Month: November 2016

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa is a 13th century inspired Italian castle located in Calistoga, California. It was an awfully cold morning when my family and I pulled up at the magnificent 30 acre vineyard, after a twenty minute drive from our hotel in downtown Napa. Once inside, we signed up for the guided tour and premium wine tasting which was lead by a nice, young man – Tomaso, who spoke enthusiastically for more than two hours with his thick Italian accent. Tomaso began by giving us some historical facts of Castello di Amorosa, most specifically, of its owner Dario Sattui. Sattui grew up in San Francisco, and is the grandson of wine pioneer Vittorio Sattui. Dario was fascinated by the wine making process and purchased over a hundred acres of land in Calistoga over 25 years ago. He had a vision of creating a beautiful Italian-inspired winery. Today, Castello di Amorosa is an architect’s dream and can even be booked for weddings and other events. It’s hard for me to imagine a more dreamlike wedding location! …

Island of Flowers

Only 20 km from Panama City, and nicknamed the island of flowers, Taboga Island is truly a charmer, and a must for anyone visiting the country.  There are several different ferry companies taking you from the port in Amador to Taboga and back; for my last visit there I took the Calypso ferry departing at 9:30 a.m which is only $20 round trip. It’s a thirty minute ride passing next to enormous cargo ships that are on their way to the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal. Quicker than you realize, you arrive at Taboga Island: colorful, friendly, and truly relaxing. When I was kid, I frequented Taboga with my family a lot; its proximity to the city really makes it the perfect weekend getaway. However, if you’ve only got a day to spend, Taboga is also perfect  since its area is under 5 square miles. (Happy Tiki tip: try to avoid Sundays and weekends/holidays in general if you can, some of the beaches can get really crowded!) The houses in Taboga are colorful with bougainvilleas growing against …

Tropical Geometry

Tógo is a lovely boutique bed and breakfast located in Panama’s Pacific coast, with the most lush and tropical interior decoration. I have been there twice, it is one of my father’s favorite places to stay when looking for some peace and tranquility close to the sea. Panama City gets hectic, but we are lucky to have paradisiacal, turquoise beaches just an hour’s away. The B&B is colorfully decorated, with yellow and green couches, pillows made out of “Molas” (hand stitched embroidery designed by the Kuna Yala indigenous community), dozens of little Panamanian ornaments hanged on the walls, and the most vibrant paintings. Tógo is also home to five pets: two dogs and three cats, which get along “just fine”. Breakfast is a bowl of fresh fruit (pineapple, watermelon, papaya, and banana), followed by warm bread and home-made marmalade (raspberry or grape – your pick), eggs to your taste, and pancakes if you wish. If you are not sold yet, scroll through the photos I took of this tropical haven – opened in 2009 – and its …

Souvenirs from the South Pacific: Bondi to Coogee Walk

My friend Jess had told me that a must-do while in Sydney was the cliff top coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee. It was early October and it was finally starting to get warm and sunny outside. I had been to Bondi a few times in the winter but was eager to witness the beautiful Sydney coastline in less layers! I had a Monday off from work and woke up early to begin my commute to Coogee. I packed snacks, a large water bottle, headphones, and my camera – the photos from this walk are probably my favorite souvenir of my time in Oz.  The sun was shining and the ocean was a beautiful turquoise color, the waves alluring dozens of surfers from Coogee to Clovelly and Bronte, all the way up to Bondi. I encountered runners, hikers, dog-walkers, photographers, and children all throughout the 6km walk. It was hotter than expected, but needless to say I found plenty of shade under trees. The walk takes about two hours, but I kept finding beautiful photo ops and perfect areas to meditate. It was …

Biarritz on a Gloomy Day

Last week, I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon in one of the most charming gems in the Basque: Biarritz. Having relatives in San Sebastian, Spain, allows for occasional visits to this region known for wine, pintxos, and Game of Thrones-esque sceneries. The best part is the drive from San Sebastian to Biarritz is short, sweet, and full of hidden, magical coastal towns. It was a chilly and sunless Fall day. Still, there’s something about Biarritz… No wonder Victor Hugo is quoted to have said, “I have not met in the world any place more pleasant and perfect than Biarritz”. Located in the Bay of Biscay, the city has been extremely popular amongst European royalty since the 19th century – its Hôtel du Palais being a favorite of Empress Eugene, Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, and Alfonso VIII. Today Biarritz is one of the top surf spots in Europe. I have only visited in the Fall and Winter, but hear repeatedly  from friends and family that Biarritz in the summer is a must. Hopefully I can …