California Adventure – Anaheim, California

I am old enough to remember a time when the California Adventure park in Anaheim California was a parking lot. Literally it was, we parked in it once. Now its a neighboring park to Disneyland, and you can buy a ticket that will get you into both parks in the same day.  The park boasts slightly more grownup rides than the Disneyland site but does still pack in plenty of kiddie things, including my favorite The Little Mermaid Ride.

I have much fewer memories of this park, as it is relatively new. I at least feel like it is new, but I did just look up the open date which was 2001. 17 years ago?! That was a big year for me, but I don’t recall at the time the opening of this park being front and center in my mind. I do however recall my parents going to Disneyland for the first time that year without me and telling me that there was a new park that they visited and “boy was it fun” said they, while their daughter was busy studying in college. Alas education first, and I have since had the chance to visit plenty of times and I do love it.

As far as real estate goes it is a much larger park, the walk ways are wider and there is more space in the waiting areas. It tends to lend itself to a much more relaxed less frantic atmosphere than Disneyland. We often get park hoper tickets when we go and skip over to California Adventure when the afternoon crowds start to get the best of us. But for all intents and purposes it is just as well executed as Disneyland. Rather than the sole focus on cartoon characters California Adventure celebrates the adventurous spirit of the state, while still managing to stay true to its brand. I really can’t say enough good things about either park. If you find your self having to decide between one or the other I would just do your research because they are both equally fun, but in very different ways. But either way you are sure to have a blast, we always do.

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Edgefield Hotel – Troutdale, Oregon

You all already know my feeling on concerts. I mostly dislike them. But if I can sit, and sit outside while we are making demands then I mostly don’t mind them. The Oregon Zoo has a nice summer concert series  which I enjoy. But in my opinion the best venue in the Portland area is the Edgefield Hotel.

The Edgefield Hotel is much more than just a concert venue. It is, as surmised by the name first and foremost a hotel. It also includes a winery, a brewery, a spa, a golf course, a movie theater, and includes several bars and restaurants all on property. The property a former poor farm was bought and restored by the McMenamins company and has been operational for more than a couple decades now.

The summer concert series that they host are some of the most popular in the area and sell out quickly. And the venue is so popular people generally book hotel stays nearly a year in advance of the concert schedule being published on the off chance that a coveted band will happen to be playing that night.

This last summer I went to see Blonde and Garbage both of which were quite fun. But as it is with cell phone photos, the zoom isn’t stellar so none of the picture turned out very well.

I have in the past had the pleasure of seeing some of my favorite bands while sitting outdoors in the large lawn, munching on pizza and ice cream from the food and drink vendors inside the concert area. All in all if you are a concert goer, or even if you are not like myself I would highly recommend the experience.

Tocaya – Los Angeles, California

You know when you travel how your schedule gets off and you just start to feel icky. Then on top of the schedule your eating is off because you don’t have your kitchen, your stores, your meal prep and you start to feel more off. I almost immediately start to feel like that. I LOVE food, all kinds, but my system seems to prefer simple unfussy foods. Mostly veggies, no sauces, simple fats and lean protein. This can be very hard to find when traveling, less so on the West Coast but still a challenge.

I was so pleased to find Tocaya on Sunset Blvd, right down the street from where we were staying. It is a build your own food type of place, mostly in theme of Tex-Mex but with the typical SoCal organic flair. I can take or leave the organic thing, but I did very much appreciate the simplicity of the food and the ability to add what I wanted and nothing more.

I ate here more than once in three days, I loved the outdoor seating. Cannot pass up the chance to sit outside in the mild California weather. And the food always left me feeling satisfied but not weighed down. Sword Fish salad for the win, olive oil dressing, simple greens, manchago cheese and mixed fruits/nuts. Perfection.

La Conversation – Los Angeles, California 

During my recent trip to Los Angeles I mentioned that I was mostly on foot. Which meant long days of a lot of walking. One such day wound up being 12 miles in total, I had intended to just walk to Greystone Mansion and back but as luck (and lack of planning) would have it I wound up at the mansion three hours before it actually opened. So I chose to hit the bricks and explore the area and if I could find a place to grab breakfast. I wandered around Beverly Hills for a while leering at beautiful homes.

I started to get hungry so I looked up a coffee shop, I wasn’t thrilled with my options there was a Starbucks or a extremely popular local place both still about a mile off.  I toyed with the idea of just not eating but that seemed unwise. So I chose the local spot and headed in that direction. About a half a mile later I walked passed a small store front that just said ‘cafe’ on the awning. I was REALLY hungry at this point so I popped in.

The cafe’s name, La Conversation, I eventually figured out was a really excellent last minute choice. The wait staff sat me right away, at my choice of table. The coffee was delicious and strong. The menu had a lot of really great healthy options without being terribly unsavory (no green juice or other non-food foods). I settled in and enjoyed a leisurely brunch in this heavily antiqued restaurant.

I ended up wishing that I had more time in LA and more time at this end of the Sunset so that I could have gone back, but our time there was limited and I never got the chance to return. Hopefully in the future we will make our way back and I can revisit this charming little shop. Should you chose to give it a go, La Conversation can be found at  638 N. Doheny Drive West Hollywood, CA  90069.

Sunset Blvd – Los Angeles, California

Back in June of last year as I have mentioned in the previous few posts we were in LA for a part work part play trip. We were also lucky enough to stay with extended family rather than the hotel my husbands office wanted to put us up in.

So while we was off working for half the week (with our rental car) I was on foot. Luckily the house we were fortunate enough to stay in was in a nice part of town and near some pretty  fabulous areas to walk, the Sunset strip being one of them.

The strip, long famous for its night clubs such as the Viper Room, is still packed with venues of all sorts. But the streets are clean, the sidewalks wide and it is dotted with shops, countless restaurants, and plenty of watering holes if you fancy yourself a drink.

I spent a couple days walking around the area, one day I walked east and found myself down at the Farifax Farmers Market. And another day I walked west and found myself on palm lined streets of Beverly Hills.

My favorite spot to stop was of course the book store called Book Soup which famously takes its name from the Groucho Marx movie Duck Soup. I went to the store more than once, wandering around the winding stacks. I never did quite figure out their system. There was certainly a fiction section in the center of the store. Off to the right seemed to be books on California and celebrity biographies. Where as the left offered up art books of all kinds. I didn’t buy any books as I was already toting three library books with me, but I bought some fabulous cards to send to some friends in the upcoming months.

Needless to say, whether you are a person who likes urban hiking like myself or if you would rather tour via a tour bus. Or anything in between, I think the Sunset Strip is well worth exploration while in Los Angeles. There is a lot of see, a lot to eat and plenty of opportunities to see filming locations or possible celebrity sightings.

Fairifax Farmers Market – Los Angeles, California

On yet another ridiculously sunny solo day in LA, I had my husband drop me off at the Farifax Farmers Market on his way to the office. The problem with this plan was that it was sunny.  While I cut my walk in half by getting dropped off, a plan that involves a place to walk around as entertainment and requires a six miles walk back was not my best. But nerveless I did it, and loved it. I returned to our lodging only sightly sun burnt and mildly dehydrated.  I don’t know if you know this, but there is NO shade in LA. And the sun shines ALL the time.

The Fairifax Farmers Market, also known at The Original Farmers Market was established in 1934 as a village area for local farmers to sell their goods. I could regurgitate all the info here or just let you go to the market website and learn all about it. It has a fascinating history and has historically be a place where many stars have been spotted picking up local products. The market is enormous and provides an endless maze of fascinating and delicious ingredients as well as hot take away foods.  I am a terrible judge of distances, but it seemed around the same size at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

The market is also adjacent to The Grove a popular retain destination in the area, which also hosts a number of celebrity regulars. I did not see any while I was there. I did however spend way too much time wandering around the shady produce stalls trying to decide what to buy. Due to my lack of planning the entire endeavor I forgot that I would be carry by hand back anything I purchased so I had to be a bit more discerning that I would have liked. For example buying everyone I knew a bottle of hot sauce from this incredibly vendor would not be my favorite choice after mile two.

 

I landed on small but mighty choices from Monsieur Marcel. Cheese, crackers and cherry paste. I shoved them in my bag and started the long trek back. Making stops, of course because why would I remember I had to carry everything back, at the Grove, various second hand shops and a Frozen Yogurt shop about halfway through. When I returned, finally I took a shower, and set myself up in the shade to devour my goodies. Have you ever had these crackers from The Fine Cheese Company? They are incredible and I cannot find them anywhere locally.

Hi SociTea – Los Angeles, California

The second thing I did on my solo day on Hollywood Blvd,  very busy, very touristy street was have tea.  There is a lot to do on this street from famous theaters, to driving tours of film sites to more than one wax museum. It is the walk of the stars with anything and everything you could want to do with movies. And I love that, because I love movies. But I also love being in quiet places and recharging. I also love tea.

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My goal was to find a high tea service where I could relax and spend a couple hours reading. During my research I found a lot of highly recommended places, mostly hotels with Sunday only service. This is fairly common so I was neither surprised or disappointed.

Finally after a lot of searching I found a place called Hi SociTea that shares the building with the W Hotel just off Hollywood Blvd. I must repeat that is shares the building with the hotel, for all my research it looked like the tea bar was in the hotel. Which it is not, so says the concierge at the W Hotel who was real confused about what I was asking for.

Having finally located the entrance I was pleasantly greeted by dark navy walls, high windows, friendly service and more tea choices than I new what to do with. I settled on a ginger roobis, which was the best roobis I have ever had. I went back and fourth trying to decide if I wanted the full tea service, which was what I had originally came for. But despite being on my feet all day I wasn’t terribly hungry. After waffling for a good 5 minutes and asking the very patient server a million questions I settled on just the tea and a Scottish Salmon Sandwich.

The sandwich was heaven. Sourdough bread, lox, lemon, capers…there are no words. I sat in the window watching people come and go chatting with the two employees while I devoured my tea and sandwich. I learned that they are planning on expanding into the building and will have more tables in the near future. And that their full tea service will continue to be available every day of the week. Though if you are like me and decide it is too much food you can always order anything off the full menu piece meal.

I officially loved everything about this place, and am sad that it doesn’t live in Oregon. I would go every single day. I am not kidding.

Gem Creole Saloon – McMinville, Oregon

I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans in 2017, but before that happened I had been craving good creole food (let’s be honest I am ALWAYS craving creole food). It’s not common in the pacific northwest. There are plenty of restaurants that claim to have it, but most fall fairly short in my opinion. If you find yourself in a similar situation in Portland proper Miss Delta on Mississippi Ave or her predecessor and slightly dive-ier cousin The Delta Cafe  on Woodstock are my go-to places. I promise eventually I will get around to writing up reviews. Which means I have to visit and eat at both again. I am not in the least bit sorry about this.

But this is not about those restaurants, this is about a new restaurant. New to me and new to the valley area, Gem. I discovered it on accident, a very happy accident indeed. One day wandering around McMinville Oregon wishing I could find some decent cheesy grits. And then right there in front of me was a lovely little restaurant with cheesy grits on the menu.

The interior is very purple and gold. VERY. Which makes sense as those are two of the three official colors of Mardi Gras.  It was quiet (blissfully), the service was prompt (even better) and the food was hot and delicious.  We were given a nice table by the window to watch all the happy people wander around in the sun (a rarity for that time of year here).

We ordered many (most) of the appetizers, giddy to get to try some long craved goodies. They did not disappoint. The grits were the best I have had outside of the south. Just thinking about it is making me want to go back. I wonder how they would feel if I ordered ALL the grits to go? Fried Okra, Hush Puppies and Fries were of course also incredible.

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Gem is situated next to  La Rambla (my favorite Spanish restaurant in the states) at 236 NE Third Street in McMinville Oregon.

Parlour – Minneapolis, Minnesota

I have mentioned my love of hamburgers many times over. And I have also probably mentioned I am not terribly discriminatory either. As long as it is totally not wretched I will enjoy it. But there is one hamburger that will live in infamy that all others are held up to, Au Cheval in Chicago. This is not about that burger, but it comes pretty dang close.

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Knowing my love of hamburgers and old fashioned a good friend and co-worker insisted on taking me to Parlour the lower level bar of the rather nice dining establishment Borough.

I was sold the second I walked in. The sub-street level establishment is somehow richly but simplistically decorated in leather and dark teal velvet, the open beams and concrete walls make for a prefect after work vibe.

We started out with the Pineapple Bacon Popcorn, which caused much debate for the rest of the week as no one could quite figure out how they managed to make popcorn taste exactly like pineapple without making it soggy. They did it and it was incredible and somehow (though not surprisingly) we managed to order more as the night progressed.

We also all started with their Old Fashions which matched those served at Au Cheval, one down before our burgers even came. Burgers were consumed, fries were consumed. The burgers as I said were a close second to Au Cheval if not a tie. It’s hard to tell without a side by side.

Shortly after burgers and a round of old fashions things got out of hand. Single old fashions turned into too many old fashions and somehow a member of our party got talked into eating 5 burgers in an attempt to impress the waitress. Needless to say the waitress was neither impressed nor single as it turned out. And only 4.5 burgers were finished by the challenged. When midnight rolled around and he taped out the rest of us descended on the remaining burger like vultures before we skipped on home for the evening.

All in all it was one of the best nights I have had in the Minneapolis area and would highly suggest stopping in if you are looking for a casual night out. The restaurant and bar are both clean, the wait staff friendly and helpful and the food and drinks were clearly superb.

Pike Road – Carlton, Oregon

Let me start of by saying I am totally biased. Oregon has the best wine tasting in the country. It probably mostly has to do with the fact that I can drive 10 minutes in any direction and hit a winery. And a lot to do with the fact that for now at least, it is not a horribly expensive outing.

Last summer for a town event I visited a new tasting room in one of my favorite small towns. The winery/tasting room being Pike Road, the town being Carlton. Carlton is known locally for producing the best pork that is distributed farm to table style to most restaurants in the area. But it also happens to be one of my favorite places to spent an evening.

Pike Road is a somewhat new addition to the town located in an old bank building, the vault which is still in use stores the wine bottles. The manager was pouring for us the night we were there. An extraordinarily kind and knowledgeable man who gave us the history of the winery, the sustainable practices they continue to maintain, the types of grapes and fermenting used to create their unique wines. I don’t think I have ever walked away from a tasting with more information and the wines we outstanding.