Friday, January 21, 2011

I Love LA (The Trip, Part 2)

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Day 5, Saturday: We began our final few hours in San Diego at Broken Yolk Café for a reprise of our Friday morning breakfast.  It’s funny how little reviewers know.  I had read a few negative thoughts about the Gaslamp location of the BYC, but they were simply wrong.  The place is clean, the food is great, and the service was fine.

Yet with breakfast done, we grabbed our bags back at the US Grant and walked to the Santa Fe train station (pictured above) where Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner was waiting for us.  We grabbed two seats upstairs (staying away from the rambunctious kid that stood behind us as we boarded) and made sure to sit on the ocean side of the car.  Unfortunately that also meant we were riding backwards.

Still the view was beyond spectacular (especially up through the Oceanside area).  For me, an unexpected highlight was pulling into Anaheim and seeing The Big A (home of the Angels…which really isn’t in Los Angeles, despite what the team wants you to believe).California 2010 - Carrie's Camera 125
It wasn’t log before we pulled into Los Angeles where a new batch of passengers joined us.  Our station was still about an hour away, but we soon pulled into Moorpark, where Carrie’s second cousin Mel* was waiting for us.

*At least I think they’re second cousins.  That’s what I remember being told.

Regarding the train, I’m sure many of you are amazed that I – lover of the American road – willingly rode the rails.  It was a very nice experience.  It allowed Carrie and I time to explore the train a bit (see the dining car and change seats every now and then), and otherwise just stare out the window.  A nice time for talking also.  Sure, I would have loved to been in a car cruising up The Five, but it wasn’t meant to be.  I only wish Sean could have been on the train because he’s such a railroad kid, but he’ll have his chance.

Mel drove us to his house where wife Helene and daughter Renee awaited (along with Lady the dog).  They would then whisk us away to Malibu for the stunning ocean view, and a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  This gave us all a chance to get better acquainted but we needed to return to their house for a pizza party (in honor of…gulp…us).

Well, mostly Carrie.

Oh, one thing.  The Steelers played the Ravens during this stretch, so I followed it as best as I could via Carrie’s smart phone (one other thing…Sprint sucks.  Just sayin’).

Renee’s fiancée Robb (yes, two “b’s”) came along and we talked sports all night.  Among those I met were Mel and Helene’s son Adam, along with various other family members.  Adam and his wife have three sons, and their oldest Jacob (hope I spelled it correctly) hung around the house quite a bit over the weekend. 

They’re big New York Giants fans out there!

We crashed on our comfy Aerobed and thought about how to spend our time around the LA area.

Day 6, Sunday:  Nothing like beginning the day with an amazing brunch made by Helene.  But with Renee being a bride to be, she and Helene went off to a bridal show, while Mel, Carrie and I made our way to Hollywood.  Mel was hardly interested in doing such a thing, but was a wonderful tour guide nevertheless.
There had been some debate among the family.  “Hollywood is overrated.  So touristy” was the popular opinion.  And what’s the problem?  Then there was a discussion that the evening’s Golden Globe Awards were being held there, but I found that they were in Beverly Hills, so that was that.  In the end, Carrie and I did as we wished, and touristy be damned.

What I’ve figured out (a long time ago) is that I don’t travel like most people.  I don’t mind the tourist areas.  I also don’t mind being unique.  I don’t mind driving to the Mexican border just…because.  I like driving around and seeing things.  Carrie and I really seem to blend well in this regard.

So spending an hour or so in Hollywood to see the handprints and the stars was fine with me.
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Even these guys wanted to watch over us (and their star)
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And yes, we took pictures of the Hollywood sign:
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We’re tourists.  So?  We even drove to Hollywood and Vine (I had always heard about it) and, to be blunt, there was nothing there (OK, we saw the Capitol Records building, but that’s about it).  So we kept driving though LA, with the idea of stopping at the Santa Monica Pier, but traffic kept us from doing so.  We moved back towards Malibu for a really nice small lunch.

That night, we hit In-N-Out Burger (seemed like a thing to do) for dinner, then joined Renee and Robb for dessert.  We called it a night, ready for our final day.

Day 7, Monday: I could feel the end of vacation blues leaning towards me as the day began (and those pangs would get stronger as the evening wore on).  Mel and Helene were so kind that they allowed us to drive their car for the day, allowing us time to return to Santa Monica so that I could…finally…stick my feet in the Pacific!
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We walked Santa Monica Pier, the honorary end of the legendary Route 66 (though not the actual end) and made our way over to Beverly Hills.  For the record, while Greenwich is the smaller sibling of Rodeo Drive, there’s still a similarity.  Beverly Hills is still more overwhelming though.

After that, we worked our way through the traffic on The 101 to have lunch at Philippe’s The Original, home of the original French Dip sandwich (and really good chili too!).  The lines are long, and a nice patron was kind of enough to take a picture of us.
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Really good food.  My god, we had some terrific culinary experiences on this trip.

We followed that up by trying to see some of the famous sports sites.  We started with Dodger Stadium, which was only about two miles away.  Should be easy to take a picture, right?  Yeah, not so much.  Dodger Stadium might be the most inaccessible place I’ve ever driven by.  Because of its location in Chavez Ravine, the stadium can’t be seen from any road.  Not that I didn’t try, but a guard shooed us away at one site, and all other gates were closed.  So I got a picture of the light tower.  That’s…about…it.  I see on their website that there’s a tour.  Maybe next time…

I eased that pain (not really, I think we were both baffled) by driving the Arroyo Seco Parkway, the first freeway in the US.  It opened in 1940 and is interesting to drive.  It also leads to Pasadena, where we followed the signs to the Rose Bowl.  The Steelers won Super Bowl XIV there in 1980.
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We moved from there to downtown LA, where we found the LA Coliseum (site of Super Bowl I, first home of the Dodgers, and where the Olympics were held in 1932 and 1984…and many other events).  The LA Sports Arena was right there also (one time home of the Clippers).  We also saw the Staples Center, home of Kobe.

And the Lakers.

Our driving day ended there as we made our way back to Thousand Oaks to begin saying our good byes and head to the airport.  Mel and Helene were so gracious to chauffeur us to LAX for our departure.

As for LAX, at least in the Jet Blue terminal, there’s the good (a super short security line) and the bad (smells like cigarettes and there is almost no food).  We are at a seafood place that was OK, but seemed to magnetically pull money out of our pockets.  Yep, gotta love airport prices!

That carried us, technically, to…

Day 8, Tuesday: Our flight was a red eye, departing just after midnight in the east.  I was exhausted and expected to sleep clear back to New York.  But…no.  It doesn’t happen often, but I battled a touch of claustrophobia.  My breathing was irregular and I just couldn’t get comfortable.  Around 3:00 AM, I couldn’t take anymore and had to stand up – which meant waking Carrie and the girl on the aisle.  While I love looking out the window, this could mean that I should sit in the aisle seat.

Back in New York we grabbed our bags and got a taxi back to Brooklyn, where we both fell asleep.  I cam back to Mahopac on Wednesday and the trip, this amazing experience, was over.

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