Thursday, February 28, 2013

California part 1

Note: This is long and wordy so RJ and I can remember our first time exploring Southern California.The paragraphs in red are the important parts that you should read as to not be too surprised when we live here or at least try to "winter here".. someday :)

Note 2: I mention our expenditures quite a bit and it's not that we're preoccupied with money and how much we're spending. We are just amazed at how affordable it is out here because so much of what you hear is about how things are more expensive here.

The first thing you're probably wondering is 'How is the weather?'. Well, it's fantastic. It's winter, so it's chilly when the sun isn't out. During the day it's usually around 68 and sunny. It can get chilly in the shade or when it's breezy, so you just carry a light sweater or jacket that you can put on if necessary. We wanted to be tourists this week and not just beach bums so it's really perfect for that.

The nex thing you may be wondering about is our pets. We have a local college student (studying to be a Vet Tech.) staying at our house with them. We met her beforehand and had a good feeling about her and it seems to be working out well. We've been texting with her a lot and recently she said: "Grace is a little wild.. Harvey is perfect :)" With the smiley face. Glad at least one of them is behaving!

The beginning of the trip...

We landed at LAX on Friday night around 7:00 California time (10pm our time) - <big thanks to Chelsey for letting us keep RJ's car parked at their house in Cleveland and taking us to the airport!> We got our rental car (a peppy little Mazda) and headed off to Manhattan Beach where out motel is. We got all checked in by 8ish California time but of course our bodies were still on Ohio time. We tried to stay up so we could get acclimated to California time, but didn't make it late enough and we were up at 6:45am (local time) Saturday morning. 

Day 1, Saturday:

We decided we may as well get up and hit the continental breakfast. We did that and then decided to enjoy the motel's hot tub. I'm sure the staff was wondering why we were out by the pool at 7:30am. Especially since it's their "winter" and before 9 it's only in the mid 50's. The shine was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, so it still feels a million times warmer than Ohio does at the same temperature. The hot tub kept us warm though and it was actually a great way to start the day and discuss all the fun things we wanted to do on our trip. 

After a lazy morning hanging out in the hot tub and taking our time getting ready, we headed out about 11 to explore a little bit and get something to eat. We had lunch here in Manhattan Beach and then headed off toward Santa Monica. 

The first thing you notice about California when coming from an Ohio winter is the colors. I felt a little bit like Dorothy in a Wizard of Oz when it goes from black & white to color. Even in the winter, the skies are blue, the trees are bright green and the flowers are blooming. In Ohio this time of year, you can go days without seeing anything but grey. As true nature lovers, this can really ware on us. 

Another thing I noticed right away was the hills. I never really pictured Los Angeles being mountainous at all but driving around you see beautiful hills and mountains. 

Chrissy (RJ's cousin) and her boyfriend Matt (who lived in LA at one point) let us know we definitely had to check out Santa Monica. I'm glad they did because it's fantastic! We loved it so much we went back the next day too. It's only about a 25 minute drive from where we're staying. 

There is a great shopping/restaurant street about a block from the beach and we really enjoyed walking around there. There are so many healthy restaurants and juice/smoothie places out here - I would really fit in in that capacity. 

We also walked on the beach for awhile. There is a great (and really wide) path that goes along the beach where people roller blade, jog, walk dogs and ride bikes. It only costs $1/hour or $8/day to park so that is really reasonable.

One thing we really wanted to do while we were out here was check out some live, local music. RJ did some research online and on Saturday night we ended up at this place called Molly Malone's where a few bands were playing and there was only a $10 cover. Before doing that, we got thai food at a place by our hotel. (We got some rice paper veggie rolls as an appetizer and I liked them so much we got them for lunch the next day!)

We really liked the music of one band we saw and in the other band, the bassist used to be the bassist for Incubus, so that was actually really cool. RJ said he was definitely the best bass player he had ever seen play live.
Day 2, Sunday:

We slept in after staying out on Saturday night. We missed the continental breakfast that day, so RJ ran out to the Starbucks down the street to get some coffee, fruit and muffins. We took our time in the morning and then headed out around 11:30 to do more exploring.

I really wanted a fresh, light lunch to take in the car so we got some more fresh spring rolls from the same Thai restaurant we went to the night before. Something about being out here - I don't know if it's having loads more healthy options or if it's the sunshine but for some reason, we've been craving light, healthy foods. When you're walking around, every coffee shop also has healthy smoothies and juice-bars, which we love.

We spent the whole day exploring more of Santa Monica (we went two days in a row, can you tell we love it there?). We walked on the beach, walked all up and down the main shopping street, walked down the residential streets and checked out the pretty houses and our favorite, walked around the community garden. 

It was so beautiful. As you can imagine, many people who live in Santa Monica love to garden but don't have the yard space to enjoy it. In this large plot of land, gardeners can rent a garden space and community members (and annoying tourists like us) can wander around the gardens and take pictures. This is a main plot of land in the heart of SM, so they could easily put a McDonald's or shopping center there and make a bunch of money.. but it's a garden that brightens the city. 

Did I mention people randomly have orange, lemon and grapefruit trees in their yards and their garden plots? So beautiful. 

Anyway, we spent all day walking around then went back to the hotel, rested and got some indian food (our favorite). In Akron, there is one option for Indian food and it happens to be kinda pricy and upscale, so we only enjoy it about once a month. There is so many more people here (who have eclectic taste in food like us) that they have a ton of options that are way cheaper and you get more food.

Who said eating in LA was more expensive? It's definitely not. If you go to the fancy places downtown, then yeah. But there are so many more customers, options and competition that they have to keep their prices legit to keep patrons. 

On Sunday night we watched the Oscars, of course! We thought about driving down there but knew it would just be craziness.

Day 3, Monday:

On Sunday night we got back on a good schedule, went to bed early-ish and were up at 7:30. We got breakfast, hung out and then headed out to one of my favorite stores. Goodwill!

I was really excited to see what the thrifting was like here in LA. Would movie stars drop off their designer clothes and jewelry for the likes Day 3, of cheap folks like myself (to sell on Ebay..)?

The items were nicer than other Goodwill's I've been in (you didn't have to sift as much) but the prices were a little on the high end for re-sale. I spent $5.50 on one top for myself but as far as re-sale items go, you want to get them for more like $1 - $2.

After hitting the Goodwill - we headed into Hollywood!

We paid $12 to park all-day in Hollywood (ON SUNSET BLVD!), and as we were walking down Sunset, there was another garage for $5/day. Again, it's much more affordable to visit, eat and park in LA than people think.

We decided to get some quick, take-out style lunch and sit outside to eat. RJ got a Chipotle Burrito bowl (same prices as they are at home) and I got some sushi from Walgreens. Yep.. Walgreens!

The Walgreens on Sunset Blvd. had a huge selection of vegetables, fruit cups (the veggie or fruit cups were under $2), fresh sushi (there was a sushi chef making sushi at Walgreens), sandwiches, wraps and salads. I got 12 pieces of fresh, brown rice sushi (with fresh ginger and wasabi) for under $6.  The variety of quick, healthy and expensive food options in California blows my mind a little bit. 

Hollywood was very cool. We saw the Los Angeles Film School, The walk of Fame, The Dolby and Chinese theaters and went on a two-hour tour of the city. It was so funny because when we were talking to the guy booking our tour, he said: "Ohio huh? I guess our winter doesn't feel too bad to you then!". We had to laugh because, to us this is not winter at all! The locals think 65 is freezing.

See what I mean by mountains and hills? It's just beautiful.

During the tour, we saw cool things like the Whiskey a-go-go (where the Doors started), The Laugh Factory and the Hollywood Sign on the hill. He also took us past multiple movie stars homes which was interesting but I also felt a little creepy parked outside Ben Affleck's house in a topless van. We gave him a big thumbs up for his Argo win.

We also saw the homes of: Jim Carrey, J.Lo, Tom Cruise, Ella Fitzjerald and Dr. Phil. I took a picture of the Doc's house for Grandma 'Lene:

The coolest part of our tour (and something really cool about LA) is that out of 4 couples/families - we were the only Americans! There was a family from Peru, two girls from Athens, Greece and a couple from Germany. So neat.

After the tour we walked around more and saw the Dolby and Chinese theater (where the movie stars put their hands in the cement).

It was really neat being in Hollywood the day after the Oscar's. Hollywood Blvd. (where the Dolby/Chinese theaters are) was still blocked off for cars but you could still walk around. It was neat to see them cleaning up after the big event.

Monday night we just went back to the motel, relaxed and ate leftover Indian because we'd been out all day. 

Day 4, Tuesday:

Tuesday we got up early again and took our time having breakfast and getting ready. We got our comfortable shoes on and headed out towards The Getty Museum! We decided we wanted to get lunch beforehand and RJ suggested we try a place he had heard of, The Veggie Grill, on our way to the museum.

The Veggie Grill is somewhat like a Panera. You wait in line and give your order, then take a number and they bring it to your table.

The prices are comparable ($8.95 for a combo meal instead of $7.99 at Panera) but at Veggie Grill:

-The food is a thousand times better and fresher and the selection is better.
-You don't have to bus your own dishes, someone comes around and takes your plates and also offers to refill your drink

-Everything is plant-based - no meat or dairy! We didn't even realize this, it tastes so good.

Here was my favorite thing about the Veggie Grill and I apologize in advance, Uncle David. 

They didn't sell pop.

You could get water, lemonade or fruit juice. 

And, unlike Panera where they give you a teeny-tiny water cup (so you'll buy a soft-drink instead), they give you an adult sized cup. 

Could they sign some deal with Coke or Pepsi and make a lot more money? Heck yes. 

Who cares?

<That's not to say no one should ever drink pop and no restaurants should have it. There's definitely a place for it. It was just interesting and encouraging that not everywhere has to and none of the Patrons seemed to mind at all. 

So after our lunch, which RJ said was perhaps the best lunch he's ever had, we headed to The Getty.

The Getty Museum (see more by clicking here and there is a neat video if you click here and scroll down) is world-renown Museum of Art and Research Center with some of the most beautiful gardens. 

Guess how much it cost to get in. 


Admission is free. Sure, we paid $15 to park all day, but we were expecting to pay some hefty admission fees as well. 

And, you knew this was coming.

It was absolutely beautiful - inside and outside of the museum.

It sits on top of a big hill so the view is absolutely incredible. You park on the ground and then have to take a little train up the hillside to get to the museum - so neat!

We saw the amazing gardens and a lot of beautiful artwork. My favorites were VanGogh - Irises, Monet - Sunrise and . You were allowed to take pictures of most of the art as long as you didn't use a flash.

On the way home from the Getty, we stopped again in Santa Monica. When we were there earlier in the week, we noticed signs for a Food Truck Festival on Tuesday nights. We thought that would be a neat thing to check out for an appetizer and we were right! There was about 5 big trucks all selling different foods. I got some really good Cilantro Lime Hummus and Pita and RJ got some great mini-tacos. Both snacks were only $5 and mine was actually free because they were doing some promotion where if you signed up for the mailing list you got 5 free bucks to spend.

The servings were decent portions and we actually weren't hungry again until 9pm that night! I would have just had snacks in our room, but when we were in the hot tub we saw another couple walk by with a pizza and RJ got a serious hankering. We got a small, New York style pizza from a place nearby for $6. It was really good and hit the spot perfectly.
So that's Friday night - Tuesday night for you.
As you can tell.. we love it.

More soon!

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