Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a rocky island off the coast of California. The island is 22 miles long and 8 miles across at its greatest width.

The island has a rich history. Most of the island is now controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization. The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation. Through its ongoing efforts, the Conservancy protects the magnificent natural and cultural heritage of Santa Catalina Island. Under an agreement with Los Angeles County, the Conservancy has granted an easement to allow day hiking and mountain biking, but visitors must first obtain a permit at the Conservancy's office. Hiking permits are free, whereas bicycle permits are available for a fee.  About a million tourists visit the island every year; Catalina is serviced by ferries from Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach, San Pedro, and Marina del Rey. The trip takes approximately an hour and costs approx $65 round trip. 

I went to Catalina Island to visit my parents who were attending the annual JazzTrax Festival. I took the ferry from Long Beach and the trip was relaxing.  The Island overall is a welcome change if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of LA.  The main drag caters to tourist.  I would recommend getting a hiking permit and exploring some of the Island to get away from the commercial side of the Island.

Comme Ca for Happy Hour

Our goal was to get to Comme Ca for happy hour (5-7), to get the special bartender's choice drink.  However, because of traffic we arrived around 6:56 and sat at the bar.  We asked the bartender if we could still order happy hour to which a chef at the side of the bar promptly responded happy hour is over.  The bartender, very understandingly said we still had a few minutes and could order drinks.  I ordered the hourglass cocktail and Liz got a drink. 

Liz ordered French onion soup while I looked at the menu, wishing I was able to order from the happy hour menu because the crab croquettes sounded extremely good but they were not on the regular menu.  Liz's soup came out which had an extra pungent stench from the Gruyere cheese and while was still deciding what to have from the regular menu. 

We both ordered another round however I had not ordered food yet.  A bit later the chef brought the crab croquettes out without me ordering them.  I was happy and devoured them.  They were extremely good. 

We decided to get another round of drinks, this time I got a drink the bartender recommended called Penicillin which had Blended Scotch, ginger, honey, lemon, and Laphroaig 10 year.  It is vaguely reminiscent of a honey lemon cough drop but in a good way.  The bartender took our dishes away and gave us a new place setting with spoons.  We were confused because we had not ordered anything else.  A few minutes later a server brings out a dessert, which he says is the house specialty.  It was incredibly good. 

The experience at Comme Ca was amazing.  The staff was accommodating, charming, and engaging.  The food was great and the atmosphere was comfortable and elegant.  I highly recommend this restaurant, even if you can only get a drink.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I know most people might wonder why Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is on the list, but I have encountered a number of people that have lived in California their whole life and have never been to the airport. LAX is not just any airport, it is THE airport. It the the 6th busiest airport in the World. It also handles more "origin and destination" passengers than any other airport in the world.

I've flown out of LAX countless times and have never gone without some kind of incident.  With most airports that I frequent (MKE, BOS, ORD) I can show up within a couple of hours of my flight and have no worries about making my flight.  LAX is always a crap shoot so I leave extra early.  The airport can make even the most organized airline look like a disaster.

It's on the list because it is such a great opportunity to visit so many awesome places around the world by cheap direct flights.  If planning to visit most countries in the eastern part of the world you can usually find a deal leaving from LAX.  There are also a lot of places intercontinental to visit that are cheap.  The northwest and the southwest all have spectacular destinations that are a pain to drive to but a hop on the plane from LAX.  Outside of the airports in NY, I don't think any other airport allows this kind of access to travel.  If you like to watch planes its ideal as well because a plane lands every 30 seconds.

Although it may not be always convenient to get through their internal logistics, it's a convenient place to get to other places.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive is a shopping district in Beverly Hills known for designer label and haute couture fashion. The name generally refers to a three-block long stretch of boutiques and shops.

The shopping district as presently constituted developed in the 1970s. The business district, which extends from Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard, is an exclusive shopping district, but also a major tourist attraction. The "Rodeo Drive" business district also includes those businesses on the streets that lie for a few blocks in either direction. Some of the more famous retailers include: Girgio Armani, Tiffany's, Chanel, Cartier, Fendi, and Gucci.  There are also resturants with the same designer appeal as the stores.

Rodeo Drive is home to the single most expensive store in the world: Bijan.  You must make an appointment in advanced to shop there.  On a typical visit, Bijan's average customer spends $100,000 on men's fashions, which range from a $50 pair of socks to $15,000 suits.

I don't have to mention the pop culture presence of Rodeo Dr, most notably in the movie Pretty Women.  The famous store where Julia Roberts is snubbed is the women's clothing store, Boulmiche, located just a few steps west of Rodeo at 9501 Santa Monica Blvd. The hotel she and Richard Gere stayed at is the Beverly Wilshire which is at the south end of Rodeo. 

On a typical day you see more tourists on Rodeo than stars but occasionally you can spot a celebrity shopping in the area.  You will also usually see countless rare luxury cars such as an old Rolls Royce or limited edition Bentley. It's a fun place to take friends that are visiting or just people watch, but wouldn't recommend if you want to do some casual shopping.

NBC Universal Tour

There are a lot of studio lots in SoCal and a tour is necessary to get a feeling for the main industry in the city.  I have a friend that works at NBA Universal and was nice enought to take a few hours out of her day to give us a tour.  We arrived at the lot on a Monday morning and got passes curtosey of my friend.  We toured her office and some of the offices of the people that worked with her.  It was interestesting seeing some of their office swag: signed posters or original scripts from NBA shows.  Her boss had a signed picture of the Law and Order SVU cast which is one of my favorite shows.  After the office tour she took out a golf cart and took us on a tourn of the lot.  Although we were unable to go into any of the stages we saw the outside sets of the Desperate Housewives set and some of the Parenthood set.  After our tour we had lunch at Universal City Walk.

If you can get to one of the studios it will be worth it!

Monday, August 8, 2011


MOCA, the Museum of Comtemporary Art Museum is a contemporary art museum with three locations in greater Los Angeles, California. The main branch is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, near Walt Disney Concert Hall. MOCA's original space, initially intended as a "temporary" exhibit space while the main facility was built, is now known as the Geffen Contemporary, in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. The Pacific Design Center facility is in nearby West Hollywood.  The museum's exhibits consist primarily of American and European contemporary art created since 1940. Since the museum’s inception, MOCA’s programming has been defined by its multi-disciplinary approach to contemporary art.

In a 1979 political fund raising event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Councilman Joel Wachs, and local philanthropist Marcia Simon Weisman happened to be seated at the same table. Throughout the evening, Weisman passionately discussed the city’s need for a contemporary art museum. In the following weeks, the Mayor’s Museum Advisory Committee was organized. The committee, led by William A. Norris, set about creating a museum from scratch, including locating funds, trustees, directors, curators, a gallery, and most importantly an art collection.  The following year, the fledgling Museum of Contemporary Art was operating out of an office on Boyd Street. The city’s most prominent philanthropists and collectors had been assembled into a Board of Trustees in 1980, and set a goal of raising $10 million in their first year. A working staff was brought together; Richard Koshalek was appointed chief curator; relationships were made with artists and galleries; and negotiations were begun to secure artwork and an exhibition space. Following Weisman's initiative, $1-million contributions from Eli Broad, Max Palevsky, and Atlantic Richfield Co. helped securing the construction of a the new museum.

We visited the museum (grand ave and Geffen) on Thursday's after 5pm, which it free. The exhibits were interesting however we did not attend any events or tours. Like the Getty museums, its worth it to stop by especially on a free night and indulge in the great art.  Check the calendar to see if you can catch a special show or event.

History Curtosey of Wikipedia

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drive Up the California Cost (HWY 1)

Highway 1, is a state highway that runs along much of the Pacific coast of California. It is famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, leading to its designation as an All-American Road.  Highway 1 does not run over the entire Pacific coastline of California. It starts at Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point in Orange County and runs north to U.S. Highway 101 (US 101) near Leggett in Mendocino County. Highway 1 also at times runs concurrently with US 101, most notably through a 54-mile (87 km) stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge. It also serves as a scenic alternative in several locations; and a major thoroughfare in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and other coastal urban areas along its route.  Highway 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), the Cabrillo Highway, the Shoreline Highway, or the Coast Highway.

State construction of what is now Highway 1 started after the state's third highway bond issue passed in 1919.  The first two approved sections of what is now Highway 1 were Legislative Route 56 from San Simeon to Carmel (connecting with existing county highways at each end) and Legislative Route 60 from Oxnard via the coast to San Juan Capistrano, intended as links in a continuous coastal roadway from Oregon to Mexico.

Although I've driven on Hwy 1 or PCH as its known in SoCal many times we decided to try to take it all the was to San Francisco.  We decided to drive it on the way there because we would have enough time to stop and take pictures, rather than rush back (although on the trip back you're on the edge side of the road.)   We did not check ahead and map out our route so got got lost a few times as the road does merge onto US 101 occasionally and it's not clearly labeled.  Below is a guide that will help map out your drive if you happen to do the drive: 

  • In Orange County and most of Los Angeles County, it's a city street, usually named Pacific Coast Highway. See the Pacific Coast Highway guide.
  • One of the most scenic sections goes from Santa Monica through Malibu to Oxnard.
  • From Oxnard to San Luis Obispo, Hwy 1 and US 101 merge. The road detours from 101 for about 50 miles just north of the Gaviota Tunnel and rejoins it in Pismo Beach. This section is sometimes called Cabrillo Highway.
  • The stretch from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco includes Hearst Castle, the Big Sur coast, Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz and is the best-known section.
  • The road continues through the city of San Francisco as 19th Street, leading to the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • From the Golden Gate Bridge through Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, the official name is Shoreline Highway.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Edison

The Edison is a bar located in the basement of a downtown LA building, the Higgins.  The Higgins Building basement originally was L.A.'s first ever power plant, built by Thomas Higgins. After spending many years derelict and underwater, it was finally rescued by entrepreneurs Andrew Meieran and Marc Smith, who created a post-industrial steampunk venue for Los Angeles bar-goers.

The Edison, opened in 2007,  is a hip Happy Hour spot, restaurant, and hang out area.  It is dedicated to the old-world romance that once dominated LA nightlife.  They therefore have a dress code which is loosely enforced as far as I can tell.  They say "innovative, sophisticated, and cultured attire is required."  A lot of the staff was dressed in 20's and 30's attire, and a few of the guests.  I presume as the night wears on, the guests become more festive with their dress.

They have a special happy hour on Thursdays that feature a $.35 cocktail special.  Yes, that is $.35.  You get one token for the cocktail upon entrance and it is only good for the featured cocktail.  When we went the cocktail was the derby which has bourbon, lime juice, orange juice, and sweet vermouth.  The bar was crowded and most of the seats were reserved.  We were able to get a table from the hostess on the premise that we had to vacate it before 8 (because it was reserved.)  It was barely 6 so we had more than enough time to enjoy a couple of drinks.  There was a stage with instruments for a band but the band didn't start until much later. 

The food looked appetizing but we did not stay for eats.  If you go, make reservations ahead of time, and the later you go the more your attire will be scrutinized. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive is a road in Los Angeles, named after engineer William Mulholland.  The mostly two-lane, minor arterial road loosely follows the ridge line of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills, It offers spectacular views of both the Los Angeles basin, Hollywood, the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park Observatory, and the San Fernando Valley.

We had a party to attend in the Beverly Park Neighborhood which is in the hills above LA.  We took Mulholland drive to get there.  I drove there and didn't get to enjoy much of the scenery as I was concentrating on driving.  The sun was setting and every once and awhile I would get an amazing view of the city or the basin.  If you're not use to driving this road, you definitely need to concentrate because you drive along the edge of the mountain and it can be nerve wracking. Grete drove home and I was able to see the city lit up.  It is worth the absolutely worth the trip up the mountain.

In pop culture Mulholland drive has quite a presence.  There is the infamous movie Mulholland Dr by David Lynch.  King of the Mountain was a movie loosely based on actual Mulholland Drive racers, racing to be king of the hill, it is a painting by David Hockney, A ride at Disneyland's California Adventure is called "Mulholland Madness," Mulholland Drive Dog is a kind of hot dog at Pink's Hot Dogs in Los Angeles, referencing Lynch's film Mulholland Drive. A scene in the movie took place at Pink's, and the dog's description on the menu is "a 10-inch STRETCH dog", with "stretch" capitalized, since a critical part of the film revolves around a stretch limousine driving up Mulholland Drive and American pop artist Ke$ha wrote a song about Mullholland Drive titled "Shots On the Hood of My Car." 

The easiest roads to access Mulholland Dr are:
  • Highland Avenue to Cahuenga Blvd West - from Hollywood
  • 101 Freeway to Barham to Cahuenga Blvd West - from Downtown LA and all points south and east
  • Crescent Heights to Laurel Canyon - from Hollywood, The Grove & Farmers Market, Museum Square in Miracle Mile, Beverly Center
  • Beverly Drive to Coldwater Canyon - from Beverly Hills, Hollywood, The Grove & Farmers Market, Miracle Mile,
  • Beverly Glen - from Westwood, Century City or Beverly Hills
  • The 405 freeway or Sepulveda Blvd - from West LA, including Westwood area, near the Getty, from LAX or Santa Monica

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Zankou Chicken

Zankou Chicken is a small, family-owned chain of Armenian and Middle-Eastern fast casual restaurants within LA. Its specialty is rotisserie chicken served with a garlic paste and pita bread but also serves middle-eastern favorites such as hummus, falafel, and shawarma.
The first Zankou Chicken opened in 1962 in the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon, by Armenian Vartkes Iskenderian and his family. The chain was established within the United States in 1983 by his son, Mardiros Iskenderian, after the family immigrated to Los Angeles, California. The first restaurant in Los Angeles is still located in Hollywood, California at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. The restaurant's famous garlic sauce was created by Vartkes' wife, Markrid.

On January 14, 2003, after a heated argument, Zankou Chicken owner Mardiros Iskenderian shot and killed his sister, Dzovig Marjik, and his mother Margarit Iskenderian; he then took his own life in a double-murder suicide. It is believed that Mardiros was in the late stages of colon and brain cancer, which might have affected his mental faculties.

Despite the family drama, the chain has expanded to 9 restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area; the second Zankou Chicken opened in Glendale (2 locations), followed by Van Nuys, Anaheim, Pasadena, Burbank, and West Los Angeles, as well as a branch in Montebello opened by the same part of the family that still owns the original Hollywood branch.

We went to the Anaheim location on a Saturday for lunch.  I love rotisserie chicken and was looking forward to trying the famous garlic sauce.  We ordered the half chicken plate which came with beet salad, hummus, and pita bread.  The chicken was good but the garlic sauce was beyond amazing.  I wanted to dip everything in it!  It had a hint of lemon, was thick and went especially well with the chicken.  If this is indicative of Armenian food, I have a new found love for it.  With the multiple locations, its hard to come up with an excuse not to try this restaurant. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bar Chloe

It's not everyday that you run across a bar that shares your name.  Especially if your name is Chloe.  I just had to add Bar Chloe because I was so enamoured by its existence.  Even though I had been to a bar just around the corner, I did not see the big Chloe sign that marks Bar Chloe.

I found out about this bar when I was at another bar in LA.  A guy sitting at the bar next to me mentioned that he worked at Bar Chloe to the bartender.  I inquired and he invited me to come on one of the night's he was working.  A couple of weeks later I stopped in, only to find that particular bartender was not there.  Disappointed, but I decided to stay and at least get the Chloe cocktail that was on the menu online.  When I asked for the drink the bartender that night looked a bit puzzled.  I added that I saw it on the menu online to which he responded that menu is old and outdated in a rude tone.  Now I was really disappointed.  I then got a drink, I don't even remember the name of it, but at this point I didn't care.  If not for being with other people I would have just left. While they still had the Chloe burger, which did sound good from what was posted online but I had no desire at that point to try it.

I had high expectations for this bar, obviously because it shares my name, but also because the bartender I met was so nice. I would consider going back to see if the bartender is working and maybe have a different experience but as it stands now, I'm completely disappointed and uninterested in this bar.  Too bad, it had so much potential!

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Hollywood.  It is unlike any other cemetery in the world.  Founded in 1899, the cemetery was an integral part of the growth of early Hollywood. Paramount Studios was built on the back half of the original Hollywood Cemetery, where the studio is still in operation today.  The cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and boasts an admirable collection of old-fashioned standing headstones, monuments, and statues.  It is the cemetery of choice for most of the founders of Hollywood’s great studios, as well as writers, directors, and, performers, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Visitors come from all over the world to pay respects Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds more of Hollywood’s greatest stars.

The cemetery has two huge indoor mausoleums an countless outdoor graves.  A map is needed to locate any of the stars' burial sties which can be picked up upon entrance to the park from the flower shop.  On top of the headstones and towering monuments, there are also some unusual headstones including ones shaped like obelisks and rocket ships.  The cemetery is picturesque and has been used as a background locations for many Hollywood movies and shows including Hot Shots, L.A. Story, and The show Charmed.
Of course, torus are given regularly.  Motion picture historian Karie Bible leads a walking tour through the cemetery. Bible is the current "Lady In Black," carrying on the tradition of the mysterious woman who put a rose on Rudolph Valentino's grave every year.

We went to the cemetery for an event, The Cinespia Movie night, but had a chance to look around the cemetery before the movie started.  I don't regularly hang out in cemetery's and probably would not have done had it not been for the event, but I"m glad I did.  The headstones are indeed impressive.  One of the world’s most fascinating landmarks, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place to more of Hollywood’s founders and stars than anywhere else on earth. This is a site worth seeing.