The Magical Kyoto, Japan

0

By Abby Berman Mazenod

Kyoto is enchanting. This city’s natural and ancient beauty could not have stuck with me more. Fortunately, with only a weekend to enjoy this magical place, we were able to squeeze in as much sightseeing as humanly possible while still getting to enjoy some of the tastes and culture of the city. A two and 1/2 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo, and you land in one of the coolest most modern train stations to ever exist, in the heart of one of the most ancient cities in the entire world. This is absolutely a destination that I need to visit again in the near future… one weekend just wasn’t enough!

Having been the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years, this city has a very traditional conservative Japanese way about it. Women are seen dressed in the customary kimonos, and there are too many temples and gardens to count. For the ancient culture of Japan, this is the place to visit.

 

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

Nijo Castle. Kyoto, Japan

Niko Castle-The Shogun Temple

The first place on our sightseeing tour was the Shogun Temple. This was the residence of the first know shogun in Japan. Thought the actual exhibits were closed, the outside view was pretty marvelous!

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The Golden Pavilion. Kyoto, Japan

Golden Pavilion

This is a zen temple covered entirely in gold. It is incredible! This experience was actually what I had expected to see when visiting Kyoto. The calming spiritual environment is what anyone would imagine of ancient Japan. The surrounding pond and gardens are beautiful and enormous (my husband and I actually got lost wile wandering through them). We finished off our visit with some super tasty green tea soft serve!

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

Garden of the Golden Pavilion. Kyoto, Japan

 

Ryōan-ji-The Famous Zen Rock Garden

I had read that this garden was a bit unexciting… yup… they were right. I had seen pictures of it because it’s so famous. Although it was interesting to see it in person, I can’t say it was exactly thrilling. This was the only temple we went inside of when we visited Kyoto, and that part was really cool and exciting! Any time I can have an inside view of such a devout aspect of a culture, I am all in! The outside gardens were very pretty… but I am still not exactly sure why the rock garden is so famous. (Explain  it to me in the comments if you have the time and knowledge 🙂 )

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

Ryōan-ji-The Famous Zen Rock Garden

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

Inside Ryōan-ji Temple

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The Bamboo Forest

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The Bamboo Forest

The Bamboo Forest

My favorite place that we visited in Kyoto was the Bamboo Forest! This overwhelming ocean of bamboo is an experience that I’ll never stop dreaming about. It is a perfect creation of nature and a safe haven of greenery that would be impossible not to fall in love with. I miss the Bamboo Forest.

 

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The city itself is so magical and has so much to offer! We found great restaurants, bars, shopping, and the cultural element is intoxicating.

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The Magical Kyoto, Japan. www.tracingabby.com

The Venice of Asia… Kyoto, Japan.

I could not miss this perfectly magical city more. The culture and history, the restaurants and shopping, the beautiful people full of such kindness. I can’t wait to go back! If you’re visiting soon, you can fully expect an incredible adventure!

Happy travels and best wishes!

xoxo-Abby

www.tracingabby.com

 

Bali, Indonesia- Love Bali!!!

0

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

 

…just a few things to do on your trip to Bali.

By Abby Berman Mazenod

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

The perfect beaches of Nusa Dua

Bali is beautiful- the people, the culture and of course, the island itself with it’s beautiful beaches and forests. Looking back at these pictures from a few weeks ago, all I want to do is race back and stay forever! It is a truly magical place.

Though, if I’m going to be honest, most of our 10 day trip was lounging at the beach, drinking, eating super delicious food, and pampering ourselves ($8 USD- for an hour long massage!!!), we did set aside a few days for adventure and exploring! And in Bali, there is definitely adventure to be had!

 

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

The perfect garden home of the Luwaks

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

Our “teaser” coffee and tea tasting

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

Luwak coffee!!!

 

Our first stop away from the beaches and shopping was getting in some tea and coffee tasting! Being from  California, I get to do a lot of wine tasting. My husband doesn’t drink very much wine (he’s a whiskey guy), so this excludes him from a lot of the fun of tasting, smelling and experiencing all of the flavors in a wine tasting. My husband definitely drinks coffee and tea though! We had so much fun sampling the flavors of Bali!

A cool part of this tasting was that what they call the “teaser” is actually free! 12 delicious unique flavors of yummm for free! You can purchase additional cups of tea and coffee for super cheap, and they offer what is called “Luwak Coffee“. The full description is in the photo above, but basically… the coffee berries are eaten by the luwak (a cute little nocturnal mammal that picks the richest coffee berries), then he digests them, then the scat is harvested, coffee berries are cleaned, cooked, ground, and then put into boiling water to drink as rich delicious coffee! Weird, huh? We had to try the Luwak coffee… it was actually really yummy!

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

The lovely friend we met who guided us through our tasting

 

 

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

Our little monkey friend at the Monkey Forest & Sanctuary

 

Another place that was worth the trip was the Monkey Forest & Sanctuary in Ubud. This place is awesome! First of all, it’s gorgeous! The monkeys here are sacred and protected, so they are very comfortable with being around humans. This honestly could have been the most fun we had on our entire trip! When you first walk in, and throughout the park, there are banana stands that sell bunches of bananas to feed the monkeys. I think we went back 6 or 7 times to buy more. It was so much fun feeding them! Some of the big guys were a little aggressive (they will just climb up your leg and tear into your bag if they think you are hiding some goods) but for the most part, the monkeys are very friendly!

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

Journey through the Monkey Forest & Sanctuary

 

 

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

The streets of Ubud-fun shopping and dining!

 

 

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

Rice Terraces, Ubud

The Rice Terraces in Ubud, are another sight to inspire. Because I live in a very dry place, I have never seen how rice grows. It is fascinating! You can climb and explore these beautiful terraces, and even have lunch or a drink at one of the cafe’s built into them.

 

 

 

There are so many Temples in Bali-we just felt that we needed to visit one.  Most of them are in use, so it was important to wear the right attire (they gave us sarongs to wear), and be respectful.

 

 

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

2002 Bali Bombings Memorial, Kuta

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

Super cool “Circle-K” in Kuta!

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

The streets of Kuta

Kuta was so much fun! Though it has been rated as one of the worst places in Bali, we loved it! It is hectic, exciting and alive. It was a game just trying to not get run over by a moped or car. 🙂 There are excellent touristy shops, and lots of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. When shopping there, haggling is a must!

 

 

The Beautiful Bali, www.tracingabby.com

 

There were so many things that we didn’t take the time to experience in Bali… waterfalls, hikes, more temples, more beaches, more monkeys… so we can’t wait to go back! If you plan on going soon, enjoy your adventure!

Best wishes!

xoxo-Abby

www.TracingAbby.com

A Weekend in Tokyo-An easy guide to an amazing city!

4
A Weekend in Tokyo

A Weekend in Tokyo-Abby Berman Mazenod, www.tracingabby.com

 

By Abby Berman Mazenod

So my husband and I just left Tokyo, and my heart is breaking. This city might be our favorite place in the world! There is so much adventure and excitement to be had, and it is such a young and alive environment. We can’t wait to go back! But for now… I’ll just let you know what you must do if you have a few days to spend there.

 



Takeshita Street-Harajuku

This is the first place we stopped because I was overly excited to see some “Harajuku Girls”. It was packed and hectic! Everywhere we turned there were super yummy crepes and icecream cones-it was basically heaven. This was definitely worth the short trek. I was expecting to see masses of cute Japanese girls dressed like life size dolls, and while that wasn’t really the case, there were quite a few girls dressed up.  This is a great place for shopping and people watching! Just take the Harijuku exit off the JR metro line, and you will be let out right in front of the Takeshita Street gate!

 


Owl Cafe-Harajuku

I was desperate to go to a themed cafe while we were in Tokyo! It was a little overwhelming with so many choices… cat cafes, dog cafes, anime character cafes, Disney character cafes, Sanrio… You get the idea. We finally settled on the Owl Cafe in Harajuku. It’s just a minute walk from Takeshita Street. This place was fantastic! After a tasty drink in the cafe, you can go into the owl room to hold, pet, and even play with the owls! It is so cool!!!  Just make sure you make a reservation the day before… they get booked up fast.

 


Shibuya

Holy cow! This is by definition organized chaos. The Shibuya neighborhood is known for having the craziest crosswalk ever… And it is totally nuts! Right outside of Shibuya Station is the intersection. We went to the second floor of Starbucks to check it out in action… And although it is stressful, it is definitely an experience you don’t want to miss. This neighborhood also has tons of awesome restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities stacked up on each other. It’s a fun place to spend your whole day!

 


Shin juku

This neighborhood is awesome! It is a night owl’s dream! This is where tons of bars and restaurants are, cool Japanese arcades for adults and youth, and the exciting red light district. The lights in this neighborhood are explosive, and great for picture taking!

 


The Robot Show and Restaurant

Within the Shinjuku district, is the Robot Restaurant/Cabaret/Dinner Theater. This show will blow your mind! We knew we wanted to see it after watching the Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Tokyo episode… It was everything we could hope it to be and more! While waiting to go into the show, you start out in a bar that has walls covered in mirrors and twinkling lights with a robot band serenading you. The show itself is out of this world! There are lights and explosions and drums  and costumed dancers and of course robots! You’ve got to see this one for yourself.

 


Eat some real Ramen

…yummmm. I also got a poké bowl (deconstructed sushi bowl) that was delish!




Before you go… Check out a 7-11!

This sounds completely obsurd… I know. But my friend Dylan, who lived in Tokyo for a few years, told me to do this. At quick glance you might think that it is a normal 7-11… But it is waaaay better! They have fancy salads, sushi platters, bento boxes, noodle bowls, and my new obsession… onigiri rolls. They are basically rice balls, wrapped in seaweed with some kind of sushi-like goodness in the middle. They are the perfect on-the-go healthy snack! Here is a great guide to onigiri flavors


My husband and I are really going to miss this city. The people are so kind and friendly, and always willing to try to help despite the language barrier. The streets and subways are so clean and streamline. The food and sightseeing are incredible, and this is also one of the youngest, most alive places we have ever been. I cannot wait to go back and hope you will get the chance to love it as much as we do!

 

xoxo-Abby

www.tracingabby.com

 

 

 

A weekend in Tokyo-an easy guide to an amazing city! www.tracingabby.com

Hidden Gem: Gardens of the World-Thousand Oaks, CA

3

IMG_0070

By Abby Berman Mazenod

 

If you are a resident of Ventura County, you most likely know about the “Gardens of the World” in Thousand Oaks. If you’re from literally anywhere else, you have probably never experienced this incredible gem. This beautiful piece of horticulture is brought to everyone, for free, by the Hogan Family Foundation . It was built as a way to recognize the cultures of the world, while giving back to the community, and it is totally freaking beautiful.

…Did I mention it’s free?!

 

Japanese Garden: This is my favorite part of the garden. (I literally wanted to have my wedding here… they don’t allow weddings.) It is so peaceful and hypnotizing. Surrounding the Japanese pagoda there is a koi pond that will put you in a trance. Seriously, this could be the most peaceful place that I know of. This perfectly zen garden is worth the trip. Bring a book, and give yourself the afternoon to be free.

 

English Perennial & Rose Garden: Who does’t love roses? This rose garden is gorgeous, while smelling absolutely delicious. It’s a space of perfectly happy oasis. This garden is the  epitome of bliss in an actual physical place.

 

Mission Courtyard: This is a thoughtful tribute to California history that should be much appreciated by any California resident. This pequeña mission is an acknowledgement to all California missions. It visually illustrates the beauty of all of the California missions on it’s inside walls, literally. You will see a painting of each California mission beautifully painted on the inside facade of the courtyard.

 

IMG_8315

French Garden: This is actually the entrance to the gardens. It is definitely a “wow” experience. This grand presentation is worth spending the time to enjoy.

 

IMG_0059

Italian Garden: Feel the class and culture of Italy in this tiny garden. Sit on a bench under a Roman column, and think about how wonderful Italy is. It’s a tiny compliment to the beautiful country.

 

IMG_0061Bandstand: An applause to America and it’s heritage, this bandstand represents every city in this great country. The idea that every small town needs a beautiful town center for political and entertainment purposes gives this traditional gazebo strong significance in the modern world. It brings a sentimental strength of pride and nostalgia.

This beautiful space is worth spending an afternoon to appreciate. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

The gardens are located at 2001 Thousand Oaks Boulevard Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, and open Tuesday through Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Happy travels and explorations!

xoxo-Abby

Weekend Getaway: San Francisco

2

On a Budget: 7 things to do in San Francisco

IMG_0003

By Abby Berman Mazenod

 

I will be honest. I am no expert on anything San Francisco. In fact, when my husband and I went a few weeks ago, it was my first time going in my adult life…which is pretty embarrassing considering we live only 5 hours away. Luckily, we have some awesome friends, Dave and Camila, who were willing to give us an authentic “touristy” tour, while still being mindful of our budget. So here’s a little list of some things you can do on your weekend getaway that won’t break the bank, but will still make you feel like you’re  getting the whole Golden City experience.

(Quick words of advice: Bring a warm jacket, comfortable shoes, and be ready to walk.)

 

1. Take the BART into San Francisco

Cost: $4 each way

Save yourself the trouble and headache of trying to navigate the San Francisco streets and hills while giving yourself an authentic experience. Driving in from Los Angeles on a Friday, hours away, we were already hitting traffic in Silicon Valley. Taking the BART into the city and avoiding the last leg of our drive altogether was the best solution ever. This is a true Bay area experience that you do not want to miss out on. Parking at Millbrae Station is free from Friday to Sunday, and the ride in takes less than 30 minutes. It’s definitely worth the $$.

 

 

IMG_7626 (1)

2. Watch a Giants game at AT&T Park

Cost: $36+ depending on the time of the season and the opposing team

First, it must be mentioned that this is rated by many as the most beautiful stadium in America. Looking out over the bay, the view from even the cheap seats is still incredible. This is a city very proud of their stadium and their team. Everywhere we went everyone was proudly sporting their Giants gear. So when in San Francisco, do as the San Franciscans… go to a Giants game! If you feel like a ticket isn’t in your budget, or you really don’t want to sit through a whole game, you can also watch from outside the fence in right field. They allow 75 people in for  3 innings at a time, and it’s free!

 

 

IMG_0004

3. Go back to a “far out” time at Haight-Ashbury

Cost: Free

This cross street is a historic landmark, know for being one of the foundational places of the hippie movement. It still maintains that 60’s flair with head shops, record stores, and free-lovin’ wearers of tie dye t-shirts. Take a picture of the street sign…everyone else will too.

 

 

IMG_7697

4. Visit the Grateful Dead house

Cost: Free

Located right off of Haight-Ashbury at 710 Ashbury St., this Victorian row house was home to the Grateful Dead and is also said to be the birthplace of their sound. In the time of the Hippie Movement, it was know for being a safe-haven to any passer by who needed food or a place to stay. If you stop by now, there will definitely be some Dead Heads hanging out front and taking pictures.

 

 

IMG_7720

5. Take a cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf

Cost: $7

This is the place “Where little cable cars, reach halfway to the stars”… so why not take one? As the last manual cable car system in the world,this is a bona fide symbol of San Francisco, and the experience of riding through the rolling hills of the city is unforgettable. It’s also really fun! If you take the Powell-Mason line, you can ride it all the way from the Powell Market turntable to Fisherman’s Wharf. Just try to have exact change, it’ll make it easier for the operator, and faster for the people waiting behind you in line.

 

 

IMG_7779

6. Visit the Sea-Lions at Pier 39

Cost: Free

Okay…this is SUPER COOL!!! This pier is the comfortable lounging area for hundreds of sea-lions. They are absolutely beautiful, and you can just watch them sunbathing while also getting an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. This is also the home to some great bars, restaurants, street performers and souvenir shops. At the low cost of… FREE, this is a cannot miss for anyone wanting to see some memorable sites.

 

 

IMG_7704

7. Have a picnic at Golden Gate Park

Cost: Free

The legendary Golden Gate Park. With botanical gardens, a japanese tea garden, an  aquarium, museums, and even a carousel, this is a great place to spend your afternoon and get in some excellent people watching. Bring a blanket, frisbee, and pack for a picnic… just don’t forget a sweater because it’s sure to get chilly at some point.

 

Happy travels & enjoy your trip!

xoxo-Abby

 

www.tracingabby.com