Tag Archives: Gardens

Chatsworth House – Derbyshire, UK

19 Jan

You have got to go here…Chatsworth House – Derbyshire, UK.

Who would fly 5,000 miles to take a picture?  This girl!  Boy am I glad that I followed my heart, because what I got was so much more than a photo.

Mr. & Mrs. Darcy

Mr. & Mrs. Darcy

Ever since I saw the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice I knew that I had to make it to Pemberley (all you Mr. Darcy fans out there know what I am talking about!) and in 2013 I finally got my chance.

So, I’m not going to lie…my trip to the United Kingdom was planned (mad props to Anne Marie at Across the Pond Vacations for all your help) around Chatsworth House.  Yes, I was excited to see London and Edinburgh, but really it was this place that I had been dreaming about that gave me butterflies.  All I knew about it was from a movie and through planning I was blown away by how amazing it really was.

First, lodging…where to stay?  On the grounds of course, above a pub – yes please!  The Devonshire Arms at Beeley is a car ride, walk or bike ride away from Chatsworth House. You choose your own adventure.

Hands down, this was one of the best places I have ever stayed.  It was in a picturesque village, the food, rooms and staff were all phenomenal. When I get stressed, I often picture myself having a pint on their patio while watching sheep graze nearby.

Are there other things to do around Chatsworth House you ask?  Absolutely!  It is located in the Peak District, which is a nature lovers dream.  Cycling, camping, hiking…the list goes on.  We couldn’t help but strap on our walking shoes and go exploring.  I recommend you stop by the Farm Shop first stock up on some fresh local provisions first!








With goodies in hand, we set out on the first trail we found, to enjoy the local wildlife and take a breath to enjoy life.  I know it may seem cheesy, but for as long as I live, the moment I spent sitting by the river having a picnic with my husband and my best friend will forever be one of the best.




As if life couldn’t get any better…it was finally time to go and explore Chatsworth House.  I have two big tips for you.  Plan to stay all day (one day may not be enough for you) and buy the Discovery ticket, which includes the house, garden and farmyard as you must see it all.

OK, in a nutshell, there is art, magnificent gardens, trails to explore, cute animals, a human sundial, fountains, shopping, yummy restaurants, and happiness!  OH and a hedge maze…a legit one.  It took us 45 minutes (rookies!) and it was a blast.  The research I did before hand did not do this place justice and I had 1000% more than anticipated.

Another thing I loved was the fact that there was so much open space to just lounge and take a moment to soak all the beauty in.

The moral of this story is…everyone has their Chatsworth House, so whether it is near or far.  GO!!! You never know what other awesome things you will discover and I promise once you set eyes on your dream place for the first time your life will change forever – I know mine did.

Happy Chatsworthing,


P.S. Any P&P fans out there recognize this?




Descanso Gardens – La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

18 May


You have got to go here…Descanso Gardens – La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

Don’t you love when you discover something new in your own backyard?  I do!  That is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago when I spent a lovely day at Descanso Gardens.


Located in the beautiful neighborhood of La Canada Flintridge, Descanso Gardens is 160 acres of glorious flowers, trails, and vistas that can be explored by the whole family!  If you just want to stop and smell the roses or strap on your hiking boots – this place is for you.

Love flowers?  Feel free to stroll through the Rose, California Native, Lilac and Japanese gardens (just to name a few)!








While the flowers were gorgeous, they weren’t may favorite part of the day.  The best part were two things I discovered that were totally unexpected – TRAILS & TRAINS!

First, let me start with the trails – I had no idea that there were going to be so many little hiking opportunities around the property.  My advice, take the unbeaten path because you never know what wonders you will come across.  Please remember one thing, there is poison oak so be careful!


I was also super excited to learn that you can ride around a portion of the grounds (for an additional $3 – which is totally worth it!) on a 1/8th replica of a diesel train called The Enchanted RailroadYES, big kids can ride on it too!








If I haven’t mentioned enough to keep you occupied, trust me there is much more to see!  A historical home, expansive lawns to relax on, hidden benches to spend a moment with your loved ones, a bird observation deck  and the list just keeps on going…







If you need to take a break for some food there is a cafe on-site or feel free to bring a picnic and eat at the tables just outside the entrance.

OH did I mention you get a day full of adventure of only $9??? You can’t beat that!  Trust me, Descanso Gardens is a place you have got to go to!

Happy Gardening,









Sunnylands – Rancho Mirage, Calif.

7 Jan

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


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


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.


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…


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!


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


Happy Sunnylanding,


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,


Ballard – Seattle, Wash.

30 May

You have got to go here…Ballard – Seattle, Wash.

Everyone visits the Space Needle and The Pike Place Market when in Seattle, but how many of you have set out to explore the neighborhoods around downtown?  I am here to tell you that there are treasures to be found, especially in the neighborhood of Ballard.

Located just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ballard is an eclectic and artsy neighborhood that is a great place to eat, shop and see (in my opinion) one of the coolest sites in the city of Seattle – The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl S. English Botanical Garden.

Since 1917 the Ballard Locks (built by the Army Corps of Engineers) have been helping boats travel between Puget Sound and Lake Union/Lake Washington.  Now, I am sure you are asking yourself why this is so interesting.  Let me tell you…where else can you see water literally raised and lowered?   It was so fascinating to see the way that the water was moved to allow ships to travel from one place to another.  I had never seen anything like it before…it was truly a modern marvel.

You can view the locks in action from the banks of the water, but don’t do that…take a walk out on the bridge and see everything first hand!

The locks aren’t the only thing of interest here.  You can also take a stroll over to the fish ladder to watch salmon spawn (unfortunately there wasn’t a lot happening when we were there) or relax on the grounds of the beautiful botanical garden.

Oh, I forgot to mention the cost…you can get all this fun for FREE!!!!  I highly suggest you bring a picnic, blanket and relax while watching something unique.

Don’t stop reading yet – there is still plenty more to do in Ballard…

After you are done at the boat locks, head over to Ballard Ave N.W. and take a stroll through the many diverse restaurants and shops.

Unfortunately I only had limited time to explore, but here is just a small sampling of the yummy food and cool shops that are to be found:

Miro Tea: Tasty drinks and a serene place to relax!

Damasalfly: Super cute boutique with awesome prices – this is a for sure must shop!

***For more shopping check out Venue (goods from local artists) and Monster (funky socks, clothing and bags).

Are you hungry from all that walking and shopping?  May I recommend Senor Moose?

From the friendly service to the made-to-order chips with five different salsas, this is one restaurant you do not want to miss!

Being from Southern California I was really skeptical that I would find authentic Mexican food in Seattle, but it did exist!  Try the potato tacos for sure!!!

The above is just a minuscule sampling of all the things to see and do in Ballard, so do yourself a favor and take a day to step away from the touristy Seattle and immerse yourself with the locals in the quaint neighborhood of Ballard.

P.S. – Do you love music?  I will leave it up to you to do some homework as Ballard is a hot spot for wonderful tunes…

Happy Ballarding,


Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden – Long Beach, Calif.

10 May

You have got to go here…Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden – Long Beach, Calif.

Not many people would think about going to a college campus to relax and get some peace and quiet, but I did!  Located on the campus of California State University, Long Beach  is a hidden hide-a-way that many locals don’t even know about.  The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden resides on the north side of campus and is FREE for visitors (there is a fee for parking) to enjoy.

I am a huge fan of Japanese gardens and this one did not disappoint.  From the time you enter the gates until you leave, the details are beautiful.  Be sure to look around at everything from the light fixtures to the hand rails.

So, I am just going to jump right into the good stuff…the first thing you will probably spot is a beautiful serene lake and colorful Koi fish.  I can not tell a lie, this was my absolute favorite part.  Don’t be afraid…go right down to the shore to view these beautiful creatures.  For a mere quarter you can feed them – the big kid in me HIGHLY recommends this!

Andrea loves Koi!


If you can pull yourself away from the lake take some time and follow the curvy path around the rest of the garden.  There are cool things to see at every turn…

Another highlight of the garden is the perfectly manicured Zen Garden.  This is a great place to stop, reflect, meditate or just take a much needed deep breath.

There are several other sights to delight your eyes, but I will leave them for you to see in real time.

I have always heard how romantic the garden was and on my visit I found a couple who thought so too.  With camera in hand I was lucky enough to witness the surprise engagement of Wyatt and Kayla – Best wishes to you both!  You just never know what you may discover when you get outside and start exploring!

Not only is the garden good for romantics, they are  perfect for children or just for some time by yourself.

Although the garden does not allow food inside, there are plenty of grassy hills to relax on and have a picnic outside of the gates.  I found that eating under a shady tree after my tour was a great way to end the day.

Don’t be sad when your day is over, if you didn’t get enough…don’t forget to take part in some of the many events through out the year!

One last note, check the hours before you go as the garden is not open every day!

Who knew that behind dorms and classrooms there was a fantastic getaway  It left me wondering what other wonderful surprises are hidden on college campuses.  I task you with finding out!

Happy Gardening,


Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden – Las Vegas, Nev.

7 Jan

You have got to go here…the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden – Las Vegas, Nev.

Did you know that drinks aren’t the only thing that you can get for free in Vegas?  At the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden you can get FREE CHOCOLATE!  You read that right…FREE CHOCOLATE!  I am not suggesting that you drop everything, but I would hurry up and go!

I had always heard of the mystical chocolate factory tour where sweets flowed through your hands and into your mouth, so on my last trip to Las Vegas I knew that I had to go there.

When we pulled into the driveway it became clear that I made a good choice to visit – the chocolate smell in the air was scrumptious!  OH, and we were greeted by my favorite M&M!

OK, enough about me!  When you first arrive there are plenty of signs pointing you to the tour.  Once inside the factory (yes you get to go inside for FREE) there are displays on the history of chocolate /Ethel M and giant viewing windows so you can watch the chocolate being made.

Take your time and enjoy the scenery because at the end there is a surprise for you!

FREE CHOCOLATE!!! They had milk, white, dark and a special of the day (it was pecan toffee when I went and it was so good!)  I have to say that I have tasted a lot of chocolate in my life and this was one of my favorites.

After you are done, head into the store for yummy delights!  There are so many choices to purchase – truffles, bars, brittle…the list goes on and on.  Make sure you take a look at everything as you don’t want to skip over something tasty!

The  fun doesn’t end in the store…so grab yourself a decadent hot chocolate or ice cream and head outside to the cactus garden.  It is Nevada’s largest display of cactus with over 300 different types and it is truly beautiful.  There are many little walkways to take through the garden so make sure you stroll them all. Who would have thought that by visiting a chocolate factory you would also get a tour of nature???

The Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Garden Tour was such a pleasant surprise.  It was fun to step away from the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip and go see something unique and FREE!!

The factory is located in Henderson, Nev. (not far from the airport) and is open seven days a week.

I highly suggest you put down the quarters, step away from the slot machine and go try some treats!

Happy Chocolating!