Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone 🙂 I hope you are celebrating with your loved ones!

I haven’t written in a long time so I have a lot of catching up to do but I first wanted to write about a trip I took to Julian for Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t know Julian, it is a small miner’s town about an hour outside of San Diego. During the 1800s, a lot of people moved here for the gold mining rush! Of course, they don’t use the mines nowadays and is more famous for the apples.

public parking space but it was $3 an hour. So if you want free parking, come early. For us, that was arriving before 10am.

The town is really cute with lots of historic buildings. The shops and restaurants all have some history to them. And because they are a town known for apples, they have lots of apple related items, such as apple scented candles and bath bombs to apple butter and jams.

Pic: Main street at Julian, California

My favorite store was The Warm Hearth (address: 2125 Main St.) because it had everything. From cooking items to vintage signages, it was really an all-in-one shop. I really enjoyed looking through all the vintage signs, playing giant size games, looking at backyard water features, and more.

Pic: Downstairs portion of The Warm Hearth

I loved that everything was within walking distance of each other and since this is off-season (not apple picking season), it didn’t feel like it was too crowded. Some of the apple pie restaurants had some lines but it wasn’t too bad. Also, every time I walked by the pie places, the smell of fresh apple pie was just mouth-watering.

For lunch, we went to the Miner’s Diner, which was just across the street from the shop. The shop feels like an old diner and I loved it. It has character 🙂 At the entrance of the shop, the old miner greets you, waving his axe and drinking his soda.

Pic: the animatronic miner

They have several sandwich and burger options and you can also split an order. We ended up getting a split Reuben because we were going to get something to eat later as well. As we were dining, the toy train moved around the restaurant, just choo-chooing away.

There was another cute candy shop inside the Miner’s Diner. It is small but very cute and there is a small metal miner, ready to detonate dynamite in the mines. How cute!

Pic: Metal figure holding a bucket of candy

There were also museums and old mines you can visit to learn more about how the city started and to see how people lived during the time. Most of them had small fees but if you are a historic buff, I think these places would give you a lot of insights.

Pic: Julian Piooneer Museum building

After walking around the town, visited the Julian Tea & Cottage Arts for their Valentine’s Day Tea event. This place was fantastic! If you are a tea lover, you need to visit this place. The store itself is pretty small but it has indoor and outdoor seating and has lots of different things they offer.

Pic: Colorful teaware

We were here for their Valentine’s Day Tea party and it was really good! It was a special set menu that had some romantic flair. A four-course (almost) meal starting off with soup (Tomato or Pumpkin) and a variety of finger sandwiches, followed by some scones with different jam, and lastly a dessert plate.

Pic: Valentine-themed finger sandwiches

And they have a list of tea you can pick for your drink and you can switch out to tea at any time. It was an experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat! If you would like to see their future events, visit their webpage (https://juliantea.com/)

Before leaving Julian, we had a final stop. We needed to get apple pie. There are several ones to pick from but we ended up going to Mom’s. They had several different pies but I wanted to focus on the main one, the apple pie. Also, you can get your crust in 2 ways: Flakey or in crumbs. I wanted the most basic one for my first trip, so a flakey apple pie.

Pic: Flakey apple pie within the box with instruction

I brought it home and ate it but you can freeze them and the box has instructions on how to reheat them. Overall, excellent pie. I loved the buttery crust!

Julian is definitely worth a trip. You can do a day trip or if you want to hike around the area, an overnight trip would also work.


[Day 17] On to Český Krumlov

We packed our things are got ready to move to our next city: Český Krumlov. I was looking forward to visiting this small town because a lot of my friends told me how beautiful the town was. We called 2 Ubers to head to the bus station. However, we ran into some problems with the Uber. A lot of the European cars were smaller than the States and had less trunk space. We could not fit all our luggage in the back and the driver would not let us hold them in our laps. After some struggles, we were able to get everything settled and headed to the bus station.

While on our way, I saw some interesting building, including the National Museum! I wish we could have visited this place. It was very picturesque. It did not take us long to get to the bus station but we had to look around to find the right platform.

We were at platform 1 and by the time we found out, there was a long line. We were towards the back of the line but since we had assign seating, I wasn’t worried about it. What worried me was the way baggage was being handled. You just threw it in the bottom compartment yourself and it filled up quickly. By the end, we noticed that people were trying to play tetris with the luggage and finding space for their stuff. And once everyone was checked in, the bus driver decided to help out. It was a bit of a mess.

The ride to Český Krumlov was uneventful. On our way, all there were was fields after fields. It was about a 3 hour ride and I was able to get some reading in.

Once we arrived, we claimed our bags and started to walk towards the city. At first, we did not know which was to head to. We ended up following the road down towards the left and found the city. You can also walk towards platform 9 and you will see a staircase that leads to the main street.

While walking, we found a small viewpoint of the city and it was so cute. Very serene with the river running through it. Almost fairytale like. And we were at the entrance of the city. The walk from the station took about 10 minutes because of all the luggage we had. And luckily, our accommodation was right at the entrance. We booked 3 rooms and we were able to have a whole floor to ourselves.

After unpacking, we headed out to grab some food. We ended up at a restaurant called Papa’s Living Restaurant. It was a cute restaurant that offered a mix of local cuisine and Italian. The decor was more modern and had a long selection of wine. We enjoyed our meal indoors but they had outdoor patio seating and during the spring and summer time, I think it would be amazing to sit outside with the view of the river.

After our meal, we aimlessly walked around town, visiting different shops on the way. We found a chocolate shop and ended up getting hot chocolate. The hot chocolate here was thick and they even gave me a spoon with it. Plus, they offered white and dark. Of course I had to go with the dark. It was extremely rich but it wasn’t too bitter nor sweet.

We also visited several souvenir shops and before we knew it, it was already dark! We headed to the town square to see the Christmas Market before heading home. Compared to Prague’s, this was really small. It only had about 15 stalls and most of them were food.

They also had a merry-go-round and we watched the children riding it. What we didn’t know was it was manual. The owner of the ride pushed the ride by hand and also stopped it by holding back one of the bars. It was interesting to see. And a lot of children were in line to board it.

After people watching for a bit, we headed home to get some rest. Even though it was early, it was already dark and the stores were mostly closed. To get an early morning start, we headed to bed.

[Day 2] Montserrat and family

Full day ahead! We had time until our other brother and his wife were landing in Barcelona so we decided on a quick day trip to Montserrat. We had found Julia Travel agency the night before and made a last minute booking for a Montserrat Mountain and Basilica half day tour and it started at 9am.

We walked to Julia Travel and checked in around 8:55am and received our tickets, discount coupons, and the audio receiver. We met up with our tour guide, Clara, at 9am and boarded our bus. It was one of those greyhound bus with lots of seats. Our tour wasn’t full so we had plenty of seats to pick from. While on the way, Clara talked about the history of Spain and Barcelona in both Spanish and English.

We also learned about the history of Montserrat. It was destroyed many times by fire and other accidents but several architects participated in restoration of the monastery over the years.

As Montserrat is built on a mountain, they used a lot of curves to fit with the nature. So on the way, the mountain roads had a lot of hairpin turns. The right side had mountain views and the left side had the cliff view. If driving is not your think, you can take the cable car but our tour did not include other transportation options.

When we arrived, it was very cold compared to Barcelona. Make sure to wear lots of layers here! But we all hurdled around our tour guide to listen to the legends of Montserrat. She said that there were 2 legends. One was about how a ray of light pointed at one location. When the people went to check, they found the Black Madonna statue there. They tried to move her but she was too heavy. So they left her at the same place and built a house on a cliff.

After a brief history lesson from Clara, we had free time. So we hiked up to the view point, which was only about 30 minutes away. It gave us a panorama view of Montserrat. Follow signs to Cami de Sant Miquel. It is about a 20 to 25 minute walk uphill. But the panorama view and the fresh wind makes it all worth it.

Once back, we stood in line at the Monastery to see the Virgin of Montserrat(the Black Virgin). The line seemed long but it moved rather quickly. The line led us upstairs to the front of the chapel and we got to see the Virgin and there was a small part that you could touch. I noticed a lot of people in front of us, touching her and praying.

Once we were out, we headed back inside to listen to the L’Escolania choir. This is an all boys’ choir at Montserrat and our guide highly recommended them. These boys all lived at Montserrat and only got to see their family a few times a year. They were schooled at Montserrat in all areas including music and had published hundreds of albums. They performed at 1pm inside the basilica so we were able to enjoy about 15 minutes of the singing before heading out.

TIP: If you would like to spend more time in Montserrat to hike around more, the public transportation is a good option!

After arriving back in Barcelona, we walked around the neighborhood and found cute popup shops. There were a lot of handmade goods and all the stores were full of cute knickknacks. We also tried to look for a place to eat and most of the restaurants were closed for Siesta or had reservations. We ended up at a restaurant called El Raco. More like stumbled upon it. The staff were very friendly and seated us right away. Their menu had various things including tapas, pasta, pizza, steak, and more. They also had a good list of wine and beer.

We didn’t understand the full menu but with some recommendation from the staff. we ordered a risotto, a crepe, and a steak as our late lunch. When we got the food, the risotto was the only one that looked like the ones in the States. The crepe was open faced? and the steak was more of a open faced sandwich with only the bottom bun. It was interesting but it tasted good! We enjoyed our meal (€34.45), relaxed a bit, and headed back to our accommodation and waited for the rest of the family.

My brother and his wife arrived a little later then expected due to flight delays but when they arrived, it was perfect time for dinner. We didn’t want to go too far from our place since everyone was still tired from traveling. So for dinner, we visited a place called Oporto. It had high reviews on tripadvisor and we were excited to try new food. What we didn’t realize was that it was Portuguese food.

When we arrived around 8pm, we were the first ones there. We ordered multiple tapas to share including pulpo salsa verde(octopus), gambas aguillo(shrimp), arroz marisco(seafood pot), and bottles of wine. When you order at this restaurant, start small. The size of these tapas were huge. And the Arroz Marisco can be ordered in 1/2 sizes so make sure to ask! The food was really good. Everyone enjoyed the meal (€117.50)

On our way back home, we stopped by the local super market to pick up more wine and snacks. I picked up a lemon beer (Damm Lemon) and it wasn’t what I was expecting but very refreshing. It was a pretty good match with some jamon.