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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My Summer of Zoos; how do they stack up?

Meercats @ The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA

What is the best zoo in the world? I guess I couldn’t really tell you that until I had been to all of the zoos in the world. I can, however, tell you about some great ones that I had the chance to visit over the summer. This summer we traveled from Seattle to Portland to San Francisco and on down to San Diego. There are plenty of things to do and see in all of these places but zoos and aquariums generally jump to the top of the list. I love animals, and the more exotic they are the better. When I was living in Sydney in 2009, I made the trip to the Taronga Zoo twice, and probably would have done more if I had been around longer. When we were in Seattle, we decided to buy a CityPass, as we had in New York. While we were in NYC it was a lifesaver, we saw everything that a tourist in the city needs to see in the span of four days and for less than half the price. In Seattle, we had a bit more time but I wanted Lorenzo to have an opportunity to see the best that my city had to offer, so I figured that it would be a good investment. And at only $59 compared to New Yorks $79 it was much nicer to our wallets. One of the tickets in the CityPass was a choice between either the Woodland Park Zoo or the Museum of Flight in South Seattle. We, of course, chose the zoo, which in all my years of living in Seattle I had yet to visit. So there we were on one of the only nice days in Seattle this past summer, wandering around the beautiful set-up of the Woodland Park Zoo. Seattle’s zoo has some fantastic animals, including giraffes, sun bears and red pandas. I love seeing new animals, ones that I haven’t had a chance to see before. In Sydney they focus on Aussie native animals, which are fantastic because you don’t see them anywhere else in the world. In Seattle it was nice because even after we first arrived and were disappointed that many of the animals seemed to be sleeping or in hiding, it wasn’t long before they started peeking out and getting active and they had a lot to offer. Upon first entering the…

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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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Cruising Alki Beach, West Seattle

When it comes to seeing a city, there are many ways to get around from place to place and strategies to seeing all the most important tourist attractions. Seattle is a very spread out city, for short term visits it doesn’t pose much of a problem with so much to do in the downtown area alone but if you want to branch out a bit you may find yourself frustrated with the bus routes. When I lived in Seattle, I always had a car. It wasn’t until coming back this time that I had to learn to be independent, I suddenly realized not only how little I had utilized my car but also how much I had taken for granted. In all the years that I visited Seattle as a child and the four years that I lived here while going to university I had only been to West Seattle a handful of times and I remember it as being one of the most beautiful places in all of the city. I don’t know where I got the crazy idea, it developed slowly when a friend mentioned taking the water taxi over and renting a bike for the day to explore the beach. Somehow when I brought the idea up to my brother instead of saying: Let’s go to Alki and rent bikes… I said: Let’s ride our bikes to Alki! That is so not the same thing but my brother wasn’t about to let me back down. It ended up being one of the best decisions I made this whole month! We picked up the bikes from my sister-in-law’s family in Ballard and began the long trek to West Seattle. As we set off I couldn’t have been more excited but as my wheels began to spin faster and the cars were relentlessly inching closer I started to second guess my decision. It just can’t be safe. Then we saw the first of the wretched hills rising before us and before I knew it my peddles seemed welded together. I quickly hoped off my bike and jogged it up the hill in hopes of not feeling too girly and pathetic in the eyes of my brother and boyfriend. Just a few short rolls of the wheel later we reconvened to discuss the best route and just as my brother took off with Lorenzo not far behind I heard a…

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What I’m most looking forward to back in the U.S.A

I remember writing this piece for yTravelBlog about living an expat life in Italy. At the end I finished it off with; If you wanted all the comforts of home, you should have stayed home! I’ll admit, sometimes easy is nice. I know that I currently live in the land of delicious food, but believe it or not there are times I just want something else. Here are some of the things that I am looking forward to eating, seeing and doing when we land back in the U. S. of A. on June 2. Eating. Mexican Food and Cheeseburgers. Creative Commons credit: adpowers I love food. Too much, actually. Don’t think I haven’t noticed those pasta pounds. Trust me, I know they’re there. I am looking forward to being able to go to a new place for dinner every night and order something completely different. I’m looking forward to freshly made tortilla chips and guacamole made with ripe avocados. I can’t wait to drink a margarita as big as my head. You can shoot me for saying it, especially since the best pizza is right here but I am craving some good old greasy bar pizza. Mostly I want a 2am order of a large pepperoni and olive and cheesy bread from A Pizza Mart (to share of course…). That’s the local bar/late-night pizza joint near my Uni. Good Old American Pastimes. Like going to the lake and watching a game from the beer garden. Some of our best college memories were spent on my friend JJ’s boat out on Lake Washington. I know that those are memories of the past, meant to be cherished right where I left them. But the lake is waiting for more good times to be had. There are lakes in Italy, but they use them differently. I think that my Italian needs to be introduced to the American use of the lake. Extreme tubing, wakeboarding, drinking and riding around in boats all day. I’m not a huge sports fan, let’s be honest with each other here. I have a sense of hometown pride for my pathetically ranking teams; the Huskies and the Mariners. I’ll never fail to enjoy going to a game though. Sure there is drinking involved and yes I do still know whose family has the best Husky tailgates (you know who you are… Jackie). The wafting smells of garlicky goodness…

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One Month from Today…

I cannot believe how fast time has gone! I have officially ended my stint as a tour guide (hey, for now anyway) with a month full of travel. I saw the Amalfi Coast three times and Corfu in Greece for the second time (one was enough… really… I’ll explain later). I’m currently in a frantic attempt to put together everything I need in the next week before I start work for my seasonal job that will last until I leave! Today I booked my train and hostel for TBEX ’11, I can’t wait to meet all the amazing bloggers I’ve been chatting with on Twitter, Facebook and all throughout the blogosphere. I’m bringing along BF for the ride and he couldn’t be more happy to be the first in his family of globetrotters to step foot into Canada! He is more than happy to explore Vancouver for two and a half days while I knock back tons of beer network with my fellow bloggers. We’re staying at the Samesun Backpackers for four nights, giving ourselves almost two days to explore Vancouver beyond the bars. Then I’ll finally be in my family’s grips for good. For the better part of the summer anyway. Nothing is booked just yet but the plan is to fly out of Los Angeles for Sydney on August 29th. Meaning we have given ourselves a reason to head south down the coast; something I’ve dreamed of doing since the days of Phantom Planet’s “California” and The OC (we’re not all sub-human in avoiding ridiculous teen fads okay?). Creative Commons credit: emilio labrador Currently we’re exhausting all the options in an attempt to find an affordable place to stay in NYC. Seeing as we have a ridiculously long layover in London (like 23 hours long) we’re up for staying in a private room. I know that means we’ll be forking over more dough and I’m okay with that to an extent. I have seen quite a few places that are hugely overpriced for what the photos show, and generally photos are meant to make places look better than they really are. I’ve received a couple of recommendations for Airbnb and it looks cool, but again, we aren’t sure if we want to stay with someone. We originally planned on couchsurfing and decided against it for this reason. I could really use some recommendations for places to stay in…

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