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Florida 2013- Day 7

Wed. June 19, 2013:

It was so hard to get up early, and not just because we had stayed up so late, but also because I did not want to leave. I was not done with Florida, I still had so many things to see and do. Originally we were supposed to fly out that night, but Air Canada decided to bump us to a much earlier flight. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for one last caffeine run, it was sad. I used my receipt from last time to get another free donut- alas the chain was broken as I would not be able to redeem the free donut from my new receipt (hint, Dunkin’ Donuts come to Canada, hint).

Airport security was a horrible mess with a giant tight bottleneck and no clear direction, as the check-in. The Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport, no longer on a boil water alert, had only regular coffee and no flavours available- what good is that?! The shops had no good snacks, I was about to say that the airport really sucks, but then I found the duty free shop where I got a giant bottle of flavoured vodka for $20, much cheaper than in Canada.

The flight was crammed; I really do not know why we were bumped to it. The woman beside me fell asleep instantly, before we had even taken off. I had half a mind to wake her up and ask what her secret was. I can never fall asleep that fast.

In the end I did not get to eat an orange off a tree. I did not even see a single orange tree, but the fresh passion fruit more than made up for it. I just have to go back to Florida.

 

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Florida 2013- Day 4

Sun. June 16, 2013:

Somehow I managed to wake up at 9am, feeling wide awake and rested… yet I had only had 4 hours of sleep. Or maybe I was super excited because we were going to the Everglades Holiday Park for an airboat tour. Being the first one awake I was treated to “feed me” chorus from the cats. But it was all a ruse! I checked the fridge and they had already been fed. Instead I took them outside to the backyard and let them roam and it somehow turned into a photo shoot culminating with Przemek climbing the banana plant. Eventually it got too hot and it was time to retreat to the air-conditioned climate.

We found tickets for the airboat ride on Groupon, alas we had to use 3 different computers as we were purchasing 5 coupons. As per usual, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts; at this point everyone had converted and found something they liked. It was weird because they were having a musical guest. We ordered the equivalent of timbits (munchkins they’re called) and mentioned so and that we were going to compare the two. The cashier mentioned how she had always wanted to go to Tim Hortons, which struck me as odd- but then again who am I to talk when I always demand going to Dunkin’ Donuts whenever I am in the States. The munchkins were nowhere near as good as timbits.

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In the Everglades Holiday Park parking lot we saw a peacock, I quipped that he was looking for his car. We laughed at tourists slowly trying to approach the peacocks, and their surprise when the birds flew away. Despite it being the off-season, the place was packed, probably because it was Father’s Day. Or maybe it was because of the Groupon deal? There was a separate (and much longer) line-up for people who had discount tickets. We took turns waiting in line while the rest would go look at souvenirs. There was a stuffed alligator toy that would roll around laugh if you “tickled” it, Lucy was amused by it to no ends. She kept going back and laughing at it.

We lined up early for the airboat ride; standing in the heat at high noon was a sacrifice I was willing to make if it meant getting the best seats. Thankfully the wait wasn’t that long. It was worth it, we got seats at the front of the boat and right by the edge. It was so much fun when the airboat went fast, just watching the Everglades zip by. Our first stop was Vulture Island. It was aptly named. You would look at it and see one vulture, then another…. As your eyes adjusted you would see more and more- and suddenly there were at least 30 vultures, all just sitting there, hidden by the trees.

The first alligator we spotted was a regular, seen often on the tour. How do I know this? Because our captain knew her name (Speedy) and knew she was missing a leg. And also she was not afraid of us at all, she swam about as if she knew the drill: let the happy tourists gawk at and photograph you. Up next we saw her daughter. Saw is a bit of an overstatement, glanced is more apt. You could see the top of her forehead and one eye, off under a log near the banks.

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After that our captain pulled up to another spot so we could see some birds. These birds also knew the drill, they got fed and in exchanged we gawked at them. One of the birds was not having it; she kept making sad sounds and refusing to eat. We were told this was because her baby had been eaten by an alligator. We passed by a pretty yellow flower that looked like a lilypad- only it wasn’t and it harbored black widow spiders.

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As we were leaving we saw a blue heron, apparently a rare sighting given the time of year. And just to top off the boat ride (that was definitely longer than an hour) we saw one more alligator! This one was not used to people and kept ducking under the surface of the water.

After the boat ride we were treated to a show by one of the Gator Boys (a TV show I’d watched on a previous vacation). He demonstrated gator wrestling for us with one of the larger alligators, who was not having it at all. He tapped the gators top tooth to make it snap its mouth shut, showing us the strength with which it can bite down. It made a large thump sound and verified, in my mind at least, that the presenter was nuts. This theory was further solidified when he rested his chin on the gators chin, keeping it clamped shut, arms outstretched for more drama. The first time he tried this, the gator fidgeted and he had to readjust, it was a close-call. For $5 you could have your picture taken while holding a baby gator. One woman got more than she bargained for when the gator peed while she held him. I was about ready to leave after the show. There had been one lady who did not understand personal space during the show. She kept squeezing in between us, and reaching over my head to take pictures, resulting in a loose embrace of the top of my head, with her camera just above my forehead.

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We stopped in a McDonald’s parking lot to steal their free wi-fi; we were searching for the nearest Chipotle. A day in the Everglades ramps up the appetite and we were hungry for burritos. Even still, the spicy steak burrito won, but only because it was massive. Chipotle burritos are intended for two, maybe three people. Not one person. Again we found ourselves in Wal-mart on the way home. This time we were in need of campfire supplies. We ended up, in a fit of giggles, buying enormous marshmallows (as in double the size of big marshmallows).

Just as we were about to pull onto their street, a song came on the radio that everyone insisted on listening to and we found ourselves driving around the back of the neighbourhood. It just so happened that the only people living there (the abandoned housing project, Camelot Estates) were moving out. Ela ended up getting a free bike, they had just left it by the side of the road (along with other stuff, remember that).

The house looked like a tornado had hit it; we had our work cut out for us. As a treat after cleaning and a break, we drove out to Carvel in search of Fudgey. I had forgotten to factor in that it was Father’s Day and we had about half an hour before the place closed. We got there and the guy said he was sold out. And not just of Fudgey’s… all his ice cream cakes were gone. This must have registered on my face, as the guy called the next nearest location (thankfully only 15 minutes away) and asked. They had one; I made sure he called back to dibs it for me. The tension in the car was mounting, would we get there in time? Did he actually formally dibs it for us? Would the other location honour the dibs?!

I jumped out of the car and raced in, slightly desperate. The lady at the counter said they were all sold out, the woman who had been in line in front of me laughed that she too had just come in, trying to buy a Fudgey the Whale. I asked about the dibs, she had no idea. I left in a huff, in the parking lot I motioned to the car with my arms in the air in a sad state of defeat- when another woman from the shop called out. I turned around and went back in to see what the fuss was about. If she thought she could see me another ice cream cake, a non-whale shaped one, she was wrong.

As it turns out, the other woman was the one who put the cake aside for me- failing to mention it to her other co-workers. I was so relieved to hear this. She asked if I wanted Happy Father’s Day written on the cake. I raised an eyebrow and laughed no (there were no father’s there, our dad was back in Canada, their dad was in Atlanta). And then I yelled out: WAIT!! I got her to write PMCEL on the cake as a surprise for everyone. She was really confused and I had to spell out each letter for her. I was happy with my victory.

As drove back we passed by a trailer park that had been wrecked by a storm. We headed to the back of the neighbourhood to see what else the moving neighbours had left out. We hit a gold mine- sort of. We got boxes and boxes of lightbulbs and screws. We got a free flashlight, 2 cabinets with drawers and some wires. The smaller cabinet fit in the car. The larger one however needed carrying. It started out with 3 of us carrying it. Then I swapped out with Ela and took her bike back to the house. I passed Marianne and her mom, both on their way back from dropping stuff off, to help carry the cabinet. I ran back and saw that they had found a new way to carry it. Originally we were carrying it by the edges. Now 3 were carrying it over their heads and others would swap in. It was not easy to swap in for them as I kept getting hit on the head with the twine (holding it closed). Also being the shortest, I could not rest it on my head; I had to use my shoulders- leading to my arm going numb. After some back & forth we finally realized it would be easier for 4 of us to carry it pallbearer style on our shoulders. Only at this point we had reached their street.

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We set up a wonderful looking campfire however the humidity made it impossible to get the fire going. We finally got it going with some banana leaves, making Florida that much hotter. We drank fresh passionfruit juice (literally fresh, we had picked it earlier that day) while we roasted hotdogs. For dessert we had obscenely large smores. It was a terribly sticky, gooey mess. Our first bites were filmed with the lens cap on. Their mom kept asking if it was supposed to be so dark, we said it was fine. Only after did we realize it was that the lens cap was on. With four layers of bug spray on, I was still getting bitten, as was everyone else. We retreated indoors, where in the better light we could see on the marshmallow bag that they were intended for smores with a double-sized graham cracker. Hah.

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With all the hubbub surrounding the cake,I could still not really say why the crazy appeal so I pulled up the Wikipedia page and read it aloud. Camilla bailed and left, claiming to have had enough sugar. So with just us and their mom, we sat down and each cut a tiny slice of cake. And then another tiny one. And another. Before we knew it, we had eaten about half the cake! It was that good. So simple (vanilla ice cream, chocolate cookie base, fudge top, cookie in middle) and so delicious. The sugar-crash afterwards put me right to sleep.

 

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Florida 2013- Day 1

Thurs. June 13, 2013:

Booking an 8am flight seemed like such a great idea at the time. As far as I saw it, my sisters and I would arrive in Florida (state 27 for those of you keeping count) at 11am with plenty of time to enjoy a full day of fun.  About a day before did it dawn on me how early we would be waking up at.

We got a ride to Kipling subway where we were supposed to catch the bus to the airport. Small problem: the subway station itself was not open yet. The only way you could get to the bus platform was by being on a bus. What else could we do? We snuck in by walking up the driveway where the buses enter the subway station.

At Pearson I finally managed to get to the Tim Horton’s I had always seen through the glass but could never access. However I had assumed I would not be able to get to it, so I had gotten coffee before we checked in. I was not about to break my not-using-the-airplane-bathroom streak over a not-so-great cup of coffee.

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On the flight I tried watching Full Metal Jacket (the yelling sergeant got on my nerves) and Identity Thief but lost interest in both really quickly. I resorted to reading and having the location map on in the background. The map provided me with more entertainment than it should have. I giggled when I saw that our plane was heading straight for a place called Hazard, or at the idea of there really being a place called Cat Island.

My first view of Florida was an empty flat plain of nothing (which I was later told was the Everglades- my bad). I had hoped to see Cuba from the plane as we turned towards Ft. Lauderdale (the map made it seem so close) alas all I saw was lightening off in the distance- more than mildly disconcerting. As soon as we stepped off the plane we could feel the hot muggy air, the humidity just clung to you. I was overjoyed when I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts, I thought for sure I would be without on this trip. My joy turned to sorrow when I saw that there was a boil water alert out for the county and thus no coffee was being served. My heart sank- but only for a moment- as we wandered through baggage claim, unsure of where to meet our friends, Marianne ran up behind us with a hug attack (Ela had to stay with the car).

As we left the airport a green parrot flew by and landed on a sign behind which storm clouds loomed. No sooner were we on the highway did the sky tear open and rain start pouring. Apparently June is the rainy season in Florida- which explains why the tickets were so cheap. We passed a billboard: Your wife is hot, better get your AC fixed– hilarious. We settled in and sat down to our first meal together in almost three years, of course we had super-duper spaghetti (a staple in our diet).

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We watched movies until the rain stopped (thankfully rainy season in Florida means it rains for about an hour or two then clears up). We walked to the back of their neighbourhood to an abandoned housing development called Camelot Estates. I was instantly entranced and ventured off on my own with my photographer’s hat on. It was great, there was one giant model home that had been built and all around it there was open land and the foundations of one house and a project development office. We tried all the doors, alas they were locked. There was an ibis sitting (rather uncomfortably it seemed) on a fence by the canal. We saw a heron by the lake but he got scared of us and flew away which is just as well, I got to photograph him in flight.

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Walking back we met their neighbour who guessed that my sister and I were from out of the country. Marianne and Ela asked if maybe their dad had mentioned to her that we’d be over, trying to figure out how she knew. She claimed to be psychic, one of us (I will not name names) scoffed and she looked at us with a straight face and assured us she was really a psychic. We mused about what actually gave us away (how uncomfortable we were in the heat? Our accents? Our paleness?).

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It was hot and muggy, we were sticky and gross. It was time to head out to the pool for a cool down. It was nice and relaxing to sit by the pool and read. A lizard came up beside my chair and stuck his throat-skin-flap out. When I tried to take a picture he ran behind the chair where he proceeded to eat bugs. After a while of reading I actually got cold. That’s right, sitting on the deck in Florida at 7 in the evening- I GOT COLD. I actually had goose bumps.

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We wrapped up the day with a very Polish kolacja (evening supper) of potato latkes and pickled herring. I know it sounds gross, but it was delicious. I won’t even go into the details of our potato latke toppings (Nutella, maple syrup or cranberry preserves) but the cranberries won.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in The Roving Reporter, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 9

Sat. Mar. 23, 2013:

We had to wake up early for the long drive back to LA. The car was due back at the rental place at 1:30pm. I don’t know what kind of car rental place closes at 2pm on a Saturday. We got up early for nothing, the garage where our car was parked (hotel did not have parking) did not open until 8am. We had half an hour of time to kill. We walked over to the UC Berkeley campus. The streets were eerily empty; I wondered where all the crazies from the previous day had gone. Turns out, they were on campus. I was so mad when I saw the guy from last night who would yell at people. Now he was yelling at the campus, or the trees- who knows. The garage was late in opening, we had to stand there and wait.

On the freeway we passed a vintage truck hauling a car shaped like a German WWI helmet. It was an odd sight to see. Someone had made a crop circle in a field that was a cross with the word Jesus horizontally and Saves vertically through it. I do not think it was the work of aliens. We drove through some beautiful scenery of wind turbines on rolling green hills. We passed some cows grazing under hydro towers. We also drove by an In N Out burger that was not listed in the GPS- it made me mad, I was craving In N Out burger; I had been without it for a few days now.

We drove by an orchard that featured scarecrows dressed as ghosts and lots of tumbleweeds stuck against tree trunks. I am not sure if they are more effective or if it is just a relic from Halloween. The agri-scenery was soon tainted and hard to enjoy- the smell of manure overcame it all. It was unbearable, it smelled so bad. We passed three dead coyotes and I cannot help but wonder if the smell got them.

We also drove by the third (fourth if you count Alcatraz) prison of the trip. For a point of reference: that is more prisons than we had previously seen on all our trips combined. We drove by another In N Out burger and my rage grew. Stupid car rental place closing so early, we did not even have time to stop for food. The GPS said we would arrive at 2pm. And then we passed another one! I was starting to lose it, I was so hungry, it wasn’t fair that when we had no time we passed by three In N Out burgers.

Before dropping the car off, we stopped at a gas station to top off the tank. I went in to get some coffee and snacks for the next day. The cashier was really weird. He saw my shirt that said LOVE PINK and pointed out that my jacket was purple, not pink. Then he asked me if I was a LA Lakers fan, obviously I am not. He was disappointed that I wasn’t.

I was voracioulsy hungry by the time we left the hotel to In N Out burger; I stopped at the vending machines to get some cookies. While checking into the hotel I noticed that they had run out of free cookies, I bought some from the vending machine on the off-chance that the stock would not have been replenished. We checked on our way out, it had not been. We were heading to our usual In N Out burger, I think I can say that given we that was where we always went- except that one time when we should have gone there but without prescience we had no way of knowing that the bus would short-turn and we would be walking by.

All week had been building to this moment; I feel there should be a drum roll in here. It was time for the epic 4×4, animal style of course. I had decided earlier in the week, after much investigation (ok fine, ingestion) that animal style was the superior way to eat an In N Out burger. Four slices of cheese, four burger patties, one heavenly meal. I was so distracted by my joy when ordering that I forgot to say sauce only and was stuck with veggies in my epic concoction. Nonetheless I managed to pick most of them out. It quickly turned into a messy affair, sauce all over my face and hands, cheese dripping everywhere. The problem with the 4×4 is that there is so much grease (how could there not be?) that the bun starts disintegrating and the structural integrity starts to suffer. If you have just two burger patties and slices of cheese there are a lot less items that need to be lined up. With the 4×4 it is nearly impossible to get a bite that consists of equal parts cheese and beef, partly due to lack of jaw-opening, but more so the whole thing starts to lean to the side. Some bites were more bun than filling. All in all, it was definitely worth a try and the most fun I have ever had eating but the 3×3 is the perfect size. I do still want to attempt eating a 5×5, just for the messy sake of it, and to get another awesome head nod from the cashier. And let’s face it: there is no such thing as too much In N Out burger, I have yet to encounter that problem. I was actually still a little bit hungry after my 4×4, I had to resist the temptation to order animal fries. But I had insisted that we go to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner that night. You could say I was desperate to wrap up my food plans in California. Or I was just really hungry that day.

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On our way back to the hotel we passed by an orange tree but none of them were hanging low enough for me to reach up and grab one, I would have to jump- not the best idea with a belly full of burger. In the park we passed a young couple making out- while a hobo watched them. I do not think they were aware they were being watched, given the guy started motor-boating his girlfriend’s chest. Rather than go back to the creepy gas station we went to the 7-Eleven for dessert instead. Turns out Slurpees are different in the US, the only way I can describe it is fluffier and less syrupy. To compliment my (semi-awful) cherry Slurpee we got some berry Starbursts, and my go-to: a Whatchamacallit.

With our stash of candy we streamed TV on Brent’s laptop the rest of the lazy afternoon until it was time to head out to California Pizza Kitchen. It was nice and breezy out, much cooler than earlier. It was really busy but we got a table without having to wait. I thought we were going to order one pizza and split it, but Brent said they were small and meant for one person. They were not, at least not one person my size. Apparently the rules for In N Out burgers and Las Vegas buffets do not apply to pizzas. I was full after half; I only ate one slice of Brent’s pizza (original BBQ chicken). That is fine given it wasn’t as good as the thin crust Sicilian pizza I had. I am not quite sure why it was called thin-crust, as California pizza is made with flatbread, already rather thin. They had a surprisingly large wine list, I could not resist and ordered a California wine, and it was deliciously sweet. I joked about ordering dessert, but I was actually kind of serious. I had a major cookie craving.

We stopped a candy store on our way back. They had an enormous selection of sodas, including weird ones like maple bacon. The fizzy lemonade was much too sweet for lemonade. I was too full of pizza to eat the jelly-filled Sour Patch Kids. As we walked by the gas station, the creepy guy was in the window just staring at the street. Starbucks and 7-Eleven were both sold out of white chocolate macadamia cookies. I ended up going to Subway, and after some confusion, finally getting cookies. The raspberry cheesecake cookie was surprisingly good; given it was basically a white chocolate macadamia cookie with raspberries in place of macadamias. It is a good thing I went o Subway, seeing as the hotel cookies still had not been replenished.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 6

Wed. Mar. 20, 2013:

Breakfast consisted of Cherry Coke Zero and butter toffee peanuts, not exactly the greatest or healthiest. It was also really messy; I got bits of toffee coating all over the bed, my belly and my book. We got a ride from the hotel down to the rental car place and soon enough we were on the open road, driving north along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was indeed very pretty, as expected.

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Our first stop of the day was at the Getty Villa, same guy as the Getty Centre. It was designed like a house in Pompeii- before the tragedy. There were a lot of statues of Greek and Roman gods, old armour and jewelry. The main piece on display was a statue of a lion attacking a horse; it was amazing how much detail there was around the mouth of the lion and in the neck of the horse. There were mind-bogglingly intricate pieces of hand-blown glassware dating back to 100BC-100AD. I could not stop staring at them, they were tiny with gorgeous little details- all made of glass. For some reason Getty had a real mummy in his collection, it was more than mildly unnerving to think of this rich oil tycoon purchasing a mummy for his gallery. The one downside to being there so early was that the place was rampant with schoolchildren. We found refuge outside in the botanical garden; you could still hear their loud high-pitched voices in the distance. In the garden we witnessed a hummingbird hovering in place, drinking nectar. It almost looked fake; I was tempted to wonder where the wires were. On our way out we stopped by the café; however it was lunchtime so the place was packed.

Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway we saw miles and miles of gorgeous scenery, further beautified by three pelicans flying by. The thing about the PCH is that it a scenic highway, it does not have a lot of exits let alone highway rest areas. When we saw a McDonald’s while driving through a town, we pulled in. Well, sort of. Brent missed the turn and instead we ended up in the KFC parking lot so we split up. I went to McDonald’s and Brent went to KFC. We were going to split a small popcorn chicken with our McLunch, however KFC decided to stop making popcorn chicken. We had to eat chicken bites, chicken nuggets that tasted too much like real chicken that was unbearably greasy. The soft serve machine at McDonald’s was broken and so were my dreams of a sundae for dessert.

We drove by Pepperdine University, easily one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. They even have a sign warning against trespassing- I guess lots of people had wanted to see the pretty campus. The GPS kept trying to steer us onto the freeway, we ignored it a bunch of times and it finally gave up and let us stay on the PCH. My ice cream craving was only getting worse and then an 18-wheeler of Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches drove by. For a while there was a naval base in between us and the coast, ruining the beautiful views. Instead the views were of migrant works picking crops in the field. Once we got back to the scenic part it was ruined again, this time by trucks pulled over in the beach parking. I guess it is a good place to take a nap? One guy had been there for a long time, there was a seagull perched on the roof.

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We stopped at the Kalyra Winery because you cannot drive up the PCH in California and not stop for a wine tasting. I had a tasting flight, basically 1-2 ounces of 8 different wines (3 reds, 3 whites and 2 desserts). It was a nice way to try all the different wines without getting hammered; I ended up buying the first dessert wine I had tried. While I sipping my wines, the girl struck up some small talk with us. When Brent said we were from Toronto, she thought that was in Japan. Brent made a slight joke about that being wrong, but it seemed to go over her head. She really thought we were from Japan. I now had to fake a deep interest in my wine, so as to avoid the really awkward conversation about fitting in and learning the language and adjusting to a new country. Thankfully there was also a bloodhound dog bumbling about to distract me, he was so cute and soft. The winery was very low-key and laid back, not intimidating at all.

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We drove back south to the Santa Barbara Mission. I was so excited; I thought this was the mission that they drive to in Vertigo. I was ready to climb up the bell tower and fake fall- only it was not that mission. Brent just chose it so we could see an old mission, and it was along the way to our next hotel. He chose a good mission to go see, as this was one of the only missions left that was still operating as an actual church. They had an exhibit about the earthquake that hit the area in 1925. And of course, we saw some more lizards.

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Our dinner plans were cancelled because the taco place where we wanted to eat (Julia Child’s favourite) was closed. What kind of a taco place is closed on a Wednesday?! It’s the middle of the week! It was a short walk to the place from our hotel on the main street- we walked over to see if maybe the internet had lied to us and it was in fact open. It was not. But the internet saved itself, by giving us a recommendation for a Mexican restaurant that had been recently voted the best in Santa Barbara. And it just so happened to be two doors down from the taco place.

Los Agaves had a huge menu. It took me a while and a lot of flip-flopping before finally deciding on the chicken mole Pablano. I ordered it because it is one of the main dishes in Mexican cuisine and it sounded delicious. And the menu said it was really hard to make with lots of different ingredients. Brent ended up ordering what I had been considering: picadas (chorizo and other meats on top of flat breads). And he ordered a quesadilla. Brent finally got to try Negro Modello beer, I opted for Jarrito. I was not even sure what it was. Turns out it is a Mexican soda available in a wide range of flavours.

Throw in the free tortilla chips and we were in for a feast, an enormous feast. We made a mistake saying yes to a second (and a third) basket of tortilla chips. But we simply could not help ourselves: they had 6 different house made salsas and guacamoles! By the time our mains arrived we were half full already. The menu had lied, or at least misled. It was supposed to be two pieces of chicken. What I got was two quarters of chicken: half a chicken. I sat there are stared at it for a second, half a chicken smothered in sauce atop a bed of rice. The waitress offered me some flatbread for piling rice and chicken on. I did manage to eat most of it, leaving behind mostly chicken bones- and all the beans. We ended up with a lot of leftovers and sadly no room for dessert.

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Overfed, we walked south in a feeble attempt to get down to the beach. What we did not realize is that first we had to bypass the freeway. We turned back and headed towards the main street, which for sure went down to the waterfront. Along the way we saw an actual functioning Blockbuster. It w

as a sight to behold. We passed a church that had been converted into a skateboard shop, aptly named Skatan. As soon as we got to the Santa Barbara Pier I perked right up, forgetting how full my belly was. I even considered having an ice cream cone, but it was too cold and I was too distracted. There were pelicans dive-bombing into the water trying to catch fish. Then a shiny black head surfaced and disappeared before Brent could see- he did not believe me until he saw the seal himself later. Until then I had just been “seeing things” and there was no “seal”. I had refused to leave my spot, waiting for it to re-surface. It felt good to be proven right.

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We had a nice walk along the pier; the beach was out the question. It was too cold to take our shoes off and nothing is worth sand in the shoes. A guy with a parrot on his shoulder getting into a car distracted me for a second, but then it was right back to watching the pelicans dive. I just could not get enough of it. But then I got to thinking, this was the ocean I was staring at. How cool would it be to see a dolphin jump out? And then to make things even and not so hokey, a shark to jump from the opposite direction? And then to make things less macabre a whale to surface, blow some water out and swim back under again? Is that really so much to ask for from the Pacific Ocean? That’s the least it could do to make up for always being too cold to go swimm

ing. The whale was added to the montage a little bit later, when I read a sign at the end of the pier saying that whales migrate to this part of the ocean because it is calmer.

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As we turned around to head back I was faced with a nice surprise. The sun had started setting over Santa Barbara and the beach. It was absolutely gorgeous, the pink and orange streaked sky over the sailboats and palm trees. Even the seal came back to watch the sunset, and avoid my camera. The elusive seal proved impossible to photograph, so while I have no proof, I did see that seal!!! It only occurred to me halfway though that I should adjust the colour balance, as my photos were looking nothing like the sunset. I did end up getting my photograph of a dolphin jumping, but it was just a statue at the entrance to the pier- with the sunset in the background for added effect.

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Rather than going back to the hotel I went out shopping. It sucked until on my back to the hotel, on a whim, I crossed the street to Urban Outfitters where I hit a gold mine: babushka and cupcake shaped lip glosses, a red wallet with white polka dots (seeing as my US wallet was barely holding together with electrical tape) and some chicken wing boxers for Brent. I wanted to buy more but it would not fit in my carry-on. To top off my successful shopping trip I stopped at a self-serve frozen yogurt place. People in the US do not understand how self-serve frozen yogurt works. They would wait until the person was done picking flavours and move in a straight line. That is not how it works. If the flavour you want is not blocked, you go for it. You do not stand there like an idiot holding the whole line up. That is why the place was packed. It was awful.

On my way to the mall I had passed a guy singing really bad karaoke really loud across the street. Two hours later he was still there, belting out the “tunes”- if you can call them that.

While I was out Brent had gone a soda run and bought some more Jarrito (fruit punch). We had not anticipated needing a bottle opener for it. After a few failed attempts, I finally managed to pop open in the doorjamb- spilling fruit punch on the wall and my sock and hurting the side of my hand from smacking the top against the doorjamb. Victory was delicious.

Day 6 celebrity sightings: 0, we were too far from LA. I did see a bride-to-be, just thought I would mention it, that zero looks really sad.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 5

         Tues. Mar. 19, 2013:

You could tell I was excited about going to Universal Studios; I woke up before the alarm clock went off. Having learned from the past few days, I gave in to temptation and had the one free in-room coffee. It was great, I had the time to just sit there, munching my Pop Tart and reading my book- getting crumbs all over the bed and in my coffee. We set out, right on time, to catch a bus which just so happened to be right around the corner. It was nice to not have to walk half an hour. What was not so nice was that I am pretty sure there was some blood splattered on the floor beside the entrance. Thankfully we were off that bus soon enough, and the bus we had to catch was waiting at the bus stop. We made great time, partly because we had been taking express buses. The LA transit system is good in that it is cheap and there are lots of express buses. What sucks is that you cannot transfer between buses or having to walk really far.

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We did not know where to catch the shuttle bus up to the entrance to Universal Studios so we started walking. Then we saw the shuttle bus passing us going south, we knew it was going to turn around head back up- it was now an uphill race. We won! We beat the shuttle bus and thus the hoard of people all clamoring to get tickets. There was no line-up for tickets, there was however a line-up of people all waiting to get into the park. Every line had annoying children in it. Standing there as time seemed to come to a stand-still was infuriating. Worse still, we were in the line up with the world’s slowest ticket scanner, he had to make small talk and jokes with every single person. Once in the park we were faced with another crowd. This time however we snuck around to the front to see what was going on. They were stopping us from going into the actual park so that they could go over some ground rules. I was not having it, this was the third time we had to wait, being given the false hope that we were in. I kept inching forward, squeezing around people. It was easy because we did not have backpacks or children.

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As soon as they finally let us in it was a mad dash of people all speed walking towards the Studio Tour. It quickly turned to running. We left everyone behind in our dust, pulling to the front. Running dow n the escalator was less than thrilling, it was downright scary. But it was all worth it to be the very first person in line. That is, until the attendant asked us to move one queue over and the guy behind us decided to just climb over the ropes while his kids climbed under. We were now second in line. They did get yelled at, so that made me feel a bit better. Even being there first meant nothing; we did not pay extra for front of the line access. We had to wait until they boarded. The kid’s in front of us then ran over to the early access line and were declined entry; it seems they learned from their father.

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The tour started out a little bit slow, mostly just parking lots and trucks. For some reason there was a ride in the middle of the tour. Basically the bus got tossed around by King Kong and a giant dinosaur, spra ying us in the face with water for extra drama. From there the tour picked up and got really interesting. We saw fake sets for various locations (New York City, Mexico, Europe). There was the fake lake, where Norman Bates dumped the body in Psycho. We drove down Wysteria Lane from Desperate Housewives. Then they showed us some examples of special effects from movies like Fast & Furious which involved rolling some cars and making some  explosions. We got to see the shark from Jaws, along with some more explosions. Then we drove into a fake underground, meant to be the San Francisco subway and they faked an earthquake for us- which also ended with some fiery explosions. The Bates motel from Psycho sits on a lot adjacent to the lot for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, so the whole time in the background you can see the candy-coloured snow-topped roofs. Sadly we did not see any celebrities, even though according to the board by the entrance they were filming a few shows that day, including one of my favourites: The Mindy Project. 

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The line-up for the Simpsons ride was longer than for the tour. In total we waited about half an hour, but it was an awesome half hour. There are screens throughout playing clips of old episodes of The Simpsons. The ride was really fun, but my hands hurt afterwards from gripping the bar so tightly- which is weird given it was not a real roller coaster. It was one of those rides were the seat moves. Next door to the ride they had built a Kwik-E-Mart that featured the greatest joke of all time. They had name key chains and there was one that was sold out and only the tag was there: Bort. We bought and split a giant “Lard Lad” donut, it was surprisingly good for a giant novelty donut from a souvenir shop in an amusement park. 

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Hopped up on sugar, we went to the lower level of the park. It was smaller and we figured we could finish it off first. Plus we really wanted to see the movie prop exhibit. Unfortunately it was closed for re-installation. The Transformers ride was right next to it and the line did not seem long at all. At first I thought it was spilling outside of the building, but that was a separate line of people who wanted their photo with a guy dressed as the yellow Transformer. The line was hidden deep inside the building in a maze of hallways with buttons and control panels and the occasional screen showing videos that I did not understand, but that is my lack of any knowledge with regards to Transformers. The only thing I know is the theme song, which was missing in all this. The ride was fun, what else can you expect, you get whipped around really fast, crazy 3D things happen on the screen, you “fly” through the air, things explode- and you get sprayed in the face with water. Universal Studios loves spraying you in the face with water.

There was barely a line-up for the Jurassic Park ride. I was really nervous about this ride; I initially was not going go on it. The ride sounded way too scary for the likes of me. An 84 foot drop was too much for me. Somehow I found myself standing in line, I think what made me change my mind was that it was like a log-ride. I insisted on sitting at the very back and in the middle, so as to be as far away as possible from the water. I screamed. I screamed so loud, my throat hurt. The souvenir photo they took shows me with my mouth agape, screaming and smiling at the same time. I should have bought it, it was hilarious. 

We tried to go on the Mummy ride however it was down for repairs. It worked out quite well actually because we had just enough time to go to the upper level for the animal show. We got great seats thanks to not being held back by having kids or bags. The animals were unbelievably cute and talented. The show involved a much wider range of animals, including rats running on a rope, pigs and chickens pulling ropes (to change a lunch menu from pork and chicken) and a falcon flew down from behind the audience. A dog attempted to recycle a can, it took three tries. A cat went up in a basket when a dog pulled a rope. Some guinea pigs ran across the stage, a cat was chased by a dog, a chicken ran by. For the grand finale, a flock of pigeons flew at us, to coops behind the audience. It was a terrifying way to end the show; I have no idea why they would do that to us.

Right next door they were doing a special effects show, and it just so happened to be starting soon after the animal show. Again we got good seats, mostly because we were able to get out of the animal show so fast. There was horribly awkward host banter before the show got under way, however the b anter continued throughout the show. It was easily the crappiest thing we went to all day. The only visual effect that I did not know about was the glass screen in front of the camera to create a fake scene. There were no explosions (they left those for the official tour) and no stunts. It was just green screen and a guy awkwardly flying around the stage on a wire. On our way to lunch we passed by the animal stage again and this time they had one of the animal actors outside for a meet & pet . It was Alex the dog, as seen in We Bought A Zoo. He was so cute and soft and I just wanted to steal him and keep forever.

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We tried to go to Mel’s Diner for lunch but it was closed, the sign suggested we try Flinstone’s Bedrock BBQ, but we had just walked by and the place was a child-filled zoo. Instead we kept walking to fake Europe and found a fake French café. We sat on the patio eating sandwiches and a chocolate croissant, why it felt like we were in France! We walked around “Europe” some more, and who did we encounter, but none other than Vin Diesel himself, if he were made of wax. It was uncanny how real the sculpture looked; I thought maybe it was an actor who would periodically scare people half to death?

On our way to see Shrek in 4D (the 4th D apparently refers to getting sprayed in the face with water) I saw a woman get scared half to death and add some weight to my above wax figure theory. She sat down on a bench between two statues to pose for a photo. I had seen this bench earlier in the day, there had been only one sculpture. Sure enough, the other one “came to life”- eliciting a hilarious (to us) reaction from this poor woman. It was nice to get to sit down and watch a short Shrek movie. This one was aimed a you nger audience, so there wasn’t as much movement. Instead of sitting in a roller coaster car, the seats were like regular movie theatre seats that could blow air at your ears and move you up and down. Every time the seat went back down my feet would smack the floor, stupid short legs. After the show there was a waffle hut outside that opened and a mechanical Donkey would make small talk (and terrible jokes) with the crowd gathered around. It was awkward because you could tell that there was someone in the shack, doing the voice.

The haunted house was not that scary because there were so many people. It was a constant stream of people walking through at the same pace. I could see all the actors scaring the people ahead of me. The guy in front of me would periodically stop dead in his tracks scared and I would slam into him. He ended up staying behind and walking slower. Not a single “monster” got me. The only thing that did scare me was when they played the score from Psycho. That gave me goosebumps.

On our way back to the lower level we walked through a fake New York neighbourhood, they had audio piping in of neighbours yelling at each other (as it turns out, there were real people above the storefronts leaning out the windows- I had neglected to look up). The prop museum was still not open, but the Mummy ride was finally fixed. The lineup was long, and there was nothing to entertain us. We were tired and the people around us were insufferable. I was also really uneasy because throughout there were signs warning that this w as an actual roller coaster, not a simulation as all the others had been. I am terrified of roller coasters; I do not handle them very well.

The roller coaster was not as scary as I had expected,  it went in one direction then it reversed and went backwards. No upside down loops thankfully. That is not to say that I did not scream. I screamed, a lot, the whole time. I almost lost my voice. I also added to the collection of really bad souvenir photos of me amassing out there. It was the same thing, me screaming my head off while smiling. As we left I caught a glimpse of the schedule. We had just enough time to either go see the Waterworld show or the Blues Brothers show. It was an easy choice, Waterworld of course.

They forewarn that you will get splashed, so we sat at the very top. They were not kidding about that. As the actors tried to get the crowd all riled up they would splash them with buckets of water if they did not cheer loudly enough. They also soaked the people who were coming in late. Brent filled me in on what a horrible movie it was and I set my expectations for the show accordingly. The first half was rather quite boring. People jumping into the water, fake gun shots, some leaking water tanks. Things picked up when a helicopter fake crashed through a wall causing an explosion and some people jumped their jet skis. Then there was the grand finale of the show: a giant explosion.

The bus was at the transit terminal, thank goodness because I was exhausted and dehydrated. The problem came when we tried to catch our connecting bus. We had been let off on the corner where the connecting bus would be turning and so we had to go looking for the stop. We back tracked for a few blocks checking our map. After about 20 minutes we finally got there and realized it was the stop we had mistakenly almost gotten off at. That is the one downside to the express bus, if you have to walk in between stops. Thankfully no bus has passed us in that time. I was about to go into the gas station on the corner for some soda but it was a small crappy one and I decided against it. According to the schedule we still had some time so I sat down on the bench- right then the bus pulled up, fine by me!

We stayed on the bus, going past our hotel. We got off on campus and walked to In N Out burger for dinner. We stopped at CVS for some sodas as well. The selection was less than steller, so I ended up with a Sunkist because I still had some Sierra Mist in a can from the day before (little did I know the cleaners had thrown it out while we were gone!). The walk back to the hotel, burgers in hand, felt like the longest 30 minutes ever, I ended up drinking most of my Sunkist on the walk. I was tired and hungry and all I could think about was biting into my 3×3 and being transported to burger heaven.

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When we got to our room our keycards didn’t work, we had to walk all the way back down the hill to sort it out. All I wanted was to eat my burger in peace. Once I finally but into that greasy, cheesey, meaty delight, I was in burger heaven. It was so good, it was epically better than a double double. It was not overkill; it was just the right amount of meat and cheese, just enough to grease through the bag. And of course we topped it off with a chocolate bar for dessert and some good TV (New Girl and Mindy Project were on). Brent got a disheartening email saying our reservation at Chez Panisse later in the week had been cancelled; no reason had been given, just cancelled. I spouted a few conspiracies about rich famous people, but then we looked it up. Apparently there had been an electrical fire under the front porch. In my book there are five sad faces drawn after that.

Day 5 celebrity sightings: one, the dog from We Bought A Zoo, unless you count a Vin Diesel wax statute, then two.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 4

Mon. Mar. 18, 2013:

I awoke early again, but not because of the sun (really, there was a lack of bright sun in the mornings) but because I had yet another nightmare about my vacation ending early. We took a cab, courtesy of Manulife, out to Santa Monica. Brent had a work meeting there (it is the real reason we were out in Los Angeles to begin with) and I had tagged along for the ride.

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I wandered around on the Santa Monica Pier while Brent was at his meeting. My wandering quickly turned to circling the coffee shop, waiting for it to open; yet another morning that did not start with a cup of coffee. For a while I watched some guys fishing at the end of the pier, but this quickly got boring, except for the helicopter that flew close by. There really was not that much to do, as everything was still closed and half the pier was being used to film a TV pilot. There was some Route 66 stuff, including an information booth (that wasn’t open yet).  I got distracted from trying to sneak a peek of the set by some starfish desperately clinging to the bottom of the pier as waves crashed over them.

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I decided to risk my feet freezing (it was still really cold and the sun was nowhere to be found) and head down to the beach. Cold toes are much more bearable than sand in your shoes for the rest of the week. The beach proved to be much more interesting. There was a seagull who had hit the jackpot: a dead stingray! He was closely guarding it but too afraid to eat it, lest another seagull sneak up from behind. Between being paranoid about rival seagulls and scared of my shutter, the seagull was almost doing a little dance, a little shuffle back and forth: about to peck at the sting ray, off goes my shutter and he gives me a cock-eyed look, other seagull moves in, he screams at it. And repeat. For a while I pretended to be interested in another seagull sitting atop a giant pile of seaweed, I swiveled (here is where I probably hurt my knee) and got it: photograph of the seagull pecking at the poor dead sting ray. Look out National Geographic!

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Slowly but surely I made my way closer to the ocean’s edge. No walk along the beach (especially when barefoot) is completely without dipping at least one toe. Or in my case ending up in the ocean up to your ankles because a wave came in. My ankles remained frozen for a long while after. It turns out that the Pacific Ocean is cold in March. I soon forgot about my cold ankles when I saw the funniest little birds. They had long legs and pointy long beaks. They would walk along the shore, waiting for the wave to break and they would poke holes in the sand. I found this far too amusing, and took to following them back up the beach. Everything about them was hilarious, especially when they tried to run, their long thin legs and awkward gait, the temptation to poke the sand. On my way back I saw that the seagull had lost his lunch. Another seagull had taken over, and she had no competition, the others had given up.

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I changed into my flip flops and headed back to the Pier. My feet were freezing cold, but there was no way I was going to let even a grain of sand get inside my running shoe- it would be stuck there forever. And finally, finally the coffee shop was open! In retrospect, I am not so sure it was a good thing. The coffee was pretty bad and their smallest size was the equivalent of a regular large. I was stuck with a giant cup of bad (and expensive) coffee that I had to finish before getting to Macy’s. On our way in I had noticed what I thought was a Macy’s and having run out of stuff to do on the Pier I figured why not go shopping. Turns out it was a Bloomingdale’s. Thankfully it was part of a mall; however the only store where I bought something was Hot Topic (some Gir earrings). In my defense my only other options were ritzy expensive boutiques, with which Hot Topic does not fit.

On my way back to the Pier I was tempted by McDonald’s. I went in to see if they had the Cadbury crème egg McFlurry. They did not; they did have the horribly gross sounding McFish bites though. I was getting hungry and impatient, sitting on a bench waiting for Brent. The sun had finally come out, just in time to get Brent. I went to Pier Burger for lunch, a cheese dog (no time wasted applying condiments) and a concrete (the dessert of Route 66) aptly named Route 66. The concrete was not a concrete, it was more of a sludge. It was not frozen enough and the toppings were just sheer overkill (chocolate chunks, M&Ms, Oreos). We couldn’t ride the Ferris wheel, as it was closed by the film set. I had seen a sign saying that there was an aquarium at the Pier, except it was under the carousel, not the Ferris wheel as I had thought. I had walked a few times by and around, trying to figure out how it could be under it, somehow under the Pier? I re-read the sign and saw that it said carousel. We went down there to see it, discovering that there is a whole second part to the Pier mainly consisting of little tourist shops by the aquarium and a boardwalk. Walking along the boardwalk we came across Muscle Beach, surprisingly there were people actually working out there, but no Larry the Lobster (from Spongebob Squarepants). I had seen a girl eating Pinkberry frozen yogurt earlier, and I only now realized I had forgotten about my plans to go there for dessert. I could have been eating Pinkberry instead of that gross concrete, which I could not even finish it was so bad.

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Back at the hotel I fell asleep while reading my book. We had a giant chunk of time before our dinner at Spago Beverly Hills that evening.  After my nap we went to the gas station to get some snacks to hold us over until dinner, as well as breakfast for the next day. The lady laughed at how much junk food we were buying, saying it will last us forever. It lasted us less than two days.

We had to walk down to Wilshire Blvd. to catch a bus to take us to Rodeo Drive. We were dressed up super fancy and we looked ridiculous walking through UCLA campus. Even moreso because I was wearing flipflops (no way would I walk more than a few steps in my heels) and an athletic jacket (my top was sleeveless). I changed into my heels on the bus, which was awkward and uncomfortable to say the least. As we walked along Rodeo Drive, two women with long black hair and fancy-casual outfits walked by, followed by two guys with video cameras and a boom mike. I suggested that it seemed to be a reality TV show, Brent didn’t believe me. We would Google it later that night. We stopped at Guess (there is no Kate Spade on Rodeo Drive, where I would have much preferred to shop) because I had found a bracelet online that I really liked and simply had to have. Plus now I could say I had been shopping on Rodeo Drive.

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As we walked back through the fancier part of Rodeo Drive, we saw those same two women being filmed, I had called it! I was right! I cheered and rejoiced.

We were having dinner at Spago because that is where California pizza (flatbread pizza) was invented, by Wolfgang Puck no less. However pizza is not on the dinner menu. Spago is much fancier than Puck’s restaurant at the Bel-Air hotel. We were seated at the back. Brent sat in the booth, behind which there was no wall, just giant windows- into the kitchen. Brent would be talking to me and my eyes would start to wander and get all big and he would turn around to see what I was watching. Usually it was fire, controlled fire in a frying pan. The best dish of the night was the appetizer we split, which was a smaller version of the most expensive main on the menu. It was fancy little pieces of steak and they were absolutely delicious, even though they are served cold. For the main I decided to order the chicken because I was curious to see what they could do with chicken. Turns out they are rather creative with such an everyday staple meat. They seasoned it like a prosciutto and it was so juicy. Brent had the tuna steak which was also good, but nowhere near as good as the chicken. Dinner is never complete without drinks. I got to try two different California red wines, the Cabernet was way better than the Merlot (insert fancy wine talk here). Dessert consisted of a beignet split between the two of us, basically a fancy donut that Brent (hilariously) tried to pronounce, much to my amusement. When the dish came to our table it had a thin piece of chocolate resting on top and the waiter poured really hot chocolate over it to melt it into the ice cream that was in the middle of the donut, sorry, beignet.

Thankfully the wait for the bus was not that long, I was freezing cold. I was now wearing two sweaters (Brent had given me his) and my legs were bare, add in the flip flops and I was a hilarious sight to see. As we walked to the hotel I was sort of tempted by In N Out burger, but decided against it. I was comfortably satiated and that would have been overkill, and I would not have enjoyed it. Can you believe not enjoying In N Out burger?  Back at the hotel Brent mentioned a reality TV show about rich Persians in LA, we Googled it and lo and behold:  the two women from before!

Day 4 celebrity sightings: two if you count the Shahs of Sunset, with a possible third. As we walked to Rodeo Drive some people came out of a fancy boutique and locked it up. The TMZ tour drove by and the guy pointed the group out. The fanciest dressed of the three (nice suit, stylish glasses) waved and said something. We Googled the location to get the name of the boutique to look up the designer and we are fairly certain we had seen the designer Canali.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 2

Sat. Mar. 16, 2013:

I failed to wake up at my usual ungodly early time; I blame it on the lack o f sun. That is right, in California the sun was failing to creep through the blinds awaking me as it had last year in Arizona. Our second day in California was a cloudy day! Insert shocked face here. We walked half an hour to catch a bus, for a ride that would last 20 minutes. It was well worth the irony as we were heading to the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Art Museum (heretofore referred to as LACMA).

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The tar pits were awesome, they actually bubbled! It did not look or smell as I had imagined. The pits really just look like a lake, at first we thought it was a lake- until we saw a giant black bubble pop- and then the faint smell hit us. As a child I had been terrified of tar pits- I was a huge fan of The Land Before Time. It was only recently that I became intrigued by the tar pits, after listening to a podcast about the fact that they have the largest collection of dire wolf skulls. I wanted to see just how many of these skulls they had (clearly I did not pay enough attention to the podcast). It was just as I had imagined! Rows and rows of skulls! It did not make dire wolves look too smart though, especially relative to other skeletons found in the tar pits. You can’t blame them though, the tar pits look like a lake and seeing a mammoth struggling to get out is just too much temptation. How bad could it be? Mammoths simply can’t swim. Have you seen how big a mammoth actually is? They are giant, epically giant.

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Behind the Page Museum (that is what the place is actually called) they have a c urrent excavation site set up so that you can gaze in and see it in progress. It is not at all what I had pictured, they dig through solid layers. There is no mucking around in the tar pit itself, with all the bubbling and the slowly-sucking-you-down-to-your-demise-ness.

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The LACMA was conveniently right next door. More importantly, they had a café- yet again I was in desperate need of my daily caffeine fix.  At first the museum seemed giant, we wondered if we would get through it all in time. Those fears quickly dissipated, the west wing was closed for renovations and most of the size of the museum was due to it being spread out over a few buildings. We started off with the exhibit we were most excited about: the Stanley Kubrick display. It ranks near the top as one of the best exhibits I have ever been to and it further reaffirmed my love of his films. It was amazing; I got to see props from The Shining, including the typewriter and axe. It also provided more insight however, beside the display of the twin girls’ dresses, there was an explanation that he had been inspired by one of Diane Arbus’s photographs of creepy twins- I was now doubly freaked out by the twins. The exhibit also consisted of copies of the scripts with Kubrick’s notes. One of the pages from a notebook was just filled with variations of the title for what was in the end: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It was all the same words just rearranged. Easily one of the greatest items on display was the tiny bible and suicide pills from Dr. Strangelo  ve. The tiny bible was just so cute. It was quite alarming to walk into an orange room and be face to face with the suit from A Clockwork Orange. Equally alarming was to see the star child from 2001: Space Odyssey just laying there on its side in a display case.

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From there we took our usual route through the galleries, starting with the oldest stuff and working our way towards the contemporary galleries. There were lots more Jesus paintings to be seen, because we still have not seen enough paintings of the Madonna and Child. We did realize that you hardly ever see paintings of the Last Supper (as opposed to Jesus’ birth and death). This could not have all been because of Leonardo da Vinci painting it so beautifully and thus no one else even wanted to compete. Somewhere out there is an enormous collection of Last Supper paintings. I am sure of it.

In the contemporary gallery we encountered our favourite art piece: the polymer plank leaning against a wall by John McCracken. This wasn’t even the first time we had seen it that day. There was one in the Kubrick exhibit as well, which put it into context as possibly having inspired the obelisk in 2001: Space Odyssey. The version of it in the contemporary gallery was a bright pink, so at least the colour was new to us.  As we went to the third floor in the contemporary gallery we could see the Hollywood sign off in the distance. Well, barely see, it was very smoggy then. Brent had read that there was an observation deck so we got in the elevator to go there. I pushed the button above 3, logically the roof button- it was the call button. We ran away. I was now even with Brent. I had laughed at him earlier when he set off an alarm, by going behind a wall to a darkened space. He thought there was a movie playing. No trip to an art gallery is complete without: Jesus paintings, the plank and much confusion about what is going on in the art world (a lot of: how can this be art?!). The last exhibit we saw was 2000 pieces of wood all over the floor. We had met all the requirements; we were done with the gallery.

We used the free wi-fi in the gallery to get directions to In N Out Burger. As it turns out, we had passed right by it on the next street over. I was hell-bent on ordering off the secret menu, nothing regular. I paired my burger with my fries, asking for both of them done animal style. For the fries this entails topping them with cheese, thousand islands dressing and fried chopped onions. As per the burger: extra sauce, pickles, chopped fried onions, and a mustard grilled bun. I was so embarrassed about asking for stickers that I forgot to say no tomatoes and no lettuce. I was stuck having to pick them out of my burger, my sad one patty burger. I do not know what I was thinking ordering a single. The only downside to the animal fries is that the toppings sit on top, so once you get about halfway down they are just regular fries. While at In N Out I saw some cheerleaders and it just reminded me of Bring It On, making me crave the movie for the rest of the day. Waiting for Brent on the patio I witnessed the cutest (and smartest) dog ever. His owner was eating a burger and he kept whining and begging. She ignored him. He put his paws on her lap and whined some more. She gave in and let him have a piece, just a piece, of an In N Out burger. That is just mean. The dog knew this, he begged a few times but to no avail, so he instead took to barking. When he saw that it was not working, he started going over to the next table. A smart dog with good taste.

Mar. 16, 2013- LA- ps  (1)

We walked back to our hotel through the UCLA campus. It is a very nice campus, though they have a lot of fraternities and sororities. I lost count. There was on that had a spanking paddle holding the window open.

Back at the hotel I found out that there is a Starbucks not too far, I was saved from having to wait for my morning coffee! No more caffeine-crashes for me. The Starbucks just so happened to be located near a pharmacy called Brent-Air which I spent way too much time giggling about.

We took the free hotel shuttle to the Bel-Air hotel where we were having dinner at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. I was more excited about getting to see the fancy hotel (where celebrities stay when they are in town) than the restaurant. I can’t help it; Wolfgang Puck has so many restaurants (including one I saw in the airport when we flew in). We had been anticipating traffic so we left early for the hotel. Of course when we leave an extra buffer of time, there is no traffic at all. We slowly wandered around the hotel grounds gawking at all the fanciness. I was less than thrilled as I was in heels and a sleeveless shirt- it was surprisingly cold out. There was a pool shaped like an egg, seemingly just for the sake of it. In the small lake there was a swan and we wondered if it had clipped wings but we decided against running up and scaring it to see of it would fly away. During our second round through the hotel (we had a lot of time to kill) we encountered drunken newly-weds. I knew they were newly-weds because: they were intoxicated at 5 in the afternoon, they were all over each other, it was pretty clear that they had splurged on the hotel and were more than enjoying the time spent there. If they weren’t in gag-inducing country-club wear (think khakis and sweater wrapped around shoulders, knotted at base of neck) it would have been cute.

Mar. 16, 2013- LA- ps  (3)

The restaurant was outdoors but with a tent-like covering and fancy heaters. I called dibs on sitting beside the heater. I would soon come to regret this decision as it got insanely warm. I went from being too cold to too hot without any of the good middle part. The amuse-bouche (or as they called it: amuse from the chef) was beets and pomegranates. I stared at it for a while, stared at the beets, the gross beets. As it turns out beets (at least when prepared with pomegranates and served in tiny quantities) are not all that bad. To start we split a bluefin tuna tartar wrapped in cucumbers. It was delicious, very light and not that heavy on the fish taste. As usual we swapped our main courses when we were halfway through. I traded in my enormous- really, it was bigger than my head- schnitzel for Brent’s braised beef short ribs. It was hilarious when our plates arrived. I was presented an enormous (but thin) slab of meat and Brent was given a small plate of potatoes and a pot of ribs in sauce, which the waiter poured over the potatoes. My giant plate of meat versus Brent’s small fancy dish, and somehow Brent won. Hands-down the ribs were much better than the schnitzel. This is not to say that it was awful, it was really good but no better than schnitzels I have had before. The ribs were saucy and succulent and they just fell off the bone. It is debatable if we had made a mistake in ordering an appetizer; we were too full for dessert. The appetizer was delicious and we did get a small mini-dessert with the bill (little puff pastries with cream).

Brent asked the concierge if he could call our hotel for the shuttle. She seemed a bit thrown off for a second; she had assumed we were staying there. We were told it would be about a 30 minute wait until the bellhop would arrive. We set off wandering around the hotel yet again. This time we found the swan nestled all cozy and snug by the lake- with another swan. Driving back we passed a few more mansions. All in all I thought I would see more and bigger mansions in Bel-Air, I also did not expect to see so many mansions being constructed. I was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel- and it was barely even 9pm. I tried to decorate my notebook with my In N Out stickers… and I somehow managed to fail. It turns out that the back of the sticker sheet serves as a background to stick the characters on.

Day 2 celebrity sightings: zero, again.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 1

Fri. Mar. 15, 2013:

Our first vacation of 2013 also marked my first direct flight. The few times I have flown anywhere there was always a layover- not this time, this time I was to spend 6 hours straight on an airplane to Los Angeles, California. Thankfully I wasn’t alone, I had a giant bag of snacks ($25 worth) from Bulk Barn, I was set. I also managed not to devour it all before even boarding the plane, yet another first. I was too distracted, playing my last game ever of Dominion on the isotropic website.

There are perks to having one long direct flight rather than two shorter ones, the main one being that you can watch an entire movie or two. Air Canada featured a great selection of movies, not so much on the food though. On a 6 hour flight we were offered no free food, not even peanuts. I wasn’t too mad about it, as I was watching Wreck It Ralph– it is impossible to be in a bad mood while watching it. Just to even it out, I watched Seven Psychopaths next.

And that was all I ever wrote in blue ink in any of my travel notebooks thus far.

As soon as we got off the plane I beelined to  Starbucks (that is what it says in my notes, just to put it in context: I was running on maybe 4 hours of sleep and had not ingested my morning coffee). I was desperate to get some sweet, sweet sustenance in the form of caffeine. And real food, I was also craving that. The problem was that my only options (aside from the sugary bakery sweets on offer at Starbucks) were a bakery or Burger King. I was too lazy to give up my spot in line and look at sandwiches, thus I soon found myself trying to eat a junior Whopper while juggling a coffee and luggage. Yes, I did manage to spill it on myself, while picking the tomatoes and lettuce out of my burger at that.

We took a cab to the hotel and had our first taste of Los Angeles traffic, enhanced by a horribly bumpy highway and construction. Off in the distance we also had gorgeous sites- all marred by smog. We were staying at the Luxe hotel, which was rather quite fancy. They drove us up the hill in the shuttle car, even though it was a 2 minute walk. As usual, we dumped our stuff in the room, turned and left. We had a busy day planned, even if we had just gained 3 hours in the time zone diffe rence. We were going to the Getty Centre to look at some art. It was high up on a hilltop, just behind the hotel. Yet there was not direct route (ok, fine, hike) to it so we had to walk in a giant circle to the other side of the hill. As we walked we saw a service entrance and asked if we could just walk up there, apparently we could not. We continued on but the only problem is that not all parts of Los Angeles are pedestrian friendly. We had made it around the block when we encountered construction on one side and no sidewalks on the other, not even lawns to walk across. Our options were to turn around or walk along the side of the road. We turned around and headed back, defeated, our corneas being burned by the blazing California sun.

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (20)

Back at the hotel we inquired about calling a cab and they informed us that the shuttle car that had taken us up the hill earlier would also take us anywhere we liked within a 3 mile radius of the hotel. What should have been a 5 minute drive turned into a 30 minute drive, we were sharing the shuttle with another pair. The driver was trying to make a left turn to drop us off first, we were closer, but he missed it. And so he decided to go right instead, towards the UCLA campus where the other pair was going. It wasn’t a total loss; we did get to see campus and more LA traffic, always fun.

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (9)

The Getty Centre was great, the admission was free and the views were fantastic- despite how hard it was to see thanks to the smog and the glaring sun frying my retinas. The architecture of the Centre was just as cool, the galleries were contained in a few buildings spread across a nice garden and patio. It was mildly frustrating to look out and see the hotel on the next hill over given it took us almost an hour total (from when we first set out) to get there. By far the greatest gallery was the Impressionist gallery; it just does not get better than looking at gorgeous Monet paintings. In the last gallery- which we had almost missed- there were some odd people. The girl was complaining about the guy’s apartment and how childish it was and he said he had a court order stating she could not move or touch anything. Thankfully they were slow going through the gallery so we quickly left them behind.

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (2)

We took a cab from the Getty Centre to downtown Hollywood. As it turns out driving anywhere in the Los Angeles area (especially downtown) is a bad idea. The slow drive and lack of sleep resulted in me falling asleep. We were going to dinner at a restaurant that was famous from the old days of Hollywood Blvd., Musso & Frank Grill; however we were not dressed for it. We did not have time to go to the hotel and change. We decided to walk by and scope the place out, see if it was fancy or not so much. I didn’t think it would be given it was on Hollywood Blvd. amidst all the tourist traps, but sadly it was. Instead we wandered the Blvd.- it is awful. Hollywood Blvd. is one of those things that you go and see once for the sake of seeing it- and then you never return to it again. It is crowded and loud, and everyone is everything handing you flyers or trying to get you on their bus. As you turn to get away from them you find yourself face to face with a guy dressed as the creepy doll on a tricycle from the Saw movies- something that will inevitably scar you for life no doubt. And if that was not bad enough, the next street performer was a guy with two pythons on his arms and neck, real, living pythons.

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (14)

As we walked along trying to figure out our dinner plans, Brent noticed a crowd of people at an outdoor mall all looking in one direction. They were looking at the Hollywood sign. I must say, I had much higher expectations for it. I knew it would be hard to see because of the smog, but I did not think it was that far off in the distance. It was barely a blip on the horizon. It was nice to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we contemplated how easy it would be to install a fake one.

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (1)

Sick of the crowds we headed south to Sunset Blvd. and I noticed an In N Out cup on the ground- there had to be one nearby! Back to Hollywood Blvd.- so that I could ask one of those nice tour bus people where it was. Before I could do that though, I spotted a McDonald’s, so instead Brent tried to use their wi-fi and check the address. It was being slow so I asked a tour salesperson. It was two blocks over and south, on Sunset Blvd. Rather than walk along Hollywood we turned south. There was a Fatburger there, hungry and tired we went there instead. I had wanted to try Fatburger, as I had heard that it was on par with In N Out. It is not. In N Out is much better. Fatburger does still rate quite high on my list of awesome burgers, somewhere around 4th place. I was mildly intrigued by the XXXL challenge, where you have 40 minutes to eat a giant burger (24oz of meat) but I had to resist. We were after all on our way to Pink’s Hotdogs. It was another 40 minute walk to Pink’s, in addition we anticipated a rather long line-up. That is why we stopped for burgers, but did not go all out. As we walked, the next block over there was an In N Out. I joked about stopping in for a burger.

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (22)

As we made our way south to Pink’s we passed the Jim Henson Studios, complete with Kermit the Frog on the roof. The line at Pink’s was actually not that long- I had heard stories of people waiting for hours. It was just long enough to give us enough time to contemplate the menu. I must’ve changed my order 5 times at least. Right as we approached the register I changed my mind once more, deciding on the Mullholland Drive: a 9” hotdog with nacho cheese, bacon, onions and mushrooms. It was a good hotdog, super messy to eat. However by the second or third bite most of the toppings had slid off. I had to periodically grab pieces of bacon and mushroom and cram them back into the cheese. The meat was ok, nothing compared to Chicago though. The true draw of Pink’s is the sheer outrageousness of the hotdogs. Where else can you go and get two hot dogs in one bun piled high with an absurd amount of cheese, bacon and other such delicacies?

Mar. 15, 2013- LA (5)Mar. 15, 2013- LA (6)

We walked back to Sunset Blvd. to catch a cab back to the hotel. As we walked we passed a wrecked car. It had jumped the curb and hit a planter, somehow missing the parking meters. The taxi ride back was less than stellar; I did get to see the stuff I had missed while I was asleep though. I slept through the entire drive through Beverly Hills, this time I got to see the sign and the huge mansions. The less than stellar part came when our driver hocked a loogie out the window at a stop light. I was really sick of riding in taxis, having spent a good portion of my day in them. Plus it was getting expensive.

Even after having eaten Fatburger and a giant hotdog (Brent did not finish his hotdog I might add) we pigged out on candy back in the hotel room. In my tired state of mind (I had been awake since 3am California time) I could not even figure out how to use the shower. I was considering going to be and it was barely past 8 o’clock.

Day 1 celebrity sightings: zero, not even any false alarms.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 in review

What a whirlwind year! From surviving New York City to surviving deep-fried goodness at the CNE, it’s been a crazy year. TWICE I visited Route 66! In 2012 I finally made it to state #25 and then just for kicks, state #26- meaning I have now seen half the states. I (somehow) managed to graduate (and therefore escape) from university, always fun. And let’s not forget the food, oh ho ho no. This year saw the successful breakfast at Auntie’s & Uncle’s, our many failed and final successful attempt to eat at Grand Electric and of course the curiosity-satiating La Carnita fish taco. And of course there was the super gross Cinncinnati chili-dog. Just gnarly.

There was also the amazing trip to the Grand Canyon, watching the sun rise over the canyon. And let’s not forget, in 2012 I was a business owner and I became a published writer with my article on Route 66, published in Verge Magazine.

Oh, and yeah, the world kinda sorta didn’t really end after all. That is always a good thing to cheers to.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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