Los Angeles Trip Day 4

Day 4 T-Shirt of Choice: Live While You Can by Dance Party Massacre

The main attraction for Day 4 was a trip to the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino – but more on that in a little bit. To kick start the day, we drove to Glendale and stopped over at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe. This not-so-little bakery came to us highly recommended by a couple of our friends, so of course, we had to check it out. Porto’s is known for their cheese rolls and potato ball, neither of which I have ever tasted. Needless to say, my taste buds were excited. They weren’t disappointed. The potato balls were quite filling, a bit dense, and very tasty. The cheese rolls were just downright amazingly good. I’m writing this post over a week since our visit to Porto’s and I can still taste those amazing cheese rolls. I want some right now.

After Porto’s we made a pit stop at Old Pasadena Town. This is a neat little place filled with a lot of big and small name shops. We of course had to stop over at Urban Outfitters (I so wish that we had one in Hawaii). Michelle loves to browse the trinkets whenever we stop at Urban Outfitters and I, of course, love to check out the clothes – T-Shirts specifically. Another stop we made while checking out Old Pasadena Town was Dots Cupcakes. We were both a little hesitant due to our lackluster Sprinkles experience a few days prior. Luckily, we had nothing to worry about. The cupcakes at Dots were amazingly good. So much better than Sprinkles and *possibly* a little better than Butter Lane in New York City. They looked amazing and tasted just as good as they looked. I had the Chocolate Mint and let me tell you, it’s to die for! Another plus about Dots is that you don’t need to wait in a ridiculous line like that found at Sprinkles in Beverly Hills. If you ever find yourself in Old Pasadena Town then be sure to stop by Dots Cupcakes.

With all that food in our tummies, Huntington Botanical Gardens was our next stop. I’ve been to a couple of Botanical Gardens, across a few states, and I have to say that this was probably the most impressive one thus far. It was beautiful. It was picturesque. It was serene. And it was huge! It was so big that we had to narrow our focus on a couple of specific parts of the garden. We decided to focus on the Japanese and Chinese Gardens. The view that you initially get when you reach the Japanese Garden is just stunning and totally worth the visit, in my opinion. I could imagine myself just coming here with a book and getting lost in my own imagination. There are a ton of photo taking opportunities, so when you visit, make sure that your camera’s memory card is free of space because you’ll definitely want to take a lot of photos. I’d highly recommend a visit here.

By the time that we had left the botanical gardens, the sun had just about set. We, however, weren’t done for the day. We decided to make a trip back to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Why? Well, the first time that I was there, I spotted Godzilla’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I failed to take a photo, though, because of the crazy foot traffic. I regretted that decision and was able to convince Michelle to make a stop there once again. And yes, I found Godzilla’s star the second time around and I was sure to get my photo!

For dinner we were both craving some Italian food. Michelle spotted this one restaurant during a previous trip to Melrose Avenue called Osteria La Buca. The Yelp ratings were favorable so we decided to give it a shot and make it our dinner destination. Michelle had the linguini di mare and I went with the tagliatelle bolognese. One thing that’s great about Osteria La Buca is that they make all of their pasta in house. Whenever something is made by hand and from scratch, you can really tell the difference. I enjoyed Osteria La Buca and I imagine that If I lived in the area, I would make this restaurant one of the places that I’d dine at on a regular basis.

Los Angeles Trip Day 1

This is the first of a couple day-by-day updates that I’ll be doing during my trip to Los Angeles. I thought it would be cool to keep you guys up to date on what I’m up to and what tees I’m wearing! If you want to check out the tee that I wore, just click on the orange links.

Day 1 T-Shirt of Choice: Moustardche! by Marcelo Jimenez (Threadless)

The one thing that I love more than T-Shirts is traveling! In my first trip of 2011, both Michelle and I travel 2551 from Honolulu to the movie capital of the world. The flight was relatively short, just 4 hours. We had the red eye, and so we left Honolulu at 10pm and arrived in Lost Angeles at around 5 am. We were both very, very tired. But we had to make the best of the time, since time is of course money!

Our first stop after picking up our rental car was to our hotel to unpack and freshen up! It also gave me a chance to throw on Moustardche! by Marcelo Jimenez. I thought that it was the perfect shirt considering what we were planning to have for lunch (but more on this in a bit). The main reason for the trip was so that Michelle could do some very specific shopping. So after we got her stuff done (which was the first thing that we did), we could start playing tourists and foodies.

Our first taste of Los Angeles was at Wurstküche Restaurant, located in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. Our friend Ade, from Milk & Eggs Co., suggested Wurstküche as THE place to go for hot dogs in LA that isn’t a tourist trap (see Pink’s Hot Dogs). Wurstküche is known for their eclectic collection of sausages. They have rattlesnake, alligator, rabbit, and duck. But don’t worry, they also carry regular sausages as well. But the oridinary dogs are not what we came for. We came for the strange.

Sausage heaven indeed!

I ordered the Duck & Bacon sausage sandwich, while Michelle had the Alligator with Pork & Andouille. My sausage was to die for. Seriously, duck and bacon? How can anything get better than that? I also took a bite of Michelle’s alligator sausage – it had kick and it was good! My mention of Wurstküche would be remiss if I failed to mention their AMAZING belgian fries. These were the best fries ever. So good!

After Wurstküche, we of course had to clean our palate with some desert? Where to go for desert in Los Angeles? How about Sprinkles, the world’s first cupcake bakery. These guys started the cupcake trend. The line to Sprinkles was out the door. We ordered 3 cupcakes: Red Velvet, Banana, and the Black & White. You might remember that during our New York trip, we paid a visit to Butter Lane, as the per the suggestion of our favorite baking buddy, Carlos from Oven Fresh Dreams. I’d have to say that Butter Lane cupcakes dominates those from Sprinkles. Sprinkles cupcakes were very cake-y and dense, whereas the cupcakes at butterlane are a bit more light. Don’t get me wrong, the cupcakes were delicious but I just wish I lived closer to Butter Lane.

As you can see, the Red Velvet supply has been depleted!

OH and since we’re talking Sprinkles, I have to say that we had a crazy time finding this little cupcake bakery! It’ll take some time for me to get used to the LA roads. In getting lost, though, we did find ourselves in Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. All I could think about was that scene in Pretty Woman with Vivian Ward  (Julia Roberts) being snubbed in one of the high end boutique shops!

By this time, both I was 100% exhausted. The constant traffic takes a toll and that small car we rented is a bit cramped for my liking, making the driving experience that much more difficult. So we headed back to our hotel for a quick nap before dinner.

As you can tell, we love to eat. Whereas other people spend time shopping, we spend time finding and eating good food. For dinner, we walked 2 blocks to KOI restaurant. Apparently, a lot of celebrities stop by KOI. We didn’t see anyone of note. So KOI serves Japanese-inspired cuisine, so that means, lot’s of trendy sounding sushi rolls. To start, we had the Rock Shrimp Tempura and the Baked Crab Rolls. The crab rolls, I thought, were a bit of a miss. On the other hand, the Rock Shrimp Tempura was very tasty and delicious – I wanted more! As far as entrees, I had a Kobe style filet mignon that was prepared Topan-Yaki styled. I’m not sure why they say Kobe style because if it’s not Kobe beef, it’s not Kobe beef! It’s just beef. Despite this, the filet mignon was excellent. It’s melted in my mouth like butter. It was delectable and cooked perfectly for my tastes (which by the way is rare-medium).For desert we shared the signature KOI sundae. I’ll let the picture of the Sundae speak for itself!

And that was it for our first day! We ended the night a bit early, but hey, it was our first day and we were both so tired. Here’s looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures!

Land of the Free: Official Threadless TSA Airport Body Scanning T-Shirt

You can always rely on Threadless when it comes to being on top of popular culture, even if it has to do with the newly implemented and controversial TSA airport security guidelines. This shirt seems like it came out of nowhere, I just spotted it a few hours ago on the left sidebar of the Threadless homepage. The T-Shirt was designed by photographer David Vincent Wolf, who, upon closer examination of his Threadless profile just became a member of the popular T-Shirt site less than a week ago.

Interestingly, Gizmodo posted the Land of the Free image seen on the Threadless T-Shirt in a blog post and said:

“Someone should make T-shirts with this image and sell them at airports. With a TSA logo on the back.”

Land of the Free obviously pokes fun at the incredible PR nightmare that is the US Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. Over the last week, there have been countless nightmarish TSA stories that have been spreading online. The stories range from the ability for the new body scanners to save nude photos to the cancer survivor who had a pat down that caused his urostromy (urine) bag to leak and spill all over his pants to the little boy that was stripped and given a pat down.

The stoic image on this T-Shirt sums up this whole messed up situation. Is losing our rights and liberties every time that we travel worth it?

Land of the Free is available now from Threadless for $18.

Image via Gizmodo.

The Empire Strikes Back to the Future

This is one of those parodies that make no sense. No sense at all. The shirt is called The Empire Strikes Back To The Future and other than the fact that both are iconic science fiction movies, I just don’t see the connection between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Marty McFly’s Hover Board and Doc Brown’s DeLorean DMC-12.

BUT it is a good reason for me to share with you an awesome video featuring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, albeit an older and more mature Marty McFly. This video seriously made my day.

The video is a promotional ad for Spike TV’s 2010 Scream Awards, the event that honors the best in Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Comics and Horror. The cast of the famous 80′s time traveling flick will be reuniting at the Scream Awards to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the classic.

Oh, and if you want the shirt you can pick it up from TShirt Laundry for $16.

Via Fashionably Geek.

Beyond Earth: 23 Historic Space Missions

Yesterday, a photo of Beth and Jesse Palma began spreading across the Internet. It’s no ordinary photo since it is a wedding photo, but then again, it’s no ordinary wedding photo. The couple, who incidentally are both employees of NASA, had the opportunity to take a few wedding photos next to the Discovery Space Shuttle. How awesome is that? Pretty damn awesome.

NASA Discovery Wedding Photo

Photo via Red Huber.

Someone should totally gift them both the latest T-Shirt from the Chop Shop. It’s called Beyond Earth and features 23 historic space missions. Something tells me that they’d both appreciate this shirt and probably be able to name each of the 23 space missions referenced on the T-Shirt.

Beyond Earth is available now from Chop Shop for $22 but you can save 15% by using the coupon code “cotygun” at checkout. As a bonus, $5 of each order will be donated to the The Planetary Society. See below for details.

“If you buy a copy we will donate $5 of every purchase to The Planetary Society. The world’s largest space-interest group dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration. A non-governmental organization founded in 1980, who among its founders included Carl Sagan, the author of Cosmos. If you buy a copy with a membership (sorry, US residents only), we will register you as a new member for only an additional $25 (normally $37). See here for what you get as a new member.”

Beyond Earth: 23 Historic Space MIssions

Toronto/New York Trip Day 5

Day 5 T-Shirt of Choice: FFB Raglan by Fur Face Boy

NYC Neighborhoods Visited: Theater District, City Hall, Brooklyn Bridge, Union Square, and TriBeCa.

Today was a big day and long day. We kicked it off by crossing one big and long bridge – the Brooklyn Bridge! Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It is 5,989 feet (1825 m) long and 85 feet (26 m) wide and it connects Manhattan to Brooklyn. This was my second time crossing the bridge so I knew what to expect, but this was Michelle’s first time. I kind of wish that I had timed the length of time it took us to cross the bridge.

49 Street

Brooklyn Bridge

Once we reached Brooklyn, we headed straight for Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. After getting lost for a little bit, we finally found this little pizza gem on Old Fulton St. The establishment has quite a storied history:

“Patsy Grimaldi, the founder of Grimaldi’s, learned to make pizza at his uncle Patsy Lancieri’s pizzeria (trained under pizza patriarch Gennaro Lombardi of Lombardi’s Pizzeria) in 1941 at age ten. He eventually opened his own restaurant, Patsy’s Pizzeria, in Brooklyn. Grimaldi originally planned to build it in Manhattan. However, he believed that coal-fired brick ovens produced the best pizza, and it was illegal to build new coal ovens in Manhattan. As a result, he moved to the current location at South Ferry, Brooklyn.”

We ordered a small pizza with pepperoni, italian sausage and mushrooms. My first bite reminded just how much I loved this place the first time I visited in 2007. Grimaldi’s is awesome and it will be one of those place that I will always visit whenever I visit New York. The crust is perfectly thin, the meats were nice and fresh and spiced perfectly, and the cheese was thick and plentiful. Mouthgasm? Hell yes. The amazing part is that the amount of time it takes to cook a Grimaldi’s pizza in their over 100 year old brick oven is faster than it takes a Pizza Hut to cook a pie in their modern ovens. Whenever I eat pizza, I will think of Grimaldi’s. Grimaldi’s is the real deal. If you want good pizza, you must pay a visit to the mecca of pizza, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.

Grimaldi's

Grimaldi's

Grimaldi's

Once we had our fill of Grimaldi’s, we headed toward Union Square so that Michelle could make a stop at Trader Joe’s. What’s awesome about Union Square is it’s commanding and engaging intersection. People come to union square to relax, sit, people watch, mingle and even play chess. And since it’s surrounded by shops, it’s the perfect place for tourists who want to escape the madness of Times Square.

Saddled by bags of Trader Joe’s nuts, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest. We needed that rest so that we wouldn’t fall asleep during our broadway experience – American Idiot! In factor, American Idiot was the entire reason why we began planning this trip. I am a huge fan of Green Day so I had been dying to see this musical by Billy Joe Armstrong, featuring music from the iconic 2004 Album, American Idiot and select songs from their latest album, 21st Century Breakdown.

The St. James Theater is the home of American Idiot and lucky for us, Hotel Mela is located a measly 3 minute walk away. We left the hotel at 7:30 pm for an 8 pm show and arrived in our seats with ample time to spare and take in the inspiring interior of the St. James Theater. Once the curtains went up, the madness started and it was complete rock and roll for 90 minutes. Non-stop punk and non-stop Green Day for 90 minutes. I loved it. I loved every burning second of this musical. I loved it so much that I want to see it again. The songs came alive right before my eyes and I was in Green Day heaven. Did I say I loved it? I loved it.

American Idiot - St. James Theater

American Idiot - St. James Theater

After waiting around a bit for the stars of the show to meet and greet, we jetted off to TriBeCa to dine at Ninja Restaurant. I had been itching to go there ever since I first heard Dan Trachtenburg and the rest of the Totally Rad Show crew talk about it in one of their past episodes. I was sold when Dan mentioned that Ninjas appear out of nowhere. Awesome.

When you first arrive at the unassuming front door, you are greeted by a host in a small room with an elevator. I don’t want to spoil the experience for those of you planning to pay a vista to Ninja Restaurant, but, I will say that the Totally Rad Show guys swear right – Ninja do appear out of nowhere. Oh, and if given a chance, take the secret yet dangerous path. You’ll love it. Michelle and I found ourselves still talking about it the day after. It was that fun.

Ninja Restaurant

Ninja Restaurant

The food at the Ninja Restaurant was okay compared to the Ninja experience. We had the Four Elements sushi (California roll topped with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and eel) and the Spicy Tuna sushi to start. Being from Hawaii, we know good Sushi – this was just okay sushi. For the main entree, I had the Ninja Paella (orzo pasta with seasweed and miso marinated salmon, short-neck clams and veggies) and Michelle had the Poseidon’s Pot (a pot of mussels and calamari, steamed with white soy sauce and sake). The serving size of my entree was unexpectedly huge. Five large filets of salmon was the main attraction for my entree. The salmon was cooked well, but again, living in Hawaii, I’ve had better fish prepared and cooked much better. Still, the Ninja Restaurant is quite the experience. You’re even treated to a Ninja magic show prior to eating. Neat!

Toronto/New York Trip Day 1 + 2

This is the first of a couple day-by-day updates that I’ll be doing during my trip to Toronto and New York. I thought it would be cool to keep you guys up to date on what I’m up to and what tees I’m wearing! If you want to check out the tee that I wore, just click on the orange links.

Arrival/Day 1 T-Shirt of Choice: Slide To Unlock by Milk and Eggs Co.

Michelle and I began our trip by leaving sunny Honolulu, Hawaii for the first part of our two-destination trip to Toronto, Canada. The total time to get from Honolulu to Toronto was 15 hours, which included a 4 hour stop in Detroit, Michigan. By the time we reached Toronto, we were pooped out from spending nearly a day in the air and at multiple airports.

We reached Toronto’s Pearson International Airport at around 2pm and then caught the subway to our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott Toronto Downtown. It took us about 45 minutes to get from the airport to the Marriott. We didn’t have much down time once we reached the hotel. We unpacked and then got ready for our first experience of Toronto – Jersey Boys, which was playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Jersey Boys - Toronto Centre of the Arts

Jersey Boys Toronto

No photos were allowed in the theater, but here’s an excellent shot from Broadway World.

Jersey Boys - Toronto Centre of the Arts

Jersey Boys is the story of pop sensation Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Not sure who The Four Seasons are? Think of the songs Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You. We made it just in time to eat dinner at Milestones Bar and Grill and catch this limited engagement in Toronto. It costs at least 33% more to see it on Broadway – so we were able to save some bucks! The show was awesome and by the end the cast had a standing ovation.

The show finished at around 10 pm so we decided to check out Yonge-Dundas Square, also known as the Little Times Square of Toronto. This public open space is very much like a miniature Times Square, with its eye-catching billboards, shops and people traffic.

By the time we reached our hotel, we were both completely exhausted. Sleep was definitely needed to rejuvenate ourselves for tomorrow’s big adventure.

Day 2 T-Shirt of Choice: Bodega by Regan Smith Clarke

Today was all about Niagara Falls, but I am getting ahead of myself. First up was breakfast at Mystic Muffin. This Middle Eastern Sandwhich Shop and Bakery is known for their Falafels and Apple Cake. It was a bit too early for me to get Falafels, but I knew that I had to have a taste of the famous Mystic Muffin Apple Cake (take a look at their Yelp page, nearly every reviewer mentions the Apple Cake with high regard). Michelle decided on the Banana Bread. We thought the baked goods were yummy, but were not as blown away as the other Yelp reviewers.

Mystic Muffin

After Mystic Muffin, we made our way to Yonge-Dundas Square to get a taste of it during the daytime. After a few pictures in front of the fountains that emerge from the surface of the southwest corner of the square. After a second visit to the Square, we headed towards CN Tower.

At 553.3 metres (1,815 ft) tall, CN Tower is the world’s 3rd tallest free-standing structure. This signature icon of Toronto’s skyline is known for the view from its observation deck and its glass floor. According to Wikipedia, the glass floor has an area of 24 square metres (258 sq ft) and can withstand a pressure of 4,100 kilopascals (595 psi). I didn’t hesitate to get on the glass, but once I was on it, I became very nervous. I think I might have even experienced a slight bout of acrophobia (fear of heights). I found myself freezing in place and I could feel my palms get very sweaty. Michelle had no problem on the glass floors. I observed one kid have a nervous breakdown after crawling his way off of the floor. Unfortunately, it was bait cloudy, so we decided not to pay extra to go up to the Sky Pod portion of the tower. They say that on a clear day, you can see Niagara Falls and even New York.

CN Tower - Glass Floors

CN Tower

I couldn’t get a good photo of CN Tower because it was rather cloudy, but here’s a nice one by Flickr user SanGatiche.

After the Tower, we made a quick stop at Nathan Phillips Square and Toronto City Hall and then we both jetted back to the hotel – we had a 12:35 pm tour bus to Niagara Falls to catch! This comprehensive 12 hour tour including stops at Pillitteri Estate Winery for some wine tasting. I didn’t know this, but the Niagara area is also well known for their wineries. I had a taste of their award winning ice wine and I have to say that it was probably the sweetest wine that I’ve ever tasted. It was very good. A glass of the ice wine normally goes for 30-40 bucks, so we were lucky to taste a glass for just $2 – so worth it!

Following Pillitteri Winery, we drove through Niagara on the Lake, a quaint little town known for giving many black Americans their first taste of freedom. The town is also known for its Victorian style homes, gardens, art galleries, and antique shops. We also stopped by the Niagara Floral Clock, very large outdoor clock that features an extraordinary floral showpiece.

Niagara Falls was the main destination of the day, and we had finally made it to the falls. From a distance, Niagara Falls is very impressive. Up close, it is unbelievable and awe-inspiring. We took the Maid of the Mist bout tour and was able to get very close to both the American side of the falls and the Canadian side of the falls. The Canadian side of the falls trumps the American side in both size and sheer power. The boat to the Canadian side of the falls was like entering a rain storm, the mist was that powerful. It’s a good thing that they provided us with ponchos! Niagara Falls is definitely a must visit if you are even in the Toronto area. It will blow your mind!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

After the boat tour of the falls, we had a group dinner at the Fallsview Restaurant at the top of the Sheraton. After the buffet dinner, we explored Fallsview. The mix of bright lights, restaurants, hotels and casinos make this side of the Niagara look like a miniature version of Las Vegas.

Since it was a Friday, we decided to wait for the fireworks show at 10 pm. To burn the time, we checked out the Niagara Whirlpool. Where the Niagara River makes a 90 degree turn, a level 6 rapids whirlpool is formed. Pretty insane.

And finally, the fireworks show made for an excellent end to our Niagara Falls experience. The trip back took about 1.5 hours and by the time we reached our hotel it was already 12 am! And with that, our short visit to Toronto came to an end. Our flight to New York leaves early tomorrow morning and I am excited for the Big Apple adventures ahead, but I am also sleep deprived. Maybe I’ll be able to get some sleep on the plane, I hope.

10 Essential Tips For The Traveling Blogger

Traveling does not have to hinder your blogging. Instead, you can use this time as an opportunity to engage and interact with your community even more. There are many tools available to you and with the prolification of wifi hotspots in major cities, getting on the web while on the road is as easy as ever. Your next vacation might be just what your blog needed.

Disclaimer: I’m a very Mac-centric kind of guy and because of these you’ll notice that a few of my tips make use of making use of the iPhone. I’m sure the same tips would also apply for any other smartphone, such as an Android, Palm Pre or BlackBerry.

10 Essential Tips For The Traveling Blogger

1. Use location based social networks to keep track of where you’ve been.

I’ve been using Gowalla for a few months now and just started using Foursquare at the beginning of my last trip. Both of these location based social networks allow you to “check-in” and ultimately track where you’ve visited during your trip. In my opinion, Foursquare is the better option of the two and I will tell you why.

The great thing about Foursquare is that often times special deals will appear when you check-in to certain places. For instance, after I checked-in at a small cafe on Powell Street in San Francisco during my last trip, a little icon popped up on my screeen mentioning that another establishment nearby had a special deal waiting for me if i checked in there as well. Gowalla recently announced that it has partnered with the likes of Adobe and Chipotle to hand out special offers, but why wait, take advantage of what Foursquare has to offer now.

Here’s another example: When we did the Napa Valley Wine Train, I was awarded with a physcial voucher for eight free glasses of wine on board the wine tasting train. The “mayor” of the wine train, who was there at the time, actually greeted me and handed me a voucher. How awesome is that? Pretty awesome, I think.

  • Use Foursquare to keep track of where you’ve been (because you know you’ll blog about it later) and to score some awesome deals.

2. Use Google Docs To Store Your Itinerary.

Google Docs is a life saver. Why? Because even when your laptop is not available, your documents still are (give that you’ve got a computer with Internet access available). That’s the beauty of cloud computing. Even when you need to rely on the dreaded hotel computer running some argaic version of Windows, you’ll still be able to access your itinerary by simply logging into Google Docs.

  • Keep your travel itinerary safely stored in Google Docs.

3. Bring An Extra Media Card.

This tip is a no brainer. I always bring along an extra media card for whatever camera I am using. I typically take enough pictures during the day to fill my memory card up to the max. To make room for the next day of photo filled sightseeing, I upload my photos to my Mac.

But what if I forget to upload my photos before I leave the hotel? The last thing you want is to have to spend time flipping through your photos on your camera trying to decide which ones to delete just so you can take even more photos. Have an extra media card ready and this will be a non-issue.

  • Bring an extra media card just in case you forget to upload the photos from your camera.

4. The iPhone Makes For The Perfect Travel Companion.

The built in GPS on the iPhone and the plethora of apps make it a powerful travelling companion. Lost? Use Maps on the iPhone to help you find your way to your destination.

For instance, during my 2008 visit to San Francisco, despite having pre-printed Google directions, road changes and sign removals ultimately caused me to get lost in the middle of wine country. The solution? We found a Wal-Mart that was nearby, used the GPS in the iPhone to track our location, and then input the address of our destination. The iPhone got us out of that little pickle in no time.

  • The built in GPS on the iPhone makes getting lost a thing of the past.

5. Yelp Can Be Very Handy.

Bloggers need to eat. And for those times when you need to deviate from your itinerary, the Yelp app is a real lifesaver. We spent an afternoon during our most recent trip to San Francisco exploring the Mission District. And although we had planned to eat at a certain restaurant beforehand, it unexpectedly closed just as we arrived there.

With the Yelp app for the iPhone, we were able to find our location and got suggestions as to what other places around the area were highly recommended by other Yelp users.

And if you blog about food, Yelp comes in handy since you can draft a review of you experience right into the app itself. Neat!

  • Use Yelp for times when you need to deviate from your itinerary or when you’re feeling spontaneous.
  • Draft reviews of your experience directly within the Yelp app.

6. Use Notes and Voice Memos To Capture Ideas On The Go.

When it comes to capturing a passing thought in your head, you don’t need a fancy app. The apps you really need come built right into the iPhone. I recommend both Notes or Voice Memos to document any ideas you have while on the go.

Most of this post was written on my iPhone using notepad (and then edited later in my browser) while I waited for the Urban Outfitters on Powell St. to open. I was killing time before my shuttle was scheduled to pick me up and drop me to the airport. The idea for this post came to my head and so I started typing, errr, tapping away.

  • Capture passing thoughts, ideas or concepts using Notes or Voice Memos on the iPhone.

7. Make Sure Your Hotel Offers Some Form of Free Internet.

If you’re a blogger then you live and breathe the Internet. It might be practical to find a hotel with free Internet access. You’ll often have to pay to use the internet from the comfort of your room but a hotel that has free wifi access in the lobby makes life that much easier (and cheaper).

  • When booking your hotel, search for ones that provide free Internet access.

8. Backup While On The Go.

We all know tht we should back up our most important files (and probably even the not so important ones). Sometimes, uploading your travel photos to iPhoto is not enough. After all, hard drives do fail. An easy backup solution is to use Flickr to upload your full-sized and high resolution files.

If you plan on uploading a lot of photos to Flickr then I recommend that you invest in a pro account. Regular Flickr accounts limit you to 200 “viewable” photo uploads. Worried about other people viewing your more raunchy travel photos? Set your privacy to private and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Alternatively, you could use cloud backup services like the Mozy Unlimited Backup and Backblaze to back up your stuff on the fly whenever you have Internet access on your computer.

  • If you have a Flickr Pro account then use it to back up your travel photos.
  • If you rather keep your previous travel photos private then set your privacy setting accordingly.

9. Don’t Let Your Blog Go Postless.

The savvy traveling blogger does not let his/her blog go postless for the duration of their vacation. That would be a mean thing to do to your dedicated readers! Have a few posts prepared and have them autopost while you’re gone. You can do this easily in WordPress by changing the date of post. I recommend at least one autopost a day, especially during weekdays.

  • Prevent a blog dry spell during your vacation by preparing a few posts beforehand and having them set to autopost.

10. Keep Your Community Involved While You’re Gone.

To do this, I use a combination of Twitter and Foursquare/Gowalla. Keep your community in the loop and they’ll feel like they’re on vacation with you.You might also receive a few vacation tips from locals or tweeps who have lived in the area you are visiting.

Also, you can automate your WordPress blog so that it sends out a tweet each time one of your automated posts are published. With this set up, it’s like you’re not even gone.

  • Use a combination of Twitter and location based social networks to keep your community involved while you’re gone.
  • Twitter Tools will allow full integration between your WordPress blog and Twitter.

I’d love to hear what tips you have when it comes to blogging on the go! Leave a comment below in the comments section and let me know!

If you enjoyed this post then please, please, please, tell you’re friends about it! A simple Tweet or post on your Facebook page will help to get the word out, and a link back on your blog would be greatly appreciated!

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Philadelphia/San Francisco Day 8 + 9

Day 8 T-Shirt of Choice: Hello by Buddy Carr and New York based graphic designer Antonio Caruson

Our last full day in San Francisco was unintentionally the day that we did the most of our shopping. We decided to check out a few parts of the City by the Bay that we hadn’t seen before. This meant a trip to Japantown, South of Market (SOMA) and the Mission District. We started the day off with a visit to Japantown, which ended up being a great time. This area of San Francisco, which is located about 15 minutes from Union Square, is home to scores of Japanese shops and restaurants.

Japantown San Francisco

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Instead of a big breakfast, we decided to pick up some pastries from Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop, a Japanese family-run bakery in the heart of Japantown. Everything in this very small bakery looked so good, but we both decided on the Chocolate and Strawberry Roll. And let me tell you, this was probably the most delicious piece of pastry that I’ve had in a very long time. The roll itself was very soft but the strawberry filling tasted like strawberry ice cream. I wish I could have tried more pastries from Yasukochi’s, but alas, there’s always next time. Make Yasukochi’s a must stop if you ever find yourself in San Francisco.

Japantown had so many little shops to offer. Michelle spent a considerable amount of time in the largest Sanrio store that I’ve ever seen. Talk about Hello Kitty overload. I’ve never been in a room with more pink in my entire life. Wow.

Japantown Red Bean Fish Pastry

While Michelle indulged in her shopping, I decided to stop by a little food stand called May’s Coffee Shop. They specialize in these little fish-shaped pastries that are filled with sweet red beans. I picked up one of those as well as a spam musubi. It almost felt like I was back in Hawaii (spam musubis are huge in Hawaii). And for the uninitiated, spam musubis is a rectangular block of rice topped with a slice of spam and wrapped in nori (seaweed). The red bean pastry was good, the musubi was ok, but more interesting than that, I was sitting next to the owner of May’s Coffee Shop. I struck up a conversation with this 75ish looking Japanese lady and she mentioned to me that she had just returned from vacationing in Hawaii. How neat!

Nippon-Ya is a great place to pick up Japanese candies and mochi. I picked up a box of strawberry and chocolate mochi as well as a box of banana and chocolate mochi. I can’t wait to try them!

Nipon-Ya

PikaPika

The most exciting part of our journey to Japantown was the experience known as PikaPika. PikaPika is a shop filled with tons of Japanese photo booths. And we are talking authentic Japanese photo booths that speak to you in Japanese! Luckily, they provide English directions on these large cardboard slabs. What makes the PikaPika fun is that it’s timed so you have to move quickly when figuring out your different poses. Some booths also have monkey bars for those who want to try out some outrageous poses! Once you’ve taken all of your photos, you can then design them with borders and different designs. Apparently, these photo booths are all the rage in Japan. It was a super fun experience!

After Japantown, we headed toward the area of San Francisco known as SOMA, which is short for South of Market Street. Our main mission in SOMA was to stop by the Gama-Go store. T-Shirt fans will probably be familiar with Gama-Go. They are an independent T-Shirt brand based out of San Francisco. I’ll give Gama-Go their own post here on the blog with photos taken at the shop, so, be on the lookout for that.

Game-Go

Things got interesting when we left SOMA for the Mission District of San Francisco. The Mission District has a very large Latino population, so much so, that it caught us a little bit by surprise. We had planned to stop by a restaurant known as The Sandwich Place for lunch, but unfortunately they had just closed for the day. So, we decided to go straight to our next stop on the day’s itinerary which was Goldilocks Bakery, a bakery deep in the Mission District. Michelle ended up buying an insane amount of Filipino pastries to take home for her mom.

We wrapped up the afternoon by eating lunch in a Chinese hole in the wall across the street from the Goldilocks Bakery. It was called Chop Sticks Fast Food Restaurant. Chinese Fast Food Restaurant. We ended up there after we saw that it had a very high ranking on Yelp. It was a one man run pit stop for very cheap Chinese food. In this case, cheap also meant very good Chinese food. We each got large plates for $4 a piece. How insane is that?

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up, we decided to catch a movie at the Westfield Mall, which was conveniently located across our hotel on Market Street. We saw the new Ben Stiller flick, Greenberg. It was an odd little indie type flick. I enjoyed it; Michelle, not so much.

For dinner we stopped by Cafe Bellini on Powell Street for some pasta. I had the spaghetti with meatballs and Michelle had the penne pesto pasta. The food was ok and we were just happy to find something open for dinner that late in the night.

Day 9 T-Shirt of Choice: I Am The Walrus and Striking Zip Up Hoodie by Fuzzy Ink (not a T-Shirt, I know, but it is made by a popular indie designer who we’ve featured on this site many times before).

And so the journey back home begins. But not just yet. We still had a few hours left in lovely San Francisco so we decided to make the most of it. We had breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast spots in the city, Sear’s Fine Foods. If you watch either the Travel Channel or the Food Channel then chances are that you’re familiar with Sear’s. The thing to get at Sear’s is their World Famous 18 Swedish Pancakes. We of course ordered that as well as the usual breakfast fare of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.

Sear's Fine Food

After breakfast we crossed the street to Union Square–home to the famous San Francisco Hearts. These large heart structures can be found throughout the city, but the ones in Union Square are definitely the most famous. “Hearts in San Francisco began in 2004 as a fundraiser for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. Like the famous painted cows, the painted hearts, created from uniform molds and painted by individual artists, decorate the city in areas like Union Square, until they are auctioned off at a benefit for the charity. New hearts are unveiled each year.”

San Francisco Heart

And with that final sightseeing session, our vacation was officially over. As we prepared for the daunting 8 hour trip back home, we reflected a bit about the last 9 days. We both realized that we genuinely loved the city of San Francisco. We also both realized that we absolutely hated flights that involve stop-overs. Philadelphia undoubtedly has some of the best eating spots on the planet. San Francisco’s eclectic and diverse culture never gets old.

We both began brainstorming ideas for our next trip, and the one after that. One thing is for sure, we both love traveling and food. And the best way to experience one or the other is to do them both at the same time. I could have a cheesesteak anywhere in the world, but it would never be as good as a cheesesteak eaten in the heart of south Philadelphia. I look forward to my next trip, wherever that may be. I just hope that it is as good as this one has been, filled with just as many memories, and involves lots and lots of great food.

And here’s a little video slideshow for you to enjoy!

Philadelphia/San Francisco Day 5 + 6

Day 5 T-Shirt of Choice: Robocopper by Olly Moss

Wednesday coast-to-coast travel. From the east coast to the west coast, we made our way from the City of Brotherly Love to the City by the Bay. But before spending 6 hours in the sky and about 3 in airports, we were sure to get a good and hearty breakfast. We decided on the Morning Glory Diner, suggested by fellow tee blogger and traveler extraordinaire, Andy Bowness of Hide Your Arms. Michelle went with the Glory Cakes: three pancakes served with real maple syrup and I had the Foccacia Breakfast Sandwich with a fried egg and cheese served with potatoes. I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast, but Michelle was a bit more reserved when it came to her pancakes – she thought Sabrina’s was a better breakfast spot!

After breakfast, we walked about two blocks down to Isgro’s Patries. Yes, we were there a few days earlier, but, we were both amazed by the baked goodies that we took home prior that we needed to go and grab some more delicious delectables for the long flight to San Francisco. We bought a bag full of assorted cookies – so soft and delicious and perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Once we found our way back to the Loews Hotel, we quickly grabbed our things and caught a taxi to Philadelphia International Airport. Security was quick and in no time we were waiting to board our plane to Las Vegas en route to San Francisco. We had about a 2 hour stop at Las Vegas’ McCarren Airport and then we boarded our flight to San Francisco – yes, finally!

We arrived at our hotel, the Parc 55, at about 6:30 pm but had to quickly get ready for 8 pm reservations at the very swank Masa’s on Bush Street in San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Masa’s offers a set menu of French cuisine. They offer 3 course, 5 course and 9 course options. I went with the 5 course and Michelle settled on the 3 course. My 5 course menu consisted of a potato confit to start, Japanese sea bass topped with caviar, Sautéed Breast of Paine Farms Squab (with peppercorn glazed d’anjou pears, melted brussels sprouts, “confit” leg, and squab sauce), Herb Roasted Double Chop of Australian Lamb (with melted japanese eggplant, chickpea cake, baby artichokes, and lamb jus), and a platter of in-house chocolates.

Overall, I enjoyed Masa’s. It is fine dining, so expect to spend around $250 for a party of two (if both get the 5 course menu) or up to $500+ of you decide on the 9 course menu. The ambiance was classy, the waiters were very nice, friendly and not high-browed at all. Masa’s is definitely an “event” type restaurant. Go there for an anniversary or birthday with that special someone and it will definitely be an experience to remember.

[Sorry for the lack of Day 5 photos.]

Day 6 T-Shirt of Choice: Phenom Polo by Electric Zombie (not a T-Shirt, I know, but it is made by a popular indie designer who we’ve featured on this site many times before).

This being our second visit to San Francisco (see 2008 recaps), we searched for breakfast spots that we had missed out on the first time around. This search led us to Mama’s on Washington Square. When we got to the popular breakfast spot at 10:30 am, the line had already wrapped around the building. We didn’t get inside until about 11:30 am. That’s a one hour wait in line! But let me tell you, it was well worth it. I ordered the Mama’s French Toast Sampler plate and I was not disappointed. It was a nice, refreshing change from my usual eggs, meat and potato choice. The sampler plate consisted of Swedish Cinnamon, Banana Nut, and Kugelhopf (House Baked Brioche Bread with Golden Raisins, Cinnamon, Dates, and Sliced Almonds). Mama’s french toast was a fruity mouthgasm – so good!

Mama's on Washington Square

After breakfast we caught the MUNI to Coit Tower, which was was built in Pioneer Park atop Telegraph Hill in 1933 at the bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to beautify the City of San Francisco. It cost 5 bucks to get to the top, but once you do get to the top of the tower, you get a nice view of the city. You can even see the famed “crookedest street in the world” Lombard Street from afar.

Coit Tower

We then caught the MUNI yet again to The Haight, which includes the famous intersection, Haight and Ashbury. The area features a bohemian ambiance and has a thriving center of independent local businesses. Being a T-Shirt fan, I had to stop by Kid Robot and Ashbury T-Shirts. I did more window shopping then I did actual shopping, though, we did stop by a little crepe shop and picked up two nutella and banana crepes.

Haight and Ashbury

Haight and Ashbury

Nutella and Banana Crepe

Once we finished checking out the eclectic scene at The Haight, we walked down towards Alamo Square. If you grew up in the 80′s, then you’re familiar with Alamo Square and probably don’t even know it. Alamo Square is the park that is heavily featured in the opening sequence of the hit ABC show, Full House. It also faces the Full House “House,” which is actually part of a well known row of homes known as the Painted Ladies.

Alamo Square / Painted Ladies / Full House

After a long day of walking and jumping on and off the MUNI, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up before dinner. I should note that if you do visit San Francisco, it is totally worth it to purchase a MUNI Passport. We bought the 3-day pass for $20 and got our money’s worth within our first day of using the pass. Pick up your MUNI pass in the MUNI kiosk in Union Square.

Since we were entirely pooped after a long day of journeying the streets of San Francisco, we opted for an easy dinner. Easy meaning that we walked just a few blocks up Powell Street to Lori’s Diner for some burgers and fries (me) and steak (Michelle). The last time we visited San Francisco, we had a late night meal at a Lori’s Diner that is located on the opposite end of Powell near our old hotel, The Orchard. The burger wasn’t as good as I had remembered it being, though. I think my memory of the previous burger might have been clouded due to the hunger I had been experiencing at the time of consumption.

Lori's Diner

[Check Back for Day 5 Video]