DC Diary

In March 2017, my family decided to all meet in Washington D.C. as my dad had to be there for a conference. My mom, who used to live nearby in her college days, was thrilled by the chance to see cherry blossoms at their peak once again. However, some of you east coasters might recall, the weather wasn't quite on our side and a big snow storm had just hit the area that week. When my sister and I landed, there was still plenty of snow around.

 All smiles with the frozen cherry blossoms!

All smiles with the frozen cherry blossoms!

It was my sister's first time there, so we did a good amount of walking around the National Mall and the various memorials/monuments.

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On one of the evenings, we had a special celebratory dinner at minibar by José Andrés, which I'll save for a separate post.

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The following days were warmer, so the remaining snow on the ground melted quite quickly. We were hopeful that we'd see some cherry blossoms, but unfortunately the surviving ones didn't start blooming until the day we left. We still enjoyed the nice breezy walk along the Thomas Jefferson Memorial with the few frozen ones.

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  City tap house , before sending my brother off.

City tap house, before sending my brother off.

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 Beer flight #1

Beer flight #1

 Beer flight #2

Beer flight #2

 Walked back to our hotel to enjoy these beautifully-lit sights.

Walked back to our hotel to enjoy these beautifully-lit sights.

As I recently came back from DC myself, I thought it was appropriate to finally put together this post from a year ago (oops). There's a second part to this coming soon, featuring our minibar experience. I won't wait another year to post that one, I promise!

Thanks for being here :)

Photos by my dad and I.

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Let's Catch Up

My last entry was about a day-trip that happened at the end of 2016. A lot has happened since then: wrapped up my freelance business with a large project, many scattered trips (domestic and international), countless job interviews, celebrations, goodbyes, and a move across the country! Months later, the chaos of this page turn has finally started to settle.

I have so many back-dated stories planned, but I can't promise I'll ever get to them all, so here's my attempt at highlighting a few moments from the past 8 months. I'd love to hear which parts you'd like to hear more on!


Travels

The past several months zoomed by because of all the traveling I did. Combined with an insane (and unhealthy) work schedule, it all feels like a blur to me now.

Phuket ⎯ Counting Down to 2017

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My family and I took a trip to Phuket, an island in southern Thailand, to ring in the new year. It was all sorts of wonderful. A much needed escape from the city, along with some quality family time.

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D.C.

Mid-March came, the fam had an opportunity for a short reunion in Washington D.C. due to my dad's conference colliding with my brother's spring break. The highlight of this trip was our celebratory dinner (my brother's birthday + early graduation toast) at minibar by José Andrés, to which with shear luck we managed to snag a Friday night reservation only a few days ahead of time. Sneak peak of how much fun we had below.

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Amsterdam

Michael and I visited one of my best friends from high school in Amsterdam at the end of March. Thanks for giving us beautiful weather, Amsterdam, and thank you a million times for having us, Prim <3

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NYC & Syracuse ⎯ Class of 2017!

The parents and I met up in New York City for a few days before joining forces with my cousins to drive over to Syracuse for my brother's graduation. Couldn't be more proud of this kid - congrats Duang!

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Paris & Lyon

My parents had a trip to France planned (another conference for dad extended into a mini vacation), so I took this opportunity to tag along since I had a few weeks in-between jobs.

 Favorite couple exploring Lyon &lt;3

Favorite couple exploring Lyon <3

 

Las Vegas ⎯ MIT'14 Pi Reunion

Did you know MIT has a Pi Reunion in July? This was my first time in Vegas and we had a blast! Can't say I'd want to come back again anytime soon since everything is overpriced there, but we really made the most out of it and I left feeling very satisfied. No beautiful photos from this trip: just a bunch of silly selfies, so those are private ;)


Career

This is a long one, but bear with me as I don't usually talk much about my career publicly.

In March, I wrapped up my last large project as a freelancer (or design consultant, for those who don't take freelancers seriously... but hey, you really should.) By that time, I had been freelancing for about 2 years. I learned a ton through the process and felt satisfied with the things I had set out to learn from this experience back when I quit my full-time job in 2015. My work-life balance line was also getting blurry: I found it hard to stop working, as literally the more I worked, the more I earned. Most importantly though, I had a pretty clear idea of what kind of company, team, and work I wanted in my next gig.

Several phone calls, interviews, design challenges (ugh), and flights/train rides later, I thrilled to share that I accepted Adobe's offer to work as a designer on their design system team!

I knew going into this job search that I wanted to work with a company with a sizable design team, with strong design leadership built in. Not only is this the case with Adobe, but the diversity (not in just race or gender, but age, experiences, upbringing etc.) is what really stood out to me from the rest of my interview experiences. Ultimately, however, what truly solidified my decision was the fact that I really resonate with my manager's outlook on growth, both for individual designers and Adobe Design as a whole. It's hard to believe it's been almost 3 months since I started at Adobe. Although it's been tiring, and at times overwhelming (it's a huge company after all), I couldn't be happier with the trust and support I have from my colleagues.

I am also honored and humbled to be a current Designer Fund Bridge fellow. It's been an incredible experience so far, and I'd love to share more about this special journey in a later post.


Boston → San Francisco

 Charles River. Saying goodbye to this view on my last day in Boston :')

Charles River. Saying goodbye to this view on my last day in Boston :')

I said farewell to Boston (well, Cambridge to be exact) at the end of May. It was my home for 7 years and, although I am hungry for new adventures, I know I will miss it dearly. It's walkable, relatively safe, has wonderful summers and falls, but is still a city so there's always something to do (except when you're snowed in, but that's another adventure in its self!). I'd still seriously consider coming back to live here again later on in life, if that doesn't happen, I know I'll definitely be visiting again.

My new job is located in San Francisco and, to my surprise (and luck?), I've managed to find reasonable housing with wonderful roommates even before I got here. After a month of corporate housing, some handy work with the help of the little sis, and many many boxes later, I'm finally settling in and feeling at home in my new space. I'll save some SF summer adventures for a later post, but let me know if there's anything you'd recommend me checking out! Whether that's a food place, cafe, neighborhood, or anything pretty, I'm up for exploring them all.


Now that's a wrap and you're basically (almost) caught up with my life. Ask me for a high-five if you've read it all the way here ;) I still haven't quite decided in what order I'm going to upload the next string of photos and stories in. Chronologically? Backwards? Random? I'm leaning toward alternating between current vs. past stories, but you'll just have to stay tuned to see.

As always, thanks for sticking with me!

Photos by the family and me.

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Escape to Pattaya

During my visit home (in Bangkok, Thailand) this past winter, we decided to do an impromptu day trip to Pattaya, a beach city on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It's about 1.5 hours away from Bangkok and, because of its distance, a popular destination for both tourists and city escapers for a weekend getaway. We used to come here (and to Hua Hin) a lot growing up, but it's been a while since I've been back.

This time round, a few cousins, aunts/uncles, my siblings, and I randomly decided to drive out to Pattaya to take the yacht out for the afternoon. This was also something we did often growing up, but it's been a while - at least 5 years! - since I remember being here on the water. At least half of us live in the US now, so it was a pleasant reunion with the ocean :)

 Treats on board!

Treats on board!

 He never let go of that bag of spicy squid snack.

He never let go of that bag of spicy squid snack.

 We started heading back to shore when the sun was setting.

We started heading back to shore when the sun was setting.

 Made it back to Ocean Marina right before the sun went down!

Made it back to Ocean Marina right before the sun went down!

This happened a day before my immediate family headed out to Phuket to ring in 2017. Since I was back home for only 2 weeks, I actively spent most of my time with family and close friends. It was a tiring trip, with jet lag and all, but very refreshing and heart-warming. Stay tuned for more sea-side adventures in the coming posts!

Photos by me.

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Thanksgiving in the Bay

I spent Thanksgiving weekend with relatives in Pleasanton, CA this year. It was quite a family-fun-filled weekend as my cousins and brother flew in from New York as well. We took one of the little ones for a walk along Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Thanksgiving morning. Because everything there was closed, it was a great opportunity to stroll on the beach without its usual crowd.

 Nina gardening!

Nina gardening!

 An hour and a bit later, we arrived at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

An hour and a bit later, we arrived at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

 Festive home.

Festive home.

 Turkey time!

Turkey time!

 My aunt's masterpiece.

My aunt's masterpiece.

We had a massive Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving dinner with my aunt's friends and some of our friends too. Unfortunately, I was too busy and overwhelmed with the food and crowd that I forgot to take more photos of the feast. It was an American-style Thanksgiving dinner with a Thai twist. We went for a short hike the next day in an attempt to take some of our dinner off our bodies. My brother led us to Mount Diablo, which was right behind his high school.

 Adopted Rujia as a family member for the weekend &lt;3

Adopted Rujia as a family member for the weekend <3

It was a food-filled weekend, as per usual with any weekend spent with my family. I am very grateful to have friends and family here in the US that make it possible for me to spend Thanksgiving and feel so at home on the other side of the planet. I am also thankful that I can share this journey with you all here :)

Photos by me.

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Fall Foliage - Mt. Jackson, White Mountains, NH

We went for a mid-October hike with a couple of friends in White Mountains, New Hampshire, which was about a 3-hour drive from Boston. It was my first fall hike and we were all very excited to see the beautiful colors as well as to soak in some much-needed nature. October is a very popular hiking season, so for those who wish to spend the night nearby should definitely book well ahead of time before they're all taken! We chose to do the Mount Jackson trail (~6 miles) which is considered moderate/difficult from our research due to its steepness, but is still doable before sunset, giving us enough time to get dinner and drive all the way back in one day.

 Weather was on the colder side, but it quickly got warmer as we started moving.

Weather was on the colder side, but it quickly got warmer as we started moving.

 We made it!

We made it!

 This fella was eyeing our lunch!

This fella was eyeing our lunch!

 "Look at these leaves we got!"

"Look at these leaves we got!"

The view was breath-taking. We thought we knew what to expect from googling photos of the trail the night before, but none of them did Mount Jackson justice. We were also accompanied by these little birds on the way up (can anyone identify them for us?) and two of them even came by to see if we would offer up some snacks while we were at the top. The hike was definitely not a casual stroll, with several steep portions spread through out the trail, which made it really satisfying for us.

We made it back down to the road right when it was getting too dark. We got dinner at a small diner on our way back and arrived in Boston slightly before midnight. All of us were dead exhausted by that time, but we got a good workout, meaningful conversations, and lots of fresh air. It was a good day.

Photos by me. Shout out to Teresa for driving both ways! <3

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Spend A Day In Ayutthaya

This past summer, I had the opportunity to take some of my MIT friends who were visiting Thailand around. Since two of them had already spent quite some time around the country (and Bangkok), I decided we should go on a half-day trip to Ayutthaya, an ancient capital of Thailand located 85 km north of Bangkok.

This post is a combination of the few things we visited, plus additional tips & suggestions of mine based on personal experience, research, and family recommendations. I hope those who are interested in visiting Ayutthaya find these information useful, whether you're a foreigner visiting Thailand or just a local looking for a break from the big city!


 

Food

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We only had a couple of hours in Ayutthaya, so we hit up what I think are Ayutthaya's must-haves: river prawns, old city historical ruins, and Roti Sai Mai. We had lunch as soon as we arrived at Pa Porn's Noodles, one of my mom's favorite spots. I called in advance to reserve one set of river prawns - these are famous and limited in number depending on the day, so it's safest to reserve your share! She's also famous for her traditional noodle dishes, pictured above.

Apart from the river prawns, Ayutthaya is also famous for its boat noodles. There are so many amazing food options to choose from in this town, so here are some of my suggestions:

Sala Ayutthaya (Hotel & Restaurant)
Trendy hotel with a restaurant boasting one of the best views you'll find in Ayutthaya!
9/2 Moo 4, U-Thong Road,
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand
+66-35242588 / Facebook

Pa Porn's Noodles (ร้านก๋วยเตี๋ยวหมูโบราณป้าพร)
Pictured above, a family favorite river prawn and noodles place.
121/2 Moo 8, Uthong Road
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand
+66-35251676 / Facebook

Ruan Thai Kung Pao (เรือนไทยกุ้งเผา วัดเชิงเลน)
Amazing & fresh river prawns located right by the river. Gets incredibly packed, so be sure to reserve your table way in advance!
Moo 4 1/2 Thetsaban 10 Alley,
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13190, Thailand
+66-35367730 / Facebook

Rim-Nam Boat Noodles (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือริมน้ำ)
Affordable authentic noodle dishes with a view and seats where you're dangling your feat over the river.
Map / Facebook

 

Temples

My friends have had their fair share of temples from traveling around Thailand for the past month, so we only visited one small temple: Wat Phra Ram. It was quiet and small relative to the other sites I've visited, but it was a nice taste of the Ayutthaya battle ruins without the tourist chaos. It was conveniently located near the Rama Public Park, which was perfect for a little post-lunch stroll.

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For those seeking to visit the greatest of Ayutthaya's temples and take in as much of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as possible, I've listed some alternate temples here. I wouldn't recommend Wat Phra Ram if this is your first time in Ayutthaya, unless you're looking for a quick quiet site to stroll around to kill time. (Quick fact: Wat is the Thai word for temple!)

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (วัดพระศรีสรรเพชญ์)
Largest temple in Ayutthaya, located inside the former royal palace. Home to the iconic "Ayutthaya" photo of the 3 distinctive stupas (jedi's).
Map

Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon (วัดใหญ่ชัยมงคล)
The name literally means enormous. Its stupa (jedi) is visible across Ayutthaya. Also home to the giant reclining Buddha.
Map

Wat Chaiwattanarm (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม)
A larger and more impressive version of Wat Phra Ram (pictured) with its towering prangs and stupas which are accessed by steep steps.
Map

Wat Phra Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ)
Home to the famous Buddha head nested in tree roots.
Map

 

Desserts

Ayutthaya is very well-known for its Roti Sai Mai, a Thai version of cotton candy 'Sai Mai' (or candy floss) wrapped in a thin sweet crepe 'Roti'. It's very light and not overbearingly sweet (unlike most American desserts!) There are several famous stalls that sell Roti Sai Mai in Ayutthaya and you'll be in pretty good hands trying any of them.

We visited my grandma's all-time favorite stall "Roti Sai Mai Mae Pom" (simply translated to Mother Pom's Roti Saimai) where the owner greeted us with a huge smile and even invited us to try several wraps for free (even though we insisted on paying!) We ended up buying several bags for ourselves and as gifts for my family. The best part of all this is that Mae Pom sells these for only 80 Baht/Kilogram, whereas you'll find that some other stores sell these for up to 200 Bath/Kilogram!

Baan Kao Nhom (บ้านข้าวหนม)
Foreigner-friendly dessert cafe. Well decorated interior serving various traditional Thai desserts and coffee.
Map / Facebook

Roti Sai Mai Mae Pom (โรตีสายไหมแม่ป้อม)
Pictured above. Affordable and my family's favorite Roti Sai Mai stall!
Uthong Road
+66-897896931 / Facebook

 

Because we wanted to make it back to the city before rush hour, coupled with the fact that it started raining, we spent the evening back in Bangkok wandering around Siam. Our evening was filled with ice cream, tea, beer, and a dinner feast. We then proceeded to burn some of our dinner with karaoke, which was a nice end to our day.

 Roxy got her fix of durian ice cream!

Roxy got her fix of durian ice cream!

 Bing-soo! (Korean shaved-ice dessert which is becoming very popular in Bangkok)

Bing-soo! (Korean shaved-ice dessert which is becoming very popular in Bangkok)

 Our dinner was at Som Tum Nua, a popular spot serving northeastern Thai cuisine (Issan) with famous dishes being their papaya salads (som-tam), sliced BBQ pork neck with spicy dipping sauce, deep-fried chicken wings, along with a basket of sticky rice.&nbsp;

Our dinner was at Som Tum Nua, a popular spot serving northeastern Thai cuisine (Issan) with famous dishes being their papaya salads (som-tam), sliced BBQ pork neck with spicy dipping sauce, deep-fried chicken wings, along with a basket of sticky rice. 

 Last bite before I sent her off at the airport: durian ice cream from  Eathai at Central Embassy !

Last bite before I sent her off at the airport: durian ice cream from Eathai at Central Embassy!

Ayutthaya is a famous destination for Bangkok schools to take young children on day-trips because of its rich history. This makes Ayutthaya one of those places I've visited several times but, apart from the history, don't actually know much about. It was not until the past 5 years that I've come to appreciate and remember travel and food, so it's my mission to explore more of my home country every time I go back for a visit. It's not far from Bangkok at all, but gives you a completely unique environment and is a great chance to escape from the city life. Hope you found this post useful and if you have your own Ayutthaya favorites, definitely let me know in the comments. I'd love to check them out!

Photos by me.

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When In Rome

The final stop of our 10-day vacation in Europe was Italy's capital: Rome! We drove from Sorrento to Rome, stopping by an outlet on the way, and arrived in the city just before evening rush hour traffic kicked in. We had two full days in Rome (three nights) and most of it was spent walking around both key tourist attractions and local streets near our restaurants. We visited the Vatican City, home to countless famous art and architectural landmarks including St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistene Chapel. The scale and details of everything there was unbelievable and these few photos really don't do them justice.

 Evening sunset on our first dinner in Rome at  La Pergola . Food and service were quite a let down for being Rome's only three-star Michelin restaurant, so no food photos made the cut!

Evening sunset on our first dinner in Rome at La Pergola. Food and service were quite a let down for being Rome's only three-star Michelin restaurant, so no food photos made the cut!

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By this point in the trip, we were so ready and quite desperate for some local Italian pizza and L'Isola della Pizza really hit the spot for us. Along with some refreshing appetizers, cold beer, and tiramisu, our overall experience here was authentic and amazing. We walked off our lunch at the Colosseum which was blazing hot that afternoon.

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Before dinner time, we took an evening stroll to see the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) and was stunned by the crowd it drew. Turns out this was normal, but we also happened to witness a cute marriage proposal and the entire crowd cheered for the happy couple afterwards. Dinner was at Al Moro, a small restaurant tucked in a quiet street between two bustling ones. It seemed to be a local's favorite: all the other guests were not tourists and the menu was in Italian only! Our server was very generous and entertaining and we had a nice pasta-filled meal.

 Congrats to the happy couple!

Congrats to the happy couple!

The following day was also spent wandering around between tourist attractions and food places. We visited the Piazza Venezia, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona. Our meals today were not as memorable as the ones I've mentioned so far, so I chose to leave those photos out from here.

 Pantheon.

Pantheon.

  Venchi , although famous and nice-looking from the outside, had really bad service.&nbsp;The staff gave us condescending looks right when we entered. Please don't bother - there are so many other friendly shops around!

Venchi, although famous and nice-looking from the outside, had really bad service. The staff gave us condescending looks right when we entered. Please don't bother - there are so many other friendly shops around!

 Discussing how rude the staff at Venchi were.

Discussing how rude the staff at Venchi were.

 He made a friend!

He made a friend!

Saying goodbye to Rome concluded our family trip for the summer. The ten days went by fast, but we were also ready for some home-cooked meals and to be sleeping in our own beds again. I know it sounds cheesy and all, but what I really do love most about our trips together are the times spent during meals and conversations in the hotel at night. We don't see each other all that often and there's something about sitting down face-to-face in a foreign town (with some wine) that brings people together closer than ever before.

Photos by my family and me.

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Amalfi Coasting

Next on our agenda: Italy's Amalfi Coast! We flew from Santorini to Naples, then drove to Sorrento. We were welcomed with the unique Mediterranean landscapes on our 45-minute drive. By the time we reached our hotel, dinner time was approaching and so was the sunset. Our first meal here was at Terrazza Bosquet, a gourmet restaurant part of our hotel's dining experience.

 Welcome treats!

Welcome treats!

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 Dinner at Michelin-star  Terrazza Bosquet .

Dinner at Michelin-star Terrazza Bosquet.

 Madam in red.

Madam in red.

 A BROKE MERINGUE.  Lime ganache, brunoise and sorbet of strawberries lime and strawberries gel and lime sablé.

A BROKE MERINGUE. Lime ganache, brunoise and sorbet of strawberries lime and strawberries gel and lime sablé.

 They gave out a glass of Limoncello to everyone in the restaurant!

They gave out a glass of Limoncello to everyone in the restaurant!

 Limoncello is a Sorrento specialty.

Limoncello is a Sorrento specialty.

We stayed at the Excelsior Vittoria for our two nights in Sorrento. It is located in the heart of Sorrento, right in the midst of a lively square. However, once you turn into its entrance (pictured below), it feels as though you've transported into another place. Set in a unique location overlooking the Gulf of Naples, Excelsior Vittoria owns 20,000 square meters (5 acres) of lush Mediterranean garden to explore. This family-owned hotel just celebrated its 180th anniversary and has a very elegant-yet-authentic atmosphere.

The following morning was the only day we had to explore Amalfi Coast. We rode along the snake-like roads along the coastal line (warning: take medication if you get car-sick easily!) from Sorrento to Ravello, Amalfi, Positano, and then back to Sorrento. We had a lovely meal, walked around a bunch, and attempted shopping (though we're more window-shoppers). Mom got some lovely dishes for her cooking too!

 Entrance/exit connecting the hotel to the lively town.

Entrance/exit connecting the hotel to the lively town.

 Extended hotel lobby/lounge area.

Extended hotel lobby/lounge area.

 The view that helped me get through the winding roads.

The view that helped me get through the winding roads.

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 The Michelin-star chef was super friendly and took great care of us!

The Michelin-star chef was super friendly and took great care of us!

 He convinced us to order 3 of their signature soufflè&nbsp;between the 5 of us and we were shocked by their size. Each one was bigger than any of our faces! Luckily they were very light and soft. We still could have shared one instead of three though.

He convinced us to order 3 of their signature soufflè between the 5 of us and we were shocked by their size. Each one was bigger than any of our faces! Luckily they were very light and soft. We still could have shared one instead of three though.

Dinner was at Don Alfonso 1890, which was possibly the best meal of this trip. Unfortunately, I was too sick from the car ride to take part in this endeavor (why body why) but the family thoroughly enjoyed this place. In dad's words: "Apart from being the best meal of this trip, the wine cellar here is most impressive. It is more than a thousand years old, 35 meters deep underground as a tunnel and housed uncountable numbers of invaluable wines!" We also had the chance take a night stroll around our hotel afterwards.

 Wine cellar tour!

Wine cellar tour!

 Morning view from the hotel.

Morning view from the hotel.

Our Amalfi Coast experience was very short. I would have had a more outstanding time if it weren't for my motion sickness from the winding roads - probably the worst carsick I've ever been - but putting that aside, we had a lovely time. We've been to Italy before, but not to the Southern coast. It was nothing like anywhere we've been to. Although slightly foggy during our time, it certainly lived up to its UNESCO World Heritage status as a cultural landscape.

We left for Rome the following morning, which was around 3-4 hours of driving. We spent 3 nights in Rome and it was the last stop in our trip. Stay tuned for our Rome adventures in a few days!

Photos by my family and me.

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A Kirini Tale

Our time in Santorini couldn't have been better. We stayed in this beautiful hotel called Kirini. Though not quite the stay I'd be able to afford every trip, I highly recommend Kirini for those who have saved up for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. It's very charming, peaceful, and has an amazing view of the island itself. This was my favorite hotel of our trip (we stayed at four!) and I hope to do it justice in sharing a glimpse of our experience here with you in this post.

Our room (below) was minimal and stylish. We felt like we were in a set from a movie the entire time. The all-white decor goes perfectly well with Santorini's aesthetics, not to mention how dreamy it felt with all the sunlight bouncing around the space.

 It's a hike up and down everywhere here. Not for those with knee problems.

It's a hike up and down everywhere here. Not for those with knee problems.

Our last morning here before checkout was low-key and we really appreciated that. We spent the time enjoying the rest of the hotel and its outdoor pool. Our last meal in Greece was also here at the hotel's restaurant, Anthos, before we headed out to the airport.

Santorini, you've left quite an impression with our family and I truly hope I get to visit again. I've heard incredible things about the rest of the Greek islands too, but unfortunately our time here is limited. Naples, here we come!

Photos by my family and me.

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Santorini Spectacle (Part II)

Our second day in Santorini started on a quiet note as it was "early" for the islanders and tourists. We enjoyed a peaceful morning walk before heading to the Akrotiri excavation site. Akrotiri was a Bronze Age settlement, buried by the massive Theran eruption in mid-second millennium BC resulting in an incredibly well-preserved archaeological site.

 A family of photographers.

A family of photographers.

In addition to its historical values, I was very impressed with the structure built over the site itself, which allows visitors to conveniently walk around and through the village without damaging any of the excavation work. The mechanical roof is relatively new (the old one collapsed in 2005); the wooden panels automatically adjust their angles according to the wind and the glass also open and close according to the weather. As a result, the entire site has a nice cool atmosphere even when the weather outside is blazing hot.

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 Lunch at  Seaside by Notos .
 SEAFOOD POUCH.&nbsp;A Seaside classic.

SEAFOOD POUCH. A Seaside classic.

 SEAFOOD POUCH.

SEAFOOD POUCH.

 RISOTTO with cuttlefish ink and gold leaves.

RISOTTO with cuttlefish ink and gold leaves.

 Ouzo, a signature Greek spirit.

Ouzo, a signature Greek spirit.

Lunch was at a lively and trendy beach-side restaurant: Seaside by Notos. Thanks to our lovely guide, we were offered to try a local spirit: Ouzo. It has a silky and distinct licorice flavor, which was definitely not my cup of tea. The restaurant is located right off the Perivolos beach and has additional seating on the beach for those who wish to be soaking the sun while enjoying their meal.

We then went wine-tasting in the afternoon at Santorini's biggest winery, Santo Wines, which had an incredibe view of the island. This was probably the very first wine-tasting we've been on as a family where all 5 of us are of the age to actually enjoy the wine and we had a blast.

 Dinner at  Red Bicycle .

Dinner at Red Bicycle.

We did another walk in Oia before dinner to stop by the postcard view spot. Because sunset was approaching, these viewpoints were very crowded with tourists. Some even come 3 hours ahead of time to snatch a good photo spot! As we weren't interested in the sunset chaos, we had dinner early and came back to our hotel just in time to witness a much more peaceful sunset by ourselves.

We had another morning in Santorini before we flew to Naples early afternoon the following day. I'll wrap up our Santorini experience with a post dedicated to our lovely hotel - stay tuned!

Photos by my family and me.

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Santorini Spectacle (Part I)

We arrived in Santorini (Oia) right before lunch time and wherever we looked, it was beautiful. The contrast between the buildings' white and pastels with the ocean's dark blue made it seem like we were looking at movie backdrops the entire time. The weather was burning hot, but more bearable than Athen's with the ocean breeze. The folks at Argo, our lunch spot, were very generous and gave us extra free dishes to make sure we get to try the best of Santorini food. We were completely stuffed by the end! Luckily for our bodies, walking on the island was quite the hike with all the steps and the heat.

 Lunch at  Argo .

Lunch at Argo.

 Spicy squid something with flava beans mash.

Spicy squid something with flava beans mash.

 Seafood platter!

Seafood platter!

 Post-lunch walk.

Post-lunch walk.

 Like icing on a cake

Like icing on a cake

 Our guide, Dimitra, was lively, entertaining, and very knowledgable.

Our guide, Dimitra, was lively, entertaining, and very knowledgable.

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Kirini was our home for the duration of our Santorini stay. It was magical and is now my favorite hotel to date. I think I have a soft spot for white space and bodies of water. We took a catamaran ride in the evening to tour around the island. Although I was nervous because I usually get motion sickness, the staff were very accommodating: they provided medicine and distractions to keep my mind off the funny feeling down my stomach. It was quite an enjoyable ride and the scenery was definitely enough to keep my mind occupied. We also got a little unexpected splash (drenched the mom and the sister) due to a speedboat cutting right across our path. The staff immediately apologized, but we all laughed it off as the surprise splash became the highlight of our evening.

 Steps to/from rooms.

Steps to/from rooms.

 Our Catamaran ride in the evening.

Our Catamaran ride in the evening.

 While Madam was enjoying the ride, a speedboat cut across our path...

While Madam was enjoying the ride, a speedboat cut across our path...

 ...which created a huge wave which splashed over the net!

...which created a huge wave which splashed over the net!

 Victim #2

Victim #2

 Gelato post-catamaran

Gelato post-catamaran

 Sunset dinner at  Selene .

Sunset dinner at Selene.

 EGG &amp; LEMON BOMB. Rooster yiouvarlakia,&nbsp;egg soufflé,&nbsp;truffle pearl.

EGG & LEMON BOMB. Rooster yiouvarlakia, egg soufflé, truffle pearl.

 SEASCAPE. Sea urchin,&nbsp;clams,&nbsp;mussel with rice,&nbsp;shrimp,&nbsp;greek coffee scented botarga,&nbsp;dorado tartar,&nbsp;bonito,&nbsp;lettuce hearts.

SEASCAPE. Sea urchin, clams, mussel with rice, shrimp, greek coffee scented botarga, dorado tartar, bonito, lettuce hearts.

 Mid-meal sunset

Mid-meal sunset

 SEA BASS IN BREAD CRUST.&nbsp;Smoked herring salad, white beans cream,&nbsp;celery, carrot.

SEA BASS IN BREAD CRUST. Smoked herring salad, white beans cream, celery, carrot.

 VEAL OSSO BUCO.&nbsp;Pasta with smoked eggplant &amp; truffle,&nbsp;black garlic, sauté marrow.

VEAL OSSO BUCO. Pasta with smoked eggplant & truffle, black garlic, sauté marrow.

Santorini, in one day, just went high up my list of places to revisit. Definitely a very charming and romantic town. All the locals we interacted with were very friendly and welcoming. One caution: be prepared to hike. Santorini rests on top of the remains of an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the former single island. Because of its geography, you'll have to walk up and down a LOT of steps to get anywhere. We didn't mind the exercise and had an amazing time in Santorini.. which I'll show more of in Part Two!

Photos by my family and me.

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Afternoon in Athens

We recently had a family summer vacation to parts of Greece & Italy. Our first stop was right in the Greek capital. Our experience in Athens was very brief - we were off to Santorini the next morning - but I'm glad we fought the heat, exhaustion, and jet lag to see this historical city.

 The stadium of the first modern Olympic Games: the  Panathenaic Stadium .

The stadium of the first modern Olympic Games: the Panathenaic Stadium.

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 Made it up to the  Acropolis  on the hottest day (so far) of summer.

Made it up to the Acropolis on the hottest day (so far) of summer.

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 Cheers to a lovely dinner at  Spondi

Cheers to a lovely dinner at Spondi

 Olive oil from their garden. It was amazing.

Olive oil from their garden. It was amazing.

 Farm Pigeon.&nbsp; Purée celery-hazelnut, polenta flavored with hay, pigeon-hay juice, polenta and stew of its leg.

Farm Pigeon. Purée celery-hazelnut, polenta flavored with hay, pigeon-hay juice, polenta and stew of its leg.

 Fine Crusty Puff-Pastry.  Bourbon vanilla, soft caramel, "Fleur de Sel".

Fine Crusty Puff-Pastry. Bourbon vanilla, soft caramel, "Fleur de Sel".

 View from breakfast at our hotel.

View from breakfast at our hotel.

Although our encounter with Athens was short, it was lovely. I wouldn't say it's a romantic city, but it definitely has its charms. We learned that marble and mid-summer sun don't quite go together and made the heat even worse. (Pro tip: bring sunglasses!) Dinner at Spondi was definitely the highlight of our day. The restaurant is located in a courtyard-like space which hid itself completely from the streets, creating a nice and quiet ambience. Too bad it was dark by the time most of the food arrived that I only managed to salvage two favorites.

We said goodbye to Athens with a breakfast at our hotel which was served on its rooftop, overlooking the view of the city. I would have loved some more time here to walk on the streets and explore with a refreshed body, but for now this will have to do!

 

Photos by my family and me.

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