Sunday, January 18, 2015

#AdventureswithKaren: Adventures in LA

After traveling and adventuring around the world for about eight months in 2014, the question I am most often asked since being back in Los Angeles is:

"Where was your favorite place?"

and the answer I most often use is:

"Oh gosh, every city was so different and unique. I don't know if I can choose just one!"

Some people see this as an easy way to avoid answering the question. But truthfully, I don't know if I have a strong opinion on any city in particular. The whole traveling abroad experience was surreal, and each moment in each new city was refreshing and exciting.

Athens, Greece

Tokyo, Japan

What makes it even more challenging to have a definite favorite is that I only had a few hours in some places compared to a few days in others. My memories of some cities include only the paths on which I jogged or the interior decor of hotel rooms in which I stayed. Because of that, I feel like my opinion is not as developed or informed as it should be.

Bored in some hotel somewhere in Europe

So let's skip that question.  Instead, let's talk about something else that I realized during my time abroad.

September 2015 will mark my seventh (let me repeat, seventh) year in Los Angeles, and my third year living on the Eastside (though Silverlake is hardly the Eastside, according to some). Despite my seemingly long tenure here in the city of angels, there are actually quite a few places I have yet to visit  (like the MOCA) and quite a few things I have yet to experience (like hiking the Escondido Falls in Malibu). I haven't done nearly as much exploring in the seven years I've lived in LA as I did in the two months I spent in Europe. How embarrassing it is to realize that I am a stranger to my own city!

There is a variety reasons for this lack of enthusiasm over the years for adventuring in Los Angeles including being too focused on school and dance, putting too much pressure on myself to be "productive" with my time, etc. But all of that excuse-making ends today!

Hopefully I can maintain the same spirit of adventure and exploration in this new year. Join me, won't you?

First #AdventureswithKaren back in LA at the Bootleg Bar

Friday, January 2, 2015

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Europe Part 2

Part 2 of my #AdventureswithKaren in Europe is long over due. But as they say, "Better late than never!" Here are some highlights of the second part of my journey around Europe:

Manchester, UK:
The Northern Quarter is where all the awesome vintage shops are located. Afflecks gets a lot of hype and is a neat building to shop in, but I can't say that it's my all time favorite. The Northern Quarter is home to much better vintage boutiques including: We are CowVintage, Retro Rehab, and Pop Boutique.

Northern Quarter 

London, UK: 
Always a personal must-see is Brick Lane. The vintage shopping is excellent and the buildings are covered with art and murals:

Brick Lane

Paris, France: 
Of all of the tourist destinations in the world, Paris is likely to be a fan favorite for many. It has something for everyone to be excited about, from beautiful architecture and historical landmarks to museums (contemporary or otherwise) and amusement parks. I tried to fit a little bit of everything in during my visit:  

Arc de Triomphe

Love Lock Bridge

Disneyland Paris


I really enjoyed the Centre Pompidou, a five story contemporary art museum in Le Marais:

Centre Pompidou

The Louis Vuitton Foundation Center was visually stunning, and I really appreciated that they had a whole exhibit dedicated to the building's architect, Frank Gehry. The rest of the museum was a bit lackluster, and I'm not sure it was worth the 14 euro entrance fee. I would suggest simply to walk around the beautiful Jardin d'Acclimatation and take in the Louis Vuitton Foundation Center's beauty from the outside.

Louis Vuitton Foundation

Vienna, Austria: 
Something that really surprised me about Vienna was the prevalence of middle eastern food. The kebab stand's ubiquity in Vienna is similar to that of the Starbucks cafe in Manhattan. I was able to sample a few falafel boxes during my visit and was quite impressed.

Equally as impressive was the Museumsquartier, a 60,000 square meter area that is home to a variety of art museums including the MUMOK and Kundsthalle Wien (both of which were outstanding):

Mumok (Museum of Contemporary Arts)

Though the Museumsquartier is not to be missed, there are other sites in Vienna that are equally as astounding. The architecture there is grand, unique, and above all, breathtaking. There are buildings as luxurious as the Belvedere Palace, and as eclectic as the Hundertwasserhaus:

Belvedere Palace


I didn't think Vienna would be so impressive a city, but I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer. 

Milan, Italy:
I had high expectations for my visit to Milan, but was unfortunately underwhelmed. The main attraction in town, was the Duomo di Milano:

Duomo de Milano

I did rather enjoy shopping in 10 Corso Como, a well curated art/design/fashion space. I couldn't afford anything on display, however, and left empty-handed after deciding against buying an 80 euro canvas tote bag. In retrospect, it was the right decision.

Zurich, Switzerland:
What I'll remember most about Zurich was its high cost of living. Public transportation was navigable, but sure did eat away at my budget. A simple salad at Tibits cost me a whopping $18, and even the HMxALEXANDERWANG pieces I purchased were somewhere between 20-30% more expensive than the listed US prices. I also wish that it hadn't been so rainy and cold when I visited:

Old Town

Barcelona, Spain:
Alas, my greatest regret about my trip to Barcelona was failing to try authentic paella. I know! It's embarrassing to admit such a blasphemy (especially to my foodie friends) but I should like to think that it gives me a reason to go back. And if not just to taste the famed rice dish, then certainly to see these beautiful places again:

Sagrada Familia

Parc Guell

Lisbon, Portugal:
What I enjoyed most about Lisbon was not the fado music or the steep and windy streets of Alfama (Lisbon's old quarter):

but the surprisingly strong vegetarian/vegan community. There was an abundance of meat-free cafes and restaurants in town, and my favorite was The Green Room:

And of course, I explored a few of the main tourist attractions:

Castle of San Jorge

Newcastle, UK:

Glasgow, Scotland:
If you told me earlier this year that there was plenty to do and see in Glasgow, Scotland I probably wouldn't have believed you. But there is in fact quite a bit more to experience in this unassuming city besides kilt shops and bars.

Just a mile outside of the city center is a charming tea house, Tchai Ovna, where you can drink endless cups of exotic teas from all over the world while playing board games (or in my case, dots). You can eat a delicious meal at the Centre for Contemporary Arts or walk among some old Victorian tombstones at the Necropolis. For those of you who are more adventurous at heart, you can even take an hour long bus ride to Loch Lomond and hike in the lush national park:

Loch Lomond

My adventures in  Europe lasted about 2 months, and there are still quite a few places I didn't get to. Hopefully my next adventures will take me to all the cities I missed!