At the beginning of December I flew down to Orange County to visit one of my favorite people, Shawn, and while down there we swung up to LA for a couple days to see a couple other favorites, Ian and Charlotte. In Orange County we first took it easy in the city of Orange, just perusing antique stores, eating Cuban food and drinking Italian coffee, and picking up some artisan beer to enjoy later. We strolled along the beach in San Clemente, catching up on life and sharing the highlights of our most recent year abroad, and got cocktails on the water in Laguna Beach. We also hung out with his very sweet parents, who treated me to Mexican and filled me in on the latest happenings on Survivor and X-Factor as we watched that week's episodes together.
Then Shawn and I braved the traffic and bad weather to head up to LA. It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of the city, but every time I go my friends try to show me something new to appreciate. Our theme song for the drive was Cherrelle's Saturday Love, which came on the radio multiple times. We're going to add it to the repertoire of our throw-back cover band.
The first day there Shawn permitted me to do the touristy thing, so we visited the Grove mall (where it magically snows for Christmas and there's a really cool international food market), Rodeo Drive (where I strode into Ferragamo to check out shoes and Shawn duteously waited outside), and also the prominent Beverly Wilshire (think Pretty Woman) and Beverly Hills hotels.
The rest of our time we spent with Ian and Charlotte (although not always at the same time), and Ian was sweet enough to offer up his place for us to stay. With Charlotte the first night we went to Japan Town for a delicious noodle dinner and then to a couple really unique bars downtown. It's amazing to go from living with someone and seeing them on the daily to just once or twice a year, but the reunions are always so much fun!
The next morning we, including Char's boyfriend, Josh, and another Bologna study abroad friend, Mikaela, who was also visiting for the weekend, all got together for breakfast. I ate such a unique take on Eggs Benedict, with wild boar bacon and fennel-infused hollandaise sauce. At the table, the guys whipped out their Ray-Bans to compare.
After, we drove up to the Griffith Observatory, which had been my main request for LA that weekend since I'd never been. It had a great vantage point of the city, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around the benefits of having an observatory in the bright, polluted skies of LA. I mean, the place is star-studded for sure, but the ones in the sky might as well be hidden behind tinted windows and VIP rope like those ones on the ground.
That afternoon, in between fancy coffee and more snacks, we went to the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burbank to try to see Michael Jackson's grave. Yes, I realize this is a strange thing to do, but Shawn and I had driven past the cemetery so many times and consistently commented about how neat it would be to try to visit him. We knew that his gravesite was private and that we probably wouldn't be able to see anything and certainly wouldn't be permitted to enter, but we wanted to try to get close and pay our respects. Plus, there are many other well-known celebrities buried at Forest Lawn. What we didn't know is that there is more than one Forest Lawn, and MJ resides at the Glendale site! So we strolled around anyway and managed to find the graves of Bette Davis, Stan Laurel (from the comedy duo Laurel & Hardy), and Liberace. It was certainly a unique experience!
On our last day, we wanted to get breakfast with Char and Josh in Pasadena. Char was house sitting for friends, and we had debated either going to a restaurant in town or just going over to eat at the house where she was staying. That morning, when I called her and asked where she'd like to meet, she said, "Let's just do Mike and Anne's." Me, assuming those were the names of the couple who own the house she was staying in, said, "Great, can I bring anything?" Char seemed really confused and said, "No..." and then out of curiosity, "...well, like what?" I thought I was just being polite and it wasn't a weird offer at all but let it go, and then she asked what time we could be there. I told her that we'd leave in a few minutes and just get there when we get there, since I don't know how long it takes to get places. She really wanted to set a time which I found ridiculous, so I asked, "What, you're not there already?" To which she replied surprisedly, "Uh...no!" Finally, after much apparent confusion on both sides, I get off the phone and Shawn tells me, "Mike & Anne's is the restaurant in Pasadena." What a good laugh we had over that one, let me tell you.
So after a delicious breakfast with Char and Josh (I had Red Flannel Hash with beets, bacon, and red potatoes, yummers), Shawn and I decided to go to the Norton Simon Museum instead of heading straight back to San Clemente. The amazing thing about the museum is that the collection was completely privately-acquired, all by a man who didn't discover art until his 40s and then jumped in head-first. Among my favorites were the Picassos, Van Goghs, and an extensive variety of Degas, particularly his sculptures. There was also a fascinating collection of Asian art, which Shawn particularly enjoyed.
Putting aside the shallowness, the traffic, and the name-dropping, LA showed me a lot of its beauty that weekend: great art, delicious dining, and most importantly, good friends. I'm always sad to leave those guys...until next time!