Canada’s population, 33 million. California’s population, 37 million. All of Canada can fit into California, can you imagine how vast that is?
LA mainly is where a lot of movies are shot, celebrities are spotted and the hot spot of US.
This would be my first trip with a boyfriend and to California that I can recall. (I once went when I was very young).
A background on this trip: I received a credit from Air Continental after the Swine Flu 2009. I originally booked LA for November 2010 for a solo trip which was then cancelled by the airlines. During this time I had met my boyfriend J, who by fate, use to live in LA. We booked our trip in January and the countdown began!
He was to be my tour guide and I am happy to say we accomplished everything on our itinerary.
I had a wonderful time and I’d like to share a detailed account with you:
Day 1 – February 16 Wednesday Arrival
I had to awake at 3AM to prepare for my departure. -.- Although it wasn’t as tough as I thought it was mainly because I was already so excited! J’s Dad drove us to the airport and we checked in. Unfortunately we were taking separate flights and mine had to leave an hour before his.
I flew with Air Canada and quite enjoyed my flight. I recognise that sitting in the front of the aircraft has its advantages and by requesting window it made the experience that much better. They offered movies so I watched ‘The Town’ and realised what a good actor Ben Affleck is.
Upon arrival at LAX, I already noted how BIG it is. It was now a waiting game for J and when he appeared, I literally wanted to run into his arms. The vacation has begun!
I never rented a car before and glad that my company had an account with Enterprise Rental Car so I was familiar with some of the procedure. They had a timely shuttle take us to an offsite building. Word of advice, take your own GPS like we did, (saves $10 per day!) and make sure your own insurance covers out of country travel, otherwise your rental can be doubled in price. (ICBC RoadStar Plus)
Once we hit the road, it was a whole different story.
First off, the roads are nothing, nothing like home. You must manuever, weave and slither your way through the traffic lanes of 4 or 5. Almost every city is 35KM away and you will be on the “freeway” most of that time. I suppose the word to use to describe their drivers would be ‘aggressive’. If you even miss 1 exit due to the fact you are in the further lane, you are SOL. Luckily, J was the one driving and he had the appropriate skills to get us to our destinations.
Our first stop was the Orange Block Outlet. This can be compared to the outlets such as Seattle Premium slightly less brand names. By this point though, I was quickly learning Cali was not as warm as I anticipated. In fact, it was drizzling! I did not plan for that!
We checked into our hotel, Best Western. Feel free to read my review here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g32825-d78216-r97995109-BEST_WESTERN_Plus_Meridian_Inn_Suites_Anaheim_Orange-Orange_California.html#UR97995109
That night we headed out to Disney Downtown! My first glimpse of what was a foreshadow of the trip. How “over-the-top” everything in California seems to be.
Bright lights, exaggerated decor and mounds of crowds.
I was in awe and just tried to drink everything in all at once. We visited all the stores and the unique one we saw was ‘Build Your Ride’. This has the same concept as “Build A Bear” but with cars. It was neat to see one picking out their shells, engine, design etc.
We dined at Rainforest Cafe which I was ecstatic about because I havent been to one since I was very young. This is where I first discovered that the beverages in the states are very different from the ones back home. I ordered a Shirley Temple and it just tasted like sugar water. The cafe was amazing in their detail to animal effects and even recreating a “storm” within the restaurant every so often.
Day 2- February 17 Thursday Disneyland Day
We awoke quite early to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast at the hotel and was surprised to find it so delicious! Making your own waffles was the best perk. Being ‘Asian thinking’, we head off to a grocery store to stock up on snacks before we head to Disneyland. What is VONS in Cali is Safeway here and so they accepted my membership discount!
Finding Disneylands parking was a bit tricky and I don’t think they’ve done a good job of directing the public. When we did arrive though, we liked the procedure of paying first for parking eliminating the lineup for later on. Arriving before the park opened, I thought we’d be 2 steps ahead of others, boy was I wrong. Tons of families have already gathered and was boarding the trams to take you to the park. It’s so magical and efficient, the way they manuever the crowds. Admission price is only $76 and I thought it was justifiable. All over the parks they have photographers that take your pictures so you don’t have to worry about missing out. They hand you card called the “Disney PhotoPass” and you can view/purchase all your pictures at the end of your stay. This is such a neat ploy, I applaud them for that.
It was a beautiful day, yet a bit chilly. The lineups were bearable and I can’t even fathom what it would be like over the weekend and during high season. I was a bit disappointed that a few of the major attractions like Splash Mountain were under renovations. All the attractions were in meticulous condition which was impressive since it’s in use 365 days! I had a chance to meet Mickey and he’s much shorter in person but still very magical.
My favourite had to be the Indiana Jones ride and my least was the Captain EO presentation with Michael Jackson. (Dont ask)
We spent all day there from 10AM -8PM and hit almost everything on the map. It was beautiful to see the castle in the daylight and the magic of the evening.
Our legs were super sore by this point and we were just envisioning the hot tub back at the hotel to soothe our aching muscles. It was nice to have it to ourselves and feel the crisp night air.
I finally had the chance to meet J’s cousin, Ryan who we went to dinner with at Gyu Kaku. http://www.gyu-kaku.com/
It was amazingggg! Very great Japanese food yet without Sushi. They had the concept of Happy Hour where their most popular items were 50% off and I wish that Vancouver would catch on to the trend. We came home with food coma and content from our visit to the happiest place on earth.
Day 3 – February 18 Friday Family Day
We had to say goodbye to our hotel today but not before we squeezed in another fantabulous breakfast! Heading from city to city is a good chance to see Cali in its norm. By this day we were becoming more familiar with the roads but the GPS is still the greatest asset to have. Before heading to J’s family’s, we paid a visit to Huntington Beach. On this day there was a storm predicted to be coming. I suppose the surfer’s were getting out their last rides. It was calming as the waves crashed and the sand was cool beneath our feet. We tried to take pictures yet the wind was just being outrageous. J got his first taste of shopping and picked up a few items at the surrounding stores. We arrived at his Uncle’s place. Again, I hardly see these neighbourhoods in BC. Gated communities with a suburbia feel equipped with swimming pool. Till this day I feel grateful for their hospitality and accommodations. It was there I got a taste of Filipino food which I’ve become readily addicted to. Almost immediately afterwards we took a nap due to our overwhelming exhaustion. We awoke to the sounds of rain, (who would’ve thunk it?!). Seeing the drive at night on the highway was interesting, as the even for their many lanes on the highway, it is still very congested.
His cousin Ryan and his friends brought us to go party in Chinatown and much like the clubs here, it is surrogated. They had reggae music downstairs and old hip hop upstairs. Things I’ve noticed about LA is that most of their venues have 1 stall bathrooms. Imagine this in the club ladies, waiting and waiting painfully one patron at a time. What I also found odd was how they handed out condoms at the club, smart yes, but I guess you just don’t see that in BC. It was a great night all capped off by late night Chinese food. They know Chinese food. I’ve never had it so good before complete with Peking duck, fried rice, corn soup and much more. We even saw the restaurant that was featured in the first Rush Hour movie!
Day 4 – February 19 Saturday Hollywood Day
We had a later start to our day due to partying the night before but we made good time and arrived downtown whilst it was buzzing. A part of the reason it was so busy was due to the fact they had were getting ready for the preparations for the Oscars! A lot of the street was cornered off and you could see the set up. To make the icing sweeter, it was also NBA All Star Weekend! I heard that PDiddy was in town ^_^
We had a nice time browsing through the shops and looked at all the quirky things they had to offer. I looked at the Walk of Fame with all the stars but didnt really see anyone that I recall. By chance we happened to pass by Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum where Kobe was put out front. It caught our interest and they had a special where if you purchased the Universal Studios ticket there you get free admission! Score! The museum occupied most of our afternoon and it was truly so fun. It really felt like seeing the celebrities, there were done so incredibly well and many had environments attached to them. My favourites being the Rock & J’s being Nicole Kidman. When we got out of the museum lo and behold it was another downpour. Down the street there was Ripely’s Believe It or Not. I use to watch that show all the time and was excited to see the things they had displayed. Most of the items were strange and weird yes but it didn’t blow my mind. I think they have a lot of updating to do.
During our trip J kept mentioning he was craving for Beef Bowl and I wasn’t really sure what it was yet whilst we were driving home I spotted one! Yoshinoya! Its a fast food restaurant for chinese food mixed with western. You get beef, chicken and rice with veggies. Then you choose a side such as cheesecake, miso soup or salad for less than $7! It was just ‘alright’ for me but apparently its a big hit due to it being a healthier alternative to McDonalds.
Tonight we went clubbing at another part of town, this club which I liked much better. They had a restaurant downstairs, a pub upstairs and a club in another room! The place was bumping and the music was awesome. I got burned a second time when I ordered a Long Island Ice Tea and it tasted more like nail polish remover than anything. Needless to say I got intoxicated real quick as all their drinks are made with a heavy hand. It was another fun night and that was probably the best sleep I had on a vacation.
Day 5 – February 20 Sunday Education Day
Woke up refreshed with the sun beaming in! I finally felt the warmth that I was expecting to feel and was excited to start the day. We headed to the much acclaimed The Getty Museum http://www.getty.edu/. As it should be too! Admission is free but you have to pay $15 parking which for what you get to see is well worth it. There is a train that takes you up to the museum or you have the option of 25 min walk. Upon arrival, you are filled with a sense of awe. It is quite surreal which creates the feeling of serene. The grounds and building are so perfectly manicured it’s as though you are in an institute in the future. I kid you not. It is very clinical but when you enter you are showcased many great works of arts that is hard to find. There are pieces from periods of 1600-1800’s in a very grand scale. In some buildings it’s as though they transported a room from the time period and installed it in. The grounds itself had beautiful gardens where you could picnic, realistically we could’ve spent an entire day there soaking it in and perhaps it would not be enough. It is something recommended definitely.
The next stop was the Observatory (which was also free!) and as you walk up to the Observatory you catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign! This was such a wonderous thing to see such a big crowd come out to learn about our Solar System. They had many interactive activities to help you learn and it was overall such a great experience. My favourite part was standing out on the balcony have the million twinkling lights of the city staring back at you.
That night, J’s extended family took us out for dinner, Japanese style. Again there was no sushi? But lots of menu options and they make a mean Miso Soup. Sometimes I think that I might be nervous to meet more family but they are so friendly and open that I felt welcomed right away. Stuffed and content we went home to a relaxing night.
Day 6 – February 21 Monday – Universal Studios Day
!!!!!!! I just love love love this place! It was an entirely different atmosphere than Disneyland; more grownup I suppose. Everything once again, is just so over the top! Sometimes its hard to differentiate what is real or not now that I’ve been here. We took a tram tour that took us behind the scenes of the studios and I got to visit Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives!). My favourite attraction mustve been The Mummy, the lineup was short, the ride was thrilling and they had good effects. It was pretty much like that during the entire visit with everything we saw. They are very up to date with their technology and mostly we were treated to 3D or 4D. The most impressive attraction was their Simpsons venture. It wasnt just a ride, it was an experience. From start to finish its like a journey. They even had a real Kwiki Mart upon exit where you can purchase Duff beer and those donuts you see on the show! We spent a solid 8hrs there and did everything on the map. I was very satisfied with this theme park and cant wait to see what they have in store in the next few years that I visit.
Ryan once again introduced us to another bombdiggity Japanese restaurant. This time there was sushi!!! Boy was it worth the wait! We did AYCE style and *drools* now just thinking about it. They had rolls with funky names packed with all sorts of goodies! I put it down to 9.6/10 for this place and sad to say we dont have location here in Canada. Afterwards we slowed down the night by heading to a Hookah Lounge. It had a chill atmosphere and it was a different experience from the norm.
Day 7 – February 22 Tuesday Beach Day
The last day, how did it come about so fast? The weather was beautiful today and it seemed fitting. We visited J’s family and had a nice chat with them as well as getting some tasty local Oranges. Afterwards we made a pit stop at the mall to do some whirlwind shopping, I really wish I had more time there. They have some excellent shops with different styles that I don’t see here often. Just past sunset we arrived at Venice Beach. Most of the shops were closing down by then by we still had a lovely stroll. Soaked in the houses on the boardwalk, they were gorgeous, had a chance to see the outdoor gym and witness some quirky characters. We asked around and was directed to the restaurant shot in ‘I Love You Man’ with the best fish tacos, James’ Beach. Finishing off the week-long trip we soaked in the hot tub and just unwinded whilst looking at the stars and enjoying the crisp air.
Of course the next morning was rush, rush to the airport to start our descend home. This trip was a huge step for me only because I am such a homebody. I learned that
– I don’t nearly miss home as much as I use to and maybe it’s time to get my travelling feet on.
– You can’t leave home without your GPS, it’s a lifesaver
– You don’t need to overpack, everything can be bought
– Live for the moment
– Being on a trip with your boyfriend is quite A1
I am sure I will return to California as I know there is a lot more to see and do. Next time I go though, I’ll make sure the sun beats 7 days straight.