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

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!

——

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

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!

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

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

Posted in My Travels

Montreal 2018- Day 3

Alrighty, guys!  Here we are on day three.  This was by far my favorite day.

Day Three:

It was Saturday, and my husband did not have to work anywhere, so we were able to spend the whole day together from the start.  Our only plan was to grab coffee at Myriade then grab pastries for breakfast nearby.  We walked up to Myriade, which is in the basement level of Club Monaco.  Super swank store, if you don’t know it.  The basement level is their sale section, but right at the bottom of the stairs going down is the Myriade Cafe.  The coffee was so good. I got my usual latte, but I stupidly allowed my girls to have iced mochas, which I forgot to say decaf…so womp.  It didn’t haunt us till bedtime.

When we left Myriade, we realized that we were a short block away from the Barbie Expo.  So before grabbing food we went over to check it out.

WOW.

We had read about this expo, as it was listed as a fun free thing to do with kids in Montreal.  It is an exhibit of Barbie dolls dressed by all these world-renowned designers like Bob Mackey, Christian Dior, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Louboutin, Zac Posen, and so many more.  There were a lot of celebrity look-alike Barbies, like Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Prince William with Princess Kate and Cher, there were a few of Cher!  It was probably the most impressive collection of Barbie and Barbie Fashion any of us have ever seen.  I don’t know for sure, but there had to be- at least- a thousand dolls.  It was definitely a fun walk through for all of us. I grew up on Barbie, and my kids love her too.

From Barbie, we headed straight to Maison Christian Faure, a fun pastry shop, patisserie. This place was just a sweet tooth’s dream come true..and they had some amazing croissants.  We grabbed a chocolate twist croissant, chocolate filled croissant, a plain croissant, and a Napoleon…and another coffee! This place did not disappoint.

Feeling full and happy, we made our way back to the hotel. Our plan was to go swim a few hours, but we stopped to shop a little bit, souvenirs for the girls. Then on our walk towards the hotel, we heard these crazy sounds of a party. Then we saw a street blocked off, which we walked down towards the noise and it opened up to this cool sight. My husband had read somewhere that there was going to be a parade but we didn’t expect it to be so big. It was the Caribbean Parade on one of the major boulevards. Huge!! I am talking it went for miles! The sounds of the crowds, proud to see their country represented. The crazy awesome and different Caribbean music blasting from each truck bed. The traditional costumes on people walking along…and the dancing. IT WAS SO FUN!!!! We ended up staying to watch, and I danced, for an hour to each beat. It was a beautiful day, I personally love interacting with all cultures, so I truly appreciated what I was watching and learned some great moves.

When we got to the hotel, we decided to just chill a bit to refresh ourselves then head back out. We started our evening off by exploring the areas of old Montreal we hadn’t before. This part of Montreal is the best to walk around as there are parts not made for cars, so walking is nice. Lots of shops and restaurants, but mainly art galleries. The end of this walkable strip comes up to a piazza filled with artists, caricaturists, vendors and cafes. It felt like we were in Europe, not Canada. By this point we were hungry, so we decided to indulge on a late lunch/early dinner, or as we paraphrase it from Seinfeld, linner.

My husband got us reservations that morning for Terrasse Nelligan, it is a hotel rooftop restaurant that overlooks the city. My husband had stayed in this hotel a month ago during his last work trip. Super cool. We had a great time with the people and the food was really good. The girls loved it because they had music pumping, and a lot of the songs they knew. The girls got a shrimp taco and a cheeseburger. We got a carafe of red sangria and a wagyu burger each. We all enjoyed our meals and yet again the topic of dessert came up. I mean, did any of you eat dessert as much as these kids? It’s like a sweet toothed epidemic around me. But anyways, we promised them crepes..again because well they’re awesome!! Our kids are awesome, too.

We left the rooftop to walk the seaport/boardwalk area. We had pre reserved quad bike rides for the next morning but we swung by to see if we could use them this night instead. And we could. Yes!!

Some backstory… my girls LOVE to ride bikes. They have been riding bikes since they were able to run. Though we have a horrible driveway for riding and a stone paved patio, they persisted to learn and ride. Eventually, moving on to parking lots and side streets. Now, they go on daily rides together after school or camp for an hour or more exploring the neighborhoods or going to friends. So when I mentioned bike rentals as an option, they were all for it. Only thing, I was nervous to rent single bikes in the city for them, because I wasn’t quite sure what the city would be like with them; though now I wish I had brought their helmets! Next time!

Anyways, no single rentals because we decided to surprise them with renting quad bikes instead (the ones with dual rider pedals). We rented them for a half hour because it was late evening. It was the perfect amount of time. We got to take them through a huge paved lot facing the river, down a walking path and park along the water to this historic clock tower and back. With time to take picture and switch up riders, which means my husband and I got to ride alone. Finally alone!

As we returned the bikes, we opted to sit marina side for a while to enjoy the views and catch a sunset. Our plan was dessert then back for fireworks. Apparently, Montreal is home to an international fireworks competition every Wednesday and Saturday. This night’s theme was ABBA. We didn’t want to miss it.

When the sunset ended, we hopped across the street for crepes. Yup, back to Chez Catherine, but this time we only got two crepes, one filled w vanilla ice cream and maple syrup, the other filled with Belgian chocolate and cream. I had some glow sticks and necklaces for the kids that were opened at this point.

All garbed in glow, we ran to grab the perfect spot for the night’s attraction. The funny thing is that in the middle of the seaport there is this two floored metal structure, what it is for I don’t know, but we went up it and watched the show from there. It was perfect. You could hear the music softly (they had it pumping in from far away), and the fireworks were impressive. The cool thing was, do you remember I mentioned in my previous post that there was a lighting exhibit across Old Montreal? Well along the tree line in front of us where the ferris wheel was located, they had projected people’s faces onto the trees. They would move with emotion and it was just super cool to see. I tried capturing it in the pictures so you can see what I am talking about.

So Saturday. Woke up to sunshine, ate and drank delicious food and coffee, saw Barbie, danced to an insane parade, rode quad bikes AND watched fireworks… it was a good day. 🙂