San Francisco

IMG_1807To celebrate our anniversary this year, we decided to take a weekend trip to San Francisco. We’ve made the drive up many times over the past few years. In fact, it was the first weekend getaway that we had together a few months into our relationship. Each time, we visit old favorites, and enjoy discovering something new as well. We realize that it will probably be a while before we take another trip without children, so we especially cherished these moments as a couple. Here are some of our favorite spots around the city from over the years.

IMG_1806The first time that we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, it was completely consumed by fog. We could only hear the sounds of traffic while looking up into a blanket of white. Fortunately, we have now been able to see it on a clear day, and it is certainly a beautiful sight.

IMG_1711Eating some tasty treats at the Ferry Building is a must during a pleasant stroll along the Embarcadero.

IMG_1714In a city full of hills, Coit Tower makes Telegraph Hill outshine them all.

IMG_1237We have not yet visited the California State Capitol in Sacramento, but it’s hard to imagine that it would live up to the grandeur of San Francisco City Hall.

IMG_1750IMG_1757The architecture of San Francisco is definitely not afraid to embrace color. The painted ladies around Alamo Square are the quintessential examples of this. It’s fun to think about what color schemes we would use if we were painting some of them.

IMG_9048IMG_0033The 49ers have been James’ favorite team since he was a baby. A few years ago we were able to make it to Candlestick Park during the 49ers’ final season there. It was not a very good stadium, but we were glad to see it before demolition.

IMG_1813IMG_0021Of all the beautiful sites in the city, the Palace of Fine Arts is our favorite. The landscaping around the lagoon frames the monumental architecture quite nicely.

IMG_1728The striking shape of the iconic Transamerica Pyramid makes the San Francisco skyline instantly recognizable.

IMG_1782IMG_1776IMG_1781It’s wonderful that the cultural identity of Chinatown has been maintained for more than a century. The pagoda roofs, lanterns, and neon signs give this neighborhood such a dynamic energy.

IMG_1765We enjoy visiting San Francisco often, but of course, we will be taking a hiatus for the next couple of years. Once our baby is old enough to roam the hills with us, we hope to bring it back as a frequent destination.

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Coastal New England

IMG_5349On our visits to New England, we have taken many scenic drives along the rocky coastline, admiring the maritime character of the region. Growing up on Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay, the water was always near, and although neither James nor I ever really sailed, the imagery of the sea was ever present. Here is a small collection of images we’ve taken over the past few trips that highlight the views of coastal New England.

IMG_6070IMG_0823The Conimicut Light in Rhode Island and the Spring Point Ledge Light in Maine are just some of the many lighthouses that dot the New England coast.

IMG_7530The rugged shoreline has claimed many vessels over the past few hundred years. What child in the area hasn’t thought of the treasures that they would find if they were able to explore one of these shipwrecks?

IMG_5302IMG_4760The most famous ship that made it safely to shore has got to be the Mayflower, and on Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, you can visit the gravesites of the Pilgrims.

IMG_0726There are many beautiful historic cities in New England that have relied on the sea for their development, such as Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

IMG_0779IMG_0848Another city that prospered due to maritime commerce is Portland, Maine. The historical structures of the Old Port have been preserved and and now form a lively district of boutiques and restaurants.

IMG_9621All over the region are relics from the Industrial Revolution such as this rusting pipeline in Stamford, Connecticut.

IMG_5378The Mystic River Bascule Bridge in Connecticut is a drawbridge that is still operational. It’s fascinating to sit nearby and watch as the flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic is periodically stopped for boats to pass through.

IMG_5336IMG_4795Anyone who really wants to experience what life on the New England coast was like over a century ago, needs to visit Mystic Seaport. There they can board the Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving wooden whaling ship in America.

IMG_9612When I see the rocky beaches of New England, I feel so much at home. It reminds me of the countless hours spent in my youth watching sailboats bobbing up and down while collecting sea shells from tide pools. I’m so glad that this is something that James experienced as a child as well, and that now we can rediscover it together.


Japanese Cuisine

IMG_1406One could easily visit Japan, do nothing but eat, and still have an amazing trip. During our stay we managed to not only see some incredible places, but also experience some of the most unique and flavorful cuisine that we have ever had. Trying out all of the food, both familiar and new, was truly an adventure in itself.

IMG_9888The first thing any visitor will notice when searching for food options in Japan is the consistent use of realistic plastic food samples at just about every establishment. We had heard of the concept before, but did not realize how universal it was until we were there. It was not only fascinating to see the attention to detail in each plate, but also very helpful when it came time to order food, since we could point to our exact desired dish when making selections.

IMG_9541IMG_1407Perhaps our favorite meal of the trip was at Manzaratei Pontochoten, where we enjoyed a traditional Kyōto style meal at a small restaurant with prime seating at the counter. From our seats we could see the chefs putting together lovely little dishes, often ladling in broths and sauces from the various large bowls resting on the counter in front of us. Already one of his favorite foods in general, James proclaimed this was the best unagi he has ever had after his very first bite.

IMG_9315IMG_1042We had several bentō boxes while on the trip. They were pretty and convenient to grab while on the go, and also fun to explore what each one had inside.

IMG_9970Rāmen in Tōkyō is of course an absolute must, and we tried out a few different ones while on the trip. Ichiran was our favorite one of all, since not only do they have fantastic rāmen, but the experience of dining at one of the their restaurants was completely new to us. The first step is buying a ticket at a machine at the entrance. Then, each patron is seated in their own individual booth and given a sheet to fill out denoting their preferences on things like noodle firmness, spice level, aromatics, and richness. A small curtain separates the booths from the kitchen, and only the hands of the servers are visible as they place your order in front of you once it’s ready.

sushiNaturally, we were very much looking forward to eating plenty of raw seafood on the trip, and a simple conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Kyōto Station was one of the most satisfying experiences. For around one hundred yen per plate, guests simply pick up what they’d like from the belt, and stack up their dishes for a tally at the end. The fish was incredibly fresh, and we tried a few that we had never eaten before.

IMG_9694IMG_9688Another must for the trip was trying out all of the street food. For this we headed to Nishiki Market in Kyōto – a long strip of vendors selling goods such as fresh seafood, pickled vegetables, and just about any ingredients that a local resident may need for cooking. Among the produce shops there are also several vendors selling hot food ready for eating on the spot. We walked through the entire market starting at one end, and made sure to get a wide variety as we made our way through. The tako tamago (candied baby octopus stuffed with quail egg) was James’ favorite, while the cup of fried chicken was some of the best I’ve ever had.

IMG_9919IMG_1510One of our most memorable meals was at what is locally referred to as Piss Alley in Shinjuku. Contrary to what the name suggests, Piss Alley is a fun narrow street where you can sit in a tiny restaurant and enjoy delicious yakitori under the glow of hanging lanterns. After cramming into one of the restaurants, we ordered a great variety of meats and vegetables that were all lightly seasoned before being grilled to perfection over binchotan (Japanese white coals) right in front of us. We had friends who had just arrived in Japan, and we met up with them to share the experience.

IMG_9820Tonkatsu is a traditional Japanese comfort food. Panko crusted pork cutlets and cabbage salad are served with a small bowl of sesame seeds on the side. We ground up the sesame seeds ourselves, and added our choice of sauce from little pots placed in front of us. The experience was fun and unique, and I brought home a little grinding bowl and sauce pot from a local market to recreate the meal someday.

IMG_7138IMG_6524The variety of snacks found all throughout our trip was insanely impressive. From cat shaped chocolate popsicles, to obscure flavors of Pocky, and the best gummy candies I’ve ever had – there was no shortage of opportunity to try new things.

IMG_7348Overall it’s safe to say that the cuisine in Japan is an adventurous experience. Almost every time we saw something interesting to try, we went for it, and were never disappointed. We were consistently intrigued with how most of the foods used the same types of ingredients that we are accustomed to eating in North America, but used in ways that transformed their flavor profiles.


Tōkyō-to

IMG_0946We recently returned from a wonderful two-week long vacation in Japan. Although we have taken a number of international trips, this was our first time visiting a country where the culture and language were unfamiliar to us. Fortunately, everyone that we interacted with was extremely accommodating, and we were able to get by just learning a few Japanese phrases. During our time in Tōkyō, we stayed at the Park Hotel Tokyo in the Shiodome Sio Site in Minato-ku. Above you can see the spectacular view from our room that welcomed us on our very first night.

IMG_6532IMG_0989Most of our trip was spent in the central parts of Tōkyō-to, and even though we were in the metropolis for many days, we still only explored a small amount of its numerous wards. There is much to discover in the area around Shinjuku Station, which has a number of interesting skyscrapers. Our favorite is the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.

IMG_1016A full size head of Godzilla stands over Toho Cinemas Shinjuku.

IMG_1535Even though we saw Shinjuku during daylight hours, we knew we had to go back at night to see it lit up. The multitude of lightboxes filling the streets would make Las Vegas jealous.

IMG_1523One of the best tucked away spots in the area is Omoide Yokocho, also known as Piss Alley. This tight, atmospheric alley is packed with tiny restaurants and great street food.

IMG_7383Throughout Tōkyō, we saw many ads for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics. We took a walk around Yoyogi National Gymnasium, which will be one of the venues, and was originally built for the 1964 summer games.

IMG_1035IMG_6573There are many buildings throughout Tōkyō that are quite distinctive, such as the Humax Pavillion and the Nakagin Capsule Tower.

IMG_1056Tsukiji Market, known for its tuna auctions and many seafood vendors, is one of many outdoor markets that we walked through during our trip.

IMG_6506IMG_1036There is certainly no shortage of massive shopping districts in Tōkyō, with Ginza being the most upscale.

IMG_1038Traditional structures, like the Kabuki-za are sprinkled throughout even the most modern districts.

IMG_1566The gardens of the Imperial Palace were closed on the day that we visited, but it is still a very pleasant walk around the palace’s moat.

IMG_1580IMG_1588We were in Japan during peak cherry blossom season, which was truly wonderful. Though most of our sakura viewing was done in Kyōtō, we did find great stretches to walk under cherry blossoms around the Imperial Palace.

IMG_1609The Sensō-ji Buddhist temple and the adjacent Asakusa Shinto shrine are part of a large cluster of sacred buildings with a surrounding market in the Asakusa district.

IMG_1047Tsukiji Hongan-ji is another Buddhist temple that was designed to look much more like something you would see in South Asia.

IMG_1620Beautiful houseboats line up at the docks on the Kanda River, waiting to take tourists on excursions.

IMG_1640IMG_1490There are many ‘cafés’ in Shibuya-ku where you can pay to sit with cute animals. We spent some time with some new kitty friends, and we even got to hold owls!

IMG_1549IMG_9281We took so many trains on this trip, which was very easy with our Japan Railways passes. Our most interesting train experience was certainly traveling at 270 km/h on the Shinkansen from Tōkyō Station to Kyōtō.

IMG_1648On our last day in Tōkyō we caught a glimpse of Mount Fuji from our hotel window bidding us farewell. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more photos from our adventures in the land of the rising sun.


Disneyland Details

We take many trips to Disney Parks, both domestic and abroad, and the work of Walt Disney Imagineering has had a tremendous influence on our sense of design. We will be traveling to Tokyo Disney Resort later this year, and here we thought that we would share some of our favorite things about Disneyland Park, as we eagerly await what the Imagineers have in store for us in Japan.

img_9682New Orleans Square is an environment that begs to be explored, rather than simply passed through. The streets take a winding path full of discoveries that are not evident from the waterfront.

img_9692The masts of that ship rising up from the rooftops creates the illusion of a much larger environment. The space extends for miles in our minds because of these layers of depth.

img_9693The implication of a world just beyond what we can see is also present on the second floor balconies. The set dressing creates characters who live here, such as the artist who is painting this picture. The props combined with “off-screen” sound make New Orleans Square feel so alive.

img_9721Within the adobe archways of Rancho del Zocalo, we can rest our weary feet, shielded from the harsh sun of the American Southwest.

img_9774Should we venture beyond the safe confines of the hacienda to see what awaits in the town of Rainbow Ridge?

img_9769‘Character paint’ and ‘character plaster,’ seen here in Fantasy Faire, are great ways to communicate the idea of a lived in environment that has a sense of place.

img_9761This crumbling facade hints at a rich, storied past. Many people have inhabited this space before, working with different materials, speaking different languages, and facing a harsh environment. We don’t know for certain just how this building came to look this way, but our imaginations can provide the details.

img_9703The excellent forced perspective of the Indiana Jones Adventure is extremely convincing when partially obscured through the jungle.

img_9759Be careful not to look into the eyes of Mara, or else this small glimpse of daylight will be the last that you ever see, as you board your troop transport in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

img_9767No wonder Toad Hall needs so many fireplaces, being at the foot of that snowy mountain.

img_0446When we arrive at Main Street, U.S.A. we are immediately aware that we are at a time of transition where the horse and buggy exists side by side with the motorcar.

img_0455The gas lamps have begun to be replaced by the electric light, but the remnants of that bygone era still remain.

img_9775Every piece of set dressing that you see in the shops of Main Street, U.S.A. is giving an idea of what types of people own these shops and inhabit this land.

img_9744On a windy day, Mary Poppins is blown every which way on this weathervane atop Jolly Holiday Bakery Café.

img_9735What lies beyond the visible walls of Fantasyland? The wide open vistas of Storybook Land provide our imaginations with the necessary context to fill in those gaps.

img_9738These wonderfully composed, highly detailed landscapes are perhaps the most direct representation of the world in which the Disney animated classics take place.

img_9727Immediately upon entering the queue for Snow White’s Scary Adventures, the tone is set with a glimpse into the Evil Queen’s dungeon, and the dread that she will stop at nothing to afflict our heroine with the Sleeping Death.

img_9723From Frontierland a magic portal opens up, giving us a window into another exotic world. This is a special quality of Disneyland, which is different from the way that the much larger Magic Kingdom gradually transitions from one land to another.

img_9718Space Station 77 seems to float above the horizon, promoting an optimism about space travel, and promising adventure.

img_9715The hedges around It’s a Small World make the structure feel light and airy, maintaining the scale that the interior of the attraction works in.

img_9706This boarded up tunnel is one of the last remnants of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, which was removed to build Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It is now a piece of real world park history that also functions as an in universe history for Frontierland.

img_9700This British (we still like to pretend it is Swiss) settlement may have temporarily tamed the jungle, but we know from the Jungle Cruise and Temple of the Forbidden Eye, that in Adventureland, nature will always win out over man.

img_9695While the Sailing Ship Columbia is in dry dock, her crew can find a hot meal and a warm bed at Fowler’s Inn. This sleepy area of the waterfront offers a contrast to the hustle and bustle of New Orleans Square.

img_9741The calm stillness of the Blue Bayou lulls us to sleep before we are whisked down a waterfall into a dreamy underworld of decaying pirate corpses.

These are only a few of the myriad ways that Disney Parks have created the perfect setting for our imaginations to run wild. Experiencing new parks is always a thrill, but Disneyland will always be our favorite. Over the past 60 years, it has developed a set of quirks that give it a unique charm that is hard to beat.


Brooklyn

img_0235After having visited Manhattan two years ago during the Christmas season, we decided that this year we would take a trip to Brooklyn. We have some friends who are living in the borough, and it’s one part of New York City that we had never explored before.

img_0229I had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge during school field trips, but James had never had the opportunity. We bundled up and braved the winds to cross over from Manhattan.

img_0230From the Brooklyn Bridge, we had a great view of James’ favorite bridge, the Manhattan Bridge.

img_0237This hilarious sign, which has not quite deterred lovers from vandalizing city property with their padlocks, was a warm welcome to the borough’s personality.

img_0243img_0245We spent the night at a hotel right across the street from Borough Hall (formerly the seat of government for the City of Brooklyn), which we had a great view of from our room window.

img_0274After crossing the bridge and settling into our hotel room we took to the streets for the day. Not far from our hotel was the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which gave us a chance to see other landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, locations that we would like to visit on later trips to New York.

img_0272img_0288The highlight of the trip was strolling past all of the 19th century brownstones that line the streets of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. It was very reminiscent of our recent trip to Boston, where we saw an abundance of row houses on Beacon Hill.

img_0279img_0280Many of the residences were tastefully decorated for the season.

img_0299img_0308img_0304Park Slope offered another pleasant residential neighborhood to walk through, right across from Prospect Park.

img_0295We also visited the Brooklyn Central Library, which is part of a completely separate library system serving only that borough, not affiliated with the New York Public Library.

img_0317We then headed towards Green-Wood Cemetery, which feels like a storybook setting. Many of the most famous (or infamous) New Yorkers have been buried here, such as “Boss” Tweed. Here is the gothic gate that serves as the northern entrance.

img_0324img_0328The cemetery is a vast collection of statues and mausoleums, in addition to the expected headstones. Meandering through the curved pathways is a very peaceful experience.

img_0331We had a wonderful stay in Brooklyn, and were so glad to finally explore the area. We will continue to travel to New York City when we can, revisiting the boroughs that we have seen, and exploring new ones as well.


Apple Picking

One of the things that amazed me about California when I first moved out here was the varied terrain. It really is true that you can find desert, ocean, and snowcapped mountain landscapes all within driving distance. Last week James and I took a drive up to Oak Glen, California to adventure around the lovely farms hugging the San Bernardino Mountains.

img_9970img_9965We went apple picking at Willowbrook Apple Farm, which was filled with Stayman Winesap apple trees that were over one hundred years old.

img_9966A lot of the smaller apples were within a hand’s reach…

img_9975…but a lot of the big red ones were very high on the trees.

img_9979After picking apples, we headed to the farm’s cider press station where you can fill a basket with apples prepped for cider. In order to get a good balance of sweet and tart, they had both Winesap and Fuji apples.

img_9980We were able to use the press ourselves, and fill up a container with deliciously fresh cider.

img_9968The day made for a perfect autumn outing, and a new tradition that we plan to repeat every year.

 


Boston

IMG_5417While visiting family in New England this past Independence Day weekend, we took a day trip to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, and explore the city. Though we had both been there when we were younger, our experiences until now were very limited. This trip was our first opportunity to check off many Boston locations from our list, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with all that the city had to offer.

IMG_5407Since we typically fly into Boston when visiting the northeast, we usually only view the city from an airport terminal, but on this trip we finally got a view from the middle of Boston Common.

IMG_4885The gleaming gold dome of the Massachusetts State House sits just on the edge of the Common.

IMG_5436Not far from the current State House is the Old State House. This building housed the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and was referred to by John Adams as the spot where Independence was born.

IMG_5460Faneuil Hall and the Custom House Tower are two of the most recognizable landmarks in Boston.

IMG_5457The imposing brutalism of Boston City Hall is very much out of place in the heart of the city, but the raw concrete and adjacent brick desert create a fascinating interplay of shapes that has influenced James while developing science fiction projects.

IMG_5427The City Hall that was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is certainly a much more pleasing structure.

IMG_4924If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see a parade of ducklings while visiting the beautiful Public Garden.

IMG_5547Strolling the Federal style rowhouses of Beacon Hill is a great way to get out of the sun on a summer day, and it’s charming paths made this my favorite neighborhood in the city.

IMG_5495img_4956 (1)All the vibrancy of an immigrant community can be found in the narrow streets of the North End, a primarily Italian neighborhood.

IMG_5579Once we finished walking the entirety of the Freedom Trail we decided to continue exploring the city. Newbury Street is a wonderful place to shop, dine, or simply walk. I loved that the shops are housed in a variety of 19th century buildings, making it unique from other shopping centers I had ever visited.

IMG_5558IMG_4932While most of the historic sites are Georgian Colonial, the Richardsonian Romanesque Trinity Church stands out as perhaps the most beautiful. This church was not even on our list of locations to visit, but we were thrilled to run into it on our way to the library.

IMG_4953We have yet to see a game at Fenway, but we were able to take part in the atmosphere of Yawkey Way after a Red Sox win. This trip was one of many that we will take to Boston, and we look forward to having new experiences in the city, as well as revisiting our favorites.


Welcome to Glendale: The Jewel City

IMG_9429Now that we’ve been living in Glendale for a few months, we’ve had some time to explore the city. We visited frequently while living in Los Angeles, but there is a big difference between passing through and actively engaging with the environment. Here are a few of our favorite discoveries so far.

IMG_9516Grand Central Air Terminal was very important to the development of aviation not only in Glendale, but throughout the entire western United States. The Walt Disney Company now owns it, and they are doing a wonderful job restoring it to its former glory.

IMG_9520Another historic property that is currently undergoing restoration is the Glendale Masonic Temple. Watching historical preservation efforts unfold, as well as following the construction of new developments, makes us feel a closer connection to the neighborhood.

IMG_9400There’s probably no one who contributed more to the development of Glendale than Leslie Coombs Brand. His former mansion, El Miradero, can now be enjoyed by all residents as the Brand Library & Art Center.

IMG_9436This sleepy little Spanish Colonial Revival train station is the source of the roaring clamor that passes by our house throughout the night.

IMG_9440The Streamline Moderne Seeley’s Furniture building is one of the first buildings that motorists see as they drive into Glendale from Los Angeles onto the Brand Boulevard of Cars.

IMG_9451At night, Brand Blvd is illuminated by the neon of the Alex Theater.

IMG_9401The Americana at Brand may be a shopping mall, but the way that the space flows encourages more interaction with the streets of downtown Glendale, rather than shutting them out like a typical mall. This industrial elevator shaft seen here is the site’s most prominent feature.

IMG_9395In the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers turned the Verdugo Wash into a concrete flood control channel. They also built some beautiful truss bridges for the roadways that cross it.

IMG_9445Forest Lawn Memorial Park is no ordinary cemetery. Aside from the breathtaking views, it is also home to a number of quaint chapels sprinkled throughout the hillside.

IMG_9402We are so glad to call Glendale our home, and we look forward to watching many, many sunsets over the Verdugos in the coming decades.