Monday, August 19, 2013

Lynchburg, VA

Lovely Lynchburg, Virginia

I have the fortunate opportunity to travel for education withmy  Loreal Professionnel job as an Educator for them and this years' fall Artist Foundation was held in Virginia.  A historical city nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains is also known as "the city of seven hills" and has a few noteworthy attractions.  After spending the day in its downtown with my camera in hand, I noticed that the seemingly once lively downtown is more of a relic filled with antique stores and deserted  buildings.  Worn off advertisements on brick buildings yearn for the audience that used to parade these streets.  Downtown Lynchburg was at first to me, disappointing and a little sad.  Coming from a populous area of California, that is pretty constant with its growth rate, I wandered around hoping to see some signs of rebirth, or construction.  The beautiful dilapidated homes on the hillside overlooking downtown, hint at the Gatsby-esque balls and parties that could've been held there; now either boarded-up empties or never-updated homes in a less affluent area.  I was urged to look closer, and appreciate the beauty, the promise of this town and so I kept returning, for dinner, for strolling and I began to see that spark happening, with the buzz of a salon converted from an apartment building or a now 4 star hotel that used to be a shoe factory.  Perhaps this is as good as it gets for this town anymore? or maybe in ten years it could be like San Diego's redeveloped Gaslamp district?  Thats not for everyone I suppose; I'm not even sure myself how I feel about many of our western towns becoming so homogenous with their urban outfitters and lululemons. I think it was me and my opinion that needed to change and see the town for its museum-like preserved qualities and the picture it paints of the south that if you are passing through,  consider staying for a look.  

Craddock Terry Hotel used to be a shoe factory with one of their main products being combat boots for World War II

Schewels is one of the only still successful stores on Main St in its original location with locations throughout as well.

Thomas Jefferson Poplar Forest

Located out in the suburbs area of Lynchburg is one of Thomas Jefferson's estates. It was a summer home of his that he was adding onto up until his death.  Pictured to the right is one of the "necessaries" or outhouses that were used at the time. I must say it is the nicest outhouse I've seen thus far!

About 45 miles outside of Lynchburg are The Natural Caverns and Natural Bridge.  If you are a fan of wonders, I highly recommend the drive.  Its scenic in itself and once you get here you are greatly rewarded.  The caverns are thousands of years old, and are closed during rain due to the fact that they are underground and become a river for the water.

The Natural Bridge gave me a sense of peace just to see it.  Carved out by a creek/river that just chipped away at it over thousands of years, it stands there now with a highway on top of it...

The view from underneath the Natural Bridge
A few of the other highlights I would like to mention-

Jimmy's on James Restaurant- Live music and good food make this a go to in downtown.  The walls are flanked with pictures of old Hollywood and I ate my fried green tomato crab crake stakc listening to songs by Sinatra and Bennett.

The Muse Coffee-  The best coffee I had during my stay in Lynchburg.  Full bodied, flavorful, great service and love the mini upstairs. Hip ambience and it became my go to after sampling other less superior spots.  I even purchased a bag to bring home!

Biscuitville-  This place caught my attention as the line literally wrapped around the block.  It is just the sort of greasy spot you would expect to come across in the south.  I was good by only ordering a snack but when in Lynchburg...

My accomodations were setup through Loreal, and I wouldnt really recommned it.  If staying in Lynchburg, you must stay at the Craddock Terry Hotel and i would have changed my accomodations but they were not available for my time frame. A lovely hotel with its own restaurant "Shoemakers'.

Thank you for reading and coming next week is a fashion review of the MTV video awards!
Apparently they think they still play music videos?!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Vancouver 2013

Vancouver, British Columbia

Having been to Vancouver once before in winter and falling in love with it, I have always wanted to return and visit in a warmer time of year.  The air is so crisp, super blue skies, no smog, lush trees line the skyline and coastal, what more could you ask for?  It i definitely a walking/cycling friendly city and they built the roads around people, not automobiles. This does create traffic in the metropolitan areas as there are no expressways going through or too near the downtown areas, but this makes public transit  easy and with the majority of the downtown being residential there is plenty to do in all the boroughs. Here is my trip itinerary and reviews from June 2013. Enjoy!

We found an amazing deal for the Four Seasons on Expedia and having wanted to stay at one of their hotels for many years now, it was a simple decision.  The location is excellent, the concierge is phenomenal, we got upgraded to a king suite, it felt like we had a penthouse apartment overlooking the city.  They have all the amenities a five star hotel like an indoor/outdoor pool and gym and a very highly reviewed restaurant.  


Kitsilano Daily Kitchen-  Really liked this place, super friendly, very intimate, and I felt that the head chef is really doing his passion. We tried the 6 course tasting menu, which came with 5 savory and one sweet dish. What I love is that this place's menu really changes everyday based on what they pick up from local and regional markets. They are walking distance from Granville Island which I will get into more later, but it houses much local produce and proteins.  Ordering the tasting menu is quite the adventure, you are asked about any allergies and how you prefer your meat cooked in case it applies.  Then you are treated to beautifully arranged dishes ours of which ranged from octopus and squid, to quail and the most amazing pork dish I have had in quite a while.  Highly recommend!

The Teahouse- Nestled right in Stanley Park, it used to be used for military purposes during WWII and afterwards became a place that did high tea for the affluent.  It closed for a couple years and reopened in 1978 to what is still is today, an oceanfront and woodsy plantation style locale with the goods to match.  I loved the ambience and glass roof, let you appreciate the views all around.  We booked a sunset dinner and shared the stuffed mushrooms (fantastic), clam chowder manhattan style (it was ok) and for my entree I had the duck confit (delicious).  For dessert we shared the chocolate mousse cake with mascarpone center (amazing).  This is definitely a place to share a romantic or special dinner and to really get to see all the natural beauty of Vancouver.  Very highly recommend.

Tavola- Loved the ambience of this place, it felt like an old diner they refashioned into a swanky hangout. Loved the buzz of the patrons, the 1960's design, very Mad Men-esque.  Love that they had non alcoholic drink selections and they were yummy.  For starters we had eggs and anchovies, they were delicious!  Hard boiled and dressed, super good.  I had one of the specials of the night which was Linguini with crab and I enjoyed it, but wasn't wowed.  My partner had one of their main dishes on the menu, the Pulled Pork Pacherri Ragu and it was very good.

Goldie's Pizza- This place defiantly can hold its own against NYC pizza.  Loved the thin crust, and the pizza by the slice selection.  There is something for everyone here, and you can eat there, takeout or delivery and they do deliver to hotels as well.  Super delicious! It was recommended by our concierge as a local hangout and where you go for just excellent pizza.

A La Mode on Granville Island- Loved this place. I ate here the last time I visited and it still is delicious! I had the clam chowder pot pie, there are so many to choose from and it really hits the spot.  They are located right in the public market and a snack like this is just what you crave after seeing all the desserts, teas, and produce they have fully stocked in here.  A definite must see.

Tony's Fish & Oyster Cafe-  The best thing about this place is its location and there wasn't a wait.  I had clam chowder, it was ok and we shared the fish and chips.  They were flaky, but it was just a meal to get us through our walking around the city.  Nothing too special and if you're on Granville island, just go to one of the public markets for a snack or meal.

Milestones- We had breakfast here, I tried their Prime Rib hash, and it was good.  Tasted a little too sweet rather than salty which I am used to with a hash.  My partner had their Shrimp Eggs Benedict and he loved it... so much so that by the time I was going to sneak a bite, it was all gone!  That is a great sign.  They also have a good selection of non alcoholic drinks so I do appreciate that.  It's a standard restaurant overall though, not a must go to.

Caffe Artigiano- Ok so this is more of a coffee spot,  but we had their breakfast wraps a couple of times en route through the city and they do not disappoint. Its definitely not your Starbucks pre made food, nor its prices, but the difference in cost is well worth.  The coffee was good too, so much so that I did a repeat trip which i rarely do in my travels as I want to cover as much ground as possible.  They have a few locations throughout the city.


Cycle City Tours-  I highly recommend a cycling tour of the city.  We did the Grand vancouver which was 5 hours, and the pace was great.  The city isn't too hilly so it makes for a nice ride.  You hit up so many of the historical and scenic areas and get the background on them as well.  I love how much a cycling city that Vancouver is and continues to be more and more, so much that they have lanes on major streets throughout the city.  They also offer outdoor art tours, foodie tours and private tours among others.  a great way to get familiar with the city.  You can also just rent your own bike through Spokes, which is right at the opening to Stanley Park and they offer maps and suggestions as to where to go.

Museum of Vancouver- This museum offers the history of the city and I must say its a bit sleepy.  If you are really looking to learn more about it, like I was, then yes check it out, I do find that sort of thing  fascinating, but maybe its not for everyone.  I do wish they had more on the FIrst Nations, which is how they refer to their Native Americans, but I understand that a lot of the history was passed on orally so  it has been lost.  There are a couple of changing exhibits and at this time they were Neon signs of Vancouver, Sex education of Vancouver and Fonzie's Fotos, who was a street photographer for decades documenting the fashions of the street.

Stanley Park- A definite must see. It is the largest urban park in the world, it is an actual temperate rainforest, houses many animals such as salmon, beavers and cougars. It has a lake hidden at its center, 800 year old cedar tress, moss growing off the bark of other trees, ferns, wildflowers and a seawall that encompasses the entire 5+ mile circumference.  On the northern most part, the Lionsgate Bridge takes you over to North And West Vancouver.  Truly breathtaking.
Totem poles or "Story poles" as they are called here, welcome you into Stanley Park. These are recreated ones that are now housed either in museums or on First Nations properties.   
The Seawall is a popular place for cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. 
Beaver Lake

A tree grows out of a logged dead Cedar remains signaling that the forest reuses all of its resources. 

Granville Island- A man made island right across from the downtown area, it houses the public market, which is a like any farmers market but on steroids.  Fresh fish, bakeries, coffee, tea, art,  all of the cities best offering can be found here. The city doesn't allow any corporations to lease any space on the island, only local businesses.  It has a great vantage point of the city's skyline.

The view of the West End from Granville Island

Victoria and Butchart Gardens- Victoria is the capitol of British Columbia on Vancouver island.  It is about a 90 minute ferry ride over from the port which is about 40 minutes away from downtown Vancouver.  The best way to get there is to do a tour which will pick you up at your hotel and take you over, to the gardens and bring you back.  It does take an entire day to do that and you can shorten that by taking a biplane to and fro but that is more pricey.  Now having done it, I don't think I will ever need to do it again unless I am going with someone who has never been and really wants to go.  The town is pretty sleepy and kind of a tourist trap.  The main streets are souvenir shops, and basically miniature sized versions of what they have in Vancouver.  Since we were there we decided to really do it up and had high tea at the Empress hotel which is covered in ivy and looks like huge Vegas hotel in comparison to its surroundings.  They have a place called Miniature World that makes dollhouses and tiny sceneries out of famous novels, historical events and circuses.  It was actually pretty neat.  Afterwards we headed over to Butchart Gardens and it is spectacular.  You are surrounded in natural beauty of the hills and are in a manmade miracle of flowers, ponds, greenhouses, Icannot even do it justice by explaining in words.  It is a must see. The Butchart family found wealth in concrete production in the late 1800's and this was the woman of the houses' passion.  It has been passed down through the family and is maintained now by the admissions and city.  The real breath taker is the sunken gardens where she actually was told she would never be able to garden, but she created a sort of hanging swing to drop into the canyon and make use of all her land.  So well worth the entire trip over and I just felt in awe and at peace there.

"Miniature World"
The Fairmont Empress Hotel
The Capitol Building
"Over 100 years in bloom"
The Sunken Garden

 Thank you for reading my little blog!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Palm Springs

Palm Springs... a local getaway

I recently got the opportunity to teach a styling class out in Palm Desert and with the weather turning toasty but still brisk, I decided to make a mini weekend trip out of it.  Weather was awesome!  Average of 85 degrees it was fantastic for laying out and getting some much needed vitamin D.  Palm Springs has so much to offer from its retro hollywood history, to casinos, to the mid-century architecture and design.  I stayed at a Joie De Vivre hotel called the Saguaro right in Palm Springs.  Its pretty healthy walk form all the goings on in downtown area, but the resort has everything you would want either on premises or nearby.  With its bright colors inside and out, I found it very fun and refreshing.  I loved the play on the Palm Springs motif and enjoyed the customer service.  The grounds have two jacuzzis, a good sized pool, all the standard amenities poolside, (towels, bar and snacks etc..) as well as bocce ball, ping pong table, and a nicely tended to garden walk full of lavender and bright foliage.
After laying out, we got to try out one of the two restaurants they have and after reading yelp reviews, we decided on Tinto which offers all small plates.  With help from our server every dish we tried was seriously delicious!  Presentation was divine, and the flavors were extraordinary.

After walking down the main drag of Palm Springs, we noticed relaxing fresh scents coming out of a storefront and stumbled upon such a cool experience.  Designing your own body care!  What a neat idea and a great date night for anyone looking for something unique and memorable.  There are pre-made items but they also have hundreds of scents you can pair up and design your own, pretty much the way I imagine celebrities design their own perfumes.  I walked out with my own signature scrub and lotion. They keep your scent on file as well should you want to refill or perhaps market it. :)

One of my favorite restaurants in Palm Springs is Las Casuelas and i try and make it a point to have at least one meal. With it being spring break, the wait was hefty but well worth it. I always get the shrimp enchiladas and it never disappoints!  The downtown location has live music and a dance area outside which can be fun for the daring, and entertaining for the people watching.
The salon I got to teach a class at, is a blow-dry bar in Palm desert and the staff was so sweet. If you're looking for a blowout while you're on vacation out here, this is the place to go, and with the dry weather you can guarantee your style will stay put provided you don't sweat too much or get thrown in the pool.  They are very efficient and very talented.  The decor is elegant and modern but still girly enough so that you know you're in a beauty bar.  On top of blowouts, they also do updos and keratin treatments.  They are located on El Paseo drive and this has become the rodeo drive of the area with its high end shops and palm tree lined streets.
For those looking for a bit of adventure I recommend the Palm Springs tramway.  It was built in the 1960's and has a fascinating little museum as part of the building while you are waiting for your tram. The temperature drops 40-50 degrees on the way up and transports you literally to another world. pine trees, huge rocks, trails and forest area make the desert feel hundreds of miles away.  I have a fear of heights but I must say, I felt very safe in the tram and actually enjoyed the view.  
Once up top we had dinner reservations at Peaks timed with sunset.  The restaurant is very 1970's and offers your traditional steak house variety.  The view definitely outweighs the cuisine, in the future if I was to eat there, I would most likely only have dessert and still enjoy the scenery.  
Hope you enjoyed this blog!  See you on the next getaway!