A Happy Coconut Vendor at the Farmer’s Market in Montezuma, Costa Rica


September 18, 2010. Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Every Saturday morning, the locals gather around to the center of Montezuma, a small coastal town in Costa Rica, for the weekly farmer’s market. It’s always nice to see the locals in their environment, happy doing what they do.

A few of us wanted to cook dinner for the group on the last day of our week-long yoga retreat, so we ventured down to the market to buy our selection of fresh produce. Good food. Good times. Good memories.


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Rease - March 31, 2012 - 8:14 pm

I have heard from so many people that Costa Ricans are just smiley, friendly people. Great photo.

Happy Hour at Charlie Palmer Restaurant — Costa Mesa, California


When modern sleek meets rustic elegance, that’s where the crowd gathers to mingle and have a drink or two. At 4:30 pm on a Wednesday, the bar at Charlie Palmer is already packed with people unwinding for the day.

Upon entering the restaurant, I almost rudely ignore the hostess when she greets me as I become entranced with an impressive wall collection of wine. The flooring of the restaurant is crafted from reclaimed wine barrels and furnished with vintage leather chair coverings, with accents of warm-colored walls and decor. It’s an ambiance I like to call rustic elegance, when old and vintage become new and refined. The minimalistic white glass exterior of the restaurant creates a feeling of modern sleek, perhaps a complementary balance to the interior.


As I walk into the bar area, I see the ever friendly and outgoing Kim chatting away with some guests because well, that is what one does when you’re a regular at the local hot spot, isn’t it? She introduces me to another regular Bobby Navarro, a local foodie who took on the challenge of eating at 100 eateries in 100 consecutive days. And I was also pleased to meet a couple more of Kim’s friends, Nancy and Lewis. Surely, Charlie Palmer is the popular place for the tasteful diners, foodies and hipsters alike.

Kim invited me as a guest of Travel Costa Mesa to experience one of Charlie Palmer’s cooking demonstration events. While waiting for the class to start, we enjoyed some happy hour time and ordered a couple drinks and appetizers to try. (Click here to read the follow-up post on the cooking class.)

(Left) Blood Orange Mojito made with Bacardi rum, lime, blood orange and mint. (Right) A virgin Agua Fresca for me made with clementine juice and cilantro. Not only tasty to drink, but also absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Crispy rock shrimp with yuzu mayo and wasabi tobiko.

Light and crispy three cheese risotto cakes and shishito peppers with saffron aioli.

The entrance to the restaurant with an impressive wall collection of wine.

The Charlie Palmer wine collection.

A lively crowd in the bar lounge area.

An ambiance of rustic elegance in the main dining room.


Disclosure: I was an invited guest of Travel Costa Mesa, but all opinions are my own.


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Susan - March 8, 2012 - 2:57 pm

What a cool-looking place. Never been there but the food and drinks look outstanding. Also have heard lots about their sliders…

Michelle -- my. Traveling Lens - March 13, 2012 - 6:13 pm

Hi Susan. Yes, it truly is a cool place. We didn’t get to try their sliders this time but have heard they are quite amazing. Write back and let me know how it goes if you get a chance to try them out. 🙂

And here’s the follow-up post on the cooking class if you’re interested in reading it. http://www.mytravelinglens.com/2012/03/13/slow-cooking-food-class-at-charlie-palmer-costa-mesa/

Keys Creek Lavender Farm in San Diego County, California

Keys Creek Lavender Farm in San Diego County, California


June 24, 2011. San Diego County, California.

While traveling through Europe, I would often see postcards of beautiful flower fields. You know, ones that make you want to hopscotch and do a dance of happy twirls because they look so mesmerizing. Some of the ones that left me lingering for wanderlust were images of expansive lavender fields in Provence, France. I have yet to make it out to Provence, but it is definitely on the list for a future visit.

Fortunately, home here in Southern California offers some great short-driving destinations to indulge the eyes with a picturesque landscape of fragrant flowers. Keys Creek Lavender Farm, located in San Diego County, is one such place that has more than two dozen varieties of lavender spread across 8 acres of land. It’s the perfect place for a short day trip to enjoy nature, sip lavender tea, and perhaps, even hopscotch and do a dance of happy twirls.

Have you been to a lavender field? What are some other flower fields you have seen or would like to see?


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Photo: A Boat Ride with a Rainbow View of the Napali Coast in Kauai

A Boat Ride with a Rainbow View of the Napali Coast in Kauai -- Hawaii, USA


August 11, 2008. Kauai, Hawaii.

I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable as I took the first step onto the boat. I get severe motion sickness, and a boat ride on choppy waters is never a good idea. I speak from experience. Imagine keeling over with a bucket in your face. Or in my cousin Ellen’s case, projectile vomit in slow motion right in my line of view (but let’s save that story for another post).

The Napali Coast offers one of the world’s most stunning coastline views stretching over 17 miles along the North Shore in Kauai. One way to see its majestic beauty is by taking a boat ride along the coast of this charming little Hawaiian island in the Pacific Ocean. Expect to intrigue your eyes with mystical sceneries of cascading waterfalls, rugged terrain, deep cliffs, and emerald green pinnacles. The best of all is when the rainbow shines through a thin layer of mist creating a magical view of nature’s beauty.

Fortunately, I got this shot before having to stick my face in a bucket towards the end of the boat ride. Yep.

So how about you? Would you take a boat ride knowing very well you would get sick, but the prospect of getting a great shot is too good to pass up? Please feel free to leave a comment or question below or on my Facebook wall.


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Cheoy Lee - March 23, 2012 - 8:43 am

What a boat ride. That just looks absolutely beautiful. I love how the multi-coloured light illuminates those shining greens below.

Photo: A Walk in the Rain in Amsterdam

A Walk in the Rain in Amsterdam


September 6, 2011. Amsterdam, the Netherlands

In the few days leading up to my departure to Amsterdam, I checked the weather forecast. Icons of gray clouds and droplets of water covered the screen of my computer. Sure enough, rain was in the forecast for the majority of my 6-day visit there. I checked and rechecked everyday in hopes that I might have looked at it wrong or perhaps the weather gods heard my prayers for a sunny day forecast. To my dismay, no such luck.

A traveler always wishes for the ideal condition on the road, but idealism is all in the perspective of the beholder, isn’t it? Although there was much sporadic rain, I found it quite a refreshing change from rain-deprived home here in Southern California. With charming views of tree-lined canals and ornate historical buildings at every corner, Amsterdam is the ideal city for a walk in the rain.

Is it just me or does walking in the rain make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? What is the ideal condition for you when traveling? Please feel free to leave a comment or question below or on my Facebook wall.


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