LOS ANGELES Mood Board

Hello beautiful friends! Hope you’re having a lovely start to the week so far. As I’m coming up on my two year anniversary of living in LA, I’ve been reminiscing a lot and going through tons of photos and memories of all the things I’ve done and experienced over the last couple of years. I thought it would be fun to put together a little mood board of all the things that have capture my heart about this city. As much as I miss home, I’m growing to fall more and more in love with LA every single day, and I’m sure that love will only continue to grow in the coming years.

 

Life Through A Lens #29- ¿IDK, a catch up i guess?

NEW YORK CITY Travel Diary

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, seriously a dream come true. Just like almost every other hopeless romantic in America who in indulges in the rom coms of NYC, this city has been at the top of my bucket list for years and I’m so lucky to have gotten to go on this trip. I fell in love the second I landed in this gorgeous city and can’t wait to share everything from my whirlwind of a trip here in New York City!

DAY 1

I landed at 8:55am after flying all night and barely sleeping an hour, but the buzz and electricity of the city woke me up instantly. It was everything I expected. I dropped my stuff off at my cousins house as quickly as possible and headed into Manhattan from Queens. The metro dropped me off right in between Central Park and The Plaza Hotel, and I was seriously just taken aback by the surrealness of it all as I walked up the stairs of the station. I spent the first couples hours walking up and down Fifth Avenue, walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, grabbed a couple cookies from Insomnia and of course browsed through Saks Fifth Avenue. Lunch was at Sarabeth’s with a friend at Central Park South and we indulged in the most amazing Eggs Benedict’s. To walk it off, we snooped around Time Warner Center and then strolled through Central Park to get to the Upper West Side. And since I was in the neighborhood, I had to make my first visit to Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar (I’m so in awe of her, it’s crazy) to get a little afternoon treat. I tried the much anticipated Cereal Milk Ice Cream (the fruity one) and her famous Corn Cookie…AMAZING. Finally I hopped back on the metro and headed back to Queens in the late afternoon. After 8 hours and 12 miles of walking I was dead but so in love. I stopped by the tiniest Greek place on the way home and picked up a Falafel Schwarma and Spanakopita to take home, put on Gossip Girl and crashed. It was perfect.

DAY 2

My plan was to be up around 8, maybe 8:30, to be out the door early and explore the city. But I guess I was really knocked out because I woke up frantically at 11 and got ready in about 7 minutes to be out the door. I was meeting a few family friends for lunch so hopped on the metro and headed towards Greenwich Village. I walked around a little and was so in-awe of the charm and class of the neighborhood. Although I was headed to lunch, I found the hippest little donut shop, The Donut Pub, and stopped to get a birthday cake donut as a treat for later in the day. I then headed over to Cafe Cluny on a corner in the West Village where we sat and ate pork belly and scrambled eggs, a Thai grain bowl and a seared tuna burger (all amazing!), over the course of a few hours. After lunch, I ventured out towards the Highline and Chelsea. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and made for some beautiful photos. I was slowly falling more and more in love with this city. I didn’t have much time there, but I continued to walk north towards Times Square and Bryant Park. I hit Times Square just as the sun had tucked away behind the buildings and had an out-of-body experience while taking in the (what I consider) magic. That moment had been imagined for so long and I couldn’t believe I was finally there, right in the middle of it. I spent a bit of time walking around and taking pictures and then headed across the street to Bryant Park, another form of beauty in itself, where I met up with my cousin. We had decided on Italian for dinner so took the train back down to Little Italy to Paesanos to have a huge bowl of Rigatoni in Vodka Sauce. It was the cutest little restaurant designed to look like an Italian villa and definitely hit the spot after another full day of exploring. Then it was back on the metro to head home and crash again for the night.

DAY 3

Wednesday might have been the fullest day in NYC, but it was so great. I was up and out the door by 10 and headed down to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was, again, a beautiful day with clear blue skies and the sun beating down which made everything just that much more beautiful. I walked across the bridge, taking in the moment and looking back at the city, and explored Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn on the other side. With 99 cent pizza being on my food bucket list, I grabbed a couple of slices at a hole-in-the-wall of a store and continued to walk around the funky neighborhood. After a couple of hours of exploring I began back towards the bridge, but had to grab a bagel (another one of my must-haves) at Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. Not knowing what to get, I ordered a poppy seed bagel with blueberry cream cheese and it was the biggest but best bagel I’d ever had in my life hands down. Since I had the whole afternoon and evening to myself, which was the greatest thing ever, I walked up through Tribeca, Soho and Greenwich back to the Highline area, wanting to spend more time there. I also found the BEST ice cream store, Ample Hills Creamery, to get a scoop of gooey butter cake ice cream before moving on. I decided to spend a couple of hours at The Whitney, which was full of modern American art, including a huge Andy Warhol exhibit which was super cool. The museum also has stunning balcony views of the city and overlooking the water. Since Chelsea Market was right next door, and I was starving, I popped in there to look for something to eat. A ton of my friends had recommended the Very Fresh Noodles, so of course that’s what I had to try. The little stall with a few counter seats was packed, but I waited and was served a huge bowl of thick, silky noodles with braised spicy beef, it was amazing. The last couple of things I wanted to do that day was to see Radio City and Rockefeller Center. So I walked back up, through Koreatown, to see the famous Radio City. I had gotten there right as the sun was beginning to hide away, making the large red marquee lights stand out even more. And finally I walked around the corner to Rockefeller Center, another out-of-body experience as I stood there forever realizing how special that moment was. The perfect way to end another long but incredible day in the city. And then it was back home to rest up for the last day of the trip.

DAY 4

I woke up on the last morning feeling so happy and grateful, but also really not wanting to leave the next day. I was up at 8 and out the door not too long after to get the day going. I took the metro into Manhattan and got off around 59th Street and walked down Madison Avenue to the Met. I’d heard so much about how beautiful and grand the Met is and seen so many pictures, but there are seriously no words to explain it until you’re standing right in front of it. It’s honestly just so breathtaking. I spent about 3 hours in the museum and still feel like I only saw 5% of everything, but it was just super cool. By the time I was done there it was about 12:45 and I had the rest of the day to shop! Since I was in New York, I had to visit the Kate Spade flagship store on Madison. It was the most stunning store I’ve ever walked into and I may have picked up a lil NYC themed treat for myself. I then headed over to Fifth Avenue and wandered around, walked into Saks and walked over to both Bloomies and Macy’s to get a few goodies for myself to remember the trip. Another thing on my NYC food bucket list was a pretzel, of course, so I had to grab one from a street vendor. After a full afternoon of shopping, I headed back to Bryan Park to meet my cousin. Once again, the sun was tucked behind the buildings giving the perfect afternoon glow. I was a little bit early so I sat at a table behind the NY Public Library taking in the beauty of the city. It was busy yet oddly calming and I was just so grateful to be there. My cousin and I then headed down to Pizza Beach in the Lower East Side for some good old New York pizza. I had a (large, hehe) pizza with pink vodka sauce, burrata and basil, and it was hands down the best pizza I’d ever had in my life. Since it was my last night, we decided to take the train back up to Times Square to see it all lit up a night. As beautiful as it was during the day, it was even more incredible at night. It was everything and more I ever imagined, in that moment my heart was just to full of gratitude and joy. I then took one last metro ride back home and crashed for an early flight the next morning, dreaming of how magical this city had been.

 

It doesn’t phase me for a second that this life full of traveling and adventures is not something that everyone has. I’m extremely grateful to be able to live this life and I hope that I’m able to give back in some way. New York was incredible and I hope to be back very very soon. I wanted to end this post by sharing a journal entry I wrote on my last evening in the city, it captures everything that this trip meant to me.

“It’s Thursday evening, 6:20pm and the sun hasn’t quite set but is nestled behind the array of buildings. I’m sitting at a table in Bryan Park, the public library behind me, the table full of bags from a day of shopping. I’m exhausted but so in love with this new city. Deciding to come on this trip was the best decision ever. As much anxiety as traveling causes me, I’m so glad I made the journey out to this side of the country and am so glad I was able to spend this week in NYC. This moment helps me remember that everything happens for a reason. I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of travel and there’s nothing that brings me more joy and excitement than moments like this.”

See you soon! xx

Life Through A Lens #28- Weird Weather, Cute Photos

Food Adventures #12- Traveling Tokyo

A little late (actually a lot late), but finally some new Tokyo #foodinspo to brighten up your day!

A Day At Disney- Tokyo Disneyland

Hello everyone and happy hump day! One of my last posts was my Winter Tokyo Travel Guide, and in it I talked about spending a day at Tokyo Disneyland which is what today’s post is all about. Since it had been over ten years since my family and I had all been to Disneyland, we decided to go again this Christmas in Tokyo. It was the best decision we made because it was so much fun! It was all decked out for Christmas which was done so beautifully and tastefully. Although everything is in Japanese, these days almost everything is in English as well and most of the workers also speak English. I highly highly recommend spending a day at Disney if you’re ever in Tokyo, especially around the holiday season.

I hear a lot of people who are skeptical about Tokyo Disneyland when they compare it to the original park in Anaheim, but there is honestly no difference. And if there is I would argue that the Tokyo one is much better. It has all of the same, original rides with the exception of the Matterhorn, including Space Mountain.

The tickets are currently selling for 7,400 yen (about 67 USD) which is extremely reasonable, especially compared to the Anaheim prices that can be well over $100. What I was really impressed by was how inexpensive the food was. We had gone expecting to have to pay and arm and a leg for dinner, but were able to get meals for about 1,000 yen (9 USD) each. It makes it easy to spend a whole day there without worrying too much about how much you’re going to have to spend on a whole day’s worth of food.

While it is a bit far from the central city, public transportation makes it so quick, easy and inexpensive to get there. There are multiple trains and buses that leave from big stations like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Yokohama and even Narita Airport that take you directly to the park. From the city it takes, on average, 30 minutes to get out to Disneyland. Trains run from 6am to 11:55pm everyday, so you can spend as much time at the park as your heart desires!

Another thing I loved about Tokyo Disney was how clean and spacious it is. Sitting at 115 acres, it’s over 30 acres larger than the Anaheim Disneyland, and you really do notice the difference. And in true Japan fashion, everything was just so nice and clean. I mean everything from the sidewalks and the rides to the bathrooms, all just very well maintained.

We also decided to stay to watch the daily light show and the electric light parade which were so well done. It was jazzed up for Christmas as well which just made it even more magical. It really just made me feel like a little kid again which was very much needed. I’m so so glad we decided to go and won’t be surprised if we decide to go again next Christmas. That day really just was one of the most festive days this holiday season, I loved it!

Quick Tips:

1. Buy tickets online to get them at the best price (buy through the website).

2. Avoid Golden Week (usually around April 29-May 5), it’ll be insanely crowded.

3. If you don’t want to buy food in the park, bring your own. Tokyo Disneyland allows you to bring food in.

4. Bring water, it’s a bit hard to find water inside the park. And you’re going to want to stay hydrated, especially if you go during the summer.

5. If you’re going without young kids, the late afternoons/early evenings get fairly empty and quiet.

6. If you’re interested, check out DisneySea as well. I haven’t been personally, but have had a lot of friends who have been and say it’s super fun as well! It’s located right next to Disneyland.

7. If you’re going in the winter, make sure to pack/wear layers. It can be fairly warm during the day, especially with all the walking you’ll be doing, but can get much cooler in the evening.

8. If you’re wanting to stay at a hotel around the park, check out the non-Disney hotels like the Sheraton and the Hilton, they are typically much cheaper than the official Disney Hotel/Resort.

Website: https://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/tdl/

TOKYO Travel Guide ~Winter Edition~

Good morning lovelies and happy Sunday. If you’re looking for some 2019 travel inspo, you’re in the right place! Today’s post is my second Tokyo Travel Guide, and this is going to be full of all the things to do in Tokyo in the winter. I wrote my first Tokyo Travel Guide in April, so be sure to check that post out if you haven’t already. But for now, happy reading and I hope you have lot’s of fun adventures lined up for the year!

What to eat:

Jojoen Yakiniku– Jojoen is our favorite yakiniku (translates to grilled meat) spot in Tokyo. With locations all over the city, their menu is full of various types of beef and pork, seafood, Korean side dishes and rice and noodle dishes. They also have super reasonable lunch sets that range from 1,500-3,000 yen that come with meat, rice, veggies/a salad, soup, a drink and dessert. With tons of locations, they each vary a little depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a more down-to-earth meal, I love the ones in Shibuya and Meguro. But if you’re looking for a nice locale, try the Jojoen on the 39th floor of Ebisu Garden Place.

Trattoria Mari e Monti in Roppongi- This has quickly become one of our favorite restaurants in Tokyo. Run by two Italian guys, the ambiance of the space makes you feel like you’re eating pasta and drinking wine on the streets of Italy. Their huge selection of produce, cheeses, meats, pastas and desserts are amazing and jaw-dropping. Some of my favorites are their truffle pasta, pappardelle with meat, grilled pork belly, literally all of their desserts and of course their homemade limoncello at the end of the meal.

Shibuya Parlor right by the Shibuya Crossing- My sister, mom and I stumbled across this place this past Christmas when I was on the hunt for a decadent fruit parfait. Located on the 7th floor of the Magnet building, the little cafe overlooks the famous Shibuya scramble crossing with the perfect birds eye view. To curb my craving, I ordered the strawberry brulee parfait which came with yoghurt, granola, vanilla ice cream, bruleed pudding and of course tons of strawberries.

Obica Mozzarella Bar in Roppongi Hills- We found this place this summer when we went out for lunch with some family friends and I’m actually obsessed with it now. The restaurants has a very modern vibe with shelves full of pastas and wine and huge floor to ceiling windows letting in so much natural light. I haven’t spent too much time looking at their dinner menu (every time I’ve been it’s been for lunch), but I can say that their lunch menu is incredibly reasonable and very extensive. For between 1500-2500 yen, you can get a lunch set with one main dish, one or two side dishes (depending on what you choose) and one drink. You can also add on a glass of red, white or bubbly for only 400 yen ($3.60USD). Some of my favorites are their pastas of the day, their grilled chicken salad and the lasagna.

Kushinobo in Roppongi Hills- Okay, I had heard my parents rave about this place forever and was always so skeptical until I went this Christmas and WOW. Kushinobo serves fried food on a skewer, but not greasy American fried food, elegant and refined Japanese fried food. It’s not too oily or heavy, it’s so light and delicious. My dad and I went for lunch and ordered the 10 piece set which came with 10 different kinds of skewers including salmon with roe, black pork, asparagus, and scallops, as well as a set of rice, an egg, miso soup, veggie sticks and dip and dessert. I don’t really know how to explain it, but PLEASE go try this place if you’re ever in Tokyo.

If you happen to be staying with a friend, at an Airbnb or anywhere with a kitchen, I highly recommend going to the store, getting some hot-pot soup (during the winter they have them everywhere in all kinds of delicious flavors), some shabu-shabu pork, tons of veggies and other fun treats and have a hot-pot night at home. It’s the epitome of winter meals in Japan and is so yum. And if you can’t do this, I would suggest going and walking around the supermarket anyway. Call me weird, but I think Japanese supermarkets are so fun.

How to get around:

Public transportation in Japan is absolutely the way to go. The trains and buses are everywhere and can get you anywhere you need. It can be a bit intimidating, but these days almost all signs for everything are in English as well. Don’t be afraid to go up to someone who works at the train station or bus stop and ask questions, most of them are able to have a conversation in English.

For the Shinkansen (bullet train), I would recommend getting the JR pass for either 7 or 14 days which allows you to get around the country on the bullet train conveniently and at a low cost. And seriously, riding on the bullet train is SO cool.

For the local trains, you can try and get a train pass/card which requires bringing your passport to a train station and going to an office to get it done, so I would only suggest doing that if you’re going to be in Tokyo for an extended period of time to save money and time. But if you’re only there for a bit, buying tickets at the machines are super simple and easy and, again, are in English as well.

If you’re trying to take the bus around, make sure you’re carrying coins on you to pay the buss fee (most are between 200-250 yen). Also look there are a couple of apps in English that will give you everything you need to know about the bus routes, including all the stops, their names and how to get from one place to another.

And while I always recommend using public transportation while traveling to really get to know the city you’re exploring, taxis are fairly easy to find and flag down. Simply look for the dark cars with a white sign on top and stick your hand out to flag it down. If the light in the bottom right hand corner is red, the taxi is available, and if it’s green it’s been taken or is on shift change.

Where to go:

This section could seriously drag on and on, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet with lot’s of links and photos.

1. Tokyo Disneyland– We decided to go this Christmas to see all the lights and since we hadn’t been in like a decade and it was amazing! Christmas at Tokyo Disneyland is a must (whole other post on this going up soon so keep an eye out for that).

2. Roppongi Hills Mid-Town lights- If you walk out around Roppongi Hills at night during Christmas, the streets and trees are all lit up with stunning lights (called イルミネーション or Illumination) that go on and off in beautiful patterns. It’s nothing tacky, just simple, elegant Christmas lights. And depending on where you are you can get a picture-perfect view of Tokyo Tower as well.

3. Takeshita Dori, Harajuku- Of course this is a must-do any time of the year, but I love walking down the crazy crowded streets right before Christmas to scavenge for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers. I found so many fun little gifts for my family and friends (especially for all the beauty and skincare lovers) by just walking around and popping into a bunch of little stores.

4. Mega Don Quijote, Shibuya- I don’t know if you’ve heard of this store, but it’s actually heaven on earth. This huge one in Shibuya is 6 floors and has absolutely everything you could ever want or need. Literally from Louis Vuitton bags to Japanese junk food and cleaning supplies to makeup. It’s crazy busy and insanely packed.

5. Ginza- If you’re looking for some higher end shopping or some luxury, head out to the Ginza area and walk around the malls and streets that are filled with tons of high end brands and boutiques. Perfect if you’re looking for a nicer gift for a loved one or honestly even yourself (you deserve to get yourself a Christmas pressie too!). And if you’re as in love with Kate Spade as me, there’s a huge 3-story store right by the station that is beyond adorable.

6. Backstreets of Harajuku- Of course Takeshita Dori will always draw in the crowds, but during the winter months the backstreets are absolute stunning. Their often really empty and the trees all turn a beautiful golden color giving the whole space a very old and classy vibe. Just spend a few minutes walking down the streets, taking pictures and taking in the natural beauty.

7. Odaiba Spa World– Okay, I have to admit that I’ve never been BUT I’ve always wanted to go and have done so much research on it (and my sister has been so that counts, right?). This place is a completely indoor onsen and spa “world” full of different baths and other fun activities. It’s a bit tacky and touristy, but I honestly love that sometimes. And what’s better than going to the hot springs during a cold winter day.

8. The Westin Hotel in Ebisu and Ebisu Garden Place- During Christmas, The Westin and Ebisu Garden Place are decorated to beautifully. Ebisu Garden place is lined with Christmas trees, bright lights and a huge annual crystal chandelier. It’s the perfect place to have a coffee or a drink with your loved ones and take a few pictures. And after that you can walk underground to The Westin to see their traditionally decorated but absolutely breath-taking tree and decorations. Also, if it’s in your budget, The Westin is my favorite hotel in Tokyo to stay at.

9. Combini- Go to any convenient store in the city (you’ll find one every 10 steps) and relish in the magic of Combini in Japan. I really don’t know what else to say, just do it and you’ll thank me later. PS, convenient store coffee and donuts are the bomb!

How to dress:

It does get fairly cool during Christmas in Tokyo, and by fairly cool I mean an average of 38-50 (that’s freezing to me!), but it’s also usually really clear and sunny. You will for sure want to have at least one pair of good sunglasses and one solid coat. For me, jeans are for sure the way to go for pants, it’ll keep you warm but not too warm if you’re going to be walking around during the day.

If you do start to find yourself getting cold, find a Uniqlo (there’s seriously one on every corner) and get some heat-tech long underwear and that will keep you warm for the rest of your life (haha- not really but my family swears by it!).

Tokyo, generally, dresses quite conservatively so try not to dress to scandalous when you’re visiting. I think everyone should dress how they want to all the time, but I also think there’s something to be said about respecting the culture.

I hope you have all the wanderlust vibes now and are ready to go and explore!! xx

12 Days of Christmas|Day 7- Holiday Travel Tips|2018

I can’t believe we’re already at Day 7 and less than two weeks away from Christmas! As this post is going up, I’m in an Uber on the way to LAX ready to hop on a plane and head back to see my family for the holidays. Since traveling is something that almost everyone does during the holidays in one way or another, I thought I would share my holiday travel guide/tips for today’s post. I’ve done some other “travel tips” posts in the past (be sure to check those out!), but this one will be my updated one specifically for the holidays. Enjoy and happy traveling! xx

 

Preparation/planning:

– As we all know flights during the holiday season book up SO early and quickly, so be sure to get those tickets booked far in advance (or as soon as you are able to nail down dates).

– Check different airlines and airports for the best deals and times. This is something that’s good to do any time you’re planning a trip, but especially during a time when everyone is trying to go everywhere. You might find better deals at a smaller airport or with an airline you don’t normally fly with.

– Leave early enough so you give yourself PLENTY of time at the airport. While traffic may not be your biggest concern, driving into the airport and getting checked-in, through immigration and security can be an absolute nightmare during the holidays.

– If you have the means to do so, get TSA pre-check. It will save you so much hassle and time at the airport. You don’t have to worry about taking off your boots and sweaters and taking out your laptops and tablets, which can make a really stressful situation just a little less stressful.

– Get all of your travel documents together and organized using a travel organizer. I always have a passport case/cover (I’m obsessed with the Kate Spade ones), which I keep my passport and boarding pass in, but I’ve also started using a travel organizer to keep my flight confirmation, check-in documents and all those other things. I’m not naturally a very organized/neat person, so having a case where I know all of my important things are prevents me from having to desperately rifle through my bag looking for my boarding pass.

 

Airport chaos:

– Have a portable phone charger and extra cords. Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in waiting around in lines and you’ll most likely whip out your phone to pass the time. There’s nothing worse than traveling or being on a flight and realizing your phones about to die. Be prepared, have portables and chargers with adapters so you can charge your phone wherever and whenever you need to.

– Don’t waste time or money on airport food. I know this is common knowledge, but seriously. The number of times I’ve dropped insane amounts of money inside the airport on food is crazy. Try to be prepared and have food/snacks with you so you don’t end up waiting in long lines or spending $15 on a small sandwich. Also try to have some healthy snacks for the flight as well (veggie sticks in a little baggie is so easy).

– Check in online and get a digital copy of your boarding pass, if possible. These days a lot of airlines allow you to not only check-in, but check your bags in and get your boarding pass on your phone. If you’re given the option to do this, do it! It’s going to save you so much time at the airport, especially during the holidays when everybody is going somewhere.

– Give yourself enough time. I’ve always been one of those people who wants/needs a lot of time at the airport. I’d much rather sit there and be bored than end up missing my flight. Especially during the busiest travel time of the year, you never know what’s going to get you held up. So be prepared and get there with plenty of time.

 

On the flight:

– Have a change of clothes (top, pants, undies and all). You really never know what’s going to happen when you’re traveling but I would hate to be in a situation where something spills on you or maybe you leak a little (ladies…) and you having nothing to change into. I also just like having a extra clothes on longer flights/trips to change into half way so I don’t feel so gross.

– Have all your favorite shows, music and movies downloaded on your computer, iPad or iPhone. The night before a flight I always make sure that everything I’m going to want on the plane is downloaded so I don’t have to worry about it the next day. I forgot to do that the night before once and tried doing it at the airport, but the s****y airport wifi was not having it. Do it ahead of time and you’ll be glad you did.

– Have a pillow or blanket and a neck pillow and eye mask. Seriously, it’s the best thing ever. I love having my own pillow or blanket with me on the plane (as annoying as it may be to carry around) because it helps me feel comfy and safe. And as far as the neck pillow and eye mask go, it’s just a must-have. You don’t want to fall asleep on a flight only to wake up unable to move your neck, it’s awful. And since you can’t control the lights on the flight an eye mask will help you sleep at any time.

– This is one of my golden rules of traveling, but HYDRATE. I can’t emphasize this enough, when you’re up in the sky with the air circulating throughout the cabin you get so dehydrated. Not only do you want to be drinking a ton of water (but seriously though, like a ton), you also want to make sure you have moisturizer and face lotion easily accessible.

 

Happy traveling, see you for Day 8! xx

Life Through A Lens #26- LA Feels