U.S. HIGHWAY 1 ROADTRIP - LOS ANGELES PHOTO DIARY

2016-11-12 09.24.23.jpg

This is the final post of the highway one roadtrip series. Nineteen hours of driving over seven days; we drove over one thousand miles and made ten stops along the way. It is a travel experience I think everyone should have on their bucketlist. We started and ended our roadtrip in Los Angeles and although we did not properly explore Los Angeles, any time spent in Los Angeles is meaningful and worth sharing. We landed in LAX ; picked up our rental and decided to head to Melrose Place to check out the farmer’s market and visit Alfred’s tea room.

2016-11-06 11.05.11.jpg
2016-11-06 11.17.32.jpg
2016-11-06 11.35.52.jpg

We walked around Melrose place; had tea and decided on in and out burger for lunch because we were on holiday and carbs don’t count. After that we were ready to kick off our roadtrip adventures. We kicked off at El Matador then Santa Barbara , Big Sur and Carmel by the Sea. We also made stops at Monterrey ; Santa Cruz ; Half Moon Bay ; San Fransico ; San Diego.

2016-11-06 14.22.06.jpg
2016-11-06 11.05.36.jpg
2016-11-06 11.18.15.jpg

We made our second stop in LA on our drive from San Fransico to San Diego - we only had enough time for food and decided to brunch at Little Doms which is one of my favorite spots in Los Angeles.

Our final stop in LA was on our last day just before flying back home. We left San Diego just after sun rise and arrived in LA with enough time to stop by Grand central market in downtown LA for a quick breakfast and visite Broad museum and Walt Disney building

2016-11-06 14.24.27.jpg
2016-11-10 12.49.10.jpg
2016-11-10 12.48.38.jpg
2016-11-12 09.25.31.jpg
2016-11-12 09.37.03.jpg
2016-11-12 09.26.25.jpg
2016-11-12 10.49.05.jpg

10 OF THE VERY BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SAN DIEGO

La Jolla

One of the downsides of running a blog and working full time is that sometimes the full-time job has to take priority which means a backlog of posts. San Diego was the last stop on our fall highway one road trip and it has taken me months to get around to typing up the post but such is life and gotta make the best of it.

La Jolla

We drove eight and half hours from San Fransico to San Diego (with a brief stop for lunch in Los Angeles). I am not sure what we were thinking but while planning the trip, this route seemed like a great idea - until we had to execute the plan (oops). Thankfully, we arrived not long before sunset and as a way of avoiding traffic, we decided to start our time in San Diego at La Jolla Cove.

1. La Jolla Cove. I have been lucky to visit La Jolla twice and although it is amazing in the daytime, the sunset at La Jolla is spectacular.  We arrived with enough time to watch the sea lions playing as waves crashed into shore; the restaurant patios were filling up with customer preparing to watch the sunset which we heard was spectacular and we were not disappointed.  We walked northwest along the walking path until we found the perfect spot to view the sunset. If you feel peckish, there several restaurants along the cove but my favorite of them is a spot called Cody's - one of the best meals, ever!

La Jolla
La Jolla
La Jolla
La Jolla
DSC_0391.jpg
La Jolla

2. Hike to Soledad Mountain. Full disclosure, the mountaintop is the site of Mount Soledad cross and that was one of the reasons we made the hike up there along with incredible views of the city. The mount is also home to a veteran's memorial and has a running/hiking trail if you need to fit in a workout during your visit. 

Mt Soledad
Mt Soledad

3. Explore Old Town San Diego. Our visit to the Old town was a highlight of our San Diego trip and I have a guide here if you plan to visit. My favorite part of our Oldtown wander was the olive oil tasting at Temecula olive oil Company and Casa de Estudillo.

2016-11-11 11.12.30.jpg
2016-11-11 11.37.48.jpg
old town san deign

4. See the view from Sea Port Village. On my first trip to San Diego, we stayed in a hotel in Sea Port Village. It is a one-stop shop for shopping and dining and offers some incredible view of the city. If you have got time (which we did) it is worth a spot on your itinerary. if you don't have the luxury of time, then this is one you can skip.

2016-11-11 12.45.35.jpg
DSC_0427.jpg

5. Visit Point Loma . You can easily spend half a day here. We made the drive to Point Loma for the lighthouse but got more than we bargained for. It is a former naval base and still has some of the military base features. We found a parking spot and began our hike, First to view the lighthouses - there are two - we got a spectacular view of one and visited another. At the furthest tip of point-Loma is the Cabrillo monument which has an incredible panoramic view of the bay, cliffside formation and pacific ocean. Pointe Loma has also got amazing tide pools, I did not venture to any, but could see braver people than me, make their way down narrow and steep walkway to get down to it. Depending on the season, this is also a great spot for whale watching. 

2016-11-11 13.16.59.jpg
2016-11-11 13.21.17.jpg
2016-11-11 13.40.11.jpg
DSC_0429.jpg
DSC_0442.jpg
DSC_0446.jpg
DSC_0450.jpg

6. Liberty Station. Not far from Point Loma is Liberty station - a former naval training center now converted to an art district with an indoor food market, shops and museums. 

2016-11-11 14.58.13.jpg
2016-11-11 15.06.06.jpg

7. Visit Balboa Park and Gardens. Another one of those spots in San Diego that could easily take half a day if you can fight your way through parking. Setting aside our frustrations with parking, I am glad we endured to explore this park. The park is home to about 15 museums; a performance center; gardens (loved the Japanese garden); Spanish village; California tower and the San Diego zoo.

Balboa Park
DSC_0455.jpg
Balboa Park
2016-11-11 16.13.39.jpg
Balboa Park
2016-11-11 16.01.10.jpg

8. Visit Coronado Beach and Hotel. The hotel (more than the beach) has an incredible and famed history. Beyond its imposing design, the hotel has also hosted celebrities and presidents for years. It has also been featured in multiple feature films including the 1959 classic - Some like it hot. 

9. Explore GasLamp District. For nightlife, the gaslamp quater is the place to be. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city with several blocks of clubs, restaurants, hotels and cocktail lounges. Spreckels and Balboa theatres are also located here and offer a mix of shows if clubs are not your thing. You will find local favorites and national chain restaurants here. The neighborhood has an interesting history which you can discover by taking a guided tour hosted by the Gaslamp foundation.

10. Eat Lobster Roll. I don't think a trip to San Diego is complete without having a lobster roll. We did a lot a research and eventually ended up at a spot near Coronado beach called Lobster West. We were not dissapointed. 

2016-11-11 17.42.07.jpg
2016-11-11 17.25.23.jpg
2016-11-11 13.49.21.jpg
2016-11-11 13.40.13.jpg

If you have a favorite spot for a lobster roll spot in San Diego or a favorite attraction, please pop it in the comment because San Diego is one of those places I am certain I will be visiting multiple times.

DSC_0357.jpg
La Jolla
La Jolla

MY GUIDE TO PLANNING A TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD

IMG_6399.jpg

I was in my thirties when I made my first trip to Disney and after the time we had - I know two things for sure - I plan to return again and my kids will experience Disney in their thirties like I did (only half kidding). I always knew parenting required a special kind of person but seeing all the parents dragging their kids in the heat from ride to ride - my respect level for parental units has gone through the roof. 

Ok! Back to Disney - I visited Epcot and Disney downtown four years ago and had a lovely time.  Never in my wildest dream did I think I will get a chance to go back. Last summer, the opportunity presented itself and I got to spend an incredible weekend at Disney's Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. Here is a little bit about my experience and all you need to know to plan a trip.

IMG_6437.jpg

Plan Ahead. Disney World includes four theme parks and two water parks. Each one with a variety of attractions. I have visited three of the theme parks to date - Epcot; the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. I spent a half day at Epcot on my first trip to Orlando. On my second trip, I spent a day at the Animal Kingdom and a day at the Magic Kingdom. I was exhausted after two days. Before you head out, plan out what parks you want to visit - on my second trip we went with the ticket option for two parks. If you have a larger budget - then you can consider taking on other parks. If you are limited in your budget (and time) then I recommend the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. If you are a group of adults, then spending an evening at Epcot might be worth your time.  

IMG_6586.jpg

How many days should you spend? To see three parks - I recommend a long weekend to make the most of it. If you are hoping to visit all of the parks - then you should plan a week - a day at each park and a rest day. There is a lot of walking - we averaged 20,000 steps per day - so you want to give yourself a day to relax and maybe visit a spa at one of the Disney hotels. 

IMG_6574.jpg

Best time to visit. It might be a challenge but if you can skip weekend and the summer months, then do it. Weekdays during the school year is likely the best way to go assuming you have not got kids with you. 

Getting Tickets. We bought our tickets directly from Disney website. Avoid any third party sites that promise discounts. I have heard some unpleasant stories. Our tickets covered us for two parks only but you have options to purchase a full package (which is cheaper overall) if you have the time.

IMG_6610.jpg

Where to Stay. We had a large group of 10 and wanted to stay relatively close to coordinate scheduling. We decided to rent a Condo in town. The Condo was quite cheap and only cost less than $20 per night/per person. We had 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and were very comfortable. Another option is to stay at one of the Disney resorts but the price tag on those did not work for our budget. The downside to staying away from the resorts means getting a  rental car; the price tag was reasonable as we booked it a few weeks in advance. My personal preference will be to stay away from the resorts. It is cheaper overall even considering the cost to rent a car and daily parking at the parks.

IMG_6640.jpg

Follow the ticket instructions. When we purchased our tickets, it came with some detailed instructions which I never bothered to read; including the use of the app; "validating" and downloading tickets etc. I was held up at the park entrance for twenty minutes while they tried to sort out my reservations and find my ticket booking. 

IMG_6725.jpg

Use the app. Like I said, you get instructions with your ticket. One of those is to download the app. DO IT. The app has got maps of the parks; a list of all the rides and relevant information, including average wait time for each ride which is useful for planning itinerary; you can book restaurants on the app; view tickets and fastpass.

IMG_6802.jpg

FastPass. With FastPass, you can skip the line of select attractions and shows. The price is included in your ticket price. You got three FastPass options per day per guest.  If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can reserve your FastPass 60 days before your trip and if you are staying outside of the resorts, you can reserve your FastPass 30 days before your trip. We booked tickets just a few weeks before and the fast pass option for the popular rides was long gone. You can book additional FastPass (based on availability) when your allocated three is done via the app. At the Magic Kingdom, we used our FastPass for Space Mountain; Expedition Everest and Peter Pan. 

IMG_6661.jpg
IMG_6777.jpg

Transportation. Like I said, we rented a car because we were staying away from the park so we had to factor in parking cost to our budget. There was regular and premium parking at the Magic Kingdom. We choose premium parking to be as close to the park as possible. If you stay at the resorts, you get complimentary shuttle buses to and from the parks; there is also the option of monrails and certain hotels have boat transport options.

IMG_6750.jpg

What to wear. Choose comfort over glam. If you can do both - then good on you. I decided to add this point because believe it or not, I saw at least one person in heels and I could not believe it. I had on sandals and regretted that decision two hours into our visit. We averaged about 20,000 steps each day - there was a LOT of walking. I was better off in comfortable shoes and breathable and practical clothing. I wore a dress, which looked cute in pictures, but made getting on some of the rides quite interesting. Next time, t-shirt; shorts and walking shoes.

Restaurants. I cannot stress this enough - make reservatiions ahead of time. If not, the wait during peak periods can be frustrating especially if you are already on the verge of hangry. We arrived at the park around lunchtime and opted for something quick (read: hot dogs). For dinner, we wanted something more filling and had not thought to make reservations especially given the size of our party. We waited almost forty-five minutes for a table.

IMG_6746.jpg

Highlights. The experience of Disney is incredible and just getting to visit was a highlight but certain things have stayed with me more than others. The fireworks at the Magic Kingdom and Illuminations at Epcot. Both start at 9 p.m. The Safari and World of Avatar at the Animal Kingdom - I recommend using your FastPass for these ride, if you can. The happily ever after parade at Magic Kingdom at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., daily.

IMG_6611.jpg

WASHINGTON D.C. CITY GUIDE - WHERE TO STAY; EXPLORE AND EAT IN THE US CAPITAL CITY

2016-06-05 08.29.07.jpg

Now that I live in London, I have to say one of the things I miss about living in the states is my annual trip to Washington D.C. It was the unofficial start of summer (and travel season) for me and going to D.C. always felt like a well-earned treat after months of never-ending deadlines and long work hours. For the first time in almost eight years, I am missing my annual pilgrimage to the capital of the nation. I am making up for it with my idea of the perfect three-day itinerary for Washington D.C. - Should you find yourself in need of a summer getaway - it does not get better than D.C. There is always something new to see and explore, and old favorites continue to raise the bar. If you have spent any time in the city, I will like to read about your favorite things to do in comments. 

The Lincoln memorial

Getting around. The Capital has a metro system which I have not ventured to use but I hear is fairly reliable.  I rely on cabs and ubers to get around, and when possible, a comfortable pair of shoes. Several areas around the Capital and Georgetown is walkable. If you can, taking walks around a neighborhood, like Georgetown or the area around the national mall is the best way to explore. 

IMG_1858.jpg

Where to stay. Over the years, these have been my favorite hotels. Some are cheaper than others, but they all provide excellent service and make for a great home away from home - Kimpton Rouge hotel; Intercontinental and the Hyatt Regency. I always use a discount booking site like Hotels.com or booking.com or apps like Hotel Tonight to make reservations. The rates tend to be more discounted than booking directly with the hotel.

2016-06-06 19.42.01.jpg

Where to Explore. My favorite areas to explore are Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Treat yourself by going off the major streets and have a wander through the residential streets for beautiful 19th-century-row houses. Both neighborhoods offer the best combination of attractions - shopping; food and entertainment. Besides Georgetown and Dupont circle, the stroll along the National Mall is a personal favorite. This stroll can take up several hours if you decide to visit the museums on the National Mall.  

2016-06-04 18.44.43.jpg

What to see. There is quite a bit on to explore in the Capital, and a weekend in the Capital is not enough.  Obviously, there is the usual suspect (which I recommend for a first-time visit) -  the White House; Steps of Congress; the Supreme Court building; the Monuments. Add on the National Mall and all the museums and you have a full weekend itinerary. There are a lot of museums in D.C. I counted about fifteen on the national mall on one visit. I  recommend making a list of three of four must-see museums instead of trying to fit in all into one visit. My personal favorites are the sculpture garden; National Museum of African American historyNational Museum of American History; the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. A short walk off from the National Mall is the Newseum, one of my favorite museums in the Capital (and anywhere in the world). 

2016-06-04 17.05.33.jpg
2016-06-04 17.01.52.jpg
DSC03605.jpg
air and space museum

The monuments. Conveniently, the monuments are located in the same area which makes it easy to visit all of them on the same day. The Roosevelt Island, the MLK Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial are a bit off from the other monuments, but still within walking distance. If you are short on time, I recommend, the MLK Memorial; Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool, and WW II memorial. 

MLK Monument
2016-06-06 19.38.41.jpg
Lincoln memorial
DSC03613.jpg
The+Newseum-2.jpg
Newseum
Newseum

Georgetown and other recommendations. I love everything about Georgetown.  I spend my time in D.C. wandering the streets in Georgetown and dreaming about living in one its pastel-colored row houses. The best way to explore Georgetown is to have a walk around. I also recommend Dupont Circle; National Zoological Park; the Washington Cathedral especially if you make it in early spring - the cherry blossoms framing the facade of the cathedral is a bucket list item. Of course, the cherry blossoms in Spring is a must.  If you have more time to spare then visit China town; Dumbarton Estate in Georgetown; the U.S. Botanical Gardens and the Museum of African American history.

2016-06-04 18.50.27.jpg
2016-06-06 19.05.16.jpg
2016-06-06 19.05.43.jpg
2016-06-06 21.13.27.jpg
2016-06-05 12.12.32.jpg
2016-06-04 19.59.39.jpg
2016-06-05 12.40.26.jpg
2016-06-05 12.34.29.jpg
2016-06-05 14.44.12.jpg

Where to eat. Georgetown has a lot of great (must visit) eateries on offer. I have written a post about my favorite places to eat in Georgetown here Some all-time favorites in Georgetown are Baked & Wired which has the best cupcakes I have ever had - the Vanilla Satin is a personal favorite); You will find incredible Italian food (and desserts) at Filomena's (call ahead for reservations); Dolcessa gelato has one of my favorite gelato menus - the lavender thyme gelato is seriously the best. Ever ! and the burgers and milkshake at Good Stuff eatery ended my aversion to burgers and the toasted marshmallow milkshake deserves a special mention.  I also recommend the famous Georgetown bakery. Away from Georgetown, there is also Ben's Chilli (Cash only, so be prepared); Nando's - this South African chicken import is is great on the wallet and an appetite pleaser; The Diner serves up upscale diner brunch that you won't be able to stop talking about long after your visit.  Old Ebbitt Grill - this restaurant is just as historic as the capital. It opened in 1856 and serves the best crab cakes. Make sure to call ahead to limit your wait time. A few other favorites include Tryst coffee (next door to The Diner) and Compass coffee; Larry's Ice cream; Paul's bakery; and Momofuku milk bar.

2016-06-05 14.31.15.jpg
Ben's chilli
Good stuff eatery
IMG_2877.jpg
IMG_6607.jpg
IMG_2883.jpg
2016-06-05 10.17.31.jpg
2016-06-04 19.11.33.jpg

VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER - THE FRENCH RIVIERA TOWN TO ADD TO YOUR ITINERARY

VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER

My travel guru/travel bff (in le dreams) - Margo of Overseas Escape recommended this as a must see in French Riviera so after my morning in Antibes, I took the train heading to the Italian village of Ventimiglia (with a stop in Ville Franche Sur Mer). It cost a little under 6 euros. I was not sure what to expect, but I knew if Margo recommended it, it had to be pretty spectacular.

VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
IMG_0695.jpg

My nose was pressed against the window in anticipation and I could tell we were close when I saw the beautiful (and colorful) homes on the hillside overlooking the Ocean. The views were incredible and if the rumors are true - I understand why Elton and Madonna have villas here. I jumped out of my seat as the train pulled into the station - (think little kid on Christmas morning excitement).

VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER

To be honest, I had no real plans of how to spend my time here - I just wanted to see what everyone has been raving about. As I walked into town from the train station, I noticed boats on the harbor and debated taking a harbor cruise but talked myself out of it - I have terrible seasickness and did not come prepared to be out on the sea. Instead, I decided to walk into town to pick up snacks for my day at the beach.

VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER

Just as an aside I know why everyone I saw here was in great shape. Walking into town was a workout; those stairs are not for the faint of heart. It took about an hour to get into town - in part because I had to stop a few times to catch my breath but also because every corner was a sight to behold - so beautiful. I gave up trying to photograph at every turn because I will never have made it to the beach.

VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER

An hour after I got off the train, I finally made it to the top of the hill. Walked around a bit, saw a few tourists and I thought about joining the group going on a walking tour of the city, but to be honest I really just wanted a day to do nothing and the laying on the beach in November seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I ducked into the first patisserie I saw - Chez Marie for pastries and beverages for my afternoon beachside. Then I made the trek down from the town to the beach where I spent the rest of the afternoon people watching and stuffing my face with food. 

IMG_0915.jpg
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
IMG_0907.jpg
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER
VILLE FRANCHE SUR MER