Tag Archives: FREE

Oatman, Az.

13 Jun

You have got to go here…Oatman, Az.

Welcome

OK, there are only two words that you really need to know when describing Oatman – WILD BURROS (more on them later)! And I have to say they are AWESOME…here is a sneak peek…

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Nestled in the hills of Arizona, 30 miles south of Laughlin, Nev., off Historic Route 66, Oatman was once a gold mining town that dates back to the 1800’s.  At one time the town produced the most gold in the whole state.  DSC_0029

Today it is a cool western town filled with kitschy stores, saloons, history, beautiful scenery and of course – WILD BURROS! DSC_0033

I suggest you allot at least a few hours to take a step back in time and explore. There is plenty to do…why not take in an Outlaw Show, do some shopping, send a postcard, smash a penny, view some art or visit a mine?

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AND that’s not all…stop in the Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their honeymoon night, for a Sarsaparilla (or an adult beverage) and ask about the history of the dollar bills that are placed on every open surface of the bar.
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And there is still more fun to be had…you guessed it – WILD BURROS!  Left over from the gold mining days, these furry animals still roam and rule the streets today.  They are every where you turn and I loved it. Some stores even sell carrots so you can feed them!  CAUTION – these are wild animals so be careful.


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Some days I feel like life passes me by because of the hustle and bustle of today’s world, but I am so glad that there are still places like Oatman that allow you to slow down and just enjoy some simple fun!

Happy Burroing,

Crystal

 

 

 

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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

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

Little Italy Mercato – San Diego, Calif.

11 Nov

You have got to go here…Little Italy Mercato, San Diego, Calif.

Who doesn’t love a good farmers market?  I am here to tell you that in my opinion the Little Italy Mercato is the best farmers market I have been to in Southern California…

…and here’s why (in no particular order)…

Best view! Located just a few blocks from the ocean, it is blessed with an amazing spot to call home.

Samples!  Come hungry because there are tons (more than I have ever seen) of amazing fresh samples to delight in.

Local Products!  I know this may be obvious – but the variety is top-notch and so unique.

Music!  What a pleasant way to shop while listening to the sweet sounds of local artists.

Fresh fruits and veggies!  I would not be doing the market justice if I left out that fact that of course they also have hundreds of different fresh fruits, flowers and veggies to offer shoppers.

Fun (my favorite part)!  This market provides a perfect way to spend a day doing something fun with your friends and family.

With over four city blocks of fresh product, the Little Italy Mercato is somewhere you have got to go.  So, next Saturday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., grab your besties and head to San Diego.  May I suggest making a day of it?

Happy Mercatoing,

Crystal

El Paca Pastures – Ojai, Calif.

3 Sep

You have got to go here…El Paca Pastures – Ojai, Calif.

Looking for something new to do?  Why not visit an Alpaca farm?

Located just a few minutes from beautiful Ojai, El Paca Pastures is a family run Alpaca farm that is a pure delight for any animal lover!

Upon arrival you can’t help but be drawn to the Alpacas and their guard Llama – yes, you heard me right!

Not only were the animals super friendly (I got to pet one and was so excited), but the family who runs an owns the farm were as well.  They took the time to give us a tour of the farm and taught us all there was to know about these beautiful creatures.  I asked question upon question and they were always happy to answer them.

My favorite part of the day was taking photographs of the Alpacas, they were so majestic and made for a great subject.  After hundreds of shots I was able to something else that I love…SHOP!

The Ranch store has hundreds of products to choose from.  Everything from scarves to purses to socks to toys.  I never realized how soft their fur was.  This is a great place to find a unique and one-of-a-kind gift.  There is something for everyone!

I love to find hidden gems and this is one of them…I mean how many people can say that they have been to an Alpaca farm?

A few other things about this destination – it s FREE to visit and the family who owns it seems to truly love what they do and that makes me happy and want to support them.

So, if you find yourself in the Ojai I highly suggest you stop over to El Paca Pastures and pay them a visit.

Happy Alpacaing,

Crystal

P.S. – Don’t forget to ask them what the name of all the animals are!  Can you figure out what they all have in common?

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