Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh Victoria

Me and some friends took a day trip to Victoria BC on what, to our pleasant surprise, turned out to be a sunny August Sunday. We travelled on the Clipper from Seattle to Victoria in about 3 hours. I'd personally suggest considering alternate transportation if it's affordable. There were people literally getting sick on the ride there, and the food and ride over was on par to that of an airplane.

When we arrived we left the rainy day in Seattle behind the find a lot of sunshine, flowers and people shuffling about. We began by hunting down the Choux Choux Charcuterie, which was closed on Sundays. Strike one. So, we headed back towards the water and found the Cactus Club Cafe, which had good food and is led by the only Iron Chef in Victoria, Rob Feenie.

Afterwards we wandered through the Sunday market, not finding too much of interest. Then we came across Chinatown. Chinatown was one of my favorite areas because it had a lot of restaurants and interesting shops. I really enjoyed our discovery of the Fan Tan Alley, easily missed, but worth finding. It was very cute and had interesting shops with original artwork that was both decent and affordable.

After that we headed to Lo Jo (Lower Johnson) for some boutique shopping that proved fruitful. All and all I'd say it was a pretty good day - minus that whole bird incident (that occurred twice). So I leave you with two words of wisdom - never forget! And wear a hood for protection. There's some crazy birds out there.

Photography by me and Sarah Ramee

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Base. Camp. Muir.

Mt. Rainier (highest peak in Washington @ 14,411 ft)

I've been lacking in updates lately, mainly because I've been so busy hiking and working that there hasn't been any time leftover. But, after a gorgeous weekend at Mt. Rainier I think it deserves the spotlight.

Mt. Adams (2nd highest peak in Washington @ 12,277 ft)

Some friends and I are planning to summit Mt. Rainier on September 1st. Our last big hike was to the Base Camp, Camp Muir. We stayed overnight in order to get a good feel for the altitude, temperature, etc.

It was a gorgeous weekend without a single cloud in the sky. At night (unfortunately after my camera battery died) the sky was a gorgeous navy blue with a perfect crescent moon that was so large it looked like you could grab it right out of the sky.

The photos explain the rest!

Talk to you after the summit!

Photography by me

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mystic Marfa

Marfa is a small desert town in West Texas with a population barely exceeding two thousand people. If it weren't for the railroads it may not exist today. But, what truly brought Marfa to its current situation was the move of minimalist artist Donald Judd from New York city. He claims he went to Marfa to get away from people, but now Marfa has become a common stop for travelers looking for kitsch. In addition the famed Marfa Lights draw tons speculation and interest. The Marfa Lights even made it on the popular show Unsolved Mysteries.

I personally went to Marfa on a road trip with my college roommate to get away from the city and see something new. We successfully saw the Marfa Lights on the first night and roamed around town the next day. Food is hit and miss in this town. There are a lot of modern restaurants, but the hours are often limited to Thursday - Sunday. We went on Tuesday and Wednesday. Also, the food tends to run out if you get there late. Oh the small town charm...

My favorite eats included the Food Shark truck. They even sold Mexican Coca Cola, which is a favorite of mine made with real sugar (not corn syrup). I also enjoyed Cochineal and Squeeze Marfa for breakfast.

In addition, the art galleries have limited hours. We were able to visit a few though, the Galleri Urbane, Second Floor and Etherington Art. I personally fell in love with a Mexican artist that paints the stray dogs that he adopts. Often times he also paints the back of the painting with another picture. I almost found myself making monthly payments just to own one. If you ever visit, I suggest booking a tour of the Judd and Chinati Foundations. Those are the main attractions, and I wish I had seen them. Also, the art installation Prada Marfa is about 25 miles outside of town, but a must see in my opinion. If you're a Gossip Girl fan, you might recognize the art from the Van Der Woodsen's home.

Marfa from your couch:

Watch Giant with Elizabeth Taylor

Watch Two Sculptors: Donald Judd's Marfa Texas and Tony Cragg

Photography by me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Desolate Marfa an Artsy Mecca

This is a great article about Marfa, where I just went on my vacation. I will be posting my full review soon!

Article from Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Good Old New Orleans

View from Dauphine Hotel balcony

New Orleans is one of those places I've always wanted to visit, but never had a good enough reason to go. That is until this past January when my best friend turned 30 and decided to celebrate there. It was fantastic to see Nicole and her family, as well as meet some of the people that are a part of her life now that she lives in DC. We definitely don't get to see each other often given how far away we live.

Staying in the French Quarter there was plenty to do in the immediate vicinity. We did the cocktail tour together to get the party started on Saturday night - the big celebration. Along the way we went to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, which was by far my favorite bar. It's the oldest bar in the country.

It was a great place to have fun, while avoiding the really disgusting bars further down the road on Bourbon Street. It's also really dark, so lots of movie stars hang out there to avoid being seen, although I think it's because they love the Voodoo drink. Beyond that, we enjoyed the Krazy Korner because the upstairs area was not too crazy, had pool, people dressed in hot dog costumes and 3 for 1 beers - 'nuff said.

We had plenty of beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde, and the Taste of New Orleans pretty much everywhere else. My favorite red beans and rice were at Oceana. But enough about food.

Is there any good shopping in New Orleans? Yes, but you have to look for it. The French Market was pretty cool, but it would be easy to buy lots of touristy items and feel regret later on. However, they had adorable voodoo dolls for only $1 and I simply couldn't resist. Interestingly enough, my voodoo doll had two white pins in it - which apparently means I can only use it for good.

Beyond that there were some cool vintage handkerchiefs. Further down Decatur street, past the crowds, I found an antique store called Rare Finds. I bought a one-of-a-kind club charm bracelet from a Mardi Gras ball in 1959, with a real pearl and jade. It's fantastic!

I didn't stop there. On Monday I had some time alone, walked to the art district galleries, hopped on the trolley, walked through Audubon Park and down Magazine street. It was fun, but I wish I had worn more comfortable shoes!

St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square


Photography by me and Nicole Pelfrey

Friday, January 1, 2010

Snowshoe Surprise

I celebrated New Year's day snowshoeing in the Mt. Baker National Park with my friend Cheriss. We were a little disappointed that it was raining (not snowing) and that there has been very little snow this year, compared to the norm. However, as we approached a bridge we found these cute little snowmen that someone had built. I just thought it was a nice reminder that even when things don't turn out exactly how you'd like them, that life has a way of surprising you with something else.

Sorry for the poor image, we left the real camera in the car!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

When in Dallas

I think it's safe to say, most people don't visit Dallas unless they have family or work there. While growing up I wouldn't have had much to tell you about it either because we didn't typically visit all of the sights unless it was a museum, movie theater or sub-par mall. But, now that I am older I try to take advantage of the trips to visit my family as much as possible. This last trip ended up being a shopping trip because everybody else was sick, but I place all of the other "to-do's" on my list below.

Over the years I've tried to figure out the best places to buy all of those old Chanel jackets that the rich, big-haired Dallas women throw out in perfectly good condition. I knew it existed, but it was ever so elusive. Finally, this time I used my super Google powers (I work in search marketing) and got lucky. Clotheshorse Anonymous moved to the top of my list to visit.

Never-worn Miu Miu flats

I was not even remotely disappointed! While I found a yellow Chanel suit for only $600, it was too matronly for my taste. But, there were plenty of other goods available to keep me happy, including a wall of new and vintage furs and fur hats, formal dresses, David Yurman jewelry, Chloe tops, Diane Von Furstenberg dresses, high-end handbags with the tags still on them, tons of Tory Burch, and never-worn shoes. I personally took home the Miu Miu shoes above and a really cute silk dress for only $150.

The hard part about shopping at Clotheshorse Anonymous is sifting through what's practical and what's not. I could have easily spent a fortune in this place and never worn half of the stuff. So I suggest you stay strong and make sure it's something you'll actually use before you walk out. Just remember, that sparkly dress with the tag still on it seemed like a good idea to the former owner too!

Other great things in Dallas:

- View the new Winspear Opera House
(by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster)
- See Big Tex at the Texas State Fair and eat fried anything
- Watch Texas kill Oklahoma at the Red River Shootout (at the fair)
- Eat BBQ at Sonny Bryan's original location

Dallas photo found here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sweet Casa Alabama

Noccalula Falls, Gadsden, AL

The Brothers apparently have strong roots in rural Alabama. I have never lived there, but my grandfather was born there and moved back there from San Diego almost 50 years ago. Growing up I remember riding in the back of my dad's truck all the way from Dallas to Alabama. Yes, that was legal back then! Then we would hang out, dig up worms, go fishing and wander amongst the cows on the neighbors property. Unfortunately I didn't know about cow tipping back then.

I recently paid a visit, as I had not been there in about 10 years (yes, a bad granddaughter indeed). My grandpa and aunts, who recently moved there, showed me around all of the small towns surrounding Attalla.

Mexican grocery, restaurant and general store, Collinsville, AL

If you know me at all, you're aware that I'm part Mexican. This is mainly due to my grandfather's strong interest in other nationalities, and ultimately, his marriage to my Mexican grandmother after a trip to Baja. So, of course, my grandpa and aunts discovered this great Mexican restaurant in Collinsville. It's totally random that there would be a place so good in the middle of the South, especially in such a small town. They had amazing tacos and salsa. The green salsa with radishes was definitely my favorite.

Driving around we couldn't help but stop at all the cute antique shops in the most random places. After antiquing in Seattle (where it's difficult to find a real bargain) it was pretty cool to see some of the amazing stuff that was being sold for next to nothing. U.S. 11 Antiques was my favorite of them all. I bought an old Finley pocket knife from Japan ($3) and a really cool multi-strand bronze necklace ($5).

In August, there is the world's longest yard sale, Tour de Kalb. I don't know if I like shopping around that much, but the possibilities are sure to be endless.

And what is a visit to the South without great barbecue? I was really impressed with O'So Good BBQ and I'm super picky on this subject. We went on Sunday at 3pm and they were literally running out of food because they had been busy all day. The ribs were very tender, the sauce was wonderful and all of the side dishes were great too. I was really bummed that they were out of the fried green tomatoes and peach cobbler. But, I find that you know it's fresh and carefully crafted when they run out of ingredients. The staff was ridiculously friendly, and it was one of the cleanest restaurants I've ever eaten in.

So, enough talking, here are some more pictures:

Photography by me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Puerto Vallarta Not on a Dime

My mother's side of the family recently had a reunion in Puerto Vallarta. My aunt Judy and uncle Jerry were kind enough to supply the rooms from their time share, making it easy for everyone to join in. While there we also celebrated my aunt Ceilia's 60th birthday. Needless to say, it was very nice to have a chance to hang out with everyone.

While we were there we did the typical beach, pool, food, margarita thing. I also had the chance to do a little shopping and go on a canopy tour. Both of which I will elaborate upon here.

Los Arcos, near Mismaloya in the Bay of Banderas

While seeking air conditioning on our shopping trip I found two one-of-a-kind shirts at a boutique called Sucesos. Sucesos is run by an artist who hand paints each and every item of clothing. While the majority of the items cater to the wealthy older Americans that frequent Puerto Vallarta, there are items painted by the owner's daughter that are a lot fresher and appeal to people in their 20s and 30s. The price isn't cheap, especially considering you're in Mexico. But, the shirts are so unique, comfortable and some even glamorous, that you won't mind the expense.

Seeking a little excitement, my cousin, his wife and I all went on a canopy tour with Los Veranos. The guides were very nice and a lot of fun. Over the course of the tour you work your way up to longer and higher zip lines, such as Dos Cojones pictured here. The guides give you a chance to go upside down, spinning and in pairs with their assistance. It was definitely one of the best things I did while there.

Below is the song our waiter sang for my aunt's 60th. Maybe he'll be the next Susan Boyle?

Waiter at Los Tules resort, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Photos and video by me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sideways: Napa Edition

Cuvaison Winery Patio

In planning my trip to Napa numerous people told me they only go to Sonoma to avoid the massive crowds of tourists and families. However, we didn't have much of a choice as to where we went because we were attending a rehearsal dinner and wedding. Below are my favorite places we visited in Napa, and I do believe there are ways to avoid the crazy crowds, such as:

- Mainly go to wineries that are appointment only
- Avoid the really large, well-known wineries
- Go to wineries off the main streets


Swanson is a French-New Orleans inspired winery with a fun decor. Our host was very nice and greeted us as we entered. The courtyard had a bench where we were able to enjoy the wines outside.

My Favorite: 2005 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon, $75 per bottle (only available for direct purchase)

Darioush is a Persian estate that is both a tasting room, event hall and home. The tastings were the most expensive we found, but they didn't scrimp on the experience. It was like having a concierge, with a detailed book of restaurants, Voss water and pistachios available while you taste.

My Favorite: 2006 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, $80 per bottle (available in numerous fine restaurants)

Cuvaison is in the Carneros region, which is closer to the water and cooler. This is the ideal region for Pinot Noir in Napa. It is a modern building set amongst rolling hills and has an amazing patio and view.

My Favorite: 2006 Block F5 Pinot Noir, $45 per bottle (only available for direct purchase)

Photography by Stephanie Littlefield