Friday, November 2, 2012

The City of Angels & Santa Monica

I'll be honest. I have never really liked California. Don' t hate me. Hear me out. This was mostly based off my experiences in the southern part of the state. As may NorCal folks have been quick to tell me, this may have been part of my problem. Granted, the majority of my time spent in California involved Disneyland, with the exceptions of driving through to Vegas one spring break, a few days in Santa Cruz, visiting colleges (Pepperdine & UCLA) with dad and a senior trip to San Diego with girlfriends. Don't get me wrong, I freaking love Disneyland, the 101 is way better than Interstate 5 if you have the time, Malibu is gorgeous and San Diego is definitely fun. The thing is, I just never felt connected with it. It's a wonderful, beautiful place to visit, but I am not really a big city girl and California has so many people. So many, in fact, the population of the entire state of Oregon is equal to the number of people smushed into the city of Los Angeles. Portland is big enough for me. I can only take so much concrete, buildings, smog and traffic. People are important to me and I always felt like everyone in SoCal was in a such a hurry, in-genuine and more materialistic than I am used to in the Pacific NW. I even lumped NorCal into this idea, until my recent time spent in San Francisco and Monterey. These were just my observations from my small, limited sample size...again, prior to this trip.

My incredible friend, Jo, grew up in LA. (This is the same Jo who met us in San Francisco the prior weekend.) She was kind enough to host Cara and I the day before our flight to Lima. I don't think I know that I do not understand how long it takes to get around LA. I just cannot grasp how it can take so long to get from point A to point B when they are only miles apart. It's madness. I can remember looking out the window of a car when I was younger and seeing the interstates weaving on top of one another, 5, 6 and 7 lanes wide in one direction. I am fairly certain there is no interstate in Oregon wider than 3 lanes going one way right now. Los Angeles just overwhelms me.

Anyway, we had less than 24 hours after we landed in LAX from Oakland before we had to get back to the airport to fly to Lima. We crammed a lot in and it was a perfect last day in the United States for 9 months. Being that admission was dirt cheap and none of us had ever seen a space shuttle before, we concluded that heading downtown to the California Science Center to see the space shuttle Endeavor was our best option.

We explored the California Science Center for a little while beforehand since we had some time to kill before our designated slot to view the space shuttle. It is free admission to explore the interactive exhibits of the California Science Center, which I think is awesome. Although, you can tell it is older (late 80s) in comparison to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), I think most of the exhibits are still very relevant, some of the video is just dated.

Before actually getting to the viewing area where the shuttle is, you walk through a large u-shaped exhibit called The California Story, displaying the history of the Endeavor in many forms. There are videos to watch, posters to read, the actual tires to touch, astronaut belongings and photos of the Endeavor's physical transport across Los Angeles. I really enjoyed looking at all of this prior to viewing the Endeavor. Touching the tires may be as close I as ever get to space germs.

Finally, it was our time to line up to enter the Samuel Oschin Pavilon exhibit. This is the temporary home for the shuttle for the next 5 years, until enough funds are raised to build a museum for it, where it will be on display in its vertical position. When we walked into the hanger, I was surprised at how big the space shuttle was, although I'm not sure how large I thought it would be, it was enormous. Again, there was an abundance of information to read posted around the edge of the building, as well as near the shuttle itself. In case you were curious, it flew 25 missions in 10 years, from 1992 to 2012.

The Endeavor's good side, a view of the 3 space shuttle main engines (SSMEs).

Here we have an actual rocket booster. Working with the 3 (SSMEs) in the picture above, they are powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which propel the shuttle from the launch pad into orbit with over 1.5 million pounds of thrust in just over 8 minutes.

Anyone else find this odd? A cut, that's all it takes for an emergency rescue? Seems way too easy!

Over 23,000 ceramic tiles that make up the Thermal Protective System cover the entire surface of the Endeavor. These tiles protect the space shuttle from the extreme heat (3000 degrees Fahrenheit) upon reentry into the earth's atmosphere as well as the extreme hot and cold temperatures in outer space. They vary in size and I read cost up to thousands of dollars a piece. Without these tiles, the shuttle would be destroyed.

If you have a chance now, make it a point to go check out the Endeavor. This was easily the best $2 I have spent in a very long time. I know it won't stay this cheap forever, especially once it has its own home, but even then, it is definitely worth going to see and learn about.

After our space high, we were hungry and upon Jo's recommendation, we headed to Phillipe's, home of the original French Dip. I love French Dips and was even more excited to check out this iconic restaurant with a sweet sign.

When my mom makes French Dip sandwiches, we (shockingly, I know) dip our roast beef sandwiches in the au jus sauce. After ordering from one of the dozens of lines, I watched the lady dunk the entire top piece of bread in the au jus sauce before assembling the sandwich. This is either how it was originally done or their way of minimizing waste of the tasty sauce. Regardless, the sandwich was scrumptious, perfectly complimented by macaroni salad and lemonade.

Next, we headed out to Santa Monica to relax on the beach, which didn't look like it was going to be very hard to accomplish.

It was my first time in Santa Monica and I just loved it. We drove out on the pier and parked. It was a beautiful, quiet afternoon and we walked out to the end of the pier to enjoy the ocean view.

Then, we grabbed a funnel cake, walked through the boardwalk rides and down onto the beach to enjoy the treat while the sun set.

This guy was very interested in our sugary plate. I was not a fan of him, which didn't seem to be a deterrent.

Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to the beach without getting my toes wet.

I get it. I finally get where the redemption is from the chaos and turmoil of the city. This is where you come to escape.

I still don't think I could live in, or even near LA, but I am starting to see how people do.

For dinner, we headed up to the 3rd Street Promenade and ate at The Misfit Bar, a stunning bar with fixtures circa somewhere near the 1920s, complete with an original floor to ceiling apothecary cabinet. Although we each ordered our own plate, we ended up basically sharing the bistro steak salad, baked mac & cheese and the ahi tuna burger without disappointment. Our waitress was fantastic. Oh, and I experienced my first celebrity siting in public: Cuba Gooding Jr. Our table faced the bar and he was right behind us for most of dinner. No big deal. Remember how I just mentioned how fantastic our waitress was? She even brought us dessert, on the house: gelato and sea salt chocolate chip cookies. To. Die. For.

After dinner our last stop was Diddy Riese, the one and only famous ice cream cookie sandwich shop on UCLA's campus. I was so full from dinner and (free!) dessert already but just had to try one of the ice cream sandwiches Jo has raved about since our college days...and now I know why.

Just like that, 20 hours later, our time in LA was up. Obviously, there is loads more to do in LA. Today wasn't about how much we saw or didn't see, but a wonderful mix of food, relaxation and time with a dear friend. Thanks for showing me your good side LA, however, I still couldn't stand seeing the Lakers billboards every day.

What are your favorite spots in Los Angeles? I'll be coming back through on my way home in July and would love to add a few more places to check out next time around.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely loved being with you and Cara for 20 hours. Ah, I miss you oh so much and cannot wait until your return to the good ol' USA. Loved every bit of your post (save your knock of Laker billboards). Mallo, you are the best. Love you!


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