Sunday, 13 September 2015

Railay Beach + Ko Phi Phi

This June, Jim and I took the trip of a lifetime to Thailand, Cambodia and Bali. I was beyond excited to go since I'd never been to that part of the world, and because it's where Jim made the decision to propose to me five years ago! Mapping the trip out was a little daunting at first, but once we booked the return flights to Bangkok, it forced us to figure out the inter-country flights and hotels. We reached out to friends for recommendations and scoured travel sites and Lonely Planet. You could literally stay in any one of those countries for months, but with our work schedules, we only had three weeks to see it all. We opted for a week and a half in Thailand, a few days to see Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and a little over a week in Bali. It was just the right amount of adventure and relaxing with massages and incredible food along the way.

Our first stop after arriving in Bangkok was Railay Beach in Krabi (which is on the southwest coast of Thailand). It's incredibly hot and humid in that part of Thailand in the summer, but as long as you have water nearby, it's bearable (a cocktail in your hand is also a welcome relief!). We stayed in a lovely bungalow at the Railay Village Resort & Spa right on the beach, and it was beautiful. They have a fabulous spa, where I got my first Thai massage and had the most delicious sweet lemongrass tea after my treatment. I was on cloud nine the rest of the day. We also couldn't get enough of the white sand beach, steep, lush cliffs and the long-tail boats decorated with colorful fabrics. The one drawback to Railay Bay is that since it's small, there aren't many options for restaurants (cheap and sometimes questionable environments or right on the beach and overpriced). 

From Railay Beach, we caught a boat to Ko Phi Phi, the gorgeous tiny island where "The Beach" was filmed. It's a backpacker's paradise, but is also lovely for couples looking to relax and sip cocktails at beachside bars while watching the sunset. We stayed in the main part of the island so we could be close to all of the action and to meet up with some of our friends coming from London (a lot of people opt to stay in the northeast part of the island which is a quick 15 minute boat ride away). We loved the cheap massages (can't go wrong with daily $4/hour treatments), banana smoothies from Unni's and green papaya salad at Papaya (you must try it). We also ate at Anna's several times...they had great Thai and European food (faves included Red Curry and Massaman Curry). Our favorite memory was taking our own long-tail boat out to Maya Beach and snorkeling in little coves along the way. That's when I really started to unwind and feel like I could be on vacation forever.

Next up, I'll share details from our adventures in Chiang Mai! 

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Rancho Del Oso Farm Dinner

It's been forever since I've posted, but I wanted to share an incredible experience I had with my family a few weeks ago at the Route 1 Farm Dinner series at Rancho Del Oso. Pardon the iPhone picutres...I forgot my Canon for this one! I'd never been to a farm dinner before, so I had no idea what to expect. Truth be told, I love going to farmer's markets on the weekends, but I'm not a "devout organic." However, learning about the way the vegetables are grown at this organic farm, versus other farms and commercial sources made me rethink my ways. Not only is it healthier for you to choose locally sourced organic fruits and vegetables, it also benefits your local community. 

The dinner itself started in the middle of a field off of Highway 1, just after Davenport and before Ano Nuevo. The setting was so beautiful and lush and the weather was perfect..sun shining without wind or fog (rare for that part of the coast!). We started off with appetizers including those colorful pickled beets and eggs below, and then made our way to a massive farm table that was beautifully decorated with white linen and dahlias and zinnias grown right on the property. The dishes (including braised lamb, caprese skewers, a vegetable polenta dish and a peach apple galette) were prepared by Ristorante Avanti chef Adolfo Martinez and the wine pairings were provided by Santa Cruz winery, Odanata Wines (the Malbec was lovely). Everything was fresh, flavorful and delicious and we were beyond stuffed by the end of the meal. All of the Route 1 dinners are sold out for the rest of the year, but I'd highly recommend checking back this winter/spring when they go on sale again. It's a lovely, local experience worth trying.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Anderson Valley

A few weeks ago, Jim and I took a day trip to Anderson Valley. It's a long drive from San Francisco (around 2.5 hours), but it was so worth it! It's one of those areas I'd had on my "short day trip" list for a while based on good reviews and the fact that it's our last name. Since we were planning to go up there, we drove a little further to Mendocino for lunch. Mendocino has a beautifully rustic coastline dotted with B&B's, leading to a quaint little town with shops and eateries. We enjoyed the view, moseyed around, and popped in for lunch at a local bakery before heading back down South to Anderson Valley. To be honest, I was dying to get back there to go wine tasting! The area is very well known for Pinot Noir, one of my favorite reds. There are over a dozen wineries and tasting rooms to choose from, but I had my heart set on Goldeneye. I'd heard good things about Goldeneye Winery from our visits to Duckhorn and Paraduxx in Napa (both part of the Duckhorn label). The setting there is ideal...a sprawling manicured garden, green vineyards and mountains in the distance, picnic tables with bright orange umbrellas and lovely service. What I love most about Goldeneye is the tasting experience itself. They bring out tasting cards for each glass along with cherries and almonds to refresh your palate. Perfect. It was the most leisurely way to spend a Sunday outdoors and just put our feet up. I see another Anderson Valley weekend trip in our future.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

One Day in Paris

It's been a busy few months in the city, so I haven't caught up on my posts from our European trip in November. Between work, family and friends, life just moves so quickly! Luckily, I did save the best for last: Paris. Everything about Paris makes me happy. I absolutely love this city...the food, the buildings, the flowers and the art. Our trip there in November made me realize that I hadn't quite been doing things the right way every other time we'd visited. We were missing the local element: the off the beaten track restaurants, the best croissants, the non-chain stores and small winding streets. But this experience was much different, thanks to my sister Myriah and her husband Corey, who lived there last year and shared their secret insider tips to make our trip memorable. 

Jim and I came over on the Eurostar for the day from London, and we started in Le Marais. First stop was obviously a bakery for fresh croissants (four, to be exact). We wandered through the streets looking at the buildings, cafes and lovely shops with colorful awnings. We stopped by the gorgeous Place du Voges and wandered around the fountains before popping into Cafe Hugo, where we ordered cappuccinos and watched the world go by. For lunch, we went to Rue de Rosiers in the Jewish Quarter and ordered the most delicious falafel wrap I've ever had. Next, we enjoyed a bottle of rose at a cute French cafe called Les Philosophes. As Corey told us, it's the perfect place to relax and people watch.

After Le Marais, we took the metro to Notre Dame (we had to see it while we were there!) and walked along the Seine to Rue Montorgueil. Here, you can check out the little French markets where people are pickup up dinner after work and there's a beautiful church called Eglise Saint Eustache. We refueled yet again with an espresso, before heading to Comptoir de la Gastronomie for dinner. This place is unpretentious and inviting and they serve up very French fare like seared duck and truffle ravioli. Rich, but very good. I loved doing less and taking our time to enjoy every moment, every bite and every store instead of trying to take in every famous site. It's truly the perfect way to enjoy Paris.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Rainy Adventures in Lisbon

The second stop on our Portuguese adventure was Lisbon. I'd been here once before in the winter when I was studying abroad in Barcelona, so I kind of knew what to expect. The city is beautiful and inviting and much larger than Porto. One thing I found a little sad was the amount of graffiti covering buildings throughout the city; clearly a sign of the times. We arrived late on our first night but were able to squeeze in a tasty meal at Club de Journalistas. This place is secluded and unassuming and the fare is a mix of Brazilian and international. My seafood paella and the dessert platter were the highlights. Our home away from home was Hotel Lisboa and it was just the right place: a little modern with a delicious breakfast included each day (plus they also had very attractive doormen!). Although it was raining on our first day, we made our way up the hill on a trolley to Castelo de Sao Jorge. You can see the entire city from the vantage's a beautiful sea of terra cotta roofs. After walking around the center of town in the afternoon and checking out the Arco Triunfal da Rua Agusta, we ducked into an adorable hipster hotel called Brown's Downtown and had a few Super Bocks (local beer) while sinking into cushy chairs. It was a perfect break from the rain.

Our second day was dedicated to exploring Belem. From the center of town, you can get there by trolley in about 20 minutes. The first thing you see is the Mosteiro de Jeronimos (the gorgeous old palace-like structure photographed below). If you head towards the water, you'll bump into the Padrao dos Descobrimentos monument and then a little further down the water is the Belem Tower, which served as a medieval fortress back in the day. The foodie highlight in this area is undoubtedly Pasteis de Belem, known for delicious sweet custard pastries. Don't miss it! When we made our way back into town, we spent time walking around Chiado, the fashionable area of Lisbon filled with boutiques and chain stores. Dinner was at Frado Dos Mares...all I can say is WOW. I had cod Lagereiro style (bathed in olive oil, garlic, herbs) and it was perfectly cooked. The ambiance is small but romantic and the service is friendly and welcoming. It was a lovely way to end our adventures in Lisbon before heading back to London. The next stop on our European trip was coming soon!

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