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A Whirlwind Tour of Los Angeles

I’m kind of late with this post—literally, I almost forgot I even went to LA (actually, Burbank) a few weeks ago.  It was a last-minute business trip, and sightseeing was definitely not top of mind.  But between working in the office and working in the hotel, I managed to squeeze in just a little bit of “fun” while I was there.

WTF, United Airlines?!

So, getting there was an absolute NIGHTMARE.  I was originally supposed to go:

  • Orlando to Denver (1 hr layover) to Burbank, and
  • Burbank to San Fran to Orlando on the way back.
Annoyed in Denver.

Annoyed and exhausted in Denver.

Instead, I went:

  • Orlando to Denver (12-hr layover in 19 degree weather—no coat—overnight hotel stay required) to Burbank, and
  • LAX to Orlando on the way back.

I could bore you with the details of that adventure…suffice it to say…it sucked and I’m never flying United again. EVER. EEEEEEVEERRRRRRRRRR.

I’ve got LA Fever!

Once I landed safely in Burbank, I spent the first 3 days with a fever. I wonder, do you think it had anything to do with flying from Orlando (warm) to Denver (arctic) and then having to go outside with no coat to wait for a hotel shuttle for 35 minutes?  Yeah…me neither.

The Silver Lining

In the midst of feeling like a complete loser for arriving a day late to my destination and then having the NERVE to be sick, I dragged myself through the motions and made the most of it for the weekend.  I visited Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure for the first time (small, but cute, and really cool rides) and caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign while driving (super exciting, but I was terrified to take my eyes off the road due to the insanity of the drivers in LA).  I ate at In-N-Out Burger (pretty good… but it was still just a freakin’ burger).  All of this before I had to spend the week focused on work.  AND with a fever. Not too shabby!

Dinner with celebs (you know, cause that’s how I roll.)

The rest of the trip was, naturally, mostly dedicated to work.  However, my favorite moments of the trip happened in the evenings after work.  The first day of work was horrible—the fever was at its highest the entire day, so I checked into the hotel after work, ordered room service, took some Advil, called my mom, and passed out for the night.

The next day, armed with a good night’s sleep, fever gone (yay!), and a much-needed trip to CVS for meds, hand sanitizer, tissues, and cough drops (oh yes—I also had a full-on cold with nasty cough), I felt much better.  After work, I met up with an old Orlando friend who now lives in LA and just happens to work on my top 5 favorite show, The Mindy Project (squee!!!).  We met at this neat little place called La Ventura, on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

bowenI had no sooner sat down to peruse the menu, when my friend suddenly got an excited gleam in his eye, looked at me and half-whispered, “Do you watch Modern Family?” to which I responded by whipping my head around to see none other than Julie Bowen, who plays Claire Dunphy, walking in. She came in with a couple friends and sat at a table 10 feet from us, and that’s where she remained until we left that night. I can’t tell you how cool I was trying to be!  No, I didn’t go up to bother her during dinner to ask for a picture or autograph. That seemed tacky to me.  I will say though, at one point I definitely heard her exclaim, “I love Wanda Sykes!” really loudly.  So… there’s some insider knowledge for you.  Julie Bowen loves Wanda Sykes.

The Observatory

It’s so funny how much I didn’t know about LA until I got there.  For example, I’d never heard of the Observatory and didn’t know it existed.  But my friend (the one I went to Disneyland with) kept saying how pretty it was, and how it was her favorite place in the city, so I had to try and get out there before I left.  Granted, it didn’t happen until after dark, and I was by myself, but I’m really glad I went anyway. The view from up there is breathtaking, and—even though it’s in complete darkness—you can see the Hollywood sign very well from there.

A Fond Farewell

The night before I left, I managed to link up with my cousin who lives in LA, and we went to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood.  Though I can’t say the place redefined either chicken or waffles for me, it was a tasty meal, I’m glad I can finally say I ate there, and it was great to hang out with my cousin (though I spent the first 20 minutes of our dinner on the phone with freakin’ United, who had cancelled my flight out of Burbank for no good reason, then booked me on some b.s. 6pm flight the next night instead of in the morning so I had to change it to a flight out of LAX which meant waking up at 4am the next morning…okay…woo-sah…I’m calm).  So. Anyway. On the way back to Burbank, he drove me down Hollywood Blvd., and from the car I saw the stars lining the Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and got a sense of how exciting it must be to live in a place where the magic of TV and movies happens in your backyard.  If it weren’t for the fact that my entire life is on the East Coast, and the cost of living out there is astronomical, I could totally see moving to the City of Angels.

What was your most memorable trip of last year?

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Trip Recap: Skiing, Mountains & Pancakes in Gatlinburg, TN

I just got back from my mini-vacay and I had a blast!  If you’ve never been to Gatlinburg, I strongly suggest you consider it for your next trip.  For those who like a picturesque view with loads of outdoorsy activities (skiing, zip-lining, horseback riding, plus a National Park), you’ve got it. If you want to plan a not-too-expensive trip for your family, packed with lots of things to do and places to see that the kids’ll enjoy, you’ve got it. If neither of those reasons appeals to you and all you want to do is snuggle up in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa, or relax in an outdoor jacuzzi with the Smoky Mountains as your backdrop, then this is the place for you.

Read on for more highlights from my own trip, if you so desire…

“A Bear Affair”

We stayed in a FANTASTIC vacation property, nestled deep in the mountains, called “A Bear Affair” which we booked via Cabins USA. After a relatively short drive from the cute little airport in Knoxville (about 35 minutes)—which did include some white-knuckle sharp turns on very narrow roads with steep drop-offs on our sides and NO guardrails—we pulled up to our cabin. From the outside it seemed small, even quaint. Upon entry, we realized the place is much larger than it appeared to be from the outside, with stunning views of the surrounding woods and the mountains in the distance.

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort

Though the main purpose of my trip was to go skiing, it ended up not being the main thing we did while in Gatlinburg. Also, I have no photos of myself actually skiing (I was too busy trying to keep my limbs intact), but stay tuned for some shots we took on the slopes after we were done. Here’s what I learned about skiiing:

  1. Rented ski boots are extremely uncomfortable.
  2. Your body is sore for 2 days afterwards (minimum).
  3. Falling is inevitable—don’t think for a second you’ll be able to avoid it.
  4. Skiing is soooooooooooo expensive.

Those might all sound like negatives, but it was still TONS of fun to get out there and laugh at myself falling for a couple hours.  Skiing: get ready, because I’m not done with you yet!

And yes—my hair looks a HOT MESS in these photos. I’d been wearing a ski helmet all morning, and these were taken post-skiing. But I love the view, and the colors are to die for. I had to share. Do you see the sacrifices I make for this blog?

Oh, this also happened:

Pancakes, Pancakes, Pancakes!

Okay, I have a question for the Gatlinburg chamber of commerce or whatever. What is the reason for the INSANE number of Pancake houses in this town?!  I mean… it’s not a big city!  It’s a small, quaint little town, but I swear we counted at least one pancake house every 1/2 mile of the main strip from Sevierville to Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg. Why?!? Is that all you people eat down there?! Breakfast?!?! (Side note: I love breakfast and would eat it for every meal if I could. This rant is completely necessary—because seriously, what gives on the number of pancake houses—but also completely harmless. So, breakfast on every corner? That’s my kind of town!) Anyway, here are a few pancake house shots I was able to grab during our travels:

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

If you don’t remember anything else about me, remember this: I absolutely love aquariums.  Especially good ones.  Since I’m from Baltimore, which in my opinion boasts a pretty darn good aquarium (which by the way is a GREAT place to go on a date—more on that later), I most certainly have a leg to stand on.  So that said, I was pleasantly surprised at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  It’s not huge, but it’s adequate for the size of the town and it’s a lot nicer than I expected (voted #1 aquarium in America by TripAdvisor—according to the website), with some fun surprises along the way.

The best part? We got to see a wedding take place (we arrived just when the bride and groom kissed)! I got a photo but it’s pretty fuzzy:

Aquarium wedding

A few of my other favorite moments from the aquarium:

Downtown Gatlinburg

For some reason I’ve always been a sucker for what I like to call a “cute little downtown.” It probably all started with Ellicott City, MD—the coolest historic downtown area within a 20-minute drive from where I grew up.  Fast-forward a few *ahem* years, and you’ve got a grown woman who squeals with glee every time any kind of historic (read: cramped and/or dusty) building in America comes into view. Something about those houses-turned-boutiques/restaurants gets me every time.

Forgive the poor quality of these photos but I was too enamored with the Bavarian-style village that lay before me, to trifle with photo quality or composition. Also, enjoy the awesome bonus of tacky tourist attire in almost every shot.

So, there you have it—hope it was as fun reading as it was recalling the highlights of my trip!

Have you ever been to Gatlinburg? I’d love to hear your take on it!