Between Mountains and Desert

Travel 3 hours north of Los Angeles and experience the mountain and the desert scenery at the same time. Head to Lone Pine and Bishop, 2 small cities along the 395 Highway.

You can make a quick stop at the Red Rocks Canyon State Park.

Pass by the greenest road on your way to Cottonwood Lakes, Inyo National Forest. The scenery is far from what you can see in Los Angeles.

Make a stop at the famous Jerky place, the  Gus Really Good Fresh Jerky. I didn’t like jerky until I had beef jerky from there.

Gus Really Good Fresh Jerky

Found yourself walking on Mars when you hike White Mountain, one of the tallest peak in the US at 14,252 feet. White Mountain, also has a research station at the beginning of the trail and one small one at the peak, operated by the University of California, to evaluate the effects of altitude on physiology.

You can also hike flat in the Alabama Hills. Take a pose with the Turtle Rock and go around the arches. You can see Mt. Whitney through the Mobius Arch. The Alabama Hills was the filming location for a lot of western/cowboys movies.

Take up the challenge to hike the tallest mountain the lowest 48 US State, Mt Whitney.Mt Whitney. It’s a long 22 miles hike with a summit at 14,505 feet.

 

Advertisements

Pinnacles National Park

The Pinnacles National Park, home of the condor, was born some 23 million years ago when volcanoes erupted. The remains of it is a unique landscape through which you can hike; rare talus caves and towering rock spires.

Leave you can at the campground and take the shuttle to the main trailhead,  The Bear Glutch Trailhead. The Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop allows you to walk through the heart of the Pinnacles rock formations, particularly along the Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks trail. On the way back add the Balconies Cave trail to see the lake and the caves.

From the West end of the park, you can use the Chaparral trail to see the amazing Balconies Caves. Flashlight required and be ready to truly emerge in a cave. I really thought I’m going on an expedition.  You can loop it back to the parking lot on continuing the trail to the high peaks.

 

 

 

Cali Road Trip

Ready for a Cali Road Trip …. Take the classic Highway 1 from San Diego to San Francisco.

In San Diego County make a stop at La Jolla

La Jolla is a beautiful hilly seaside area by San Diego. It has the most scenic hike by the beach at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The hikes are easy and it gives you an amazing view of the Pacific Coast. You also need to stop at the Sunny Jim Sea Cave. Take the 145 stairs down to admire the cave and the view of the ocean. Then head to La Jolla Cove beach to admire the Sea Lions.

 

Newport Beach

  • Start your day at Crystal Cove State Park where you can hike and relax at the beach. The Palm Shaded Path at Heisler Park is the perfect hiking trail during hot summer days. You should grab breakfast or have Fish Taco at lunch at the beachcombers, the beachfront restaurant.
  • Spend a day at Balboa Island. Take the Ferry to Balboa Island. Wander around, enjoy the scenery and don’t forget to have a chocolate covered banana at Dad’s.
  • Walk on Balboa Pier located at Balboa Peninsula. Have Lunch at The Landing Restaurant; they have a great waterfront dining balcony.
  • At night, try one of those Bars:
  • Make a detour and go to Laguna Beach. The great beach and the small old town full of cafes, restaurants, and bars make it one of the best places to celebrate special occasions.
  • Stop by Long Beach. The Main Street, with its cafes and small stores, mixes shopping and relaxing.

 

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, stop at Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Venice Beach is a must people watch stop with its muscle beach gym, skate park and its beachside walk full of shops and artists. The Venice sign on Pacific Ave and Windward Ave marks the separation between the beach and the streets that are full of, mostly French, restaurants; especially on Abbot Kinney Ave. Santa Monica Pier is a great family-friendly place with its wheel that stands at the end of the Pier. You can also do some serious shopping on 3rd street.

Between LA and Carmel, stop at Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle, and Big Sur

Santa Barbara is the perfect combination of beach, shopping, and wine tasting

Hearst Castle, William Randolph’s Castle is a must stop. The highlight of the tour is the amazing outdoor pool.

Big Sur is one of the most romantic cities in the US.

Monterey Peninsula: Carmel and the 17-mile drive 

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach city in northern California on the Monterrey Peninsula.  It is known to be one of the most beautiful small towns in the US with its small shops and art galleries. It is also the closest town to the 17-Mile Drive. The 17- Mile Drive route with its many lookout stops will show you amazing scenic natural treasures. This leisurely road winds its way through some famous beauty stops like the luxurious Pebble Beach, The Lone Cypress, The Point Lobos State Reserve or Point Joe.

 

 

San Mateo County: Half Moon Bay 

Small beach town to enjoy the beach and a walk along that beautiful Pacific Coast.Be Aware, you will encounter a witch house on your walk along the Coast!

 

 

Santa Cruz 

It has a beautiful Pier for some paddling or just relax.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz

 

San Francisco: Top 10 things to do 

  1. Union Square for Shopping and China Town
  2. Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square
  3. Golden Gate Bridge and Park
  4. Alcatraz
  5. Lombard Street
  6. Sausalito for Lunch
  7. Haight & Ashbury for Vintage Shops
  8. Mission District and Dolores Park
  9. Ride the Cable Cars
  10. Admire the Colorful Buildings: The Painted Ladies

 

Weekend Gateway, Houston 

Day 1 :

Start the day at the Rice University. The campus is beautiful, you can have a walk around and have coffee at one of the coffee shops there. Take a look at the James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyscraper in the middle of the campus. The art structure lightens up at sunset and sunrise.

By the university, take Sunset Boulevard. It is one of the famous streets of Houston. The route is covered with those gorgeous old oak trees.

Head to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park by the Galleria Mall. The huge waterwall looks like a waterfall. There is a Mexican restaurant by there called El Tiempo Cantina. The best fajita I ever had, so sizzling.

At sunset, go to Jackson Hill Bridge. You will see the crowd waiting for the bats to come out. Under that bridge in the Bayou area, the bats come out at sunset time.

At night go to the Midtown neighborhood. It’s is the young neighborhood with bars and restaurants.

Day 2 :

Start your morning with a walk in Hermann Park. It is a beautiful park in the university area, it has a concert area, a lake with a cafe where you can have breakfast and the zoo is at the end of it. The park is crowded with runners and everybody is just walking around or relaxing on the grass. A part of the park is constructed like the Great Mall of DC.

For the test of the day, you can go to Kemah Boardwalk. It is about 35 miles from Houston. It’s a Pier area by the Houston bay. They have a lot of fun attractions for the kids and they also have restaurants. Enjoy the bay before sunset and have dinner at the best seafood restaurant, Landry’s.

Houston Hermann Park
Hermann Park

 

Houston Hermann Park
Hermann Park

 

Houston Hermann Park
Hermann Park

 

Houston Bat Show by the Jackson Hill Bridge
Bat Show by the Jackson Hill Bridge

 

Houston Seafood Restaurant Landry's at Kemah Boardwalk
Seafood Restaurant Landry’s at Kemah Boardwalk

 

Houston Kemah Boradwalk
Kemah Boardwalk

 

Houston James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skycraper
James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyscraper

 

Houston Oak trees on Sunset Blvd
Oak trees on Sunset Blvd

 

Houston Waterwall
Waterwall

 

 

Toronto, Montreal and Quebec

I decided to make the most of the Veterans Day and take a few days off around that national holiday and go to Toronto. As always, all the addresses are in a hyperlink and I’m adding pictures of all places.

Day 1:

Starting the visit to Toronto by going to Casa Loma Castle.  Every city needs its castle and Toronto’s one located on a hill is a masterpiece with its ostentatious masterpiece. More than the castle, I felt in love with its garden, so gorgeous and romantic.

For lunch, I headed to St Lawrence Market.

In the afternoon, you can wonder at the Distillery District which is full of galleries. I decided to stay there for dinner as they have amazing restaurants and bars. Make sure to try the Mexican restaurant El Catrin.

Day 2:

Let’s drive to Niagara Falls. It is about 2 hours drive from Toronto.

The Falls are breathtaking. Watching close to 750,000 gallons of water a second hurtle down the curved cliffs is very very impressive. Take the boat, maid of the mist, to go almost in the middle of the falls.  That boat ride is so much fun and definitely, a must do – be ready to get wet.

For lunch, I went to the only restaurant in front of the fall, Edgewater Tap & Grill. I’m not sure if one can have lunch with a better view.

A few Minutes away from the falls, there is the Whirlpool area with its cable cars. You can take the cable car to go over the Niagara River.

Finally, go to Gananoque to get the boat cruise for 1000 islands. The 1000 Islands constitute an archipelago of 1,864 islands that straddles the Canada-US border. What a relaxing cruise and you get to see all those beautiful islands. It made me want to buy my own private island one day. After the cruise, take a walk in the city. They have one of the oldest theaters, the Playhouse Springer theater.

Day 3:

I drove to Montreal. It is just a few hours drive.

I visited the Vieux Montreal (old town). Walking in the old town made me feel like I’m in France. Go through the Rue des Artistes (Street of Artists) and seat down at one of the cafes at place Jacques Cartier. I had to try Poutine, which is their famous fries with a special sauce and I added sausage and bacon. The old town is also a good place to buy souvenirs.

At night, I started by going to the W Hotel Lounge the Wunderbar with its bright lights. You can then go towards the concert area and finish the night at one of the lively bars there.

Day 4:

I went to Quebec City from Montreal. It is again about 2 hours drive.

I went to the old town, a UNESCO designated world heritage treasure. You enter the old town bypassing the fortifications. Go up the fortifications to have a nice view of the city. The old town is very small. You will see a beautiful view of the St. Lawrence River. For lunch, you should go to that steak and fries restaurant Entrecote Saint Jean. It is exactly like the Parisian famous restaurant Entrecote.

Since that was only a day trip, I decided to just stay in the old town and wander around.

Day 5:

Back in Toronto, If you are a hockey fan, don’t miss the hockey hall of fame.

I skipped that part and went to Kesington Market . They have the best sandwiches at Sanagan Meat Locker. Then, go to one of the cafes to have a beer. I went to the Last Temptation on Dundas St.. That street is full of vintage and hippie shopping stores.

I started the afternoon at the CN Tower. Toronto’s dazzling skyline is 1,815-foot tall. If you dare, you can go to the Glass Floor Room at 1,122 feet and the Sky Pod, which at 1,465 feet is the highest public observation area in the world.

From there, head to the waterfront. If the weather is not too windy is nice to walk around and stop at one of the restaurants for a drink.

Finally, take a ferry to go to Center Island. That island, a few minutes away from Toronto, is a classical weekend gateway for people. You can bike or even go to the beach. The island also has the oldest lighthouse. The only way to get to Center Island is by ferry. The Toronto Ferry Docks are located at the foot of Bay Street and Queen Quay

At night, head to little Italy. A good neighborhood for dinner and dessert.