Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The (long overdue) Story of our Trip to California

Better late than never, here is my acccount of our trip to California at the end of 2015.

Our trip began with the surprising good news that we would be put on a direct flight to L.A. instead of having to stop over in Las Vegas. We were pretty happy about this, until we had to wait for de-icing on the runway for over 90 minutes. Still, we arrived in L.A. earlier than we would have on the original itinerary, and we were met at the airport by my friend and our host, Ray.

Ray had told me that he did not have much going on the week we would be visiting and that he would show us around, but I never expected he would pretty much spend almost all his time driving us around and acting as a full-time tour guide. He really went above and beyond his duties as a host.

As we had just arrived and the weather was quite nice (sunny and 17 degrees), we asked if he thought we had time to head to a beach before dinner. He suggested Manhattan Beach, which was actually quite close to the airport, and that’s where we headed. We were hungry so we stopped a taco place called Wahoo’s and had excellent fish tacos. We then went down to walk on the lovely pier and the beach itself before taking a stroll down the beachfront sidewalk. We left as it was starting to get dark and stopped at Costco to buy some groceries on the way back to Ray’s place. When we arrived, we realized that Ray was giving up his bedroom for us and sleeping on a tiny bed in his office. This was extremely generous of him and allowed us all to be in two adjacent rooms with our own bathroom.

The next day, we visited Beverly hills, walking around in the commercial area, where we had lunch in a café. After lunch, we went to the Petersen Automotive Museum and ended up at a huge mall called Galleria so we could buy the boys some beach toys at Target. He told us about a make-your-own pizza place called Blaze that was located in the mall, so we had a nice dinner there. At Blaze, you chose every single ingredient that would end up on your pizza. We were beginning to realize that Ray likes eating in restaurants… a lot! Luckily, he always seems to know where to find the best deals, and where we could eat and make noise with two small kids without annoying the other diners. The boys were getting cranky as we approached their bedtime, so we headed back to Ray’s.

On our second full day, we visited Venice Beach. The ambiance was as “hippie”-like as expected, but overall, it’s still a nice place to hang out. The food options for lunch were not that great, however. After lunch, we headed over to Santa Monica and walked on its lovely downtown pedestrian street. We then drove through Malibu before heading home. Even though it’s much warmer than Montreal, the sun still sets pretty early in L.A. and our days ended pretty early. I guess this is normal when your kids go to bed at 8:00 pm or earlier!

On Day 3 of the trip, we packed some lunches and headed to Griffiths Park so we could get a closer look at the Hollywood sign and generally enjoy vistas of the area. We were too late to be able to park at the top of the park near the observatory, so we decided to walk up from the bottom. The walk was not too long or unpleasant, even with the stroller, but there were serious crowds when we got to the observatory. We barely spent any time in the building, as it was so crowded, but we still managed to appreciate the views we had come to see. Ray suggested we stop at the Americana mall on the way home, and we spent some quiet time in a book store there.

The following day, we decided to visit the Getty Center. We had set aside the whole day for this visit and we took our time, enjoying a surprisingly good lunch at the cafeteria (I had the "Mexican Bowl") and we spent a good part of the afternoon just sitting outside on the beautifully manicured lawns of the museum. After we left, Ray showed us around Pasadena and took us to Granville Café for dinner, where Ray knew all about the appetizer specials to recommend. It was New Year’s Eve, but Ray was willing to spend it with us instead of going out. Early night for all, despite the holiday!

On New Year’s Day, Ray had the brilliant idea to head to a famous dim sum restaurant in San Gabriel, as it was not New Year’s Day for Chinese people yet. We headed to an all-Asian mall and Ray pointed us toward an unexpectedly fun store: a Japanese Dollar store (called Daiso). We wandered the store, marveling at the little taste of Japan in California, while Ray waited upstairs at Five Star, the dim sum place. The dim sum was excellent. We later headed to Long Beach. It was pretty quiet on the beach, but we enjoyed it, as it was still very warm by Canadian standards. Jules and Oscar got to play with their beach toys in the sand while the adults relaxed nearby. As we did not have anything special planned for dinner, we stopped at Blaze again to take out some of their excellent pizza to eat at Ray’s. We had planned a mini road-trip to Joshua Tree for the following day.

Packing for the trip
The pier at Manhattan Beach
Beware of sharks!
Jules' first time on the beach in a while
The sun sets early, even in California
Sculpture in Beverly Hills
Every green space is an opportunity to play!
Venice Beach boardwalk
Beach at Venice Beach
Santa Monica
Short stop at the beach in Malibu
Jules enjoyed Ray's lovely balcony
Classic view of the Hollywood sign
Griffiths Observatory
View from the Griffiths Observatory
Looking at a map of the Getty Center
Inside the Getty Center
Lovely lawns at the Getty Center
Oscar napped whenever and wherever he could
The trunk of Ray's Porsche turned out to be a great place to change a diaper
Joshua Tree park entrance
Hiking in Joshua Tree park
The weather was lovely, but much cooler than in L.A.
Jules enjoyed the desert atmosphere
Lovely view from the mountains
The Endeavour in its hangar
Ecological tiny house outside the California Science Center
LAX for the trip home!
We left relatively early for the two-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. We stopped on the way at the Cabazon factory outlets and I bought some Adidas shoes for 15$. We also bought Jules his first soccer ball. When we arrived at the park, the surroundings looked very alien to us: we were not used to desert conditions and were surprised by the beauty of the plants and rock formations. We stopped at a picnic spot where people were rock climbing to eat our lunch. Then we found a place where we could take a one-mile hike called Hidden Valley. It was a lovely and leisurely walk and we took a bunch of cool photos. We drove to Palm Springs for dinner, and ate at a nice but surprisingly affordable restaurant named Lulu, as per Ray’s recommendation. On the way home, it was my turn to drive, and we somehow hit a freak traffic jam (supposedly due to an RV-fire) that almost doubled our travel time back to Ray’s. Luckily Ray’s Porsche Macan is a pretty comfortable car to be stuck in.

On our last day in L.A., Ray suggested we check out the California Science Center. It turned out to be an excellent family activity. Jules particularly enjoyed the space capsules while I was in awe checking out the Space Shuttle Endeavour in its hangar. The only let-down was the sub-par Mexican food at the museum restaurant. We later drove through Burbank before our final dinner in California. We were up early the next day for Ray to drive us to the airport.

All in all, it was a fantastic family trip. Having a friend like Ray take charge of all our needs really made the trip as relaxing as we could hope for, given we were travelling with a one-year-old and a three-year-old. We saw so many areas in such a short time and it really reinforced my idea that California is a destination with a lot to offer and worth more than a single visit. 

No comments:

Post a Comment