1. Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles

     
  2. Griffith Park, Los Angeles

     

  3. Los Angeles

    Our first order of business after the traffic-y 4 hour drive from San Diego to LA was dinner at the famous In-N-Out Burger; California’s favorite fast food restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t the terminology for their “secret menu”, which is apparently what you’re supposed to order from exclusively, so nobody was too impressed with our middling reviews of the place. Oh well. After dinner we went to my cousins’ house in La Cañada Flintridge, a suburb of Pasadena. They have a sweet house. This was Sunday night, so we talked to my aunt, uncle, and cousins Michael and Jack (and their brand new puppy, Hallie) for a bit, and then went to bed.

    On Monday we picked up Michael’s friend Erin, who was also visiting for the week, and then checked out Venice Beach. What a wild place. We saw some bros (and one skinny dude in a sweatshirt) lifting at Muscle Beach, and took in all the crazy tourist stores and generally neon stuff. It seemed pretty much like a compressed version of the tourist’s take on quintessential LA. We got dinner at Canal Club, which was, of all things, a pretty decent Mexican food/sushi restaurant. Then, like most nights that week, we went for a swim in the Bradys’ pool before bed.

    On Tuesday we had tickets (with Michael and Erin) to attend a taping of Chelsea Lately, provided by the ever-generous Aunt Jen. On our way there we got lunch at Pink’s Hot Dogs, a famous and delicious hot dog stand in Hollywood. Then we hurried to the show. We got a glimpse of Universal Studios as we entered the room of the taping, and were treated to a fairly funny episode guest starring Giovanni Ribisi, who told a funny story about visiting his daughter in high school. The episode aired the next night, but we never got around to watching it. Right after Chelsea we checked out Hollywood, since that’s where we were. We walked up and down the Walk of Fame, seeing all the stars’ names, and also stopped at the Chinese Theatre, a building with some pretty amazing architecture, and a bunch of famous people’s handprints in the concrete in front of it.

    Despite its fame and popularity, Hollywood Boulevard is a pretty sketchy, kind of dirty place. We weren’t interested in doing much there besides just seeing the stars. We walked down to check out Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard, and stayed there for awhile, taking in the tens of thousands of records and listening to live music from a guy who is apparently a punk guitar legend (I don’t remember his name). For dinner we walked to nearby Stella Barra Pizzeria—fantastic goat cheese appetizer and fantastic pizza. Back in La Cañada, we spent another evening in the pool.

    On Wednesday, June 4, we went with Michael and Erin to Griffith Park (named after Griffith J. Griffith, LOL), home of the Griffith Observatory and nearby the Hollywood Sign. We took a nice hike up to the observatory, a beautiful old monument to science and the exploration of space open to the public since its construction. Its planetarium is still functional, and the rest of the building is a science museum. The patio area around the observatory offers an expansive (if hazy) view of the whole LA area. We started hiking toward the Hollywood Sign after this, but found the hike all the way there much longer than we expected, so we headed back to our cars.

    Michael and Erin parted with us at this point to go meet another friend. Katie and I drove up to a close view of the Hollywood Sign to take a few photos, and then headed back for dinner at the Bradys’. Aunt Jen cooked a wonderful dinner for Katie, Jack, and me. After dinner, Leon (my good friend from studying in France!) came over for the evening. He happened to be in town with his dad for a business trip the same week we were there, so we had to meet up. We relaxed in the hot tub and caught up.

    Thursday brought the Warner Bros. Studios tour! After a pancake and bacon breakfast courtesy of Aunt Jen, we were back to Hollywood for the tour. We got driven around the “town” of Warner Bros., learning all about how their TV shows and movies are made. They have several blocks of fake buildings that have been used for the outside shots of every WB show imaginable. We got to explore a whole room of props from the Harry Potter movies, walk through a warehouse containing all of the Batmobiles, and sit on the couch from Friends. We got to tour the indoor sets of Pretty Little Liars and The Big Bang Theory. Surprisingly few (like, none) of my current favorite TV shows are WB, but it was fun anyway and we learned a lot about the how movies and shows are made.

    After the tour I went with Katie into Beverly Hills, where we walked up and down Rodeo Drive gawking at expensive shops and cars. It kind of reminded me of the rich shopping district of Milan. Then it was back to the Bradys’ for dinner and bed.

    Friday was a good day. First we went to the Getty Center, an incredible art museum atop the hills in the Brentwood area of LA. We saw several notable European works of art there, but it was the whole campus itself that drew my attention. The beautiful architecture and gardens along with the weather that day made a really enjoyable atmosphere. Plus—Katie got her first job offer while we were there! I didn’t want to leave, but we did want to see Santa Monica too before our stay was over.

    So we drove down to Santa Monica, grabbing a late lunch at ShopHouse and then walking to the famous pier. I really enjoyed the whole area, the beautiful beaches and the street performers. We mostly just walked around and soaked it all in, and we had a lot of fun. Friday was supposed to be our last night, so we had another wonderful home-cooked meal at the Bradys’ with the whole family and some of Jack’s friends.

    On Saturday, we realized we couldn’t drive that day, because Katie had to figure out some details about her new job offer, and talk to her professors back in Nashville when they were available. Trying to apply, interview, and accept jobs while on the road all over the country was highly stressful for her. So I went mountain biking in the San Gabriel Mountains with Uncle Bill right near their house. He clearly had done this quite a lot; I found it very difficult. I kept thinking I would go flying off the edge on a sharp turn, and then I wouldn’t be going fast enough to make it up the next hill. It was still a blast, and good exercise for sure.

    That night we went to a concert put on by the Pasadena Pops at the LA County Arboretum. Aunt Jennifer put together a superb picnic and we listened to music on the lawn. It was a great way to finish up our visit to LA.

    On Sunday morning, we finally left LA. We had a wonderful time, and can’t thank the Bradys enough for being so welcoming.

     
  4. La Jolla, San Diego

     
  5. Shelter Island, San Diego

     
  6. Sunset Cliffs, San Diego