Tag Archives: travel

48 Hour Guide to DC


I hopped on a plane to DC for a quick 48 hour “Adult Spring Break.” It was the height of cherry blossom season, instilling a tradition for father-daughter cherry blossom trips (also photographed here). In 48 hours, we were able to figure out some of our favorite spots, museums and useful tips and tricks. It boiled down to this here guide.

Where to Eat

a baked joint – the bakery off-shoot of DC’s baked&wired, we visited this “joint” everyday for a substantial breakfast and caffeine fix. Dad’s favorite was the sugar-encrusted, raspberry kougin-amman.

La Colombe – Not a new-to-me spot, but La Colombe never fails in terms of flavorful espresso and cold brew that I now crave daily.

indigo – An outdoor, twinkly-lit Indian restaurant where you order from a chalkboard at a window and eat on picnic tables outdoor. As the summer months near, this is a perfect spot.

Ethiopic – I centered our meals around global cuisine and introduced my Dad to Ethiopian. A little different from what I’m used to but their green bean dish was something special.

2Amy’s – a Love Taza favorite that serves my favorite, neapolitan pizzas

Beefsteak – A Jose Andres fast casual concept, they prepare veggies that even my Dad enjoyed.

Shouk – Voted DC’s best fast casual, Shouk is veggie-friendly with hearty servings of flavorful, real food. Their sweet potato fries are something stupid.


What to Visit

Newseum, African American History Museum, Washington Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Georgetown neighborhood



Kyoto, Japan


Kyoto, Japan was our favorite city that we visited. Situated in the South of Japan, it was warmer in Kyoto than Tokyo and Hakone, which made for some beautiful cherry blossom watching. There is something so simple about cherry blossoms. Yet, something remarkably compelling that draws you to each tree, bloom by bloom. We missed the full blooms by less than 5 days but finding a blossoming tree amongst those that had yet blossomed brought so much joy. The sheer amount of photos that I collected is evidence enough.

Kyoto is characterized by its old city charm, in great contrast to the modernization of Tokyo. While buses are the main method of public transportation, walking is another great way to see the city and travel to the path of shrines that are located on one side of the city. Other important spots like Arashiyama and the Golden Pavilion are easily accessible by bus. Biking was also an important method of transportation as well. During cherry blossom season, tourism is huge and I definitely preferred quieter scenes to the hustle and bustle of the shrines. We went to Arabica Coffee right when it opened one morning and in the afternoon on another day. As a fan of coffee culture, I enjoyed sitting alone in the shop, no line or chatter first thing in the morning. Thank you jetlag!

And now, I’ll let the photos do the talking.



South Haven Sunset


I would be lying if I did not say that seeing a South Haven sunset was one of the reasons for our trip to Michigan. Unlike Chicago, South Haven faces the sunset, leading to cotton candy skies with the most vibrant of colors guided by a descending sun. Some of my favorite photographs were taken last year at sunset. It is so wonderful to see that no sunset is alike. This time around, our sunset was touched by a fiery gold that created electric pinks and purples. Somehow and someway, this turned Lake Michigan into a metallic body that looked like some liquid metal.

Unlike last year, I was surrounded by strangers on my boat cruise rather than 40 relatives. And while it did not feel quite the same, I am grateful to the curly haired boy whose curls play a starring role in the above photo. While I captured these moments a few weeks back, I relish in the idea of returning to California to bask in more waterfront sunsets.

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April Chicago To-Do List

With the beginning of any month, I like to compile a To-Do list of restaurants, events and sights that I hope to visit in Chicago. Not only does it allow me to share my “wisdom” and knowledge of this city, but it also encourages me to bring these wishes to fruition. Here is a delayed April Chicago To-Do List.

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In Logan Square, Owen + Alchemy twists the typical notion of juice cleanses with its edgy bottling and impossibly cool interior. Plus – they have one of the few acai bowls in Chicago. Hoping to try one of their seasonal juices: Blueberry, Basil, Lime and Sea Salt. Sounds like the perfect springtime replacement for hot tea.


An antique and vintage market. The Randolph Street Market occurs every month but April marks the first where the weather is warm enough to savor sunlight and explore without fear of frost bite. It features so many different vendors like Liv + Work who I will be hunting down for pillow covers.


All too often, I venture downtown to explore. Currency Exchange is the perfect coffee shop hangout spot in Hyde Park’s backyard. I am determined to hunker down and do work here in April (especially in the next two weeks of midterms). Beautiful tiles always help with those ugly things.

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I don’t know about you but I am utterly fascinated by Gwenyth Paltrow. Fortunately for us Chicagoans, Paltrow’s curated lifestyle brand, GOOP, is opening a pop-up in Gold Coast. Hopefully, Gwyneth herself will make the trip to Chicago for its opening.

What are your favorite things to do in Chicago in April? I am also searching and googling to find Cherry Blossom trees – any hints or suggestions are very much welcome!

Images via herehere, and here

Spring Break


Apologies are much overdue around these parts. Winter Quarter cumulated with finals week and a return to the land of constant sunshine, warmth and the occasional sea breeze in the form of Spring Break. Many hours spent in the library created some difficulty in generating creative content in this here space. Yet, I am returning to Chicago refreshed and renewed – excited to explore the city in more acceptable temperatures.

For now, I offer my sincerest of apologies and some pretty pictures from this place that I once called home. It is strange now to hear myself call “home” as in Chicago. Even in this short time apart, I am itching to get back. I held off on making a March Chicago To-Do list as impending finals, internship deadlines and a two week stint in SoCal limited my availability to explore.

In SoCal lately: (1) Morning runs and walks under the San Clemente Pier (2) Continuing the donut trend at Sidecar (3) Always by the water (4) Playing with shadows – and my running shoes (5) Bokeh Sunsets at Crystal Cove State Park – after visiting the Beachcomber (6) Wishing that I could still fit into the J.Crew kids section, specifically these bunny ears headbands


Musee d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay 1

During my last week in Paris, I was devoid of any school obligations. And finally, I was able to visit all the typical tourist attractions that I had previously neglected (such as the Eiffel Tower, etc.). So on this rainy Paris day, I snuck away to the Musee d’Orsay. While I could not photograph the actual pieces of art, I could photograph the Musee’s beautiful architecture.

It used to be a train station as evidenced by its rounded roof and many clocks. But even more beautiful than these clocks was van Goh’s “Starry Night.” Often, I am not overly impressed by well-known pieces of art. Case in point: da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” But “Starry Night” was spectacular. I wish I could accurately describe its charisma as a painting. The colors and layers perfectly captured the most beautiful of Parisian nights. After seeing many a Parisian night, I felt a deeper understanding for the image.

For this series of photos, I felt a sense of timelessness. I felt the sense that time stood still. Below is the only picture that I left in color. I felt that the vibrance of the gold should not be masked in black and white. But for the others – I felt that black and white best portrayed that sense of timelessness. As I sit in my room, painfully aware of my last moments in this place, I cannot help but be reminded that these are some of my last moments here. I hope that I captured them well.

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Guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam Canal 1

I can hardly believe that a week ago I was sitting in our cozy Amsterdam airbnb. It was my last “new” place on this little journey – and I could not imagine a better way to end this experience. Amsterdam is known for many things. For me, I really wanted to see its beauty (and all other “things” are not up my alley). The amount of canals and bikes greatly outnumbered any number that I had imagined. Amsterdam felt almost like a small New England town whilst being a pretty bustling city. Unlike any other city, the first floors of the typical “Amsterdam townhouse” were actual apartments. From the street, you could peer into beautifully decorated homes. Through these windows, I fell in love with the Dutch design aesthetic. I wish we had more time – less than forty-eight hours is not enough.

From our trip, I compiled a photo guide to Amsterdam of all my favorite spots and sights. While I am no travel agent, I can offer as much advice as my 48-hour knowledge allows. Amsterdam must-sees are clearly the Anne Frank House and Van Goh Museum. For both museums, we arrived early (specifically for the Anne Frank, we arrived 30 minutes before it even opened). Losing sleep was worth getting a good spot in what soon became long lines. There are so many other museums that I wish we had time to visit so please take a look at what they also have to offer.

When we weren’t exploring these museums, we wandered along the canals, rode bikes on a bike tour and ate probably way too many stroopwafels. Our airbnb host left us some stroopwafels to welcome us to Amsterdam – at first, I was unimpressed. I didn’t eat one until I couldn’t help but notice how both my friends were obsessed. Needless to say, I really wish I refrained from that decision. One too many stroopwafels were eaten this week.

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Not going to lie, I am not a huge fan of pancakes (stems from that “not a big fan of waffles” thing). Dutch pancakes are very different from American pancakes (those pictured above). Like most foods in Europe, I have had to let go of my typical food habits in order to get the most of this experience. And so Dutch pancakes we ate! We satisfied our Dutch pancake craving at Pancakes! Amsterdam.

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50 mm lens are so fun because you can get everything in the picture (sarcasm)! Luckily, we also arrived at the Amsterdam sign (right by the Van Goh museum) before the crowds arrived an hour or two after. It made for fun photo shoots on the letters. For those planning to visit this winter, there is an ice skating rink right in front of the Amsterdam sign! While we didn’t have time to visit, I would have loved to spent a Friday or Saturday night attempting to ice skate in this iconic part of Amsterdam.

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Citea 3

In preparing for our trip to Amsterdam, I used my favorite handy-dandy app: Instagram. You can ask my friends – I am kind of a magician with Instagram. I find interesting accounts, stalk their geotags and locate ideal restaurants / cafes / boutiques from their accounts. For my Amsterdam research, I was excited to find that Amsterdam has a pretty strong health food scene. We made our way to Dr. Blend for smoothies one morning. And later ate a late lunch/ early dinner at the coolest salad bar, SLA. Later, we balanced it out with the-best-apple-pie-and-crust at Winkel’s.

Even though I love researching food finds, sometimes you stumble upon great places. When we were wandering to this organic market one morning, we stopped into Citea to try the Chai that it had been promoting outside. I am a huge Chai-lover so obviously I took the time to turn back into this cutely designed tea shop. When we ordered our chais, the shopkeeper made each one personally. It makes me never, ever want to order a Chai tea at some place like Starbucks. Plus – they had apple tea, which I became a fan of in Turkey (please tell me this potentially exists in the States?).

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Our salads at SLA! I cannot recommend this place enough. I somehow dragged about 6 of my best friend from high school’s friends with us. And after a bit of walking, everyone was thrilled to experience something vaguely reminiscent to California food culture. While I am becoming more open to trying new things, I cannot wait to get back to some sense of normalcy when it comes to meals. I am realizing that some of my least favorite parts of traveling aren’t necessarily related to the place or travel itself but rather to not having a home. I am not a homebody in the typical sense but I love coming home each day. Does this make any sense?

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For good measure – here is actual evidence that I do in fact exist. And am not just a pair of hands that operates behind a camera. Hooray! Hope you enjoyed somewhat accompanying me to Amsterdam.

Guide to Cappadocia, Turkey

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Istanbul is a city of 20 million people. Can you please think for a moment about 20 million of anything? I remember arriving and expecting to be able to walk everywhere. Turns out – we “literally” couldn’t. The city is too big. And our dinner trip would be over an hour walk. 20 million people means that Istanbul is busy, busy, busy. And after 6 days, it was a welcome change of scenery to travel to the Cappadocia region of Turkey (Central Anatolia.

Cappadocia is primarily known for its beautiful sunset photography where hot air balloons nestle in its valleys. I had the grandest dreams of these perfect pictures with the sun rising and brightly colored balloons floating in the distance. About a week before our trip, I noticed that the weather did not look perfect. And non-perfect weather means that the hot air balloons do not go up. Unfortunately, this post won’t include a hot air balloon story because the weather did not cooperate. However, my Dad and I both agreed that the trip was more than worthwhile without the air balloons. It just gives us an additional reason to go back!Argos Cappadocia 1

We stayed at the Rox Cappadocia. I cannot recommend this hotel enough – each night includes a beautiful Turkish breakfast with the best view of Pigeon Valley. We asked for a room with a window although it specializes in “cave” rooms. The staff was more than helpful with questions about hiking and tours of the region.

To avoid missing the hot air balloons, I would recommend traveling to Cappadocia earlier in the year. At the end of November, the weather gets to be a bit more difficult and tourist season declines. We also noted that we should have begun our trip in Cappadocia and made our way to Istanbul. When you get to Cappadocia, I would recommend touring the region with trips to the Goreme Air Museum, hikes in Pigeon Valley and climbs atop Uchisar Castle.

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Goreme Air Museum

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Istanbul Guide

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Somehow I ended up spending the last week in Turkey. It has been a secret dream of mine to travel to Turkey since high school (I originally wanted to study abroad here but timing didn’t agree). I think it was my complete and utter love for AP World that pushed my dream over the edge – I love history and Turkey is the epicenter of so many histories and cultures. If anything, my trip to Istanbul (and Central Turkey) made me fall even more in love with this place and its people. I cannot say kinder or more honest words about Istanbul and Turkey. I think I met my match – an old friend who I will return to time and time again. I keep replaying these moments over and over again, hoping that soon I can return. I hope these photos exude the kind of love and awe that I feel for Istanbul.

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Istanbul is quite the city – most of its tourist destinations are located extremely close to each other (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar). It was so easy to move from place to place – we often found ourselves in the same areas time and time again. My favorite areas that I visited were Karakoy and Bebek. I dragged a coffee-deprived mother to Bebek and we fell in love with its serenity. The first photo was taken along the waterfront path in Bebek – it was so nice to remove ourselves from the hustle of Istanbul (whilst remaining in Istanbul). Other sites to see are Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace and Istanbul Modern. My most memorable experiences were experiencing golden hour from a Europe-to-Asia boat ride and receiving a Turkish bath (OMG!).

I am no expert on travel or Istanbul but my biggest recommendation would be to stay near a metro station. We were located a bit further from the center but directly next to a metro station. It made it all the better to know that after a long day on our feet we could walk right off the metro and into our hotel. Also, apps like CityMapper and Google Maps often failed us when we tried to locate restaurants or places. We would probably ask 5 different people where something was until we inevitably found it. By the end of our trip, we thought it was odd if we didn’t struggle finding our restaurant. So carefully plan any trip that is not a tourist destination (such as a restaurant or shop) because these places will not be pointed out on a sign or a map!

In these photos, I challenged myself to capture Istanbul apart from its notable landmarks. A visual guide to Istanbul – in hopes that you too can experience its magic. More to come on food and Cappadocia!

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I cannot recommend a boat ride enough. We ended up getting a transit card for our week in Istanbul and caught this commuter train to Kadikoy (on the Asian side). I was happily snapping photos when a man recognized what I was doing and began throwing pieces of bread off the side of the boat. Before I knew it, there was a cluster of birds flying along side the boat, posing for my pictures (or rather trying to get a piece of bread). This moment was truly a testament to the kindness of the Turkish people. This man created this moment just for me. A million thanks go out to him.

Berlin: What to See

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Three days in a city is never enough time to see everything. I almost feel disrespectful in thinking that such a trip could give me an understanding of a place. With my most recent trips, I make it a point of planning far in advance so that I can see as much as possible. Jam-packed days, sore feet and large camera rolls often result but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It isn’t too hard to find wonderful travel resources such as TripAdvisor or Tripomatic. I recently discovered Tripomatic – not only does it show and describe main attractions, but it allows you to organize your itinerary based on day and location. I would highly recommend! In case these resources aren’t your thing, I compiled a guide of what to see in Berlin.
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East Side Gallery

One of the most iconic sights of Berlin, the East Side Gallery is a bit of what remains of the Berlin Wall. The wall space has since become an art gallery depicting murals about freedom, humanity and dreams about the world. The Gallery consists of so many murals from different artists from all around the world. It truly exemplifies the belief in unity that its murals taught.

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Berliner Dom

Berliner Dom is a grand church in Berlin. Located near Alexanderplatz, it is centrally located and supposedly has a wonderful view of the city from its top. It was unfortunately was closed on our visit but we stilled enjoyed looking at the grandness of the Church. Compared to other churches, Berliner Dom may not be anything spectacular but I particularly loved finding its specifically German elements. If you are visiting Berlin, I would try to visit when the top is open in order to get the most out of your ticket.

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Berlin Wall Memorial

The Berlin Wall Memorial is a must-see. Not only can you climb its tower for the best view of the city’s skyline, but it also has a wonderful “Ghost station” exhibit in the train station. We wandered around a bit to find this exhibit but it was quite literally located in the U-Bahn station. The U-Bahn station was a “ghost station” meaning that it had closed when East and West Berlin became separate. Instead of functioning as a metro station, it became a dangerous space where people attempted to escape.

What unsettled me most was the fact that the station now operates as a functional U-Bahn station. I could not help but feel haunted about the eeriness of the station – and what it once was to East and West Berliners. After finding the exhibit, follow the normal Berlin Wall Memorial. When we visited, it was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall and the path of the wall was lined entirely by white balloons.

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Holocaust Memorial

A beautiful,  heavy, reflective space. I feel that words are not too necessary to describe the importance of this site. If you can, take the time to go through the museum underneath the memorial. It may cause you to wait in line but I think it was worthwhile. We visited during the golden hour, which allowed for the most beautiful light.

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Holocaust Memorial 2

Noticeably missing from this list are the Jewish Museum and Topography of Terror. We visited both but out of respect for the spaces, I refrained from taking pictures. Other important Berlin landmarks like Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Victory Column, the Tiergarten and Gendarmenmarkt are must visits! Most are located near what I like to refer to as “Berlin’s center” and can be seen simply from site alone.

Berlin treated us so well for our 4 days. It was even more special that we visited on the 25th anniversary. Have you ever been to Berlin? Or explored any other parts of Germany? I’d love to hear.