Sunday, May 8, 2011

iceland - warmer than london?

rach and i traveled to the far off lands of iceland in early december 2010. rach isn't a big fan of the cold and of course the week she decided to visit london was one of the coldest we had had so far that winter, so when planned a side escape, i was very nervous about taking her to a place that had ice in the name. but low and behold the weather forecast was actually set to be warmer than london for the time we were there -i guess what they say is true, greenland is icey and iceland is nice.

we were only there for 3 days staying the town of reykjavík - i still have no idea how to pronounce the name of that place. anyway, we had two goals in mind: 1.) see the northern lights and 2.) visit the blue lagoon. we attempted 100% of the goal, and only got about 75% of it, but all in all it was a successful trip.

we spent the first day just wandering around the smallish city. it doesn't get light out until about 11am which is crazy so there was a bit of sleeping in. we had some lunch - iceland is expensive!! - and then did a bit of shopping. rach made a gross miscalculation the exchange rate which lead to the purchase of a very expensive jacket and a very funny story to take home back to america.

the next day we ventured to a very high tech spa that scans your eyes as your entrance pass. it was pretty nuts and very futuristic. a welcome break though after we decided to walk there all the way across the city.

that evening we ventured out in an attempt to see the northern lights. it was quite late and after a full day of spa'ing i was exhausted. when we arrived in the middle of no where and it was freezing cold i took to taking a little nap on the warm bus instead of watching out in the darkness for a whole lot of nothing. you could see tiny glimpses of the lights, but nothing awe-inspiring so i'm leaving that one on the life list for now. i guess it's a natural phenomenon so you can't really blame it for not making an appearance.

on the last day, we woke up early to take the bus to the blue lagoon - this was far and away the highlight of the trip. an amazing experience. you step into the freezing cold weather outside and then enter the warm salty waters of the lagoon. went spent all day just wandering around in there only breaking for lunch and to grab our cameras for a few snaps. it was self portrait galore time. but it was just so amazing. the pictures don't even do it justice. how blue the water is, how hot it feels compared to the cool temperatures outside, the squishy mud under your feet, and how quiet it is. we were there first thing when it opened so for the first few hours you felt like you were completely alone. it really was one of those crazy life experiences. and i'll always remember it.

full album here:


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

quick trips with friends.

still catching up and massively behind but i'll do my best to post when i can. sorry to all - um 8 or so - of my followers. :)

updating you this go round on a few very short but enjoyable trips i took with the same group of friends here. the first was a day trip to pisa - yes, you read the correctly - a day trip to a foreign country. we got an amazing deal on flights leaving about 6:00am from london and coming back around 10:00pm so in total with travel to the airport, etc. i think we were away for roughly 24 hours. this trip was back in october so it was starting to get pretty chilly in london but pisa was a balmly refuge hovering somewhere in the high 60 degree mark. that combined with the prospect of taking cheesy tourist pictures holding up the tower combined to form the perfect combination.

we arrived in pisa and quickly negotiated our way to the city center from the airport. after some multiple times over backtracking, we finally discovered where the tower was located. pisa is a pretty small city - definitely only needs a day. from the train station to the actual tower of pisa is probably about a 30 minute walk across town, max. and you see all there is to see in that walk. the shopping area, piazzas, and the tower. crossing the bridge to the side of the river where the tower was:


we stopped for lunch before arriving at the tower grounds - you can see the thing walking up the street and let me tell you - it looks fake. as you get closer, you see it leaning and still think it's pretty fake - especially against a bright blue sky. we got tickets and took in all the attractions around the site - there is a church, and a few museums, before climbing the what-i-believe-were 408 steps to the top of the tower. one of the churches:


and the top of the church from the top of the tower:


anyway, here is the only picture i got of thing:


it was cool - and again, definitely worth the visit. the highlight of the trip by far was this restaurant we found on the wikitravel page: numero 11. when we first walked by it was closed so we grabbed some beers and snacks near by and then decided to stroll back later and see if they were open - best decision ever. everything we had was amazing including the house wine poured from a tap. we still rave about this meal and talk about going back just to eat at that place. highly recommended, even if that is the only reason you go to pisa friends.

up next - bratislava and vienna.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

sorrento, almafi, positano, and capri. or my first trip to italy.

first, let me say, i know i am MONTHS behind. this particular post is in relation to a trip i took back in september. i'm going to try and do a few posts in rapid succession to catch up with my own travel self, but basically i've been spending all my weekends traveling which has eliminated a lot of travel blogging time.

back to the almafi coast. my friend diana had wanted to take a vacation over to europe and after much debate we settled on the almafi coast as the prime destination for this adventure. we had originally booked a package that would have us staying on the island of capri but after much back and forth with the travel company ( we realized they couldn't accomodate any of the dates we could make work so ended up canceling the whole thing and starting from scratch. in the end we settled on a hotel in sorrento and decided to do day trips from there - we selected the hotel plaza for its modern decor and feel. so many places in italy offer you italian "charm" but what that usually seems to me is old, rustic, and in need of a refurb. fine if that's what floats your boat but that's not how diana and i roll.

diana spent the weekend in london prior to our trip visiting friends and hanging out. we had brunch at somerset house one day which was divine. a definite must if you are here when the weather is still nice.

we left for italy on a monday flying into naples, which for everything we read about it, seemed to be just as all the articles said - not a place you want to hang out for long. we booked a shuttle bus to get us down to sorrento. it's about an hour drive down the coast which once you are outside naples is really beautiful. you can see mount vesuvius on the drive too. we got into sorrento pretty late after our delayed flight and grabbed a meal at a restaurant a friend had recommended who had recently been to sorrento as well - it was great. amazing seafood pasta that tasted like the ocean, pizza with super fresh dough, and a tasty wine to wash it all down. (this is pretty much how every meal in italy went by the way.)

the next day, diana and i ventured to pompei. it was quite the site to see - amazing how much has been preserved and really cool to walk through the actual city streets. the rick steve's walking guide in our book was a great way to see the highlights of it as well and not feel overwhelmed because there is a lot to see. we actually ran into a couple people along the walk doing the exact same book tour we were doing. travel tip: DO NOT go here when it's hot outside. we were lucky in that it was somewhere in the 80's, but that's about the max. the whole thing is completely exposed to sun and it could easily be a scorcher especially as it gets later in the day.


the following day we ventured to the little island of capri. it was about a 30 minute fairy ride and we made sure to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds at the blue grotto. what an experience that was. they load you up on little taxi boats and then send you out to the grotto where you get on even smaller boats and essentially lay down in these tiny row boats while these guys paddle you around in the cave. then getting out is even tougher as the waves crash in through the tiny opening. it was definitely a cool experience but i sure had a moment of 'oh crap what if we can't get out of this cave'. after the cave, we took a bus up to the small town of anacapri and took a chair lift up to the very top of the island and then hiked back down to anacapri to catch the bus to capri. there are only two towns on the island so a day is more than enough time. we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling through the streets of capri, enjoying italian pastries and gelato and pretending we could afford to be shopping in all the expensive botiques. by late afternoon we had seen everything we wanted and caught the ferry back to sorrento. for capri, i wouldn't book more than a day and i definitely wouldn't stay there if you plan on traveling around the almafi coast at all. it's pretty expensive to get back and forth on the ferry, not to mention pricey on the island to eat, etc. diana and i talked about afterwards how it was a blessing in disguise that we ended up in sorrento, and not on capri after the package fell through.

laying down in the boat to go to the blue grotto.

view from the chair lift going above anacapri.

our last day adventure was down the coast to the small towns of almafi and positano. we took a 2 hour winding bus ride along the coast to get there. while the views were amazing we both definitely decided taking the ferry back was the way to go. some of the twists and turns down that italian coast were a little too death defying for our taste. however, we made it in the end and started our day with a hike up into the coastal hills near almafi. diana had bought a small guide book that outlined some hikes and we selected the 'easy' one though i think easy is a little light of a term. after an initially of course start, we soon figured our way around and we wandering into the mountains of almafi. it was a beautiful hike with good paths laid out. you walk through lemon groves and then into the forest before ending up in a town high above almafi carved into the side of the mountains and then make your way back down into the city. there were a few times we questioned our sense of direction but in the end we made it with time to spare to catch our ferry to positano, the next coastal town over. the ferry was really the way to go because you arrive along the coast and can take pictures along the way. positano was a great little city - probably my favorite on the trip. again, not sure if i would want to base myself there because it was so small but the streets were quaint and lovely and i could imagine just doing nothing there for days. after exploring we caught the ferry back to sorrento from there.


on our last day we just spent the time wandering through the streets of sorrento shopping in small shops (i picked up some excellent spaghetti seasoning) and enjoying what was left of our delicious italian meals. literally every meal we had on the trip was amazing. the pasta was always fresh and handmade, there was seafood in nearly every dish, and when you just didn't know what to go get you couldn't go wrong with a pizza. not to mention we followed every meal with gelato from our favorite gelato place we found - primavera. they had this peach flavor the first day that i still drool over when i think about it.

picture perfect italy. fishing village part of sorrento.

the next day diana and i had early flights so we headed back to the airport and back to reality. for a first trip to italy, i couldn't have asked for anything more. the food, the company, the sites - it was all absolutely incredible and more than lived up to my expectations. if you haven't been to this area of italy before, go - now. don't even think about it. you'll never look back.

the full album can be found here:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

summer time and the living is easy.

i just have to say having 25 days paid holiday over in these parts isn't too shabby. i upgraded from 15 stateside and while with public holidays it works out to be a little closer to even, i have definitely being doling out my vacation days and expect to finish the year with them all burned.

it's been a pretty crazy summer, or at least once summer chose to arrive in about july. started off with berlin, then a few fun events here in london, followed with time on the coast of the uk in devon which apparently has a huge surf culture that made me feel at home, and most recently a long weekend to ibiza.

i'm going to do one massive post since all the trips were smallish and already did a berlin post.

first - let's talk london. it has been a great summer. the national past time here is complaining about the weather. when it's sunny, it's not hot enough. when it's hot, it's humid. when it's cold, we miss the sun. there is no pleasing people. though it does remind me of san francisco in that respect. in any case, i have been pleasantly surprised. there have been tons of warm, if not hot weekends. i have gotten just as much use of out of my dresses and shorts as i do at home, and overall i did have to find ways to beat the heat a few times, as in the end, there is no a/c here just like in sf.

i spent one day visiting the victoria and albert museum as there was a grace kelly exhibit on with all her outfits and costumes which were gorgeous. i do have to say that the V&A is probably one of my more favorite museums here in london - really gorgeous space and they always have cool interesting exhibits. i took this photo outside in the garden area they have - lovely. really a great way to spend an afternoon.

i also spent one weekend flying high on the trapeze. what a cool experience! i didn't make the catch like on sex and the city, but i did make it upside down which was actually much harder than it looked and they only give about a 30 second training intro. i did suffer from terribly sore abs, shoulders, and arms for a few days afterward, but well worth it.

climbing up.
getting ready to jump off.
away we go!
turning upside down.

my trip in august was a long four day weekend to the coast of england where there's a relatively californian feeling surf culture. we stayed in a gorgeous house overlooking the ocean and countryside in a town called croyde. there was a big group of us and we spent the days beaching and surfing (everyone was SHOCKED to hear the californian didn't surf as i did not step foot in the freezing water, nor do i surf anyway) and our nights playing cards and cooking dinner. it reminded me of weekends away in cabins in tahoe which was a nice feeling. some pictures at the beach.

and finally, for the last weekend in august, which is a long weekend here kind of like labor day in the us, i went away to ibiza with some friends i met through the cal alumni club. ibiza is a small island of the coast of spain known for it's party scene, but i think it should be known for it's clear water and beaches. some pictures below. i have never been to any other part of spain and this trip made me really excited to tackle barcelona and madrid in the future. the food is amazing and the people are so nice and it's cool to actually use my spanish.

you have to take these boat taxis to get to a lot of the remote beaches but it's well worth it. check out the color of that water. swoon.

my beach hat. :)
watching the sunset on our last night.

those are my summer trips/life updates. i can't believe it's september already.

i am off to ITALY for a week the beginning of next week. a friend is over from the us and i'm using the last little bit of my vacation days (barring the days i need for christmas - yes, i will be home) to soak up the sun on the italian coast in sorrento. we have plans to hike the almafi coast, hop around the island of capri, visit pompeii, and most importantly eats lots and lots of amazing food. i've never been to italy so i'm unbelievably excited.

weekend after that i'm in paris for a work conference (i know, my life is hard) so hopefully some good posts coming up.

headed off to enjoy the last bits of sunshine for the day. it's almost autumn - have to soak it up while i can.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


spent a weekend (a few weekends ago now) frolicking around berlin with my friend from google emily who moved to berlin recently. awesome city. definitely already looking forward to going back. especially on a weekend where it's not a million degrees, because for each of the three days i was there the lowest day time temperature was 93 degrees.

i took an early morning flight on friday to berlin and arrived at emily's place around 11:00am or so. it was already pretty warm out at that point. we walked around her neighborhood - really cute, like a noe valley in san francisco - and stopped to grab lunch at a cafe. delish. all the while we stopped to take pictures of awesome street art which is everywhere in berlin. emily likes to say the city is a museum which is totally true.

thought my dad would like this one:

after lunch we walked around a few of the near by neighborhoods just exploring and taking pictures. it was a great walking city - really flat and all the neighborhoods flow into one another pretty easily. everything seems like a combination of old and new. makes sense considering the city's history is still evolving with the wall having just come down 20 years ago.

we stopped for gelato which was delish before heading inside for a nap to avoid the hottest part of the day tucked safely indoors. we enjoyed some dinner at a near by corner cafe before watching the sunset and enjoying some wine and AMAZING honey goat cheese on emily's balcony.

saturday we continued our explorations stopping at random cafes when we were too hot to continue (it was the hottest on saturday) and heading to local galleries to check out the 'real' art. i bought a cool print that i need to get framed. but mostly we just tried to stay out of the heat which kept us away from lots of touristy things. we ate dinner at this really good vietnamese place while watching germany compete for the third place spot in the world cup. it was cool to be there during the game - all the bars/restaurants had moved their tv's out onto the street because it was too hot to be inside anywhere so on nearly every street corner there were people watching tv outside. when they would score you could hear the whole neighborhood erupt in cheers. we met up with some of emily's friends that night and danced the night away at a one of the coolest bars/nightspots i have ever been to which was literally right on the river - like you could jump in from the deck if you wanted to.

on the last day i definitely wanted to see the wall before i left so we braved the heat one last time to a nearby neighborhood where a big piece of the wall still exists. on our walk we stumbled across a local fire department who were doing their part to keep berliners cool in the heat wave:

i wouldn't go in, but emily took the leap on the walk back.

we ended up at the wall in the scorching heat but it was still so interesting to see. it's only a portion that is left at this point as it was all knocked down 20 years ago. crazy to think that one day you lived in a country and the next day there was a wall dividing you which is pretty much how quickly the whole thing went up - overnight.

there is so much history here and so much still to be made considering most of the people still living in berlin were alive to remember when the wall went up and came down.

i really want to go back soon and see more of the touristy stuff that i missed due to the insane heat wave. all in all, it was a good trip to see a good friend, and despite the heat a good time was had.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

beaching it. (and behind - i know.)

sorry for the lengthy update time. i'm actually a few posts behind but luckily have booked in nothing this weekend which means hopefully between saturday and sunday i can finally catch up.

a few weekends ago - wait - nearly a MONTH ago i took off to the coast of southern england as it was going to be a scorcher in the city (about 85-90ish degrees) which yes, i know, compared to the sweltering summers of the central valley might be considered a nice break, but when you in the middle of a humid cement covered city and not surrounded by delta breezes, it's a vastly different story.

after much research (which needed to be done because the only visit i did to a beach while studying abroad was brighton beach which is covered in rocks) i finally came across an area about two hours outside of central london by train called bournemouth which was apparently lush with golden sands. after some further research i came across a b&b which was half way between bournemouth and another coastal area known as poole. i was sold based on the fact the b&b was listed as five stars and mentioned being a short three minute walk from the beach.

let me tell you - i was not disappointed. after an easy, albeit crowded, train ride over i caught a ten minute cab ride to the hotel. i was greeted the friendly owners who told me my room wasn't ready but they could store my bag so i could head down to the ocean. that's one of the things i love about traveling here - all the hotels are so small and owned by actual people - not companies - most of the time. after my as promised three minute walk to the beach i arrived to perfect weather and golden sands just like i wanted.

i spent the remainder of the day beaching and napping and generally enjoying being able to wear a bikini while living in the uk - something i didn't think i would ever be able to do.

i headed back to the hotel a few hours later to change and explore the boardwalk which connected the actual town of bournemouth to where i was staying. got some cool shots along the way before grabbing dinner and heading back to my room to catch the usa soccer game.

this last one is taken on the little cliff you walk over to get down to the beach from my hotel. there really aren't many sunsets to catch here in the uk so i take what i can get with these.

the next day was more of the same in terms of beaching and sunning. the weather was amazing the whole time i was there so definitely had to take advantage of it as soft sand and sunny days don't come around all that often here.

the beach cliffs are pretty cool here. caught a good one of the blue skies against the white cliffs.

all in all it was great weekend and i would go back in heart beat. you can take the girl out of california, but you can't take the love of the beach out of the girl.

full album here:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

kew gardens.

a few weekends ago i decided to explore in london which lead me on a smallish journey to a place called kew gardens. it's at the end of the district line - the green one if you are looking at a tube map - and is basically just a botanical garden. with the weather starting to get nice for spring/summer though i figure might as well spend as much time outside as possible before it becomes impossible to do so.

you get off the tube and you are in a tiny little suburb of london. there is literally one pub, one bookstore, a small cafe, and a small grocery store right near the station. you walk down a tree lined street with amazing houses and end up at the entrance to the gardens.

the place is huge - i was probably there for about 5 hours including lunch and don't think i saw everything. it's a great place to take some food and just sit and relax for the afternoon, except for the fact that it's right in heathrow's flight path so there are a lot of planes going over head.

a few of my favorite shots from the day -

the poor peacock was being chased by children who had clearly never seen a peacock. i think it was turning to me for help.

there is a cool tree top walkway they built that let's you walk around and see the gardens from above.

there were multiple green houses with different "themes". these were taken at the water lilly house.

taken inside another one of the greenhouses. you can climb up the stairs and walk around the top of them, but boy was it hot in there. heat certainly does rise.