Tag Archives: beach

European Vacation – Italy

Italy was the next stop on our vacation. We visited Roma, Pompeii, and Napoli seeing all sorts of fantastic sights, including Colosseo (the Roman Coliseum) shown above.

Our first stop in Italy was to play with this dog in an apartment building that we eventually discovered was not the location of our AirBNB. It might have been the wrong building, but it was a happy mistake that led us to this dog!

Our AirBNB was a large, lovely apartment with stone floors and great kitchen and bathroom. It was near the Piramide stop, and the Piramide Cestia gave a nice visual landmark.

Italy was the first country we visited that was actually warm. We were thrilled to be able to put on some shorts and leave our jackets at home, although I admit it got a bit too hot! We stopped for a photo in front of the Colosseo on the way to find dinner.

This delicious potato, sausage, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil pizza was one of the best I had on the trip. We ordered it at Sapori e Delizie along with a ham, mushrooms, olives, and anchovies pizza as well as tiramisu and a cannoli for dessert. The second pizza was odd in that each quarter of the pizza had a different topping. How are we supposed to split that?!

We took our time walking home so we could explore, stumbling into Roma Pride. We caught it before it was at its peak, but it was fun.

For second dessert, we stopped at Il Gelato for salty peanuts, chocolate mad orange, and natural rice flavored gelato. This wouldn’t be our last gelato stop.

The next morning we started with the “Last Minute Roma” tour of the Colosseo with our tour guide, Isabella. Cameras weren’t allowed inside, but camera phones were. They could be brought inside in bags only. This proved a problem because we didn’t bring bags, but eventually they let me go inside with my DSLR on a shoulder strap. Once inside, there were tons of people taking photos. I don’t understand.

Naturally, I used it to take photos. Here’s a good shot of the upper areas as well as the lower areas. The ground floor of the Colosseum would have covered the area in the lower-left of the photo. Those were tunnels that ran underneath the floor.

Here’s a closer look right at ground level showing the tunnels. It was so cool to be walking through such an amazing structure that’s been standing for thousands of years. It’s crazy to think that I likely had ancestors who saw events here.

Some kind stranger was nice enough to take a photo of the four of us.

gem looked nice taking a short rest, although she also looks like she was questioning why I was taking a photo.

Anela and gem made friends with a horse outside the Colosseo too!

There was a small convenience store that sold this ice cream that Anela remembered liking from her childhood, so we bought some.

It didn’t look like much, but it was a nice treat.

Next we were off to the Vatican. What an amazing collection of art! Yes, I admit it wasn’t all obtained in the best ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed the museum.

I actually hadn’t realized they had such a large collection of pre-Christian art, which made for a pleasant surprise.

It must have taken so much skill and sophistication to properly capture the muscles and curves of the human body.

Look at the detail in the beard!

This was my favorite part of the museum. It seemed like the roof was glowing. Photographs don’t capture the beauty.

That didn’t stop me from trying though. Here’s a shot without us in the way.

The Vatican had a nice garden outside as well.

Even the spiral walkway was beautiful.

Not being a fan of heights, Anela didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as me, but she made it unscathed!

On our way out, we stopped by the Vatican’s post office. I purchased and sent some postcards while I was there.

We took a break from the Vatican to get some lunch at a oh-so-traditional Italian restaurant – McDonald’s! This bucket had three kinds of chicken. I think there were at least one type of chicken wing, but maybe there were two.

McDonald’s dessert game seems stronger in Italy.

After lunch we saw St. Peter’s Basilica, which was quite beautiful.

I liked the way you could see the rays of sunlight shining down.

Don’t they look lovely?

This looked really beautiful as well.

Back outside, we watched the changing of the guards.

And then we took a final selfie before leaving the Vatican.

For dinner, we bought an assortment of pizza from two fast pizzerias near our apartment. We ate a lot of pizza in Italy.

We started the next morning with a tour of Palotino and the Foro Romano (the Roman Forum). We walked through the Museo Palatino, which was short but had an interesting collection of marble samples from various regions. I jotted down “something square, Musea capitali” in my notes. Did we go there? What was that? I don’t remember.

Something tells me “LOSER” wasn’t there originally.

I don’t remember the significance of any individual building during the tour to be honest, but I liked some of these shots.

That’s a beautiful view.

This building looked really cool. I don’t know if I knew what it was at the time, but I don’t now.

Edit: gem identified it! This is the Altare ella Patria at Piazza Venezia. Thanks, gem!

Here’s a closer look at the flag and some detail of the building.

We walked to the Pantheon in Rome, a beautiful church built at the site of a former Roman temple.

There was a fountain in front that we used to cool off. We were really feeling the heat, so it was nice to dip our arms in the cool water. I sweat it was like a magic potion. You could practically see it rejuvenate Anela!

We took a nice photo in front before exploring inside the Pantheon.

We stopped by Federico Polidori’s leather shop. He’s known for hand-crafting leather goods. I actually bought one of the few pieces he didn’t make himself – an Italian army bag from 1955.

I had to haggle a bit, but I’m happy with it. It mostly got used to hold resumes and blank paper for interviews.

We stopped for pizza and pasta for lunch. I had cacio e pepe at the recommendation a friend. He was right. It sounds simple but was super delicious. Afterwards, we stopped at Very Buono Ice Cream for dessert and got another cannoli as well.

We wanted to visit a beach while we were here, so we took a train to Ostia Beach.

We got to play in the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea. I never thought I’d do that.

After splashing around, digging our feet into the sand, and collecting shells, we headed back toward our apartment. We had dinner at Novecentro Cucina & Pizza, across the street from our apartment if I remember correctly, and then headed to bed.

We started our last full day in Italy with Pompeii. Honestly, I thought it was underwhelming.

There were a few bodies in glass cases, but the bodies were removed from the ruins themselves, which I didn’t realize.

We still spent a lot of time exploring anyways. gem had to wait there so I could get a shot without other people being in the way.

Here Anela explores more ruins.

What are you pointing at, gem? I bet it’s the fact that the doorway was perfectly gem-sized.

After Pompeii, we headed to Napoli where we ate a ton more pizza. Our first stop was Donna Sofia.

We ordered two pies for the four of us, and they were both amazing. Dang, I’m hungry thinking about them.

After Donna Sofia, we went right next door to Di Matteo for more pizza. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as Donna Sofia!

We split up to do some shopping after Di Matteo. It started raining soon after, which was bad news for gem and Antonio since Anela and I were the only ones with umbrellas. While we shopped. a man who claimed to be the best salesman in Napoli tried to sell us some socks. I guess he wasn’t that good, because I didn’t buy any.

When we all came together again, gem brought us another pizza – this one from L’antica Pizzeria Da Michele. She had read about it, and it was apparently quite well-known for its amazing pizzas.

It was certainly delicious!

We picked up some desserts which we ended up sharing with some other tourists from the US.

After getting back to Roma, I wanted to go back to Il Gelato. I convinced the group by saying I’d buy for everybody.

There was fun art on the mirrors too! Here’s Joy from Inside Out.

And here’s Elsa from Frozen.

And lastly, here’s Olaf!

The next morning we signed our AirBNB host’s guestbook and took a train to the airport. Unfortunately, this is where Anela parted ways with the rest of us. The only thing that could cheer me up was more pizza!

Birthdays, Long Beach Sand Sculpture Festival, and games

This weekend was fun for a couple reasons. First, there was a party for Duncan and Matt’s birthdays. We had dinner, socialized, and played some games.

Reese's s'more

This is probably the only photo worth sharing. Yep, that’s a s’more with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and giant marshmallow.

Picnic in Long Beach

This weekend was also the Long Beach Sand Sculpture Music & Art Festival. It was so much fun! I probably would have had the same amount of fun even if the festival wasn’t there and we just went to the beach haha.

Picnic in Long Beach

We had a tasty meal of Korean BBQ burritos from Seoulmate in the park before heading down to the beach. I used one of those giant, human-sized hamster balls and slammed into people. I don’t have any photos yet because they weren’t on my phone. It was fun, but it was hot. So hot. I also jammed my thumb back while inside, and it was aching all day (and more). It’s getting better though! When I got out, I was feeling dizzy from the heat and dehydration. We got some water and then went into the ocean to cool off.

There were lots of cool dogs to watch as well as the sand sculptures themselves of course. I brought my DSLR out for the first time, and Luke helped me a ton. It was a hand-me-down, and I didn’t have the manual nor did I know much about it. I might not have the skill, but at least Luke explained what most things mean. I feel much better about using it now!

We also visited a skateboard stand. Anela and gem got skateboarding lessons! They didn’t care about the guys.

Oh, and I played with hula-hoops! It was super fun actually!

I also got to playtest Joe’s new super hero board game. It’s pretty amazing. He’s really talented in a lot of different, creative ways. I’d share photos, but I wouldn’t want to leak an unreleased game. 🙂

Santa Cruz weekend: Redwoods and the Boardwalk

Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains

Sunday was Katie and Matt’s wedding in Ben Lomond. To make a weekend out of it, gem and I decided to spend Friday through Monday in Northern California. After a late start on Friday, I drove to Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County. Here’s a photo of our hotel, the Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains. The drive was relatively uneventful but fun given that I enjoy talking! We didn’t actually reach the hotel until about 11 o’clock, so this photo is from Saturday morning. It was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, there was an odd smell that caused us to keep our clothes in the car, but let’s not dwell on the negative.


Saturday morning we went to the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park for a hike. It was absolutely gorgeous! Southern Californian hikes are terrible by comparison.


It was about 10 when we got there, which felt like a late start. It wasn’t really. I’m just used to hiking in direct sunlight down here. It wasn’t hot at all, and I probably didn’t even need sunblock.


gem and I discussed wanting to see wildlife, and when we heard a train, our conversation segued into the idea of “wild trains” being native to the Santa Cruz area. You see, they spend their whole lives growing tracks and migrating across the lands. When they die, their offspring can use the tracks grown by the previous generations.


Look what else we found while hiking! What could that be?


It was a geocache! I fail at geocaching most of the time, so I was pretty happy to find this one in a tree stump.


gem and I signed the log.


After hiking, we went to the Best Western Plus Inn in Scotts Valley to meet with Marc and one of his friends. He drove us to the beach to meet his other friends, only running one red on the way. Okay, he caught it half way into the intersection and backed up. No harm done.

By the time we got to the beach, his friends were leaving to go back to the hotel. We walked around a little in attempt to get to the lighthouse, but after realizing we were on the wrong side of something, we just decided to leave.

Sea lions!

We headed toward to Santa Cruz Boardwalk and strolled along the wharf after getting some delicious ice cream. Looking down through the pier, we saw some adorable sea lions! They were pretty cute. One kept trying to jump out of the water but couldn’t quite make it.

matt & katie's wedding

As the time approached that Matt and Katie were going to arrive at the hotel, we went back to meet with them and the rest of their friends. Here I am holding Katie’s wedding dress trying with all my might not to drop the dress. It wasn’t heavy or anything, but I couldn’t help but think about how horrible it would be if something were to happen. Everything was fine though!

matt & katie's wedding

We all went back to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Anela had recommended we check it out, and I know I went there as a kid but don’t really remember it. I’m glad Matt wanted to go; it was a lot of fun. I love taking pictures of colored lights, fairs, and the like, but for some reason I didn’t really take any pictures. I guess I was too busy having fun and meeting new people. Their friends are super awesome! gem did get this picture of me in line for the Giant Dipper rollercoaster though!

Matt and Katie

We ended the night at the arcade. How did the happy couple spend their last evening before getting married? They played some classic arcade games obviously.


After some air hockey, gem and I played Tetris against each other. I’d never played this version. She kicked my butt. I also played some Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man, my favorites!

matt & katie's wedding

Last year gem and I met with Katie, Matt, and Marc for the first time while we were in San Francisco. We took a few photos, but none turned out well. This time we had much better luck! From left to right that’s gem, Marc, me, Matt, and Katie. It was so, so good seeing them. My eyes are about to tear up just thinking about the wedding, and I wasn’t even planning on talking about the wedding itself until the next post.

You can view more photos in my Flickr album aptly named Matt and Katie’s Wedding.

You can read about the wedding itself here: Santa Cruz weekend: Matt and Katie’s wedding!

Stand-up paddleboarding, the beach, yoga, and more

stand-up paddleboarding

On Sunday I went stand-up paddleboarding with Kaylin, gem, and Anela. I’d been wanting to do so for a while, and I’m glad I had the chance. It was a lot of fun and not very difficult at all really. However, my toes really wanted to grip the board! I managed to avoid falling in the water not that there’s anything wrong with that… I didn’t even hit the water when attempting L-sit practice on the board.

Beach day and stand-up paddle boarding

One house near the beach kept a bowl and dog treats outside near their gate! It was a pretty cool idea. They must be dog lovers!

Beach day and stand-up paddle boarding

After we finished stand-up paddleboarding, Kaylin had to leave, but gem, Anela, and I had lunch at Bear Flag Fish Co. Delicious as usual! Afterwards we headed down to the beach. It was a great day.

Beach day and stand-up paddle boarding

These two got scared by a ghost (or possibly thought it was bright). Who can know for sure?

Afterwards we did hot yoga at Purple Yoga because gem’s been raving about that instructor. She was right; he’s pretty great.

When I got home, I wanted to collapse, but I also wanted to eat, so I ate/collapsed.

Beach day and stand-up paddle boarding

And then gem showed up to drop off some blueberry bread she baked. It was thick, so she told me that it was basically two slices. I had already brushed, flossed, etc., but it was warm so I had to try some. And then I ate the whole thing. It’s a good thing bread doesn’t make you fat (otherwise Scott Pilgrim would be fat).


I did a couple other things over the weekend too. On Friday I went to ImprovCity with Jessica, and we saw Alex host. Woo! He’s a great host. On Saturday I went to the Dub with Collin and Niki and met Mimi there to watch the World Cup. Jamie tried to get by with just shaking my hand, but I wouldn’t allow it. He’s a good hugger, too!

Now I need another weekend.

Beach party and a surprise birthday party

This weekend I got together with some friends in Balboa to celebrate my friend Lorena returning home. I was late, but I managed to get there in time and have a lot of fun.

beach day henley

I got to hang out with Henley, who’s a great little guy. He was all smiles most of the day.

Henley helps take a photo

He even tried to help me take his photo! I wanted to photograph the single tear that seemed to be falling.

Kaylin's birthday party

Andy also planned a surprise birthday party for Kaylin! It was a lot of fun. I’ve been to their place once before but only for a few minutes. It was nice to spend some time there. Kaylin’s blowing out the candles on her cake in this photo (obviously). Hopefully her wish comes true.

kaylin's party

She also took this photo, which I stole from her Facebook. Thanks!

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Huntington Beach MLK

I had MLK, Jr. Day off, so I went to Zimzala for lunch after biking, working out, and doing some chores. (Funny, before posting this I noticed that my very last post was also about Zimzala.) I chatted with Andrew and had a delicious barbecue chicken flatbread.

Afterward I headed to the beach to walk in the water and lie in the sand. I brought some books with me and got a lot further in The Complete Maus. I also reread the Tao Te Ching, which is pretty short. There was also a decent chunk of time during which I did nothing but thought and listened to the water.

By the time I was ready to leave, I was getting a little hungry again. I grabbed a taco from Sancho’s Tacos, which is an amazing taco place just one block from Zimzala.


Oh, and when I heard some weird noise above me, I saw a squirrel munching on a nut. Cute!

Lunch at Zimzala

Dessert at Zimzala

I had lunch at Zimzala today. My friend’s the Sous-Chef there, and I had something to bring him. Lunch was delicious, and I had a good time chatting over the food. I had a burger that I ate too quickly to photograph, but I did manage to get a picture of the amazing ice cream. The desserts are always great.

The Pier

Because I was right there in Huntington Beach anyways, I went for a walk down the pier. It was a very nice day, and sometimes it’s good to do some nothing and clear your mind.

The Pacific

The water was looking beautiful too.

Beach designs

Some people were walking through a design in the sand. I assume they had just finished making it, but maybe they just found it. Anyways, it was a lovely day!

Day 7 – Hiking, Swimming, Leaving


On our final day we went hiking in Mariner’s Ridge. On the way we met up with Alex and had some Loco Moco – rice, gravy, beef steak, and fried eggs. Mariner’s Ridge itself was a cool hike that went up to a ridgeline and then traveled between the mountaintops. It had an amazing view! Then we tried to go swimming one last time. It was a bit tough. We kept trying to find a beach, but there were problems at each. On the third or fourth beach, we found the one for us and went swimming.

After showering at home and packing, we headed to the mall to do some last minute shopping before heading to the airport. It seemed like we had a lot of time at the beginning of the trip, but the end came quickly! I hope we get the chance to visit again.

Day 4 – Snorkeling

Snorkeling at Electric Beach

We started today with snorkeling at Electric Beach. It was a ton of fun! We saw a lot of cool fish and some other odd things underwater. It was hard to get pictures of the fish, but we still managed to capture some cool shots with Alex and Darnell’s GoPro.


After snorkeling, we tried to find some geocaches but failed miserably. Luckily we did have a lot of fun exploring and hiking. One of them appeared to be missing, but the other was probably just hidden too well. We went to a lagoon in hopes of seeing sea turtles, but there weren’t any there. It was quite beautiful though.

Day 3 – Waikiki


We started the day by going to Chinatown and doing some fruit shopping. Then we headed to Waikiki to wander around. We ended up stopping on the beach to do some swimming for an hour or so. There might have been some playing in the sand too! Afterward we had Mai Tais while watching the sunset. Then we did some more wandering around the city before stopping for dinner in a little food court. And of course, we played with Tegan a bunch because she’s so adorable!