Sightseeing in Seattle

I had the opportunity to visit one of my friends in Seattle during New Year’s Eve weekend and had an amazing time exploring the city. We opted to purchase the Seattle CityPASS, which gave us admission to the following 5 attractions and helped us save 47%.

  • Space Needle
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
  • Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) OR Woodland Park Zoo
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass OR Pacific Science Center

Day One

Seattle Aquarium

First, my friend and I headed to the Pier and the Seattle Aquarium.

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One unique exhibit was the Underwater Dome, which is “an undersea dome with a 360º view into a mammoth 400,000-gallon tank filled with hundreds of Puget Sound fish,” such as salmon, lingcod, sharks, sturgeon and more!

I also liked the Pacific Coral Reef, which displayed gorgeous and colorful fish and coral in hues of pink, blue, orange and yellow.

seattle-aquarium-fish

The Marine Mammals exhibit was super cute and included playful sea otters, river otters, fur seals and harbor seals. Life on the Edge was really cool and gave us the chance to touch the sea life of Puget Sound tide pools… Everything from sea cucumbers, sea urchins, hermit crabs and sea stars!

seattle-aquarium-tide-pool
Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour  

After the aquarium was the Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour. It was lovely to see the different skyline and views of Seattle as the cruise boat traveled around the Puget Sound. Our tour guide was wonderful and shared a lot of interesting information about Puget Sound and about Seattle as a city. For example, even though stereotypically Seattle is thought to get a lot of rain, Seattle is not even in the top 5 cities in the U.S. that receives the most rainfall. However, Seattle is one of the top foggiest cities in the U.S.

seattle-harbor-cruise

Pike Place Market

I loved Pike Place Market, which is a public marketplace, kind of like a massive and bustling farmer’s market with all kinds of specialty items: “Within the nine-acre historic district you’ll discover dozens of farmers, a bustling crafts market, and more than 200 unique owner-operated shops. There are more than 80 restaurants to tempt you, from take-out counters specializing in donuts to fine dining establishments.” I had a great time sampling delicious fruit, jams, honey, chocolate pasta, vinegar, yogurt and much more!

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Gum Wall

The Gum Wall wasn’t on my list of things I needed to see, but since it was right near Pike Place Market, we passed through and it was an interesting array of different colored chewed up pieces of gum covering the brick walls.

seattle-gum-wall

Day Two

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass was one of my favorite attractions while visiting Seattle. This place features the work and designs of Dale Chihuly’s breathtaking blown glass masterpieces and is right near the Space Needle (in fact, there is an amazing view of the Space Needle in the outdoor garden area).

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Within this museum is the Persian Ceiling (one of my favorites) where the entire ceiling is covered with brightly colored and lit plant/flower-like designs. The entire room is lit up in white, pink, yellow, green and it is an amazing sight to behold! My friend was impressed by the lighting, while I marveled at the incredible artistry of the beautiful glass above me on the ceiling.

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After that, there is a room filled with huge yellow flat flowers; tall red, green, purple, blue reeds and a massive structure with hot pink bottom and yellow top reaching and curling in all directions. This led to the Ikebana and Float Boat (another favorite), which showed of two botas. One had multi-colored and different shaped balls in and around the boat, while the other had a hodgepodge of plant/flower-like and wavy lines in brilliant bright hues of the rainbow. This was made even more incredible with the stark black background.

Seattle Chihuly Boat.JPG

My absolute favorite part of the entire place was by far the Glasshouse, where there was an incredible display of orange, yellow and reddish flowers on the ceiling – All made of clear gorgeous glass, against the lights and high glass dome.

seattle-chihuly-glasshouseVenturing outside, there are lovely glass within the real garden. There were tall candle-like structures, huge balls, more twisty designs and I liked the part with a symphony of blue hues the best.

Kerry Park

In the evening, before heading to the Space Needle, we stopped by Kerry Park and got to see a spectacular view of the entire city of Seattle, with the Space Needle being front and center.

Space Needle

The Observation Deck at the Space Needle is 520 feet high and has a 360 degree panorama of Seattle and it is so beautiful to see all the lights of downtown Seattle. The view was truly breathtaking.

seattle-space-needle-night

Day Three

Space Needle

We decided to check out the Space Needle when it was light out so that we could experience the view in the daylight. Luckily, it was a clear day out so we were able to see everything, from the snow-topped mountain ranges, Elliot Bay, Puget Sound, the buildings and sights of downtown Seattle.

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Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

The last stop was Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) which was awesome and fun. The current special exhibit is “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” and costs $5 to go through it.

seattle-mopop-star-trek

My favorite exhibit (no longer at the museum) was “World of WearableArt,” which featured mannequins sporting a pretty glittery pink gown in glass material, a red convertible, a Gothic church building and other equally unique outfits. I also really enjoyed the “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” exhibit because it transported me to a different and magical world. There was memorabilia from The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Chronicles of Narnia. Another exhibit of interest to me was the “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film,” which includes “a laboratory-worthy wall of artifacts holds a plethora of film props that include the Nighthawk stake from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the axe from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and the facehugger from the 1979 Alien.” We also checked out: “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction,” “Indie Game Revolution,” and ones for Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.

seattle-mopop-collage

I truly enjoyed experiencing what Seattle has to offer and found it to be a lovely and charming city with great character.

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Dining at Girl & the Goat

A few months ago I was in Chicago for a work conference and I had the most incredible and wonderful dining experience at Girl & the Goat. Stephanie Izard, the owner of the restaurant won “Top Chef!” For our team dinner, we had our own private room downstairs. The room where we dined was lovely and rustic, featuring a beautiful setting on a wood table with candles and a plant in the center.

Table_Girl&GOat

We met Gary, our go-to server for the evening and he was awesome. He knew the menu well, listened and tended to our dietary needs, and was completely gracious throughout the night.

I asked if any of the amazing-sounding cocktails could be made without alcohol and so I got The Royal Rubus that way. It was citrusy soda with lemon bitters, blackberry and lime. It came in a brilliant raspberry red and was very tasty and refreshing.

Drink_Girl&Goat

The meal started off with an assortment of breads: One sourdough with little pieces of ham in it, which was okay. I didn’t have a ton of flavor but I liked the green peas and ham that came with it. There was also muffin top bread, which was nicely moist and it came with yummy seasoned butter.

Bread_Girl&Goat

Next we had “Fried Naked Cowboys” which were fried oysters with egg salad on the bottom. These came in cute little spoons and one bite form. Even though I’m not a huge fan of oysters, it was quite good fried and the sauce on top worked well with it.

Oysters_Girl&Goat

Then there was salad which consisted of fennel, evalon cheese, toasted almonds and blueberries. This was nice and I especially liked the cheese, which was a sweet goat cheese with fruity and nutty finish. It added an additional layer of delightful flavor to the salad.

Salad_Girl&Goat

The goat empanadas were one of my favorite dishes. It had strawberry, white asparagus with it and smashed avocado underneath. The empanadas were perfectly crispy and the goat meat was so very flavorful and melted in my mouth!

Empanadas_Girl&Goat

We also had green garlic pierogis which was decent, but I didn’t taste a strong garlic taste. The filling was like mashed potatoes.

The vegetables we had were cauliflower, broccoli and string beans. The cauliflower dish had pickled peppers, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. It was slightly crispy and had a nice burst of flavor. The broccoli had little crisps and the green beans had yummy cashews!

Veggie_Girl&Goat

The entrees were pasta, fish and pork shank. The pasta was spiral with tons of appetizing beef, which was wonderfully juicy and incredibly savory. There were also little orange tomatoes and tomatoes on top that were fresh and flavorful. We also had wild striped bass in a coconut green curry, new potatoes and artichokes. I enjoyed this dish, especially the slightly charred skin on the fish.

Pasta_Girl&GOat

Last, was the crisp braised pork shank with naan and the following dipping sauces: Grilled spring onion kimchi and buttermilk dressing. The pork was so wonderful and tender!  I loved the crunchiness of it.

Pork Shank_Girl&Goat

After all that, there were 5 different types of desserts. My absolute favorite was vanilla gelato with chocolate shell, caramel sauce and caramel popcorn. This dessert was truly delectable and so decadent. I could have a whole bowl of it if I wasn’t already so stuffed.

Dessert1_Girl&Goat

My second favorite dessert was balls of coated gelato with peanut butter inside and candied peanuts.

Dessert2_Girl&Goat

There was also a tres leches cake with strawberry and some pudding, as well as fruity sorbet. It was a nice, light and yummy treat.

Dessert3_Girl&Goat
Then there was a pudding-like dessert with a blend of pure toffee pieces, expresso and vanilla. The last dessert was different and interesting. It consisted of gelatin, blueberries and pieces of meringue.

Dessert4_Girl&Goat

Each dish from appetizer, to entree, to dessert was well thought out and unique in a good way. All of the food exceeded my expectations and was mouthwateringly delicious! The service was impeccable. Everything came together seamlessly. This is absolutely one of the best dinners I have ever had!

Girl & The Goat
809 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL

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Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibit

The museum at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) recently exhibited “Fairy Tale Fashion,” which displayed gorgeous and dazzling dresses, gowns, high heel shoes and displays that harken back to stories such as Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice & Wonderland and many more. Below were some of my favorite designs.

I loved the filmy, ethereal quality of the long white gown, along with the little sparkle of silver on top and the elaborate pattern of the other dress, as well as the dramatic plunging neckline. Both of these dresses are incredibly glamorous.

FIT_gowns

Then there was this gown, which I found beautiful beyond measure. I love the way the gown floats outward towards the bottom and the roses all over. The black sash high above the waist is perfectly positioned and adds structure to the design. Absolutely breathtaking!

FIT_white gown

These were my favorite pair of heels on display. I loved the dainty detail of the design, especially the butterfly cut outs that stud the front and back.

FIT_heels

One of my favorite displays was this aquatic mermaid-y wonderland scene. The focal point was the sparkling dress with pale pink and white flowers all over it. All the metallic and flowy material of the other outfits worked well to form a wonderful cohesive underwater theme.

FIT_mermaid

Another display I liked was the forest scheme that was modeled for Snow White. The dazzling white dresses set off the centerpiece which showcases a colorful and interesting design, which all go well with the darker and sexier gowns on the edges.

FIT_forest

I found the entire exhibit to be inspiring, beautiful and magical.

FIT_me

Unfortunately, the “Fairy Tale Fashion” exhibit has ended, but current exhibits at FIT are: “Uniformity” and “Bookends.” Upcoming exhibits include “Proust’s Muse, The Countess Greffulhe,” “Black Fashion Designers,” “Paris Refashioned: 1957-1968” and “Force of Nature.”

 

The Museum at FIT
227 W. 27 St
New York, NY

 

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Filipino Dinner at Tito Rad’s

I came here with a medium sized group and we shared everything family style… Tito Rad’s Grill & Restaurant is perfect for that!

The appetizers we started off with were the lumpiang shanghai (lumpia) which is my all time favorite Filipino food and ukoy (bean sprout fritters). The lumpia had a mixture of pork, shrimp and mixed vegetable and was a perfect blend inside the extremely wonderful crispy shell. The bean sprout fritters were something new for me… The bean sprouts are fried in a batter, along with shrimp and vegetables. It was quite good as well with a nice bold flavor.

titorad_lumpia
We also had quite a few main courses, such as pork adobo, a departure from the usual chicken adobo dish. It was really good, marinated in soy sauce, peppercorn and spices, cooked with onions. The pork was perfectly tender and well seasoned.

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I also liked the BBQ pork chop and we even ordered another serving of that because we enjoyed it so much! The meat was juicy and very tasty. The accompanying sauce was worked really well with the pork chop.

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Then there was the grilled tuna belly, which was great as well. The skin was grilled just right and tasted wonderful with the meat.

titorad_tuna
We chose 2 noodle dishes: Pancit and crispy noodles. The one I liked better was the pancit – sautéed egg noodles cooked with chicken, shrimp, chinese sausage, carrots, lettuce, other greens. It was a great medley of ingredients and each one tasted fresh and full of flavor. The other one had carrots, green beans, broccoli, chicken on top of a bed of crispy noodles. I liked the crunch of the noodles but it wasn’t quite as flavorful as the pancit.

titorad_noodles
My least favorite dish was called Laing – taro leaves cooked with green peppers and apparently some sort of meat but I couldn’t taste any of that. It looked like a mess of green and I didn’t find it to be that good. It was lacking in flavor and I wasn’t a fan of the consistency and texture.

titorad_liang
After all that, we had to try some dessert. I was sold on the Halo Halo, which is shaved ice with ice cream, condensed milk, sweet beans, jello, taro cake, fruits! One of my table mates declared that it was good for one person, so I ordered that and it came in a HUGE cup. There was so much in there and it was delightful, although difficult to finish because the shaved ice was really cold (pointing out the obvious here, I know)! The ice cream was French Vanilla with strawberry jelly swirl on top and though I don’t normally enjoy vanilla ice cream by itself, this ice cream was incredibly delicious: Creamy, sweet, milky and most of all, intense and fresh vanilla flavor! All the other ingredients were also quite good and the condensed milk tinged everything and gave it an extra level of sweet yumminess!

titorad_halohalo

The service was pretty good and there was a lovely lady who came by several times to make sure we were doing okay and we got everything we ordered. She was a very gracious host.

All in all, a wonderful evening filled with quality Filippino food and great company!

 

Tito Rad’s Grill
49-10 Queens Blvd
Queens, NY

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Yelp’s Holiday Cruise 2016

This year’s Yelp Holiday Cruise aboard the Hornblower Infinity was off the hook amazing!

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The Hornblower Infinity was a beautiful, spacious yacht with 3 levels. “Recently remodeled with a bold design, this vessel is the largest in the New York fleet and matches the uniqueness of New York.”

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Upon entering, my group of friends and I headed downstairs to the first floor, where all the savory food vendors were. After a bit of noshing on yummy savory bites, I headed up to the 2nd level for some sweet treats. There was also CandyTwisted Balloons, where they make balloon hats of your choice… They were gorgeous! On the third floor, where there was an oxygen bar, massage area, painting and a magician.

                   MY FAVORITE TREATS OF THE NIGHT

Between the Bread
They presented us with a scallop on top of a tortilla chip, which was delicious. I really enjoyed the pan seared scallop and the flavorful pesto sauce on top.

yhh_scallops
Otto’s Tacos
This pulled pork taco was quite large and chock full of wonderful tasting seasoning! The meat was juicy, tender and so yummy!

yhh_taco
City Cakes
I am a chocolate chip cookie girl (which I also tried of course), but one bite of the red velvet cake cookie and I was hooked… It was perfectly soft, had a mix of red velvet and white cream, just the right amount of sweetness and the definition of delicious. The chocolate chip cookie was also mouthwatering good.

yhh_red velvet
Tea & Milk
Cute bubble tea business. The folks making and serving the bubble tea were friendly and bubbly! I couldn’t decide between the regular black tea or the green jasmine tea so they let me try both! They were quite tasty, especially the jasmine tea. I liked the bit of cream they put on top and the tapioca balls were exactly the right texture and size.

yhh_bubble tea
Oficina Latina
This booth had both savory and sweet… Gorgonzola gnocchi with greens which were great and for dessert, I chose the chocolate and nutella which was absolutely delectable: Very rich, creamy, chocolate-y smooth and decadent!

yhh_gnocchi
Dough
Perfectly adorable mini donuts of quite a few different flavors. Each one moist and delightful, with sweet icing! Pictured below: Passionfruit and Chocolate.

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One vendor I didn’t really care for was Chickpea, though I loved their beautiful, colorful, unique and creative presentation of flowers, along with the meats. Beyond that, I thought the naan, chicken and falafel were quite bland and dry. Another that didn’t meet my expectations was Coppelia’s chicken fried rice, especially since I love the restaurant Coppelia. It might have benefited from more seasoning and fresh ingredients.

yhh_chickpea
The dance floor was super fun, with great songs and lots of characters, such as Elmo, Unicorns, dinosaurs, entertainers in glittery bedazzled costumes, dancers in white with masks and so on. The boat docked around 9pm, but the DJ and Hornblower Cruises staff stuck around for an extra hour so we could continue having a blast and dance the night away!

yhh_skyline

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Celebrating at Sugar Factory

Sugar Factory is a fun, club-like, happening, beautifully and festively decorated restaurant hot spot in the trendy Meatpacking District. I came here to celebrate my belated birthday in NYC, with some of my closest friends.

 

sugarfactory_friends

The menu is a hefty book with tons of cocktail drinks (which can be made non alcoholic), milkshakes, food and dessert options.

sugarfactory_menu

I knew that I wanted a milkshake, which are expensive at $10, but really huge. I made a few of my friends order a milkshake as well, so was able to taste 4 different types. Here is what I thought, listed in order of favorite to least favorite.

1. Fluffier Nutter is the milkshake I chose and consisted of vanilla soft serve ice cream base, with peanut butter, chocolate sauce, marshmallows, topped with whipped cream and peanut butter cups. I was able to taste the peanut butter well, but wish there was more of a distinct marshmallow flavor. Also, it came topped with Reeses M&M’s, not peanut butter cups.

sugarfactory_fluffiernutter

2. Make A Wish, was also made with vanilla soft serve, made with yellow cake, sprinkles and a cute little birthday candle, which I wished upon and blew out. This milkshake was deliciously sweet and the cake was perfectly moist and tasty.

sugarfactory_makewish

3. Chocolate Cookie Jar had vanilla soft serve, oreo, chocolate chips, caramel and chocolate sauces. This tasted just like Cookies & Cream and was very yummy.

sugarfactory_cookies

4. Memory Lane was vanilla soft serve, blended with hot fudge, marshmallows, chocolate fudge and waffle cone pieces. When I tried it, it was actually pretty bland… I couldn’t really discern the flavors clearly and definitely did not taste a lot of hot fudge or marshmallows, so this milkshake flavor was a disappointment.

For my entree, I ordered the Mediterranean Chicken Pappardelle pasta dish, which included sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, fresh herbs and a lemony sauce made with  olive oil and roasted garlic, along with toasted thin slice of bread with garlic taste on it (I wouldn’t really call it garlic bread even though it calls it that on the menu). I liked my meal for the most part, but I thought the sauce was too oily. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente though and the chicken was nice and flavorful, going well with the artichoke, pine nuts and I enjoyed the plethora of parmesan cheese.

sugarfactory_pasta
When we were all finished, the servers came out with a seriously massive ice cream sundae with 2 sparklers in it and they all sang Happy Birthday to me! The sundae was beautifully presented with whipped cream, colorful sprinkles, sugar cones, 2 lollipops and the sizzling sparkling sparklers were a perfect touch! This sundae was the World Famous Sugar Factory King Kong Sundae, which had cookies & cream, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla ice cream flavors, as well as rice crispy treat pieces, pretzels, gummy bears, strawberries, blueberries and chocolate sauce. It also come with a comically big spoon. The servers handed out separate bowls for everyone and we started to dig in… It was delicious! I especially enjoyed the rice crispy treats and gummy bears. This amazing sundae concoction actually costs $99 for 12 people and the restaurant gave it to us without charge! Such a generous and wonderful gesture on their part… This definitely made up for having to wait a bit to be seated!

sugarfactory_birthday

This was the perfect place to celebrate my belated birthday dinner… I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and it seemed like most of my friends were having a ton of fun as well.

 

Sugar Factory
835 Washington St
New York, NY

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Holidays in California

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in California during the holiday time. From visiting the Aquarium, spending time at the beach, going shopping, hanging out downtown and at the Farmer’s Market, enjoying home cooked meals and time with family in my hometown in Monterey; to seeing friends in LA and relaxing at Miracle Springs Resort & Spa at Desert Hot Springs; to spending Christmas with family friends, stopping by the Chumash Casinos and checking out the charming town of Solvang (Danish Capital of America), it was a wonderful mini-vacation.

Christmas in Monterey, CA

I love the glittering, dazzling lights and decorations of the Portola Hotel lobby.

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This colorful and lovely Christmas tree is displayed in the middle of the Del Monte Shopping Center.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA

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Even though I have seen many of the exhibits already, I always feel a sense of wonder and magic while watching the brilliant sea life all around me. Also, I love seeing the new exhibits and activities that make the experience even more enjoyable.

Some of my favorite displays are the playful otters, cute penguins, beautiful jellyfish, brightly colored fish of hot pink/electric blue and yellow etc, mystical kelp forest, school of fish forming shapes together, formidable sharks, majestic sea turtles and the fact that the Aquarium is connected to the natural ocean front and there are outdoor areas throughout where you can witness the amazing views of the Monterey Bay/Pacific Ocean.

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Miracle Springs Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, CA

Truly wonderful place with a beautiful lobby – Plush comfortable seats, nice Christmas tree and lights, huge windows that overlook the amazing landscaping, pools and hot tubs.

lobby
We headed to the pool and jacuzzis, which are all natural hot and cold springs. I started in one of the hot tubs which was quite warm and incredibly relaxing. It felt amazing to just soak in the hot tub and let the water and jets flow over me. After a bit I went to the biggest pool, where the temperature was cooler, but wasn’t cold by any means…It felt more lukewarm and big enough to swim back and forth, which I enjoyed. Later, we spent time in a smaller jacuzzi which was still pretty warm, but not as hot as the first one. Also, the jets were stronger in that one so it was great to feel that on my back, feet and was sort of like a massage. These hot tubs are the perfect place to unwind and take away any stress you might be feeling!

DHS

Christmas Time in Santa Rosa, CA

My mom and I joined a family friends in celebrating Christmas together, where I got to meet my friend’s adorable and sweet one year old son, Sebastian!

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We also had a delicious Christmas feast of two different types of prime rib, ham, stuffing, roasted potatoes, creamy mushroom dish and not pictured: Potato salad, medley of roasted vegetables, apple pie and homemade cookies!

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Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Inez, CA

We spent Christmas evening here since we were a few hours from home. I loved the Christmas tree in the lobby and the rooms were lovely and comfortable.

chumashlobby

Day at Solvang, CA (Danish Capital of America)

We had a nice time exploring and enjoying the cute and charming town of Solvang, in Santa Barbara County, soaking up the festive atmosphere.

solvang

At Solvang Restaurant, we had to order the famous aebleskiver, which is the traditional Danish pancake, in the shape of a ball, sitting in raspberry sauce and topped with powdered sugar. They were fluffy and doughy, though I thought the sauce was a bit too sweet and the aebleskivers themselves didn’t have a ton of flavor. But they were certainly presented beautifully.

solvang_dessert

Beaches in Monterey and Marina, CA

I also had the pleasure of spending time on the gorgeous, glorious beaches in Monterey County.

monterey_beaches

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