Posts in the ‘Travel’ Category

The Porcupine Dance

The Porcupine Dance

My first time playing around with Cinemagr.am: The dancing porcupine we saw in Minnesota last year. This little guy was trying to intimidate us for a good fifteen minutes or more with this impressive dance. Rawr.

A Trip to Syracuse

Sculpture at Stone Quarry Art Park

A Sculpture at Stone Quarry Art Park, Cazenovia

At the beginning of the month, Evan and I went to Syracuse to spend time with his family. It was an absolutely wonderful trip — and the perfect time of year to make it. We went to Treman state park, Ithaca, Green Lakes State Park, the Stone Quarry Art Park, and Rochester to visit a friend and her new baby. We saw lots of wildlife and plants, the Erie Canal and ate lots of good food. Check out my iPhone photos from the site in the Flickr slideshow below, or check out Evan’s photos from his nice camera.

A Relaxing Weekend in Ojai

We found some trees that change color in Southern California!

We found some trees that change color in Southern California!

OK, this post is only more than a month late, but I did want to share…

Over Halloween weekend, Evan and I decided to get out of LA for a bit. He’s been working 6- or 7-day weeks, and he finally had a full 2-day weekend to relax for the first time in more than a month. Also, neither of us really like celebrating Halloween, so it was the perfect weekend to get away. We considered Palm Springs, or Santa Barbara, or even Solvang, but they all seemed troublesome and pricey that weekend — there was a giant Phish concert out in the desert, and Santa Barbara has a major Halloween celebration, so we thought of some place a little closer and quieter — Ojai.

We were only going for one night, and we only decided to go a few days before the weekend, but thankfully things weren’t too busy and we were able to book a beautiful room in a very cute and cozy bed and breakfast called Inn Harmony. Inn Harmony is on a residential street just a block away from the main shopping and restaurant area. The yellow house had only a few rooms and it really felt like staying in a friend’s beautiful guest room. The furnishings looked new and were a mix of classic shapes with contemporary funky fabrics, the bathroom was quite modern, and we even had our own little balcony. There was a wine and cheese happy hour, a nice yard and porch where we spent time reading, and an absolutely adorable and friendly little Havanese dog.

How could you not love that face?

How could you not love that face?

Ojai turned out to be a great little vacation spot. We went on a nice hike which crossed back and forth over a small stream and gave us some beautiful views of the Ojai valley. There were so many hikes in the area that we had a hard time choosing which one to do. We also had a nice dinner at the Ranch House, where we sat on their heated patio in a lush garden. We got a very private table that was on its own platform amid the trees, and shared a bottle of wine and a nice meal.

One of the views from our hike

One of the views from our hike

We also went wine tasting at the Old Creek Ranch Winery, which was just outside of Ojai. We tasted a large selection of their small runs of wines and were impressed with all of them, especially the now sold-out sauvignon blanc and the sangiovese. Though they buy their grapes from other vineyards, they do make the wine on the pastoral property, and there were plenty of people picnicking with their families and dogs.

Ojai turned out to be the perfect weekend retreat for us. We relaxed, spent time outdoors and had fun checking out the little shops that featured the very talented local artists, like Steven Spiro. It was also really easy to get to — it only took about an hour and a half to get there. I’m excited to find another weekend when we can go back.

France and Ev’s Vegas Vacation

Over Labor Day weekend, Evan and I went to Vegas. It wasn’t a party-and-gamble type trip — in fact, neither of us gambled a cent. We were there for an occasion — Evan’s best friend Adam’s wedding.

Adam and Evan

Adam and Evan

When Evan headed to Vegas on Thursday for the bachelor party, I didn’t quite know how to picture his group of friends. A huge contingent from his high school in Syracuse was there — so much so that everyone was calling it their 10-year reunion. I had a great time meeting all of them — we live pretty far away from where Evan grew up, so it’s really interesting to see glimpses into that part of his life.

Being in the wedding party, Evan had a lot of different responsibilities while we were in Vegas, so while he was busy rehearsing for the wedding, getting his tux and running other errands, I spent my time sitting by the pool and wandering around the casinos and malls, feeling pretty overwhelmed by how large and noisy everything was. I’ve been to Vegas quite a few times, but its immensity always seems to get to me.

Evan toasting the bride and groom

Evan toasting the bride and groom

The rest of the weekend seemed to be a blur of dinners, drinks and dancing. The wedding was nice, and Evan gave a very sweet toast to Adam and Rosie, where he talked about growing up with Adam. He made everyone laugh when he shared that Adam had asked him for something sexy to say in Spanish to his bride when they were first dating. Who knows, maybe the cheesy Juanes song lyric Evan gave him was what brought them to their wedding day.

Adam getting a little surprise on his way to find the garter

Adam getting a little surprise on his way to find the garter

Rosie also surprised Adam by blindfolding him before the garter toss and letting their roommate Bucky toss her train over his legs and take her place. He wasn’t expecting that one at all.

Feeling the updraft at the Hoover Dam

Feeling the updraft at the Hoover Dam

On Sunday, about 10 of us went to visit the Hoover Dam. It’s really massive, and creates a rather wild updraft. We all spent time hanging our heads over the side and feeling the wind, and I spent a lot of time trying to prevent a wardrobe malfunction with my dress. I was only partially successful, and ended up having a Marilyn Monro moment mid-dam. Thankfully some of the girls had hair clips, and we tried to tighten up and weigh down the skirt.

Sunday night, Evan and I got tickets to see Santana at the Hard Rock. Boy, does he put on a concert! It started with a ton of energy that lasted for 2 hours straight — they really didn’t take any breaks between songs. Lots of people were dancing, and we really enjoyed all the amazing music.

In all, it was a great weekend. Evan got to catch up with old friends and I got to meet most of them for the first time. We did some typical Vegas things, going to clubs and casino bars, and we also got away from the madness at least a little bit by going to some off-strip restaurants and the Hoover Dam. We also got our room at the Luxor upgraded to a suite, which was quite cool.

You can check out more photos from the wedding and Hoover Dam on Evan’s site.

Thanks, Adam and Rosie, for having us be a part of your wedding and helping us have a great time in Vegas!

The July Recap

Hanging with the Longfellows on our birthday

Hanging with the Longfellows on our birthday

How time does get away from me… this is the first time I’ve gone more than a month without posting to my blog. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it, either. It’s just that somewhere in my two week trip to Pittsburgh, preparations for Evan’s return home and other summer activities, I just didn’t post anything.

July was a good month, though. It started off, as I mentioned, with two weeks in Pittsburgh where Evan and I mostly worked during the day and ate dinner together at night. I set up shop in the hotel lobby most days, with my laptop and cell phone, and dealt with a few episodes of being locked out of the room (only once my fault for losing my key).

The only real standout day was our birthday, which we share, on July 8. After working for more than two weeks straight, Evan’s boss gave him the day off from work. We had a wonderfully relaxing day, playing frisbee in Schenley park, going to the Phipps Conservatory to wander through the beautiful greenery and fun Frabel glass sculptures, and wandered around Oakland for a while. We went to the top of the Cathedral of Knowledge to check out the view, and headed to the Legume Bistro for dinner. Dinner was a comedy of errors, with our waitress bringing a wrong dish (which Evan ate anyway), and a corked bottle of wine (which we brought and decided to replace from a bar across the street, since the restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol). But despite all the little mishaps, we had a fun time together, and went back to the hotel to share our mystery bottle of Champagne with some friends — we ultimately found out that it was from Evan’s brother, but we returned to our room to find a bottle of Champagne addressed to “Francia + Avan,” with no indication of who it was from. We were amused to have another year of excellent birthday misspellings, though.

The rest of the trip to Pittsburgh was uneventful, save for a few delicious dinners at Kaya, and a great Fourth of July fireworks display over the river.

A little more than a week after I returned to LA, Evan finally came home after four months away. We’ve been busy enjoying the sunshine, and catching up with family and friends. I’ve also been on a cooking spree, and I’ve been taking some more UCLA Extension design classes (more about that to come in upcoming posts).

Frank Lloyd Wright Houses of Western Pennsylvania

fallingwater

One of the best days of my trip to Pittsburgh was spending a Saturday out in the countryside visiting Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, two Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

We got to Fallingwater first and were set to take a guided tour with a small group of about 10. We all gathered at the visistor’s center, and when they called our group, we walked down the long gravel driveway to the house. On approach, you don’t really see the waterfall, but you do get to a small bridge that leads to the entrance of the house where you can look down on the stream that runs at the top of the platform, and you can see a floating platform with steps leading down from the house where the owners could sit and dangle their feet into the running water.

fallingwater floating platform

It was a beautiful late spring day and everything was very green. And though I had seen many photos of the house over the years, visiting it really felt like something new and different. One thing I was surprised about what how small most of the interior rooms were. The bedrooms and bathrooms were quite small, as were the hallways, but we learned that Wright designed that way — to compress you through the hallways to the rooms, and to bring the outside in by making each room’s patio similar in size to the room.

Fallingwater

There were fireplaces throughout the house and beautiful views from all the windows and balconies. It was also nice to see so much original furniture, as a lot of it is custom and built in to the house. The tour guide also loved to point out which designs weren’t Wright’s — some were the owner’s own designs that Wright disapproved of. We also got to see the guest house and walk around to the far side of the stream to get the classic view of the house, where we took most of our photos.

When we were done with our tour and walk around the grounds, we started to head over to see another one of Wright’s homes, Kentuck Knob. We had some time for our drive, though, so on the way we stopped in Ohiopyle to have a picnic lunch by the river, and we also checked out Cucumber Falls, where a large, drunken bridal party was clambering down the muddy path and over slippery roots and rocks to take a photo in their formalwear. It was quite a scene.

Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob was very different from Fallingwater. First, it’s a good deal smaller. It’s also tucked into the knob of  hill, so it has quite a modest exterior profile. Inside, it has large windows that look out on the trees, and it doesn’t have quite as much of the original furnishings as Fallingwater does, but it’s still privately owned and shows off the owner’s extensive sculpture collection both inside and outside the house. Again the hallways were very narrow and the rooms were even smaller, but it felt nice and cozy and if we weren’t the last tour of the day we would have had more time to go to the sculpture meadow and check out more of the modern art collection.

On our way back to Pittsburgh we stopped for dinner at Chez Girard, a quirky but lovely and nice French restaurant. We weren’t dressed as nicely as we should have been, but we sat out on the patio, enjoying the nice weather, listening to French music and eating a delicious meal.

Check out more photos on Flickr and Facbeook

A Beautiful Walk Through Phipps Botanical Garden and Oakland

The elegant Phipps Conservatory Glass House

The elegant Phipps Conservatory Glass House

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day, so I decided to go check out Phipps botanical garden and conservatory, Schenley Park and some of Oakland’s other sights.

Frabel Longfellows at the Phipps Conservatory

Frabel Longfellows at the Phipps Conservatory

The botanical gardens, almost entirely housed inside a giant glass house, were lovely. To add to the already impressive array of trees and flowers, there were also Frabel glass pieces dispersed throughout the gardens — lizards and frogs in the amazon room, floating, lacy bowls on top of a fish pond, fairies in the butterfly room and my favorites, the “Longfellows,” near and in many of the water elements.

A Brachiosaurus at the Carnegie Museums

A Brachiosaurus at the Carnegie Museums

After spening time in the gardens, I did a quick walkthrough of the Carnegie Library and also poked my head into the Carnegie art museum. It was near closing time so I didn’t buy a ticket, but I did go to the Pitt campus to check out the Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning (both closed for weddings) and took a look at the military museum from a distance, too (also closed for a wedding).

Heinz Chapel

Heinz Chapel

Oakland was such a pleasant place to wander and relax that Evan and I returned the next day to explore a bit more of Schenley Park and have a late breakfast at Pamela’s, a rather famous Pittsburgh diner chain. The pancakes were delicious.

Check out this slideshow of photos from the conservatory:

Check out more Pittsburgh photos on Flickr and Facebook