini weekend relaxation. I forget how beautiful Catalina is and it feels like a little coastal European town. Get to the ferry early to make sure you get seats otherwise you’ll be standing.

When I think of Catalina, I picture a charming island community, scenic seascapes, laid back ambiance, colorful pastel homes, eclectic architecture, golf carts, mediterranean seaside dining & paradise.

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We loved the Avalon Scenic Tour by Catalina Island Company, highlight of our trip was the most insanely beautiful Avalon Harbor view from the top near Mt. Ada at Buena Vista Point Scenic Overlook. It was also funny along the way to see how expensive gasoline was at the gas station. We were riding in an open air bus and it reminded me of riding in a jeep. Our tour guide was great and gave us lots of historical information about the island. The tour started at the Island Tour Plaza and lasted about 50 minutes.

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The Avalon Casino converted into a theater/event space was showing Lion King when we visited. The casino had such intricate artwork and mosaic detailing on the inner area. Still can’t get over the view of the casino.

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We thought Lloyd’s and Scoops had the best desserts on the island. Lloyd’s had Dryer’s ice cream waffle cones and is more known for their candy selection. Our favorites were Scoops chocolate gelato ice cream and Kelly’s frozen lemonade. Scoops also sold Starbucks which was nice in the morning. We recommend taking a stroll down Crescent Avenue, the main street and looking into all the cute boutique shops.

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Another highlight was seeing the Wrigley Mansion atop Mt. Ada. Would love to come back some day to enjoy a nice lunch/dinner here and go to Island Spa down Crescent Avenue, that’s next on my bucket list. We also saw the Catalina Island Museum.

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There’s not much beach in Avalon, however we took in all the gorgeous views Catalina had to offer. Especially the views from the yacht club below. Can’t wait to come back soon!

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Miscellaneous OC

FOOD

Summit House Restaurant (Fullerton, CA) – Hilltop manor restaurant with city views, famous for roasted prime rib, yorkshire pudding & creamed corn. We also loved the filet mignon and dessert sampler plate (profiterole with belgian chocolate, lemon tarte, creme brulee, and chocolate torte).

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Hungry Bear Restaurant (Fullerton, CA) – Comfort food, grew up going to this place often. Family owned and super casual. I always get the stockyard steak with mashed potatoes and A-1 sauce. It comes with delicious garlic bread and their vegetable and chicken tortilla soup are my favorite.

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Jujubar (Costa Mesa, CA) – Favorite acai bowl place in California! The bowls are amazing. Superberry is my favorite (blend – raspberry juice, acai, strawberry, blueberry; topping – banana, strawberry, blueberry, kiwi, granola and honey).

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Maggiano’s (Costa Mesa, CA) – Famous Rigatoni D specialty pasta is my favorite. It’s herb-Roasted Chicken, Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Marsala Cream Sauce. It also comes with a classic pasta to take home, which I usually opt for the Taylor Street baked ziti or Mom’s Lasagna.

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Pacific Wharf Cafe (Costa Mesa, CA) – Favorite breakfast place when I’m craving a yogurt parfait. The vanilla yogurt with strawberries, blueberries and granola is delicious!

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Confetti (Costa Mesa, CA) – Cute little Italian ice and custard shop. Reminds me of a favorite in Riverside…Frostbite’s. There are so many cool flavors.

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Hawaiian Express (Santa Ana, CA) – Favorite Hawaiian food take out place in the Santa Ana Main Palace mall food court. Sadly I heard it closed, but I was in love with their Henry’s orange sweet noodles. So good with the bbq chicken and fruit smoothie.

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Istanbul Grill (Fountain Valley, CA) – Another favorite Mediterranean food place. I love the chicken shish kabob plate with rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables. They have the best service too, everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

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Birdie Bowl & Juicery (Fountain Valley, CA) – Another decent acai bowl place, can we tell I love acai? I get the classic acai bowl.

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Robeks (Brea, CA) – One of my favorite smoothie chains. Love it better than Juice It Up and Jamba Juice. My go to orders are usually the Strawnana Berry (Strawberries, Banana, Non-Fat Frozen Yogurt, Apple Juice), Big Wednesday (Peach, Strawberries, Banana, Orange Sherbet, Pineapple Sherbet, Papaya Juice) and Hummingbird (Mango, Strawberries, Banana, Orange Sherbet, Passionfruit Juice).

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Surf City Squeeze (Brea, CA) – Tied with Robeks as my favorite smoothie chain. Strawberry Banana is my classic favorite smoothie. It reminds me of Hawaii and the beach. This is the only yogurt like smoothie I love and enjoy.

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Fat Belly Grill (Garden Grove, CA) – The chicken katsu is absolutely amazing and tastes just like it from Japan. Still want to try the chicken and beef teriyaki and the miso ramen.

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Spice Thai Cuisine (Lake Forest, CA) – Delicious chicken satay, I love the homemade peanut sauce.

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Slice Shabu (Lake Forest, CA) – Great shabu place, love the miso broth with the black angus ribeye meat. I get the goma and ponzu with brown rice and udon or ramen.

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Miguels California Mexican Cucina (Lake Forest, CA) – Favorite fast food Mexican, it’s pretty heavy though so I can’t eat this all the time. Love the garbage burrito (shredded beef, spanish rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and served wet style – tastes like an enchilada) and the chicken flautas (they are massive).

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Tacos Manuel (Anaheim, CA) – One of my favorites for taco Tuesday. I love the asada, al pastor, pollo and carnitas tacos.

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SIGHTS

Disneyland Theme Park (Anaheim, CA) – See my separate guide here!

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California Adventure Theme Park (Anaheim, CA) – See my separate guide here!

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Honda Center Duck’s NHL (Anaheim, CA) – Love to go see games because it’s such a fun intense atmosphere. My second favorite sport to watch. Love that their color is orange too.

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Angels Stadium MLB (Anaheim, CA) – Favorite sport to watch. Hoping Mike Trout never leaves the team because he’s so talented. Pretty much everyone goes to the games to see him play. Hands down has the best stadium food I’ve ever seen. My go to is always Chronic Taco and Dip & Dots.

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South Coast Plaza Mall (Costa Mesa, CA) – Lots of designer stores in this mall. Not too many eating places, but they do have Boudins (an SF favorite of mine) and Corner Bakery. Plenty of stores I love including Nordstrom, Banana Republic, JCrew, Kate Spade, Lululemon, Papersource, Madewell, Pandora, Nekter, Sephora, Ted Baker, Tory Burch and Williams Sonoma.

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Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Costa Mesa, CA) – Love going here to see Broadway performances. Cute date night! Small theater but easy to get to (way easier than Pantages), which I love.

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Brea Mall & Downtown Brea Shopping Center (Brea, CA) – Second favorite mall with a lot of favorite stores and eateries. You can always catch me at CPK, Nordstrom, Sephora, Banana Republic, Lululemon, Lollicup, Pandora, Surf City Squeeze, Loft and Pink.

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Dana Point Headlands Trail Hike (Dana Point, CA) – This hike spans about 3 miles and has one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen and it reminds me so much of being in Laguna Beach. It goes through the conservation area starting at the nature interpretive center and has ocean access towards the end of the hike to Dana Strands Beach. I loved going through the luxurious beachfront mansions down Beach View Avenue, Strand Beach Drive and Ocean Front Lane. One day I’d love to stay at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel nearby.

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Sweden Travel Guide

When I dream about Scandinavia I think of viking ships, brooding castles, salty harbors, deep green fjords, churches, farmhouses, vast lakes, mountains, waterfalls and ferry boats. I had the pleasure of spending time within nature while in Norway and a little in Stockholm while kayaking around the archipelagos.

Sweden was so awesome and such a fun city. I can’t wait to come back soon, here’s some of my favorites of Stockholm!

SIGHTS

Gamla Stan (Old Town)

My favorite part of Sweden was Gamla Stan also known as the Old Town. It had the most beautiful architecture and I loved walking down the cobblestone streets and through the colorful Stortorget Square.

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Nobel Peace Prize Museum

One of my favorite museums in Scandinavia. It was so neat and interesting to learn and read about all the Nobel Peace Prize winners over the years. There were a lot of interesting video clip documentaries and artifacts within the museum. It was located right within the Stortorget Square.

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Vasa Museum

The Vasa Museum is a maritime museum located on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm. The museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. The 64-gun warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and sat for 333 years before being rescued.

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ABBA Museum

Super cute museum about the singing group ABBA. If you’re a fan of anything ABBA, especially Mamma Mia you won’t want to miss this fun interactive site. Lots of opportunities to karaoke to your favorite ABBA song and even dance on the stage to a choreographed ABBA routine.

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Icebar at Icehotel Stockholm

ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL Stockholm is the world’s first original ice bar (built in 2002) and has a constant temperature of -7 degrees celsius (19 degrees fahrenheit). The interior is made out of sculpted ice from the arctic Torne River. The bar has room for up to 60 people. The entry fee includes a cocktail and a visit lasts about 40 minutes. They provide you with a warm coat and thick gloves to wear before you step into the ice room. The ice bar is beautiful and the interior has artistic colorful lighting. When we went there was an ice sculpture throne and pirate’s ship. Each cocktail is served in a glass made of ice. The drinks usually carry a common theme.

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Archipelago Kayaking

Definitely one of the hardest physical activity sports I’ve ever had to do, this gave me such the arm and leg workout. We paddled for so long up and around the islands. The sites were amazing and it was so neat seeing Sweden from afar. It was one of the best unique experiences! I was in a tandem kayak, which was fun.

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Royal Palace

Stockholm Palace or the Royal Palace is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch. Stockholm Palace is located on Stadsholmen, in Gamla Stan in the capital, Stockholm. It neighbours the Riksdag building.

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FOOD

IKEA Swedish Meatballs & Lingonberry

Haha a classic Swedish place! We love IKEA in the states. IKEA is a Swedish company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories, among other useful goods and occasionally home services. It has been the world’s largest furniture retailer since at least 2008. IKEA will always remind me of my college days since practically my whole dorm room/apt. was furnished by them. I had to try out the Swedish meatballs from here and they did not disappoint, very much comfort food. They’re definitely better than our IKEA food at home.

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Swedish Meatballs (svenska Köttbullar)/Lingonberry

Can you tell this was my favorite dish to eat in Sweden? I had Swedish meatballs at almost every restaurant for dinner. Each place had their own spin on the sauce which was cool to try. Lingonberries are usually served with the meatballs and are sweet, sour and tart. The flavoring is similar to cranberries. Here’s three of our favorite restaurants that served them:

Restaurang Kaffegillet (Gamla Stan)

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Sallys Restaurang & Bar Sidenhuset Pärlan (Gamla Stan)

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We also tried their bolognese lasagna here which was surprisingly good (see above)!

Carpe Diem (Gamla Stan)

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We also tried the fish & chips and bolognese pasta (see above) here which were amazing and delicious as well! Highly recommend this restaurant.

Cinnamon roll (Kanelbullar)

It’s a must to try a cinnamon roll in every Scandinavian country. Each vary slightly and are delicious. They’re sold at practically every coffee shop and perfect for Fika. I love the ones with lots of cinnamon and there’s even some delicious ones with chocolate.

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Fika

Known as taking a “coffee & cake break”, Fika is a concept or a state of mind or an attitude and is a very important part of Swedish culture. Many Swedes consider it essential to make time for Fika every day. Fika is like a social hour where Swedes make time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and usually cake. There’s so many cute coffee shops in Old Town with the best iced coffee drinks and chocolate cake (see below), yum!

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Lejonet & Björnen

Of course it wouldn’t be a Lauren post without my favorite sorbet place. We loved Lejonet & Björnen located in Gamla Stan. The lemon and berry sorbet were amazing!

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LODGING

Clarion Hotel Stockholm

This is the hotel we stayed at in Stockholm and it was the best. Perfectly located in the center of the city and made it super easy to get to and from Gamla Stan. It was nicely decorated, very modern and we loved our stay here. This hotel is huge and has so many floors. There’s a quaint bar downstairs and it even has a gym and spa.

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SOUVENIR

Dala Wooden Horse

Everyone needs to bring one of these hand painted horses home. These are traditional carved painted wooden horse statues and are a classic symbol of Sweden. They can be found all over the town in various sizes and colors. I got one as an ornament to hang on my Christmas tree to remind me of my wonderful trip to Scandinavia.

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BUCKET LIST FOR NEXT TIME

Experience a traditional Swedish massage

Golden Hall at Stockholm City Hall

Katarina Hissen Tower/Katarina Viewing Platform

Santa Barbara Travel Guide

When I picture Santa Barbara I think of a cute charming coastal town with Spanish colonial revival architecture, Moorish inspired decor, Santa Ynez mountains, red tile roofs, palm tree lined streets, pristine beaches, Mediterranean influences, wine country and American Riviera. Here’s all my favorites:

State Street

Main shopping street in downtown Santa Barbara; has super nice boutique/souvenir/mall shops (Paseo Nuevo), outdoor plazas, fine & casual dining, bars/nightlife, cultural venues & entertainment (parking is plentiful with structures & street parking) goes straight to Stearns Wharf

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Santa Barbara County Courthouse 

National historic landmark with the most gorgeous panoramic view of the city in the open air clock tower; love the Spanish architecture, red roof tiles, beautiful gardens & grounds and mural room (located on 1100 Anacapa Street)

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Old Mission Santa Barbara

Beautiful and historic monument known as the “Queen of Missions”; overlooks the Pacific ocean and city, take the quick tour and see the pretty rose gardens (located on 2201 Laguna Street; 4 miles from downtown/wharf area)

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Stearns Wharf

Wooden pier at the end of state street where the dolphin fountain meets filled with lots of restaurants and shopping; cute place to watch the sunset and enjoy the amazing views of the beach

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The Harbor

Lots of restaurants overlooking the waterfront beach, city and mountains, located just a stroll past Stearns Wharf, loved seeing all the different boats

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West & East Beach / Chase Palm Park

Located to the left & right of Stearns Wharf, prettiest views of the water and conveniently at the end of state street

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Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

Located right at the end along the beach close and within walking distance to state street; beautiful hotel with stunning views of the ocean

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The Douglas Family Preserve Hiking Trail

Fun short hike with the prettiest ocean views, this trail is also dog friendly. We ate lunch at a restaurant right at the bottom of this trail. Trail starts up higher in a residential mountain area and descends down towards the beach

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Holdren’s Steaks & Seafood

One of my favorite filet mignon’s I’ve ever had. The steak dinners are amazing and the presentation is beautiful. The portions are perfect and steak dinners come with a salad or soup (loved the vegetable soup) and a potato style side dish (try the twice baked potato or the garlic mashed)

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Finch & Fork 

Cute place for brunch & mimosas! We got the peach and grapefruit mimosas and loved them plus there’s so many fun breakfast options from caramelized banana french toast to pork belly benedict

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Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach

Gorgeous panoramic ocean views and perfect for seaside drinks with friends or a fun date. Serves upscale seafood and brunch

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SB Wineries

We went to Paradise Springs Winery on State Street and Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf. Loved Paradise Springs winery the best out of the two and my favorite wine was the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon (layered flavors of granny smith apple, asian pear, and subtle tones of brioche) and the 2016 K 3 Santa Ynez Valley (bright red fruit notes with cranberry and bing cherry). We ended up doing the $15 tasting flights so we could try all the different whites, reds and rosés

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Blenders In the Grass

Smoothie chain all over Santa Barbara; my favorites in order are Strawberry, Blue Apple, Red Orange, Original and Red Pineapple (of the ones I tried), can’t wait to try more when I come back

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Garretts Old Fashioned Restaurant

Located on State Street this cute diner is perfect for brunch, their homemade blueberry pancakes are some of the best I’ve ever had; this place is always so crowded in the morning (best variety for breakfast options)

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Backyard Bowls

My go to acai bowl place in SB, my favorite is the berry bowl with açaí, banana, strawberry, apple juice base, topped with granola, banana, strawberry, goji berry, blueberry and honey (located just off State Street)

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McConnells Fine Ice Creams

Saved the best for last of food – this ice cream is famous in SB made from scratch since 1949 and has some of the most interesting unique flavors; my favorites are the wild berry chip and eureka lemon and marionberries

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List for Next Time:

Butterfly Beach & the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito

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Copenhagen Travel Guide

I absolutely loved every minute in Copenhagen and thought for sure that Denmark would be my favorite Scandinavian country…that is until I saw Norway, but more on that later. Copenhagen took my breath away…everything was so clean, bright, architecturally beautiful and the food was amazing! So many smørrebrød open faced sandwiches.

Here’s a list of highlights of my favorite things/eats from Copenhagen (not pictured below…the rainbow shots and trying jäger for the first time at Stereo Love Bar in King’s Square, fun times)

Nyhavn Harbor 

#1 on my list – please visit here and enjoy a cute lunch or dinner along this waterfront. It’s slightly touristy, but such a beautiful fun atmosphere with all the colors and boats. I felt like I had stepped into a real life painting. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this place once more. Probably the most photographed street in Copenhagen.

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Vaffelbageren

Going along with Nyhavn, if you’re walking this iconic street stop at my newest favorite gelato/sorbet place. The outside drew me into the shop alone with the instagram worthy aesthetic. I went back no joke probably three times to get the “Limesorbet Med Jordbær” flavor…it was truly unbelievably good.

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Church of Our Saviour

The best view of the entire city! Super famous for its helix spire with an external golden winding staircase that can be climbed to the very top (400 steps of fun). I’m afraid of heights so this was definitely a scary experience, but so worth it. It’s 90 meters above street level, which is insane. The last 150 steps are outside of the spire and I held so tightly to the staircase so I would minimize my fear of falling.

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Little Mermaid Statue

A lot tinnier in person than I was expecting. The bronze statue was made by Edvard Eriksen as inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale the little mermaid and is displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is 1.25 metres tall and weighs 175 kilograms. The sculpture is about 105 years old.

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Neptune’s Fountain 

A short walk from the Little Mermaid statue along the harbor. Slightly hilly in this park area and also watch out for the bikers.

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Kronborg Castle

Beautiful castle that we saw from our ferry from Berlin on our way to Copenhagen. Known as Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

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Carlsberg Brewery 

Taste world famous Danish beer and take the historical tour behind the company. I’m not a big beer drinker, but this one was pretty light and refreshing. I prefer the Somersby Ciders in nice fruity flavors. The collection of beer bottles was huge and it was interesting to see how the beer is made.

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Warpigs 

WarPigs is a big, hip brewpub in Copenhagen’s buzzing Meatpacking District. Has great Texas style American BBQ, which hit the spot after being away from home for so long. They had so many different unique sauces to try. We got the beef brisket and some mac & cheese, yum!

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Cocks and Cows

Found inside the Tivoli Food Hall. These burgers and fries are amazing! We got the cheese n’ smoke burger and twister fries. Twister fries taste just like American curly fries from Jack In the Box.

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Gorms

Another Tivoli Food Hall favorite, not as good as Cocks & Cows though. European style pizza. Ordered the Hawaiian pizza. Pretty standard.

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Amalienborg Palace

Home of the Danish Royal family, the architecture was so ornate and stunning. See the changing of the guards here in the beautiful courtyard. Someday I’d like to come back and tour the inside. Reminds me of when we went to see Buckingham Palace in London.

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Støget Street

Largest shopping street with an abundance of stores and home of Pandora, Lego, Fighting Tiger, Coca Cola (fav. soda) and all other Danish stores. It’s one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets. I had to get myself a Pandora charm where the company originated to commemorate the trip. Another favorite purchase was my new black Rains raincoat. The Rains boutique store was beautifully set up, I felt like I was walking into Nordstrom. Now I can’t wait for it to rain so I can try my new jacket out. Also got to see the flagship store with the Royal family blue fluted mega dinnerware, super fancy and cute. Didn’t have any room in my luggage to take any home, but maybe next time.

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Flying Tiger

Interesting store in Denmark that sells the most unique products to encourage social activity and creativity. The store is meant to inspire and has crazy games, decor, party ware, food, etc. Was super fun to walk in. Plus they sold my favorite candy…sour belts. I could not get enough of these.

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Pølser Carts

These are everywhere. I normally don’t enjoy or like hot dogs, but figured I had to try this famous Danish fare. It’s brightly colored red boiled pork sausage and actually tastes quite delicious. The toppings vary depending on where you get one.

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Royal Opera House 

Famous for the performances and the Hans Christian Andersen stories about him falling in love with one of the ballerinas. Would have been super neat to see a performance here.

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Hans Christian Andersen Statue & Town Hall

This is the main city square and a great meeting point to start before walking up the streets of Støget. Right across from Tivoli Amusement Park.

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Rosenborg Castle & Gardens

Features 400 years of royal art treasures and the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia. Beautiful rose gardens. We biked to the castle and the grounds were impeccable.

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Lagkagehuset

Had to try Danish pastries and they were very delicious – get the kanelsnegl (aka cinnamon snail or cinnamon roll) and wienerbrød (vienna bread). Located on the main shopping street. Ranked as one of Copenhagen’s top 10 bakeries.

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Christiania

Known as the freetown. An interesting place, definitely not somewhere I’d come again. Very hippie, boho vibes, alternative neighborhood. You’ll be shocked at what you see. This is the only photo I got since you’re not allowed to take any pictures past the main entrance sign. For your own safety, visitors are advised not to film nor photograph in Christiania, especially not in the area in and around Pusher Street, mainly due to the hash dealing, which is illegal in Denmark. Not quite a highlight or favorite, but thought I’d mention it since it attracts so many tourists and visitors. It’s a very eclectic and peculiar place. Don’t come here alone. Christiania is a mix of homemade houses, workshops, art galleries, music venues, cheap and organic eateries, and nature. It is still a society within a society.

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Yellow Houses in Nyboder

Nyboder (English: New [small] Houses) is a historic row house district of former Naval barracks in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was planned and first built by Christian IV to accommodate a need for housing for the personnel of the rapidly growing Royal Danish Navy and their families during that time. Very beautiful to see.

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Gelato Rajiissimo

Didn’t get to try their gelato this time, but they have amazing chocolate dipped churros. Located on the main shopping street.

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Bike Tour

While in Scandinavia rent bikes, it’s the easiest way to get around and see so much of the city in a short amount of time. We saw such pretty views of the city.

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Rundetaarn Tower/ Round Tower

The 17th century tower and observatory Rundetaarn, or the round tower, is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. My 2nd favorite view of the whole city and located right in the center on the main shopping street area.

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Opera House Harbor

The prettiest place to go biking along the waterfront. Such gorgeous views.

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Tivoli Amusement Park 

Saved the best for last, the place that inspired Walt to create Disneyland. I wasn’t keen or crazy on the rides since they were a bit much….definitely more six flags or Knott’s Berry Farm style than Disneyland rides, but nevertheless the grounds were beautiful. The gardens and flowers reminded me of being at Disneyland. The different touches on cultures was very neat to see, my favorite was the mock Taj Mahal. We went when they were celebrating the park’s 175 year anniversary, which was super special. The park is lit up at night, very pretty.

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Had a blast and wonderful time in Denmark, can’t wait to come back soon!

Places to See Next Time:

Christiansborg Tower

Frederiksborg Castle

Palm Springs Travel Guide

This summer was my second time to Palm Springs and it was so much fun! The weather was sunny and hot, but it made for the perfect summer getaway weekend.

Palm Springs in a snippet – desert oasis, palm trees, Coachella vibes, bohemian flair, tropical drinks, Rosé, floppy straw hats, sunnies, pineapple fusion, flamingo pool floats, flower crowns & beaded headbands, sunshine, bright colors, cactus, mid century modern architecture, mineral springs & spas, stylish boutique hotels and cute little shops lining Palm Canyon Drive.

*Accommodation*

JW Marriott Desert Springs Palm Desert

The most beautiful hotel, it feels like Hawaii almost. Located in Palm Desert which is farther out from the main Palm Springs Strip with all the restaurants. I actually love Palm Desert more than the Palm Springs area. This resort has a golf course, amazing pool, Starbucks, boat track to take you across the resort to the restaurants, flamingos in the front and the cutest boutique shops. I loved the shop Queenie’s and even found my favorite blanket on sale – Barefoot Dreams

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Hyatt Palm Springs

This resort hotel is beautiful and in the perfect location downtown within walking distance of all the cutest shops and fancy restaurants. The rooms were suites and felt very luxurious. The 24 hour gym on level 2 was a cool perk too. Our room was in the inner portion of the hotel which was great because if our room would’ve been on the outside it would’ve been too hot. We stocked our room with all our favorite snacks for the weekend. The lobby was super nice. My favorite was the view from our room overlooking the pretty pool and mountains. Located at 285 North Palm Canyon Drive. Parking is valet only and $25 p/night, but there’s also free short term parking.

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*Sights*

Saguaro Pool Party

The funnest summer event, the Saguaro Hotel hosts a DJ pool party that you can attend by purchasing wristbands if you’re not staying at the hotel. There are a lot of bachelorette parties present, but it’s an awesome atmosphere. Super instagram friendly with all the bright neon bold colors. The furniture and decor is very hip. Rent a daybed with umbrellas if it’s super hot and they’ll also provide hot pink towels. There’s a ping pong table in the lobby. Also they allow you to bring in your own pool floats and even have a generator pump to blow them up with by the pool. It was cute seeing all the unicorns, flamingos, intertubes, etc. many that I’d seen from Target. There’s also fire-pits for bonfires late at night when it gets dark.

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Zelda’s Nightclub

Didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did here. The music was great, lots of House & EDM style electronic dance tunes. They have platforms with poles if you’re brave. Our group brought in glow-sticks which were super fun and made it easy to spot our group in the group. Other groups had balloon strands that they danced with (the kind that you make balloon animals from). They have a huge bar in the back and plenty of bar top tables to sit out. The jello shots and jello test tubes were a hit among the crowd.

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Palm Canyon Drive Shopping

So many cute boutique shops down this pretty palm tree lined street. Take a stroll down this lane with a nice Starbucks in hand.

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*Food*

El Jefe

This Mexican food is terrific. El Jefe is a bar inside the Saguaro Hotel. We had the grilled cheese sandwich with white cheddar, bacon and tomatoes which also came with french fries. Also had the pork carnitas tacos. Yum! The poolside frozen drinks we tried were the That Frozen Strawberry Drink and Strawberry Banana Swirl. Both were super sweet and strong and not my favorite, but we also tried the Banana Piña Colada frozen drink was amazing!

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Lulu California Bistro

The cutest retro brunch spot. It has such a fun and funky flair inside with the modern furniture and light fixtures. They have everything, the menu has such a great variety. I got the chicken filet sandwich for lunch which had grilled chicken breast, avocado, swiss cheese, bacon, tomato and mayo with a mixed field greens side salad. The mimosas are tasty. If you’re celebrating a special occasion they’ll provide a huge glass filled with delicious cotton candy to toast with. Also liked the bolognese pasta

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Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar

I’ve been to the Tommy Bahama Restaurant before, but never the Marlin Bar. The guava glazed baby back pork ribs were delicious. Half rack jerk rubbed mango guava bbq slightly spicy with a side of island slaw and fries. I’ve had their world famous coconut shrimp appetizer which is pretty tasty. The painchiller pineapple, orange, cream of coconut and nutmeg drink is always my go-to favorite.

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La Bonitas

The best Mexican food I had in Palm Springs. Their burritos are amazing! I had the California Burrito which had shredded chicken, pinto beans, monterrey cheese, french fries, salsa, sour cream and avocado wrapped in a large flour tortilla. So delicious! It came with Mexican rice and beans on the side.

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Lappert’s Ice Cream

Come here for the best pineapple dole whip. Tastes just like the one from the Dole Whip farm in Hawaii and the famous one from the Tiki Room at Disneyland.

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Cabazon Outlets

Stop off at my favorite outlet mall on the way to Palm Springs or on the way back home. Outlet mall is called Desert Hills Premium Outlets. My favorite stores are Lululemon, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Ted Baker, AG, Pandora, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Victoria Secret. Also treat yourself to a smoothie at Surf City Squeeze in the food court or a coffee at Starbucks.

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Next time I Need To Try:

Spencers – Grilled Chicken Breast

Jakes – NY Steak, Filet Mignon, Sorbet Flight

Ice Cream & Shop(pe)

London Travel Guide

Home of the royals….love Will & Kate. London is magnificent, historical, charming and everything I imagined. Bustling city streets, cute little black cabs, bright red double decker buses, picturesque red telephone booths, fish & chips, high tea with scones, and a plethora of pubs. London you were amazing (see the view from the Shard above)! Here are some of my favorites:

*Sights*

Big Ben / Elizabeth Tower Houses of Parliament

Iconic and always reminds me of the Peter Pan movie. Beautiful tall golden clock tower, it was under construction when we went in the summer. Walk over the bridge to get a closer view of the ornate architecture. It used to be open to climb up the clock tower to see the Big Ben strike (needed prior security screenings and approval), but I think this remains closed while the structure is being worked on.

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Houses of Parliament / Palace of Westminster

Going along with Big Ben Clock Tower, next to the iconic structure is the Palace of Westminster. The seat of the two parliament houses of the United Kingdom, House of Lords and House of Commons. Also under construction with Big Ben when we went, but still such a gorgeous sight to see. I think you can tour the building if you set up reservations in advance.

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Buckingham Palace

London residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom. I didn’t get to see the Queen or the Royal Family while I visited, but did catch a glimpse at the changing of the guards ceremony which was neat. Someday I’ll have to come back to tour the palace when I have more time.

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London Eye

Giant iconic ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames 135 meters tall and 120 meters in diameter. Has a pretty view of the city and is sponsored by Coca Cola.

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Thames River Cruise

We went on a City Cruises river tour down the Thames. Super neat and would recommend it! It’s available in a ton of different languages (it’s live commentary in English and recorded audio in other common languages). The whole tour took us about 70 mins each way (10 mins from Westminster to London Eye, 30 mins from London Eye to London Tower and 30 mins from London Tower to Greenwich). The best part is cruising underneath the Tower Bridge which is such a cool experience. Some highlights you’ll see along the way are the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben Clock Tower, London Eye, Millennium Footbridge (Harry Potter made this more famous), St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tower of London and Greenwich Park. They sell food/snacks/drinks onboard and they have several different departures from the piers (Westminster, Tower, London Eye, Bankside and Greenwich) depending on where you are located. River Thames is the longest river entirely in England and second longest in the United Kingdom at 215 miles flowing through Southern England.

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Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. This is one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever seen. It was awesome seeing it from all different angles: if you get the chance walk across the bridge and also take a river cruise underneath the bridge like we did. The bright turquoise blue details were unexpected and eye catching.

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Tower of London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. You can take a tour inside the grounds which is pretty cool. They also have the cutest most adorable gift shop that I bought way too many souvenirs from and spent way too much time in. They had the best presents for all my friends and family.

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Kensington Palace & Gardens

Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. They had a really neat Princess Diana exhibit when we visited in the summer. The golden gate right outside the palace was super grand and incredible.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. Go to the top of the world famous dome to the Golden Gallery for breathtaking views of the city skyline.

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The Shard

95 story glass skyscraper with one of the best and highest views of all of London. Offers 360 panoramic views for up to 40 miles from the observation deck viewing platforms.

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Leicester Square

Home of some of the best broadway performances in the West End of London. Some of my all time favorite broadway shows are Wicked and Phantom of the Opera.

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National Gallery / Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. My favorite artists Van Gogh and Monet had some famous paintings here that I loved seeing including Sunflowers, Wheatfield and Waterlillies. Trafalgar square was under construction when we visited in the summer so the fountain was coned off sadly. One of my favorite museums (liked it better than the British Museum) and it reminded me a lot of the Met in NYC.

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Hyde Park

350 acres of lush greens and basically like the Central Park of NYC for London. It is the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens. Serpentine River flows through Hyde Park and is so pretty.

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Millennium Bridge

Mentioned already above this is the crooked bridge famous in the Harry Potter movies.

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Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

In the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames. Will have to go back someday to see a performance here.

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London Bridge

Not as hyped up as the Tower Bridge, but still an original classic landmark. Box girder bridge built from concrete and steel. Neat to see once on the River Cruise along the Thames. Does anyone else have Fergie’s “London Bridge” song playing in their head?

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Piccadilly Circus

Corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street and one of the busiest corners in London. Has a beautiful fountain in the middle of the ground as a meeting point. There’s lot of cool stores and eating places around here.

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Westminster Abbey

Royal Church in the center of London. Where Prince William and Kate Middleton had their royal wedding ceremony. The grounds were stunning!

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Greenwich Park

One of the royal parks of London. Saw this through the River Cruise mentioned above. The Royal Observatory is neat and you can see the Prime Meridian line here.

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Harrods

Harrods is a luxury department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. One of the most famous department stores in London, it’s huge with many floors and fun to check out.

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Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour

Some say these are cheesy and touristy, but I think it’s fabulous. We got to see everything very quickly. Super convenient because it drops you off right in the front of all the famous landmarks. They travel around so often (seems like I’d see one stop every 5 minutes) so it was very easy to spend as much time as we wanted at each place and get on to our next destination. Highly recommend doing The Original Tour. There’s an audio recorded guide giving you highlights and historic facts of each place which was very interesting and it was super fun to ride on the double decker bus.

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Fortnum & Mason

My favorite tea brand in all of London. Their packaging is to die for and perfect for gifts for friends and family. My mom absolutely loved their teas. And for those in the States, they now sell this in Williams & Sonoma!

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Miscellaneous London Sights

The double decker buses are so fun and loved seeing the beautifully decorated English pubs lining all the quaint streets. The little mini black cabs were funny to see since I’m used to seeing our obnoxious bright yellow ones in the States. Also love the cute red telephone booths on some of the corners.

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Underground Tube

The London Underground is a public rapid transit system serving London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. Loved using the metro to get everywhere in the city, it was super easy. I recommend purchasing an Oyster Card if you will be traveling a lot to many places.

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Airports

London has two international airports in the center of the city Heathrow and Gatwick. I flew in through Gatwick which was super quick and easy.

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Imperial Hotel

3 star hotel in London in Bloomsbury, Central London right by Russell Square. Very simple and loved the cute quaint neighborhood we stayed in. The vibes in this hotel were fun, funky and eclectic. Very close to the metro stops and easy to get to from the Gatwick airport via public transit.

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Architecture

Take time to appreciate the amazing ornate architectural designs throughout London. We saw so many cool buildings with unique character.

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*Food*

Skips Cocktail Chips

Pawn cocktail chips, light tingly melty snack chips in star shell shaped form. I grew up with these as a little kid and love them so much. I have to get some every time I go to London.

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Rowntree Fruit Pastilles

Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles are small round sweets measuring about 1.5 cm in diameter; they have a jelly-like consistency, due to the gelatin they are made from, and are covered with sugar. I had a few of the candy version, but on the River Cruise they had these in Ice Lolly form which was delicious.

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