Thursday, February 16, 2012

Los Angeles Guide

In October 2011 John and I took a trip to California. We started in San Diego, mentioned in a post here. Then we drove up the coast taking Highway 1 or 101 to Los Angeles.  I HIGHLY recommend taking this route. It was so scenic and we drove next to the ocean the majority of the way.  I tried to take a picture from the car

You also get to go through some neat towns like Laguna Beach and Orange County. This a  picture John took from Laguna Beach. Its breathtaking. Now I know why people live there.

However, right outside of Orange County, traffic began. People always say LA traffic is awful and it definitely lived up to its reputation. Once we got to LA we did a quick driving tour through the downtown section. We only had one day and night in LA so every thing was really quick. The downtown seemed alright but its definitely not the place you want to be. If you are staying in LA you will want to be in Hollywood or West Hollywood. After our brief tour around downtown, we made our way through town to Hollywood. We stopped at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles for dinner. The combination was so tasty and the meal was pretty cheap, $10ish a person. I highly recommend it.

Once we were on Hollywood Boulevard, we parked and walked around. This is where all the stars names are in the sidewalk and where all the touristy things are. 

We also saw Grauman's Chinese Theater

John got a fun picture with some Star Wars characters. For those of you who don't know John is a huge Star Wars fan. Overall, Hollywood boulevard is pretty much like Times Square in New York. After we walked around a bit more we drove through West Hollywood. This looked like a super fun neighborhood. Tons of high end stores, bars and restaurants lined the streets. I would probably stay in this neighborhood next time.

Then we drove through Beverly Hills.

The stores are all amazing but really high end and expensive so we just drove through. Also, it was so late that all the stores were closed which is good for my wallet ;).  After that we drove out to Santa Monica, which is where I booked our hotel. I was amazed at how close LA is to the ocean. Santa Monica is like a 15 minute drive. Once we reached Santa Monica, we went straight to the hotel and to bed. We stayed in nothing fancy, just a Comfort Inn. The next morning we woke up early (9 am for us) and explored Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Santa Monica is a cute shore town with a boardwalk.It has some really nice shops along the main drag and have great views. I cute definitely see spending a trip just there. However we didn't spend much time in Santa Monica, instead we went down to Venice Beach. There we rented a tandem bicycle and rode along the "boardwalk".

It was a beautiful day and the beach is so pretty. The ocean is surrounded by gorgeous views of the mountains like in the picture above.

The boardwalk is actually more like a sidewalk with lots of vendors and shops along the way. We stopped at some of the shops along the way and I got that hat in the picture above. It was a fun ride. We could have easily spent all day there, but we needed to begin our trek up the coast to San Francisco so we left shortly after 1 pm.

This was a super short trip through LA but I think we covered the main highlights. We definitely need to go back one day and spend more time on those things and see some of the stuff we missed, like the Hollywood sign. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

San Diego Guide

John and I went to San Diego and drove up the coast to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. I had a business conference in San Diego and brought him along to make it a vacation. Anyway neither of us had been to California before, so I did tons of research and read hundreds of yelp posts trying to figure out what to do, where to stay, where to eat, etc. John and I had the best time there and found some amazing hotels and restaurants so I thought I'd share my guide to San Diego.

Where to Stay:

 The Andaz Hotel

This is the place to stay if you are visiting SD.
  • Location
  • It is located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter downtown. The Gaslamp Quarter is the old Victorian style downtown that is full of bars, restaurants and clubs.  You can easily walk around and find good shopping, food, and drinks. 

    • Entertainment
      • Also, the Andaz has a nightclub in the basement, a wine bar on the first floor, and a rooftop bar. As a guest, you get VIP passes to all three while you are there. This was amazing. There was actually a line around the block waiting to get into the club and rooftop bar, and we just slide past. Also we didn't have to pay the $10 or $15 dollar cover. Beware though, the mixed drinks are about $15 a piece at the bars. The night club was nice, clean, tasteful and fun. The rooftop bar was spectacular with views of the entire downtown and cozy seating areas. 
    • Room
      • This room was the nicest room I have ever stayed in. It is filled with beautiful modern decor. There was a bar, flat screen t.v., and a modern canopy bed that had a wooden "roof".

      • But the bathroom was the best part! The shower was a glass box that separated the bedroom from the bathroom so you could see into the shower/bathroom. The shower itself was amazing with two shower heads and glass tile. (excuse our messiness in the pictures)

      • The room also had spectacular views of the downtown.

      Where to Eat


       Broken Yolk Cafe

      This place was only a couple blocks from our hotel and had great food. I ordered the California Eggs Benedict, which is eggs Benedict with turkey instead of ham and avocado added. 

      It was so good, we went back the next day and got mimosas and tried some new things. I got the California breakfast burrito which had avocado in it

      It was really good but the Eggs Benedict with avocado was better.

      and John got the California omelet, which he really enjoyed. Everything there seems like it would be amazing.

      In N Out Burger

      They are great classic tasty burgers, plus they will make anything they have in the building for you!


      Wahoo's Fish Tacos

      John and I went kayaking on the Pacific one of the days in La Jolla (pronounced la hoy-a). If you have a chance to drive out to La Jolla, its very pretty. After a day of kayaking we stopped at Wahoo's for fish tacos (classic southern California food). They were delicious! They are kinda small, so we each ordered two fish tacos with rice and beans. I got the Cajun style fish with their special sauce, which was amazing, and John got the regular fish tacos. The fish was grilled not fried.

      Buon Appetito

      This is an Italian restaurant in Little Italy in San Diego. You can find Italian restaurants in the Gaslamp, but it was fun to explore the Little Italy section. Restaurants line the streets and you can sit outside at almost everyone of them (one of my favorite things about southern California). We sat outside at Buon Appetito. I had the Veal Marsala with the Insalata Fantasia which had baby greens tossed in or raspberry vinaigrette with sliced pears and topped with Gorgonzola cheese. Both were delicious. Then I finished dinner with the pumpkin gelato was was amazed at the presentation. this is what it looked like

      It was so fun.

      Joe's Crab Shack

      This Joe's Crab Shack was right on the bay in San Diego and had a great view. John and I usually get the Classic Steam pot for two and share it. It comes with Old Bay seasoning and is delicious. We also ordered their S more's cake for dessert and it was amazing. 


      Our last night in San Diego, John and I decided to go all out on dinner. We went to Nobu, which is a Japanese Fusion restaurant and it was superb. I started with a Ginger Motijo that was amazing, not too sweet. The menu is designed to be coursed out. We started with the yellow tail sashimi with jalapeno. It was so good. Then we had the hearts of palm with a spicy lemon garlic sauce. We had never had hearts of palm and did not know you could eat palm trees. They were delicious, kind alike artichoke hearts, but better. After that we had the scallop tempura and it came with salt and lime, which was pleasantly good. Then we moved on the the sushi. We had the shrimp tempura, soft shell crab,  eel cucumber and the salmon avocado.

      Finally, we finished with the Apple Butterscotch Miso dessert. It was on fire when they presented it to us and was served with sour cream gelato, which complemented it perfectly. Overall, the subtle flavor combinations they used really took the food to the next level and I always love coursed meals. John and I were full at the end but not miserable. We really took the time and enjoyed the food and it was one of the best meals we have ever had. I would highly recommend trying it but it was expensive, about $150 before tip for the both of us.

      What to Do

      Sea Cave Kayak Tour 

      This tour was located in La Jolla, CA, which is about 20 mins from downtown San Diego. Go on a day when it is warm and sunny. We went on a day that was cold and cloudy, but we still had an amazing time! You get to kayak on the pacific (and they told us that the seaweed protects the cove from sharks because they get tangled up in it which is good to know if you are worried about it). Then you kayak out and explore caves, see Dr. Seuss's house and get to see sea lions. You don't need kayaking experience to do the tour either. It was amazing and a I think a must do!

      Coronado, CA

      Coronado is a small barrier island on the pacific in front of San Diego. There is a bridge to get there or a you can take the ferry. We explored the main street which had lots of fun shops, and the Hotel Del Coronado.

      Balboa Park

      Balboa park is this amazing FREE park that contains lots of museums, parks, and other neat things. There is a giant outdoor organ and there are free concerts there on Sundays.There is also a replica of the Globe Theater and plays are held there. The following museums and attractions are there as well

      Old Town San Diego

      Old Town San Diego is where California began. It is like going back in time. There are small dirt roads with tons of vendors and old shops. There is a lot of fresh Mexican cuisine and lots of specialty items. Its definitely worth checking out.