Wednesday, December 16, 2009

California Trip 2009

This year for Thanksgiving we decided to take a vacation.  We thought it would be fun to take Kim on a tour of California before she heads back to Germany next month.  Jer had never been to California either, so we knew it would be a lot of fun for everybody!  My nephew David joined us as well. 

Our first stop was San Francisco.  We stayed at the Omni Hotel near Union Square.  The location was perfect and the hotel was beautiful.  We met up with our friends Brett and Lena and they graciously showed us around the city.  They were the best tour guides ever!  We were able to take some fantastic pictures of the skyline and the famous bridges from ideal spots, thanks to their insider knowledge.  We visited Union Square, Downtown, Chinatown, Coit Tower, Haight-Ashbury, Japantown, Castro, the Bay Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Our second day there, we took a cruise out of Fisherman's Wharf to Alcatraz.  The boat ride there was foggy, but once we arrived on the island the fog lifted and we were exposed to some ridiculously beautiful scenery.  We spent a couple of hours touring the island and learning about the prison.  If you are ever in San Francisco, I recommend taking this tour.  It was well worth the money.  Here are a few highlights from that part of the trip:


After spending two days in San Francisco, we headed down south to Hollywood.  Right when we drove up, the valet guy pointed out that Reggie Miller was across the street at Saffore's luxury grooming salon.  I snapped a quick photo of him, paparazzi style.  We stayed in a really cool suite at the Andaz West Hollywood Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.  It faced the strip and had an additional sunroom sitting area complete with chaise lounge, loveseat sofa, mini flat screen television, and floor-to-ceiling windows creating an unobstructed view.  It was an awesome place to sit and relax.  While in Hollywood, we checked out Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theater, Rodeo Drive, Mulholland Drive, the Grove, Melrose Avenue, the Beverly Center, and of course the famous Hollywood sign.  One day for lunch we dined at The Little Next Door Cafe and it was awesome!  The atmosphere was really neat and the food was great too.  One afternoon we took a drive out to Santa Monica to get our beach fix.  We strolled along the pier and walked down by the water.  Right before we left, we noticed a film crew and realized they were from the show Criminal Minds.  That was really cool to see!  Some of the main actors from the show were there, and we got to watch them film a scene.  Here are some photos from that portion of our trip:


After we departed Hollywood, we made stops in Seal Beach and Laguna Beach.  It was a whole different world in LB!  The weather was beautiful and we were extremely jealous of the people playing sand volleyball on the beach in late November!

From Laguna Beach, we traveled further south to San Diego and Coronado Island.  Coronado was a really fun place, with a beautiful beach.  We experienced an amazing sunset there.

In San Diego, we stayed at the Omni Hotel, right across from Petco Park.  The view from our room was of the San Diego Bay and the naval base.  While there, we visited the famous San Diego Zoo.  I'm an animal-lover, so of course I enjoyed this experience!  They have more exotic animals than my local zoo, and more of each species.  It was cool to see the panda bears, the koala bears, and the polar bears.  There was a neat viewing area where you could watch the polar bears play underwater, and we were treated to a hilarious wrestling match from two of the playful bears.  On Thanksgiving, we found a restaurant serving a traditional turkey dinner so that Kim could still experience at least a little of an American Thanksgiving!  We ate at Suite & Tender and really enjoyed it.  It's a really fancy, schmancy restaurant, but it was worth it since it was a special occasion!  On our last day of vacation, we ventured into Tijuana, Mexico.  That was an interesting expedition!  We walked across the border with no trouble, and took a taxi into the heart of the city.  We were hounded by shop owners and restaurant owners, but it didn't bother us too much.  We tried a taco from a little road-side stand and it was probably the best one I've ever eaten!  We spent a couple hours there, and then decided to head back into the US to catch our flight home.  While we were waiting in the line to get through Customs, a guy walked along selling passports and driver's licenses.  Interesting.  We politely declined, and made our way across the border.  I think we all breathed a sigh of relief once we were back on American soil!  All in all, our trip to California was a blast and I'm so glad we went!


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