Warner Brothers Studio Tour: Los Angeles, California

Winding our way down the PCH along the coast of California was, in reality, a last minute plan. Lorenzo and I had decided on the train when a status update from Spencer went astray into my newsfeed and a new idea was born. Most of the planning was my job, minus the awesome B&B’s that we stayed at along the way (thanks Spencer!), and Lorenzo more-or-less simply didn’t give a shit what we did. He wanted to see San Diego and say that he’d been to yet another U.S. State. When we arrived in L.A., he suddenly changed his mind. An Italian friend of his is currently living in the city and working on films, and he recommended that we do a Universal Studios Tour. I hadn’t even considered it; apparently there is only room for so much in my head and when in that close of a vicinity to Ryan Reynolds, most else gets pushed out. I divulged this idea to Jade and Bobby and they suggested that we check out Warner Brothers instead. They had done both Universal and WB, and found Warner Brothers to be more interesting and exciting. We booked the tour for our last day in L.A. and set off to explore the city. When the day finally rolled around, the upcoming tour was a nice distraction from the reminder that I was not only about to leave my family again for an extended period, but that I was about to endure a fifteen hour flight with a nervous traveller who happens to have a bad case of motion sickness. Bring on Warner Brothers! I was sure that How I Met Your Mother was filmed on the WB lot, but after going through the entire tour without a mention, I’ll venture out and say that I was mistaken. Anyway, dreams of running into Barney and Ted were floating through Lorenzo and my head as we buckled up into our multi-seated golf cart. Strangely, our tourmates were all family members from a small town in Eastern Washington. Ironic. Most of the tour was spent talking about shows that we didn’t know much about; Mike and Molly, Heart of Dixie and Pretty Little Liars but there was some fun mentions in there. We drove by the pond from which George Clooney saved a drowning boy in an episode of ER nearly fifty years ago! Oh wait, I…

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StayOn Beverly: Luxury Hostel in Los Angeles, California

The words budget traveler and luxury generally don’t go hand in hand, especially when you throw Los Angeles into the mix. However, luxury in a cozy sense of the word is exactly what you’ll be welcomed with when you punch in your personal door code and step into the StayOn Beverly located right on the edge of Korea Town in Los Angeles. Please bear in mind however, that luxury when referring to a hostel does not mean the kind of five-star service you expect to find in Hollywood’s top hotels. As we pulled up into one of the five parking spaces (already this hostel gets bonus points) in front of the Beverly I already had an idea of what to expect since Spencer had stayed at the hostel previously. Still, when I walked through the front door and onto the clean, wooden floors of the hostel, I felt as if I’d stepped into a newly built apartment complex rather than a travel accommodation. As we walked the length of the hallway in an attempt to find our room, we kept shooshing each other because the place was so quiet we felt like, even at 8 o’ clock in the evening, we might be waking someone up. Finally, we arrived at our door and I eagerly punched the code in, curious what was on the other side. As I opened the room to find a beautifully laid out double bed with a sea foam green blanket, I couldn’t help smiling. The presence of the mini-fridge, complimentary water bottle and flat-screen TV on the wall, begging to be watched, made me instantly relax. It was as if I was coming home rather than booking into a $50 per night hostel. I’ll be the first to admit that after a drink and dinner at the Bier Garten just down the street I was quite happy to come back and settle into catching up on some American TV and cuddling into my memory foam mattress. Usually, when you book into a budget accomodation, you can’t be exactly sure what you might find. In the U.S. you are pretty hard-pressed to find any room for $50 a night, let alone a room that is both private and fully-equipped. While we were traveling in Europe we booked many private rooms in hostels and often found ourselves shivering under the covers each night and creeping along concrete…

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Tasting San Francisco: Off the Grid

Off the Grid Event San Francisco

Anyone who lives in the United States at the moment is most likely aware of the food truck craze that is sweeping the nation. Having just come from Europe where food carts and stalls are normal only for certain food groups (i.e. sandwiches and pastries), I was extremely excited (and maybe a little scared) to get in on the action. Over the summer I read an article in Sunset Magazine comparing Seattle and Portland. Among other things, they spent some time discussing food trucks and Portland was the clear winner. Portland is one of the food truck capitols of the country with a reported 80 or more trucks in the downtown area alone. The article intrigued my taste buds and it was time for me to try some tasty street food. I didn’t make it to Portland for the street food, I did however, get to appreciate some of the best food trucks in San Francisco while I was in town. My good friend, Spencer, is somewhat of a connossieur when it comes to eating tasty treats sold out of the side of a cart (read Spencer’s food truck articles here and here). And we knew that San Francisco’s weekly Off the Grid event would be the perfect meeting place. Lorenzo and I stood just outside the door as we watched the parking lot of Fort Mason swarm with hungry locals on this particularly cold Friday night in August. We looked inside in an attempt to scope out what we would go for first, but little did we know that Spencer had this whole thing down to a science. When he discovered that we were open to anything, Spencer steered us in the direction of some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in my life. The Taco Guys not only pump out some of the tastiest street tacos I’ve had to date, but they actually manage to be beyond friendly behind the counter while their truck is being bombarded by hungry customers from all sides. In an attempt to save room and sample as many different foods as possible we each ordered one of their fish tacos and decided to try out their spice-ade as a nice companion to the meal. These guys do not disappoint. The flavors of the batter-fried fish were perfectly complimented with the simple ingredients and the spicy lemonade was just the kick I needed.…

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Braving the Blustery Winter Winds of the San Francisco Summer

Foggy Day at the Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, CA

Lorenzo and I were lucky to be staying in the neighborhood nearest the Golden Gate Bridge while we were in San Francisco. The Presidio is by all means, not a likely place for a young city-dweller to live, but in my honest opinion, it was the perfect place to spend the week. Just a short 1.4 miles down the Coastal California path (also great for a foggy morning run) would lead us straight to the pedestrian-filled entrance to the most famous icon in San Francisco. It was a rather cold and windy day in the city, quite comparable to each of the previous ones we’d experienced in our week in San Francisco, but we were coming to a close on our time and knew that we it was time to make the hike across the bridge. We put aside the fact that we’d already managed to walk nearly five miles that day and mustered up our strength to head down the coastal trail. We followed it along the cliff edge while the wind viciously whipped around us. And in spite of my hatred for the wind, we were afforded some beautiful views of the coast on our way to the bridge. There was some confusion along the way, as parts of the path were obstructed and redirected due to work being done but we did finally reach the viewpoint. Here we took a breather and I managed to snap this charming photo of the fog enveloping the tall golden cables. We sat looking out across the water and, on a clear day, the view would have led straight across the bay to the small town of Tiburon. After a few shots of each of us in front of the bridge we headed into the intensely crowded pedestrian walkways of the right hand side of the bridge. Now, can anyone enlighten me as to why professional road bikers choose to use the Golden Gate Bridge as their practice route? Obviously the paths are going to be clogged and many of the tourists will either not understand when you scream, “leeeefft” at the top of your lungs while simultaneously blowing a whistle/ringing a dainty bell, or they simply won’t move for reasons that can be left to your imagination. In one of the most environmental, tree-hugger friendly cities in the United States, can’t you just go find another path? On second thought,…

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Coffee Spots of San Francisco: The Three Contenders

Blue Bottle Coffee San Francisco, CA

I didn’t plan on acting as a coffee connoisseur while in San Francisco, the job was just kind of handed to me. Before I get too into myself though, I have to admit that I only sampled three places but have added to the list a popular NorCal addition of whom I’ve tested in my beloved Seattle. San Francisco is a place of known diversity, by all means when it comes to population, food and drink you are likely to find what you are looking for. I even found a popular Italian chocolate bar in a random liquor store! That’s beside the point though. On a particularly long day, Lorenzo and I were making our rounds in The Mission District of San Fran and as we boarded the bus that would take us to Golden Gate Park and my dear friend Victoria, the exhaustion flooded over us. When Victoria’s car pulled up alongside the bus stop, just outside Golden Gate Park, I relayed the message of exhaustion in my utter refusal to get out of the car to view anything not direly worth it. The park is beautiful and I would have loved giving it my full attention but I just couldn’t bear the thought of subjecting my little feet to more walking in the biting wind. After a short drive and some direction on the better aspects of the park (buffalo in the middle of a city anyone?), Victoria knew just the antidote for my laziness. As we turned corner after corner in this shockingly grid-like city I began to recognize the shops spreading along the sidewalk. We were back in The Mission! Victoria had a very specific coffee shop in mind to take me. It was called Philz Coffee. Philz Coffee I sat in front of the menu board for ages as I carefully read through each and every single world of each brew as a means to discover what I was looking for. Victoria made a few suggestions and I finally settled on a small cup of Tesora, the Italian word for Treasure and knowing the Italians love of their coffee, I thought it must be good. The barista behind the counter graciously took my order and asked me the most simple question: sweet, medium or not-so-sweet? None of this one sugar, two sugar, red sugar, blue sugar business! What a fantastic way to order a coffee! Once…

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Sunday Photos: San Francisco Snapshots

Sutro Baths San Francisco, CA

Although we aren’t done with California just yet, we have seen a lot in these last fifteen days. I have been traveling and seeing all that I can see, meaning that I haven’t been live posting and have a lot to catch up on. In the meantime here is a look at some of my favorite photos from the seven days we spent in San Francisco this month. This photo was taken from the Marin Headlands viewpoint across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It was one of the only clear days we saw in seven days. Clarion Alley in The Mission, San Francisco. Famous for politically and socially empowering and just colorful art murals. Our footsteps behind us leading back up Baker Beach to the Cinque Terre-esque neighborhood of Sea Cliff in the distance. Baker Beach is San Francisco’s main nude beach; we had been warned but were possibly not prepared. Watching the sunset at San Francisco’s Sutro Baths, a ruined structure overlooking the ocean which used to house elegant swimming pools but was destroyed by a fire in 1966, shortly after it was shut down due to high maintenance costs. This is the french toast I waited two and a half hours in line for. It was beautiful and the Bloody Mary was amazing but I wouldn’t suggest going for brunch at Mama’s on a Sunday in August.

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