Tag Archives: travel
Our last day in San Diego! We checked out of our hotel and left our bags with them before heading to the San Diego Zoo. We got there right at opening time to beat the crowds. We headed straight to the panda exhibit since one of the biggest reasons I wanted to visit San Diego was to see the panda cub Xiao Liwu. Unfortunately, the little guy was all curled up high in a tree, sleeping. So all we saw of him was this little black and white fur ball between the branches.
But his mommy Bai Yun was right up front and was super cute and cuddly while she chewed on bamboo.
Then my camera’s battery died halfway through our day since I forgot to bring my charger, so I had limited photos from the zoo. Oh well.
Has anyone ever actually seen a koala who’s awake?! They’re always sleeping whenever I see them at zoos!
The orangutans were really entertaining to watch!
After the zoo we picked up our bags from the hotel and took the bus to the airport and ended our trip in San Diego. We had a lot of fun during our short time there! We’re slowly but surely working our way through different places in California :)
Yufei and I took a quick 3 day, 2 night trip to San Diego a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been wanting to go since the baby panda was born at the San Diego Zoo, whom I had been watching on Pandacam since the very beginning. So on the second week of April, we finally flew down to San Diego for a little vacation.
After we arrived, we took a bus to our hotel, dropped off our bags, and headed out. We had a quick lunch and then walked over to Balboa Park. We took the day pretty easy and just walked around the park, enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful scenery.
We thought about visiting one of the many museums in the park, but it was rather late in the afternoon at that point and we didn’t want to pay for admission then have to rush through the museum. In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t do the museums and just relaxed.
In the late afternoon we took a bus back to our hotel (the walk was pretty long on the way there) and checked into our room. We stayed at the Keating Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. The location of the hotel was pretty convenient, close to bus stops and has lots of restaurants and nightlife around the area. Our room was pretty barebones, what I would describe as industrial chic. They had all the necessary amenities though and served its purpose for a short trip.
After we rested a bit in our hotel, we headed out to get some dinner. I was in the mood for Mexican food, and we went to Fred’s Mexican Cafe, which was within walking distance to the hotel. The decor was interesting, very tropical and resort-y.
We had to wait for a booth, so we sat at the bar and ordered some blended margaritas. They were okay, a little weak and watered down. We got a booth a little while later. They brought some warm tortilla chips with salsa and they were delicious. Yufei ordered a carnitas burrito for his dinner:
And I got the baja fish tacos:
Both were pretty good and satisfied my Mexican craving for then (I’m kind of obsessed with fish tacos right now). After dinner we walked back to our hotel and rested for the night to get ready for day 2 of our San Diego adventure!
Just some stuff I did this month that I thought I’d share.
Chinese New Year lunch at my parents’ house. This is the first time I celebrated CNY with my parents in 5 years! Year of the Snake, which is my sign, which apparently means that I will have bad luck this year. Yeah, I never understood that either.
After lunch that same day, we took a walk in the Hayward Japanese Gardens nearby. It was a gorgeous day and the ground were really pretty too.
Finally rode in a streetcar after living in SF for 8 month! Yufei’s parents were visiting us and I got to do a lot of really touristy things in the city with them that I never got to do, this being one of them.
Beautiful sunset by the ocean.
Vista Point. A really nice place to view the Golden Gate Bridge from the north side.
Alcatraz! Another touristy visit.
Alcatraz offers some absolutely amazing views of SF. I like how you can see the streets go up the hill :)
We had some really nice warm sunshine last week, as you can see from the photos. But this week has been rather cold and yucky. I hope we get the sun back soon!
Yufei and I went on little weekend trip to Sacramento a few weeks ago. Megabus recently opened up some new routes in California and it was super cheap to take a bus to get to Sacramento (fares start at $1!). We got there in the early afternoon and our first stop after lunch was the Crocker Art Museum.
It was a much bigger museum than we anticipated! There was everything from modern and contemporary art to European masterpieces to Asian and African art.
There was even a special Norman Rockwell exhibit going on when we were there, which was a nice surprise. They had this little station set up where you can take a photo resembling Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait.
The next morning we walked around Capitol Park and eventually made our way over to the State Capitol. It was a beautiful sunny day but very cold. Too bad we couldn’t take a tour inside because it was a weekend.
We walked around downtown a bit more and then in the afternoon went to the California Railroad Museum.
We learned a lot about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad and California’s history (now we actually know where many of the names of the streets in SF come from!).
There were also a lot of restored and reconstructed train cars that you can explore and even board. The coolest one was a sleeper car that even mimicked the motion of a travelling train!
I had a lot of fun on this little trip. It was the perfect affordable mini day or weekend trip from SF!
Reminder: You still have time to enter and win my very first giveaway of a beauty pack right here!
Phew, it’s been a while since I last wrote. I had been so busy the past couple of weeks: went to Napa, came back to SF, went to Boston for my Harvard interview, came back to SF, went to the Twitter holiday party with Yufei, and add to that work, house chores, Christmas shopping… But more on all of that later. This post is dedicated to the highly anticipated dinner at the French Laundry! Before actually talking about the dinner, I will say that I am very happy to be accepted at all 3 dental schools I had interviewed at (NYU, UCSF, and UoP), so I did earned my meal!
Yufei and I drove to Napa on the afternoon 2 Sundays ago. Our dinner reservation was at 5:45, so we had a couple of hours to walk around and explore downtown Napa a little bit before that. When we decided to drive to the restaurant, it was nearly dark. I kind of wish that we could have seen everything when it was still light out, but that’s winter for you. Still, the garden area looked quite charming in the twilight.
The restaurant itself was in a two-story building. We were greeted and seated in a table in the corner of the first floor.
As you can see, we were one of the first guests to arrive, but the dining room filled up to capacity as the night progressed. We were given the menus for the night: the chef’s tasting and the tasting of vegetables, both 9 courses. The wine list was on an iPad. We both decided to go for the chef’s tasting, but with a few substitutions for Yufei since he doesn’t eat shellfish. There were also a couple of courses that had a choice, but all the alternatives had a pretty hefty supplement, so we skipped on that even though it would have provided even more variety.
We got 2 glasses of sparkling wine to start, and waited for the amuse-bouches to arrive. They were the same ones we had at Per Se, the the gruyere cheese gougeres and the salmon cornets.
Both were delicious and just as I remembered them, though I wouldn’t mind having them more frequently than every 2 years! Soon after, our first courses arrive. I was so excited about the legendary oysters and pearls, a sabayon of tapioca pearls, oysters, and white sturgeon caviar. I had seen countless photos of this dish and I was finally about to experience it in person! The dish was much smaller than I had anticipated (I guess pictures can be deceiving after all); the center of the dish where the food was was around 2 inches in diameter.
The small size of the dish added to the delicateness of it, as did the tiny mother of pearl spoon provided to eat it. I really loved this dish. It was delicate yet rich, and all the flavors worked together perfectly. Yufei got the first course from the vegetable menu since he doesn’t eat oysters. It was a parsnip velouté with banana, pecans, and served with a spoon coated in maple syrup. I tried it and it was really good!
After the first course, we were presented with 2 different butters and several types of bread.
How cute is the little beehive-shaped butter? After the bread came the second course, salad of fuyu persimmmon with radicchio, broccolini, and red walnut.
I guess the persimmon was meant to be exotic, but as a Chinese it really wasn’t, haha. I enjoyed the dish but didn’t find anything too special about it. Next came the seafood courses. First, a sautéed fillet of Mediterranean lubina, with petit radish, edamame, ginger, and a scallion and matsutake mushroom porridge.
It was also kind of Asian-inspired, as with the persimmon salad, and it was quite good. The next course was lobster, so Yufei got another substitute, another fish course, this time a sturgeon.
I tried a bite of it and I was a big fan. It was very flavorful and meaty and delicious! I went with the original lobster course, the sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with grapefruit, sunchoke, fennel, and hazelnut.
The dish actually kind of reminded me of the lobster dish I had at Eleven Madison Park, maybe because they both had fennel in it? Anyway, another great dish! We barely ever go to seafood restaurants and I think the last time I had lobster WAS at EMP so I definitely enjoyed this yummy crustacean! The fifth course was the Four Story Hill Farm poularde with bacon, chestnuts, yam, and brussel sprouts.
This was another favorite dish of the night. The meat was very flavorful and juicy and I love chestnuts! Next came another meat course, the Elysian Fields Farm lamb ribeye, with carrot, petit onions, Tokyo turnip, peppercress, and naverin sauce.
It was a pretty good dish. At that time I was getting a bit tired of all the meat, and I’m not a huge fan of big pieces of red meat in the first place, so I don’t think I enjoyed this dish as much as Yufei did. We were getting pretty full, and that was the last meat course, so we decided to take a little break from the food and take a walk outside. They had a beautiful Christmas tree in the garden, so we took some photos by it.
(As you can see, I went with dress #1 from my poll earlier and I was very happy with it! #1 won out but a slim margin but I think it was a good choice. A friend said on my Facebook that the lace collar would look better in photos, and she was right!)
And here is the famous blue door (in terrible lighting):
After our little walk, we came back inside and continued our gastronomical adventure. Next came a cheese course, the reblochon, served with russet potato “gnocchi à la Parisienne,” celery branch, pruneaux d’agen, and black winter truffles.
It was a good transition course from the savory main courses to the desserts, which came next. The first dessert was a blood orange “mimosa” with champagne granité, brown sugar streusel, and fresh cream sherbet.
It was very light and refreshing, a good palate cleanser I suppose, before the final dessert. There were again 2 choices for this course, so Yufei got the chocolate torte, with Pearson Farm pecans, cinnamon whip, and banana ice cream.
I got the other choice, the bakewell tarte, with Rome beauty apple compote, pain de gêne, and toasted oat glace.
Both desserts were simple yet well done, a solid end to the meal. Except it wasn’t really the end, since there were still a couple more things! First we were brought this gorgeous wooden box full of housemade chocolates in a variety of flavors (passionfruit, coconut, salted caramel, etc.) and we could pick as many as we wanted. And then – the part I was really excited about – coffee and doughnuts! I loved the little cinnamon and sugar dusted doughnut balls and the cappuccino semifreddo so much at Per Se that I wanted to make sure we get them at the end of our meal here, so I asked our server at the very beginning to bring them to us. They were just as good as the first time I had them!
They also brought us a bowl of macadamia nuts, but we were so full at this point that we only ate a couple. They offered to bag them up for us to take home and we gladly accepted.
We were also given a little tins of shortbread cookies, as well the copies of the menu (with my personalized message of “congratulations Wendan” at the top) before we left. There was another beautiful Christmas tree in the reception area, so Yufei and I took one final photo in front of it before leaving for the night.
It was definitely a memorable meal and night! It was the most money we had ever spent on a meal, and maybe it wasn’t the wisest financial decision to spend half a paycheck on a meal when I’ll be neck-deep in student loans very soon, but I’m glad that we had the chance to experience the French Laundry. So lots of thanks to Yufei for an amazing dinner that I won’t ever forget.
P.S.: Since we had eaten at Per Se before the French Laundry, it was inevitable that I was making some comparisons during dinner. The quality of the food and service was comparable at both places, as expected. And it’s not really fair to compare a 5-course lunch to a 9-course dinner, but we were very satisfied with both meals. Overall I feel like Per Se had more of a modern and open feel, while the French Laundry felt more homey and intimate. Part of this probably had to do with the time of the day we ate and the lighting in the room (daylight vs. candles), but the different atmospheres were definitely also a part of the different visions for the 2 restaurants.
For our 4 year anniversary last month, Yufei and I decided to go to Half Moon Bay for a nice little weekend getaway. I had just come back from New York and really welcomed the trip. We drove down from San Francisco on Friday morning. The drive was along the coast and the view was absolutely beautiful. We stopped by the Taco Bell in Pacifica for lunch – most scenic fast food restaurant ever! We also made a stop at another beach along the highway and took some photos.
We stayed at the gorgeous Mill Rose Inn, which was just so lovely. They had a beautiful garden full of blooming roses!
After checking in and dropping off our stuff, we went out for a walk in downtown Half Moon Bay. It’s such a cute little town! We were just in time for the annual pumpkin festival that was happening that weekend. We saw California’s biggest pumpkin:
The thing was humongous! Definitely can see it being turned into Cinderella’s carriage – ha! After walking around and getting ice cream, we drove to the beach.
We hung out at the beach for a while, then went back to the inn to rest a bit and watch a DVD. The inn provides tons of DVD’s that you can borrow and play on the TV’s in the rooms. Then it was dinnertime. I made a reservation at Cetrella, a restaurant within walking distant. It was a very nice place, great ambiance, with a live piano player and singer. Food and service were both excellent as well. It was very dark in the restaurant so I couldn’t really take photos (didn’t want to be that annoying person who keeps using flash).
After dinner, we walked back to the inn, which was equally magical at night. They had all these lights on their trees in the backyard – reminds me of Christmas!
The next morning, we had breakfast in the dining room (you can also choose to have it delivered to your room). They served champagne as well as a really yummy orange banana smoothie.
For food there was a pumpkin crumble, frittata, this nutty banana toast, and watermelon.
After breakfast we checked out, put our bags in the car, and went downtown to check out the art and pumpkin festival. There sure were a lot of people flooding into this tiny town! There were booths with artists and merchants selling their goods, food stands, etc. There was also a Halloween parade, where we saw this amazing Spongebob costume:
We had to get back in the early afternoon because I had work in the evening (boo). We had a wonderful time in Half Moon Bay; the weather was gorgeous, the Mill Rose Inn was lovely, dinner was decadent, we got to visit the festival, and most importantly, we got to spend it with each other and celebrate our 4 years together!
Yufei and I went to Las Vegas last month for the first time ever! It was our first short trip since we moved to SF, and just in time too since we were tired of the non-existent summer weather here! Vegas definitely gave me the dose of summer I wanted; the temperature was over 100F (40C) pretty much the whole time we were there.
We stayed for 3 nights at 2 different hotels: first night at the Westin Las Vegas and the last 2 nights at Bally’s. The Westin was a little bit off the strip, but still within walking distance. It had a small casino, a small pool, and a little restaurant, but none of the sprawling mall-like features of the larger resorts. We really liked it!
Lounging by the pool at the Westin:
We got there pretty early that first day, so we kind of just wandered around the strip.
Ran into Mario and Luigi!
We had a huge lunch at the buffet at the Bellagio and a late dinner at the restaurant in the Westin. I also realized very early on during the trip that I am definitely not made for gambling. I’m way too emotionally involved to be any good at it (i.e. I will sulk for hours if I lose like $50). So for the rest of the trip after that first night I left all the money-winning and losing to Yufei, haha.
Later that night we ventured out again and watched the Bellagio fountains:
And then we walked around in the Bellagio and decided to visit one of the clubs there, Hyde. It kind of half inside and half outside, with a side open to the fountains and the Eiffel Tower so the view was nice.
We got back pretty late that night so we slept in and got up in time for the free breakfast at the Westin. Then we relaxed at the pool for one last time and then checked out and moved to Bally’s across the street. Then it’s off to do more wandering and exploring!
In front of Caesar’s Palace:
An interesting note: the whole time I was in Vegas, I knew there was something familiar about it even though I’d never been there before. I didn’t realize what it was until I read somewhere that Las Vegas is like Disneyland for adults, which is exactly it! Then for dinner we ate at the buffet at Paris. I just want to take a moment to complain about the crazy lines for buffets in Vegas, ugh! But I think all the seafood I ate made up for it.
After dinner, we decided to go downtown and check out the scene there.
Fremont Street was pretty fun for a bit, but there wasn’t too much to do around there so we left and went back to the strip after about an hour.
The next day brought more exploring. We walked all the way up to the south end of the strip and reminisced about NYC by New York, New York (“where’s Columbia?!”).
We got tickets to see Mystère by the Cirque de Soleil that night. (Sneaked a photo of the set before the show started.)
It was our first time seeing the Cirque du Soleil, and it was an interesting experience. The show itself was pretty fun to watch, though it was at times bizzarre and confusing. The only thing that sucked was this really rude lady sitting next to us who kept being very vocal about her opinions, so annoying.
After the show, we walked over to Encore to see if we could get into XS, but alas, not a chance. The lines were huge.
So we just had a drink in the bar next door instead. We really liked the whole vibe of Encore, very glitzy and glittery, with lots of gold and red. Here I am with a pretty peacock light.
After our last night in Vegas, we packed our bags and left them at the hotel, since our flight was not until later that night. We decided to check out the flamingo sanctuary at (where else) the Flamingo.
And then we took the bus to the Stratosphere.
I was too chicken to go on any of the rides at the top, so we just had lunch at the rotating restaurant, Top of the World. The views were great and the food and service were really good as well. Prices were actually very reasonable too. I ordered the Banh mi sandwich and Yufei had the burger, and both were delicious.
After lunch, we hung around in the Stratosphere for a while longer, including taking a quick nap by their pool. And then it was time to go back and pick up our bags! One last walk around the strip!
We were quite reluctant to leave; I was especially unenthused about returning to the cold weather and working at 8am the next day. Anyway, so concluded our first trip to Las Vegas. Probably not our last though, especially if we stay in the west!
Have you been to Vegas before? Do you have suggestions for places to stay or visit? Fun things to do? Let me know in the comments!