Lifestyle · travel · Uncategorized

Summer in Europe: Rome

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My second city on this Europe trip was Rome.  I have been to Europe several times, and this was my first time to Italy.  Rome, was always a city that I wanted to visit.  I have planned 4.5 days since I expected that there will be many historic landmarks that I want to see.  I was also prepared to walk a lot.  Rome’s public transportation is not that great.  Especially inside of the Rome City Center (Old City), all the places are only accessible by foot.  There are only two subway lines and only run along the perimeter of the City Center. We had an early afternoon flight from Amsterdam.  We stayed in the Generator Rome Hostel with a private room.  I Stayed in Generator Hostel in other cities in Europe.  The experience that I had in other cities was pretty good, for the money that I paid.  The design of Generator Hostel is always contemporary, fun, creative, and targeting young adults.  The communal areas such as the lobby, game, bar, and dining always have a stylish and pop design.  Sometimes I even forget that this is a hostel, instead, I feel like this is a boutique hotel.  The location of Generator Rome Hostel is very close to the Rome Termini Station, which is the main transportation hub of Rome.

Day 1

It was already late afternoon after we checked-in and I was extremely exhausted because I didn’t sleep well the night before.  I was debating if I should just rest in my room or go out and explore.  At the end, I decided to take a walk in the shopping area of Rome’s historic center (near Spanish steps).  In the evening, I took the train back to Rome Termini Station, and I had dinner at the Mercado Centrale Roma, a market that features artisan food stalls.

Day 2

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We went across the Tiber river and explored Trastevere, a charming neighborhood with allies, winding streets, cobbled stones, and colorful houses.  It was a very pleasant stroll, and of course, I took thousands of photos.  Restaurants with outdoor seatings are all over this area.  After we had lunch in one of them, we headed back to the Rome city center.  Just roaming around in this historic town, we were able to hit several popular places: Campo de’ Fiori (farmer’s market), Piazza Navona (largest piazza), Pantheon, and Altar.  Before heading back to our hostel, we walked up to the Capitol Hill for the sunset view.

Day 3

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This was the most exhausting day of the entire trip—Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pristine Hill, all clustered in the city center.  From my research online, visits to each of these places requires long waiting in a queue, so we decided to join a private tour (all these 3 places were included) so we can “skip the line”.  I was not so sure initially, but it was totally worth the money even though we paid triple the actual admission price.  The private tour was able to bring us up to the highest level of the Colosseum, and also the underground, where all the animals stayed.  These two areas inside the Colosseum are excluded from private tour only.  Then we continued the tour to Roman Forum and Pristine Hill.  Roman Forum, was the social gathering place or a marketplace in the ancient time.  It is a huge plaza with several ruined government buildings.  We started the tour from the top of the hill and then descended.  Please do take advantage of enjoying the overall view of the Roman Forum if you are on the hilltop; it was amazing.  I wasn’t too impressed of Pristine Hill.  I would say, if you are not joining the tour and running out of time, you could skip it.  You also have an option to split the tour into two days if you are too tired.  Part of it made this day so tiring was the weather.  Walking outdoor the whole day under the sun with 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Could you imagine?!

For dinner, we went to a wine and tapas bar in a local neighborhood, Tree.  It has a very good vibe with a good mix of people, outdoor seating (my favorite), and good food. I highly recommend if you want to stay away from the tourist area.

Day 4 

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Exploring the Vatican City, located on the opposite side of the river from the city center, was another long and intense day.  Because of the awesome experience that we had with the private tour the day before, we decided to join a private tour for Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Square (all were included in one tour).  After the tour, we climbed up to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.  I highly recommend doing this, if you are physically capable.  You have an option to take the elevator to the roof level, and then continue taking the stair and climbing up to the top of the cupola.  The winding stair gets narrower and dimmer while proceeding to the top, and it made the journey even more interesting and mysterious.  Once we were at the top, the reward was amazing — view of the whole Vatican City.

Later that night, while we walked toward to the Castello Castle to take some pictures of the exterior, we spotted there were lots of restaurants under the bridge and along the waterside.  The overall vibe looked amazing.  Without a thought, we decided to hop into one of the restaurants, Bar, and dined there.

Day 5

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Although there are still more tours that I want to join and learn about the Rome history, we decided to chill on our last day.  We spent the whole day in the city center, including stops at the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain which was jam-packed with people.  We walked around, shopped a bit, and just wanted to get the feeling of this city vibe.  When we got tired, we took a break in a random piazza’s restaurant, chilled, drank, and people watching.  For lunch, we found a really nice restaurant randomly — Angelina Restorante, the interior is contemporary and super cute, surrounded by plants.  With the garden type of tables and chairs, I felt like I was dining in a garden.  For my meal, I ordered pasta, and surprisingly it was very good.  The actual size of the pasta bowl was extremely large.

 

fashion · Lifestyle · outfits · travel · Uncategorized

Tokyo Trip (Part II)

Continuing from the previous post…here are some more highlights of my Tokyo trip:

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We wanted to have a view of the Tokyo city from high up, so we decided to go up to the Mori Tower.  We went to the 52nd floor, the City View, it is surrounded by full height glass wall.  Felt a bit shaky when I stood right against the window.  We were pretty lucky that it was a clear sky despite it was raining two days before.  We also went up to the roof deck for a better view, as expected, super windy.  Since a complimentary ticket to the Mori Museum on the 53rd floor is also included, we took a quick tour.

 

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Omotesando area is one of my favorites.  It is another shopping hub with upscale fashion shops, haute couture boutique shops, young designer brands, trendy cafes, and pop-up shops.  Architecturally, a lot of the shop interiors and facades are very interesting with detailed design.  There are few shops and malls are designed by star architects.  For example, Omotesando Hills, Prada, Hugo Boss, Tod…etc.  The overall vibe, I would say it is not as luxury as Ginza, but not as young as the adjacent district Harajuku.

 

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The famous busy pedestrian intersection (some referred it as the busiest in the world)–Shibuya Crossing.  It was quite interesting just to stand at one of the street corners and watch people cross when the light turns green.  Within a minute, the intersection was jammed and people were crossing the intersection from all different directions.  The space of the intersection is huge, larger than a typical intersection.

  • Jean jacket: Rag & Bone
  • Dress:  American Eagle
  • Shoes:  Adidas 
  • Belt: Coach

 

fashion · Lifestyle · outfits · travel · Uncategorized

Tokyo Trip (Part I)

I came back from my Hong Kong and Tokyo trip few weeks already and I have been delaying my post.  In Hong Kong, mainly I met up with friends, ate, and hung out.  Since I lived and worked in HK for almost five years, I didn’t do any tourist activities, nor exploring new neighborhoods.

I also traveled to Tokyo and spent there for a week.  Japan is always one of my favorite countries to visit, and I had been there several times, almost each time to different cities.  I am a huge fans of sushi, so eating was almost the main activity for me.  This was my third time visiting Tokyo.  Not to mention the metropolitan vibe and the food that I really like and enjoy, I also love that how every neighborhood in Tokyo has something going on. Each area feels like a city hub to me–with shopping malls and restaurants everywhere.

Here are some of the highlights and photos that I took when I was there (National Art Center, Ginza Six, and Asakusa):

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Besides eating a lot, I finally visited the National Art Center for the first time.  The full height undulating glass wall is amazing.  It is brightening the space with lots of natural light.  Inside the space, there are three floor levels.  No matter where you stand, you still can get a very good view of the exterior space.  The photo above was Yayoi Kasuma’s exhibition.

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The Ginza Six department store, in Ginza, was just opened a week before we arrived (I found out when I was there).  It was extremely packed.  The interior space and finishes looks pretty luxury and well designed.  At that moment when I was there, the central atrium had Yayoi Kasuma’s art installation.

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Asakusa Area — I would say this is one of the most popular sightseeing places in Tokyo.  There is a long and crowded shopping street that leads to Sensoji Temple.  The entrance gate to this street is Kaminarimon.  In this street, shops are selling souvenirs and Japanese food, like a food stall.  This street is not wide and is always packed with tourists.  In term of the actual length, is not that long.  But because there are many distractions, people and shops, it took us almost two hours to get to the temple.  Right across from Kaminarimon, it is the Tourist Information Center, by architect Kengo Kuma, one of my favorite architects.

fashion · Lifestyle · outfits · Uncategorized

Packing for Trips

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The past weekend I started to pack for my upcoming trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo.  I am leaving this Thursday for two weeks.  Since I have a busy work schedule during weekdays, so I packed over the weekend.  When it comes to packing for trip, it is always a long and thoughtful process for me.  I am not that type of person who is able to pack light.  Although always attempted to try, but……!!  Also, it depends on the destinations and the activities.  For Hong Kong, I know I will be meeting up with friends and dining out a lot; for Tokyo, I will be shopping, sightseeing, dining, and strolling around.  So, I like to prepare, mix and match my outfits for each day.  That includes shoes, bags, and accessories.  Somehow, I always pack more outfits than I actually need.  I usually would prepare extra outfits for activities that I might do (but might not).  Such as……maybe I will go for a hike? to the beach? or heels to parties and drinks?  Does this scenario sound familiar to you?  Do you have any tips on packing?

fashion · Lifestyle · outfits

An Afternoon in Napa: Wine and Dine

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Last weekend, finally no more rain, we decided to drive up to Napa to spend my afternoon there.  The advantage of living in San Francisco is that it only takes a little bit over an hour to get to Napa.  Although I do have few favorite wineries in my list, I try to visit new wineries and/or restaurants whenever I go there.

I have been wanting to go to Domain Carneros for a long time.  Every time when I drove by this estate vineyard on highway 12, I was drawn by the beautiful garden, and the grand staircase that leads to the terrace.  When I was at the terrace last weekend, I liked it even more.  Not only the chateau is very elegant, but the view looking down from the terrace is amazing.

For the tasting, I tried the “Chateau Sampler”, $30, two sparklings and two reds.  I was debating if I should try the “Sparkling Wine Sampler”, since I know they are known for sparkling wines.  But I was also curious about their reds.  Well, after I tasted, I actually really like the sparkling wines way more than the reds.  My favorite one is the “2011 Estate Brut Cuvée”.

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For dinner, very last minute, we decided to go to Bottega in Yountville.  The only reservation that they had was at 6pm.  Immediately, we drove and rushed to get there.  I was glad that we got there before dark so I could take some photos.  This was my first time visiting Bottega and I had a very good experience.  Before stepping into the restaurant, I was drawn to the floor pattern on the exterior flooring and staircase.  The pattern looks like a Bohemian rug to me. I felt like I was passing through a foyer before entering into the restaurant.  The overall interior atmosphere is nice, open kitchen, partial brick wall, and exposed black metal beams.  I was not able to take some nice photos since the interior lighting is quite low.