Seattle Highlights

A weekend in Seattle is never a dull moment when you have plenty of food choices and attractions to see. For 2 days and 2 nights, my boyfriend and I made sure to waste no time in venturing out to the city. I’m not stranger to Seattle but, it was my boyfriend’s first time so, I made sure he had a good time. Having purchased the Seattle City Pass, we were able to plan our day’s activities.

The first day in Seattle was as clear as it could be. The weather was warm and sunny with temperatures averaging between 70-75F without any clouds. Considering how often it rains in Seattle, we were very very lucky with the weather. 

Pike Market

The first thing we did in the morning was walk over to Pike Market from our hotel to grab fresh pastries at the Le Panier Seattle. Though there was a line outside, we didn’t have to wait too long (about 10-15 minutes) to get their chocolate and almond croissants with a latte and mocha. With our pastries in hand, we sat on one of the benches on the patio overlooking the waterfront area. Several other people shared the same idea and we found ourselves doing the same thing; enjoying the sun while eating.

Afterwards, we wandered around the Pike Market, where we saw the fish stands, craft stalls, produce stands, and small shops setting up for the day. The Pike Market is one of the oldest public farmer’s markets in the U.S. and is home to the first Starbucks. In a typically crowded area, it was nice to be there when it was still quiet. After an hour, we decided to head to the Space Needle and walk along the pier since it was a nice day.

On our way to the Space Needle, we passed a park called Gas Works. While walking around, we saw a few outdoor art exhibits, a mini botanical garden, and a view of the Space Needle from quite a distance. It was a good way to start our way to the Space Needle on a positive note.

Space Needle

Known as the city’s icon, the Space Needle is a must-see in Seattle. If you have a clear day, the view from the top of the Space Needle is breathtaking. We were able to see the city to its core. However, it is quite a tourist attraction, so expect to share the view with others.

There is a rotating floor on the 2nd level of the observation deck. I enjoyed the view equally, and I was a little frightened looking down at my feet because I could see the entrance where we started and it seemed so far away. While others lay on the ground taking pictures of themselves, I stepped off and on to the side away from the glass bottom and watched from afar.

There’s also a small bar and a restaurant onsite if you’re feeling thirsty and hungry. The restaurant, however, is only available via reservations as far as I know. With the Seattle City Pass, you can return at night. In our experience, the crowds were much less hectic, perfect for a date night or a place to schmooze.

Chihuly and Glass in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass

After our Space Needle binge, we walked just a few steps to see the glass exhibition at Chihuly Garden and Glass. With his glasswork sculptures, Chihuly presented a breathtaking display of his work. Both the colors and shapes were stunning. 

We ended the tour with a pizza and a rest in their garden. There was a small demonstration of how these beautiful sculptures are created using glass. I found it quite informative.

Boat Tour

The day wasn’t complete without a boat tour of the city with Argosy Cruises Seattle. As the tour was originally scheduled for Sunday, we had to make sure we got as much done as possible on a sunny day. I am so glad we changed our reservations because our cruise had a fantastic view of the city’s skyline; a rare occurrence for Seattle since they tend to get a lot of rain. That day, there were so many vessels in the water, kayakers, tour boats, and container ships that it felt like a city all on its own.

Seattle Skyline

Food

After running around all day, we were hungry. We ate at the Dough Zone Dumpling House right around the corner from our hotel and ordered their House Specials, Q Bao, and Garlic Noodles. This is a good place to eat or simply if you like Chinese food.

The rain began to fall within hours. Our time had come to head home.

Kauai, Hawaii Guide

Kauai Napali Coast

Kauai Itinerary

I’ve been to other islands in Hawaii, but nothing beats Kauai. From all Hawaiian islands, it is by far my favorite due to its lushness, remoteness, and beauty. We planned our 5-day trip a month in advance in order to minimize expenses as Kauai is not cheap. However, my boyfriend had points to use for our hotel stay, which helped shape our Kauai itinerary. Here is a short overview of our trip.

Covid Restrictions

Traveling during these times one should include looking into COVID restrictions no matter your destination. Our trip took place immediately after Thanksgiving weekend, so Hawaii had removed covid restrictions. We did not have to quarantine or submit any covid tests other than uploading our vaccination cards on the Hawaii government visitor site. Be sure to check before you travel of any Covid restrictions as the mandates are constantly changing.

Kauai Island Breakdown and Accommodation

With the expanded access to media today, I was able to gather enough information to give me a better sense of the island and compile an itinerary based on what we wanted to do. You can choose from four areas on the island where you can stay. Here’s how it’s broken down below:

North:
Princeville, Hanalei
Great spots for surfing
& snorkeling.

South:
Poipu, Koloa
Known as the “sunnier side” of the island where most resorts are located. Good sandy beaches and plenty of restaurants to choose from.

East:
Lihue, Kapaa
The main airport and helicopter tours are located here.

West:
Waimea, Hanapepe
More local with family owned stores.

We chose to stay at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in the south of the island. It was largely based on the fact that it was our first time in Kauai, and we wanted to be able to walk to the beach from our hotel room. The resort also had other amenities we needed including restaurants, free parking, it was within walking distance to a nearby promenade, and ultimately, it was centrally located to most things.

Whenever I return to Kauai, I would stay in the Northshore and in an Airbnb accommodation (if possible) near Hanalei Bay. It rains a lot more in the northern part of the island but, there are a lot of things to see that we didn’t get to do during this trip. A trip to Kauai is likely to have the largest accommodation expense, with prices starting from $190+/day. If you saved enough points for travel, now would be a good time to use them.

Transportation and Airport

From LAX, we flew into Lihue airport. We used Uber to get to and from the airport although there aren’t many Uber drivers on the island, but we were fortunate.

People who come to the island typically rent a car. At the time when we were looking to rent a car, we found it to be expensive and there weren’t many options. Luckily, we stumbled across an app called TURO. We never heard of it before until now and I highly recommend it. Like any other app, you can choose the type of car you want to use, its pricing points and what not. The company we chose had good ratings, was affordable and had the ability to deliver the car to our hotel and pick it up on our last day. In the end, we saved at least $100 per day on transportation alone.

Food

G's Juicebar Acai bowl
G’s Juicebar

There were plenty of restaurants and food trucks on the island. We lived off of açai bowls during our entire trip because they were so delicious. You don’t have to eat Açai bowls since they have other food types as well. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Japanese Grandmas Coffee – West
We made reservations ahead of time for dinner here. Dinner was served at their outdoor patio so, make sure to bring warm jackets as it could get very cold at night. For the food, we tried the Eel Bomb rolls, Ramen and Grandma’s Chicken Karaage with Spicy Yuzu Kosho Eel sauce. They were all very good.

Little Fish Poipu (Açai bowls) – South
This is located right next to the Poipu Shopping Village and a few minutes walk from the Sheraton hotel. They are known for their Açai bowls and having been there twice I can vouch that their Açai bowls are pretty good. Their small bowl is a good portion with all of the fresh fruits you’ll need. Make sure to head over early to avoid the long lines.

G’s Juicebar (Açai bowls) – East
A fantastic local spot that we stopped by on the way to Waimea Canyon. We saw one guy behind the counter taking orders and making the bowls. He was very patient with us since we couldn’t decide what to order but, we ended up getting the Kauai and Rambla Açai bowls that were both equally delicious.

Hanalei Bread Company (Coffee & Sandwiches) – North
This was the first coffee house we went to when we drove up to Northshore early in the morning. They had good reviews and they were one of the few places that opened early (at 7am). Their menu includes a variety of options from toasts to sandwiches. We ordered the Avocado and Fancy Toasts. Both were a good size portion for us and healthy too.

Activities

If you’re into hiking, swimming, snorkeling or surfing this island is meant for you. Kauai has plenty of hiking trails from moderate to extreme and beautiful beach that you can choose from. We opted for easy to moderate hikes due to time but, there are other trails you can find that have better views of the island.

Hoopii Falls – East
Easy to moderate hike. One of Jurassic Park’s filming locations and an absolutely beautiful forests that you walk through on the way to the falls. It is one of my favorite hike on this trip and I highly suggest that you at least see it once if you do go to Kauai. A few things to note is that one, the entrance of this area is located through a neighborhood street. We attempted to come here the first time and a local in the neighborhood turned tourists away because someone was badly hurt. Be aware that there are times the area will be inaccessible.

The second thing to note is that the pathways of this hike are not well marked. However, since it is a popular area you’ll likely see other people around. We got lost on the way there and had to ask a few hikers who were kind enough to direct us the right way. There are two falls in the area and the first one is about a 10 minute walk from the entrance; while the second fall is another 15-20 minutes further down from the first fall.

The third and last thing to note is that it rains a lot in Kauai so, expect hiking trails to be muddy. Luckily, our hikes were on a dry day and we didn’t have issues dealing with mud but, having the experience going through the trails I can see how slippery it could get. Also, people have been known to twist their ankles from hiking in Kauai so, be very careful!

Queens Bath – North
The hike to Queens Bath is very similar to Hoopii Falls. It has a beautiful scenery, lots of vines, lush trees, accessible through a neighborhood street but, a bit more rugged in the beginning of the path. Also, there’s only see one fall in this location and it’s not as close as the falls at Hoopii Falls.

On this hike, be prepared to get ready to use your hands and knees because the beginning of the hike has several dips through rocks and if you go on a muddy day this could be very slippery. After you go through the hike you’ll eventually reach Queen’s bath. Sadly, we did not get to see Queen’s Bath in all its glory because the tide was rough and pretty high. I was actually re-thinking about our decision of being there because it looked dangerous!

Tunnels Beach – North
This is one of the most beautiful beach I’ve seen. The beach is known for its protected reefs, which make it an excellent spot for snorkeling. It has public parking, but get here early to find a spot since the beach can get crowded.

Hanalei Bay – North
This is a large cove with benches and beach space, plenty of parking, the calmest water I saw on the island, and a place to take surfing lessons. There is a food truck nearby that serves the best tacos, but they only accept cash or Venmo. It was quite busy here so be prepared.

Wailua Falls – Lihue
It was worth stopping by to take a quick look and snap a photo of the 173 foot falls. I would’ve loved to hike to it but, the entrance was closed. There’s also parking available that goes all the way down to the dead-end with about 7-10 spots. It wasn’t busy at all when we got there.

Helicopter Tours – Lihue
Taking a helicopter tour was one of the most unique things I’ve ever done on any trips. It was my first time being on a helicopter and seeing the island from above makes the trip all worth it. On this tour, we were able to see several waterfalls that can only be seen by air. It also takes you along the Napali Coastline, and with some luck, we saw a full rainbow appear. It was a memorable moment for us.

Others

For more recommendations see my full itinerary here.

Visiting Julian in San Diego

soup

Surprisingly, I’m not a fan of celebrating Valentine’s Day but, my bf likes it and had made plans for us to go to Julian for the day. He thought I would actually like the town and since I’ve never been before it was a perfect getaway for both of us.

Julian is about a 2 hour drive from Orange County. It is a gold mining town, with approximately 1,000+ population, and 1 hour east of San Diego. The town is famous for its apples which explains the amount of options to find apple pies and apple ciders in town varies.

Downtown

We arrived by noon in downtown and the traffic was already visible. Even though there were a ton of street parking, our luck was not on our side and opted for a paid parking lot for $5 (not too bad). After we parked, we walked through downtown perusing through stores and restaurants. I was surprised of how busy it was in town. I saw people crossing the streets everywhere, lines formed outside the restaurants and car jams on the streets. It seemed that everyone had the same idea in coming to Julian that day.

The downtown area itself had a ton of restaurants to choose from. We saw various types of shops that sold soaps, guns, clothes, jams and food. If you want a quick order of an Apple Pie go to Julian Cafe. There’s a to-go order section where you can buy a whole Apple Pie or slice (they have other flavors too), drinks and other types of food. I am not a big fan of pies in general so I can’t speak for the taste of their pie. However, this was the only place we saw that didn’t have a very long line in compare to other places nearby.

Julian Grille

Finding a restaurant in town was tricky because everyone was busy and had a wait of 30 min. to an hour long. Also, I was picky in wanting an outdoor dining with a quieter scene, good food and with a shorter wait. We looked at a few places and decided on Julian Grille. They seemed to have the shortest wait, definitely an outdoor dining option and had great reviews online. As it turned out, we were not disappointed.

Julian Grille is a mix of French, Italian and American classics with a bungalow style restaurant. I enjoyed the ambiance there and the food was pretty good! We ordered their Trout special with mushrooms and caper sauce, a starter with a Butternut Squash Soup and an Apple Cider to drink. I definitely enjoyed our meal and I can’t seem to stop thinking about how good the hot apple cider was.

Eagle Mining and Co.

After lunch we decided to do the mining tour. It was located a few minutes away from downtown, through narrow streets and hidden behind a few residential areas. The overall tour took about 40 minutes long that started with a bit of history, followed by a walk through mining tunnels and finally the tour ending outside showcasing how they used to dig for gold. The mining tunnels were cool and probably the best part of the tour.

One thing to note is to double check the admission fees prior to visiting the site as the website may not reflect the current rate. We were lead to believe that it would cost $10 (as promoted on their website) but, once we got there it was actually $15 pp. That part was disappointing, although, not the end of the world.

Lake Cuyamaca

Our last stop was Lake Cuyamaca. We decided to do a mini picnic here for the rest of the day and we were well prepared for it with a basket full of foods and drinks. The lake was quite a beautiful scene. The water was serene, birds were chirping, kids were playing, the trees all around us reflected in the water and there were fishermen at the small dock waiting to catch fish. We were ready to relax ignoring the fact that there was still snow and the weather was very cold. A few minutes into our snacking we started shivering under our sweaters and tried to brush off the cold except it was unbearable. Sadly, our picnic outside ended and had to move everything back in our car. We finished off our picnic in warmth of the car heater and eventually headed home. All in all, I’d come back again to Julian on a different day and try out a few other restaurants. I think the town is not enough to explore in one day.

Petting Alpacas in Temecula. (Video)

Part of the experience I enjoyed while visiting Temecula was signing up to feed and pet a few Alpacas. As it was my first time bonding with these types of animals, I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. However, after much bonding I grew to love them in the end.

The Alpacas are cute especially with their bushy furs hanging right around their eyes. It made me wonder how the heck they are able to see under all that fur?

The tour started off with a guide discussing about the owner’s story in how she started her Alpaca ranch to the details about the animal’s fur. I found it intriguing and even more when I was able to feed the Alpacas in their pen.

Like any other animals, they get excited when food arrives. As soon as I walked in the pen they smelled the pellets and I immediately had my hands tied. A group of them surrounded me waiting to be fed. It scared me a bit as they were almost the same height as me but, I managed.

Luckily, remembering the introduction from our guide about what to do and what not to do around Alpaca animals helped me prepare for this moment. I slowly warmed up while feeding my new Alpaca friends in the pen and handed the food with no issues.

This activity, I thought, was a fun experience and I highly suggest it to anyone coming to Temecula.

Read my previous post on Old Town, Temecula or my first day in Temecula.

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Snapshot on Solvang, California

Over Thanksgiving, I drove up north to Santa Barbara for a weekend making brief stops through quaint small towns.

Solvang was the first on my list. While it’s not my first time coming here per se, I had forgotten what this town was like until I arrived. Walking through downtown I was fascinated at the Danish style architecture and wondered further checking out the bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants. The town truly has a charm that makes you want to come back.

On my way out of Solvang I found a little hidden gem where they have an entire field full of Ostriches and Emus that you can feed for $1 with a $5 admission fee per person. I couldn’t help myself and had to stop by. Be warned though, these animals are quite grabby so, be careful when you extend your pan out for them to eat.

A Taste of Napa Valley

Ah, Napa is gorgeous whichever way you look at it. The valley of wineries while driving through the town made me want to jump out of the car and run around the fields like a kid.

Upon entering Napa, we were greeted with a slight traffic while maneuvering our way to V. Sattui Winery. I guess my friend and I should’ve picked a better time to come during the day rather than getting here mid-afternoon during rush hour. The traffic was also major at the winery as it seemed that they had a wedding event going on. As soon as we stepped out of our car and walked in, I could see what all of the fuss was about.

This place was stunning.

The property consisted of a cellar where, there was a private event held. I had a chance to walk through it later in the afternoon and I thought it was quite an intimate setting where you could rent that space for events or in this case, a wedding. The room had various barrels placed against the walls with chairs and tables at the center of the room. The lights were dimmed creating an exclusivity feeling. I liked it.

My friend and I opted for their house wine and bought pizza. It was a perfect setting for a Saturday relaxing on a sunny day outdoors.

If the cellar is not your jam, you can also enjoy having a picnic on their 2 acres of land with a glass of wine and food by purchasing your items at their onsite artisan deli and marketplace. You’ll find various items there from panini, salads, sandwiches, pasta, house made desserts and of course, wines.

Have you ever been to Napa?

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Trick or Twat

I can’t remember the last time I dressed up for Halloween. The older I get, the more I seem to cherish my time alone. Call me old folk if, you will. In contrary, this year is different. I’ve been invited to a work related Halloween party held at Orange County Mining Co. Restaurant. Word around town, this place apparently has one of the best views in Orange County. I guess I can’t complain, free booze and food at a party with a great view, I’m all in….or so I thought. Continue reading “Trick or Twat”

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Why People Flock in Slab City

slabcity | astintabroad

Slab city definitely lived up to its quirkiness. Many of you have probably never even heard of this city unless you’ve been to it or have seen its popular site called Salvation Mountain. It is located 100 miles northeast of San Diego, California, near Salten Sea and in the middle of nowhere, really. The Salvation Mountain basically brings in (if not) most of the visitors to the area and on this trip it was my 2nd time visiting the Salvation Mountain to sightsee with a few friends. Continue reading “Why People Flock in Slab City”

Rewind to The Big Island Trip in Hawaii. (Video)

As this year is coming to an end, let’s not forget the best parts of 2017. What was yours? Mine was definitely my Hawaii trip to The Big Island. I miss the warm days and the fact that it was also my cousin’s biggest year to finally get married. I’ll never forget those moments. Here’s a little compilation I created dedicated to my trip to Hawaii. Enjoy! Continue reading “Rewind to The Big Island Trip in Hawaii. (Video)”

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Roadtrip to Scottsdale, Arizona. (video)

salvationmountain | astintabroad

Thanksgiving weekend turned out to be a spare of the moment road tripping to Scottsdale, Arizona with my roommate Luisa. A couple of nights before, between sipping wine, we debated about where to go for the long weekend. Somehow Scottsdale was thrown in the air and I thought, gee, I’ve never been to Scottsdale. Although, I liked hiking and it wasn’t too far from Southern California. Heck, why not? It seemed quite fitting for a quick getaway. Continue reading “Roadtrip to Scottsdale, Arizona. (video)”