Four of us are visiting Universal Studios theme park tomorrow. We decided this morning to drive up tonight and stay in a hotel, because by leaving at 7:30 pm the drive is only 2 1/2 hours. If we left tomorrow at 6 am, it would take 3 1/2 hours because of Marine base traffic. If we left at 5 am, it could take even longer because we’d hit LA right as rush hour started. It started making my head hurt, which is probably how it will feel tomorrow after minions and wizards and such have assaulted it all day. In truth, today’s headache was a bargain.
This is a bit of a departure from my standard photo of the day post, because we had a great day in L.A. yesterday, and I want to document it for anyone who is desiring a day-long itinerary of some L.A. highlights, and as a family memory. And besides, the alternative is more snail shots, because that’s all I got today.
We went with no plans beyond meeting Mackenzie, and even that location was determined on the 2.5 hour drive up. Since it was only 45 minutes for her, she was able to sleep in as I figured out our meeting place en route. Although many would prefer to plan their day, our experience only confirmed for us that flying by the seat of your smartphone is the way to go.
We met for “brunch” at Bolt, which I found on Yelp; a high-ceilinged coffee shop in East Hollywood. No carving station or brunch buffet this Easter, but rather a short, crowd-pleasing and flavorful breakfast menu.
Parking was ample on Hollywood Blvd. at that time and locale, and the sausage breakfast burrito was hearty enough for two of us to split, if one of us had a Latte. It was then only 15 minutes to Griffith Observatory, and the drive took us past picnickers and Griffith park-goers aplenty. We had the option to park for free, but in pursuit of that the road took us (and throngs of other cheapskates) so far downhill, we started thinking we didn’t really need to visit the Observatory. So, we U-turned and went back up to paid parking in the Observatory lot…for $4!
An hour in the Observatory, which was free, was ample time to explore our planet’s place and behavior in the solar system, space exploration, and expansive views of the Hollywood sign, city and beyond. If we’d had more time or energy, we could have spent hours exploring endless trails around the park.
We descended back to Hollywood Blvd., and began moving West toward the Walk of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre, iconic host to many red-carpet movie premiers over the years. Crowds thickened and free parking waned, so we felt no need for more than a drive-by. Besides, we did feel a need for ice cream.
The first place we tried was closed, fortunately, because we continued farther into West Hollywood where things cleaned up considerably. Onward to Salt and Straw – home of all kinds of amazing and crazy ice creams, and right across the street from Pump Restaurant (I was bummed to see we’d missed their Big Gay Brunch). Although Salt and Straw was a Yelp find, Mackenzie, who actually spied a Buzzfeed host at Bolt (our only “celebrity” siting), had heard of it from this video she saw last year. Unlimited tastings allowed us to find our perfect match. I ended up with Stumptown Coffee with Comparte Love Nuts, Delaney had Double Fold Vanilla (she’s partial to Ugandan vanilla beans), James and JJ went with Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Mackenzie had two flavors, because you can do that, which I can’t recall. BUT, among those I sampled was Black Olive Brittle and Goat Cheese, and it was DA BOMB: a savory ice cream that in my opinion is the only product capable of making goat cheese palatable. To me, goat cheese is to cheese what the Beach Boys are to music. But, major digression.
Just west of West Hollywood is Beverly Hills – so we had to check out some neighborhoods. All online maps to stars’ homes required registration, payment, or promise of first born, so we just winged it. I told James, “if you see a big 23 on a gate, that’s Michael Jordan’s house.” But we didn’t care – we just enjoyed seeing how the other .2% live. We turned north and took that Honda Odyssey, ski rack, snow tires and all, up, up and up, and eventually found ourselves on Coldwater Canyon Drive to a hairpin right on Mulholland Dr., and back down through Laurel Canyon, an interesting hillside neighborhood where the houses are crammed together, perched precariously, and likely in the $millions. As Mackenzie remarked, “everything about this family screams ‘tourist.'” Note: as a professional organizer and wannabe minimalist, it ripped a little hole in my heart that the rest of my family was drooling over the ginormous abodes. That’s okay; the only things they won’t accuse me of tossing out are their dreams.
By the time we came back to the valley floor, we realized we were not far from UCLA, so a perimeter drive of the campus was in order. I took absolutely no pics, so see it’s gorgeousness here. When we go back, I will insist upon visiting the Botanical Garden, which I spied as we sped past, because we were in need of a gas station and someone had to go to the bathroom. Who got that kid a Gatorade?
From there it was just an acceleration and two turns to our final destination: Santa Monica. While my images of a sleepy seaside town were shot in a second, I will admit it is a lot of fun to explore. And because it’s in southern California, there is full-on submission to the inevitability of the automobile, because public parking was ample and cheap! We paid $1.25 for 2 hours one block from the cliff-side drag.
We strolled south along the cliff to the pier and joined the masses there to do as we; walk to the end, enjoy the buskers and being atop the ocean but not in it, and attempt a ride on the roller coaster but decide the ticket line was too long.
And to concede that, yet again, we were hungry. We trudged back up the hill and found another Yelp-friendly, crowd-pleasing establishment, which was a chain but a healthy and tasty one, True Food Kitchen. I recommend the Ancient Grains Bowl and Cherry Chia Limeade. Nom.
And that concluded our one day, L.A., find-our-way-with-driver-J.J. experience. I realized we have acclimated to our current home when a street performer remarked as he passed the hat (or bag in this case) when he saw us, “hey, white people!” There was a day not long ago when I would have felt more conspicuous, but the past two years of living as a minority among not-so-whites, who embrace with fervor suburban, pie-getting, house-filling, car-buying American ideals, has made me more aware than ever that we live in America. And I’m glad we do.
We took a day trip to L.A. today. At the Griffith Observatory, we watched the huge Foucault pendulum swing and miss pins for almost seven minutes, until finally the earth rotated the next pin into the line of fire and down it went. Everyone watching cheered. It was exciting and consoling to know it would continue to happen so predictably, and that when all the pins were knocked down, someone would just set up another row. Like clockwork.