September 2, 2010
Bob and I hadn’t seen California in 14 years, so-----on our way to New Zealand----we thought we’d stop and check it out! We had cashed in some miles on Delta and enjoyed the flight from Sarasota, FL. LAX was busy, busy, busy (it was Labor Day weekend, what were we thinking?!), but we soon got through the car rental process. Bob had booked a bargain on Priceline--$150 for five days—but I knew all was lost when he started checking out the ragtops! So, we doubled the price plus and left in a midnight blue Mustang convertible. So much for the travel budget! The drive to San Diego was grueling: three hours to go the first 25 miles. We marveled at how different the lifestyle is here—the traffic is horrendous and does anybody live on flat land?
About 8 PM we ended at the Lafayette Hotel in San Diego.
It was opened in 1947 and Bob Hope was the first to sign the register. In its day the Lafayette was a grand, opulent place. Huge ballrooms, enormous pool, spacious lobby, even the rooms are the size of suites. But, it definitely needs some TLC and I certainly hope it receives it! After a late night supper at Denny’s, we were in bed by 9:30 Pacific time, after midnight to us.
September 3, 2010
Breakfast was OK—waffles, cereal, oj, etc. We decided to walk around the area, known as The Boulevard
and then drove off to the premier zoo, the zoo we had both heard about since we learned what a zoo was.
And we were not disappointed! The grounds are immaculate with beautiful plants everywhere,
the selection of animals (4,000 +) is outstanding, and the other displays such as tar pits and dinosaurs (there are many others) are worth your interest.
We loved the bird show—definitely a must-see
The pandas, of course, are the highlight.
Lunch was a lucky find: Bangkok Spices, a Thai restaurant. Bob chose a red curry coconut calamari and was in heaven! It was so good we heated up the leftovers for dinner back at the hotel. No early bedtime tonight as an EMO band (we were informed that is short for emotion) was booked at the hotel. We guessed they get so involved that they jump on beds and off walls; this started at 8, ended about 10 (probably for the concert), and resumed at 4 AM. It felt like a trampoline with five or six people on it bouncing above our room!
September 4, 2010
We awoke after a miserable night intent on checking out of the Lafayette; after discussing the situation with the desk clerk, we decided to stay. We had reserved three nights and didn’t want to waste time packing and searching for another place to stay, unpacking, etc. So, it was breakfast and then on to the mall to purchase a camera charger. Ours had suffered a premature death and there were a million pics left to take in the next three weeks! After perusing the two-story Target, complete with an escalator that transports carts as well as people, we were $47 poorer with charger in hand. Next, Balboa Park was on our radar. This is a WONDERFUL area adjacent to the zoo which is actually part of the Park. It is comprised of a series of buildings that housed the exhibitions to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal in 1915. Now they house many different museums, theaters, a science center and a plethora of gardens, pools, fountains. You could spend days investigating the whole area. We chose the Museum of Natural History where Bob enjoyed the dinosaurs and I loved the gems.
The Timken Art Museum is small but reminiscent of our own Ringling in Sarasota with its Rubens era paintings and tapestries. We noticed several people walking around carrying large plants and soon realized they were what we call frangipani in Florida, here called plumeria
And, to our delight, one building was hosting a sale of these gorgeous flowering plants! If only our 5-yr.-old granddaughter, Ava, could have witnessed this—she is the frangipani expert. And there were many, many more colors than we had ever imagined. Since we couldn’t buy a plant, we settled for a t-shirt heralding the event for little Ava.
Evidently this was a popular spot and a popular day for the celebration of the quinceanera, the 15th birthday party for Hispanic girls. They were being photographed everywhere and their colors only made the day more gorgeous.
We stopped one man to ask for the best place to eat Mexican and he directed us to Ranchos. He was right—great food! And, to complete the day, our evening was peaceful. We heard not a word, not one slamming door, not one bouncing body. I watched a movie and Bob fell asleep.
September 5, 2010
After breakfast and checkout, we drove to San Juan Capistrano, the 200-yr.-old mission.
It was founded by the Franciscans in 1776. Through the years, it was devoted to housing soldiers, teaching indigenous locals, raising grapes, cattle, sheep, pigs, and has the oldest metalworking Catalan furnaces in California. It was sold in 1846 for $710 and then given back to the Catholic Church by President Lincoln in 1865. The great stone church suffered an earthquake in 1812, but the smaller one called Father Serra’s Church still holds mass daily.
On the road again, we chose the Pacific Coast Highway; we figured if the trip were going to take hours, why not have some great sights along the way? On we travelled past Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Newport, Huntington Beach. On this day before Labor Day, every venue was full of people and cars.
But we enjoyed the drive because of the eye candy. Newport Beach sports more Mercedes-Benz per capita than any other place in the world! Finally we ended in Long Beach with the most expensive real estate in the world.
Of course, we picked a cheap Days Inn with such filthy carpet that we were afraid to take off our shoes! Next, we were off to see Long Beach, its magnificent skyscrapers and waterfront. We had to see the Queen Mary and also took a few pics at the Scorpion, a Russian sub moored nearby.
Hunger set in and, as we hunted for something Chinese, we spotted the Pho Hong Phat Restaurant with many customers going in and out. We figured it must be good, so we sat down and ordered. It is strictly a noodle café, so you choose from dozens of different kinds. I had chicken and Bob ordered steak & brisket. The animated maitre d’ kept us entertained and the soup was filling. Back at the Days Inn we devoured donuts, watched Paper Man and went to bed on awful sheets after showering with ragged towels! Yuck!
September 6, 2010
We couldn’t leave fast enough the next morning. Our first stop was the LA Farmers Market. It was great fun walking around gawking at everything and everyone.
Ditto for the Grove, an upscale shopping area next door. Had to check out American Girl for granddaughter Lauren.
Bob finally got his Chinese for lunch and I tried Brazilian.
Next we drove to the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. After seeing so many traditional churches all over the world, we were quite amazed at the modern theme of this one
We’re not too fond of formal tours, but a personable guide named David made this one memorable
Without his knowledge, we would have missed the whole point of the building.
Then it was on to Griffith Observatory which is CLOSED on Mondays unless it is a holiday. We guessed no one told them it was Labor Day. But, just to drive up there and walk around the heights was enough
What a view! Bob hadn’t had enough of the hills and soon we found ourselves navigating the steep roads above Laurel Canyon. We felt like mountain goats with nowhere to go!
We drove through Beverly Hills and El Segundo, stopped for a sandwich at Subway, dropped off the Mustang and settled in at LAX to wait for our 11:40 PM flight to Auckland.
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