"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." -- Bill Bryson

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The City of Angels: Day 2, Part 1

Before I begin I did a bit of research for you. I looked up why a 'continental breakfast' is called such. This is what Wikipedia told me:

'Continental breakfast is a meal based on lighter Mediterranean breakfast traditions. It is a light meal meant to satisfy one until lunch. A typical continental breakfast consists of coffee and milk (often mixed as cappuccino or latte) or hot chocolate with a variety of sweet cakes such as waffles/pancakes, brioche and pastries such as croissants, often with a sweet jam, cream, or chocolate filling. It is often served with juice. The continental breakfast may also include sliced cold meats, such as salami or ham, yogurt or cereal. Some countries of Europe, such as the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia, add fruit and cheese to the bread menu and occasionally a boiled egg or a small serving of salami.

The continental breakfast concept is not limited to Europe and is often served throughout the world in hotel chains. The term itself is of British origin. "The continent" in Britain refers to the countries of continental Europe. A "continental breakfast" thus denotes the type of lighter meal served in continental Europe, as opposed to the "full" English breakfast.'

There ya go.

So our second day in LA beings at 8:30 with the free continental breakfast at our hotel. It's pretty decent, except for the awful coffee. Over breakfast we discover two things: 1. Japan has had yet another giant aftershock and 2. Los Angeles is going to be cold all week. By cold, I mean high of 60. Looks like our plan to lay on the beach for 5 days has fallen through. We head back to the room and start getting ready...we're not exactly sure what for, but we're hoping it'll be good.

Our first stop is Target. With highs of 60 and lows in the 40s, we have to stock up on warmer clothes. Assuming it would be warm, neither of us was prepared for these low temperatures. In the Target parking lot, as we assemble our new wardrobes, we try to decide what to do. I pull out my handy map and notice The La Brea Tar Pits. When I came to LA with my family 10 years ago we went and I remember it being quite cool, so we head up towards that part of town.

We wander through the small park and stop for photo-ops with the hilarious animal statues that live there.

It's also quite a pleasant day, after all, so we're in good spirits.

Although on a budget, we decide to cough up the entrance fee into the museum (I manage to save myself $2 with my old and almost unrecognizable student ID). It's a very cool museum, so we, of course, take more photos than necessary. Here's a sampling:

Nyla trying to 'escape' from a tar pit

The museum is actually quite small though, so we manage to get out and back to the car within the parking meter time frame. By this time it's already almost 2pm and it occurs to us that breakfast was around 8:30 that morning. Our obvious next stop has to be

Using the handy-dandy GPS, we find the closest In-n-Out Burger easily enough. We opt to park and go in, which turns out to be an excellent idea. The line for the drive-thru is probably about 20 cars long and loops through another parking lot. There are quite a few people waiting inside for their food as well, but luck is on our side and we manage to snag a table just in time for our food to come out. It's far more delicious than I remember and Nyla is totally floored. At that moment we decide that all of our meals should be eaten there. Not just because it's so much cheaper than anything else in LA, but because it is amazing. After the meal though, it was definitely time for a nap. Back to the hotel we go!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Quick Sidenote

A quick break from Los Angeles...I'm just sitting here watching one of my favorite movies of all time (The Legend of 1900) and there was an excellent quote that I thought I'd share. The main character was born and raised on a ship. Having never stepped foot on land, his best friend is trying to convince him to get off the ship just once. The main character, who is played by the excellent Tim Roth, simply says "I think land people waste a lot of time wondering why. Winter comes and can't wait for summer, summer comes and you never can wait for winter. That's why you never tire of traveling or chasing some place far away, where it's always summer."

I just loved the sentiment and the simple explanation of wanderlust.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The City of Angels: Day 1

And so it begins! My good friend Katie arrives promptly at 2pm (Austin time) to pick Nyla and I up. When she arrives we're in the process of fitting all of our stuff into my giant suitcase. With baggage prices at $25 a bag, we decided it would be best to consolidate. Surprisingly, it's no big feat to get all of our stuff into the one bag (we're both notorious over-packers. I think between the two of us we had 6 pairs of high-heels). The drive to the airport from my house is an easy one so we get to the airport in no time, say our good-byes to Katie, and make our way to the United desk where we are greeted by the overly-smiley attendant. The lady greets us, weighs our bag and informs us that we have to lose 5lbs. At 55lbs, we're definitely over the weight limit. We pull the giant bag off to the side and examine it's innards. I grab as much stuff as I can that can fit into my carry on but it all seems relatively light. The heavy stuff seems to be my shampoo and conditioner and the like. I grab the cheapest stuff and toss them into the garbage. I figure it'll be easy to buy all new when we arrive in LA. In the end we manage to lose 4lbs of stuff and the lady deems it 'good enough.' She checks our bag in and we head towards security...

Little did I know that the stupid attendant checked my bag in...but not me. As we reach the security line I notice that the piece of paper she gave me says nothing about seats, or boarding times or anything. In fact, it only reads 'baggage claim receipt.' I leave Nyla in line, in a huff, and make my way back to the United desk. Luckily, there's a line. So instead of having to face the overly smiley, but useless attendant, I just go to the do-it-yourself kiosk to check in.

I meet Nyla on the other side of security and we find our way to our gate. Of course it's the very last possible gate in the entire terminal and of course we had to dress up a little just because we're going to LA...

But eventually we make it on the plane and head to our seats. We are the very last row on a very tiny plane. The plane is so tiny, in fact, that our seats, which lean against the bathroom, don't recline.

We also get the never-ending joy of smelling everything that goes on in the bathroom. On the plus side, the lovely flight attendant, Erica, takes pity on use and gives us each a set of ear plugs. They make the flight a much more pleasant one.

After the flight, the trip becomes much more smooth. We arrive safely in LAX and arrive in baggage claim just as our bag does. We easily find the bus for Advantage Rent A Car, fill out our paperwork and jump into our ever-so-cool Nissan Versa (in red!).

We promptly dub her 'CiCi'

The most useful thing in the world on this trip is Nyla's GPS on her phone. Everywhere we went we used it and it made navigating the giant city of LA completely simple. I almost felt like we were cheating, but it was worth it! So using the GPS we easily find our lovely residence, The Wave Hotel. We get our room number and our keys and head up only to discover unmade beds, fast food garbage and dirty towels. At first we think it's the wrong room and someone is still staying there, but then we realize it was just never cleaned. Nyla calls down to the front desk and the lady tells us to come back downstairs and she'll get us another room. When I arrive at the desk she's talking very quickly in Spanish to what turns out to be the house keeper. Apparently the house keeper is saying she cleaned it and since it's so late in the evening, all the house keepers have left so no one is there to clean it for us. Luckily, the desk lady has one other room to give us, which turns out to be a far superior room.

The beds are far across the room from each other, it's bigger and is just all-around nicer.

By this time we are absolutely STARVING. Manhattan Beach has a lot of restaurants, as we saw driving to the hotel, but we decide we're just going to stick to something we know is cheap, Olive Garden. I'm not sure why we thought this was a good idea, considering neither of us actually like Olive Garden. I guess we thought it would be inexpensive. WRONG. We forgot that we are in LA and everything is expensive. Although we have a nice time, the food is still mediocre and the prices are an unpleasant surprise.

We're both exhausted by the time dinner is finished (don't forget we're 2 hours ahead of Pacific time) so we finish the evening by just taking a short drive through 'downtown' Manhattan Beach. It's a very cute little beach town with a beautiful pier and we definitely decide we'll enjoy exploring it...but not now. So we head back to the room and are asleep by 10:30pm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yarn Bombing?

In the name of travel!!! So my good friend, Sarah, is writing a documentary about a new phenomenon called "yarn bombing." It's basically knit graffiti. BUT she's trying to raise money to do some serious traveling around the world and she really needs help. If you have anything to spare (I only could donate $20), PLEASE go here and donate. Even if you don't have anything to spare, go to the site and check out the preview anyways. It's very cool stuff. If you feel the need to tell all your friends about it, that'd be nice too!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Packing Time!

Well, I'm packing finally. Our flight out is at 4:15pm this afternoon so I have a good chunk of the day to get everything in order. Yesterday I finally decided to save myself $300 and get the economy rental car instead of renting a Camaro or something similar. It was amazing how different the prices were from rental place to rental place. I ended up going with Advantage. We'll see how it goes, as this is my first time renting a car. Unfortunately there's also going to be a fee because I'm under 25. Rude. Anyways, I'll keep you posted on the trip!