Tag Archives: California

HEADED WEST

I have a feeling this summer is going to be the summer of road trips. I just returned from two back-to-back weekend road trips, and it’s surprising how inexpensive and accessible these kinds of trips can be. The first weekend was spent driving west with my sister from Colorado to California, and the second was heading south with a couple of girlfriends from Colorado to New Mexico. As long as you have good company, a full tank of gas, a backseat filled with snacks, a trendy/affordable Airbnb, and a wish list of places to see, it’ll be a successful roadie adventure. Here are my go-to recommendations if you happen to road trip this summer!

NEVADA
In N’ Out Burger
Old-fashioned burgers, french fries, and milkshakes. You can think of it as “fast food”, but the quality is everything the opposite of typical fast-food. A must if you need a bite on the road, or if you’ve simply never had In N’ Out before! You’ll thank me.
Seven Magic Mountains
Just imagine Candy Land in the middle of the desert. Just off of Highway 15, south of Las Vegas is Ugo Rondinone’s art installation of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders each scaling over 30 feet high. A beautiful burst of color after spending hours in the car. It’ll be worth the pullover.

CALIFORNIA
Balboa Island, Newport, CA
Tucked in the harbor of Newport Beach is the tiny community called Balboa Island. We spent the morning walking around the farmer’s market, exploring the quaint shops and restaurants, and watching the surfers from the pier. There is also a boardwalk and a ferry on the island which is more of a peninsula. It was a nice hidden gem away from the hustle & bustle of California weekenders.
Tabu Shabu, Costa Mesa, CA
O-M-G. Forget sushi and ramen and sashimi. Tabu Shabu is the new way to explore traditional Japanese cuisine. This style of fondue or “hot pot” allows you to cook thinly sliced meat and vegetables in your own pot of boiling broth (usually tonkatsu or miso), dipping into homemade ponzu and goma sauces, and accompanied by rice, ramen, or udon noodles. I have always loved Japanese cuisine, but I became quickly obsessed with shabu shabu! So much so, that I begged my sister and brother-in-law to go twice in the same weekend that I visited them. 2 times in 3 days. And I savored every frickin’ bite!
The Crack Shack, Costa Mesa, CA
If you like Chick Fil A, (or chicken sandwich in general), you’ll go nuts over The Crack Shack! Simply one of the tastiest chicken sandwiches and french fries I’ve had in years. I recommend The Firebird and Schmaltz fries. Great weekend treat for a casual lunch or dinner.
Fashion Island, Newport, CA
Explore Orange County’s premier shopping center at Fashion Island. My sister lives down the street from it and it was an endless promenade of shops and restaurants. Not to mention the largest Anthropologie I’ve ever been in! (I actually managed to get lost inside) It’s a great way to spend the afternoon if you need some retail therapy or quick eats.

NEW MEXICO
The Plaza, Santa Fe, NM
The Plaza is the heart of Santa Fe with its rich history, beautiful churches, authentic restaurants, and endless art galleries/jewelers. The soul of New Mexico is portrayed everywhere with beautiful turquoise jewelry, vibrant art, rich food, stucco/adobe inspired buildings, and cultured people. I couldn’t get enough of the squash-blossom necklaces, long horn skull heads, chili-infused cuisine, and colorful pottery.
Kakawa Chocolate House, Santa Fe, NM
Sadly I didn’t have the chance to visit Kakawa Chocolate House, but I can’t tell you how many blogs/websites mentioned this place when I was researching places to visit in Santa Fe. So it must be good. From what I gather, Kakawa specializes in handmade chocolates, chile chocolates, chocolate drinks, and chocolate elixirs. I heard it’s the perfect afternoon treat. And a sweet reason for me to go back to Santa Fe one day.
Paloma, Santa Fe, NM
Hands down, Paloma was the best dining experience we had during our weekend in New Mexico. This stunning kitchen & bar is intimate, vibrant, and offers an incredible menu. Mexican-inspired with an exotic twist. The staff is extremely welcoming and friendly, the service was flawless, and the food was simply outstanding. A beautiful representation of Santa Fe cuisine with a lovely atmosphere. Highly recommend for a great meal!
Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM
I don’t even know how to begin to describe Meow Wolf. In short, Santa Fe is not really known for it’s night-life, so the young and eager go to Meow Wolf for entertainment. A venue filled with unique and mind-blowing art installations that will push your mind beyond reality. Someone best described it as “part haunted house, part fun house, part acid trip”. I felt like I was in a 2-hour episode of Stranger Things. If you are ever in Santa Fe, you MUST go. It’s a beautifully overwhelming and fascinating experience.

Have fun road-tripping this summer! xx

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THE ANDAZ

I love discovering unique travel accommodations. Whether staying at a cozy Airbnb, a tent in the middle of the wilderness, a trendy hotel in a new city, I love it all. A couple weeks ago I stayed in a stunning boutique hotel in West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard called the Andaz – where luxury meets Rock-n-Roll.

One of my favorite things about this hotel is the music history. The Andaz opened in 1963 and was called the Gene Autry Hotel back then. A few years later, it was renamed the Continental Hyatt House, and then eventually became the Hyatt on Sunset. Fast forward to 2009 when the hotel was renovated and renamed the Andaz West Hollywood. The Andaz is part of the Hyatt family, a personal favorite of hotel chains that I have always stayed at. One of the highlights of the Andaz is the location; Sunset Boulevard. AKA: the Los Angeles hub for touring rock groups, notably English bands Led Zeppelin, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. With the hotel’s proximity to popular clubs and music halls, the Andaz  quickly became the desired hotel for traveling rock bands and was nicknamed the “riot Hyatt”. They even give you a complimentary pair of ear plugs for your stay.

I’m totally going to brag now – we had the penthouse suite during our stay. [I’m not a big deal or anything, but my parents are loyal Hyatt members and got the ultimate hook up] The penthouse was so rockstar. Upscale amenities, luxurious and trendy furniture, lighting effects, stunning views of Sunset, walk-in closet, most comfortable bed everrr, and a giant balcony with succulents and cozy patio furniture. Even the toilet had an iPad with flushing features, lighting, and music! We soaked up the entire experience that weekend; laid by the pool with beers and nibbles, yoga on the balcony, enjoyed late night bites and cocktails in the lobby restaurant, strolled along Sunset Boulevard, saw a band in West Hollywood, and of course, jumped on the bed like we were five. I bet rockstars did it too.

Everything about this hotel screamed glamorous Hollywood and classic Rock-n-Roll. From the animated furniture to the photos of famed musicians on the walls, this hotel has beautifully embraced their history as the “place to stay” for traveling rock bands. And being located right on Sunset Boulevard means endless things to do the second you walk out the hotel lobby. So whether you’re a fan of rock, or a curious shopper in Hollywood, or vacationing in Los Angeles, be sure to visit the Andaz. Walk the halls that so many famous musicians did before. It’s a Hollywood treat. Can’t wait to return one day!

xx

DID YOU KNOW?
– In the mid-to-late 1970’s, Led Zeppelin reserved approx. six floors of the hotel for the band and entourage. Drummer John Bonham supposedly drove a motorcycle along the hallways [some say it was tour manager Richard Cole].
– Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards threw a TV out the window of room 1015 in 1972. The Who’s Keith Moon also threw a TV out of a hotel window. In the film Rock Star, Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, throws a TV out the window in rage. Poor TV’s…
– Lemmy wrote the song “Motorhead” on one of the hotel balconies in the middle of the night.
– Scenes from the film Almost Famous which depict the hotel were actually filmed in the hotel. Parts of the hotel were staged with the exact same decor that existed in the 1970’s.
– Little Richard lived in room 319 at the hotel through most of the 1980’s – 1990’s.
– Jim Morrison lived in the hotel until he was reportedly evicted by management for hanging out of a window by his fingertips, dangling over the pavement.
– Elton John and his entourage stayed at the hotel on Elton’s first trip to America in August 1970.

 

 

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TEXAS HOLLYWOOD

I just returned from a week of last-minute, spontaneous trips. Two cities in five days. The first half was spent visiting a best friend in Austin, TX; the second half was with family in Los Angeles, CA. I literally spent 2 1/2 days in each place, but there was not a minute wasted. You can accomplish a lot in less than 3 days if you use your time wisely. If you ever find yourself passing through these cities for a short time, here are some places to go/things to see while you’re there!

AUSTIN, TEXAS
Standup Paddling on the Colorado River
Did you know there are two Colorado Rivers? I didn’t. There is one Colorado River which is entirely in Texas, and the other Colorado River which courses through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Baja and Samora. We went standup paddling on the one that belongs to Texas. This 862-mile long river is a stunning and endless gathering place for all outdoor lovers. Kayaking, standup paddling, canoeing, you name it. There are multiple spots along the river to rent equipment if you don’t have your own.
Graffiti Park
This colorful park tucked away in Castle Hill is easily one of the most impressive and coolest public art projects I’ve ever seen. Decorated with animals, cartoons, movie characters, declarations of peace and love, they have it all. The best part? It’s ever-changing. Go the next week and it may be replaced by new graffiti art, just as colorful and mesmerizing. This multi-level graffiti park was introduced in 2011 by HOPE, an Austin-based nonprofit along with the help of street artist Shepard Fairey.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Oh man. I could have spent all day at “the greenbelt”. Apparently there are numerous greenbelts in Austin, but this particular one is so treasured that locals speak of it as if it were the only one. This one at Barton Creek is 12.68 miles of enchanting trails, limestone bluffs, and gorgeous swimming holes [when there is enough water in the creek]. We saw groups of friends scattered along the water, perfectly content with their own version of the perfect pass time. Listening to music, reading books, cooling off in the water, dancing, swimming, doggy play dates, hula hooping, etc. Easily one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it was the shallow water reflecting the surrounding trees, but it was literally a river of emerald green. I will never forget this special place.
Rainey Street
Renovated houses transformed into bungalow bars. A charming row on a tucked away street where bars reign supreme. You can easily visit 10 bars in one night without taking a taxi! Just stroll across the street to the next enticing bar, or take a carb break at one of the many food trucks parked in between. As much as I would have loved to visit every bar, the ones I visited each had their own unique charm and dazzle. Best bar-hopping spot in Austin for sure!
Bouldin Creek Cafe
Austin is known for its specialty of BBQ and Tex-Mex, but if you need a refreshing and healthier alternative, head over to Bouldin Creek Cafe. This eco-friendly bohemian cafe offers a lovely selection of hearty vegan/vegetarian dishes, coffee, and tasty cocktails. The portions are HUGE and the pricing is perfectly affordable. And, they make the best Curried Lentil soup in the world!

LOS ANGELES, CA | HOLLYWOOD, CA | SANTA MONICA, CA
PCH
PCH – as in, Pacific Coast Highway. This gorgeous stretch along the coast will travel from California to Washington. After my little sis picked me up from the airport, we cruised along the PCH for a few miles which was a beautiful way to start the day. Stunning views of the coast line, ocean, curving in and out of probably the most expensive residential areas in California. I felt like I was on an episode of “The Hills”.
Santa Monica Pier
A state fair on the ocean. A boardwalk of roller coasters, carnival rides, games, funnel cakes, and ferris wheels. I’ve visited the Santa Monica pier a handful of times since I was young and it’s always a treat to go back to. But sometimes the boardwalk can get a little crowded. When I’m not vibing the boardwalk or the beach, I like to rent bikes and ride along the path aimlessly. My sister and I rented bikes for $8.00/hour and pedaled from Santa Monica to Venice and back. Workout and a view!
Boot Star
If heaven had a country western store, it would be Boot Star. I stumbled into this store while walking along Sunset Blvd. and I was in complete mind-blowing country bliss! I could have stayed in the store all day to try on every pair of boots and would have been perfectly happy. They carry floor-to-ceiling wall length selections for men and women, and each pair of boots is uniquely different from the rest. I must’ve seen every style of boot from Western, to exotic, to biker, to chic. I wanted them ALL! And I am now saving for a pair of these boots.
Carneys
This former Pacific Railroad passenger train turned hamburger/hot dog joint is a gem in Hollywood. Family-owned since 1975 and serving some of the tastiest burgers and hot dogs in LA! Their menu has unbeatable prices and serves a variety of items including Polish sausage, Chili, salads, wraps, and beer! And you get to dine in an old passenger train! Like visiting a small town diner with friendly staff and tasty food, with train views of the Sunset Strip. Can it get any better than this?

Come back soon for a post featuring the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Blvd! You’ll want to visit this eclectic hotel the next time you’re in California!

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TIME OUT

Top | VANILLA STAR
Belt | Steve Madden
Jeans | American Eagle Outfitters
Sunglasses | Urban Outfitters

We stumbled upon this dreamy valley when we were struggling to find parking for Muir Woods. We knew it was risky to visit on a Saturday, along with the rest of the world, and what seemed to be an endless road taking us further and further away from the entrance eventually brought us to this place. I jumped out of the car and asked my sis to snap some photos. It was kind of majestic and picturesque and we were the only ones there. The only thing that could have made it better was maybe a white horse and a picnic.

 I love places like this though. I am not a city person. Country girl all the way. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting and galavanting around – but after a while it can get overwhelming and I get bored of concrete. Gotta escape back to nature, ya know? Into places like this. A time-out from city chaos. I will never forget this special place.

xx

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beyond the bay

Spontaneous trips are the BEST, even the short ones. At the last minute, I decided to visit my twin sister in San Francisco because I essentially hadn’t seen her in 4 years [because according to my brother-in-law, one week is equivalent to one year in “twin-time”]. I also booked an impromtu trip to Cuba at the end of this month [more on that later…], and found out after that she would be home visiting while I was gone. Hence the unplanned visit to see her.

It’s truly incredible how much you can cram in to one quick weekend – especially when your hosts consider excess as a way of life! My fiance and I are still drained and completely sleep deprived from the trip, but my sister and brother-in-law made sure that not a minute was wasted. We must’ve roamed every neighborhood of San Francisco and eaten the best of every type of Cuisine [and now I have blisters on my feet and a food baby to show for it]. But I must say, the best part of the weekend [besides seeing my doppelgänger] was easily the food scene and beautiful scenery!

Here are the highlights [and my personal recommendations for visitors]:
1. Tony’s Pizza
Attention all pizza eaters – whether you favor New York style, Chicago style, Sicilian, Margherita, lots of cheese, no cheese, [which my brother-in-law loves and what I consider completely disgusting and unfathomable], there’s a good chance that Tony’s will have it. Who is Tony? Tony Gemignani is a 12-time world pizza champion! All of his ingredients are imported from Napoli, Italy and the pizzas are baked in 7 different regionally-specific ovens. They are located in the heart of Little Italy and truly an equal-opportunity pizzeria. Their menu has a variety of styles for all pizza-lovers, so everyone leaves happy! If you ever make it there, you MUST order the Spicy Grandma. Don’t ask, just order it. You’re welcome.
2. Chinatown
Just walk around. Take in the strange smells, the cultural souvenirs, and visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Shop where the Asians shop. Eat what they eat. You can even buy a live chicken for only $15.00! And if you get a chance, grab some food at China Live. Best Xiao Long Bao EVER.
3. La Taqueria
If you’ve ever explored The Mission neighborhood, you will notice a sea of Mexican eateries. It’s hard to determine which one serves the best of the best, but let me make it easy for you. La Taqueria. And how do I know this? Because at night, my twin and brother-in-law become connoisseurs of Mexican food, particularly tacos and burritos. They also won the ‘Nation’s Best Burrito’ Award. NBD. Just order Carne Asada or Carnitas tacos. With guacamole, pico, and sour cream – The Works.
4. Muir Woods National Monument
If you need a quick escape from the city, head to Muir Woods. It’s only a 30-45 minute drive from San Francisco and perfect for a day trip! Muir Woods is an endless redwood forest, perfectly ideal for hiking or just a brisk nature walk. The forest is truly enchanting, with the tallest trees you’ve ever seen! And one of the best parts? NO BUGS! Except for banana-slugs…I didn’t see any, but my twin swears that they exist.
5. Sausalito, CA
We stopped in Sausalito after Muir Woods on our way back into the city. I wish we could have spent more time in this quaint little town. Located on the edge of the water, it has breathtaking views of San Francisco and beautiful sunsets. It would be the ultimate spot for riding bikes and exploring the rows of shops and restaurants [which we would have done, but it was too cold and we had a dinner reservation to get to].
6. Tosca Cafe
Oh my. Mi Amore. Tosca is easily one of the best Italian restaurants I have EVER experienced. Everything I tasted was purely housemade and exploding with flavor! I honestly don’t know how to describe it, so I’ll keep it short; make sure you eat some Foccacia bread, ask for some shaved Parmesan to nibble on, order the Black Bird cocktail, order seconds on the Bucatini, and save some to eat with the dry aged prime strip steak! You won’t regret it!
7. Pagan Idol
This has got to be one of the most hilarious and animated bars I have ever visited! You can’t tell by the name, but Pagan Idol is an island-inspired bar, complete with an erupting volcano and Tiki huts! [my fiance described it as a Spongebob episode] They serve beautifully creative cocktails with some of the most interesting garnishes I have ever seen; roasted marshmallows, Rock Candy, shaved nutmeg, etc. TONS of fun and visually stimulating!
8. Ferry Building Farmer’s Market
Located at the Ferry Building Marketplace, this is a MUST on the weekends. I’ve always loved Farmer’s Markets but San Francisco outdoes every one I have ever been to. There is an overwhelming variety of fresh food, local goods, gifts, souvenirs, etc. Come with an empty stomach though – you’ll want to eat everything in sight! I highly recommend the Porchetta sandwich and Nepalese food tent if you can find it!

I am living-proof that you can get your fill of San Francisco in just 2 1/2 days. Just be willing to give up your beauty sleep. And any diet you were consistently trying to maintain.

xx

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