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Spain Trip – Barcelona Day Two

My first day in Barcelona, Spain, went very well. The next day (Day Two) I woke up at the break of dawn and enjoyed the view of the Barcelona coast.

From our hotel room window, I saw the first shred of sunlight hitting the buildings by the coast, and the light from the lamps reflecting in the water.  The natural and artificial light combination created a peaceful and beautiful view. To me, this is a perfect view I wouldn’t mind to wake up to everyday!

(Picture of the view from our hotel room.)

Since we were on vacation, my friend and I decided to take it easy by taking our time to get ready. Instead of eating in the restaurant on the W Hotel Barcelona property, we wanted to adventure out of the hotel to look for a breakfast place.

After about a 10-minute walk from our W Barcelona property, we found a restaurant, “Amarre 69”, which was opened for breakfast. Both of us ordered Americano coffee and breakfast with sausage and egg.

(Picture of the Americano coffee and the breakfast at “Amarre 69” restaurant.)

The Americano coffee was the perfect espresso drink. Not only did it smell very good, it also tasted very delicious. And the bacon in my breakfast was especially good. I don’t usually eat bacon in the States, but the bacon I had during my Spain trip was more like fried thick prosciutto (which happens to be one of my favorites).

After we finished the breakfast, we headed over to Park Güell in Carmel Hill. Park Güell was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a famous architect whose great work includes Sagrada Família. (Stay tuned for blog posts on Park Güell and Sagrada Família.)

After we left the park, we were starving. We found a restaurant off the Internet which opens earlier than most places in Barcelona. The restaurant was called “Restaurant 7 Portes”.

At the “Restaurant 7 Portes”, my friend and I had glasses of wine, Catalan flat bread, Jamón (ham), and paella. We ordered two kinds of paella; one with meat and seafood and one with black squid ink.

Everything we had in the “Restaurant 7 Portes” was great and the bill was unexpectedly inexpensive. After the dinner we walked back to our W Barcelona hotel. The walk was nice; we got the night view of Barcelona and the W Barcelona.

More on the Barcelona Trip – See Day One

Spain Trip – Barcelona Day One

It has been over a month since I returned home from a Winter Holiday Trip to Spain. I now finally have the time to recapture the memorable Spain trip.

Just an hour before I left home to head over to Sea-Tac airport, I was still scrambling to get the last minute of my job work done. It wasn’t until my friend and I were on the way to the airport that I started to wind down and realized I was going on the vacation – a trip to Spain. The exciting feeling of the anticipation finally flew into my mind.

The first destination of our Spain trip was Barcelona. We arrived in Barcelona on December 28, 2016; a sunny lovely day. For someone coming from Seattle like me, a pretty sunny day in December is always a gift. (See below, view from our flight.)

My friend and I checked into our room at the W Hotel in Barcelona. Thanks to my friend’s connections, we got a room with the pretty view of the coast. (See below) For me, the view of the coast in some way is nicer than the full ocean view. This is especially true when it comes to dawn.

Right after we got into our room, we were exhausted from our international flights. We unpacked our luggage, took turns taking showers, and took a short nap. We knew that in Spain, people usually eat dinner around 9:00pm or 10:00pm. And we planned to meet my friend’s friends from Barcelona at 9:00pm. It will be our first real meal in Spain.

The good thing about having friends from the local area when you travel is that you don’t have to worry too much about planning where you eat or where to go for sightseeing. The local experts will provide you more information than any tour guide books you prepare.

My friend’s friends from Barcelona showed us the famous La Rambla. The north of La Rambla has more nice cafés and retaurants, whereas the south of La Rambla has more street vendors and street cafes.

We also walked by Casa Batllo (by Gaudi). The architecture was decorated for the Winter Holiday. (See below for Casa Batllo)

While we walked along the La Rambla, most restaurants were packed, so we ended up in Piscolabis Rambla restaurant. My friend and I had the first taste of tapas in Barcelona. (I had many tapas in the States, but the experience was kind of different than the tapas I had in the States, mainly because I was eating it in Spain. The Jamón was great.)

(Our first tapas in Barcelona)

During dinner, I was enjoying the friendly company, the tapas, and the wine. I was also unwinding from the 14 hours of flights (include a short layover), and embracing the fact I was in Spain for vacation – my first trip to Europe.

After the dinner, all of us went to the local bar in Dreta de l’Eixample. The bar had some interesting décor, including paintings. It also played American popular songs. For a tourist like me, new to Barcelona, listening to the familiar songs (from back home) in a laid-back bar, makes me wonder if I am really in Spain, far away from home!

After we left the bar in Dreta de l’Eixample, my friend and I went back to our W Hotel in Barcelona and checked out the lounge, Eclipse, on the top floor of our hotel. Each of us had a cocktail drink; I had one of my old time favorites, rum and coke. And my friend tried the bar’s signature drink.

The Elicpse lounge was much smaller than we expected, but we had a great time nevertheless.

Our conclusion for the first day in Barcelona was that food and wine were surprisingly inexpensive there. My friend and I love to drink wine and we definitely were in the right place!

More on the Barcelona Trip – see Day Two

Winter Trip to Spain in December 2016 to January 2017

My friend and I have been wanting to take a trip to somewhere we’ve never been before for the New Year’s Eve, so right after the Christmas of 2016, we took a two week trip to Spain.

We narrowed down our trip to Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, and Madrid. For our 2017 New Year’s Eve celebration, we picked Barcelona for our destination.

Today is January 6, 2017. My friend and I are on our last week of our holiday/Winter trip in Spain. We really enjoyed our vacation in Spain and can’t believe we only have a few days left.

I can’t wait to share some of the details on our trip and all the delicious food we had. Stay tuned for my upcoming posts regarding our visit to Spain!

Barcelona – Casa Batllo by GaudiBarcelona_CasaBatllo_byGaudi

Palma de Mallorca – Playa Porto Cristo

Palma de Mallorca-Playa Porto Cristo

Madrid – Monumento Alfonso XII

Monumento Alfonso XII

The Bearfoot Bistro Restaurant in Whistler, Canada

Recently, my friend and I decided to take a quick, impromptu weekend trip to Whistler, Canada. Whistler is a fantastic ski resort area about two hours north of the Washington (state) border. On our first evening in Whistler, we decided to eat at the Bearfoot Bistro restaurant, Unlike most upscale restaurants in Whistler, the Bearfoot Bistro is not located inside a hotel; it is a standalone establishment.

Overall, I’d give our experience a rating of 8 out of 10. Both the service and the food were very good but not amazing.

I’d describe the Bearfoot Bistro as a modern restaurant with no particular emphasis. To cut to the chase, out total bill, including wine, was about $115 per person — certainly a bit pricey, but not crazy expensive.

My friend and I both had a five-course meal. My meal started with albacore tuna tartar, garnished with spicy octopus/calamari. This was followed by foie gras and chicken liver parfait. It was good but not exceptional. Next was wild mushroom risotto with parmesan cheese; I added scallops and it was excellent! My fourth course was braised lamb with Brussel sprouts and squash puree. It was light and not gamey and I liked it a lot. My fifth and final course was my dessert; I had the pecan and bourbon ice cream tart. It was very good.

Albacore Tuna Tartar - w. Octopus
Albacore Tuna Tartar – w. Octopus

If you’re ever in Whistler, Canada, I recommend that you give some consideration to the Bearfoot Bistro. It’s a bit pricey, but overall, well worth the experience.

Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait - with Fig Puree
Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait – with Fig Puree
The Bearfoot Bistro Restaurant at Whistler, Canada
Wild Mushroom Risotto with Scallops
Praised Peace Country Lamb
Praised Peace Country Lamb
Pecan & Bourbon Tart - w. Pear & Bourbon Tart
Pecan & Bourbon Tart – w. Pear & Bourbon Tart

Traveling Outfit for My California Trip

After being in the rain in Seattle for weeks, it’s really nice for me to go to sunny Orange County, CA, to visit my brother and sister-in-law and my niece.

Last night while I was packing I knew exactly what I was going to wear to the airport! I wanted something light, layer-able, and that would keep me warm while I went to work in the morning, and then would make me comfortable when I flew out in the afternoon .

For my top, I wore a short sleeve light gray t-shirt and my most recent favorite cashmere hoodie sweater. I also wore a moto faux leather jacket that I bought last Spring. I always love the combination of hoodie weathers with a short jacket/blazer. It’s a casual and stylish combination.

For bottom, I worn my new Citizen of Humanity skinny jeans in black. They’re so comfy; almost like a legging. Usually I prefer True Religions with crystals for skinny jeans, but the comfort  of this new Citizen skinny made it an easy choice for me.

Citizens of Humanity Skinny Stretch Leggings – $178 via Nordstrom

Citizens of Humanity Skinny Stretch Leggings

For shoes, I wore my Vince Blair 5 slip-on sneakers in black. If I really want to upgrade my look after I arrive to Orange County I can always take off my cashmere hoodie and put on my red slingback Christian Loubouton.

Vince Blair 5 Slip-on Sneakers – $195 via Nordstrom

Vince – “Blaire 5″ Slip-on Sneaker in black

Of course, my outfit is not complete without a handbag. Since my clothing and shoes are all in neutral gray and black, I wanted something to brighten it up. I choose my Louis Vuitton Alma in the new Cerise – bright orange color.

Now, I am really ready for the sunny California!

Louis Vuitton Venis Alma in Cerise

Sunday Brunch at St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel at Dana Point

During the past weekend I visited my family in California. We went to St. Regis Monarch Beach at Dana Point for Sunday brunch. Dana Point is known for its beautiful beach view and the St. Regis is always a nice hotel to visit (regardless of location). The opportunity of eating at the St. Regis at Dana Point was too good to pass up.

The restaurant we went to in the St. Regis Monarch Beach hotel is called Motif. It was named the best brunch place in Orange County, California. I booked the reservation a few weeks before my trip. Being a Seattle person, I got tired of the rain and cold. I was longing for the Sunday brunch in the sunny Dana Point.

We arrived at the St. Regis Monarch Beach a bit early before our brunch reservation. We walked around the hotel and enjoyed the stunning view as well as the hotel’s interior and exterior designs. I’ve stayed in the St. Regis in San Francisco before, but the hotel design completely different from the St. Regis Monarch Beach at Dana Point.

The Sunday brunch at Motif was great. There was a variety of food options, including international dishes, and a dedicated dessert bar. In addition to the typical brunch items, such as made-to-order omelets, pancakes, classic eggs benedict, and French toast, Motif also offers sushi, Korean beef BBQ, dim sum, salad, fresh seafood, desserts, etc.

One especially nice thing about Motif’s omelet and pancakes/French toast bar was that they offer about sixty toppings. My three-year old niece was excited to order her ideal pancakes with chocolate M&Ms and sprinkles, with fresh berries on the side. I even added Macaroons to her plate from the dessert bar. I ordered French toast with Grand Manier and fresh berries. The combination was perfect for me.

Another thing I like about having Sunday brunch at Motif is its intimacy. Unlike typical brunch buffet places where they were too crowded with too many tables, Motif is just about the right size. I didn’t have to worry about running into people while I was getting food.

Motif Sunday brunch is more about quality than quantity. They might not offer as many items as other brunch buffet places, but their dishes are freshly made in small quantity. They replenish their items continuously.

The service at the Motif was excellent. I have to say no matter how delicious the food a restaurant offers, the dining experience wouldn’t be as memorable without great service. I really enjoyed my Motif Sunday brunch at the St. Regis Monarch Beach at Dona Point. When I return to CA to visit my family in a few months, we will definitely visit Motif at St. Regis Monarch Beach again!

Some people said that Motif offers the most extravagant Sunday brunch in Orange County. After my first-hand experience, I can’t agree more. The beach scenery, the quality of the food and the services made Motif stand out!

  • The price for an adult is $69 ($79 with unlimited Champagne) and $39 per child (age 5-12).
St Regis Monarch Beach at Dana Point, CA
St Regis Monarch Beach at Dana Point, CA
St. Regis Monrach Beach at Dana Point, CA
St. Regis Monrach Beach at Dana Point, CA
Sunday Brunch at Motif at St. Regis Monarch Beach
Sunday Brunch at Motif at St. Regis Monarch Beach
Sunday Brunch at Motif at St. Regis Monarch Beach
Sunday Brunch at Motif at St. Regis Monarch Beach
Sushi Boat at Motif
Sushi Boat at Motif
Oversized Omelet and Korean QQK at Motif
Oversized Omelet and Korean BBQ at Motif
Desserts at Motif
Desserts at Motif
Desserts at Motif
Desserts at Motif
Pastry at Motif
Pastry at Motif
Pancakes with fresh berries and macaros
Pancakes with fresh berries and macaros
French toast with Grand Manier and fresh berries
French toast with Grand Manier and fresh berries
Fresh Berry Crepe with Coconut & Berry Sorbet
Fresh Berry Crepe with Coconut & Berry Sorbet

The Venetian Macao Hotel Light Show

While I was in Macao visiting the famous Cotai Strip, I watched the light show presented outside of the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel. The show was designed to celebrate the winter holiday. It included a Chinese dragon running across the screen, gold coins, fireworks, a snow storm, and a gondola (which reminded me of the Venetian in Las Vegas). The winter holiday theme of the show was perfect for the season. I think the light show was amazing!

Venetian Macao Winter Holiday Light Show

My Trip to Macao

During the past holiday season I took a trip with a friend to Asia. We visited Seoul, Hong Kong, and Macao. It was my first visit to Macao. My overall impression of Macao is that it’s unique, but visiting it just once will be perfect for me.

Macao is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. It was a former Portuguese colony and has many historical buildings with European influences, including the famous “Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral”. It was built in the late fifteenth century (1528 to 1602) by the Jesuits but it burned down in a fire in 1835. What is left is the southern stone façade on a small hill. I was very impressed with the carvings on the stone façade. The structure is definitely not a typical architecture you see in Asia.

Macao is also known as a gambler’s paradise. It’s one of the biggest gambling centers in the world. Macao’s gambling industry started in 1962, operated by a local monopoly. After 2004, several casinos from Las Vegas built their own casinos in Macao, including Wynn resorts, MGM Mirage, and Las Vegas Sands.

I go to the Las Vegas Strip a lot, and I was always wondering what is the Macao versions of the Wynn, Venetian, and MGM properties were like. I always imagined these casinos in Macao might located close to each other, within the walking distance, like they are on the Strip in Las Vegas. When I got to Macao, I was surprised to find that the casinos are actually located in two different areas. The Wynn and MGM are located among many older casinos in Macao, but the Venetian is on a small (3 mile by 2 mile) island about 2.5 miles away, along with properties owned by Las Vegas Sands on the so-called Cotai Strip.

I stayed in Macao for two full days. For someone like me, who doesn’t gamble, two days in Macao was perfect. I got to see the historical sites as well as the casinos in Macao. Also, I got to eat many of the famous Portuguese egg custards (which was one of the goals of my trip) to fulfil my craving for the sweets. I am very glad I visited Macao!

Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Carvings on the facade
Carvings on the stone facade
Venetian Macao at Night
Venetian Macao at Night
Venetian Macao
Venetian Macao
Wynn Resorts in Macao
Wynn Resorts in Macao, with Encore tower on the left.
Fortaleza do Monte -  historical military centre of the former Portuguese colony of Macau
Fortaleza do Monte – historical military centre of the former Portuguese colony of Macau
Cannon on the Fortaleza do Monte
Cannon in the Fortaleza do Monte

Bourbon Steak Restaurant in San Francisco

Recently I was in San Francisco for a wedding and I stayed at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. It’s an old hotel, originally built in the early 1900s and had a different feel from the hotels I frequently visit in Las Vegas and also different from the other Westin hotels I’ve stayed at elsewhere. On one evening, I ate dinner at the Bourbon Steak restaurant in the Westin St. Francis. Bourbon Steak is a Michael Mina restaurant. The restaurant is very woody — meaning somewhat dark and traditional. I really didn’t know exactly what to expect but let me get to the point and say I was very pleased with my dining experience.

Before dinner I had a drink at the small bar in the restaurant. I had a glass of Volver house red wine. It was good but nothing exceptional, but the bartender, Adam, was very personable and made the pre-meal drink very nice. Before being seated in the dining room I ordered the house specialty French fries. There were three types, with three distinct seasonings and three sauces. These French fries were really good.

After I was seated in the dining room, I ordered the pan roasted halibut with crab, almonds, and fennel. On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give the meal a solid 8. Because my friends and I had side dishes of mashed potatoes, and Michael Mina’s special black truffle mac & cheese, and sauteed spinach, the meal was more than filling.

Overall, I give Bourbon Steak restaurant by Michael Mina a strong recommendation. The prices are a bit high but I felt the environment, the service, and food were well worth the price.


85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, California

I visit my family in Irvine, California several times a year. There are some favorite places that I go to frequently during each visit. One of them is the 85°C Bakery Cafe, a Taiwanese bakery chain introduced to Southern California several years ago.

Why do I like the 85°C Bakery Cafe so much? I love to eat desserts, breads/pastry, and drink milk tea. And this bakery has everything I love. They make yummy cakes with fancy decorations. They also make a variety of breads/pastry (from my favorite marble taro to egg tart). And they have my favorite drinks (coffee jelly milk tea and sea salt coffee) which I can’t get from anywhere else. Their coffee jelly milk tea is the best! I can drink it EVERYDAY!

One amazing phenomena about the 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine is its long customer line in the morning, afternoon, and at night (right before they close at 10:00pm). Customers are willing to wait for more than 30 minutes just to get into the bakery to choose what they want. After they pick up their selection they have to get into another crowded line to pay and order their drinks. However, the long lines don’t seem to bother people who are determined to get their treats of the day.

It’s not a surprise to my friends how crazy I am about this bakery. Every time I go I would get several boxes/bags of goodies and eat them for breakfast, snacks between meals, and late night treats. But what surprises me is that most customers in that stores are like me. They get the items in large quantities that look like enough to feed a big family!

The new Travel Channel recently featured a video on the 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine. To hear more about it, go to 85°C Bakery in Irvine.

Cakes and Desserts from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Cakes and Desserts from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Breads from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Breads from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Breads from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Breads from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Breads from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA
Cake by Slices from 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine, CA