Posted in My Travels

San Diego Zoo and La Jolla Tide Pools and Caves Day 10

I LOVED THIS DAY SO MUCH!!

Day 10!  

It was another day of leaving our hotel in bathing suits because we had a big day lined up.  First, we hit up the Donut Bar for breakfast. We read online that this was the place to get unique donuts…and that there is always a line; and yup, there was definitely a line when we showed up.  My husband went to grab us coffee, at Achilles Coffee and Starbucks nearby, while the girls and I waited in line for donuts.  The wait was about 25 minutes, but the people watching in the area was so abundant that the 25 minutes flew by fast!  The place inside was adorable, and the amount of donuts on display was something else!  There were your average donuts, of course, but also some creative ones like a grilled cheese donut!!

Also, just something I noticed… The donut money is pretty lit in San Diego because the owner had a Ferrari out front with personalized Deadpool and Donut Bar advertising all over it.  (Who knew!?) 

We grabbed our order of donuts and took off for our next destination, where we were going to enjoy those fried babies!  Oh where were we off to?  Well, THE SAN DIEGO ZOO!!  SANDIEGOZOOOMG!! <– That was my tagline the whole morning.  I have been dying to go to the San Diego Zoo since I was a kid.  It’s the work-home of Joan Embery, guys!! JOAN EMBERY!!  

Hmm, I don’t feel your excitement.  Do you know who Joan Embery is?  Well, professionally she is the goodwill ambassador for the Zoological Society of San Diego, but my memories are that she was the only “guest” I cared about watching on The Late Night with Johnny Carson.  She would bring on some of the coolest animals that I had ever seen!! And that those animals would make Johnny and his guests squirm, made it fun!  

We took the donuts, coffee and our kids to a seated are right across from the zoo inside Balboa Park.  The donuts were delicious!  The perfect start to this fun day.  After we wolfed down those donuts we trekked right over to the zoo. We had purchased the tickets before leaving for this California trip, and mapped out where we wanted to start, to make the most of our one day there. We walked in, took a hard left towards the Skyfari.  This is a sky ride from one side of the park to the other.  It is super fun, and a great way to cool down.  The aerial views from the Skyfari were fantastic; you could see inside a lot of the fenced in areas.  Super cool!

After the Skyfari we walked down to the polar bears while stopping at each African animals along the way.  The polar bear exhibit was so great.  We got inside the area where you can see them in the water.  They spent a lot of time just chilling above, so all we could see were their chubby bums.  Once in a while they’d dip their head in or bite at some food that was chained underwater.  Once we walked to the exterior of the pool we could see them up close. through the glass.  They were playing with one another, swimming around and floating. Their floss like white fur outside the water was so fluffy!

From the polar bear we took a walk down the hill towards the hippopotamus.  At first I thought the animal was alone leaning on a small rock, but as soon as I walked to the right I saw the rock was a baby hippo!!  Aweee!  We back tracked to the entrance of the hippos to make our way to the panda bears.  Now, this is the part of the zoo I have been dying to see since we made these plans.  We have never seen a panda up close before! My gosh how cute and CHUBBYYYY!! We saw a mother and son panda, who were so docile and happy just being.   I wanted to jump into the area with them to lounge with them, scratch their bellies and feed them some bamboo.  But I was told I couldn’t go in with them.  Bummer.

From our visit with the pandas we walked up the hill towards the entrance to the treetops.  This zoo is just the coolest place!  We got up to the top, then went to check out some birds and an ape exhibit to the left, then went down an incline to cross the bridge.  We ended up right outside the elephant area, well, right outside a refreshment stop.  We grabbed slushies for everyone, except Mum and Dad’s were vodka soaked.  🙂

So, I love elephants.  They are such a beautiful, smart and bold animal.  This was my favorite part of our zoo trip.  The space was beautiful, and the elephants seemed so happy.  They had two Asian elephants and two African elephants.  They were doing their own things, eating, scratching, frolicking, uhm, poopin’.  haha   We spent a lot of time in this area watching them all.  There were other exhibits peppered around, but it was an elephant sanctuary really.

After we exited the elephants, we made our way up the prairie towards Australia to see the koalas.  This was another stop that we enjoyed.  Koalas are absolutely adorable!! They are so furry and slow paced.  They were climbing up their poles that were laced with eucalyptus.  Munch, munch, munch, snooze.  I swear each lil koala would be awake and asleep in seconds.  They were also chunky, I just wanted to squeeze them!!   We took a walk through Africa before exiting the zoo.  We saw a lot of beautiful animals, and learned so much.  I wish this zoo was closer!

We were all a little munchie, but we had another destination before heading back to the hotel, so we had to make a stop to an In and Out Burger.  We had to!  Their burgers and fries were too good to pass up, and I even had a Coke!  I never drink soda, but man a fountain Coke is hard to pass up in the heat.  Mmmm mm…  soooo good!

Our next stop was to Nicholson Point / La Jolla Tide Pool area.  The plan was to check out that one spot then go to the hotel, but instead we got to the tide pools then explored the whole way down seeing the Children’s Pool, hiking up a cliff, and walking all the way to Shell Beach where we ended up seeing caves.   I want to say that trek was about a mile, but not a straight one because of the turns from beach to cliff/walking path.

This area was the most beautiful sight.  Really, what a special place.  There were tide pools, cliffs, caves, seals, pelicans, lots of waves, sea moss and so much to look at around us.  At this point, the sun was starting to come down, so the sands glowed a warm gold and the ocean was glimmering like a dream.  Our girls were having a blast splashing in the waves then walking in the caves or looking into the pools.  My husband and I had fun doing that, too!   When we exited the top of Shell Beach it spilled out onto a big park.  There were so many people around getting ready to enjoy their nights on the beach.  I loved seeing everyone.  San Diego is hyper diverse.

Our first 24 hours there, and I was in love with everything that we were seeing.  ESPECIALLY THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER!!!

After we explored the beaches, we headed to our hotel to soak up more sunshine! The sun was still hot, even though it was starting to set more.  We got at least an hour of sunshine time.  Once the sun set we hit up the pool area again.  The kids went to swim with my husband, because they like the abuse of being thrown around by a 6’3″ monster! And, well, I stayed in the hot tub!  Ooh the heat of the hot tub was perfection.  While in there I got to meet some nice people. Once they disappeared my husband got in. We got to have a lot of alone time to talk.  He is a great conversationalist, and I love hearing his point of view of things we experience together.

I also loved that he reminded me that it was time to eat and how he wanted a burrito.  hahah  So we got out of the tub to run to get ready for dinner.  By the time we got cleaned up we realized how late it was, so we went to grab take out again.

Where?  THE SAME PLACE AS LAST NIGHT! haha  It was too good to pass up!  And one of my vacation goals was to eat a lot of burritos while in San Diego.  This time we ordered a few more dishes to try.  Holy glutton over here. But it was worth every calorie.  EVERY ONE.

Before we knew it again, it was almost midnight, and even though our last full day in San Diego would be a relaxing one, we wanted to get to bed.

What a fun day!!!

Next up…our last days, 11 and departure, in San Diego.

And yes, I had to update the look of my blog …again. The phone viewing feature was confusing some people because it was starting the page with the menu rather than the actual post.  This is much cleaner now!  Woo!

Posted in My Travels

Our First Day in San Diego Day 9

About five years ago, we had mapped out a whole different California trip than the one we actually took. We planned landing in San Francisco, spending a few days road tripping in a vintage convertible all the way down the coast. Hitting all the major attractions and cities along the ride then stopping in San Diego for a few days. We even planned out a whole new trip a second time, two years ago, going in reverse up the coast in a giant SUV from San Diego to Seattle!!  But. Such is life and as other travel opportunities arose, we had always postponed this California trip.  Then when my husband brought it back up last year, I was not going to let it go by again. We just went for it, editing it down to what we really all wanted.  So if you have been following along, or not, we came up with landing in LA then driving with stops to San Diego, in a normal SUV!

Absolutely happy that we got to make this trip happen this year. And this trip allows us to go back to California to finish our original plans.

Notice that San Diego was always a destination point?  Well, go look!  I have dreamed most of my adult life about San Diego; even if I had never been before. Weird, I know, but there has always been this draw.  Maybe because my genes are direct from Sicilian, where it’s hot, desert-like weather combined with the ocean and an easy going-ness?  Who knows, but I think it may be due to the fact that I am growing tired of Boston’s ten minute Summers, and fifty year Winters.  I mean, who needs this much time out of the sun and in the gloom!!??   Not this bird!!

Ok, I will stop sounding like I am 75yo.  :)~

Day 9!  Woo! We made it to San Diego!

We sadly left Anaheim at 11AM.  We said goodby to Disneyland and made a bee line straight to La Jolla, which was an hour and a half away.  We knew our room would not be ready, but we took off in our bathing suits with hopes that we could make it to enjoy the beach.  My husband is such a sweet person, he changed all the drive coordinates this whole trip so we could drive along the coast (EVEN ON OUR LAST DAY DRIVING TO THE AIRPORT! I know he is pretty awesome). He even took us on a fifteen minute drive after we got to La Jolla just to see some of the ocean.  Explanation… Where we were driving the whole time was not vistas of the ocean so much, but of cliffs as high as buildings! The ocean was in the distance, but the cliffs were so impressive it didn’t matter where the ocean was.  IT WAS SO COOL!!  Everything so far was perfect, and I already felt so at home.

We rolled up to the La Jolla Shores Hotel.  This hotel is very pretty, and in such a convenient location, close to the smaller downtown area of La Jolla, and with parking beneath the building.  It is built in the Spanish style, most likely in the 70s; lots of brown tiles, fountains, piazza in the middle. It was also located right on the ocean.  The view was spectacular!  As soon as we arrived, we checked in (rooms not ready) and ran straight to the beach.  Ahh that sand, how much do I miss it!

We got into our rooms not too long after we hit the beach.  So we each took turns to check it out and put some stuff away.  We finished up at the beach at around 7PM, then went to hang out at the pool/hot tub for a bit.  The pool was a real decent size, and the hot tub was fun.  The kid swam a long time, and my husband and I sat in the hot tub.  Which was so hot that I didn’t want to get out. The jets were in the perfect spots, the timer was over 15 minutes for sure and all the kids stayed away. Man, I miss that hot tub.

One of our traditions on beach trips is to eat a meal on the beach if we can.  Keeping it casual. We grabbed some drinks from a local liquor store then take out from the Taco Stand in downtown La Jolla.  This place rocked and was hella-busy!  We got a mix of  burritos and tacos.  Everything was amazing, so big!, and their salsa was one of the best I have had in a long time.  Totally a must eat spot when you are in San Diego..we know there are a couple of locations in the area.

This day turned to night so quickly!  We were having such a great time laughing and snuggling up that before we knew it the clock said midnight.  So, off to bed we went. We had another big day ahead of us!

 

Day 10 is next where we go to San Diego and La Jolla Cove, probably my favorite day of this whole trip.  🙂  San Diego is a beautiful place.

Posted in My Travels

Disney California Adventure Day 8

Day 8!

Our only real plan was to eat breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Carsland on this morning.  Oh, and getting MAXPASS.  Which was a big help getting us on the rides we wanted, or repeating rides!

It was another hot day, but not as hot as the day before. Yep, I brought it up again! We got to the park in the same happy manner, the Pixar Fest music playing in the background as we walked to the gates.  We entered Disney California Adventure (DCA) with such a positive outlook, we were all so excited for our day ahead.

Now, DCA’s entrance felt like the old MGM Studios at WDW to me, which as we all know it now as Hollywood Studios, but it will always be MGM to me. And I don’t care.  You enter this park on Buena Vista Street, the main drag of the park entrance. Which is named after a street in Burbank where Disney’s studio company is or was, and that’s the connection from the top of my head.  The street is not all that long, but it branches to the themed areas of the park, from counterclockwise: Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, Carsland, a Bug’s Land, and Hollywood Land.  FYI, a Bug’s Land is on its way out soon in favor of a Marvel theme land.

Our visit started with a walk down to Starbucks then we made a bee line right over to Carsland for breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe.  It was really hard to not get distracted with trying to do other things before fueling up.  But we did it!  We were floored at Carsland, like, we all were shocked at how engulfed in Radiator Springs we all felt.  We know this Pixar movie pretty well as our oldest daughter was obsessed with it for years and then our youngest jumped on board when she was at that same age.  They both said they wanted to live in that land, and I agreed!  It was spectacular.

Flo’s V8 Cafe was .. just super.  The design was set up after a 1950’s diner with everyone working there dressed from that era.  It was so cute.  We opted to grab breakfast to eat outside in the ‘gas pumps’.  It was perfect.  We had a good spread of food, which was all a great start to our day.  The girls got the brioche French toast with bananas, my husband the waffle and I got the chicken tamales plate, so my husband could eat the eggs. As I don’t eat scrambled eggs.  Everyone left an empty plate, so I think that answers the food question. The French toast was delicious and the waffle was, well, a waffle!  My tamale tasted great, but it was a little bit on the dry side.  (I am a tamales-aholic, so I know my tamales!)

After breakfast we started our big day!

The rides and attractions we experienced, almost in order:

  • Carsland: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree- Our first ride of the day!  You sit in a hitched trailer that a tractor pulls around in a frenzy of whipped turns.  It was sort of like if a Tilt-a-whirl tied to the Scrambler, if you know amusement park rides at all.  Super fun, and lots of laughs.
  • Carsland: Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters-  This ride is adorable!  You sit in roadsters that move along in a choreographed dance to a song sung by Luigi.  You can’t help but laugh on this ride because the cars go in a sequence you won’t quite know because there is no track ahead of you as everything is under the ground.  It’s a lot of driving across the ‘dance floor’!
  • Carsland:  Radiator Springs Racers (twice) – Ok, we all love love love this ride!  It is similar to Test Track in WDW,  the idea being you are in a car that goes through the building then speeds out onto a track… but this BLOWS TT OUT OF THE WATER!  It is so fun! We experienced a different ride, we got on twice, and on the second one we got to race one another (we sat single rider).
  • Pixar Pier: Toy Story Midway Mania- We all love this game!  It’s point and shoot gallery style game on big screens as you ride through, competing with your car mates.  Though this is the same as WDW’s attraction, we all thought it felt like it lasted a bit longer here.  We rode this twice, and both times we got off the ride thinking it was way better than WDW’s!!
  • Paradise Gardens: Golden Zephyr- Super fun ride gliding in a big silver zephyr in the sky.  The view from this ride was special for sure!  We don’t know why it’s called golden when they’re silver; so if you know, pls dm me.
  • Paradise Gardens: Jumping Jellyfish- What a fun ride!  This is a parachute ride that brings you high up into the sky then let to float down.  So cute and the belly giggles from everyone going up and down make your laughter even harder.  Super cute!
  • Paradise Gardens: Goofy’s Sky School (twice)- My my.  I wasn’t a fan of this like my kids were. This is a very jerky coaster.  It reminded me of the one and only ride I don’t like at Disney’s Animal Kingdom … Primeval Whirl.  It’s the same ride disguised with my main man, Goofy!  Jerky at every turn!
  • Pixar Pier: Incredicoaster (twice)- My husband and oldest rode this roller coaster twice, and they thought it was AWESOME! The coaster goes along with Jack Jack and his newly discovered powers.
  • a bug’s land: Heimlich’s Chew Chew- This is not a dig at this land at all, but a Bug’s Land was meh overall. This train was sweet and perfect for anyone with a baby/toddler.  My kids were not all enthralled even if I laughed the entire two seconds the ride lasted.  🙂
  • a bug’s land: Flik’s Flyers- It’s a super cute ride as it’s fashioned as if the bugs used discarded items for this ride-like a Chinese food container, Cool Whip tub, etc. This ride Goes up and twirls around softly.
  • a bug’s land: Tuck and Roll’s Drive’em Buggies- This ride was a bummer for us as it broke down as they were on it.  It’s bumper cars but the kids didn’t get to bump anyone else.  hahah
  • a bug’s land: Dot Puddle Park- The kids definitely took advantage of the water fountains as it was hot!  The theming was great, and the other kids looked like they were having a blast.
  • Hollywood Land:  Red Car Trolley (is this a ride?)- This is a great way to give your feet a break and got us from Hollywood Land to the top of Buena Vista.  The perfect place to get us back to Carsland!
  • Hollywood Land: Monster’s Inc Mike and Sully to the Rescue- On this ride you are whisked away in a taxi following along the rescue story of Boo of Monster’s Inc.  The best part of this ride is Roz at the end before you exit, she is real-time interactive!!  She made fun of some folks in glasses then called me out for recording her on Snap… which was super unexpected!
  • Hollywood Land: Sunset Showcase Theater Disney Animation- Our kids are into the arts, and they miss the Magic of Animation/Animation Station at WDW Hollywood Studios, you know, MGM.  When they heard there was the Sorcerer’s Workshop they had to go to there. They had a blast drawing moving cartoons and checking out the Beast’s Library.
  • Hollywood Land: Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission Breakout- This was ridden by my husband and oldest, it’s a free fall ride that was originally fashioned for Tower of Terror… renovated for this theme.  They said it was just as fun, but a little different.  Not sure what that means, but that’s what I got folks! 🙂
  • Grizzly Peak: Soarin’ Around the World – This was our last ride of the night. I won’t be talking about this ride, it is exactly the same ride at WDW except it was a little smoother on take off. Which is awesome.  What I am going to talk about is this special wait getting on.  The park was closing and we had one last Maxpass for 10PM; the line got pretty long real fast. There was a little boy with his dad behind us. He was pretty amped up talking a mile a minute (his father was making the glazed over face like he was all set).  So, I did what I do, I talk to strangers, especially cute ones. 😉  I knelt down, getting eye level is key with kids, then started a conversation I will never forget as long as I live. This little boy, myself and my two children had the funniest time talking, which lasted forty-five minutes. The ride had an issue, so we ended up waiting in the line together conversing. What a cutie. He was three years old, but wise beyond his years.  He spoke Spanish and we got to exchanging words. We played some games, talked what normal three-year olds talk about, like “colors we liked”, “our favorite animals” and “favorite numbers”.  He had an accent, sounded a lot like Miguel from Coco, HE WAS THE SWEETEST BOY EVER.  He grew so attached to us in this short amount of time that he didn’t want to leave my side. Especially when we got separated into our seating zone lines. He started bawling his eyes out, crying for us and his father couldn’t console him until he saw that there was a fence between us. He could see me, it broke my heart. He ran up to the fence, reaching through, trying to hold my hand. 😦  It was sweet but I felt so sad for him.  After the ride he found me, dragged me by the hand to meet his mother.  Gah what a special kid!

-Symphony Swings was down off and on during this day and we couldn’t catch it while it worked.

We drank and ate:

  • Skim latte, skim decaf caramel macchiato, skim double choc chip Frappuccino- Starbucks inside Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe
  • Chicken Tamale Breakfast- Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Cars themed Waffles- Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Brioche french toast w bananas- Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Vodka Pomegranate Limeade w lemon fizzy foam (two)- Cozy Cone
  • Mac n Cheese- Cozy Cone Motel
  • Corn Dog- Corn Dog Castle
  • Mint chip milk shake- Shmoozies
  • Affogato- Shmoozies
  • Corn on the cob w butter
  • Sourdough bread samples from the bakery tour
  • Water, water, water
  • Carne asada rolls- Lamplight Lounge
  • Lobster nachos- Lamplight Lounge
  • Chicken sandwiches- Lamplight Lounge
  • Cheddar Burgers – Lamplight Lounge
  • Scream Canister (drink)- Lamplight Lounge
  • Open Ocean with a Splash (drink)- Lamplight Lounge
  • The Last Word (drink)- Lamplight Lounge
  • Graham cracker white chocolate caramel apple
  • Mike Wazowski shaped Rice Krispie treat
  • water, water, water, water!!

Dinner reservations were at the Lamplight Lounge. If I had to rate this place on a star system, I’d give it a solid 3.5.

We got seated downstairs on the deck right on the water to the right.  Wow. The location of this restaurant on the water, with the view of the park – namely the Incredicoaster of Pixar Pier- was perfect.  Seriously, it is probably the most beautiful restaurant setting of any amusement park Disney owns.  The aesthetics were real nice.  They designed it with very large cozy chairs set up around oversized coffee tables, which made it feel more relaxed and bar-like. Which was perfect.  The waiter we had was super nice and very well-rounded with the menu.  The cocktails were actually way better than we had thought they’d be.  I got The Last Word, which was so good..I would go back for that! But the food?  Well, I hate giving anything but good reviews but it was just …meh.  Nothing really blew us away.  We got the lobster nachos and carne asada rolls to start.  The rolls were good for the most part, but the nachos were just ok.  Then we got burgers and sandwiches for mains.  We got the chicken sandwich, which felt like it was missing something, and the burgers were decent.  It just felt like something was missing from the things we weren’t all that happy with, know what I mean?

 

Well, after dinner we ran across the park, caught the Paint the Night Parade on our way to Carsland.  We all wanted to see that area lit up at night and ride the Radiator Springs Racers one more time! It was so beautiful at night!! After this, we closed out the park riding Soarin’ then took a leisure stroll down Buena Vista shopping and buying treats for the rest of our trip.

Everything about this park felt spectacular, and we all left saying that this was our favorite Disney Park of them all.  OF THEM ALL!!! There was something about the size and the overall theming.  It felt more like being at an amusement park, the kind of park that leaves you with lots of great family memories.  It left us all feeling, just simply, happy.  It was uncomplicated and fun!

We had a hard time leaving Disneyland behind.  We always felt sad leaving WDW, especially as we spend a ton of days there, settling into a way of life, but Disneyland…it was truly magical. 🙂

 

Posted in My Travels

Victoria Beach, Crystal Cove Beach and the Big Disneyland Reveal- Day 6

Hey Everyone!

Day 6! I loved this day so much…the beaches and THE BIG SURPRISE!  We drove from Laguna Beach to Anaheim; telling our kids it was “on our way to San Diego”.  Don’t you go north to go south? :)~  Well, they had no idea what direction we were going, so it worked for us.

Before Anaheim we did make two stops. One to Victoria Beach to see the Pirate Tower, and, one to see the cliffs and tide pools of Crystal Cove/State Park.  Laguna may be the most beautiful beachy place on American soil.

Victoria Beach/Pirate Tower

We got straight into bathing suits and water shoes before breakfast because our first stop of the day was to Victoria Beach, south five minutes from our hotel.  A quick FYI- you will need to pack water shoes to walk most of the beaches we visited this trip. These are no places for flip-flops as they’ll get wrecked guaranteed.

Victoria Beach is down an obscure set of stairs in a residential area. So there is some searching for it, but this website I referenced in my research earlier in the Summer definitely helped us find it. Well, his lens perspective seems wonky now that I have been there and looking back on his site, but he tells you were to go, address included.  There are a lot of stairs, and the parking is on the major street a block or two away, which is also a highway. Though it was free for two hours. So depending on your activity level, you may need to look into this area further if you need assistance with path ways.

The second you hit the beach from the stairs the views are picturesque. Truly beautiful.  The beach is rather large, which wasn’t expected.  You are facing a long-span of beach to the left and cliffs to the right. We had seen a lot of locals hanging out and walking towards the left, so of course, we went right.  Wow, JUST WOW!  We started off our walk along the surf.  The water was so blue, looked lushly weighted as it was rushing over these volcanic like rocks.  It seemed like a dream, really.  Then to the right we saw another gathering of rocks, a man-made wall and there was the Pirate Tower!  Super awesome!

The Pirate Tower was constructed for a former senator at the beginning of the last century as a walled in spiral staircase, but was adopted later by the next residents and the neighbors with pirate lore. It is nestled in the cliffs by what looks like a built out area where people had made a wading pool of some sort.  Then to the right beyond the tower were a collection of jagged rocks that housed the greenest sea moss and tide pools.  The tide was active, and the waves rolling into the cracks of the rocks would fill up the basins created between the rocks and exploded out on the outer side. it was absolutely beautiful mayhem. The booming sound of the waves surfacing above was spectacular!

Crystal Cove State Park

From Victoria Beach we headed to Crystal Cove State Park.  I hadn’t researched much about this location. Only learned that they had a huge state park with a natural beach that had various entrance points, some tide pools and a large beach.  During our last afternoon on Laguna’s Main Beach we looked up this area just to get a handle of what’s to see, how to get there.  Well, this was way more than we expected.

We went into the state park via the Pelican Point entrance, parked in lot 2. Parking is $15. Now, this is a little fuzzy, but I think this lot was for the Reef Point part of the beach.  The walk from the parking lot to the beach was magnificent.  You aren’t really sure what is waiting for you as you park. The lot is surrounded by desert like spaces and to get tot he beach you walk to a boarded walking path. It really looked like a desert.  Along the way there were signs by the conservancy explaining what wildlife is in the area, like coyotes, and the ‘dry’ vegetation, and what not to do, like do not touch or take anything from the beach that is protected.  This means things like NO taking shells, and, NO touching sea life.  Reading the last sign there is when we noticed a purple hummingbird in a sparse tree. Super cool to see such a colorful animal in a dead environment like that.

As the path goes to sand, you can walk to the left or straight.  First we went straight; saw a panoramic view of below.  WE WERE SO HIGH UP ON A CLIFF!  Then we went down to the beach on the other path walking along the cliff.  This path was fun, but if you have mobility issues I believe there is a paved path from another parking lot I saw online.  The path went from flat, to steep, to a gnarly wooden staircase that basically broke off onto a huge mass of rocks.  We loved it! The rocks were jagged, scattered and cracked like no where I had ever seen before.  Everything looked and felt like a desert, but with ocean water feet away.  So unexpected.

There was a twelve-foot uprooted tree/drift wood that was laying across a section of the rocks.  The waves were gracing over the rocks slowly, leaving tide pools of all types of creatures behind.  We saw minnows and other silvery fish, crabs and hermit crabs, snails, and we even got to see a huge sea slug!  He was about 5 inches long, black, and fluttering like seaweed from beneath whenever the water floated over him!!  We had never seen one of those before. SO COOL! (I am still giddy re-living this right now!)

We ended up looking around the rocks for an hour or more, there were so many tide pools around as it went to a large stretch of beach/sand.  When we looked down the beach we realized we were the only people there!  We walked down to the left side to set up our site with towels and snacks, then went right into the water.  We swam around for an hour or so, then got our things together to hike back up the cliff to our car.

This was the most surreal place I had ever been.  It felt like I would go there often if we lived nearby. I also think this was the most typical Californian location…natural, rugged, beautiful, hot. Authentic in every way.

Surprise! Trader Sam’s and Downtown Disney

Our kids definitely knew beforehand that Anaheim was home to Disneyland, and a stop for us along our drive in So Cal. So, naturally they did ask if we were going to the Disneyland parks.  Which we fake explained no; how we couldn’t afford going this leg of the trip, but since we were so close to the city we’d spend a night so we could go to dinner and shop around Downtown Disney.  The reality was that we were in Anaheim for three nights, going to the two parks for a full day each.  Our plan was to take them to the park instead of breakfast that first day to really stun them.. but..

We arrived at the Indigo Hotel Anaheim around 3PM.  This location was spot on perfect for this leg of our trip.  It was a ten minute walk to Disneyland, if that.  We jumped right to swimming because it was so hot and humid there.  The pool and hot tub were pretty decent, and we got to hang out in the cabana with some drinks, which was pretty and relaxing. From the pool area you could see the back of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride!  Super fun.

When we got on the elevator from the pool the girls noticed an advertisement that shared the price of Disneyland tickets per day for both parks, and all the combo ticket prices.  Our kids were like “woaHhhh” when they saw it.  Which made us reply, “I know, right?”. And that little seed of doubt, ‘maybe my parents couldn’t really swing it’, shadowed over their faces. WHICH WAS PERFECT!!  mwuahahaha! :}

At Trader Sam’s we got to sit on the deck, which was perfect.  The weather was now breezy. The tiki torches were all ablaze, and they had a live Hawaiian band playing, who were excellent!  All the elements just right for Polynesian food and cocktails outside.  We ordered a ton of stuff by the way, and I mean A TON.  It was all so good! plus. My husband has food allergies that can be a bummer for him when we eat Asian food, so when we find a place that doesn’t inundate us with it he goes overboard sampling. Like the five dishes of gyoza/dumplings he ordered.

During dinner the girls talked further about Disneyland, which we couldn’t help as the entrance to Disneyland from the Disneyland Resort was literally in our view.  Like it is huge and lit us up!  So.  The reveal came out by chance around the service of dinner.  We had a few cocktails in us, a lot of gyoza, so when our oldest daughter started to compute how much going would be out loud, I replied, “I know, now add another day to that because Disney California Adventure is across the way, right?”.   So she factored that in.  Our daughter was floored just knowing how much two days cost there.  This was so great!

So, my husband said to her, “Don’t forget to add in snacks, drinks and meals. Then it gets crazier.”.  She looked at her sister all disappointed, “how much does food cost then?”.  I motioned to her, like, see why we can’t go?  My husband and I looked at one another all sly like two awesome parent foxes.  Then with our internal dialogue we telepathically spoke like, “so that bright Disneyland sign for the entrance is making me want to tell them so bad! You too, right?”.  He obviously said yes.  🙂 I mean, telepathically..   Just as quick as we smiled to one another, I turned to the girls and replied,  “Super expensive. Then there is Starbucks and all the Pixar Fest themed food that is around that I would need to see and eat.”  Then I took a sip of drink as my husband said, “I have been dying to see Carsland. And ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride again.”.  My reply came out so fast. “I know, me too. So just imagine how much fun tomorrow is going to be!”, turned to our kids quickly, ” Hey. I brought your Minnie Ears, you know.”.

They looked at us confused. It was noisy from the band and all the people (it was slamming!).  Then it registered and they FREAKED the eff OUT!  Like literally got the whole deck excited along with us!  It was so awesome!  There were tears, screams of joy, hugs, disbelief, and just odd noises; and that was just from me…  😛

So happy how it went down! Because the rest of the dinner we talked about what we researched for them, and oddly HOW MUCH THEY KNEW about the parks’ rides!  Those are definitely my girls.

Dinner at Trader Sam’s was fun otherwise too.  The cocktails even funn..er. We had some interesting drinks like we shared the uh ah. This was fun but not my favorite.  It came in a castle shaped tiki cup adorned with sugar cubes and cinnamon.  Our waitress lit the rum soaked sugar cubes and we all took pinches of cinnamon to sparkle in the fire as she chanted something.  It was super fun.  Then I got the piranha pool which was strawberry and blue curacao slush (in a piranha tiki).  My husband got the hippopotomaitai (no tiki mug), and the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki rum (you know you all just sang that!!).  I grabbed the piranha tiki cup as my sole souvenir of my trip.

We walked Downtown Disney as we planned.  I wasn’t exactly impressed with this area, but our girls were ecstatic, so that got me going.  We walked into the downtown area to find a band playing; who were real good!  We walked into each store trying on all the Halloween ears one could get their hands on. All the decorations up for Pixar Fest were so clever.  They had modern art topiaries at each seated area set to each Pixar film with alternating Pixar music piped in softly.  My favorite character made of bushes was Edna Mode though, her topiary was hilarious.

We huddled together as we watched the fireworks display that was visible from over at Disneyland.  It was so great from our spot!  Also, another live band was playing in the restaurant nearby, which made for great fireworks music.

We ended our night walking back to the hotel.  It was that close!  This was a pretty rad busy day, a great day.

Day 7 up next, our first visit to Disneyland!

Posted in My Travels

Laguna Beach Day 5

Hey Everyone!

Ahh Day 5!

We had planned day five as our first full day of doing nothing.  No driving. No sightseeing.  Just beach bumming all day long and eating! It was my husband’s birthday, and we let him choose the itinerary.  We definitely needed to have a beach day together.  

I woke up the earliest; set all the birthday decorations up as quietly as possible.  Which means, I fumbled everywhere but was quiet enough that no one heard me.  🙂 I’m clumsy.  Then I snuck out of the room to the balcony to let everyone wake up on their own. The morning started off grey, though we were assured by the front desk crew from the night before that the sun would make its way through by mid-morning.  I heard my husband wake up then the two chickens followed.  They were rambunctious, shouting birthday salutations. They were so excited to see the decorations; it was a sweet way to make our favorite man in our lives feel special, and a great start to our day together.

We grabbed breakfast at the Orange Inn next door to eat on the deck outside of our hotel building. Our hotel had a super cute area set up with decking and flowers/succulents with glass fire tables and big comfy seats. This was a great way to start the day! hahah

As we were eating the sun came out!  Ahh, the glorious Southern California sun.  It is cheerful, bright and HOT!  Woah, Mamma, it’s hot! And I loved it! Definitely have to say that I could move to So Cal, if I was a millionaire that is, and be extremely happy with the weather.  Everywhere we went the locals would share how it didn’t rain much or how it was always sunny.  I felt like they were all trying to send me a message of not leaving.  :)~    But alas, my kids are too little. I am way too poor, and I will just have to deal with the Atlantic Ocean maybe two months out of twelve. hahah

We spent all day at the beach.  The kids really enjoyed the active surf there. Or I should say getting thrashed by the waves. Some waves rolled in at 15 feet!  Super awesome. We had access to boogie boards from the hotel, which we figured would make it a little bit easier to maneuver the waves, but not really.  Everyone had more fun jumping the waves, getting carried to the sand, than anything else.   We got lounge chairs on the furthest point to the right of the hotel, which was perfect.  A nice family sat near us, who were very friendly and we shared a lot of stories.  Our room was so close that we didn’t need a cooler, just ran up for a new drink whenever we needed one. Which gave us a moment to cool off too.

It was a perfect day.  🙂

After being at the beach for five hours, we hit up the hot tub and pool area for an hour or so before our dinner reservations.  This pool space isn’t that great, I mean, you are on the beach literally from the other side of the wall so the pool doesn’t have to be all that great!  Though the hot tub was HUGE! The kids ended up having a great time swimming as they were the only ones for most of our time there.  I had fun too.  That hot tub was so hot, that I think it melted the salt off my skin way easier.

I am not sure what anyone else’s experience is with the Pacific Ocean swimming, but I have only swam in it twice in my life… Costa Rica and this trip.  In Costa Rica, I didn’t think the water felt different.  It was refreshing, yet warm.  Just perfect.  Not that it isn’t in California, it’s that just walking through Venice Beach a few days earlier (we had walked along the shore and let the kids splash around), the salt from the water was visible and a nuisance on my skin.  Also here in Laguna, I felt that the water was overall saltier than normal.  Like it left a film of salt on your skin that you could feel, grainy, that had to be scrubbed off.  Anyone else?

We got ready for my husband’s birthday dinner out!  I had made reservations for the Driftwood Kitchen months in advance.  The restaurant was beautiful.  A nautical theme as you walk in, which gives way to a bar that overlooks the dining room.  The dining room is a beautiful glassed in deck along the ocean.  The location was perfect, too; two minutes from our hotel room door!  We started off with drinks and roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Yes, that is my favorite food. Yes, I know it was his birthday not mine, but he ate most of them!  Then he got the lobster spaghetti a la carbonara.  I ordered the grilled chicken.  Our oldest the butternut squash gnocchi and our youngest the chicken and fries.  Then we surprised him with cake.  Everything was very good.  We had a great night on the closed in deck with the sunset.  My husband was very happy with everything, all day.  That is all I could ever ask for.

Oh, one thing.. We had sat next to a table of older folks, who were like ten years older than us or so. No kids, just four sun burned adults. They were tipsy, loud, but super funny about it.  They were singing some 80s songs throughout the night, between themselves and what not, not for the restaurant or anything. BUT, because I am way too friendly, I talked to them on our way out.  We had a great time talking then I made a reference to the singing.  Well, then I made a request randomly for Toto’s Africa, and one of the guys actually sang it for me!! And he was great!  So awesome.  I never laughed so hard with a stranger.

Overall, I would say this was a fantastic day with beaching, good food and laughter. Our kids had a great time talking about all their favorite parts of our trip so far…but the best was yet to come!

Day 6 is up next..our drive from Laguna Beach to Anaheim, with two truly amazing stops along the way!

 

Posted in My Travels

From LA to Laguna Beach Day 4

Day 4

This day was super hot. For me to say that means it was a true scorcher! The kind of day that leaves you sweaty just standing there.  The sun was strong, and the concrete was smoking hot. In other words, my favorite kind of weather!

This day was August 19! We were celebrating our first date anniversary, and decided to replay it with a coffee date, like that we went on in 1996. Just in a different city, an almost seventeen year marriage, a mortgage, and two kids under our belt. 🙂

My husband took us to Verve in downtown LA.  This place was pretty swanky in an interesting part of town. It looked like an up and coming area; reinvented for the hipsters. The coffee was great, and our pastries were pretty good, too. We enjoyed all the folks hanging out there with their dogs, and even got to watch a fashion shoot across the street.

As soon as we finished breakfast, we swept up the girls to head to our first destination along the way to Laguna Beach. An art installation in the city of Watts, The Watts Towers.  This is a place my husband and I never got a chance to see on our last trip to LA so we made sure we squeezed it in on this trip.  So glad we did! What an awe-inspiring sight!

The installation is currently under renovations but there is so much of it still exposed to see. It is so large, I wasn’t expecting how big it was. The intricacy of the spires and decorations left me with so many questions.  Especially where it is, in the middle of a neighborhood.  The story behind these towers is simple yet complex. The simple side of it is that they were created from steel and mortar, adorned with various items like shells, glass, porcelain, anything really, created all by just one guy. One!  A small Italian immigrant man, Simon Rodia, who lived in this spot in Watts.  One day he had an epiphany to start building a large structure for people to visit, so he did.  The plot of land changed hands many times after he was older; first selling it to his neighbor. His house inside even burned down, but now the structures belong to the city as an artistic treasure.  Which it is. A definite must see!

From Watts we started on our path to Laguna.  We decided to change-up the map to ride along the Pacific Coast as much as possible. This ride was amazing!  We got to see Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and tons of coastal state parks.  Along the way, around Corona del Mar, we happened upon our favorite candy shop of all time, See’s Candies.  So, of course, we had to go in to get a ton of chocolates.  The folks inside gave us so many samples to try that I swear I gained five lbs during this stop! I know, I could’ve said no, but it’s See’s Candies! C’mon! We bought a good-sized box of our favorites to share before we got to our hotel, but we didn’t even put a dent in it.

Laguna Beach, guys, is the coolest place.  After driving down oceanside Highway 1 through their center, which was filled with art galleries and shops, we arrived to our hotel, the Pacific Edge. We were just blown away.  We had booked a room in the ocean front building, ocean facing, and it was way more than we could have expected from its website.  Standing on our balcony, the view was literally an oceanic postcard. The soothing sounds of the waves was something dreams are made of… My gosh it was truly dreamy.

Our stop in Laguna was not just to hit the upscale beach, it was my husband’s birthday the next day.  We planned a beachy birthday to celebrate.  Doing whatever he wanted to do, which was relax a lot and go out to eat.  It was a great idea after being in LA and what was coming up after this.  The only odd thing about this beach was that it wasn’t a very large span of beach from the edge of the buildings to the surf.  Though the surf was the best my kids played in because the waves were huge; the ocean was so active!  We spent a good long time on the beach before heading out to dinner.

 

We took a few looks around the center for a fun place to eat.  We had done a little research beforehand so we knew we wanted to go to one of two places. We checked on their wait times, and opted for Tortilla Republic.  SO MUCH GOOD!  The salsas were delicious, not spicy, just delicious.  The kids got the kids enchiladas.  My husband got the carnitas, and I got the chicken enchiladas.  Everything was so good, but that dish of carnitas might have been the best carnitas we have had in a long time.  The drinks were pretty great, too.  We got a few cocktails; top shelf margarita, a luxe margarita, a pineapple mojito and a cerveza.

I left there so full, but of course, this crew wanted an ice cream.   Luckily, we had seen a gelateria a few doors down.  We walked over and the line was out alley way of the building!  I honestly did not have even a taste, but the ice cream looked amazing. They had signs everywhere stating it was authentic gelato, and there was a swarm of people  waiting.  It had to be good, right?  The consensus from my family? That it was amazing!  So glad!

After this we took a walk to grab some snacks and wine for the next day to have in our room. Checked out some windows of the art galleries as we headed back to the hotel.  We got to our room feeling so relaxed and happy.  Such a great feeling. My husband and I hung out on the balcony for a little bit.  Listening to the waves crash as the moon lit the ripples of the ocean.  Seriously, it was so beautiful it seemed fake!

 

Day 5 coming up with the best lazy beach day ever and the big man’s birthday!

Posted in My Travels

WB Tour and Hollywood Day 3

Hey Everyone!

Here we are on Day 3! This was our last full day in Los Angeles, which we saved for the hyper touristy things to do in Hollywood.

We woke up later than we had the other days but to grey skies, which was a bummer; though it was hot out. It ended up being a very hot day.  We decided it was the perfect day to start at the pool.  My husband with our oldest went to grab coffees and breakfast while our youngest and I went to scout the table situation at the pool.   The Omni does have a good set up of tables by the pool, which was perfect for us to eat some breakfast.  The sun did finally make its way out, so we swam till noonish as we had reservations for the WB Studio Tour at 2PM.

The WB Studio Tour was fun! A definite must do if you’re visiting LA.  The tour runs about three hours, but the time definitely flies with everything you are seeing and learning. We had a great guide, Alysha, and our entire experience was pretty positive.  She knew some of the most obscure things about some of the sets and sound stages  The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves right from the start.  Maybe because they were the only kids in the group? Or that they got to see some items from shows and movies they have watched?

Our favorite parts of the tour were:

  • Wonder Woman, which we are infatuated with the movie and costumes, so this was a great stop.  I am planning to be WW for Halloween, but since watching the new movie I have been stuck between wanting to be Diana from my youth (Lynda Carter) or Diana from today (Gal Gadot). Any and all ideas are welcome.
  • Harry Potter along with The Fantastic Beasts; we are the uber geeks of all the movies and J.K. Rowling’s books. You get sorted by the Sorting Hat and can see all the costumes and props up close.  My favorite costume is definitely Newt Scamander’s whole outfit with case.
  • The Ellen Show set/stage.  We were allowed to go in last-minute, and so glad we got that opportunity.  The whole vibe in there was fun, and seeing the Ellen Shop was hilarious with the underwear mannequins.
  • Using the HP flying broom interactive.  They had Batman’s bike, too.  You are set up on a broom against a green screen and they take you on a hilarious magical ride.
  • Last but definitely not least, the set of Central Perk on Friends. One of my favorite shows, which I have influenced my children in watching reruns.  This set was super cool, and a lot of fun. Well, that is if you wanted to act in a ‘scene’ on the set.  Which my children did, we waited around forever for it (they didn’t start the scene waiting clock for a long time).  Once time came, they clammed up but still raised their hands to be extras on the set.  It was super cute seeing them on the screen.  I don’t have the face nor body for TV so I opted to be an audience member. 🙂

My other favorite part of the tour was the cafe and gift shop!  🙂 We got some Central Perk coffee and fun souvenirs.

From the tour we planned to take the girls to see Hollywood Blvd for a while, then head to our dinner reservations nearby.  We luckily found a few celebrity stars along the walk to the TCL Theater/Graumann’s Chinese Theater that I had hoped to see in the midst of the craziness of Hollywood Blvd, like Walt Disney’s, David Bowie’s, Michael J Fox’s.  We got to do the fun touristy things like place our hands and/or feet inside the imprints of our favorite celebrities. Realizing how much smaller people’s feet were back in the day!  Or how tiny they were in general.  The girls loved this part a lot.

Then it was time for dinner!