Hobbits and Kiwis | New Zealand

New Zealand, a country that I’ve always heard so many great things about and a place I never thought I’d see myself. Or at least, not as an American 23-year-old. A land whose natural beauty rivals that of fantasies; and for that exact reason, film crews flock to New Zealand (and rightfully so). A country where there is no shortage of sheep, Hobbit holes, and super friendly locals.

New Zealand, you are marvelous.

New Zealand

After a whirlwind of a week in literal paradise, my sister and I hopped on a plane to Auckland, New Zealand. We flew over the International Date Line on this flight, and doing so “lost” a day (RIP June 5, 2017 – I never really knew you) when we landed in the capital city. We were greeted by much colder temps and rain, as we realized we were no longer in Bora Bora anymore.

After a quick airport shuttle ride into the heart of the city, we settled into our AirBnB by taking a little power nap. By that time, it was already getting late and we were in dire need of food. On the shuttle ride in, we saw a Nandos, so we had to for sure hit that up. We actually fell in love with it when we were in London, and because there isn’t one near where we live in the States, we ate here twice.

During this first evening in the city, we also learned how to cross the street diagonally. It’s what the Auckland locals do, and I wouldn’t be opposed to adopting this practice here in the States… It saves so much time!

Hobbiton 

Our second day in New Zealand started off on a bus down to Rotorua, with a stop at Hobbiton. Now I have never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies, definitely didn’t read the books, and only watched the second film in the Hobbit series.. However, I am a fan of fantasy (I’m talking Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, woo!) and can appreciate a movie set.

The amount of detail that went into these Hobbit holes is unreal. Each Hobbit hole is decorated to represent the different residents of the Shire. Everyone knows Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. However, there’s also the Baker, the Beekeeper, the Inventor, the TOWN DRUNK (lol.) And knowing their occupation, you can easily identify their respective homes – the Baker has pastries and bread in their windows!

I really enjoyed touring the film set despite not really knowing the film/s. Though, I think I would have appreciated it more if I was a LOTR fan. (I did end up watching the first Hobbit film on the flight back to the States). We ended the tour with ginger beers at the Green Dragon!

Rotorua

Janelle and I only spent about 12 hours in Rotorua; half of which was spent asleep as it was only an overnight stay. Rotorua – the city that smells like rotten eggs, due to the sulphur in their world-renown natural hot springs. It was FREEZING (for southern Californian standards) but we rallied and spent our evening literally soaking in a hot spring pool at the Polynesian Spa. The hot water felt so good on our sore muscles, and the natural minerals did wonders for our skin.. Or at least, that’s what we had hoped!

Although there is so much more to the little town than the hot springs, it was all we managed to see and do during our short overnight stay. When I go back to New Zealand, Rotorua is on my list to visit again!

 

Auckland – The City of Sails

Back in Auckland for the last couple of days, Janelle and I froze our buns off, but enjoyed the city life for all that it’s worth. I could definitely imagine myself in Auckland; it definitely gave me San Francisco vibes. Although, if you know me, London is the goal and forever the standard I hold all cities to (just kidding, but not really).

On one of our last days in the city, we took a harbor cruise and got the greatest views of the Auckland skyline. We spent some time on those benches just watching the sailboats go by. Did you know that Auckland’s nickname is “City of Sails”? Over 135,000 yachts and sailboats are registered in Auckland. With a population of 1.4 million, that’s a good amount of boats to people!

Although it was a short stay, it was as the Kiwis say, “Sweet as!”



My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Three

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My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Three

So it may have taken the whole summer, but the last installment of this photo diary is finally here! Here is my Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Three !

I think it’s pretty safe to say that my week in Bora Bora was a week in literal paradise. The temperature never dipped below 73 degrees, the turquoise waters were always clear, and I could always count on an Ia orana from every resort employee. Oh how I miss hearing that greeting! (I also really miss the French pastries. Like really bad.)

In addition to the great hospitality and postcard scenery, the highlight of our trip was the Shark and Ray Feeding. I think what really made it, aside from the sharks and rays themselves, were our tour guides (Crazy Uncle, specifically). He’s the one that actually took those crazy underwater GoPro shots! And he was also the one who would ask me if I was ready to get back on the boat after each pit stop. I was always the last one to come out of the water, sue me :)

There are not enough words to describe the feeling of being amongst these beautiful and majestic creatures. Being in their domain, we were visitors to their home. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I get chills just thinking about it. We swam with black tip sharks, lemon sharks, sting rays, TWO manta rays, and an octopus during that half day excursion. And believe it or not, I still have the tan lines from that day!

Those will forever be my favorite memories. And throughout the whole day, Noho and Crazy Uncle would break out the ukulele and sing us songs. They even sang “We Know the Way” from Moana.. We were 100% living the movie. Moana takes bits from all the various Polynesian cultures, but I definitely saw a lot of it in Tahiti. I mean, look at that sailboat!

I feel incredibly blessed to have visited French Polynesia. It is unreal that I am able to say that I’ve been to a lot of people’s dream vacation destination at the ripe ol’ age of 23. I feel extremely fortunate, and I seriously owe it all to my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad, for showing me Tahiti and all its beauty.

And finally, MERCI BEAUCOUP French Polynesia! You are an absolute dream.

Here are Part One and Part Two!



My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part Two

My Tahitian Photo Diary: Part Two

Et voila, part Two of my Tahitian Photo Diary !!!

Every morning we’d start our day having a buffet breakfast. I’ve lost my sweet tooth, but even I had to pay some visits to the crêpe bar! Also, pro-tip for anyone visiting Bora Bora: Take FULL ADVANTAGE of the buffet breakfast!! Eat as much as your tummy can handle because Tahiti is very, very expensive. And if you’re feeling extra frugal, make yourself a sandwich to wrap up and save for later! But bottom line is this: eat a big breakfast so you can skip lunch to somewhat offset the likely-to-be pricey dinner you’ll be having later that night. You’ll be thanking yourself later!

For the second half of our Bora Bora vacation, my family and I had the privilege to stay in the world-famous overwater bungalows. My sister and I were originally supposed to stay in a regular bungalow, but the AMAZING resort staff insisted that the family not be split apart. So, we were given two neighboring bungalows right at the end! Seriously still pinching myself.

While these bungalows were much smaller than our Beach Villa, there was still something so cute and cozy about them. Yes, these are intended for honeymooners. And yes, I’d be so down to return one day with my future husband. The fact that you can just jump off the bungalow and be in the turquoise waters is a selling point in itself! These bungalows are also equipped with glass bottoms so you can see all the fish and sea life swimming beneath you. My dad was certain he saw a barracuda one morning.

When you’re in Bora Bora, you are literally living in a postcard. If only for the week you’re there. It’s no wonder that the resort employees and locals are so happy to take care of all the guests. Shoot, I would be if I had these views every day! And if I got to wear a fresh flower crown all the time, too. I think I seriously could wear a flower crown every day.

See Part Three here! Check out Part One here.



My Tahitian Photo Diary – Part One

Tahiti Photo Diary: Part One

Part One of my extremely delayed Tahiti Photo Diary post, but better late than never I always say.

My family and I vacationed in the French Polynesia right at the beginning of summer… It’s now August. Between then and now, life/work/time got in the way, as well as the feeling of being uninspired. Keeping a blog is hard, and I commend anyone and everyone who writes one. You are amazing.

A little insight behind this first set of Tahiti photos: for the first half of our week long trip, my family and I stayed in a beach bungalow. Complete with an infinity pool, hammock and lagoon view, it was the perfect introduction to our Tahitian vacation. My parents also celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary at this time, which meant fresh floral crowns to celebrate with! We also ventured over to the main island town of Vaitape, where we really got to be with the locals. Fresh fruit smoothies and baguettes – I was in literal heaven! Bless French Polynesia.

However, I’d say that the highlight of this first half of the week was seeing a Turtle Release. Le Meridien Bora Bora is the only resort that has an on-site turtle rehabilitation center. And we just so happened to be there during the release of Dixon! Turtle releases happen about once a month there, and they hold a whole ceremony for each turtle they release. It’s quite a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with ukulele music, prayer and the actual release! I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. Hoping Dixon is somewhere in that big ocean out there enjoying his newfound freedom!

It still baffles me that I had the chance to visit Bora Bora. Incredibly lucky to have opportunities like this, and another huge MERCI BEAUCOUP to my parents for bringing us along!

Check out Part Deux here and Part Three here  :)



Desert Bloom | Anza-Borrego Springs

The heavy rains in southern California produced what news stations are referring to as a super bloom. You can best believe that I had to get in on some of this wild flower action. Desert Bloom is what we’re calling it, and Anza-Borrego Springs was the place to be these first few weeks of spring.

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Desert Bloom

My go-to adventure buddies are my mom and sister as they’re always down to go on these “crazy” escapades with me. So, we hopped in the car before sunrise to make the 2-hour car journey to the desert. I almost forgot how hot the desert can get. To be fair, I also almost forgot that I grew up in Las Vegas. But that’s another story. By the time we reached our destination, it was 10AM and already 80 degrees!

After a quick bite to eat and chat with the state park volunteers, we drove to the wildflowers and were treated to quite the sight. And I’m not just talking about the yellow and purple flowers… We weren’t the only visitors that weekend, thousands of caterpillars were admiring the fields as well! There aren’t any photos here because it gives me the heebie jeebies just looking at them. But trust me when I say that there were a lot, and they were EVERYWHERE!!!!

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Anza-Borrego Springs

After visiting Joshua Tree for the first time a week before, I was actually happy to be surrounded by cacti again. I personally found the cacti to be more photogenic than the wildflowers, and was most excited to see these tall, spiny things! I’ve become such a sucker for desert vibes, or maybe it’s just because it reminds me so much of Coachella. (Kinda bummed to not be attending this year, but happy that I’ve already experienced it for myself!!)

While we didn’t enjoy the heat, I can say that being surrounded by nature was a sweet treat. I think it’s really good to visit national parks. And more importantly, to respect them!

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U-Pick Sunflowers | Suzie’s Farms

Hello blog! It’s been some time, and while I have no excuse, I’m very sorry for the lack in blog love! But I’m here right now and I’m excited to share this belated post! On the blog today I’m writing about one of my favorite places in San Diego’s South Bay – Suzie’s Farm! This organic farm is my favorite because they’re also a U-Pick farm. Visitors can pick strawberries in the summer, pumpkins in the fall, and sunflowers in the spring! Yes, you read that right, U-PICK SUNFLOWERS! Don’t you love the seasons? I know I do.

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Suzie’s Farm

So while the harvest varies by season, the local community flocks to Suzie’s Farm for fresh, organic produce year-round. Suzie’s Farm is a 70-acre USDA-certified organic farm with over 80 of the nicest employees. The farm also boasts 100+ varieties of fruits, veggies and flowers. What makes this farm extra special, however, is the U-Pick opportunities. They dedicate a few of their fields for the U-Pickers. Below is the makings of the strawberry fields!

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U-Pick Sunflowers

The hours of Suzie’s Farm are pretty limited. At the time this post is being written, the farm is only open to the public on Saturdays. So you can best believe that when it was announced that the sunflowers were ready to be picked, everyone and their mothers were at the fields.

With shears in hand, my mom, sister and I walked into the field of sunflowers on the lookout for the biggest and brightest ones. I made the rookie mistake of wearing an overall dress, meaning my legs were bare and amongst the rows of flowers. Who knew sunflower stems and leaves were so itchy? However, I did make the right decision to wear high socks. Woo!

I know that I personally had so much fun being amongst the flowers. Of course there were bees and other insects, but the photo opportunities were just unreal. For $1 a stem, we walked away with 7 individual blooms.

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Support your local farms and businesses!



Views from the Six | Toronto

Every Toronto local I crossed paths with seemed surprised when I’d list every place I saw in the Six in the short span I was there. Each day’s list would be an upwards of 4 city attractions, which I guess is a lot. What can I say, I don’t play. Especially when it comes to exploring.

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The city of Toronto is small despite being geographically large. It’s also pretty walkable, but I totally understand the need to take transit. It helped knowing I had TTC tokens once my feet started to hurt. I just needed it for this purpose twice, and it was only because it was also raining.

During my three days in Toronto, I found myself all over the city. I like to believe that is plenty of time for all the must-see’s, especially during Canada’s cooler seasons. Aside from much colder temps than I’m used to, I’d say I came right when the weather was still manageable. Layers really helped.

Day 1

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For my first day in Toronto, the universe conspired to give me the most perfect and beautiful autumn day to explore in. It also happened to be the one day that a good exchange friend of mine, Sudiksha, took off work (and that was before I told her I was coming!) How it all worked out amazes me. We started off in the northern part of Toronto at Kensington Market and worked our way south. We braved Chinatown in the daytime, walked through Graffiti Alley, took Queen Street West all the way to Toronto City Hall, and ended our day at the iconic CN Tower.

Day 2

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The second day of my Canada visit brought the clouds and rain. Not wanting to get wet, this is the day I also braved the TTC subway on my own. My destination was way up north again – the Royal Ontario Museum. I spent a good chunk of my day walking around the exhibits before a brief stroll along all the posh shops in Yorkville. Realising that I didn’t want to shop yet, I decided to jump back onto the subway and head towards west Toronto. This part of the city is much more residential, so I spent the rest of the day admiring the cute and charming homes before venturing back to Kensington and home.

Day 3

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I was whisked away to Ottawa and Niagara for the weekend, so the third day in Toronto was also my last day. I dedicated it to shopping and all the tourist stops I missed earlier in the week. Beginning in St. Lawrence Market, I was sent by Amanda to Paddington Pump to partake in a Torontonian staple, the Peameal Sandwich. Needing to walk it off, I headed over to the Distillery District before making my way over to the Eaton Centre. This shopping centre is insane! I spent a good 2 hours in there before treating myself to a BeaverTail.

Toronto aka The 6ix

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The city of Drake treated this California girl very well. I loved exploring a new city and always have to pinch myself that this is real life. Feeling really grateful for these opportunities! Thanks again, Toronto!



Oh Canada!

A couple of months ago, I had this crazy idea to visit our great neighbor up north – Canada. The reasoning behind it was because of two long-overdue goals: to see the changing colors of fall and to visit some exchange friends after 2 years. And just like every trip, it crept up on me and ended too fast. So, in more ways than one, “Oh Canada!” is the perfect title for this post.

For one whole week in October, I decided to leave my warm California sunshine to experience a real autumn. I’m talking changing colors, chilly air, and falling leaves. We aren’t so lucky in that department here in so Cal. But little did it occur to me just how cold my destination would be. We’re so spoiled here, and I was going to our great neighbor up north, of course.

Toronto, Ontario

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Starting off in Toronto, its much milder climate was perfect to try and get me acclimated to Canadian weather. When I first arrived, the 6ix was so humid that I was perspiring! The next day? I just wore a long-sleeved shirt and sported a scarf when the sun went down. This was the kind of fall weather I’ve been used to. And it was perfect weather to get my bearings in Toronto. The next day brought the cold and rain, but I didn’t let this ruin my exploring. Read more about this in my last post here.

Parc Gatineau, Quebec

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After our little road trip up to Ottawa, Amanda then drove us over the province border into Quebec – into Parc Gatineau, more specifically. We were met with rain all day, which is such a shame! That’s what I get for visiting Canada during a season other than summer. Or that’s what I was reminded of during the whole weekend. It rained the whole time. But LOOK AT THOSE COLORS! We don’t get that in southern California.

Ottawa, Ontario

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The capital of Canada, Ottawa is home to PM Justin Trudeau, world diplomats, and Amanda’s family + friends. It’s a super cute town that again would probably be 100x cuter in the sunshine and warmth. It was wonderful regardless and I genuinely enjoyed meeting all of my host’s childhood and university friends. I experienced the famous Canadian hospitality and it’s something I will forever cherish. Thank you again Amanda for everything.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

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And finally, the grand and majestic Niagara Falls. No trip to the eastern part of Canada would be complete without a visit to the Falls. It was probably the highlight of my trip to Canada (aside from seeing my exchange friends, of course!). If you are ever in Ontario, you owe it to yourself to experience this natural wonder of the world. I caved in and took the Hornblower cruise that brings you and a whole bunch of other tourists face-to-face with Horseshoe Falls. It was a bonding moment for us all as we were pummeled by the mist.

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The sights, the people, the BeaverTails – Canada was amazing. I loved my first taste of Canada and I look forward to visiting more of it in 2017! Vancouver, I’m coming for you!



Cream Tea | Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe and Afternoon Tea

Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe and Afternoon Tea in La Mesa has been my go-to stop for all things British and afternoon tea. Now that San Diego has finally started to cool down, I’ve been aching for proper afternoon tea and a nice ‘cuppa. Years ago, my best friend was in town to celebrate her birthday and suggested we have high tea. That’s when we discovered Shakespeare’s. The last time I had afternoon tea was to celebrate her birthday, so a trip to the tearoom, for cream tea, was long overdue.

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To this day, Shakespeare’s is my favorite tea room. To be frank, I’ve only been to one but when you know, you know. The owners of the shop and tearoom, as well as the adjoining pub & grille, reign from England. Authenticity is something I always look for in everything, so learning that this place is the real thing thrilled me. And who wants English tea to not actually be English?

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My Cream Tea Experience

My sister and I arrived 10 minutes prior to our 12PM sitting. We were greeted by our server, the shoppe owner, and an empty tea room. We were directed to the tea sniffing bar where we’d choose our teas. My sister went for the White Coconut Crème, while I stuck to the classic Earl Grey.

We returned to the patio to our own teapot and tea set. Yes, you get a WHOLE TEAPOT to yourself! And word to the wise, empty your bladder before you decide to get stuck in rush hour traffic. They also provide milk and sugar cubes for the table.

As we started to enjoy our tea, our server then brought out our plates of scones. Cream tea traditionally consists of tea with a combination of scones, clotted cream, and jam. And for $9.95, that is exactly what Shakespeare’s does. We were both really impressed with the freshly baked scone! Oh, and that Double Devon Cream!

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I love a good tea party. Some of my fondest childhood memories are the tea parties that our Grandma Betty would host for me and my god-sisters. I remember walking out onto the patio to dainty tea sets and finger foods. It was always a great time and I’ll forever be grateful for those memories.

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Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe

As I mentioned earlier, Shakespeare’s has been my go-to stop for British goodies. I’m a huge anglophile. As are pretty much all of the women in my life. I have mad love/respect for the British culture, and it’s been like this for as long as I can remember. Around the holidays, I like going there to get mince pies and a Dairy Milk Advent calendar. They ship in pretty much everything from the UK, including Peri Peri sauce, Crunchie bars, and mugs with the royals’ faces.

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Shakespeare’s also hosts themed tea parties, in addition to the more traditional Afternoon Tea. Just this past week, they hosted Harry Potter themed tea – sorting hat and all. Next month, they are hosting a Game of Thrones one!

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back to the tearoom again. It’s my favorite and my only recommendation for an authentic British tea experience in San Diego.



Apple Picking in Julian | Sentenac Ranch

What better way to spend a Sunday than apple picking?

Yesterday, my mom, sister and I hopped in the car to Julian for the first of many autumn festivities to come.

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Sentenac Ranch 

We arrived around 2PM, after a little over an hour drive from south San Diego.

Secluded in the Julian woods, Sentenac Ranch is a 170-acre property that is part-venue, part-orchard. Upon arrival, we were greeted by extremely warm temps and the friendly owner. He told us that his orchard produces three different types of apples (Red Delicious, Golden Delicious & Rome), and assured us that he doesn’t spray them with pesticides. Big kudos to them for being 100% organic!

For one bag of apples, it’s $14. For two bags, they are $12 each. Then for 3 or more, they are $10 each.

He quickly briefed us on how to pick and choose our apples, and encouraged us to eat the apples right off the tree. After all, you want to know what the apples you’re picking taste like! I learned that apples with wormholes are much sweeter than those without. The worm is long gone, don’t worry.

Needless to say, we each had our fair share of apples. That’s IN ADDITION to the 100 ones we ended up walking away with.

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Apple Picking in Julian

Apple picking season in Julian is from August to early October. It is recommended to get there at the start of the season, but there were still plenty of apples at Sentenac. And it’s already mid-September. Call ahead before you make the drive up if this is your kind of thing!

The cute little town is known for their apple pies, but why not take your Julian experience to the next level by picking some apples yourself? There’s something about being on a farm, picking the produce with your own hands. You’re also helping out your local farmers when you do!

I’ve always wanted to take part in apple picking, and after 23 years, it finally happened. Our household is now rich in apples, with enough to last us into the autumn season. We’ve already looked into some apple recipes, which I’m definitely sharing on the blog. So, stay tuned for those!

This has gotten me so pumped for fall, and I intend on making the most of it!!!