Reviews and Other Stuff

TRAVELS & PLACES

Palo Alto, California

stanford shopping center restaurants

 

Every year or so, I get a chance to visit Palo Alto. It is absolutely one of the most exciting trips I look forward to out of all the trips I planned because it puts me in a California dreamin’ mood. It’s nice to see palms, pines, and lots of sun again.

 

On this trip, I stayed at the historic “The Cardinal Hotel”. It is probably the oldest if not one of the oldest hotels in Palo Alto, California. It has a charming old-world vibe with a quaint lobby and a vintage elevator. Entering this hotel will give you a glimpse of what it’s like during the old Palo Alto times. Just outside the hotel, there are lots of restaurants and shops to choose from. It’s what I really love about California, the varieties of things to see, the shops to explore, and the people from all walks of life, busy crossing the streets, just going about their daily lives, not to mention the fresh air in a very sunny yet slightly chilly early Fall. Yes, the Fall in California can still feel like Summer at most times.

 

bistro maxine palo alto california

 

Just around The Cardinal Hotel is Bistro Maxine where they have such delicious crepes and hot chocolates. I highly recommend that you try any of their breakfast specials because they’re all so good.

 

stanford shopping center photos

 

Whenever I’m in Palo Alto, I always make sure to visit the Stanford Shopping Center. This is one of my most favorite places to shop. I just love the whole laid-back vibe of this outdoor mall, and the decor is really beautiful. I could spend the whole day in this mall without getting bored just because some of my favorite shops are here. I love seeing Aesop’s unique store and Madewell has some really interesting styles that I could not find at my local Madewell store. The same is true for Sephora where here they have such a wonderful collection of Pat McGrath products. Also, the Anthropologie store in this mall is very fun to explore. If luxury is your thing, you will find several high-end brands here, and Neiman+Nordy are just around the corner.

 

stanford shopping center palo alto

 

stanford shopping center

 

anthropologie stanford shopping center review

 

anthropologie stanford shopping center review

 

A visit to Palo Alto is not complete without a visit to “The Farm” a.k.a Stanford University. As to why it’s called The Farm? just ask google, lol. I love the look of this school. It has a very relaxed unassuming architecture that gives you a sense of prestige nevertheless. Whenever I enter this campus, I think of the great minds that have been here, and also of the minds of the ones who are about to change the world.

 

palm drive stanford university

 

stanford university

 

Getting to Stanford University is a whole lotta walking especially if you came from shopping at the Stanford Shopping Center. However, the long walk is worth it because you get to stroll along and enjoy the view of the very scenic Palm Drive, which will remind you that life indeed, can be a peach. 🙂

 

stanford university palm drive

 

stanford university

 

stanford university well

 

Walking inside and around campus is like walking through a bunch of gardens, vintage corridors, and passing through bicycles after bicycles. Students bike a lot here because the campus is very vast. I would not have been able to survive walking around here if it wasn’t for my comfy APL sneakers that didn’t need breaking in and can withstand hours of walking in different terrains. The nice thing about this campus is that there are plenty of seats to relax upon and chill.

 

stanford university campus

 

apl techloom breeze

 

stanford university

 

I concluded the end of my trip to Palo Alto with a nice dinner at my favorite spot along University Avenue which serves delicious Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Food. The restaurant is called Gyros Gyros and I highly recommend this place, but you have to come here with an empty stomach. 🙂

 

gyros gyros palo alto

 

stanford university bicycles

 

Have you been to Palo Alto before? What are the favorite spots you like to visit in California?

 

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Memories of Zurich, Switzerland

limmat river switzerland

 

Last Summer, I traveled to Europe and one of the cities I visited was Zurich, Switzerland. I spent a few days there to explore and unwind. It was my first time in Switzerland and I planned to not only visit Zurich, but I also had my trip set to Lucerne and the Swiss Alps which I will be featuring soon in my upcoming travel posts.

 

zurich swiss

 

hotel swiss night steinweisstrasse 8 zurich switzerland

 

I arrived in Zurich on a very warm and very bright late morning. The sun was really touching my skin in a very hot and quite aggressive way. I wasn’t used to that much sun anymore and I was squinting as I lugged my two large luggages on the front door of Hotel Swiss Night, located along the quiet residential street of Steinwiesstrasse 8. The hotel looks quaint, silent, and very homey with its quintessential Swiss design, complete with red and white paints/accents all over the walls just like the Swiss flag. You can also see replicas of big round cheeses and milk barrels as main decors right when you enter the hotel. Speaking of the hotel, it is actually not very large. The entire reception area is quite tiny and so is the narrow staircase leading down the breakfast room. The place feels more like a house rather than a hotel. Outside the hotel, you will find a red cow statue facing the door. The staff speaks good enough English and are overall very friendly and helpful.

 

view outside hotel swiss night zurich switzerland

The view outside my hotel room. What a cute multi-floor Swiss house!

 

makeup for traveling

I only took a few makeup and skincare stuff with me on this trip since I didn’t really have much time to pack, so I just mostly took the essentials.

 

best pouch for traveling

 

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swiss bread

 

The Hotel Swiss Night has only one elevator and it can practically fit two very slim people, provided that they don’t have any luggage with them. I emphasize the words very slim because I think in most instances, it can pretty much fit only one person with a small luggage. But there I was, shuffling along with my two large luggages, doing the whole Tetris thing trying to fit my stuff inside the tiny elevator, and for the life of me, I still couldn’t sneak my second luggage in. So, I decided to leave the second one out first while I took the first one to my room, then I went back for the second one. Speaking of rooms, my room was to be very honest, really really small, and really really hot. As I mentioned, it was Summer when I arrived and I was placed in an attic room with just a portable AC and with not much space for both my luggage and for my legs to walk around. I also found the very low ceiling to be very hazardous. I mentioned hazardous because there were many instances where I bumped my shoulder against that low ceiling and I eventually ended up with a dull shoulder pain that lasted for months since that trip. Apart from that, for what I paid for, the hotel has horrible Wifi and the TV channels were not translated into English. Since it’s situated in a quiet residential area, there weren’t many shops around, but there’s a 24/7 grocery store nearby. Keep in mind though that everything in Zurich is very expensive. A very basic nail cutter for 25 USD, everyone? Shockers, right? Other than that, the hotel’s breakfast was ok, you may still have to ask for water or milk in German/Swiss German for the staff to understand, but the selection’s fine enough for me to survive. Also, the bed here is really nice and comfy, but everything else is just too tiny and too claustrophobic for me. So, I don’t think I’ll be staying here again.

 

lake zurich

 

The first thing I went to see in Zurich is the popular Lake Zurich. I wanted to see the beautiful swans looking majestic and swimming serenely. So I spent a lot of time strolling along the lake just staring at such stunning creatures and taking all the pictures I could get. Lake Zurich is indeed very beautiful and is fun to visit. It’s pretty full of tourists though but it’s not overly congested. There are shops and cafes around, so you can shop, eat, and drink while you take in all the views.

 

visiting lake zurich switzerland

 

After a couple of hours strolling along Lake Zurich, I went to take an eTukTuk ride which I booked at Tripadvisor. If you’re wondering what an eTukTuk is, it’s actually an electric car that takes you on a tour to see some of the highlights of the city of Zurich. I chose this tour because I knew I wouldn’t be staying that long in Zurich, so I wanted to get a comprehensive knowledge of the city in a short period of time. There several types of eTukTuk tours you can choose from, ranging from the central Zurich and surroundings tour even to a Fondue and wine tour. The meeting place for this tour is at Museumtrasse 1, which is very close to the Zurich Main Station. I took an uber there (driver was pretty responsive) and located my eTukTuk driver immediately. His name was Attila. He was very informative and very friendly. I learned a lot about Zurich through his explanations and his experiences living and working there. I ended the tour feeling quite knowledgeable and more oriented about the city.

 

zurich switzerland horse statue

 

zurich switzerland

 

blumen fitze zurich switzerland

 

After the eTuktuk tour, I decided to stop at Coop Supermarkt, which is Zurich’s most common grocery store. I love this grocery store a lot. In fact, I like most European grocery stores because there is a lot to see. In the Coop Supermarkt, I found lots and lots Toblerones which is pretty obvious because they’re Swiss-made, but I also found lots of ham, cheeses, sweets, desserts (did I mention that the ice cream here is so addicting?), European wines, various haircare products, different types of bread, and all sorts of hausgemacht (homemade) sandwiches and sausages. They’re all expensive though, but they’re also all worth it.

 

coop supermarkt review

 

limmat river zurich

 

zurich switzerland grossmunster

 

zurich switzerland visit

 

The following day, I took a stroll along the Limmat River where you can find the Fraumünster and the Grossmünster Church. This part of Zurich is very classic and has very interesting architectural works. I made it a point to stroll along the famous Bahnhofstrasse nearby, which is the upscale shopping avenue of Zurich. I also went to see the Farmer’s Market nearby and I found some really nice fresh flowers.

 

zurich shopping

Bahnhofstrasse

 

zurich switzerland restaurants

 

zurich switzerland farmers market review

 

restaurant dialog zurich switzerland review

 

As I strolled, I stopped by to eat at Restaurant Dialog for a nice Lasagna. Then I continued my stroll but I felt very jet-lagged, so I went inside Gran Mota Restaurant for an ice-breaker, lol. I did get an ice cream and that sort of kept me awake for a while. I went to continue browsing some shops and even went back to Lake Zurich because I just loved staring at those Swans (dunno why), lol. I didn’t realize it was quite dark when I headed back to my hotel room and I literally passed out from the massive jet lag.

 

gran cafe mota switzerland

 

zurich bahnhofstrasse review

 

lake zurich limmat

 

The next day, I had a trip booked for Lucerne and the Swiss Alps.

 

what to pack while traveling

 

lake zurich

 

Have you ever been to Zurich before? What’s your most memorable experience in that city?

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post.

 

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Quick Winter Getaway, Part II (Houston)

rice running trail

 

Hey guys, as promised, this is part two of my recent Winter getaway. The first part of this travel diary recap is HERE.

 

HOUSTON

So, after having a great time in St. Louis Missouri, I hopped on a plane for a quick trip to Houston. The weather was amazing when I arrived there. It wasn’t sunny, but it was definitely warm. As usual, Houston is vibrant and everyone’s on their T-shirt and walking their dogs. Like with most big cities, there’s a lot of stuff to see in Houston, but I didn’t have the time to explore, so I just spent my few days there strolling around.

 

Hotel Zaza Houston

 

Hotel Zaza French Macarons
free French Macarons near Hotel Zaza’s lobby

 

Hotel Zaza – Known to be a boutique hotel, I had high hopes for the place when I checked in. However, I was utterly surprised by the darkness of the interior and it’s not just slightly dark, it’s REALLY dark to the point that you’d have a hard time finding the elevator button. My room was dingy, musty, and scary. The hallways were eerily silent, dark, and the type that will give you goosebumps. The hotel is full of bizarre paintings and photos that don’t seem to make any sense with regards to the hotel’s overall design. The staff is distant and don’t seem to care much for their clients. I remember sitting at their Monarch Restaurant located just adjacent to the hotel and no one came to ask for my order, so I just left. I did change room because I was so grossed out with its carpet and its musty smell, not to mention the not-so-safe-looking door and windows. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the free French Macarons at the lobby which I managed to spot amidst all that darkness and the hotel’s proximity to Rice Village, I would not have stayed here at all. In fact, I don’t think I will ever stay in this hotel again because it’s just hazardous.

 

rice university houston tx

 

rice university loop
Rice University Loop

 

Rice Boulevard & Rice Village – As what I’ve said above, the other nice thing of staying at my scary hotel is the fact that it’s walking distance to Rice University, Rice University Trail/Loop, and Rice Village. Yes, there’s a lot of rice there, I know, LOL. But yeah, I took a nice long stroll along Rice Boulevard and its running trail/loop which gave me a beautiful view of the Rice University campus. The university itself has a very classic design but the stars of the show are the impressive old oak trees that surrounded the entire school. They reminded me of the Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans (read about that trip HERE). Also, they are everywhere and they seem to take a life of their own. I truly recommend that you take a stroll along the Rice Boulevard trail because it’s kind of a reflecting experience. Since it wasn’t cold at all, I saw some squirrels having fun climbing the trees and enjoying the weather. Towards the end of Rice Boulevard is the famous Rice Village and I had a great time browsing some shops there. I picked up some beauty stuff at Bluemercury, had a coffee and spicy Chorizo at Starbucks, then swatched some makeup at Sephora. I totally love Rice Village for casual shopping and dining. Oh, and you gotta try the Rice Krispies from The Chocolate Bar if you happen to be there.

 

bluemercury rice village tx
Rice Village

 

On my way to Rice Village, I passed by several museums, like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and I also stopped at Hermann Park to see the roses near the Sam Houston monument. Check out the photos below.

Sam Houston Monument Hermann Park
Sam Houston Monument at Hermann Park

 

Houston Museum of Natural Science Photo

 

Cockrell Butterfly Center Museum Houston
Cockrell Butterfly Center

 

hermann park houston tx
Reflection Pool at Hermann Park

 

I find these short trips to be very beneficial on my part. I got a chance to unwind and disconnect for a while, and even though I got disappointed with my stay at Hotel Zaza in Houston, still, I could see myself living in all of the three cities I recently visited. I absolutely miss the sun in California, I love the newness and the energy of St. Louis, and there are so many things in Houston I want to explore. Anyway, that my friends is the conclusion of my short Winter getaway. Stay tuned for more trips coming very very soon.

 

Have you been to these spots before? What do you like about them?

 

To book a flight to Houston TX, click HERE

 

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