London Travel Local: How to Tour London like a Brit

London travel tips from a true brit!

As many of you know by now, and because my blog name pretty much gives it away, my love is a Brit. Gavin was born and raised in London, and on a recent trip to visit the family, he gave me the gift of the true London experience! There is no better way to tour a part of the UK then when you go to London, travel local with your one and only love who happens to be a true brit! From the best spot for high-noon tea, wine, and cheese pairings in an ancient hidden cellar, to seeing the sites on a Venetian boat on River Thames, here are all the things you MUST DO on your next trip to London to have the true Brit experience.

London Travel Local
How can I travel to London like a local?

London Travel: Visiting Places The Locals Love

Gavin and I arrived in London Saturday around noon and got one of those super cute black cabbies to take us to our hotel. We stayed at the centrally located Governors House, JW Marriott.  Since we had a jam-packed schedule, being in a prime location was important, and this hotel was classy, comfy, and located in just the perfect spot!

Where do locals hang out in London?

We put our bags down and since the weather was so nice (and the sun was out – rare for October in London) we decided to go for a stroll down some infamous London streets. Local London Travel must include this. We walked down Bond street, Carnaby street, and Regent Street. All of these spots were fab for shopping and people-watching. The building’s architecture everywhere was stunning, a striking contrast from our hometown of LA, and a nice breath of fresh air.

best way to get around london as a tourist

Invigorated from our walk we headed home to the Grosvenor House to get ready for dinner. Little did Gavin know his whole entire family and a few of his closest oldest friends were about to surprise him for his birthday!


We took a cab around the corner to The Arts Club, a members-only club, which Gavin’s father, Ashley, belongs to. London is known for its member clubs. It’s the city that basically started them all! We walked into the bar of the Arts Club and turned the corner to see everyone yelling “SURPRISE!” Gavin was floored! After lots of hugs all around we sat down for a lovely meal. The food was delicious, great wine and cocktails, and the energy of this spot was lively and fun. And all the Brodin brothers (Darren, Gavin, Simon, and Marcus) and dad  Ashley were together for the first time in 5 years! It was such a memorable night.

london travel guide
travel the uk like a local

You Must Take In A Variety Of Activities When You Are In London and Traveling With A Local

The next day was our only full day in London, so we arose early to get a head start on a busy day. We met our friends Andres and Jackie for a quick bite downstairs and then headed to Canary Wharf Pier to meet Mariana, of Thames River Limo, and our captain for the River Thames tour.

A local's guide to London, England

The Venetian boat was gorgeous. Polished wood floors, a full panoramic glass roof, plush leather seats – so classy! We traveled up the river and saw the London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and other famous sites. Seeing these iconic sites from the river was such a unique and special experience. I can’t recommend it enough!

Following our tour, we headed to Gordon’s Wine Bar, the oldest wine bar in London established in 1890. This Local London travel spot is a gem that every visitor must see. This super cool hidden spot is located in an ancient cellar, so old you can’t even stand up straight. We sipped wine and tasted some delicious cheeses as we could feel the whole cave shake as the underground went by. The candle-lit cave was somehow both romantic and eerie at the same time, and just right!

visiting London
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Next stop, they took it from the underground to the rooftop at The Ned. We met our friend Suzie there who gave us a tour of this old bank now rented into a hotel/lounge/rooftop hip hang-out hot spot. There was a jazz band belting out blush tunes in the restaurant lobby while patrons were cheering prosecco. The energy was fun and light, and we opted to head upstairs to the views.

what to do in london

The rooftop was splendid and the perfect spot to take in the sun while we dined on oysters, burgers, triple-fried chips (aka French fries aka my fav food), pints, and Aperol spritz. The food was outstanding, and we had such a lovely time. A true Sunday brunch experience if you want a tasty local London travel experience.

travelling to the uk

A Trip To London Wouldn’t Be Complete Without A Local Tea Experience

Just when we thought we could eat or drink much more we headed to meet some of Gavin’s Family for high-noon tea, a truly British experience. And there is no better place for tea than Claridges. Once step into this place and you know it’s a proper tea house. Plastered in pastels, with polished metal and glass details everywhere you look, it feels like you’ve shrunk and stepped into a chic dollhouse of sorts.

london high tea

We sat down for a leisurely tea session involving earl grey, English breakfast, dainty little finger sandwiches (the cucumber ones are the best), and of course scones. The entire table had a debate on the most proper way to eat your scones. Any guesses? Well, there is cream (which looks like butter to me but don’t be fooled, apparently it’s cream), and marmalade. Gavin’s brother Marcus insisted it’s the marmalade before the cream, but Gavin seemed to think it was the other way around. Were they just pulling my leg? I’m not sure, it’s entirely possible as most of the Brit humor goes right over my head lol. And they have a good laugh making fun of the American girl who doesn’t understand their crass humor.

travel the uk

Well, you may think we must be done eating now, right? Haha no. After dinner, we headed back to the Grosvenor House to get changed for dinner. We happened to score some hard-to-score reservations at the newly opened Nusr-et/Salt Bae (@Nusr-et). This steakhouse has locations in all the big cities around the world and is made famous by “the guy who does the salt thing.” Have you seen him on IG? Luckily for us “the guy” was there and gave us one of his signatures shows table-side, cutting the meat with such passion, artistic license, and furry, then sprinkling the coarse salt with his signature move, where his arm and hand more into ostrich’s neck and head and project a healthy spattering of salt over the steak. Of course to get “the guy” was like winning the lotto and what we were there to see, but the food was also very very good. Another bucket list item checked off the list!

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The next morning we had a few hours to spare before heading to the airport so we met Gavin’s step mum, Shelly for a proper English breakfast at the most proper English breakfast spot The Wolseley. The pancakes looked oh so good, but I knew I had to order THE English breakfast- poached eggs, beans, sausage, and grilled toe—MAAAAAH-toe (not toe-MAY-toe). It hit the spot after having one too many glasses of wine the night before.

how to travel in london
local travel in london

Bellies full, and hearts even fuller from the time we got to spend with the family, we headed to Heathrow for the flight out. I loved every minute of London and I can’t wait to do it all over again!

Soho New York City: Best Secret Soho Spots

Gavin and I recently returned from a quick weekend getaway to an old stomping ground of mine – NYC! Although it was fast and furious, G and I managed to discover some epic spots in Soho New York City for amazing food, delicious cocktails, and iconic sites and we are excited to share them with you!

soho new york city

Soho New York City – Flight & Hotel Details

Now before I get into all the good big city stuff I can’t gloss over the journey from LAX to NYC. Gavin and I flew JetBlue Mint, and if you haven’t gotten a chance to fly their MINT class yet, you are surely missing out. I’ve always loved JetBlue for their blue-hued snacks (the blue potato chips are my fav!) and exceptionally friendly flight staff but now that they have a MINT class, they officially are my favorite airline. What can be better than fully reclining in your seat while sipping pinot on your way to Soho NY? Nope, not much!


Once G and I landed in NY we headed into the city and checked into ModernHaus on Grand in Soho. This new boutique hotel has a chic hip modern vibe and a pool on the rooftop with breathtaking views of downtown. Our room was well-appointed, had a super comfy bed, and was quite spacious for a Manhattan hotel. And best of all the location was prime.

soho manhattan
soho manhattan restaurants

First on our list was hit the High Line in the Meatpacking District and see the Vessel, a striking bronze geometric masterpiece spanning several stories high.

soho manhattan things to do nearby

The summer sun was shining bright and strong as we strolled hand in hand down the High Line, which is one of my favorite spots in the big city. The High Line once was a railway bed that was renovated into a beautiful botanical park, with dense flora as far as you can see, perfect inspiration for this botanical artist! I always love getting ideas for my next MOSS ART design on the go and in places, I wouldn’t expect it! 

Why I love the High Line In Soho New York City

The most special part of the High Line is how it softens the city skyline and slows down that New York minute into a long leisurely Sunday stroll. G and I grabbed some watermelon and coconut popsicles from a popsicle cart along the way and quickly scarfed them down as they tried to melt themselves away in the summer heat. As we rounded the corner we found ourselves at the base of the Vessel, and I was awestruck by this enormous sculpture. It’s almost like bee-hive meets the Matrix, and although it was closed to walk up to it (due to COVID), standing beneath its massive presence made for an impressive photo opp.

Dante’s Cocktail Bar in Soho – The Best In New York/Manhattan

As the afternoon turned to evening, we headed back to Soho to hit up a true iconic spot – Dante’s. This cocktail bar is one of THE BEST bars in Manhattan, and maybe even the world. Gavin opted for the Bloody Mary which was exceptional. Made from freshly pressed tomato and celery juice, the bartender topped it off with freshly grated horseradish for that extra nose-burning kick. I opted for a refreshingly delightful watermelon spritz that paired well with my earlier watermelon popsicle. Watermelon was hitting the spot that day I guess.

Why is SoHo NYC famous?

Sitting at the bar was the best experience as we watched the suspender-clad bartenders go to work making all their famous drinks. We had also worked up a bit of an appetite so we ordered the burrata to share and OMG was it oh so delicious. The best, creamiest, and freshest burrata we both have ever had!

Dining In Soho Manhattan & The Perfect Topper To Our Amazing Day

Later that evening we headed for dinner at Veranda. This restaurant is located in the ModernHaus hotel and has a pleasant indoor-outdoor garden design that way positively delightful. Already on our way (on the drinking train) we continued on. At our waitress’ recommendation, I ordered the froze and G got a spicy skinny marg. Both drinks were on point, but the word of caution my drink was much stronger than it led on lol. It packed a punch and was not for the faint of heart. Thank goodness they gave us a copious amount of their sinfully delicious fresh streamy hot baked artisan sough dough with butter and sea salt. It balanced out my buzz and was some of the best fresh bread I have ever had. I know it seems silly but it was the most memorable part of the meal, and I mean that as a compliment. The entrees were wonderful too! Gavin order the Dry Aged Beef and I opted for the less carnivorous Cauliflower Steak. Yum!

What does SoHo stand for in New York City?
soho nyc

Following dinner, fully liquored up and in a food coma, we made it to the elevator and into our bed, thank goodness we hadn’t ventured out any farther! 

The next morning up bright and early, we popped some Advil and headed for the airport. Our brief little blip of a trip to NYC was coming to a close and we were ready to sleep it all off on our JetBlue Mint flight back to LA. Until next time New York, New York! I’ll always have a spot in my heart and tummy for you. Mwah!

things to do in soho new york

TWA Hotel Review: What its like to stay at the TWA Hotel at JFK

Staying at the TWA Hotel, A Personal Review

Gavin and I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Mallorca Spain to celebrate his birthday, but the journey home had some unexpected twists and turns. Multiple canceled flights and missed connections ended up rerouting us through NY for a night layover, and we found ourselves at the classic JFK hotel and I wanted to share our TWA Hotel Review as an insiders look into our stay. This blast from the past architectural masterpiece was just the fun Lil spot we needed to cheer up our travel blues!

TWA Hotel Review

TWA Hotel Review: Simple Check In & Accessibility For The Win!

We arrived late into JFK from London, jet-lagged and comatose. One of the very best things about this hotel is that it is right across from the terminal. No cab, uber, or shuttle to get here, just roll those bags right across the crosswalk and into the front door!

twa hotel

The check-in process was a breeze, with an automated self-check-in kiosk. It literally took 2 minutes and we were on our way to our room. On our way through the enormous expansive lobby, I noted a cute little mod bar, the perfect place to get your dirty martini straight up, with the view of the vintage TWA plane lovingly named Connie, right outside the window. The motif was mod 60’s meets the Jetsons clad in red and white. Very charming!

twa JFK hotel
Does the TWA Hotel have a bar?

A Glimpse Into the Decor – Modern & Simple – TWA Hotel Review

Our room was simple but cool. Everything was super clean and new. The much-needed shower after 16 hours of flying was delightful, and the bed was comfy for our quick nights sleep. Off the bed we went.

TWA hotel room
review TWA JFK

Then the alarm goes off for our early morning flight. Well, our TWA Hotel Review was fast I thought, rubbing my swollen eyes. At least my few hours, although short, were a good solid deep sleep.

Quick Breakfast At The JFK Hotel – A Quick Review & A Delightful Visit

We went downstairs at 6am and grabbed breakfast at their food counters in the lobby. They had an Intelligencia Coffee Bar, a proper NY Bagel kiosk, a crepe place, and a few others as well. It reminded me a little bit of the food vendor stations in Grand Central Station, the days were I used to take the Metro-North in and out of the city.

Although our quick night’s stay didn’t afford us time to take in all the amenities I must note that this unique hotel is also equipped with a superb gym included a Pendleton room and an infinity rooftop pool! Next time I’ll make sure we have a few more hours to explore!

On the way out to the terminal we stopped for a quick photo opp in front of beautiful Connie, to document that we had even ever been there. I know the memories of our super brief stay at the TWA Hotel will be hazy due to our travel coma, but that seems to kind of suit the time warp vibes of the TWA hotel….kinda like “it was all a time traveler’s dream.”

Bison and Campfires: Brodin Family Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

The Brodin family went glamping for the first time ever in July and it was a great success! Gavin, Benji, Hunter and I had such an extraordinary time having a true Yellowstone camping experience, but will all the creature comforts make this mama really happy! We saw Bison, antelope, geysers, and bubbling hot springs by day, and roasted s’mores by night, while stoking our wood stove for the night at UnderCanvas Yellowstone, gazing up at the star above. We can’t wait to go back again!

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

Gavin and I love nature. We hike almost every morning in the canyon near our house, connecting to nature and setting our intentions for the day. And, of course, my career is also based around nature, creating botanical art for my company Art Botanica. Nature is healing and vital for a healthy body and mind. So naturally, we want to instill these values in our children so they too can love and enjoy all the joys nature can bring.

Now, I must admit, when we told the boys we were whisking them off to Montana, turning off the technology, and playing Where’s Waldo looking for wildlife, they weren’t exactly thrilled. “But MOOOOOOOOM! Benji’s not finished building his house in Minecraft!” Was Hunter’s reply, as Benji stood beside him quiet and sullen. “It’s going to be amazing, you’ll see. We’re going to see really really BIG BISON!” I reply with a huge forced smile. Benji looked away and Hunter was staring down at the floor. They were not pumped.

And off we went to Montana.

We landed in Bozeman, rented a car, and hit the road, Big Sky style. We sang songs and made goofy videos, laughing and having a blast being super silly to pass the time away. And before we knew it we had arrived.

We turned down the long dirt driveway to UnderCanvas and a herd of cattle greeted us, crowding the narrow road. Baby calves were suckling their mamas and we rolled down the window to get a better look.  Benji and Hunter were enthralled. Nothing like baby animals to get the kids enrolled!  Of course, Gavin had to get out of the car to try to make contact with the cute wet-nosed calf, despite my strong debate-style lecture to attempt to get him to stay in the car.  Right away mama cow gave self-proclaimed Dr. Doolittle a confronting side-eye, and back to the can Gavin ran. I passed on saying the “I told you so!” but definitely thought about it, and sent it energetically in his direction and he laughed. You’d think he’d learn by now, but, uh, NOPE. Not yet.

Once we were able to navigate our way through the cattle we checked in and made our way to our stargazer tent, with an adjacent tee-pee for the kiddos. We settled in, bounced on the bed for a bit, and then ran down to the river for a quick cool-off. Kids were swimming and making mud pies on the riverside, as the parents were watching over sipping wine and beer solo-cup style. Benji and Hunter played in the smaller pooled water on a bank they called the “hot tub,” and they invited their new found friends into their posh hot tub club on the river lol.

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

That night after we tucked the boys into their cozy cots in their tee-pee, Gavin and I laid down and gazed up at the stars as we lay in our super comfy cozy bed. (This bed is RIDICULOUSLY comfy!) I’ve never seen so many glittering stars in my life. I grabbed Gavin’s hand and I asked him “How amazing?” He replied, “Yes, we are so lucky.” Moments like these, to me, are a testament that we are walking the right path, a sign we are aligned, and that always feels so good to acknowledge. Have you had those moments too? They are my favorite 🙂

Next morning we woke up early to drive into Yellowstone and tour the park. There is a lot of ground to cover in our 1-day tour of this expansive National Park, so we wanted to beat the crowd (which didn’t really happen) and we planned to do the main loop. Once we got past the traffic backup to the gate the front half of the park was pretty backed up, and several parking areas were traffic jams, but once we got past that it freed up most of the way. 

A few tips for Yellowstone with kids:

  1. There is practically no cell phone service, so bring other games and activities to keep the kids entertained because there is quite a bit of driving.
  2. Pick your top sites to visit but have back-ups in case the parking lots are full. 
  3. Bring lots of food and water. We stopped at the stores to get food in the main center complex near Old Faithful and it was a ZOO. 
  4. Plan out where the bathroom breaks (should) be. There aren’t many bathrooms fyi, and some are closed due to COVID.
  5. Old Faithful decided not to be as faithful when we went  and was 15 minutes late (the whole crowd thought it wasn’t going to happen at all because every minute felt like a hour staring a hole in the ground), so give yourself a good window of 1 hour here to park, get a spot early, and be prepared to maybe stay a bit later if the geyser is having a lazy day.
  6. Go with a full tank of gas, gas stations are sparse.
  7. You will see Bison more likely on the north side of the loop road where the open prairie is, so be patient. We started to think we were not going to see any towards the end of the day, but then they were right in the road!
Yellowstone National Park

Sites we saw that are not to be missed:

  1. Grand Prismatic Springs: A short 1 mile hike, some of it is uphill but kid-friendly, to a vista overlooking the massive and colorful prismatic springs.
  2. Old Faithful: no explanation needed
  3. Yellowstone Lake: It’s ginormous so keep driving and you’ll see plenty of stops for beach and picnic access.
  4. Lower and Upper Falls: This is the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone and these falls are mighty impressive! A approx. 2 mile trail to Inspiration Point is recommended as the views are stunning. Just note that the hike back up is a good grade uphill for a while, but our kids did it fine.

Grand Prismatic Springs

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

Old Faithful

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

Lower Falls from Inspiration Point

Bison!

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

After seeing the sites we got back to UnderCanvas just in time for the open bar/live music/smores roasting festivities. A glass of wine next to the campfire, listening to a local cowboy sing and strum his guitar was the best way to end the day, while Benji and Hunter played parachute with the other kids.

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

The next morning we decided to pop into The Grizzly and Wolf Rescue Center which was well worth it! We saw bears, wolves, eagles, and otters. This facility is gorgeous and the habitats were really top-notch. This was a great way for the kids to see the animals up close and learn more about them. Which animal was their favorite? The otters of course!

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas
Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

I know they had a great time when Benji and Hunter still talk about this trip to this day, and when they set me straight when I mistakenly say  “Buffalo,” and they exclaim: “No! It’s Bison! Not Buffalo.” See, they did learn something!

So that sums up our Yellowstone trip. It certainly was one to remember!

If you have any other questions about our trip or the area feel free to hit me up in the comments below!

Read Next: Family Fun at Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

YEE-HAW: Family Fun at Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

Who’s looking to have an epic family vacation!? One where the kids forget they even have iPhones and tablets? (Is that even possible!?)

One where everyone gets to do what they want to do. One where every minute of FUN and time in nature is a prerequisite? Well, look no further than Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana! It’s the perfect family get-away.

Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

In July Gavin, Benji, Hunter, and I jumped on a flight to Montana, which was a surprisingly quick flight from LA, and drove east to the big timber gates that welcome you to the Paws Up Resort. These kids were so excited for the week of cowboy festivities, they could barely sit still. We were welcomed with our very own Lexus to use for the duration of our stay, which would help us get to all the activities we had planned that were scattered across the 37,000 acres of pristine Big Sky countryside. Yes, you heard me right- THIRTY-SEVEN-THOUSAND acres. That’s a lotta land. And it’s breathtakingly gorgeous!

Having arrived later in the day we settled into our adorable Meadowview home and got ready for the cookout. As we opened the door to our ranch home, we were greeted by the soothing sounds of country music (George Strait for all you country fans out there). The boys dropped their bags and ran around the house like the Tasmanian devil, staking claims on bedrooms, free snacks and sodas, and anything else they could lay their claim on… “HOT TUB! HOT TUB!” Hunter exclaimed, “Mommy, can we go in right now?”

“No, boo. Later. It’s dinner time, and guess what!? They heard they have s’mores for dessert!” I responded.

That did the trick. Hunter and Benji got washed up and out the door we went.

The cookout was just as you would expect, and so much more. Live music, beef roasting over open flame fires (veggie options too), ax throwing, lasso-ing, and chuckwagon rides. Hunter and Gavin were pretty much obsessed with the ax-throwing. What’s with boys and weapons anyway? After watching them take turns again and again I stepped in and showed them how it was done 😉 By the end of the evening, the kids were knacked and passed out the minute we got home.

The next day was chock full of activities, starting with go-karts. Paws Up have its own go-kart course and it is no joke. I thought only the kiddos were going to race around, but of course, the biggest kid of them all, Gavin, had to jump in and blast everyone laughing the entire time. Big kids get to play too here!

Next on the list: horseback riding. Hunter got to ride the absolutely most adorable pony named Cookie. Look at that face. I just want to give her a big cuddle and sneak her home to my backyard. I mean she’s tiny- the perfect size pony for LA. Paws Up are known for its extensive equestrian program. You can go on trail rides, learn how to be a true wrangler, take a horse whispering course with mustangs, and even learn how to drive a chuck wagon! If you love horses and adventure then this is THE place. Check out all the equestrian activities.

Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana
Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

The next day we rose early to grab some breakfast and hit the river. We signed out some fly rods, purchased a fishing permit, and tried our very best to cast a fly rod without hooking each other with the fly. It was a little dodgy, but we got the hang of it and looked pretty cool while doing it if I do say so myself. Benji and Hunter collected river rocks and tried to skim them across the water, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the current wasn’t in their favor. lol

Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

Later on, after lunch, we went to class 2 whitewater rafting, tiny tot-friendly style. The river was gorgeous and relaxing. We saw a bald eagle too, and there were just enough rapids to keep the kids excited, but not too many that would make me do the anxious mommy thing where I play the safety police telling everyone to “SIT DOWN on your BOTTOM! The entire time. This palace has really got their activity game down. Kudos.

More ideas on a family vacation: Yosemite & Sequoias RV Family Vacation.

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure Extraordinaire

Costa Rica is a Nature Immersion Adventure.

Costa Rica stole my heart and turned it green, with deep love of its bountiful and vibrant nature. A true untouched gem in many ways, the raw beauty of its jungle landscape, towering volcano, and vast ocean vistas, inspired me down to my core. Gavin and I were blessed with the kindest hospitality, epic culinary experiences, and exhilarating excursions with our #highvibecrew. From soaring through the clouds high above the rainforest canopy on a zip line to galloping the beaches on horseback, Costa Rica was a true adventure, and one I’ll never forget.

Ask Gavin about how I like to travel and I think you may get a sarcastic comment along with a roll of the eyes because I tend to ‘pack it in’ a little… Ok, ok, not just a little but A LOT… Our vacation schedule usually leaves us a bit more tired than when we started due to the fast-paced nature of a Kelley-designed trip. My zest for life runs hot and I crave to try so much of what this beautiful planet has to offer. I thrive on it. Thank goodness I have a partner who accepts and understands me, and in turn, I get to make sure we have downtime too. Relationships are always about balance, compromise, and communication, right!?

If you are looking for a more relaxing vacation you can choose any one of these spots we visited and settle in for a week or longer, as they all were epic! Or if you’re a bit crazy like me go ahead and do it all- just one word of caution- driving here takes much longer than WAZE will tell you, so a good amount of time is spent driving between locations, but the countryside is breathtaking. Add a karaoke-loving bestie  Caroline (@howcarolinecarolines) and these car treks become another memory-making event! I think we perfected “I’m a Genie in a Bottle” and other 90’s pop hits!

Our first stop on the Costa Rican journey was Volcano Arenal. Deep in the lush rainforest, we stayed at the Nayara Tented Camp. This tent was the most luxurious glamping experience I have ever had. The sprawling room had a beautiful four-poster bed with a cloud-like mattress that beckoned you to linger and stare at the enormous volcano on the horizon just beyond our door. The lux bathroom had a clawfoot tub perfect for bubble baths with bubbly and an outdoor rain shower. But the very best surprise was the private plunge pool on our deck that was naturally heated by hot springs and twinkled in vibrant colorful shades of glowing lights at night. Gavin and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the spring-fed waters our first night, our bodies soothed by the healing mineral waters (and the wine ;))

The next morning we rose early to the sun rising up over the verdant green volcano. We had breakfast in our room and then took a little tour of the grounds. There were hot springs everywhere, a pool with a swim-up bar, and SLOTHS! Yes, sloths! This property has 8 native sloths and we were lucky enough to meet one on our tour. I named him Merle. We watched him precariously balancing on a tiny tree branch way up high, and he never made a move. Merle and I would not vacation well together haha.

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure

That night we visited the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort with our crew. I have never seen such an expanse of hot springs, complete with waterfalls and little stone paths that went in every direction. It was a mystical fairyland of rising steam and rushing mineral waters. Such a unique experience and exactly the relaxing experience we all needed at the end of a long eventful day.

Up bright and early we departed Arenal and headed to the Pacific coast. We drove up and down and all around windy roads alllll the way to Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas. We were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff and immediately whisked upstairs right away for a special ceviche cooking experience with their amazing renowned Chef Jose. I can not say enough about this unique cooking demonstration. Chef Jose was such a delight, a robust storyteller, true artisan of food, advocate for protection of the seas, and a down-right great guy. Gavin and I not only learned how to make amazing ceviche from the best, but we also learned about the history of this culinary delight (and one of my absolute favorites), and made a new friend. It doesn’t get any better than that. But it actually did! The view at Sentido Norte restaurant is ridiculous, perched high on the cliffside with panoramic 360-degree views of the ocean. Absolutely stunning! Like ‘pinch me” I’m dreaming. Oh, take me back to Casa Chameleon!

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure

Fueled on ceviche, we capped off the day with an exhilarating horseback ride down the beaches and through the woods. Gavin and I are avid horse riders, and we had the absolute best guide who granted us permission to gallop flat out like crazies down the wave-kissed sandy coastline. Nothing compares to touring a country on the back of a horse!

Our next stop along the adventure was in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had a wonderful stay at the Koora Hotel, in an apartment-style villa so the whole gang could stay together. The villa had 2 story windows looking out on the cloud forest. What’s a cloud forest you ask? Well, it’s’ exactly as you may suspect- our hotel was perched on a hillside on top of the cloud-covered rainforest just like a Care Bear land (yes I’m a child of the 80’s)! Koora hotel offered so many nature activities, as it is situated right at the gate to the RESERVA AGUTI Nature Preserve. They hooked us up with a night nature hike lead by the fearless and knowledgeable Victor. Once the sunset and the night cast its darkness, Victor equipped us with flashlights to venture into the preserve’s inky abyss. We learned about so many things unique to this cloud forest area and discussed the ongoing preservation and rehabilitation of many endangered species of native trees. We saw an abundance of frogs, stick bugs, millipedes, and even a tarantula (from a safe distance)! The tour left me in wonder about how alive this planet is!

Next on this list of bucket list items was zip lining at Selvatura Adventure Park! I could barely contain my excitement and butterflies. Careening at an extremely fast speed tethered to a cable 1000’s of feet in the air is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you wanna know what it feels to soar like a bird high, like really high, above the treetops then this is a must-do! 

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure

The next day we headed back to San Jose to get a little taste of the capital before we took off early the next morning. Not knowing what to expect, San Jose really surprised me with its culture, colors, flavors, and history. We stayed at an eclectic historical PINK Airbnb that was covered in art. The lovely couple who hosted us was so amazing, greeting us on arrival, telling us all the hot spots to check out, and even welcoming us on a private tour of their art gallery.

That evening we walked a few blocks over to the trendy Barrio Escalante district. As we explored, Tamalin (who’s secret superpower is to find the best hidden gems) found a funky little spot with music, beckoning us to come inside. We wandered in and met the lovely and charming Oscar Toribio of Toribio Donato, a local high-end sustainable fashion line. He showed us around his studio and super chic lounge- restaurant, DOMA, just recently opened. This place, the clothes, and the decor were to die for. A must-go when in San Jose!

That night we dined on delicious fare at Isolina. Their menu consisted of inventive fusion dishes including seafood lasagna and an amazing wedge salad, but the best discovery was their fabulous wine cellar. The sommelier showed us top vintages from all around the world and we bought a few bottles to take home, just too good to pass up. Absolutely the best for vino and upscale dining in San Jose!

As we departed early the next morning I peered out the plane window to see the vast green jungle that reached as far as the eye could see. In many ways, it looked like the moss art murals I create! “Wow”, I thought, “such a vibrant country so full of life in every way.” Travel and nature are so inspiring to me both in my work at Art Botanica, but also spiritually. They remind me to really live with purpose and intention. This immersion into the Costa Rican jungle, and really connecting with it, was a gift. I’m in awe of its complex harmony and its astounding beauty. I am thankful for all the beautiful humans we met along the way who shared their little slice of heaven, and for my crew of adventuring friends whom I love making memories with, and finally thanks to my love Gavin Brodin for choosing to journey with me all around the world! Everything’s better with you my love.

Read Next: Mid-Coast Cali Adventure: Cambria Coastline and SLO Wine and Falconry Experience

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure: Cambria Coastline and SLO Wine and Falconry Experience

San Luis Obispo

Mid-coast California is often overlooked when it comes to Cali travel. Of course the major cities have the most draw, as do the beaches of the OC, Yosemite, and NorCal. I am here to tell you that there is a secret gem in this gorgeous diverse state- San Luis Obispo (aka SLO)! If you haven’t been you must give it a try. From the interior wineries of Paso Robles, to the stunning shores of Moonstone Beach, there is so much to see and do, making it the perfect for a romantic weekend away.

Our adventure began on Friday, driving up from LA. Gavin and I stayed our first night in Solvang, a small charming Danish town that is right on the way, making it the perfect overnight stop.  We stayed at The Landsby, in a charming and spacious suite with a balcony overlooking the communal fire pit area. Wanting to stretch our legs we took a stroll around the sleepy town and it was as if we were transported to Denmark, complete with windmills and tudor style architecture everywhere you looked. We completed the evening and ordered room service from the hotel restaurant Mad and Vin and boy was it good! My two fav dishes were the glazed crisp brussels and the rich and creamy Bucatini & Roasted Mushrooms. So divine!

In the morning we discovered a great local coffee spot, Good Seed Coffee, (try the blue moon latte, it’s delicious!) and we dined on traditional danish pancakes at Paula’s Pancake House. Bellies full and systems caffeinated and ready to go, we jumped into the car to head the rest of the way to the coast. The drive was beautifully peaceful, winding through the expansive grassy hills of the countryside. The green and gold rolling hills reminded me of the giant moss murals I created for Art Botanica. When I travel and spend time in nature I gain inspiration for my artwork and come up with new ideas and designs. There is something about experiencing a new place that really gets my creative juices flowing.

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure: Cambria Coastline and SLO Wine and Falconry Experience

The temperatures cooled when we reached the wind-swept coastline, and we arrived at the darling Cambria Beach Lodge. I jumped out of the car and climbed the stairs to the lobby to check-in. “How cute is this place!?” I thought. Simple, joyful, chill surfer vibes abound, and a warm welcoming staff. They even had doggie-bagged breakfast and coffee in the morning to take with you to the beach. Such a great find! And the rooms didn’t disappoint.  They were cozy, comfy, and well-stocked with local goodies and surf wax in case you were heading out to hit the waves. Gavin and I decided to take a stroll on the beach and discovered a raised wooden walkway that meandered through the dunes and ended up on a cliff bluff, where we enjoyed the golden sunset hour.

Cambria Beach

After our leisurely evening on the beach we headed into downtown Cambria to dine at the Black Cat Bistro. This cute little bistro had delicious food and a great wine list. They even had one of Gavin’s favorites- Kosta Browne 2014 Pinot Noir, making it an extra special evening! Gavin loves his Pinot Noir, and so do I!

On Sunday we drove back inland to Paso Robles to have a falconry experience at Viva Vega Vineyards. Wait- what is a falcon experience you ask??? I had no idea either but I booked in on Airbnb experiences and I knew it had something to do with with birds of prey…. We arrived early and met Anita and her daughter, both lifelong falconers. They told us all about the extensive training it takes to be a falconer, and learned about the sport for falconry. Anita owns a number of hawks she trained herself. They even take them hunting, and these birds fly a mile high up into the sky and take cues from their handler. Their bond to their handlers is so strong! It is truly amazing how animals and humans can connect and communicate! Gavin and I got to fly one of the falcons and also hold and pet their eagle owl, Jack. He was my fav. I mean look at that face! 

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure

Following the falcon experience we sat down to taste the Viva Vega wines, and they were superb! Larry and his wife April opened numerous bottles for us to try and told us stories of life on the vineyard- the drought years, the good years, and the fires. They told us about their dedication to raise the grapes organically and naturally and they age their wine for 30 months or more! It sure is a labor of love, and you can definitely taste the love in their wines. We left with a case and some new favorites- their Malbec and Zin blend. 

So next time you are looking for a California weekend getaway, be sure to try the mid-coast! So much to do and see, yet peaceful, slow, and nature-centric. And be sure to give Jack a kiss on his cute lil beak for me!

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure

Read Next: Palm Springs and DesertX and Modernism Week

Palm Springs and DesertX and Modernism Week

Gavin and I love art and design! After all, we are designers and artists by day, and we have deep passion for what we do. We are always looking for new inspiration and ideas, and one of the very best ways to get creativity flowing is to go experience other art! 

In April we took a weekend trip to Palm Springs to visit the DesertX installations and tour the homes featured at Modernism Week. We saw so much in 2 days and we left brewing with new ideas we can’t wait to create, but even more importantly we gained new perspectives on issues that transcend visual stimulation.

Our trip began on Friday, wrapping up the work week early to make the drive out and hopefully miss that potentially awful PS traffic. We arrived and checked into The Rowan Palm Springs, one of my favorite downtown spots to stay in PS. The location here is prime, right in the heart of everything. I also love the High Bar rooftop at the Rowan, the perfect spot to grab a spicy marg and dip into the sparking pool to escape those soaring desert temperatures after sweating our way through the art tours.

Upon arrival, Gavin and I threw our bags down and jumped back into the car to hit up some of the DesertX spots. The first installation we saw was called “Never Forget” by Nicholas Galanin.  Reminiscent of the Hollywood sign, these massive 3 story tall letters that spelled out INDIAN LAND stood tall, reaching to the bright blue sky, casting long shadows from the blazing midday sun onto the desertscape below. I was shocked by their sheer size, which also seemed to reinforce the blaring message it conveyed which to me is that we must never forget that this land we call America is not really ours. It belongs to all of us and none of us. We are here to share, cohabitate, and collaborate. We are here to tread lightly on this land and nourish it. And we must learn for those who called this land their home before we removed them to call it our own. We must never forget who was here before.

Palm Springs and DesertX

Next stop on the DesertX tour was The Wishing Well by Serge Attukwei Clottey.  From far away these canary yellow cubes looked like a cross between hay bales and something straight outta of Minecraft (as Hunter and Benji would agree)! It’s funny how we filter things through our own perspectives. What do you see?  As Gavin and I approached I noticed that these giant yellow cubes were made out of a quilt work of yellow plastic squares, all intricately stitched together. I opened my DesertX app to read about this creation. As it turned out this yellow plastic comes from the iconic yellow Kufuor containers that are used to transport water between villages in Ghana. They are symbolic of life. In countries where water is not abundant, these containers are the life force. It really struck a chord. Humbled, Gavin and I acknowledged how privileged and fortunate we are to have access to all the resources that make our life abundant. We are so blessed.

The Wishing Well

The sun was low on the horizon as we drove back to The Rowan to grab a shower before dinner. We luckily were given a spa suite room, which had a beautiful blue-tiled walk-in steam shower and tub. As I let the water run down my face I thought about the art we experienced, and how art is such an impactful way to convey messages, thoughts, perspectives, and emotions. Art is powerful! Gavin and I both create art and design to make an impact and that is where our passion comes from. When I am creating moss art for Art Botanica, my desire is to offer something that brings peace and connection to nature.

Palm Springs and DesertX

That evening we had a delightful dinner at Workshop Kitchen, a trendy, edgy-industrial vibey spot known for its creative cuisine. The food here was spectacular. We started with a farm beet and citrus salad that complex flavors were strongly influenced by an aromatic blend of fresh herbs. We also tried the doro wat chicken, braised in a robust ethipoian sauce, meat so tender it melted right off the bone. Gavin and I both agreed this was a memorable meal for the books. We will be back soon!

The next morning we grabbed a nourishing breakfast from Juniper Table located in the lobby of the Rowan and then set out to tour two of the featured homes of Modernism Week, in a new development called Desert Palisades. The two homes we toured were designed by the renowned architects  Kappe and Lockyer. These works of art took indoor-outdoor living to a new level. Their simple modernist design blended into the rocky desert surroundings, and the expansive windows and sliding glass walls literally had you feeling like you were outside when you were in. Gavin and I have plans to build our own home starting next year, and these masterpieces gave us a vision of what we want to create, a home that blends with its surroundings and celebrates nature.

By midday Sunday it was time to hit the road to head back to LA. On the drive back we wrote down all the ideas we had swirling in our head. Gavin and I are strong believers that writing our visions and dreams down help to kick start the manifesting process. I felt more deeply grounded into my own moss artwork creations and the message I seek to convey through my art. Gavin and I excitedly discussed all the ideas for a future home in the hills, and all the love that will be infused into our masterpiece we will one day call our home. Sometimes big things come in short lil’ weekend packages and Palm Springs always delivers!

Read Next: San Miguel de Allende

CDMX: Museums And Pujol Omakase Tacos

Mexico City

Gavin, the #highvibecrew, and I recently returned from a whirlwind weekend in Mexico City, a beautiful blur of art, food, and culture! I was blown away by this gorgeous gem of a city. We made sure to hit up all the hot spots such as Museo Jumex and Kurimanzutto for contemporary art, and Pujol for the internationally acclaimed Omakase Taco experience. We left CDMX with our bellies full, our minds churning with creativity, and our hearts shining in love with Mexico City.

Our first stop in CDMX the evening we arrived was at our hotel Condesa df, located in the chic and hip La Condesa neighborhood. This 1928 hotel had an unforgettable vibe from the bright colors to the historic architectural facade. The traditional white stone exterior playfully contrasted with the simple modern design aesthetic of the interior. The lobby was drenched in an ultra saturated teal green, accented with natural leather and wood woven chairs, triggering memories of my earlier years in NYC when I lived in Soho. The suite was super simple, yet lux, with the it’s crowning glory being the sprawling balcony set amongst the treetops. Which I must mention now- one of the most fascinating things about CDMX was ALL THE TREES! For such a dense and populated city, Mexico City is literally a forest, with trees everywhere. It really blew me away- thinking how all these trees were planned and planted many many years ago, and what an energetic and physical implication they have. Mexico may be ahead of the US in this regard..?

CDMX: MUSEUMS AND PUJOL OMAKASE TACOS

After we settled into our hotel we headed out to meet the #highvibecrew (our travel contention of friends) at Catamundi Wine Bar. The food here was delicious and the wine selection easily rivaled notable sommelier spots in CA. Gavin loved Pinot Noir, so he was in heaven with the wine list! Everything we ordered was phenomenal, but the star was the soft shell crab tacos. Encrusted in a light and crisp charcoal batter, the crab literally melted in your mouth with a complex flavor explosion- a little salty, and savory with a hint of sweet to balance it out.  We were serenaded by the smooth sounds of street musicians to lull us fully into a food coma by the end of the evening. (Insider tip: ask for a seat in the back garden bar- that’s the cutest spot)

The next morning we rose early to sounds of birds chirping on our city balcony, as the sun began trickling in through our wispy linen curtains. We woke early to ensure we had ample time to make it to each and every one of our planned destinations. We had a quick bite and on-point robust cappuccino in the Condesa df restaurant. Fueled on haverous rancheros and caffeine, we set off to our first art destinations- Kurimanzutto and Museo Jumex. I’ll let the art do the talking:

Mexico City

Following the morning art immersion we set out for a late lunch at Pujol. When I say “lunch” I mean this lightly- Pujol’s Omakase tacos were full-on culinary immersions into a new world of flavor experiences. And it was one of the BEST meals I have had in my 40 years on this earth. I love food much in the way I love art. I love the presentation, the colors and the sensory experience. I love the emotions and excitement that arises. They both had the ability to ground me in the present moment- which is a healing experience all in itself. Culinary arts is a form of art, and if you love both as much as I do make a reservation at Pujol! (Insider tip: reservations here fill up fast. Book early, and new spots open daily on Opentable so refresh often if you are having trouble securing a spot!)

Our final morning in CDMX we decided on a leisurely Sunday brunch at Contramar. This seafood-heavy spot is the place to be and be seen for brunch. We noshed on oysters, ceviche, and a whole roasted fish large enough to feed everyone all on its own. (Insider tip: Even if you can’t get a reservation, if you show ups when they open at 11am, you will very likely score a table.)

If reading this is making your mouth salivate and your creative juices flow, then you are meant to visit CDMX, one of my favorite cities for culture, gastronomy, art and design!

CDMX: MUSEUMS AND PUJOL OMAKASE TACOS

Read Next: San Miguel De Allende

San Miguel De Allende

Gavin and recently returned from a romantic weekend wandering the charming cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende. Along our journey, we discovered the most beautiful and unique art galleries and dined on rooftops while looking down on the vibrant rainbow of colors that make up the old world cityscape. If you are seeking a full immersion into old-world Mexican culture then San Miguel de Allende is your next must-go destination!

Gavin and I stayed at the infamous Matilda hotel , right in the heart of downtown. This super classy (with a little side of funk) boutique hotel is blessed with an interior courtyard to die for, complete with a botanical encrusted infinity edge pool, and pop art mural made for the perfect photo opp. 

Our room was cute and quaint, and the best part was its expansive balcony overlooking the glistening pool waters below. Service here was top notch -you know the kind- when they welcome you everywhere by name and memorize the way you like your skinny+spicy marg. After we settled into our room we set out on the town to grab a bite to eat.

On the main square we stumbled upon a local spot, Cen Tro, that was packed with locals singing along to the sounds of ranchera (traditional Mexican cowboy music that dated back to the revolution). Intrigued by the palpable energy of the crowd, we grabbed a table and ordered some margaritas and tacos. This was one of the effing best margaritas I have ever had! So authentic and perfectly balanced with spice, a touch of sweet, and rimmed with tajine. Gavin and I smiled with joy as we watched everyone in the bar soulfully sing along with each and every song while cheering and clinking their beers. 

The next day we wandered out in no particular direction to find some of the galleries and shops that we had heard so much about. (Insider tip: I love the old cobblestone streets, but they are not easy on the feet! No heels here ladies- just comfy flats.) We stumbled upon a lighting shop that was so specular it should be called a gallery. Intricate gold chandeliers hung from every spot in the ceiling. And the golden light casts beautiful light and shadows across every surface.

The next amazing discovery is the Bovine Concept Store, part store, part gallery. Their black and white motif was striking and edgy. The art work that graced the walls was complete, colorful, and definitely caused a moment of pause. Every detail was meticulously placed and balanced. It was simply a fascinating place. Gavin and I gathered so many design ideas here we had to start writing them all down! And although we didn’t dine at their adjoining restaurant, Bovine, we had received many recommendations that it is the go-to place for wood fired steaks.

After a full day of walking we were famished. We headed over to Quince Rooftop (http://quincerooftop.com) for a sunset dinner with #highvibecrew. Perched high above the city, we watched the sun sink down into the clouds, tuning them rich  hues of gold, pink and purple, blending into the colorful casita rooftops. We dined on Peruvian nikkei and truffle tuna sashimi, porteno ceviche, and chimichurri hamachi nigiri. Every bite was a flavorful explosion. Soon the sunset colors faded, the sky darkened to an ink black and millions of twinkling stars came out to shine down on us. What a special night of birds-eye beauty, culinary delights, and great conversations with friends.