Tag Archives: shopping

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. 

 

London Calling: Travel Photo Miniseries Part 1

25 Aug

After about a week back home, I’ve finally finished going through all of my photos, editing, deleting, and choosing only the most worthy ones to share with you! I’m going to share pictures and travel tips from each of the cities we’ve visited each week for the next seven weeks. Today we are starting with London, enjoy!

Beautiful statue right outside of Buckingham Palace: This is a must-visit place for any first time visitors. Snapping a shot outside of Buckingham Palace is one of the quintessential tourist activities. 

View of the London Eye from Westminster Bridge: The entire pier around the bridge is surrounded by child-friendly fun, including a London Aquarium and the Namco Funscape.

Aerial view from the London Eye: The iconic ferris wheel is quite pricy at £37 per person, but it’s a great way to see an aerial view of London’s most famous sights.

Giant jack fruit at a stall in China Town: There were a ton of delicious asian restaurants and grocery stores with exciting foreign snacks

Apple Market in Covent Garden: About two dozen artisans set up shop in these rows of stalls within the larger covent garden market. I got a few cute dresses at Joy, a cute, quirky women’s clothing store in Covent Garden itself.

Cute scrabble board at Canteen, a quirky British restaurant: Convent Garden is full of interesting shops and restaurants, like this one.

Beautiful storm drain in the streets of London: I wish that storm drains in America were this pretty! The multiple materials and sweet flower design make the drain as pretty as it is practical.

Sandwiches and tea at the Pret-a-Portea: This is one of London’s most inventive high teas. It’s a special feature of the Berkeley Hotel (apparently it’s pronounced Barkely, which I learned after embarrassingly mispronouncing the name a half dozen times).

Three tiers of mouth watering desserts: Even thought the gourmet sandwiches and tiny spoons of savory deliciousness were surprisingly even more delicious than the desserts, the intricacy and creativity of the desserts was incredible.

More beautiful desserts!

Our super cute to go boxes: And because even sweet lovers like my family and I couldn’t finish off all of the beautiful desserts…some chic to go boxes to take the rest of our goodies home

A sweet storefront in Notting Hill: I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this store front in honor of my blog!

The ArcelorMittal Orbit Observation Tower: This dual platform tower is London’s largest piece of public art. This gorgeous fusion of sculpture and architecture was constructed to allow views to see the entirety of Olympic Park.

Amazing tea selection at Fortum and Mason: The packaging of everything from rare teas in colorful tins to crab in glass jars was almost as amazing as the incredible array of food in this gourmet paradise.

The incredible Fortum and Mason ceiling decorations: The colorful animal and music cut outs rain down from the top floor all the way to the bottom.

Colorful street celebration in a narrow walking street: The colorful bunting, swarms of people, and inflatable globe capture the spirit and excitement of the entire city of Olympic hosts.

Sweet bathtub set up in Liberty London: London’s most fashionable place to shop is also home to some of the most beautiful advertising displays.

My little sister riding a giant giraffe in Harrods: Harrods is one of the most expensive stores in this already expensive city, and while buying things might be out of your budget, stop by anyways to look around this amazing department that has everything anyone could ever want or need.

Incredible danishes in the Harrod’s Food Hall: While most things in Harrods cost a fortune, most people can afford to enjoy a bit of luxury with an exotic nibble from the extensive market.

Quite possibly my favorite photo of London: This city captures the essence of the city and the fact that it involves the entire city, not the athletes and the Olympic planning committee, to put on an event of this magnitude.

Unique LA Recap

15 May

What I love most about living in LA (besides the weather of course) is that there is always something to do. Downtown especially is filled with exciting events, restaurants, shops, and attractions. From tracking down the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck to watch both the Lakers and the Clippers in second round play off games on the same day, to admiring the architecture was beautiful enough to become the focus of 500 Days of Summer to visiting the monthly Art Walk, Los Angles always has something exciting to offer!

Even while sitting in a downtown parking outside The California Market Center over the weekend, I was lucky enough to simultaneously view Banksy’s “Park” street art and timeless Art Deco gems like the beautiful Eastern Columbia Building. Where else in the country is there such a breathtaking combination of perfect sunshine, poignant art, and historic architecture?! I really do love LA.

Back to the story…the reason that I was sitting in the parking lot is that on Sunday for Mother’s Day I had the pleasure of attending the fourth annual Unique LA Spring Show Downtown with my mom and three sisters. We always love attending these fabulous craft fairs to find super talented local artists and designers. The Spring, Summer, and Holiday Unique LA shows are two of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles. If you live in San Francisco or New York, make sure to checkout the Unique SF Show on June 20 and July 1 or the Unique NYC show that they are hoping to start soon!

There was a $10 admission fee, but a dollar of every ticket goes towards supporting another local organization, CicLAvia, and upon entry each guest gets a canvas tote with art designed by a local artist specifically for the event. At each Unique LA event, the nonprofit organization changes, as does the artist who designs the bags. Unique LA also offers free snacks, a free  photo booth, and a free craft station.

As always, the tremendous creativity of the 325 designers who showcased their work at the event amazed me. This is both the perfect place to pick up a unique, handmade gift for even the pickiest people on your list and a lovely way to spend an afternoon with friends. There are countless booths with beautiful jewelry, hilarious t-shirts, quirky home decor, awesome terrariums, intriguing sweets, upcycled vintage goods, and artsy prints. With so many talented artists in one place, you’re bound to find something that strikes your fancy. The artists are almost all incredibly friendly and they are often willing to negotiate prices with you or give you a better deal if you buy multiple items.

We ended up buying magic wallets made from old books, inventively flavored pickles, earrings, ghost pepper hot sauce, seed bombs, a necklace, and other fun goodies. There were so many great things for sale that it was hard to choose what to buy!

One of the coolest things at Unique LA this weekend (although I didn’t really appreciate it until after I got home), is that they got Caine Monroy, the 9-year-old inventor of Caine’s Arcade, to bring his homemade, cardboard arcade to the event. When we saw the elaborate cardboard set up, my sister was immediately stunned and told me how she cried during the video. Although I has heard of the arcade built by a young boy in the back of his dad’s auto parts shop, it wasn’t until I came home and cried as I watched the video myself that the magnitude of Caine’s creativity and hopefulness really hit me.

If you haven’t heard of the kid genius who became famous overnight, check out Nircan Mallick’s moving video, about Caine’s Arcade immediately….and have a box of tissues nearby.

Santa Barbara Re-Cap

12 Apr

Over the weekend my family, my boyfriend, and I spend a lovely few days in Santa Barbara. We lucked out with the unseasonably warm weather. Santa Barbara is just a 90 minute drive from home, and the relaxed, beachy atmosphere makes it such a perfect escape from reality.

On our way there we took a brief detour to grab lunch and walk around Ojai, a town just twenty minutes away from Santa Barbara. Lunch at Suzanne’s is always a treat because beautiful sculpture and gardens fill the property of the bistro-inspired restaurant. Ojai also had great shops and a lovely park to walk around before getting back on the road.

In Santa Barbara we stayed at the wonderful Four Season’s Hotel, which is laid out in a breathtaking ranch style. Unlike Los Angeles where most hotels are about ten stories high, nowhere did this hotel exceed two stories. The expansive property of the hotel is full of winding rows of spacious hotel rooms and beautiful landscaping. We enjoyed the tastiest Easter Brunch here with a seafood bar, 10 types of pickles, omelet station, dessert display, and traditional breakfast fare. After Brunch the hotel had an adorable egg hunt, gardening station, candy bar, and array of games.

A few blocks outside of our hotel, we were able to walk to the quaint little street of Montecito, where there was a lovely nursery, delicious gelateria, a few nice restaurants, and a number of cute stores. It is the perfect place to go when we want something to do without the hassle of getting in the car and driving somewhere.

In Santa Barbara we walked along Sate Street, their main downtown shopping area with stores including Free People, Urban Outfitters, a record store, Nordstoms, Lush, the Gap, and many more. We also went into WhoDelicious, a whimsical cupcake store that is any child’s dream come true. The architecture around State Street was breathtaking with intricate old school ornamentation that combined the classic buildings of Downtown LA with Spanish flair.

While in Santa Barbara we also went to the Botanical Gardens, where we wandered around the crystal-clear lake, fields of fresh flowers, and forests of massive trees. Wandering through the massive open space made me forget about being so close to the city. It really was a wonderful escape!

Let’s go Shopping!

7 Mar

I know that on a Wednesday morning the weekend might feel as if it’s light years away, but it’s not…I promise! You’re already half way through the week, and that is reason enough for some celebration!

Last night I received the catalog for Free People, my favorite store ever, in the mail. It immediately brightened my day (and took priority over homework), so I decided to indulge in a bit of sketching. I drew one of their gorgeous models in one of Free People’s most crave-worthy dresses, the La Boehme Ruffle Dress.

My sketching wasn’t enough to satisfy my insatiable desire for all things Free People, so I wanted to go on a virtual shopping spree and share some of my exciting finds with you lovely readers.

Free People is a bohemian-chic offset from the creators of Urban Outfitters. Their lacy fabrics, floral prints, and flowing silhouettes all contribute to Free People’s whimsical, free-spirited vibe. Free people describes its ideal customer as ” a 26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic. A girl who likes to keep busy and push life to its limits, with traveling and hanging out and everything in between.” Beyond the beauty and hand-made appearance of  the clothes that Free People makes, the brand’s designers have heightened my passion for the brand with its BLDG 25 blog, which is full of unique outfit pairings, crafts, and artwork from various talented artists, and the enchanting atmosphere of the Free People stores, which are each filled with beautiful wall decorations and soft, neon shag rugs further increase my passion for Free People.

If you live in one of the 24 states with a Free People store, by all means hurry on over there. Even if you don’t, check out their website to buy some of my top picks, or anything else that strikes your fancy!

P.S. You can click on any of the photos to be redirected to the item in the Free People shop!

Tonal Ribbon Flower Headdress

Colored Ankle Crop in subtle yellow

Candy Coated Corset in ivory

Molly Flower Sheer Top in ivory

New Romantics Olympic Flame Dress

Sonoma Cork Heel in blue cork

New Romantics Cat Eye Wrap Dress in sea spray

Lina Leather Tote

Brooklyn Bag in black

Fiesta Mini Dress in taupe

Out and about in Santa Monica

16 Jan

Yesterday my mom suggested that maybe we go down to Disneyland for the day, but I recommended that maybe we go shop around Santa Monica’s Abbot Kinney and Main Street instead….a.k.a. Grown Up Disneyland.

I love the Venice/Santa Monica area because even though it’s a mere 25 minute drive from where I live, the vibe is quite different. Trendy, beach-going hipsters populate this area of Los Angeles with kitschy boutiques, beach cruiser bikes, pilates studios, gourmet cafes, avant garde condos, and uplifting street art.

My dad stood in the infamous line to get a table at Gjelina, while we shopped at some of the adorable stores that dot the street. When we were finally seated the sophisticated, yet casual attitude of all of the waiters and restaurant patrons amazed me like it always does. The building itself is incredibly alluring with a giant eye on the facade of the upper level,and various utilitarian details.

Exterior of Gjelina

The food was as good as the out-the-door line suggested. We started off with the most delicious Blueberry Brown Sugar Scones I’ve ever eaten. Flecks of lemon zest, plump blueberries (even in the middle of winter…this is Southern California after all), and a crumbly brown sugar surface made these delicious. These are a must-order; I will try to imitate them on my blog soon! For our meal, my mom and I shared  Moroccan Baked Eggs (a.k.a. shakshuka). It was yummy, but not as good as the shakshuka at Momed on Beverly Drive. For those of you who don’t know, shakshuka is baked eggs atop tomatoes, peppers, and onions, with spicy seasonings.

A photo taken by my precious little sister Rosie

Rosie and her Smoked Salmon Platter

My Moroccan Baked Eggs

If you want to try Gjelina’s tasty fare, but aren’t willing to wait in the long line, no worries, just head next door to their take-out cafe.

Here are people eating at the tables next door to Gjelina's take-out cafe

After brunch, we shopped around Abbot Kinney and saw some great stores with unique items. These stores are great for cards, gifts, or buying for yourself because you know how awesome you are. Here are some stores you may want to check out next time you’re in the neighborhood:

Patio in the back of Zingara

Lending Library at Zingara

Exterior of Urban Paper Boutique

Exterior View of Bountiful

Cute Card at Urban Paper Boutique

  • Mailbox at Tumbleweed and Dandelion

  • Ananda: fun vintage-esque women’s clothing
  • G2 Gallery: art, photography, and other unique goods sold to promote appreciation of nature
  • Zingara: Its name meaning “Gypsy,” this tent-like store has an eclectic mix of clothing and accessories with a global feel, a beautiful porch in the back, and a great lending library in the front
  • Firefly: The harmonic mix of clothes, books, cards, jewelry, and other goods keep this store brimming with hidden treasures
  • Urban Paper BoutiqueThis store is a more card-oriented version of paper source with beautiful, quirky cards for every occasion
  • Mona Moore: This beautiful space hold a plethora of runway-ready purses and shoes; it’s a must-see for any accessory aficionado
  • Very Venice: Another shop that sells arts produced by local artisans from this bungalow-esque galley
  • Undrest: This store epitomizes the beachy-feel with its year-round collection of bathing suits and cover ups
  • Bountiful:This may very well be my favorite store on Abbot Kinney with its blast-from-the-past collection of homewares and embellishments
  • Ten Women: A store of various goods curated by 22 women who are embracing their entrepreneurial spirit while helping up-and coming local artists
  • Tumbleweed & Dandelion: This store has an extensive collection of white-washed, Cape Cod-style homewares that would sparkle in any beach home

I highly recommend that any of you come check out Abbot Kinney when you get a chance!