Christmas road trip

Since I heard my parents got the visa and they were both coming to visit from Romania on December 1st, I knew I had to make the experience special!

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year, like I’m joking with my friends, I’m one of those Christmas freaks! Christmas represents that big table full of yummy homemade Romanian food, listening to all of my relatives bad jokes, arguing who is the best cook, drinking to much hot wine, laughing at each other, being lazy because we ate to much, going to sing carols and realizing how freaking terrible we are and how bad it sounds, or just enjoying the fact that we are a big, loud, fun, crazy family.

Because last year I spent Christmas swimming in a pool in downtown Miami and drinking Stella Artois with my brother in a jacuzzi, this year I decided I want to take my family on a big road trip, trying to see the most famous cities in America. The idea was to find the magic of Christmas in different places and see how they look like with the holiday touch. So…December 6th we took the first ferry out of Martha’s Vineyard at 6am and the first Peter Pan bus to NYC! Level of excitement- jdncjksdncksd!


December 6th

It was freezing outside but that bright sun convinced us to take the boat ride around Manhattan island. We had the most horrible coffee in the world that definitely woke us up, but with that view it didn’t matter at all:)

Brooklyn Bridge         24mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/250 sec
Brooklyn Bridge      70mm, ISO 100, f/7.1  1/250 sec
Pier 15 on East River Park 70 mm, ISO 100, f7.1  1/250 sec

December 7th-8th

The whole day we walked around the city until our feet asked for a timeout. The Rockefeller Center was the highlight of the day… so far. Being there with a few hundred people from around the world, listening to carols and staring for minutes at the big Christmas Tree is a Christmas dream:) And you have to watch the christmas light show projected onto  the front of the Saks building!

Somewhere in Manhattan  left- 50 mm, ISO 320, f/1.4   1/160 sec  right 50 mm, ISO 2500, f/1.8, 1/200 sec
Rockefeller Center  58mm, ISO 3200, f/4.0, 1/125 sec
Saks Fifth Avenue  24 mm, ISO 3200, f4.0, 1/100 sec
1st- 1251 Sixth Avenue  24mm, ISO 200, f/9.0, 1.6 sec     2nd 9/11 Memorial 50 mm, ISO 2500, f/2.0, 1/200 sec

After a long, long day I told my parents we need to see one more thing at the Radio City Music Hall. I secretly bought tickets to the Christmas Spectacular show and I tried so hard to hide this from them, after I was watching almost every night videos on youtube with the show..I was counting every minute..I got excited just by seeing the big line outside!

IT WAS SPECTACULAR, I don’t have enough buttons on my keyboard to express how much I loved it! From the dazzling Rockettes dance numbers, to amazing costumes, crazy state-of-the-art technology, a 3d movie, great live music, funny moments, onion crying moments, everything was just crazy beautiful!

Radio City Music Hall 84 mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec

14 Scenes, 90 min-no break, aprox 5000 people in the audience, great storytelling. From the North Pole to NYC, the story had everything: some nutcracker scene, wooden soldiers, over 100 santas dancing, a mountain of wrapped packages, snowflakes, carols and everything you need to know about a Christmas in NYC.

Radio City Music Hall  95 mm, ISO 2500, f/5.6, 1/640 sec
Radio City Music Hall 105mm, ISO 2500, f/5.6, 1/320 sec
Radio City Music Hall  24mm, ISO 8000, f/4.0, 1/100 sec
Radio City Music Hall 105mm, ISO 2500, f/6.3, 1/400 sec

I knew NYC would be amazing and I was a little overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings:) Next morning I left all behind, packed my boots and put my sneakers on- time for California, sun and palm trees.


December 9th

It was foggy and a little cold at our first stop- Venice Beach. We spent the whole day in this craziness and it was…let’s say interesting! Weird, beautiful, different people all over the place.

Venice Beach left- 50mm, ISO 200, f/3.5, 1/400 sec   right -105mm, ISO 200, f/9.0, 1/400 sec
Venice Beach  50mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/320 sec
Venice Beach 50mm left- ISO 800, f/1.2, 1/160 sec, right ISO 200, f/9.0, 1/320 sec

December 10th

Ok, I’m not going to lie and I’m going to act like a curious tourist- I was excited for Universal Studios:) AND it was FUN! Rides, gigantic Christmas tree, fake good looking snow, Hollywood set tour, yummy junk food aaaaaand the highlight ..Water World show! (see the movie and then see this will appreciate it more).

Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood – WaterWorld


Universal Studios Hollywood- Water World

After the Universal Studios I googled “best Holiday Light displays” and one of the results was “Candy Cane Lane”. We drove there and we found at Lubao & Oxnard Streets in Woodland Hills, a group of homeowners who collectively decided each year to put on a crazy beautiful holiday displays of lights and decorations. They deserve a big, big round of applause until your hands are hurting and all the appreciation in the world, because that little neighborhood is now a tropical North Pole:)

Candy Cane Lane, Woodland Hills
Candy Cane Lane- Woodland Hills


December 11th

It’s the 4th time I went to Vegas this year and I really don’t like it that much, so for the next years I’m done…I know I said that every time 🙂

My parents wanted to go and I guess I was curious to see how the hotels lobbies are decorated for the Holidays.

Wynn Hotel, Las Vegas
Las Vegas Blvd:  left -The Cosmopolitan, right -The Paris
Las Vegas Blvd- Volcano at The Mirage Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas Blvd- Volcano at The Mirage Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas Blvd- Bellagio Hotel and Casino

Arizona- Grand Canyon Park

December 14th

Imagine driving from a desert with a breathtaking sunset to a snowy National Park..oh boy..It was so hard to leave that place!

Baker, Nevada
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon South Rim

California’s Pacific Coast Highway & Big Sur

December 15th

I think the biggest surprise was the day we spent driving on the Pacific Coast Highway 1 to San Francisco. I wanted to stop every 5 min to take a picture but after a while you forget that you have a camera and your mind is flying away, your brain is relaxed, you have no worries, you stare at the ocean and you start daydreaming. That road is therapy…

PCH 73mm, ISO 200, f/13, 1/125 sec
California Highway 1 Bridge 58mm, ISO200, f/11, 1/400 sec
San Simeon, Elephant Seals
California Highway 1

Santa Cruz

December 16th, 17th

Santa Cruz in December is empty and most places are closed. BUT that was perfect, we walked around the town, watched  some surfers at Steamer Lane and the West Cliff Drive was superb!

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk  28mm, ISO200, f/11, 1/200 sec
left-Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk 105mm, ISO200, f/16, 1/200 sec             right -West Cliff Drive 58mm, ISO200, f/18, 1/250 sec

San Francisco

December 18th-21th

Well…San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in America and it’s really hard to explain why. I feel like I belong there. I was looking forward to show it to my parents and I was literally advertising it like I was running for the Mayor’s Office. We had 4 full days, 3 of them we had pouring rain and you couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you, try to make them love it, Larisa…good luck. Let’s say they don’t love the rain like I do. I just had the camera with me one of those days 😦

Golden Gate Bridge  24mm, ISO200, f/4.5, 1/160 sec
Pic 1,3 Coit Tower 24mm, ISO200, f/13, 1/125 sec   pic 2 Union Square Tree Lighting 50 mm, ISO800, f/7.1, 1/125 sec
IHOP & Random place 50mm, ISO800, f/3.5, 1/160 sec
1st – 47mm, ISO200, f/4.5, 1/320 sec   2nd- Market Street- Cable Car  50mm, ISO1000, f/1.2, 1/160 sec
1st- Union Square 50mm, ISO400, f/1.8, 1/160 sec    2nd- Market Street 50mm, ISO 1000, f/1.2, 1/160 sec
Old Town Sacramento  50mm, ISO250, f/4.5, 1/160 sec

Portland, Oregon

Multnomah Falls  24mm, ISO800, f/4.5, 1/160 sec

Our final destination was Portland, Oregon where my godfather, Mihai lives. Him and his wife, Geta, made us feel like home and after almost 2 years away from Romania, I finally talked for a whole week only in Romanian and I ate 5 times more food that a normal person should have.

Romanian-Russian Market and my Godfathers house   50mm, ISO400, f/2.8, 1/100 sec

Christmas Eve and the 1st day of Christmas

Finally, Christmas is here

My family, Romanian carols, christmas tree, traditional food, jokes, stories, presents, cozy, comfortable and warm atmosphere, hot wine with cinnamon, snowboarding with my brother, visiting a Romanian community, being curled on the couch in front of a roaring fire- that was my Christmas and it was waaaaaaay better than any Spectacular show, snowy Canyon, San Francisco, or that new camera backpack and tripod that I love:)

The City of Maywood Park  50mm, ISO100, f/9.0, 1.3 sec
The City of Maywood Park-  My Dad, Mom, Brother opening christmas presents
50mm, ISO 800, f/1.4, 1/125 sec
50mm, ISO 800, f/1.4, 1/125 sec
Visiting a Romanian family 50mm, ISO1000, f/1.2, 1/125 sec
Sara 50mm, ISO 800, f/1.2, 1/125 sec
Sofia  50mm, ISO800, f/1.4, 1/125 sec
Traditional Romanian outfit and traditional Christmas meal 50mm, ISO1000, f/2.5, 1/125 sec


My mother, Rita        50mm, ISO 640, f/1.8 1/125 sec
Canon 50mm, ISO 100, f/2.0, 1/10 sec


How was your Christmas?


3 thoughts on “Christmas road trip

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