View of the Pacific Ocean from Manhattan Beach

2023 California Vacation Part 1

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography, Travel | 0

Back in May, Holly and I took another trip to California, mainly back to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Although we enjoyed all our visits there, this one might have been the most enjoyable yet, despite a major interruption come Day 4. But more about that later.

I already wrote about our general plans and my camera plans. A key part of our plans was to not fly from Philadelphia to Monterey on the same day, which would involve a connection. Instead, we decided on a direct flight to Los Angeles to spend a few days there before taking another direct flight from Los Angeles to Monterey where we would pick up a rental car and then drive to Carmel. We had done something similar last year when we went to Phoenix for a couple of days before the Monterey County part of our vacation.

Despite all the planning and anticipation, the actual 1st day of vacation somewhat sneaked up on me, partly due to having been busy at work. But the reality of vacation sunk in quickly. As soon as I logged off work the night before, my brain let it all go which is unusual. Normally, it takes me a while to get out of work mode. Not this year for whatever reason.

Day One (Thursday)

As we had done last year, we started our travel day by having breakfast at Café Lutecia, one of our favorite neighborhood places. It’s just a few blocks from our apartment so it was nice to soak up a little of our neighborhood before being away a couple of weeks.

After breakfast, we stopped at Di Bruno Bros. to get some snacks for the plane. One of the many convenient things about not going straight through to Monterey is that we don’t have to get up early to catch a flight that needed to connect somewhere else. Our flight to Los Angeles wasn’t until nearly 2:00 pm so we had plenty of time for a nice breakfast and to run our snack errand.

We took the train to the airport and neither the train nor the airport was crowded. We got through security quickly and made it to our gate in plenty of time. Our flight left on time, and we arrived at LAX around 4:40 pm. One thing we hadn’t considered was that we’d be getting to Los Angeles at rush hour. We got a cab at the airport and hit a lot of traffic on our way to our hotel. Our cab driver was really good and wasn’t stressed about all the traffic. We were able to just sit back, relax, and patiently wait to get to the hotel despite really wanting to get to our room and put our travel behind us.

We stayed at the Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles which is a cool, old hotel and quite lovely inside.

We took much needed showers after the long flight and headed out for dinner.
Holly had a conference scheduled for spring of 2020 which, for an obvious reason, had been canceled. I had planned to tag along and do some sightseeing. At the time, she compiled a list of restaurants and things to do which came in handy this trip. One restaurant that was high on her list, Bar Amá had, thankfully, survived the pandemic.

Our meal was fantastic. They had some tasty vegan and vegetarian options which we took advantage of. It was nice starting our vacation with something healthy-ish knowing that we’d be eating out for the next couple weeks. We shared 3 dishes: the Vegan Queso, the Sweet Potato Mole Dorados, and the Mushroom Birria.

Although I really enjoyed our 1st dinner of our trip, I was exhausted from our long day and the time change. I would have loved to have revisited Bar Amá under better circumstances, but we had other places in mind as well.

Day Two (Friday)

We wanted to be downtown so we could be close to things to do and places to eat. One place on Holly’s list was Grand Central Market. As it turned out, we were very glad to be staying only a few blocks away because we loved it so much we went several times during our brief stay in LA.

Grand Central Market is an indoor market with 35 or so different food vendors. It’s similar to Reading Terminal Market here in Philadelphia except that Reading Terminal has more grocery stands and more vendors selling things other than food. Grand Central Market mainly has vendors with prepared food. It’s also bigger than Reading Terminal so there’s more room to walk and it has large garage doors on either side that open up. They also have outdoor seating which Reading Terminal does not.

On that first morning, we had breakfast from The Donut Man. Holly had been to the original one in Glendora, CA, but it was a 1st for me at any location. We both got the strawberry donuts which were overstuffed with strawberries and absolutely delicious.

After breakfast, we walked around downtown. I took A LOT of photos, finishing a roll of Lomography Color 400 in my recently purchased Rollei Giro 105 and a roll of Kodak Pro Image with my Minolta X-700 and my recently purchased Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5 lens. I took so many photos that I have a separate post for both the Rollei photos and the Minolta photos.

We also walked by the Walt Disney Concert Hall which is another amazing building and the Angels Flight Railway which is a funicular that runs down one steep block. I took film photos of each but couldn’t resist also taking some with my Samsung Galaxy S9+.

After our walk, we went to The Broad Museum which was excellent. The outside of the building is amazing on its own. As with the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Angels Flight Railway, I took both film photos and pictures with my phone camera.

The collection features mainly modern and contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Cecily Brown, Kara Walker, Jean‐Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, among many others.

After the museum, it was time for more walking. We were in need for lunch and headed to Sonoratown for a simple but wonderful bean and cheese burritos. We each had 1 but quickly decided we needed a 2nd round.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at Grand Central Market for beer at Golden Road Brewing. After a long day of walking, sitting down for a beer felt wonderful. It was early afternoon, and we felt the joy of day drinking at a time when we’d usually be working.

We then had a little time back in our room to shower and relax before heading out with a couple of friends we knew from back in the day when I lived in Las Vegas. The husband of the couple picked us up at our hotel and drove us to their house in Hawthorne. We hung out their briefly before taking an Uber to Manhattan Beach where we got the first of our many vacation views of the Pacific Ocean.

We were treated to a lovely dinner at The Strand House with its ocean view. It was great catching up with them. We hadn’t seen them since they visited Philadelphia in 2016.

They had plans to see The English Beat that night at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach and invited us along. We wanted to hang out with them longer so decided to go. I’m not a huge fan of The English Beat but know and like a few of their songs so knew we would enjoy the show.

We were out later than is our habit, but we were still on east coast time and were able to manage.

It was a long and tiring first full day but definitely a fun one.

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