Colorful Los Angeles

One of my favorite things to do anywhere I go is to find pretty things to take pictures of. For me, a perfect day would be exploring aimlessly with my camera and just seeing where the day takes me. The urban sprawl of Los Angeles is beyond perfect for this because there are so many different neighborhoods and cities so close, all with their own vibe.

On this particular trip we spent some time wandering around the Los Angeles Arts District (a new-to-me area to explore) to see what street art we could find. There were so many colorful walls and photo opportunities. We didn’t stay too long because we needed to go grab lunch, but I definitely see myself spending more time in this area on our next trip – especially since Girl and the Goat is in this neighborhood and I’d love to dine there.

I rounded up some fun photos I took this past weekend all over the city. I included their locations, too, in case you want to visit any of these fun spots. I just love long weekends here.

1316 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
1316 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Paint splatters in the Arts District
Found on a random wall in the Arts District
1398 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
1398 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Found on a random street in the Arts District
1323 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Walking on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA
1337 Lebanon St. (at Cameron Lane), Los Angeles, CA 90015
1337 Lebanon St. (at Cameron Lane), Los Angeles, CA 90015
226 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
295 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
916 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Rowena Crest Viewpoint

The Rowena Crest Viewpoint is located roughly 20 minutes east of Hood River, Oregon. For years I’ve seen photos of this beautiful location but wanted to see it with my own eyes, so one weekend Luke I drove out to the viewpoint to get some photos. On the day of our visit it was an exceptionally beautiful day in the gorge. The views in the gorge always amaze me; I’m convinced you can’t take a bad picture out here.

DJI Mini 2 Drone Flying for Beginners

I mentioned in this post that I recently purchased a drone. Owning a drone that can take beautiful aerial photos had long been a dream of mine and one day a few months back (after a lot of research) I decided to just go for it! I purchased the DJI Mini 2 because it appeared to be the best option for beginners and for me specifically. I read a ton of reviews and watched countless videos just to make sure I was making the best choice for my needs.

Before my first flight:

Before I flew my drone for the first time, I took the recreational UAS safety test and familiarized myself with all of the flight rules and regulations. Even though my specific drone doesn’t require you to be registered with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) because the weight falls just under the recreational requirements, I went ahead and registered it anyway. If I want to add any aftermarket accessories to my drone (propeller guards, landing gear, or any other miscellaneous gadgets) it could increase the weight and then a registration would be required. The fee is only $5 and is good for 3 years, so it was worth it to me to just have that part taken care of. Since technically you’re operating a small aircraft, it was important to me that I have all my bases covered in case I run into any situations where I’m questioned for flying my drone. I also have my name and cell number label-printed on my drone in case it gets lost and I can’t locate it. Then the best case scenario would be that a nice person would find it and contact me.

I found watching this video to be extremely helpful to familiarize myself with operating my drone for the first time. It walks you through embarking on your first flight step by step. I then downloaded the DJI Fly app on my phone and got familiar with setting up my phone and controller. In the app you can also view “fly spots” to ensure that you’re flying in an authorized area.

My first flight:

For my first drone flight I ended up being more nervous than I anticipated. I even googled “afraid to fly my drone for the first time” and came across a ton of articles with advice and quickly learned this is a very common feeling, haha. I was visiting my parents in Central Oregon and thought their house would be the perfect location for a weekend of test flying since there aren’t many large trees and the landscape is very open. I completed roughly 10 flights over the weekend, practicing basic flight moves and just focusing on getting comfortable with the controller and movements. I practiced all of the built-in QuickShots (pre-set shooting modes that record your flight path) and took hundreds of photos and videos. I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice A LOT in a wide open location as you’re starting out. The more I fly, the comfortable I become.

What’s next:

Now that I have gained a lot more confidence in flying my drone on land I need to get more comfortable flying over water. I know with practice I’ll gain more confidence. We have a trip to Italy planned in May and I want to be able to capture videos and photos of the Amalfi coast without being scared the aircraft will dive straight into the water.

I am also going to start diving into the more advanced features that the DJI Fly app offers, specifically the Pro camera mode and manual camera settings. My goal is to get comfortable adjusting these settings while in flight so I can take better photos. All of the photos that I share below are taken on the Auto camera setting and are un-edited.

photos from my first drone flight in Central Oregon
photos from my first drone flight in Central Oregon
photos from my first drone flight in Central Oregon
flying the drone straight up from my street
an aerial photo from my local park
a photo from my local park
flying the drone straight up from my street
downtown portland on a beautiful winter day
the Tilikum Crossing bridge
my street on a snowy winter day

Upper Left USA

A few weekends ago we took an extra day off of work and spent some time up in NW Washington for a little escape. We made Port Angeles our home base and explored the surrounding areas. Port Angeles is a cute little town with a historic vibe and from the waterfront you can see our Canadian friends just around 20 miles north. Oh, how I wish I could’ve hopped on a ferry to Victoria, sigh. We’ll save that for a time in the future when this pandemic is successfully behind us.

This trip was spent mostly taking in the scenery and exploring the outdoors (sensing a theme here from my previous travel posts during a pandemic?) and we were very lucky with beautiful albeit very cold weather! Not far from Port Angeles, we explored Lake Crescent and Snug Harbor, located in the northern part of the Olympic National Park – which is where some of the darling photos below were taken. Even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, the beauty here still amazes me every time. The mix of evergreen trees and fall foliage is uniquely NW. It’s little weekend getaways like this that alway inspire me to explore more of Oregon and Washington since we live so close.

On the way in/out of town we briefly explored Sequim and Port Townsend – both of which I see us visiting again in the future!

A Trip to Chicago, IL

We recently returned from a week in the Midwest visiting Luke’s parents. We spent most of our time in Chicago showing my dad around as this was his first time here. This trip looked A LOT different from past trips due to COVID-19. For weeks and weeks leading up to the trip we were unsure if it was even going to happen. We even second guessed the trip many times. Our flights were changed numerous times as the airline consolidated flights for the week. I was scared to even get on an airplane during a pandemic! When we finally decided to go ahead with it, we had a lot of conversations on how to proceed with our travel plans as safely as possible. Chicago was in Phase 4 of re-opening and we had a game plan. We brought plenty of face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. We planned activities where we could maintain distance from others and also planned on only dining at establishments that had outdoor seating. I was quite impressed with how safe I felt in Chicago. Most places we visited had temperature checks and everyone had social distancing in place. By the end of the trip it felt like my face mask was a permanent fixture to my face – a small price to pay for safety though.

While it wasn’t’t the trip we had initially planned on, it ended up being a great time with family and I’m grateful we were able to make it happen. We had non-stop flights on Alaska Airlines and they kept all middle seats open. They thoroughly cleaned everything and scaled back their in-flight meal service to only offer bottled water, a few sodas and snack packets. Face masks were required by everyone – which quite honestly felt safer than visiting Safeway or Fred Meyer down the street from my house where half the shoppers don’t even bother with them. While I understand traveling is controversial right now, I feel good about how we handled everything and the safety precautions that we took. The number one reason for this trip was to see family that live outside of Chicago and since it is summer, we spent time in the city together.

Where we ate:
Ersi Brewery (This was our first dinner after landing at O’hare. The weather was perfect, the patio was spacious and the food and beers were just what we needed after a day of traveling.)
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (A great spot for pizza and beers in Wicker Park)
King Crab House (What a gem! We were walking around Lincoln Park and spotted this cute place in the neighborhood. I put my name on the list for dinner and even got to pick out where we wanted to sit on their patio.)
Kaiser Tiger (A fun spot with plenty of outdoor seating)
Kennedy Rooftop (This was our last dinner of the trip. Their patio had just recently opened and we snagged the best table there was – unobstructed views of the entire Chicago skyline!)

Other places that we love in Chicago: Velvet Taco, Le Colonial, The Publican, Giordano’s, Public House, Cindy’s Rooftop, Eastman Egg Company, Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Places that are on our list for our next visit: The Purple Pig, Girl & The Goat, Au Cheval

Where we drank:
Paradise Park (A fun spot with a huge patio to grab a few drinks)
Island Party Hut (After a boat tour on the lake we stopped here for a few beers. They have an expansive outdoor area and we found large bench to sit on right by the river.)
Big Star (We stopped in here or a few margaritas to get out of the sun)
Pilot Project (Creative and delicious beers in a beautiful outdoor space)
Sully’s House (We came across this place on the way to another place. When that other place didn’t work out, Sully’s welcomed us with open arms – and a very socially distant patio.)
Murphy’s Bleachers (We originally booked this trip before the pandemic, so we planned on catching a Cubs game on the trip. While the Cubs game didn’t happen, we walked around the outside of the ballpark and stopped in here for lunch and beers.)

What we did:
A lot of walking (We walked all through Lincoln Park taking in the sights of the city and the tree-lined neighborhood streets, Millennium Park, Wrigleyville and Wicker Park.)

Boat Tour (Wendella boat tours now require masks to be worn at all time and they’ve also restricted the number of passengers to allow for social distancing)

New York City for Thanksgiving

This past Thanksgiving Luke and I spent some time in NYC. My cousin lives on the Lower East Side and we thought it would be fun to spend the holiday weekend with her. She graciously hosted us in her tiny (yet very comfortable and cozy apartment) and even played tour guide for us – ensuring we saw everything we haven’t already seen in the city. I’ve been to NYC a handful of times and so has Luke so our main goal of this trip was to just relax, take our time and hang out. I was coming straight off my Uganda trip, so my body legitimately had no idea what time it was or where in the world I was. It took me a solid two days to finally catch up to everyone else, haha. It was a fun trip, but my bank account would tell you otherwise.

In my eyes, New York City is always a good idea and visiting this magical place will never get old.

Where we ate:
Bistrot Leo (They had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu and it was delicious)
Russ and Daughters (My first Jewish deli and definitely not my last)
Uncle Boon’s (Some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand)
Chelsea Market (It’s fun to walk through Chelsea Market and grab a bite to eat amongst the crowds)
Egg Shop (A delicious eggy breakfast spot)
Frank (We had a fun group dinner here and some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had)
Emmy Squared (We split a Detroit-style pizza, burger and Brussels sprouts salad – and it was SO GOOD!)
Bluestone Lane (We stopped in here for some chais and ricotta-strawberry toast)
Levain Bakery (Fueled up on cookies and baked goods after a sunny walk through Central Park)

Where we drank:
Grey Lady ($1 oysters and beers from Nantucket)
Amsterdam Ale House (A cozy spot for beers after walking through Central Park)
Skinny Dennis (We stopped in here after the basketball game and was blown away by the whiskey/coffee drink)
Three’s (Amazing brewery in Brooklyn with very creative IPA’s)
Strong Rope (Another Brooklyn brewery)

What we did:
Chelsea Piers Driving Range (On our last day it started snowing during a walk so we hopped over to Chelsea Piers to hit a few buckets of golfballs)
Union Square (There was a Christmas Market going on here!)
5th Avenue Shopping
Central Park (You can’t visit the city without a walk through this beautiful park)
MoMA (We got lucky and enjoyed free admission on Friday night. Although it was admittedly very chaotic with so many people in attendance.)
Vessel @ Hudson Yards (A few years ago when I first took Luke to NYC this area didn’t even exist!)
The High Line (A walk along the High Line is always fun in my book)
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Nets vs Miami Heat game @ Barclay’s Center

A Travel Guide to the Sunshine Coast

Our final stop on our Australian adventure was a few days at the Sunshine Coast. We flew from Melbourne to Brisbane, rented a car and then drove about an hour and a half north on the M1. Luke found us this amazing private oasis and we both agreed it’s quite possibly our favorite place to-date.

We had envisioned this part of the trip to be a lot slower and more relaxing than the week before. While we loved our time in Sydney and Melbourne, we also wanted to experience the slower pace of the coastal life. We got unlucky with a few days of rain which really forced us to slow down, haha. After the rain and I’m talking more rain than I’ve ever seen in my life!! we were able to explore Noosa and get in some serious beach time. Noosa stole my heart and I couldn’t be happier that we picked such a gorgeous place to relax on our last few days.

Brekkie at Murray’s in Maroochydore
Noosa Heads Main Beach
Can you spot the sleepy koala?
We loved seeing this little one on our walk through the Noosa National Park, near Tea Tree Bay.
We found the perfect snack – zucchini chips and a beer at Grill’d!
Very happy faces after a few Noosa beach days.

Our recommended itinerary for three days at the Sunshine Coast:

Day 1
Spend the day exploring the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands – Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this because it was raining buckets for the first few days

Day 2
Visit the Eumundi Markets (keep in mind the markets are only open on Wednesdays and Sundays)
Make your way to Noosa
Walk up and down Hastings Street popping into shops – Grab lunch at a place that speaks to you (we found a fish & chips special at Zachary’s)
From Noosa Heads Main Beach, walk the path up Noosa National Park – We walked to the Fairy Pools and back to the main beach
Relax on the beach at Noosa Heads Main Beach

Day 3
Spend the day at Noosa Heads Main Beach – Get there early and find a spot under the trees
Consider surfing lessons! If you’re not that adventurous you can also rent boogie boards on the beach
Depending on where you stay, drive up/down State Road 6 for ocean views along the Sunshine Coast – We drove from Noosa down to Mooloolaba
Dinner at The Savvy Squire the beers were amazing and the location is right on the Mooloolah River

A Travel Guide to Melbourne, Australia

We arrived in Melbourne from Sydney and ended up taking an Uber from the airport to our AirBnb. We almost never do this! We were having a hard time with the Myki ticket machines at the airport (Myki is the card system the train/tram/bus uses). The Myki machines refused to accept our credit cards and the busses don’t take anything but Myki cards. There was a SkyBus option but it was $20/person one-way and we’d still have to do a transfer to a bus. So an Uber it was! Once we got into town I popped into a market and purchased a Myki card and loaded money on it – once I had it, it was easy peasy from there on out!

We eventually arrived in the Abbotsford neighborhood and instantly fell in love with this lovely AirBnb. We had a spacious bungalow on the back of the hosts’ property, the most comfortable king sized bed and a few complimentary umbrellas for the rain we’d encounter in the coming days. It was perfect for us. We short a 5-10 minute walk to the train and then it was only anohter 10 minutes to reach the city center. We mostly took the train around town if we weren’t walking. I can’t say enough good things about the neighborhood we chose to stay in! Great coffee shops, restaurants and local shops. Something we always look for in AirBnb’s is that “local living feeling”.

Melbourne was so funky and just downright cool. You know that I love a city filled with graffiti and Melbourne delivered! It was inherently different to Sydney – like a Seattle vs. Portland different. More artsy, very gritty… Melbourne was a vibe. My favorite part of visiting Melbourne was the element of surprise. For example, you could see a restaurant or storefront and the facade gives an appearance that it might be a small run-down place… until you step inside and see this expansive architectural wonder. There were sooooo manyyyy surprises, we dubbed Melbourne “the city of hidden gems”.

Hoiser Lane street art
A favorite neighborhood scene
The soft scramble eggs on toast obsession continues…
A first glimpse at the Brighton Bathing Boxes

Our recommended itinerary for four days in Melbourne:

Day 1
Coffee and a light breakfast at Three Bags Full
Stroll around the city center
Hop on the 35 “city circle” tram line – it’s free and will take you in a loop around the city
Roam around Chinatown (it’s expansive!) and grab dumplings for lunch – We loved Shanghai Street
Pop into Melbourne Central – we found so many local clothing shops and the food court looked amazing
Visit the Public Library, it’s a beauty!
Dinner at Daughter-in-Law

Day 2
Coffee and a light breakfast at Stagger Lee’s
Go on a self-guided walking tour of Abbotsford, Collingwood and Fitzroy
Visit the Queen Victoria Market (grab lunch here, too)
Stop by Moon Dog for amazing IPA’s
Grab dinner and sip on local beers at Stomping Ground Brewing or Bodriggy Brewing

Day 3
Coffee and a light breakfast at Dr. Morse
Explore the hidden gems and laneways of the city (Hoiser Lane and Degreaves Street being the most popular)
Dinner at any of the following restaurants: SundraEmblatipo 00Smith + DaughtersLazerpigLeo’sCarlton Wine RoomBar SaracenLee Ho FookSupernormal (we met a girl in Sydney and her chef boyfriend recommend all these places to us – he said it’s the list for ultimate foodies)

Day 4
Coffee and a light breakfast at you place of choice! Check out this list of quintessential Melbourne coffee shops
Visit the Brighton Bathing Boxes
Walk form Brighton Beach to St. Kilda Beach
Lunch at Lentil as Anything
Explore St. Kilda and Luna Park
Supernormal Canteen for dinner
St. Kilda Pier for the Penguin Parade

Also consider: a day trip out of the city or a two-day trip along the GOR to visit the 12 Apostles.

A Travel Guide to Sydney, Australia

We recently arrived back home after spending two weeks in Australia and WOW what an incredible country! We split our time evenly between Sydney, Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast – spending about 4 days in each area. It’s the tail end of summer there, so kind of like a September for us, like a really hot September.

We arrived at SYD on a Saturday morning and took the train to Central Station where we hopped on a local bus to our AirBnb in the Paddington neighborhood. Once we got to Paddington (Paddo to the locals) I couldn’t believe my eyes, it looked like we were transported to the Garden District of New Orleans! The neighborhood was lined with beautiful trees and beautiful houses. We stayed in this AirBnb and loved it. The place was on the smaller side, but fine for us since we were out about for most of the day anyways. The location was very convenient for us (halfway between the city and the beach) and the local bus stop was just down the street. Speaking of the bus, we took it everywhere in town! We added our travel credit card (we use Chase Sapphire Preferred) to our phone and then just “tapped” on and off the bus – it couldn’t have been easier!

Sydney felt so unique but also felt like a blend of some of our favorite major cities. Luke and I ultimately decided that we thought Sydney was a mix of London, New Orleans and San Francisco – but throw some hot sun in there, too! We loved, loved, loved our time in Sydney and were quite sad when it was over.

See below for our recommended itinerary for a few days in this amazing city!

The Sydney Harbor from the Royal Botanic Garden.
This is the Paddington neighborhood we stayed in.
I told you it looked like New Orleans!
Australia really knows how to do a good breakfast (brekkie).
I scored this avocado toast for $4.50! I know.
Luke had banana bread with ricotta creme cheese and honey –
we’ve already re-created this since we’ve been home.
This was the start of our coast walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach.
The views on this walk were just incredible!
Seeing the Bondi Icebergs was just a dream.
They are as beautiful as all the pictures I’ve seen over the years.
Bondi Beach through the trees.
We spent the afternoon at Bondi Beach.
We had been watching a lot of the show Bondi Rescue (haha) and this was a MUST for us.
It was incredibly crowded but we lucked out with a decent spot and a rented umbrella.
One morning we took the local ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach.
It was such a great way to see the city from the water (one of our favorite things to do in any city we visit).
One morning we took the bus to The Grounds of Alexandria and I was BLOWN AWAY with this place. It’s an “only in Sydney” kind of place and I recommend you don’t miss it. We had breakfast here and then spent some time walking around the grounds and taking in their rotating exhibit. The exhibit on display when we visited was Elton John themed. This place is just magical.
A few more examples of how Aussie’s just nail brekkie.
Eggs on toast (this became an obsession on the trip –
Aussie soft scramble eggs are actually heaven on earth) and seeded bircher muesli.
Another fun spot was the Slims Rooftop.
The rooftop is inspired by Slim Aarons and overlooks Hyde Park.
We walked around Darling Harbor one night. It was cute. Dare I say… Darling?
Our recommended itinerary for four days in Sydney:

Day 1
Explore the Harbors and Quays: Sydney Harbor, Darling Harbor, Circular Quay
Explore The Rocks neighborhood
Visit and grab lunch at The Rocks Market (open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
Visit Endeavour Tap Rooms for some Pale Ale and IPA refreshments
Walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens and walk over to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Drinks at the Sydney Opera Bar

Day 2
Take the ferry to Manly Beach
Visit 4 Pines Brewery for delicious beers
Spend the day exploring Manly and visit the beaches
Lunch at Fishbowl for amazing poke bowls
Ferry back to Sydney
Slim’s Rooftop for evening refreshments and snacks

Day 3
Start your day with brekkie and then a takeaway coffee from Coogee Pavilion
Coast Walk from Coogee to Bondi (about 2.5 hours)
End at Bondi Beach and enjoy a beach afternoon (I rented an umbrella on the beach to be sun safe)
Lunch and refreshments at a fun spot across the street from Bondi Beach – We liked Bondi Beach Public Bar for flatbreads and beers
Dinner at Nomad (make reservations in advance, so many locals told us this was the best place in town for dinner and we’d have to agree!)

Day 4
Brunch and explore at the Grounds of Alexandria (In my opinion this is an absolute must-visit and and “only in Sydney” kind of place)
Explore the Newtown area for fun shops, restaurants and breweries
Rock’s Brewing
Young Henry’s
End with dinner at a local neighborhood spot. We chose the Four in Hand Pub in Paddington