Travel Photo of the Month: November 2014

Image

This morning, I am inspired by the chilly morning sunshine in Las Vegas. As I set off to post November’s travel photo of the month (POTM), my thoughts went back to another lovely morning–albeit not so cold–in India. I was traveling between Delhi and Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the scenery we were passing. Women were carrying water containers on their head, and men were gathered at local stands, presumably buying cigarettes or daily necessities. As my driver sped through village after village, the quiet scene captured in the POTM really made an impression upon me–the calm in the midst of a hectic morning.

I hope the serenity this 2012 photo offers you the same peace it does for me today. I wish all of my readers a wonderful week and a peaceful remainder of the year.

Morning Fog in India

Morning Fog in India

Christmas Market in Sweden

Two years ago in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Scandinavia, one of my favorite parts of the world. While there, I realized that I might be able to visit a Swedish Christmas market in Malmö. Luckily enough, I walked down a lovely pedestrian thoroughfare from my hotel to hit the market and browse through some of my favorite Swedish stores like Indiska. The holiday scents from delicious food and drink offerings like glögg (mulled wine) were intoxicating! My must-have purchase? A tomte gnome, which is a traditional Swedish version of Santa. With this brisk evening jaunt in 37◦F weather, I had a fantastic glimpse into Christmas customs from a country that I adore. An early “God Jul” to you!

Delicious San Francisco

I’ve referenced the City on the Bay several times in past blog posts, but after a recent visit to San Francisco, it’s worth starring in its own blog post. I was in town for only 48 hours, but a walk-able downtown area, fantastic fall weather, easily available Uber, and meeting up with friends made this quick trip an autumn treat! Here is my recipe for a delicious visit:

Ingredients
1 night of tennis at the Bay Club (optional: enjoying wine afterwards in club’s bar)
2.5 hours of exploring Union Square, Chinatown, and the Financial District on foot
5 tasty dim sum dishes at Hang Ah Tea Room, which calls itself the city’s oldest
1 bottle of wine mixed with 1 cheese plate at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
Optional: a quick peek at gorgeous men’s store Wingtip, housed in the old Bank of Italy

Directions
Set weather to an average of 60 degrees. Mix all ingredients together, add a sprinkle of World Series fever, and serve with a side of Apple. (I was lucky enough to visit nearby Cupertino and have lunch at the tech giant’s headquarters. I Ubered; I visited; I bought the “I left my heart in Cupertino” t-shirt.) Bon appétit!

Travel Photo of the Month: October 2014

Image

October’s Travel Photo of the Month (POTM™) is a favorite of mine, although it is “not a photo opportunity.” It was taken in London in March 2006, and since then, I’ve occasionally seen this stenciled phrase in random spots. I believe it’s been attributed to Banksy, a UK artist turned activist, who’s graffiti is now viewed as art. Regardless, this month’s POTM™ is certainly a fantastic photo opp.

This is not a photo opportunity.

This is not a photo opportunity.

Eating Our Way through Santa Monica

Aside

This weekend, my fiancé and I spent three days in Santa Monica, California. In town for a wedding, we happily ate our way through some of the best restaurants there. Headed to this lovely beach community soon? Below are some of the best places we went over the long weekend:

  • Ivy at the Shore. The Ivy is a Beverly Hills institution, and we hit this more casual location for lunch. Think colorful decoration, the famous Cobb salad (I enjoyed mine with lobster), attentive waiters, and refreshing berry champagne drinks. The outside seating area filled up quickly, and we loved having a leisurely lunch before strolling down to the touristy Santa Monica Pier.
  • The Penthouse at the Huntley. We joined some friends in a snazzy private booth here for dinner, and what a meal it was! We started with a delish charcuterie plate and marveled over the pâté. For my main course, I selected the truffle lobster macaroni and cheese–to die for!–and shared some of the chocolate panna cotta with my friends for desert. The views were incredible, and the service was excellent.
  • One Pico at Shutters on the Beach. This hotel is gorgeous and worth a visit itself, but I will happily recommend their Saturday brunch. We enjoyed tasty bubbles and their heavenly array of breads in this open and airy space directly next to the beach. Since I was still in a food coma from the previous day, I had a light mealof fresh corn soup with a zesty Caesar salad.
  • Sonoma Wine Garden. This fetching wine bistro sits atop of Santa Monica Place, and their Sunday brunch boasted six unlimited day drinking options (think elderflower mimosas) and noshable treats. Make sure you stake claim on your umbrella quickly, as these were in high demand on a sunny afternoon!
  • Casa Del Mar. This hotel, also directly on the beach, is another Santa Monica staple, yet we were finished stuffing our faces and only enjoyed a glass of wine overlooking the ocean. The atmosphere was quaint, and this was absolutely the most delightful way to cap off a lovely weekend.

The wedding we attended was at the nearby Viceroy–and it was pretty swanky. I would have loved to luxuriate by its cabana-covered pool, and they did a wonderful job with the wedding. We stayed at the Le Meridien Delfina, and while the hotel was not my favorite SPG property, the staff was pleasant, and the spicy truffle popcorn was addicting. It’s a good thing that we danced the night away at the wedding reception and walked all over town, or we would have gained a lot of weight eating our way through gorgeous Santa Monica!

Santa Monica Beach Scene from Casa Del Mar

Santa Monica Beach Scene from Casa Del Mar

Travel Photo of the Month: September 2014

Image

In 2010, I purchased an around the world itinerary for a month-long long business trip that took me to the Middle East. I was thrilled to visit both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates–especially Dubai. The trip was so incredible that it deserves its own entry, but for now, I’d like to share a highlight: an evening excursion that included exploring nearby sand dunes and a camel ride. Yes, it was touristy, but yes, it was a great memory. Meet my camel friend in the Travel POTM™ below. Happy September!

Camel Near Dubai

Camel Near Dubai

Business and Pleasure in Beijing

I was thrilled to be invited to meetings in China, and after completing the visa process and studying the professional culture, I headed to Beijing around the time of Chinese New Year. Experiencing the local business customs in person was very interesting…including proper business card exchanges and a traditional hosted dinner with heaping plates of food. Speaking of food, I enjoyed the cuisine I sampled, and absolutely fell in LOVE with Peking duck…the city’s specialty at the famed Da Dong Restaurant. One eats the crispy skin with sugar, and the chef prepares it tableside with a proper duck being cut 180 times.

Sometimes, I can’t believe my blessings, as I was in Beijing during the final days of the spring festival (Chinese New Year). This means fireworks every night and big red lanterns hanging from the buildings all over town. The last day of the festival, a big group of us headed downtown and had a delish dinner before enjoying the view of the celebrations from the penthouse bar of a swanky hotel. Imagine seeing a panoramic view of more than ten full-scale firework displays—underneath your feet! I also enjoyed an hour and a half foot massage for around $20 on Friday evening, as well as gallons of real jasmine tea…both quite the treat!

After the business portion of the trip, Saturday was a tourist day, as my Finnish colleague and I spent the day visiting some pretty famous sites: the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, a silk marketplace, a jade factory, and…the Great Wall. It was astonishing to see some of the ancient parts of the city and learn more about the mythical Chinese animals, like the lion statues that guard the entrances to palaces and buildings. A tour bus was the best way to see a lot in a small amount of time, and I felt completely at ease as discovering some of China.