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The Japanese Garden & The Cascades

Local Travel

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So its the start of the work week which means the start of this week’s adventures. Today my main focus was The Japanese Garden in Encino, CA. On the way home, I decided to stop at The Cascades in Sylmar to check one more California Historical monument off my list but more on that later.

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From the front, the place is pretty unassuming. You would never expect what I found behind those gates.

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I was taken aback upon my first steps in. The garden sits on 6 acres in between walls between Woodley Park and the DWP water reclamation plant.

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You may be wondering about all of this greenery in California while we are going through a significant drought but here’s the back story of the garden.

Suiho-en “Garden of Water and Fragrance” (the garden’s Japanese name), was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana. Dr. Kawana who is from Hokkaido has designed dozens of gardens across the country including the gardens at LACMA, Balboa Park in San Diego as well as the largest Japanese garden in the United States which is located in St. Louis.

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Now what about all of that water to nourish these 6 acres of greenery? Well, it all comes from reclaimed wastewater that is processed just next door at DWP’s D.C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. Now that’s what I call recycling! They say that about 60% of the wastewater comes from residents while the remaining 40% comes from industrial and commercial sources.

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If you are anywhere near Van Nuys and need a place to go to clear your head, a unique date spot or a great place to take photos I would say definitely visit The Japanese Garden which is located at 6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91406. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for seniors (62+) and children under 10. They are open Monday through Thursday 11am-4pm and Sundays from 10am-4pm. You can visit their website at http://www.thejapanesegarden.com.

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Now a quick bit on The Cascades. I didn’t stay too long because there were tons of No Trespassing signs and I didn’t want anyone to call the cops on me. This is California Historical Landmark #653.

The Cascades is the Terminus of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The water you see when you are headed to Magic Mountain has traveled 338 miles from Sierra Nevada to Los Angeles. The aqueduct was completed in 1913. No historical marker here because someone stole it! So now you know.. and now I know. And that makes 12 landmarks visited and 488 to go!

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California State Historical Landmark #150 – Brand Park (Memory Garden)

Local Travel

Today it dawned on me that I was born and raised in the state of California and I had only seen 10 of the 1055 currently registered California State Historical Landmarks. When some of them are local to me I think that is a travesty. So thus I am embarking on a quest. I want to attempt to see half of these by the time I turn 40. In addition to that I want to see all of them by the time I turn 50.

Today I got to visit my 11th California landmark! I visited Brand Park (Memory Garden) which is located in Mission Hills, CA. It is just across the street from Mission San Fernando Rey De Espana (aka San Fernando Mission). It was registered as a California State Historical Landmark on January 11, 1935. It was donated to the city to be used for a park on November 4, 1920.

The site is a part of the original land grant of Mission San Fernando Rey De Espana. It is a peaceful place to walk around and reflect. Especially around 1pm when there was no one around but a groundskeeper and a young girl with her photographers doing a photo shoot for her Quinceanera. I could see this as a place that people would take wedding, engagement and quinceanera photos. I’m glad I stopped!

489 landmarks to go!

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William S. Hart Park Nature Trail

Lifestyle, Local Finds

I drive by Hart Park at least once a week but never really paid it much mind as more than just a park until this past weekend when I drove by and saw that they are going to have a Cowboy Festival this month and saw people walking what seemed to be a trail. This piqued my interest so I had to know more.

Turns out the park is at the base of the former mansion of William S. Hart. This is the actual ranch where silent Western movie actor William S. Hart retired. How cool is it that this is just 5 minutes from my home!

The mansion is now a museum which offers free daily tours. I arrived about 2 hours too early for the tours but I truly enjoyed the 1/4 mile hike up. Now I have another reason to go back!

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The hike will take you much longer than you think because there are so many wonderful photo ops. I just felt so much at peace on this trail. Besides the park employees it was just me, the birds and the bison…. Yes you read that correctly, the bison!

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The top of the trail is home to the mansion which is now a museum and this cool Spanish fort building. I didn’t get a picture of the mansion because the gate was closed.

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Here are a few more photos from my nature hike today. I plan on going back frequently. I also want to take the museum tour and I saw another trail as I was driving out.

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Carnival Valor – 8 Day Southern Caribbean from San Juan

Travel Tools

People have asked me about our cruise experience so I thought it would be a great idea to blog about it so I can share my experience with everyone one at once. We happened to be on the second to last sailing of Carnival Valor from San Juan. It is now headed back to Port Canaveral to do a shortened version of the itinerary. Our ports of Call: St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Maarten. Onboard Staff: The staff was very friendly. I was impressed with how quickly those staff members who Sean and I had regular contact remembered our names considering the fact that we were on a ship that holds over 2900 people and being a Customer Service Supervisor I have very high standards for customer service. The Fun Finds shore excursion couple Barbie and Michael (they were engaged) quickly became friends with us and helped us negotiate our purchases in town. We also shared our wedding plans with each other as well. Our housekeeper was very friendly and made conversation when we passed her everyday. She also helped me on a day we were experiencing very choppy waters by suggesting green apples for seasickness which was a quick remedy. Vinko our great bartender in the cigar bar was very friendly and we shared talk about Los Angeles, Croatia (his home country), cigars and whiskeys. The Onboard Amenities: I don’t think there was ever a dull moment. There are 3 pools, 6 saunas (4 of which were adults only!), a spa, gym, casino and bars. While we were sailing there was always something going on. A few times we had to make split second decisions as to what we were going to do. The Shore Excursions: I felt most were moderately priced for what they were. The city tours are very valuable in St. Lucia, St. Maarten and Barbados where the shopping isn’t that great and most things to do are not within walking distance of the port, especially St. Lucia. We unfortunately waited until the last minute for the city tour in St. Lucia which was sold out. We walked out into the port, walked around for 10 minutes and quickly got back onboard our ship. The Stateroom: You can definitely tell that the ship was a little older. The plastic couch in our stateroom had definitely seen better days. We had a balcony room and loved it. We found ourselves outside often either stargazing, taking pictures of the scenery during the daytime or watching the sunsets. Its great to enjoy a bottle of wine outside although the salt flying up can be a bit much. I noticed that sometimes with the bathroom, when people were embarking on the ship at the end of a day in port, the toilets would have a delay in flushing. The first time we thought we broke the toilet but quickly discovered this only happened during busy times. The demographic: Most of the people onboard were Midwestern, lower middle class families and native Puerto Rican and Barbadian families which made for an interesting dynamic. The Midwesterners were definitely trying to figure us out, we look very young and were on our own. Not very many people made small talk with us a I have experienced in more higher end setting like my last two cruises which were with Viking River Cruises. All in all, I would do it again as a cheap way to sail however I would want to try other cruise lines out and see which one I prefer more and also share those experiences with you here.

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Saint Martin Sint Maarten

Travel Tools

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten was one of the last stops on our 7 night cruise but I had to write about it first because it was one of my favorite islands (St. Thomas being the other).

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Technical details on this island in a nutshell: The island is 37 square miles long so it’s not very difficult to figure your way around it. It is divided into two sides. The Dutch side which is 16 square miles and the French side which makes up the remaining 21 square miles. They were divided in an agreement reached by the French and the Dutch on March 23, 1648 with the signing of the Treaty of Concordia.

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The capital of the Dutch side is Philipsburg. This is the more commercial, touristy side of the island. It is where the cruise ships dock (sometimes 9 at one time). There is a great public beach which is just a water taxi ride or a 10-15 minute walk over so you don’t have to pay the cruise line for a beach excursion to enjoy a day relaxing on the beach.

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Just steps from the beach is blocks and blocks of great shopping. The retailers include: Diamonds International (a Caribbean staple), Tiffany & Co., Yves Rocher, Longchamp, Inglot, Duty Free shopping with great discounts and much more. There is also lots of great bars and restaurants.

If you are a Star Wars fan, the creator of the original Yoda, Nick Maley sold his Lamborghini and moved out here to create a museum and store in November 2011. Mr. Maley is actually in the store daily and will autograph any storyboards or drawings that you purchase from him and even dedicate them without a charge. He was friendly and even offered to take a photo with us.

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The French side feels like a yachting town especially in the capital city of Marigot. It feels like a place where the rich and famous sail their yachts to and relax. If I had the money I would totally sail my yacht there and dock it there for a week. I would spend my days either in the local cafes and bars or onboard my yacht basking in the ambiance, reading and being a total foodie cooking with the local seafood and ingredients that can be found just steps away along the marina with a glass of champagne in my hand at all times… A girl can only dream!

We elected to take an island tour so that we could get an overview of both sides of the island. We purchased it through Carnival. I elected not to go to Maho Beach which I previously wanted to go to because of the crowds of tourists wanting to see the low-flying planes mainly because of the loud noise and the crowds.

There is so much more that I could say about the beauty and splendor of this island but that would become a book. But I do highly recommend if you are looking into a cruise you select one that visits St. Martin or if you are planning a vacation in the Caribbean that you consider St. Martin. It also seems like a wonderful place to retire as well.

Happy Travels Wanderlusters!

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Vacation Bliss

Travel Tools

I just returned last night from a glorious vacation in the Caribbean and being home is quite bittersweet. When I visited the Dominican Republic last year I was left with the itch to see more of the Caribbean so my fiancé and I did so this year.

We took a 7 night Southern Caribbean cruise roundtrip from San Juan on Carnival (which as chance may have it we won in a raffle). Since there isn’t any time spent on the cruise in San Juan, we opted to arrive 3 nights earlier and stay 1 night after to enjoy Puerto Rico. During the cruise we visited St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Lucia.

There are some islands I loved (St. Maarten and St. Thomas), an island I was happy that I had to the opportunity to visit but would probably not go back to (Barbados) and some islands that were not of interest and I would never return to unless it was apart of a cruise itinerary that included islands that I haven’t seen and I have no other choice (St. Kitts and St. Lucia). I am a firm believer that cruising is the best way to get an overview of a region. Its the best way to find a place to go back to visit for a future vacation.

All in all I had a great experience in with only one regret (Stay tuned!) I will be posting my reviews and experiences on each of the islands and the hotels that I stayed at and hopefully they will help you with your future vacation planning.

Happy Travels My Friends!

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Bring on the Flutes… And Let Them Eat Cake!

Lifestyle, Wedding

Our idea behind setting a wedding date almost 2 years in advance is so that we can relax and plan our wedding and without feeling pressured or rushed. Sean and I both do not work well under pressure and we both also have a very hard time making decisions so this time span will allow us to just relax, be ourselves and take our time to making any decision about the wedding.

With that in mind, Sean and I went out shopping today. Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I love a great bargain even more than the Christmas season.

While shopping for Christmas steals, I happened upon a Vera Wang toasting flutes and a cake knife and server from her “With Love” bridal collection with Wedgwood. Score!! They are just perfect and I love them! I want silver as my wedding accent and my dress is Vera Wang so I am in 7th heaven! This is becoming a Vera Wang wedding without me trying or spending millions of dollars. Sorry Kim K!

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This wedding planning business is getting way too easy! I thought I was going to have to become a Bridezilla but that just seems so unnecessary at this point!

Well, I will keep you all posted along the way. Thanks for stopping by, Krissy 🙂

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Reflecting on this year

Uncategorized

Krissy St. Germain

So I am back after a 5 month hiatus. I haven’t had much time to travel plus I got caught up with the holidays and I got engaged!!!!

After some thinking and so that I have regular content, I have decided to turn the blog into a lifestyle blog. I think there is so much to share besides travel so I should encompass everything all in one platform.

I want to include my travels of course but in addition to that include local eats, beauty, music and my wedding planning process.

Just to give you a preview of what I have planned in 2015 besides the planning for my 2016 wedding I have a Southern Caribbean cruise with 4 nights exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico in March, EDC Las Vegas in June, a wedding in Kansas City in July and we are having an engagement weekend surrounding Big Bear Oktoberfest in October.

Thankfully this…

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Reflecting on this year

Lifestyle

So I am back after a 5 month hiatus. I haven’t had much time to travel plus I got caught up with the holidays and I got engaged!!!!

After some thinking and so that I have regular content, I have decided to turn the blog into a lifestyle blog. I think there is so much to share besides travel so I should encompass everything all in one platform.

I want to include my travels of course but in addition to that include local eats, beauty, music and my wedding planning process.

Just to give you a preview of what I have planned in 2015 besides the planning for my 2016 wedding I have a Southern Caribbean cruise with 4 nights exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico in March, EDC Las Vegas in June, a wedding in Kansas City in July and we are having an engagement weekend surrounding Big Bear Oktoberfest in October.

Thankfully this upcoming year is spread out more than last year. In 2014 all of my major travel was done by April and I got pretty anxious awaiting my next adventure.

Stay tuned for travel updates, restaurant reviews, beauty product reviews and a cool road to EDC series I am planning on doing alongside my future cousin-in-law Kelly who is just as obsessed with makeup as I am.

Thanks for stopping by, Krissy!

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A Weekend in San Francisco

Weekend Getaways

So this past weekend I got the pleasure of spending the weekend in San Francisco. This was my first time staying in San Francisco city proper. I have flown into SFO twice before but my ultimate destination was Napa so I didn’t get a chance to properly experience the city and definitely will be back because there is still much more that I didn’t get to see including my beloved Dodgers playing at AT&T Park.

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We stayed just a block for Pier 39 at Wharf Inn which was perfect for being a tourist. That top story you see in the picture above is the Penthouse suite which is where we stayed. It had a balcony on each side which provided excellent views of the city on one side and views of Fishermen’s Wharf on the other. The 2 bedroom suite is perfect for family travel as well as a weekend with friends.

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The days we spent hunting for the best clam chowder and sourdough bread which we discovered on the final day was right under our nose at Boudin.

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Uber is definitely a great way to make your way around the city. We first used the service to get to the Ferry Building which is only a mile away but after waking up at 3am and starving I was in no mood to walk. The Ferry Building is a must visit for foodies. There is gourmet cheese, meat, mushrooms, ice cream and chocolate. You could go back 3 times a day for a few days and eat something completely different everyday. We had the most delicious Pacific Gold oysters there. They were actually the best I have ever had. We also enjoyed ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. I had to try a scoop of their signature flavor “Secret Breakfast” which is bourbon and corn flakes flavored. I enjoyed that along with a scoop of Harvey Milk & Honey which is milk and honey grahams yum!

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From Pier 1 1/2 we took the water taxi over to Pier 39. It is an awesome way to see the bay and take great photos.

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Another highlight of this awesome trip was ride on the trolley car to Chinatown. We had the best dim sum at Lai Hong Lounge which is on the edge of Chinatown/Russian Hill. I highly recommend the har gow, char siu bao, mango pudding and the custard buns which are heavenly!!

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