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City Of Night (Berlin)

11 Oct

Just as Prague seemed to be a city living in a fairytale world, Berlin seemed to be living in the horrors of the past 80 years. I was amazed by how openly the city shared its dark past, Holocaust, Cold War, and all. Here’s a portion of the wall that lies near Brandenburg Gate, open for all to see.

Near Checkpoint Charlie lies this extensive Berlin Wall memorial that explains the history of the Holocaust in Berlin from Hitler’s start in politics to the Soviet occupation of East Berlin. It’s incredible how much Berlin emphasized openness about its horrific past instead of trying to simply ignore it.

As an America, I was proud to see that even in the difficult times of the Soviet occupation that America was able to provide the trapped East Berliners with hope.

This marker of where the Berlin Wall used to exist marks the city streets as a reminder to people of how lucky they are to be free. As a tourist, it was amazing to be able to really see how artificially isolated East Berlin used to be within the city as a whole.
By incorporating history throughout the city to teach visitors, Germany plays an important role in keeping atrocities like the Holocaust from happening again.At the heart of the city stands The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a looming, omnipresent reminder of the atrocities that the German government enabled. The memorial consists of 2,700 concrete slabs in varying heights, enabling visitors to walk through the memorial and feel the weight of being surrounded by darkness.

Just past the Brandenburg Gate lies the commercial district with many museums, shops, cafes, and this very impressive faux Mickey Mouse  entertained tourists on a lighter note.

One of the most exciting thing we did in Berlin was to visit the Reichstag Building where we were able to go inside and walk around the walls of Norman Foster’s breathtaking glass dome. Berlin’s hot new landmark represents the openness of the government with the glass dome, visiting availability, and the view from the inside of the dome into the debate chamber of the German Parliament.bThe central mirrored cone (seen here) filters in sunlight and collects rain water. Make sure to register to tour the building in advance because visiting is free, but reservations are required.

Giant pretzels seemed to be everywhere in Vienna, but they were even more abundant in Berlin, go figure. I love this bicycle vendor selling cheesey and regular pretzels in the middle of one of the parks. I’m not even a big pretzel person, but those cheesey ones were delicious!

 

Mitte, Berlin’s equivalent of Soho, was full of tiny cafes and trendy stores. This is the perfect escape from the city’s more commercial areas. The shops were full of unexpected vintage goodies and unique items that are perfect to bring home as nontraditional souvenirs. Tukadu is an awesome little store where customers can pick their own kitschy beads and pendants to create custom jewelry.

I love the adorable signage for this frozen yogurt place (or maybe it was a cafe come to think of it). The baby pink, bubbly letters, and sweet bear logo all make this a wonderful juxtaposition to the often gloomy atmosphere of the city.

 

Speaking of bears, I absolutely fell in love with this cuddly rose-colored teddy bear at the Steiff Store. As far as designer toys go, no one does it better than Steiff. I was bummed that there was no toy factory to visit in Berlin, but this store was a great way to embrace my inner child.

Here’s my sweet little sister Emmy playing with another one of the amazing animals at the Steiff Store. Something about being surrounded by hundreds of stuffed animals seems to being out the best in everyone.

Check out this sweet pastel cafe setting. The colorful chairs and dainty daisies are a lovely light-hearted escape from the heaviness of the city. 

I love this clever idea of placing potted plants on tables in place of flowers both to serve as decoration and as self-applied garnishes to any meal. I definitely want to start setting my table with useful herbs whenever we entertain instead of wasting money on flowers that will have to be thrown out in only a few days!

Exploring a Whole New World in Istanbul-Travel Photo Miniseries Part 2

5 Sep

Yes, I do plan on starting each post in my travel mini series with a fabulously cheesy dong name. Get excited. Well, this brings me to the second stop of our trip: Istanbul. It was nothing like I had imagined.

Despite being sandwiched between the European Mediterranean and the Middle East, Turkey has a very distinctive culture that was a real treat to experience.

Even though we were in Istanbul during the month of Ramadan, street vendors and restaurants were only too happy to fees us with the abundant supplies of roasted chestnuts, grilled (and very salty) corn, and rich turkish ice cream.

I found the amazing condition of the ancient architecture to be absolutely astonishing. 

The towering minarets, intricately carved details, and enchanting color schemes made these breathtaking buildings such foreign delights. 

Of course the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia are absolutely beautiful, but tiny mosques and other random buildings that studded the city rivaled the two famous mosques for their enchanting magnificence.

Depending on the time of day and position of the sun, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia changed colors so brilliantly that they took on an entirely different feel.

After snapping about a bazillion photos from terribly awkward angles, I finally discovered that the Hagia Sophia was most easily photographed while standing close to the Blue Mosque and visa versa.

We did not go inside the Blue Mosque because unlike the Hagia Sofia, which now serves as a museum, the Blue Mosque is still a religious place of worship where.

Even though we decided not to cover our heads in order to enter the mosque, the courtyard outside the mosque was still full of gorgeous details.

The children begging to wash windows for just a few coins and the abundance of stray, starving cats formed a stark contrast to the magnificent mosques and rich history of the city.

I knew that Istanbul was part of Europe, so I was unprepared for the strict societal restrictions and amount of poverty that we saw. It was heartbreaking, but it really made me appreciate the many conveniences of Western life that I took for granted.

 

The sheer abundance of jewelry, pursues, scarves, tea sets, pots at the Grand Bazar was overwhelming.

After walking around in circles, we figured out that most of the vendors have very similar (if not the exact same product), so the real key lies in finding the vendors who are the most willing to barter.

Even if the goods aren’t all one-of-a-kind, they are still unlike anything you could find back in the States (or almost anywhere else in the world). No one has to know that at least ten vendors were selling my beloved glass tea set:)

 

Everyone was exceedingly gracious and accommodating, from vendors at the Spice Bazar fighting to get to be the one to feed you special turkish delight made from their secret recipe, to the outgoing hotel and restaurant employees who work to make you feel at home.

 

Istanbul is such a unique city that bridges the gap between modern accommodation and ancient beauty, or from a proper geographical standpoint, between Europe and Asia. We felt perfectly content spending only two days in the city, but what we saw in those two days will resonate with me for years to come. 

 

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

18 Aug

Thank you so much to the incredible bloggers at both Act Like A Lady, Eat Like A Man and My Student Struggles for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blog Award! The wonderful young ladies who write both of these blogs are smart, passionate writers and thinkers whose blogs encourage me to infuse every drop of creativity that I have into each of my blog posts. Sara Ann of Act Like A Lady, Eat Like A Man posts wonderful recipes, work outs, and style tips. She writes such honest, passionate posts that reading her posts makes you feel happy inside, as if you are talking to a childhood friend. My Student Struggles is a blog full of fascinating research and personal musings that you can count on to make you really think!

Award Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3.  Nominate 15 other bloggers that you admire or inspire you.
  4. Go leave a comment and let the people know you have nominated them.

About Me:

1. I recently switched my major from Architecture to English, with the goal of becoming a high school english teacher

2. The only tv show I really watch is How I Met Your Mother

3. I drink about 3 cups of green tea daily, I’m addicted!

4. My full-grown teacup poodle weighs just 3 pounds.

5. I am obsessed with all types of fruits, especially peaches and berries.

6. I am in the process of growing out my hair to donate for locks of love, hopefully next summer it will finally be long enough.

7. In just 4 days I move into my dorm with my 7 lovely suitemates.

Nominations:

What I’m Loving Now: July 2012

24 Jul

Ass a follow up to my “What I’m Loving Now: June 2012” post, here’s what I’m loving this month! With so many websites and blogs releasing incredible new information daily, it’s impossible to catch everything, so here are my 10 favorite tidbits of the month. Enjoy!

10. This week’s DineLA deals got my craving some seriously good food. I’m talking sophisticated, savory meals, not the sweets that I so often cook up in my own kitchen. Easter LA’s round up of LA’s 20 most iconic dishes is the perfect way to keep treating my taste buds while trying to track down some of the city’s best fare. Two of the the highlights on this list for me are #7: Mozza Pizzeria’s butterscotch bundino, one of my favorite (and the richest) desserts in the city and #20: Jitlada Thai Resturant’s green curry, the dish that I’m most eager to try soon thanks to my obsession with any type of Asian cuisine.

9. This charming “Let’s Sleep Under the Stars” print from TheWheatField captures the true essence of the carefree attitude that summer elicits. The soft twinkling of stars and innocence of the red plaid tent illustrate the perfectly childish fun of summer camp, and show what all of us try to recapture each year as the temperatures climb.

8. This “You Know You’re A Food Blogger If…” list from Eat the Love cracks me up! While Not all 40 of these statements are true for me just yet, it’s good/frightening to know what’s in store for me in the future as I continue working on my blog. I think #20 just may be my favorite…or #10…it’s just too hard to choose!

7. I adore this sweet necklace from TagYoureItJewelry! The tiny pendant is sweet and pretty, but still simple enough to wear everyday.  It’s so refreshing to see romance jewelry without an abundance of hearts!

6. My mouth is watering simply from looking as this delicious Eton Mess Trifle from Sips and Spoonfuls. This trifle layers Middle Eastern rosewater and pistachio meringues with luscious strawberry whipped cream for a desert that looks decadent, yet tastes light and airy. This looks like the perfect end to any summer get-together! I can’t wait to ry out the recipe myself (as soon as I return from Europe that is).

5. I was so impressed by Wes Anderson’s latest indie flick, Moonrise Kingdom. Goose kindly gave into my pleas to go see the unconventional love story of two 12-year-old misfits who decide to run away together and eventually fall in love. We both walked out of the theatre in awe of how the two unlikable protagonists manage to have the audience rooting for them throughout the film. Equally impressive are the stellar performances by Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and the young new comers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. The movie has been out for a few weeks, so try to catch it in theaters before it’s gone!

4. I am completely obsessed with Free People’s Indian Enchantment Dress! I wrote a post a while back about how I love Free People’s whimsical, boho-chic aesthetic and this dress is the perfect elevation into formal wear. The wispy, jewel toned fabric is the perfect anti-dote to boring, monochromatic prom dresses. I don’t have any idea what I could wear this dress for, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful!

3. Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation recently released pictures of the duplex that Frank Gehry designed for the project. Gehry’s four-bedroom duplex is one of the 21 new additions to the ninth ward that he and 20 other leading starchitects have designed. PS the home’s new inhabitants chose the lavender color for their new home, not Gehry himself.

2. On Sunday I was lucky enough to witness an incredible feat of partner yoga while walking with Goose along Santa Monica beach. We saw over a dozen people engaged in this trust-based practice that ended with one of the partners in each of the pairs simultaneously lifting the other partner into a handstand. It amazes me how the yogis can have such a deep conviction in their partner’s ability to protect that they  are willing to attempt an already difficult pose while balancing upon another person. I was nervous about trying aerial yoga because I had to put my faith in fabric to support me, but by placing your faith in a fallible person takes trust to a whole other level.

1. I can’t wait to tryout the wonderful step-by-step tutorial for making my own dinosaur bookends from A Life Worth Living. The gold spray paint is such a chic update to classic children’s toys. I’m thinking of making them with zoo animals to hold up all of the books I’ll be reading as an English Major. Just a few weeks ago I decided to switch my major from architecture to English and Creative Writing, so there couldn’t possibly be better timing for this sweet literary DIY.

Top 8 Dine LA picks

19 Jul

Last night I I had the most delicious dinner with girl friends at Ryan Gosling’s Moroccan restaurant, Tagine. Normally with I dine with friends it’s at CPK or one of the local pizza joints, so going out to a real adult restaurants with amuse bouches to start and a fancy dress code was such a treat! There’s nothing better than catching up with old friends over great food!

This week and next week, DineLA is making it easy for everyone to get a chance to enjoy delicious food from some of the city’s most talented chefs. Over 250 restaurants are offering 2-course lunches and 3-course (or more if they are small plates)  dinners so that you can sample some of the city’s most talked about fare. Prices vary to fit any budget with $15, $20, or $25 lunches and  $25, $35, 0r $45 dinners. With so many options, it’s hard to decide where to go during the 12 days of food sampling, so I helped narrow it down with my list of the top 8 DineLA picks.

Dinner at AOC: This French bistro/wine bar on West Third Street was one of the first restaurants to jump on the small plates trend and continues to craft delicious, seasonally inspired dishes. Their DineLA menu includes a salad with tzatziki, cucumber, and cherry tomato; pork belly, nectarines, ricotta salata, and abbamelle; crushed fingerling potatoes with creme fraiche; and olive oil cake with plums, mascarpone, and pistachios.

Lunch at Asia de Cuba: This Latin-Asian fusion restaurant st the Mondrian Hotel offers incredible views off of Sunset Strip. Yelp reviewers have even described the massive planters on the outside balcony as creating a whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” feel. The lunch and dinner menus are extremely similar, except for the $20 discrepancy in prices. Start with the smoked salmon pancake or the Asian noodle box, then move onto the pallomina of beef or the wild coho salmon. After enjoying the side of plantain avocado fried rice and wokked vegetables, end the meal with a dessert sampler.

Lunch at Babalu: Spend the morning shopping along Montana Avenue (and maybe catching a YogaWorks class at their Montana location) then head on over to this Santa Monica Caribean stand-by. Although it may be known best for its brunch and bakery items, this 5-star yelp restaurant also has tons of savory island-inspired dishes. Begin with the blue crab cake, then move on to the sweet summer corn agnoloti or the vegetarian burger and finish it all off with a slice of the key lime pie.

Lunch or Dinner at Bar & Kitchen: This small bar in Downtown’s O Hotel immediately won me over with the sweet blurb at the top of its menu that claims “we’ve created this menu specifically for you! why? well. it’s because we love you.” After reading something that sweet, how could anyone resist giving the restaurant a try? They incorporate the freshest summer produce into both their greatly varied lunch and dinner menus, so it’s hard to choose which time of day to come. Come at lunch to get the tomato gazpacho with lump crab and the restaurant’s famous shrimp & grits. Or come for dinner and get the tuna crudo with yuzu puree, the sweet corn risotto, and the peach panna cotta.

Dinner at Craft: This is your chance to try the raved-about fare from celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s Century City restaurant at reasonable prices. The restaurant run by Top Chef’s head judge is quite the place for power lunches, so instead come by in the later hours for a leisurely dinner. Enjoy the more relaxed, peaceful atmosphere while sharing the endive and arugula salad, the ham with fig mosteada, and the diver scallop ceviche with the whole table. Then chose from dishes including the corn agnolotti, Alaskan salmon, and flatiron streak. Finish off the decadent meal with the brown sugar pavlova with peaches and blueberries.

Dinner at Culina: Enjoy the upscale Italian fare of the Four Seasons  in the heart of Los Angles’s hip East side. This restaurant is a real gem because in addition to the beautiful gardens to dine in, the chefs are masters of preparing raw seafood crudos and steamy pizzas alike. Start off with the crudo sampler of intricately dressed ahi tuna, salmon, and yellow tail. Then move onto the delectable Prince Edward Mussles. Next enjoy the Maine lobster farro or the lamb chops. Finish off the meal with macerated stone fruits and house made gelato.

Dinner at Ray’s: This is the place to go for the quintessential evening in LA. Spend the afternoon walking around the Grove, then head on over to LACMA for some museum perusing. Next head to Ray’s, the new farm-to-table restaurant at LACMA, and finish off the night at a concert at the Wiltern. Enjoy charred octopus, squid ink pasta, and market stone fruits at this hip new space that simply oozes culture.

Dinner at Scarpetta: I know, I know, not another hotel restaurant, but the Montage’s modern, seaonally-inspired Italian restaurant Scarpetta really is such a treat that it can’t be left off the list! While the Montage’s other restaurant, Bouchon (another DineLA contributor) usually gets most of the fame, I think that Scarpetta’s delicate preparations make this restaurant the hotel’s real gem. The prices are usually pretty steep, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to try the delicous food at discounted prices. Start with truffled mushroom polenta, then move on to the short rib agnolotti or the mediterranean branzino, and end the evening with the coconut panna cotta with guava soup and caramelized pineapple.

Where are you going to participate in DineLA?

Summer Reading Round Up

7 Jul

This summer I’m planing on spending a lot of time curled up with a good book. Keeping a book in the bottom of my bag ensures that I have instant entertainment for when  I’m lying out on the beach, cuddled up with Goose at the park, bored on a plane, or unable to concentrate a the gym. While I know that some people prefer kindles or other reading devices, for me nothing can rival a good, old-fashioned book. To me there is something about being able to turn pages, highlight favorite parts, and simply hold it that technology simply can’t rival. Here are a list of must-reads to suit any style reader.

For the avid traveler: The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys Famous travel writers describe 21 incredible places to visit, telling both of their own adventures and their insider-tips for getting the most out of a trip to each city. Considering that the accounts are coming from some of the world’s most experienced travelers, their rave reviews of often overlooked places like Savannah, Georgia and their adventurous accounts of far-out places like Ethiopia bear greater weight. I loved reading this book because it gave me great new insight into places to visit and brand new places to add to my list of places to visit. I especially can’t wait to visit Tanzania, Provence, Iceland, and Petra now!

For the foodie: Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas- Thomas’s recollection of her two years living in Paris and sampling all of the cities’ best sweets while working for Louis Vuitton is both a tantalizing treat for the taste buds and a touching account of her very relatable struggles with loneliness, infertility, and homesickness. Each chapter pays homage to a particular dessert, describing the best places in enjoy it in Paris and in New York while simultaneously tying the particular sweet back to Thomas’s own life and her present predicament. Every delectable description made my mouth water, especially this glorious homage to a fruit crumble, “the fruit lends tartness, the streusel topping adds sweetness-one without the other is like peanut butter without Fluff, cake without frosting, an Oreo denuded of its white cream center.”

For the hopeless romantic: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton-This is my favorite classic novel of all time. It chronicles the doomed romance of two high-society New Yorkers in the 1870s. Wharton’s beautiful descriptions of the elaborate social engagement and unspoken communications make this novel as emotionally stirring as any Nicholas Sparks novel but with greater elegance and originality.  In a world that has been taken over by 50 Shades of Grey, there is something amazing about being able to read a romance novel in which the lovers never progress beyond a simple kiss. Click here for my full review of the book.

For the nature lover: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- Kingsolver chronicles her family’s year-long adventure in locovorism. She proves  that a local diet is not just better for the economy and environment, but tastier too. Her husband and eldest daughter also contribute to the book with his educational excerpts and her personal essays about adapting these views to life as a teenager. Their story of working together as a family to plant, weed, diversify their cooking, harvest their own animals, and seek out other locally produced items shows that any of us can start making small changes to bring ourselves closer to the food we eat. Packed with tasty seasonal recipes and fascinating data, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the perfect combination of a culinary blog, a cookbook, and a newspaper.

For the person who’s read everything: In One Person by John Irving-This is the only book on the list that I have not yet read, but I can’t wait to dive right into it! Irving’s latest novel challenges readers to confront their own beliefs and reexamine their degree of tolerance as Billy, the protagonist, reflects on his own difficult journey of sexual self-discovery. It is the story of a young bisexual man who falls in love with an older transgender woman. I cannot wait to see how Irving daringly approaches this too-often avoided sector of the population.

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

An Alternative Guide to London

2 Jul

In just a few weeks I’m going on an exciting European vacation with my family, so as I do before almost every trip, I wanted to do my research so we all get the most out of the trip. Up first on the itinerary of our 7-city, 18-day adventure is London!

Instead of going to the Olympics, watch them in Hyde Park, Victoria Park, or Trafalgar Square: Yes, the Summer Olympics inspired our trip to London, actually it was the inspiration behind our entire European vacation. We are headed off to watch Academy Award winning director and British native, Danny Boyle transform the Olympic stadium into “a picture of ourselves as a nation” for the opening ceremony. Boyle’s heart-wrenching Slumdog Millionaire, visceral Trainspotting, and riveting 28 Days Later are all evidence that he will make the opening ceremony something memorable. He is rumored to be spending over $40 million on the Tempest-inspired ceremony to make the stadium into a traditional English meadow with farm animals and national landmarks. I’m more excited to see what Boyle comes up with for the grand opening than I am for the Olympic games themselves! Watch the olympic games at one of the three BT London Live festival sites where large outdoor screens will be set up for crowds to picnic and socialize while watching some of the most eagerly anticipated races and contests in the games.

Instead of going to a traditional tea at Harrods, enjoy the fashionable Pre-a-Portea at the Berkley: This fashion-inspired afternoon tea changes every six months so that the sumptuous tea goodies mimic the latest fashions by leading designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Jason Wu, and Valentino. It includes a selection from the extensive tea menu, mini skewers, taster spoons, elegant canapés, tea sandwiches, and for the grande finale a collection of fashion-forward cakes and fancies. I cannot recommend this highly enough for anyone who wants a modern take on traditional British tea! My family and I did it when we were in London a few years ago, and it is by far the most delicious and beautiful high tea I’ve ever had. Current selections include a Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel and a Miu Miu 1950’s inspired vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and playful white bow.

Our Spring 2010 runway tea

Instead of spending all of your money on Liberty London’s beautiful but expensive clothes and home wares, find one-of-a-kind treasures at Portobello Road MarketVisit this 2-mile long weekly market on Saturday mornings if you’re set on seeing the famous market, or just about any other day of the week to avoid touristy crowds. The market contains antiques, produce, new goods, clothing, and second-hand goods. Check out Decadent Vintage for affordable treasures curated by a mother-daughter duo with a passion for fashions of the past or Portwine Arcade for quirky old-fashioned goods.Yes it’s often packed with tourists but it’s one of London’s largest and most diverse markets. This is an amazing place to experience the eclectic side of London at its finest and to find rare items for incredible prices if you’re daring enough to wade through the crowds. Plus it’s only a mile and a half away from Holland Park, which is a great place to peacefully relax after the marketplace hustle. For something even less touristy check out Golborne Road MarketNumerous stalls offer everything from antiques to fruit and bread to posters, clothes, ceramics and music.It’s best to visit Friday or Saturday when the most vendors come out to display their eclectic mix of  second-hand and vintage wares, architectural antiques, niche designer and vintage fashion boutiques, and inventive food. It stretches past the iconic Trellick Tower, which itself overlooks the Grand Union Canal leading to Regents Park, Camden and beyond. It joins with classic Portobello Road and shows the best of Notting Hill’s trendy wares.

Instead of dining in expensive, 5-star hotel restaurants, check out less common eateries at Borough Market: London’s most renowned food market dates back to the 13th Century and is a mecca of artisanal bites and hard-to-find ingredients. It’s best to visit Thursday or Friday, but you’ll be fine going early Saturday morning too. Nosh on fresh and sustainably caught seafood from Shellseekers, try goat’s milk ice cream in flavors like Hokey Pokey or Lemon Cheesecake from Greedy Goat, or pick up super fresh and nutrition-packed vegetarian fare from The Veggie Table. P.S. Check out this wonderful British Berry Tart Recipe from the market’s website!

Instead of taking countless photos of Big Ben and the parliament building, go see St. Paul’s Cathedral to get your dose of British architecture. Admire Christopher Wren’s 18th century masterpiece. Although the building has roots back to 604 AD, it is Wren’s building that visitors have been seeing ever since the Great Fire of London. It has been used for weddings, WW II peace services, Jubilee celebrations, and funerals.

What are your favorite places to visit in London? Any good tips from locals or ardent travelers?