San Francisco dreamin’

ImageThe land of cultural diversity. San Francisco just seems to have a little bit of everything- interesting people, beautiful gardens, inspiring architecture, history and lots and lots of hills. Our hotel was in Union Square at a place called Hotel Diva. It is one of those boutique hotels that doesn’t offer much in way of amenities but is hip and funky and centrally located. And of course, attached to a Starbucks.

It’s no wonder San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in. Parking fees alone will cost you a weeks worth of pay! But you do what you have to do to get around and explore the city. Since we were downtown, we spent the first couple of days walking everywhere. I think a lot of people learn to throw foot fashion out the window in exchange for comfort and practicality. Up and down, up and down, the streets wave and your legs begin to ache. We ventured from the hotel into Chinatown, poking our heads in and out of shops full of exotic treasures. It truly does give you the sense of what it might be like to be in China. Image

Soon we found ourselves down by the water on the Embarcadero following the sightseeing tourists and watching the day to day routines of the locals. We entered the enticing commotion of the One Ferry Building, full of goodies. We perused the gourmet markets trying to decide which mouth watering items would be lucky enough to make it home with us that evening. And the chocolate markets win! (when do they not?) We came across the first and selected a few delectable pieces, paid and savored. But wait- there was another chocolate shop! Well we couldn’t deny ourselves the opportunity to browse their selection also- that would just be rude! So once again, we carefully chose and purchased a few more heavenly morsels of chocolatey goodness.

The next day was well spent with much time in Golden Gate Park. First was the Conservatory of Flowers. I have always been a flower lover and wanted to immerse myself in floral abundance. It was a nice but extreme change coming from desert to humid and tropical air. Orchids, heliconias and towering palms facilitated our stroll through this magnificent building. Afterwards, we both were excited to see the Japanese Tea Gardens and spent the next couple of hours marveling at the lush green, soothing waters and intricately carved pagodas. Within the gardens is a tea house to enjoy a tea ceremony or just a warm drink and snackables. Sean had the most aromatic jasmine tea while I enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate. Then we experienced the most interesting type of Japanese dessert. It was made from rice, turned into this odd paste-y consistency, flavored and shaped into little squares. The strawberry was my favorite but overall I don’t know that it was something I really feel the need to ingest again. Image

The night ended in the Haight-Ashbury district (where you can apparently check out the house the the Grateful Dead used to live in) and had dinner at a mediterranean restaurant called Kan Zaman. It was difficult not to take a nap while in there as the seating area was plush with cushions and pillows. Not the ideal type of seating for digestion but it makes for quite a cozy atmosphere. We dined on our varied selection of tapas style dinner and soon the belly dancer shimmied her way into the dining area. I have always admired and enjoyed watching this particular form of dance. It is exotic, magical and embodies woman in her truest sense. This was also the first time I have slipped a couple of $1’s into anyone’s- well, anything!

I find San Francisco a real treasure. I imagine it will take us many more trips to enjoy all of the things we have yet to see and do. Farewell, San Fran. We enjoyed you immensely and shall one day return.


LA- Not just for celebrities

ImageLos Angeles. Admittedly I have never given it much credit. I have really never thought it to be much more than a smog filled, superficial, soul sucking town. But alas, it is full of vibrant personality and colorful individuals. The faces were friendly and in a city known for its reputation of health obsessed alternatives, it didn’t disappoint. We will begin this particular post with a visit to Hugo’s, a wonderful breakfast nook with lots of tasty options. As our waitress approached and I prepared to order my hot chocolate, I was slightly (but joyfully) taken aback with my milk choices. The following is a snippet of our conversation. Me “I’ll have a hot chocolate please.” Pleasant waitress “Would you like that with skim, 2%, whole, soy, rice or almond milk?” Me “Almond please!” Pleasant waitress “Wonderful!” Now where else does one get so many options? We grazed hungrily over our plates while conversing with a lovely new friend we had been “set up” with. Soon breakfast was over, we hugged, said our farewells and parted ways.

Prior to this day (the day of our arrival) the husband and myself landed ourselves in Korea town to meet with a friend. She and I have been dear friends since middle school and had not seen one another in 7 years or so. Tom N Toms is a coffee beanery with a similar vibe to Starbucks. We all ordered our mochas and lattes and sat, chatting away the next 5 hours. It was a wonderful all-inclusive catch up sesh and we were sad to see it end but it was late and we needed to find our sleeping quarters for the night. Image

High up in the misty hills we found our castle. This place was magical. The kind of place where the rich aroma of flora permeates the air and fills your nose with a sweet fragrance. The kind of place where hummingbirds and faeries frolic and play. Where the land is lush with green and dew droplets dance on blades of grass. If not for the high rent, location and the fact that it is not zoned for commercial use, it would be the perfect place for MoonStruck (see Here is where we laid our heads to rest for 2 nights sleep and dreamed of faraway lands…

Our final day, after breakfast at the milk selection place, we trucked across the vast city to Knotts Berry Farm. For those readers not aware, this “farm” is actually a giant amusement park. The first in the country actually. Filled with enough thrills, rides and coasters to allow you to relive your breakfast experience, we made our way from one 30 second ride to another. This is a slow process since the wait to get onto these thrills will have you standing in line anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. If you are not one for patience, I do not recommend this. It wouldn’t even be quite so bad if it weren’t for the ridiculous conversations you have no choice but to overhear from the tween generation. I’m sure I am aging myself by even discussing this (and I’m only 30!) but c’mon! It is hilarious to listen to and realize how far I have come in my life. Things that now seem completely insignificant to me are of the utmost importance to a 14 year old. But, so it goes. Image

In the end, LA was a fun visit. Could I live here? Probably not. The constant go, go, go energy (which is ironic considering you always seem to find yourself in gridlock traffic) of this city can make for a confusing and ultimately exhausting undertaking. However, my recent exposure will allow me to embrace future ventures into this bustling city.

Life’s a beach

Ahhhh….Sun on your face, the wind through your hair and sand between your toes, this is what summer is all about. I wonder, is there anyone out there that does not like the beach? If someone were to tell me so, I flat out just wouldn’t believe them. Spending time at the ocean (or as we Jersey-ans call it, down the shore), watching kids run amuck with squeals and giggles and body surfing the waves is what fully encapsulates a care-free summer to me. Image

As we made our way south to the coastal waters of the pacific in San Diego, it gave us the opportunity to embrace the vast differences between desert and ocean life. Two extremes- both equally magnificent. After our arrival and check-in to our hotel, we ventured to La Jolla with its bustling cliffs and mega expensive beach front dwellings. It is a beautiful little town. We meandered up and down the coastline taking in the splendor of the ocean and laid back attitudes of locals and tourists alike. There was a slight chill in the air and quite a few clouds, which caused us to add on a few layers which then brought a few funny looks from passer-byers but hey, we’re from Arizona. We get cold easily.

The next morning we readily woke up to clear sunny skies and excitement about what the day would bring. The husband had the idea to rent jet skis for the day so we found a company and made our plans. Driving further south from our hotel didn’t bring much hope for a warm day as the clouds were heavy over our heads. But we drove on, crossing the bridge into the charming town of Coronado Island. We gathered our beach worthy belongings and trudged through the sand to a perfect resting spot. Finally the sun pushed it way out, forcing the clouds to travel north, far beyond our beach blanket. There was hope at last. We sunbathed (sunburned a bit in my case- oops!), snacked and snapped photos until it was time to rent our wave runner. 

The last time I was on a wave runner was as a young teen at a lake in Colorado. We arrived to our rental destination, filled out all the appropriate paperwork (aka you are taking your life into your own hands so don’t blame us if anything goes wrong), donned our wetsuits and hopped on our craft. Being out in the ocean is a tad different than a lake! Wind, wake and wild woop-de-do’s make for an extremely fun ride! The husband drove first, flying through the waters as I screamed in delight and then I drove for a bit. It is quite a different experience riding as a passenger vs. being the driver…both epically amusing. Just over an hour later we stumbled off the dock with smiles on our faces.

Now when you spend an hour on an adrenaline high, you get a bit hungry (see ravenous). We strolled through the town of Coronado following our noses to the wafting, mouthwatering smell of pizza. We sat and stuffed our faces with greasy yummy-ness and ended the day with a brief self guided tour of the Hotel Del Coronado. This hotel was established in 1833 and has been home to many classic movies. Most people associate the movie Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe but quite a few more were filmed there. The hotel is a timeless and classic beauty that looks striking against the beaches, palm trees and blue skies of the coastline. Image

Another wonderful adventure under our belts. Today we drive to Los Angeles to see what it has in store for us…

Hanging with Joshua.

Trees that is. Joshua Tree National Park is a park of epic proportion. I suspect Dr. Suess spent some time here and found his inspiration to write The Lorax. Big and small, short and tall- these trees totally fall into the quirky category. By day, these trees are fun and whimsical, but by night they possess definite creep factor. It’s like they should be surrounding a haunted house or something. There was an area called The Wall of Horrors- coincidence? I think not. We never did check it out but I would be curious to find out what it was all about. Image

Sunsets were stunning (I am assuming this to be true for sunrises also but let’s be honest, I am on vacation and am not waking up any earlier than necessary). The first evening we hiked out to Skull Rock which actually does resemble a skull when the light hits it properly! There are piles and piles of fun boulders to climb around which Sean does with grace and ease. I prefer to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground for the most part. I have never really figured out if it is a fear of heights that I have or if it happens to be more of a fear of plummeting to my death. Either way, I typically and happily spend my time enjoying the view from lower elevations. The hike back to our campsite was lit by the setting sun during that beautiful time of day known as the gloaming. Many stops were made to capture each moment with a click of our cameras.

Day 2 consisted of a hike in the blistering heat (100+ degrees) but was well worth it. We took the truck off road on a dirt trail, parked and set off into the valley. True to nature, we started off on an actual trail but shortly made our way into the unknown. It isn’t as scary as it might sound, especially when you can see for miles and miles out. During our walkabout we came across some super cool trees. I hung out with Josh for awhile and did a bit of hooping. Soon it was time to hike back to the truck to get ready for our next adventure! Image

So a couple of years back, a friend of ours gave us a map to a “secret” hot springs. I will admit, I didn’t have much confidence in the hand drawn depiction. For all I knew, we were on a wild goose chase. But alas, we did find it.. Now, had we known the commitment it took to get there, we would have left much earlier in the day. A 2 hour drive through the middle of nowhere, dusty, sandy and winding “roads” and a 2 mile hike down a steep canyon was all it took. We finally were able to enjoy the fruits of our labor and dipped into the clothing optional hot springs. Unfortunately, we only were able to stay about a 1/2 hour. The rules stated (and by rules I mean the man named Michael, who’s property you had to pass through to get in and out, got really ticked off if he had to wake up to let you out) that you had to be off his land by 10pm. So we soaked and started the night hike back up. Upon our ascent, we heard a voice behind us and stepped aside to let him pass. Normally I would have no commentary about some random hiker, but when a man wearing nothing but a small hiking pack, socks and sandals walks past you and you notice his somewhat aged buns (and other parts) in the spotlight of your headlamp, you consider mentioning it.

And so ends the first stop on our adventurous 6 weeks road trip! Please stay tuned for more…