Sunday, March 15, 2009

Los Angeles is My City
I love National Geographic's Intelligent Travel Blog and Kristin at Camels & Chocolate. (If you haven't read her blog, you are missing out. She's hilarious, plus she has the coolest job ever!) Anyways, ITB recently launched a new series, "I Heart My City." I pondered filling this questionnaire out since I have a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles. However, I thought that it'd be good for me to remember all the things I love about my current hometown.

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to the Griffith Observatory to overlook the city. Once we’ve taken in the magnificent views, it’s over the hill heading towards Santa Monica for a little stroll down the pier, or if they’re more interested in movies than shopping we’re off to Burbank for a drive by the studios, and if the timing is right, then a tour through Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour .

When I crave Mexican, I always go to Senor Freds. Make sure you try their Sangria, and for dessert their Churro with chocolate sauce is mouth-watering. The rest of the menu is optional...

To escape the heat (I live in the Valley) I usually head to the beach cities. My favorites are Malibu to the north or Playa del Rey.

If I want to people-watch I go to Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in the Griffith Park/Santa Monica Mountain hiking trails.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with Marilyn Monroe and Batman at the Chinese Theater.

Olvera Street is my one-stop shop for great Mexican food.

Locals know to skip the Beverly Center and check out FIDM, the fashion district, and the jewelry district in Downtown LA instead.

When I'm feeling cash-strapped I go Diddy Reese in Westwood for $1 ice cream sandwiches on homemade cookies. YUM!

The women in LA are drama queens, and are most of the men.

For a huge splurge I go shopping on Rodeo Drive. Not that I've ever stepped foot in any shop on Rodeo Drive....

Photo ops in my city include the Hollywood sign and the best vantage points are at the Beachwood Canyon Drive at Glen Holly. The view is great and unobstructed, and it’s the entrance to the original “Hollywoodland” subdivision.

this photo doesn't include the hollywood sign, but I like (but, i couldn't find my pictures with the hollywood sign. hum.)

If my city were a celebrity it'd be – my city is a celebrity. In Chuck (do you watch that show? I love it. It has some awesome stock shots of LA) it seems to be a character.

The most random thing about my city is the giant new sci-fi (looking) high school for the arts recently built downtown.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves heading out to Catalina Island for swimming, surfing, hiking, mountain biking, snorkeling and diving. Avalon (the port town) seems miles away from the bustle of Los Angeles. Catalina can be a day-trip or an overnight getaway.

My city's best museum is The Getty. Admission is always free (although, it’s $10 to park), the views breathtaking, and the gardens tranquil. Oh, and the exhibits are pretty cool too.

My favorite jogging/walking route is any path along the beach. Venice is usually highly entertaining.

For live music, check out Howl at the Moon Dueling Piano Bar, or the famous House of Blues on the Sunset Strip.

Tommy’s Chili Burgers is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what's going on at night and on the weekends, read LA Weekly, or The LA Times.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they can make an unprotected left turn.

In the spring you should attend Lancaster Poppy festival. It's a bit far, but the poppy is the state flower, and it's nice to get away from the concrete and graffiti in the spring.

In the summer you should picnic with a bottle of wine and the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The nose-bleed seats can be as low as $10, and utilize the bus/metro so you don’t have to deal with parking.

In the fall you should tailgate at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl for the Trojans – Bruins cross-town rival football game.

In the winter you should see the Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Beach. Because nothing says “the holidays” like million-dollar yachts and Christmas music.

A hidden gem in my city is the Huntington Library in Pasadena. The Japanese Garden is gorgeous and pristine, and the Desert Garden is very otherworldly feeling. The library includes a Gutenberg Bible and Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” among their other four million rare manuscripts.

For a great breakfast joint try Jinky’s Cafe in Sherman Oaks. Their flaky French toast is delicious, their omelet choices have a unique fusion of Southwestern and European flavors, but personally I think their pancakes are too die for.

Don't miss the Halloween Carnival in West Hollywood. This is an adult-only festival, with outrageous costumes in true Mardi Gras styles – from “divas to drag queens to Dracula.”

Just outside my city, you can visit Santa Barbara for wine tasting, hiking, sun-soaking or a crazy night out.

The best way to see my city is via a car. So sad, and so true.

If I didn't live in a city, I'd live,well personally I’m looking forward to not living in Los Angeles one day. I’d move to San Francisco, CA in a heartbeat. I think I would like the Pacific Northwest, or perhaps Chicago. Although, as a native Californian I'm not sure I could handle the snow & wind in the Mid-West.

The best book about my city is... Since LA is in the movie-making business I think it's appropriate to change the question to: The best movie about my city is L.A. Story (1991). The film is a hilarious satire on both life and culture in Los Angeles, with Steve Martin playing Harris and Sarah Jessica Parker playing SanDeE My favorite (and dead-on correct) quote in the movie: “Walk? A walk in L.A.?”

If you have kids, you won't want to miss any one of the theme parks in Southern California –Disneyland will always be a favorite.

Oscar night could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because there is more to Los Angeles than meets the eye!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

California Stars

I love music, love it. It's almost always consistently playing in my house. I love all different kinds of music. This being said, typically my favorite group/song/album changes (hey, I'm a girl, what can I say?) However, I have one song that is above all others: “California Stars.” This song (and the other tracks on Mermaid Avenue collections) is the collaborative efforts of Billy Bragg and Wilco who set to music the lyrics of folk singer Woody Guthrie.

The first time I heard this song, I was lying underneath the stars (literally!) in the English countryside, feeling a bit heartbroken and homesick for my native California. I imagined a young, romantic, idealistic man simply lying stargazing and dreaming of his one true love, all underneath the beautiful California skies. However, as I grow I like to believe that Guthrie was trying to suggest that we should enjoy the simpler things in life, which often include those quiet moments with your true love.

I decided to title this blog “California Stars” for many reason, one being my passion for this song. However, my hopes with this blog are to introduce my readers to the amazing state of California, with the warm-starry-night in California appeal. I thought that the title reference would work there too. And of course, the word California can be replaced with “Hollywood Stars”, which is part of California’s image.

California Stars (this is my favorite version)

I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars I'd love to feel
Your hand touching mine / And tell me why / I must keep working on Yes I'd give my life
To lay my head tonight on a bed
Of California stars I'd like to dream / My troubles all away
On a bed of California stars Jump up from my starbed / Make another day

Underneath my California stars / They hang like grapes / On vines that shine / And warm the lovers' glass / Like friendly wine So I'd give this world / Just to dream a dream with you / On our bed of California stars I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight

On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars I'd love to feel
Your hand touching mine / And tell me why / I must keep working on Yes I'd give my life
To lay my head tonight on a bed / Of California stars I'd like to dream / My troubles all away / On a bed of California stars Jump up from my starbed / Make another day /

Underneath my California stars They hang like grapes / On vines that shine / And warm the lovers' glass / Like friendly wine So I'd give this world / Just to dream a dream with you / On our bed of California stars So I'd give this world / Just to dream a dream with you / On our bed of California stars (Dream a dream with you)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

springtime. Love the colors of spring, but glad this tree is my neighbor's!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Photo Friday: Vienna's Griechenbeisl
One of my absolute favorite cities in Europe is Vienna. I adore Vienna. I love the cobblestone streets, the grand palaces, and art galleries. I can see the history, I can feel elegance, and I can hear the music. Dear Internet, I love the music. Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert. As I walk the Innere Stadt, I feel like I've been transported in time.

I could write a entire book on why I love Vienna (and people have!), but for today's photo Friday I'm going highlight one restaurant called, Griechenbeisl. This is almost more of a tourist attraction, and the minute you step's like a time warp. The building in which the restaurant is housed in is reputedly the oldest inn still standing in Vienna, having been around since 1447! It's was frequented by musical greats Schubert and Brahms and Mozart (of course), American authors (Mark Twain among one), International Artists, and all sorts of politicians!

The Hofburgs had their own room, in which they all signed the wall as well. (I nearly got pictures of it, but as it's a fancy private room...and we didn't get an special invite and I tried to sneak in which resulted in an very angry Austrian man scolding at me in German, but Internet that is another story for another time!) You could spent hours just gazing at the signatures on the walls, and seeing who was there. Everyone from Napoleon to Johnny Cash.

All in all, very historical stop - for a bier, snack or a full-three-course meal.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Food for Thought

I have never been one for hot dogs. I don’t like ketchup (I know, I know, it’s the quintessential American food!), I’m not a big fan of mustard or relish…and I like eating with a knife and a fork. I think it’s quite barbarian to eat with your fingers. This however, was before I went to The Infield in Sherman Oaks. Internet, this hot dog stand is delicious.

I got the daily combo deal, which changes each day to include one of their special dogs, fries and a drink for $5.00. Let me tell you dear Internet, this is a steal! This special highlighted The Hawaiian, which was perfect since it was raining and cold and I was dreaming of lying on white sandy beach and more importantly, being warm. Wait, I think I’m drifting off track. So, I decided on the Hawaiian, which didn’t include ketchup, mustard or relish. Instead, it had baked beans and pineapple atop a classic beef dog. I was a little concerned because well, baked beans AND pineapple? The two just didn’t seem to go together. But, Internet, boy was I wrong. Yum. Plus, because it was topped with so much (although, Infield, if you’re reading this, I could have stood for more pineapple) I needed a KNIFE and a FORK to eat it! It was like a dream come true. The skies parted, the sun started shining, and I decided that this was an excellent stop for a quick lunch.

The other hot dogs looked excellent as well: West Virginian Dog (classic dog with chili, yellow mustard, onions, topped with sweet coleslaw), Pastrami Dog, Chicago Dog, the New Yorker are only among a few. I was a little hesitant about the fries because I have such high standards with French fries. But, they were hot and crisp…and the perfect amount of greasy.

Now, next time I go, I determined to try one of their dessert dogs - even though they frighten me. However, Internet, I think the deep fried Twinkie dog is just calling my name. It just sounds too gross not to try.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

For the Love of Running

I am a runner. That statement has defined me for the past decade. Running has made me joyfully happy, and woefully upset. I have made some of my best friends through running. It has hurt me, but also made me healthy. To say that I have a love affair with running would be an understatement.

I started running the summer I turned fourteen, or the summer before my freshman year of high school. My childhood friend and I both joined the cross-country summer camp for one reason, to stay in shape for the swim team. We hated it. After each exhausting practice we would count how many days were left until we could quit. Besides, we were swimmers…not runners. That summer was sheer torture, but we made the best of it. We needed to cross-train? Then, we would ride our bikes down to Ruby's for a huge, calorie-packed cinnamon roll and washed it down with a milkshake. After, we would walk our bikes the two miles home. The last week before the official season started, the coach convinced us that we needed to stay part of the team – just for the cross-country season. We would be in great shape for swim season in the spring. That was the beginning of the end. After the first September race, I was hooked.

I ran through high school and college. I did marathons, half-marathons, track meets and road races. I did Tuesday/Thursday track workout and races on Saturdays. Nerves kept me up almost all Friday nights. I hated races. The fear, the deep-down-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach-nerves, the starting line all caused me LOTS of anxiety. But, I love the pureness of the sport. It’s just shoes and your physical and mental strength. I love the quietness of a crisp morning – when the streets are silent, the air is cool, and the only sound is my breath. Running gives me time to think, time to distress, time for just me. I like running with friends. It gives us a chance to talk about trivial matters or deeper dreams. I like running alone, give me a chance to visit with, well, frankly…me.

Lately, I’ve been in a funk about running. Not actually about the running, but having to go out running. Even with great running partners or a perfect play-list on my iPod, I have been dreading my run. Honestly, I think it’s because I’m out of running shape. This is where you come in, dear Internet. I want you to help me be accountable. I hope to post my trials and triumphs, so that I can remember my love of running.