Tag Archives: travel

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!

I Don’t Want To Be An American Idiot…So I’m Soaking Up All The Culture I Can In Vienna!

14 Sep

Vienna was such an unexpected surprise! Aside from Paris, this may be my new favorite European city. In fact, Vienna is almost like a smaller, German-speaking version of Paris. The culture is so rich in art, literature, opera, and history. From the baroque architecture of the zoo to the classical musicians performing in the parks, it is evident that the people take great pride in sharing their search for beauty with any willing observers.

On our first day there, we had to of course snap a few photos outside of the beautiful Opera house, even if our two days in Vienna didn’t quite give us an opportunity to see one of their incredible performances.

Afterwards we headed over to the Naschmarkt Market for our first taste of Vienna. We skipped the delicious ethnic food restaurants in favor of trying some of the dried fruits and oil-marinated, cheese-filled vegetables at the numerous delicatessens.

The market had such an eclectic mix of people there to pick up their weekly groceries, meet friends for a meal, or simply wander around the market looking for an adventure. I think that this graffiti on one of the closed kiosks sums up the quirky, artsy, youthful vibe of the market itself.

Amazingly, the spice collection at the Naschmarkt Market was even more diverse than the one at the famous Turkish Spice Bazar! Seeing all the exotic spices, fresh produce, and other fun ingredients made me want a kitchen to cook with them, or at least more room in my suitcase to bring the yummy goodies back to my own kitchen.

I absolutely adore this sign outside of one of the vendors at the Naschmarkt Market. Too cute!

These little Viennese Hummel figurines are the sweetest playthings ever! American children with their barbies and transformer toys are missing out on these adorable porcelain figures.

Watching a wave of nostalgia wipe over my mom’s face as soon as the clock chimed and the bird popped out of these cuckoo clocks was one of the highlights of the trip for me by far. It’s amazing how simple objects can bring people instantly back to a specific moment in time. There’s nothing quite like watching your mom become a little girl all over again!

When I first saw the bold mosaic work of this building, my initial thought was that it had to be a Gaudi building, but to my surprise St. Stephen’s Church dates back to the 12th century. While the tiled roof was a post-WWII upgrade after a fire, it still bears no connection to Gaudi.

I love the beautiful details of ancient European churches, and the ornate windows on this Gothic church were no exception.

As we were wandering back to our hotel after an exciting first day in the city, we stumbled upon these talented classical musicians setting up shop to share their art with anyone willing to take the time to listen. The taste and refinement of their music is such a far cry from the goofy street performers back in LA!

This spectacular wedding dress cake outside of Demel made my draw absolutely drop! It looks so real that it is near impossible to imagine anyone ever eating such a work of culinary mastery. It would break my heart to ever cut into a cake as spectacular as this! 

When I saw the perfect little frosting shoes, I knew that we would have to come back the next day to try something from the sweet geniuses at Demel. unfortunately the sweets did not live up to the extraordinary expectations that the dress/cake had ingrained in our imaginations. The Imperial Torte at Cafe Imperial far surpasses the desserts here (or anywhere in Vienna for the matter).

Other than the Imperial Torte, this would have to be my favorite thing that I ate in Vienna. It was perfectly charred pieces of octopus accompanied by tangerine segments and jicama wasabi rolls. Yum! It was the perfect salty-sweet-sour-spicy combination.

Just a short metro ride away from the city was the beautiful  Schönborn gardens. The curvaceous intricacies of the greenhouse and dainty landscape designs made me giddy as soon as we stepped into the park. 

Here’s a close up of the gorgeous architecture!

Just past the green house is the incredible  Schönborn Zoo. They had such incredible animals including Lesser Pandas (such a mean name) and nearly a dozen species of monkeys. Check out the beautiful Victorian architecture of the monkey habitat. It is the most stylish zoo I’ve ever seen!

I love this sweet image of two elephants fighting/flirting. I’ve never seen two elephants interact so intensely, so this was a real treat for me to observe. Don’t they look so in love ?

Even in Austria, german pretzels were all the rage. They sold these massive doughy treats throughout Vienna, so of course I had to snap a picture of this one that’s the size of my head for my pretzel-loving boyfriend!

 Here is the stately Schönborn Palace around which the green house, zoo, running paths, train, and play labyrinths revolve. The cheery yellow and vibrant colors make the place feel so joyous and carefree!

After climbing up the hill for about 10 minutes, we received this incredible view of the entire  Schönborn Palace grounds. So lovely! I simply could sit on this bench and stare out of the beautiful city all day.

Here’s a better look at the incredible view we had of the Vienna skyline. While we didn’t have a full day to travel out to visit the place where The Sound Of Music was filmed, this view seems pretty spectacular to me!

Vienna seems like such the perfect intellectual city. People simply sit around reading parks and cafes. It seems like the most whimsical, carefree way to live. Books beat TV and facebooking any day!

All good things must come to an end, so my Dad and I took a lovely even stroll through Vienna, soaking up all we could of the beautiful city. I love the way that the setting sun reflected off this gorgeous glass Palmenhaus restaurant.

Have you been to Vienna before? Did the city steal your heart as easily as it stole mine?

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.

Exploring Paris, The City I Love With The One I Love

15 Jul

I shared with you my tips for an alternative visit to London already, but now I want to tell you about what I have planned for my few precious days in Paris. Goose will be joining us for the last leg of our European travels, so I’ve been fine-tuning our itinerary so that hopefully he has as much fun in the city of love as I know that I will! Today is our third anniversary and I couldn’t be happier. I truly am the luckiest girl in the world. I can’t wait to celebrate in Paris with you, Goose!

Arc de Triumph

Dine on gourmet goodies at Pierre Herme: VIsit one of his seven Parisian boutique to sink your mouth into any of his inventive confections including the Ice Mosaic (swirled pistachio ice cream with tart cherry sorbet), Croissant Ispahan(Flaky croissant stuffed with rose-flavored almond paste and raspberry-lychee gelée and topped with candied berries), Tarte Peche, Rose & Cumin (Pâte sablée, almond-rose cream, fresh peaches and sugar spiced with cumin). Also make sure to try an assortment of his world-famous macarons in flavors such as Isphan (rose, lychee, & raspberry), Infinment Jasmin (jasmine flower & jasmine tea), Creme Brulee (vanillas & caramel bits), and Infinment Caramel (salted-butter caramel).

City View

Spend an afternoon enjoying Parc de la Villette: Let children and grown men alike indulge their curiosity at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Europe’s largest science museum, watch an outdoor movie at Cinéma en plein air or catch a concert at either Cabaret Sauvage or Le Trabendo. While you’re there don’t forget to admire the deconstructionist musings of architect Bernard Tschumi and the other contributing designers, as represented in the 20 themed gardens throughout the park. Use the 35 deconstructionist follies to help guide you throughout the park as well. The architect intended for the odd amalgamation of design to serve as a background for cultural interaction.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica by Montmarte 

Art and Literature buffs need to visit Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore for a piece of history: Not so much for the food, but rather for the historical significance, make sure to visit these two rival cafes where Paris’s intellectual elite gathered in the 1920s. Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, and Pablo Picasso favored Les Deux Magots, while  Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre visited both of these intellectual meeting places.

Metro Station

Evade touristy crowds with a visit to Paris’s up-and-coming South Pigalle: Just as Echo Park is starting to replace Silverlake as the new ultra hip, indie neighborhood because Silverlake became too mainstream, South Pigalle is replacing Marais as the new cool neighborhood for youthful, artistic crowds. SoPi, as it’s commonly called is a great place for unique vintage finds, fun clothing boutiques, and even yoga!

Eiffel Tower

Enjoy a memorable dinner in Paris without shelling out bucks for one of the fancy restaurants: Enjoy a romantic evening of gourmet pizza in inventive flavors (like La Ghandi- pizza with spinach sag, mozzarella, and baba ganoush) alongside the Canal Saint-Martin form The Pink Flamingoon Rue Bochat, where upon placing your order you receive a pink balloon that helps delivery men locate you when your pizza is ready. Or soak in iconic Paris with a picnic in the Champ de Mars while gazing at the Eiffel tower. Pick up an assortment of drool-worth picnic basket goodies from anywhere on Rue Cler, Paris’s most famous market street or on Wednesdays or Saturdays get your feast from the Pont de l’Alma Market.

  Me with Monet’s Water Lillies at the Musée de l’Orangerie

Enjoy the best of Parisian art at the Musée d’Orsay or the Musée de l’OrangerieAt the Musée d’Orsay, check out an incredible assortment of impressionist, post-impressionist , and art-nouveau works of art without the overwhelming masses of the Lourve. The architecture of the former train station is almost as breath taking as the art itself. It is just a short (and scenic) walk from the Eiffel Tower. While making your visit to the Jardin des Tuileries, make sure not to miss the intimate Musée de l’Orangerie, hidden in the garden’s southwest corner. Monet’s massive water lily paintings fill two custom-designed rooms, on a scale so large that it is sure to leave you breathless. The hidden-away museum also features an assorted art gallery below. The Musée Picasso, Musée Rodin, Musée Marmottan Monet, and Dalí Espace Montmartre are also popular art museums that are still far more manageable than the ever-looming Louvre.

The Left Bank

Act like a true Parisian by vacationing on the temporary beaches along the Seine for Paris PlagesEnjoy the 10-year old tradition of transforming the Seine into faux beach getaway complete with sand, deck chairs, ice cream, beach volleyball, free book rentals, lake kayaking, and free concerts. It starts on July 20 and lasts for four more weeks as an attempt to keep the locals from fleeing the city during the hottest few weeks of the year.

Notre Dame

Make sure to visit all of Ile de la Cité’s offerings when you come to see Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle: Admire the old-school charm of Ancien Cloître Quartier, the oldest remaining residential quarter on the island. Feel free to meditate with your thoughts or enjoy a novel at Place Dauphine, a small, uncrowded residential park on the island. Buy plants, seeds, and beautiful blossoms at the daily Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) and on Sundays check out the Marché aux Oiseaux (BIrd Market) as well. Before heading back to the Paris mainland via one of the bridges, make sure to try one of the 70 ice cream flavors at Berthillon, Paris’s most famous ice cream shop.

**I took these photos on my last trip to Paris, but I will make sure to share new photos in just a few weeks when I return!

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?

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!