Adventures

Never Stop Exploring

April 10, 2018

March has been very busy with work, so I find balance in a variety of outdoor activities. I love the diversity of nature that Southern California offers…it’s only hard to choose which activity to do :-)! We had a “rainy” March in California – which means lots of snow in the mountains. It is true, you can go surfing in the morning and snowboarding in the afternoon here in SoCal – all in one day. 

Snow Boarding

We had planned a winter vacation to Mammoth, but due to our tight work schedule, we had to cancel our trip. However, we did a day trip to Big Bear mountain. I was kind of nervous of getting back on my snowboard after an almost 1 year (unintentional) break and not sure if I could even ride down the mountain. The conditions were perfect as there was just a storm that moved over – so all fresh powder. As soon as we arrived on top of the mountain and I stood on my board I remembered what to do. Actually, I’ve had my best snowboarding experience ever. I focused on turning my shoulder on the turns instead of my feet and it worked wonders. I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics and cheering on Shaun White and Chloe Kim. Their skills must have rubbed off on me (HAHAHAHA). Seriously, I’m not sure what it is, but sometimes when you start with no expectations it turns out better than expected. I had a ton of fun and we stayed until it got too crowded in the afternoon. I’m not even sure if we can go another time before summer, but I can’t wait to get back on the slopes!

Run, Bike, Ride, Repeat

There are so many activities we like to do so we try to switch it up each weekend. My only must do is volleyball on Saturdays. I can’t wait to get out early morning and play until everyone is tired and I have no one to play with anymore :-). Another one of our Sunday traditions is starting the day with a (longer – for me) run…mostly in one of the Canyons here so Ulli can get some hill work in.  That way we earn our Sunday Brunch 🙂 We’ve also got back on our mountain bike. We have great trails here in Orange County and are really lucky to have Aliso Wood Canyon in our “backyard” which offers some of the best trails in Southern California. The ride starts out pretty easy but then you have to climb up steep & technical trails to get to Top of the World. From there you can choose from several  downhill trails. It’s a lot of fun and a good workout….which you only feel when you get home 🙂

 

Motorcycle Tour

I’ve been practicing riding a motorcycle with sidecar to get familiar with shifting. I’m feeling more comfortable each time and having fun doing it. However, I always loved riding with Ulli and being the passenger on the backseat. I feel very safe with him and love the feeling of riding on a bike. So the other weekend after our morning run, we did a motorcycle tour. We rode down Pacific Coast Highway from Laguna Beach to Newport Beach. I can never get enough of this coastal view. There’s nothing like the freedom of riding on a motorcycle down the Southern California coast…..ahhh….until you run out of gas and have to push up the bike and get an Uber to the gas station (yes, that happened). Our reward was a stop at our favorite smoothie/bowl place Sejuiced in Corona Del Mar. 

So many activities…so little time! What do you like to do on the weekend? What are your favorite scenic driving routes? Always like to hear what everyone is up to 🙂 

 

Happiness & Health

LA Marathon

March 31, 2018

I think it’s the 3rd year that Ulli is running the LA Marathon and it is his favorite one. Basically it’s a sightseeing tour through Los Angeles J The runners start at Dodgers Stadium, through Downtown LA, West Hollywood and end in Santa Monica. Sounds beautiful, right? Unless you have to run the entire 26.2 miles (42km). No matter how many times Ulli is running a marathon, I still can’t comprehend how someone can do this. The weather conditions were perfect – sunny skies and in the 60s. Ulli achieved a PR of 3hours 16minutes! WOW!!

 

While he was running the marathon, I slept through the morning and had cake for breakfast….NO! Just kidding 🙂 I also put on my running shoes and did a scenic route from Santa Monica beach to Malibu. On the way back I took some amazing photos (see below) and watched a juniors beach volleyball competition on Santa Monica Beach.

I had to rush back quickly as I got the text notification that Ulli is close to the finish already. They had very tight security so there were no spectators allowed at the finish line. However, we stayed at a hotel that’s right after the finish line (no coincidence) so I was able to welcome him right there – I was the only spectactor around. I’m always in awe and so proud when I see Ulli after a marathon. We went up to our room and watched the other runners come in from our window view :-). Most runners would crash for the rest of the day, but we continued walking in Santa Monica to get lunch and smoothies – active recovery is the best.    

 Who else ran the LA marathon? What’s your bucket list marathon?

 

 

 

Travel

Weekend Getaway to Los Angeles

March 28, 2018

We LOVE Los Angeles. It’s always been our favorite city in the world and since we moved to California we spent at least one weekend /month here. I personally wouldn’t want to live in the city, as I love my beach lifestyle – but I do enjoy visiting as much as possible. This time we focused on West Hollywood area. We stayed at the London West Hollywood hotel – a hidden gem off Sunset Boulevard. It’s one of my favorite boutique hotels …and not just because they have an actual real dog as their mascot in the lobby. The rooms are all suites so very spacious, all have a balcony and you’re in the middle of the trendiest WeHo neighborhood. There are plenty of restaurants & nightclubs / bars in the area to choose from. We don’t drink, but we love to go out to the Laugh Factory / Comedy Store on Sunset. There are truly the best stand up comedians. They never disappoint. This time we got to see Ken Jeong (the Asian – real life – Doctor from the Hangover)…ohhhh – he was my favorite. We also got to see Dane Cook who always tells the funniest every day life stories. I honestly didn’t stop laughing for the entire show….everyone was so entertaining & professional! I promise you’ll always have a good time at the Laugh Factory on Sunset.

 

Each time we’re in LA I want to explore a new trail. That’s the best part of LA you can experience city life and also be in the middle of nowhere in nature. We decided on a run/hike in Griffith Park on a new trail (that I can’t remember now ;-() It started close to the Hollywood Reservoir up to Wisdom Tree and then over to the Hollywood Sign. Such beautiful views and gorgeous California weather! We also made friends with the @OCRunningMama (Instagram) who shared her inspiring story with us (about losing her eyesight and still keep running marathons). She’s has great energy and good vibes.  

   

What do you love most about LA? Any tips for your favorite hikes/runs here? 

Travel

Anniversary at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills

February 16, 2018

There’s a place where lemon trees grow by the pool, people greet you with warm smiles wherever you go, you wake up and view the beautiful Palm Tree streets of Beverly Hills, a scent of fresh flowers follows you around and if that’s not enough…you may bump into a Hollywood legend in the elevator. Yes, this place exists and I was lucky to stay here….The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Wow! For our anniversary we splurged on this special weekend LA getaway and I didn’t want to leave.  

Upon arrival we started our celebration with their famous Sunday Brunch. Amazing!!! They have several rooms set up with different themes – everything from: seafood, sushi, salads, risotto served out of a Parmesan bowl, fresh cut meats, Chocolate fountain with strawberries, fresh pressed juices… The décor was beautiful and everything we tried was delicious. We sat outside, heard the birds chirping and enjoyed our sushi roll with ginger shot one after another. We also had our first “celebrity” sighting (so glad I’m keeping up with the gossip magazines … but actually Ulli recognized her first): TV/actress/comedian Sherrie Shephard was having brunch with a group of people next to us.

 

At check-in to our room the guest services agent came out and welcomed us personally with a handshake. This reminded me of our stay in Tokyo and their customer service level where they always come around the counter to welcome you. We then heard some tumult in the lobby and there he was Clint Eastwood standing next to us with a group of other guys. At the same time when we went up to our room he also went up the elevator. Wow – a true legend and so charismatic. We found out he held a press conference promoting his new movie The 15:17 to Paris.  It was amazing standing so close to this Hollywood legend. If I was actually reading “real” news I would have recognized the true life hero’s standing next to him (that played themselves in the movie). Lesson learnt.

Our -wow- experience continued when we got to our room….I mean SUITE. Holy moly! Beautiful fresh décor, a huge bathroom, bedroom separate from living area with a balcony overlooking Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills. Speechless. Can I move in here? I felt right at home (who wouldn’t) and we were able to see a beautiful sunset.

You know by now that the most important area of the hotel for me is the gym….Hotels are easy to neglect the gym and put it in the basement…because who goes there on vacation? Me! This is truly my standard for rating hotel stars. J Needless to say the Four Seasons didn’t disappoint in this area either. The gym is connected to the pool deck and it’s an open-air gym surrounded by beautiful plants – which makes you feel you’re in Hawaii. New and innovative equipment and several choices of different flavored water and Gatorade. Ok now I really don’t want to leave.

 

Besides all the exciting amenities and perfect location of the hotel, the customer service is really what stands out here. Ever staff member is so attentive in trying to read each small wish before you say it out loud. It’s amazing. Unfortunately, there was a check-out day….so I actually had to leave this oasis in Beverly Hills, but I will make sure to come back soon. Promise to myself. What’s your TOP 5 hotels you have ever stayed at?

 

Travel

New Years 2017/2018 in Las Vegas

January 15, 2018

If you ever want to have a true New Years Eve party there’s only one place: Las Vegas. Amazing hotels, world class entertainment, biggest music artists, fanciest restaurants and of courses several spectacular fireworks – all in one place in one night. Yes, you have to use superlatives to describe this city.

We came back from our Christmas trip in Germany, unpacked our bags from winter clothes and filled them with (party) outfits and headed to the airport the next day. What a breeze it is to fly 45min from Orange County to Las Vegas! The drive is usually 4-5 hours but over weekends and holidays can take up to 8hours!!!

We chose the Mandarin Oriental as our hotel for this stay…which is one of my favorites on the strip (see my previous post). First of all, it’s right in the middle of everything on the Strip and also right at the bustling City Center.  The hotel is Asian inspired and is one of the few that doesn’t have a casino. The lobby is on the 23rd floor and guarantees some awesome views. Plus the customer service is truly superb! However, more important for this holiday it also gives you some privacy especially on a crazy NYE night.

What I loved most about this New Years Eve trip to Vegas: Continue Reading…

Adventures

Sunday Hiking Suicide Rock Trail

January 7, 2018

These past two months were busy with traveling, exploring city life and going in/out of airports. It was a ton of fun, but this Sunday I was longing for a day in California wilderness – somewhere alone with my husband and connecting with nature. I had just recently found out about this area on the other side of Palm Springs called Idyllwild which is the Mount San Jacinto forest. It’s connected on one side with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – but I wanted to explore the other side of this mountain range. Idyllwild is one of the stops for hikers on the John Muir Trail – which as you may know is one of the most scenic hikes you can do. We left our home in Orange County at 8am in a foggy marine layer and arrived at a sunny mountain top at 10am.

We picked up our day permit (no charge, just need to fill out a form) at the ranger station in Idyllwild. Not far from there, across from the nature center is the parking area for the trailhead. We had decided on Suicide Rock Trail, a 6.7 mike uphill hike in San Bernadino Forest.

The hike pretty easy and, but has a nice elevation gain of 2000ft to get a bit of a work out in. It took us about 2 hours through magnificent high country wilderness to the top of Suicide rock. At the peak we took a snack break and enjoyed amazing 360degree views.

 

I truly loved this hike – very calm (only the chirping of birds and sounds of squirrels) and walking through the sun-alpine forest. Even though it was a Sunday, we were pretty much by ourself the entire hike. The trees and fauna were changing from the bottom of the trail to the top. I especially loved the Manzanita bushes which have the really beautiful red bark. I truly felt reenergized inside and out after this day in nature!

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir

Adventures

Dream come true – Husky Sledding

December 29, 2017

Over Christmas we went to Germany to see our family & friends. We had a wonderful time exploring the German Christmas market, playing cards and enjoying lots of good food. One of my highlights was our dog sledding tour in the Thuringia Forest. We have met the Kraft family many years ago who established themselves as the leading dog sledding & training school in Germany. They’re the sweetest people and their dog sledding team consists now over 17 dogs (mainly huskies – but also malamute, samojede, Czech wolf dog & more). They offer dog sledding tours, musher training, dog scooter tours, hiking with dogs and even alpaca tours (yes they own a pack of alpacas as well). You and your furry friend can also stay in one of their brand new apartments for a longer vacation. Julia (daughter) is a trained animal physiotherapist focused on natural healing methods and Ralf (dad) besides leading the tours, also published several children books. Check out Huskyerlebnisse.de for more information and mention my name for a recommendation – they’re awesome!

We didn’t have any snow in the city this year, but luckily there was snow in the forest to get the dogs out. Dog sledding is a really good work out too, as I like to run and push the cart to help the dogs. They listen to “Halt” (stop), “Go” and “straight”. I LOVED every minute of the tour!

Here’s the video from my dog sledding trip this year: 

My next goal is to do a dog sledding tour in Canada – maybe even with an overnight stay in the middle of nowhere. Has anyone done it and can recommend an area and supplier? Please share! 

Travel

Hola Barcelona!

December 19, 2017

This was my first time in Barcelona and I wasn’t sure what to expect. First of all I checked the weather and it looked like similar temperatures in November as in Southern California. When we arrived it was as expected, but the next day it dropped to low 40s. Brrrrr! Maybe that was my “unintentional” reason to go shopping for a jacket. It worked! Ha! The locals told me it’s only that cold for 5 days out of the year and this must have been the week. They were not used to this either.

Getting around in Barcelona is easy. Pretty much everything is in walking distance and they also have a great subway & bus system to get around. However, we mainly used taxis and Cabify (their Uber version). One day the entire country of Spain was on taxi strike so don’t rely on it too much :-). 

My 3 favorite things about Barcelona 

#1 Architecture

I don’t have a great knowledge of architecture but the one on Barcelona fascinated me. Gaudi is the main influence and the buildings he created are really one of a kind. They’re mostly inspired by nature – maybe that’s why I felt so intrigued by them. I could look at them for hours and always find something new. Really beautiful. The most famous cathedral Sagrada Familia was designed by Gaudi and he worked on the Design alone for over 40years on it. It’s still a work in progress – for the past 131 years – as it’s so many details and towers. Hopefully I’ll still be able to see his completed work of art. Goal is by 2026! If you want to be transferred into a fairy tale – walk around Park Guell. The buildings looked to me like gingerbread houses with sugar coating on top. You also have a great view over the city of Barcelona from the park. Make sure you buy tickets in advance as they sell out quickly. 

       

#2 Food markets

The biggest food market is La Boqueria right on La Rambla. This is the most amazing and biggest food market I’ve ever been to. You’ll find everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, meat (ham), seafood, candy, nuts, etc here. I snacked on fresh mango, had a seafood dinner and a dragon fruit fruit smoothie afterwards. So delicious! Keep in mind that the market is closed on Sundays (we didn’t know and arrived that day to explore the market but it was closed :-() Another cool and more upscale place to eat is El Nacional. It’s in an historic building that resembles the 1920s and you can try different Spanish dishes with high quality ingredients. 

 

#3 Shopping

I didn’t have shopping on my mind when I came to Barcelona. I promise!! However, walking down La Rambla and Old Town you just can’t resist checking out the many cute boutiques and Spanish brands like Massimo Dutti, Desigual and of course Zara and Mango.  My favorite was exploring the narrow alleys of Old town and the Gothic Quarter and discovering many small shops, new labels and designers. You should also walk down Paseig de Gracia – which reminded me of the “Champs Elysees” with many high end luxury designer stores. This was also my favorite street to view the modernist buildings and architecture.

  

One thing to be careful about in Barcelona is pickpocketing. I never think about this stuff when I travel in the US, but going to other countries esp. Europe you have to be mindful about your backpack and where you keep your valuables. Unfortunately, a colleague of mine had her purse stolen and I read that Barcelona is rumored to be the pickpocket capital of the world. Don’t feel intimidated to travel there now, just be mindful of where you keep your money. It’s easy to get distracted with the beautiful sights around you 🙂

To turn this post back to how awesome Barcelona really is…here’s my description of an epic run you should try:

This scenic run includes lots of famous sites, views and great hill work out! We started at our hotel in the marina, running along the waterfront into the garden park and to the top up to Montjuic. Best city views! From there we continued uphill to the Olympic complex and stadium that were held here in 1992. Then we continued to run back down through beautiful Greek gardens and past the national art museum (doesn’t the statue in the front look like ET?). I can’t remember the exact distance – around 4-6 miles roundtrip?! – but who cares when you’re having fun, right? 

 

Then we went to breakfast at Federal – healthy options and yummy smoothies! I was so excited they had a chia bowl (so so good) with soy milk (wow!) and fresh squeezed orange juice. So delicious! Nice service, cozy ambience and good music (if you dig Wutang like me :-)) – no worries they switched to more pop music when the crowds came in).

 

If you’ve been to Barcelona, let me know what your favorite things to do are in the city. What other cities in Spain can you recommend to visit? I always love to hear your feedback! 

Happiness & Health

Being Thankful

November 24, 2017

Yesterday was Thanksgiving which has become my favorite holiday of the year. I LOVE Christmas, but the stress with getting presents takes away what Christmas is all about. That’s why I really enjoy Thanksgiving….it’s all about good food, spending time with your loved ones and it’s my starting day of decorating the house. So basically it’s everything I love about Christmas minus the presents. Our Thanksgiving always starts around 5am with the turkey trot (run) in Dana Point. It’s a 10k run and about 10,000 runners each year. The course is not too difficult – mostly flat and has beautiful ocean and marina views. It’s a great way of earning your feast that day. Many runners dress up in Thanksgiving / Turkey outfits – I really need to step up my outfit game next year! After our traditional run we buy our Thanksgiving dinner. This year I made a roasted butternut squash soup (yummy- and yes, I will share the recipe if you’re really interested) and the other dishes we buy at Whole Foods (don’t judge I couldn’t cook it any better): vegan roast, roasted potatoes /  sweet potatoes, green beans, roasted Brussel sprouts & carrots and mushroom gravy. Oh so good! We’re leaving out the pie, but instead have fresh fruit and dates.  Then we eat and eat and…watch Christmas movies. Thanksgiving is also about reminiscing of what your thankful for…and I do remind myself every day how lucky I am to be healthy, have such a loving & supportive husband and that I’m living my dream here in Southern California.  What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Do you watch movies or play boardgames? Do you get the entire family together or just a small gathering with friends? Please share I would love to hear!!

 

Christmas activities have started already around here. We attended two tree lighting ceremonies: one was at Fashion Island and the other one at the Ritz Carlton. Don’t be fooled and think it’s just someone pushing a button to turn the light on….no no no…afterall we’re in the entertainment capital of the world. 😉 So there’s Mario Lopez as a host, a full choreographed 30 minute show, 20 dancers dressed as reindeers, professional singers and of course Santa Clause himself (the real one) who gives the countdown to turn on the lights. I tear up every time (stop laughing)…Christmas makes me so sentimental. Can’t wait for more Christmas activities this month! What are your holiday plans? Do you have an advent calendar? Do you see the Nutcracker ballet or watch Christmas movies? I love hearing about Christmas traditions from around the world…

 

November also brings out the most stunning sunsets. Every night I get to witness spectacular colors when the sun settles on the California coast. First it’s the golden hour where everything has the most beautiful golden glow, then as soon as the sun sets the sky turns to different shades of pink, purple, yellow, orange…it’s breathtaking. I tend to take too many pictures – I just can’t help it.

Here are a few of my favorites from this month: 

Adventures, Travel

Switzer Falls, Angeles Crest & Pasadena

October 5, 2017

It’s been a while since my last post. Even though I’ve been super busy I had to remind myself the reason I started this blog was to keep a journal of our adventures. These days I’m reminded again to make every day count. There’s no weekday or weekend – there should be joy in every day living. There are days where you easily forget and not every moment is a happy day. However, my goal is to experience something new every week and live in the moment each day. It has to be a conscious decision to do so, as it’s easy to get lazy in your routine. I tell my husband every day that I love him and he makes me laugh every day (I know I’m lucky). 

Sunday is our adventure day. We always make this our special day together – with lots of activities and good food. As I thrive to explore new areas we decided to focus on Northeast Los Angeles. LA is so big you have to concentrate on one area at a time. I found out that there are amazing hikes (aka trail runs) in the San Gabriel Mountains and also the drive on Angeles Crest Highway is one of the most scenic ones you can imagine. So Ulli picked out the car and I picked out the trail. I decided on Switzer Falls Trail which is a 50-foot waterfall and about a 4.5 mile out-and-back trek. We wanted to make this a trail run (instead of hike) and parked on the top of Switzer Falls Parking area. We were there super early and not a lot of hikers in sight yet. We saw a picnic area and ventured off on a single track into the wilderness. It was beautiful scenery and a nice run up and down hills. After about 3 miles into the run we still didn’t see any Falls (even though the entire hike was 4.5 miles roundtrip). We finally encountered another couple and they told us we ran in the wrong direction – starting from the campground. Oh! That’s why we didn’t see any other hikers around. We ran back and then found the correct trail to the Falls. When we finally got there after 2 hours of running we earned our dip in the (freezing cold and little) waterfall. That was fun! While Ulli was running the steep cliffs back up, I hiked (I was tired) and on top we encountered some deer in the forest. I’m actually glad that we discovered this other trail, as it would have been too short trip otherwise.

 

We then drove on Angels Crest Highway – listening to Strauss (yes thats right – we’re classy like that ;-)) – and stopped at Newcomb’s Ranch. This is an iconic roadhouse and meet up for all car and bike enthusiast. Everyone was checking out each others vehicles and in a good mood. Not any healthy food options there so we headed back to Pasadena to EAT! We went to a really good sushi restaurant (that I forgot the name)…oh we earned that meal! In case you’re not familiar, Pasadena is the home of the world-famous Rose Bowl Stadium (saw Coldplay there a few months ago) and beautiful wide, tree-lined residential streets with Arts & Crafts-style architecture. Pasadena Slogan is: “Old World Charm. Modern Convenience.” Really cute town. We did some window shopping on Colorado Boulevard and got some coffee (in my case: Matcha green tea) at Intelligentsia Coffee – MUST DO! Love a Sunday like this with not a minute to waste 🙂 What was something new you discovered / learned this week?