Lately, Matt and I seem incapable of taking the same airplane on vacation. On the way to LA, he flew out in the early afternoon on Frontier, because he had a voucher for a cancelled flight to use up. I was flying Delta after work.
Since I have 24-hour parking in downtown Minneapolis, I decided to leave my car in the ramp and take the train, which is only a couple of blocks away. I would be arriving before Matt on the return leg, so that seemed to work out well. The airport was pretty much dead when I arrived, and the security people were barely paying attention to anything. I didn’t get scanned or patted-down, for the first time in a long while.
I got a sandwich at the new Surdyk’s at the airport, then climbed aboard my on-time, not-overbooked (!!!) flight.
We landed in LA around 7:30, and I found Matt near the rental car shuttle. We went to get the car and headed to our hotel, the Marriott at Marina Del Rey. It’s conveniently located near the airport and within walking distance of Venice. The hotel was super-fancy, way nicer than we’d normally choose, but his coworkers had picked it. There seemed to be some kind of ultralounge in the lobby, and an Indian wedding going on. The formal saris were kind of amazing.
We dropped off our bags and headed off on foot to Venice, where we had dinner reservations at 9:30. The place was about a mile away. As we headed down Ocean Drive, we suddenly heard a bunch of loud quacking, and turned to see these guys just standing in someone’s yard macking on a lady duck. They didn’t care that we were only a few feet away watching them.
We were very much underdressed for the Tasting Kitchen (their website says ‘casual’… not even close). We had a cheese plate, fresh bread, fries, and I had broccolini and lentils for dinner. We had a couple of cocktails, too, and their sidecar was the best I’ve ever had. Seriously, I’ve had some fantasies about it since. Also, our server was fantastic. We liked her a ton.
We walked back to the hotel after dinner, and this time it was past the ducks’ bedtime. Not to mention ours, since we’d sat down for dinner at 11:30 Minneapolis time!
This was the view from our room on Marina Del Rey. It wasn’t overcast, just really sunny. So much nicer than at home.
We had breakfast with Matt’s coworkers, then drove over to the site of the conference at Pepperdine University (not the main campus, but the one near Howard Hughes Center). I dropped Matt off, then headed towards Griffith Park. On the way there, I saw a car burst into flames on the 405. Oh, California.
I ended up driving around Hollywood for a while looking for a place to get more caffeine and use the bathroom. This resulted in me using one of the scarier gas station bathrooms I’ve ever been in. Refreshed, I headed into Griffith Park.
I was hoping to do the same hike my sister and I had taken before, which climbs a steep hill and ends up overlooking the observatory and the rest of the valley. When I got there, though, I realized that was a lot harder than it sounded: there wasn’t one trail, there were many, many trails. And many, many people hiking them, which meant no parking spots. I decided to keep driving up the hill, to see if anything looked familiar. It didn’t, but I did end up at the observatory itself. Which was awesome.
There were a ton of people up there, since it was very nice outside. I climbed up to the top of the observatory to see the overlook first.
I then went inside the observatory and took in some science. There are a lot of great displays there, but it was way too crowded to spend much time in there. My favorite part was getting to see the actual telescope.
From Griffith Park, I decided to head into downtown LA for the Museum of Neon Art. It was around lunchtime at that point, so I was kind of half-heartedly on the lookout for food as well. As I turned down a street, I saw a bunch of food carts a few blocks away, so I headed that direction. It ended up being the Fashion District, and it was mobbed.
The Fashion District seems to contain several square blocks of stall after stall selling clothes, accessories, and pretty much everything else you could ever want. It reminded me a lot of every Caribbean port town. There were a million hot dog trucks, too: no other food, just hot dogs. I’d have stopped to do some shopping, but there was nowhere to park, and it took me a good half-hour to just circle a few blocks in that neighborhood. I decided to head to the Museum of Neon Art instead.
The museum was small, but awesome. I talked to the lady at the front counter for a while, then went in to see the exhibits. They had a good combination of classic signs and new pieces. She said they were building a new museum in Santa Monica that would be open next year; I really want to go back and see that, because the drawings of it looked amazing.
It was getting close to time to go pick Matt up, so I drove over to Kassava restaurant to pick up some Jamaican patties to go. They were way faster than I expected, so I ended up with time to kill. I drove through Beverly Hills, then got on Sunset Boulevard headed back toward LAX. At that point I was glad I had spare time, because there was an insane accident that had me sitting in the same spot in traffic for over half an hour. I was glad when Matt texted that they were running late, too.
I got back to Howard Hughes Center before they were done, so I parked and got a coffee at Starbucks. This allowed me to sit outside and soak up the California sun, which was glorious. Matt joined me after a bit, and we went to check into the hotel.
The Millennium Biltmore is hella fancy, and its lobby is famous for being in several movies, including Ghostbusters. The rooms aren’t anything super-extravagant, but it was very nice, and very conveniently located in downtown LA. Also, you can avoid the $40/night valet parking fee by parking in the garage across the street, which is only $15/night.
After dropping our stuff off, we headed to one of the greatest bars in the world: Tiki-Ti. Though it was only 5:30pm, it was already a standing-room-only crowd inside. (That was probably to do with their 50th anniversary celebration, which was just kicking off then.) The doorman was Ken, the same guy we sat and talked to the last time we were there. We only had to stand for a bit, and then a table opened and some people moved, so we got seats at the bar. The bartender let me fondle the 50th anniversary tiki mug, too. (We came home and ordered one a few weeks later.)
We needed some food, so we headed over to El Carmen (mostly because we knew it was full of luchador memorabilia and good drinks). The host told us there wouldn’t be any open tables for a few hours, but we were welcome to hang out by the bar. We grabbed a less than optimal spot and started to look at the menu. Soon afterward, the host came back and told us they had a cancellation, and we could have a table. Score! Our food was excellent, as were the cocktails. Matt had a mezcal that tasted like scotch. We’d have stayed longer, but that would have meant taking a cab back to the hotel, so we headed back to the Millennium and parked the car for the night.
From the hotel, we walked the mile or so to Caña Rum Bar. We’d been reading about it forever on the internet, and needed to go. You enter it through a parking garage, and it’s very small. The tables were full, so we went out to the enclosed patio (it was kind of like a greenhouse), which we had to ourselves for a while. The cocktail menu there was amazing. We had a couple drinks, then decided to go inside the bar because it was getting chilly outside. There, we were served by Allan Katz, the GM and rum-nerd celebrity (I think Matt was a little star-struck). He poured us a personal tasting flight that was fantastic.
We would have stayed all night, but we’d probably never have found our way back to the hotel.
Sunday morning, OpenTable was kind enough to get us reservations for brunch at Susan Feniger’s STREET. We kind of kept forgetting that it was Easter.
STREET was amazing. I had the Kaya toast, which is covered in coconut jam and served with an egg and soy sauce. I’ve been having fantasies about it ever since. We both had excellent brunch cocktails, too. I couldn’t believe the place wasn’t more crowded on Easter.
From there, we headed to Venice Beach. We’d driven through the area and saw enough to know it was awesome, but hadn’t been to the actual boardwalk. It was time to fix that, and it was gorgeous outside.
We wandered down the boardwalk, taking everything in. There was a lot to look at. Then we handed over the best $5 we ever spent, and went in to see the freakshow. It was fantastic.
I bought two pairs of sunglasses from a vendor on the boardwalk, and then we decided to stop at the beer garden and hang out in the sun for a while. Of course we both managed to get sunburnt within less than an hour.
Somehow I always manage to forget how massive the beaches in California area. Seriously, they’re huge.
On the way back to the car, we stopped to buy an awesome calavera from a vendor on the boardwalk, and then for food at a couple of walk-up windows. Matt got samosas, and I got a falafel sandwich from a man watching Armenian television.
It was then time to head southward. Our goal was Costa Mesa, home to the well-known (to booze nerds) Hi Time Liquors. They were only open til 4 on Easter, so we had to time our departure well! On the way, we saw the Goodyear Blimp hanging out at its home.
We got to Hi Time with only 15 minutes to spare. That was plenty, though, because we managed to find not only some of the rums we’d sampled the night before at Cana, but our original goal: Lemon Hart 151. It’s just been recently imported into the US, and it’s extremely hard to find.
Our dinner reservations weren’t til 6:30, so we killed time wandering around Newport Beach. We saw the little town, did some shopping, and wandered out onto the pier. We then stopped into the Newport Beach Brewing Company for a beer, and managed to see the Anaheim Ducks get knocked out of the playoffs. Hooray!
It was then time to head up the PCH to Huntington Beach, where we had reservations at Don the Beachcomber. It’s hard to express how excited we were about that, but holy crap. It was great.
Our table was a little slow to be cleared (actually, we were pretty early), so the server asked if we wanted to sit in the lounge instead. That was an excellent stroke of luck, because the lounge was fantastic, and we probably would’ve missed it if we had sat in the dining room. We got a round table, ordered tiki drinks, and settled in to watch the Hawaiian band. I loved every minute of it, to the point that I didn’t even mind their complete lack of vegetarian food (I ordered a salad without meat).
We sadly had to leave Don the Beachcomber and head back to LA. We wanted to stay all night, but then we’d be sleeping in the car in Huntington Beach. On the way back to Hollywood, we ended up in a traffic jam on the 101. At 9:30 on a Sunday. What the hell, LA? (Our theory: everyone in LA is issued at least 2 cars, and is obligated to drive them as many hours as possible. There’s no other explanation for why the traffic is so insane there 24 hours a day.)
We finally reached our destination, the Dresden Room. Matt really wanted to go there, as he’s seen Swingers something like four million times.
The Dresden Room was awesome. They had the typical round tables and oldtimey bar, and a bartender who looked like he’d been working there since the 50s. He made a great Manhattan. There were only a few other people there, but I did manage to eavesdrop on a very dramatic conversation between some Hollywood-types. The lady was going on and on about how hard it was that day with all the extras on the set.
After the Dresden Room, it was again time to go drop our car off by the hotel for the evening. We parked and headed in the direction of Cole’s, which has an awesome speakeasy-style cocktail bar called Varnish in the back. It was midnight as we arrived, so we were appalled to find the managers there closing the place up. (We’d yet again completely forgotten it was Easter.) We asked if any other place was open, and they pointed us next door to a bar called The Association.
The Association was an awesome little lounge with a good variety of classic cocktails. But what mattered more was that we befriended the DJ and his other friend at the bar, and ended up talking to them the whole time, which then resulted in shots of Fernet seeming like a really great idea. When Fernet seems wise, you know things have reached a certain point.
Our friends insisted on buying us a cab back to the hotel, even though it was only 8 blocks or so. We’re pretty sure they didn’t believe us when we said we were walking, since nobody in LA actually walks. They’re all too busy driving their multiple cars.
When we woke up Monday morning, our heads hurt a lot. Thanks, Fernet! We packed up, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Santa Monica to try to find some brunch before leaving LA.
When we arrived there wasn’t really enough time for a sit-down meal, so we decided we’d try to find something else. We went to the co-op where I’d found California Suncakes before (seriously, it’s a sick obsession), and I really wanted more of them. The store had just been remodeled and was right in the middle of restocking, so of course they weren’t in the same place as before. I found an employee and asked about them; after 20 minutes and consultations with a few other employees, still no Suncakes. They were apparently still hidden in the back somewhere. SIGH.
We grabbed some lunch food (I got a surprisingly good vegan ‘chicken’ salad sandwich, and Matt had sushi) and sat outside the store eating. It was kind of the appropriate lunch for our hangovers: shoving food in our mouths in a busy parking lot.
It was then time to head to the airport. We dropped off the car, and said goodbye in the terminal because we were flying different airlines. At least our flights were only 15 minutes apart this time! I had no line at the Delta gates, but of course had to go through the body scanner. (I survived.) Matt had to wait in a huge line. My flight was direct and landed in Minneapolis early; his was delayed leaving Denver.
I got to the airport, hopped on the train, and went to retrieve my car from the parking lot. That was a pretty good system, though if I didn’t have an excuse to take the time, I think it’s probably worth it to just take a cab home. I went home, unpacked, and went onto Flightaware to keep an eye on Matt’s flight. It kept getting later and later, and I was getting sleepier and sleepier. I finally resorted to walking in circles around the house just to stay up til he got in.
I headed to the airport around 11:30, and finally had my fiance back!!
Matt and I wanted to go to Las Vegas for the WCC Tournament and the Nightclub and Bar show, but he also had to do a work presentation in Waterloo, Iowa. We made it work!
(The entire photoset is here on Flickr.)
Read from the beginning below, or jump to each day:
Matt headed out to San Diego to schmooze with his coworkers on Friday morning, while I waited until after work to leave, as I’ve been conserving vacation time for The Honeymoon. I had an entertaining dinner with my parents, and then they dropped me at the airport around 8pm. I was not the slightest bit thrilled to see the huge security line and the body-scanning machines in use. But because I’m tricky, I managed to avoid both the scanner (and the pat-down, nothing short of a miracle) because I chose the right line and got stuck behind someone who irritated the TSA to no end. Their distraction was my win.
When I arrived, Matt texted that he’d be picking me up in an egg yolk. He wasn’t kidding:
Since it was already after midnight and he had to be at a conference in the morning, we headed right to the hotel to sleep.
The next morning, we got up and had breakfast with his coworkers, and then I dropped him off at the nearby University of San Diego. I decided to go over and see Balboa Park first, because though I’d been to San Diego a couple times before, I’ve never seen it.
I got there just as the run/walk for autism was dispersing; it took me a while to realize why there were so many people with numbers attached to them wandering around. By the time I found parking, not only had the crowds cleared, but so had the sky. It was sixty degrees, which for a Minnesotan is almost summer: I was in a sundress and flipflops, while all the locals had jackets on.
Balboa Park was gorgeous. I’m obsessed with anything Worlds-Fair-related, too.
The park is huge, too, so I drove around it as much as possible, then did my wandering.
In a part of the park that was meant to look like a rainforest, I encountered Demandey the Squirrel. I was worried he would chew my face off if I didn’t produce a snack for him.
I wanted to see more of the international village, but only the main house was open. The Ukrainians had it for the day, and were demonstration traditional handcrafts. I realized it was weird to look at the pysanky (Ukrainian eggs) and think, “eh, that’s old hat”, but I totally used to make them as a kid. Just ask my mom, she’ll be happy to show you her collection.
From Balboa Park, I headed toward Point Loma. On the way to Cabrillo National Monument, I noticed a sign for Shelter Island and decided to go check it out, since we had dinner reservations there later that night. I sat and watched a sailboat race for a bit, and wished Matt was there to see it too. He’d probably want to commandeer a boat himself, though.
On my way back, I got a text from April asking if I wanted to meet her for lunch. I did! We decided on Old Town Mexican Cafe, so I headed back that direction. I was pretty early, so I planned on wandering around Old Town and shopping to kill some time. Of course I’d forgotten how hard it is to find parking around there, so I spent most of that time driving around looking for a spot for the Yolk.
Lunch was excellent (I had vegetable mole enchiladas and a margarita), and it was great to get to see April again! I hadn’t seen her since our previous trip to Las Vegas. She had also supplied us with many many suggestions for later dinner and cocktail entertainment, which served us very well.
After lunch, I headed back toward Cabrillo National Monument. I’d forgotten that you have to drive through a naval base to get there, so that freaked me out a little. At the overlook, I met this little dude, who was missing half his tail.
The view from Cabrillo is excellent. I think you can see Mexico from there.
It was getting close to time for Matt to be done, so I headed back toward the university, listening to the Butler-Florida game on Sirius. The game reached the final minute of as I arrived, and I was very relieved to find a parking spot so I could freak out safely as they went to overtime. Matt arrived shortly thereafter, and we went to the hotel to watch Butler win, and so he could change out of his business clothes.
From there, we went to Coronado Island. As I constantly torture him with Don Henley songs (he hates the fuckin’ Eagles, man), of course we had to go see the original Hotel California. Plus there’s beach!
It was really windy and overcast on the beach, but we still saw multiple weddings going on. Also, some pretty impressive sand castles:
Because they had patio heaters, we were able to sit outside Babcock & Story and have cocktails and an appetizer. The people-watching at the Hotel Del Coronado was amazing, and there were a ton of people in Coast Guard uniforms with fancy ladies wandering around for some kind of ball that evening.
From there, we went over to see the Embarcadero, which I’d also never seen before. Because I’m super-classy, I changed out of my dress into jeans and a hoodie in the car. It was getting chilly outside, and things were shutting down, so we wandered and saw the ships, then headed back to the car.
We had some time to kill, so we drove back up to Balboa Park so Matt could see it. After circling around for a bit, we headed over to Shelter Island for dinner at Bali Hi.
We figured we’d maybe have some oldschool tiki drinks and alright food, but everything was way better than expected. They had excellent vegetarian options, and of course the tiki drinks were great. Also, I got to bring this well-known guy home with me:
After dinner, we headed to the Tractor Room, a bar April had recommended. It was fantastic; they made really inventive cocktails, and the bartenders were awesome. We hung out there for a few hours, and then it was time to go back to the hotel.
The next morning, we dropped the Yolk off and shuttled to the commuter terminal at the airport, or “the place all flights to LAX originate from”. We got to walk to our tiny plane on the tarmac, which is always exciting! The flight was really short, and we could see the coast of California the whole time.
We had a 2-hour layover in LA, so of course we had to return to our favorite “beach bar”, where we’d spent many hours being delayed on the way to Hawaii. This time, at least, Delta chose to be on time for once, so we were home with plenty of time to hang out on the couch that evening.