London City Guide // + a bit of the U.K.

Cheerio from the U.K. friends!

Well, almost, I'm officially back in the states now, but my mind is definitely still swimming in the U.K.

Some of you may know, this was my first time out of the U.S., and oh-boy did I want to stay in rainy U.K. forever. Unpopular opinion warning, I absolutely love the rain and the cold. I used to live in Portland, Oregon and it's 90% rain all year long, ah-mazing! Anyways, I loved the U.K., everything is green, even things that probably shouldn't be like street signs and bricks are all covered in moss and ivy. It's so gorgeous. Everything looks like it's alive and living it's best life. I'm gushing.

This trip was a two-week long excursion all over the U.K. including, Oxford, London, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh, and through the Peak District. My family and I rented a car and did a lot of driving through the countryside, which if you've never done before, I can heartily recommend. There really is nothing like the English countryside. Rolling hills everywhere, quaint little farm homes and villages, and soooo many adorable sheep. 

I thought a good way to start this post off would be to share with you all some of my packing misfortunes so if you go on an international trip you don't make the same mistakes I did. 

International Travel Tips

- No. 1. Bring a satchel bag if you have one, especially if you're traveling in the winter. I cannot tell you how annoying it was to have my tote bag fall off the shoulders of my big coat every five seconds. If you have a reliable satchel/cross-body bag, I highly recommend taking it with you.

- No. 2. Shoes. I knew it was going to be cold in England, and I knew it was going to be rainy, but I didn't prepare for walking everywhere in the cold and rain. Side-note: I only have one pair of boots and they are slightly heeled (about two inches), and I thought walking around all day everyday in these would kill my feet, so I didn't pack them. This left me boot-less in England (potential girl band name??). If you're going to England over winter, I'd recommend bringing two pairs of shoes. One that you don't care as much about for rainy days that can get muddy, and another pair that are comfortable, warm, versatile walking shoes (like these from Poppy Barley - you might have seen these on my Instagram stories - I am obsessed!).

- No. 3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate before your flight. I cannot tell you how incredibly dehydrated I became on my flight. Especially if you're not flying first class, bring extra water on the flight because the attendants do not bring water often. My skin started cracking horribly in the middle of the flight and my legs became ashy. Additionally, be that extra girl who does a face mask on the plane. I brought two face masks (Korean sheet masks) and an eye mask and pampered myself thoroughly to try and keep my face somewhat respectable. This brings me to a my best travel idea to-date: See no. 4.

- No. 4. In-flight travel beauty bag. I recommend taking a small beauty bag with you on the plane filled with must-haves - face masks, deodorant, extra underwear (wearing the same pair of underwear for 10 hours might be a little gross when you get off the plane, so this is a great way to change your underpants when you get off at your destination, especially if you plan on starting a full day out), moisturizer, face wash, toothpaste and toothbrush, maybe even a hair spritzer/mineral water to keep your hair and face looking hydrated. 

Alright, now let's get to the good stuff. Here are places I would reccommend checking out in the U.K. (organized by city and then spot!).

City Guides

BATH.

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A charming little town nestled between the hills with a river running through the middle. Bath used to be home to the Romans back in the day, and was named Bath because it is the site of some of the famous Roman bathhouses, which you can still go into today! I didn't go into the bathhouses because they freak me out a bit, but if you're into that sort of thing, go for it!

The Bath Abbey. Now, I'm not a particularly religious person, however I LOVE old Abbeys. They are all over the U.K. and filled with gorgeous architecture and artwork, so be prepared to see a lot of Abbeys and Cathedrals on these city guides. :) The Bath Abbey is v old and filled with incredible inlaid columns. If you like to take an inside look at history, visit.

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Jane Austen's House. Now, Jane Austen lived in Bath for around five years and subsequently had multiple homes throughout her stay there, but if you're an English Lit nerd like me, you'll track down all of her homes and take photos of them. Additionally, you could go to the Jane Austen museum, which is loads of fun but a bit kitchy. You can try on period clothing and learn loads about Jane's life! Some of her novels are even based off of the streets of Bath.

Lunch at The Stable. After walking around all day lunch at The Stable is a must! They have a huge variety of ciders and delicious personal pizzas. I'd recommend getting a blush cider if they have one on hand!

The Circus. Alright, I know what you're thinking, but this isn't like a circus with elephants and tigers and clowns. This circus is a beautiful circle of townhouses built in 1758 that make up a gorgeous representation of Georgian architecture. It's incredible and definitely worth a look. 

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EDINBURGH.

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If you're heading up to Scotland, Edinburgh is a must, if for nothing else than to hear the amazing Scottish accents.

Arthur's Seat. Off to the side of Edinburgh, but close enough by to where you can easily get to it by car is Arthur's Seat. At the top of a mountain next to the city is a stone throne called Arthur's Seat that you can hike up to. Pro-tip, don't be like my family and try to hike up the steep mountain without proper gear (literally I was in a peacoat) and on a day when there is a 60 mph wind advisory. However, I can definitely say this is one of the most rewarding experiences from the trip. Definitely a peak. ;) The views from the top of the mountain are incredible, you can see the entire city and the North Sea. The hike only takes a couple of hours and then you can go grab lunch!

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Lunch at Monteiths. A small pub restaurant located under the Royal Mile, Monteiths is where you'll find delicious sips and eats. Definitely one of my favorite meals in the U.K. So quaint, warm, and trendy!

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The Royal Mile. This is a mile stretch of local shops that leads you straight to the Edinburgh Castle! If you love wool and cashmere, this is where you can get local Scottish wool and cashmere. It's amazing. I popped by a couple shops and ended up with Scottish chocolate (oh my gosh, so good) and shortbread.

Edinburgh Castle. You just can't go to Edinburgh without seeing the castle. It's massive and incredible. I swear, ninety percent of this trip I was just awestruck with how beautiful and impressive everything is. You can grab a tour of the castle while you're there, and while these tours may seem a bit kitch, it's so worth it. You get to learn so much! I value learning about history and culture much more than looking like a tourist. 

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LONDON.

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Buckle up guys, this one is going to be a doozy.

Sites. There are a few places you have to see if you're in London and have never been before (like me). The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Blackfriars, The Globe, The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, the big sites. Here are a couple smaller sites you should definitely take a chance on: Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and the gardens, Piccadilly Circus, and Notting Hill (all of the little houses - more on this in a bit).

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Neighborhoods. Notting Hill. Probably my favorite neighborhood in London. Every corner has a cafe, the townhouses are adorable, and (of course) the Notting Hill film was produced there. Soho. Soho. You can find loads of historic homes, marked by a plaque on the side of the building with who used to live there. Shoreditch. If you're looking for something more Brooklyn-esque I highly recommend Shoreditch. It's not as quintessential London, but it's thriving and is filled with lots of cute shops, such as the highly instagrammable Labour & Wait. 

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Bites. To be completely honest, I have not done well keeping track of where all we ate, however I can recommend Gail's Bakery for small bites (get the clotted cream and jam scones!! You can thank me later).

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Shops. We walked around the entire city and hardly had time to stop into many shops. However, there's always time for a little perusing. Here are some of my favorites: The White Company. Everything in this store is a capsule wardrober's dream. Neutral everything as far as the eye can see, and super nice quality. If I were a wealthy woman, I would spend all my money here. Blackbird Tea Co. If you love tea, or just want to try some fun tea flavors because you're tired of English Breakfast, this place has delicious tea you can try in-shop and take away with you! Labour & Wait. Every Instagrammer ever has been to Labour & Wait. It's like a right of passage if you go to London. It's adorable and I really liked it, however it was a bit pricey, so be prepared. 

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Museums. I am a total nerd for museums, history, and art. I'm also a total nerd for advertising (what up my fellow ad majors). In London is the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising, A.K.A. Ami's homeland. If you love seeing how packaging changes with the times (like from 1750 to now), some of the history as to why we have the packaging we currently have, and to check out which brands have dated back to the 1750's, check this place out. It's located in Notting Hill, which if you get hungry you can always stop along Portobello Road for a snack. The British Museum. Another must-visit. Housing some of the most rare artifacts, the British Museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and other great sights. I would recommend getting there as early as possible because crowds start fast and pushing your way around is never fun. Tate Modern. Now, I did not personally get to experience the Tate Modern, however my sister who lives in England recommends it. I'd have loved to check it out had time permitted! If any of you stop by, let me know how you liked it!

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OXFORD.

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We spent most of our time in Oxford this trip. My sister and her husband have a flat on the River Thames, and graciously hosted the whole family. 

Sites. Oxford University. Of course. This is a total no-brainer, however, if you aren't familiar with how the university works, here's the inside scoop. Oxford University is made up of individual colleges, not colleges like you'd think of here in the U.S. where within the University of Texas there is the Moody College of Communications. No, at Oxford the different colleges are entire schools housing every concentration available, more or less. Probably the most famous of these is Christ's Church, which is a college where students live and study together. There is a beautiful Cathedral you can go into, and take a guided tour of (it's seriously so worth), where I learned loads about the women (specifically) who have impacted the church and Oxford University (pretty cool, huh?). 

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Bites. The Trout Inn. A bit of a walk out of town, but definitely doable. The Trout has wonderful food, perfect for a nicer evening out. I'd recommend the Linguine, scrumptious. The Perch. A nice spot as well, but a bit more casual, especially if you go for brunch like we did. Everything was delicious, and it's located next to a beautiful meadow I recommend walking through on your way in. You'll find locals walking their dogs (sans leashes), cows, and maybe even a sheep or two. Opera. If you'd like to visit a cafe while in Oxford, this is your place. They have everything from Middle Eastern desserts and meals to french croissants and tea.

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STRATFORD-UPON-AVON.

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We were only in Stratford-upon-Avon for a day, but it was a lovely little town. Again, I think the best thing you can do when visiting a place like this is to bite the bullet and look like a tourist by taking a walking tour. We went on the most wonderful walking tour of the town and learned all about Shakespeare, his family (immediate and distant), his early and late life, and were able to see the buildings he grew up around. Truly remarkable.

Lunch at the Dirty Duck. Delicious pub food, and if you go after the Royal Shakespeare Company performs, you might even see some of the great actors themselves, like Dame Judi Dench. 

PEAK DISTRICT.

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Probably the part of the U.K. I have the least to right about, seeing as how we briefly drove through the Peak District, however, if you make your way out to this part of England, and whether you're a English Lit nerd like me, make your way over to Chatsworth House. Chatsworth House is privately owned, however it is the sight where Kierra Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen's Pride and Prejudice takes place. It's absolutely gorgeous. Renting a car, even just for a day would be worth it to see all of the beauty this country has to offer. 

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I know this has been a lot of information condensed into one blog post, so if you have any questions on which tour groups I used, would like additional restaurant recommendations, or would just like to gush with me over how gorgeous the U.K. is, leave a comment or get in touch! To see all of my shenanigans around the U.K. and in life, head over to my Instagram! :) 

Boston Travels // Solo Trip

I am a huge fan of the solo trip. If you've never been on a solo adventure, I highly recommend going on one. It's a wonderful time for self-reflection. On my trip I had a lot of time to reminisce on the time I spent living in Boston, going to Harvard, and I was able to parse through some thoughts that had been on my mind. I think my favorite part of the solo trip is the ability to go wherever you want, whenever you want. I'm going to share with you all my recommendations for a perfect solo trip.

First. Don't plan ahead. The beauty of the solo trip is being able to wake up in the morning, and decide what you want to do then and there. There are no appointments or requirements, just spontaneity. 

Second. Indulge. When on vacation, and especially on a solo trip, it is very important to toss those pesky dietary restrictions aside in favor of life's more delicious options. While in Boston I ate all of the dairy and bread I could get my hands on, and friends, I was in heaven. Here's a list of all the places I frequented in Boston and Cambridge, warning it's mostly coffee shops.

Tatte Bakery. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, and a mid-morning snack.

Crema. One of my most favorite coffee shops. I have never had a better latte than the one at Crema, and if you all have stuck with me through my coffee blog days, you know that my praise it not easily given (and that I have had a lot of coffee in my lifetime). 

George Howell. I stubbled across this place on my independent book store tour of Boston. There are a couple of locations sprinkled throughout Boston, all modern, posh, and filled with delicious coffee. If you're looking for a place that has a modern, trendy vibe with delicious coffee and treats, this is your spot. 

Cafe Luna. The perfect brunch spot. This place has moved locations from its tiny, homey space to a modern, trendy spot down the street a couple of blocks. Be sure to go on the weekend for brunch and get the honey butter biscuits as a starter. The best biscuits in the world.

Cambridge 1. Looking for pizza? Look no further. This place has you covered. Delicious wood-fire pizza located right in Harvard Square. 

Cafe Sushi. Alright, this is the best sushi I have ever had. Be sure to get every roll that sounds out of the ordinary, they are the absolute best.

Third. Relax. Whether your version of relaxation is shopping on Newbury street, eating your way through Boston's Italian Quarter, reading a book in the Japanese Gardens, or going to all the museums and independent book stores (like I did) take some time for you. A solo trip is the perfect time to be selfish - do whatever you want and don't worry about the rest. Treat yo self. 

California Part III: Palm Springs

My last destination in California was Palm Springs. I had never been to the desert before, and it was quite a lovely experience.

In the desert everything is covered in beautiful neutral tones. From the landscape to the architecture to the interior design, everything is an oasis of beige, which I loved.

I stayed in Palm Springs longer than I stayed in any other spot while in Southern California. I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing by the pool, soaking up the desert sun, going out to dinner parties, and hanging out with my family.

Palm Springs is pretty bare during off-season. Most people head to Palm Springs between November - April when it isn’t quite as hot. I loved the dry heat of the summer sun in Palm Springs, it was refreshing to be without humidity for a little bit.

The dry air in Palm Springs was great for my hair and skin; I was able to catch some great vitamin D.

 

Here is a little list of some of my favorite spots in Palm Springs.

Explore.

Ace Hotel. This trendy hotel spot is absolutely wonderful to pop into and take a look around in.

Downtown. Walk around (if it’s not too hot) and explore the gorgeous design shops, local art, and cute shops.

The Mountains. Sunset in Palm Springs is absolutely beautiful. Everything is lit in the most golden light you’ve ever seen (a photographer’s dream), and the mountains glow.

The Windmills. Driving into Palm Springs from L.A. you’re bound to see the field of windmills. They might seem kinda weird and boring, but they are absolutely gorgeous in photo shoots, and pretty neat if you’re coming from an area without lots of windmills.

Eat.

The O’Donnell. If you like exceptional food, the O’donnell has it. If you’re looking for a great, intimate space, the O’donnell has a lovely little patio that’s great for intimate conversations.

Tropical. Perfect if you want a delicious summer cocktail and a nightlife scene. Tropical is always packed and has incredible food.

A cuppa from Ristretto. A local coffee shop in Palm Springs

I loved exploring a new part of California. My whole trip was filled with adventure, small scenes, and lovely people. Couldn’t have asked for a better time while in SoCal. I can’t wait to go back sometime soon! 

California Part II: L.A.

During my trip to California I was able to pop into L.A. for a day! I had never been to L.A. before, and honestly thought it would be many years before I would be able to get out there, so this little adventure was very exciting!

I had a couple goals for my brief time in L.A.. I wanted to go to the Museum of Broken Relationships on Sunset Blvd. and I wanted to grab a fantastic cuppa!

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a must-see! It’s absolutely incredible with a minimal design, a lovely owner, and incredible pieces. The Museum of Broken Relationships is a space where people can donate items from previous relationships that reminded them of their previous partner. The items donated to the museum have a priceless sentimental value to the original owner, they are typically things that the owners don’t want to just throw away. Each “piece of a broken relationship” was incredible and unique. Some stories behind the pieces were very sad, some angry, and some really funny. I’m so glad I stopped by the museum, it truly is a once in a lifetime experience, and it’s a nice thing to do in L.A. if you don’t like tourist-things.

After our museum trip we drove around Sunset and stopped for lunch at Chin Chin. If you’re in L.A. and in need of great Asian-fusion food, Chin Chin is fantastic. Here is a link to their menu.

After lunch, we drove through the Silverlake neighborhood and checked out the lovely homes my family used to live in. The neighborhood is incredible and so much fun to drive around in if you have time! So much has changed since my family lived there; there are lots of fun shops, coffee shops, and restaurants you can stumble across! It was so fun exploring a little part of L.A.

Before we headed on to Palm Springs we went for a quick coffee-tour of Silverlake. On our tour we made it to two shops, VITA and Dinosaur Coffee. Both are fantastic little shops. VITA sells a lot of iced drinks, and they have a “purist” stance on coffee (they don’t use many sweeteners or milks with their coffee). Dinosaur, on the other hand, has a lot of different espresso drinks, and a truly lovely shop. The coffee at both spots was absolutely wonderful, and special thanks to my friends for suggesting such great places!

Dinosaur Coffee

For my outfit in L.A. I kept it very simple, as I do most days. A nice pair of dark jeans, a simple striped tank top, a beige cardigan, and my wonderful hat to block the sun. If you need any inspiration for what to wear on a trip, my best advise is to dress comfortable and simple, especially if you like to explore on foot like I do. Here are a couple of great spots to find comfortable, affordable, classic travel essentials.

Shoes: Nisolo and Franco Sarto

Tops/Bottoms: Madewell

Hats: Goorin Bros.

Make-up: Arbonne

All in all, L.A. was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to go back and explore around a bit more! Do you have any favorite places in L.A. I should stop by on my next trip? 

 

California Part I: Newport Beach

A week ago I traveled to Southern California for the first time. I explored Newport Beach, L.A., and Palm Springs. Each place was incredibly beautiful and unique. I had an amazing time checking out the architecture, staying in beautifully curated homes, and hanging out with family.

All of the homes in Newport Beach, and especially where I stayed, Balboa Island, are absolutely gorgeous. During my time on Balboa Island, I stayed in a lovely home that was designed remarkably by my friend Steve; every corner is filled with new visual treasures waiting to be captured. I was so pleased to explore and document more livable spaces for my current photo story.

Here is a glimpse at some of the minimal decor.

I'm convinced that California is covered in beautiful plants. Everywhere I went on the island there were gorgeous flowers, succulents, and trees. I fell in love with the beauty and freshness of every street in Newport Beach.

 

Celebrating the Fourth of July on the island is an incredible experience. There is a huge mass of people that cover the small beach along the island. Looking down the beach is a sea of colorful umbrellas occupied by families set up to celebrate the day. Everywhere on the island is shut down due to the huge mass of people who come on to the island waiting for fireworks. It’s really fun to be in a place where everyone is celebrating.

For our own little Fourth of July celebration we had a small dinner party with a couple of friends. The whole night was filled with laughter, joy, celebration, music, and too much food. We stuffed ourselves full, popped festive poppers, and danced under the light of the fireworks. It was an incredible night with wonderful friends and new acquaintances.

It was a day to remember, and a lovely island to cherish. 

I hope everyone had a fun and festive Fourth!

San Fransisco Travels

Recently I spent a few days in the SanFran/Berkeley area while visiting my brother.  If you've ever been to SF this won't be a shock to you, but I fell in love with the city. There is so much to do, so much to see, and so much great food and coffee to be had!

We went traipsing all over the city, walking way way too much. Home in Texas, there really isn't too much walking, and there certainly aren't hills! We definitely got our workout in for the month! I think by the end of my trip my brother was a little happy I was leaving. With me gone, he didn't have to walk 15 miles a day (not an exaggeration!). 

While in SF/Berkley I made it a point to seek out some wonderful coffee, find some great places to eat, and find some unique shops, while maintaining a budget. I've listed some wonderful places that are a must see on any trip to the Bay Area!

FOOD:

Imm's: Best Thai place in Berkeley! Affordable, hip, well-kept, and incredible! If you visit Berkley's campus, be sure to stop here before you leave to go back into SF!

Barney's Burgers: Located in Berkeley, the burgers here are as big as your face, with many different topping options! The main attraction, however, are the delicious curly fries. Be ready to loosen your belt because these are the most delicious fries in town!

Cheese Board: If you love cheese, bread, and pastries, this place is the spot for you! Located in Berkeley, this place makes one type of pizza a day and sells it by the slice to a long line of people. It's fantastic, healthy (ish), and unique. Get the green pesto sauce for a real treat!

Humphrey Slocombe: For a delicious sweet treat, stop here to grab some delicious ice cream! Located in the Mission, be prepared to set your tastebuds on a delicious trip to ice-cream heaven. Every flavor is delicious, even if it sounds weird (bacon ice cream), but my personal favorites were the Honey, Milk, and Graham Cracker and the Smoked Sea Salt Caramel Dark Chocolate. I crave it every day.

City View Restaurant: I've saved the best for last! Located in Chinatown, this is where you will find the most delicious, most affordable dim sum in SF. Be careful when trying to eat here, they are only open for lunch on weekdays, and there is usually a line. If you can go with just a party of two, you're more likely to be seated. Once seated, you will experience the most crazy, fun, and amazing dim sum experience. 

COFFEE:

Blue Door Coffee: Do you want a strong cup of coffee? Then this is the place for you. The latte definitely gave me the pick-me-up I needed, the staff was wonderful, and (the best part) there are some amazing chocolate-dipped short bread cookies. Yes, I had twelve. No, I don't regret it. Yes, you should do the same, and send me a picture so I can be jealous. Wonderful snack for a mid-day boost! Located all over SF and Berkeley.

The Mill: You've probably seen The Mill all over famous IGer's Instagrams. This SF charm is probably the most photogenic coffee shop I have ever been to. If you ever go, get the Almond Milk Latte, as someone who normally hates almond milk, this latte was delicious. I don't know what they did, but I was completely shocked to have such an incredible experience. Also, this is a great place to snag a trendy IG picture.

Four Barrel Coffee: Located in the Mission, this place is always packed. I went in mid-day and was blown away by the aesthetic. Lots of woods, greens, and fun designs. I actually needed a break from coffee for the day (shocker!) and got a tea! The service was incredible, I was informed about the different teas and their unique flavors. Loved the atmosphere, and this is a great place to stop after shopping along Valencia St.

Shops:

Borderlands Books: A little background first, my brother is an English major and we really love exploring little book stores together, finding treasures. His birthday was coming up, and I surprised him with a day of book store hopping around SF. While on our little journey, we bumped into Borderlands, an entirely SyFy/Fantasy book store. My brother had a great time nerd-ing out, and if you're interested in SyFy/Fantasy, this place is definitely for you! If you aren't, there is a wonderful coffee shop attached where you can hang out, grab a sip, and hang out!

NO Shop: Located in the Mission, NO is a resale shop that has wonderful finds. I found a great neutral stripped button-down that is my go-to shirt. Pop in for some affordable treats!

Sights:

Golden Gate Park (Japanese Tea Garden): Golden Gate Park on its own is a beautiful park that takes you right up to the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. However, bring your walking shoes if you plan on doing the whole park because it is massive. In the middle of the park is a beautiful Japanese Tea Garden where you can walk around, snap some great photos, and drink tea! Loved this beautiful little piece of heaven in SF.

24th St Mission District: Off of 24th St. there is an alley way that is covered in local art from top to bottom. People have painted some beautiful and empowering messages, and it is a really special sight. Definitely a place to stop by and check out! Actually, just check out all of the Mission, it's all amazing!

Lake Merritt: On the other side of the Bay from SF is Oakland. In the middle of Oakland is a beautiful lake, Lake Merritt. We popped by here on my last Saturday in town to grab a delicious brunch and walk around the lake. Some beautiful views, and great brunch spots line the lake!

Golden Gate Bridge: Of course! Beautiful sights, better photos, and a wonderful time. Not much to be said about this beauty.

Painted Ladies: Head over and see your Full House dreams come true!

Ghirardelli Square:I hope you're ready for some amazing ice cream because here is where you can find the original Ghirardelli factory where they will make you some delicious ice cream! Grab it to go and walk down to the water for a lovely snack! Also, don't forget to put your ice cream in a delicious waffle cone bowl!

My time in SF was wonderful, and ended much too quickly! If you ever get a chance to go be sure to check out all of the succulents that line every street! Such an exciting sight for this Texan. 

I'm very excited to go back (sometime soon, hopefully!) and explore more amazing places! Very excited to be taking another trip soon to CA, but more on that later... surprises in store!