Fraunces Tavern, My New Favorite NYC Bar

After my weekend with the girls, the next stop on my journey was to visit a few more friends in New York. One, who knows me too well, was dying to take me to Fraunces Tavern for drinks, or food, or whatever, but mostly for the design of the place.
DSCN5592 What a cool place this was! From the moment we walked in, my eyes wandered up, down, all around, admiring the way they combined modern and antique elements to create an environment that truly moulds your experience here.DSCN5576 Their sunken dining room (The Tallmadge Room) at the front of the building featured creative re-use of church pews as dining seating. To me this is so much cooler than a booth, and would be a fun dining experience with a group of friends.DSCN5577

They had a huge whiskey menu (which my hubby was surely jealous of) that went lost on me. But I’m sure if I were a whiskey drinker, I would have loved to settle in at their Dingle Whiskey Bar.

DSCN5578 The main bar (The Porterhouse Tavern) was very rustic feeling, my favorite element of which was the cowhide banquette seating throughout.DSCN5579 DSCN5583

Glass shelving filled with bottles made for unique dividers to separate one banquette seating area from the next, creating a more intimate experience.DSCN5590I wish I could have walked the tavern with one of the designers so I could have asked where this bar came from! It looked like an antique, salvaged piece from somewhere. I guess I’ll never know.DSCN5585 DSCN5586 Behind the main bar, I kept wandering and discovered what a maze the place is! Around every corner there seemed to be one more cool room. This is the Chef’s Table, set in a wine cellar-esque setting.DSCN5580 Beyond that I found the Speakeasy, which was unoccupied but still looked like a great setting for a few beers on a Friday night.DSCN5582 And lastly, the Bissell Room. Even though this dining room felt quite a bit more formal than the other spaces, it would none the less be a comfortable place to sit down and stay awhile for a leisurely meal and a few cocktails.DSCN5581Which is your favorite room?

Fall Time on the Farm

After a couple days in New York City, I had some time to go up to Rhode Island to spend some time with my best friend. Since we don’t have much of a fall in Los Angeles, it was such a treat to get a little taste of the crisp air and changing colors of an East coast Autumn. And nothing says fall time like apple cider, pumpkins, and a corn maze! So we took a trip to her aunt’s and uncle’s farm.

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DSCN3861They don’t have many animals on this farm, but we were sure to say hello to the donkey and the llama that live by the barn.
DSCN3859 DSCN3855 Every fall they sell Indian corn, gourds, pumpkins, and apples.

DSCN3837DSCN3842 DSCN3844All their maple syrup is home made, and they’ve even posted instructions on how it’s done for any curious eyes.
DSCN3848 DSCN3845 Heated only by this stove (which was really quite warm), the inside is lined with all sorts of antique farm goodies, including a collection of old tractor seats.DSCN3849

DSCN3847The best antique of all is this massive antique cider press, which they use to press fresh cider every year. We missed the last pressing by only a couple of days, but I still got to enjoy some cider and it was delicious! Fresh, perfect apples in liquid form. No added water or sugar or anything else, just pure perfection in a bottle.
DSCN3813 DSCN3812 Next we headed past a small field of sunflowers for a walk through the corn maze, which they create every year. All are welcome, kids and adults alike.DSCN3814 DSCN3815 DSCN3817 DSCN3819 Each intersection was marked with a fun, educational fact about farming and some of the critters who might live on a farm.DSCN3821 DSCN3820 In the center of the maze, we came across this giant, friendly hay-spider.DSCN3825 When you exit the other side of the maze, you are left right in the middle of a pick-your-own-pumpkin patch. If I hadn’t had a flight ahead of me, I certainly would have loved to bring some home and carve them into wonderful jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. DSCN3832 DSCN3833As we left the farm, I tried to imagine what it might be like to run such a place. Undoubtedly it is a tremendous amount of work, but how I would love to spend my fall days surrounded by pumpkins, cider, and maple syrup!

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DSCN3829Happy Autumn, everyone!

What’s your favorite part about this time of year?

A Walk Through Central Park

Last week I mentioned my trip to New York City, and this week I thought I’d share some of that trip with you. Most of my time in New York was spent celebrating the union of two dear friends, but a few of us still made time to see some of the sights. I’ve been to New York a few times before, but had always spent my sightseeing excursions going to museums, dining with friends, and doing a little shopping here and there. So this time I made sure to spend some time in Central Park.

The weather there was really quite perfect, so it was a great fall weekend to spend a little time strolling through this amazing park.

DSCN3665 There are some fantastic roads and bike paths all throughout the park, and we saw lots of joggers and bicyclists taking advantage of the beautiful day.DSCN3702This is the mall, which has appeared in many a movie and tv show throughout the years, and being there I could see why. It’s a wonderfully romantic place, covered with a canopy of trees and with plenty of benches to sit and read, take a rest during your walk, or just breath in the fresh air. This place feels very far away from the bustling big city surrounding it.
DSCN3668 DSCN3671 The trees weren’t changing to autumn colors as much as I had hoped, but every once in a while there was one like this to remind me that those fall colors are indeed right around the corner.DSCN3673 At the end of the mall, the Bethesda Fountain almost seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There was lots of activity here, some people just passing through, others enjoying the fountain or taking pictures.DSCN3677 DSCN3684 I love the views from inside the park. There’s something magical about seeing the skyscrapers of New York watching over the park.DSCN3687We came across several refreshing ponds, where life thrived all around them.

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DSCN3686 Since it was right before Halloween, there was even a pumpkin patch right in the middle of the park.DSCN3692 We made sure to visit Strawberry Fields, where dozens of people were gathered to pay tribute to John Lennon. I imagine it is this crowded, or more, all the time. It really says something about the influence the Beatles continue to have, even now.DSCN3696 DSCN3693 DSCN3694I loved coming across this bridge, Oak Bridge.
DSCN3703And I loved the view from the bridge even more.
DSCN3704 And of course, we had to pay a visit to Belvedere Castle, which provides the highest point from which to view the park from within. (Incidentally, it’s also the point from which the national weather service monitors the temperatures for the city.)DSCN3716 See, look at that view!DSCN3708Central Park is huge, and we really only explored the lower half of it. I hope to explore the rest next time I’m in the city.

Do you have a favorite spot in Central Park?

This Week I Loved…

Reliving our hot air balloon ride in Turkey.Cappadocia096A bill-free day of mail.
1092076_10100582355317315_1430268217_oMy first big install with the designers at work, and these awesome pillows I found for it.1237758_10100586898432875_372879956_o Turquoise and Rose-Violet.1021023_10100582714098315_1416184951_o This week’s Color Theory class project using 6 random colors and abstract shapes of our choice.

1070135_10100583045778625_49520087_oAnd rewatching The Great Gatsby.

Like a Dream: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

Well folks, this is my last post on our epic summer vacation. I will leave you with few words, just a photo essay of sorts. During our short stay in the village of Uchisar, we made time for an incredible hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. There were about 40 other balloons in the air with us, and I have to say it was dreamlike. I have been on one hot air balloon ride before, but I had never seen such beautiful sights as these. So here I’ll leave you with my favorite photos from our time floating over Turkey. Enjoy!

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getting ready for take-off

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lifting off, another balloon just like ours

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beginning our journey

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looking up

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“fairy chimneys” in the valley below

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more fairy chimneys, and some cave houses

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the horizon as the sun rises

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local farms below

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a small farm in Love Valley

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the sun makes its way over the horizon

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a parade of balloons make their way through Love Valley

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lifting upward out of Love Valley

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picturesque clouds beyond the balloons

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golden and green farms below

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drifting up higher

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sweeping landscape below

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natural formations and plenty of vegetation

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balloons silhouetted by the sunrise

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gliding along with our companion balloons

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one of the tallest mountains in Turkey

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pretty high up now, with a great view of the other balloons surrounding us

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gorgeous greenery in the valley

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happy

Delicious Foods of Turkey

As I’m wrapping up the last of my posts on our trip to Turkey, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to talk about some of the delicious foods we had there. Some of the most phenomenal bites to eat were also the simplest ones! On our first day, as we were beginning to get a lay of the land in Istanbul, we started getting hungry right as we were in an area where few restaurants could be seen. Well, that turned out to be lucky for us! We came across this guy making fish sandwiches.Istanbul072 He was positioned right outside of this boat which functioned as his restaurant.Istanbul073 It was a super simple meal. Just fish, tomatoes, onions, and peppers on a bun. and only for the equivalent of about $3 each. So delicious! It was a great introduction to sea food in Istanbul.Istanbul075 Istanbul076 Later on in the trip, we had gotten a recommendation from a local to visit this restaurant. We walked through a lesser traveled part of town and around a couple of corners before arriving here. Little did we know this would be one of the best meals of our lives!Istanbul411 We were first greeted by these guys before being sat by a host.Istanbul410 Calamari…Istanbul403 Sea bass…Istanbul404 And fried goat fish. Everything was simply prepared, and seriously the best seafood I’ve ever had. (And don’t you worry, we made plenty of jokes about the anecdotal goatfish!)Istanbul405

We had so much fun joking around with the server, that he brought us 3 of these desserts on the house! Turkish ice cream (which tasted not unlike gelato) on top of dried apricots in a sweet syrupy sauce, and sprinkled over top with nuts. I will dream about this dessert until I am one day able to taste it again.Istanbul406 On our last night in Istanbul, we were on a hunt for doner kebab and came across this place. It turns out, this chef is quite renowned! I had to include this photo, because my foodie-husband was so excited that the chef let him into the kitchen to shave off some meat. When he came out from behind the counter, he noticed a few of his arm hairs had been burned off from the heat! And the chef stands here in front of the fire and does this all day, every day… can you imagine?

Istanbul640In search of beverage to go with our doner kebab, we came across this wonderful little wine and cheese shop in the basement of an old apartment building near Galata Tower. They of course had a huge selection of Turkish wines and cheeses, and we happily picked up a bottle of wine to go with dinner.Istanbul643 Istanbul644The morning we left Istanbul to head to Central Turkey, we had time for a leisurely breakfast at this delightful cafe.
Istanbul670 It was here that we had our first full traditional Turkish breakfast. It’s a huge spread of olives, tomato and cucumber salad, cheeses, breads, jams, eggs, coffee and tea. It was the perfect send off from our time in the city.Istanbul665 While our time in Cappadocia was short, and most of our meals were on-the-go, we had one last big celebratory meal with our friends and travel companions in the town of Uchisar. We started with cocktails in this lounge, which I absolutely loved the design of. It was a combination of modern, vintage, and traditional Turkish elements, and felt super comfortable, like a place you could easily spend hours in.Cappadocia423 Cappadocia418 Then we headed downstairs to the restaurant for a rich, delicious meal.Cappadocia451 These were pheasant samosas, and really didn’t need the sauces they came with at all.Cappadocia441 Then some grilled haloumi cheese on a salad.Cappadocia442 And a zucchini salad.Cappadocia444And finally the main course, for me it was a dish of hand-made pasta with lamb meat and a yogurt sauce. So rich and comforting.
Cappadocia447 We just didn’t want the night to end, so we extended the night a little longer with dessert in their cigar bar.Cappadocia472As is tradition in Turkey, every meal ended with a Turkish tea to help digestion. So I will let you finish this visual meal with a Turkish tea as well.Istanbul493Everything we ate in Turkey was so delicious, we’ve already begun searching the LA area for substitutes. We’ve found a great place for traditional Turkish breakfast, and are on the search for more.

What Turkish bite would you most like to taste?

This Week I Loved…

This delicious summer snack.snack Drinks with friends at The Griffin, or as we fondly like to call it, the Gryffindor Common Room.Griffin Remembering these old men from Uchisar.Cappadocia409 Finishing my Color Theory midterm project.ColorMidterm My work in prgress, modeling Mies van de Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion for a class.BarcelonaModel

Also, I have recently gotten hooked on Sons of Anarchy, and this totally made my day!

A Peaceful Cave Village in Cappadocia, Central Turkey

What can I say really, except that Cappadocia is a magical place. After spending some time in Istanbul, we relocated our journey to Uchisar, a small town in Central Turkey. It was an incredibly quiet, peaceful place after having been in a big, crowded city. Cappadocia is best known for it’s cave homes and underground cities. (Oh, and for hot air ballooning… that post is coming up soon!) Some of the caves are still people’s homes, while others have been converted into hotels and bed & breakfasts for visitors. Cappadocia333 We were lucky enough to secure a cave bed & breakfast called Taka Ev. The owner was always there to help, made every arrangement for us from airport transportation, to our rental car. We had such an amazing time staying there!Cappadocia297 Our room was set back into the mountain just past this sitting area.Cappadocia006 Cappadocia007 Cappadocia008 And it was indeed a cave! Some of it had been renovated to be certain. But the seemingly random hole in the wall to the left of the bed… well, that was once used for crushing grapes to make wine!Cappadocia001 Cappadocia003 Cappadocia004 The town was a combination of caves, homes and business that partially used caves, and structures that were built on the mountain (rather than in it). They used materials that blended seamlessly into the mountain and surrounding landscape.
Cappadocia134 Cappadocia136 Cappadocia137 Cappadocia138It seemed that every hill was speckled with caves that had been dug out hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And many of them were easy to access. You could just walk right into one and check it out. Sometimes you could even clearly see the distinction between a living room, a room for cooking, and a room for sleeping, really not at all unlike a small suburban house.Cappadocia293 Cappadocia159 Cappadocia160 Cappadocia162 Cappadocia168 Cappadocia169Nearby in a town called Goreme (a little more highly traveled by out-of-towners) we went into their open air museum, where they had some incredibly elaborate, almost high-rise style cave structures to wander through.Cappadocia248 Cappadocia234 Cappadocia252 Cappadocia255 The most incredible thing about the open air museum was that there were several ancient Christian sanctuaries with these unbelievable frescos painted from floor to ceiling. We got in trouble for taking these pictures, but I had to include them… and trust me, these weren’t even the most amazing ones there! The columns were perfectly carved and the colors were so vibrant. There was one sanctuary (no pictures, sorry) that actually had the only known depiction of Jesus as a teenager!Cappadocia240 Cappadocia247 Cappadocia246 We made sure to do some hiking through Love Valley. Some of the vegetation reminded me of California in the summer. This farmer had a business set up, off the main road and out of sight. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you hiked by like we did!Cappadocia189 Cappadocia202 Cappadocia230 See why it’s called Love Valley? No I’m not joking, that really is why it’s called Love Valley.Cappadocia195 We also did a little hiking through the valley just below Uchisar. There is a footpath that connects all of the towns in the nearby area, so you can easily walk from Uchisar to Goreme and beyond.Cappadocia353 All along this path we came across small local farms. Everything seemed to grow without effort, and we only ever saw one person, or maybe two (usually an old couple) tending to the farms.Cappadocia361 Cappadocia364 There is actually a small wine industry in the area as well, and they really were good wines! Any vineyard we passed by seemed tiny, but thriving.Cappadocia378 In some areas they had even gone so far as to terrace up the hill to make more space.Cappadocia379 Cappadocia167 We spent some time wandering through the “downtown” if you can even call it that. Yes, we did indeed bring home a Turkish rug, and it came from this shop. The owner was such a friendly guy and had grown up in the area. He had this incredible collection of keys. There must have been hundreds of them!Cappadocia323 Cappadocia328 Cappadocia324 We loved coming across this group of men hanging out on a bench in the middle of town. They were happy to pose for us, and I like to imagine they’ve been friends since they were kids. Who knows, but don’t they look like it?Cappadocia409 Looking at these photos again, it’s surreal to think we were ever there. Admittedly we didn’t do as much site seeing as maybe we should have, but we were all so relaxed and felt so peaceful there. It felt natural to just rest, wander, and enjoy the view.Cappadocia316 This last photo was taken the morning we left as we were just about to get into our shuttle to the airport. It was so hard to leave! We hope to get back there again one day.Cappadocia481Wouldn’t you love to take a nap with this view in the backdrop?

Markets of Istanbul

One of my favorite things to do in Istanbul was to peruse the markets. Whether we were shopping or just walking through, it was wonderful to see so many varieties of foods, spices, teas, and handmade goods. I was constantly tempted to stock up on all sorts of things I never would have had enough room for in my suitcase!

The first one we came across, and maybe my favorite, wasn’t even really an official market. We were wandering around trying to find our way to the Suleymaniye Mosque and ended up strolling through an area of town that seemed relatively untouched by tourists.Istanbul097

All along either side of the narrow road were tables set out with local fruits and veggies for sale, all for a very reasonable price.Istanbul091 The colors of the veggies were so vibrant! Istanbul090 Istanbul089 Istanbul088 I’d never seen so much garlic in one place as this little set-up.Istanbul086 Dried fruits and spices smelled so delicious as we walked by!Istanbul082 Istanbul081 The next day, on our way to the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern, we found ourselves walking through the middle of the Spice Bazaar. We passed through here quite a few times during our stay in Istanbul, since it just happened to be right in between our apartment and a lot of the sites we visited. Istanbul283

Sure, there were lots and lots of spices around every corner, but it was also easy to find turkish candies and sweets, and rows upon rows of beautiful teas.Istanbul276 Istanbul279 Istanbul275 Istanbul287

How about this beautiful raw honey comb!Istanbul273

Not only foods, in the Spice Bazaar there we plenty of vendors selling dishware, linens, and scarves. Admittedly some of them seemed intended to draw in tourists, but there were still lots of wonderful treasures to be found.Istanbul281All the beautiful spices and teas made the whole bazaar so colorful!Istanbul284We made sure to stop by Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar, which is much more geared toward Turkish goods, like linens, scarfs, ceramics, tapestries, and rugs. The Grand Bazaar is one of the biggest covered markets in the world, and has been around since the 1400’s.Istanbul435

Sadly we were mistaken about what time was closing time, so we got there just as most of the vendors were closing shop. But with the sheer number of vendors that had shops there (somewhere around 3,000), you can imagine how crowded it must be during the day! On the plus side, with the lack of crowds, we were able to take some time to look at the architecture and decorative details of the place.Istanbul437

It was a huge space! Each hallway seemed to go on forever, and all of the arched corridors were beautifully painted. Istanbul443 Istanbul441 Istanbul450Istanbul447 Istanbul444 Of all the markets we came across, I think my favorites were the unexpected vendors that set up shop on carts, sometimes pushing their way into crowds in search for business. Even though much of the city seems to be built of stone, these markets provided delightful bursts of color throughout Istanbul.

Istanbul117What is your favorite find from a bazaar or market?

Hagia Sophia: A Treasure in Istanbul

It took us a couple days before finally getting to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but oh! what an amazing place! In a way, I guess I’m glad we did this on our last full day in the city, because if we had seen it first it might have made everything that came after it seem less exciting. The Hagia Sophia as it stands now was built in the year 537, but it’s the third structure to stand in that location. (The first two were burned to the ground in riots.) Built as a Greek Orthodox church, it was converted into a mosque during Ottoman rule in 1453. Now it is officially a museum. A slew of restoration projects over many years have once again revealed some of the Christian imagery that was painted or plastered over when it became a mosque, but living in the same space still are the names of prophets written in Arabic calligraphy. (It strikes me as an important message in today’s world for evidence of these two faiths to live side-by-side like this under one roof.) The sanctuary inside is enormous, beautifully constructed of marble and stone, with seemingly no surface untouched by decorative details like painted patterns or incredible mosaic frescos made with gold tiles. Certainly pictures could not fully do this place justice!

Istanbul510 Upon entering, we were greeted by a set of these rather imposing looking doors. They actually predate the current structure, and are too tall for the doorway they are in so they are built into the floor and cannot be closed.Istanbul512 Immediately, the pattern and detail begins in the first hallway.Istanbul515 At the end of this entrance hallway we saw our first mocaic, a scene of Emporer Justinian gifting the Hagia Sophia to the Christ Child. Istanbul517On the interior dorrs, you can still see markings where the cross was removed and replaced instead with this arrow-like symbol often seen in the Muslim faith.
Istanbul520 Sometimes it was difficult to discern which details were painted and which were mosaic, because of the attention paid to detail in the design.Istanbul522The first time you step into the sanctuary, it’s admittedly a little overwhelming! The space is several stories tall, the dome gilt with gold leaf. The flowers in the four corners around the dome were revealed in a recent restoration project to be covering images of angels from the days when it was a church. You can see the face of one that was recovered in the lower left-hand flower. (In the Muslim religion, no pictorial depictions are allowed, which is why the preferred decoration in mosques has more to do with pattern and calligraphy. All images in the sanctuary were covered over with paint and/or plaster when it was converted to a mosque.)
Istanbul523Incredible amounts of beautiful marble can be found all over, on walls, floors, columns, you name it. Much of it had been imported from Egypt at the time the Hagia Sophia was built, and some marble types were rare even then.
Istanbul530 Each column is topped with some of the finest carvings I’ve ever seen. It all seems so finely detailed, and perfectly executed. Istanbul531 Istanbul536 This tile mosaic of the Madonna and Christ Child had been covered with plaster before the restoration projects began. Istanbul546 All of the corridors have high ceilings and low-hanging chandeliers, which used to be candle-lit and needed to be close to the ground so they could be reached easily. And while the more modern lighting throughout the entire building was certainly helpful, there was plenty of natural lighting flooding in through large windows and skylights.Istanbul550 Istanbul551 In order to get up t the second level of the sanctuary, we used a dark, undecorated corridor and system of ramps, which were apparently used during construction for pushing, dragging, or rolling materials to the upper levels.Istanbul554 Istanbul590 The sheer size of the space was even more apparent from above, where we could see how small the people below seemed. Istanbul561 Sadly in the years before the Hagia Sophia had proper protection as a museum, people would take the little tiles that made up the mosaics as souvenirs, so many of the frescos are missing the tiles that could be easily reached. Now of course there are security personnel to make sure no one gets too close to these. Istanbul562 But look at the incredible detail! Rosey cheeks, the shading of the beard, the folds in the clothing. Unbelievable! This is as detailed as any painting by one of the masters, but  this is made of tiles. We took our time browsing and taking in all of the mosaics on the second level. Istanbul564 Istanbul574 Istanbul578On the second level, we found this pattern, which we didn’t seem to come across on the ground level. It’s much darker than a lot of what we saw elsewhere.Istanbul570 Also, it was a treat being so much closer to the details on the ceiling of the sanctuary. (And there’s that previously hidden angel again!)Istanbul572 Istanbul589 We even found this little corridor of Iznik tiles, a signature of Turkey.Istanbul591 Back down on the ground level we snapped a few more pictures of this incredible space. Istanbul600 Towering marble columns were on all sides.Istanbul601 Istanbul606 Istanbul616

After one last look up in the sanctuary…Istanbul611…and one last look at the beautiful ceiling patterns in the corridors…Istanbul602 Istanbul603 …we got a glimpse at the few remaining artifacts from the previous structure that this Hagia Sophia had replaced. This was all that was left after it burned down, but it is so important to acknowledge this as part of the history of this place. Istanbul619What do you think of all the detail in this nearly millenium-old place?