Muir Woods – Mill Valley, Calif.

12 Jan

You have got to go here…Muir Woods – Mill Valley, Calif.

Do you think this view is worth $7.00?

Beautiful!

I do, and I promise you  will too!

Now you may be asking yourself…where can I find such a beautiful sight? The Muir Woods of course!  Located less than an hour north from San Francisco is this majestic National Park full of redwood trees.

Welcome!

Before we go any further I have two big tips for you!!!  1. Go early – I mean it.  The parking is FREE and close parking is limited so unless you want to take a shuttle or park off-site I recommend you go right when the park opens. 2. Bring a sweater. Even on the sunniest of days the park is primarily shaded so you will want something to keep you warm.

OK, now that we got that covered let’s have some fun.  The entrance fee for the park is $7.00 for ages 16 and older and 15 and under are FREE!

When you enter pick up a map as there are several trails that you can take.  If you want to challenge yourself there are options for you, but a nice family stroll can also be achieved.  We decided on the loop around the park and started in the canyon and then took the hillside on the way back to change up the scenery – I highly recommend this!

One of my favorite parts of the walk is entering the Cathedral Grove.  The park asks that you remain quiet when entering so that you can become one with nature and just enjoy being amongst its beauty.

Really take the time to enjoy what you are seeing around you as you never know what cool things you will discover!

You can even be silly in nature!

Another thing I love about this park is that it is good for the whole family, so don’t be afraid to invite the whole crew for an awesome day out!

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OH and don’t forget the best souvenir ever – a smashed penny! DSCN8685

So what will you see other than trees might you ask?  Well first off they are some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring trees that you will ever see, but there is also a lot of history about the park to be learned (No, I am not going to tell you about it – you must discover it on your own!).

Happy Woodsing,

Crystal

P.S. Are you hungry?  Well, I have some options for you!  You can eat at the cafe in the park or take a lovely drive north on Highway 1 and stop in Stinson Beach, a quaint little town with a lot of character. I recommend eating at The Lunch Box.  They have fresh sandwiches/salads/treats and you can take it over (or they will actually deliver it to you) to the park right across the street for a picnic!

Lunchbox

International Cottages – San Diego, Calif.

6 Jan

You have got to go here…International Cottages – San Diego, Calif.

As a Southern California native I have been to Balboa Park many times but had never had the chance to visit the International Cottages - man was I missing out!

Welcome!

Established in 1935 the cottages were set-up to promote understanding between nations.  Today, 32 countries open their doors every Sunday from noon – 4 p.m. to give visitors a glimpse into a traditional home, a history lesson and an opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone of a different culture.

And that’s not all that is inside…every cottage offers snacks native to their country (please bring small bills as tips are greatly appreciated for these treats!) so bring your appetite!

Oh wait there is more…some countries even have activities for you to partake in!

In addition to the open houses every Sunday each country hosts a lawn program each year that highlights music and dance from their part of the world.

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It doesn’t stop there, there are also several other events held throughout the year such as an Ethnic Food Fair and International Christmas Fair just to name a few!

I forgot to mention the best part – all of this is FREE!!!  So bring your friends, bring your family and spend the day immersing yourself in other cultures.

Happy Cottaging,

Crystal

5 Reasons to Take a River Cruise with Scenic Cruises

27 Oct

I have got to do this…Take a River Cruise with Scenic Cruises

Of course I am sure there are a million reasons why I (and you too!) should float through Europe on a luxury hotel, but I will make it easy and give you the reasons why you HAVE to do this!

Let’s do this David Letterman style:

The TOP FIVE reasons to a take a river cruise with Scenic Cruises are…

5. Make new friends.

The intimacy of the luxurious fleet of ‘Space-Ships’ gives ample opportunities to meet new people from all over the world  and share a once of a lifetime vacation.  You never know how many lifelong friends you may meet!

4. Discover hidden gems.

Do you love to find new things that most others don’t take the time to discover? ME TOO!  Well, Scenic Cruises will make this easier for you.  Go where others may not venture because you will be floating to your picturesque destinations via luxury ship as opposed to planes, trains or automobiles!  The staff at Scenic Cruises has also taken special care in selecting their destinations to make sure they are like no other!

3. Choices, Choices, Choices.

Want to spend your day on a inclusive excursion (you heard me right – all excursions are included in the price of your cruise) with an experienced guide, riding an electric bike through quaint towns, relaxing in the sun on one of the many decks?  The possibilities of what to do are endless and the choice is all yours.

2.Personal Butler.

Need I say more?  Feeling parched and need a drink – have no fear your personal butler will be by shortly with a complimentary beverage.  Think this is the only luxury you will enjoy on your cruise?  Think again!  Rest our head on egyptian cotton linens, bathe with L’Occitaine amenities, use a Nordic walking stick while you are out exploring, listen to your personal GPS tour guide , enjoy a complimentary in-suite mini bar, have a friendly customer-oriented staff at your fingertips and of course taste world-class cuisine daily…just to name a few!

1.  Experience a  sunrise is a new spot each day!

How many people can say that each day of vacation they were able to see a truly new sunrise?  The best part about this is that it comes with no effort to you thanks to the itineraries of scenic cruises .  Just lay your head down at night and while you are dreaming you will be whisked to a new destination in your luxury coach. Nothing excites me more than the fact that each morning I will start my day off with a sight I have never seen before!

OK, so who is ready to go? ME ME ME!  I can already see myself sipping tea after a peaceful nights rest waiting anxiously to go and explore each day!

Happy Cruising,

Crystal

Fife Coastal Path – Scotland

19 Oct

You have got to go here…Fife Coastal Path – Scotland

Enjoying the North Sea!

I love love love when I set out on one adventure and discover a totally different one along the way. On a picturesque misty Scottish morning I set out to St. Andrews on the Fife Coastal Path to see some sites that were significant to my family’s history (my relative was burned at the stake you know!)

Family History

OK, lets start with my first (and planned) adventure.  I know you have all probably heard of the Old Course, but St. Andrews is so much more. What a beautiful city it is  - full of historic ruins at both St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Andrews Castle, home to St. Andrews University (where I hear a famous royal couple met), has a plethora of fantastic shopping and streets lined with welcoming B&B’s as far as the eye can see.

In addition to all of the awesome things I just mentioned, I discovered the best gelato ever!!! OK I actually stalked it.  While planning my trip I came across a post (always keep lists about places you want to visit as you never know when you may get to experience them in person) about Jannettas and I knew that when I made it to St. Andrews it would be my first stop – and it was!  I was in heaven…so creamy and tasty.  I could have stayed there all day tasting every flavor.

YUMMO!

After spending several hours exploring this quaint town, I switched gears and went in search of a little fishing village named Anstruther.  We had taken a tour of the highlands in Scotland a day earlier with rabbies and our guide gave us a tip to where the best fish and chips in all of Scotland were.  How can you pass up trying them?

The drive to get there was an unexpected surprise.  I passed fields of lush green grass, set eyes on amazing views of the North Sea and came upon towns that looked like they were straight out of the fairytale.  I wish that I could have visited more places along this coastal path, but I only had time for fish and chips!

Alas, the Anstruther turnoff was upon me and I was excited.  Things to know: there was plenty of parking and it is seriously a block long – but this town has way more quality than quantity!  OK, side tracked, back to Scotland’s best fish and chips…you can’t miss Anstruther Fish Bar.

Here fishy fishy!Award Winning!

What a cute fun place!  First you have two options – take out or dine in…you chose.  We ate inside, but would have also enjoyed eating on a bench facing the sea.

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Now another decision…what to eat!  While there is much to choose from – you have to at least try the world famous fish and chips. AND let me just tell you how great they were…my husband who hates fish loved them.  They were super crispy, but moist inside and so tasty!  OH and another tip – try the mushy peas!

FISH!

Marky likes it!MenuMushy Peas Please!

Don’t just eat and run either! Anstruther is also full of shops and lots of places to explore.  I forgot to mention one more important thing…the people are so so friendly!

The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to stray from your plans as you never know what treats are to be had.  I had my mind set on on St. Andrews – tunnel vision almost, but I am glad I took the advice to go get fish and chips or I would have never discovered Anstruther (which turned out to be one of my favorite places in Scotland.)

If you are looking to scape the crowds and tourists in Edinburgh, do yourself a favor and escape to the coast for some peace and serenity.

So peaceful!

I can’t wait to return to the Fife Coastal Path and find more hidden gems.

Happy Fish and Chipping,

Crystal

Portobello Rd. Market – Notting Hill, London

12 Oct

You have got to go here…Portobello Rd. Market – Notting Hill, London Do you ever plan on visiting something just to check it out and then are completly blown away by what you discover?  Well, that is exactly what happened to me when I took my first steps into the Portobello Rd. Market.  I will foerver be thankful to the Londoner who told us about this spot! (Which brings up a good point.  If you want to truly find the great spots in the city – talk to the locals!) Follow the signs... The market is located within walking distance from the Notting Hill Gate underground station.  Just follow the signs…you can’t miss them! Notting Hill Gate One of the coolest things aobut this market is the energy.  The flow of people heading towards this gem was amazing…it just felt like everyone was happy to be outside together enjoying the sunshine (we were lucky enough to get some.)  As I turned the final corner on my way to the market all I could see were beautiful brightly-colored buildings and vendors for miles. OMG look at everything!Artsy Train...Thank goodness for the signs! We went on a Saturday (the market is open every day but Sunday and different goods are sold on certain days) so the streets were full of antiques, new goods, produce and my favorite FOOD!  The smells were intoxicating and my taste buds were so happy that they got to sample some of the freshest food I have ever eaten. No matter what you are craving they have it here! Fresh ProduceTreats for all. Donuts!!! Best Bruschetta EVER! As I kept wandering I discovered more markets down little alley ways that were full of more food, more goods and music.  Do yourself a favor and take it all in, see it all – you never know what you might find! And…since you’re already here, why not explore Notting Hill a little more?  It is full of history, there are tons of cool things to do and I am not sure if you know but a pretty famous movie was filmed here so feel free to scope out the locations it was shot at (lol)! George Orwell Whatever you decide to do, I highly recommend hitting the streets at the Portobello Rd. Market.  It is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and really get the feeling of what it would be like if you were lucky enough for this to be your local market. Happy Portobello Roading, Crystal P.S. – Bring cash!

The City of York – York, United Kingdom

21 Sep

You have got to go here…The City of York – York, United Kingdom.

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I knew nothing of the city of York when my tour operator (who thankfully for me specialized is a UK Destination Specialist) Across the Pond Vacations suggested it as somewhere to visit on our first trip to the United Kingdom.  Being the type of person who likes to find hidden gems and get advice from locals, I didn’t do too much research in regards to what to see.  This was both good and bad.  Had I known how much awesomeness there was I would have stayed longer.  BUT our favorite things about York turned out to be places that were suggested to us by our innkeeper.

So, I am going to fill you in on my favorite spots, but of course I won’t tell you about everything…you need to go and discover new things too!

Let’s start with where we stayed.  I am sure that there are many lovely places to stay, but I am not sure that you could get better hospitality than what I received at the Alcuin Lodge. Darren was such a great host.  He met us personally when we arrived and spent time giving us tips on what to do in the short amount of time we had to explore.  Just an fyi – every amazing place in this blog was as a result of a Darren giving us the inside tip.  (I know what you are thinking…he is probably just referring you to the touristy places.  This was not the case, most of the spots he sent us to where off-the-beaten path and places he frequents as a local.)  Not only did we love Darren, but we loved the lodge too!  Super clean, very modern for being such an old home and we had an amazing breakfast cooked for us the next morning.

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While the lodge ins’t inside the city walls, it is just a short and beautiful walk through an historic neighborhood, ancient ruins and a magnificent park to get you to the city center.

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OK, so we literally had 24hrs in York and if I had to do it all over I would visit these four places again:

1. York Cocoa House

Really Chocolate??? Yes, really!  York has a history rich in Chocolate so I had to try some of the goods.  The trip here was well worth it.  I had the best hot cocoa and chocolate milk that I have ever had in my entire life.  Don’t judge me, yes…I went twice in 24hrs!  No pre-packaged mix here, only fresh real chocolate went into these drinks.

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2. National Railway Museum

I have been to several train museums in the United States, but nothing like this.  It is huge and full of so many amazing train cars and history.  OH and it is FREE!!! Donations however are accepted if you feel so inclined!  I highly suggest you pay the small fee and ride on a steam train like we did. In no way is this museum just for kids either, there is plenty of things for the whole family!

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3. The York City Walls

I don’t know about you, but this was the first time I walked on something built by the Romans and I was so excited.  These walls line the outside of the city center (only some portions still exist so get a map when you arrive) and are FREE to roam and offer a lovely view of the city.  You know by now that I am big kid, and there was truly something magical about taking the same steps that ancient soldiers took as well.

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4. Trembling Madness

What is Trembling Madness you ask?  Only the best pub I visited while on my trip to the U.K.  Located above a unique and very expansive liquor store sits a small and intimate pub that serves delicious food and drinks.  The ambiance is fantastic; I really felt like I stepped back in time.  This is the perfect place to meet locals and relax.  I also have to thank Trembling Madness for introducing me to the most yummy cider my lips have ever touched.

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Believe me when I say that these few places I visited are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see and do in York.  I didn’t even touch on the Abbey destroyed by Henry VIII, the boat trip and the amazing shopping.  Do yourself a favor and make York part of your trip if you are ever in the U.K.

Happy Yorking,

Crystal

Angels Flight Railway – Los Angeles, Calif.

24 Jun

You have got to go here – Angels Flight Railway – Los Angeles, Calif.

Want to do something totally out of the ordinary and super inexpensive in downtown Los Angeles?  Why not take a trip on Angels Flight Railway?

Angels Flight Railway

For just $1.00 roundtrip you can take this historic (originally built in 1901) incline railway named “The Shortest Railway in the World” between Hill Street & Grand Ave.

Tickets!Enter for fun...

I can’t explain it, but there is something so fun about riding one of these cars between all of the giant modern buildings that make up the downtown skyline.

Olivet

Riding with FriendsLooking down...

While the trip is short, there are plenty of things to do on both sides of your journey.  Why not start at the Museum of Contemporary Art, then take a ride on Angels Flight Railway down to Grand Central Market for some lunch?  There are endless possibilities of adventures that could be had…

Angels Flight Railway is open from 6:45 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. 365 days of the year, so there is no excuse not to take a ride. Believe me, no trip to downtown Los Angeles is complete without a visit to this unique landmark.

Happy flying,

Crystal

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