Saturday, October 11, 2014

California - Los Angeles

It's a pretty unfair question to ask me which part of my trip was the best. Every single part was fantastic and I would do it all over again in a heart beat. . . Well maybe not the terrifying traffic experience and feeling so lost - but hey, that's all part of the experience and the funny memories!

The weekend we went to Yosemite definitely sits very close to the top of the list of favorites. It was so relaxed and absolutely beautiful. It was a great time to just enjoy nature, get away from the business of life and really get to know Bob better. Late night conversations when you're exhausted but just can't sleep because you're so happy and don't want the day to end are simply the best :) I also got to know his best friend. I think a persons character really shines and comes out through the friends they are around and how they act when they are around them. I seemed to get along with him really well, hit it off really quickly, and I loved being together as a group. Late nights playing games, having drinks, sharing (and making) memories, cooking meals... It was a perfect setting.

Time spent with his friends, classmates, and study group was great, too. As well as the cumulative time spent with Bob talking, laughing, sharing music tastes, and feeling comfortable just sitting or walking in silence, appreciating the moment.

But the weekend that we spent in LA probably tops the list as the most "fun", even though I still think it's an unfair question ;) It was a huge eye opener for me, introduced me to more friends, his lifestyle (past or not, he'd still be living it if he could ;), and definitely reminded me how much I really miss the city life.

On Friday (10/3) we got up, had breakfast and headed to the dorms to pack and pick up his roommate so we could head off to LA after classes. We got out of there a lot earlier than expected and were LA bound! It's about a 5 hour drive but when your with great company it doesn't seem near that long! We had a great conversation on the way there, I had far too much caffeine to keep me awake, and I finally got my In-N-Out burger and was a pretty happy camper!

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It was so much fun driving around LA with someone who has lived there and knows the area well. So many stories came up and about every 15 seconds Bob would rank a restaurant or bar we would come upon. Such a foodie! The stories that came out of being in different areas were a lot of fun to listen to as well. We stayed at Bob's best friends house which is also where he lived in LA, in the Palisades on the west side of LA. When we got there we said hello to everyone and then went to grab dinner.

The places this guy goes to eat casually just blew my mind! I'd never been anywhere like it! Of course we don't have places like that around here, and when I lived in SLC I rarely ate out. He took me to a German sausage and beer place called Wurstk├╝che and the atmosphere was amazing! Just walking along the street it would be super easy to overlook. We went in, ordered our brats and some beer. Think of a very small bakery - that's what it looked like when you first go in. I figured you just got your food and left or something, I had no idea there was so much more to this :) Bob then led me around a wall and down a long hallway until we got to where we can sit down and eat. It was dark, packed with people, had a bar, and a DJ. Like I said... incredible atmosphere and so fun! The tables were lined with parchment paper and you could draw pictures or write messages on it. The food was delicious and I was blown away. So fun and I am super glad we went there! When I first heard we were going to a sausage place I never imagined what we'd walk in to! After we ate we went to one of Bob's friends houses for drinks and he was able to catch up with a couple of friends. Good conversation and a fun night.

On Saturday we got up early and went to have breakfast at a great breakfast/bakery place with a couple of Bob's friends, had a delicious latte, huge but delicious omelette, and witnessed a very passionate/angry french man who wanted specifically 5 baguettes, not just 1.

After breakfast Bob took me to Santa Monica beach. We walked hand in hand along the beach barefoot listening to the water crash into the beach. It's so nice to be able to be with someone and to feel like you don't need to say a word. To where the silence isn't at all awkward and to just be able to fully appreciate the surroundings and who your with. I enjoyed it a lot. He introduced me to a fun gift store, Kitson, and we walked around a little bit taking it all in.

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He then took me up to some great sight-seeing points that were stunning! I showed him the joy I get from the simple things in life, such as the satisfaction of stepping on a crunchy leaf in the fall. He might have shook his head at me but his cute smiles followed by the words "You dork" just showed me he enjoyed it as much as I!

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Before heading back to the house he took me to a place he discovered shortly before moving. We went to some meditation gardens at Lake Shrine. Didn't get to walk on all of the paths due to a wedding, but it was beautiful and very peaceful.

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We then headed back to the house, went got take out from Panda Express, and played a pretty cool game with Katso and Scott in which I kicked butt and took names (no, but really I didn't know what I was doing proudly won.) Bob and I then went to meet a couple more of his friends at the Bodega wine bar, another fun place in which I'd never been to anything like it before. Great ambiance! We had more delicious food and shared a bottle of wine. Bob was raving about the bacon wrapped dates (have I told you how much of a foodie he is and how much he loves to try new things, no??). I was pretty skeptical but we got them and they were actually pretty good! Then we had caprese sliders, a pizza, and more bacon wrapped dates. So much food but oh no, we weren't done yet. After a lot of laughs and a good time we headed down to Eat Shabu. So good! Once again, and you'd probably guessed this by now, I've never done anything like it!

You have this big pot of boiling kale water in front of you, a huge plate of veggies (cabbage, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, tofu, onions, noodles, etc), various spices for the water, a bowl of rice, bowl of peanut sauce, and bowl of soy sauce. You then order your meat and it comes raw, super thinly sliced on a plate. Then into the boiling water goes some of the veggies, the meat, and your choice of spices. You let it cook, dip it in the sauces you want, and eat it with the rice. It's delicious! At the end you can boil all of the veggies together and it makes an amazing broth you can eat with the noodles.

This was my first full attempt at eating with chopsticks... and I nailed it after being shown the proper way to hold them. To say I was impressed with myself is an understatement! But goodness we had SO much fun that night!! I loved the friends we spent time with and the conversations had.

My delicious Shabu!
As you can tell, Saturday was an extremely long, but awesome day, we did SO much... and I'm not even done yet! Katso and Scott picked us up and we went to meet some mutual friends of Bob and I's at the theater to watch Annabell. Oh man, what an experience! Bob is hysterical to watch scary movies with, poor thing! I definitely fed off of his anxiety which made it so much worse for me, because typically I do not do scary movies! But at times he was my comic relief :) Sorry, Bob! We went to Corey's place after the movie to hang out. Played Mario Party and Super Smash Bros (another game I kicked butt at, thank you very much. Kirby FTW!) Bob gave me a pat on the back for my video gaming skills ;)

We got home around 4:30 in the morning and crashed until 10 to meet up with a couple more friends for breakfast. We were planning on eating at a great waffle place, however the line was over 40 minutes long, so we decided to try Hucklebees.. Another packed place that we weren't willing to wait for. Bob joked around about how we could go to Dunkin' Donuts, however I wasn't impressed and I think he could tell that my my 'hangry' look. But in the end......

You guessed it.... I experienced my very first Dunkin' Donuts trip. The line was crazy long and we waited for quite awhile, but in the mean time we were able to talk a lot and we had a good time.

We had to leave LA early afternoon on Sunday to head back to Merced. The trip home seemed a little bit longer, but not too bad. Bob and I explored music tastes and shared some more stories. We got back to the dorms and then we headed out again to drive an additional 2 hours to San Francisco so I could catch my flight the next morning. Stopped and ate at Buffalo Wild Wings and then got a hotel and crashed there for the night.

Overall LA wasn't anything like I expected it to be! I thought it was all go, go, go and always super busy, but there are the more 'calm' parts and little communities, too... just like any other city you would go to. I actually liked it a lot, and definitely a lot more than I thought I would. And it's beautiful there. One thing I have always loved about California is the palm trees and the ocean. One thing I loved about Utah was the mountains. Well, in LA you get a 3 for 1 and it's pretty perfect!

I was super bummed out to have to leave and come back to my reality, though the routine again has been nice. I truly had an AMAZING time in California and I am so excited to go back at some point. Thanks so much to you, Bob, for showing me around and letting me have your car while I was there! Thank you for putting up with my terribly cheesy (and just plain terrible) pick up lines and incredibly awesome Kansas slang. Hope I taught you we aren't all red-neck hicks and that I'm not always quite as ornery as I seem! =D Thanks for the dinners, the date, the company, and the lack of Dragon Ball Z watching while I was there, even when giving you permission ;) Glad we missed out on a couple of #whoops moments there! haha. I miss you and I can't wait to see where the next adventure leads. I think New York and the east coast is calling my name in a couple of months?!

Until we meet again :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

California - Friends and Dates

I've been far too busy enjoying my time to sit down and properly write about the remaining days of my trip so I decided to wait until I got home to finish it all up in a couple of different blogs.

The next few days leading up to the weekend are a blur and tend to run together! But I think I finally got them straight :) Bob had classes all day on Wednesday as well and so I took advantage of the extra time to myself and sat in the library on campus all day. I studied my phlebotomy for the ASCP cert I am preparing to take. I got a text late that afternoon from Bob asking if we wanted to go to Applebees for bingo night and some wine after his lab. I was a little disappointed at first, as I wanted to spend the time as just the two of us, but I knew it would be a great time meeting his friends, getting out and really having a good time. So I obliged and we went.

And a good time we had! I met 5 or 6 of the people he has classes with, studies with, and hangs out with. They are all really fun people and the type of people I could see myself spending time with. Bingo didn't happen that night but we got the quesadilla burgers and a bottle of wine, and had good conversation. When we got back to campus we all took a walk along Yosemite Lake, found out none of us could skip rocks very well, if at all, climbed through a barbed wire fence to get to the car, and laughed a whole lot. I'm very glad we went out!

Thursday's plans were kind of thrown a curve ball with a quick meeting that Bob had to go to in the middle of the afternoon. But we definitely made the best of it! After his first class of the day we stayed on campus and played frisbee. It was super hot in the sun, but I found out I can throw a frisbee pretty darned well! I had a lot of fun! After that we went back up to the dorm, cooled off, and watched Castle until his meeting. And then more fun began! Bob had promised to take me on a date during my trip, time was running short and I honestly didn't know if it was going to happen, and I didn't really want to push it. I was just really enjoying the time we were able to spend together!

But this guy took me to a Vineyard roughly 10 minutes away from campus and we did a wine tasting. It was a super cute little place and we had a very enjoyable time. He (Tom) started us out with some white wine and varied into reds. He told us a few food parings with them and the differences between them. It was all just so good! Saved the best for last with a nice Rosato in which Bob ended up buying me a bottle of (Thank you :). He paired it with a little bubbly which made it even more fantastic. I'm anxious to try a glass since brining it home! In addition to the wine we met this very cute and fun older Australian couple there. They take 6 months at a time, come to the US, and just travel around the country in their RV. They have been to so many places and are currently traveling in California tasting wines, visiting national parks and etc. It was so fun to hear their stories!

Bob had a discussion after our date and so we snarfed down some food, I relaxed while he had class, and then we headed off to find a hotel for the night and crashed right away before heading off to LA the next day!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

California - Merced & Sacramento

Bob's been in class and studying a lot this week so I decided to spend all day on Tuesday exploring Merced. He has pointed about 2 or 3 of the main streets here and so I thought I'd take the car and just drive without a map or GPS. After all that definitely seems like the best way to figure out your way around a city! I was pleasantly with how easy it is to get around. I was able to find about anything I could have been looking for following those streets. I walked around a little bit and scoped out the mall here. Found a Barnes and Noble with a Starbucks and sat around for awhile until he got out of class.

We then had a super interesting adventure when we found the apartment we had rented for the week on Airbnb. Neither of us felt very comfortable in the area. I think we likely would have been okay, however we decided to go with our gut feeling after talking about it and canceled the reservation. We frantically searched on airbnb for another place to stay that we could afford and came across a gorgeous house nearby the college. The place actually didn't appear that it was available but Bob reached out to the owner and he was able to accommodate us through Thursday afternoon. He has 3 or 4 people staying at his house at one time. They are able to get together in the evenings, cook together, talk and get to know each other.. It's actually really fun. We haven't gotten to enjoy it much because we've been out very late each night, but in the future it would definitely be a perfect place to stay! We're so much more comfortable here and I'm glad it all worked out. It sure was stressful for awhile trying to figure out where we were going to stay for the week!

Yesterday I discovered that California driving is all a realm of it's own. Not anything like I'm used to. I was a bit nervous about driving but I figured that I had driven in the city in SLC for a few years, I could definitely do it again. Bob had classes from 7:30am to 9:30pm so I decided to take a day trip to Sacramento to see a couple of friends and do some exploring. What. A. Trip. I was completely wrong about how "easy" California driving would turn out to be. Not so easy when you're a passive driver! ;)

I met up with my first friend and we ate at a Japanese place. I went the safe route and just had Shrimp Tempura with some rice. It was delicious, though! After that we decided to go to Old Sacramento. I forget how long it takes to get to places in the city vs. how long it does in Kansas. We were about 20 minutes away which I didn't realize at first, but it wasn't a huge deal. I was excited to be able to go. So we head out and then I realize... it's rush hour. It took us probably about a good hour to get to where we were going. I would have LOVED to spend more time with her and walked around a bit more, but I was starting to run really short on time so we said our goodbyes, I dropped her off at home, and then went back to the heart of Sacramento.

It probably would have been a little bit better had it not been DARK when I was heading downtown. Thankfully rush hour was over by that time and I was able to drive on the free ways no problem. But then it came time to get off of the free way. I got off no problem but when I was trying to turn on P street I got really, really confused with the stop lights. There were several different streets going across and I truly thought my light was green. Turns out it definitely was not green. (that or the other guy ran the light, but I doubt it). I was going along, thankfully very slowly, and nearly t-boned a black car in the middle of the intersection. It was terrifying. I felt awful. Someone was watching out for me!!!

I was getting ready to meet my other friend downtown to eat some dinner. I was still shook up from my earlier experience. I found the place, no problem, however parking was a different story. I cannot parallel park. (A skill I really need to work on). I can, but I do NOT feel comfortable doing so, especially since it wasn't my car. So I drove around forever trying to find a place I could park. I finally found one I felt comfortable enough using and was getting ready to do it until this a-hole of a car pulled right in front of me and whipped into the spot I was about to take. I was not happy.

At that point I was just completely done because I had been searching for a spot for at least 15 minutes. And most of the streets were one way, so I kept getting confused and turned around. I finally found some public parking, even though I knew that it would cost me more than street parking. Decided to use that. About crapped my pants when it turned out to be $10 but at that point it seemed really worth it. I then get out of my car and I knew that I was a ways down from the place we were meeting at. Unfortunately I got really turned around. I couldn't see the street signs from where I was at so I really wasn't sure what direction I needed to go in. I just decided to go for it and started walking. I found that I was at 16th street and 1200 but I couldn't figure out what way would get me to 1414, right or left. I started getting REALLY frustrated. When I get stressed out, uncomfortable, and that frustrated all I want to do is cry. Ya. Bad combination.

I finally just started walking, hoping I could make some sense out of the streets. My friend was my saving grace when she noticed me walking and called out my name! I was completely relieved! We had a very nice time catching up (it's been several years other than contact online and phone) and I'm so glad we were able to make it work to see one another. I hope I get more opportunities in the future to see her :)

I haven't gotten many more pictures yet, but here are a few more from the last couple of days :) You can click on it to enlarge!