Thursday, June 20, 2013

California Adventure – Part 2: Orange County & LA

This June, AJ and I had the opportunity to take our first trip together since before Kai was born so we decided to go big and do 2 weeks in California! We planned a jam-packed trip that would let us see nearly everything Cali has to offer - the road trip of a lifetime. If you missed it, you can check out Part 1: Seattle here.


We set Monday aside to spend with our Orange County hosts, Paula and Shoubert who promptly took us to the ocean. We visited Dana Point then got our feet in the water at Laguna Beach. There's not much better than standing in the sun and having the ocean wash up onto your feet. We walked around the cute little town for awhile and had some lunch before Shoubert and Paula went home to pick up their daughter from school.

Laguna Beach
Already falling for Orange County
AJ and I continued north to Balboa Island at their suggestion and came upon this sleepy little village that seemed like the set of a movie, it was so quiet. Turns out we turned in one street too soon and went into Balboa retirement residence essentially. We didn't find out until we got back to our host home. We all had a good laugh.

On our way to LA, we stopped at Huntington Beach and walked along the pier, then onto Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. We stopped at the chic TESLA retail store that seemed more like an American Apparel than a car dealership and a couple other shops along the way.

The plan was to go to the red carpet premiere of the movie This Is The End in Hollywood, hoping to have a few star sightings. This did not pan out as traffic was awful and there was no parking under $30 to be found, so we scrapped that plan and headed to the Santa Monica Pier for sunset. The actual carnival area was cool, but much more enjoyable from the shore with our feet in the water, watching kids play in the waves as the sun went down.

We stopped at In & Out on the way back down to Mission Viejo for some off-menu meals. For a non-burger eater, it wasn't that exciting, but man is it cheap.

2 by 4 extra crispy, animal style
Days 2 and 3 were set aside for some serious LA sightseeing. On Tuesday we headed to the city and realized what everyone means when they talk about LA traffic. We didn't have time to do nearly as much as we wanted. BUT, we did make a very important stop, just north of Hollywood – the site of The Office! The actual exterior building that we all know and love is where they tape the outdoor and warehouse scenes and next door is the soundstage for the show. Of course, the series is over, so everything is cleared out and you can't get inside, but, as we were standing at the gate, a guy came out. Turns out it's the guy who runs this particular site and he's the one who gets everything ready for taping and he was able to tell us all kinds of stories about the cast and the show. For example, Steve Carell requires the set to be about 55 degrees Fahrenheit so he doesn't overheat. You can't plan this stuff!

In my Dunder Mifflin shirt at The Office!
Next door where the show is actually taped
For lunch, we looked at LA's handy food truck map and ended up at the Grilled Cheese truck. Dozens of types of grilled cheese stuffed with ribs, bacon and tons of cheese flavours...and my pick, the Mac & cheese grilled cheese. OMG.

For the afternoon, we had a few tickets to different show tapings, but settled on a sitcom we'd never heard of, Sullivan & Son. The show itself was pretty average, but it was cool to see how they filmed in front of a live audience. A few times they stopped and re-did a scene, changing the dialogue slightly. We found out later that if the audience doesn't laugh at a joke, they cut, quickly re-write it and shoot it again until they get the desired reaction. Stuff like that is the reason I wanted to see LA, it's so interesting. Mike from Mike & Molly and Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres also guest starred, so that was kind of cool. I'm 100% sure that AJ was the only one in the audience who recognized Ryan Miller. So Canadian.

We went back to Paula & Shoubert's for a late dinner and to watch the season finale of Revolution before bed.

The next day was packed, but we made sure we left ourselves time for the LA traffic so we were up pretty early. The first stop ended up being one of my favourite parts of the whole trip – the Warner Brothers studio tour.

Our group of 12 rode a tram with a tour guide through the studio lot. Most shows are on hiatus for the summer, which was actually good for us because we were able to go into more places than usually. Pretty Little Liars was going to tape the afternoon we were there, so we saw a ton of sets for that show, which was cool despite me having never seen the show. We also saw the sets of The Mentalist and Mike and Molly (no photos in any of these sets), plus they're extensive props house that has everything from US wall seals, statues, peel up flooring and lighting fixtures. Even other studios use their prop house.

Leonard & Sheldon's apartment facade – remember
when Sheldon was chased down the street by the dog?
This was the centre of town in Gilmore Girls,
just picture the gazebo. Now it's the town in
Pretty Little Liars.
Luke's diner from Gilmore Girls
Currently the high school in PLL, but it was also the
Rosewood police precinct in Rebel Without A Cause
Miss Patty's dance studio – Gilmore Girls
Howards space shuttle from the Big Bang Theory.
Several Batmobiles and the car Harry Potter crashed were also here.
We saw Peter Billingsly along the way who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story and also produced Iron Man. Near the end of the tour, we stopped at a little museum that houses costumes from many of their movies and has a top floor dedicated to Harry Potter. AJ and I got to sit on a stool and put on the Harry Potter sorting hat! A voice from above announced that I'm a Hufflepuff and AJ is a Weasley and should be in Gryffindor. Awesome.

And then our tour guide took us to another set that is permanent because there's no way to re-use it without it being recognizable...

Central Perk
I thought my jaw might actually have dropped. I didn't expect to see this, almost 10 years after it went off the air. I was so excited. And then our tour guide asked if we wanted to sit on the couch. Um, yes please.

That's me. On the Friends couch.
Perhaps I shouldn't have been so excited about sitting on the couch from a fictional show, but this was a huge highlight from the entire trip.

We probably saw a couple other things, but I was in a daze. The tour ended and several food trucks were waiting for us so we enjoyed Smokin' Willie's BBQ food truck before heading to Griffith Observatory. It's a beautiful place with a view of the Hollywood sign and the entire city. So peaceful compared to the rest of the city.

Back down to the hustle and bustle of Hollywood to visit the big tourist spots – Hollywood & Highland Center, Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theater, Dolby Theater (the Oscar's are in a mall??) and the Capitol Records building.

Muppet of a man
Grauman's Chinese Theater
Just me and Matt Damon
I have to say, downtown Hollywood wasn't my favourite place. Don't get me wrong, it was cool to see such famous sights, but there were so many people vying for attention, in costumes, with pamphlets, it was a bit too much. I'm glad I saw that stuff, but once was probably enough.

That night we went to the LA Dodgers game. Ironically, they were playing the San Diego Padres, who we had plans to see the next week. Dodgers Stadium is so famous and the team has such a rich history, we were really looking forward to the stadium. Honestly though, it was pretty average. The age of the stadium could have been really nostalgic, but it lacked personality. They just had the generic snack booths everywhere and not much in the way of history. Too bad. But it's still baseball and we had a great time watching the game.

Dodgers Stadium at dusk
And that concludes the Orange County and Los Angeles portion of our trip.

Next: Yosemite National Park


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