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.

IMG_4395IMG_4479IMG_4494IMG_6282IMG_6283IMG_6300IMG_6305IMG_6316IMG_6323IMG_6335

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.

IMG_6298img_4413.jpgIMG_4417

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.

IMG_4454IMG_4459IMG_4470

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.

IMG_4335IMG_4341IMG_4346IMG_4352IMG_4354IMG_4355IMG_4359IMG_4350

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.

img_4527.jpgimg_4501.jpgIMG_4519IMG_4525

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.

IMG_4481IMG_4483

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.

IMG_6318IMG_6309IMG_6319

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.

IMG_4002.jpg

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)

IMG_6303IMG_4311

Sallys Restaurang & Bar Sidenhuset Pärlan (Gamla Stan)

IMG_4374img_4378.jpgimg_4377.jpg

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

Carpe Diem (Gamla Stan)

IMG_4491img_4488.jpgimg_4487.jpgimg_4490.jpg

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.

img_4385.jpg

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!

img_4388.jpg

IMG_4474

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!

IMG_4493.jpg

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.

IMG_4288IMG_4292

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.

img_0973.jpg

img_4372.jpg

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

IMG_0493IMG_0519

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)

IMG_0537IMG_0523IMG_0571IMG_0540IMG_0558IMG_0559img_0577.jpgIMG_0578IMG_0586

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)

IMG_0653IMG_0660IMG_0668IMG_0672IMG_0678IMG_0679IMG_0690IMG_0694IMG_0697

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

IMG_0624img_0627.jpg

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

IMG_0612.jpg

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

IMG_0406IMG_0437IMG_0474IMG_0447IMG_0455

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

IMG_0400.jpg

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

IMG_0898IMG_0915

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)

img_08951.jpg

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

img_0878.jpg

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

img_0928.jpg

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

IMG_0888IMG_0882img_0891.jpgIMG_0889

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

IMG_0510

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)

img_0517.jpg

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)

img_0631.jpg

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

IMG_0505IMG_3018

List for Next Time:

Butterfly Beach & the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito

img_0490-e1539740448716.jpgIMG_0487

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.

IMG_3775IMG_3780IMG_3781

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.

IMG_3786img_3957.jpgIMG_5783img_5991.jpg

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.

IMG_3948IMG_3950img_3956.jpgIMG_5975

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.

IMG_3799.jpg

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.

IMG_5793IMG_5797img_5801.jpg

Kronborg Castle

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

img_3989.jpgIMG_3994

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.

img_3976.jpgIMG_3980img_3982.jpgIMG_3983

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!

img_3985.jpg

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.

img_3922.jpgimg_3970.jpg

Gorms

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

img_3828.jpg

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.

IMG_3813IMG_5817

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.

IMG_3864img_3872.jpgimg_3969.jpgimg_3870.jpgimg_3987.jpg

IMG_5079.jpg

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.

IMG_3941.jpg

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.

IMG_3794IMG_3866

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.

IMG_3842.jpg

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.

IMG_3851IMG_3919

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.

IMG_3880IMG_5844

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.

img_3906.jpgIMG_3907img_3913.jpg

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.

IMG_3896.jpg

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.

IMG_3885.jpg

Gelato Rajiissimo

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

IMG_3973IMG_3974

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.

IMG_3877IMG_5862

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.

IMG_3901IMG_3903IMG_4655

Opera House Harbor

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

IMG_3894.jpg

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.

IMG_3927IMG_5824IMG_5882IMG_5893IMG_3830IMG_5890IMG_5897IMG_3937IMG_3933

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*

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.

IMG_3097IMG_5481IMG_5482IMG_5484IMG_5485IMG_5567IMG_5554IMG_3123IMG_3126IMG_3259IMG_3263IMG_5534

*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.

IMG_3143IMG_3128IMG_3136IMG_3146IMG_3152IMG_3147IMG_3217

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.

img_3112.jpg

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.

IMG_3094IMG_3095

*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!

img_3160.jpgimg_3162.jpgimg_3164.jpg

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.

IMG_3080IMG_3272IMG_3270IMG_3276IMG_3287img_4594.jpg

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.

IMG_3239IMG_3237IMG_3243img_3245.jpg

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.

IMG_5563.jpg

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.

IMG_3251img_3252.jpgIMG_3256

Next time I Need To Try:

Lulu California Bistro – Strawberry Belgian Waffle

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.

img_1894.jpgIMG_2640

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.

IMG_1895IMG_2638

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.

IMG_1900IMG_2772IMG_2777IMG_2778IMG_1902

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.

IMG_9129.jpg

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.

img_1890.jpgIMG_1893IMG_2624IMG_2630IMG_2675

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.

IMG_2683IMG_2679IMG_2722IMG_2701

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.

IMG_2688IMG_9135

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.

IMG_1897IMG_2739IMG_2748

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.

IMG_2801IMG_2803

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.

IMG_2697img_2760.jpgIMG_2767

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.

IMG_2575img_2577.jpg

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.

IMG_2585IMG_2596IMG_9148IMG_9150IMG_9154

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.

IMG_2610.jpg

Millennium Bridge

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

img_2661.jpg

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.

IMG_2664.jpg

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?

IMG_2672.jpg

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.

IMG_2724.jpg

Westminster Abbey

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

IMG_2786IMG_2788

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.

IMG_9131IMG_9134

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.

img_9160.jpg

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.

IMG_2563IMG_9176

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!

IMG_2606IMG_2604

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.

IMG_2570IMG_2620img_9122.jpgIMG_9183

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.

img_0213.jpgIMG_9163

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.

IMG_0214.jpg

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.

IMG_9186img_9192.jpg

Architecture

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

img_1885.jpgIMG_2560IMG_2581IMG_2613img_2619.jpg

*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.

IMG_0216img_0218.jpg

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.

img_1738.jpgIMG_9132

Burger Fi

I’ve had both Shake Shack and In&Out in the States so thought I’d try out Burger Fi which is another burger chain. The root beer float hit the spot and it was cool how they stamp their burger logo into the bun.

IMG_9115.jpg

Caffe Nero

Caffè Nero or Caffè Nero Group Ltd is a European style coffee house brand with its headquarters in London, England. Hands down my go to London coffeeshop, reminds me of Starbucks because they were on every corner. I went here every morning. From the biscuits to the scones to the mocha coffee to the mango smoothie, everything was delicious. Can anyone tell that the mango smoothie was my favorite and I couldn’t stop re-ordering it every time?

IMG_1803IMG_9119img_9177.jpg

Caffe Russell

Cute little cafe right by our hotel in Russell Square among the park area. One of my favorite cuisines is Italian so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat at this adorable outdoor cafe. We were gearing up for our next adventure to Italy. The pizza, pasta and gelato were very good. Also the start to my collection of gelato pictures since I had to try gelato in every European city we went to.

IMG_9185img_1741.jpgimg_9191.jpg

Pret A Manger

An international sandwich shop chain based in the United Kingdom commonly referred to as Pret. I had first tried Pret in NYC and Boston and finally got to try it in London where it is headquartered. I loved their freshly prepared juices and fruit bowls, but their coffee drinks and food is delicious too.

img_1742.jpg

 A collection of some of my favorite souvenirs and momentos from my trip below: (Luggage tag from Buckingham, Harrods Guard bear, Oyster card, city cruises and Hop on Hop off brochures, Fortum & Mason fruit silk tea bag tin and Ted Baker makeup bag)

img_2927.jpg

Cheerio by for now London!

img_9181.jpg

Places to See / Food to Eat Next Time:

  • Scotland
  • Stonehenge
  • Meat Pies at Pie Minister / Beef Wellington
  • Windsor Castle
  • Milk Train Ice Cream & Covent Gardens
  • Tour Buckingham Palace

  • View from London Eye

 

Boston Travel Guide

Definitely a west coaster by nature, but an east coaster at heart. Dad’s hometown is beautiful! Loved visiting the place he grew up in and called home. From the historic brick and brownstone architecture to the rich history to the cobblestone streets to the long tall row houses to the gas lanterns, New England I love all your charm.

Here’s to my Boston favorites:

Freedom Trail 

There is so much to see and so much to do, but don’t be fooled while I thought this would be a short 3 mile walk it ends up being close to over 12 miles and took us all day to complete. Super neat, but I would suggest biking it or maybe even taking the hop on hop off bus or even utilizing the T subway system. The trail is marked with this cute red brick road that you follow the entire way. All main stopping sights are marked with this golden symbol below. Use the fun interactive iPhone app to find your way or you can pick up a paper map at the visitor’s center.

img_1500.jpgIMG_4873IMG_4900IMG_4953

Boston Common and State House

First stop along the freedom trail is Boston Common and State House. It is magnificent. Boston Common is the nation’s oldest public park originating in 1634. The State House overlooks Boston Common and its gold roof glistens under the sun in beauty. Park Street Church is the next stop and right down the road but it was under construction and closed when we were visiting.

IMG_4783.JPG

IMG_4789IMG_4792

Granary Burying Ground 

Third stop of the Freedom Trail. The cemetery next to Park Street Church (second stop) closed during the time of our visit. John Hancock, Paul Revere, James Otis, Samuel Adams,  Robert Treat Paine, Boston Massacre victims and Franklin’s parents were among those famous buried in this ground.

IMG_4799IMG_4808IMG_1503img_4809.jpg

King’s Chapel and Burying Ground

Fourth stop along the Freedom Trail. King’s Chapel was the first Anglican congregation in Boston and has one of the most elegant Georgian church interiors of the colonial era.

img_4824.jpgIMG_4817

Franklin Statue and First School Site

Fifth stop along the Freedom Trail. This statue of Benjamin Franklin overlooks the first site of the Latin School, the oldest public school in America established by Puritan settlers in 1635. Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock all attended.

IMG_4828IMG_4833

Old South Meeting House 

Sixth stop along Freedom Trail. Largest building in colonial Boston in 1729. In the days leading to the American Revolution, citizens gathered here to challenge British rule, protesting the Boston Massacre and the tea tax.

img_4846.jpgIMG_4841

Old State House 

Eighth stop of the Freedom Trail (seven was the Old Corner Bookstore which I did not see). Old State House was built in 1713 as the seat of colonial and state governments as well as a merchants’ exchange. A cobblestone circle under its balcony marks the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre when British soldiers fired into a crowd of Bostonians.

IMG_4852IMG_4849

Faneuil Hall 

Ninth stop of Freedom Trail. Old market building on the old town dock where there used to be town meetings in 1764. Also right by the Tea Party Museum and Ship.

IMG_4864.JPG

Paul Revere House 

Tenth stop of Freedom Trail. Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood the North End built in about 1680. Paul Revere and his family owned and occupied it most of the time from 1770 to 1800.

IMG_4875.JPG

Old North Church

Eleventh stop of Freedom Trail and Boston’s oldest church building. Memorialized the start of the Revolutionary War and the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”.

img_4891.jpgIMG_1493img_4888.jpg

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Twelfth stop of Freedom Trail. Another famous burying ground.

IMG_4903IMG_4904

Bunker Hill Monument

Thirteenth stop of Freedom Trail and one of the coolest things I did in Boston. The view is incredible! (note featured image for this travel guide) It is a 221 feet obelisk commemorating the Revolution’s first major battle. I climbed the monument’s 294 steps which definitely kills your legs afterwards but the view is so worth the pain.

IMG_4931IMG_4952IMG_4946IMG_4950

Charlestown Navy Yard / USS Constitution

Fourteenth and final stop of the Freedom Trail. USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.

IMG_4967IMG_4969IMG_1510IMG_4925IMG_4979

Architecture

Not really a site, but there is so much charm in the architecture of Boston. Please don’t forget to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of the buildings and homes. I love the ornate stone work and brick work, amazing! The BackBay neighborhood was my favorite to stroll through.

img_1383.jpgIMG_1388

Mike’s Pastry’s Boston Cream Puffs

Best known for their cannoli’s which are round tube like Italian pastries with cream cheese filing. These looked amazing, but I could not pass up the Boston cream puffs which are my favorite. We went to the North End location which is the cutest, but there’s also one in Harvard square.

img_1400.jpgIMG_1403IMG_4877IMG_4955

B. Good’s Kale Smoothie 

Hands down the best Kale smoothie ever. Kale Crush was life changing. Thank you Boston Marathon for introducing me. I never even liked Kale before. Tried about a 1,000 bad kale smoothies after this, nothing compares. Whenever I’m in Boston I’m going to get one of these every morning. Still dreaming about the wonderfulness.

IMG_1473.JPG

JP Licks Ice Cream 

I don’t even remember what flavor this was, maybe chocolate cookies n’ cream. But it sure was delicious. The cutest little ice cream shop.

IMG_1428

Atlantic Fish Co. 

So if you know me, you know I don’t like seafood and on most occasions won’t eat any fish. But when in Boston, one must eat fish and chips and clam chowder with oyster crackers. I definitely didn’t regret my decision. Best fish and chips I’ve ever had, sorry London. Nobody does fish better than New England. Was also trying to find some corn chowder but had no luck, next time.

img_1434.jpgIMG_1435img_5187.jpg

Boylston Street & BAA Half Marathon

So the real reason I was in Boston was to run my biggest bucket list race…the Boston Half Marathon. It was so much fun and it’s a race I will remember for the rest of my lifetime and never forget. Glad I was able to check it off the list. Running through the Emerald Necklace is tough – lots of hills, greenery, basically one giant hilly forest-like park intermixed in a residential area. But the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) running culture is unlike any other and some of the best world class athletes run in this race. Boylston Street is the street of the Boston Marathon finish line as well as home to the Boston Marathon Adidas store front where I picked up all my racing gear and legendary finisher’s jacket.

IMG_1408img_1441-e1525155211674.jpgIMG_1442img_1461-e1525155255133.jpg

Charles River

The view of the skyline & marina were spectacular and we could see the Harvard crew team practicing, which was neat.

IMG_4918.JPG

Fenway Stadium Home of the Red Sox

This stadium tour blew me away, it was so historic and neat especially for major baseball fans. It truly is one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums ever. This is one of my favorite memories on the trip. They have their own growing garden even. Got to sit in the famous Green Monster chairs. There are special sections in the stadium where you can sit in the old navy wooden seats. Got to see the press room. The view of the Boston skyline from the stadium is amazing! The red seat marks the longest HR ever hit in Fenway. The museum at the end of the tour showed the stadium seating over the years, memorabilia from opening day at Fenway and Babe Ruth gear. Bought the coolest unique souvenir in the gift shop – MLB authenticated and bottled Fenway field dirt.

IMG_5004IMG_4997IMG_4998img_1416.jpgIMG_5014img_1479.jpgimg_1478.jpgIMG_5067IMG_5074IMG_5049IMG_5027IMG_5038IMG_5109IMG_5118IMG_5140IMG_5149IMG_5159IMG_5173

Boston Public Gardens

Easily the prettiest most beautiful park in Boston. The Central Park of Boston. So serene and so magnificently beautiful. Hoping I can come back during the summer one day to ride the Swan boats in the lake. The duckling statues are so cute.

IMG_4781img_1391.jpgIMG_4740IMG_4761IMG_4739IMG_4768

Loved being in Boston during the fall! Can’t wait to go back soon. Next time I’m definitely going to see Cape Cod & the Islands (Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket).

IMG_4927

 

 

Disney California Adventure Travel Guide

The sister park to the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim. Listed are all of my favorites, enjoy!

IMG_1892.jpg

*Attractions* 

Frozen Live at the Hyperion – cutest broadway like performance of Frozen, if you adored the movie like I did the theatrical interpretation of the animated film is amazing. I do miss the Aladdin show though since it was just as wonderful (In Hollywood Land)

IMG_1899IMG_8428IMG_2146

World of Color – get a fastpass it’s one of the neatest outdoor shows Disney puts on every night before the park closes, looks just like the Bellagio fountain experience in Vegas but Disney themed. The colorful dancing water sprays and water screen showcases the beloved Disney and Pixar film scenes coordinated with music and fire/fog/water/laser effects

IMG_1901.jpg

Soarin’ Around the World – used to be Soarin’ over California which I absolutely loved, however love this rendition just as much. It’s so awesome hang gliding over all the international landmarks, monuments and famous landscapes (In Grizzly Peak)

IMG_1905

Carsland Radiator Springs Racers – the cutest land in the park, auto race in Lighting McQueen through the Cadillac Mountains desert landscape

Guardians of Galaxy: Mission Breakout! – super fun even though I miss the old Tower of Terror ride, Rocket is adorable plus you’re on the coolest free fall adventure to rescue the Guardians from the Galaxy from the Collector’s fortress (In Hollywood Land)

IMG_4647IMG_8858

Jumpin’ Jellyfish – cutest little kiddie 40 foot parachute drop in the beautiful colorful jellies (In Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier)

IMG_8853.jpg

Toy Story Midway Mania – cannot wait for the new Pixar land to make its debut, fun 4D Midway inspired experience where you challenge your car to a series of various action packed carnival games. Sister ride of the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters in Disneyland (In Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier)

IMG_8815.jpg

Games of the Boardwalk – win the cutest Dumbo stuffed animal, isn’t he adorable? (Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier)

IMG_4696img_8807.jpg

Animation Academy – receive step by step instructions to draw your own character sketch, usually a 30 minute session and makes for a cute souvenir to take home (your own masterpiece) In Hollywood Land

IMG_4645img_4619.jpg

Pixar Pal-A-Round – previously Mickey’s Fun Wheel. Ferris wheel with the most amazing sky view overlooking the entire park, the swinging gondolas are pretty scary but I enjoyed the outer standing baskets (In Pixar Pier previously Paradise Pier)

IMG_8851.jpg

Incredicoaster – previously California Screamin’ this roller coaster is one of my newest favorites. It’s so much cuter with the Incredibles theme and I love all the character sitings throughout the ride. Located on Pixar Pier

IMG_0246.jpg

*Eats*

Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta – part of Paradise Pier by the Jumpin’ Jellyfish and Silly Symphony Swings, loved the chicken sundried tomato pasta yum

img_8811.jpg

Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill – in the Pacific Wharf SF themed section of the park, I always order the chicken tamale plate with rice, beans and guacamole. Not authentic tasting Mexican food, more like Tex-Mex

IMG_4698IMG_4702

Flo’s V8 Cafe – located in Carsland and super cute route 66 inspired diner with neon light signs, get the beautiful secret menu Neapolitan shake

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop – another favorite on the pacific wharf, they even give out the Ghirardelli square chocolate samples at the door. My favorite is their banana split, it’s delicious

IMG_4683IMG_4210

Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company – Most adorable ice cream stand off paradise pier, I hope they don’t get rid of this when Pixar Land takes over because the soft serve is a huge Costco portion. *Update* they did get rid of it, but there’s a super cute Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats hut which serves new lemon soft serve.

Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats – New to Pixar Pier, previously the Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company. The Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait is my favorite (shown below). It’s the non-dairy lemon soft serve mixed with blue raspberry icee slush. Delicious!

IMG_0334IMG_0343

Schmoozies – In hollywood land, get the Malibu Mocha smoothie off the secret menu it’s a great refresher on a hot day (note not a strong coffee taste more chocolate like)

img_4639.jpg

Cove Bar – The secret menu drinks are beautiful! My favorites are the Neverland Tea and Pina Colava. The Mickey’s Fun Wheel is a classic and looks very cute, but beware because the alcohol taste is strong. And the tri tip nachos were delicious. Part of Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier. Heard that these drinks are available at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace while the pier is under construction. *Update* – they got rid of this place when Pixar Pier opened now it’s Lamplight Lounge

img_2128.jpgIMG_2334img_2337.jpgimg_2335.jpg

IMG_2723 copy

Cozy Cone Motel – The chili cone queso always hits the spot on a cold chilly night, everything in these cones are adorable, curious to try some of the others like the bacon mac & cheese

IMG_2147.jpg

Lamplight Lounge – The newest addition to the dining in the park. Super cool with the animation studio touches like the menu sketches. This took over where the Cove Bar and Ariel’s Grotto restaurant used to be. Located on the new Pixar Pier.

IMG_0249IMG_3293 copy

Disneyland Parks are definitely the happiest places on Earth. Always a treat to spend the day here! Looking forward to my next visit.

IMG_1907.jpg

Japan Travel Guide

In honor of the bestie coming back from her recent trip to Japan, thought I’d share my favorites with you all for this long awaited guide. Got to spend an entire month in Japan (Sept. 2015) before I started my full time job and it was a blast. Even despite the wonderful Typhoon Etau that hit the day I decide to go to Tokyo Disneyland, the fabulous 5.3 earthquake in Tokyo and the Mt. Aso volcano eruption. Mother nature at its finest, quite the experience i’ll never forget.

*Foods You Must Try*

I’m not even much of an adventurous food person so my friends will laugh that I’m posting this section, but without further adieu here’s my food favs:

I should start off with the interesting concept of having Drink Vending Machines on every corner…..and I truly mean every corner (I remember seeing some remotely standing there on the side of the street by themselves thinking “wow it’s like a drive up vending machine haha)

IMG_1881.jpg

My favorite were of course the kiddie orange, grape and apple minute maid juices…I know so American of me to not venture out.

Steak – BEST RESTAURANT IN JAPAN if you go to Arita please come here for me. You’ll thank me later. Will go back to Japan just for this place, hands down my favorite meal of the entire trip

IMG_4990IMG_4994IMG_4997

Not even sure what this restaurant is called (see below), but it was a fancy place my dad’s friend took us to. The food looked like art masterpieces (to tell you the truth I had no idea what I was even eating, but I did try jellyfish for the first time–the only meal on the trip that I ate things I would typically never eat)

IMG_4314IMG_4285IMG_4288IMG_4290IMG_4307

Traditional Japanese Sit Down Meals – You need to experience at least one of these, it’s such a treat and great way to appreciate the Japanese culture (plus the shabu shabu here is amazing). And if you’re brave enough the blowfish is a delicacy to try.

IMG_4881IMG_4888IMG_4851

Matcha Green Tea – classic favorite, honestly tastes like leafy water yum!

IMG_1816.jpg

Parm Ice Cream – Favorite ice cream I tried in Japan and they sell these everywhere (kind of like those dove bars back home)

IMG_3858.jpg

Pinocchio’s  – BEST PASTA IVE HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE! Chef was from Italy of course living in Japan. Loved the cute Pinocchio theme of the restaurant (born and raised Disney fan right here), located by Kujukushima Islands on the port. Still dreaming of this pasta and this lunch with the gorgeous views.

IMG_2542IMG_2543IMG_2544IMG_2546IMG_2547

Joyful – The mango strawberry shaved ice is so good (one on the right)! I mean…we should’ve guessed mine wouldn’t be the green tea matcha one with azuki red beans on top 😉 Way better than shaved ice in the states because the ice is so fine, flavors don’t taste like artificial food coloring and they add ice cream in the middle

IMG_4066.jpg

More shaved ice – this was from the Kujukushima Islands next to Pinocchio’s (not as goods as Joyful, but still tasty)

IMG_2552.jpg

Tonkatsu – Ironically the best tonkatsu I had was in the bento boxes at the train station, which is funny because I even had some at fancy restaurants and it wasn’t as good (don’t worry I didn’t eat the stuff on the right just the rice and meat)

IMG_2591.jpg

Figs – These were the highly popular dessert option (fig salad was amazing on the right) while I was there and I had never had figs before this trip, now I’m hooked and can’t get enough

Green Tea Ice Cream – surprisingly this flavor is up there on my top ice cream choices (behind spumoni of course) Can you blame me if Haagen-Dazs is my favorite brand?

IMG_4262.jpg

Miso Soup – If you actually know what miso is it might gross you out, but I grew up on this soup so I crave it occasionally. My favorite is always the tofu, weird but I’d rather have it than meat sometimes

IMG_1904.jpg

Udon Noodles – My favorite type of noodles to get in Japan. Second would be miso ramen and third somen. Not a fan of soba sorry.

IMG_1906.jpg

Leave it to me to find Gelato in Japan (needed some comfort food)

IMG_1892.jpg

Somen Noodles – Mentioned earlier above but these are amazing cold on a nice sunny day

IMG_2172

Ice Cream – Had some amazing ice cream cones (my favorite kind of vending machine Haagen Dazs) and one very bad one in Fukuoka (bottom one very aesthetically pleasing but tasted awful)

IMG_2743IMG_2887IMG_4847

Starbucks – Had to try this over there and ordered the same frapps that I have here Vanilla Bean and Mocha (tasted different because they used lighter milk)

IMG_3109IMG_4393

Breakfast – This is what my breakfast looked like every morning (bowl of tomatoes, orange juice, strawberry toast and bananas)

IMG_4253.jpg

Lotte Koala Cookies & this apple juice – Favorite train snacks by far

IMG_4255.jpg

Mandarin Orange & Pear Fruit Jelly Cups – These are the best (another one of my favorite desserts)

*Sights*

Will update this section later.

 

Arizona Travel Guide

Since I just came back from a trip to Phoenix with a bunch of my friends, thought I’d finally post my Arizona travel guide. Got to see a ton of cactus, orange dirt, red rock and the fascinating solar eclipse. Here are my favorites:

IMG_0657.jpg

*Sights*

Grand Canyon/Petrified Forest & Painted Desert/Sedona– The beginning to my love for nature and visiting national parks. Went here when I was super young, hence why there aren’t many pictures to post, but I remember the Grand Canyon was beautiful and one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen as a kid. Hoping to go back to see it soon now that I’m older.

Copy of DSCN023122548956_287601825087962_1719503103983800990_o

Antelope Canyon – Very neat, did the lower canyon tour with Dixie Ellis which was pretty cool to see all the intricate rock formations. Will have to climb down and up some narrow metal staircases, not handicap friendly. Pretty short trek with a tour guide explaining the history.

IMG_1186IMG_4139IMG_4208IMG_4159IMG_4220IMG_1187

Horseshoe Bend – Short less than a mile hike to the beautiful horseshoe bend lookout point. Gets really hot out in this desert area so try to go early or bring lots of water and sunscreen. The rock reminded me of the grand canyon with all the array of colors. I highly recommend staying overnight in Page which is a cute quaint town about 10-15 minute drive to both the bend and antelope.

IMG_4076IMG_4108IMG_1188

MLB Spring Training Festivities – Baseball is my favorite sport to watch so I love getting to see the spring training games and staying in Scottsdale. I always head to Camelback Ranch since I’m a loyal Dodger fan. They share a stadium with the Chicago White Sox. It’s an excellent way to get to meet the players and if you’re lucky you’ll come home with a bunch of signed autographed balls.

img_1099-e1525750696999.jpg

IMG_1200IMG_1230IMG_1093IMG_1121

Lake Mead & Hoover Dam – See my Las Vegas post for more details and pictures because this place is stunning.

IMG_5137IMG_7249IMG_7242IMG_7246

Top Golf – This place is so much fun, it’s like a driving range for golfing except it kind of works a lot like bowling where you are put on teams to challenge each other to see who can get the most points. Their are flags and hole where you can score more points than others based on how easy the hole is to hit. Each team will rent a bay to hang out in and they have great food and drinks too!

IMG_1190IMG_1189

Diamondbacks MLB Game – Chase Field is wonderful, one of the top stadiums on my list because it has a covered dome which is perfect for the hot days and nights in Phoenix. They even have seats with a jacuzzi. And of course can’t forget that now they have our ex-Dodger pitcher Zach Greinke.

IMG_0670IMG_0671

*Eats*

Bobby Q’s – The best bbq I’ve ever had. Every time I come to Arizona I try to make it to this place. Their meat is amazing and I’m in love with their bbq sauce. I like to try a bit of everything so I recommend ordering the Whole Hog Heaven family meal. You can order two types of ribs, two types of meats (always order the brisket and pork yum), three sides  (i like the mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and roasted corn) and cornbread. Also their dessert Miss McGee’s Mud Pie is delicious. On your way out you’ll get mini cinnamon little donut rings too.

IMG_1215IMG_0640IMG_0644IMG_0645

Raising Cane’s – These are a chain and they have these everywhere, but I first ate here in Arizona. It’s simple to order, I like the box combo which comes with four chicken fingers, crinkle cut fries, texas toast, coleslaw and the amazing cane’s sauce which distinctly kind of reminds me of chick-fil-a sauce.  Goes perfectly with their homemade lemonade as well. Definitely my favorite chicken fingers.

IMG_0637IMG_0634

Cafe Rio – Another chain fast food found everywhere as well, but I first had this on my trip in Arizona. Delicious Mexican food, I always order the same thing every time I come. Corn tortilla taco plate with shredded chicken, cilantro lime rice, pinto beans, lettuce, cheddar jack cheese, guacamole and sour cream. It’s delicious….and do I dare say my favorite over Chipotle even too.

IMG_3282.jpg

Flying out of Phoenix airport is quick and easy!

IMG_1185.JPG

STILL ON MY BUCKET LIST TO SEE

  1. Lake Havasu
  2. Vermilion Cliffs
  3. Meteor Crater

IMG_4044.JPG

Disneyland Anaheim Travel Guide

In honor of many upcoming trips to the cheery land of Disney, thought I’d post my favorites of this magical place. Grew up coming here as a kid every year on my birthday so it will always hold special memories in my heart.

IMG_8804.jpg

*Tips & Tricks*

img_8913.jpg

  • Always dress smart with layers…Disneyland is in California the sunshine state, but it can still get chilly at night depending on the weather. Bring a light weight jacket and wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking around a lot all day.
  • Be prepared and take water if you can to stay hydrated throughout the day. Don’t forget snacks since Disney still lets you bring in food.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen if you go during the day to avoid sunburning.
  • Ride lines can also be a long wait so bring cards or download some fun phone app games to pass the time by.
  • Don’t forget a portable charger for your phone if you plan on using this in line ( we always bring a heavy duty data bank)
  • Take advantage of FAST PASSES – literally the key to trying to get on every ride in one day (very possible by the way if you have a strategy and game plan in mind when conquering the parks); Get MaxPass (new app that gives you digital fastpasses on the Disneyland App) the $10 is worth it and will save you so much time from not having to run around the whole park
  • MaxPass can also be used for unlimited Disney Photopass downloads from the day (such a fun souvenir) plus you can check all the attraction wait times as well as make dining reservations at select restaurants

IMG_1342 copy.jpg img_0559.jpg

  • Celebration buttons are a must, cutest souvenir to remember your special trip (get these at the town hall for free) They have all different kinds from I’m celebrating to Graduation to Happy Anniversary, Happily Ever After, Happy Birthday, 1st Visit, etc.

IMG_8793IMG_8912

  • Send yourself a postcard from the park (they have mailboxes everywhere on main street) my favorite are the ones from WonderGround Gallery; don’t forget your postcard stamps before you come

IMG_8805IMG_8931

*Entertainment Favorites*

Main Street Electrical Parade – Love that they brought this back, the LED lights are spectacular…..the show is the same as the original, music and all. A must see before it disappears this summer of 2017

IMG_2393IMG_2422

Fireworks Show – Disney has their fair share of different variations of their firework spectaculars, each unique and special. One of my favorite parts of Disneyland is watching all the colors spark over the Sleeping Beauty castle. Also a fun way to see Tinkerbell fly across the night sky if you stand in front of the castle. I think the best spots to watch the fireworks are on Main Street, Rivers of America by Pirates of the Caribbean and from Fantasyland by Small World

IMG_1403 copyIMG_0293

Mickey and the Magical Map Show – Cutest sing along show in the huge theater out front of Toontown in Fantasyland, fun to take little kids to, the singing and dancing numbers amazing (almost broadway quality)

IMG_8921IMG_8919IMG_8917

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – The iconic landmark of Disneyland, love that they kept the sparkly roofing on the castle from the diamond celebration (such a beautiful touch). It’s always fun to walk through sleeping beauty’s castle, don’t miss it

IMG_4815 copyIMG_8950

Disney’s Holiday FestivitiesPLEASE go to Disneyland during one of their holiday celebrations; I’ve personally been to every single one and the decorations alone all across the park are phenomenal (my all time favorites being Christmas and Halloween). The Haunted Mansion ride decked out themed Nightmare Before Christmas was a genius marketing move and so fun. Space Mountain is decked out as Ghost Galaxy. Love It’s A Small World Holiday when it’s all decked out in lights and Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle with the icicles is my absolute favorite. Always enjoy the Halloween parties….I mean any excuse to dress up as a Disney princess and you’ve got me, I’m in. Plus you’ll acquire so much candy from the adorable trick or treat booths spread all across the park. The special holiday treats you can buy throughout the park let alone are the main reasons I have to go every year.

12190869_10153173162333314_5844507206536087821_n.jpg

Disneyland 020DSC00139IMG_1935 copyimg_1336-copy.jpgimg_1361-copy.jpgIMG_1384 copyIMG_1399 copy img_7978-copy.jpg

*Rides*

It’s A Small World – Arguably my favorite ride, who wouldn’t want to take a cruise around the world? Of course I’m always a little bias when it comes to representing my ethnicities and think that the Ireland/Scotland/England and Japanese areas are the best. The pastel colors, the dolls, everything about this ride makes me smile with pure joy (in Fantasyland)

March 24, 2006 016

IMG_8803.jpg

Peter Pan’s Flight – Can you blame me if I love Fantasyland more than any other? This ride though….first off, you get to fly in a pirate ship (who wouldn’t want to live this childhood dream?)…..and flying over little London town, so dreamy

IMG_8955IMG_8961IMG_8967

Dumbo – Looks like a cheesy ride if you’re not 5, but you get a pretty neat view overlooking the park (in Fantasyland)

IMG_8845IMG_0489

Indiana Jones – By far my favorite “big kid” ride…..love that you’re in a jeep four wheeling through some crazy scenes—the skulls, the snakes, the creepy Aztec looking tiki doll heads, the flaming fire, the huge boulder chasing you down a hole…..kind of wish the danger were real because that’d be a gnarly experience to battle through (in Adventureland)

gc-13th-bday-disneyland-036-e1522823910349.jpgIMG_0479

Storybook Land Canal Boats – Another cute fantasyland favorite, those miniature towns get me every time and the lit arch ways you pass under at night from Casey Jr.’s is so romantic (my favorite town is the new frozen one of course)

IMG_8799.jpg

IMG_8840.jpg

King Arthur’s Carrousel – Everyone needs to ride on the Mary Poppins horse Jiggles at least once, it’s the best one with the glimmering gem stones and bells (the golden hoofs are a nice touch too) also in Fantasyland

IMG_8914IMG_1354

Mark Twain Riverboat – Love the casual stroll across the Rivers of America on this gorgeous boat that makes me feel like I’m strolling down the Mississippi river amongst New Orleans (in Frontierland)

IMG_8849.jpg

Matterhorn Bobsleds – Iconic mountain of Disneyland…..personally the ride isn’t the best with all the back and butt whiplash you experience, but the Swiss alps aesthetic keeps me coming back—love that it makes me feel like I’m in Austria especially with the workers dressed in the cutest costumes (in Fantasyland)

IMG_8982.jpg

IMG_1358 copy.jpg

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Way fun roller coaster, love the scenery as it reminds me of Arizona or Utah because of the rock formations (In Frontierland)

IMG_2380.JPG

Lilly Belle Railroad Train Car – Newest favorite, look how gorgeous….the cool part is you’ll need reservations to see this beauty. Part of the back train car of the Disneyland Railroad which has stops on Main Street, New Orleans Square, Toon Town and Tomorrowland.

img_8792.jpgIMG_8795

*Eats*

Tiki Room Juice Bar – Two words “Dole Whip”….what’s not more refreshing on a warm summer day than pineapple soft serve (very iconic dessert) in Adventureland. Choose the soft serve (whip) or dole float (ice cream in pineapple juice)

IMG_1377 copyIMG_1379 copy

Bengal Barbecue – Must try the new tropical Jungle Julep drink, cousin of the Mint Julep. Super fruity smoothie/icee like consistency. Very delicious with hints of orange, grape, pineapple and lemon. The kabobs are a delicious snack too. My top favorites are the Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus), Bengal Beef Skewer (beef skewer in sweet zulu sauce) and Chieftain Chicken Skewer (chicken skewer in Polynesian sauce). Located in Adventureland across from Indiana Jones & Jungle Cruise

IMG_0481img_0357.jpgIMG_0272

Cafe Orleans – Mickey beignets are a must, super cute and always loving the NOLA vibes. Try the Monte Cristo sandwich, very classic New Orleans (grilled ham and cheese sandwich). In New Orleans Square

IMG_5986 copy.jpg

Golden Horseshoe – Apparently the ice cream nachos are a thing, who knew? Is Disney on the secret menu phenomena kick like Starbucks? Also love their ice cream floats, try this cool new cherry cola one for the Fantasmic celebration. In Frontierland. The park rival of Gibson Girl on Main Street USA

IMG_8969IMG_2381IMG_0480

Stage Door Cafe – Funnel cakes in Disneyland are huge and amazing. The strawberry funnel cake is so delicious! They are huge so bring friends to share with.

img_2750-1.jpg

Candy Palace – Order a World of Color slushy off the secret menu, it’s almost too beautiful to drink. The best slushy. Right off the beautifully decorated Main Street USA

img_1238.jpg

Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor – Crowd favorite for ice cream and sundaes, the waffle cones are to die for. Also on Main Street USA

IMG_8850.jpg

Blue Bayou – Inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (not my favorite place and kind of pricey, long wait, plus annoying reservations but it’s next to the famous Club 33) in New Orleans Square; has similar food to Cafe Orleans if you’re looking for a not as expensive option with the same cuisine. I always order the Monte Cristo and they have the best chicken gumbo soup

IMG_4343IMG_5981 copy

Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port/Alien Pizza Planet– Cute themed with Toy Story for now, but not sure how long this will be called Pizza Planet. Love the pastas especially the Count Down Chicken Fusilli (like fettuccine alfredo), Terra Nova Vegetable Pasta (has a slight spicy kick to it) and Mars-inara with meatballs; please pass on the pizza (tastes like microwave frozen stuff)….you can thank me later (in Tomorrowland by Space Mountain)

IMG_8837img_0260.jpgIMG_0256IMG_0482

Earl’s Sandwiches – Technically not in Disneyland, but this Downtown Disney favorite needed some recognition (the Hawaiian bbq sandwich is delicious)

IMG_1224IMG_8834

Tortilla Joes – Also in Downtown Disney and they have the best chicken flautas

IMG_8932.jpg

French Market Restaurant – Love the french dip sandwich! Super filing dinner choice located in New Orleans Square and conveniently located to the Mint Julep bar

IMG_2151.jpg

Mint Julep Bar – Yummy mickey mouse shaped beignets (sugary powdered doughnuts), they have peppermint ones during Christmas time

IMG_2152