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.

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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.

Museum of Death – Los Angeles, California 

I am going to start out my Los Angeles series on a bit of a downer, well at least a downer if you aren’t at all interested in the macabre. Last year my husband had a work trip in Los Angeles so I tagged a long and we co-opted the week as a partial vacation. The first day we were there was one that he was working and I was on my own. But as you probably know Los Angeles is huge, I couldn’t figure out the bus system, and I don’t use hired cars unless I have to.

My ride (my husband) was going to be around Hollywood Blvd for the day, so I looked up interesting things to do, made my choices and off we went. I should preface my choice by saying I have been the LA a lot and seen just about everything there is to see there. So while I thoroughly enjoyed the Museum of Death and think it is one of the most notable and important things in the area, it is okay if that isn’t your cup of tea. There is plenty of other things to do there. I am just not going to write about them here, just yet at any rate.

The Museum of Death in Los Angeles is one of two museums owned by JD Healy and Cathee Shultz. The second is located, appropriately in New Orleans.The mission of the founders was not to scared the be-jebus out of people, but to help people better explore and understand the mechanisms of death, the history of funerary practices, grief, taxidermy and all kinds of other random things that go along with death. It is educational, with a good intent behind it and if I am being quite honest, at times a little hard to swallow.

I love all things true crime and was really excited to explore their exhibits on the Manson Family, the Black Daliah and other  incidents of infamous murder. They also have a vast collection of art work done by serial killers during their incarceration. I loved all of this, but then there was a hall way of nothing but photos of gruesome car crashes and that was it for me. I quickly walked through the hall and moved on to other exhibits continuing to enjoy the remainder of the museum.

Museum Visiting Info:

  • 6031 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood California
  • Opens at 10am 7 days a week, closes at 8 (Sunday – Thursday), 9 (Friday) and 10 (Saturday)
  • Admission is 15 dollars.
  • There are no pictures inside the museum, hence the lack of pictures on the post.

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.

24 hours in Minneapolis – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The final post in this edition of Minneapolis is a whirl wind and that is because the last leg of this trip was that as well. I only had 24 hours after my last meeting to experience more of the city than the skyway and my office building. And luckily for me the weather was incredible!

Shop: I Like You

It is a little like the Made in Oregon store but for a younger or perhaps just more kitsch. T shirts, cards, candles, jewelry, art, you name it they have it all handmade in Minnesota  and in some way touting the Minnesota theme. It was lovely and had I had a larger suitcase with me more people would have received Minnesota themed gifts that year.

Do: Minneapolis River-walk

The Twin Cities is built around the Mississippi river and as such there is a very impressive expanse of walking trains around the area. I had a friend as a tour guide so we just took off and start taking pictures of the lovely scenery but if you are looking some sort of guidance this walking guide is quite nice.  It is about a 3 mile loop in all, it took us a few hours because we stumbled on a farmers market.

Eat: Mill City Farmers Market

The market is only only open on Saturdays BUT if you happen to find yourself in the area on a Saturday it is a must eat. Tons of vendors from snacks to sweets to full meals. Everything smelled amazing, we couldn’t decide so we just ate a lot of samples.

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Tour: Mill City Museum

Sadly I did not have time to go in, but the lobby of the Mill City Museum is impressive enough on it’s own for a stop through. The museum sits inside the ruins of what was once the largest flour mill in the world. Destroyed by a fire (did you know flour is explosive? I had no idea) the building was shored up and converted to a lovely history and art museum.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar- Minneapolis, Minnesota

The last time I was out in Minneapolis for work a friend and co-worker was kind enough to put me up for a night and show me around the town. I have been to Minneapolis plenty of times but have yet managed to really get a chance to see much outside the skyway area of downtown.

For brunch I was taken to a place called Black Coffee and Waffle Bar a small very Portland-esc café with an extensive waffle menu. I had the peanut butter and banana waffle because why on earth would you have anything else? Elvis would agree with me. But the peach pie waffle looked pretty stellar as well.

 

The lovely ladies at the coffee bar were not only incredibly kind and quick. They also made one of the best cappuccinos I have had outside of Europe. The medium was the correct size (in my opinion) a couple shots with a large amount of foam think and creamy toward the coffee and dry and fluffy toward the top. Perfection.

It was really nice after a week of being away from home, to not only pop in a place that felt more like the PNW but that which also offered lighter food. There is a large amount of really fantastic food in the Midwest, but many times I leave meals feeling heavy and tired. This was perfectly filling and light it left me ready to conquer a day of touring.

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.

Hilton Minneapolis – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The last time I was in Minneapolis for work I was put up in the Hilton Minneapolis downtown but toward the end of the skyway. It is the third hotel I have stayed in for work out there and by far my favorite.

Despite the lobby being torn up for remodeling and the fact that every single time I went back to the hotel via the front entrance (rather than the skyway) I had to go through a different door the experience on a whole was quite lovely. I actually didn’t even mind the musical doors, it just made me chuckle.

The rooms were simple, clean and well equipped. Complete with hair dryer, nice sample sized shampoo, coffee pot and a TV with normal channels. Have you ever been to a hotel where they have cable but they have the strangest channels accessible?! So strange. The shower did not make strange squealing noises which seems to be common for me, and the temperate control was actually controllable.

They also had a really nice dining room/bar area. A REALLY great breakfast buffet full of fresh cut, not wilted sad, fruit. Fresh pastries, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, tons of cereal choices, bagels, fresh lox and GREAT coffee. The gym on the mezzanine level was also nicely equipped, clean, new and not stuffy. I didn’t try to pool but plenty of other people did and they clearly loved it.

In addition to all the other pluses and a must have for any hotel in Minneapolis if you are there for work, is the connection to the skyway. Never have I spent more time in a place with such changeable and challenging weather. And while I still find it odd in concept, I find the skyway a complete lifesaver when getting to and from meetings pretty much year round. No more worrying about wearing or carrying things that work for both subzero or crazy hot and humid PLUS office. You can get from hotel to office without ever leaving a climate controlled environment even if it is several blocks away. Brilliant.

Jurassic Park and The Mummy – Hollywood, California

My all time favorite movie as a kid was Jurassic Park. I saw it in the theater more times than any other movie, probably combined. When I went to Universal Studios for the first time 15 years ago I rode the Jurassic Park ride on repeat all day, even though it was pouring down rain and you get quite wet on the ride anyway. We would go Jurassic Park, then over to the Backdraft ride to dry off and then back to Jurassic Park. All day. Now, 15 years later Backdraft has been replaced with the Transformers so luckily when we went it was a beautiful sunny weekend. And we still got soaked.

I don’t know what it is about the ride, other than the intense nostalgia it brings up since I watched the movie so often as a kid. It is a river raft ride, not unlike Splash Mountain at Disneyland. The ride takes you through a mellow water cruise observing some very cute animatronic dinos, some of which spray water on you. Then there is a faux raptor breakout, and more dinos startle and soak you.

And then at the end you drop forever and land in a giant splash which actually doesn’t get you terribly wet but since you have already been soaked several times it wouldn’t really matter. This time around we got stuck on our first ride of the day, for several minutes in a not very comfortable part of the ride and managed to get some free passes. So we had the opportunity to ride on repeat without waiting in line, which we took full advantage of.

Since the release of Jurassic World they have updated the ride, it is quite a bit different than I remember. They also added a character attraction, where you can meet a raptor. I chose not to participate since the line was quite long. So instead I watched from a ways back trying to figure out if it was a very clever robot or a very good and possibly suffocating actor. I never did figure it out, either way people loved it and it was fun to watch.

Across the way is the Mummy Ride which is new to me. But given how old the movie was I assume has been a part of the park for quite a while. It has been added to my list of favorites  because it is an actual roller coaster in the dark that goes 45mph and then stops suddenly and reverses you back to the start.

The line did get pretty long at one point but it was never too terrible and with a single rider line we managed to not have to wait more than 10 min for any of our rides.

I couldn’t help but get my picture taken with one of the decorative mummies. Good lookin’ guy isn’t he.

All in all the lower lot of Universal Studios Hollywood houses the best rides, in my opinion. But with less to do in total you can’t really spend your whole day down there. We took a couple trips to do some back to back rides and then hopped back up to the main park where we spent most of our time there.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hollywood, California

I feel like it isn’t much of a confession to say that as an adult I am totally obsessed with all thing Harry Potter. It is certainly not a rare affliction these days. I had been wanting to visit the Orlando park since the second the build was announced, but living all the way out on west coast paired with a deep seeded need to see literally everything in the world caused it to be bumped down on the list more than once.

But then Universal Studios Hollywood made an addition to their park (yes addition, see the Universal Studios post for information) and then I waited a year. I waited a year on purpose because while I love all things Harry Potter, I love pushy frantic people a lot less. I very purposefully waited until the park addition wasn’t the hottest thing on the West Coast and then I slipped in for the weekend to FINALLY experience it for myself. It did not disappoint.

 

One of the things that has always made me more loyal to Disney than other amusement parks is their ability to transform a dusty strip of land into a whole new place full of charm, and character. It is quite frankly magical. I know it is all fake, façades, false front, forced scale building to appear taller, miniatures and faux landscaping. But I love it all the same. Universal Studios in my opinion anyway, for the first time, managed to capture this in the creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

It was flawless, from the cobble stone streets, the crooked buildings to the music and smells pumped into the air. However the most magical thing I think was the wands.  For a not so low price you can pick your wand and then walk around to all the windows in the village and perform “magic”. Done I am assuming through some remote connection between specific wands and window displays (it doesn’t work with a pen or lip balm tube I tried). A brilliant business move while also being one of the sweetest things to watch as delighted kiddos all dressed up as witches and wizards zoomed around the park feeling like they too are magical.

There quite frankly isn’t a lot to do in this section of the park, though I think we spent most of our time there all the same. It felt calmer, they had better food vendors, the shops were less intrusive (lower lights, calmer music, more continuity in the trinkets being sold) plus this being a dead ended portion of the park there wasn’t as much through traffic so there were more places to sit and catch a break from all the crowds.

In The Wizarding World of Harry Potter there are two rides, one interactive show, several performances, two staged photo opportunities and of course the wands. As well as a restaurant, several outdoor vendors, two souvenir shops, a candy store and a joke shop. We made a point to do everything in the park and while I loved it all I stand by my earlier statement that the best thing to do is just wander around and take it all in.

The two rides were on the opposite end of the spectrum one being the small kiddie-coaster “The Flight of the Hippogriff” which is a lot of fun but really mellow and quick. We only rode it when there was no line since it goes by so quickly. The other “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” is quite the ride. It was the first thing we did on our first day, and it was a blast. But then we turned back through the line and road it a second time and that was all I could take. For some reason the motion simulated rides (those with small motion made more intense by projecting rapid motion on a screen or a 3D screen) make me a tad ill. I can drop several floors on the Tower of Terror or scream through a huge coaster but get me on one of those simulators and I nearly puke.

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I loved the ride and I wanted to go again but since almost all the rides at universal are the simulator type I was feeling a tad green by the end of the trip and just couldn’t stomach it. But it is clearly incredibly popular the line time was an hour plus the whole trip.

The other major draw to the park is the Butterbeer, going in I was convinced I wouldn’t like it and nearly skipped out on trying it. Try it, you will love it. I did a little research after finally giving in and it turns out it is the number one customer satisfier at the parks. That’s not to say the parks aren’t impressive, it IS to say the Butterbeer is that good. It tastes a bit like butterscotch and I don’t quite know what else. It is vegan, gluten free and is also free of corn syrup. All requirements allegedly from J.K Rolling herself to ensure that the maximum number of guests could enjoy it. It is pretty expensive and the serving at the street vendors are HUGE. Which is super if you know you like it, but if you are like me and slightly hesitant I would suggest getting it with your breakfast at The Three Broomsticks. We ate there both days as they offered hearty options and a drink of your choice with your meal, which includes Butterbeer (either frozen or non frozen). We chose frozen, it appeared to be a more manageable serving. Which even in the smaller size I couldn’t finish. It was amazing but oh so sweet, again the smaller size is key unless you know what you are getting yourself into.

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For more information check out my post on Universal Studios Hollywood.  And please  let me know in the comments below if you have been, what your favorite thing was and if you plan on going to the park in Orlando as well. I can’t decide if I should still make the trek out to the original park or if Hollywood was good enough.