Coast, Laguna Beach, California, USA

Along the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County is the city of Laguna Beach. It was an overcast day, but it was still nice to relax atop a large rock and watch the waves come crashing ashore. The beaches are beautiful, surrounded by palm trees and large rocks in the water and the town is lined with small shops, restaurants and art galleries. As the day got darker, I took this photo from a gazebo overlooking the Laguna Beach coast.

California Science Center, Los Angeles, California, USA

Located in Exposition Park, the California Science Center is one of the West Coast's largest hand-on science museums. This photo was taken outside the entrance to the museum. It features intertwining metal bars with spheres, definitely fitting for a science museum. Inside, we saw their special exhibit, the Body Worlds exhibit. Educational and fun visit!

Elliott Street, Pasadena, California, USA

The streets of Pasadena are lined with multimillion dollar houses, some cars you only read about on the pages of magazines, and one of its most defining characteristics: lush green trees. These are called street shade trees because of the shadows they cast. This deserted street is the epitome of the Pasadena atmosphere and what separates this area from its surroundings.
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Plaskett Creek Camping, Big Sur, California, USA

Right off the windy, scenic roads of the Pacific Coast Highway is the Plaskett Creek Campground, located just across the road from the Sand Dollar Beach in the Big Sur area. Derived from "el sur grande" in Spanish, with a rough translation to "the big south", this area was named because of an expedition led by Gaspar de Portola, a Spanish explorer that was a part in the establishment of the town of Monterey - Big Sur was considered a vast, open area located south of Monterey. The Esselen tribes of Native Americans, among others were said to be the first to that area. Darkness was quickly approaching as we were ready to relax under the Monterey pine trees within the Los Padres National Forest. Our campsite was ready with tents, chairs, covers for the rain, and a burning fire. Surrounding the campfire, we made s'mores, played games, and ate burgers as the dark night descended upon us. Good times!
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Venetian Masks, Venice, Italy

Strolling along the streets of Venice and along the many waterfronts, vendors and stores were filled with elaborate masks in all kinds of colors, designs and personas. A Venetian mask can be used for a multitude of purposes; to disguise class or identity, whether it is to be able to act without social confinements, act with criminal intentions, or used in romantic encounters. Or, it can be used as a way to portray a message, whether it is simply through appearance or performance. Popularly used in the Carnival of Venice that runs for the approximate 2 weeks before Ash Wednesday, but always sold year-round, these masks are famously from the City of Water, Venice. I came across this particular mask while window shopping, and was amazed at how extravagantly designed it was with gold coloring and incredibly detailed features. Each mask tells a different story that one can conjure up just from looking at the unique details of the mask.
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Avenue of the Stars, Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA

Avenue of the Stars cuts through the high rise office buildings of Century City and is home to the Century Plaza Hotel, just adjacent to these fountains. The iconic Hotel has hosted presidents, Apollo 11 astronauts and many other high-profile people and events. At night, these fountains light up spectacularly with eye-catching water displays. Through the fountains, high rise buildings can be seen in the distance. A night like this one was quiet and there were few cars or people around, making it considerably easier to stop and take photos!

Good night!
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Los Angeles Marathon, Los Angeles, California, USA

Congratulations, Myley, on finishing the Los Angeles Marathon!!! Taking place on Memorial Day, the weather was overcast in the morning and made for excellent running conditions compared to typical hot and sunny Memorial Days in years past. Meandering through the streets of Los Angeles, the 26.2 mile marathon started in downtown LA, went south, west, north, east (a bit more complicated than that) and returned to 5th and Figueroa in downtown LA. As a spectator around the 23rd mile, I watched as runners of all ages trekked their way to the finish lines. It was inspiring, and quite amazing because of the sheer endurance, self-motivation and months of training it took to get to that point. Congratulations to everyone that completed the run!
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Victor the Florist, Santa Barbara, California, USA

Walking through the magnificent Santa Barbara Courthouse brings into view the mountains of Santa Barbara. I took this photo of the "Victor the Florist" store off of Santa Barbara Street. With palm trees surrounding and the pink color of the store, with white buildings around, this intersection seemed old-fashioned, but charming. Along with some of my favorite food from Santa Barbara, this was a great day trip to start Memorial Day weekend!

Big Boots, Cheyenne Depot, Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA

We powered through delays due to snow storms and road closures, stops at a bison ranch coming from Denver, Colorado, but we eventually made it to Wyoming! Road closures even blocked all the roads to Wyoming and we had to wait for about 30 minutes at a rest stop for them to open roads due to a snow storm that had closed the whole freeway the day before. We arrived in the capital city, Cheyenne, and were greeted with isolated roads. It was a Sunday after all. After seeing the Wyoming State Capital Building, we went directly down the street to the Cheyenne Depot, a past Union Pacific Depot. Located outside the building is this 8 foot tall boot, among many that are painted by local artists to illustrate the history of both Wyoming and Cheyenne. The display is called the Cheyenne Big Boots!
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Royce Hall, University of California, Los Angeles

One of UCLA's most recognizable buildings, Royce Hall was built in the Italian Romanesque Revival style. It was completed in 1929 and it was one of the four original buildings on the UCLA campus. It was named after Josiah Royce, an American objective idealist philosopher, who also had many years studying and writing history. The exterior of the building was designed similarly to the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan. Royce Hall reflects into the beautiful Shapiro fountain across the green lawn. This view of the campus was part of my easy decision to decide to attend UCLA. Visiting the school always bring back such great memories. GO UCLA! :)
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Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Surrounding ancient legend of dragons coming to defend the local people, this bay in Northern Vietnam is most famous for its nearly 2,000 limestone monoliths that tower over the water. They are covered in green vegetation and add to the legends that define this area. Many of these islands have been given names, mainly associated with animals that they seem to represent. These particular islands shown in the photo are called the "kissing rocks" or "fighting cocks", depending on how you want to interpret it. The day was lovely and the water was relaxing. We all climbed down the ladder and jumped into the water as our boat was anchored in the middle of the bay. We were able to swim around in the warm water and come back up to the boat to dry off and proceed to have a fresh seafood meal!
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Special Feature: Travel Tips, from experience

I love traveling and I especially love the planning aspect of it. However, things do not always go as planned. So, I've listed a couple tips that I've learned from experience that will hopefully help you out! Sorry, no photo on this post, but photo of the day to come after.

(1) ALARM CLOCK -- Don't forget about an alarm clock! If you're like use your cell phone as an alarm, but low chance that the phone will be able to get service, and therefore, time on your phone. Without time, forget about using that as your alarm. I suggest little travel alarm clocks that are battery-powered. 

(2) ATM/CREDIT CARDS -- I prefer to use ATMs and/or credit cards in other countries. Who wants to carry around a stack of cash?! And, with cash, you have to use expensive currency exchange places to get local currency. So, I'd say to bring some money in cash and then use ATMs to get out more money as you need it. Just remember to get a good amount each time you get out cash (its usually a flat rate fee + about 3%) to make it most worth it - ATMs offer good exchange rates. Do some research to make sure the country you're going to has a lot of ATMs. Credit cards usually charge about a 3% international fee on top of all your purchases (check for specifics) so if you're in a country where you can easily use that, I think its a good idea.

(3) PASSPORT COPY  -- Always remember to bring a copy of your passport just in case your passport gets stolen. Make sure to put copies in different locations so it doesn't all get taken all at once if that happens. I think its always a good idea to scan it and have it saved in your email too. Access to email is worldwide and easily accessible.

(4) PHONE NUMBERS -- Write down phone numbers! Seems simple enough, but I've left the country without writing down any numbers and my cell phone isn't always around when I'm traveling. Don't be left stranded at the airport with no ride home if your cell phone battery has died. 

(5) CREDIT CARD TRAVEL ALERTS -- Call your credit card/debit card company and let them know you're traveling. You don't want to be in another country and realize that your account has been suspended because of "suspicious" activity. You just need to tell them start/end dates and the countries you're going to.

(6) TRAVEL BAGS -- Travel bags are very important. If you are going around all day, you don't want an uncomfortable, unsafe purse. My preference is for over the shoulder bags with multiple pockets (that all zip) so that you can put all the essentials in and not have to dig around for things you need (tourist alert!). I think over the shoulder bags are also the most comfortable to wear for a long time - I hate having travel purses that are constantly sliding down my shoulder.

What do you think? Anything you disagree with? Any other suggestions?

I'm hoping to add to this list as I think of things. Good night!

Fontana di Trevi, Rome, Italy

Since I recently watched Angels & Demons, I've been thinking of my time in Rome - probably my favorite city in Italy. This Trevi Fountain has been my favorite fountain in the world (I really enjoy fountains). Both day and night, the fountain is beautiful and crowded by people fascinated by its intricacies. Located at the junction of three roads, the name Trevi comes from the world Trivium, which means the meeting point of three streets. Completed in 1762, the fountain features a representation of the forces of the sea. In the middle is Neptune, known as God of the Sea with Tritons riding horses and statues surrounding, finished with the water appropriately representing the sea. Built in a Baroque style, it is the largest fountain of its kind in the city. Baroque is known as the time period that began in the beginning of the 17th century that involved dramatic and extravagant symbolism in music, art, literature and theater. Legend says that if you throw a coin into the water, you will one day return to Rome. Looks like I'll be returning one day...
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Great Court, British Museum, London, England

The Great Court surrounds the original Reading Room of the British Museum. Once closed to the public, the reading room was only open for serious researchers and among them, well known figures (Mark Twain, Mahatma Ghandi, Karl Marx, George Orwell). It has now been transformed to an area with a collection of books on travel, art, history and anything else relevant to the collections housed in the museum. The upper ceilings surrounding the room are made from steel and glass and created reflections onto the cylindrical building in the middle. This area was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 and is officially called the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court. It is the largest covered square in Europe.

San Gabriel Mission, San Gabriel, California, USA

Two photos today because I didn't get the chance to post one yesterday! Have a great week!

Founded in 1771, this mission was California's fourth one and has strong ties to the origin of the city of Los Angeles. With clear views from the street, the front area had bright blue benches for seating in front of the fountain with colorful, vibrant flowers surrounding it. The day we went, an art gallery was open to the public and we were able to walk throughout the grounds in order to explore the area. It was a sunny, clear day - great day to visit the mission!
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Kyoto Garden, Los Angeles, California, USA

Behind the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo is a hidden, secluded gem of a garden. We walked up the steps to the upper garden and were greeted by a Japanese garden with a small river, luscious trees, seating areas, and lanterns hanging from the trees. Reading more about it, I found out that the garden is a miniature version of the 10-acre garden in the Hotel Otani in Tokyo. This is a photo of a candle holder mimicking green leaves on a small, white wooden table in the garden. So peaceful. :)
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Lifeguard Tower, Redondo Beach, California, USA

Today was a cool, overcast day, but we still were able to enjoy our time at the beach. The Redondo Beach pier has a lot of shops, restaurants and activities to entertain visitors, defined by an unusual shaped pier where parts of the wooden structure are interconnected unlike the typical long, straight pier. After our seafood meal, we went to the beach to lie out and play beach volleyball. This is a photo of one of the lifeguard towers we passed by as we were leaving the beach. Despite the hiding sun and the chilly temperature, I still had a nice time. :)

Lake Nahuel Huapi, San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

A scenic twenty hour bus ride south from the city of Mendoza, we arrived in the city of San Carlos de Bariloche in the Patagonia region of Argentina with just a short amount of time before darkness would come. As we walked to the Nahuel Huapi Lake, we came upon a couple walking to the water's edge. It was a peaceful walk and even though we were freezing (it was winter in Argentina), we enjoyed seeing one of the beautiful lakes of the Lake District. We debated whether we should make the long trek to Bariloche since the days were winding down for our time in Argentina, but this trip was well worth it. The city was charming - streets of wooden buildings, factories full of the famous Bariloche chocolate, and huge St. Bernard dogs walking around taking photos with people. We were even greeted with snow the next morning!
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Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Spain

Translated as "Park of Pleasant Retreat", this vast and peaceful park in Madrid really did love up to its name. This photo is of the Palacio del Crystal (Crystal Palace) designed as a greenhouse to feature different exhibits through the years. It was an architectural feat of creating this house from glass and steel and the result is a treat for the eyes. It was built in 1887 for an exhibit of the Philippines - including exotic plants and flowers, animals and even a representation of a native village. Surrounding the building is a lake, tall, green trees, and paved walkways. It was a clear, sunny day and we were able to take a leisurely walk by the walk and take in different views of the palace. What a nice day! :)
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US Presidential Inauguration, Washington, D.C.

It was just a normal day in December when I got a mysterious phone call from a 202 number, so I was hesitant to pick it up. Well, I'm glad I did! Right after the presidential election in November, I had contacted my local congressman to request tickets to the presidential inauguration taking place on January 20, 2009. After I asked for them, it slipped my mind for the next month until I got this phone call. They called me to say that I had gotten tickets to the inauguration and I was one of the few people that was chosen from the lottery they did within their office. So, I booked my tickets and by January 20th, here I was in Washington, D.C., in front of the Capitol Building, watching as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States! It was an empowering and exciting time and I was glad to be there! It was a shivering cold day in January, but I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience and this thought overshadowed all else. We were able to stand in the area right behind the assigned seating for the government officials and other influential people. YES, WE CAN.
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Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California

Nestled within the Disney Resort, right next to Disneyland, is Disney's California Adventure! I went here, not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's California themed, so there are rides and shows relating to everything from Hollywood to the Golden Gate Bridge to the Paradise Pier (modeled after beach boardwalks such as Santa Monica and Santa Cruz). As the sun set, the rollercoasters and ferris wheel cast wonderful reflections into the water along the beach boardwalk. I felt like a kid again as I rode the Toy Story Midway Mania (my favorite ride there!). Fun times!
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Globe, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California

Ok, so I know this photo isn't really representative of the Griffith Observatory, but I just LOVE globes and maps. I found this globe at the gift store at the Griffith Observatory, located in the appropriately named Griffith Park. This year is the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating the 400th year since Galileo used a telescope to make observations of the sky, and the Observatory is a participant in the festivities. The Observatory is full of space and science related exhibits, and offers views of all of Los Angeles (on a clear day).

Good night/morning! :)
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Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois

The "Windy II" is a boat docked at the Navy Pier in Chicago. It's likely this boat was named after Chicago's nickname of the "Windy City", which has a couple of backstories. The first reason is in relation to the weather and it being very windy, but with some research, I discovered that it was also likely referring to verbose politicians boasting about the city while they were bidding for the World Fair in the 1800's. Because New York was also in the running, a New York newspaper claimed that Chicago was a "windy city" because of all the "wind" coming from the politicians there - this nickname managed to stick. With views of downtown, the Navy Pier was a bustling area complete with rides, bars, restaurants, gift shops, along with the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals alike. The pier opened in 1916 and in 1927 it was renamed to the Navy Pier in honor of World War I veterans. We stayed at the pier until the night and were rewarded with a spectacular fireworks show over Lake Michigan. The city of Chicago was a fun city with activities to do around the clock!
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Elephant Adventure, Thailand

On our way to Pattaya, Thailand, we stopped by for an Elephant Adventure where we were given the opportunity to ride elephants through the forest and through rivers like this one. This photo is of the man that helped guide our elephant through the charted trail. He even offered to get off the elephant a couple times to take pictures of us. In Thailand, elephants are known as the national animal because of their importance in the history and customs of Thailand. They were important because they were used as transportation both in peace and battles, and were revered by monarchs. Lots of fun!

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

The small island of Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is located about 8 miles northeast of the picturesque city of Cancun. It was named this because it was once an island dedicated to the Mayan Moon Goddess. We took a short ferry there and spent the day visiting the Turtle Farm, snorkeling, swimming with sharks (friendly ones), eating fresh seafood and relaxing on the beach. This photo was taken as the sun was setting on the island, and the boats were retreating to land. The walks on the white sand and steps into the turqouise-blue waters felt like bliss. This is what you call paradise!

Yo quiero ir a la playa! (I want to go to the beach!)

Silhouettes and Sunset Painting, Los Angeles, California

I'm doing something a little different today. While this is a photo, it is also a photo of a painting I did a few months ago. I used acrylic paints on the canvas and my imagination ended up with this scene of the sun setting, creating a medley of orange, pink and purple colors. I really enjoyed doing the silhouettes and I'm planning on doing a series of these paintings with different colored skies and different nature elements. Good night (or good morning), all! :)
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Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California

I have yet to step inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but from the outside, this downtown LA masterpiece is visually stunning. This is the home of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. This building was designed by Frank Gehry and his other works may be more familiar - the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, the Experience Music Project in Seattle and the Dancing House in Czech Republic. His designs are modern and are fascinating to look at. It opened not too long ago - in October of 2003. I loved the views of this building by night with the LA skyline surrounding it!
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The Reichstag, Berlin, Germany

Through the gates of the famous Brandenburg Gate is the German Parliament Building, called the Reichstag. We stood in line in the freezing cold for over an hour to get inside this building. The glass dome had a walkway circling all the way around it so that you could walk to the top of it and see the views of Berlin. This building was renovated in the 90's and this dome was built to symbolize the reunification of Germany. The center of the dome was a towering set of mirrors, one on top of the other. Through the glass, the German flag can be seen from the surrounding skyline. The wait in the cold was well worth it!
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Rue du Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. Being here reminded me fondly of my days in France - it had a very European feel. Not to mention, the official language here is French. This part of town was considered the "Old Town" and it certainly had the feeling of being one of the oldest cities in the country. We strolled along the street and went into the little shops selling all types of clothes and trinkets. This is probably my favorite city in Canada! This photo was converted to black & white after it was taken.
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The 1000 Teddies Project, Coldsprings Fine Arts, Los Angeles, California

We happened upon the 1000 Teddies art exhibition as we walked around photographing downtown LA. We stepped inside the gallery and were met with the eyes of hundreds of the teddy bears familiar from our childhood. But, these teddy bears weren't the same ones that we knew as children - each one seemed to convey a different, deeper emotion than the cuddly bears of our past. The artist, Philipp Jordan, put careful thought into each of the colorful, different sized bears displayed here and the result was a fun and interesting display!
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