Our hotel in Los Angeles is fantastic. Location, Location, Location. As I first walked the halls of my new home I felt this furiously exciting feeling that I was in some sort of movie from the 60’s. It actually reminds me a lot of the hotel Guy Pearce stayed in the film Momento. Our arrival day was full of crummy weather and we were tired from the long drive so we went to bed at 830pm and woke up at 630am the following morning. My dad was ill with nerves about spending three days in LA with crummy rainy weather. He was ever so pleased to wake up to a glorious sunny morning. We walked to the bottom floor of the hotel overlooking the saltwater swimming pool and devoured our continental breakfast. We hopped into our car, slid the Beach Boys Greatest Hits into the CD player and drove on Ocean Avenue to Malibu. I could tell my dad was ridiculously excited, almost too excited, he opened the sun roof as soon as we got on the Pacific Highway and I got soaked from all of the water that had settled on the roof from the evening’s previous inclemency. We drove past Palisade Park and I realized that 90% of the cars on the road were BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Hummers, Land rovers, Porsche and Ferrari.
We stopped briefly to take some pictures at the beach in Malibu. The pier was really beautiful jetting out over the shimmering early morning waves. The only surfer’s on this beach were men of an elderly persuasion. I figured they used to be Beach Boys and now they are retiree’s who spend every morning surfing their life away. We continued our drive to Marina Del Ray which was a highlight for the father figure. He sort of has a thing for big sailboat yacht ships. Apparently this marina is one of the largest in the world. I wouldn’t argue that fact as I had to walk in my Birkenstocks for a rather daunting period of time as his childhood fantasy’s materialized in boat form in front of his eyes.
We spent an erroneous amount of time at Venice Beach. Unfortunately we parked very close to the Santa Monica Pier and my map led me to believe that Muscle Beach was just a short walk down the beach. Maps lie. I got some lovely blisters on my feet from walking several miles there and back but I never complained once. I just walked with a hobble and felt like I was a leprosy victim. Venice beach really is hilarious. As we walked to Venice my first chuckle was at this ten lady group who were in proper line formation (somewhat like birds) with their yoga outfits, gripping their baby carriages. They were running along the boardwalk chanting some eerie “lose weight, keep it up, don’t slack” regime. Venice Beach is exactly what I expected it to be: volleyball, skateboarding, surfing, tattoo parlors galore and a nice handful of wack jobs selling their incredibly untalented art pieces. Muscle Beach was somewhat of a downer as when we arrived there were a total of three fat 50-60 year old men working out. I was rather looking forward to another breed.
We both hobbled in the blinding sun to Santa Monica Pier. The iconic beachfront dock is loaded with a tourist bonanza. A fat black man painted in silver was miming for our pleasure. An entire theme park of rides is also located on the dock. My favorite dockside attraction was Kenny the man playing his guitar to his very own CD (which he sold for 10 dollars). At the end of the pier we finally let loose at Mariasol Mexican. We shared a picture of Tecate Mexican Beer and munched on nachos and fresh salsa. I ordered a plate of chicken enchilada and chili relleno which was scrumptious. On our walk off the pier we bumped into a group of people filming a Dorito’s commercial. The guy had one line, he wasn’t even that pretty and I don’t like Doritos’s anyway.
We walked up the 3rd street promenade which is the most fantastical shopping I have experienced yet. The middle of the street is lined with bushes in the shape of dinosaurs who actually spurt water through their mouths. The shops are very high end such as Kiel’s, MAC and Diesel. I tried on my new favorite Diesel jeans which I had put on hold in San Francisco. We took our time at a bookstore picking out a magazine to read when we got back to our hotel. I got the spring and summer GQ fashion bible and my dad got the latest Economist. We quickly changed into our swimsuits at the hotel. I popped a Robaxacet and Advil and swigged it down with the Toasted Head Chardonnay from Napa that daddy-o bought at the Liquor store earlier in the week. With much of my pain gone I lay on a lawn chair overlooking the hotel pool and passed out.
We drove up Santa Monica Boulevard for our evening activities. We stopped at a red light. I had a Land rover to my left and a white Rolls-Royce to my right. We drove through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood to the ever so famous Hollywood and Highland intersection where we parked our car. We walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard stepping over several stars on the sidewalk. We checked out Mann’s Chinese Theater where all of the celebrities put their hand prints in cement. I got a nice picture at Sidney Poitier (and I was waiting for him to give a riveting and inspirational speech however it was just his hand prints so…no dice). Most exciting, I realized I have the same sized hands as Gene Kelly, isn’t that fantastic!
We walked into the Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards are now filmed every year. We were not aware that so many shops and restaurants were attached to the theater! Wolfgang Puck has four restaurants on the 4th floor of this building! I was pleasantly surprised that Janice Dickinson from America’s Next Top Model fame has her modeling agency on the 3rd floor of this building as well. The architecture of the adjacent Kodak shopping coliseum is reminiscent of Egypt. At the back of the building there are several bridges that overlook the Hollywood Hills and allow for perfect pictures of the Hollywood Sign.
Hollywood has become a rather skuzzy area. For the most part the street is full of Niagara Falls type cheap touristy shops followed by a lot of tattoo parlors and run down buildings. We saw one manic girl screaming “Lunatic” at a lady in a BMW SUV, I will never forget how horrific her bleached roots were.
We drove to the Grove on Fairfax and attempted to find a parking spot which was nearly impossible. We walked into AOC, a restaurant I had heard a lot about and was ever so excited to experience. Upon entering the restaurant we felt a bit “under dressed” to say the least and were told that we had to make reservations. So we made reservations for the last spot they had the following evening. With no plans up our sleeves we walked to the Farmers Market up the street and into the Grove shopping district. The Grove is the cutest little shopping district you ever did see. The streets are immaculately clean and fake railroad tracks lead you to the end of the line which features bronze statues and a glorious bridge overlooking a huge water fountain and light show! We realized we weren’t actually that hungry or tired so we decided to mad dash it into the Grove Pacific Theater to watch Anthony Hopkins star in the film Fracture. We both agreed that this movie theater was the nicest theater we had ever been in. The folks in Southern California have a lot of nice things. I decided this without much deliberation. The film was excellent and we were a bit shocked to notice that at around 11pm the shops were still open! Americana’s need to chill out a bit and learn from the French (and other European friends) that working from 9am till past 11pm
is simply outrageous!
We drove home under the twinkling city lights on Santa Monica passing through Beverly Hills. Before bed we flipped through the channels on our TV to see what was going on in the world. That is when I realized we couldn’t actually find out what was going on in the world as every news station only talked about what was going on in America. And what was going on you ask? Every station was discussing one of the three separate shooting incidents that had occurred over the last 24 hours. And with a full day ahead of us, and a full day behind us, we conked out.
The following morning our day started off as fresh as ever. We drove up Santa Monica through the beautiful and expansive UCLA campus. We then weaved ourselves through the residential areas in Beverly Hills and Bel Air (which I might add are beautiful homes in the vein of Lakeshore Oakville). We parked our car just off Rodeo Drive and I spent the next hour gawking at the most beautiful shopping street in the world (the Champs in Paris has some serious competition, but they do win since they have a Triumphal Arc). As we walked past Dior, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and Valentino we noticed a small group of very well dressed individuals. We sort of hovered around them to find out what they were doing. My dad read “Rodeo Drive Beautification Committee” on one of their clip boards and I overheard “we need to change the flowers every 24 hours in order to go above and beyond.” This was the elite group of individuals in charge of making Rodeo Drive the most fantastic shopping street on earth, pinch me. Rodeo really does have an uppity charm that I believe I could live rather comfortably with. The street is lined with Star Fashion Quotes many of which are humorous indeed. As we returned to our valet parking garage I realized I need to find a job I love that allows me to outfit myself in Dior and Hugo Boss. Perhaps career planning is more effective when you realize the lifestyle you wish to pursue rather than the industry sector!
We drove past Mullholland Drive towards Burbank where all of the big Studios are located. Our next stop was the Warner Brothers Studio VIP Tour. WB’s tour is different from Universals because it is bare bones authentic (skip the rides and get to the sets please!). We started our tour with a quick WB film on the history of the studio and a small reel of the most famous films and TV shows they have produced over the years. We then hopped on a golf cart limo and drove up and down the many studio stages. To the left of each studio entrance door you will find a plaque that reads, for example, Studio 11, and then lists all of the films and TV shows that were filmed in that location. Jurassic Park was filmed in the same studio as Casablanca and the hit TV show ER. We were taken into several little museums on the property 1) famous cars from the movies including the Batmobile and the Chariot used by Brad Pitt in Troy, 2) The Prop building which categorizes all of the props used in any TV show or film (each prop has a bar code, and when a prop needs to be used a sticker is placed on it so it can be held, I recall several pieces were being held for the West Wing and the new Mummy movie starring Brendan Fraser). 3) The Warner Brothers Costume Museum had two fantastic exhibits on Harry Potter film paraphernalia and the recent Best Picture win The Departed. On our final drive back we stopped off at the Friends Central Perk and took pictures sitting on the infamous couch. We also walked through the sets of the George Lopez show and The Gilmore Girls. On the drive back to the parking lot we passed by a construction crew tearing down what we were told was the Oceans 13 Casino set. We also stopped by the ER exterior General Hospital and various areas of the lot which are used to film the HBO series Entourage.
Taking the advice of my good friend who I met in Munich last summer we drove to Westwood and ate lunch at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. I ordered their Harvest Hefeweizen Bavarian style Wheat Beer and stuffed myself with Honey Crisp Chicken Salad (Honey Mustard, tenderloins of breaded chicken, toasted almonds, cucumber, boiled eggs, corn and tomatoes) and a thin crust appetizer pizza (Mozzarella, Fontina, Parmesan cheeses with basil, tomatoes and Italian sausage). The reason for our visit to this part of town was to have a mid afternoon dessert moment at the famous Diddy Riese bakery. I was staring at the storefront of the bakery during my entire lunch and was in awe with the fact that the store has a consistent flow of traffic which requires a snake like line protruding onto the sidewalk. This place was indeed a popular eatery for locals and tourists alike. The bakery sells several varieties of gourmet cookies and homemade ice creams. They are known for their “ice cream sandwiches” as they are so cheap and incredibly good. I choose double chocolate chip and walnut as my first cookie and a peanut butter cookie sandwiching the peanut butter chocolate cup ice cream filling. All of this for $1.25, we couldn’t stop talking about how they could easily charge $4.00, it was that fantastical. We noticed a lot of doctors in their scrubs lined up for their ice cream treats and realized that the UCLA medical building was just up the street. My father was in awe at the sheer size of the hospital and learning center. I have come to realize that these private universities in California are fantastic. Guelph was nice, but walking on white marble to class and staring at these gorgeous buildings all day would have been a better life choice.
We drove to the most famous art gallery at this end of the earth, The Getty Museum. Mr. Getty was the richest man on earth for years and had a fortune that amassed anything I could possibly hope to comprehend. We parked at the base of the mountain and took a monorail which snaked itself up to the top where the most spectacular building I have ever seen crossed my eye. The entire complex is made of white marble from Rome (we were told over 100 ship loads had to be sent over from Rome). I cannot form the proper words to express how visually stunning this place actually is. It is a modern architectural masterpiece for certain. I think I got more satisfaction from the architecture of the buildings than I did looking at the famous paintings and sculptures within its walls. A few of the artists: Pontormo, Titian, El Greco, Corregio, Mantegna, Fra Angelico, Roger van der Weyden, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Reubens, Poussin, Jacob van Ruisdael, Frans Hals and Rembrandt. We walked around the entire complex several times taking pictures of the glorious views of downtown LA. I took what may end up being thousands of pictures. I kept thinking about my friends Ryley and Joaquin who are studying Landscape Architecture at Guelph. They would simply die. The use of waterfalls, horticulture and rocks in such a modern way created an interactive environment which pleased the eyes through an engaging use of perspective. The Getty had an interesting special exhibit on Caspar David Friedrich and Gerhard Richeter “German Paintings from Dresden.” I realized as I was walking through the many art filled rooms that I have had a hibernating painterly passion mustering within my being. I can’t wait to get home in August and start painting on canvas in the mode of Miro. A few interesting stats: the building took 15 years to build and has been open to the public for 10 years. It costs the estate thousands of dollars a day in electrical bills to operate the monorail. The entire property is over 750 acres! The final exhibit we peaked at was by Tim Hawkinson entitled Zoopsia. He injects his fantasy inspired paintings with photographic imagery. His most famous piece is of a pink octopus. When you look closely you can see that each suction cup is actually a picture of the artist’s lips making a sucking noise. As we slowly descended the mountain via futuristic monorail I realized how truly inspiring architecture and creative modes of art can be.
After a long day (again and again it seems) we drove back to Fairfax to enjoy the most spectacular dinner at AOC. To briefly explain the concept of the restaurant: AOC stands for Appellation d’Origin Controlee. This is the French concept used to organize wines, cheeses and other food staples by reference to geographic origin (which becomes an indicator of quality based on various terroir). This restaurant is a hot bed for celebrities and the cities elite. I flipped through the largest wine list I have ever encountered in my 22 year life. They have over 50 bottles of wine by the glass “on tap” (behind the bar there are many little nozzles and spouts where by the glass vino can be poured). Most of the wines by the bottle are around 50 dollars or more, I’d say 2/3’s of the bottles were over $200 dollars. I noticed a 450 dollar bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay and a 400 dollar bottle of the infamous French Sauterne Chateaux d’Yquem. The restaurant is a place to bring friends and socialize. They have two main dining areas as well as a cheese bar on the east side and a long wine bar on the west side of the building. Our waitress encouraged us to order different items on the menu as they are brought to the table to share amongst friends (or whoever your dinner guests may be).
We started our evening with a carafe of Chablis which was ever so crisp and thirst quenching (who doesn’t love a good quaffer?) The first page of the menu organizes their cheese list by Goat, Sheep, Cow, and Blue. We ordered three cheeses: the estrella la peral asturias blue cheese from Spain, Mrs. Appleby’s Cheshire from England and the triple cream sensation morbier franche-comte from France. We slathered these cheeses on four separate baskets of rustic Italian bread. We were also given a cute bowl of whipped butter and sea salt accompanied by a bowl of dried and cured black olives and a spicy red Moroccan chili paste. Our cheese plate was also garnished with sliced figs and walnuts, heaven on the palate. The rest of the menu is divided into sections such as: Charcuterie, Jamon Serrano and other delicate meats, salads, fish, from the wood burning oven and seasonal vegetables. We ordered a plate of coq au vin with lardons and pearl onions, pork confit with braised red cabbage and mustard, young broccoli with garlic and chili and farro and black rice with pine nuts and currants. The most spectacular dinner I could have ever hoped to enjoy in Los Angeles! AOC provides an exciting atmosphere matched with an interesting concept and perfectly executed gastronomic delights!
We checked out of our hotel around 8am after our final go at the Continental Breakfast. We drove North East to visit LACMA (the Los Angeles Art Gallery). We arrived to realize that the gallery was closed on Wednesdays! We wept openly in our car for about five seconds and then decided to head downtown for a nice tour of the core city streets. As we drove I realized “why don’t we just go to Disneyland today?” Our plan was to stay at a hotel in Anaheim that evening and spend the following day at the resort. Since we really didn’t have much to do, and it was only around 9am we decided to improvise. We quickly drove downtown so I could say I had “been there, and done that”. I realized the downtown is rather grungy, a lot of homeless people and worn down buildings, not somewhere I would really ever want to walk and putter around. We weaved through a few skyscrapers (which just didn’t impress me as much as Toronto or NYC) and waved by the Disney Theater designed by the one and only Frank Gerry.
We arrived at Disneyland just after 10am. We were greeted at the parking booth by a flaming gentleman who ever so happily told us to “Have a Magical Time” after paying $11.00 to park our car for the day. Unfortunately I lost one of our tickets to the park which was a rather frustrating way to start the day. My tech savvy father also accidentally pushed the alarm button on his key chain and we sat mortified in our car as we didn’t know how to turn off the siren and honking orchestra which surrounded us. We hopped on the train which drove us from the parking complex to the entrance of the park.
The day was magical indeed as I had not been to a Disney Park since I was very little. The day was a huge success as we went on every ride we wanted to! Apparently late April and early May is a great time to visit the park as we walked onto almost every ride without a line up. I think the longest wait we had was about 20 minutes but it seemed like nothing as we had to walk through what seemed like miles of empty hallways. We were told by a Disney employee that the park employs about 30,000 staff, a huge operation indeed! He also said that during the peak season in the summer the park is four times as busy. We find that sort of alarming as the park seemed incredibly busy when we were there. I tried to imagine the wall to wall people and nearly threw up in my mouth. We talked to another man in line near the end of the day who lives by the park and comes here often. He said in the summer you can only hope to get on about four rides during the entire day. We stayed at the park seven hours and saw everything we could have hoped to! We even went on some really cheesy kids rides at Fantasyland (Snow Whites Adventures and Peter Pans Flying rides were nostalgic indeed). In the first hour of our stay at the park we experienced five rides. My favorite rides of the day were: Pirates of the Caribbean at New Orleans Square, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Critter Country, and the top favorite Indiana Jones Adventure in Adventureland, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin in Mickey’s Toontown, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Rockin Space Mountain (featuring music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience in Tomorrowland and the classic “It’s a Small World” in Fantasyland. We ate an unchallenging and rather basic (yet overpriced meal racking at $17.00 a person) meal at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port. I got my picture taken with the bronze statue of Mickey and Walt Disney before we left and touched my sun burnt face as we walked through under the Disney Castle.
Disneyland is incredibly enjoyable, especially when you get to experience every ride without undue delay. As we walked back to the car we realized we might as well try calling my dads friend in Palm Desert as it was about 6pm and we could make the two hour drive to his house rather than spending money puttering around a hotel in Anaheim that evening. We sped off on the highway heading east towards Cowboy and Indian country.