Posts Tagged ‘los angeles’

los angeles to cambria

September 6, 2008

The Galley & Morro Rock @ Morro Bay

Heading out of Los Angeles was a pain. I hit some heavy traffic on the 101, and immediately kept myself company by remembering that phrase “Driving down the 101, California here we come” from Phantom Planet’s song. It was much better when I finally got to the Pacific Coast Highway. I could smell the beach, and see acres of farmlands along the way. I got a text message from my dad while I was driving, saying he wished he could take this portion of the trip with me. It saddened me a bit, and I hope some day in the future, it can be a possibility. I stopped for a bit at Pismo Beach to take in the view of pelicans, right next to these clay tennis courts. I got into a conversation with an elderly man about the area, and about tennis. Next up was San Luis Obispo, which was home of the Bubble Gum Alley, which is, you guessed it, an alley covered with bubble gum contributions from people all over the world. Overall, I really like this little town, and could easily spend a day shopping in all the quirky little shops on Higuera Street and around there. I stopped at Morro Bay next, official home of Morro Rock. This was a picturesque bay town exactly as you would see in the movies, or in a high end luxury car commercial. Very classy, very quaint, and with the prevalent fog, very perfect. I just love all these little coastal towns.

Neptune Pool @ Hearst Castle

The main attraction for me was, of course, Hearst Castle. Built by newspaper tycoon William Hearst, this is only one of his many estates, and was a palace where he wined and dined the rich and famous (i.e. Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, etc.) of the 1920’s . There are three guest houses, which are mansions by themselves, and a main “castle.” It’s situated on top of a mountain, right above and away from the fog. My favorite part was most definitely the Neptune Pool, which looks like something straight out of the Roman Empire. What bothered me were all the flies indoors, and I wondered to myself if Hearst had this problem too. The architecture is truly eclectic, taking cues from the great civilizations of the past from the Mediterranean, Egypt, Spain, Italy, and more. The ticket included an IMAX movie about William Hearst and his dream to build this castle. There was a phrase near the end of the film that really stuck with me, “Dreams are meant to be shared.” Essentially, by sharing dreams, they become eternal. Follow your heart, pursue your dreams, and in the process, do not just keep them to yourself.

Bridge Street Inn Hostel @ Cambria

Afterwards, I stayed in a hostel in Cambria called the Bridge Street Inn. It was just $27 for the stay, which got me a bunk bed. The atmosphere is very much like a “Bed & Breakfast”, with very nice people running the place, and a great group of people staying there as well. When I got there, they were playing Yahtzee, which I had never bothered to learn until now. Overall, a wonderful place, near the beach, in a charming little town, and I would not hesitate coming here again. Well, I’m writing from the hostel right now, actually, and I’m currently debating if I want to wake up extremely early for a jog on Moonstone Beach. We’ll see… This part of the trip up north did not have the legendary scenic routes of Highway 1, that comes later, so tomorrow is going to be an amazing day. Here’s hoping for no fog…

Distance: 249.3 miles
Average Speed: 54.0 mph
Moving Time: 4 hours 36 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours 9 minutes
Average Mileage: 26.6 mpg


los angeles: part 3

September 4, 2008

Frozen Banana @ Venice Beach

Venice Beach is photo heaven. There is every walk of life there, so much going on, and so much to do. Wanna play paddle tennis? Buy Jamaican Obama shirts? Eat chocolate dipped frozen bananas topped with almonds? How about go to a freak show? Or do you want to listen to one of the many demo CD’s being handed out by aspiring rappers? Oh, I see, you just want to go to the beach, well you can do that too. Well, I only did one of those (the banana, from Charley Temmel Ice Cream), and I also had Argentinean Empanadas. I regret not getting the corn filled one, so I guess I’ll just have to move here so I can try it. I kid. Of all the beaches, this is easily the best landscaping, with palm trees perfectly placed on small hills, and the exercise lanes curved just so.

@ Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is situated near Mount Hollywood, and provides what is arguably the best view of the city, both day and night. Of course, being the city of smog, it’s probably best to wait until after some rain (good luck with that). When I got there, I saw a somewhat prominent man, who I could easily have mistaken for just a regular guy, except he had someone following his every step with an umbrella to shield him from the sun. It was none other than Ken Watanabe, of “The Last Samurai” fame. He was strolling the grounds, taking photos with a brand new as yet unreleased Canon 50D. I thought to myself, ah yes, being the man of influence that he is in Japan, he has the luxury to get items ahead of time like this (like John Mayer and his Blackberry Bold), and must be an avid photographer, since he has all these assistant photographers with him as well. It was only later that I realized he was there for a Canon print ad photo shoot, and that he was a celebrity spokesperson for Canon (particularly their 30/40/50D line). The other photographers were pros taking photos that probably looked like this:

Afterwards, I watched a show at the planetarium, which was a million times better than the one I watched in Houston. It was called “Centered in the Universe,” and the narrator had a perfect voice for the part, and the swelling music got me very emotional. Music always gets me, especially in movies. The scene doesn’t even have to be sad, and I’ll start tearing up inside. As was the case with this show talking about the stars, galaxies, and the universe. Not a sad topic at all, but I guess I just started thinking about how insignificant we really are, in terms of space, as well as time. We are just a species, living in a world, that’s part of a solar system, that’s part of a galaxy, that’s part of a galaxy cluster, that’s part of a universe, during a point in time, where the universe is still expanding from the big bang. What is the meaning, and purpose of it all? I wish we lived in a time where we could even begin to answer that, maybe with other beings with the same questions… I was also able to see Jupiter through one of the huge telescopes they had set up.

Cambodia Town @ Long Beach

I also took a trip down to Long Beach. This is essentially a whole other city in itself. They were filming an episode of CSI Miami on the beach (ironic), not far from the area that’s sectioned off for parasurfers (which looks insanely fun). The atmosphere was very chill, and this was to be expected, as I went on a weekday. I would love to compare all the beaches on equal ground, both weekends and on weekdays, but that will be a project for another time. Not far inland is a mile long strip dubbed Cambodia Town, filled with local businesses run by, and for Cambodian Americans. I asked the cashier at a grocery store for a suggested place to eat, and was directed to Sophy’s Thai & Cambodian Cuisine. I ordered, the Khmer Ginger Deluxe, which was pretty good. As I walked out, I noticed the obligatory celebrity in restaurant photo, and this time it was Matt Damon.

Cromwell Field @ USC

My latest destination was the University of Southern California (yes, the very same enemies of the 2006 National Championship Rose Bowl). I was actually accepted to this school for my undergraduate studies, but ultimately decided against going because of the cost. I slightly regret this, as I have fallen in love with the campus (as well as UCLA’s). It’s just that the campus of my alma matter (Texas Fight!) leaves much to be desired, meaning, it’s not in any way pretty. Never have I seen so many students riding around in beach cruiser bicycles, and skateboards. Even girls in their sandals and dresses were skateboarding. Oh, and they were filming an episode of Eli Stone on campus. I witnessed three major productions in a matter of 24 hours, whereas, I saw two in Austin, after 7 years of living there. L.A. is the entertainment industry, and I love it.

Interesting food I tried: Pizza with Anchovies. I hear about it all the time, as the grossest possible topping, and I never see it as an option. Well, I finally tried it. It was salty.

Places I still want to try: Pink’s, Pinkberry, & Pink Taco

hidden in-n-out burger menu

September 4, 2008

Animal Style Fries @ In-N-Out Burger

Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that the In-N-Out Burger menu had only four items, and it was very streamlined? So apparently, there is a hidden menu at In-N-Out Burger. Nick tipped me off on it, and you can look it up from people who have written about it online. It’s a menu for “those in the know,” and includes all sorts of variations, such as Animal Style Fries, which include cheese, onions, and “secret sauce,” or the Flying Dutchman, which is a burger without the bun, and wrapped in lettuce, or even the Neapolitan Shake, which is chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry swirled together. All these items are on the computer, and the cashier’s all know them, but it’s just not on the menu. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. I had me some Animal Style Fries… mmm, mmm… Oh, and the “secret sauce” is just Thousand Island dressing, but we don’t talk about that. :-X

los angeles: part 2

September 1, 2008

I was originally going to put all of the second half of my Los Angeles stay into one post. But I decided that I was going to forget a lot of things (and I think I already have) if I didn’t start posting now.

Central Garden @ The Getty Museum

Getty Museum
This relatively modern museum was filled with great scenery and architecture, but had mediocre exhibits. There were multiple viewpoints that gave a majestic view of the Los Angeles skyline, elaborately designed gardens and streams, and the epitome of modern architecture design. There was one exhibit that fascinated my however, which was “Bernini and the birth of Baroque portrait sculpture.” I never really gave much thought to chiseled statues and busts, until I really examined them up close. It’s really quite amazing how much detail and polish there is in each one of these creations, all from a slab of marble and stone. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of work and pre-visualization needed for this.

Terrible Wax Figures

I parked my car in the Universal City Metro station, and took the Red Line subway to Hollywood & Highland. I love taking subways and public transportation (in the daytime at least, when you aren’t always looking over your shoulder hoping you don’t get mugged), and I especially love the rush of wind you feel in the tunnel about a minute before the subway train arrives. Right at the stop was a big shopping area, which connects into the Kodak Theater. I was in the plaza and somehow ended up being part of a small crowd being filmed for the show “Ten Years Younger” which airs on TLC. Maybe if you watch an episode, you’ll see me in the crowd that’s cheering on some lady who’s supposed to look ten years younger than before her makeover. Right next to Grauman’s Chinese Theater is a lot of construction, and apparently they are building a Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I decided I would have to settle for the Hollywood Wax Museum, which was a sorry excuse for a wax museum. You know there’s a problem when you see a figure, and can’t recognize the actor/character. I mean, just look at the above photo of Jackie Chan. I also went across the street to the Hollywood Guiness Museum, which had a bunch of random facts and memorabilia related to the Guiness Book of World Records. I tried to get into the audience for the Jimmy Kimmel show being filmed at the El Capitan theater, but since I only had a standby ticket, I missed the cut by three people. I ended up finishing the day watching some great improv groups at the iO West Theater (Improv Olympics). The best group was easily King Ten. I laughed so hard I had tears and my stomach hurt. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.

@ Solstice Canyon

Malibu and Santa Monica
I am not sure when the last time I went hiking was, but it was long enough that I don’t remember. Nick and I decided to go to Solstice Canyon over in Malibu to hike on something called the Rising Sun Trail. It was about 1.5 miles each way, on a dirt path, and a lot of fun. It certainly was rising most of the way, and the sun was certainly beating down on us the whole way. At the end of the trail was a little area with the ruins of a burned down house, and a small waterfall. Nick stayed at the bottom of the waterfall and started whittling away on a piece of wood we cut from a tree, while I decided to explore the terrain leading up the waterfall. This was very exhilarating and liberating, to have to stand in a certain area for a few minutes, analyze the terrain, and see how I should climb up. Then I had to muster up the courage to overcome whatever obstacle there was, and then tackle the very next section. Each section of the waterfall had little pools, so it was nice to rest before I moved on. The higher I got, the harder the terrain was to traverse. I loved this experience, it was a test of both logic and physical fitness. After our hiking trip, we tried to high tail it over to Santa Monica to rent bikes, but we were too late. We explored the 3rd Street Promenade there instead, which was basically a large shopping strip filled with tourists and street performers. It was a pretty nice atmosphere, and I’m pretty sure I want to live in the Santa Monica area or the South Bay area if I move to Los Angeles. Which leads me to…

@ Hermosa Beach

South Bay Beaches and Little Tokyo
This was an awesome day. Nick and I went to Manhattan Beach to rent bikes, and rode to Hermosa Beach, then Redondo Beach, and all the way back. It was about 3 miles each way. We took The Strand all the way while marveling at the amazing beachfront properties. There were only two bikes left at the rental place, so I was stuck with a hot pink mountain bike, which actually wasn’t so bad, being in California and all the loud colors everywhere. At Hermosa Beach, there was a music festival, and the streets were filled with arts, crafts, music, and photography booths. There was also a David Bowie cover band playing called “Space Oddity.” All the photography booths really made me feel inadequate in my skill, but also gave me more motivation to improve. I came across this really cool photographer named Robert Kawika Sheer who specializes in long exposure photographs with creative “spirit” shadows. The next stop was Redondo, which had marinas, beaches, and fishing piers. This place had the most tourists out of the three, and was filled with seafood restaurants and fishing enthusiasts. We wanted to try some strawberry topped funnel cakes and ice cream, but didn’t have the time to, because we needed to return the bikes at 6:45. We ended up eating ice cream at Manhattan Beach anyway, at a creamery right next to the bike rental shop. I had a scoop of Dulce de Leche, which was delicious. The day ended in Little Tokyo, which was… very little. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than a little part of Tokyo was put in Downtown L.A. :-P There were hipster style clothing stores, japanese import stores, and of course, sushi. We ate at Tenno Sushi, which I would rate as normal. Their tempura rolls were good.

Other Places I Ate: Mel’s Drive-In, Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles, Carl’s Jr., Jamba Juice, Del Taco

I know, my travel blog has started to become just a recount of my activities, and has largely been devoid of personal insight and inspiration. I’ll have to work a little harder in the future in that department.

san diego to los angeles

August 25, 2008

@ Manhattan Beach

Well, the trip back to L.A. was certainly shorter and quicker than last time. Right before I headed out of San Diego, I stopped by Mission Beach to check it out. It was quite similar to Hermosa, but for some reason I wasn’t feeling it as much. It was basically Hermosa, with more surfers, uglier houses, harder sand, and darker water. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very nice beach, but I’ve seen better now. When I dropped into L.A., I took a quick tour of Farmer’s Market, which was filled with locally grown vegetables, fruits, and various other things. It was next to Nick’s improv class, which was right on Hollywood, and which was hugely entertaining. If I do decide to choose L.A. as my place to live, I will definitely have to try out some acting classes for fun. We both went to Manhattan Beach afterwards, which is a couple miles north of Hermosa. The sand was extremely soft, and the sun was warm, but not hot. It was perfect weather for just lying there and listening to the waves, as we contemplated and discussed life, and the origins of each grain of sand. The ocean was quite cold, and very refreshing, although a little saltier than most places. Nothing beats the feeling of lying on the beach on a cool sunny evening. The aquarium that was on the pier was already closed, and we didn’t find any bike rental places on this beach, so next time we’ll rent from Hermosa or Redondo, and bike through all three. Dinner was at an Italian place called Mama D’s, which was very cramped, and the food was very regular. It didn’t help that my board shorts and underwear were still damp, which made the whole experience a little uncomfortable. Anyhoo… here are the stats:

Distance: 138 miles
Average Speed: 56.9 mph
Moving Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Average Mileage: 27.3 mpg

los angeles to san diego

August 21, 2008

@ Hermosa Beach

I took my time getting to San Diego, I stopped by or drove by as many beaches as I could along the southern part of Los Angeles. I hit Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo, and Long Beach. Most of it was just a quick gloss-over, as I will be exploring them in depth when I return to L.A., however, from what I did see, I completely fell in love. Just imagine the feelings I had from Santa Monica Pier the previous day, and multiply it by 10. As nice as Santa Monica was, it didn’t have the small beach town feel that this area had. It reminds me of Ras Tanura back in Saudi, except a little nicer, a little busier, and much nicer houses. Oh, the houses. I usually do not have much of a desire to be rich or famous, but after strolling the streets and seeing a mix of beautiful classic and ultra modern architecture, my heart absolutely ached for this lifestyle. I wanted so much to be able to run, bike, and rollerblade through the concrete paved boardwalk in Hermosa Beach, and then go back to my super nice home and relax, open up the balcony, let the ocean breeze come in. I can’t imagine what I’d feel like if I visited the beaches of Orange County, like Huntington, Newport, and Laguna Beach. I’d probably be depressed that I would never be able to get to that level. I hear the San Diego beaches are even nicer, so I can’t wait to see for myself. Here are the stats, my trip back to L.A. should be much quicker:

Distance: 158.4 miles
Average Speed: 45.1 mph
Moving Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 28 minutes
Average Mileage: 29.3 mpg

los angeles: part 1

August 21, 2008

Mulholland Drive

The first thing I did when I got to Los Angeles was to go to a BBQ at Sid’s (Nick’s bf). He’s subletting a cozy little apartment situated upon a hill in the Echo Park region. It was a good time, and good company, although we arrived late, so everyone had already eaten. Later that night, I took the obligatory tour of Hollywood, including the Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, etc. I realized that my feet and hands fit John Woo’s the most. Afterwards, we decided to to take some photos up on Mulholland Drive. We (Nick and I) stopped at a scenic overlook, and it was starting to get cold. I got jackets from the trunk of the car, and then later on realized that I had locked my keys in the trunk! What’s worse is that both my spare key and valet key were in the trunk as well. My convertible top was up too, so I couldn’t get into the car to open the trunk. That was most likely the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I had to get a tow truck to tow it into a secure lot, and then to take it to the dealership in the morning. Luckily for us, we were in a wealthy side of town, or else it would have been a little scary.

In-N-Out Burger

The next day I tried out the infamous In-N-Out Burger. The menu is quite simple, offering you I believe 3 choices of burger, (regular, cheese, and double). The burgers were just normal to me, but the fries I love. Maybe the freshly delivered, sliced and peeled potatoes really did make a difference, or maybe the marketing jargon got to me psychologically. The best way to describe it is that they have this spongy crisp. They of course have no competition against homestyle fries at a local burger joint, but they are probably the best fast food chain fries I’ve tried. I visited the UCLA campus as well, and let me tell you, I am in love. Whereas my alma matter (The University of Texas) was nice, the campus took a while to grow on me. The architecture just doesn’t inspire me and the landscaping is a little bland as well. However, UCLA is exactly the way I imagined college when I was in high school. Beautiful buildings, beautiful quads, and great weather. Reminds me of the University of Michigan, and although Ann Arbor is nice, I think L.A. just takes the cake in things to do. I went to Rodeo Drive for a short bit, and as nice it is, I just can’t afford any of the things there. There was, however, a Porsche Design store, which was kinda cool.

Sunset @ Santa Monica Pier

I spent most of the next day in Santa Monica Pier. I took the long way through Sunset Blvd. and the Sunset Strip to get there. I didn’t get a star map, but I believe I drove by many famous celebrities homes and ex-homes. I’ll have to do that tour some other time. I just wanted to get to the beach, it was the only thing on my mind. When I finally got there, I felt like I was home. I love the beach so much, and it is one of the few places in the world where I feel like everything is alright. The pier had a small amusement section complete with roller coaster and ferris wheel, and they were showing a ‘drive-in’ movie (Akeelah and the Bee) preceded by a local spelling bee, where a kid could not spell “discuss.” There were the typical artists that you see everywhere engraving names onto grains of rice, drawing caricatures, pretending to be statues, etc. I watched the sunset and waited for Nick to get out of work and meet me. We ate dinner at Cha Cha Chicken, which was a Jamaican/Caribbean restaurant. I ordered the coconut chicken, and although their chicken was good, it was their sides that were to die for: the fried plantains were delicious and sweet, while the spicy cuban fries were sliced sweet potatoes with a slight kick. Mmmm… I’m craving some now just writing about it…. And that’s all I have to say about that.

las vegas to los angeles

August 19, 2008

We left Vegas in the early afternoon so we could make a BBQ party in Los Angeles. The scenery was largely boring to me, as I am not really a big fan of flat desert terrain. I’ve seen enough of that in Saudi. There was a lot of traffic too, from all the L.A. residents returning from their weekend in Vegas. We did stop by Baker to see the World’s Tallest Thermometer. Or so they claim. It’s all digital, and I suppose it makes sense, since a mercury filled thermometer would be quite a hazard if some teenager decided to throw a rock at it. There was also a Big Boy right next door. Oh and we saw a small dust devil at the far end of Baker.

Distance: 269.6 miles
Average Speed: 52.4 mph
Moving Time: 5 hours 8 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 42 minutes
Average Mileage: 28.4 mpg