National Register of Historic Places: Aztec Hotel. Now closed for needed repairs since 2011, this route 66 historic building is an example of Mayan Revival architecture. It was designed by architect Robert Stacy-Judd and built in 1925-26. Just 5 minutes behind this building is another historic place. Upton Sinclair lived in a house in the neighborhood behind the building between 1942 and 1966. | Monrovia, California
Essential Los Angeles: Sharing a piece of Los Angeles history with my aunt. Her first time experiencing the magic of eating at Philippe The Original, which was established in 1908. Getting your "au jus" on the side for dipping your French dip sandwich is a must! My first time asking them to do it and totally change my mind about this sandwich. My aunt loved her pastrami French dip sandwich. She doesn't love their potato salad as much as I do. If they've been in business for 114 years, they must being doing something right! A much loved LA institution with locals and tourists alike. Some tourist said that they drove straight here from the airport.
You'll probably want to stop to try the food at any restaurant with a long line. It's either really cheap or the food is great or you'll be lucky if both! These days, it could also be food that is mediocre, but has gone viral on IG or TikTok so at least you can say you've tried it in the end. The square slices at Quarter Sheets are inpired by Detroit-style pizza and I would say a solid slice and the service by the team is memorable. | Quarter Sheets Pizza, Echo Park, Los Angeles, California
How I do Larchmont Village? I have a gibraltar at Go Get 'Em Tiger or come during the farmers market and walk around the block to people (or celebrity) watch. A locals only, low key neighborhood vibe where celebrities go with their kids to hangout without getting bothered. I recently spotted Jude Law with his baby and Joey McIntyre (of NKOTB for us grown folks) with his kid a while back at the farmers market on a Sunday. And if you see a celebrity, please act like you don't recognize them because that's an Angeleno faux pas. | Larchmont Village, Los Angeles, California
This was my first time exploring the Getty Museum solo. I've been here so many times before with friends and on a date with a (cheap) French man and it's a different experience being alone. Much like traveling, I much prefer visiting museums alone. I get to see what I want and leave when I want. | Los Angeles, California
National Register of Historic Places: Galleano Winery (founded in 1927). Galleano is the oldest Prohibition-era winery in the Cucamonga Valley still owned and operated by the same family. I've been curious about the history of wine in the Cucamonga Valley after learning about it during my winetasting trip in Sonoma | Mira Loma, California
I've been curious about this place while coming to the area to visit clients. Thet have been closed whenever I'm in the area. I finally made the drive just to visit the museum and gardens. I was told the docent-led tour for $25 is worth it. Next time. | Sam and Alfreda Maloof Historic Home and Gardens | Rancho Cucamonga, California
Bay Area Birthday Mini-Vacation: San Francisco, San Rafael, Marshall, Healdsburg, Guerneville, Half Moon Bay, and Santa Cruz
My first stop in San Francisco was SFMOMA. I've always wanted to visit (badly), but whenever I have visited San Francisco in the past, I was with people (friends or family) who weren't interested in going or one time it was under construction and closed. It's not free so you'd probably need to be someone who appreciates art to enjoy your visit. At $37 for admission, including a ticket to the temporary Diego Rivera exhibition, plus $19 with discounted parking, I don't think it is a place I would go on a regular basis whenever I visit SF. Probably every now and then, it would be nice to revisit. It is well worth a visit if you haven't been (like me) and a fan of contemporary art. I usually start at the top floor and work my way to the bottom floor at multilevel museums. I spent 3 hours there and could have easily spent the whole day there.
"Diego Rivera's America" is a special exhibition is a special ticketed event at SFMOMA until January 2, 2023. From SFMOMA website: "The most in-depth examination of the artist’s work in over two decades, Diego Rivera’s America brings together more than 150 of Rivera’s paintings, frescoes, and drawings—as well as three galleries devoted to large-scale film projections of highly influential murals he created in Mexico and the United States."
Samir's hand-kneaded bread at Beit Rima's less popular location in Cole Valley. It seems like this is the current food writer darling of San Francisco and to me, the most interesting because I've never tasted the food from Palestine. I made dining at Beit Rima a priority out of my LONG list of restaurants to try.
I booked this AirBnB in the city due to its decent reviews and free parking spot at the property. I hate the parking situation in San Francisco, so I booked it. It was clean, but it was a bit noisy as the walls and ceiling were thin. I don't think I would book again because of the noise factor and the lack of personal touches and hospitality I have found at other AirBnBs.
Cinnamon apple macaron, lemon tart, and a mixed berry kouign amann. I bought some French bread for my snack later on the go. Owner/chef Belinda Leong worked at Pierre Herme in Paris so these probably are some of the best macarons in the United States. Not being too sweet, her pastries are a delight. Some of the macaron I've tried in France are way too sweet for me. Oh, and say hello to my Cactus Plant Flea Market buddy who I paid $12 for along with my Chicken McNugget adult happy meal at McDonald's which came cold with soggy fries. I wanted this characterly badly because he was just too cute! I asked the McDonald's employee for this one and they delivered (after telling me they can't choose because the toy is covered in plastic).
I made a reservation to visit Little Saint for brunch, which is the more casual sister restaurant and coffee bar of Single Thread Farms, which is considered the "best restaurant in California" for fine dining. It's a plant-based or vegan restaurant with a music space. I'm not vegan, but I'm curious of what people can do to vegetables to make them more interesting.
My cousin lived this in this neighborhood and I wanted to try food here. I don't recall if we ever did. Their maiitake and fish dumpling is what they are known for which you can order dry or in soup. It was chilly so I opted for soup. Very soothing and comforting, and perfect for a cold San Francisco evening.
I met the owner of Arsicault Bakery, frequently ranked #1 or #2, best bakeries in San Francisco. He recommended his chocolate croissant. At first bite, it was flakey, but nothing like the croissants I've tasted in France or Austria, or even LA. It doesn't make sense why Bon Appétit would rank this bakery "best new bakery in America." It was a huge disappointment based on their croissant. His kouign amman is a bit more flatter than B. Patisserie, probably more equivalent to what they look like in Brittany, France. I asked him about the kouign amman in Paris and he said he doesn't know how they are made there (flat or puffy?) because he hasn't been back in 9 years. In LA, they are usually different variation of puffy at the few places that have them.
Half Moon Bay
This was a short and sweet "dream solo trip" to the Bay Area. It was a trip to travel how I want and when I want. I got to see places that I've wanted to see for so long, but couldn't because other people just weren't interested. On my long time travel bucket list was eating oysters at the Marshall Store and seeing the contemporary art at SFMOMA and I'm so happy I was able to finally make it happen. It was a quick long weekend jaunt, but I saw so many things and created lasting memories. It's funny how on my recent trip to Kentucky and West Virginia I ate so badly and I didn't gain any weight. On this trip I gained 5 pounds! Was it worth it? It sure was! Now, back to reality and trying to eat healthy every day. Until my next adventure...
I haven't been on an airplane during COVID and it's been four years since I last step foot on an airplane. I know people who have traveled including one of my regular clients who recently convinced me to book the flight. I've hesitated for so long and kept my vacations limited to road trips because of everything I've been hearing in the news about flying these days. It's expensive. When there were mask restrictions, passengers were violent and combative. Luggages gets lost (which is still happening frequently). My cousin recently came back from a wedding in NYC and got COVID.
My mom and her husband were in West Virginia so I decided to look at my options for flights to Charleston, West Virginia. The rates were high as expected for the major airlines except for an airline I didn't know much about -- Spirit Airlines when running a Google flight search at airports surrounding Charleston, West Virginia. The surrounding city that looked most interesting was Louisville which I didn't know much about other than the Kentucky Derby.
The flight to Louisville would be only be four hours and a non-stop flight so it would minimize the risk of lost luggage. Being the adventurous person that I am, I was game to try this "questionable" bare bones airline because it was so inexpensive.
After researching Louisville, I discovered it is a serious food and drink city. There were plenty of local restaurants to explore and it's the epicenter of bourbon production. I've seen a few people venturing off to Kentucky for bourbon distillery tours, but it didn't sound appealing until now. I've given up drinking alcohol here at home for health reasons, but it was vacation so I made an exception to go on a distillery tour and tasting.
With inexpensive airfare and being vaccinated against COVID, I decided to take the leap with the following COVID safety protocol checklist while at the airport and airplane: N95 mask - check. Face shield - check. Hand sanitizer and wipes - check.
Once I got to the terminal at LAX, most people didn't have masks on and no one had a face shield on. Luckily, no one laughed or took an obvious double take at this point during the pandemic. It was my first time flying so taking these precautions was my security blanket.
The flight wasn't that bad on Spirit. I met someone in West Virginia from LA who callled a shith*le airline. I'm pretty low maintenance so I thought flying Spirit was fine with me. I can fly more often now since their prices are so low.
I wanted to see Nulu, one of the areas known for its nightlife in Louisville so I located Gertie's, a whiskey bar with a speakeasy (open on weekends). I wanted to try Pappy Van Winkle and the bartender told me they stock it inside the speakeasy. The area was quiet with a couple bars and restaurant packed with people.
My mom's husband, Dave, has been encouraging me to visit his homestate, West Virginia, so I finally booked this trip while they were there. They wanted to tag along with me on my road trip adventure. My mom's laughs at everything I say to make her smile for the camera. You don't know how hard it is to make that man smile for the camera! I drove 2 hours to the mountains to eat locally made cheese at a historic Swiss enclave in the Appalachian Mountains. The sacrifices I make for interesting experiences! | The Hütte Restaurant in Helvetia, West Virginia
Alma Bea in Shepherstown, West Virginia. This restaurant is too cool to put any signage outside (insert rolling eyes emoji here). I read that people drop old family Appalachian recipes in a mailbox outside the restaurant. Their menu is inspired by these old Appalachian Mountain recipes. The owner is Mary Ellen Diaz and her mom is from West Virginia and wanted to open a restaurant in her mom's home state. Diaz worked at Lettuce Entertain You, a restaurant group in Chicago and Las Vegas. Diaz is bringining her big city restaurant expertise to this small "cool" town. Diaz, spent time training for the restaurant business in the United States and France.
All I need at a hotel is for it to be spotless and clean! I don't care about luxury because I am never sitting in a hotel all day. The attractions are outside the hotel! The bed and pillows were very comfortable at this hotel. The room was very modern and updated -- stylish for design aficionados like myself. I usually book "design or boutique hotels" whenever I am in Europe. An excellent value for the the price! Perfect one-night stay to see Fallingwater.
Who did Fallingwater better -- Summer or Winter?
New River Gorge is America's newest national park established in 2020. Behind the visitor center is the view of the bridge. You can take the stairs down to the bottom for a view of the bridge from below or take a scenic drive that will probably take around an hour to 1.5 hours to complete with stops for photos. The bridge is known for base jumping and world-class whitewater rafting. There's also kayaking and ziplining available. It is a outdoor adventurer's paradise.
I was struck by the beauty at Grandview. It was truy grand and awe inspiring. I was not satisfied with the bridge view and the park ranger recommended driving to Grand View which is about 45 minutes away from the main bridge visitor center. This view did not disappoint! I recommend starting off here and doing a hike. Hardly anyone was here! We were the only ones here. I loved it.
Last stop before I boarded my plane to head back home was the famous Churchill Downs, the site the Kentucky Derby. There's a museum, but I'm not a fan of horse racing. If you're curious and have time, you can stop by the museum to learn more and take a peek inside Churchill Downs. There's also a diner across the street where all the jockeys and trainers eat.
My week in the South was an amazing travel experience. It opened my eyes to a different culture within the United States. Yes, visiting the South to me is like visiting another country!
Most of the people were (not surprisingly) warm and friendly except one "redneck" woman (my mom's husband called her that, not me) at the toll booth that gave me major attitude once she saw my LA Dodgers baseball cap. I've always been afraid to travel to this part of the country because I was afraid of possible hatred for people who look like me and where I'm from. It was not on my absolute travel list because I have been scared of the South. Maybe I was asking for it wearing that LA cap.
I really enjoyed visiting Kentucky and plan to return again one day to visit Mammoth Cave National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. My travel bucket list revolves around that UNESCO list. West Virginia seems to be on the verge of becoming a popular vacation destination with Lonely Planet shining the spotlight on West Virginia as a "Place to Visit in 2022."
I didn't have enough time to see Pittsburgh as planned so I already want to return to Pennsylvania to visit both Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and probably explore the Pennsylvania Amish culture. I only got a taste of Virginia visiting the historic Old Winchester area. There's still so much explore in Virginia as well. I don't think visiting Arlington National Cemetery when I was seven years old counts. I need to see more. I definitely need to plan a return trip to D.C. solo and as an adult.
With a taste of air travel again, I already want to see more of the United States that I haven't seen yet. I'm not brave enough to do any long haul travel during the pandemic as I'm taking baby steps right now. I definitely don't want to lose my luggage on a connecting flight. I've already experienced losing luggage and it really does ruin your first few days of travel plans. The odds of losing your luggage are much higher now than before.
My mom got COVID on her flight back to LA as she is an anti-masker like everyone else (but me). Everyone is tired of the mask. I am too, but I don't want to experience symptoms of never ending LONG COVID. Some people are experiencing symptoms after catching COVID in 2020. I don't want to deal with that and the chance of permanent disability. I'll keep using my mask in crowded indoor situations. I can buy mom boxes of N95s, but of course it's her choice to wear an N95 or not. I hope she learned her lesson not wearing a mask at the airport and on the airplane. I read that the most dangerous time to be unmasked is while entering and exiting the aircraft when everyone gets up at the same time while the HEPA filters aren't running. If someone nearby has COVID, you'll probably get it.
After returning from my first trip on an airplane in four years, I can't wait for my next travel adventure to eat good local food, learn something new, create memories with new experiences, and to meet new people. Perhaps I will get on an airplane again for my birthday coming up soon? Stay tuned..
Eastern Sierra Birthday Road Trip: Fall Foliage along June Lake Loop, Highway 395 & 108 + Schulman's Grove, Bodie Ghost Town & Yosemite National Park
For my birthday, I originally planned a road trip to Yellowstone National Park, but the weather forecast for the week was snowfall. I have driven in heavy snow in Utah and during snowboarding trips in Mammoth and Big Bear and I'm not a fan of skidding on the road.
The next best thing was a fall foliage road trip along the Eastern Sierra on Highway 395 to June Lake Loop just in time for the beginning of peak fall foliage. Visiting June Lake during fall foliage has been on my radar for a while now just to see the dramatic colors of autumn.
First thing on my mind before, during, and after vacation is always food. A stop to grab a bite at Copper Top BBQ has become a ritual on the drive home from Mammoth on past snowboarding trips along with picking up some bread at Erick Schat's Bakery.
I took my tri-tip sandwich and mac 'n cheese up to Schulman's Grove for a picnic lunch. I met a lady, her friend, and dog camping in the area also from the San Fernando Valley. She wanted me to text her wife a message of "thinking about you and I love you" when I got to June Lake because there wasn't any cell service around Schulman Grove. I thought it was so sweet that they are married couple still in love.
Along with me, some photographers trying to get the perfect shot of the ancient bristlecone pine trees during sunset -- these are the oldest living trees in the world at more than 4,000 years old!
The Whispering Pines in June Lake was my home for the next two nights. It was nice to have a kitchen in my motel room as I brought a lot of snacks and instant Asian soup bowls. Of course, I brought my own sheets again, pillow, electric hot water kettle for tea, and air purifier... and brought my disinfecting wipes to sanitize everything I was going to touch in the motel room.
This was the picturesque view outside the motel in June Lake.
Scenes from the stunning June Lake Loop.
This scenic fall morning drive around June Lake was a treat for my birthday.
A flock of sheep on my way to Bodie Ghost Town. I scared them off. :(
I spent a couple hours wandering and taking photographs of Bodie Ghost Town which was a booming town during its heydey during the California Gold Rush era.
This was an interesting find. It was a crate of soda bottles from Glendale, California inside one of the decrepit buildings.
It's a ghost town frozen in time. They haven't done anything to clean up the place, just made some reinforcements to some of the structures.
Some eye candy along highway 108 to Sonora Pass.
Fresh powder at Sonora Pass.
Marking my birthday at the historic and scenic Sonora Pass.
Fall colors on the way back down from Sonora Pass.
June Lake in the afternoon on my way to June Lake Brewery for craft beer and Ohanas 395 for Hawaii-inspired eats. The owner spent time in Hawaii and crafted a menu including poke, fish tacos, fried rice, and vegetarian food. She also has lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) on the menu. I ordered the mahi-mahi fried rice and mahi-mahi tacos to eat with my sour beer and pale ale. I realized that had a huge phone dependence problem when I realized that I left my phone in my car and couldn't take a photo of my fried rice and sour beer lol.
I caught some deer having dinner at dusk back at the motel.
I spent dusk exploring Hot Creek to see the geothermal activity there. It's like a mini Lassen Volcanic National Park.
There weren't many options in June Lake for dinner. This barbecue pizza at June Pie Pizza Co. seemed like the best option for dinner in the area. I didn't eat the crust so that tells you a bit about this pizza.
Due to high wind activity on the 395, I decided not to explore Whitney Portal and Manzanar on my way back down. Instead I returned to Yosemite for the day to take the 41 back down to LA.
The mountain range was beautiful covered in snow, but I dreaded driving over ice and snow. The people behind me probably hated how slow I was driving.
I think I was around 5 years old when I last visited the Tunnel View for a photo. Maybe I'll post it here when I have time to locate it.
I decided to explore the Wawona Hotel surroundings and hike in the area before heading out of Yosemite.
I cracked open this craft beer I bought at the general store near the hotel for my leisurely stroll.
More of a gentle stroll in the woods than a heart-pounding hike, it was peaceful and I enjoyed my time here without anyone around. I ran into only two individuals during my time on the trail.
View of the meadow towards the end of the trail.
I decided on a second round of hiking at Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoia trees of Yosemite. I ran into deer who weren't afraid of me. Just like dogs, most animals love me!
I quickly roamed the sequoia grove and didn't go further a couple more miles to see the larger grove since it was getting dark. I took the service road back down to avoid hiking in the dark. It was about a 30-minute walk back to the welcome center.
There's so much more to see and do in Yosemite and can't wait for a return trip to explore more places away from the Yosemite Valley which is way overcrowded. I couldn't wait to escape the Valley the last time I visited. There wasn't any parking and too many people. It must be more worse now since my last visit as more people are discovering our national parks and "van life" Instagrammers during the pandemic.
The crowds ruin the experience for me at our national parks. I much prefer the hidden gem national parks. It's nice to know there are still spots to visit in Yosemite that are more peaceful. It also helps to visit Yosemite and other popular national parks during a less busy time of the year.
Hello, I'm Anne.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I love exploring Los Angeles like a tourist. I have as much fun in my hometown as I do traveling in another country. I live to eat (good food) and travel!