Category: Los Angeles

Used: 2011 (and pretty much every year of my life)

So like recently I went to San Francisco for the families annual holiday fun fest. We don’t celebrate Christmas but my sister does like getting us all together for the holidays, since it really is only the 4 of us. I flew on Southwest, which I call the bus line of the LAX-SFO route (flying Virgin is like taking the train; both will get you there, Virgin is just more comfy. But there is really nothing wrong with Southwest!).

If you have never flown Southwest (really you must, it’s such an experience!) they don’t have assign seating. Essentially it’s first come, first serve when you check in as you board in that order. Usually I try to get Group A (pretty much guarantee yourself a window seat) but since I didn’t have access to a computer for my return, I ended up in Group C (the “worst”). I don’t really mind this most of the time, as flying from LAX to SFO and vice versa only takes like 50 minutes, but I am partial to a window when given the chance.

Though when I flew over the holidays, and ended up in Group C, I came to a realization why Group C kind of rocks. At this point, there are no more windows or aisles, so really you have all the control. As you walk up the aisle, check everyone out and pick your seat based on who looks the least crazy. In between two big guys? Ew, no! Screaming babies or talkative old people? No thanks! Skinny people with headphones are my favorite (though cute guys with no rings are a close second, haha). Silence (and eye candy) and you’ll most likely get the arm rests. If you are in Group A and claim a window, you have no idea who is going to sit next to you. But loading in last, you have all the power! And for a short flight, who cares? Southwest still gives drinks, pretzels and peanuts as well as an airplane magazine and a Skymall catalogue. Can’t say as much from Virgin!

Moral: So next time you print your pass and you see Group C, don’t groan (well, you probably still will) but think of all the power you hold!

Used: 2008, 2009

I remember one of the first times I heard of someone I knew flying Air New Zealand. They flew from LAX to LHR. That’s right! You don’t even need to fly anywhere near New Zealand to experience New Zealand hospitality. But the first time I flew them was actually just a really quick trip return from AKL to CHC over Easter Weekend as they have the most flights within the country (duh) which is super helpful for a major holiday weekend when everything is expensive anyway. Flying domestic in New Zealand is a joke anyway, especially compared to what I am used to in the United States. I worked in central Auckland and got from my work to the airport by taking the shuttle and passing through security and sitting at the gate within an hour. Like I said, JOKE! You don’t even need to show ID to board a domestic flight.

Anyway, it was a pleasant but a generally unmemorable flight as it was only a little over an hour. I loved the airport in Christchurch, they have this awesome open air deck in the domestic terminal were after you pass security you can watch the planes land and take off, outside! I loved watching all the tiny Air New Zealand planes doing their business. I am so used to only seeing huge planes, that it was so funny to see tiny propeller plans flying!

View from the outside deck at CHC

Later in the year, Air New Zealand had a major promotional push in advertising their trans-Tasman flights across the ditch to Australia. They were becoming major players against the strong hold, Qantas. They upgraded tons of their planes and the types of planes they used to only use on long-haul flights, they were now flying just a short 3 hours to various ports to Australia. I barely even thought about it when booking my return flight to Australia after my summer vacation back in New Zealand, as they were cheaper than Qantas anyway from Christchurch to Sydney. It wasn’t until I boarded the plane that I remembered about their upgrades. And they were awesome! My favorite perk, individual screens on every seat. Actual meals served. And of course, a nice, smooth ride, as the plane was a lot bigger then the Qantas jet I had flown over on a month earlier.

I got so excited a few weeks later when I made plans to fly back to the US. Air New Zealand ended up being the cheapest option out of Melbourne, with a quick layover in Auckland. Back in 2008, you had to pay an exit fee when you left New Zealand and I was 50cents short in cash my fee when I left Christchurch (so I had to pay with a credit card, annoying!) but since I had a few hours to kill in Auckland, I was happy to have the extra cash to buy food and magazines and other last minute items. I was so excited for a last minute trip to Auckland before I finally came home even though I never left the airport. I just loved my time there so much, I was so happy to have once last goodbye. You don’t pass passport control when you transfer plans in Auckland, but you have to go through security again. I had a whole bottle of water with me, which they asked me to toss, so I backtracked and tossed the water in the sink in the bathroom so I could pass with my empty bottle, one of my flying tricks of the trade. I went through metal detection again and filled my bottle up at the various water fountains in the terminal. So annoying and a waste of water! I specifically wore one of my favorite New Zealand t-shirts for the ride home and when I boarded the plane, the flight attendant commented on how much she liked my shirt!

Me in my All Blacks Kiwi shirt, moments after walking into my parents house after 2 years and 2 weeks overseas! My dad made this awesome sign.

The flight back was awesome. Great selection of movies and tv shows, which is key for me. I watched and caught up on so many shows I hadn’t seen in months that I doubt had even aired in Australia or NZ at that point. Awesome selection of movies. I love telling people that I chose to watch High School Musical 3 over Slumdog Millionaire (have you ever tried to read subtitles on those tiny screens?!). Don’t remember the food, though we got served a lot, so I am sure it was good. One of my favorite parts was how they did drink service. They gave us all cups at our first meal and we were supposed to save them. A flight attendant was continuously walking around the cabin with spare cups (just in case) and a pitcher of water and all you had to do was hold your cup up and they would fill it up for you on request. You didn’t even need to leave your seat! I lost my cup at one point (in those small seats and area?! I know, it happens) and they happily replaced it, though I did like that they tried not to. And I felt bad when a few hours later I found my cup at the bottom of the pocket. The seat space is pretty big too, way more than Qantas. I was impressed with it and I am not a big person anyway.

The tail in Auckland. Rainy, of course!

Something that I didn’t experience, but my family did when they came to visit me. Apparently, they used to have a code share with Air Pacific, the Fijian airline which is one of the few routes that you can fly from LAX to AKL, but you have to stop in Fiji. My mom first booked tickets for her and my dad and a week later booked my sisters ticket on the same route for the same price. They all show up at the airport to check in and apparently my sister is booked on the Air New Zealand flight. Same times, same route, just a different terminal. There was no note anywhere on the ticket about this and they didn’t know until they showed up at the airport. And what a huge difference between the airlines! My parents were jammed in while my sister had whole rows to herself, since they all flew over Christmas. My sister said the flight attendants welcomed all the kids with gifts because they were “skipping Christmas” (They left on the 24th and arrived in Fiji on the 26th). But at least they evened out on the way back. My parents got the Air New Zealand flight after their Fiji layover while my sister was stuck with Air Pacific the whole way because we realized that Air New Zealand only flew from Fiji to LA on certain days and my sister stayed longer and flew on a different day.

Adopted home, home on the range!

Moral: Air New Zealand doesn’t fly too many routes outside the south pacific but if I am flying somewhere they go, I will make them a priority, thanks to their service. Plus, I miss New Zealand tons and anytime I can grab a little bit of it, I will take it. They vary in price and even if they aren’t the cheapest, if they aren’t too different in price, I would take them into consideration depending on how long the flight is. I would love to fly them over to London someday! How fun!

Used: 2011

I had been pricing airfares to Peru for months. They kept jumping up and down for the summer. I wasn’t super picky about when I went as long as I went during the months of July or August. I waited too long and prices jumped into the $1000’s. I was out. Then I realized that I was super close to finally cashing in my frequent flier points for a free ticket. I was so excited about this! Dates were open for the end of August and all I had to do was buy $300 worth of points. SCORE!!! I held the ticket and waited for the points to get deposited into my account. As soon as they were approved, I did a quick check through Kayak to see what was available for the dates I saved and of course, up came a ticket through Taca airlines for just under $600, which is what I budgeted for at the beginning of the year. AGH!!!!! I actually clicked the link and it took me to the Orbitz website (ehhhh) where it tells me it has found a cheaper ticket! What the-?! How and why does this happen? So even though I have two stops on the way back (vs. one using my rewards) the price is too good to pass up. I buy the ticket. As always, I checked the Taca website to see if they can complete with Orbitz and they can’t. By far. Seriously, it’s like a $300 plus price difference.

I didn’t know much about Taca going into it at first, but knew they were a reputable airline with decent service to Latin and South America. Not fantastic, but all I care about is safety and price. And I knew they ticked both of those boxes. I asked everyone on my tour what airline they took and the other Americans had taken Spirit down from Washington DC and I groaned, knowing how bad they were and while they were cheap, I would NEVER use then to fly international. When I asked why they didn’t take Taca, they said that the flight agitator they used said Taca was might not be approved to fly when the time came. What the hell?! I had never heard that about them, it was so weird that they were told that. I felt bad too, because I paid less for my ticket and I didn’t have to fly Spirit.

They were a pretty decent airline. I checked in luggage for the first time in forever as two pieces were included into my ticket and check in was so super easy. Might have helped since I arrived wicked early. My flight down was split and I had to transfer planes in El Salvador, because Taca is their national airline. Each flight was approximately 5 hours. On the first flight, I would say the majority of the flight did not speak English as a first language, which is weird since the flight originated in the US. We were given two meals (yay food!) but there were not personal tv’s on the back seat, we were just shown two movies on overhead screens. Not too bad, 5 hours isn’t too long for me. The best part was that the flight was not full and there was only me at the window and some on the aisle, with the middle seat empty. My favorite! When that happens, I just pull down the center tray and use that, to keep my space clear.

The flight from El Salvador to Lima was a bit different. Packed plane, but I would say at least half of the passengers, if not more spoke English as a first language, which is funny considering the plane departed and arrived in Spanish-speaking countries. We only got one meal and I got a repeat of one of the movies I had seen already on the overhead screens. The flight was super bumpy as we were flying over land and over the equator where clouds tend to congregate and create bad weather. But at 4 and a half hours, at least the flight was shorter.

Heading home was fine. I only flew on Taca from El Salvador back to LAX and I knew what to expect. Throw in the fact that I was just super anxious to get home, it wasn’t the best flight, but no part of that had to do with Taca. Well, maybe a little. One meal and countless drinks, which were all fine. I ended up on an aisle seat, which I never sit at, but couldn’t change my seat to window before they were all taken up. I actually didn’t mind the aisle seat as I felt like I could spread out more into the aisle and the turbulence wasn’t as bad for me. I tend to stress out a bit when I sit at the window, oddly enough. The thing that makes me an ideal window seat mate is my ability to not use the bathroom during most flights. I can’t remember the last time I asked the person on the aisle to get up so I could go. On my long haul flights, I just hold it until my seat mates get up and then take advantage of the time they are up and get up every time they do. On anything less than 5 hours, I hold it. Why can’t you?! I realized the joys of the aisle on this flight, but having to get up twice for others, really pissed me off a lot. I am a window person, though and through. And a darn good one at that. For some reason, the English channel in my seat didn’t work, so I couldn’t watch the two movies shown, which normally would piss me of a lot, but I was so anxious to get home, it surprisingly didn’t bug me. Too much.

Moral: I would whole heartily recommend Taca. They have a really good system for their flights to Latin America. The food was good. The service was good. They were always on time. Of course, personal tv’s are my favorite, but for 5 hour flights, I can handle the lack of. And if the price can’t be beat, grab it!!

How Easy Was That?!

Used: 2011

When I get an airline route in my head that I want to take, there is little you can do or say these days to make me change my mind. Since I work a full time job, my schedule is way less flexible then it used to be and I’ll pay nearly any price to get what I want. Obviously, it’s all within reason but I’ll now pay a little more then the cheapest price if it’s the days and times I really really need.

After going to Hawaii a few years back and flying out Thursday afternoon and taking the red-eye back Monday night, that is the route I burned in my head when starting to plan my 30th (EKKK!!!) birthday on The Big Island. I kept my eye on flights and prices for nearly a year and had a price in mind that I wanted to pay. For months, nothing seemed to budge as my birthday falls during one of the many high seasons and I started to think about other options.

All of a sudden in February, a flight appeared on the new United/Continental merger that dropped the price by about $300 AND flew the exact times I wanted. I immediately jumped on and bought it. I was so excited! I actually found out later from my friend Melanie that this was a new route that they weren’t even starting to run until June (my birthday is in August) and I was probably one of the first people to buy it, about 6 months out. While still expensive and more then I normally would ever pay for a flight (hell, my flight to Peru was only about $70 more, you do the math on distance from Los Angeles) I ended up getting the best deal compared to the rest of my family and I was the only one who flew non-stop.

All in all, a decent flight. I am so not picky as long as I get where I am going in one piece with no delays. Terminal 5 at LAX is pretty much my idea of a nightmare (see my flight on Spirit) but luckily, it was pretty empty when my flight was leaving. Since it’s all holidaymakers heading from LAX to ITO, the load time for getting on the plane was one of the longest I have ever experienced. It took FOREVER! So many families with so much stuff, plus throw in people who rarely travel, oy. At first I got really excited because my plane was equipped with individual tv screens and for the first time ever, I was willing to pay the price to watch tv as the flight is over 5 hours. But if you fly often enough, you know what is coming. Once you get 200 miles away from the shore, you loose the signal. AGH! They stock the screen with other crap, but I was totally disappointed and didn’t pay for the service. Oh well. But everything was on time, so no complaints from me.

On the day I was leaving, I checked my phone for emails and this is the first time I have ever said this, but thankgod! for smartphones. Quiet early in the day I got an email alert saying that my flight was delayed over an hour. So I didn’t have to be at the airport until later! Yay for smartphones and email! Throughout the day, I got 3 more emails, moving my flight back and forth, but never back to its original time. Since it kept moving, I didn’t want to get to the airport that late. When I told my mom this, she was like, “ohmigod, getting to the airport so early, that has to be the worst thing ever” which is like the biggest exaggeration ever. The Hilo airport is AWESOME and if you have to be delayed anywhere, I highly recommend ITO. While there isn’t anywhere really to shop, the waiting lounge looks like your living room with comfy Hawaiian print bamboo chairs everywhere and there is no shortage of availability. Plus there are like no windows and you feel like you are outside in most of the place. So Hawaiian! The check-in counter was a joke as well. I was so lax about this trip that I forgot my e-ticket print out and when I went to check in, I stared at the screen for a minute before the girl behind the counter asked if I had any luggage to check (I did not) and even when I said that, she was like, let me check you in and I just handed over my id and she printed everything for me. Since Hilo is such a small airport, I asked if the Continental flight back to LAX was the largest flight they had every day and she laughed and said yes. Even at the counter, there was a sign that said it was only open a few hours a day because really, there is no point to be open “normal hours”.

If only this really was your living room!

I love tiny airports. No parking police driving around clearing out the arrivals and departures passenger area, you can take your sweet time loading and unloading. After check in, security was a joke. I mean, you do all the normal stuff that you do at all American airports, but it’s a little more casual. The guard checking id’s made light conversation with me saying “I know where your going” and not in a creepy way, more in a depressing, “your going home” type of way. And unlike big airports, it was quick and painless and not nerve racking at all. The whole thing took like 15 minutes, if even. The only other flights that leave from Hilo throughout the day are going back to Honolulu and there was a flight that was very delayed as well going back to HNL at the same time my flight was supposed to leave. It was delayed longer then mine and there was announcement made over the loud speaker, asking people not to leave because security was closing at 10pm and there would be no way for passengers to get back in after that time. I had to laugh, you would never hear that announcement at a major airport!

It’s the same plane that comes out earlier in the evening (that I flew out on) that turns around and goes back to LAX on the red-eye. The plane on my return flight was super basic compared to the plane I flew out on. Besides the ample leg room, it was just like a Spirit or Southwest flight in that there was no entertainment what so ever. No screens anywhere and no music in the armrests. It didn’t matter too much as the flight back is a red-eye and quiet quick, but I feel bad for the passengers who flew out earlier in the day who had no entertainment options at all! I love flying over water, the ride is always so smooth so I look forward to it, unlike the people who hate flying and are scared to fly over water, I actually prefer it.

Moral: Realistic waiting on airfares can be worth it, within reason. Of course, taking into consideration time in advance and season can make a huge difference. And always sign up for the delay alerts directly on the airlines website so you can know in advance if your flight it going to be delayed, though for most major US airports, it doesn’t make a difference as you have to get there hours early anyway. But for a place like Hilo, it pays off and alerts you so you can arrive later as it takes like 3 seconds to check in. Also, I had a pleasant experience with Continental/United as I rarely fly with them, I don’t really care that much. They kept me alert for all delays and that is really all I can ask for.

Used: 2011

Man, home has really been on my mind lately. Los Angeles has finally been in the news! I know what most of you think, you are the second biggest city in America, you are always in the news! And while this is sort of true, it’s rarely for actual city reasons. I don’t count anything celeb or entertainment related. The network shows definatly give favor to New York and east coast cities on their news reports. The national weather for Los Angeles given on The Today Show is nearly always wrong. But between Will and Kate visiting Los Angeles, of all cities in our fine country and then Carmageddon last weekend, we are finally making some decent news! I don’t know what the reports were outside the city, but thankfully Carmageddon was a wash. Everyone stayed home. Everyone got stuff done! The roads in all parts of the county were empty! And the best part is, we get to do this all again in 11 months! Let the hysteria begin! I am predicting now, the same thing will happen. The news will build up something huge, in the realm of, last time was so good, are people going to ignore warnings and drive? And everyone will freak again and stay home. I predict the streets will be even emptier! I know I will be off the streets this time.

My dad and I didn’t even realize what was going on when we decided to drive to San Diego for the day to visit some old family friends. We left at 8am both days and traffic was hilarious. LA County was dead empty on both days. San Diego County was packed both days, both at 10am, when we arrived on Saturday and 8am when we left on Sunday. It was crazy. I don’t have anything touristy to relate as we really didn’t do much. The family friends had been in New York for the last 3 years and while my parents had seen them a few times, I hadn’t seen them since before 2007, so it had been awahile and we just hung around the house the whole day, which was fine by me. The weather was fantastic and I even brought out a sweater and WORE IT, which I hadn’t done in months (stupid LA summer). We had a great time doing nothing. But the amount of people on the roads in SDC is insane these days. So much more traffic then 10 years ago, that’s for sure, maybe even 5 years. It’s not an escape from LA anymore. But the weather can not be beat. Seriously, every day is 72 and sunny.

My Dad and Me, North Park, San Diego, CA

The weekend after Carmageddon, I met up with my pals, LACOT who were having their bi-monthly meet up at Hotel Angeleno, which is this super awesome hotel off the 405 freeway. It is right in the center of the Carmageddon weekend, located off Sunset Blvd, near Beverly Hills, Westwood Village and Brentwood, in between the 10 and 101 freeways. I rarely drove on the 405 when I was a kid, but one of the first times in memory was when I was about 13 and seeing this super strange building off the freeway. It was a Holiday Inn at the time and just this giant circular building in the middle of a pretty residential area. A while back, it was redone and I have been to the bar on the top floor twice in the last month for various events and it has an AWESOME view. Seriously, ocean to mountains, downtown all the way to Long Beach on a clear day. Plus, you can watch the freeway and traffic patterns, which I find oddly interesting, how and why someone would drive in all this traffic every single day with out going insane. It’s crazy. Since I live in LA, I would never stay here, but I would be interested to see what the rooms look like, just based on the buildings shape. Someone stay, so I can see!

Seriously, why would anyone choose to drive this every single day?!

WEST-SIIIDE in the distance, with 405 freeway in foreground.

Moral: I am a total sucker for huge, large, overblown-for-no-reason events. And no one does them better then Los Angeles. Unfortunatly, most of ours are based on entertainment crap, which I am so over. I miss crap like this and I can’t wait for next year! Seriously, the chances that something happens, slim to none. But feel free to freak us out! I highly reccomend the first segment from The Colbert Report, from The Colbert Report, dated 14-July-2011. One of the funniest segments I have seen in a very long time.

I don’t pay for internet at my apartment as most of the time there is free wireless floating around. But last weekend, when I write my posts for the week, I couldn’t seem to connect (it happens sometimes and hey, I get what I pay for) which is why I am sort of flaking this week. Obvious the 7 Links thing was a no-brainer, though it was interesting to go back and do some start research on my site, which I never do. And since my last picture post was oh-so popular (for me), why not do another one of some of my favorite pictures from Santa Monica last year? Last November, we had a major heat spell in LA, even for us for that time of year. And it was hotter at the beach then in the valley, which is super rare for us, no matter what time of year. I got down to the beach the following day for a work event and these pictures were taken from the hotel the event was being held at. These have not been enhanced in anyway and I “blame” the weather for these striking shots.

Catalina Island in the distance

Normal day, facing The 'Bu

Sunset, facing The 'Bu

Moral: Late last year, I was so ahead in posting, writing like a month ahead, but all 2011, I have nearly managed to break even. This past weekend reminded me that I really need to work ahead when I have the chance. But just a heads up, I don’t post when I travel and I’ll be traveling a lot in August, so it will be a light month for me. No pre-posting for me anytime soon.

Used: 2011

I am going to say right up front that I am like the worst blogger ever. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be taking my camera on my rafting trip, I meant to at least bring it to the check in station and take as many pictures as I could in the prep. But of course, I left it in my purse, which I did not bring. GAH!!! So once again, no pictures on my latest “I did it while I was overseas, why can’t I do it while I am at home” series. Another thing I rarely do at home, but I do tons while overseas, take pictures! Yes, I am the worst.

While in New Zealand and Australia, every time rafting was offered, I did it. The first time was in Rotorua, I rafted off the highest waterfall a commercial company can legally raft (7m, whatever that is, I have since forgotten and when I went over, I had only been in the country just over a month, so I had no idea at the time either). And on my trip to Christchurch, I specifically took a day trip out for a full day of rafting. While not as rough as Rotorua, we spent loads more time in the water, including jumping off quit high cliffs. There aren’t many places to raft in Australia, but one of the most popular places is near Mission Beach, rafting down the Tully River. It was sort of a mix of the two places, it took all day and while rougher then Christchurch, we didn’t ride down any waterfalls.

Once again, I discovered River’s End Rafting on Groupon and they offered two deals, an hour trip or a half day trip. Since the company was located near Bakersfield, about a two hour drive from where I live, I chose the half day trip as I wanted to spend more time rafting then I did in my car driving back and forth. I was really glad I chose the half day. I checked in at 9:30 and after being put in a group with a family of 3 and a group of 2 couples and being outfitted for life jackets, we loaded onto a bus for a quick 5 minute ride to the river. After an extremely brief safety instruction, we were on the river. My group seemed really low key, which was good and bad. Good, because no one annoyed the hell out of me and it was all in all, a good group. Bad, because I think our guide was kind of board with us. When asked who wanted to paddle in the front, no one volunteered, so I did. So glad I did, the rapids started immediatly and we all got soaked within 5 minutes of getting on the water, which was a welcome relief for the wicked hot day(s we’ve been having). There were some more rapids before getting to a calm area were the guide flipped the boat and we all fell into the water. After climbing back into the raft, we floated through some more rapids and checked out the scenery, which are empty, dry rolling hills. As we went through a slow patch, I noticed the side of the river. It was so disgusting, beer cans everywhere, some scattered, some in huge piles. Either way, blach. Kern County is so white trash, we saw some people floating down the river in inner tubes, beer cans in the cup holders, beer ice chests with their own inner tube, blach. We made a side stop for jumping off a very small ledge (nothing like the cliffs of New Zealand) as well as making a slip ‘n’ slide out of the bottom of the raft as we ran down the dirt hill, jumped on the raft and slide to the end into the muddy river. Unlike my whole, take advantage of every opportunity, I didn’t do either of these. The slip ‘n’ slide looked gross and I sort of regret not jumping off the ledge. Part of my package was to do the run again and I vowed when we stopped again, I would jump, but unfortunatly, during our second run, some people were fishing in that spot, so we had to go to the next inlet were they only made the slip ‘n’ slide, which I again passed on. After the spot, we got back int he raft and floated a bit farther before the end of the run. The whole thing took about an hour. There was a 15 minute ride back to base were a decent sack lunch (pretty good sandwich, chips, cookie, various sodas) was waiting for the full day people.

There were more people on deck for the second run and I was with the same guide and group. We got a better boat this time, one of the ones I have used while overseas that just allow the water to float in and out, so we weren’t weighed down with our water intake. The boat had to be patched before we left and we kept an eye on it and since we had paddled together already, we were much better matched for the second run. While we knew what was coming this time, it was still really fun. We spent more time out of the raft floating down the river. The biggest downside was not stopping at the platform, which I already mentioned, which made it even better that I signed up for the day runs. If I had just been on the second run, I would have been kind of annoyed. It definitely felt a lot shorter, maybe because I knew what was coming.

The bathrooms back at base were port-o-lets and they had a bunch of changing rooms. When everyone was milling around at the end of the day, I asked if I could fill my large water bottle up, but the base is actually off the grid (hence the porto’s) and the guy at the front desk just gave me a bottle, which was really nice. Nice and cold too!

Since I was all the way in Bakersfield, on my drive in, I saw a Sonic Drive-In. We don’t have them in Los Angeles, yet they buy national spots on cable, so we see adverts all the time for them. The closest one is actually in Anaheim (wait, I just looked it up and apparently there is one in Duarte, which is still a good 30 miles from where I live) and then next closest is Bakersfield (scratch that, Palmdale, which might as well be Bakersfield), so I wanted to try them again. I have been to them once before when I was on my Louisiana/Mississippi/Arkansas road trip a few years back, but I ordered inside. Though this time, since I was just in my bathing suit and tshirt, I called for car service. So much fun! You press to order and then scan your card right there, so easy! The server came out on roller blades too, appologized for taking so long, since I just ordered a chocolate shake, but said it was okay, since I had never been before. It tasted great too! Very chocolately, for a fastfood shake. Perfect before the 2 hour drive home.

Moral: I love rafting!! I totally forgot how much I loved it until we went over the rapids. I am really glad I went on this trip, though it was a bit small for my experience. It was perfect for first timers, which most on my raft were. I am really glad I discovered this place and am glad I did it once, but I don’t think I would do it again.

Oy, what does Prince William’s trip to Los Angeles (oh yes, and Canada) have to do with travel? Story time!

Obviously, I have known about Prince William pretty much my entire life. Future king of England, blah blah blah. Doesn’t really have much to do with me in America. BUT! Oh, how did I discover his teenage hottness (okay, because we are pretty much the same age, thus I was a teenager the same time as him. So it’s all good).

The first time I went to Europe, summer 1997. I had been obsessed with England (partly because I loved travel and failed Spanish and French many times) for a while and wanted to go there so badly. We were doing our first family trip to Italy and for some reason, when my mom originally booked the tickets, the two of us were going to fly to London and my sister and dad were going to fly seperately through NYC. Ohmigod, I was so excited, even though we didn’t plan on leaving the airport. I was so excited! Then, right before we were supposed to leave, plans changed I was going to fly with my sister and dad. Ohmigod, I nearly cried! I was so dissapointed. To make it up to me, my mom bought me magazines (of which I was obsessed with British music and movie mags at the time which of course were wickedly expensive in the US) both ways (the August and September issues, I had it timed correctly).

Anyway, during our travels around Italy, I took notice of the magazines on the newsracks there. I couldn’t read most of the headlines, but looked at the pictures. And guess what picture grazed loads of them at the time?


My sister and I became obsessed. I mean, what teenager wouldn’t?! That shirt, those eyes, that hair (RIP)?!?!? Thus the crush of the decade was discovered. A month later, devastation hit Will’s life and the rest of the world discovered his hotness in the midst of a personal tragedy. The following summer, Chuck took Hank and Bill over to our side of the globe for a tour around Canada (not the US, of course) and the kids there went nuts, thus starting the teen throb obsession.

And of course, as any kid would like, oh how I wanted William to come to Los Angeles, my home! How much fun would that have been? You see pictures of celebrities all the time driving and walking down the street, it was my teenage dream to see William in today’s US Weekly, “Stars! They’re Just Like US!”. But since we are no longer a commonwealth country, it was very very rare that the British Royalty would come here. And really, why would they? We don’t have anything to do with them. It’s like in Los Angeles when we hear that our mayor is going to Europe or Asia for a conference (he has) and we are all like, what the fuck?! Isn’t that a job for state or national government? What does that have to do with us? NOTHING! We aren’t fancy enough for their holidays (hello skiing in the Alps or lounging in the south of Spain/Indian Ocean for holidays) and have nothing to do with “royal” government. As far as I could tell, William has only been to the US once before, when Diana took the kids to Disney World for holiday back in the early 90’s. Of course we all remember this picture:

Splash Mountain!!!

And I thought I read somewhere that William actually came to Kentucky or something to spend time on a classmates (not sure if (US) high school or college either) ranch for holiday once, but I can’t find any information on it, as it was a totally private holiday anyway.

But other then that, never been to the US! And NEVER to the west coast! Ohmigod, I nearly had 16 year old flashbacks when I heard about his latest travel plans to “California”. So vague. We are quite a large state, for all I know he could just be heading to Yosemite (so outdoorsy) or San Francisco (so European). But when the final schedule was released and he and Kate were going to spend all their time in Los Angeles, just being here, I was so happy! Unfotunatly, since this was a “state” visit, there were very few public events and the ones that were, were way way way out of my price range. It seemed like only the very rich or the very poor get an audience with the royals. But having grown up quiet a bit since I was 16, I was just so happy that they were in my hometown, in my time zone! I am quite a nerd like that, even though I was in the UK when William turned 21 (so I knew for sure we were in the same time zone:-), but it is just a different kind of nerd-out when it’s swapped and he is in MY time.

Moral: Why did he finally make it out west now? Was it Kate’s request and MAYBE they’ll holiday out here in the future? I can dream!!! I love it when travel introduces me to celebs in different parts of the world that when they finally make it back to the US, I can be all like, Yeah, I knew them when. Sort of like my old love of music.

Used: 2011

It’s weird what you do when you travel and what you would never do at home. I love water activies and embraced them in every town I travel to, but when looking for the same stuff to do in my own backyard, I get lazy.

Here comes Groupon[link]! In the past few weeks, lots of “activities” have shown up in my email, including a rafting trip (going next month), a moasic art class nearby (currently working on, will finish soon) and last weekend I went on a kayaking trip in Oxnard, in nearby Ventura county. In fact, if it wasn’t for Groupon I wouldn’t even know these places existed!

I called Channel Island Kayaks and made my reservation two weeks in advance and was processed in a quick and friendly manor. The Groupon was for the History and Wildlife Tour which the guy in the office promised I’d love. Kayaking, seeing the bay and learning something, sounds good to me!

It took slightly more then an hour to drive up on an early overcast, Saturday morning. I checked in and signed a waver and the intorduction started promptly at 10am. Me and 4 other couples who all went in tandum kayaks, but they luckily had singles, which was nice. Usually being by myself, I am “stuck” being with the guide and while it isn’t too bad, usually they want to “drive” the kayak which I like to do and have control over it. So having singles, that was nice! GJ was the guide and we had an aprentice guide with us, Jacquline. I liked having two guides, one to do more of the yaking and another to bring up the rear. We got into the plastic boats and paddled off. The company has a little half real/half fake example of some of the wildlife that lived and still lives in the area which was a nice introduction to what we would see.

We paddled into the harbor and the tide was pretty strong. It took a lot of work to paddle past all the boats in the harbor to get to a smaller canal were we looked at birds and lots of other sea animals such as tons of star fish and sea slugs. Paddling around the canals was very easy and fun before we went back out to the harbor and watch more birds, hear about the Channel Islands and paddle back but the winds had picked up a bit and essentially float back to the office as loads of sea lions swam around us, trying to fight with the birds for the fish.

We then had the option to paddle around the harbor for another hour and another couple on the tour asked for a recommendation on a path. We hadn’t paddled for the full two hours yet and the “travel me” likes to take full advantage of everything offered, so off I went, following the couple who asked, while everyone else went back.

Ohmigod, I WANTED TO DIE!!! I was paddling against the current for a while, which tired me out and then after making a wrong turn, the canal back to the office, while quiet and free of wind, just went on forever. At one point, I just wanted to tie up my boat and walk back, but I knew it would take longer for that then to just paddle so I continued on. I finally made it back, slightly over an hour after I left and I just collapsed on the pier. I was wet and tired and my hands were all blistered up. While I am always happy with myself when I finish something like this, I don’t know if I would do the whole thing again. The tour was really awesome and informative and fun and unfortunatly, maybe if I was with someone the extra time would have been better, but being by myself, paddling around kind of sucked. I am proud of myself for finishing it, but I wouldn’t do the extra part again.

Moral: I loved the person I was when I traveled and was overseas and while I brought some of that back, I need to get out there and do more things in Los Angeles. Thanks to services like Groupon, local tours that I would never even know about are brought to my attention and for a good price too. When I see these pop up I think, would the vacation me do this? If the answer is yes, then I buy.

*** Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of my trip as my one tech fear is dropping my camera and having it break so I didn’t bring it with me***