A Travellerspoint blog

Los Angeles/Southern California - Day 7

Los Angeles

sunny 75 °F

Our last day in CA was spent putzing around. It was a beautiful day and we spent the morning sitting on the beach watching surfers try to ride the big waves. They were definitely the biggest waves we've seen since we've been here and the surfers were struggling.

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On our drive up to LA we stopped at Redondo Beach to see seals a King's Harbor Marina. We learned that last year the seals food supply was interrupted due to warm waters so they were underweight, sick and dehydrated and unable to swim to cooler waters. They were resting on the docks of the King's Harbor Marina which was causing damage and making it difficult to walk to boats. The city put up a dock in the middle of the marina for the seals use. We were looking for that dock and we think we may have seen it, but it was pretty far from shore. As we wandered around the marina, trying to get a closer look, we ended up running right into a seal! He/she was the only one we saw, but that was good enough for me! We also got to see a woman who was training a hawk in the marina. She used a target for it to fly by and try to grab. Pretty neat.

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Satisfied we got to see a seal, we then headed to LA for lunch at the 101 Coffee Shop - a diner that's been featured on TV shows and movies such as Swingers and Entourage. Supposedly it's not unusual to see celebrities stop in. Spoiler alert - we didn't see any. Tim had brunch, french toast, eggs and bacon. I had the roast beef po' boy that left a lot to be desired. The only thing that was good was the side of mash potatoes and gravy that tasted homemade. The diner was only a few blocks from the Scientology Celebrity Center. Tim was hoping to see a few celebrities but they must have all been out making money in order to advance to the next alien level.

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From there we got back in the car and headed up to Griffith Park. On our way there we passed the Hollywood Tower apartments, which are supposedly the inspiration for the Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disney! We were hoping to visit the observatory but the sun was going down and everyone and their brother were there. It was the first touristy thing we visited that was crowded. We drove up and down a few times hoping to find a parking spot, with no luck. We drove around the park on our way out. It was really pretty and movie-buff Tim mentioned the tunnel we drove through looked just like the one in Back to the Future II. Turns out he was right!

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Next we drove Mulholland Drive and stopped at the Hollywood Bowl outlook. Somehow we were able to snag a spot in the 4 spot lot! The view was amazing; you could see all of LA, the Hollywood sign and the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater.

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Before we left LA Tim really wanted to see a Bansky (street art) that was downtown. We got all the way downtown to discover a brand new building being built which covered the Bansky! They left a little space between the new building and the building that the art was on, so you could see a tiny bit of it, but there was scaffolding in front that prevented a picture. Whomp, whomp. We closed out our last day by going to In-N-Out. Of course. And it didn't disappoint.

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California was fun! We could definitely see ourselves coming back and taking surfing lessons or heading up to Northern CA to see Yosemite and the Redwood National Park. Until then!

Posted by juliejakicic 09:49 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Los Angeles/Southern California - Day 6

San Diego

sunny 75 °F

Today we took a drive down the coast to San Diego and headed straight for Stone Brewery. We drove through some absolutely beautiful coastal towns. The GPS said we had arrived at Stone but the only thing we saw was a nondescript office building with no signs, next to a trailhead. There were so many cars in the parking lot we knew they couldn't all be hiking. Tim looked on Google maps Street View and sure enough, we were at the right place. We parked and walked towards the front of the building and noticed a winding path that wasn't visible from the street. If you've been to Disney World, imagine the path to A Bug's Life - same thing. That path led us to the entrance of a large foyer that led into a gift shop on one side and a restaurant on the other. On the other side of the restaurant was a large outside eating area and an even larger garden. Kudos to the designer! Everything is hidden from the road and somehow the sound is blocked as well. It's as if you're walking into some hidden beer oasis where all your hopes and dreams come true.

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The brewery is huge. It is the largest brewery in Southern California, and the 15th largest overall in the country. We sat outside and ordered from their farm to table menu. Tim ordered the BLT with garlic pepper chips and I ordered the sticky garlic quail legs and and IPA sharp white cheddar beer soup. Everything was really good - including the beer. It was the perfect temperature today so we spent a couple hours at Stone sipping our beers and enjoying the garden.

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After Stone we drove into San Diego to see the city and ended up at the marina. There was a Maritime Museum at the marina that gave you access to a number of boats, including two submarines! SOLD! The insides of the submarines were even smaller than I imagined. One was a Russian sub and the other was American - definitely from two different eras. The museum left some things in working order for you to try, like the periscope or you could lie on the beds. The museum also included admission to the 1863 Star of India, "one of the last vessels that helped explore unchartered seas and create the first global oceanic trade routes." Unfortunately, as I've mentioned already, we are visiting at a slow time so a lot of the Star of India was under construction and a lot of the boats we would normally have access to, were closed. But that's ok, I would have been happy with just the submarines.

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By the time we were finished exploring, the sun was going down. We took advantage of our admission and boarded the Berkeley (an old ferry) and sat on the back to watch the sun set. We had the whole boat to ourselves. Due to the nearby naval base there was no shortage of things to see - ships, helicopters, something was always sailing or flying by. There was also a Coast Guard helicopter that landed outside a nearby hanger.

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To close out our day we stopped at another massive brewery called Ballast Point. They are the 17th largest brewery overall in the country, not far behind Stone. Talk about crowded. It's in a business park and we had to park several blocks away. As we got out of the car a guy drove up in a golf cart - they offer a free shuttle service! We thought they were hosting an event but the driver said they are busy every day of the week. Even so, we were able to get a table in the bar area with no issues, right next to large windows that looked into their brewing area. The food here wasn't too bad - the fried mac and cheese bites were a little heavy on the batter and the garlic/parm wings smelled amazing, but the smell just didn't match the taste. That's ok though, because where the food lacked, the beer more than made up for it. I had the pumpkin beer, which was really good. Tim had a bunch of unique tasters like red velvet oatmeal stout (it smelled like cake!) and a smokey lager.

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On our way back to Huntington Beach we had to go through a US Customs and Border check??? Somewhere before San Clemente. They must have been looking for something in particular because we didn't even have to put down our window. Just a quick stop at a stop sign and then a wave through by the officer.

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That was it for today! Tomorrow is our last day and we plan on winging it.

Posted by juliejakicic 09:59 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Los Angeles/Southern California - Day 5

Los Angeles/Burbank/Anaheim

sunny 80 °F

After a horrible meal last night, we went to a breakfast place in Los Angeles for brunch on a recommendation. Phew!!! We're back on the good food train! The restaurant was called The Griddle Cafe and it was located on Sunset Boulevard. They are famous for their pancakes. Tim had the espresso/chocolate chip pancakes and they were HUGE. I'm talking oversized dinner plate size....and then larger than the oversized dinner plate. I had the yummy breakfast tacos. Did I mention the coffee was pressed table-side? Both of our meals were delicious and it was clear by the packed restaurant that this is a favorite of many.

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Due to the unexpectedly crowded restaurant, we had to race over to Burbank to Warner Brother's for our studio tour and made it just in time. Today was the warmest day so far, at about 80 degrees, which was great because most of the tour was outside. After a brief movie we loaded into a mega golf cart with 10 of our closest friends and zipped around the front and back studio lots. Warner Brother's is 110 acres and I think we saw maybe 5, but what we saw was awesome! Tim wore a Goonies "Truffle Shuffle" shirt which was a big hit with everyone we encountered. Before we started our tour the guide asked us if there were any particular films we were fans of and he would do his best to talk about them. Tim mentioned Goonies and the guide claimed that wasn't a Warner Brother's film. WRONG. Off to a great start!

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Our guide drove us around to multiple outside sets that are used and reused over and over again for TV shows and movies. There were double sided houses (one side was Rory's house from Gilmore Girls and the other side was Sookie's house) to save money and space. All of the buildings on the lots (including office buildings) are nondescript in case they are needed for filming. One part of a fake city street was used for the iconic upside-down kiss in Spiderman and also for a scene in The Last Samurai. My favorite part was driving through a fake jungle that was used in the Jurassic Park scene where Jeff Goldblum was in the back of the jeep yelling "Must go faster!" as they were chased by the t-rex.

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We also stopped at a comic book exhibit of 1st edition DC comics and the accompanying costumes used in the newest movies (Suicide Squad, Batman vs. Superman) and at a Batman car exhibit.

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Our tour was lucky enough to see the Big Bang set because they weren't filming today. It was set up for Sheldon and Leonard's apartment. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the sets. But we were allowed to take pictures in the GIANT prop house! We could have spent hours in there. It was multiple floors and had everything you could imagine to set up a scene. Probably the most exciting part of the tour was seeing MATT DAMON!!! I mean, Tim saw him and pointed him out to me as he drove away. THANKS TIM...... He was filming something the guide couldn't tell us about.

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We ended the tour in a sound stage converted into an interactive museum. They recreated the iconic coffee shop in Friends, Central Perk, there was a fun forced perspective set from Lord of the Rings, you could hold a real Oscar (I was overcome with emotion) and probably the best part - we reenacted scenes from Harry Potter and Batman they filmed on a green screen.....that we promptly purchased. Before you could leave you had to go through a gift shop (of course) but since we're here at an off-peak time there were lots of sales!

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We spent way more time playing around in the interactive museum than we had anticipated so we had to grab a quick bite to eat before we headed to our final leg of the day - Pittsburgh vs Anaheim! A quick google map search revealed a nearby hot dog/burger joint called Dog Haus. Done. Tim had a hot dog with white american cheese, bacon, bbq sauce and crispy fried onions. I had a burger with white america, garlic aioli and bacon. We were pleasantly surprised to find they both came served on Hawaiian rolls!!! So good.

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Traffic to Anaheim was pretty horrific, of course this is after I said yesterday how the traffic hasn't been bad here, but we made it to the game right on time. There were a lot of Pens fans. We've seen the Pens play in Tampa, Sunrise, Denver, and now Anaheim and there are always a ton of Pens fans. Always. It's kind of neat knowing us Pittsburgh fans are everywhere. The Pens won 5-1 and in-between periods or on breaks they played the World Series. The entire arena screamed when the Cubs won - so cool! Thanks to the Cubs and the Pens for putting the cherry on top of a great day!

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Posted by juliejakicic 10:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Los Angeles/Southern California - Day 4

sunny 70 °F

Julie here. After getting back late last night, we took our time starting our day and made breakfast in the hotel. We finally hit the road around noon and headed to Santa Monica, with our goal to see the Santa Monica Pier. By the time we made it to Santa Monica, we were starving. Tim did some research on the way and found a restaurant called Blue Plate Taco right on Ocean Avenue not far from the pier; and lucky us, we got street parking!

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Blue Plate Taco was DELICIOUS. We sat outside with the company of Bob the pigeon and ate our meal (I may have snuck him a few tortilla chip crumbs). I had the fish tacos with Mexican slaw, Tim had the short rib tacos with rice and beans, and we shared chips and guac. Wow - what a great meal! After we inhaled our food we headed to the open air shopping street that paralleled Ocean Avenue. It gives Pearl Street in Boulder a run for it's money! I forgot to pack a hat so my goal was to find something to shade the sun from my eyes. Sunglasses alone don't cut it. Before long I found a cute fedora from a street vendor. We were making our way back towards the pier when we saw a store called Cream and Dreams that makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Of course we had to try it! Tim ordered cookie dough/nutella flavor. They pour the mix into the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer and mix in liquid nitrogen which freezes it into ice cream. It was really creamy and the flavor was really good.

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Food - check. Hat - check. Weird ice cream - check. Next, the pier! I had no idea the pier was so large. I'd seen it in movies but I guess I thought it was set up boardwalk style? I didn't realize restaurants and rollercoasters and ferris wheels were actually ON the pier. I also had no idea Ocean Avenue runs along a cliff and you actually have to walk DOWN to the pier. I learned a lot today! We're definitely visiting at a low peak time so the pier wasn't crowded at all. In fact, some restaurants were closed completely. We walked the length of the pier, took some pictures and then headed to the beach. We couldn't be that close to the beach and not walk on it! The beach was beautiful - we finally had a nice sunny day. The view of what I think was the Santa Monica mountains completed the picturesque scene.

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We didn't spend a ton of time at the beach because we were losing daylight and there were a few more things we wanted to see. So we headed back to the car and drove over to Beverly Hills and of course, down Rodeo Drive. We made a quick stop at Badgley Mischka to get a pair of shoes (I wish!) and then on to the Paul Smith store which is a giant pink building and sets the backdrop for one of the most instragrammed walls. We snapped some fun pics in front of the pink wall, played with shadows and then drove to the West Hollywood library. Tim had researched street art in the area. On the back of the library parking garage is a large mural by Shepard Fairey, who Tim is a fan of. Around the corner, inside the library cafe, is a smaller mural by the same artist. Both were impressive.

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By that time the sun was setting and we were ready for dinner. We stopped at a gas station for a snack to hold us over until we got back to Huntington Beach. Tim wanted to go to the Huntington Beach Beer Company. Side note, if you have a passenger and can ride in the car pool lane, getting around isn't that bad. We have tried to avoid driving at peak times but sometimes we can't help it and it hasn't been horrible.

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When we got back to Huntington Beach we stumbled onto a surprisingly large farmers market/arts fest on Main Street. Odd that it was at night, but still fun! I got some funny tank tops and we were really tempted to buy some local art. But alas, we didn't and instead spent our money at the Huntington Beach Beer Company - which was a giant mistake. Ugh, definitely the worst meal of the trip and maybe of the year. The fact that the few people in the restaurant were eating had pizza should have been a tip off. The salads were half-rotten. The clam chowder was bland. The mac and cheese was 'eh'. The only thing that was any good was the mozzarella sticks, but they came on a bed of cole slaw mixed with sweet thai chile sauce??? Huh?? Such a bummer to end a great day.

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Tomorrow we have a full day planned. Hint hint, look for us at the Pens/Ducks game ;-)

Posted by juliejakicic 08:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Los Angeles/Southern California - Day 3

Halloween. Hollywood Style.

sunny 70 °F

Well, Halloween is here so what better time than now for a TIMMY TAKEOVER! This is my favorite time of the year, so being in California I really wanted the day to be special. We took our time in the morning. We have a nice little kitchen in our unit, so Julie cooked up a small breakfast. Our resort is literally 300ft from Sunset Beach and there is also an ecological preserve close by, so we decided to take a morning stroll down the beach and through the preserve before heading out for the day. The preserve is huge, with all kinds of birds and small wildlife (apparently ground squirrels DO exist). The highlight though was the costumed kayak tour we witnessed, complete with a T-Rex trying to paddle with those little arms.

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After a relaxing morning, we headed up to Los Angeles where we had a full day planned. We were hungry when we arrived and found a cool sandwich shop called Fat Sal’s. Apparently it has been featured somewhere on the Food Network, but we weren’t aware of that until after. The menu is quite overwhelming, with tons of appealing choices. With our upcoming plans for the day we didn’t want to eat too heavy. So we played it safe with Julie ordering a chicken cesar wrap and me the ham and cheese hero. Both had their own unique extras on top and were delicious.

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With full bellies, we headed over to Hollywood Center Studios for our first event of the day: a live taping for the Halloween episode of @midnight! I’m a HUGE fan of the show and watch it every week. For those of you unfamiliar with this Comedy Central series, it airs 4 nights a week and is hosted by Chris Hardwick. Each episode features three different comedians who compete in a quasi gameshow, slinging jokes based on current trending topics. This particular episode featured comedians Moshe Kasher, April Richardson, and Kevin Pereira, all decked out in their Halloween costume best. We were sat in the second row, so we were close enough to not miss a thing and for my hoots, hollers, and laughter to likely make it on air. The show airs the night it is taped so the subject matter can remain topical. Though the waiting process to get into the show was lengthy (and this is with us having advanced tickets), overall we had a blast. The show was hilarious and it was really cool to see how the taping process worked.

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We had several hours to kill between the taping and our next event, so we decided to make an obligatory tourist stop at the nearby Chinese Theater and Walk of Fame. You always hear about the crazies hanging around this area, so what better than Halloween to visit! Expecting a ramp up in the strange department this holiday, we were treated to just that. It was hard to decipher who was dressed up for Halloween and who just dressed up for a Monday. Lunatics aside, we enjoyed looking around the sidewalks at the stars and the hand/footprints in front of the theater. Julie was delighted to find her two favorite leading men (Vin Deisel and The Rock) were placed right next to each other by the theater entrance.

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After the sights (and unfortunate smells) on Hollywood Boulevard, we decided to grab some food. On our walk we stumbled upon an outside concert taping for the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. Who was it you ask? None other than Alice Cooper! It was like a little Halloween miracle! The show was closed off to pre-ticketed guests, but we joined several people gathered outside the gate to listen and catch glimpses through the fence. We would have never noticed, but someone out there mentioned Johnny Depp was guesting on guitar. I peaked through the fence and wouldn’t you know it there was that Captain Jack Sparrow smile right up on stage. The short set finished up with an awesome version of “I’m Eighteen”. An awesome happy accident that we happened to be walking by for this. Next we headed over to Mel’s Dine In for dinner. Every year in Florida we would attend Universal’s Halloween Horror nights, and they have a replica of this diner there which we frequented. So it was only fitting on Halloween night that we hit up one of the originals. I had the three-way slider platter and Julie had the open-faced hot turkey sandwich. The food was good and the milkshakes were great.

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Last on the agenda for the night was the Paramount After Dark: Tales from the Other Side tour. Paramount Pictures is the longest operating Hollywood studio and the only major studio still headquartered in Hollywood, in their original location that was opened in 1912. They do daily daytime tours year round, but for the month of October they also conduct special nighttime tours that show a different side to the lot and also include access to the neighboring Hollywood Forever Cemetery which is usually closed to the public after 6pm. We were greeted with personalized passes and complimentary champagne as we arrived. We had about 45 minutes until our tour departure so that gave us plenty of time to read about the history of the studio, check out some of the movie props/costumes, see some actual Oscar statues the studio has won, and of course refill our champagne a few times. Unfortunately right before our tour started my champagne glass inexplicably slipped from my hand and Julie was the unlucky and rightfully unhappy target of the spill. No idea how it happened (no I was not inebriated), so as a friend of ours mentioned it must have been one of the spirits of Hollywood walking by right at that moment. Yep…I’m going with that. A few paper towels later and we were off on our tour.

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First stop was a prop room with TONS of actual film--used props, sets, and costumes that were at our disposal. Julie was especially excited about the Star Trek "lift" used in the recent movies. We could have spent the whole tour just in there, trying on costumes and playing with the props, but the tour was just getting started. We got to walk all through the dark and empty alleys of the lot and even several pitch black soundstage (including Stage 19 which is considered the most haunted), all while hearing a mix of history about the studio, some iconic and others tragic. The darkness and lack of hustle and bustle going on gave an especially eery tone to the tour. Combine that with a walk through the cemetery (which was so dark they gave us flashlights) and stories about death on the lot, and you have a perfect way to spend Halloween night.

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We were also given roses at the cemetery so we could leave them on a grave or memorial that resonated with us. Being the horror film fan that I am I just had to leave mine on the grave of Maila Nurmi, better known as tv's first horror host Vampira.

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The several hour walking tour concluded with a visit to a creepy soundstage basement where they had a dark room decorated with props from Cloverfield and Wold War Z and the best part: FREE CANDY! No matter how old you are, who doesn’t love free candy on Halloween! We stocked up on full size packages of Junior Mints, Raisinets, and Popcornopolis, and thus was the end of our tour and Halloween.

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Another TIMMY TAKEOVER in the books! Until next time... "Bad dreams, darlings." ~Vampira

Posted by juliejakicic 12:10 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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