One of my favorite things to do in LA is to go to Venice Beach and watch the surfers from the pier. This time I decided to wake up very early to get the beautiful light. You would not think it, but there were tons of surfers out at sunrise, I think that is when the best waves are! This is part two of my Venice series.
On the way to Vegas, we decided to stop in to LA just for two nights. We stayed at the famous and historic Palihouse hotel in Santa Monica. We got in late at night and checked in at the front desk where the concierge gave us actual room keys instead of cards.. The hotel definitely has a little bit of a haunting feeling but very cozy too. The room was very quaint and the bed was super comfortable. There is also a very nice outdoor patio. The hotel really feels like you are staying in LA during a golden age, with a hint of The Shining and Norman Bates :)
After being in Fort Worth for a few years now, I have definitely run out of things to photograph. It is a great little city, but it has many lulls and I feel like I have photographed almost everything. I always get excited though come fall for a few events a year including this one. The Fort Worth Car Show is such a fun event to photograph. I have a thing for old cars, I actually don't like the look of new ones and don't even own a car myself. If I did own one I would love to have one of these beauties!
My husband and I just celebrated our 6 month anniversary in Vegas. After meeting in Vegas, getting engaged and married there, it is an incredibly special for us. We both have been to many, many Vegas restaurants but never the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. After dining there we were so upset we never went before. Our friend Marc is the new wine director so we decided to visit him at lunch. He made sure we got the best seat in the house, the corner table over looking the Bellagio Fountains. Here are just a few snapshots of our wonderful lunch there. I only had my 50mm lens with me and it was too short to get the whole scene so I just focused on the fountains themselves. I realized when I got home how beautiful the water was so I edited everything else around them to isolate their beauty.
I really do not know how we have not spent more time in Mexico since living in Texas. In 2 hours your are quickly transported to paradise. We got a great rate at the Fairmont Mayakoba since it is not high season, however it was perfect weather everyday. Mayakoba is located in Playa Del Carmen. It is known as the Venice of Mexico because of its man made lagoons with four hotels all connected by the lagoon- The Fairmont, Banyan Tree, Rosewood, and Andaz. We loved the Fairmont so much. The service could not have been better and the beach and multiple pools were amazing. The Willow Stream Spa is always a must and one of the best spas I have been to with an outdoor mineral pool area.
The highlight of our stay was definitely the boat ride. We took the one that goes around to all the resorts and lasts about an hour. We also enjoyed visiting the other resorts for drinks and dinner. If you do not want to use the boat, they have complimentary cars and golf carts to take you to the other properties- a quick 5 minute ride. The Banyan Tree was our favorite resort and the restaurant Cello had amazing Italian food. We also loved Casa Del Lago in The Rosewood with Mexican/Italian food. I highly recommend staying in Mayakoba for a luxurious and relaxing resort experience.
I have to say our second time around in Sonoma might have been better than our first during our honeymoon. Since we hit a lot of Vineyards the first time we decided to take it easy. We only hit two wineries (one a day) but they were incredible. The first was Kunde Winery with a tour lead by a descendant of Kunde. We scheduled the regular indoor tasting but decided instead when we got there to do the hilltop tasting which is totally worth it. First we explored the wine caves and then our guide lead us on a bus up the hill overlooking all of Sonoma where he began the tasting. It took a little over three hours so we decided to just not do another winery that day. We discovered it is better to just do one or maybe two in one day.
The second winery of our trip was to a more private estate called Repris. Repris is up on a mountain top with windy roads. I recommend taking a cab there because the Sonoma cabbies know where it is and UBER drivers tend to get lost. I didn't think anything could have topped Kunde, but this was truly amazing! They only do a few tours a day and we were lucky to have a completely private tour! Our guide Logan took us in an ATV on a hilltop through the vineyards then lead us through the wine caves. At the end he had a wine and cheese set up with a menu with our names on it. It was a fantastic personalized experience. I highly recommend both wineries, and to stay away from the touristy ones.
I first posted about the Fairmont Sonoma back in May after we spent a few days there for our honeymoon. We ended up staying there again after our time in LA because we loved it so much! It is one of the most relaxing hotels ever and all around a 5 star property from the service to the food and the spa. We took a prop plane to Santa Rosa Airport to the Fairmont which is a lot quicker than SFO if you can swing it. Upon arrival you are always greeted with a refreshing glass of sparkling wine. Every day they offer a wine tasting from a local vineyard. We also took part in the cheese cart right next to the tasting (was not free but worth it). During our stay we had free breakfast for two days and it was lovely. All the food at the Fairmont is SO good and all made with fresh local farm ingredients. Sante, their restaurant is one of our favorites in the world.
The Fairmont Willow Stream Spa is one of the best I have been (I would say I am a huge spa connoisseur) I got two treatments this time, a medium pressure massage and a deep cleansing facial. The prices are steep but so worth it. The spa is both indoor and outdoor and the pools are all natural mineral springs. Not only are there two pools in the outdoor spa, but there is also a regular pool next to the restaurant. There are more hot tubs than I can count. The hardest pool to move from is the relaxation pool where you relax on a pool noodle and dip your ears underwater water to listen to music. It is a fantastic almost sensory deprivation experience.
Venice Beach is always a must see when in Los Angeles. A stark contrast to Santa Monica, Venice is gritty filled with panhandlers, drug addicts, weed shops, and tourist traps. However there is an amazing surfer lifestyle there. While walking to the beach you will see many tan, salty-haired, and barefoot dudes and dudettes on bikes with their boards getting ready to ride the waves. I walked on to the boardwalk in order to get a different view of the surfers down below. As I waited patiently to get the perfect shot of the surfers, they also waited along with me for the perfect wave to come.
I decided this time in LA to finally visit the famous Griffith Observatory. It was a super hot day, I wish I didn't go on such a scorching day but it was still worth it. It is definitely a must see when in LA. I also thought about hiking to the Hollywood sign, but honestly I probably would have passed out before even getting there that day. The observatory has beautiful views of LA, but of course most of LA is covered in smog and pollution so that is super apparent when you are up this high. The smog tends to disperse later in the day so it is best to come during or before sunset. I would love to also see this place at night but alas, I did not have the time.
I am back in LA for a few days, one of my favorite cities. After recently watching the movie La La Land, I decided to capture a little bit of the colorful beauty of this city inspired by the movie. I took these photos in Santa Monica and my first visit to the Griffith Observatory. Keep checking for more LA photos to come! I was only there 3 days but it is so spread out and there is so much to see.
Casa Luis Barragán is another must see while in Mexico City. Book your tickets in advance to make sure you will get in here. The house itself is hard to find. I took an Uber from my hotel, and even the driver didn't know where it was. There is a small sign in the window of number 12, a grey building and you have to ring the doorbell to get in. The door is heavily guarded and locked. I was early and waited a few minutes and talked to another American who was studying abroad there. It turns out she was my English tour guide for the house. The tour was wonderful and very private, only myself and two other people.
Our guide let us inside the house through a small door that reminded me of the one in Willy Wonka. We entered through the door to the pink and white foyer. Then up the stairs we went to the living room and library. When you look outside the windows it looks like a jungle, and that was done on purpose. Then you get to see the dining room, studio, and both the guest bedroom and his own bedroom. Apparently Luis gave a small room to his maid who still lives there but hardly anyone sees her! Next was the rooftop led through a small yellow door. The roof is iconic with classic Luis Barragán colors and clean lines. I asked why all the pink, orange and yellow? Well if you look around town all the employees are wearing vests with those colors, they are the colors of Mexico City. The green tree you see hanging over goes from all way in the garden over the top of the roof. Luis Barragan designed this house with very specific things in mind. The way the light reflected certain surfaces and created shadows was very important. Symmetry and design compliments were also seen throughout the house. If you are an architect fan, a design fan, or neither, this house is a must see!
Roma and Condesa are two of the nicest and most trendy neighborhoods in Mexico City. They are also two of the safest and have some of the best restaurants and bars. My husband and I did most of our eating and drinking there. I ventured from Chapultepec park after visiting the castle to Condesa. You just exit the park and walk through the underpass to the other side and there you will reach Condesa. I stopped for breakfast at Hotel Condesa, a very trendy hotel. From there I walked through the park to Roma. You will notice in all of the parks there are a ton of cute dogs and most off their leash. Both neighborhood's have some beautiful architecture, so it is worth to stop and admire all the colors. I ended my walk at El Moro Churreria. They were by far the best churros I ever had!
Chapultepec Castle is an absolute must see in Mexico City! I would go as far as to call it the Versailles of Mexico. The castle was actually used in filming one of my favorite movies Romeo + Juliet. It is located on top of a hill inside Chapultepec Park with gorgeous panoramic views of the city. It is a small hike to reach the top, but nothing strenuous if you are in shape. I recommend getting there early as to avoid the tourists. I got there around 9:45am on a weekday and when I left an hour later it was just starting to get busy. Do not leave Mexico City without a visit here!
Welcome to Mexico City AKA CDMX. Mexico City is a vibrant place that is an up-and-coming travel destination. More tourists are coming here as the city gets safer, and I had the chance to visit for a few days with my husband for his conference. While he worked, I woke up at 6:30am to take photos of the downtown Zocalo area. I may have overdone it a bit as I walked 13 miles, yes 30,000 steps in one day! I don't suggest doing that but at least I was able to see a great deal of the city in a short amount of time.
Unfortunately on our last day we both came down with food poisoning and had to go home. We were very disappointed, especially as we had been very careful: We drank bottled water the whole time and even brushed our teeth with it. We may have become too trusting in the food department and it was probably salad that got us. Anyway, aside from that I do recommend Mexico City as a great cultural destination with beautiful sites and cathedrals. I felt safe the whole time, but it is important, like with any large city, to stay in nicer areas and to be alert. I would also brush up on your Spanish, because a lot of people speak little to no English.
A few noteworthy places not to miss!
- The Zocalo of course, and the Metropolitan Cathedral shown in my last photo. You will know this area looks familiar from the recent James Bond movie Spectre
- The Grand Ciudad hotel. A block away from the main Zocalo Square, the stainless ceiling is breathtaking, also in the movie Spectre.
- The National Palace. I stumbled upon the location when I saw a line forming outside around 10am. I hopped in line and asked the tourists on line with me what this place was, and lucky me because the line got very long! They only allow a certain number of people at a time and are heavily guarded with security. In fact most museums or monuments will require a security check. Don't forget your ID.
- The Post Office. The inside is just beautiful. The House of Tiles is right next to it... not as amazing as it looks online but it is nice to get a peak at because you will pass by it.
- Museo Franz Mayer. The people of Mexico love their courtyards! Almost every building has a beautiful one especially here.
- Museo de Arte Popular. Do NOT miss this museum! It is just so cool and colorful.
- Last but not least... go inside the Sears building to the 8th floor cafe to get the best view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes! (Pictured in the first photo) Enjoy a hot beverage while admiring the view!
The Washington Mews is probably the most beautiful street in NYC. I would compare it to Rue Cremieux in Paris or Portobello Road in London. You won't find it so easily though. It is a small gated street right near Washington Square Park but you can easily miss it. The gate is always open however it is technically a private street. Most of it is owned by NYU. I never had a problem walking through it, and nobody will bother you.
I am back in NYC just for a few days and staying at the new James NoMad hotel. It is still under construction but when it is finished it is going to be great! The new "NoMad" area is one of my favorites in the city. I used to work on 28th and 5th a few years ago and the area has really changed. There are so many great hotels like the New York Edition, The NoMad and The Ace Hotel. One of my favorite things to do is to go for lunch at Madison Square Eats. A small street food marketplace right in the middle of Flatiron. With a great view of the Flatiron building you can choose from tons of kiosks with every kind of cuisine. Get some food and enjoy it on a bench in Madison Square Park. Here are just a few photos from my stay with some from NoMad, the nearby Gramercy Area and West Village.
On all of our trips, we love to check out every city's best cocktail scene and restaurants. While we were in St. Louis we discovered some of the best cocktails we ever had, so much that we decided to start our own blog called Love and Bitters. Our first stop was Eclipse in The Moonrise Hotel. Our cocktail of choice there was the Quince Jack Rose made with Quince brandy. It was delicious and strong. The next place we discovered was Taste. I love how they lay out their menu with the flavor descriptions so it is easy to know what you want. The first cocktail on the menu is amazing called The Club Trip under Tart. Bright. Citrus, and of course it tasted exactly like that. Our favorite bar though was Planter's House. I had two of the best cocktails I ever had here. The Party Hardy Marty with cumin-cilantro infused Pisco Porton, and The In a Pickle drink made with dill.
This past week I accompanied my husband to St. Louis for his conference. It is one of the most underrated cities I have been to! St. Louis has a ton of French influence and is similar in many ways to New Orleans. There are so many different neighborhoods, we didn't even make it to downtown. I suggest UBERing everywhere, as there are some neighborhoods you do not want to walk through, but everything is about a 10 minutes drive away. For beautiful Victorian architecture, hit Lafayette Square. There you will see the Painted Ladies of St. Louis. Most people know only about the Painted Ladies in San Francisco but I think these are even more beautiful. The West End is a great place to eat, drink and check out the awe inspiring Cathedral Basilica. The Missouri Botanical Gardens are also a must see, as they are always rated number one in the country. There you can visit the historical house of founder Henry Shaw. Check out the Japanese garden and the atrium as well. We really enjoyed every minute of this trip and are even considering moving to St. Louis!
Pacific Heights in San Francisco is home to some of the most beautiful Victorian mansions in the world. It is also the Beverly Hills of San Francisco, AKA one of the wealthiest neighborhoods. I like to wake up very early when there is nobody around, although walking throughout the day you tend to notice that is a normal thing. The neighborhood is incredibly peaceful. I made my way from the more trendy Lower Pacific Heights, up the many hills to reach the top. Lower Pacific Heights has all the great high end shopping and restaurants. I would say is a little more Hipster/Yuppie and once you reach the top you start seeing families sending their kids off to private schools. At the top you can see all the way to the bay. The neighborhood actually reminds me of being in Paris with all the quiet, quaint streets with beautiful buildings. I would also highly recommend the Butterfly Bar at The Majestic Hotel. It really does transport you back in time, into a Golden Age.
The Kimpton Buchanan is a boutique hotel located in San Francisco's Japantown. It is located just a few blocks away from Pacific Heights and Filmore street with tons of shopping and restaurants. We wanted to stay in a less touristy area this time in San Fran. I definitely recommend this hotel for a unique, stay like the locals experience. We went to some great Japanese restaurants just across the street in Japantown. I actually prefer Japantown over Chinatown in San Fran. It is much more quiet and minimal. There are also some great authentic Japanese stores. I stopped into Paper Tree for some origami paper. Overall a very relaxing experience was had!