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Sunrise On the Rocks

Red Rocks
Red Rocks Amphiteatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a one of a kind experience with an open air amphitheatre built into a rock structure. This was one of the sights that we wanted to see and definitely not to be missed. Pre-covid, the place was known to hold music and/or concert venues. However, there was more to the amphitheatre than we imagined which included several hiking trails nearby as well as high inclines that one can do within the theatre.

We came early in the morning via Uber to avoid the afternoon crowd. The sun was already hot beating down at 80 F degrees but, we were prepared and brought plenty of water and snacks. The weather was probably the biggest challenge when visiting here in the summer as it made it difficult to hike and get moving. Luckily, our Uber driver dropped us at the parking lot near the entrance of the amphitheatre and it only took us a few steps to enter the ground.

Approaching the amphitheatre for the first time was a sight for sore eyes. Seeing the scenery of the rock formations was simply breathtaking and was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There were already a few people working out with some running or walking. Passing by them I could already feel how challenging it must’ve been to take each steps going up the theatre. We, on the other hand, enjoyed the views from the benches.

After we looked around the theatre we decided to hike a few trails nearby. The area is well marked with sign posts and it was fairly easy to get around. Moreover, there’s also restrooms at the top of the theatre that was quite convenient to use. Other than that, it took us about 4 hours to explore the entire area and was well worth it.

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Visiting Carmel By The Sea.

Driving up north to Carmel from Orange County took about 5 hours. If you’ve never driven from Southern California to Northern California, well, you’re in for a ride through mostly seeing the valley, mountains in the background or occasionally seeing cows roaming in a wide open space. In short, make sure you have a good music and a great company to keep you entertained.

After several sips of coffees, eating munches and switching through music, my bf and I eventually arrived in Carmel late in the afternoon. Not wanting to waste any time, we checked in to our hotel room, changed and headed right back out the door.

Between sitting in the car far too long and being excited we couldn’t wait to hit the beach. Having our hotel room located in downtown was a very good idea as everything we needed was literally within walking distance. At last, we arrived and the salty beach smell welcomed us with open arms as we stood at the entrance taking in the beautiful scenery right in front of us.


Carmel beach was definitely my favorite part about our trip because it is one of the most picturesque beach I’ve seen in California with white sands and plenty of space to move around. There’s something about it that is quite alluring.

In one of our walks, we accidentally found a scenic path along the coast with a view of the ocean and the other side from us were beautiful homes. My mind wondered what it would be like waking up with oceanfront views. The life! Anyhew, the only thing to really keep in mind at the beach is the fact that there are no lifeguards on duty and the waves seemed to drop right at the shoreline making it difficult to enjoy swimming. Nonetheless, people did not mind at all as they sprawled out tanning on the beach, surfing in the water or playing on the sand all day.

After we had enough of the beach, we realized we were hungry. Come to think of it, we haven’t had a meal since breakfast that day and since California was still in between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of re-opening businesses, we had to double check online to see which restaurants were open and made a few calls. It was difficult to get through any phone lines, therefore, we decided to wing it and walked to town.

Downtown Carmel is very charming with cottages and villages that made me feel like I was part of a movie set on Hansel and Gretel. There were streets with alleyways that hid restaurants or shops you would never have known unless you walked through it. The town doesn’t even have regular street signs which truly makes it more unique.

During our search for dinner we found a few restaurants open for dining outdoors but, most of them were way too busy and had line out the door. Also, we weren’t ready to dine in restaurants anyway so, we kept searching. Eventually, we found a cheap Chinese restaurant to order for take out that didn’t have a long line. We ordered our foot, ate our dinner in our hotel then, called it a night.

On Saturday morning we spent a few hours on a short hike at the Mission Trail Nature Preserve. The preserve is quite a nice place to be in complete seclusion away from the city with not much noise except birds chirping and walk in serenity between lush trees. We took 2 routes out of the 5 main pathways that you can take. At some point, we arrived at The Flanders Mansion that was built in the 1920s which, later became part of the Mission Trail Preserve. At first, I thought we accidentally entered into someone’s property but, it turned out that we were in one of the main entrance to get in to the preserve. We found no one around so, we took a couple of photos in front of the building before we headed back to our route.

The rest of our day we decided to drive to San Francisco for a few hours. My bf had never been there and all he wanted was to drive through the Golden Gate Bridge and come back. We did exactly that except we ended up re-routing to stop by Pier 39 to walk around and get lunch. Then, we also passed by the famous Lombardy Street reminding me a little bit of the time when I used to live here. That time in my life seemed so long ago yet, it felt like I was seeing this city for the very first time. Visiting Pier 39 again felt weird without a lot of people around granted that stores are still closed and we are still in the COVID19 situation. However, in light of post semi-lockdown, San Francisco never looked so beautiful with the sun beaming upon us. People walked around with shorts on and it felt like summer was truly here.

With a blink of an eye our 3-Day weekend had come to an end.

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Highlights of Downtown Long Beach.

long beach harbor

I like my walks. I take them often usually on familiar paths but, today I decided to take a different route. A stroll in downtown Long Beach took about 2 hours long where I made my way down the boardwalk, to the lighthouse, around the harbor to the Shoreline Village, a walk through the artist town and back to my car. I was pleasantly surprised how I’ve never made it here before as downtown Long Beach offered more to see than what I knew.

What I saw:

The Shoreline Village is as colorful as they get. With shops painted in bright colors of yellow, pink and blue; you can’t miss this area as the waterfront boardwalk stands bright even from far away.

The view of the water was the focal point of my walk. There were boats parked at the harbor against the glimmering water that brought life to my walk. I sauntered my way around the village to check out what else was there waiting for me to see. I found a few shops selling ice cream, candies, knick knacks, benches placed all around the area, and a mini love lock similar to the one in Paris was stationed in a corner. It seemed this place was well equipped for tourists looking for a place to go for a day.

The Aquarium of the Pacific
On the other side of the village was the largest aquarium in Southern California. Although, the prices are a bit hefty, it is home to 11,000 animal exhibits. You can find ticket discounts here.

General Admission
Adult: $34.95
Child (3-11): $24.95
Senior (62+): $31.95

Tour the Queen Mary
From the point of the lighthouse you can actually see the Queen Mary, a famous landmark of Long Beach and a major attraction. The ship is docked near the shoreline where you can stay, eat, and participate in a ghost hunting tour. If you’ve never been I highly suggest going at least once.

The Pike Outlets Shopping Center
Across the street from the boardwalk was the Pike Outlet Mall. I walked through here and found several chain stores including Starbucks. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. However, it’s worth going if you seek for discounted prices on clothes and/or other items.

East Village Arts District
This was my favorite area of downtown Long Beach because of the art scene. I saw a few cool graffitis on the wall, loft buildings, creative agencies I’m familiar with, healthy juice stores, plenty of parking and the best part was that it’s walkable. If it wasn’t for work, I’d probably move here if given the chance.

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Orange County Moving Guide.

Castaway Park

If you’re reading this then I can assume you’re thinking about moving to Orange County for whatever reason it may be. In any case, Orange County a.k.a “OC”, is a great place to be. We have direct access to the beach, the mountains and everything else in between. I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life and every time I move away I always seem to come back. It could be the fact that my family lives here and that the weather is great most of the time but, one thing I’m sure is that O.C. is home.

My goal for this post is to provide help in some way for anyone moving to O.C.

Accommodation

Accommodation is likely the biggest expense you’ll have when living in Orange County specifically in areas like Irvine, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, and/or Dana Point. Renting and/or buying a home here is one of the most expensive in the nation. I’ve lived here most of my life and the standard rent costs around $1200 not including utilities. There are a few places like studio apartments that costs the same or less but, generally they are smaller in square footage and/or do not have a proper kitchen.

For “budget” accommodations, you’ll likely find it more in areas like Anaheim, Tustin, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa (certain areas), Huntington Beach (certain areas). Although, it seems that rental costs keeps going up every year in California.

For me, the key to a good accommodation for working professionals is location where there’s direct access to freeways, a proper set up (a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom & parking). Keep in mind that the closer you are to the beach the more expensive your accommodation will be.

Obviously, all of this will depend on each individual’s situation.

Read important articles here, here, about the cost of living and 15 most expensive cities in USA. Find apartments to rent on zillow and use the filter base on budget.

Door Knob

Job Market

I’d say the job market here is pretty competitive relating to the digital world. The industries in real estate, health care and tech are huge. Big companies such as Amazon and Google have offices here, therefore, there’s an immense amount of work but, they’re highly coveted too.

Places to find jobs are:

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Craigslist
  • Recruiting Agencies: 24-Seven, Robert Half, Aquent, Onward Search

Transportation

Your own car is your best friend. Our roads are very wide and since we don’t have a proper metro or train system, a car is vital as means of transportation.

The train system that we do have has a limited route. Personally, I’ve never taken the train in Orange County (it’s in the works) but, I do know that it goes all the way to downtown L.A. and San Diego. Here’s a map of the railway system.

Other means of transportation is Uber & Lyft. It is quite popular here and reliable. I’ve never had a problem finding an Uber ride at 2am or 4am. I’ve used either one when I have to go to the airport or on weekends when I have a party to go to where drinking is involved.

Things to See or Do

There’s endless of things to see or do here in Orange County. We cater to pretty much every activity one desires from the beach to the mountains, shopping, game rooms, or parks. We have access to most things. Here are a few lists of activities:

Hikes, Parks & Trails

Beaches

  • Huntington Beach
  • Downtown Laguna Beach
  • Dana Point
  • Newport Beach main beach
  • Corona Del Mar
  • San Clemente

Read more here and about the neighborhoods in detail (or here).

Casa Romantica

Museums

See more here.

Other Activities:

Grocery Stores

  • Trader Joes
  • Whole Foods
  • Ralphs
  • Vons
  • Albertsons
  • Aldi
  • Sprouts
  • Costco
  • Gelsons
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Rite Aid
  • 99 Cents
  • Dollar Tree

Malls

Direct message me if you have any specific questions.

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The Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Institute of Chiago

On my last day in Chicago I spent all morning at the Art Institute of Chicago, the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Several people have told me it is a must see when you come to Chicago and they were right. The museum has over 300,000 permanent collections of art works from modern art, classical art to chinese, japanese expositions. I spent most of my time in the Impressionism area, observing paintings from Van Gogh to Seurat.

Before I visited the museum I had researched which paintings or artworks I wanted to see because I knew that the museum would be too big to cover in 1 day. I’m glad I picked the areas I wanted to see first as I became restless after 2 hours of walking from one room to the next. I could’ve rested at their onsite cafe and buy food and drinks but, I didn’t want to waste my day and spend it all at the museum. Therefore, I kept going until I saw everything that I wanted to see on my list.

Ticket Costs: $25 – General Admission
Address: Michigan Avenue Entrance, 111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603

What helped guide me through the museum and learning about each artwork was this app called Art Institute. It maps out each floor of the museum plus indicating which artwork has an audio. I managed to learn a lot more of the artworks through this app and was a great resource for techniques and its history behind the work.

The coolest painting that I thought was A Sunday at La Grande Jatte by George Seurat. I liked the technique of the painting with the tiny dots as you get closer to it. I thought it was pretty interesting.

Lastly, the Nighthawks by Edward Hopper is another favorite painting of mine because of its moody and eerie feeling. Oddly, I saw a recent article from New York Times that used this same painting to depict the mood of our current state relating to COVID-19; a somber and unstable situation we are in.

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First night in the windy city.

Chicago at Night

Chicago was definitely a city that’s been on my list of places to see. However, due to their harsh cold weather (by California standards anything under 75 degrees F is cold), it was a major factor in influencing my decision of not coming to visit sooner. With decent flight winter deals, I could not turn away from this opportunity and bought my tickets (rain or shine, there was no going back).

I arrived late at night via Midway International airport and took the metro which dropped me off right in downtown Chicago. The weather, well, as expected it was cold (about 30 degrees F). My puffer coat I wore along with a beanie and boots certainly was doing its job in keeping me warm. It took me a couple of blocks to finally arrive at the Central Loop Hotel where I would be staying for the next couple of days.

The front desk clerk guided me through their online check in process and immediately provided me with my keys. My hotel room was small, nothing fancy at all but, it was central to everything I needed and that was more than enough for me. I settled in for a few minutes before deciding to brave the cold and get food.

I ended up at Giordanos, a restaurant known for Chicago’s deep dish pizza. The pizza was quite huge for my taste with layers of cheese and crust combined. I thought it was the most I’ve eaten pizza in my life but, it was quite good.

Note: Giordanos & Louminatis are Chicago's 2 popular deep dish pizza restaurants.

'The primary difference between deep-dish pizza and most other forms of pizza is that, as the name suggests, the crust is very deep, creating a very thick pizza that resembles a pie more than a flatbread. Although the entire pizza is very thick, in traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas, the crust itself is thin to medium in thickness.'  
~ Wikipedia

After stuffing myself with the pizza, I walked around a few blocks to observe my new surroundings and tried to burned off all the cheese I had consumed. It was freezing and I found myself walking alone.

At first, I thought it was odd how quiet it was and not see too many cars around until I saw the Chicago river. The sight of it was breathtaking under the cool air. I took a couple of shots before heading back to my room and eventually realised that Chicago was 3 hours ahead from Cali. It all made sense now how I’ve been wandering around outside in the cold at 1am without people around. Silly me, I must’ve been tired from the flight.

To be continued…

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Exploring Old Town Temecula. (Video)

You can’t come to Temecula without seeing Old Town. It is one of the main attraction aside from wine tasting and it is a must see in my opinion.

Truthfully, I didn’t have high hopes for Temecula at first because it reminded me of a previous experience I had visiting near the area that turned out to be disappointing. However, this trip completely changed my mind. Aside from my relaxing accommodation, I truly enjoyed seeing Old Town with its restored buildings along the main street, eating delicious meals, and window shopping. I found myself staying here for over 2 hours.

Food

For dinner, my Airbnb host recommended eating at Goat and Vine, a pizza place that I now also recommend. Keep in mind there are a ton of restaurants to choose from in this area that are just as good. For food, I ended up ordering the chicken salad sandwhich and the steak gorgonzola pizza. I was satisfied and full.

One thing to note, since Old Town is a prime location for socializing (eating and drinking over the weekend) I highly suggest adding yourself on a wait list a few hours before your eating schedule. It seemed that all of the restaurants were fully booked on a Saturday night, not including people arriving on the spot; just something to be aware of before coming here on a whim and expecting to be seated may not be a smart thing to do.

Parking

Another tip to keep in mind is parking. The main street is definitely congested with people and traffic. Therefore, if you want to find parking without competing with other people, the best thing to do is use the public parking located 3 blocks up away from the main street. I found out about this public parking a day too late but, it was convenient when I came back to Old Town the next day.

Lastly, enjoy yourself exploring the main streets and don’t forget to also walk down the side streets. There are plenty of stores that are hidden and are worth looking into.

See my post on my first day in Temecula.

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Visiting the Hearst Castle Mansion.

Perched on top of a hill in San Luis Obispo is the Hearst Castle, a National Historic Landmark in Central Coast of California. The castle contains at least 165 rooms including terraces, pools and gardens. It once had a zoo onsite and Mr. Hearst would hold private parties inviting famous guests to his estate. Anyone who had the chance to stay in his estate was very lucky, I must say. This place was huge and beautiful! It was also built to stand earthquakes, therefore, it’s probably one of the safest place to be in when such a disaster happens.

Arriving on a rainy day was perfect to do a tour at the castle, or so I thought. It seemed that people had the same idea. I walked into an herd of people elbowing my way through to buy my ticket. Luckily, I had researched about this place prior to my arrival. I knew there were several tours that you can choose from but, I selected the Upstairs Suites Tour in particular base on the reviews via Yelp. I’d say it was a great decision.

The tour allowed me to see different types of rooms in the castle that were very lavish and ornate. At times, I felt overwhelmed thinking of what I would do if I owned a castle with this much space. On one hand, I could understand now why Mr. Hearst thought it was a good idea to turn his castle into a museum. It contains loads of personal items that are antique and collected from different parts of the world he traveled to. It would’ve been too much to maintain for his family. On the other hand, if it was up to me I’d probably turn it into a boutique hotel.

What would you do if you had the opportunity to own a castle?

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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.

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A few hours at the Brookside Gardens

On our way back from Annapolis, we made a pit stop at Brookside Gardens. Situated within Wheaton Regional Park, this 50 acre garden is a must see. The admission is free.

My first impression of the park is how peaceful it was and well maintained. They have gazebos, ponds, Japanese tea garden (small turtles swimming that you can see from the garden), and areas to rent for special events such as birthdays, weddings and such. We strolled our way around the area, taking photos of the different flowers and plants. I noticed there were a few joggers as well passing by. This would be perfect for it and for all you plant lovers.

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Blooming in Walla-Walla

Double W doesn’t need an introduction. For the 2nd time round, I was lucky to have the chance to return to this country life in Walla Walla. A month later, I found out the difference in the season was huge!

The last time I was here this town was filled with a blanket of thick snow. It was tough, at times, to see the trees or the roads. That’s why I was quite surprised to find out that I didn’t see not even an inch of snow (except the mountains) when I arrived.

It was very bright that I could hardly open my eyes and Rudy too.
We came up this road, parked the car on the side of the road and watched a nice sunset.

My visit this time round was at a much slower paced than last time. I had a bit more time and got the chance to roam the forest. I admit, I was scared for my life because I knew this area is infested with bears and cougars (that can go up to 150 lbs). I would like to say I am adventurous and I like to hike but, cautious.

You can’t tell from this photo but, that water was gushing and moving at 80mph.
Imagine walking through that log with that water under you.

I suggest when you go hiking here, at least go with a local or someone who knows their way around (someone who understands the nature of the area inside and out). You don’t want to end up missing or come across unwanted situations.

As an adventurous person, I am quite open to new things but, being in the forest took time to adjust. The trees were big and thick (similar to the trees in Yosemite) and in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about bears or cougars hiding somewhere behind these trees. Although, I never saw even 1 animal.

No sign of snow @ Umatilla National Forest.

We finally got out of the forest and climbed up on top of a hill. We saw this nice view which, I definitely enjoyed.

Walla-Walla offers a lot from wine tastings, top notch restaurants to hiking. There’s a lot you can do in this town. I enjoyed spending both times I came to visit and I truly feel lucky to be able to have experienced it but, all good things must come to an end.

Mount Rainier

I caught an early flight the next day. This is common for traveling in and out of Walla Walla since there’s no direct flights. However, I am not complaining because this was my first time traveling on first class and it was awesome. It was exactly what I needed as it helped me recuperate from the lack of sleep. Until next time….