And we're off!

Things organized neatly, Evelyn4101

image by evelyn4101 via Things Organized Neatly

Boy do I wish my packing process was as organized as this picture. . .

On a side note, I did try to do one of my own "things organized neatly" photos, but that seems to work better when you're not actually actively trying to pack. Or maybe that's just me. . . :)

Anyway, we're off on our adventure! We'll be gone for two weeks, splitting the time between Paris and visiting S's family in India for Diwali. I'll be taking this time off from the blog, but you can follow along on over at my Instagram account where I'll be documenting the scenery and likely every pastry I encounter.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

xo Diana

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Headed to Paris! (And would love some suggestions!)

Paris by Clary Pfeiffer

image by clary pfeiffer

On Saturday we'll be headed over the Atlantic for our extended layover in Paris. It's my first time visiting there (actually it's my first time visiting continental Europe), although S has been there before.

Obviously, I've been listening to the Amelie soundtrack and buying striped t-shirts in preparation, but I'd love any tips you might have for things to do, see, and (mostly) eat!

So far I have outlined a pretty solid list of art museums and bakeries to visit, but pretty much everything else is up in the air.

Have any of you been to Paris? What was your favorite thing to do while there?

xo Diana

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My favorite San Francisco hikes

Mount Davidson

As part of a semi-successful campaign to get more exercise, S and I have been exploring some of San Francisco's gorgeous parks, guided by the Bold Italic's very helpful list.

My parents are visiting us in San Francisco (yay!) for the first time since we moved here and I'm hoping to drag them to at least a couple of these. I thought I'd share a few of our favorites for those of you in the area or who may travel to the Bay Area (come visit!).

MOUNT DAVIDSON

Mount Davidson

This is my favorite hike so far -- possibly because the day we did it was so fantastically foggy and misty that it felt like we were in a rain forest. This also happens to be the hike (and the photo, above), that inspired my Mount Davidson painting series.

The park is a densely wooded hill with narrow trails winding around it to the top. At the top is a massive concrete cross, now a memorial for the Armenian genocide.

When we went, it was so foggy that looking out from the view points was a bit tough, but I'm guessing there are some fantastic views. :)

Mount Davidson

FORT FUNSTON

Fort Funston

This is a sandy ocean-side walk great for dog-watching (please tell me I'm not the only one who does that) and exploring the dunes. You can wander around on the cliffs above the sea or headed on down to the beach.

Fort Funston

OCEAN BEACH

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is a long stretch of sandy beach, just north of Fort Funston. It's really popular with surfers, but also great for jogging along the shore or biking along the boardwalk.

I don't want this to be too deceptive, as I took this photo on a beautiful sunny day, but this beach is usually great for hoodied emo walks in the fog. :)

INSPIRATION POINT + THE PRESIDIO

Inspiration Point

The Presido is large forested area just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has some beautiful wide trails through the Eucalyptus forest and little pockets of old army barracks -- now converted into cute cottages and apartments.

Inspiration Point is a nice place to start the hike. It has a small parking lot with maps of the area and a great view of the Bay, Alcatraz, and downtown San Francisco. Across the street near the golf course driveway is a trail that winds past an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, through the forests, and eventually emerges at the Golden Gate Bridge viewing point.

LAND'S END

Land's End

Contrary to what my New England upbringing would led me to believe, this is not an outlet store of plaid and work boots. Instead, it's a beautiful hike along the Northwest corner of the city, beginning at the Pacific and meandering around to views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Near the start of the trail, you can hike down to Sutro Baths -- the eerie ruins of a 20th century bath house. I haven't actually made it down to the sea level, but it's definitely on my list!

Land's End

For those of you in San Francisco, do you have any other hikes to recommend? I'd love some more recommendations for places to explore!

xo Diana

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Weekend details // Point Reyes

Point Reyes view 1

This weekend, we fled a foggy San Francisco Saturday to drive up the coast a ways to Point Reyes, a small peninsula that juts out into the Pacific. It was just the outdoor escape we needed.

Point Reyes view 2

Point Reyes view 3

Point Reyes view 4

Nope, not dead fish or driftwood. Those are seals! I was way too excited.

Point Reyes view 5

I hope you all had a great weekend. Have a nice short week!

xo Diana

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Utah Roadtrip

nevada road

stanislaus national forest, california - on our way!

Hello!

It's been quite a while since I posted! I ended up taking a bit more time off the blog than expected, between preparing for my art show and going on a camping trip.

I'll have more on the art show (and some new paintings I've created!) later, but for now, some images from our trip this past weekend to Utah.

bryce image 1

Bryce Canyon National Park's alien red sandstone landscape.

bryce image 5

bryce image 2

There's something about the desert I just love. . . especially its unexpected pops of color!

bryce image 6

Bryce Canyon was full of amazing, sculptural petrified wood. Definitely gave me some ideas for paintings!

zion image 1

S gets full credit for the above image of Zion Canyon National Park, both for actually taking the photo, and for being willing to climb up to Angel's Landing. Nope, not happening.

zion image 2

The sheer cliff face, next to where I perched while S made his brave ascent.

We spent most of our day there doing the Angel's Landing hike, which I highly recommend, even if, like me, you're not willing to cling to a chain and climb out on a ledge to get to the top!

bryce image 3

Happy camper! (Aka, a photo on our first day, before we got too grimy. . .)

We both absolutely adored Utah -- and not just its national parks! I'm definitely hoping to make another trip there in the future.

What are your favorite national parks? I'm toying around with the idea of trying to visit all of them one day, and would love to hear your recommendations for what should make the top of our list!

xo Diana

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HIGH-ALTITUDE ADVENTURE // travels in ecuador
This past semester, my younger brother did a study abroad program in Ecuador. My parents, S, and I all decided to join him over winter break. For an amazing two weeks, we enjoyed the astounding scenery of high-altitude cities, the fascinating experience of low oxygenation, and probably very unhealthy quantities of hot chocolate (no regrets).

Some favorite moments below (apologies to those of who who've already seen many of these photos on my Instagram account):
+ Climbing up to the top of Quito's Basilica for the view -- and then even higher on rickety wooden bridges and ladders to other views

+ Taking the Teleférico cable car up to the hills surrounding Quito and hiking in the clouds (plus eating more hot chocolate at the conveniently located cafe)

+ Exploring Quito's Old Town and its beautiful churches, squares, and colorful colonial townhouses 
 + Eating the typical Ecuadorian breakfast -- eggs, fresh bread, coffee, and, obviously, hot chocolate if you're lucky. Sadly because I was on a strict traveler's diet (no fresh fruits/veggies or unfiltered water), I didn't get to try the tropical fruit smoothies that were served with every meal. S, who has an iron stomach, has told me they were fantastic.
+ Practicing my high school Spanish with everyone I could get my hands on -- mostly extremely patient (and amused) waitresses and cab drivers.
+ Hiking Cotopaxi, a semi-active volcano, to 16,000 feet (victory!) to reach the lodge that served hot chocolate. It's like they read my mind.
 + Hanging out with our awesome tour guide, Carlos, who grew up on the mountain and knew pretty much everything about it. Apparently the plants above have diuretic properties. We decided not to test that theory.
 +Admiring the views on the way down -- above you can see the volcanic rocks and cooled lava flows from the last eruption.
+ Visiting Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man), a museum designed by and dedicated to Guayasamin, probably Ecuador's most famous contemporary artist. He was heavily influenced by Picasso and his paintings deal mostly with the oppression of Ecuador's native people. The quote above really struck me: (so, so loosely translated) I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a child who had no feet. Going to the museum was a pretty intense experience that definitely colored how I viewed the rest of our trip.
+ And, of course, getting to spend time with my family, who unfortunately live way, way too far away
My brother achieving lift-off at 13,000 feet!

I'd definitely like to travel more to South or Central America -- have any of you traveled there? What were your favorite places to visit?

xo Diana
TRAVELS IN JAIPUR // India's pink city
S grew up in India, and his parents live in Delhi, so we try to visit once a year. This year I really wanted to go to Jaipur, a city only a short train ride away from Delhi known mostly to tourists for having elephants (!).

Some favorite moments from our trip below (apologies to those who've seen some of these images on my Instagram account):
+ Taking the train out west to Jaipur, an ancient fort city in north-western India, and then exploring the multiple forts and palaces the royal family built there

+ Finally, finally getting to see an elephant in India! I was so excited to see the painted elephants that give tourists rides up to the top of the fort that I gave our driver a laugh, calling out "haati! haati!" ("elephant! elephant!") every time we passed one.

(Total side note: I've been working on my Hindi a little, and recently learned that all the character names in Disney's The Jungle Book are just the Hindi name of that animal. Colonel Haati? Colonel Elephant. Baloo? Totally means bear. Bhageera? Panther. Had no idea.)

+ Getting to hear street musicians is always a treat -- this guy was super talented, and very amused to have his photograph taken. Thank you, sir!
+ Seeing the beautiful mosaics and Mughal architecture of Amer Fort. I have way, way too many pictures of incredibly arched doorways (um, see above and below for more examples)...
+ Hearing stories about how the royal family lived in these palaces -- at one time, there were something like twenty queens sharing one palace, and one king. The group dynamics are just mind-boggling.

+ Seeing the City Palace and it's "four seasons" courtyard, with four beautiful doors (um, and archways) represented each of the four seasons. I believe the one above represented summer, and the door on the first picture of this post represented spring. 
+ Running into Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds, while driving down one of Jaipur's busy commercial streets. The structure is designed for cooling breezes, and also to let the royal ladies view the street while remaining hidden.
+ Photographing just one more beautiful archway. So good!
+ Walking along the lake at sunset to see the water palace -- the royal family's summer place to beat the hot weather.

+ Getting countless cups of chai with Savil's family. Every hour on the hour! :)

While visiting the city was wonderful, it really inspired me to put more effort into learning about the history and current events (or even literature?) surrounding these places. Do any of you find that learning about the place adds to your experience of it? How do you go about finding out more about the places you visit?

xo Diana
24 HOURS IN TOKYO
On our way to India, S and I extended our Tokyo layover to allow us to go into the city. I'd never been to Japan before, but S had spent a summer there and had been wanting to go back for some time.

Because it was only a short visit, we stuck to just two Tokyo neighborhoods: Shibuya and Harajuku. Some favorite moments:

+ being immediately blown away by the train from the airport which, when it reached the end of the line, rotated all its seats so they faced forward for the new direction
+ meeting with friends from college after five years (!) for Japanese tapas -- the shark's fin soup was the surprise runaway favorite
+ testing out the most complex photobooth I've ever been in -- this required some serious skill!
+ discovering little shrines and temples in the most unexpected places -- up a long staircase or down a leafy alleyway
+ taking in some of the beautiful fall foliage in Harajuku's Yoyogi Park
+ strolling under the massive torii, made from entire tree trunks, and into a forest in the city
+ admiring the huge decorative sake barrels at the entrance to Meiji shrine -- they represent annual donations to the shrine from Japanese sake brewers
+ figuring out how to cleanse our hands and mouths at this simple fountain before entering the shrine -- thank you random stranger who didn't comment on my blatant copy-catting :)
+ reading the many prayers and wishes left by others on slim wooden ornaments (first image)
+ wandering down Harajuku's main commercial streets -- the elegant tree-lined Omotesando avenue and the frenetic Takeshita Dori (made famous by Gwen Stefani's Harajuku girls)
+ diving into the narrow inner lanes to discover hidden gems like a bright-red teapot-shaped watercan, and to unnerringly find ourselves in what seemed be Tokyo's answer to the Mission...there be hipsters here :)
+ enjoying snacks at the cute cafe that served my tea with a tiny hour glass -- so I would know exactly when to remove the tea bag!
Our visit was way too short to get anything but a taste of Tokyo, but I definitely want to get back someday -- hopefully next time for more than a day!

Have any of you been to Japan? What were your favorite places to visit?

xo Diana
PORTLAND WEEKEND
I don't know why, but I've always idealized Portland. Growing up on the East Coast, I always pictured Portland as some kind of fairy tale city -- charmingly tucked into the forests and mountains of Oregon, but still bustling and fun.

So imagine my delight when my family began moving there and I got to visit this weekend. :)

One thing I miss from Seattle is Stumptown Coffee. So good!
It's nice knowing exactly what you'll look like in thirty and fifty years. :)
 I loved the Saturday Market and really had to work hard not to buy way too many things. This painter was especially inspiring -- I can't imagine the hours of practice that went into being able to swiftly crank out these paintings in front of an audience.
 My favorite place in Portland has to be the Japanese garden. Living in California, we don't get a lot of fall leaves, so getting to see them this year was a real treat.




It was really a great weekend, and made me really excited for some upcoming travel S and I have planned! What are some of your favorite places to visit?

xo Diana
SNAPSHOTS FROM AUSTIN!
S and I spent Labor Day weekend in Austin kind of on a whim -- we'd always heard amazing things about the city, neither of us had ever been there, and we really wanted to have a getaway for just the two of us. And despite the over 100 degree weather the whole weekend (!), we had an absolute blast. --> Read more for some of our favorites.


Jo's Coffee & South Congress Sunday Arts Market (love the dino planters!) // huge desert plants //
Amy's ice cream // the million foodtrucks around the city -- Hey Cupcake is adorable, but my favorites had to be Torchy's Tacos and Grourdough donuts
Magnolia Cafe's love migas (what was that amazingness?) // Texas Capitol building //
Stag Austin provisions for men (yes, really) // the South Congress Street bats // hill country
Plus, getting to reconnect with an old college roommate (yay Zimby!). Thanks for a wonderful time Austin!

xo Diana
IOWA SUMMER

I spent most of this summer in Iowa City with my family. After the hectic medical school pace of life, it was so nice to kick back and relax in this little town. Walks along the river, evening tennis matches, eating way too much ice cream... I'm definitely a little sad that this summer's ending.
Unless you live nearby or happen to attend/visit the university, most people don't usually find themselves in Iowa City, but if you do, here are some of my favorite things to do:


EXPLORE:
  • Downtown, with the gold-topped Old Capitol building and Prairie Lights Bookstore
  • The outdoor Ped Mall for shopping (check out Revival for awesome vintage clothes), people-watching, and reading (the public library is there and is amazing!)
  • The river walk and make a loop using the pedestrian bridges

EAT:
  • Hamburg Inn, for sweet potato pancakes, Zadar Cow from Hell paraphernalia, and signed photographs of presidents
  • Oasis Falafel, for ridiculously good and cheap Middle Eastern food
  • Crepes de Luxe, for truly artful sweet and savory crepes
  • Molly's Cupcakes, for chairs shaped as swings and cupcakes filled with amazingness (you will not regret it if you get a Boston Cream Pie cupcake)

HEAD OUT OF TOWN:
Check out leafy Lake McBride, beautiful Amish crafts in Kalona, or the bizarre and fascinating Devonian Fossil Gorge




xo Diana