Tag Archives: Architecture

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

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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

Sunnylands – Rancho Mirage, Calif.

7 Jan

You have got to go here…Sunnylands – Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Welcome!

If you are into history, architecture, gardens, or art (just to name a few) – then a trip to Sunnylands is just for you!

Where to start…so much to show and tell!

Located less than 15 minutes from the heart of Palm Springs, Sunnylands has been nicknamed the “West Coast Camp David” due to all the historical meetings that have taken place behind its doors, but there is so much more to it.

Designed by architect A. Quincy Jones in the 1960’s, Sunnylands (a classic example of Mid-century Modern design) was originally built as a desert oasis for the Annenberg family, but over the years turned into a destination for not only their friends and family, but for world leaders and celebrities as well.

Main House

Pool...

Up until 2012 all the historical significance was kept behind its walls, but thankfully now the public can relish in the inspiring stories and  amazing views it offers.

While the visitors center and gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m every day, don’t expect to just drive up and get on the next tour of the estate – viewing opportunities are available in limited quantities daily.  Tickets are released on the 1st and 15th of each month at 9 a.m. for the following two weeks and are $35 per person for a 90 minute tour…I PROMISE it is worth it.  Fifteen tours are offered each day, with only 7 people on each one.  The small group made it very cool – I felt like I was actually a guest in their home.

You should arrive 15 minutes prior to your tour for check-in, but come plenty early or make sure there is ample time after your tour to walk the immaculate gardens, watch a video on the history of Sunnylands, lounge in the lobby and look through countless books, or have a lunch at the gourmet cafe.

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OK, now that we got through all the basics…it is time for the main event!  So hop aboard the golf cart and let’s take a tour through history…

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Sunnylands sits on a 9-hole golf course and houses several lakes, a Totem Pole, Chinese pagoda, rose garden, art galore and a Magnolia tree with roots back to Andrew Jackson – just to name a few!

TotemStop and smell the roses...

DSCN5863DSCN5882This goes way back!

Sorry to say this is where the pictures stop, for security reasons photography is not allowed inside the main house.  No worries, you will just have to visit for yourself and walk through the room where Ronald Reagan sat while watching Mikhail Gorbachev speak to the American people in the 1980’s (this room also boasts some of the most impressive pictures, letters and invitations from celebrities, royalty and world leaders that I have ever seen), stand in the foyer where seven U.S. Presidents have stood, feast your eyes on an actual Picasso, and take a stroll past the table where Queen Elizabeth was served dinner.  Believe me when I say that these are just a few of the super cool things you will get to experience when you take a tour, so do yourself a favor and plan a trip.

Oh and don’t forget to sign the guest book on your way out – it’s a tradition!

Sign!

P.S. – Did you know that the only state dinner held outside of the White House was held at Sunnylands?

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Happy Sunnylanding,

Crystal

Victoria Beach – Laguna Beach, Calif.

26 Sep

You have got to go here…Victoria Beach – Laguna Beach, Calif.

I am sure many of you have heard or been to Laguna Beach, Calif., but have you stepped off the beaten path and been to Victoria Beach ,or better yet seen the Victorian Tower?

Located off Victoria Drive and Pacific Coast Highway, Victoria Beach is dubbed “The most private public beach in Laguna”.  Parking is hard to come by (pay extra attention to signs to make sure you don’t get a ticket or get towed), but trust me when I say this beach is worth the extra time to find a space or the extra walk you may need to take.

Here is a sneak peek to keep you interested…

OK, so the first adventure – the staircase!  Just kidding, it really isn’t as bad as it looks.  It is quite pretty and there is a bench along the route to stop and take a breather.

Once you get to the bottom, make a right.   You will see amazing tide pools (remember this is a natural habitat so please don’t touch).  Luckily the tide was low and I saw the most amazing starfish ever!  Be on the look out as you never know what you may see…

Take your time to explore – you have all day.  Once you are ready, head towards the castle (you can’t miss it)…you heard me!  OK, so it isn’t really a castle, but it sure looks like one.  Built in 1926, this Rapunzelesque Tower is something straight out of a fairytale.  Originally it was used as a staircase to the beach by the owner above, but now it sits as a beautiful piece of scenery to enjoy.

It’s really an awesome structure and to think it is still standing almost 90 years later.  You can walk around it and take in all the sights it has to offer.  I loved sitting next to it, just gazing out at the ocean – dreaming of what it was like in 1926…

Want to see more?  Well, then you will have to go here!  Grab a towel, some lunch  and head on down! Another secret, this beach is hard to find so there are rarely crowds.  It is a nice place to spend a relaxing day with your friends and family.  It can be your little secret hide-a-way (wink, wink)!

Happy Castling,

Crystal

Wayfarers Chapel – Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

16 Jul

You have got to go here…Wayfarers Chapel – Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

People often ask me where I find all the fun and unusual places I visit – and honestly my inspiration comes from everywhere.  I may get a wild hair to visit a new city, or discover a hidden gem in a blog…you just never know where you may find your next adventure.  I am not ashamed to admit that my trip to the Wayfarers Chapel was brought on by watching Beverly Hills 90210 (the new one).  On the finale of this season, a big dramatic wedding was taking place, but all I could think about was the amazing chapel they were in.  It was indoors, but it looked like it was outdoors – it was magnificent.  Within minutes (thank you internet) I had discovered what was to be my next adventure!

As a warning I must admit that this blog may be more plog (picture blog 🙂 ).  I will tease you with one picture and I know you will want to see more!

Located off Palos Verdes Drive South, Wayfarers has ample parking and is FREE to visit.  Whether you want to attend church, hold a wedding, marvel at amazing architecture, meditate in the gardens, or just spend the day discovering something new…this is the place for you!

Start at the visitors center……and for a $.50 donation you can purchase a guided walking tour map – I highly recommend this.

There is no rhyme or reason to your tour.  I wanted to save the chapel for last, so I started in the gardens. 

My first stop was the soothing waterfall above.  Listening to the stream was glorious!

Next, the Meditation Garden and Terraced Amphitheatre – both are great places to sit, reflect and enjoy the moment.

The view is STUNNING!  I could have stayed here all day just looking out into the crystal-blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

I know I always say this, but really…take your time and enjoy where you are.  This is honestly one of the most beautiful spots in Southern California that I have visited.

When you are ready, proceed to the Front Lawn (it looks like a fairytale) and take time to stop at the Reflection Pool.

This is also a great place to take a breath and look towards the sea!

Drum roll please -my final stop…The Chapel!  Guarded by nature…it literally feels like you are outside – one with the greenery around you.  In actuality, you are indoors, but could never tell.  Wayfarers was designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) who took inspiration from redwood trees when planning the architecture of the chapel.

Oh, how I didn’t want to leave….

There are so many beautiful features, and nooks to be discovered in the chapel that pictures just don’t do them justice – that is why I am recommending you run to this piece of heaven on earth to see for your very own eyes!

The grounds are open Monday – Sunday from 10 a.m until 5 p.m., but the chapel may be in use so make sure to call ahead to see if there is an event on the day you are visiting.

One more thing – there are signs everywhere so make sure you keep your eyes open!

Happy Chapeling,

Crystal

the oc mart Mix – Costa Mesa, Calif.

2 Jul

You have got to go here…the oc mart Mix – Costa Mesa, Calif.

Are you looking for a fun place to hang out, relax, eat, drink, shop and be merry?  Well look no further than the oc mart Mix.

Located off the 405 freeway (you can’t miss it), and open seven days a week (hours vary) – the oc mart Mix has something for everyone…so park your car, walk through the welcoming double doors into a vast open space and prepared to wowed!

Are you hungry?  Why not grab a gourmet sandwich from The Cheese Shop or a simply divine s’mores bar from the Portola Coffee Lab (who also makes FABULOUS coffee and iced tea)?

Not hungry, just want to relax?  No problem – there are tons of outdoor and indoor spaces for you to read, write, socialize or just sit and enjoy the moment.  They also have free Wi-Fi!

Not interested in sitting down?  Dozens of one-of-a-kind shops for you to browse through at your finger tips.  Everything from the Savory Spice Shop, where you can get handmade spices, to the funky and adorable clothing store Deer Lovely.

Don’t have much time and just want to have a drink and unwind after work? Well, the We Olive and Wine Bar is just for you!  Gourmet olive oils, tempting wines and tapas OH MY!

So there couldn’t possible be any thing left to do right?  Incorrect!  Eclectic events are offered as well (like a farmers market every Saturday), so make sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest and greatest!

In addition to the many options and cool vibe that surrounds the oc mart Mix – I love the people.  I am a frequent visitor and all the shop owners I have encountered have been super friendly and helpful!  It makes me so happy to have a space so unique that is full of business owners who appreciate your patronage.

Happy Mixing,

Crystal

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge – San Diego, Calif.

6 Apr

You have got to go here…Spruce Street Suspension Bridge – San Diego, Calif.

After visiting Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in Vancouver I was eager to find something similar close to home…so I started to search!  To my surprise I came across a suspension bridge in San Diego, and while it is in a totally different environment, it was just as fun (and FREE)!

The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is located in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego and is 100 years old!

Historical Marker

There is ample parking as it is in neighborhood and easily accessible.  Once you park – get ready to have some fun!  OH and don’t worry – this bridge was built to hold 2,186 people!

Getting ready to cross the bridge.

Mark pretending he is Indiana Jones!

The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge links two neighborhoods and crosses Kate Sessions Canyon.  I suggest you stop in the middle and take in the beautiful scenery, but when you do don’t be alarmed – yes the bridge is wobbly!

At first I had to hold on, but then I let go and set myself free to enjoy the bridge.  I must have walked back and forth at least three times before my husband finally told me that it was time to go!  Jealous feelings arose as I so wished this path was a part of my daily walk!

While this bridge is not a place that you can stay all day, it is for sure something different.  Lots of people head down to San Diego for the big sites, but you will be sorry if you don’t take some time to experience this hidden gem!

Happy Bridging,

Crystal