The Grove, Los Angeles, California, USA

Today I was a tourist in Los Angeles. My mom and brother arrived today and I was more than happy to take them on a tour around Los Angeles. The Grove is a lovely place to go and just stroll around and take pictures. I've always loved the pond, fountain and bridge there and today was no exception. At sunset, it's that much more amazing! There was live music playing in the background with families and friends walking around and enjoying the warm Friday night.

Colorful Field of Flowers, Carlsbad, California, USA

Perfectly planned rows of flowers stretch across the huge Carlsbad Flower Fields. :)

That's all for me tonight. Have a good night!

Chicago Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, USA

As we walked along the streets of Chicago by night, we came upon this famous landmark - the neon sign that lights up the Chicago Theatre. It is now a leading venue for concerts, plays, comedy and speeches. Built in 1921, it was the flagship theatre for a chain of over 100 theatres in the Midwestern United States. It was a joint collaboration between Abe and Barney Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz, forming the Balaban and Katz theatre chain. Best viewed by night!

Dockweiler Beach, Playa Del Rey, California, USA

As the waves came crashing to shore and the sun began to set, I sat there fascinated by the movement of the water. Even though the clouds covered much of the sun, the orange-red color of the sky reflected on the water. Dockweiler Beach is one of the few places around Southern California that allows for bonfires. The whole time we were there (this was last month), numerous planes flew over the beach because it is in the direct pathway of flights leaving LAX. I thought about how I wanted to be on the planes...V Australia, Southwest, Delta...and I wondered where in the world they were off to!

Drive Home from Vegas, Nevada

I can't remember how far along we were on the drive home from Vegas, but this is what it looks being under dark-nearly going to rain clouds, while its sunny in the distance. Leaving the city that never seems to sleep and traveling with next to nothing on both sides is quite the contrast.

Wimbledon Tennis Courts, London, United Kingdom

This was another photo from the beautiful grounds of Wimbledon right after the Andy Murray vs. Andy Roddick game ended. Spectators cleared Henmen Hill and dispersed into the Wimbledon store and off of the grounds. As we descended from the Hill, we could see one of the tennis courts used during the championships.

Ninja Ornaments, Renegade Craft Fair, Los Angeles, California, USA

Look at these cute little ninja ornaments! Not sure what I'd do with it, but still cool nonetheless! This is one of the many handmade items we discovered at the fair. Note: Mastercard, Visa, American Express accepted. Perfect!

Yellow Rose, Rose Garden, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, California, USA

The Rose Garden at Exposition Park is covered with rows and rows of flowers in all colors and sizes. This one in particular is a lone yellow one. :)

Arcade/Casino on the Brighton Pier, Brighton, United Kingdom

It was a very hot day when we visited the Brighton Pier, and as we came upon this domed amusement arcade, we went in for refuge from the heat. It was odd because there were arcade games for all ages, but along the side, there were slot machines with age restrictions. Through the arcade and out the back doors were fairground rides and even a haunted house ride. Along the pier, you could see families lying out on the beach and playing in the water. It seemed as if everyone in Brighton was out and enjoying the sunny day!

UCLA by Night, Royce Hall & Shapiro Fountain, Los Angeles, California, USA

UCLA is a beautiful campus and its even more beautiful at night. I'm not biased because I went there or anything... :P Anyway, this is Royce Hall and its reflection in the Shapiro Fountain. Go Bruins!

COOL Globes, Los Angeles, California, USA

More from the really cool, Cool Globes exhibit I went to last month at the Rose Garden! There were rows of globes designed by artists from all over... Inspirational.

"Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race." You know you want to go listen to it... DO IT.

Istanbul at Dusk, Istanbul, Turkey

Our mission: find somewhere to eat. We walked along the Istiklal Street, the main shopping street, and since we were in search of seafood, we decided to walk towards the water. Well, we walked off of the street and quickly realized we weren't going to be nearing the water in the direction we were walking in. So, before turning back, I took this photo of the city of Istanbul at dusk. End result: We ended up finding a small street off of the main shopping street where we found the most delicious stuffed mussels!

World's Largest Thermometer, Baker, California, USA

Located in the small town of Baker, California, the world's tallest thermometer can be seen from miles away on the journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and back. We stopped to eat at the Big Boy restaurant, and after we were done and night had fallen, the temperature had dropped a couple degrees and it was "only" 109 degrees. Boy was it hot!

Encore Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Great time in Vegas, as usual! This time, the Encore hotel was our residence. Located adjacent to the Wynn Hotel, Encore is the second tower to the Wynn and follows the design of the original. The outside of the building is gold and designed to reflect it's surroundings - in this case, its counterpart, the Wynn Hotel. Interesting fact I read: in addition to not having the unlucky number of 13 as a floor number, the hotel also doesn't have any floors with numbers that start with 4 - no 40th and 49th because of the superstition in some Asian cultures that associate the number with death. Viva las Vegas!

Gold Earrings, Renegade Craft Fair, Los Angeles, California, USA

I have to go soon, so post now, description later (I'll update this post). Have a great weekend! Next new photos: Sunday. :)
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Lanterns in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

One of Istanbul's most famous attractions is the Grand Bazaar, an indoor maze of over 4,000 shops selling everything from lanterns to spices to jewelry to purses. As we walked down each of the "streets" vendors called out towards us, beckoning us to view all their items. Its hard not to want everything, but personally, I do not like the hassle of haggling prices so it became quite a challenge even to get anything I wanted. Nonetheless, this covered market had so much to offer, even just to look at. This photo is of some exquisite green lanterns at one of the shops, with the flag of Turkey hanging from the ceiling in the background.

Curious eyes inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

As we walked through the courtyard of the Blue Mosque, we glanced inside and found two little girls looking outside with the same curiosity we had looking inside. To them, we were foreigners and to us, they were locals - both of us intrigued but in different ways. Shortly after, we walked around to the side and were able to enter the mosque, but not before they covered our shoulders and legs with sheets of fabric, and had us remove our shoes. It was the beginning of a busy day in Istanbul!

The Seagull & the Remains of the West Pier, Brighton, United Kingdom

As Kristin and I walked along the beach, she mentioned to me the history of the West Pier (seen behind the seagull). After a series of unfortunate events, the pier is in its present condition, the framework for what was once a pier with a concert hall on it extending to land. It was built in 1866, but by 1975, it was officially closed for renovation. In 2002, the weather caused part of it to collapse and this damage was further exacerbated by a fire in 2003, followed by yet another fire just 2 months later that completely destructed the concert hall. In 2004, strong winds completely collapsed the middle of the pier and in 2005, the white hut collapsed. Fast forward to 2009, and this is what it currently looks like. Talk about a string of bad luck...

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Known as the national mosque of Turkey, the Blue Mosque is officially named the Sultan Ahmed mosque. This is a photo of the inside of the mosque. It is called the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles used in the interior. In order to enter, your legs and shoulders must be covered, so we were given sheets of fabric, as were many of the other visitors given. The inside architecture is intricately designed and the details of the walls and stained glass windows makes for a magnificent ambiance within the mosque. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling to bring light inside, in addition to the natural light from the windows.

Renegade Craft Fair, California Market Center, Los Angeles, California, USA

The Renegade Craft Fair was the 1st annual taking place in Los Angeles. It has been in other cities in past years, and this year, is also taking place in San Francisco, Chicago and Brooklyn. There were over 200 vendors selling handmade crafts and it was so much fun walking around (and purchasing items). It really inspired me to be crafty and simply put, make something. Everything from handmade shirts to bags to jewelry to baby clothes to cards to dresses to posters to buttons to underwear were on display in neatly decorated booths throughout the floor. Located on the entire 13th floor, there were 360 degree views of downtown LA from the building. LOVED it. Just my type of thing! :)

Connie & Mario's Wedding, Holy Cross Church, Los Angeles, California, USA

My co-worker, Connie, and her fiance, Mario, got married this past Saturday. It was a beautiful wedding and I'm glad I got to capture the special day for them via photos! The ceremony took place at the Holy Cross Church in Los Angeles, followed by the reception in Pasadena. Congratulations to both of them! :)

[day 10] Day of Traveling back to the US, Newark, New Jersey

With time differences in all, I was able to leave London at 12 noon and arrive back in Los Angeles in the evening. The previous, night we had arrived back from Istanbul at night - I spent one more night in London and headed back to the airport in the early morning. Most of the flight was during the day and since I got a window seat for both flights, I was able to see the view outside. This photo was taken after my flight across the pond where I had a stopover in Newark, New Jersey for a few hours. As we descended, we flew through white clouds and over the water and greenery of New Jersey. It was a long day of traveling, but I like to think of the journey as a part of the adventure of the trip!

[day 9] Stuffed Mussels & a Fanta, Istanbul, Turkey

Stuffed mussels are called "midye dolma" in Turkish. We first found these as we walked along Istiklal Caddesi, the lively pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants. Just off of the street was a stretch of small restaurants and outdoor street food. We walked by a store and were offered these to try - hesitant as we were, they looked too appetizing to pass up, so we tried one and it was delicious! It's a mussel stuffed with seasoned rice in the inside and lemon squeezed on it, eaten directly from the shell. The first time was the best, but on our last day, I just had to had some more. That morning, we had taken a short 25 minute ferry over to the Asia side of Istanbul and found these on one of the streets lined with shops. And, of course, I had to have an orange Fanta to go with it! YUM.

[day 8] View of the Golden Horn from our Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey

From the rooftop terrace of our hotel, we had an amazing view of houses and the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosphorus, creating a natural harbor. The Bosphorus is a strait that splits Istanbul between the continents of Europe and Asia, and connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Across the Golden Horn is the more modernized part of Istanbul and we were able to get to the other side quickly by either using the metro or crossing the bridges. On our terrace, we were able to relax out in the sun and admire the beauty of our surroundings. Lovely day in Istanbul!

[day 7] Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

We arrived in Turkey by plane late at night and woke up with a busy plan ahead of us. Istanbul is a huge city, and we chose to explore the closest sights to us that morning. The old city part of Istanbul is called Sultanahment. The building in this photo is the Hagia Sophia, now a museum, formerly a patriarchal basilica and a mosque. It is an important symbol of Byzantine architecture and served as the model for several other mosques throughout the city.

For over a thousand years, it was actually the largest cathedral in the world and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Istanbul was formerly known as Constantinopole and in 1453, the city was conquered by Ottoman Turks, when it was then converted to a mosque by adding Islamic features like a mihrab (niche in the wall), minbar (raised platform), and minarets (tall spires outside the mosque). By 1935, the founder of the Republic of Turkey transformed it into a museum.

Istanbul is full of history and that day we learned a lot about the city that is actually on two continents: Europe and Asia!

[day 6] Liverpool Street Train Station, London, United Kingdom

Europe is known for their elaborate train stations and this one was no exception. I've always been impressed by the excellent rail system that connects most points throughout Europe. This was a station close by Wendy's new flat that was a hub for both the Underground and the long distance trains. This Liverpool Street station is the third busiest station in London. It was built on the original site of the Bethlem Royal Hospital and became operational in February of 1874, replacing the original terminal, Bishopsgate. There were a mix of business professionals rushing to work as well as travelers with their luggage. Signs were everywhere directing you where to go.

Since this was my second time around for London (I was there 4 years ago for study abroad), I got to experience it less rushed and less with a need to see all the most famous tourist destinations that I had already seen in the past. It was more about exploring new areas and living as a Londoner. I stayed with Wendy and met a lot of her friends and I was able to get a feel for how it is living there. The weather was great the whole time I was there, and there was a lot going on throughout the city!

[day 5] London by Night, London, United Kingdon

No trip to London can be complete without a stroll through the city by night. The sights in London light up and create reflections in the River Thames, the second longest river in the United Kingdom. In this photo, you can see the London Eye, a huge ferris wheel, as well as the Houses of Parliament with the clock tower, the Big Ben. The moon was full and was shining bright that night.

[day 4] Michael Jackson Memorial, London, United Kingdom

In London, where Michael Jackson's 50 concert tour dates was set to begin soon, news of his death rippled throughout the city. At the Lyric Theatre, the Thriller Live show was originally created and performed to celebrate the accomplishments and musical influence of Michael Jackson, and it has now become a tribute to his life. The executive producer was a long time associate of Michael and the show still went on, even with the tragic news of his death. As expected, many Londoners likely had tickets to go see him at the O2 arena and this theatre was a fitting memorial site for fans to leave flowers, photos, notes and newspaper articles.

I never realized how much a fan I was of the man and his music, but with the shocking news of his death, I went to my itunes and played his songs and remembered just how much of an impact it had in my life. I can remember listening to it ever since I was young, and listening to the music really made me realize just how great it was. Saddened that he can't continue to make music and make the comeback that was all planned out for him. Despite all the controversy surrounding his life, nothing can take away from his music and his impact worldwide. RIP Michael Jackson.

[day 3] Henman Hill, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, London, United Kingdom

Since I'm back in the states now, I'm going to still chronicle my trip, day by day. Lots of catching up to do!

We were lucky enough to be in the UK during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. We paid for admission to the tennis grounds which were located in a suburb of London, where we were surrounded by courts, and the prestigious Centre Court that the actual men's singles semi final between Andy Roddick and Andy Murray was going on at. Even though we were watching on a big screen TV, it was still exciting to be there amongst tennis enthusiasts on Henman Hill, officially named the Aorangi Terrance. It is popularly known Henman Hill because it was named after the British tennis player, Tim Henman. Viewers were sitting on the hill, many with picnics prepared and sheets to relax out in the sunny London day. Roddick went on to beat Murray, the British player, unfortunately for most of the crowd who were fittingly rooting for Murray.

The Wimbledon grounds were beautiful with green structures and purple flowers throughout. Exciting time to be in London!

Quick Photo Diary Update

I know, I know, I'm SO behind on my daily photos. Just came back from Europe last for most of the day today...I'm exhausted! I'm trying to catch up with photos by tomorrow!

[day 2] Brighton Gardens, Brighton, United Kingdom

I haven't had time to update - finally doing it now!

On my second day in the UK, I took a train in the morning to visit Kristin and to visit the beach city of Brighton! I haven't seen her in a long time so it was great catching up. It was a sunny day and great weather (although it did get a bit too hot at a point), and I enjoyed it very much. The gardens have flowers throughout in a mixture of pastel colors and I couldn't stop admiring their color combinations. The area had architecture similar to the one in this picture, as well as the Royal Pavilion right around the corner. It was unexpected design, but fit in nicely with the garden.

After walking around this area, we walked to the beach and the pier. The pier was full of rides and ice cream and little shops, and there was even an arcade that not only had games for kids, but gambling for adults. I'm not sure why they'd put both in the same location where kids could easily confuse them. Anyway, we then walked around some more and then headed to Kristin's flat. It was a cute little place and there, we watched some TV and napped since the weather outside was so hot.

Left her place, walked around some more, headed back to the train station and I was on my way back to London!

Nightlife in the city of London - thanks to some connections (or maybe Wendy paying for everything haha) we got in VIP status to Vendome, an exclusive club in London. It was a lot of fun! They played lots of the usuals you'd hear in clubs in the US, and of course, they had to play some Michael Jackson!

[day 1] London School of Economics (LSE), London, United Kingdon

After a long flight and some delays, I finally arrived in London this morning. It's 8 hours ahead of LA time over here. A ride on the tube to the Russell Park station and a short walk later, I met up with Wendy! It's been a while since I've seen her! Anyway, we had a little picnic at the Lincoln Fields Inn park on the beautiful, sunny London day and then took a stroll to her school, the London School of Economics. Since it's summer, it was more empty than usual.

After that, we went to Hyde Park and hung out on the grass with some of her friends. There were so many people lying out on the grass, typical of a sunny day in London. Right before the last call, we rented a paddle boat and paddled around the Hyde Park lake. By dinnertime, we went to eat in Chinatown and walked around London by night - took some photos of the London Eye and Big Ben and the Westminster Abbey.

Long, but eventful day. Brought back so many memories of being in London four years ago for study abroad. We even passed by the Citadines Aparthotel we stayed at last time!