The best 48 hours in LA!

Excuse the blatant SEO attempt but I would love to get more blog followers in 2020.  Why this year and not, say, several years ago when blogs were actually in their heyday?  Eh, who knows?

So, since SMS was already in San Diego and we had the weekend to ourselves, we decided to take a road trip to LA.  We meant to leave around lunch, but tragedy struck…

Edward-bird, the most skittish and food-avoidant of the four paraquitos, bolted for the door as I was leaving for work Friday morning.  I saw him out of the corner of my eye when he had already made it outside.  Although we waited around all day and tried to lure him back, he was nowhere to be found after a brief 10 a.m. sighting by SMS.  I am sad, although his real parents (aka, my Mom and Dad) seem to be handling it well.  Maybe because they told me to let them fly out the door months ago.  But I will not!  At least not all of them.  So, now there are three…

After dusk, we locked up the apartment and headed up to LA.  We stopped for a charge at One Paseo and had dinner at North Italia.  It was delicious and an easy stop, one we hadn’t planned or researched but still ended up with a great dinner.  We arrived in LA, parked in the public parking lot (saving $30/night, yeah!), and walked to the hotel.  We stayed at the Kimpton Everly, where I had booked a last-minute reservation under the military rate.  I was expecting a room over the dumpster but instead, we got a room on the top floor, #16!  The view was spectacular, day and night!

Amazing room and view on the 16th floor!

After a coffee, we headed out to SQRL, a very cool cafe in Virgil Village, LA.  We ordered coffee, the Big Tot, the ricotta toast rainbow-jam style, and the sexy Saturday biscuit, which, if you ate too many of them, would make your figure decidedly unsexy!  It was delicious and a great, if crowded, place to eat.

After the huge breakfast, we went to Runyon Canyon for a hike.  We were not swarmed by the paparazzi nor did we see a celebrity but we did see beautiful views of LA and the large houses/estates in the surrounding area.

Ready for our close-up!  See the Hollywood Sign/Smudge between our heads?
Panorama View!

After Runyon Canyon, we attempted to go to the Getty but the traffic back-up was insane. So, we made a quick change of plans and went to the Huntington Library.  We grabbed a quick lunch at the cafe before wandering around the gardens, which were spectacular. My favorite was definitely the cactus garden, although the entire place was beautifully done.

Reach for the sky!
Cactus or kale?
It looked like a scene from Alice in Wonderland

We also walked through the Japanese garden, which was quite nice and had an interesting bonsai collection.  I don’t usually pay too much attention to bonsai exhibits but this was pretty cool.  I liked the bonsai that looked like little forest groves in miniature.


Hanging out on the hill in the Japanese Garden

We went back to the hotel and went to Cleo for dinner.  A blogger/podcaster I follow recommended it.  It was fine, but I wouldn’t go back.  SMS put it best when he said it felt a little Gaslamp-like (downtown SD)- sort of tourist-trappy and overpriced.

While we were walking back to the hotel, we saw a ton of muscle cars and low-riders cruising and parking on Hollywood Blvd.  It was quite a scene with loud music from most of the cars and lots of spectators.  I feel lucky we walked by!

After a good night’s sleep and a room-service breakfast (such a treat!), we headed out to the Getty.

The Getty is such an architectural delight in addition to great museum.  We stood on several balconies and admired the views.  We also went to the visiting Manet exhibit focussing on his later work, which was excellent.  We also visited some of the permanent collection.

The left photo is of Manet’s “Still Life with Oysters and Champagne,” which matched our festive mood with oysters the night before and the New Year coming up!  I think icon paintings are super cool and “The Coronation of the Virgin” by Gentile da Fabriano was my favorite of the bunch.


In the Manet exhibit, the side description had the most spirited quote from Manet regarding a gift of mandarin oranges: “Since M. Étienne Barroil is a gentleman he sent me a taste of his sunshine.  When I go out, I fill my pockets with them and given them to the local children…They’d probably prefer money, but I prefer to give them something I enjoy.  The pleasures of this world!  They’re made of things that mean little to some but a lot to others.”


Highlights: November 2019

Another month mash-up!  At the beginning of the month, SMS and I took a walk over to the Cantor Arts Center.  We enjoyed the temporary exhibit West x Southwest: Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.  We also looked at the objects in the “Melancholy Museum,” an organized presentation of many items collected by Leland Stanford the III, the only child of Leland Stanford, Jr. and who died at the age of 16 from typhoid.  The pictures above are the death masks of the three Stanfords (macabre!) and on the left, an Ansel Adams picture.  Mrs. Stanford’s death story is especially interesting since she was poisoned twice and the second time, died.  She was murdered and it is an unsolved crime!!!


I went to UCSD for Grand Rounds during the week and decided to document this statue’s ignominy of getting constantly crapped on by birds.


SMS gave me this cool mug!  Thank you!!!

Haha, the perils of taking your questions to the internet!

SMS and I spent the weekend in Newport.  I got a breakfast-in-a-glass Bloody Mary and had SMS take a picture in front of Birdie to show to the paraquitos!


Newport Beach, CA


The next weekend, I took a few days off of work for a family vacation.  First, I stayed with my grandfather in Stuart, FL for  a few days which was really relaxing and fun.  My grandfather just became a Bridge Master, so I took a picture of his trophy glass.  I also took a picture of the many panic button lanyards at the gym…hazards of working out when older but hey, it’s good to be alive and kicking, just not on the floor unable to get up.

Then I drove down to Bay Harbour/North Miami for a family wedding, Dad’s side.  On the way, I stopped for lunch and a quick walk at the Morikami Museum.  The Japanese gardens were gorgeous.  I enjoyed lunch on an outdoor deck and during that time, I decided I really liked Southern Florida in November!

I was the only one of my immediate family who could make it and since my cousins had been great in coming to our weddings, I wanted to show up for theirs.  It was absolutely beautiful with a ceremony on the beach and the reception indoors at the Four Seasons.


Selfie with my aunt and uncle who still tell me stories about when I would sleep over at their apartment in NYC, circa 1985.

On the way back, I connected through Chicago which meant I could get a margarita roadie to go while making my way across the airport.  Yeah, I really needed that!  *Eyeroll*  But how can I stay away from Rick Bayless?!?!  I also met a woman who has a “real” company and a “fun” company.  We talked about her “fun” company, which specializes in cashmere onesies.  She was rocking one herself and both the flight attendant and I thought it was wonderful.  It’s pricy but so tempting!  Don’t worry, have still resisted temptation…so far!

I arrived home to a full apartment since our friends were visiting.  The A family had a crazy-busy San Diego itinerary- they went to the Zoo, Safari Park, Legoland, AND SeaWorld!  I worked during the week, but we would meet up afterwards for dinner.  On Wednesday, I watched Ishaan while the parents had a date night.  Even though Ishaan and I had fun, I am no match in the popularity contest once SMS arrives!

Yes, Ishaan made SMS a poster and we picked him up from the airport.  On the way back, we stopped at the Spruce St suspension bridge, which made Ishaan a little nervous.


The next day, we all went to La Jolla for lunch at the Taco Stand (so good!), followed by a trip down to the Cove and the Children’s Beach, now overrun by sunbathing seals.

Drinks in La Jolla!

Afterwards, we went to Cabrillo National Monument and walked around the tide pools at sunset.  It was beautiful!

Dos amigos!

We went to the top to overlook San Diego and saw a really cool focal rain storm.  It was hard to capture on camera, but we did our best!


We met up with John at Craft & Commerce, which everyone enjoyed.  Jyotsna ranked their cocktails slightly higher than Herb & Wood, but thought both places were amazing.


Finally, SMS and I found a new-to-us restaurant, A Taste of Denmark.  Their smørrebrøds, with homemade multigrain bread, were on point!  The herring was my favorite.

To end the month, SMS and I took a walk through the Hotel Del to look at the Christmas decorations.  We also caught a beautiful sunset from the beach.

Family Weekend Road Trip

Scary but delicious in Santa Barbara!

After a busy start to the month, SMS and I decided to continue the trend by taking a road trip to Newport Beach to visit his grandfathers and show off SMS’ new car.  It turned into even more of a family affair because we were also able to visit our newest nephew who is, of course, super cute!!!

On Saturday, we headed to a coffee shop that SMS wanted to show me: Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz.  He had been there as a pre-mountain biking meeting spot and thought it was delicious.  It was!  We ordered coffee, toast, a pastry, a baguette and a strawberry pie, which had rave reviews on Yelp.  [Aside: Yes, I use Yelp.  It’s actually pretty helpful.  I don’t get too in the weeds but glancing at the reviews helps get a feel for the place.  It’s even useful for overseas travel.]

Ok, at first I thought this picture was cute but now I am transfixed by the sight of my giant hand!

Then we went to Monterey to visit my newest nephew.  Ghah!  He is so cute!  I was glad we could visit because there was definitely a lot going on for my brother’s family.  It was a quick visit but I got to hold a teeny-weeny baby and pose for some pictures.

It is a little rude of Matteo to pose as if I am letting his head fall off.

Then we were off to Newport Beach.  The drive was quick and painless.  We stopped in Paso Robles at the cutest lunch spot owned by a few really friendly locals.  It’s called Galley Bite and the staff, including the cook/owner, were really nice!  I highly recommend it- delicious food without getting caught up in a fancier downtown “Wine Country” place.  In fact, I stopped typing for a bit so I could write a quick TripAdvisor recommendation- small businesses need support!

Then we arrive in Newport.  We hung out with SMS’ parents and his grandfather that night.  We had a delicious dinner.  It had been awhile since we had seen them so it was a really nice time.  The next morning, we shared breakfast before SMS’ parents took off.  Then we headed over to visit SMS’ other grandfather.  We took pictures with the car and just really had a nice time with family.

A Neptune Feast!

On Sunday, we headed back and stopped in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone.  It is super cool and although we were thinking of eating at Lark, we passed a food tent with Poseidon incarnate inside.  He was selling oysters, lobster rolls, and uni.  Yes, yes, and yes!  The tent was outside a little winery so we had some wine tasters to go along with our lunch.  It was an excellent stop.

Near Handle Bar Coffee

We walked to Handle Bar Coffee shop and ordered a nitro coffee (me) and decaf espresso (SMS).  We also inhaled an adffogato.  Seriously, it’s like we hadn’t eaten all day.  After that interlude of pig-a-liciousness, we got back into the car and drove back to Mountain View.  Google maps sent us on a backroad adventure near Gilroy, which was really beautiful in the twilight.  Even though it was a lot of driving, it was an awesome weekend!

Newport Beach Weekend

What a great group!

 SMS and I went to Newport Beach for Columbus Day weekend.  This time, we brought along friends!  Or rather, they drove down to Newport with their 2-year old.  Never fear, they arrived sane and in one piece.  That’s because they’re champs!

Resolution: Work on Food Photography!  Step 1: Picture before starting to eat!

I arrived earlier in the day since I took Friday off.  I went to Wild Taco for a SoCal fix!  I ordered two tacos (lobster and kale/feta) and the roasted corn. The food was amazing and it was a gorgeous day.  I ate inside but the doors were wide-open and the ocean breeze blew through.

I walked back to the house and, after a bit of rest-and-digest, I went for a 5K run.  I discovered that SMS and I had over-estimated the distances to the first and second piers, which was very disappointing.  We thought the first pier was a 3-mile out and back but it’s really just 2.5 miles.  Whah!  So, I ran a little past the first pier and turned around.  I knew I had a long run that weekend with J so I wanted to take it easy.

Then, it was off to the airport to pick up SMS.  We ate at home and a little later that evening, our friends arrived!  We had poke for dinner from Santa Monica Seafood.  It was excellent.

The next day, J and I went out for a 10-mile run.  Eeek.  I hadn’t run more than 5 in awhile but I hung in there.  We ran 9:00 mile pace, which wasn’t too bad.  We definitely weren’t trying to push the pace so really, it was nice that 9:00 felt easy(ish).

Oh, yeah!

Afterwards, we showered up and headed out for Sidecar donuts.  SMS and I had heard so much about them and we’ve tried to go a few times without success.  This trip, we were determined to try them.  We lucked out with the line, which was short when we arrived but completely mushroomed while we were there.  I ordered a LOT of donuts, but I shared them with people then and when we visited SMS’ grandfather later that evening.  The donuts were really delicious.  I also ordered a nitro-draft cold brew coffee which was excellent.  Oh man, I would spend a lot of money if that was available at home (and it probably is, I’m just not going to do the research because it is a pricy cup of coffee!).

We went to the beach and had so much fun.  The weather was unseasonably warm all weekend so we were able to go in the ocean every day.  Even SMS tolerated it.  We rode waves and had the best time.    We got a little bit of sun but we had two umbrellas from the house so I was (mostly) good about sun exposure.  No inadvertent burns this time, yeah!

There’s a Duffy Boat in the background.  Sorry, pics are limited from this excursion!

We went out on a Duffy boat that evening and toured the Newport Beach harbor.  It was such a beautiful day and the houses on the water are spectacular.  We also had great company on the boat so I was distracted from the scenery a lot of the time.

Sunset at the marina

Auto Ferry entrance

Afterwards, we decided to take the Auto Ferry across the water.  SMS has a funny story regarding the differences in child and adult perspectives.  He remembers the ferry being a big excursion, a really big deal.  As an adult, when he realized that it was a super short trip quite close to the house, he was surprised that he had such a different memory of it.  The ferry was super cool and felt very retro.  J’s kid pitched a fit on the ferry because he was really upset that we weren’t on the ferry and we had promised we would go on a boat.  We tried pointing out that, at that very moment, we were on the water but he wasn’t having any of it.  Adults are filthy liars, obviously.  We think that he couldn’t reconcile the fact that cars can go on boats but really, who knows what 2 year olds are thinking sometimes.  By the way, even when he’s borderline losing it, J’s kid is awesome.

For dinner, we had boardwalk food after riding the Newport Pier ferris wheel.  It’s very small but moves at a slightly disconcerting clip so I’m glad we went on it.

Ok, this pic is before eating but it still doesn’t look all that appetizing…

The next day was more beach time and family obligation time.  We went to EAT Chow for brunch, which was another breakfast winner.  I got the breakfast enchiladas, one with tomatillo sauce and one with mole.  Delicious!  Afterwards, SMS and I went to visit each of his grandfathers while J and family went to Irvine to visit cousins.  We watched the debate that night and then headed off to bed.

Bingo!  This looks better…right?

Monday, I dropped SMS off at the airport since he wanted to go to work that day.  What a high-roller, taking the plane to commute to work!  I went to Alta and got a coffee and Bueno Bowl for breakfast.  We cleaned up the house and then J and fam took off.  I went for a run, brief swim and then headed off to the airport myself.  What a great weekend!

Back in the USA!

After a long flight in which my greatest accomplishment was watching the entire Season 1 of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” I arrived at the John Wayne/Orange County Airport for a fun Father’s Day weekend in Newport Beach.  SMS picked me up and we headed to the beach house.  It was a family celebration!  We stayed with Rip and Linda and Stacy and Micheal were in town with Michael’s son and their new dog.  Marty was in town as well and we had great family dinners, time on the beach and general relaxation.  It was absolutely wonderful.  The weather was perfect and I didn’t really want to leave!

SMS, buried in the Santa Barbara sand

But, come Monday, leave we did.  SMS planned a great road trip for our travel up to Silicon Valley. First, we stopped in Santa Barbara.  We went on epic walks, tasted wine, ate at The Lark and went shopping.  We also had a Mexican food feast at La Super-Rica taqueria, the restaurant made famous by Julia Child’s recommendation.  The great weather continued and we had an awesome time in Santa Barbara.  The beautiful, balmy sunny weather is a big change from Japan’s rainy season!


After Santa Barbara, we stopped in Pismo Beach for some awesome Mexican food at Papi’s Grill.  Whoa, it was amazing!  I was a little less crazy in the amount of cheesy goodness order and instead, went crazy by ordering a horchata milkshake.  It was divine.  It kind of ruined my next few horchatas at different meals because the creaminess was understandably less in the more healthy, non-milkshakes.

Justin Winery tasting room

After lunch, we drove to Paso Robles wine country.  We stopped at Justin winery and Daou winery.  I liked the Justin wines a little bit better and the setting was quite nice among the vineyards, right next to the original cabernet sauvignon grapes.  But the location couldn’t compare to Daou, which was at the top of a hill with a gorgeous panorama view.  The greens of the vineyards, golden grass of the hills and undulating landscape was spectacular.

At Daou, we split a huge beet salad and cheese plate.  I wrote to a friend and described our mild culture shock upon returning to the US.  One of the things I mentioned was “rapidly fading dismay at portion sizes.”  But seriously, servings are huge here!

Taken with an iPhone6, ha ha

After a night in Paso Robles, we headed off to Mountain View.  Our apartment and the location is perfect.  SMS did an amazing job with all the planning the last month or so- he found both the apartment and planned our trip.  It was a really great experience and a nice transition home.