Portland Oregon City of Roses

#portlandrosegarden

My boys were on Spring Break last week, which we spent in one of our all time favorite cities, New Orleans! There’s just something about it, a vibe that we just can’t get enough of! While I’m sorting through my photos and notes from last week, I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane and share our visit to another great city which also has a vibe all its own: Portland, Oregon!

Portland Rose Garden-Portland, is just a three hour drive from Seattle (where I’m from), and with so many family friendly activities, great restaurants, and shopping opportunities it makes a pretty great weekend destination! Having spent quite a bit of time in Portland as a youth, It had been years since my last visit, and I was eager to show my kids around. With only two days to explore we wouldn’t be able to see everything, but we did our best to at least scratch the surface!

#rosegardenA large portion of our visit was spent in Washington Park, which covers over 400 acres, and includes the Portland Zoo, The International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Gardens, multiple museums, playgrounds and picnic areas.

The Zoo

We really enjoyed the Portland Zoo, which has a very Pacific northwest feel about it. The forested areas, natural habitats, and lots of interactive exhibits made the entire experience fun and immersive for the entire family. My younger son really enjoyed the children’s area and petting zoo.

The Gardens

#rosesA highlight of our weekend was our visit to the gardens in Washington Park. We had time for both the International Rose Test Garden, and the Japanese Gardens, which are conveniently located next to one another.

Opened in 1917 the International Rose Test Garden is home to over 7,000 rose plants and 550 varieties. They bloom from April through October depending on the weather. Roses are sent here from around the world to be tested for color, fragrance, resistance to disease and other attributes. We loved walking up and down the rows stopping here and there to smell the roses, and reading all the different names. Our visit took place in June, which is the height of the blooming season.

#portlandjapanesegarden

Having loved our visit to Japan, we are excited at any opportunity to visit Japanese gardens, so as soon as we heard Portland had one we were in! We were not disappointed, and since our visit three years ago, extensive renovations and additions were completed, which I’m sure have only enhanced what was already a spectacular place.

#japanesemapleCompleted in 1967 the idea for Portland’s Japanese gardens was first conceived in the 1950s as a way to create a healing and cultural connection to Japan after WWII. Since that time, they’ve received repeated accolades from visiting Japanese dignitaries, and are justifiably a popular tourist destination.

#japanesegarden

Around Town

If you enjoy a bit of shopping and dining, you’re in luck because Portland has plenty of both! The Pearl District and 23rd Street are great places for poking and in out of shops ranging from one of a kind boutiques to the main stream as well as art galleries, coffee shops, wine bars and more!

We loved our meal at Andina a Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl where the food, service and ambiance were all perfect!

Tips & Advice:

  • The Rose Test Garden is open from 7:30 am – 9:00 pm daily and offers free public tours daily at 1:00pm, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
  • Check the website for the information on the Japanese Garden as the hours vary throughout the year. Complimentary tours are included with your admission.

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InstaLA! Part 2: #WallAntics

Attention #dreamers, wanna be #angels, #lovers, and #wildthings, are you ready for some #instafun?! I hope so, because I enjoyed putting together my previous InstaLA post and the ensuing #wallantics so much, I decided a part two was in order.

#lovewall
#lovewall by Artist J. Goldcrown on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica

From Santa Monica, to Silver Lake, Mar Vista to Venice Beach, Melrose to Downtown LA, and everywhere in between, there is no shortage of fun to be found in and around the City of Angels and I’m so excited to share this next round of #insta favorites and their locations with all of you! While some of these might be familiar, I’m hoping there will be a few surprises as well!

#californiadreaming

Getting a photo isn’t as easy as it looks… Incase you need some Insta inspiration, check out this incredibly silly video of me at the Paul Smith LA Pink Wall… trust me when I tell you I wasn’t the only one…

16 Fun Instagram Locations in and Around LA!

1. Rock Paper Scissors Building
Artist: Risk Rock Location: The corner of Broadway and Cloverfield, Santa Monica

Occupied by post production company, Rock Paper Scissors, the “graffiti” building on the corner of Cloverfield and Broadway, recently received a fresh coat of paint! Take the time to walk all the way around!


2. The Swan Stairs Flight #2
Artist: The Painted Line Mural Co. Location: 2958 Swan Place, Los Angeles

Named for their location, the Swan Stairs were painted in 2015 by The Painted Line Mural Co. and are separated into three different flights totaling 287 steps. Each flight of stairs is unique with different shapes and colors.


3. The Swan Stairs Flight #3
Artist:
The Painted Line Mural Co. Location: 1784 Rotary Drive, Los Angeles

The final of the three Swan Place flights, and my favorite, showcases a quote from the band the Decembrists: “Los Angeles, I’m Yours.”


4. Alfred Coffee
Location:
33371/2 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Alfred Coffee has become something of an LA institution, and rightfully so! Their coffee is excellent! They have multiple locations throughout town, each with it’s own unique decor. This particular location happens to be conveniently located near the Hidden Stairways of Silver Lake


5. Dreamer
Artist:
Ruben Rojas Location: Walgrove Ave and Palms Blvd., Mar Vista Los Angeles

The minute I discovered this recent street art addition to the Mar Vista neighborhood, I just knew I had to see it in person. I love the bright colors and positive message created by artist Ruben Rojas as part of the Beautify Earth initiative.


6. Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Artist: The Art of Chase & Hashim Thomas Location: 1400 block of Abbot Kinney, Venice

Beyond world class shopping, great food, and overall good vibes, Abbot Kinney is a treasure trove of fabulous art, like this fun mural painted by The Art of Chase. Be sure to walk down both sides of the street, so you don’t miss anything!


7. Barry’s Boot Camp
Artist: Kelsey Montague Location: 1500 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles

No matter how many times you drive up and down Lincoln Boulevard there is always something new to discover! My latest discovery was these fabulous wings painted by Kelsey Montague. Of course I had to stop… #whatliftsyou


8. Collete Miller Angel Wings
Artist: Colette Miller Location: Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

With multiple locations around LA, and the world, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Colette Miller’s Wings! This particular pair, which are located on Melrose Avenue were pretty busy, with a long line of Instagrammers anxiously waiting their turn.


9. Where the Wild Things Are Wall Mural
Artist: PDB Crew Location: 7629 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

My little one was really excited when he recognized these characters from one of his favorite stories, Where the Wild Things Are, painted larger than life on the side of a wall! He happily posed for this shot, and in fact he requested we have it printed. It now hangs in his bedroom!


10. American Vintage Wall
Artist: Adam Dare Location: 7575 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles

The entire American Vintage shop is covered in fabulous wall art! Big small, pasted, painted, you name it! Artists of all kinds leave their mark here and it’s definitely worth a visit. There’s some pretty neat stuff inside the shop too!


11. Arts District Co-op
Artist: Royal Location: 453 Colyton St, Los Angeles

I’m crazy about the DTLA Arts District and no trip would be complete with a visit to the Arts District Co-Op. Not only will you find loads of #insta opportunities on the outside, the inside is pretty great too!


12. Kiss The One You Love… Mural
Artist: WRDSMTH Location: 300 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles

I’m a big fan of WRDSMTH! He often uses a “typewriter” stencil to convey his very positive WRDs of wisdom, but went a different route this time. Might be a fun place to pose with your sweetheart?!


13. Cafe Gratitude Love Is…
Artist: J. Goldcrown Location: 300 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles

A post shared by Hilary (@hilarystyleme) on

While I felt I might be pressing my luck if I asked for an action shot in front of WRDSMTHs mural, I thought I might have a good shot with this one just across the way! You might recognize these #bleedinghearts from my previous InstaLA post as they’re in multiple locations around town!


14. Colette Miller Angel Wings – The Very First Pair!
Artist: Colette Miller Location: Traction and Hewitt in the Arts District, Los Angeles

These are the wings that started it all, and considering how temporary street art can be, its pretty amazing that they are still there. Every pair is unique, why not make a stop at each one if you can?


15. Artist & Craftsman Supply
Artist: Kurt Thompson Location: 1660 S La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles

The Mondrian style wall on the side of the Artist & Craftsman Supply in mid-city is one of LA’s most popular #InstaWalls!


16. Chinese Laundry Headquarters
Artist: @itsaliving Location: 3485 La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles

Last but not least, is my most recent discovery, and one of my favorites, the fabulous California Dreaming wall located at the company headquarters of Chinese Laundry!


Now that we’ve taken so many pics and had so much fun in the process, what will we do with all the photos? I mean, beyond post them on Instagram? Make our own wall art of course!

#8x8project

Los Angeles is a veritable treasure trove of art and fun! The more I search the more I find, so don’t be surprised if there’s an InstaLA! 3 in the future…


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Warner Brothers Studio Tour

#warnerbrosstudios

#warnerbrostour

I love the movies! Do you? One of the reasons I love entertainment so much is the ability to imagine and get lost in lots of different realities. I also love that I can simply walk away when I’m over it. When I sit down to watch a TV show, or a movie I’m ready and willing to believe the unbelievable! Obviously, I don’t sit down and say, “Prepare to suspend belief,” it simply happens. That’s the magic!

Warner Bros Studio Tour Los Angeles California
Belle Haven Prison… good thing this isn’t our reality!

When done right, it’s so seamless, its easy to believe that what you’re watching is actually real. I love nothing more than the ability to settle in with my popcorn, (is there any other movie watching treat) and blissfully forget that it took literally hundreds of people working behind the scenes to create that seamless transition between the real world and places like Hogwarts, The Shire, or Gotham City. Three of my favorite alternate realities!

#batsignal

I literally forget that I can’t actually go to these places, and that Batman isn’t real. Wait! What? Batman isn’t real? I refuse to believe it!

#batmobile
Batman must be real, here’s his car!

Okay, now that we’ve established that one does not simply walk into Mordor, how do they make it look like we can? How do they make it look so real?  Well, it just so happens that Los Angeles, the home of movie magic, is the perfect place to find out! During my recent visit to the Warner Bros Studio Lot we got behind the scenes peeks into many of our favorite television shows and movies both old and new!

#centralperk
After your tour stop by Central Perk for a coffee!?

Now, you might be thinking that a studio tour is incredibly touristy, and it is, but hey there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s touristy for good reason. Next you might say to yourself, but I’m not into theme parks, and to that I say, “Not all studios are theme parks, however some theme parks are studios!”

 

#warnerbrostour
You’ll go inside actual filming locations!

Even the cynic in your group will be won over when they see the location of their favorite television show or movie. At least our resident cynic was!

 

#warnerbrostourYour tour starts with a brief film overview, hosted by Ellen, (her show is filmed at Warner Bros.) afterwards you’ll be split into small groups! The lot encompasses 110 acres, and is big enough to need its own fire department, so this won’t be a walking tour. Your open air vehicle seats about 12 people and will ensure that you’re able to see everything!

#warnerbrostour
You’ll be riding in a vehicle similar to this one!

Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to visit the homes and buildings from some of film and TV’s most popular places, including ER, Gilmore Girls, Dukes of Hazard, the original Batman TV series and Full house to name just a few. You might even get the opportunity to step inside some of them. Don’t worry there’s plenty of time for photo opportunities!

What you’ll see on your tour is largely dependent on what is happening on the lot on that given day. We were treated to exhibits showcasing props from Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Suicide Squad and Batman Vs. Superman.

My favorite exhibit had to be the Bat Mobiles, but we also got the opportunity to visit the sound stage of the Big Bang Theory, the coffee shop from La La Land, and even the set of Central Perk from Friends. If you’re so inclined you can even sit on the Friends couch.

Towards the end of your tour you’ll be given the opportunity to explore, at your own leisure, interactive exhibits dedicated to showing you just how the movie and television magic happens, including costumes, scripts, set dressing, green screens, forced perspective and more.  We held Oscars, “rode” the bat cycle, explored movie props, and made a trip to the studio shop!

Tips and Advice:

  • You’ll need to reserve your tour online in advance.
  • Kids under 8 are not permitted.
  • You’ll be getting in and out of the tour vehicle, so make sure to dress appropriately.
  • The tour is three hours long, but the time flies by!
  • The tour operators are very accommodating, so feel free to ask for a photo stop at any point along the way.
  • Save time for a visit to the  tour studio store, which features items from many well known films and shows and is only available on the tour!

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Downtown Los Angeles Graffiti & Mural Walking Tour

#lagraffiti

A self described urban girl, art lover, and travel addict one of my favorite pastimes is “collecting” street art. It’s a hobby I picked up a few years ago, while traveling in Portugal. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to have collected some great “pieces” from cities around the world, Glasgow, London, Paris and Seattle to name just a few*.

#DTLAArtsDistrict
Lucky for me Los Angeles has no shortage of local and international artists who are literally painting the town, enabling me to continue collecting even when I’m not on the road! I like to think of it as sort of a worldwide treasure hunt, and along the way, I’ve come to know and love the styles of many artists, recognizing their unique styles on sight.

#WRDSMTH
WRDSMTH is a favorite! I ❤️ his positive messages!

The scale, accessibility and temporary nature of street art are all part of its draw, and thanks to social media it’s easier than ever to follow and find new works by some of my favorite artists. When I do discover a fun new piece there’s no time to waste, as one never knows how long it will be on “display.” Legal, or not, you never know when it might be tagged, buffed over, or even torn down.

#WRDSMTHBandit
This  Bandit / WRDSMTH collaboration has since been buffed over.

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of discovering pieces on my own, but recently I decided to enlist a little help, and signed up for a graffiti/mural walking tour in Downtown Los Angeles.

#dtlaartstour
The Tour Starts Here out side of Dejavita Boutique!

walking tour of DTLA was the perfect way to view the city’s vibrant mural and graffiti scene and get a feel for the neighborhood. Not only did we view amazing works of art, but we learned about the street art culture including, the techniques, territory, hierarchy and lingo of these incredibly talented artists. It was fascinating and I could go on and on, but let’s get to the art!

Colyton Street

#dtlagraffititour

Your tour begins and ends on Colyton Street just outside of Dejavita and Shreebs Coffee in the Arts District. The tours are led by local artists, and I’m sure just like their art, they all have their own style. Our guide started by giving us a quick lesson in street art vocabulary, “rules” and the history of the area.

We were excited to come back and explore this area after the tour, taking tons of photos and poking in and out of the various shops. I love the DTLA Arts Co-op, which sells local art, jewelry and clothing, some of which is based on art you might recognize from the tour.

The Container Yard

#bumblebeelovesyou
Bumblebeelovesyou & Mikael Brandup

Sadly, you won’t be able to see this Bumbleelovesyou and Mikael B. collaboration, as it’s been painted over. However, you can see the fresh new piece by Deferism, which took its place along with many other fantastic murals, which are located at the Container Yard, an undefined collaborative art space, in the heart of the DTLA Arts District and one stop on the tour. Other stops on the tour were located along Traction Avenue, at The Angel City Brewery, and along 3rd Street.  There was so much amazing art it was hard to decide which pieces to share…

#containeryardDTLA

Traction Avenue

#elmac
El Mac

Angel City Brewery

SAMSUNG CSC

3rd Street

#kimwest
Kim West
#jrpasteup
Paste up JR

The Lingo

Angels –  Famous or respected graffiti artists who have died. Sometimes represented by tags or tributes with halos above them.

Crew –  A group of artists who regularly collaborate often in the same part of town. Examples of local crews: UTI and Mad Society Kings

Legal Walls – Walls, buildings or neighborhoods where artists are encouraged to create graffiti. The ability to create without having to look out for the police means larger and more creative pieces.

Colyton Street DTLA Los Angeles California
Legal Wall behind Dejavita

Mural – A huge work, often on a legal wall. It might be done by an individual, an informal group, or a crew.

#roadtla
Roa

Piece or Masterpiece – Short for “masterpiece.” The term is frequently used to describe a more labor-intensive work.

#tristaneaton
Tristan Eaton

Stencil – A design cut into heavy paper or cardboard, then spray-painted onto a wall. A stencil may be a phrase, an image, or a combination thereof.

Tag – A stylized name or signature done with various materials, such as a marker or an aerosol spray can, often freehand.

#dame
Dame

Throw up – A tag or small “piece” thrown up in a hurry, often located down low.

#graffitithrowup
Throw up

Toy(s) – A derogatory term referring to either poor workmanship, or an inexperienced writer. Going over or “toying” someone else’s work is an act of disrespect. An acronym meaning Tag Over Your Shit.

Wheatpaste/ Pasteup – A type of street art which is literally pasted onto the wall using an adhesive made from flour and water.

#serenity77
Paste up

Woodup – Similar to a paste up, however the stencil is imprinted on wood and then pasted up. This little guy, Nicky Nailed It, is literally everywhere in Los Angeles, often in the least expected places!

Tips & Advice:

  • The Downtown LA Graffiti and Mural tour is offered on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30 am. The cost is $12.
  • Reserve your tickets in advance online.
  • The tour starts outside of Dejavita Boutique at 533 Colyton Street.
  • You’ll walk around 2 miles over the course of 2.5 hours.
  • You will be continuously walking and standing for the majority of the tour. It might might not appeal to younger children.
  • Proper attire and walking shoes highly recommended.
  • After the tour, consider exploring the area on your own…

You never know what you might find!

#isabellegorilla

*As you can see my street art collection has grown substantially in recent months, and I’m still collecting, so stay tuned for more discoveries from both near and far…


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The Hidden Staircases of Silver Lake

#swanstairs

#welcome2laCombining three of my favorite things, street art, fitness and exploring, my most recent adventure took place in Silver Lake, one of LA’s most unique, and hip neighborhoods. Upon first glance, it may appear a bit on the gritty side, but a little dirt never hurt anyone, and if you dig just a little you’ll find a treasure trove of one of a kind shops, restaurants and hidden gems just waiting for you to come and discover them.

Speaking of Hidden Gems

#swanstairsLA wasn’t always the car town it is now, and at one time public transportation was the primary mode of travel. People used an extensive network of Staircases to get from their hillside homes to their transit stops. Many of these historic staircases are still in existence though these days they’re used more for fitness and #selfies than anything else. The challenge is finding them

#silverlake
The Stairs are hidden within the Silver Lake Neighborhood.

Because these staircases are steep, narrow, and located within residential neighborhoods, they are often hidden from view. However, once you do locate them, they are available for public use, and many of them have been painted with bright colors and fun designs, adding an extra element of fun.

#swanstairs

Always up for a challenge and enamored with all the local street art in the area it was my mission to explore these stairways and add them to my LA “collection.”

It’s easy to stay on the path if you create it yourself!

I had some very specific spots in mind, so created my own route through the hills. I admit to some initial trial and error, but in the end I came up with a route, which combines art, fitness and coffee! However, if you prefer it the other way around, you can always start with coffee…

This just over 2 mile walk will take you up and down just over 1000 steep stairs. Proper shoes and attire are recommended.

Step by Step Directions:

1. But First, Coffee. Alfred Coffee 3337 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

#alfredssilverlakeAlfred Coffee’s motto is particularly relevant because you’ll be starting your adventure here! Incase, you need something to work towards, you’ll also be ending here.

Direction: Coffee, or not, you decide, and then head to your first stop which is across the street. 

2. Micheltorena Stairs 3400 Sunset Boulevard (Up 205 Steps)

#micheltorenaWhen you see the cheerful rainbow stripes and hearts painted by artist Corrine Carrey, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Before you begin the walk take a moment to snap a few pics! #staircandy anyone!

Direction: You’ll be crossing at the corner of Sunset and Micheltorena and as soon as you cross head left walk a few steps and you’ll come to the Micheltorena staircase. Go up…

3. Descanso Stairs (Down 139 steps)

Direction: When you reach the top of the stairs you’ll continue on Micheltorena Street until you arrive at Descanso Drive. Go left. Take the stairs down and turn right at the bottom onto Larissa Drive, which about 50 feet later will once again become Descanso Drive. You don’t want W. Descanso Drive.

4. Music Box Steps (Down 133 steps)

#musicboxstepsThis next staircase isn’t painted but it is famous! It was named after the 1932 Academy Award winning short film, which was filmed here, The Music Box, in which Laurel and Hardy attempt to move a piano up a large flight of steps. These very steps!

Direction: At the bottom of the Music Box Steps take a right onto N. Vendome Street and walk towards Sunset Boulevard. Turn left on Sunset Boulevard and cross the street using the crosswalk at Descanso Drive.

5. Stair Tempo Staircase 3229 Sunset Boulevard (Up 90 steps)

#stairtempoAlso painted by artist Corrine Carrey, these fun piano key steps add a much needed element of whimsy to this otherwise mundane passageway. It looks like they could use a bit of sprucing up, but that didn’t take away from the fun.

Direction: Walk along Sunset until you come to 3229 Sunset and head up the stairs towards Hamilton Way. Go right at the top of Stair Tempo and your next set of stairs (up 102 steps) will be on  your left. Take them up to Elevado Street and go left. Go left again onto Westerly Terrace.

6.The Swan Stairs, Parts 1, 2 & 3

#swanstairsNamed for their location, the Swan Stairs were painted in 2015 by The Painted Line Mural Co. and are separated into three different flights totaling 287 steps. Each flight of stairs is unique with shapes and colors in different colors. My favorite, the final flight, showcases a quote from the band the Decembrists: “Los Angeles, I’m Yours.”

 Part 1 – Swan Place 2958 Swan Place (Up 77 steps)

Direction: You’ll find Part one of the Swan Stairs at the intersection of Westerly Terrance and Swan Place. Go up… At the top veer left and you’ll find part two is just across the street at 1802 Redesdale Avenue. Go up again… At the top veer left and you’ll find part three is just across the street at 1784 Rotary Drive. Go up, yet again…

Part 2 – 1802 Redesdale Avenue (Up 110 steps)

#swanstairs

Part 3 – 1784 Rotary Drive (Up 100 steps)

 Swan Stairs Los Angeles California

7. Its Time to Head back…

#swanstairs
Once you reach the top its time to head back down…

Once you’ve conquered the Swan Stairs you’ll be working your way back through the hills towards Alfred Coffee.

Direction: 

  • Don’t go back down the stairs tho! continue forward by taking a left onto Webster Ave,
  • left on Dillon Street,
  • right on Effie Street and,
  • left on Cicero Drive.
  • walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and you’ll find a staircase on your right (down 90 steps),
  • At the bottom of the stairs go left onto Redcliff Street,
  • right onto Murray Drive,
  • right onto Berkeley Avenue and,
  • finally a left back onto Micheltorena Street. You’ll find Alfred Coffee at the corner of Micheltorena Street and Sunset Boulevard.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite going up and down all those steps consider going just a little further to Pine & Crane, a delicious Taiwanese restaurant just a five minute walk up the street. The food is fresh, delicious and affordable!

There are many other hidden and painted stairways throughout Silver Lake and the greater Los Angeles area just waiting to be collected, and once I do, I’ll be sure to update with photos and locations!


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Highlights… & Hindsights Making The Case for Repeat Destinations

I’m currently, ok always, considering my next vacation destination, and with so many amazing places in the world it’s hard to decide. Should we commit those precious vacation days to repeat destinations, digging deeper into what a city has to offer? If we do, what about all those wonderful new places just waiting to be discovered?

#jardindestuileries
Sailing ships! A highlight of our Paris visit!

When traveling, I’m torn between wanting to wing it and not wanting to miss anything, which definitely helps makes the case for repeat visits to certain destinations. For example, our recent trips to Paris, London, and Edinburgh were all repeat visits, we’d already checked off many of the main attractions, which enabled us to explore more freely. One point for repeat visits!

#bigben
Our tour of the Houses of Parliament was a definite highlight!

That said, one of my favorite things about traveling is the discovery of the new. The surprise and delight you feel when discovering something wonderful in a new place simply can’t be beat! These moments are one of the reasons I love to travel, the highlights of our adventures! One point for new destinations!

#arthursseat
We missed out on Arthur’s Seat during our first visit to Edinburgh.

However, being new to a place can at times be a hindrance. No matter how much research I’ve done, there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. Whether it’s accommodations, location, food, or timing, these are what I like to refer to as the hindsights of our adventure. These are things one can only know after time spent and often it’s too late… Another point for repeat destinations.

#brugge
This view from our hotel window in Bruges was a highlight!

Of course not everywhere has a hindsight and some places are just plain full of surprise and delight. I love surprise and delight! Looks like another point for new destinations!

Northern Ireland Antrim Coast
Flying to Glasgow from Belfast we were treated to this fabulous view!

So, it looks like a tie between old and new, which means I’m no closer to working out where in the world, we’ll go next, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights and hindsights from our summer 2016 adventures in Europe!

Highlights & Hindsights

Dublin, Ireland

Highlight: Guinness Factory Tour

There were many wonderful moments during our visit to Dublin, however it was our visit to the Guinness Storehouse that came out as number one! Which speaks volumes, since I don’t even drink beer. All four of us absolutely loved this experience and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend you go.

#guinnessstorehouse

Hindsight: Popular attractions require advance planning

Our planned a visit to the  Kilmainham Gaol Museum went awry when we couldn’t print our tickets and unfortunately we missed out. We ended up visiting Malahide Castle instead, which was delightful, but lesson learned.

Cork, Ireland

Highlight:  The Blarney Stone

For more than 200 years people have been kissing the Blarney Stone and after some debate (it is the world’s germiest attraction) Simon and I decided to join the club!

Cork Blarney Castle
The Blarney Stone

Hindsight: Touristy doesn’t always equal bad

If only we’d known how much we were going to enjoy exploring Blarney Castle, we would have given ourselves more time.

Killarney, Ireland

Highlight: Killarney National Park

We spent three nights in Killarney, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the perfect little Irish town! Quaint, friendly and picturesque, it was exactly what I had pictured an Irish town to look like!

Killarney Ireland
Ross Castle is located inside Killarney National Park

Hindsights: Whoops, attention to detail is key!

Putting the wrong fuel in our rental car meant a drastic change in our plans. Instead of a visit to the Dingle Peninsula and Skellig Michal we spent a lovely day wandering in  Killarney National Park. If I ever find my way back to the west of Ireland a trip to the Skellig Islands will be my first order of business!

Limerick, Ireland

Highlight: King John’s Castle

We weren’t sure what to expect at King Johns’ Castle, but I do love a good castle and we had to stop for lunch anyway so why not just eat lunch at the castle?

#kingjohnscastle
King John’s Castle

Hindsight: There was none!

This was a bonus stop on our way to Galway, and we were delighted with the way this midday stop turned out!

Galway, Ireland

Highlight: The Cliffs of Moher

The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are a definite must-see if you’re visiting the West Coast of the Emerald Isle.

ireland cliffs of moher
The Cliffs of Moher

Hindsight: Allow time for unexpected adventures

There is a walk along the cliff tops , but we were running out of daylight and weren’t really dressed for a hike, so we satisfied ourselves with a good long look over the edge.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Highlight: Everything about the entire visit

Our visit to the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland was by far the best day of our 12 day tour of the Emerald Isle, if not our entire summer abroad!

#dark Hedges

Hindsight: We should have stayed longer.

Having no idea how much we would enjoy our visit we only booked three nights, but easily could have spent twice that many exploring Belfast as well as the amazing natural beauty along the Northern Coast.

Glasgow, Scotland

Highlight: Mural Trail

A very happy accident, we discovered Glasgow’s Mural trail on our way to another destination!

#hiphopmarionettes

Hindsight: Glasgow deserves more time!

Two days just wasn’t enough in this walk friendly city brimming with architecture, art, music, and shopping!

Inverness, Scotland

Highlight: Urquhart Castle on the Shores of Loch Ness

Having missed out on a visit to Loch Ness on our previous trip to the Highlands, we decided to make it a priority. A highlight was exploring the ancient ruins of Urquhart Castle, located on the shores of the lake.

#urquhartcastle

Hindsight: So much more than a monster!

Our visit here was wonderful and exceeded our expectations in every way.

The Highlands of Scotland

Highlight: Eileen Donan Castle

A last minute decision to see Eileen Donan Castle did not disappoint. It’s no wonder that Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, it’s setting in the middle of three lochs is stunning!

#eileandonanbagpiper

Hindsight: The Isle of Skye

There is never enough time in this magical country. We got a small taste of what the Isle of Skye has to offer and I’m definitely going back for more!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Highlight: Everything

Have you ever visited a place that felt so right, so special that it was almost painful to leave? Love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt about Edinburgh from the very first moment.

#edinburgh

Hindsight: I’ve realized my Edinburgh list will never be completed

Although we didn’t have time to go inside the Writers Museum, we did spend time in the courtyard reading the tiles, which are inscribed with lovely quotes written by some of the city’s most famous writers. All of them about Edinburgh of course!

Hadrian’s Wall

Highlight: A dream come true

I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true!

#hadrianswall

Hindsight: Walk the Wall Hike

It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.

York, England

Highlight: York Minster

It made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. We were not disappointed!

#yorkminster

Hindsight: There wasn’t one!

The rain fell hard and steadily during our visit, but thankfully we still managed to enjoyed this lovely city.

Nottingham, England

Highlight: THE Nottingham!

Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!

#robinhoodnottingham

Hindsight: Sometimes the weather wins

Sadly, extremely heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest.

London, England

Highlight: Camden Market

My highlight is also a hindsight!  I can’t believe the Camden Market wasn’t already on my radar, It’s right up my alley and reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky!

#camdenlock

Hindsight: Top of the Shard

With my love of photography, I regret that I didn’t take the time to visit the observation deck at the Shard. Greenwich is also high on my list for next time…

Brugge, Belgium

Highlight: Beautiful Medieval Town

I was delighted by the incredible beauty of Brugge, a quaint little medieval town. I immediately fell in love and spent the better part of my three days there taking endless photos.

Bruges Canal

Hindsight: Why didn’t we eat more chocolate?

The question is: With endless chocolate shops around every corner, why didn’t we visit more of them? I’m afraid that’s a question, I’ll never know the answer to.

Ghent, Belgium

Highlight: Graffiti Street

Wanting to see something a bit off the beaten path and big fans of street art, we were excited to learn that Ghent has a dedicated graffiti street called Werregaren straat. We really enjoyed this and loved the idea of a dedicated place where anyone can express themselves freely.

#wergeranstraat

Hindsight: Maybe next time…

Elliot really wished we’d had a can of spray paint or two, so he could contribute.

Amsterdam, Holland The Netherlands

Highlight: Everything about our visit!

A lovely and walkable city with no shortage of interesting sights and streets to wander we made the most of every minute of our visit in Amsterdam.

#nightcanal

Hindsight: We visited Amsterdam and didn’t ride a boat or a bike, what?!

We made the most of every moment while visiting this fabulous city, but still ran out of time before ever stepping onto a boat, or peddling a bike. We did see some windmills though! If I had to do it over again I would stay on a houseboat!

Zaans Schans, Holland

Highlight: Windmills

I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!

#zaanseschans

Hindsight: Why didn’t we rent bikes here?

If we ever find our way back to this wonderful place we will be sure to rent bikes. The wide pathways and lovely scenery would make for a perfect bike ride!

Paris, France

Highlight: Sainte Chapelle

As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. How did I not know about this amazing place?

#saintechapelle

Hindsight: Accommodations

While there wasn’t really anything wrong with our hotel, I’ve yet to really hit the nail on the head as far as Paris lodgings go… hopefully next time!

Versailles, France

Highlight: Marie Antoinette’s Gardens

My favorite part of the day was our visit to the Petit Trianon, the home away from home of Marie Antoinette, who apparently wasn’t so enamored with the main Palace and preferred to spend her time elsewhere.

#petittrianon

Hindsight: An evening visit might have been better

We should have considered going later in the afternoon for the musical fountains show and evening fireworks. We might have been able to beat the crowds, and the heat.

London, England

Highlight: Hyde Park

London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.

#serpentinepavilion2016

Hindsight: Do we really have to go home?

Even after six weeks of travel, I wasn’t ready to go home.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering new places with my family and sharing them with all of you!


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Take Me With You…

#thismomentisyours

Okay, it’s probably not reasonable to take me with you on your next adventure, but, now with the help of GPS-Guided travel articles you can almost take me with you, and that’s the next best thing, right?! Wondering how to make this possible? Read on…

#hilarystyle
I’m ready, lets go!

I recently discovered a new app, GPSmyCITY, that ties in beautifully with the reason I started this blog in the first place, my love of travel and the desire to share what I love with others. The GPSmyCity app provides offline access to travel related articles from 750 cities around the world, some of which were written by yours truly!

#swanstairs
My most recent Los Angeles discovery: The hidden staircases of Silver Lake

Like many people who travel, I do a lot of research before I go, the problem is gaining access to that research once I’m at my destination. The reality is that wifi isn’t always available, which means I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to pull up that great article, blog post, or map, when I need it most. However, even if I could, there’s the high cost of international data to consider. This is where the GPSmyCITY app comes in handy!

What is a GPS-guided travel article?

A GPS-Guided travel article is exactly what it sounds like: An article with GPS coordinates embedded directly into the text. The best part is that once you’ve downloaded the article you won’t need access to the internet to use it!  Download all the articles you’re interested in free of charge. Once you’ve decided on the article(s) that best work for your destination, you have the option to upgrade for a small fee f $1.99*, which will activate the GPS coordinates within the article along with an offline map.

#gpsmycityhilarystyle

Say goodbye to dragging along those heavy guide books, besides, they only offer information about the most well known spots anyway. When you bring along a GPSmyCity article, you’ll have everything you need to find all those hidden travel gems (for example, those hidden stairway walks in Los Angeles) right on your smart phone. Bonus: You’ve saved money and your aching back. How great is that!

Ready to try it Out?

Here are two easy ways you can access GPS-guided travel articles:

  • click on a link below for the article you are interested in (if you haven’t already downloaded the free GPSmyCity app, you will see a prompt to do so). After downloading the app, you will be directed to the article, where you can choose UPGRADE to get the GPS-guided version.
  • From the GPSmyCity app, you can browse by city to see which articles are available.

You can download any article for free or upgrade for offline GPS-guided use.

I’m really excited about the ability to share my articles with you in this new way, and hope you love it too. To introduce you to this new idea, I’m able to offer three of my articles free of charge for the first week. (expires March 12, 2017)

Some of my other articles, are also available on GPSmyCity! They offer details about my favorite museums, shopping spots, off the beaten path surprises, and delicious food finds. With GPSmyCity on your smart phone, you really can take me with you!

*Note: If you do upgrade one of my downloaded travel articles, I receive a small portion of the sale, which I’m hoping might contribute to maintaining this travel blog…


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Day Trippers: Joshua Tree National Park

#joshuatree

Perception can be a powerful thing, especially perception of one’s self. Shaping  everything from what we wear, who we interact with and even where we travel. For example, I’ve always considered myself an indoor* city girl, which meant most of my adventures involved the exploration of larger cities, with an emphasis on indoor activities, but lately that seems to be changing.

#joshuatreeSince I began writing hilarystyle almost two years ago I’ve found myself branching out more than ever before. My desire to see more, experience more, and learn more, not just about the wide world, but about the places closest to me, and the need to share what I’m learning has become a passion. I’m breaking out of my self imposed box and I have this blog to thank for it!

Which leads me to the subject of my current post… An outdoor adventure in nature!

The Joshua Tree National Park

#joshuatreeThe Joshua Tree National Park is located just over two hours from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, and while that might be stretching the limit of a day trip, it’s very doable. More than just the name of an incredibly popular U2 album,  people come from all over the world to enjoy the park’s unique trees and alien like desert terrain. Hiking, camping, rock climbing and stargazing are just some of the activities available within the park.
#joshuatree

Having recently purchased a new lens for my camera, my main interest in visiting the park was photography. I was excited to take photos of both the Joshua trees and the night sky, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on my side and the sky was overcast and grey.

Although conditions weren’t exactly ideal for photography, we made the most of our trip, stopping at three different locations within the park. We took a leisurely nature walk in Hidden Valley, did a bit of “rock climbing” along Park Boulevard, and our final stop was the appropriately named Skull Rock. I really enjoyed our visit to Joshua Tree, which offered something for everyone in our group, even me a self described indoor girl.

Hidden Valley Nature Walk

#joshuatree

Park Boulevard

#joshuatree

Skull Rock

#skullrock

Bonus Stop: The World’s Biggest Dinosaurs

#cabazondinosaurs
While researching our drive to Joshua Tree I discovered these wonderful and very large dinosaurs. We just had to stop! The World’s Biggest Dinosaurs, these giant concrete statues, are probably most well known for their appearance in the 80s movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. We were delighted to stop and take photos with them, before heading on our way!

Tips & Advice

  • There is no food of any kind for purchase inside Joshua Tree National Park. Trust me there is NO food. Make sure to bring snack and drinks with you.
  • There are no flush toilets in the park.
  • Wear proper shoes, especially if you think you might like to climb up on any of the giant boulders throughout the park. My kids couldn’t stay away from them!
  • Wear layers. Joshua Tree is a desert environment and the temperatures can be quite extreme. The day of our visit it was only a high of 45 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Stop at one of the park’s ranger stations before you enter. The rangers will provide you with a free map as well as directions and advice.
  • The Ranger Station exhibits give a brief but nice overview of the history of the park and the trees.
  • There are many hikes and walks throughout the park. The degree of difficultly varies and there is something for every ability.
  • If you’re interested in Night Sky photography Joshua Tree is one of the few places in the United States where you can see the Milky Way.
  • From the website: Do not rely on GPS directions to navigate to or within Joshua Tree National Park! Vehicle navigation systems sometimes try to route you onto backcountry roads with ruts or soft sand that may be impassable to your vehicle.

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London: An Afternoon in Kensington

#kensingtonhilarystyle

#southkensingtonAfter Six weeks of travel our amazing adventures through Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, were coming to an end, and it was time to head home, but not before one last hurrah! What better way to end the trip of a lifetime, than strolling around in my number one favorite city: London!

#kensingtonhilarystyle

Wanting to explore somewhere new, we chose Kensington, not only was it a neighborhood I hadn’t spent much time in, but we had an early flight back to the States and its proximity to Heathrow was a big plus. Our hotel, The Kensington, was walking distance to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, High Street, and many other interesting sights and restaurants!

#herefordarms

Speaking of restaurants, arriving, from Paris, just in time for lunch we discovered the Hereford Arms, a friendly  pub and restaurant with excellent service and even better food. I had the best tarter sauce I’ve ever had there, and after weeks traveling throughout the UK, thats saying a lot! Seriously!

After lunch we walked up and down High Street enjoying the beautiful flower arrangements, poking in and out of the various shops and galleries and stopping to take photos. Our little one had recently discovered he actually enjoys reading, so we picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone for the flight home.

Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

#princealbertmemorialWanting to make the most of our very last day, Simon and I decided to explore Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which were walking distance from our hotel and are conveniently connected to one another.  London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.

#royalalberthall

We wandered through the parks taking photos, hunting Pokemon, and stopping along the way to admire The Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall and the interactive Peter Pan Statue.

#princealbertmemorial

One of my favorite things to see is the Serpentine Gallery, but in past visits my boys have enjoyed both the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and Diana Memorial Fountain.

The fountain was an especially big hit as the day we visited it was quite a warm afternoon, however the playground’s Peter Pan theme is really charming. Who wouldn’t want to take the helm of a giant pirate ship, hang out in a tee pee , or play sentry on the walls of a fort!

The Serpentine Gallery

#serpentinepavilion2016As I mentioned I really enjoy, the Serpentine Gallery and our  first stop within the Park was the Gallery’s Summer Pavilion installation. If you haven’t had a chance to see this, I highly recommend it! The exhibition is different each year, and showcases the designs of up and coming architects via the building of unique and temporary structures located within the Park. This was my second visit to see this exhibition and if given the opportunity I would go every year! Depending on the year’s design, visitors can go and in and out, enjoy drinks and snacks, and even climb onto the structure. While most years the exhibition features only one structure, this year’s featured some smaller buildings as well.

#serpentinepavilion2016

Highlights and Tips:

  • The many activities within the park differ depending on the time of year, so consider repeat visits.
  • Admission to The Serpentine Gallery is free.
  • The Pavilion Exhibition is a summer installation and changes every year. Check the website for the most current information.
  • Kids 12 and under can enjoy the Peter Pan themed Diana Memorial Playground with adult supervision.
  • Go ahead and dip your feet into the Diana Memorial Fountain. Its permitted!
  • The Peter Pan statue is interactive, so consider bringing a smart device.
  • Did you know you can take a guided tour of the Albert Memorial?
  • Kensington is a great place to stay if you have an early morning flight out of Heathrow.
#
Until next time, London…

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Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!

#gpsmycityhilarystyle