I Love L.A. (most of the time)

GrandPark

Grand Park and City Hall

I used to really dislike living in Los Angeles, which is totally weird since I’m a native. But  once upon a time I had a full-on love affair with New York City, and after living in the Big Apple for a few years, coming home seemed totally and wholly boring.

But then I realized I was perhaps too unkind to my city.

While clubs close early (uh, 2:00am?!) and you have to drive EVERYWHERE and things are so spread out and the people are….interesting, I realized that once I got over my “LA is totally boring!” tantrum, the City of Angels kinda has it going on.

Although I get a bit of summer event envy while surfing through my friends’ Instagram and Twitter feeds (I mean, who doesn’t live or pass through Brooklyn?!), I am looking forward to L.A. this summer.

Here’s why:

The beach: (which is really not fair to other cities because we Angelenos go to the beach year-round). Totally awesome.

The parties: Between the epic Sunday get down that is the Do Over, to the slew of DJs passing through this summer, if you LOVE to party, this summer will be kinda epic (uh, Hello BET Experience & Beyonce).

The art scene: Although I don’t really understand contemporary art, LA’s got a host of museums and galleries that you can visit. And I love them all. I love strolling through exhibits not knowing what the hell the artist was thinking, but feeling like I’m getting my supreme culture on. It’s fab.

image

Levitating mass at LACMA

The ocean: I love the water, and I can’t think of a more perfect day than filling up on some tasty eats while gazing upon the ocean. I mean, c’mon. How dope is THAT?

Marina

Marina Del Rey….

The melting pot: Despite some neighborhoods being overrun with hipsters, L.A. has a wealth of diversity. From Little Armenia and Little Ethiopia (ok, mini-Ethiopia) , to Koreatown and Chinatown, you can literally experience the food and culture of a plethora of communities just by taking a drive.

The Watts Towers

The Watts Towers

The fashion: Ok, this is a selfish thing, but I love being able to wear flip-flops 75% of the year. How amazing is THAT?!

Have you ever been to L.A. or are you from here? What do you love about it? 

Photo Trippin’: The Getty Museum

The Getty museum courtyard

Over the past two weekend–yes, both–le kid and I have ended up at The Getty Museum. Last Sunday we went on a whim. It was a bright blue day, we were feeling a little stir crazy, and it’s free (but parking is $15), so we decided to head on out. This past Saturday, while out to breakfast with my mom, I asked her if she wanted to go to a museum, and since she’d never been before, we decided to go again.

The Getty museum sits atop Los Angeles and houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs.

While I know nothing about architecture–other than things look nice–the Getty looks very old worldly with its pale marble floors and walls, numerous fountains, and expansive greenery.

The Getty Museum courtyard

The Getty boasts a wonderful collection of art, which includes some of the “masters” like Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Rembrandt, and many others.

People gathering around Van Gogh's Irises.

Van Gogh's Irises

Painting of Louis XIV

One of le kid’s favorite parts of the museum (aside from the Family Room, which offers a hands-on place for kids to play) were the sculptures.

My mom studying the sculpture

Le kid enjoying the family room.

A fountain in the courtyard

On a clear day, the Getty is a beautiful place to spend a day. With its lush campus, amazing views of LA, cafes, and art, the Getty is definitely a must-see when you’re in Los Angeles.

The view from the Getty Center

Have you ever been to the Getty? What’s your favorite part of the museum? 

Oh the Places We’ll Go!

The big ballon at the Great Park

So, le kid and I haven’t been exploring as much as I would have liked. Last weekend we DID take a trip out to The Great Park in Orange County to ride the big ballon, but because it’s free…spots fill up fast. Alas, we weren’t able to take a ride, but we made due by racing each other (bad idea to race a 6-year-old who never gets tired) and riding the merry-go-round. Fun times!

Today–if I can manage to get motivated–we’re going to head out to the Children’s Museum of La Habra for their free Target Day, but that will mean getting dressed…and right now, my PJs are winning!

View from the ground up at The Great Park

I’ve been meaning to update you guys on my Milwaukee trip, which…is almost a month old now (where did Feb. even go??)! So I’ll have some info about the hotel, the Milwalkee Public Market, and hopefully, the Children’s Museum of La Habra next week.

One thing I MUST add to the list: Planning a quick vacation with le kid. The other day he told me, “Mommy…you always go places, I want to go!” So…I have to take him somewhere. He’s sort of right, though. The last few times I’ve been to the airport, he’s been left out, so I need to make it up to him. So far I’m thinking Vegas, Arizona, or the Bay Area–places we can see on a long weekend. But we’ll see…got any suggestions for me?

Where are you headed this month? Going anywhere interesting? 

Photo Trippin’: Remembering Paris

The very best shot of the Eiffel Tower I took. I love it! 

I can’t believe it’s been two months since I strolled the streets of Paris.

My trip to London and Paris was pretty damn epic. Although I only got to wander the streets of the City of Lights for a day, it definitely made an indelible print on my life. While I was there I made a new French friend (a fine gentleman who still calls me every, single day. Oui!), and I also (re)ignited my passion to see more of the city.

Recently, I was looking back at my pictures and realized I didn’t take nearly as many as I thought I did. Sure, I got several shots of the Eiffel Tower (I was desperate to find it, because then I felt I was IN Paris), but I didn’t take as many pictures of the sites and sounds as I would have liked. Probably because I spent most of the time just taking it in (and asking for directions), but I’ll always have my memories.

Next time….there will be more than enough pictures to go around. But for now, check out some of my favorite shots from my brief excursion to Paris.

The Louvre
Cleopatra’s Needle at the Place de la Concorde
Ferris Wheel at the Palais de Tuileries
Artwork in the the Jardin des Tuileries
Christmas decorations on the Champs-Elysées
Arc de Triomphe

And to top it off….the Eiffel Tower at night. Magnifique!

Have you ever been to Paris? What was your favorite part of the city?

Want to see more shots of Paris? Check out my girl Sheryll’s blog, The Wanderlust Project. She has some AMAZING ones!

On the Road: The Living Desert Zoo

The Living Desert Zoo

Who knew there was a zoo in the middle of the desert?!

I had no idea until I did a google search for “L.A. Day Trips” and the Living Desert Zoo came up. Because le kid LOVES animals and we hadn’t really been anywhere in a few weekends, it seemed like a no-brainer to take a drive out to the desert to see what the hype was all about.

Last Saturday we got up fairly early (for a weekend!) and hopped in our car headed toward Palm Desert. Despite being about 135 miles away, we were able to make pretty good time and ended up reaching the zoo in about 2 hours.

The desert is beautiful!

The Living Desert Zoo was established back in 1970 by several local residents who foresaw the impact the growth of resorts in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area would have on local wildlife. To counteract some of the development, they set aside several acres of land as a nature preserve and hiking trails. Today, the zoo is home to animals and plants from all over the world (and specifically Africa) that are native to desert climates.

I have no idea what kind of flower this is, but it reminded us of a spider.

What would a desert be without camels?

The zoo is broken into two sections: North America and Africa, and features animals, plants, and reptiles native to each region. Because it’s a zoo of desert animals it features many of the usual suspects: camels, zebras, wild dogs, hyenas, and giraffes, as well as some endangered species such as gazelles, and servals.

Giraffes...showing a little love.

Because the zoo is in the middle of the desert, you can imagine it was HOT. Although it was only about 75 degrees, the sun was definitely shining brightly. I wouldn’t even THINK of visiting the zoo in the summer when temperatures can easily top 110. Luckily, the zoo closes early in the summer (1:00pm). Also, some of the animal shows–Animal Wonders and the reptile show–are also subject to the weather, so check the weather report to make sure it isn’t too hot before you head out.

If you’re like me and have been to your fair share of zoos, you’ll notice that the Living Desert Zoo is quite a bit smaller and has less exhibits than your “regular” zoo. However, because the weather can make a full-day here almost impossible, for us, it was the perfect size. I can get impatient with kid attractions (sorry, blame my father for passing on his short attention span), so for me, this was perfect. We spent a good four hours checking out the exhibits, watching the shows, and seeing the zoo at our own pace. There are several hiking trails on the zoo grounds, so if you want to bring along a picnic and go for a hike before seeing the animals, you can easily turn this into an all-day affair. Otherwise, set aside a few hours and tour at your own pace.

He's in LOVE with trains!

Although le kid had a wonderful time looking at each animal exhibit, what he REALLY loved was the model train set. The zoo has an AMAZING train set that’s takes up an expansive 1/3 acres. The train set includes replicas of local shops, restaurants, and hotels as well as all sorts of trains. He was IN LOVE. Le kid must have looked at the train, studied it, and ran around the set for the better part of an hour. I literally had to pry him away.

Overall we enjoyed our day at the zoo. Not only did we see lots of interesting plants, animals, and reptiles, but it was CHEAP! Two tickets cost us just $22. How can you beat that?

*Check out more pictures from our zoo adventure on my Facebook page. 

Have you been to the zoo lately? What’s your favorite thing about zoos? 

Lunchtime Trippin’: Urbano Pizza Bar, L.A.

Today I took my car in to be serviced and instead of waiting around in the dealership, I decided to hop a bus to Downtown L.A.

Although I have no problem taking the bus or train in other cities, there’s something about being on the bus in L.A. that makes you feel like you’re losing at life (#realtalk). Unlike other cities where everybody proudly hops on public transportation, taking the bus here is looked down upon. Nevertheless, I hopped aboard the L.A. Dash, paid my 50 cents (!!), and headed downtown.

I got off in the financial district and wandered around for a bit before trying to find an interesting place (read: not a chain) to have a quick lunch. Because I only had two hours, I needed something fast, relatively affordable, and most importantly, TASTY.

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

After walking for a few minutes, I spotted a pizza joint just a block from the Central Library on 6th and Flower that caught my eye.

Urbano Pizza Bar looked pretty cool from the outside, it wasn’t especially crowded, and it seemed laid back enough that I wouldn’t feel self-conscious sitting in there alone (I’m still getting used to eating out at restaurants solo, don’t judge me).

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

As soon as I stepped in the door, Urbano reminded me of Pizza Express in London. Although it sounds like a nondescript fast food joint, Pizza Express serves up gourmet pizzas, wines, and beers in a laid back (yet somehow upscale) atmosphere. Urbano does the same.

At Urbano I was greeted by the bartender/server who let me know I could sit anywhere. The restaurant has several tables both inside and out, but I chose to sit at the diner-style, center table that accommodates several people.

I searched the menu and settled on the PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA pizza which was a delicious mix of thinly-sliced prosciutto, mushrooms, pecorino romano, and  arugula all on a crispy thin crust. Yum! Although it was slightly salty, it was sooooooo tasty! It was definitely enough to share with someone and CHEAP ($12).

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

LOVE the water bottles. It's the little things, really :)

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

Yummo!

Even though I could have done without the ’50s soundtrack pumping through the place (just isn’t my style), the atmosphere, the food, and the beer and wine list (that I didn’t try, but they had several interesting choices), are DEFINITELY enough for me to head back downtown for a slice.

Have you ever been to Urbano Pizza Bar in LA? What’s your favorite pizza place in the world?

What Inspires You To Travel?

Nomadness Travel Tribe

It's the Nomadness Travel Tribe at the L.A. Times Travel & Adventure Show!

Do you have a wandering spirit? Are you always itching for your next trip? Well…join the club!

Over the weekend I attended yet another travel show. Although I just spent time wandering the booths of the Travel & Leisure Show in Long Beach just two weeks ago, over the weekend I did it all over again at the L.A. TImes Travel & Adventure show. Although it seemed that some of the exhibitors from the previous show were missing, especially those from Caribbean countries, I had a great time nonetheless.

If you’ve never been to a travel show it’s basically a huge commercial inviting you hit the road. Whether you’re interested in international trips or local excursions, you can find just about anything on the floor of the show.

From most countries around the world to zip lining, rock climbing, and at the previous show, scuba diving, you can find just about everything at the travel show.

As I went from booth to booth, I struck up conversations with tour operators, members of various tourism boards and fellow travelers (and wannabe travelers). Although the room was FULL of diverse people from all around the world, one thing we all had in common was a love of travel.

While I was in awe at the sheer numbers of people itching to hit the road, I wondered what their motivation was for traveling. Are they just tourists who like to hit the well-known spots, or are they seasoned travelers who long to experience the “real” culture of a local place? Either way, every person I encountered had an insatiable appetite to travel the globe.

As I mentioned before, I was inspired to travel by my parents who took me and my brother on several trips when we were young. Although we didn’t have a lot of money, we still packed up the car or hopped on a plane and saw something more than our neighborhood.

Now that I’m a mother I’m inspired by my son. I want to show him, just as my parents did, that there is more to the world than what he sees every day.

But enough about me…what inspires you to travel? 

Feeling Cultured at the L.A. County Museum of Art

A section of the Berlin Wall in Los Angeles

A section of the Berlin Wall in Los Angeles.

Who doesn’t love pretty pictures? Even if you’re like me and can only name a handful of artists, I have a profound appreciation for the arts.

Over the weekend, le kid and I made our way to the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA). They were having a Target-sponsored family day, and since the kid (plus an adult) got in free, I figured…why  not?

We’d been to LACMA a few times before, but like most museums, the exhibits are constantly changing. This time they were showing a collection of Californian art, as well as a new instillation piece called Metropolis II that I knew le kid would LOVE (here’s a hint: it’s all about cars).

Metropolis II at LACMA

He was TOTALLY into Metropolis II

We arrived at the museum a little after 1pm, and lucikly, we were able to score street parking across from the museum (saved us $8). When we got to the campus, we strolled through the courtyard looking at the stations set up for the kids. The museum was also celebrating the Chinese New Year and kids were able to make masks, as well as learn about what “sign” they fell under according to the Chinese astrological calendar.

The kid didn’t feel too crafty, so we decided to head into the museum. We strolled through the California art exhibit, which also included a section on Spain’s influence on indigenous populations in the Americas.

After we toured those exhibits, we hit up the “modern art” building. Surprisingly, le kid had a lot to say about almost every piece that we saw, and really enjoyed himself. Even though he’s just 6, he had very strong opinions on what pieces he liked and why. I was very impressed!

(check out a video I made of our trip!)

Eventually, we made our to the Metropolis II exhibit, a whirling art piece with 1001 handmade die cast cars and trains moving at extremely fast speeds. There was a bit of a line to see it, but it was well worth it…the kid thoroughly enjoyed watching the cars whizz by!

Although we didn’t make it over to the ancient art side (we’ve seen it before), we could have totally spent a few more hours looking around the museum. Instead, we were both getting a little thirsty and decided to hit up one of the nearby food trucks for a snack.

Because I knew le kid still had energy to burn, we walked over to the La Brea Tar Pits, a museum that houses prehistoric fossils found in tar deposits in Los Angeles. Although we didn’t go into the museum, we sat outside and le kid quickly made a friend, and they played while I swapped parenting tips with his mom.

All in all it was a WONDERFUL way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We not only had a great time, but our entire excursion was FREE (my kinda day!).

Do you have a favorite museum in your city? Share!

Lunchtime Trippin’: Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach

Have you ever needed to just get a away for an hour or two?

Yesterday, I rose very early (I couldn’t sleep) and immediately got to work. I wrote articles for my main gig and I also crafted pieces for my other projects. Around noon, I engaged in a little Facebook distraction and found myself smack dab in the middle of a heated debate. Now…I love to debate, but this was one that I had to walk away from because I felt myself getting angry. As I readied my next (snarky) reply, I looked out the window and saw that it was an amazingly beautiful day. With most of my work behind me for the day, I decided to head out on a mini-trip (and find something to eat).

Full disclosure: I’m blessed. I live about 10 minutes from the pier and can easily access the beach, which always calms me down. But instead of heading to Redondo Beach, I decided to drive a little further down PCH to Hermosa.

Hermosa Beach is a small coastal town in L.A.’s “South Bay.” It’s main attraction is the Strand, a boardwalk filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and lounges that leads up to the pier. It’s also known for its beach volleyball tournaments and being apart of the International Surf Festival.

Luck for me, Hermosa is just a short ride from my place and I was there within 15 minutes. As I strolled around trying to figure out what to have for lunch, I noticed many colorful clothing stores, bike rental places and bars (and they were all busy!). Like many beach boardwalks, there were people riding their bikes and rollerblading, and because many are still out for the holidays, there were also several people playing beach volleyball.

After walking down the Strand and sitting on the pier for a while, I was completely relaxed. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the sky was the most amazing shade of blue. How could I NOT be relaxed? I listened to the waves for a while, and decided to head back to the Strand to find lunch.

Hermosa Beach has a plethora of food options. Not only were there tons of American and Mexican food joints, but there was also a French cafe, an Irish Pub, and a Brazilian BBQ restaurant. So no matter what you’re craving, they’ve got it covered. I decided to stroll into a pizza joint called Zeppy’s (I’d never been there before), and order up the lunch special: two slices, a salad, and a soda.

Zeppy’s Pizza was so delish! Apparently they only serve deep-dish Chicago style pizzas (and by the slice!), so I ordered the tomato and basil and a slice of pepperoni. Both were tasty, and for $6 they were also pretty cheap (I was full…for hours). I sat outside on the patio to eat my lunch and enjoyed a little people watching.

After lunch, I headed home….completely relaxed and ready to jump back into work. My mini-break was just the thing I needed to calm my mind, let go of a little bit of stress, and enjoy the sunshine.

Sometimes we think that we cannot, under any circumstaces, get away. But whether you live close to the beach like me, or can escape to your local park…taking a mini-break can do wonders to help you recharge.

Have you ever taken a midday break? Where do you go when you start to feel stressed out?