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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…

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! 

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? 

 

 

Travel

Labor Day Run/Hike to Mount Baldy

September 5, 2017

It has become our Labor Day tradition to participate in the “Run to the Top” race to Mount Baldy. It’s a very tough course as its starting at 6,000’ and finishing on the summit of third tallest mountain in Southern California–Mt. Baldy at 10,064′ – which means an 4,000′ of gain in only 7+ miles. Ulli ran the entire climb up in 1hour 40minutes, while I hiked in 2hours 20minutes. It was very windy/stormy on top but the scenic views made up for it. Have you done any fun races or adventures lately? I would love to hear! 

Adventures, Travel

Summer in Colorado? Yes please!

July 28, 2017

Colorado is a popular winter destination but if you love the outdoors you have to experience it in the summer. The days are warm and sunny and you have plenty of adventures to choose from: hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, rafting, trail running, climbing, golfing, horseback riding, fly fishing…each activity with its own spectacular scenic views. Here are some of my favorite activities that we did… Continue Reading…

Happiness & Health, Travel

Viva Las Vegas

June 29, 2017

When we moved to Southern California we always imagined doing weekend trips to Las Vegas…and that’s what we still like to do. People think the only reason to go to Vegas is to either gamble or get drunk, but that’s not us. We enjoy the one-of-a kind hotels, world class entertainment and good food. It’s one of our favorite destinations to get away. The drive from our home is about a 4 hour drive, but lately it’s been a lot of traffic and this time we decided to fly (only 45min) – which is so convenient. During this trip we experienced extreme temperatures in Las Vegas like we never had before – about 125F! It was so boiling hot that even flights got cancelled or had to be rescheduled to the night where it was “only” 115F. You know that feeling when you check on your baking pie in the oven and the hot air blows in your face? That’s how it felt the entire time – on your entire body. I thought my hair and skin were on fire. I’ve never experienced such dry and hot temperatures. We also didn’t know that there was a huge EDC (music) festival over the same dates and there were lots of very interesting teenagers in (non-existent) costumes walking around. When I say costume I mean crazy hair and boots and just patches placed in certain areas of the body. 😉

Hotels: I have a handful of hotels in Vegas that are my absolute favorite – and we stayed in two of them.

Bellagio: Our accommodation here was in an amazing Bellagio Tower Corner Suite with fountain view. My highlight: You turn the TV channel to music and follow the synchronized fountain spectacular from your room. Amazing! I also LOVE all the seasonal decoration in the hotel. This time they had Italy and Amalfi Coast as a theme…all decoration is made out of real flowers. Incredible! With these temperatures we also checked out the pools…may I say the best pool area in all of Vegas :-). Breathtaking pool scenery with hand crafted stone fountains, Mediterranean designed tiles and lush citrus trees imported from Italy. 

  

Aria: The second hotel we stayed in on this trip is Aria. As soon as you enter the lobby you get enticed with their signature Vanilla smell … MHHHH.  Usually in Vegas there’s smoke in the casinos, but not at Aria. It’s one of the greenest hotels and also is up to speed with the latest technology (you got my play of words here,right? ;-)) in the rooms and throughout the hotel. Aria has a young vibe and my favorite gym in Vegas with a fireplace to relax 😊

Continue Reading…

Travel

Tokyo: Shinjuku Garden, Samurai Museum, Harajuko & Omotesando (Day 5)

May 17, 2017

We started the day at 5:30am with a work out in our scenic hotel gym overlooking the city. I could spend hours in this gym! I also went to the steam sauna after our work out – couldn’t think of a better start in the day!

 

On our agenda for the morning was a visit to Shinjuku Gardens – which has three different landscape gardens: Japanese, French and English. This park was my favorite one to see the cherry blossom trees as it was less crowded and they had different colored trees along with the Japanese trees – looked especially beautiful. We spent the morning walking around, taking pictures and a little picnic on the grass. I really loved it!

 

Our next stop was the Samurai Museum…which was a smaller museum but is definitely worth the visit. The tourguide made the tour really interesting and you even get to try on the samurai uniform at the end (heavy!).

We walked around the neighborhood and had lunch at a place where they only served skewers – either fish or meat. We had a mix of 6 different skewers chargrilled and served with miso soup, salad and rice. Very nice! 😊 It’s too bad I can’t remember all the names of the restaurants we went to as they usually don’t have “English names” outside and I can’t read Japanese. So we will never find them again – but there are so many to choose from you can’t really go wrong with any of them.

 

Continue Reading…

Travel

Tokyo: Tea Ceremony (Day 4)

May 1, 2017

We started our day with a tea ceremony at Happo-En. When you drive through the busy streets of Tokyo along skyscrapers and condominium towers you would not expect to find this oasis.  All of a sudden you turn right, go through the gate and enter a beautiful traditional Japanese garden. You truly feel transported into a different time in Japan. As soon as you arrive a hostess greeted us and walked us through the garden to the 150 year old tea house. Pictures speak more than words…so just watch the video below: 

After the tea ceremony we walked to the imperial palace (it’s the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan.). You can access the east garden of the estate which is enormous…and this is only one part of the property. Cherry blossom trees where planted around the imperial palace for guests to enjoy (Thank you Emperor). For some reason when we got to Tokyo I thought we would only see them in one area in Ueno Park but we were lucky to enjoy them all around the palace (and Tokyo). 

    

Our next stop was a proclaimed hipster area called Tomigaya. This neighborhood had a complete different vibe than any other part we’ve been before – it wasn’t traditional Japanese,  nor touristy or historic but very urban. There were plenty of unique stores restaurant and coffee shops. As mentioned before, coffee is actually more popular in Japan than tea so there are plenty of cool coffee places around Tokyo. Hey, I’m a tea person – how did I start liking coffee?

 

We walked, explored and ended in Shibuyo where we stoped at Don Quijote shop – a crazy store where they sell everything you can think of (thrift store type) and Shibuya109 (department store for teenage girls). In between we had lots and lots of sushi / sashimi. I wish I could recommend specific restaurants, but I rarely could find / read the name. Honestly, you really can’t go wrong with any of them – so just explore on your own.

   

Oh one more…we were expanding our photo collection of “beige coats” today…which one is today’s winner?