Tag : travel
Tag : travel
On our week-long vacation, we decided to road trip down to Chicago. Unsure of what to expect with regards to summer visitors, we purchased the city pass to avoid the lines. Being big foodies, we allocated enough time to enjoy our food and visit the sites. Since we visited many many places, I’ve divided my Chicago post into “where to go” and “where to eat.”
First Stop: Chicago 360 |John Hancock Observatory
We went right before sunset and enjoyed the view from 94th floor.
Second Stop: The Cloud Gate aka The BeanThe symbol of Chicago and every tourists’ photo site. We planned on visiting The Bean as early so we could to avoid the crowd, but the pull of “best doughnut in Chicago” necessitated us to line up at The Doughnut Vault at 7:45am before it even opened. (You’ll see the doughnuts in the “Chicago | where to eat” post.
Third Stop: The Field Museum
Meet Sue, the most complete and best-preserved T-Rex fossil ever. I was naturally drawn to the dinosaur exhibit, but if you are more into science technology, you’ll still love the Field Museum.
Fourth Stop: John Shedd AquariumSince the aquarium and the Field Museum are all on the museum campus, we compressed the two sights into one afternoon. My favorite part of the aquarium was the beluga whales. I literally spent half an hour looking at them swim.
Fifth Stop: Navy Pier Fireworks During summer, Navy Pier put on firework shows every Wednesday (9:30pm) and Saturday (10:15pm) night. There are a lot of people, but instead of crowding at the staircase where most people are at, try to go past the staircase and closer to water to get the best view. (The fireworks is not in front of the staircase but more to the left and further end of the pier meaning the view from the staircase is quite horrendous.)
Sixth Stop: Art Institute of Chicago
Aside from this, there are an impressive collection of modern art. If you are into modern art, this is your place.
Another interesting exhibit was the Thorne Miniature Rooms. There are more than 60 exhibits glimpsing into European and American furnishings in different period. And if you are curious, these are made by master craftsmen using a scale of 1 inch to 1 foot.
Seventh Stop: The Driehaus Museum
This is a little gem tucked near the Magnificent Mile. This palatial home from the Gilded Age was the most expensive house built in its age. For $20-25, we wandered around the rooms admiring Tiffany glass masterpieces and artworks.
Eighth Stop: Skydeck Chicago
This is the only time that the city pass is truly useful. With the VIP pass, we skipped more than an hour wait in line and went straight into the elevators. There are only 3 skydeck “boxes” that you can look down. There are long lines for each. Some tourists are obnoxious and just end up in your pictures. We took about 30 pictures and most of them had one or several people in it. You can always opt to have it professionally taken and purchase it afterwards.
Ninth Stop: Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Cultural Center, one of the most visited attractions in Chicago, was surprisingly empty when we visited. I couldn’t believe that this was actually intended to be a public library, but I guess since its intention was “to impress and prove that Chicago had grown into a sophisticated metropolis”, it definitely succeeded.
Tenth Stop: Public Chicago
Where are your must visits that I missed? Let me know!
Sneak peak of my food adventure:
What pops into your mind when you think of Las Vegas? I’m thinking probably casinos, shopping malls, and clubs? After college, I’ve been visiting Las Vegas to get away from the cold and its delicious food, amazing entertainment, and pretty things.
This time, we stayed at Vdara Spa and Hotel, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Vdara does not have house a casino and is relatively tucked away with its valet only parking service. We stayed at the 40th floor with a perfect view of Bellagio and a little bit of the fountain.The first place we tackled after arriving early in the morning is Hash House a Go Go at The Quad. It is in the middle of the casino floor and accessible by its exclusive escalator. Its dish was featured on Man vs Food and thus I had to try it. The line was quite long even at 10:30am, but after 30 min wait, we were in. When the famous Sage Fried Chicken & Waffles arrived, people around us kept asking to take photos of it because it was enormous.
Since we were super full, we went to The Cosmos (a partner hotel of Ritz-Carlton) and walked around and remembered a recommendation to try out the Secret Pizza Place. The place was not labeled and we were directed to the wrong floor. After wandering from the east tower to west tower and barging into employee resting area, we pored over the Yelp reviews to find that it was next to the Blue Ribbon Sushi on 3rd floor. Because it took us quite some time to find the place, now we are ready to down more food. It was delicious! Definitely recommend if you don’t have too much time and want to eat something quick.
When we took the tram from Vdara to Bellagio, we saw an advertisement for Las Vegas restaurant week that actually fell on the week of our visit. For those who don’t know what restaurant week is, it’s basically a week where numerous restaurants come up with a 3 course lunch and/or dinner meal at a fixed price almost like prix fixe.
From the list, we chose Alizé at Palms, a one Michelin place and known as the restaurant with the best view. At 56th floor, seated at the corner, we had a breathtaking view of Las Vegas. The food was delicious (lighting was terrible for pictures, but the most important thing is in the experience, right?).
The following morning, we headed over to Aria‘s Jean Philippe for breakfast. It was difficult deciding between all the mouth-watering selections of crepes, desserts, and pastries, so we ended up with the variety sandwiches and sweet trio. The chilled sandwiches was delicious, despite being chilled, the bread was still soft and chewy. The flavor was decadent with mustard seed, water cress and other gourmet ingredients. The sweet trio is also my favorite with the mini rose macarons, peanut butter lollipop and crème brûlée.
For lunch, we drove off the strip to Bachi Burger and we were so glad we did. The must orders are oxtail chili fried, pork belly steam buns, truffle fries and their burgers. Since there were only two of us, we went with the pork belly steam buns, Kiki’s burger and Shogun burger with wagyu and fried egg. The steam buns were delicious, but Kiki’s is amazing! Angus beef with shitake, enoki, and eryngi mushroom, caramelized bacon and onion with sauce, who can resist?
Then we head to the Las Vegas Strip and if you’ve never been, Coca Cola World and M&M World are must visits. At Coca Cola, try the 16 Coca Cola products around the world and believe me, try the Beverly then if you brave the whole cup, get the I tasted Beverly pin to show it.
At M&M world, watch the free 4-D movie, “I Lost My M In Vegas” at 3rd floor. It is silly but so cute. At the fourth floor, we bumped into the blue M&M and took a pic with him.My favorite M&M products are actually the Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Munch, etc inspired t-shirts. The idea is brilliant. We had planned to watch Celine Dion that night at Caesars and settled with Mesa Grill owned by Bobby Flay for a pre-show dinner. Since it is located right next to the Colisseum, it was the perfect place to dine without having to rush. My favorite is the coffee rubbed filet mignon and the unexpectedly delicious corn tamales.
We decided to check out the Fremont St Experience, the place that all tours visit, but out-shined by the Strip. Parking is not free at hotels near Fremont St, so be prepared to pay for street parking or parking garages. The place is run down, but it’s the other side of Las Vegas that everyone should experience. (Every night from 6pm to midnight, there is a light show on the strip. If you have a chance, check it out!)
We also ran into Mint 400 track racing inspection near the end of Fremont St. and saw a lot of really cool roadsters and off-road race cars.
I’ve been wanting to visit the High Roller Ferris Wheel anticipating its opening this spring, but alas when we went, it is still not ready. However, I felt better after getting the tall spiked slushie that I’ve always wanted to get but never had the chance. (You can purchase ticket now by going here. There is high demand, so purchase ticket online.)The one lobby that I visit every single time I go to Las Vegas is Bellagio. Their flower arrangement follows the season and is always so refreshing. I love how this time, it seemed as though we’ve shrank to the size of a bug walking in a glamorous garden.And of course, before we fly out, we headed to Jean Philippe at Bellagio this time to get the rose macaron.
Jean Philippe | Aria or Bellagio
Places to Visit
The Shops at Crystals
The Fashion Mall (There is live fashion show on Fri, Sat, and Sun from 12pm-5pm every hour. Takes place near Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom)
Las Vegas Premium Outlets
Palazzo | The Venetian
Forum Shoppes | Caesars
Above: Aug 2013 Display | Below: View from Vdara Hotel Room
Where do you visit when you go to Vegas?
Thanks for reading ^^
It’s been two years since I’ve last been to Disneyworld. When my bro told my sis and I that he’ll be going to Orlando, Florida, for a conference, my sis and I had the perfect excuse to visit Disneyworld, which had the new Fantasyland open the previous year.
Last time we stayed at Walt Disney World Swan, little did we know that it was a conference/ convention hotel and that like Dolphin, it does not have the special extra services like the other hotels from the series.
This time we were smarter, we booked a different hotel from the series and enjoyed a completely different experience. From one month before our trip, Disney started sending packages after packages with information, reminders, luggage tags, vouchers, and all kinds of other packages. It was a very personal experience with all packages personalized with your name and information.
這次定對飯店，收到好幾個包裹，有行李牌，接送車票，各項服務和簡介，和魔法手帶(Magic Band). 所有你有想到跟沒想到的事都幫你安排好了。
There are also vouchers for Disney Quest at Downtown Disney, Miniature Golf, Arcade, and many other activities, so if you are thinking of visiting Disneyworld and staying at one of the resorts, give yourself ample time to take advantage of all its magic. Did I mention the Disney Quest ticket itself is already $47.93 for an adult?
對了! 那一包一包裡面還有一本Coupon Book，免費去Disney Quest, 迷你高爾夫，遊戲間兌幣，和其他有的沒有的。如果要來Disneyworld, 要待久一點才利用的到每個設施。在 Downtown Disney 的 Disney Quest，到了才發現大人票一張$47.93。如果沒有兌換券，千萬不要浪費錢哦。
Since we visited two years ago, we didn’t think the experience would be THAT different and there was a mention about being picked for testing for the magic band. I was having trouble customizing it online and forgot about it until the trip just to find out how special the whole package was. The first package contains a USB that has the first clip you just saw as well as this second clip. And the magic bands arrived customized in your chosen color with your name in the back.
The main purpose of this trip was to visit Fantasyland, which we did and took full advantage of the two new attractions, “Be Our Guest” Restaurant and Enchanted Tales with Belle.
If you’ve grown up with Disney, you’d find all of these scenes familiar. The mosaic, the entrance, the forbidden west wing and the bright ball room. All of which are dining space. Noticed the grey stuff? It’s delicious. Did I mention your magic band is tracked so they know exactly where to deliver your order…? Creepy cool!
At the Enchanted Tales with Belle, I’m not going to spoil the surprises for you, but you’ll have no idea how we got to here and that’s good because it’s supposed to be magical. We do however had an adorable beast as the volunteer who got to dance with Belle. *melt*
This time, the biggest difference was with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. It was unlike before with random projections and random Disney guests’ photos, but rather this time, Disney combined music with various scenes from the movies to make it extra magical. Look! They even have Frozen and “Let It Go” already! With the spectacular prequel, I guess they cut down on the fireworks? It wasn’t as long or memorable as the previous time.
Just when we returned to the hotel night before leaving, we see this hanging outside of our hotel room. It’s our airport shuttle itinerary!! They’ve seriously thought this through.
Did I mention that if you have check in luggage, you can attach the yellow sticker prior to check-in and when you arrive at Disney, they would have already pulled your luggage out from the back and delivered to your hotel? And if your departing flight is after 8am, you can directly check in at the hotel.
Even though I just returned, I can’t wait to vacation there next time taking full advantage of their wonderful service and magical experience.
And this! If you had photos taken by Disney staff, they tap your Magic Band and when you go home, you can access them and add all kinds of cute frames!
你如果有給迪士奈的員工照相，回家就可以把美美的照片都加上迪士奈特有的框框! 這也是新的，真後悔沒有多厚臉皮的叫他們照 (跟小孩搶好像也不是很好…)
Oh yes, the March Challenge is out! Here are my picks. Check them out and see you all on March 1st!
It’s February 14th, Valentine’s Day, but it’s also the 15th day after the lunar new year making it the Lantern Festival. As the name suggests, it’s the day for lanterns. Every city in Taiwan, big and small, holds their own lantern displays professionally and locally made. One special city is selected to have the biggest display of lanterns and main light display. This year it is in Nantou’s ChungXin Village.
I was able to visit four different cities this time. If you have a chance around lunar new year, stay from Day 1 through the 15th and you’ll sure have a blast.
KaoHsiung City Love River (愛河)
I didn’t visit at night, but it was the biggest ever lantern display using over 20,000 LED lightbulbs.
Tainan City (月津港)
Instead of the common theme, horse, for the year of the horse, Tainan went with.. Jellyfish? With the water element at the bay, the light displays are quite impressive.
There are also two very special events on this special day. One in Northern Taiwan and the other in Southern Taiwan. Commonly referred to as “北天燈，南蜂炮” or “Northern Lanterns and Southern Firecracker”
In Pingxi, tens of thousands of people decorates their own lantern with their wishes and desire and sends it off for good luck.
In Southern Taiwan, Yen Shui, the city is filled with firecrackers pointing toward the street for the fearless and the adventurous. It is recommended that you are fully armed before attempting to try this out.
Every year, Taiwan spends millions upon millions of dollar on this day. If you ever plan on visiting Taiwan, plan strategically and check the lunar calendar and you will experience Taiwan at its best (given that you tried out the food and toured around a bit that is).
Day 1: Blue is the New Black
Happy New Year! It’s officially 2014! This will be the first day of living off my suitcase figuratively speaking. I will be using just the pieces I laid out in my previous post for the next 30 days.
I’m starting the year with electric blue. A bright color, but not very loud. It’s eye-catching, but still very classic.
And pants, not skirts, so I can sit on my luggage without worrying.
And this is my number one of thirty. What do you think?
I woke up this morning, looked at my phone, and thought, “man, it’s 2014.” In 2013, I made a big decision to move to a small city in Minnesota and pressed pause on my life and career. I had often wonder in the past 6 months if I did the right thing and where I’m going with my life. Truthfully, I’m still lost, but if you ask my if I regretted my decision, I would say No. (I do miss the adrenaline rush when I make things happen, but alas, I’ll work on getting that feeling back next year when grad school begins :))
This is 2014 and this is my New Year resolution. I will not make promises I cannot keep, but here’s my new revision. Thanks sis for the encouragement!
1. Bake from my Pierre Herme Pastries book and try to make as many dessert selections as possible. (Thanks Cynthia for the gift)
2. Continue working on perfecting Spanish through Duolingo and continue to learn French
3. Work on this blog and make it my baby 🙂
4. And build that website for my old organization as promised (TAAA!)
Did you stay up? If yes, which are you?
:: Patty with hugs (and open ears)::
What do you think of when you see a suitcase? Dread? Curiosity? Excitement? Well, for me, the best part about a vacation beside the vacation is actually packing it. The last thing you want happen is to wear the same things everyday or being immobilized with all the luggage you have. Hence, this carry on challenge.
What I packed in my carry on:
4 outerwear: 2 cardigans, 1 cape, 1 blazer | J.Crew, Theory, Mango
4 tops: 2 sweaters, 1 blouse, 1 turtleneck | Theory, Mango, Zara, Uniqlo 1 dress | JYJZ
2 skirts | Zara, JYJZ
3 pants | Ann Taylor, Zara, A&F
2 shoes: heels, flats | Ann Taylor
1 belt | WHBM Camis/legging/necessities
*1 pair of boots (Travel outfit) | Franco Sarto
*1 coat (Travel outfit) | Zara
What I Wore so Far:
Featured item: Ann Taylor Colette Suede Peeptoe Heels I cannot get over how gorgeous these pumps are. I can just keep looking at them. And they are quite comfortable so far. I haven’t had a chance to try them on for prolonged period of time.
What do you think of today’s look? (Let me know you dropped by) :: Patty with hugs ::
I recently visited Sunnylands, a historic residence located on the desert at Rancho Mirage, CA, with my family. Completed in 1966, this residence belonged to the late philanthropist and billionaire publisher, Walter Anneberg. Apparently he had always dreamed of living in a house surrounded by golf course and he realized his dream when Sunnylands was built.
Sunnylands takes up 200 acres with a 25,000-square-foot house. Without advanced ticket purchase, you will be stuck at the visitor center with the others.
With our tickets in hand, we traveled in a golf cart toward the residence. The view was breathtaking everywhere you turn. Coming up the winding driveway that was once traveled by Queen Elizabeth II, President Reagan, Frank Sinatra, and many others famous icons and royalties, we were greeted by the Birds of Welcome.
Surrounded by mountain ranges and man made lakes, A Quincy Jones and William Haines designed a spectacular residence. The view from every angle befits a postcard.
As we approach, I was taken away by the modernist architecture and the statement roof. It was a bold approach at modern architecture sporting exposed beams and ceilings that worked seamlessly with the surrounding.
Photos were prohibited inside the residence for security reasons since the estate still hosts high profile retreats such as the recent one with President Obama and President Xi Jing Ping.
Aside from the Van Goghs and Monets, there were many Asian sculptures and paintings from Ch’ing dynasty and so forth. (Just a note, the paintings have long since been gifted to Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Mets in return gifted replicas of the original paintings back to the Annebergs. However, the Asian sculptures and paintings are all authentic.)
One of my favorite parts of the residence was the guest rooms. In each of the color-themed bedrooms, the Annebergs ordered special pillows displaying quirky phrases like “great people don’t make long visits” and “you are ready to leave on Sunday, right?” Totally enjoying Mr. Anneberg’s humor.
Another favorite is Anneberg’s wall of Christmas cards from Queen Elizabeth II. Mr. Anneberg apparently wrote to Queen Elizabeth II every year near Christmas to let her know how much he enjoyed receiving her Christmas cards so that she would send one that year.
This is just one of the many many views that are superbly gorgeous.
Below is a art-piece, a free-standing work of metal rods that is arranged to provoke dynamic nature, dubbed the Peacock. It is not clear who named it The Peacock, but it’s an absolutely handsome piece connecting the residence from the game room.
The “hide and reveal” nature of the landscape brought many surprised as we traveled the winding driveway: a Chinese inspired temple, totem pole, lakes, etc…
I could spend hours just walking on the lawn, but alas, the tour ends after 90 minutes. And we were shipped back to the visitor center. You could watch a short movie introducing the Anneberg historic residence and visit the gift shop, but take my words, plan ahead and purchase a ticket for the tour in advance. You will not regret it.
Here’s an interesting fixture I found at the gardens – the bench. It’s not just any bench, it’s a replica of the redwood bench presented by President Obama to President Xi Jing Ping during his visit and you can sit on it and pose, if that’s something you are interested in.
This is definitely a place worth your visit.
How to Purchase Your Ticket:
This link is where you make your purchase. It is $35 per person and released in half-month blocks on the first and fifteenth of every month meaning if you like to visit Sunnylands on January 16, in the Jan 16-31 block, you need to be ready on Jan 1 9am PST at the link to make your purchase. And for visits between Feb 1-15, you need to be ready on Jan 15.
The tickets run out as soon as they go on sale. If you have a party of 2 or more, you need to be the first to grab your time block. The tour are scheduled every 15 minutes from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m., 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m, so be smart and be fast. You do need to register to purchase the ticket, so I recommend signing up for an account in advance.
The tickets are nonrefundable, so be smart and visit Sunnylands.
If you didn’t have a ticket, you’ll be looking at this view and wishing you did advanced planning.
For thanksgiving break, we took a trip down to Carmel, Santa Cruz, then Capitola. It was a nice one-day trip to visit Carmel downtown, have lunch, walk around, head to Santa Cruz boardwalk and beach, then take the little trolley to dine at Shadowbrook. I’m currently loving my pleated skirt from Zara. The shade of red is perfect for the holiday and the fabric does not wrinkle or ruin the pleat.
While we were at Santa Cruz beach, we bumped into Tom with his parrot, Honey, and he graciously allowed me to hold Honey for some pictures. (Note: this was the picture of Tom’s hand holding Honey, not mine)
We waited until sunset and it was absolutely breathtaking.
The past time I went to Napa with my family, we decided to visit Opus One Winery. The label lived up to its fame with the grandeur of its architecture and layout. It was pointed out during the tour that from the entrance to the building, it is purposely made to look like a wine glass. You can see it from the aerial view.
It was difficult to capture the breathtaking view at winery. With influence from French Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the Mondavi and Rothschild partnership has a very heavy French classical influence. I had to use the panoramic picture from Jacob Rosen to attempt to convey its grandeur.
The iconic image on the wine signifying partnership between Mondavi and Rothschild.
I had made sure to make reservation in advance. For those that had forgotten to make a reservation, they were left to wander around. It’s beautiful outside, but you will miss half the experience from visiting Opus One. Any random picture taken from the mound is absolutely gorgeous.
The wine barrels from this year’s batch are stored in half circle around the tasting room. It’s quite amazing how the barrel placement can be turned into art.
While you only get to taste two glasses of wine, touring through the structure will make your time and money worthwhile. Every little detail during the trip is executed with precision and care. Pictured is Opus One 2009.
The deep red color from the Bordeaux blend leaves you lusting for more.
I recommend visiting in late spring when the winery is in full swing in harvesting and wine making. You will actually get to see their high tech machinery at work during your tour. Call them to make a reservation for a tour. It’s not enough to just taste the wine.
Opus One Winery 7900 St. Helena Hwy
After your visit to Opus One, Head on to Domaine Chandon’s bubbly experience and end with their in-house Michelin-starred restaurant, étoile.
And there you have it, the perfect ensemble.
If this were the last time you will be dining at NYC for some time, where will you visit?
My choice was Jean-Georges, the famed three Michelin Star Restaurant. Fortunately, we were able to get a reservation for 2:30pm for late lunch. Conveniently located in the Columbus Circle, we shopped around until our reservation time. With lush, off-white leather seating and large windows off of Central Park, it embodies the spirit of Manhattan.
We ordered the prix-fix course, but with the addition of many “on-the-house” small dishes, we felt like we were having a six course meal.
The foie gras brulee is not to be missed. The velvety interior melts in your mouth coupled with the crunchy exterior, it’s oh so heavenly. Paired with the riesling jelly on the side makes this dish complete.
The sea urchin appetizer was soso, but I appreciate their attempt at Asian fusion.
The Crispy Confit of Suckling Pig, Rutabaga “Pudding” and Smoked Marmalade was my other favorite. Albeit difficult and messy to eat, the crunchy skin with the moist and tender meat leaves you lusting for more. It was already quite a big portion, but I’m sure I could have consumed another slice.
We paid extra for the caramelized wagyu and it was meh… I prefer the steak from Alexander Steakhouse in Silicon Valley.
The desserts were a different story. With a major sweet tooth, I had problem deciding between the options. I ended up with caramel swayed mostly by my preference for salted caramel ice cream because of my addiction after visiting Bi-Rite Creamery in SF. If you order prix-fix, do not skip the dessert!
I was already content with my selections of food that afternoon, just to be surprised by even more sweets. And yes, the white spongy pillow looking thing are their famous house made marshmellow. I was surprised by the black pepper, but it could’ve been more special. Among the sweets, I preferred the crunchy pieces. And don’t be fooled by the macarons, they look good, but because of their tiny size, they are dried out and unlike the luxurious chewy macaron you can go down the street to La Duree.
It’s quite an experience. Visit it at least once and you won’t be sorry.
I’ll introduce more delicious places in NYC later, but if I had to choose a place as my last meal, Jean-Georges will be on my list.Jean-Georges 1 Central Park W