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01solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture

A lot has changed since I last wrote a blog post... We are now over 9 months into our pandemic with Covid and we have since elected a new President (thank goodness). Simply put, 2020 has not been easy, and I sincerely wish you and your loved ones have been well. When I started this blog over 10 years ago, it was very heavily fashion focused (I have even archived many of my old posts) but over time, it became my travel diary. I can't believe my last post was from my Japan trip back in November of 2019. I had no idea at that time that it would be my last oversea travel for a while. The silver lining is... my boyfriend and I have been going on road trips and discovering so many wonderful places all within 2-3 hours outside of LA. We are so lucky to live in California and I can't wait to keep exploring and to share with you these hidden gems.

02solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture03solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-castle
04solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-architecture05solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-architecture

A few weeks ago, we drove past Santa Barbara out to Solvang. Hold on, wait, am I dreaming? Did I just suddenly go from rolling hills and vineyards to Storybook Land? Streets lined with Scandinavian architecture, Danish motifs, and a handful of windmills! Every corner was so picturesque, I couldn't walk a block without stopping for photos, and I am pretty sure I said the word "cute" a million times that weekend. We stayed at The Landsby which kindly hosted us in their lovely junior suite overlooking the courtyard. All the staff and guests were required to wear a mask in any public area and we felt relatively safe during our stay.

06solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture-windmill
07solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-architecture08solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture-windmill
11solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel12solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel13solvang-thelandsby-madandvin-roadtrip-travel
14solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel15solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel16solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel

Let's talk food! Here are the few places we ate that weekend and I highly recommend all of them!
- Coffee at Good Seed (The turmeric latte was sooo good!)
- Breakfast / Brunch at Mad & Vin (The eggs Benedict is a must!)
- Late Lunch / Happy Hour at Succulent Cafe (Wow that brussel sprouts!!!)
- Dinner at Ramen Kotori (Ramen in Solvang? Really? Yes, really. It's legit.)
- Pastries at Mortensen's Danish Bakery (Get the pistachio marzipan bar! My mouth is watering just thinking about it...)

09solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-bakery10solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-bakery

Often times when we travel to somewhere new, we check to see if there are any climbing spots. With gyms being closed for the majority of this year, outdoor climbing has been especially precious. We woke up early on a Monday morning, grabbed a coffee and breakfast bowl at Good Seed and headed off to Los Padres National Forest. After half an hour or so, we made a turn onto West Camino Cielo and was literally above the clouds. The approach to The Playgrounds (one of the many climbing areas in the forest) was long but fairly easy and since it was a Monday, we had the entire place to ourselves! We spent a good few hours climbing The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers Crag and overall just enjoyed being outside.

17solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing18solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing
19solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing20solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing

The next day, we stopped at Solvang Farmer Pumpkin Patch to pick up a couple of pumpkins before heading home. If you happen to visit Solvang in the Fall, be sure to stop by. It is a decent sized pumpkin patch with a massive corn maze!

21solvang-pumpkinpatch-california-roadtrip-travel22solvang-pumpkinpatch-california-roadtrip-travel
23solvang-pumpkinpatch-california-roadtrip-travel

Solvang is most definitely cute. Oops I used the word "cute" again! It really is quaint but I do want to say that it is packed with tourists on the weekends. We were there Sunday through Tuesday and Sunday was so different than Monday. If you want to get a photo in front of the windmill on the weekend, forget about it! I actually woke up at 7am on a weekday to retake a few photos. It really is the only time when no one is around! So if you go, go on weekdays!

Solvang, California

November 13, 2020

01solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture

A lot has changed since I last wrote a blog post... We are now over 9 months into our pandemic with Covid and we have since elected a new President (thank goodness). Simply put, 2020 has not been easy, and I sincerely wish you and your loved ones have been well. When I started this blog over 10 years ago, it was very heavily fashion focused (I have even archived many of my old posts) but over time, it became my travel diary. I can't believe my last post was from my Japan trip back in November of 2019. I had no idea at that time that it would be my last oversea travel for a while. The silver lining is... my boyfriend and I have been going on road trips and discovering so many wonderful places all within 2-3 hours outside of LA. We are so lucky to live in California and I can't wait to keep exploring and to share with you these hidden gems.

02solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture03solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-castle
04solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-architecture05solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-architecture

A few weeks ago, we drove past Santa Barbara out to Solvang. Hold on, wait, am I dreaming? Did I just suddenly go from rolling hills and vineyards to Storybook Land? Streets lined with Scandinavian architecture, Danish motifs, and a handful of windmills! Every corner was so picturesque, I couldn't walk a block without stopping for photos, and I am pretty sure I said the word "cute" a million times that weekend. We stayed at The Landsby which kindly hosted us in their lovely junior suite overlooking the courtyard. All the staff and guests were required to wear a mask in any public area and we felt relatively safe during our stay.

06solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture-windmill
07solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-architecture08solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-architecture-windmill
11solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel12solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel13solvang-thelandsby-madandvin-roadtrip-travel
14solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel15solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel16solvang-thelandsby-california-roadtrip-travel

Let's talk food! Here are the few places we ate that weekend and I highly recommend all of them!
- Coffee at Good Seed (The turmeric latte was sooo good!)
- Breakfast / Brunch at Mad & Vin (The eggs Benedict is a must!)
- Late Lunch / Happy Hour at Succulent Cafe (Wow that brussel sprouts!!!)
- Dinner at Ramen Kotori (Ramen in Solvang? Really? Yes, really. It's legit.)
- Pastries at Mortensen's Danish Bakery (Get the pistachio marzipan bar! My mouth is watering just thinking about it...)

09solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-bakery10solvang-california-roadtrip-travel-danish-bakery

Often times when we travel to somewhere new, we check to see if there are any climbing spots. With gyms being closed for the majority of this year, outdoor climbing has been especially precious. We woke up early on a Monday morning, grabbed a coffee and breakfast bowl at Good Seed and headed off to Los Padres National Forest. After half an hour or so, we made a turn onto West Camino Cielo and was literally above the clouds. The approach to The Playgrounds (one of the many climbing areas in the forest) was long but fairly easy and since it was a Monday, we had the entire place to ourselves! We spent a good few hours climbing The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers Crag and overall just enjoyed being outside.

17solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing18solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing
19solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing20solvang-lospadresnationalforest-california-roadtrip-travel-rockclimbing

The next day, we stopped at Solvang Farmer Pumpkin Patch to pick up a couple of pumpkins before heading home. If you happen to visit Solvang in the Fall, be sure to stop by. It is a decent sized pumpkin patch with a massive corn maze!

21solvang-pumpkinpatch-california-roadtrip-travel22solvang-pumpkinpatch-california-roadtrip-travel
23solvang-pumpkinpatch-california-roadtrip-travel

Solvang is most definitely cute. Oops I used the word "cute" again! It really is quaint but I do want to say that it is packed with tourists on the weekends. We were there Sunday through Tuesday and Sunday was so different than Monday. If you want to get a photo in front of the windmill on the weekend, forget about it! I actually woke up at 7am on a weekday to retake a few photos. It really is the only time when no one is around! So if you go, go on weekdays!
01kyoto-higashiyama-japan-architecture-travel

I wish I had spent more time in Kyoto because two days were certainly not enough! I could easily stay for 5 or 6 or an entire week! We took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto and checked into Node Hotel. Let me just say... this hotel checks every box! The aesthetic is spot on and reminds me of The Line hotels with the gray concrete details. Node Hotel kindly hosted us for two days and gave us the most beautiful suite. It felt like a penthouse apartment and we enjoyed every second of it.

Arashiyama was our first stop. Upon arriving at the Arashiyama station (which by the way is the last stop of that line), we noticed how hustling and bustling it was! Lots of shops and tons of food, we couldn't resist so we grabbed some jumbo shumai and fishcake to snack on! Yum! We began our walk toward Arashiyama and stopped again for strawberry mochi. But wow, I've never seen anything like it! So many bamboos and such beautiful landscape, there were cats too! I love it! We went around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it was completely packed so I highly going there first thing in the morning if you have the option to do so. Next, we squeezed in Tenryu-ji and explored its garden before it got dark. Going to Kyoto in the Fall was such a treat, bursts of red and orange and yellow everywhere and the Tenryu-ji Garden is no difference!

The next and final day, we woke up bright and early and headed up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan found in 780. The ground around the temple was lovely as well, garden, other shrines, pagoda, not to mention you can get a great view of Kyoto on a clear day! We headed down the hill and walked around Higashiyama District and stumbled upon Ryozen Kannon (a war memorial commemorating the War dead of the Pacific War with a giant statue of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara). We also checked out Kōdai-ji real quick before heading to AWOMB for lunch nearby (I wrote a separate blog post on AWOMB here). After lunch, we went to the infamous Fushimi Inari-Taisha and hiked all the way up to Mt. Inari Summit.

Here are a few things I learned from Fushimi Inari:

  1. When you first see all the torii gates, you're gonna want to try to take pics. DON'T! There will be a sea of people and everyone is trying to do the same. Keep moving, there are SO MANY MORE spots just like this, if not better, for you to take pics with no one around!
  2. Definitely do the full hike up Mt. Inari! The further you go, the less people you'll see. Set aside enough time for this though!
  3. If you love cats, you're in luck! There are so many cats there and they are all super friendly!⁣
  4. When you're done and heading back down the hill. Do stop at the cafe (sadly I forgot the name of it but you shall see it, it's the only one there) and get a hojicha latte. It's the best I've ever had!

Where to stay:
Node Hotel
New, modern, luxurious

04kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel05kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel
06kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel07kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel

Japan Day 6-7: Kyoto

March 29, 2020

01kyoto-higashiyama-japan-architecture-travel

I wish I had spent more time in Kyoto because two days were certainly not enough! I could easily stay for 5 or 6 or an entire week! We took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto and checked into Node Hotel. Let me just say... this hotel checks every box! The aesthetic is spot on and reminds me of The Line hotels with the gray concrete details. Node Hotel kindly hosted us for two days and gave us the most beautiful suite. It felt like a penthouse apartment and we enjoyed every second of it.

Arashiyama was our first stop. Upon arriving at the Arashiyama station (which by the way is the last stop of that line), we noticed how hustling and bustling it was! Lots of shops and tons of food, we couldn't resist so we grabbed some jumbo shumai and fishcake to snack on! Yum! We began our walk toward Arashiyama and stopped again for strawberry mochi. But wow, I've never seen anything like it! So many bamboos and such beautiful landscape, there were cats too! I love it! We went around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it was completely packed so I highly going there first thing in the morning if you have the option to do so. Next, we squeezed in Tenryu-ji and explored its garden before it got dark. Going to Kyoto in the Fall was such a treat, bursts of red and orange and yellow everywhere and the Tenryu-ji Garden is no difference!

The next and final day, we woke up bright and early and headed up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan found in 780. The ground around the temple was lovely as well, garden, other shrines, pagoda, not to mention you can get a great view of Kyoto on a clear day! We headed down the hill and walked around Higashiyama District and stumbled upon Ryozen Kannon (a war memorial commemorating the War dead of the Pacific War with a giant statue of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara). We also checked out Kōdai-ji real quick before heading to AWOMB for lunch nearby (I wrote a separate blog post on AWOMB here). After lunch, we went to the infamous Fushimi Inari-Taisha and hiked all the way up to Mt. Inari Summit.

Here are a few things I learned from Fushimi Inari:

  1. When you first see all the torii gates, you're gonna want to try to take pics. DON'T! There will be a sea of people and everyone is trying to do the same. Keep moving, there are SO MANY MORE spots just like this, if not better, for you to take pics with no one around!
  2. Definitely do the full hike up Mt. Inari! The further you go, the less people you'll see. Set aside enough time for this though!
  3. If you love cats, you're in luck! There are so many cats there and they are all super friendly!⁣
  4. When you're done and heading back down the hill. Do stop at the cafe (sadly I forgot the name of it but you shall see it, it's the only one there) and get a hojicha latte. It's the best I've ever had!

Where to stay:
Node Hotel
New, modern, luxurious

04kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel05kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel
06kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel07kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel
01AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel

I've been thinking about AWOMB in Kyoto ever since I visited there back in November. It's a dining experience I've never had before! Most tourists are unaware of this place, hence we were the only foreigners and everyone else was local when we went. Part of me want to keep this a secret... but here I am, sharing with you this hidden gem. Let's see, I am not even sure how to explain what "teae sushi" is. I read all about it before going but I was still a bit lost when I got there even after looking at their cute little illustration/instruction. Basically for each of the little dishes, you mix it with different condiments and you can choose to mix it with matcha shredded eggs and/or rice as well. There's also a tea soup which you can drink alone or pour into the rice. This tea soup!!! I've been dreaming about it since, the broth is just so delicious, so light yet flavorful. Where can I get it? How do I make it? That's all I wanna know! You can tell that everything was thoughtful curated and everything tasted so fresh and incredible. I really enjoyed AWOMB for so many reasons. Obviously I loved the food. I also really appreciate the fact that this restaurant was basically in/structured as a house. We even sat traditionally on tatami. I loved it! I hope that when you go to Kyoto, you'll have a chance to eat at AWOMB. I went to the one in Gion district but I believe there are two other locations in Kyoto as well. Also, please note that it is reservation only.

04AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel
02AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel03AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel
05AWOMB-kyoto-teaesushi-japanesefood-japan-food-travel
06AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-tatami-japan-food-travel07AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-japan-food-travel
08AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel

AWOMB, Kyoto, Japan

March 24, 2020

01AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel

I've been thinking about AWOMB in Kyoto ever since I visited there back in November. It's a dining experience I've never had before! Most tourists are unaware of this place, hence we were the only foreigners and everyone else was local when we went. Part of me want to keep this a secret... but here I am, sharing with you this hidden gem. Let's see, I am not even sure how to explain what "teae sushi" is. I read all about it before going but I was still a bit lost when I got there even after looking at their cute little illustration/instruction. Basically for each of the little dishes, you mix it with different condiments and you can choose to mix it with matcha shredded eggs and/or rice as well. There's also a tea soup which you can drink alone or pour into the rice. This tea soup!!! I've been dreaming about it since, the broth is just so delicious, so light yet flavorful. Where can I get it? How do I make it? That's all I wanna know! You can tell that everything was thoughtful curated and everything tasted so fresh and incredible. I really enjoyed AWOMB for so many reasons. Obviously I loved the food. I also really appreciate the fact that this restaurant was basically in/structured as a house. We even sat traditionally on tatami. I loved it! I hope that when you go to Kyoto, you'll have a chance to eat at AWOMB. I went to the one in Gion district but I believe there are two other locations in Kyoto as well. Also, please note that it is reservation only.

04AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel
02AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel03AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel
05AWOMB-kyoto-teaesushi-japanesefood-japan-food-travel
06AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-tatami-japan-food-travel07AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-japan-food-travel
08AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel
01osaka-castle-japan-fallfoliage-autumn-travel

To tell you the truth, Osaka isn't my favorite. It's not as cool as Tokyo and not as unique as Kyoto. If you're making a side trip out of Tokyo and you don't have too much time, don't even bother going to Osaka but Kyoto is a must and I highly recommended Hakone as well. Now don't get me wrong, Osaka is a lovely city but it just doesn't have much going on. You've got the Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Shinsekai, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Umeda Sky Building, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, and that's pretty much it. We were only there for a day and so I didn't even bother going to some of these places.

Let's talk about the castle... Not gonna lie, I enjoyed Osaka Castle Park and the grounds around it way more than the castle itself. The castle was beautiful on the outside but the inside was underwhelming. It was more like a museum and you don't get to see what it actually looked like back in the days. I wish they had at least preserved a section of it to show. Anyways, the ground of the castle was stunning. We went in the fall and all the trees were all sorts of red and yellow. The moats were cool, the rocks were cool, and we actually explored both during the day and night. I highly recommend heading over at night, no one was around, it was slightly eerie but mostly magical.

Other than that, it was fun walking around Dotonbori at night. This is the area where there are bridges and waterways with lots of shops and restaurants, as well as the infamous Glico "running man" sign. We tried some takoyaki (did you know takoyaki originated from Osaka?) and melonpan and just enjoyed all the lights from buildings and billboards reflecting on the water.

As for accommodation, we stayed at Hotel Noum which is a fairly new hotel right on the river. Upon checking in, I knew I would love this hotel. They have a cute little cafe next to the lobby (the breakfast there was so tasty and fresh), a rooftop patio, and even bikes for you to rent out! The room is minimal yet modern and I love the giant floor to ceiling window and view! Thank you Hotel Noum for hosting us!

Where to go:

Where to stay:

Japan Day 5: Osaka

March 22, 2020

01osaka-castle-japan-fallfoliage-autumn-travel

To tell you the truth, Osaka isn't my favorite. It's not as cool as Tokyo and not as unique as Kyoto. If you're making a side trip out of Tokyo and you don't have too much time, don't even bother going to Osaka but Kyoto is a must and I highly recommended Hakone as well. Now don't get me wrong, Osaka is a lovely city but it just doesn't have much going on. You've got the Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Shinsekai, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Umeda Sky Building, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, and that's pretty much it. We were only there for a day and so I didn't even bother going to some of these places.

Let's talk about the castle... Not gonna lie, I enjoyed Osaka Castle Park and the grounds around it way more than the castle itself. The castle was beautiful on the outside but the inside was underwhelming. It was more like a museum and you don't get to see what it actually looked like back in the days. I wish they had at least preserved a section of it to show. Anyways, the ground of the castle was stunning. We went in the fall and all the trees were all sorts of red and yellow. The moats were cool, the rocks were cool, and we actually explored both during the day and night. I highly recommend heading over at night, no one was around, it was slightly eerie but mostly magical.

Other than that, it was fun walking around Dotonbori at night. This is the area where there are bridges and waterways with lots of shops and restaurants, as well as the infamous Glico "running man" sign. We tried some takoyaki (did you know takoyaki originated from Osaka?) and melonpan and just enjoyed all the lights from buildings and billboards reflecting on the water.

As for accommodation, we stayed at Hotel Noum which is a fairly new hotel right on the river. Upon checking in, I knew I would love this hotel. They have a cute little cafe next to the lobby (the breakfast there was so tasty and fresh), a rooftop patio, and even bikes for you to rent out! The room is minimal yet modern and I love the giant floor to ceiling window and view! Thank you Hotel Noum for hosting us!

Where to go:

Where to stay:
01hakone-japan-fuji-travel

Hakone is a crazy beautiful mountainous town in the Fuji area that reminds me of something out of a Miyazaki film. It was raining for the majority of the time we were there but the fog only made it extra mystical. The only regret I have from this part of the trip was that we only stayed for one night and I wish we had stayed for at least two, perhaps three.

Where to stay:

Where to go:

Where to eat:
Since Hakone is very mountainous and transportation is limited. There aren't many restaurants around and most places to eat are at hotels. But do get some black onsen eggs at the gift shop in Owakudani!

02hakone-japan-lakeashi-travel

Japan Day 4: Hakone

March 16, 2020

01hakone-japan-fuji-travel

Hakone is a crazy beautiful mountainous town in the Fuji area that reminds me of something out of a Miyazaki film. It was raining for the majority of the time we were there but the fog only made it extra mystical. The only regret I have from this part of the trip was that we only stayed for one night and I wish we had stayed for at least two, perhaps three.

Where to stay:

Where to go:

Where to eat:
Since Hakone is very mountainous and transportation is limited. There aren't many restaurants around and most places to eat are at hotels. But do get some black onsen eggs at the gift shop in Owakudani!

02hakone-japan-lakeashi-travel

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