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Quick Winter Getaway, Part I (Orange County & St. Louis)

 

Last month and towards the end of last year, I did a quick getaway to somewhere warm and sunny. I needed to disconnect for a little bit and to prepare myself for the upcoming long cold Winter of my natural habitat, LOL. Anyway, I actually went from one city to another but didn’t stay long, only for a few days each. So here now is the first part of these recent trips.

 

ORANGE COUNTY

 

I miss the California sun and was excited to visit Orange County, only to realize that it was actually raining when I arrived and it didn’t stop until the next day. So I mostly stayed in my hotel chillin’ and on the third day, I had a great time shopping and dining at the nearby outlet which is very close to my hotel.

 

ayres hotel orange orange county california

 

Ayres Hotel Orange – I had a fabulous stay in this beautiful and relaxing hotel. Its grounds are very well-kept, beautiful, and simply serene. The staff here are very kind and respectful to your privacy. Food-wise, this hotel has a nice breakfast buffet selection, and plenty of chairs to lounge around, especially nearby the pool area. I also had a chance to dine at a nearby Mexican restaurant called Anepalco and their food and service was really excellent. To book a stay in this hotel, click HERE.

 

the outlets at orange county california

 

the outlets at orange

 

The Outlets at Orange– With just minutes away and walking distance from Ayres Hotel Orange, this large outlet has lots of shops and restaurants. I had a great time strolling around and browsing at different stores which I find to be very well-stocked compared to my local outlets at home. Their Saks Off Fifth has several discounted Tom Ford beauty products which got me drooling. Also, they have a nice AMC theatre where I watched Green Book.

 

ST. LOUIS MISSOURI

 

downtown clayton missouri

 

I have never been to St. Louis before and I was curious as to what Missouri looks like. True to my expectation, St. Louis especially downtown Clayton is very beautiful and it’s booming. I love the architecture here which is very classic and I noticed that even the new buildings/constructions seem to follow the same classic design. Clayton is full of shops and restaurants, plus the people are so friendly and so kind. The cabs and Uber drivers here are so polite and friendly, and they even act and talk like your tour guide. I like the flat topography of St. Louis even though it looks a little too spread out. There are lots of things to see here. Almost all the houses I’ve seen around Clayton are grand and well-kept. Washington University (Wash U) is nearby and it’s a beautiful classic-style campus as well. During my visit here, the weather was wavering between sunny and gloomy and it wasn’t so cold during the day. I did get so cold at night though. All in all, St. Louis Missouri is not your average midwest town. This place is a total must-see.

 

ritz carlton st louis missouri

 

ritz carlton missouri

 

Ritz Carlton – Located at the heart of Downtown Clayton, the room that I got here is a bit small compared to some other Ritz Carltons I’ve stayed before, but it’s still luxurious nevertheless. It’s also super clean and the toiletries are from Asprey London which smells divine and luxe. I adored the all-marble wall to floor bathroom, and the staff here are courteous and helpful. I enjoyed a simple hearty breakfast here and the service was great. They’ll even give you a free snack and drinks if you’re waiting for someone at the lobby. They were also very nice to me when I asked to change to another room after I complained that I could hear the sound of the elevator from my bed. I don’t think that I got a nice view of Clayton from my room, but for me, it was good enough as long as I could not hear any noise outside my window. Location-wise, this hotel is a perfect walking distance to a lot of shops and restaurants in Clayton. To book a stay in this hotel click HERE.

 

ritz carlton room st louis missouri

 

breakfast at ritz carlton st louis missouri

 

ritz carlton st louis room view

 

 

the arch st. louis missouri

 

the gateway arch national park st. louis

The Gateway Arch – I was so excited to see this famous Gateway to the West, simply known as “The Arch”. It is the world’s tallest arch and it’s one of America’s most famous monuments. I took an Uber to visit the Arch and the driver politely told me that the Arch was closed because of the government shutdown, but I insisted to see it anyway just so I could see the arch from the outside at least. True to everyone’s rave, the Arch is SO impressive. It’s made of stainless steel and it’s about 630 ft tall. You can potentially go up there and take in all the view from above, although I can only imagine how it must be like. Across the arch is a view of the Mississippi River from St. Louis Missouri’s side, and strolling along it is so relaxing, you can totally enjoy the sun and the sand. 

 

the arch st louis missouri

 

the arch st louis missouri

 

riverboat cruises gateway arch

 

 

st. louis zoo grizzly bear

 

st. louis zoo

 

St. Louis Zoo – I took another Uber and decided to visit the St. Louis Zoo. I haven’t been to any zoo for a long time and I needed to see my friends (I love animals, you know). This zoo is probably the most laid-back zoo I’ve ever been and it’s also very vast. The animals here are cute and you can see lots of them. From Tigers to Buffalos, down to some rare snakes, this zoo not only looks like a zoo, but it also looks like a park. Kids and families love this place and I too enjoyed this zoo a lot.

 

st louis missouri zoo penguins

st. louis mo zoo

 

st. louis zoo view

 

 

st. louis zoo buffalos

 

 

st. louis art museum

 

St. Louis Art Museum – This museum has a very classic European-style architecture and it looks grand. Just right outside of it is the statue of the impressive King Louis IX of France riding a mighty horse, known as the Apotheosis of St. Louis. In front of the statue is the Grand Basin of the vast Forest Park. The St. Louis Art Museum has unique and interesting exhibits, but I didn’t spend a lot of time here because I was getting hungry and they were about to close anyway, so I started looking for food. LOL. 

 

st. louis art museum

 

st. louis art museum exhibit

 

FOODIES:

 

BARcelona tapas restaurant menu

 

BARcelona tapas restaurant review

tres leches barcelona tapas restaurant

BARcelona Tapas Restaurant – Just 30 minutes walk from Ritz Carlton hotel and still in downtown Clayton, I had a nice dinner at this restaurant the same day that I arrived in St. Louis. I was impressed by the variety of the menu as well as the restaurant’s decor and ambiance. The food here transported me back to Barcelona and it’s really good, also, the prices are not that expensive. The service is quick and the food was served on time, but you do need to call ahead for a reservation. I highly recommend that you try their Tres Leches (dessert) which is so divine. To reserve a table to this restaurant, click HERE.

 

guerilla street food review

 

guerilla street food st. louis missouri menu

 

Guerrilla Street Food – I came here right after visiting the St. Louis Art Museum. Again, my Uber driver was a kind welcoming Vietnam Vet who further oriented me to St. Louis. I was not really sure why the restaurant is called Guerrilla, but I was determined to taste this famous Filipino franchise in STL. I’m no stranger to Filipino foods at all, so if you ask me what I think about the food here, I think, to be honest, they’re just ok. I ordered Chicken Adobo which I think definitely needs some soy sauce, and the Sinigang (Tamarind soup) definitely needs more Tamarind because it wasn’t sour at all. The Empanadas are ok, but I don’t know what the “Flying Pig” was all about. While it tasted so good, there is no such thing as Flying Pig in Philippine cuisine. Just a tip, the sodas here are not your average American sodas. I wasn’t really sure what they were, I wanna say that they’re the Philippine version of most American drinks and that their tastes are not that different from what we’re used to here in the US. I honestly could not recognize most of them except for the Calamansi juice, which is so great by the way. 

 

guerilla street food sinigang

 

st. louis missouri guerilla street food

 

St. Louis Galleria – I ended my stay in Missouri with a visit to one of their malls. I wanted to go to Plaza Frontenac but they were closing early on that day, so I decided to drop by at the famous St. Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights near St. Louis. This mall is huge and they have shops and brands that I haven’t seen or heard before. There are several floors in this mall and the decors are impressive.

st. louis galleria mall

 

I was definitely fascinated by the beauty of St. Louis and I highly recommend that you visit this place whenever you have time and I bet you that you won’t be disappointed. Stay tuned for part two of this trip.

 

London To Stonehenge. A Trip To The English Countryside

Hey Mate! Several months ago, I took a trip to visit a cousin and an aunt of mine who lives down South of England. We’ve been dying to see each other for years, in fact, I haven’t seen my aunt for 15 years and my cousin for 10 years. They’ve been asking me to visit them for a long long time, and me wanting the same, but for some reason, life happened and years had passed without us seeing each other. That is until finally, I decided to make the move and travel down to Southampton.

 

longmede

 

My trip to the UK was probably one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever done in my life. That’s because it was my first time setting foot in the Land of hope and glory, not to mention finally seeing my relatives after several years. Coming from the Land of the free, I first took a connecting flight to the Land of the Maple Leaf (Canada) and from there I took the 5-hour flight to London Heathrow. I didn’t really plan to see a lot of places on this trip since I only allotted a few days to stay in the UK. I have also made plans to go to Spain right after that, so I wasn’t really sure whether I would be able to see some tourist attractions in London or not. My goal was mostly to see my relatives. Right after landing in Heathrow which was almost midnight, I took a cab straight to the Hilton Ageas Bowl in Southampton. It’s a hotel with a stadium attached to it and it’s one of the few hotels near my cousin’s place. While I was in the cab, I remember being shocked at the Brit’s “left-hand side traffic” way of driving and how weird and different it was compared to the US. I also remember falling asleep in the cab several times only to wake up and realize that I was still in the cab and that it was really dark and scary out there. We’ve passed by a lot of looming woods, vast lands and whatsoever, and I thought “this is so far away” but my cousin told me that it’ll only take about 30 minutes drive to the hotel without traffic, and yet there was no traffic around that time but the taxi was still going and going. It seemed like forever. Oh well, anyhow, It took me about 2 hours to arrive to the hotel and it was nice but I didn’t have a nice view of the Cricket stadium, instead, I had a view of the parking lot with a small golf course around it. It was too dark for me to see things around when I arrived, so off I went to sleep immediately.

 

Bishop’s Waltham, St. George’s Square & St. Peter’s Church

The following day I got a better view of what was around me, the Hilton Ageas Bowl is a nice and quaint hotel with good food and is a great place to do some sports. I saw men with their golf accessories and some other people who looked like they were into sports or something. The weather was gloomy and kind of windy that day but I loved it. It makes for the perfect South England atmosphere. My first impression of Southampton is very interesting. It felt like I was in this magical place, kinda like The Lord Of The Rings vibe, somewhere down in Middle Earth, LOL. The grasses are lush green, the pines look healthy and vibrant, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, it’s rural, it’s relaxing, it’s so quaint and so dreamy. I freaking love it. I saw some farm animals, like goats, cows, fat pigs and chubby sheeps, along with some very beautiful horses. My cousin lives near the ruins of Bishops Waltham Palace, which was once a residence of the richest Bishops of Winchester but was badly damaged and abandoned during the Civil War. Now it has become an open field Farmhouse Museum. After a few exchanges of Hi’s and Hellos, a hearty seafood lunch (which they are big on, especially shrimps and crabs) and lots of jokes and laughs, we drove a short distance to the ruins of the Bishop’s Waltham together with my aunt and her husband. Here are some photos.

 

ruins of bishops waltham

bishop's waltham ruins england

bishops waltham ruins

bishop's waltham

bishop's waltham ruins united kingdom

ruins of bishop's waltham

 

Afterwards, we walked to the St. George’s Square nearby, which is full of quaint shops and houses. Then we strolled towards St. Peter’s Church, a parish with a small cemetery close to it. The view was absolutely beautiful.

 

st. george's square bishops waltham

st. peter's church united kingdom

st. peter's church cemetery bishop's waltham

 

 

Stonehenge

The next day, my cousin and her family took me to a two-hour drive to see the world famous Stonehenge. My cousin told me that she wasn’t really impressed when she first saw the Stonehenge. For her, it looked just like a pile of large stones. But for me, it was really impressive when I first saw it from afar. As we get closer and closer, I thought the stones were beautiful and the way they were arranged was interesting. My cousin also said that they were able to touch the stones before, but now it has been fenced and you have to pay the entrance fee at the Visitor Center in order to see it close enough. Once you park your car in the designated parking lot and pay the entrance fee, you will need to get into one of their buses which will then take you close enough to the Stonehenge which is just about a few minutes ride. You’re will then walk around it and see its majestic grandeur together with the rest of the mesmerized tourists. Curious about the Stonehenge? Here’s what I know. Stonehenge is a circular pile of large stones (monoliths) that was thought to be constructed by the prehistoric tribes around 3000 and 2920 BC, which is basically the Neolithic period. The people that constructed it left no trace of what it was meant for and why. However, archaeologists found bones and other fragments in the area, which led them to believe that Stonehenge served as a ceremonial and burial site, but apart from that, Stonehenge’s real history and purpose still remains a mystery up to this date. After circling around the Stonehenge, I then took the bus back to the Visitor Center and I saw some replica of the houses of the tribes that built the Stonehenge. There was also this depiction of one of the large stones that showed how the tribes managed to haul it to the site. As far as I know, it would take about 100 people to pull that one big stone in the picture. Now that’s impressive!

 

the stonehenge

stonehenge review

visit to the stonehenge

stonehenge picture

stonehene large stones

durrington walls tribes

durrington walls people

 

After the Stonehenge adventure, we planned to go to Portsmouth but my jet lag was kicking in, so I decided to just go back to the hotel and rest. I had to go to Gatwick Airport the next day to catch a flight to Spain, so you can imagine my relatives’ sadness knowing that I basically only had to stay three days in the UK, but at least we saw each other, that was all that mattered. I asked her if there’s a way for me to go and visit London from Gatwick, and she said that I could take a train to London Victoria. So off I went to Gatwick Airport early the next day and my gosh, it felt like another two long hours in the cab, so I was so tired by the time I got to Premier Inn, a transit hotel in Gatwick Airport. I honestly can’t recommend this hotel, even though it is affordable and it is basically right in the airport which is good, but it’s also small and it’s uncomfortable to walk around with its tight spaces, plus it’s really dusty and not quite sanitary. The AC was mediocre as well. There wasn’t much inside this hotel room but a single easy-to-dispense liquid soap. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to stay that long. Next time I’d probably find another place somewhere in Gatwick to stay.

 

London

From Gatwick Airport, I took a one-way ticket via the the Express Train to London Victoria. I couldn’t remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was close to £20 and it took me around 40-45 minutes to get to London Victoria. The trip was pleasant, and there weren’t a lot of people on the train. I kinda felt like I had a “Girl On The Train” vibe during the trip, passing through tunnels, houses, and buildings. It was almost dark when I got to London, so I decided to take the Big Bus Tour. It took me a while to find the waiting spot since the streets are not really well-signed. Somehow I did manage to find it and I waited and waited a long time for the bus to arrive, but apparently, they had some maintenance issue going on at that time, so I basically wasted a lot of my time and was really annoyed that I may not be able to see much of London. I decided to just go and take a cab close to the London Eye or Big Ben. I swear, I love the cabs in London, they’re so comfortable compared to the ones we have here in the US, you can have a lot of legroom plus it’s a cab suitable for when you’re carrying your luggage. Anyway, I really didn’t get to see much of London, which is kind of a bummer. It was so dark by the time I strolled along and arrived at the popular tourist’s spots, but I could tell that the architecture and the entire view is nice. It probably looked very different during the daylight, but at night it’s also really beautiful. Anyway, here are some photos of my short stroll in London. My apologies for the dark photos.

 

red telephone booth

big ben london

london eye photo

st. margaret's church westminster abbey

westminster abbey

 

Overall, my short stay in London and Southampton are, as I have said before, one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever done. It’s a lovely place and it’s different and unique. It sort of reminds of the old vintage America, complete with its clean bricks and quaint houses, along with some beautiful and grand architectures. I definitely would love to come back because there were a lot of things I wanted to see, like how could I miss Bond Street? Hopefully, I won’t be rushing again by the time I’m back, and that I hope it won’t take another ten years for me to see my relatives again.

 

FYI: When visiting the UK, it’s always a good idea to bring your three-pronged adaptor plugs if you’re coming from the US or some parts of Europe and Asia. But if you’re from Hong Kong, you’re all set.

 

To learn more about Bishop’s Waltham, click Here

To book a tour to Stonehenge from Central London, click Here

To see a lot of London if you’re time-constrained, I definitely still recommend the Big Bus Tour, click Here

 

 

Volant, PA

Hello guys! My apologies for not being constant with my postings lately. I’m currently truly, madly, deeply, busy but I hope things will start to simmer down in a few days soon. Thank you very much for your understanding and please check out my Instagram regularly as I’ll be posting more stuff there in the days to come.

As what I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been in a couple of trips lately and will still have to do more. For this particular travel log, I divided this down into two parts as I pretty much went to two sights in one day. Both are very nice and wonderful places to see.

 

volant pennsylvania

 

A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to a little borough in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania called Volant. Actually, I planned to go and see Lake Erie and wanted to drop by somewhere to see an Amish village. I thought of going to Lancaster PA at first, but it’s really not on the way to Lake Erie and I only have a day to do both. Someone told me that there are few little Amish villages on the way to Erie, and one of them is Volant. In case you’re wondering why do I wanna visit an Amish town, oh well, I’ve always been curious and I wanted to take a break from the usual city life. It seems like a trip to a nice and quiet Amish town will be exciting. And of course, yeah, I’ve seen TLC’s Breaking Amish show, lol.

Volant is about an hour away from Pittsburgh and is very close to Grove City where there’s outlet shopping. It’s also an hour and 28 minutes away from Lake Erie. I drove there and most of the road throughout the trip was pretty flat and smooth. It was nice to see the leaves slowly changing their colors to prepare for Fall. I went there early morning and the temperature is a bit cool and fresh. The sceneries during the trip were nice although I started noticing that my phone was losing coverage as I was approaching Volant. Suddenly the road started to get narrower and narrower and was getting windier and windier. There were lots of cornfields around and my phone’s signal was pretty much fluctuating until there was a point that I didn’t have any coverage for a couple of minutes. I started breaking out in a sweat as I looked around, and all I see were vast and never-ending cornfields. I was like “oh no! I could die in here and nobody’s gonna know”, but anyhow, as soon as I got passed that silly imagination, I reached an intersection and saw the quaint little town of Volant.

 

volant mills pa

 

The air was fresh and cool when I parked near Volant Mills, which I understood as the main attraction/store of the town. At the entrance of Volant Mills, I saw an Amish lady greeting people and the store had a very vintage feel. I really like it and I saw a lot of unique products that are composed mostly of Halloween/Fall stuff plus some handmade rugs, decors, curtains, candles, soaps, etc. I noticed that not all of the products were Amish-made, so I decided to pick up a few preserves that were locally made in Volant (which I assume were made by the Amish) and some wooden Amish figurines as souvenirs. Volant Mills has three floors, with the third one being more of an exposition/mini museum for a few traditional Amish clothing and memorabilias mix with a few gardening/decor products. If you don’t have cash, don’t worry, because the store accepts all major credit cards.

 

volant mills volant pa

 

volant mills, volant pa

 

After Volant Mills, I got hungry and realized that it was almost time for lunch, I saw that there were a few Amish ladies selling some preserves and baked goodies, and another group selling some delicious-looking Amish donuts. I wanted one, but I decided to venture into the full-service restaurant just across Volant Mills, called Neshannock Creek Inn. They also accept credit cards and since I don’t have enough cash to purchase those donuts yet, I decided to have lunch at Neshannock Creek Inn. I’ve read that they’re known for their Giant Cod Sandwich, so I ordered one and the sandwich arrived well-cooked and looking really delish with some fries and condiments. While the sandwich could have tasted better with more seasoning, I really enjoyed their fries and mayo. They’re so good, one of the best I’ve ever tried.

 

volant pa amish doughnuts

 

neshannock creek inn volant pa

 

I was already full by the time I got out of the restaurant and I sorta stopped longing for the donuts. Although, now that I think about it, I realized that I really should have tried one. Oh my, nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t buy. LOL. True, right? Anyways, at the back of the restaurant was an ATM which I used to get cash in order to pay for things I wanted to buy around. The area is full of little quaint houses that serve as shops for coffee, clothes, art, foods, etc. I went into a nice little store/house that sells antiques and it was really interesting and exciting while a bit creepy at the same time. There were lots of things to see and to explore, and they’re pretty cheap.

 

volant antique shops

 

volant pennsylvania

 

From the Antique store, I visited some other stores and had fun just browsing. There are also male and female public bathrooms in the area that you can spot immediately, as well as stores that sell Amish furnitures. As you all know, Amish people are known for their finely-crafted furnitures and I pretty much ended my Volant trip scouting for some stores that specialize in selling true Amish chairs, tables, and cabinets.

 

volant pa kester's alpaca

 

Oh, and did I forget to mention that I saw this cutie on my way out of Volant Mills? Meet Al, the Alpaca, LOL. His owner was selling some Alpaca-made scarves and I purchased some while taking a few pics of Al’s cutie face. He was looking at me seriously, I bet he was getting ready to spit on my face. Oh my, he would have ruined my contouring.

I really enjoyed Volant, it was like stepping back in time and it was very peaceful. Even though I didn’t see a lot of Amish people, I still enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of the place. The people are friendly too. It’s so nice to get away from the city life and experience simple living from time to time.

I really like it there and I’m thinking of going back sometime soon. Perhaps even make a trip to the nearby village of New Wilmington and take a tour to see the Amish way of life.

 

That concludes part 1 of my travel log guys. Stay tuned for part 2, which is Lake Erie.

 

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