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We had sort of made plans for the last full day in Los Angeles.  We were going to go to one more bookstore for me, and Walmart for my wife and dinner at Hugo’s.  And have some relaxing time.  Our landlord invited us to celebrate her guests birthday by going to Griffith park and the carousel for a picnic.   We agreed.

So the next morning we got up, had a slow morning, went to Ralphs to get some food for the picnic and some clothes in Ross.  We got to Griffith park on time and found the people we were meeting.  In the end the kids had two rides on the carousel, one with our host and the other with the boys of the group.  My wonderful wife and our host had a chat while the boys were away.

We then went to Lighthouse Christian Store in Pasadena which is now actually open on a Sunday.  If I think how far Christian retailing has changed in the years since I started travelling to the US I am shocked.  This store which I found on my first trip to have a huge range of merchandise is now much smaller and much more limited in what it keeps though I must admit it still had a relatively great selection.

From there we drove to a Walmart in an interesting part of Los Angeles and found ourselves in a mall.  We purchased what we wanted as much as we could and had to purchase another Transformers toy for my super son as he had fallen in love with these while we were travelling.

For dinner we stopped at Hugo’s which was a great experience for Gluten-free yummy food which we all enjoyed.

And then it was our last night in Los Angeles before Disneyland and Anaheim.

Next post: Its a Small World


I remember Sheryl Crow’s song “All I Wanna Do” is about Santa Monica.  I am not sure my memory is completely accurate but I am fairly sure that Santa Monica gets a mention a few times.

It was Saturday.  We were having brunch with my wonderful wife’s old room mates and then thinking about Santa Monica.  Well we had a great brunch at Marie Callendars though the service was a little dicey.  We were all full had a great catch up and then went our separate ways.  We took one of the room mates to the last remaining Valley Book and Bible and I purchased one more book and then dropped her off.  My wonderful wife wondered the state of Christian bookstores if this one had so little stock.  I put it down to and iTunes.

Our next destination was Santa Monica and the beach.  It had always been our plan for the holiday that we would spend a lot of time down the beach.  In the end we decided to stay in Los Feliz where we could afford to stay.  However this was to be our beach day.

The drive to Santa Monica was easy but the parking was hard as I was shocked to find the Santa Monica Mall being rebuilt.  I am not used to the American way of shutting down a mall and then gutting it and completely repopulating it.  We went to the beach – it was hot and noisy and not in a way we were used to.  There just is something different about American beaches to Australian beaches and we did not feel as comfortable as usual.

To finish off the trip I had to go to Hot Dog on a Stick for the Lemonade and found my son has a soft spot for Corn Dogs.  Oh well like Father like son I suppose but I was frustrated at the amount of sharing I had to do.

After that we went to a little place called Cafe Bolivar where we purchased Arepas which are a gluten free bread/roll which were great.

We rolled home and played ball games with our landlord and her guest including a twisted form of cricket which meant that many people were injured in some form or other.  The injuries were the end of night so that was that.

Next Post: Teddy Bear’s Picnic

I like some of the 1990s movies of Alicia Silverstone, Blast from the Past has at least a few scenes filmed around the corner and up a block from where I lived in Canoga Park and Clueless is just fun.

I must admit when I chose to live in the Valley years ago I was clueless.  I had to work out a place that was between work and Fuller Seminary and safe as this was post earthquake and I had been there done that in Santa Barbara.

For us on holidays we were returning to the Valley after a brief morning in the original part of Los Angeles El Pueblo De Los Angeles.  This was not the most successful trip to the heart of LA but still my super son was bought a pair of maraca’s.

We caught up with friends for lunch and spent time with them in the afternoon though we suddenly had to go to a Mall in the Valley to purchase new sandals for my super son as his finally gave up.

Afterwards we drove for a bit tried to get to some places on time before they closed and failed eventually heading home and getting dinner at In n Out.  The secret menu gives my wonderful wife a gluten-free option.

Tomorrow: All I Wanna Do

We were in Los Angeles, Los Feliz area, a stone’s throw from Hollywood and we had a good night’s sleep.  We were finally starting to relax and decide what we would do.

My wonderful wife decided to send me on a book buying spree and she and my super son would relax at the apartment.

I returned from Pasadena with far less material than I expected but enough to keep me happy.  I finally had books to read for the trip.

We then went to the sensitive baker which produces Gluten-free and lactose-free food.  It advertises itself as a cafe and my wonderful wife hoped to have lunch there but it was a vain hope.  Instead I took my son to buy sushi – a new desire of his as he had seen it being made on television the day before – while my wonderful wife decided in peace what to purchase.

I was stuck for where to go for lunch and thought of one place – Souplantation in Beverley Hills.  Now while we had no map I thought I could get us there successfully.  In the end on stop at a gas/service station and we were set.

We walked in and the staff were in a bit of a buzz.  Michael Jackson had died.  It reminded me of the word’s of Don Mclean’s American Pie “the day the music died” about Buddy Holly.  For each generation there seems to be a musician or musicians who define that generation and I know for many people Michael Jackson was their’s.

From there we slowly headed home to get some groceries and allow my super son to play with his new playmate the son of our apartment’s owner.  While the groceries took far longer to get to than expected we at least had new supplies.

Tomorrow: Clueless

Abba’s famous song is about the need for money.  We were in Ventura and now had the computer working again but did not have a wireless connection so we did not know what to do about checking our credit card and bank balances.  It turns out the hotel we were in had a computer in the lobby and we could use it to check all our balances.  We did this and made sure we had enough money around for the rest of the trip.

Before this all happened I woke up early and with wonderful wifely wisdom went to Wal-Mart to purchase more luggage.  In the process of checking in Melbourne we had found a seam coming away on our only bag.  We had thought we needed more luggage this just confirmed it.  After much umming and ahhing and figuring out the differences between each brand and each size of luggage I purchased two sets.

I returned back to the hotel, we started organising our luggage into the new bags and started rationalising what we had purchased back into bags.  This was no small feat but it was achieved. While I packed the car my wonderful wife and super son walked across to the beach, which was not real inviting due to June Gloom.

We headed to the outlets in Camarillo to spend up big and find what we wanted.  No Reeboks this trip for the first time in ages as they did not fit myself or my wonderful wife.  The joy of having lost weight.  In the midst of spending the money we met with my old boss and his wife for lunch.  I enjoyed mine, my super son loved his but we had all sorts of problems with my wonderful wife’s.  At one point having asked for a meal gluten-free “no wheat” the server made sure she was given a white bread roll as it was “not wheat”.  Well eventually a fairly poor looking meal arrived.

We then went back to the outlets picked up more clothes, perfumey stuff for my wife and started heading to the desert.  I mean Los Angeles.  Unfortunately we finally read the fine print as so to speak on our contract and realised we should have had two codes to get in the place.  No such codes had been sent and we had no internet access for days  to check.  We tried to call.  I found every phone at the outlet was out of order or removed.  Even if the management office said the phones were there.  When I did find a phone it turned out the phone number was no longer up to date.

In the end we stopped in a Starbucks, I paid a few dollars to get some access.  I found a new number and had my wonderful wife call except there was no answer but she left a message saying we would be there at 7pm.  We headed to our accommodation and could find no one.  In the end I did find the owner for our VRBO rental and we checked in.  We then walked to our favourite Indian place for dinner Paru’s as it was 2 blocks away and then came home for a good nights sleep.

So while the day organised money, spent money and cost money and was a bit fraught it was great too.

Tomorrow: American Pie

I have never seen the movie Swordfish.  My wonderful wife as best I know has never seen the movie Swordfish.  However my wonderful wife will testify that all Ventura was abuzz when it was being filmed there and that I think included her.

We had a whole day in Ventura, no packing up, no moving on.  We were to see a previous boss and friend of my wife but nothing else was planned except some shopping.  My wonderful wife needed clothes and knew where to get them cheap.  First my super son and I  had a cow cookie – a cookie that is black and white and shaped like a cow for old times sake – my wonderful wife introduced me to them when we were dating.

I dropped my wonderful wife off at the shops and my super son and I hit  Barnes and Noble – the bookstore for those not familiar with it.  This was not the huge success I hoped for.  While I did get to see some books that were interesting nothing I could say I want right now.  This is unlike my super son who decided everything was great and wanted it all.  In the end he was allowed a Go Diego Go book.  We then went to the next best thing to heaven for my super son – Toys R Us.  While we did not purchase anything he enjoyed saying all that he wanted.

We all met up again and had lunch at our favourite Mexican chain – Baja Fresh.  The food was good and all of us enjoyed it.  It seems our super son was starting to get more adventurous in his eating.

In the afternoon we went to my wonderful wife’s friends place and caught up with her and her husband and met her three year old son.  This was a great time and we then headed back to the hotel for a nights sleep.

Tomorrow: Money, money, money

We were heading to Ventura, to meet with friends who had been people my wonderful wife knew when we started dating.

San Simeon we were able to leave reasonably early as there was not much we wanted to do there or in Cambria.  Instead we headed to Atascadero where there was a bakery that produced gluten-free and lactose-free goodies.  Upon arrval my super son was asleep – he had woken too early – and he and I stayed in the car while my wonderful wife found the bakery.  Except there were no goods as they had been closed the day before and nothing was left from Saturday.

Next stop San Luis Obispo where there is a Pizza Fusion which produce gluten-free pizzas with soy cheese.  We looked at the Trader Joes while waiting for the food shops to open.  The pizza looked great for my wonderul wife.  I had subs for my super son and I and then my son decided he was really hungry, ate his lunch, ate half of my lunch and half of my next round of lunch again.  Well we are called to love one another aren’t we.

From there we went in search of appropriate power cables but had no success.  We continued to head to Ventura taking a slow drive through Santa Barbara where I used to live.  The hotel we were going to which is right on the freeway and across from the beach is also right next to a freeway entry.  So guess what – first time I am trying to get there I ended up on the Freeway again and not the hotel.  From then on I am ok.

We headed over to our friends place got a lot lost but found it in the end and they gave us a great dinner and a chat and we all rolled home.

Tomorrow – Swordfish

In Sudden Impact is the delightful and now well known phrase – “Go ahead. Make my day.”  This is offered by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry mode.  We’ll come back to Clint.

Monterey has a number of delightful areas – there is Cannery Row, the Del Monte Centre where we went to Whole Foods and the beach.  We woke up at a more reasonable time and our super son decided he wanted to go in the pool.  Which opened at 9:00AM.  We did as much as we could to be prepared, went downstairs and waited, and waited and waited.  With little clothes on – we were going into water – and towels by the pool we just had to wait until the gates were opened.  The spa was great for everybody finally getting rid of all the knots from the plane trip.

This was the day that the power on the laptop ran out  – remember I mentioned that power adaptor I left in San Francisco and we were supposed to have internet access.  I at least had got the list of lunch & dinner places before the laptop shutdown.

From the hotel we drove to Cannery Row and saw some otters but not real close.  My super son and I shared a Cinnamon roll – a family tradition from other trips to Monterey I just had to change who I was sharing the food with.  We then left for Carmel.

Carmel is a lovely town – it’s mayor used to be Clint Eastwood – it was for a long period the home base of Thomas Kinkade “painter of light” but he seems to have moved some of his operations.  We had a great lunch/brunch at Katy’s place where my super son played a game and chatted to all the hispanic bus boys.  Now remember he was still not used to American accents and has a kids voice while the bus boys were not used to much English or an accent.  It was a fun scene to see my super son be so inclusive but have no idea why people did not understand him 🙂

We then walked to one of the Kinkade Galleries.  It was best descibed as the scratch and dent section as everything was 30% off.  It seems my wonderful wife and I both got it into our heads it would be nice to purchase something of Thomas’ again.  My mother had given us a Kinkade print as an engagement gift and I got to look at all the others in the series.  We eventually settled on a picture that we both liked and I had to move the car before the sale was finalised.  All went well and the picture, framed and everything is now happily sitting on our wall at home.

From there we drove South along Pacific Coast Highway to San Simeon where we would stay again in the San Simeon Motel 6.  This time unlike when my wonderful and I were dating we did not need 2 rooms.

Dinner was a challenge – in the end the local pizza place with a salad bar for my wonderful wife and pizza for my super son and I.

And then sleep.

Tomorrow – “Ventura Highway”

It was Saturday, it was San Francisco and it was way too early to wake up.  But we were up.  We had a breakfast appointment at 8 and my super son played in the room while we tried to figure out how to get decent TV.  The Disney Channel would be found later in the trip.

We had a lovely breakfast with a friend of my wife’s, our wonderful appointment was someone who met my wonderful wife 20 years ago or so and they have remained in touch.

Afterward our friend drove us to Union Square and then walked back to the hotel to check out, drive to lunch at Ike’s Place, see the Golden Gate  Bridge, drive Lombard Street and then head to Monterey.  Ike’s Place does incredible sandwiches including gluten free and was as crowded as the website warns you.  The drive aroud the Bridge was lovely but I can’t show you any photos as the USB cable for the camera is elsewhere.  My super son was not impressed with Lombard Street saying it was quite straight – wait till he drives it in 20 years – he may have a different opinion.

So then we headed south. Towards San Jose.  We planned to make one other stop along the way  Walmart – to buy all the cheap stuff we required.  Except remember the early start to the day?  Turned out we had an early meltdown of my super son so we did not accomplish all we wanted to.  We had a new child seat and had seen cheap luggage.  I purchased some clothes and shoes but not as much for my wonderful wife or not so super son at the time.  The meltdown was so bad in fact later that night he said to his mother “I can’t cope! I need to go home to Melbourne.”

We arrived in Monterey a little later, found the hotel, found the Whole Foods Market for dinner and went to bed.

Oh did I mention I left the power adaptor in San Francisco – so maybe I did not leave my heart but an essential part of the trip was there.

Tomorrow – Sudden Impact – “Go ahead. Make my day.”

It was crazy we flew Melbourne->Sydney and then Sydney->San Francisco.  That was the only way we could book the frequent flyer flight so that was the way it was.

We picked up a rental car at San Francisco airport – do not do this if you can avoid it.  I could have and probably should have.  The place was a zoo.

I drove us to Whole Food Markets at Potrero Hill.  They had a salad bar and we sure needed lunch.  We shopped and looked and then ate.

I drove us to a nearby Safeway (I can tell I was still in Northern California until these became Von’s in Southern California) found a AAA and picked up sone maps and then to our hotel.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.  This is the second time in my life I stayed there.  This was a better experience than previously but the sticker shock in the cafe in the hotel still put me off eating there.  So a family of three jetlagged strong willed and tired people went in search of an early dinner.  In the end my super son and I had mexican from a no-brand place a couple of blocks away and we went back to our hotel, fell asleep until too early in the morning and had to figure out what to do.

So  did I leave my heart in San Francisco?  A little – I was struck yet again at how many people are begging on the streets in San Francisco and how much I do not stop to help them.  Its probably more correct to say that I did not respond to my heart in San Francisco but more of the tale and asking “do you know the way to San Jose” tomorrow.


David Morgan, lecturer, theologian, husband, father and blogger.
July 2009
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