Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

COMMENTS: 16

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)   travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

We’d spent one weekend exploring Los Angeles’ west side last year and wanted to return for longer to explore its… Hmm, what to call it? Its central neighborhoods? When I was living in Los Angeles, in the Fairfax district, I would have called Echo Park and Silverlake “the east” in error. I’ve learned that “East LA” should really be reserved for that which sits east of the LA River. In order to best avoid the minefield that lies in naming sections of Los Angeles, perhaps I should just say that this is the “not West Los Angeles-travelogue.”

In truth, it was our intention to make it a Silverlake-centric trip. We based ourselves there, finding a house one block off of Sunset Junction.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

We rented a three-bedroom house, from which we had a lovely view of the Hollywood Hills. In the mornings, it was a short stroll to breakfast or coffee (always coffee, usually at Intelligentsia). And on a couple of the days, when the kids slept in the afternoon, it was a short walk to shops like Mohawk General Store, Clare Vivier, Mollusk, Shinola, and Sweet William.

We pictured ourselves hiring a babysitter for a few of the evenings and then simply walking to dinners out—you could have an entire vacation’s worth of great meals in that neighborhood—and we arranged for a sitter to come for three nights! But we found ourselves taking that chance to drive and do more exploring.

Here are the highlights, (in typically long travelogue fashion)…

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)     travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

The Sunset Junction, a stretch where Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards meet in Silverake that used to house a street fair, seemed to firmly establish itself as a core destination by 2008 when the New York Times called it “an appealing mix of low-key restaurants and eclectic shops that draw artsy part-timers, including second-unit directors, studio musicians and writers. In other words, creative types with long mornings and limited incomes.” It holds special fascination because it feels so walkable despite being in the midst of these giant intersections! 

We spent our first day exploring in our new neighborhood (bougainvillea everywhere!) and then visiting family nearby, in Orange County.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

My friend’s favorite, Cafe Stella, opens a bit late for our crew, so we grabbed breakfast at the diner-esque Sunset Junction Coffee Shop.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

There’s also a wonderful Cheese Shop, a charming florist, a music shop (where a couple of times I heard a trombone being played in the afternoon), a Moroccan tea salon called Casbah, a vegan spot called Flore, and more.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

On the following day, after another local coffee run (during which the neighbors gave Hudson flowers), we headed out for breakfast at the much-lauded Sqirl—a preserves company that turned itself into a breakfast mecca.

Rumor has it that you have to show up early for any hope of a seat. And in my experience, everyone keeps very loose day-time schedules during the week (all of those industry-folk, I suppose) and so you’re just as likely to find crowds on a Monday morning as you are on a Sunday.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

We got lucky. Sure, the line was out the door, but seating was ample and we were able to just send an emissary (I volunteered) to order (and people-watch) at the counter.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

It was wonderful—and perhaps my favorite meal of the trip. We had the friendliest service: when we told one of the servers it was our first time, she told us all of her favorite dishes and then heaved a sigh of delight “I’m SO excited for you.” At the time, I thought it was such an LA-moment: the kind that makes you think about how Steve Martin’s LA Story holds up nearly 24 years later. Alas, she was just particularly friendly; we actually found much more too-cool-for-school attitude elsewhere in our visit.

But as a consequence of her enthusiasm, we ordered our family of four (sort of three-and-a-half, really) enough for a family of six: their classic Sorrel Pesto Rice bowl with preserved Meyer lemon, house-made hot sauce, black radish, feta and a poached egg; a wonderful take on Red Flannel Hash with smoked beets, potatoes, scallion, horseradish, jack cheese and a fried egg; incredibly decadent French toast, wherein brioche is stuffed with jam and baked in the style of “pain perdu” and served with crème fraîche (we added maple syrup); brioche toast with a seasonal jam that I can’t recall; a side of thick, wonderful bacon; and a rhubarb lemonade. Hudson wanted “all the sweet stuff.”

Mark Bittman just wrote about Sqirl and gives the recipe for that hash.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

We had intended to stay away from our old ‘hood in deference to trying all new things, but that didn’t last long. We made a detour to Third Avenue to see some of our favorite shops; I got a blowout at DryBar; we stopped for coconut cupcakes at Joan’s on Third (my favorite still, despite the arrival of Magnolia and Sprinkles); and Hudson finally got to ride the trolley at the Grove.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

The trolley, if you’ve never been on it, is a completely over-the-top addition to an already over-the-top outdoor mall. The conductors are super-friendly and will patiently wait for all manners of stroller folding, and you’ll spend far more time on it than you could have possibly done had you walked the same stretch, and your kids will love it. (Though you wouldn’t know it from Hudson’s very intense, “I’m thinking very hard about this”-face.)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

We also wanted to see what had changed at the Original Farmer’s Market on Fairfax—a collection of food stalls that opened back in 1934. If you visit, I recommend seeking out Loteria immediately, and then either eating there or at least spending most of your time at the restaurants and food stalls in the section surrounding it. When the the Mexican eatery moved in back in 2002, its tacos were so praised that it seemed to up the game of the food on that end of the market in particular. (And apparently that food stall has now spawned an empire.)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)  travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

I walked over to Mohawk General Store that afternoon. It was as lovely as everyone had promised—and reminded me a bit of Steven Alan: perfectly curated and very expensive. (Those moccasins in the men’s section were over $600, and that wasn’t unusal.) I will say that this sticker shock followed me throughout the trip: I’d been grabbing shopping recommendations off blogs and Pinterest in the week leading up to the trip and I was surprised at how expensive the places all were. Is everyone else buying $100 t-shirts these days? Is that the new normal?

Actually, and I definitely don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here—I found myself oscillating between feeling like all of these shops were so awesome and so quintessentially Angeleno (a little boho, a little modern… lots of succulents and linen… ) and so… all the same? I couldn’t decide if that’s just because I tend to confine myself to a set of sources who have similar aesthetics and that’s where all the shopping recommendations come from or because I was on a sort of LA tour of ‘what hipsters like’ and had self-selected for homogeneity. Or are these indeed just the trendsetters and that’s why I’m seeing these selections all over? Probably that, right? (Don’t get me wrong: I love the natural wood and the cacti, too!)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

After returning from some shopping, we had a little more playtime in the apartment and then a babysitter came by. One night they grabbed dinner at a taqueria on Sunset, which was perfect for Hudson’s recent obsession with taco-loving dragons.

By the way, people ask me about finding sitters on vacation and here’s how this happened: I asked everyone I knew. I posted to Facebook to ask for trusted suggestions, wrote emails to online friends who live in the city, and finally a friend who used to live in LA was able to ask her friend and pass along some recommendations. It wasn’t simple. But it was so worth it!

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

As for us, we decided to drive up toward the Griffith Observatory to see the sunset from the Hollywood Hills. There was some real-estate and landscaping distraction, but eventually we found some parking near the top. The observatory itself is closed on Mondays, but you can still go up for the view—just be sure to allow some time for traffic as a lot of people tend to have this same plan.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

And it was clear why.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

We stayed at the top, watching the lights come on across the city’s grid and the day-hikers heading home, until it was almost dark and then drove down the hill and back through West Hollywood to A.O.C. for dinner.

Suzanne Goin’s small plates restaurant A.O.C. was always our celebratory restaurant. Most memorably, we walked there just after getting engaged and celebrated the day after our wedding. They’ve moved further west (which meant crossing our drawn line in the sand) and into a larger space. If  you go, I’d suggest requesting a seat in the outdoor patio.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

On Tuesday, we branched out and walked the other direction along Sunset to Dinosaur coffee—an independent cafe serving SF’s Four Barrel coffees that opened last December (by, interestingly enough, the folks who came up with Cards Against Humanity).

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

It’s in the Solutions Audio Visual Service Center (with that wall famously featured on Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 album) so we stopped for some photos and then walked back to the car so we could hit up another highly recommended breakfast spot: Proof in Atwater Village.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

The menu and cases are filled with a mix of sweet and savory seasonal items, but we kept it pretty simple: croissants and a yogurt parfait. Na Young Ma’s pastry is legendary.

The space was packed but the line moved quickly, and there was enough table turnover that it wasn’t a problem for us to nab something curbside with the strollers. (And while we were sitting there, we ran into Shoko!)

Before leaving Glendale Boulevard (where Kate’s recommendation, Individual Medley was sadly still closed), Hudson and I ducked into Pampered Birds to check out the Macaws. The loudest store ever! Hudson was fascinated.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

Tucked in the southeast corner of Griffith park, off the Los Feliz entrance, there’s a miniature train and a stable of ponies to ride. We took a couple of spins in the train while Skyler took a brief nap in the stroller, and then we all walked over to the ponies. Based on his or her age and size, a child can ride a small, medium, or large pony. As we watched, (we realized later) most of the kids were on the small ones, which went pretty slow. We signed Hudson up for the medium and before we knew it, it just took off! I couldn’t believe it—what a shock!

You can see it here.

Hudson said he had fun… “a little bit bumpy” were his words, and asked to do it again. But after a second time around, he basically bee-lined it to the grass and laid down. (The adrenaline surge leaving his body, perhaps? I know we felt it!)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

I remembered going to a cute picnic spot in Griffith Park called The Trails when we lived in Los Angeles, and assumed it must be nearby. Of course it’s not at all—Griffith park is huge!—but it was a quick drive away and seemed like an appropriate stop after our morning of horseback riding.

It’s completely charming, the homemade Almond milk was a huge hit, and Hudson was able to play with some other kids and jump around on hay bales while Skyler slowly ate an avocado sandwich in the shade.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One) travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

It was fun to imagine what living in LA might be like as a family, and so we followed lunch by driving over to Echo Park lake with the intention of checking out the playground and the cafe at the boathouse. Aron ended up taking Hudson on the pedal boats while Skyler and I relaxed in the shade.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

Growing up in the ’80s, Aron and I both remember Echo Park seeming like this really dangerous place. People were always talking about gang wars and violence and bodies in the lake. Of course that’s all changed now—and had been doing as much since the mid-90s. (Though I still wasn’t too keen on the water from the giant fountain drifting about in the wind… thinking about it ending up in our mouths. Fountains are gross.)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

The boathouse is home to a little cafe called Square One that serves pastries and coffee and a full brunch-style menu during the day. It looked really great: french toast, bacon cheese grits, grass-fed burgers and frozen chocolate bananas.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

Skyler fell asleep on the way back to the house, which wasn’t unusual: she would usually take a short nap on-the-go in the mornings and then a longer one around 3pm or so, when Hudson had an hour of quiet time, too—and he would routinely fall asleep during that hour on this trip. We tuckered them out!

That afternoon, Aron and Hudson grabbed tacos at Yuca’s—a much appreciated recommendation—and then I went out again to walk further down Sunset—past a farmer’s market that goes until 7pm on Sunset and Edgecliff—to Clare Vivier. Even though the LA-based accessories brand is sold all over the country now, her flagship in Silverlake is still worth a visit.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

There are also locations for Sweet William, Shinola, and Mollusk—a surfer’s brand—nearby. And Dream Collective, with its jewelry collection, is worth a stop, too.

travel  Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)

I came back just in time for some sweet squeezes before the babysitter returned for another night out.

Part Two coming next week… 

Update: all of these locations are mapped on the Pinterest Guide to Los Angeles.

P.S. A weekend on LA’s West Side; a favorite home store on Beverly Boulevard; and a day at Disneyland.

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Where the hotel is the experience

COMMENTS: 14

travel  Where the hotel is the experience

“You don’t have infinite money. Spend it on the stuff that research says makes you happy.”

So starts an article in Fast Company this month, explaining that there’s a science behind prioritizing experiences over things: it has been shown to bring more happiness.

I think that’s why I can’t help but keep planning travel. If you were to ask me about my most treasured experiences from the past year, so many are moments from a vacation away. I think about diving into the Meditteranean or eating fresh fish over the rocks. I think of driving through the Pacific Northwest (even though long drives with the baby were anxiety-ridden) and watching the sun rise over the strip in Las Vegas.

travel  Where the hotel is the experience

A big cost on vacation is lodging, so what if the hotel were the destination—the experience—as much as the location itself? Of course the two go hand-in-hand, but instead of figuring out where to go and then looking for a place to stay, what if I went about it the other way around? Let’s engage in bit of harmless wanderlust.

You might recall: I’m partnering with Visa and have been getting familiar with the perks of using the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website—where everyone is guaranteed VIP Status; a best-available rate guarantee; complimentary continental breakfast; $25 food or beverage credit; and complimentary Wi-Fi,  late check-out, and an automatic room upgrade, when available. It only made sense to start there.

travel  Where the hotel is the experience

I came up with a list of experiences—a meditation retreat, cooking lessons, days spent diving underwater—and used the site’s search to narrow a selection to some extraordinary, experiential hotels (that are still set in places worthy of exploring). Some are more aspirational than others (a euphemism for expensive) but I’m focusing on the happiness quotient.

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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

COMMENTS: 7

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, I’m especially excited for photographer Jennifer Chong to share her local’s guide to Long Beach—because it’s where I grew up!

5 Things: Long Beach
Jennifer Chong

I’m a Georgia girl who moved west about five years ago. I now live in an area called Belmont Heights, which is walking distance from the beach and a short car ride from some of LA’s best attractions. And while I’ll admit that Long Beach is the only city I’ve lived in since I moved to California, I can’t imagine calling any other place home.

EAT:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

Simmzy’s Pub, 5271 East 2nd Street, (562) 439- 5590
Long Beach Thai, 3320 East Anaheim Street, (562) 597-6987
Starling Diner, 4114 East 3rd Street, (562) 433-2041
Open Sesame, 5215 East 2nd Street, (562) 621-1698
Rose Park Roasters, 3044 East 4th Street, (562) 434-4346

Food is my jam, and Long Beach has some good eats. Simmzy’s is a great place for lunch or dinner—whatever you do, make sure you try their Brussels sprouts. They’re seriously amazing. Other favorites include Long Beach Thai for authentic Thai boat noodles and papaya salad; Starling Diner for French toast at brunch; Open Sesame for Lebanese fried potatoes; and Rose Park Roasters for great coffee.

SHOP:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

Make Collectives, 430 East 1st Street, (562) 612-0089
Coast Modern, 219 Main Street, (714) 404-8779
Petals and Pop, 214 Main St, (562) 936-0131

If there’s one thing Long Beach is known for, it’s its many vintage and antique shops. I’m not great at flea market shopping, but I love finding hidden gems. Make Collectives carries a great selection of new and vintage goods in addition to putting on some pretty rad workshops. Retro Row is also host to a ton of great stores—just be sure to check times before you visit, as most of them close early during the week. Lastly, just a short distance away in nearby Seal Beach, you’ll find Coast Modern, a wonderfully curated clothing and home goods shop. While you’re there, grab a soda at Petals and Pop!

STAY:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

AirBNB—Long Beach

You’ll be able to find all the typical chain hotels around Long Beach, but for the best live-like-a-local experience, I’d book an Airbnb in one of the area’s cuter neighborhoods—try Belmont Shore or Belmont Heights. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even book your stay on a boat!

PLAY:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

Make time to take a stroll down Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street. You’ll find plenty of shops and good eats. Afterward, rent bikes and take the path toward downtown. You’ll pass volleyball players and kite surfers on the way to downtown Long Beach’s waterfront.

PACK:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA

Penfield Inuvik Parka Jacket, $200

Pack a light jacket! While SoCal is known for its perfect weather, the nights can get a bit chilly. Pack a cover-up—like this Penfield Inuvik Parka Jacket from Madewell—to use as a layer after a long day out on the town.

Thank you so much, Jennifer! (Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series.)

P.S. Visiting the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific and taking a toddler to Disneyland.

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Crossing California with kids: I-5 or Hwy 101?

COMMENTS: 15

travel  Crossing California with kids: I 5 or Hwy 101?

travel  Crossing California with kids: I 5 or Hwy 101?  travel  Crossing California with kids: I 5 or Hwy 101?  travel  Crossing California with kids: I 5 or Hwy 101?

As two native Californians who’ve spent our lifetimes traveling up and down all of the possible routes between Los Angeles and Sacramento or San Francisco (Highway 1, 101, 5, and 99), you’d think we’d have a clear opinion about the best route.

But the question does become a bit more complicated when you’re traveling with two kids under four, neither of whom are especially keen on long car trips. With Hudson, there’s always the iPad to fall back on, but for poor backward-facing, one-year-old Skyler… well, you just never know if she’s going to sleep for 30 minutes or two hours and whether she’ll cry throughout the times she’s awake. With a possibly disastrous scenario looming, it was tempting to set out late for Los Angeles on our last trip via I-5—going quickly while the kids were asleep.

But as might guess from those ocean views, we chose the more scenic 101 this time—figuring that the abundance of good stopping points along the way (a sort of insurance for the unexpectedly brief nap or a suddenly h-angry 3-year-old) justified the extra couple of hours.

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The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

COMMENTS: 7

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

One of the highlights of our week in Los Angeles was an afternoon at The Huntington Library. We’d been for tea in the Rose Garden and I’d used the library as a graduate student, but somehow I’d always missed their desert collection. Fittingly, we chose to finally visit on an afternoon when the temperature rose to 93 degrees.

Hudson still had a great time running through the vast gardens, Skyler took a sweaty nap in her stroller, and we did our best to cool them down with splashes of water while admiring the incredible collection of succulents and cacti.

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

From the library’s website:

“The Huntington Desert Garden is one of the largest and oldest assemblages of cacti and other succulents in the world. Nearly 100 years old, it has grown from a small area on the Raymond fault scarp when in 1907-1908 William Hertrich brought in plants from local nurseries, private residences, public parks, and from collection trips to the Southwest and Mexican deserts. Today the two dozen families of succulents and other arid adapted plants have developed into a 10-acre garden display, the Huntington’s most important conservation collection, a most important mission and challenge.”

“Expeditions were mounted to the southwestern United States and Mexico in search of unusual plants—towering  saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea), graceful agaves, bristling hedgehog cacti (Echinocereus), barrel cacti (Ferocactus) and other desert denizens. As the garden grew, reaching roughly its current 11-acre size by the 1920s, so did the breadth of the collection, with rarities being imported from as far away as South America, Madagascar, and South Africa.  Some of those early plantings can still be seen in the garden…  Today, this otherworldly Eden displays more than 50,000 beautiful plants representing approximately 4,000 species of cacti and succulents.”

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library         travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

If you have a chance to visit, I recommend you bring a hat and water and take your time getting lost there and elsewhere around the library grounds. There are over a dozen different gardens spread over the 120-acre ranch. The Children’s Garden and the kids’ section in the bookstore were favorite stops for everyone. Note that they’re closed on Tuesdays.

travel  The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library

Hoping to post a full Los Angeles travelogue soon! Until then, an ever-evolving Pinterest guide to LA.

P.S. Vertical gardens in Paris. And drought-tolerant inspiration for our backyard.

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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Portland, OR

COMMENTS: 12

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Portland, OR

In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, photographer Celeste Noche gives us a peek into (the East Side of) beautiful Portland, Oregon.

5 Things: Portland, Oregon
Celeste Noche of Celeste Noche Photography

Since my first visit five years ago, every subsequent trip to Portland has been a small step toward eventually making it my home. Coming from the Bay Area, the differences between the two are what make it special: the walk/bike-ability, the micro-neighborhoods, the lush overgrowth, and the food (of course). But more than anything, I think the pace of life and the open community are what have ultimately made this an easy home to adopt.

Moving here was a fresh start. Leaving California, I also left the tech scene, which felt to me like a bit of a rat race. In Portland, there’s a community of creatives made up of all kinds of people living slowly while also living their dreams. This, coupled with the subtle change in seasons and endless good eats, has made Portland my dream come true.

EAT:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Portland, OR
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Portland, OR
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Portland, OR

I could create a month’s itinerary in Portland based solely on meals, but these five places are especially dear to my heart. With Portland being such a food-centric town, though, it’s hard to go wrong here!

Random Order, 1800 NE Alberta Street, (971) 340-6995
When most people come to Portland, they’re eager to get in line for donuts or ice cream. To me, both those things pale in comparison to Random Order’s banana cream pie.

Luce, 2140 E Burnside Street, (503) 236-7195
Having studied abroad in Florence, I lean toward simple and timeless when it comes to Italian food. Luce does exactly that. And with its Italian dry goods, black and white tile, and floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s so cute I’m tempted to move right in.

Broder, 2508 SE Clinton Street or 2240 N Interstate Avenue
Of all of the wonderful brunch spots here, Broder is my favorite. It’s Scandinavian-inspired, so it’s delicious and beautiful. Order the lost eggs and share the aebleskiver among the table. Oh, and either avoid weekends or go early!

Grain and Gristle, 1473 NE Prescott Street, (503) 298-5007
One of the great things about Portland bars is that they all have to serve food (it’s the law). Grain and Gristle’s motto is “fine food and libations” and it offers up exactly that. This is the neighborhood tavern that I wish was closer to my own.

Farina Bakery, 1852 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, (971) 340-9734
Farina is my favorite bakery. It’s colorful and bright, with the most scrumptious pastries to match! I always feel like a local coming in here—give Laura a hug for me when you stop in for a macaron.

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Day Trip: Point Reyes & Tomales Bay

COMMENTS: 19

travel  Day Trip: Point Reyes & Tomales Bay

travel  Day Trip: Point Reyes & Tomales Bay

travel  Day Trip: Point Reyes & Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore are just an hour outside of San Francisco, in beautiful Marin County—but you’d never know you were so close to the city. With every turn the vistas grew wider and our cell reception grew weaker.

Last week I shared some photos from our lunch there—fresh oysters and local cheese—but the truth is we actually based the day off of our plans for dinner at Point Reyes Cheese. In the end, it was all just an excuse to explore this beautiful part of Northern California.

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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

COMMENTS: 18

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Malgosia Frej of The Fleeting Day guides us on a tour of Edinburgh’s best.

5 Things: Edinburgh
Malgosia Frej of The Fleeting Day

My husband and I moved to Edinburgh eight years ago for university, and we fell in love with its green parks, its sandstone houses, and the castle perched on top of an old volcano in the middle of the city. The Scottish capital has so much more to offer than just tartan, bagpipes, and haggis (a local delicacy). With its curious mix of medieval and classical architecture, rich cafe and restaurant culture, and its proximity to both mountains and the sea, Edinburgh is sure to please and surprise. A bonus: it can be easily explored on foot, so sightseers can take in the views and historic highlights at a strolling pace.

EAT:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

Nonna’s Kitchen, 45 Morningside Road, Edinburgh, EH10 4AZ, +44 131 466 6767
The Kitchin, 78 Commercial Street, Edinburgh EH6 6LX , +44 131 555 1755

My personal favorite for dinner in Edinburgh is Nonna’s Kitchen — a family-run Italian restaurant with a super fresh daily menu, a good range of local seafood, and an overall homey feel. Another to try is The Kitchin, a Michelin starred gem, whose chef is fanatical about seasonal fare. The lunch menu is very reasonably priced at £28.50 for three courses, and offers a great way to sample Scottish cuisine.

Other favorites include Peter’s Yard for breakfast and Swedish pastries; La Garrique for one of the best wine lists in Scotland; Affogato for Italian gelato; and The Gardener’s Cottage, which grows its own veggies and has the perfect al fresco atmosphere in the summertime. For coffee, try Artisan Roast or Brew Lab.

SHOP:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

Walker Slater, 20 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2HG, +44 131 220 2636
The Red Door Gallery, Victoria Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2JW, +44 131 477 3255
Hannah Zakari, 43 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QB, +44 131 226 5433
Isle of Sky Candle Company, 93 West Bow, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2JP, +44 131 629 2800
Mr Wood’s Fossils, 5 Cowgatehead, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 1JY, +44 131 220 1344

Victoria Street is one of my favorite places for gift shopping in Edinburgh. Walker Slater is the perfect place to get a Scottish Tweed jacket, coat, or woollen scarf. I also love The Red Door Gallery for local art and screen prints, Hannah Zakari for lovely jewelry, and Skye Candles, which are poured on one of the Inner Hebrides (the islands dotted on the West Coast of Scotland).

Whenever we have visitors with children we stop by the Mr Wood’s Fossils – a shop opened in the 80s by a fossil hunter, where you can buy whale bones, malachite stone, or even dinosaur’s poo. It’s invariably a big hit with young explorers!

STAY:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

Airbnb is always a good idea. My favorite neighborhoods are Stockbridge, which has plenty of family-friendly eateries, and Bruntsfield, which is located just by Edinburgh’s biggest park, The Meadows, with numerous cafes, restaurants and a great view of the Edinburgh Castle.

PLAY:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

The National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, +44 300 123 6789

I could spend days wandering around the National Museum of Scotland. It was recently refurbished and its collection is absolutely amazing. It has everything, from  history to design, astronomy to art to animals — it makes for a perfect morning out, especially if the weather is typically Scottish (i.e. constant rain). Insider tip: go to the top floor roof terrace for a great view of the castle and Edinburgh skyline.

Other favorites are Calton Hill and Blackford Hill — both offer amazing panorama views of the city, especially at sunset.

PACK:
travel  5 Things: A Travel Guide to Edinburgh

Hunter Boots, since they were originally manufactured in Edinburgh, in a factory 100m from where we currently live!  They’ll keep your feet nice and warm as you explore Edinburgh’s cobbled streets.

Thank you so much, Malgosia! (Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series.)

P.S. All entries in the 5 Things travel series.

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A Weekend in Stockholm

COMMENTS: 11

travel  A Weekend in Stockholm

travel  A Weekend in Stockholm

travel  A Weekend in Stockholm

I wish I could say it was I who spent the weekend in Stockholm, but alas no. My friend Carly (who has been helping me put together the Pinterest travel guides) recently spent several weeks in Sweden—including a weekend in Stockholm. As it’s one of the places I’d most like to visit, I asked if she would share some details of her trip…

I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend in Stockholm. I didn’t know what to expect: Stockholm has something of a bad rap for being expensive and, well, expensive. But I hope to encourage you to make a stop there—because Sweden is so much more than the place where IKEA was born, and Stockholm can easily rival, or even outshine, other major European destinations like London, Paris, or Rome.

travel  A Weekend in Stockholm
travel  A Weekend in Stockholm
travel  A Weekend in Stockholm

WHERE TO EAT:

There’s no other adjective for it, Nytorget Urban Deli is cool. Located in the hip Södermalm district, stop by for brunch on the weekends- yes, they do brunch in Stockholm- or come for dinner and drinks in the evening. There is a bar menu and rotating entrees to choose from, in addition to charcuterie plates and appetizers. The scene is a vibrant mixture of young professionals and families and the whole place sits in the middle of an upscale grocery store. Put your name down with the host, order a drink at the bar and go wander the shelves. Maybe you’ll find some Lakrits Syrup (licorice) to take home as a souvenir.

Another great option is Tradition, which offers traditional yet inspired Swedish food for a reasonable price, at two separate locations in the city. We visited the Vasastan restaurant and were impressed with the food which was executed expertly and loved the iconic minimalistic Swedish design.

Nytorget 4 116 40 Stockholm
Österlånggatan 1 (2nd location: Tulegatan 10)

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Where to See Wildflowers this Spring

COMMENTS: 11

travel  Where to See Wildflowers this Spring
travel  Where to See Wildflowers this Spring
travel  Where to See Wildflowers this Spring

Though it may seem premature to talk spring’s wildflowers to people in many parts of the country, I promise they’re coming. They tend to start blooming in the desert regions of southern California and then appear to the east and the north—adding color to fields and hillsides for a fleeting time. And if you want to see them at their peak, it helps to be vigilant—and flexible.

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48 hours in Las Vegas

COMMENTS: 13

travel  48 hours in Las Vegas

travel  48 hours in Las Vegas

Last month, I checked into the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas for my first solo getaway (and visit to the strip) in a long time.

It’s rare that I take trips away from my family, but this was hard to pass up: I’m working with Visa to share some of the perks of booking hotels on the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website with your Visa Signature Card and they invited me to discover a few of them for myself. I have a Visa Signature Card that I already use all the time, so it was an easy call: Yes. It was a research trip. Hard work, really.

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Las Vegas: Visiting the Neon Boneyard

COMMENTS: 14

travel  Las Vegas: Visiting the Neon Boneyard

travel  Las Vegas: Visiting the Neon Boneyard

travel  Las Vegas: Visiting the Neon Boneyard

travel  Las Vegas: Visiting the Neon Boneyard

I’d always wanted to visit the Neon Boneyard. While Neon has been slowly replaced on the Las Vegas strip, classic signage like those that appeared at the Flamingo, the Sands, the Stardust and everywhere else are still emblems of the city for me.

YESCO, the Young Electric Sign Company—the manufacturer who created many of Vegas’s most iconic neon signs—had at one time started collecting old signage from the 1930s and beyond as hotels were demolished and as LED and LCD screens began replacing neon and incandescent bulb signs. Eventually, the company donated its collection to the Neon Museum (established in 1996), and the Allied Arts Council has been adding to the museum’s collection ever since.

When I was in town last week, I took a cab out to old Las Vegas to visit the museum and take their docent-lead one-hour tour—which begins in the lobby of the old clamshell shaped La Concha Motel.

travel  Las Vegas: Visiting the Neon Boneyard

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Shopping Abroad: On bringing back furniture from Bali

COMMENTS: 17

travel home  Shopping Abroad: On bringing back furniture from Bali

travel home  Shopping Abroad: On bringing back furniture from Bali

travel home  Shopping Abroad: On bringing back furniture from Bali

I sometimes look around our living room, realizing how many things are from the vacation we took just before moving in, and wonder if our lives would look very different had we been in Belgium rather than Bali. Seven of the items in the second photo are from our month in Indonesia.

And a lot of readers have asked about our experience bringing furniture back from Bali. I hope that means a lot of lucky readers are going to that beautiful island. But I imagine some of this could be helpful for anyone shopping abroad.

Here’s our story…

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Shake Shack Las Vegas

COMMENTS: 15

travel food drink  Shake Shack Las Vegas
travel food drink  Shake Shack Las Vegas
travel food drink  Shake Shack Las Vegas

You might recall that open letter I posted to Shake Shack a while back, pretty-pleasing them to come out west with us? I’m pleased to say that Danny Meyer’s wonderful little hot-dog-cart-turned-burger-joint has finally opened its doors west of the Mississippi—at, fittingly, New York, New York on the Las Vegas Strip. And now that they’ve gone public on the Stock Exchange, I have high hopes that they’ll be in California before too long.

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5 THINGS: A Travel Guide to Toronto

COMMENTS: 8

travel  5 THINGS: A Travel Guide to Toronto
In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Jacquelyn Clark of Lark & Linen takes us on a tour of Toronto.

5 Things: Toronto
Jacquelyn Clark of Lark & Linen

Though I’ve done my fair share of traveling to some pretty amazing places, I can’t imagine calling any city other than Toronto home. I was born and raised here, so I can attest to the fact that there is always something interesting going on—we’ve been blessed with a rich history, beautiful multi-culturalism, and all the bells and whistles to boot. Whether you’re looking for authentic Thai food (served in a coconut!) or the fanciest French restaurant you can imagine, we’ve got most every culinary base covered. And with a bustling art culture and world class shopping, you’re left with little to want. (I mean, a better transit system would be nice—#damnyouTTC—but you can’t always have it all.)

EAT:
travel  5 THINGS: A Travel Guide to Toronto
travel  5 THINGS: A Travel Guide to Toronto
travel  5 THINGS: A Travel Guide to Toronto
Me & Mine, 1144 College Street, (416) 535-5858
Kitten and the Bear, 1574 Queen Street W, (647) 926-9711
Buca, 604 King Street, (416) 865-1600
Nadège, 780 Queen Street W, (416) 368-2009
Bang Bang Ice Cream, 93 Ossington Avenue, (647) 348-1900
Bake Shoppe, 859 College Street, (416) 916-2253

My new favorite brunch in the city is Me & Mine. It’s slightly off the beaten path, but literally everything on the menu is drool-worthy. Also, Kitten and the Bear is the most adorable little shop in the West End, serving homemade scones and unique jams alongside steaming pots of tea. It’s teeny-tiny, with only two tables, so be sure to get there early!

Other favorites: Buca, a great spot on King Street West, where you’re sure to find fabulous Italian food (I dream about the tiramisu); Nadège, which makes the best almond croissant in the city; Bang Bang for ice cream sandwiches; and Bake Shoppe for classic, all-natural treats. You can’t go wrong!
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New favorite airplane snack

COMMENTS: 9

travel  New favorite airplane snack

I have a new favorite airport purchase:

A snack-pack of red pepper hummus and pretzels, plus hard boiled eggs. It’s just the right combination of salty and crunchy but it’s full of protein. It’s a little like the flavor of a deviled egg, and if I really stretch it can remind me of that one time Aron and I got bumped up to first class and they served us eggs topped with caviar and a little half-lemon covered in fine mesh for squeezing.

I’ve been noticing that most airports are trying to stock some healthier options in deli cases—I’ve seen those little Sabra travel packs of hummus and pretzels (also often sold in snack boxes for purchase in-air) and pre-hard boiled eggs in most domestic terminals I’ve visited lately. But even if you had to stash these in your carry-on at home, they’d make good travel companions as long as you don’t go over your liquid limit with the hummus.

travel  New favorite airplane snack
travel  New favorite airplane snack

With some tonic and lime, I feel like I’m having a very decadent treat. (And Hudson wants the hummus and pretzels, so we all win.)

Do you have a go-to snack on airplanes?

Aron is in Dallas right now for his oral board exams, and on Monday I fly to Las Vegas for a couple of nights, so I’m all ears.

P.S. Tips for flying with babies and toddlers and my carry-on essentials.

Also a few places I’ve contributed recently:
My cinema favorites—a film lover interview for the new production company, N Ø R R film.  
Top travel picks for Dot & Bo and some wanderlust on Salt & Air.

Have a great weekend!

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Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides

COMMENTS: 19

travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides

I’ve been working on something exciting that I’ve been looking forward to sharing! I get a lot of requests for itinerary advice and I’ve been trying to think of the best way to put it all together (I think I’ve been saying there’s a guide to New York City coming for at least 3 years). When I learned Pinterest had a map feature (you can geo-tag your pins), creating Pinterest-based travel guides seemed like the perfect way to make content (like Hither & Thither Travelogues, the 5 Things City Guides, and other posts) more usable on the go.

If you’re in New York near Washington Square Park, for example, you can bring up the New York board to see if there are any other pins nearby that might be relevant for your stay. Or if you’re planning a trip to Italy, you can see which hill towns we visited in Tuscany by zooming out on the map.

travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides

I enlisted the help of Carly Haase (a fellow Davis grad!) to look back through the archives and get these boards launched. So far there are map guides to Paris, New York City, San Francisco and Italy (we decided to feature and city or a country on a case-by-case basis). And while they’re not exhaustive, they are personal—each one features locations that I have been to, usually with my family, and carefully curated suggestions. Each one is an ongoing project.

Follow along on Pinterest: There are going to be new travel guide boards coming out every few weeks, with new pins regularly added, so be sure and follow along on Pinterest to access the guides.
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides
travel  Hither & Thither Pinterest Travel Guides

Let me know what you think!

P.S. More old-school Itineraries, and how I use a map to plan for spontaneity.

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