Monday, 17 September 2018

Breakfast at Republique & Exploring Venice Beach | LA Day 7

I am back in Los Angeles and 6 days of non-stop exploration, 4 of which were were spent at amusement parks, really takes a toll on you. Needless to say, it was a slow start to the morning. After spending far too long in under the shower head and sitting in front of the mirror to do my "makeup" aka eyeliner and mascara, I finally made it to Republique for an early afternoon weekday breakfast. For the first time in a very long time, I was not the person who found and suggested this restaurant. Before going on our LA trip, my friend came across this Youtube video and suggested we go there one day for breakfast! 

Friday, 14 September 2018

Disneyland | LA Day 5 & 6

After years of dreaming and begging my friends to go with me, I finally made it to Disneyland! As I mentioned in my previous post on California Adventure, I spent two of my three days at the original Disneyland park. Despite getting to the park the moment it opened and not leaving until it closed at night, I still was not able to explore every corner of it and was unable to enjoy all of the rides. Coupled with the fact that Pixar Pier was closed off during my visit only means it is a must that I re-visit Disneyland California. 

Disneyland has 8 distinct regions, and their 9th and biggest one yet aka Star Wars is currently being built. Starting with my favourites:

Main Street, U.S.A. ; Adventureland; New Orleans Square; Tomorrowland; Fantasyland; Frontierland; Critter Country; Mickey's Toontown

I adore Main Street as Walt Disney himself walked down that very path and they have worked hard to maintain the same charm and wonder from its opening day. The shop facades are beautiful and they line the path leading to the iconic Statue of Walt and Mickey waving to guests in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. This street is iconic and also happens to feature another favourite: Starbucks. There are no rides per se in this region, but instead you can take short little tour around the street on a horse-drawn carriage, a vintage car or even a super rad old double decker bus. This also happens to be the hub for your Disney related shopping. But if you are a dork like me, you are going to die for the little museum dedicated to Walt Disney's legacy. There you can look at some of his sketches, the actual bench he was sitting on when he thought of building Disneyland and lots of old pictures of him. 

Intricate wrought iron banisters and the aroma of bayou cooking will lure you into New Orleans Square. It took some expert craftsmen to bring the mystic-filled alleys of New Orleans to life. There are a few places to eat here, but I settled on the more affordable restaurant, New Orleans Cafe. There I got my first taste of Ratatouille and Gumbo and it was so delicious that I came back on my second day for lunch. My friend and I were just randomly chatting about how I hope to someday return for my birthday and unbeknownst to us, our server overheard part of our conversation and surprised me with a birthday Mickey-shaped beignet complete with rainbow coloured Mickey sprinkles and a lit candle. Best service ever! I later also grabbed a whole bag of those classic powdered sugar beignets and sipped on refreshing virgin Mint Juleps over the two days. The only bummer was that the ride that spurred one of Disney's biggest movie franchises, Pirates of the Caribbean, was closed for maintenance. 

Tucked behind New Orleans Square was the busiest part of Disneyland, Adventureland. For such a small space, Disney managed to pack it with some of the coolest rides and attractions. Indiana Jones Adventure is a MUST! Like the majority of the bigger rides at Disney, this ride is hidden from view and even as the line winds through the corridors of the tomb, you still do not get a single glimpse of this epic ride. 

You will also find Pineapple Dole Whip in Adventureland, a frozen treat that is practically synonymous with Disneyland. I do not know how to describe it, but imagine a creamy soft serve that is pineapple flavoured. It is located to the entrance of another hallmark Disneyland attraction, the Tiki Room!!! Truth be told, I had no clue what the Tiki Room even was and honestly stumbled across it completely by chance as I was eating my Dole Whip. Dancing plant dolls mysteriously descended from the tree as an unmarked door swings open beckoning patrons to enter. I am so glad that I followed the crowd inside. You are treated to a marvellous show of singing birds, statues and flower animatronics. I do not want to give away too much because this is a show that absolutely captures that Disney Magic and I think what made it better for me was that I was an unsuspecting audience. 

Tomorrowland is a pretty significant portion of Disneyland and is home to several large attractions including Autopia, Star Tours, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Space Mountain. I find Tomorrowland to be quite fascinating. It is one of the five original lands that opened in 1955 and is not the typical fantasy you would associate with Disney, but instead Tomorrowland is what they imagined the future and outer space could possibly be. Space Mountain is beloved by guests and after riding it myself, I too joined the Space Mountain fan club. During the entire ride you are in pitch darkness while a super dorky alien sci-fi music plays in your ears. By not having you sense of sight, every twist and turn in the ride is a surprise and overall experience is more immersive. 

Walt Disney set out to create an amusement park that could be enjoyed equally by children, adults and elderly and I truly believe he met his goals. Part of that has to do with how the rides are designed to tell a STORY and you as the rider get to experience that story firsthand. 

So there are no massive gut wrenching drops or crazy loops because Disney rides are not about cheap quick 20 second thrills. But what really blew me away and makes Disney truly stand apart from other amusement parks is the fact that every ride that I went on was designed to be accessible for those in a wheelchair. I commend Disney for taking the extra step to ensure everyone can enjoy their attractions. On Space Mountain a section of the track shifts over with an empty cart. This allows the the individual that needs extra assistance to get into the cart without feeling that they are holding up the ride. Once they are ready to go, that cart slides back onto the main track. I do not consider Space Mountain to be a "kiddy" ride as it features fast accelerations, sharp turns and takes place in complete darkness. I really doubt other non-Disney parks designed their big coasters to be as accessible.  

"I felt that there should be something built, some kind of amusement enterprise, where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that's how Disneyland started" - Walt Disney

I kept trying to save Sleeping Beauty's Castle for my last day, but when I finally felt ready to explore every corner of Fantasy land and the Castle, I learned they were closing that area of the park in order to prepare for the fireworks show. I was beyond choked as it was my last night at Disneyland and I did not get to see the castle. Still bitter and upset about that, so if you go, make sure you visit the castle earlier in the day. 

Each night, Disneyland finishes with fireworks spectacle. The staff will ever so slightly start ushering guests from the outer edges of the park towards Main Street, U.S.A. This is because the end of the fireworks signals the closing of the park. I talk about the methodical crowd control planning that has gone into Disney Parks in my California Adventure post too. The fireworks lit up the sky above the castle, but what I was not expecting were the video projections on the castle and on ALL of the storefronts along Main Street. I think my favourite part was when thousands of colourful balloons were projected on the stores with the music from Up filling the air. The fireworks show ends with that classic "When you wish up on a star" that we hear at the beginning of all Disney movies. I live for it!

I will be writing a few more shorter posts on my Disney trip. One of them will be on Club 33 and the other will be all about my souvenirs including pressed pennies. 



Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Disney's California Adventure | LA Day 4

I finally got to visit Disneyland and as cliche as it may sound, those three days were truly the most amazing and happiest days of my entire life! You might think I am grossly exaggerating, but on my last day when I said goodbye to Disneyland, I had to choke back tears. I have put off doing this post for a very long time because it saddens me that I do not know when or if I will ever get to return to Disneyland. So take my word for it and plan your next trip to the "Happiest Place on Earth." 

Since there are already countless blogs specifically geared towards sharing tips and tricks on making the most out of one's trip to Disney, I have decided to focus more on my overall experience.

Disneyland California is made up of two amusement parks: Disneyland and California Adventure. But lets face it, nothing can beat the original Disneyland as it is the park that started it all! Walt Disney himself conjured up the idea of Disneyland and was involved first hand in its construction and opening. So of my three days, I spent two at Disneyland and one at California Adventure (NOTE: I did NOT have a park hopper pass). Despite dedicating two entire days to Disneyland, I still was unable to go on all of the rides and attractions. 

Day 1: California Adventure

California Adventure was a park that opened in 2001 which in my opinion makes it a fairly new park when compared to the Original Disneyland which opened its doors to the public all the way back in 1955! From what I can gather, this park has gone through such massive renovations and remodeling that it is practically unrecognizable from its original opening. This park had a bit of a rocky start as its attractions barely had any correlation to the Disney brand, but now after a decade and a half of work, it finally is more Disney-esque. 

There are a lot of cool rides to check out and these are just some of my favourites: Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout, Grizzly River Run, Toy Story Midway Mania, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Underseas Adventure and Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue. 

However, there were two rides and a show that I was unable to enjoy due to an entire section of the park being closed off for re-modeling: Paradise Pier was in the midst of being changed over to Pixar Pier. GAHHHH Which meant no Mickey's Fun Wheel, World of Colour or California Screamin aka the Incredicoaster. I can live without riding the Incredicoaster and Mickey's Fun Wheel, but not being able to take in a classic Disney spectacle that is World of Colour really really REALLY was a bummer. Since my trip Pixar Pier has been opened, but I believe World of Colour is still not operating due to some structural damage to the fountains during the restoration. 

If I had to pick one ride as my ultimate favourite ride it would be Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout. Fun Fact, this ride is actually the remodeled version of the Disney Classic Tower of Terror, so the drop ride itself has not changed, but the interior, exterior and the overall experience itself is much lighter and fun in mood. The queue winds through The Collector's personal museum in his lair which makes the waiting much more tolerable. Upbeat rock music plays during the ride and each time the cart stops, a quick clip featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy gang plays before the carriage drops or ascends again in darkness. So what used to be a ride filled with shrill screams of fright is now probably the best drop ride in the world because you will catch yourself laughing and singing along to the music! The ride still includes its iconic stop at the very top of the tower where you can look out and see the California skyline and personally I thought the ride was pretty long making the wait totally worth it. 

Toy Story Midway Mania on the other hand is a ride like no other because every rider is armed with this wacky shooter which you use to play mini games. Your swiveling cart stops at 5 giant screens that you use your shooter to rack up points. They are easy intuitive games like ting toss, and hitting targets. I am so glad that they were able to keep this ride open during the Pixar Pier overhaul as it sits right at the edge of boardwalk. 

The Paint the Night Parade takes place in California Adventure and it is probably my favourite Disney parade. All of the floats are covered in bright colourful LEDs that make for an even more magical experience. I also loved how the final float was Fantasia Mickey Mouse! The ending of the parade also marked the closing of the park and in true Disney fashion, the staff had already subtly moved into position to help everyone get out of the park safely and quickly. 

Now I obviously did not just go the entire day without eating. If I am going to be out in the sun all day, I know its best for me to stay far away from greasy fair food like burgers and french fries as it always leads to me feeling ill. So I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many amazing fresh food options. For lunch I went with a brown rice chicken burrito bowl from Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. Highly recommend it as it is not only reasonably priced, but also full of flavour. For dessert I treated myself to a fudge-tastic Banana Split Sundae from Ghirardelli Chocolates. 

I have included a few pictures from my day at California Adventure; however, I took all the pictures with my cellphone and boy did they ever turn out TERRIBLE. So these are the only ones I can bear to share on with you. 

Day 5 and 6 I spent at OG Disneyland and it is to follow in my next post. 


Pixar Pier is now complete! And all those structures infant of the ferries wheel are the 100s of fountains that put on the World of Colour show. They had been raised for the refurbishment, but usually are submerged under water. 
Ooo the new Pixar Pier
The little unbelievable details everywhere at Disney. This mosaic was outside the Ariel ride. 
The plans for Pixar Pier
The only sneak peak of what is to come: Marvel Land

I was player 1!! I totally ruled at the Toy Story Ride/Game. Funny how my accuracy was worse

The classic Mickey Mouse Balloons

Best Ice Cream Sundae EVER

Mickey Shaped Sour Dough

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Exploring Downtown LA + Anaheim Packing House | LA Day 3

The city of Los Angeles is massive beyond imagination, so it comes as no surprise that the land of Hollywood darlings is North America's second largest metropolitan city. To give you a rough idea, Los Angeles is comprised of over 80 different neighbourhoods and districts. So it goes without saying that you really have to pick and choose which areas of Los Angeles you really want to explore.

Prior to my trip I had asked a few of my friends to recommend where I should go and areas they think I should skip. They were unanimous on me not going to Downtown LA; however, LA's city centre has undergone a notable revitalisation and as cliche as it may sound, it is on its way to being the next up and coming region in LA. 

The historic district of downtown LA is a must visit as it is block after block of stunning wrought iron and ornate stone carved facades. I have always been a sucker for older architecture so it was almost like a treat to see Spanish Gothic (Ace Hotel dt LA), Beaux Arts (Hotel Rosslyn Annex), and Italian Renaissance Revival (Bradbury Building). One of my biggest regrets is not visiting the Bradbury Building and you will know why after you do a quick google search of its interior. 

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Universal Studios Experience + TIPS | Day 2 in LA

Universal Studios Hollywood Spring 2018
Part theme park, part working film studio, Universal Studios Hollywood is an amusement park like no other in the world. Situated in North Hollywood, Universal Studios spans across two lots. The Upper Lot features the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Springfield from the Simpson's and several larger than life shows while Lower Lot is fairly small and is where you will find the Mummy ride, Transformer's and Jurassic Park. 

Being a Potter Head, my first stop was the gorgeous real life rendering of Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. A lot of the shops from the Harry Potter books have been recreated including Ollivander's, Honeydukes, Owl Post and Zonko's Joke Shop. Sure the main focus is to sell merchandise, but the staff are not pushy and will let you explore and take as many pictures as you want. The Hogwarts castle stands big and large making it visible from afar and at the base of the castle is the entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride which is hidden from sight inside the castle. The ride is amazing and the dementors genuinely scared the soul out of me. Flight of the Hippogriff though is an absolute let down and not worth wait, so if you are on a time crunch, I would give it a pass. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Los Angeles Day 1 Spring 2018

Daniel Wellington Abbot Kinney Blvd #LoveWall
It is still hard for me to believe that my dream of visiting Disneyland did in fact come true. Can you believe it because I am still in disbelief that I was at the most magical place on earth in April 2018! The trip to Disneyland happened in a spur of a moment because I found out BC residents are eligible for 25% off tickets to Disneyland, but they must be purchased by February 28, 2018. I honestly only had a week to decide if I was going to go and I am glad that went ahead with it. Since Anaheim is only a 45 minute drive away from LA, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to also explore Hollywood and while I was at it, to also hit up Universal Studios. 

I was in California for a total of 7 days - 3 days at Disneyland, 1 at Universal and the remaining 3 exploring the city of Los Angeles. I am going to be splitting my trip into several posts starting with my very first day in LA! 

LAX | Friday April 20th, 2018 

The first few nights we spent at the Four Points by Sheraton which was approximately 10 minutes from LAX Airport. I got into LA around 11AM and was thankful that my room was ready early allowing me to ditch my luggage and freshen up before heading out to explore. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Beta 5 Ice Cream Socials Return - Strawberry Fields Forever

My favourite ice cream event is back for another summer! Beta 5 Chocolates kicked off their infamous Ice Cream Socials May 12th, Mother's Day Weekend with a Mimosa Sundae. As I am a massive citrus lover, there was no way that I was going to miss it. I missed the Surfin' USA sundae, a coconut and pineapple flavoured one which was the second sundae for this year. Both of those weekends I was immensely busy, so I know I did not post anything about them. So I am going to get right into the third sundae for 2018's social which is the Strawberry Fields Forever. 

Beta 5 got their inspiration for this sundae from the Beatles song and wanted to play homage to it in ice cream form. A scoop of strawberry sherbet was paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that had rhubarb swirled through it. Of course, no sundae is complete without toppings and Beta 5 really delivered for this one. 

The sundae cam with macerated strawberries, mini biscuits, kataifi hay, strawberry chocolate shards and their signature vanilla chantilly. I love that the way they sliced the strawberries before macerating them and the mini biscuits were crispy and coupled with the kataifi hay it brought a great texture to the sundae. The chocolate shard was beautiful and the painted strawberries on it was a beautiful touch. Definitely lots of strawberry going on in this sundae which is what I want when its called Strawberry Fields Forever. 

The vanilla ice cream was rich and had a creamy texture. You could see the vanilla bean seeds in the ice cream, but I did not get much of the rhubarb swirl. My only issue with this sundae is the level of sweetness of the strawberry sherbet. I have become accustomed to Beta 5's refreshing sorbets that often let the fruit speak for itself, so I was frankly taken aback by this extremely sugary sherbet.

You might be wondering what is sherbet and how does it differ to sorbet? Like sorbet, it is often made with pureed fruits, sugar and water, but sherbet has a little bit of dairy added, making it creamier and often pastel in colour. However, they went quite heavy-handed on the sugar masking the real fresh strawberry and instead left the sherbet tasting like an artificial strawberry candy - definitely more appealing to a child's palette versus an adults. 

I hope Beta 5 will adjust the level of sweetness in their future sundaes considering the vast majority of their clientele are late teens and adults that have an appreciation for more delicate flavours. Beta 5's restraint with sugar is what initially attracted me to their ice creams and is why I have continued to drive up from Richmond weekend after weekend. I also find sorbet and ice cream to be a killer combination because in the summer heat you want that cooling refreshing sorbet with the richer ice cream complimenting the light sorbet. Fingers crossed that Beta 5 ditches the overtly sweet sherbets and returns to their refreshing dairy-free counterpart.