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

Disneyland First Timers! Day 7

Sorry for the delay!  I have been dealing with a lot at home, and just hadn’t any time to draft this up.  Which is why I am using my lunch break to make this magic happen!

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As much as we loved the bustling city and relaxing beach stops of our Southern California trip thus far, this part, Disneyland, was as special.  We thoroughly enjoyed Disneyland (DL) just as we had hoped.

 

Day 7!

This was an extremely hot day!  It was pretty humid and the heat index was off the charts.  

We started by having a pretty big (delicious) breakfast at our hotel before walking over to the parks area.  We entered the parks via South Harbor Blvd, which was the opposite side of where we went the night before to Downtown Disney.  Being this close to the parks was fantastic.  We all commented on how it felt like going to the Magic Kingdom (MK) from the Bay Lake Towers (BLT) at the Contemporary in Walt Disney World.  Which is a resort we all enjoy staying due of the proximity to MK.  *With the major differences here of being outside of the property and way more people walking along with you.  The MK walk from BLT is literally like your own private entrance!

The walkway to the Disneyland Parks here had the most charming, manicured, square-cut trees.  With Pixar Fest happening, there was that faint Pixar music that we heard at Downtown Disney being piped in, which I loved so much.  Who doesn’t get amped up hearing The Incredible’s movie theme song early in the morning!? Your stride changes a bit, you seem to have a bounce in your step and a smile on your face. It’s pretty magical from that point on.

Since we planned one day per park, we realized this was going to be a challenge because of the amount of people slated to be at the park as they just reopened annual pass holders back from Summer.  Also, DL’s fast pass system is the old school paper tickets, and being unfamiliar with the park (wanting to see more) was a big obstacle, but also we were fighting time.

If you have never been to DL, but have gone to WDW, the set up is basically similar to MK. Meaning they both have themed areas at almost in the same directions as one another; with three exceptions in DL.  They have the following… Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Adventureland. Knowing where these are at WDW, you know Main Street USA is where you enter down to the castle.  The castle is the central point with Tomorrowland to its right, Fantasyland behind it, Frontierland and Adventureland to its left.  Did I get that right? Yes, ok. So. Knowing generally where the rides we wanted to get on first were, and how the fastpass system worked, we planned to opt out of chasing down characters we had met before, or, rides that we had gone on at WDW IF we had to skip something for time.

There is a MAXPASS system in place at the parks. It’s $10 a person per day, which we didn’t get the first day, stupidly.  We both thought it was $40 a person, for some reason. I am not sure what we were thinking, but we did get it on our next visit which was a HUGE help getting us on rides faster.  The MAXPASS grants you access to book fastpass (FP) and to see/save photopass pictures through their app. The rule is you book one FP per person, you can’t get another electronically till that one is spent.  Like at WDW, except you get three per person to book in advance to start.

Even with the FP set back, we did a lot.  And since they had opened the gates that day for their annual pass holders return from the Summer off, the amount of crowds was manageable. There were a lot of people there.

We did a lot for what we had to deal with and time!!

The rides we got on:

  • Snow White’s Scary Adventure*- I loved this when it was at WDW, it was the very first ride my husband had taken me on during my first visit. (Snow White is my favorite Princess of all time.) Naturally, we had to ride this first to show the kids. This ride makes its way through the Seven Dwarfs lives in the cottage and glimmering mines, the haunted forest, the Evil Queen’s room and exits to the happily ever after.   I miss this ride a lot!
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey*- This was a cute ride, similar to Snow White’s, with all its plot twists along Pinocchio’s story.  I loved seeing Figaro everywhere, he is my favorite cat.
  • Big Thunder Mountain- We all love this ride at WDW, and this one was very different but still the same.  It wasn’t as jerky, which made it a little more enjoyable, and I felt like it was more daring with its drops and swoops.  We definitely wished we lived closer to ride it more and more!
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride*- This was a first for me and the girls, my husband had ridden this at WDW as a kid.  The ride moves along pretty quick, though, but we thought it was a lot of fun!
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats*- This is the sweetest water ride to ever exist.  It is a simple cruise down a canal overlooking all the homes of the storybook characters and some Disney ones from over the years.  It was so well constructed, and adorable.
  • Mad Tea Party (twice)- This is a ride also at WDW, but it is outdoors adorned with colorful lanterns above.  So pretty at night!  I noticed it wasn’t as big, not as many riders can get on at once, so the line took some time to get through.  Overall, aesthetically we liked this location, but the short length of the ride and wait in line was a bummer.
  • Indiana Jones Adventure*- So, we all loved this ride a whole bunch.  It was super fun, thrilling and kinda creepy! Lots of twisty turns, bringing the action as close to you as possible.  Lots of effects that surprised us all. I wish they create this at WDW… but make it a little less jerky, please.
  • Jungle Cruise- This is a ride I have not gotten on in years, since my first visit in 2002 to be exact.  Each time we have brought our kids it was either down or they didn’t care to go on it.  This time, because it was so frackin hot and the line was at 15 minutes, we jumped on!  So happy we did.  The cruise takes you on an adventure with animatronic exotic animals and people along the way.  I re-lived a lot of the funny jokes.
  • Space Mountain (twice)- When I say ‘we’ rode this, I mean my husband and oldest daughter did.  Our youngest would rather die than ride it again.  ha  They did say that it was different from at home, one loved it more and one loved it less.
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage*- This is a super cute ride, that is themed with the Pixar movie Nemo, but used to be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea- Submarine Voyage ride, which I never got to ride. It is an underwater adventure where you go “deep” into the ocean for exploration, then it turns into a Nemo adventure looking for him all over again.  Our kids really enjoyed it, looking at all the under sea ‘fish’.  BUT…if you are claustrophobic, do not go on this ride.  Like I don’t even have claustrophobia and I was feeling a little too uncomfortable for my taste.  But to be fair, it wasn’t the whole time, just when we had a small leak that dripped on another guest in our submarine.  My brain, apparently, was not having it. hahah
  • Autopia-Take a ride in the coolest gas-powered cars!  This is a racecar ride that most amusement parks have, but the cars at Disneyland were tres cool!  We had a blast letting the girls each take the wheel, as we feared for our lives… we keep doing this to ourselves.  To our surprise this time, they did great!  In my car, with our youngest, we only slammed into the guard rails at the center like 50 times while she screamed and let go of the wheel but leaving her lead foot on the gas.
  • Disneyland RR- After our non-stop running around, we decided to get to our next destination, dinner, by railway.  This was actually totally fun, and different from WDW’s.  The RR rides around the park, but also through tunnels of time.  Cute.
  • Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin*- We had to hustle to get here after dinner. Toontown closes early for the fireworks display, it was around 8:30PM this night.   It was such a fun ride, sort of like Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, but bouncy and kookier.  The girls loved it!
  • it’s a small world- This begins outside in DL, which is great, and it definitely went longer than its sister location at WDW.  There seemed to be more lands/countries and I appreciated them way more! I actually love looking at all the details of the cultures, clothing, and the DL version was just a touch better than at WDW because they peppered in some Disney characters.  Hands down cute!
  • Alice in Wonderland*- The ride takes you on the adventure of Alice in Wonderland in a giant caterpillar car.  Immediately you are shrunken down to fit through the doors. You avoid chases by the Queen of Hearts and her staff of cards. And you end up at the Mad Tea Party.  It’s really cute.

* Not at Walt Disney World

FYI- The Matterhorn and The Haunted Mansion, the two rides I was looking forward to most, were shut down.

We got to meet for the first time:

  • Kylo Ren
  • Rey
  • Darth Vader

We drank and snacked on:

  • Dole Whip (No swirls at DL, folks!)
  • Churros
  • Mickey Bars
  • Mickey Shaped Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Frozen Lemonades
  • Frozen Lemonades with Cherry
  • Waters..like I think fifteen waters a piece!  It was really hot.

 

Aside from all this, we did stop to have dinner.  We had booked reservations for the Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square.  This was a nice area of the park, set up to look like New Orleans.  If you have ever stayed at the Port Orleans Resort at WDW, which we had our first family trip- on the French quarter side, it had the same feels of that location.  Very ornate and pretty.

Cafe Orleans was pretty fun.The aesthetics inside and out felt like we were somewhere else; we sat outside on the patio. The mint julep drink was so pretty AND super delicious!  We ordered dinner at a snail’s pace because we found out that some of their items, like their fries, were fried ahead of time in my husband’s allergen. With a little maneuvering he got to order basically what he wanted.  Just no fries.  Which was a bummer, because those fries rocked!  Hey, I felt bad the whole time I ate them with the kids in front of his face.  😛

The waitress refilled our glasses a lot, which we needed in the heat. Even though the kids were drinking Sprite and Coca Cola, which I don’t normally let them unless we go out or are away, I wasn’t caring at all. They needed the sugar and liquid to make the rest of the night.  Did I mention enough how it was sweltering hot out there? I feel like I haven’t.  Not nearly enough.  The sun was shining bright and the sky had no cloud in sight.  Perfect but the humidity was over the top ridiculous.  I wore a sheer top that I was boiling in.  And I can handle high temps.  My kids were just sweating standing in the shade and every twenty minutes we finished a bottle of water running for another one. We even drank from the weird water bubblers around the park when we had no water bottles in sight.  It was so hot!  OHMYGOD, I forgot to mention, it was so hot that an older woman fainted in front of us waiting to get on Big Thunder Mountain!  She was about to get on and just dropped.  That is how hot it was!

Ok, back to dinner..in the heat.  As the food arrived it felt like a scene from some eating contest.  The plates were overflowing with food, holy portions!  The kids and my husband ordered 2 monte cristos and a three cheese monte cristo to split up, and I got the nicoise salad..with fries. 🙂   Their meals were not sandwiches, they were like donuts!  GINORMOUS SQUARISH & TRIANGULAR SHAPED DONUTS!  It was obscene!  I was pretty happy to see that none of them could put a dent in their dishes.

After dinner, we had to run on a few rides before the Pixar Fest ‘Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular’ Fireworks started. I put a list of all the rides above, basically, in order of how we got on them.

Once the night sky got real dark, the show started.  We got to watch the show by the it’s a small world building. WOW!  We were told they were pretty special there, and they weren’t kidding.  What a view!  We got to stand pretty close to the projections on the ride, and, there was a lot of space for people to sit on the ground!  It floats through all the music and scenes of Pixar’s great movies.  The best part for me, however, was Wall-E and Eve.  It was magical and perfect with the fireworks.

We did all this and we still had time to take our time walking down Main Street USA to shop around… twice!  I got the girls some birthday surprises, which they both celebrate their big days in September.  We left the parks by walking back to the hotel.  We were absolutely spent after all the running around and non-stop fun.

 

This was another great day!  We all felt that Disneyland had a great magical feel. We fell asleep looking forward to our next big adventure…Disneyland’s California Adventure Park!  YEE!!

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

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!

Now, we had made reservations at Yamashiro Hollywood two months before per a recommendation of my friends, the ones from Australia that we went away with two years ago on a cruise.  Click here in case you don’t know what I am talking about.  The recommendation was for many things.. the best views of Hollywood/LA, authentic architecture and some pretty great sushi and cocktails.

It did not disappoint! It was beautiful!

But. First let me start off this part of the night with… Yamashiro is on the top of a mountain basically.  Ok?  It is known to be a windy hill that gives way to the beautifully ornate Japanese restaurant at the top.

Then let me follow with this… we had a great parking spot when we got to Hollywood.  Literally the corner of Hollywood Blvd and some street that was about two blocks from where we were heading.  A perfect spot to see the Walk of Fame, the prints at the theater then leave to drive up to dinner.  BUT.  My husband  had other plans. Either he didn’t want to lose the spot, or I think, pay for more parking (am I right?).  So he was sure walking up the hill to the restaurant “wouldn’t be that big of a deal”.  HE WAS WRONG.  Not only had the kids gotten tired from walking around the blvd and hot making our way through crowds, but where we ended up walking to before our reservations left us with a lot of walking to get to the street before our hike up the mountain.  Yes a hike, with dodging of on coming cars going up the steep curves. The angle of the walk was uncomfortable for the girls. My husband I were fine, just a lot of up hill stamina to keep up, and we were at this point starving.. hiking.  When we finally made it up, we got seated and told the waiter we walked up.  Well, he looked at us like we were crazy.

Looking back it was funny. In the moment it was horrible. But the atmosphere of the restaurant and then the walk down made up for it.  Actually, the walk back was just hilarious, because the steepness was way worse going down. Then we went a totally different way leaving from the gates of the grounds.  We ended up behind some apartment building that lead to a private street with no lights that had a gated end that exited to the cars leaving the restaurant! Did I mention without street lights?   I swear I live in a sitcom.

But let me back up.  The dinner was a lot of fun, and SO good!  One of my new favorite drinks is from this restaurant, a Tokyo Mule. OHMYGINGERBEERGOD.  So good, I wish I could’ve just had a never-ending supply on tap at the table! But I have kids, and I am not a drunk. Well, I am, just not in front of them.  The food is mainly sushi and some appetizer rolls/dumplings.  What we had eaten was really inventive and yummy.  So many great dishes that we shared:

  • Mountain Palace Sampler Platter; minus any nut items so it was banana leaf pork spring rolls, vegetarian spring rolls, honey baked chicken wings, shrimp dumpling and sauces
  • Red Dragon Maki roll; shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado, spicy mayo and unagi sauce
  • California Tempura maki Roll; snow crab, avocado, cucumber
  • Crispy Rice Sushi maki roll; Snow Crab & Avocado

The photos above came out so dark because well, the restaurant is dimly lit because the star of the place is the view.  And what a view it was.  After dinner we took a long stroll along the grounds; checking out all the decorative aspects and that view of LA from every angle. It is very special, and the grounds outside are manicured perfectly.  Totally worth the hike.  🙂

 

Next up is day 4; leaving LA for Laguna Beach… with a few stops along the way!

Posted in My Travels

Maine 2018

Hey Everyone!

Arrrggggg, it’s already August! I guess, Happy August to you!

I swear this Summer has flown way too fast! Like way faster than years past.  Maybe because the girls got out of school so late, or that I wait for this time of year ALLL Yearrr LoooNNNg!?

Well, anywho, I am not going to be writing much about this trip to Maine because I think the photos / captions speak for themselves.  I had a relaxing time not thinking about much other than when to pour my next drink. (which is what I needed)  Overall, we had a great few days away with our friends making the most of the weather, the water, and view.  One of our best friends even ended up making the long drive up for an overnight with us.. and he brought Krispy Kreme donuts!  :)~

That’s a big win, Dan and Donuts.

Till next time, WordPressland!  (Which will be when I return from OUR CALIFORNIA TRIP!!) Not sure if I will blog each day while away or wait till I get back, but I am way too excited for this trip! I can’t stop talking about all the fun things we will see and do … and wear! hahah

xoxoxo

Posted in My Travels

Montreal 2018- Day 4

Hey guys!

Here we are, the last blog post of our trip to Montreal. It really was a fantastic four days, and this day did not disappoint!

Day Four:

We slept in! OK, I always start the posts off with how we woke up, may be weird but I think how we wake up sets the tone for the day. We had planned to get up early, but instead, no one set an alarm and we slept till around 8AM. Big win in my book since it’s Summer, and I have been naturally waking up at 5/5:30AM from the sunlight.

Which I love, I am actually an odd duck in that I am a night owl who wakes up like an early bird, because I sleep without my shades down on purpose to rise with the sun. This is something I love because I don’t need an alarm clock, which is the Devil’s creation. What a horrible sound!!

Ok, back to our last day.

We really had no plans other than eating breakfast somewhere different because we swapped our quad bike reservations to the night before. I had packed up the room the afternoon before when we came back to the room to cool off from the parade, so all we had to do was shower and go out for the day.

We went to check out a fun spot we read about that was nearby, Artisans. It is basically like an upscale food store, like Williams-Sonoma, that has cookware and linens, but also a places to eat: a creperie, a bakery, a charcuterie, a pasta area, a market, and a teaching glassed in classroom etc etc. super cute and amazing quality.

We loved it!

The girls got a sweet crepe, raspberry, and a waffle topped with strawberries. The raspberries were the sizes of champagne corks, and the fruits tasted like what I imagine Heaven tastes like. If Heaven has a taste. My husband got a savory crepe with French ham and cheese, and I got a savory crepe, which was a buckwheat pancake, and I filled it with spinach and mozzarella. It was all delicious and so light, that we felt great.

After breakfast we walked around the store, bought some stuff to take for the ride; like French bread and maple flavored homemade marshmallows. Then we walked around the city a bit before heading back to the hotel to leave. We had late check out, and plans to stop in VT along the way home.

It was a beautiful morning, Montreal is just a wonderful city. If you have never been, well, I hope you consider it a stop sometime. The people are wonderful. The sights are to be seen. The food is fantastic. And the bread! My gosh, for that alone I hope you go. Haha. But, seriously. It is like traveling to a European country, but just not as far. You get the European mentality mixed with Canadian, in a bubble where they appreciate food, art, sports, music and cultures from around the globe.

Now it was time for us to go. (Insert sighs and sad faces here.)

As I mentioned before, my husband and I have been going up to Montreal since we met. We were dating a few months when he asked me to go away with him. My first real boyfriend asked me to go to a foreign country!! I was so excited that I started prepping right away and told no one that I was going till the day before!! Sorry Mum! Haha.

The best part of that trip was all the surprises he had in store for me, things have not changed in 22 years. On the way up, he told me we would make a stop to rest and eat. Which was great. He surprised me with the location, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in VT. I was so excited when I saw the signs (I am like a child about everything). So we walked over to this grassy area where they had tables, as I noticed he was carrying a cooler. He didn’t tell me was that his very Italian, very old, great-aunt Lucy, whom I liked a lot, packed us a picnic of my favorite things to eat. It was the sweetest gesture I had ever had in my life at this point and one of my favorite memories from dating.

Ok, now that we have all gone down memory lane… so, as we were going with our kids I wanted to surprise them with a stop at Ben and Jerry’s too! Since on the way up my husband ended up having a meeting change to earlier in the day, we couldn’t make it, so we planned going on the ride home.

The girls were ecstatic! And the place was totally different than how I remembered it. It seemed more built up. We took them on the tour. You start the tour off with a movie of how Ben met Jerry, and how they made ice cream… and how they sold to Unilever. I forgot they had. Then they walk you through the processes, packaging and advertising. The tour is super quick, cheap and totally worth a go. Plus, you get a super delicious ice cream sample at the end, which was the size of a kiddie cup! But we got ice creams after it anyways, because that is what we do.

It was a fantastic stop along the way home and a great way to end our quick getaway to Montreal.

Xoxo