Los Angeles Vacation Recap

We’ve been back from vacation for several days now and I’m finally beginning to feel like I’m back in the swing of things (“things” meaning “real life”). So I thought it’d be fun to write a blog post recapping our trip! Usually when my husband and I go on vacation we do a good job of not overscheduling ourselves, but we sort of failed at that this time around. It wasn’t the most relaxing vacation ever…but that’s not to say we didn’t have a good time!

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A little backstory: my husband is from the Los Angeles area (Glendale, to be exact) and we wanted to visit his family but we also wanted to take a proper vacation and escape the New York winter. So we began and ended our trip by staying with my in-laws, but we stayed elsewhere the rest of the time. My husband and I both have friends in the LA area—and my brother lives there too—so we front-loaded our trip with friend get-togethers and then had the chance the relax in the desert without social obligations.

Warning: many photos ahead!

We arrived in Burbank too late to really do anything but go to bed, as it was about 1am NYC time by the time we got to my in-laws’ house. We spent the next morning and early afternoon hanging out with them before taking off in our rental car across LA to our Airbnb rental in Hermosa Beach. The place we rented was a clean, updated one bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, a California king bed, and a spacious private patio. I definitely recommend this place if you’re ever looking to stay in Hermosa Beach! Major bonus points for being a short walk from the beach as advertised (plus, the host provides beach chairs, umbrella, and towels).

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore Hermosa Beach when we first arrived at our Airbnb because we had plans with friends in Santa Monica that evening. We hopped in the car and drove on up there to first see our friends’ condo and then we all went out to The Galley to meet my brother for dinner and drinks. The Galley is Santa Monica’s oldest restaurant, a fun nautical-themed dive with decent food and a patio out back. Also, they put little plastic mermaids on some of the cocktail glasses:

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My hand is magenta from all the red lighting in the joint.

We used the next day (Sunday) as a beach day, and what a lovely day it was! The sun was shining and it was warm, though not truly warm enough for me to strip down to my bathing suit at the beach. It was actually a little chilly with the wind, and I ended up not even sticking my toes in the water. There was hardly anyone in the water, so I took that as a sign that it must have been pretty damn cold.

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They don’t call it Hermosa for nothin’.

Sunday night was dinner with my husband’s family at The Bottle Inn, an Italian restaurant that’s been in Hermosa Beach for 41 years! The place reminded me of an old school red sauce joint—specifically, Bamonte’s in Williamsburg, which has been around for approximately 1,000 years and will still be standing after the apocalypse. We had a great time chatting and stuffing ourselves with pasta, and we managed to catch the Oscars Best Picture announcement on the entryway TV as we were leaving (Spotlight? Who saw that one coming?!).

On Monday morning we grabbed breakfast at  nearby diner called Good Stuff and then met my in-laws at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and spent a solid couple hours meandering and gawking at the exhibits. I’ve been to many aquariums, and this is one of the nicer ones.

I got to touch sharks and stingrays:

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Couldn’t resist having my picture taken with this amazing Underbite Shark Statue:

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And marveled at the stunning jellyfish:

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My favorite part of the aquarium visit was feeding the lorikeets, which, color-wise, reminded me of the Painted Bunting who graced Prospect Park with his presence last winter! It costs $3 per person to feed the lorikeets, and they give you a teeny plastic cup filled with a liquid that looks like coconut water. You curl your thumb and index finger around the cup and hold your arm out for the lorikeet to perch on. My husband and I each got to feed several of the birds this way! At one point I had two or three of them on me. One of them started pecking at the hair elastic on my wrist, and another hopped way up on my shoulder and started chirping really loudly in my ear, then nibbled on my earring to make sure I was listening.

The bird looks so proud of himself.

The bird looks so proud of himself.

Then he pooped on my cardigan and purse. I guess I asked for it. Anyway, I’d say…WORTH IT.  😛

Monday night was a fun catch-up dinner at The Wallace in Culver City with friends. I highly recommend this restaurant! It’s a shared plates style place, and everything we ordered was excellent. I particularly enjoyed the roasted beets, the charred broccolini, and the tomato and basil with parmesan cream and toast. The cocktails were great, too. I was too busy chatting and eating to take any photos, which is very unlike me!

On Tuesday morning, we got up and took a drive to Abalone Cove Shoreline Park in Rancho Palos Verdes to check out the tide pools, which I had read about in Buzzfeed’s article “18 Beautiful Places You Probably Didn’t Know Were In Los Angeles.” Along the way we stopped off at the breathtaking lookout point at the Palos Verdes Estates Cliffs.

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Not a terrible place to be.

When we arrived at Abalone Cove we hiked the short (~15 minute) but beautiful trail down to the rocky shoreline and over to the tide pools. It was low tide when we arrived, but the low tide wasn’t the lowest it could have been. We still managed to see some marine life—mostly snails, but also some hermit crabs, anemones, and this gorgeous purple sea urchin:

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More from this beautiful place:

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I felt so tiny at the base of the cliff.

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The rocks are slippery. Beware!

Tuesday afternoon we strolled around Hermosa Beach for a while even though it was overcast, and walked out to the tip of the pier to watch the fishermen reel in their catches. HB is pretty even when it’s really foggy out!

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Tuesday night was dinner with another group of friends at Manhattan Beach Post, another very popular seasonal shared plates restaurant. Their cheese plate was SO good! I was also really into the spinach, ricotta, and kale lasagna. Nice wine list, too, but you have to pay attention to what you’re ordering because some of the wines are as much as $25 per glass!

Wednesday morning was time to check out of the Airbnb and drive to our hotel in Palm Desert (about 30 minutes southeast of Palm Springs). After we had been in the car for just a few minutes I realized it would be a good time to see if there were any orchid nurseries along the way that we could stop off at—and Google Maps told me there were many! We ended up taking a short detour to Norman’s Orchids in Montclair, and you can read all about that visit over on my orchid blog.

That afternoon we checked in to the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, explored the large, well-maintained property, and unwound by the pool as the sun went down.

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That night I had a four cheese pizza at Rockwood Grill that totally hit the spot and my husband ate sushi at the lobby bar, and then we had drinks while chatting with a bunch of people staying at the hotel for a big manufacturing conference.

Thursday was POOL DAY! Finally, a day with zero prior engagements or required driving. We lubed up with sunblock and hunkered down under an umbrella by the quieter of the hotel’s two main pools. For some reason the hotel has decreed that guests enjoy listening to loud, annoying pop music while they’re relaxing by the pool. Fortunately we managed to find a spot where the sound from the speakers didn’t penetrate so much. I actually don’t find pool lounger chairs to be all that comfortable, so after awhile I went up to the room to take a nap in our big ass bed and then came back down for some more pool time and a sparkling sangria because VACATION.

There was a guy wandering the hotel property with a bird of prey perched on a big glove on his arm and a dog by his side, and because he looked completely out of place guests kept approaching him to ask questions. My husband and I ended up talking to him as well, and it turns out he’s a contractor who works at several local resorts to scare off the pesky birds that infiltrate the properties. He let me take a photo with Flash Gordon (last name pronounced French style, like Cordon bleu) the Harris Hawk:

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In case you can’t tell, I hopped right out of the pool to take this pic.

So that was my second bird encounter of the trip.  🙂

Thursday night we drove to Palm Springs for dinner and elected to eat at Blue Coyote Grill, which was delicious, no-frills Mexican food. We started to take a stroll after dinner and quickly came upon a large street fair (which apparently takes place every Thursday for most of the year), so we walked the length of that and back. I’m 99% sure I saw Rachel McAdams (Regina George!!) at the street fair. I’m also 100% sure I saw T-rex dancing to a street fair musician playing Justin Timberlake:

So…that was amazing.

Friday morning we got up and fueled ourselves with hotel Starbucks bagels, then got on the road and drove to Joshua Tree National Park. It was the first visit for both of us, and we really enjoyed getting out into nature. We went in through the south entrance and drove up through Pinto Basin, crossing over the point at which the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet (did you know that two deserts join up in Joshua Tree? I had no clue until we passed a sign!). We walked the short Cholla Cactus Garden trail, visited the Hall of Horrors rocks, and walked the mile-long Hidden Valley trail loop. Here are some of my favorite photos from our time in the park:

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Wide open spaces…

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Cholla cactus garden

Me + a Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree

Me + a Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree

On the Hidden Valley trail. No ranch dressing to be found, unfortunately.

On the Hidden Valley trail. No ranch dressing to be found, unfortunately.

Another shot of Hidden Valley

Another shot of Hidden Valley

We ended up spending about six hours in the car on our Joshua Tree adventures, so it was nap time when we got back to the hotel. We had dinner at Rockwood Grill again and turned in pretty early. National park exploration is exhausting, even when done mostly from a vehicle!

Saturday morning we checked out of the hotel and drove to The Parker in Palm Springs, where we had breakfast with my husband’s friends who happened to be staying there. The Parker is a trendy hotel with a 70’s kitschy-cool lobby. I mean…just look at this owl macrame wall:

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We had breakfast at Norma’s and then walked around the gorgeous hotel grounds. The pièce de résistance for me? The hotel has the same carpet from the Overlook Hotel hallways in The Shining. You guys, this is carpeteering heaven for a horror buff like me:

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O…M…G…

So that was a fun start to our last full day of vacation! And…on our drive back to Glendale, it began to rain. Precipitation in LA is like seeing a unicorn! I feel lucky we got to experience that.

On our final evening we had dinner with my in-laws at Joselito’s in Montrose, where we’ve been many times before. When my husband talks about the Mexican food he loved while growing up, this is the stuff he’s referring to. We went to bed really early because we had to get up at 3am to drive to LAX for our 6:30am flight, and when we woke up the power was out in the house and it was raining pretty steadily outside. Apparently LA got thunderstorms and hail later that day! Maybe we were the good luck charms.  🙂

Well, if you’ve made it this far I’m very impressed. I sort of write this type of post more as a travel log for myself but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and getting a peek at our vacation via my millions of photos!

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