Mediterranean Trip Report: Barcelona

Hola! :)

It’s been over a week since we got back from our Mediterranean adventure and life is back to normal. Wahhh wahhh.

I know my blog has evolved into a travelogue over the past few years and I’m not quite sure how that happened! I just don’t obsess over TV or fandom the same way I used to before (I reserve the right to take this back after a few more episodes of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD). I mean, I still watch huge amounts of TV (that won’t ever change) but I don’t really have a connection with the shows I watch anymore. Anyway, I guess my blog has never had a point. LOL. It’s just nice to have a place where I can write about whatever I want. And I enjoy looking back, reading old posts, and either laughing or cringing at myself. :P I hope you’ll all continue to stick with me! Especially since writing these blog posts helps to keep me occupied until our next adventure…

So we had an AWESOME Mediterranean vacation — I didn’t want it to end (so cliche)! This was our itinerary —

8/28 Departure flight
8/29 Arrive in Barcelona
8/30 Barcelona
8/31 Cruise embarkation day
9/1 Day at Sea
9/2 Port in Villefranche (Monaco)
9/3 Port in La Spezia (Cinque Terre)
9/4 Port in Civitavecchia (Rome)
9/5 Port in Napes (Amalfi Coast)
9/6 Day at Sea
9/7 Debarkation day + Barcelona
9/8 Flight to Paris
9/9-9/10 Disneyland Paris Resort
9/11 Paris
9/12 Back home

It’s been 7 years since I was in Europe and I hope it won’t be that long until I get back again. I have dreams of visiting Greece and the Baltics. Ahhh, someday!

Thursday, August 29

Our first stop was Barcelona — neither of us have ever been to Spain so we were excited! Unfortunately, on our very first morning, we were targeted for petty theft IN OUR HOTEL, the Le Meridien, and even though everything turned out fine, I HOLD GRUDGES (plus, it was totally my fault). I’m actually still a bit miffed at the whole situation. I had done my research so I knew all the scams and thought I was prepared but unfortunately I was super jet lagged and I let my guard down because we were sitting in a lounge inside our hotel. While Rob was outside, one guy distracted me while another guy took Rob’s backpack from the chair right next to me. ARGH!!! The terrible thing was that I didn’t even notice. Luckily Rob spotted the guy walking out of the hotel with his backpack and got it back without a fight. PHEW. That could have been a disastrous start. After that, all I wanted to do was get into our room and sleep, which is exactly what we did the rest of that first day.

Before that mess, though, we walked along Las Ramblas to La Boqueria, which is a wonderful market filled with fresh meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables… basically anything and everything. It was AMAZING! Take a look…



We had a yummy lunch at one of the many tapas bars in the market and we also picked up juice, fruits and ham & cheese to snack on over the next few days. It was THE BEST.

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mediterranean adventure

Annnd we’re off again on our next adventure! To celebrate our recent 5th anniversary (wow!), Rob & I are heading to Barcelona this week to board a Mediterranean cruise (with stops in Italy & France) and then we’ll fly to Paris for a few days (Disneyland!).



Neither of us have ever been on a cruise before so I’m a little nervous we’ll hate it. But I figure that we’ll be in Europe so we won’t care anyway!

I’ll try to update my Twitter (username: CooKie01) and/or my Instagram feeds (username: cookiekel) when I find free internet access. Follow me! I’m excited to share our adventures with you. :)

comic-con 2013: days 2-4

Finally getting around to the wrap-up of Comic-Con 2013!

Friday, July 19
On Friday, my ONLY goal was to make it in to Ballroom 20 for the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel. Spoiler: we made it in! But before the main attraction, we sat through some other fun panels like…



The Big Bang Theory writers’ panel. Melissa Rauch moderated and we were treated to a fun cameo by…



Johnny Galecki! He was dressed as Princess Leia’s Bounty Hunter and surprised the audience when he took off the mask while asking the writers panel a question. The following day I saw him just lounging around outside of the Hilton Bayfront. So cool to just randomly have celebrity sightings during Comic-Con.



I stopped watching Bones a season or two ago but the panel was still super entertaining… because David Boreanaz was so over the top and ridiculous. He was making snarky comments, talking over the other members of the panel, basically being an attention whore. UGH. So disappointing.

THEN!!! IT WAS TIME. The Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel! The entire main cast was in attendance along with the writers/producers and Joss Whedon himself.



The fresh faces — Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge.



The veterans + one more newbie — Clark Gregg (COULSON LIVES!), Ming-Na Wen (gawd, she doesn’t age), and newcomer Brett Dalton (cute!).



And Joss.

After introducing the cast, they went straight to questions, which is a little weird but ok. There were 1 or 2 real fan questions until a “plant” asked when we were going to see clips from the pilot. Joss responded that there would be no clips due to ABC/Disney legal issues so instead they were going to show the entire episode. !!!

I don’t know if I was caught up in the moment of watching the pilot for the first time with an entire ballroom room full of other excited/crazed fans but I *really* loved it and I’m crossing my fingers that it does well (it’s up against juggernaut NCIS). There’s a lot of potential with this show to add depth to the current Marvel/Avengers cinematic universe. The cast was solid (the majority of them are pretty green but Joss has a proven track record of finding talented unknowns so I’m not too worried), there are tons of Whedon-esque touches from the pacing of the dialogue to the quick quips, and just enough mythology to get you invested without giving away too much right away. I can’t wait to see it again when it premieres on Tue, 9/24. WATCH IT!

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comic-con 2013: days 0 & 1

And yet another month goes by in an absolute BLUR. I was sick for most of July and thought I’d gotten over it in time for Comic-Con but ended up pushing myself too much while in San Diego and got sick all over again. GRRR.

I’m much better now. :)

So it’s time for my Comic-Con recap! It was our 5th year attending the Con and we had a FAB time (well, despite some bad decision-making on our part on Saturday – LOL, I’ll explain later). Can’t wait until next year! Until then, I thought I’d share some highlights…

Wednesday, July 17

On the way down to San Diego, we stopped at San Juan Capistrano for brunch at Ramos House. Oh man, it was SO GOOD! SJC is only about 20 minutes south of where we live but neither Rob nor I have visited since we were kids. It’s so beautiful — I wish we had more time to explore.



Ramos House is located in Old San Juan right next to the train station and the seating is outdoors. It was opening day for the Del Mar Race Track so we had a great view to people watch (I especially loved the women in their snazzy hats!).



We shared crab hash and salmon lox and it was all incredible. Even the complimentary scone with apple butter was to die for. I wish I had picked up a jar of the apple butter to take home. Next time!

We were lucky enough to have 4-day Comic-Con badges with the extra preview night so once we arrived in San Diego, we hit the exhibition hall to scope out all the booths and of course, the TOYS & merchandise! It was WAY more crowded than it’s been in past years so we ended up spending most of our time in lines. To be expected, though — Comic-Con is well known for its abundance of LINES!

That night, we had free tickets to the midnight screening of Psych the Musical. WHEE!



Based on Twitter reports, the Psych cast arrived at the screening in the Weinermobile! And on our way to the movie theatre, we spotted it driving around. So awesome.



We arrived about 45 minutes to showtime so we were pretty far back in line. Unfortunately, this meant we sat in the very first row of the theatre and this was our view.



But this ALSO meant that we were THISCLOSE to the cast when they came in to greet all of us. WOOHOO! (Yeah, sorry… terrible pic, I know).

The musical is scheduled to air in December and it doesn’t really make ANY kind of sense in the context of the show right now BUT it was a lot of FUN!

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first half 2013 photo dump

With half the year behind me, it’s about that time for a photo dump! I know that’s what Instagram is for but most of the time I don’t think about sharing pics right away so… here they are now, heh.

After we went to Portland and had the fish sauce wings at Pok Pok, I asked Rob to try making them one night and he obliged.

They don’t look pretty but they were OHSOGOOD. Recipe here.

I also made mango sticky rice for dessert a few times — it’s one of my favorite desserts and so easy to make too. Recipe here.

I’ve never been a huge burger fan (though I do LOVE Shake Shack) but on a business trip to San Francisco, I got the chance to try Super Duper Burger. YUMMY!

At our local mall, a new pizza place opened called Pieology. For only $7.50, you get an oversized personal thin crust pizza that you can customize with as many toppings as you like. They also have this amazing herb butter that they spread over the dough before it bakes. WOW. IT’S AWESOME.

Finally tried the shaved ice/frozen yogurt combo at Milk & Honey. Gawd, I love dessert.

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valentine’s weekend in portland

Way back on Valentine’s Day, Rob and I took a quick weekend trip up to Portland. Both of us always seem to be excruciatingly busy with work in February so this was a perfect time for a foodie getaway to a new city. :)

We don’t know how to start our mornings without caffeine so on our first day we walked over to Stumptown, a locally owned shop and roaster known for its quality coffee.



I am NOT a coffee connoisseur (what can I say? I love my Starbucks) but I thought it was excellent!

Although the main focus of our trip was to eat our way through the city, we managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing. We rented a car for a day and headed east to visit the waterfalls along the Columbia River Highway. Too bad for us it was the one day that was super overcast and rainy that weekend.



But Multnomah Falls was so beautiful! Even despite the rain. I’m sure it would be even more stunning during the Spring and Summer when the surrounding trees have grown back their leaves. I had originally wanted to hike the half mile up to the Benson foot bridge that you see in the photo but the rain started coming down too hard and the pathways were getting slick and muddy.



We also made a pit stop at Wahkeena Falls.



Our last stop before heading back downtown was the Vista House, which is an observatory and rest area for travelers.

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Japan Trip Report: Tokyo, Part 2

Annnnddd again with my unintended hiatus from the blog! Is anyone still here?! :) I wish I could say that I was off doing fun things but really, I’ve had a tiring and emotional few weeks.

First, I was in San Francisco at the beginning of the month seeing a colleague and friend off on a new adventure. That was sad enough.

Then the following week I flew to Manila with my dad after learning that my grandma had passed away. I spent 4 very packed and emotional days saying farewell to my beloved Lola. She was 95 and had been in the hospital for almost a year so I’ve been preparing myself for this news for some time now. Although that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. She lived in the Philippines but when I was very little, she would spend extended time with us in California almost every year. I remember going to garage sales with her and coming home with piles of $0.10 books. I’m pretty sure my love of reading came from her. She also used to spend many afternoons making the yummiest filipino desserts — I wish I could remember the recipes now. They’re still some of my favorite sweet treats. I love you, Lola, and miss you very very much.

And finally on the other end of the emotional spectrum, last week Rob & I took a long weekend trip to our happy place, Vancouver. I tried postponing the trip but I’m glad it didn’t work out. It was so great to get away and detox emotionally.

So that’s what’s been going on with me this month… how about all of you? :)

I know it’s been 6+ months since this trip but I need to finish what I started so here’s the final installment of our Japan trip report…

Monday, November 19
Food is a very important part of travel for us. And we’re huge fans of Japanese food in particular. So we had a checklist of various types of food we wanted to try… tempura (check), okonomiyaki (check), ramen (check), sushi (pending)… and so on.

On our third day in Tokyo we headed to Kichijoji for steak at Steak House Satou.



I read about the restaurant on this travel blog and have been anxious to try it ever since.

It didn’t disappoint.

We made sure to arrive right around opening (11am) because I had read online that lines are not uncommon since it’s a tiny restaurant on top of their own butcher shop. You walk up a very narrow and steep flight of stairs and are greeted with the most delicious smell of meat sizzling on the teppan grill. Trust me, it smelled fantastic.

Rob and I both ordered the Matsuzaka steak set that came with a salad starter and veggies on the side.



Oh man, it was INCREDIBLE. Definitely the best meal of the trip for me. SOGOODOMG.



After lunch we stumbled upon a Doughnut Plant in the Shinjuku station.



We were going to skip it since we’d tried it when we were in New York but I saw that they had green tea flavored donuts. I can’t resist anything green tea! YUM.

So our plan for the day was to do some sightseeing in Harajuku.



I just love the Harajuku station — so charming!
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Japan Trip Report: Tokyo, Part 1

I can’t believe it’s been 3+ weeks since my last entry! I wish I could blog more regularly — but as I get older, it takes more time for me to put each entry together. Plus, on weeknights after work, I am L-A-Z-Y.

Anyway, before I launch into the next installment of my trip report, I have to ask — is anyone else annoyed with Google for shutting down Reader?! I know it’s ridiculous but I read quite a few blogs and it’s so easy to keep up with all of them in one place. So far I’ve tried a few different potential replacements and haven’t found “the one” yet. LOL. Feedly has a sleek look but I’m not loving the magazine style layout. The Old Reader was my top choice because it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Google Reader but DAMN, it is SLOOOOOWWW. Bloglovin is my favorite so far but I wish blogs would get marked as read when I scroll through rather than me having to do that manually. UGH. Are there any other options out there that I should try?

Onwards with my Japan trip report! After leaving the Tokyo Disney Report, we headed into Tokyo Proper for the last 4 days of our trip…

Saturday, November 17
Sadly it was raining HARD on our first day in Tokyo. I was too busy trying to keep myself dry that I didn’t take nearly the amount of pics I normally would, hehe.

Our first stop was the neighborhood of Asakusa and the Sensoji Temple.



As you enter the temple, you first walk through the outer gate known as Kaminarimon (or Thunder Gate). Ugh, the rain.



From the outer gate, Nakamise shopping street leads you towards the main hall.



And that’s the main hall behind me.



From Asakusa, you can see the newly built Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest building in Tokyo. With our limited time in the city, we didn’t have a chance to visit (I guess we’ll save it for next time :)).



It was so incredible to be walking around in this vibrant city!
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Japan Trip Report: Tokyo DisneySea

Ugh, daylight savings time. I don’t know why springing forward one hour affects me the rest of the week afterwards. I’m finally getting back to normal after a week of lack of sleep. And now my spring allergies have caught up with me. BLAH.

BUT the new Justin Timberlake album was released yesterday! WOOT. I downloaded it right away and currently have it on repeat. My favorite song at the moment is “Pusher Love Girl.” It’s AWESOME!

So in my last entry I revisited the time we spent at Tokyo Disneyland — and now we’re going to Tokyo DisneySea!

Thursday, 11/15 & Friday, 11/16
WOW is all I can say. DisneySea is the most picturesque theme park! It’s a real treat for the eyes at every turn and it quickly catapulted itself to my second favorite Disney park (after the original Disneyland of course).



The iconic Aquasphere is the centerpiece of the entrance plaza. It was so exciting to be here!

The park has a nautical theme and consists of seven different lands or “ports of call.” There is so much to explore at each of them — we spent 1.5 days at the park and didn’t get to see and experience everything (good excuse to go back :)). I don’t know that my photos can truly show how amazing the park is but I’ll try! Let’s start with…



Mediterranean Harbor! This is the entrance land and resembles an Italian port city.



First view of Mount Prometheus (the park’s iconic volcano) as you enter.



We decided to head right to explore the park counterclockwise (and avoid the huge crowd headed in the other direction – I’ll explain later).



The view above is taken looking back at Mediterranean Harbor from across the water.



Walking to the right brought us to Mysterious Island, which is located within Mount Prometheus and features a Jules Verne theme.

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Japan Trip Report: Tokyo Disneyland

I’ve been traveling for the past week and a half and now that I’m home, it’s taken me awhile to get back to normal. Rob & I spent Valentine’s Day weekend eating our way through Portland (pics to come someday) and then last week we were in San Francisco for work. I know I’m lucky to be able to travel but it’s pretty exhausting! Yeah, I know – first world problems and all. :)

Let’s back track to our Japan trip (I still have at least 3-4 more entries after this one — so bear with me).

Wednesday, 11/14

First day in the Tokyo Disney parks! We decided on Disneyland for our first day so that we’d experience something familiar to start.



This is the Disney Resort Line (aka monorail) that takes guests to the parks.



And this is the Disney Resort Cruiser that acts as a shuttle from the various on-site official hotels to the Bayside resort line station (so that guests can then connect to the Resort Line to get to the parks). Our hotel was across the street from the station so we never used it but I just loved the cruiser — it’s SO CUTE.

When I was planning our trip, I read numerous reports online that the Japanese are serious about Disney and arrive early to get into the parks. If you arrive even an hour after park opening, fast passes will be gone and ride lines will be hours long. This was NO JOKE. We woke up early to take the Resort Line to Disneyland well before the 9am opening and as we rounded the corner to the park, there were already lines upon lines of people waiting to enter. Oddly enough, the ticket booths had no lines because everyone was prepared and already had their tickets ahead of time like we did.



This was the crowd in our immediate vicinity waiting in line to get in to the park (can you spot Rob?). It was INSANE. But everyone was super organized and polite. I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like during high season.



Entering the park! SQUEE.

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