Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 1 (Part 2) - Griffith Observatory

January 24, 2016 (continued): After my visit to LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits, I decided what a nice idea it would be to watch the sunset from the Griffith Observatory. Turns out, I was not the only one with that bright idea since it was a Sunday, the traffic snaked around the mountain to the top a few miles back. People were already parking on the side of the road that far back so I was slowly losing hope that I was going to be able to live out my plan. As I reached the top I was surprised to see that there were a few parking spots open and I guess everyone just assumed it would be taken since they saw other people parking further back, I lucked out and got a front row spot.

At the top of the hill, there are 360 views of LA, where you can spot the iconic Hollywood sign landmark off in the distance, the rolling hills, and the contrasting grid-like structure of the city.

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That day, the sun was radiating, casting this golden glow and making me fall more and more in love with this town. After taking a bazillion pictures of the view, I headed towards the observatory building. What makes this place even better is it’s free, apart from maybe a few shows they have which I think is worth it.

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The way to the observatory is lined with the orbital paths of the planets which I thought was a nice touch. I have the sense of humor of a 12-year old so 1000 guesses as to why I chose this planet to take a picture of?

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There is also the Astronomers Monument Figures that feature the main founding fathers of astronomy, Hipparchus, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Herschel. Apparently Einstein was also considered but it was thought to be strange to include someone who was living (at the time). At the top of the monument is an armillary sphere, which was the device mainly used to track the celestial positions before the telescope was invented.

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The building itself is in the Art Deco style, which if you have been reading this blog know that this is one of my favorite art movements due to its graphic, geometric style.

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Once you enter the building - immediately in the center of the foyer is a Foucault Pendulum to show the rotation of the Earth.

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Above, is the ceiling with murals painted by Hugo Ballin. The murals were inspired by the myths based on what people saw in the sky in ancient times.

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Just below the ceiling are 8 panels of murals also by Hugo Ballin, based on the advancement of science throughout time.

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There were many mini exhibits including a Tesla Coil, as well as a Periodic Table of Elements with the actual elements within each box.

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I eventually made my way outside on the upper deck of the building and staked out my spot to watch the sunset. It was a good thing I got there early because by the time the sun was setting, you could barely find an opening around the perimeter. During this time it was still winter, so the winds were brisk and harsh against my skin but it was all worth it to watch the sun go down over the city. The sky changed many colors from bright golden yellow, to the dusky hues of pink and purple after it set. This was a perfect end to my sightseeing tour for the day.

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For dinner, I grabbed my first ever In & Out Burger. I had heard it was THE thing to get in California so I just got a regular cheeseburger and “animal style” fries where they smother it in their special sauce, caramelized onions and cheese.

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Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 5 - Mission District & Clarion Alley Murals Super Post

January 23, 2016 (continued): My mission (no pun intended) was to make it out to the artsy Mission District for my last day in San Francisco. In the morning, I caught the BART and headed over there. Emerging from the station, I definitely felt the shift in the type of environment than where I spent most of my time in SF. I wanted to try breakfast in that area since I’ve heard of a lot of good, new, restaurants that opened up. Walking around, I immediately saw that it wasn’t going to be an easy feat getting in for a quick bite anywhere, I couldn’t even fit the whole line in the picture!

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I was going to post a huge long rant about my less than stellar experience at Mission Beach Cafe for breakfast, but I’d rather not tarnish this post while there is the awesomeness of the murals coming up. Lets just say that while researching their site for this post, a disclaimer on Yelp popped up that said that this restaurant is in the bottom 5% sanitation wise. That pretty much encapsulated my time there, and it looks like they haven't really improved since I was there a year ago!

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Following my breakfast it left a pretty bad taste literally and figuratively, but it was washed away when I stopped by the Clarion Alley Murals. It was an explosion of color, intricately painted murals, political messages, and a few <ahem> interesting sculptures. The following super post were all taken on my iPhone, I didn't want to lug around my big camera so apologies for the quality.

Also found in the alley, it looked like a musician wasn’t too happy with his latest songwriting attempts perhaps?

After spending the majority of my time in the alley, I explored more of the district and visited a few shops I had heard about including The Pirate Store. It is what the name suggests, selling pirate / fantasy themed items, but it also had a lot of cool, interactive elements like a mini museum where you pull the rope and something comes down or you can look in the drawers for different specimens etc.

There were many more murals dotted around the district, a green lady, plus those multi-colored Victorian houses that’s so iconic to San Francisco that I love so much. I loved that even their tree grate had a Dia De Los Muertos theme.

Visiting the Mission District was definitely an experience, and was a fusion of new and old coming together in an eclectic mix. If you’re artistically inclined, I do recommend stopping by, as there is a lot to absorb creatively in many forms.

I headed back to downtown to grab my things and ventured to the airport to my final leg of the tour, LA. At the SFO airport was a stunning sunset that emerged after the rain and it was the perfect bittersweet goodbye to one of my new favorite cities.

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Weekly Update: LA - Supermoon, Sunsets, Street Art and Stuffing My Face

October 2 - October 14: I’ve decided to try to incorporate a weekly, visual diary on the blog. I wanted to start documenting things more frequently again, as I did with the photo a day challenge on my instagram last year - it was a nice reminder of what I did on a particular day. I feel like it will also push me to explore again and spark my creativity, as I’ve kind of got into a rut of the daily grind of get up, go to work, get home late, go to sleep and do it all over again. Hopefully it won’t be too boring, though I have a strange fascination of seeing someone else’s day to day life, even the mundane tasks, maybe it reminds me that we’re all human at the end of the day. I also like to mentally bookmark interesting places that they go to for when I someday visit that place. These will most likely be shots from my phone and when I remember to document things so they probably won’t be artistic masterpieces, just random recorded memories.

Let’s begin! Yes, I realize October 2 - 14 is more than a week but I had some images I wanted to share before I thought to start this so I’ve included a bonus round.

October 2: My drive home from work was made a little bit brighter (no pun intended) due to the huge supermoon that hung in the sky at the beginning of this month. I wish I had my DSLR with me to capture the true size of that thing, it was like a bat signal in the sky it was so ginormous.

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I’ve been on a health kick as of late, working out everyday and eating better, so cooking more at home. I tried out this recipe of Roasted Carrots with Farro, Chickpeas and herbed Creme Fraiche. I subbed the farro for brown rice and the creme fraiche for the tahini sauce in the substitution part of the recipe. It came out pretty tasty, I think I overcooked the carrots a little, but the sweetness of the heirloom carrots made it come out caramelized and slightly crispy which was a nice added texture.

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October 3: Supermoon round 2, while waiting in traffic in Beverly Hills.

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October 4: Sunsets and supermoon while leaving work again. I like how in the last picture you can’t easily distinct the moon from the street lights but in real life it was as the song suggests, like a huge pizza pie!

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October 7: Started off the weekend at Black Dog Coffee where my favorite Avocado Toast is. This is the Deluxe Avocado Toast and worth every penny, its size is hefty and you have to hold it with two hands because it is stacked high with goodies. A large slice of bread is covered in avocado, arugula, fresh, soft melt in your mouth burrata cheese, tomatoes and drizzled with pesto and balsamic vinegar - heaven on toast!

Later, I spotted a little Lucille Dog (?) art on a clean up your dog’s poop sign.

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October 8: I treated myself to one of my favorite ramen in LA, the Spicy Vegan Miso Ramen at Jinya Ramen. I feel like if you can make a tasty vegetarian/vegan food, then you’ll be pretty good at making the other items on their menu. Unlike a pho place I tried that shall remain nameless whose vegetarian broth had less taste than if they just put water in there as the soup! Anyway this Vegan Miso Ramen is not missing any flavor and manages to retain the umami-ness that other normally pork-based broths have. This ramen contains soft tofu, onion, green onion, spinach, crispy onion, garlic chips, black garlic oil, chilli oil, sesame seeds and thick noodles. I had to add one of the best things about ramen, an ajitama egg (marinated, soft-boiled egg) to the mix. Even though it is named “Spicy” it is definitely a tolerable heat that doesn’t overpower the meal and you can still taste other flavors.

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October 9: The next couple of days had the most gorgeous sunsets, the sun was like a glowing fireball and the skies hued in pastel.

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October 10: Leaving work, the sunset had set the sky on fire again.

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Earlier, I said I was on a health kick, but I don’t deny myself things that I’m craving and it’s actually helped a lot than when I’ve dieted in the past to not completely restrict myself - because you end up thinking about it more than just having a little taste. SK’s donuts are heaven in a shop as they are open 24 hours, rotating out freshly made donuts throughout the day. Their cronuts are some of the best I’ve tasted as they have a nice crunch to them that most others I’ve tried have failed to capture. I just got a simple selection, a chocolate sprinkle, red velvet, and a cream cheese filled donut with oreo topping. Their cakey donuts are delicious, decadent, but not too heavy.

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October 11: A little bumper sticker wisdom on the drive home from work, “I am a leaf on the wind… watch how I soar.”

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October 12: A serendipitous moment of parallels, a man with a red and white striped shirt standing in front of the red and silver striped Peterson Automotive Museum.

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Later that night, I went to grab dinner in West Hollywood, and spotted Salt & Straw’s ribbon art on the side of their store. I first tried them in Portland last year - delicious, innovative ice cream.

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October 14: Finally working on editing my video diary from my west coast trip last year. I’ve been procrastinating, since it’s been a steep learning curve teaching myself Premiere Pro. I’ve edited videos in the past in iMovie but I wanted more control over certain elements so that’s why it’s been taking a while but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Any tips would be appreciated!

That’s it for this “week”. I will try to finish up writing for my west coast trip travel diary series and post those as well!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 3) - Pier 39 Sea Lions Masterpost

January 21, 2016 (continued): As promised my Pier 39 sea lion masterpost, because I went a bit crazy taking every angle I could of these majestic water doggies.

Approaching the pier, the smell was pungent from a mile away, but it was worth it to witness them in various positions - bathing in whatever small gap of sunlight they could find, soga (sea lion yoga), squabbling, and lying in a row like a sardine can. It was the perfect end to my day!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 4) - Legion of Honor

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January 20, 2016 (continued): Taking advantage of my same day, dual admission from the de Young Museum, I caught the bus and headed towards the Legion of Honor - a fine arts museum located near Lands End. I wanted to visit this place because I read that it was one of the locations used in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and I have an affinity for Roman style architecture (even though it is a replica of a French building!).

The exterior of the museum is quite stunning in person, the pictures don’t do it justice. In front, it is flanked by two lion statues and a few sculptures scattered about, including in the parking lot. In the distance next to it, I could see glimpses of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge peeking through the cluster of trees and fog (my first sighting!). The long stretches of the column-lined hallways on the outside created a feeling of elegance.

Below are some of my personal highlights, although it was quite a large museum and it was getting late in the day, so I only caught glimpses of a few exhibitions.

While I would love to have come up with something philosophical when seeing this painting, Samson and the Honeycomb by Guercino - my mind immediately went to those classical art memes. What do you think of my attempt?

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It was cool to see they had a gallery full of Rodin sculptures.

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I toured the restored Salon Doré designed during Louis XVI’s reign for the reception room of the Hôtel de La Trémoille. The grandeur of the gilded panelings and richly upholstered furniture transported you to a time of extravagance and luxury.

I’m no stranger to admiring the constellations and the zodiac, so this antique globe featuring a map of these was another favorite.

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Even though I strongly dislike insects, this study - Peapods and Insects by Jan Van Kessel caught my eye. I was fascinated by the minuscule details of the painting that took me back to art class in school where I would make myself go blind by painting with those one-haired brushes.

The detail in this sculpture is unreal, especially when you see it’s size. I liked how the sculptor managed to capture the emotion and action, that makes you feel like the snake could strike at any second.

A serendipitous moment I happened to snap, while trying to be artsy by framing the Monet painting with the doorways. It amuses me how it looks like the sculpture head is peering over trying to perve on the person nearby.

Ever since I was a kid, I had a love of fantasy and mythical creatures so this painting, Fairies in a Bird’s Nest by John Anster Fitzgerald was definitely a favorite. The darker tone of the fairies in his work gave it an interesting twist to the otherwise glittery portrayal that’s so popular these days.

Taking a moment to observe.

A close-up study of Renoir’s Landscape at Beaulieu. The colors and movement of the strokes give the painting such life!

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Still Life by a young up and comer you might have heard of, Vincent Van Gogh.

Moi, wanting to get up close and personal with Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. There’s nothing like getting near one of the most iconic pieces of art - seeing the ridges of the brushstrokes and smelling the paint. One of my dreams is to visit his home in Giverny, you can still see the garden where he drew inspiration from for his most famous paintings.

I had reached the end of one of the exhibitions and there were locked glass doors leading out to the courtyard, the sun was setting and had lit the sculpture and trees in the most beautiful golden glow.

I was a little obsessed with framing the art in doorways. Couldn’t help but capture this moment as I was making my way out.

I may or may not have been a little excited to see a cast of Rodin’s The Thinker statue in the middle of the courtyard and taken a few ridiculous selfies in front of.

The carving detail under the archway was beautiful and transported me back to Rome.

A couple more sculptures outside the museum.

The sun was setting and I saw a few people heading down a pathway nearby so I thought I’d check it out before I left. I’m glad I did because I got a straight shot of the sunset over the rolling hills of the Land’s End trail. To the right, I spotted the Golden Gate Bridge framed by the tops of the trees, it was a perfect end to my day here.

Catching several buses and walking back to the hotel, I got to see more of the whimsically colored homes and magical little alleyways of San Francisco.

For dinner I went to Super Duper Burgers which I’d heard good things about. I just got a regular cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a chocolate shake. To be honest I was a little disappointed, it was an ok meal and a little soggy. I’d still give them a second chance, maybe it was an off night?


I decided to wash it all down with a delicious horchata boba tea from the Boba Guys to cap off the night (I know, a real party animal).

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Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 1 - Late Night Arrival

January 19, 2016 (continued): Flying into San Francisco, I was greeted by the most stunning sunset I’ve ever witnessed - the sky was filled with bands of blood red and baby pink (the photos don’t do it justice!). I took this as a good omen for my next set of adventures here.

Landing in SFO, I hitched ride on the BART to my hotel. To lessen any stress, I like to be prepared and as hassle free as possible when traveling so I pre-booked my round trip ticket. I pre-printed the ticket before my trip so I could directly board the train without waiting in any lines. I was also fortunate enough that one of the stations was only a couple blocks walk to my stay for the next few days, Kensington Park Hotel.

 Walking to my hotel in Union Square, I was in the thick of the buzzing night life and I was intoxicated. The lights, the crowd, all the sights to see within a few blocks, I couldn’t get enough and it put an extra pep in my step - which helped when I had to drag my suitcase and thick winter coats uphill! I got to my destination and found it to be a charming, boutique hotel. Built in the 1920s, it had kept a lot of what I loved aesthetically about that era, the vintage fixtures, tiled floor, etc. My room was a nice size with a luxe feel to it. The only drawback was my window looked directly at another building’s wall, which is why I probably got it for a deal!

After freshening up and settling in, my buzz was still going so I ventured out to explore the area nearby. My first stop of course was for dessert at a nearby Ghirardelli. So many choices but I went classic with a scoop each of chocolate and cookies ‘n’ cream. They were a perfectly delicious nightcap and they gave you a couple squares of their signature chocolate as a bonus!

To walk off my dessert, I explored a little more near my hotel. I found a ton of high end shops and the Dewey Monument only about a block away. Just outside the Monuments square, was a man playing a jazzy tune on his trumpet and it set the mood for a kind of lovely, romantic introduction to this city.

Apologies for the phone quality photos as I didn’t feel like dragging out my big camera after I arrived. But I promise I have a whole slew of goodies coming up next!

All photos taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 3 - Seattle Aquarium

January 17, 2016 (Continued): After arriving back at the dock from my cruise around the harbor, the next thing on my agenda was a visit to the Seattle Aquarium - it was part of the deal with my City Pass package. Usually I have mixed feelings about visiting an animal facility if they’re not a sanctuary, but this aquarium is a nonprofit and a research facility that helps educate the public about sea life and conservation.

I have a fascination with the sea and its life probably from my upbringing, being from Hawaii, my dad would take me down to the beach as a baby and taught me to swim as soon as I could walk. My birthplace seems to follow me wherever I go, as the exhibition at the time was the Sea Life of Hawaii of all things. There, they had on display the numerous and colorful tropical fish that roam Hawaiian waters. The sea urchin with these surreal pink and purple hues that I didn’t even know existed in real life. The staff invited onlookers to gently touch the languid starfish. The baby stingray looked like perfect smiling, pastel sea angels from the bottom. It was an excellent introduction to another world.

Moving further along in the newly renovated extensions, I witnessed sea lions that gracefully glided through water like nothing. One appearing above water, coupled with water beads on the glass and the shining sun, created a photogenic moment with a magic sparkle halo above its head. Next, were one of my favorite animals the sea otter. There was a group swimming rapidly amongst each other that I could barely capture any with my fastest shutter speed. They eventually broke out into a catfight (or otter fight?) and later a couple of them giving the public an Animal Planet-esque birds and the bees demonstration if you know what I mean.

My time at the aquarium ended as the sun set with the most spectacular rays of light streaming through the clouded sky.

All photos taken by me via Canon 70D

LA: Sun Shades

Sunrises/sunsets are one of my favorite things. Maybe it's cheesy, but it's like having an artist paint the sky something different every day/night. The sunset tonight did not disappoint and the photos do not even come close to doing it justice. There is no filter on these and only tweaked to try to match what I saw in real life.

Photos by me taken on my iPhone 6.