October Love in Los Angeles…

Long day in Grand Park and Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos skulls. Grand Park, Los Angeles. October 2015.
Dia de los Muertos skulls. Grand Park, Los Angeles. October 2015.

Starting last Saturday (24 October), one of Los Angeles’ larger Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations/displays began setting up in Grand Park, downtown near city hall. With displays ranging from traditional to artistic alters, large plaster and wooden faces/skulls and displays varying in size and meaning, there are a whole lot of things for everyone to enjoy.

The park was great in this surprisingly hot and slightly muggy LA October. There are a few fountain areas that children can run through (adults as well), making it a great stop for families and photographers alike.

For these displays, each offering has been designed by LA groups from Homeboy Industries to LA Women’s shelters to children’s groups or by selected artists so each one shows a different aspects of the city from different perspectives all in remembrance of those who have been lost.

You are able to wander through this park which spans a few blocks (you do cross the street so watch your kids carefully!) at any time from now until the last day – Monday, November 2. If you want a official walk through of these displays, there are guided tours offered every weekday at 12.15.

Last year, there was a party aspect but this hasn’t been announced for this year, however, it is something you may want to keep an eye out for if you happen to be in the area.

Photographers should also be aware that—as Halloween nears—more and more costumed children and cosplayer meet ups happen around this area which is great for pictures.

Recycled cup flowers. Grand Park, Los Angeles. October 2015.
Recycled cup flowers. Grand Park, Los Angeles. October 2015.

Right before city hall, you’ll see my favorite display: a large wedding cake made out of recycled/reused plastic dishware. The decorations are so beautiful it took me awhile to realize the flowers are made out of repurposed cups!

If you are from out of the area or just don’t want to drive into the city (or deal with parking), you can take the metro to Grand/Civic Center stop. We came in from the valley on the red line, but I really recommend looking up undergrounds near you for easy transport.

In case you finish the day early or just want to get out of the heat for a little while, The Cathedral of Angels, the Broad Museum (I mentioned this stop last week), and The Disney Concert Hall, are really close by.

This wraps up my last week in LA for a few months, but until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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October Love in Los Angeles…

Visiting Los Angeles….

… tips from a born and raised valley girl.

Castle by the Sea. Zuma Beach, Los Angeles. October 2015.
Castle by the Sea. Zuma Beach, Los Angeles. October 2015.

Having spent the last year or so living in London and traveling place to place, one of the major patterns I have found, at least concerning international travelers, is that LA isn’t one of the locations they’ve managed to hit. From issues of transportation access to fear of driving in the dreaded LA traffic to the sheer size of the areas you may want to visit, in the end, it all leads to very few people traveling to LA, at least the way they travel to other major hubs.

If you are looking to travel around LA, you should know that cars tend to be king, however, driving is hard if you were not raised in this kind of traffic. Be prepared for honking locals swerving past you and driving faster than you expect to be necessary. If you are looking to drive a rental, be aware that you must be over 25 to rent and that parking in LA can be worse than the traffic on the freeways.

There is a proper Metro system connecting the Hollywood to LA proper but you’ll have to do some research to figure out the system’s reach.

There are some tours you can take (sorry, I can’t recommend any as I’ve never been on an LA tour – again, I’m from here) that will guide you through the major parts of LA’s tourists attractions. But for me, it’s all about mixing in the local color and fan-fair with the bigger attractions.

Places to see:

Beaches:

If you are looking for a beach you can write home about as well as get some of our famous California sunshine, you have a few options.

Venice boardwalk is an extensive boardwalk filled with street artists and funky shops to explore.

Santa Monica beach and Pier are iconic for taking a festive stroll through carnival rides, food booths and games.

Huntington beach is huge for sports, such as volleyball tournaments and draws in the surfers—this is where surf city USA happens every summer. This might also have one of my favorite piers to photograph. Ruby’s dinner is amazing American classic located on the pier and while there aren’t rides out here, it’s absolutely beautiful day or night!

Santa Cruz isn’t where they filmed the vampire cult movie The Lost Boys, but it is the flim’s claim and inspiration. With another expansive pier to explore, you can have some fun while cracking all the vampire jokes you can think of.

For me, it’s all about Zuma—calm, beautiful, and not overrun—however, it’s not action packed. This is one of the many Malibu beaches. If you want a bit more tourist scene, the oldest of the surf competitions happen at proper Malibu beach.

Hikes:

Whenever I am in town, I try to hit a few LA hikes.

There are so many iconic hikes from walking above the Hollywood sign to the climb up to and above the Griffith Observatory—another must see for me with a great view of the city at sunset. Malibu Creek State Park passes through the old MASH filming locations as well as other great sights, just to name a few.

If you are hitting the beach, you should look at some of the beach hikes starting or ending around the beach you are looking to finish at.

Honestly, there are too many individual places to name, but there is pretty much something for anyone, starting near (practically) anywhere you may be staying near.

Just some other stuff to look up beyond the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Disneyland, and the Graumen’s/ TLC Chinese Theatre (which is a movie theatre):

LA Murals are huge right now and they are absolute works of art. Some areas are sketchy but going for a walk in the art districts is well worth the effort. From theatres to museums, there are huge areas to check out near City Hall, such as the new (and super excited for) Broad museum.

And let’s not forget: with the diversity of LA, there are festivals and the like going on for anyone visiting to check out.

To see pretty much of any of these areas—just like in most cities around the world—there are many walking tours you can go out and find.

Los Angeles is an amazing city that I really do recommend visiting if you can. Of course, this is home to me, so I may be a little biased!

Next week’s post will be my last from LA for a few more months, but for now,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Visiting Los Angeles….

Home is Where the Heart is…..

And where I’m at now.

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This is going to be a extremely quick turn around because I am more than a little jetlagged and long work hours have me exhausted.

Due to a remote work option for the next three weeks, I chose (last Thursday night) to fly home for the first time in thirteen months. This is only possible because of the great deal I found on Student Universe. If you are a student with an interest in traveling, I really recommend joining this site.

Once I got home, however, I was ushered into a substitute teacher’s position (which I don’t mind) on top of the 10 hours I have to put in for my internship per week.

This means that jetlag is a problem I cannot afford. But how do you avoid it?

My advice?

1. Grab some natural Melatonin to help you sleep without the morning sleeping pill hangover.

2. Drink lots of water throughout the day.

3. Eat full healthy meals at regular intervals that will give you fuel without overloading you on sugars that cause you to crash.

4. Fight the urge to nap by being active, especially when you feel a crash coming.

5. Make sure you are getting a full nights sleep so you’re not overly tired on top of your jet lag.

Even with all of this, you are bound to be tired if you are changing over as quickly as I’ve been forced to. The best thing you can do is give yourself time to adjust, but when you can’t, don’t worry: you’ll make it!

That’s it for me this week (in all my travels I almost forgot), and more next week. Until then,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Home is Where the Heart is…..

WB Harry Potter Tour, London

A visit redux.

Welcome to Hogwarts. WB's Harry Potter Studio Tour, Leavesdon, England. September 2015.
Welcome to Hogwarts. WB’s Harry Potter Studio Tour, Leavesdon, England. September 2015.

WARNING: MAJOR FANGIRL ALERT AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

A few weeks back, I was once again so lucky to hit the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studio Tour, which is amazing. I talked about this once before back in June 2014 (after my first visit), but it was a brief mention hidden in my nerd/fandom post about traveling around the fandom-centric sites of the UK.

This post is going to get more specific, but I won’t tell too much and give anything too big away—you’ll have to visit and experience it for yourself!

First to explain where I’m coming from (because, no, Harry Potter is not just for kids, DA’s honor! too far? too far…) :

I’ve grown up with these books, these characters, and this world. We listened to them on cross-country road trips narrated by Jim Dale, I’ve gone to book and film midnight releases dressed in Potter-bound apparel (I’m not a full out costume person), slept curled around the seventh book during my mid read nap so no one in the house could steal it, been to the Los Angeles’ WB Harry Potter/Costume/Lot museum, the London tour twice now, the theme park in Florida and can’t wait for the opening in LA. There are probably more—including the Ravenclaw cardigan I am currently sporting and its Slytherine double hanging back at my flat which have begun to grace my work and everyday wardrobe—but this list feels sufficiently long enough.

I’m technically a Ravenclaw (through and through—thank you, Pottermore), but I have a not so secret desire to fall a bit more on the green side, and that streak is strong. There is a whole theory I have behind this (which doesn’t even touch on my high school feminism and Harry Potter thesis), but alas, I digress (feel free to ask me about it, however!).

***

Anyway, as one of the cast members explained to a nearby group, where Florida is a theme park, The lot tour in London is a giant museum—and I emphasis giant.

Filling two large sound stages and some of the outdoor space between them, this is really The Harry Potter museum. Each of these sound stages is filled with the real costumes, props, hair pieces, and sets used to film the film adaptations. While you can’t walk onto (most of the sets) you can take as many pictures as you want of everything you see and a few bigger sets even have small interactive aspects.

You are led through the tour by videos playing across screens throughout the tour as well as large information signs, but you can buy (either with your ticket or before entering the tour) a personal media tour guide which will give you more digital commentary on what you are seeing, behind the scenes stories, and image galleries you wouldn’t see otherwise.

My suggestion: if you are a big fan, you’ll want to get the earliest entry time available. We went in at 10 am and left the lot at around 5-5:30 pm; they announced the last tour entry when we still had a few rooms left to go—rooms where we spent the most amount of time as well! This being said, we listened and read absolutely everything, stopped for a quick bite at the midway point, and spent more time than I’d ever considered in the wand room (which I’ll get to in just a minute).

The second half of the tour is great for anyone interested in the design aspects of film making from prosthetic work to models while CGI falls near the end of the first soundstage. This second half also showcases artists’ renderings and concept art which are so beautiful you’ll want them for your house—again, you can take pictures of all of this!

Before we get to the wand room, as promised, I want to touch on the food situation. This was updated from the first time I’d gone on the tour three years ago, so it’s a fully enclosed area. There are two areas you order from: one is everything (food and drinks) and the other is the Butterbeer stand. The set up gets crowded so if you have a few people, after ordering, leave one or two to grab the food (party size depending), a few to pick up the drinks, and anyone else to grab a table.

This is one of only three places in the world that carry Butterbeer and, if I may say, the taste has definitely improved from my first try. There are different variations depending on where you go—Florida had warm, cold, and frozen when we visited—and here in London the Butterbeer is served cold or in ice cream form. If you just go to the drink stand, you won’t see the ice cream option so be aware it’s there because it is absolutely worth it! (I can’t say the same for the Mac’n’cheese, however, just so you know.)

But onto the Wand room.

My other post touched on the beauty and awe of the large scale castle model—again, I almost burst into tears and probably spent a good hour in this particular room on each of my visits—but I never even considered until this last trip, how long a person could find themselves wandering the wand room—the last room you enter before hitting the gift shop.

This room looks—at a simple glance—like a neater version on Ollivander’s Wand Shop. These wand boxes, however, are not real props and do not contain wands—instead, each box end has a name of a person who worked on the film in some way over the course of the 8 films. this rangers from actors and directors, to prop designers and camera crews; if a person was listed on the workers books, they have a box.

Most visitors fly through this room without a second thought, however, inside this room, there is always a robe employee who you can ask to point out anyone whose box you’d like to see. We spent probably the same amount of time in this room as we did with the castle model, asking the employee about everyone we could possibly think of and she pointed out a few extras we hadn’t even thought to ask about (don’t forget, J.K. Rowling has her own box as well!).

If you are lucky and really give the employee some tough things to remember, they may even give you some extra stories they’ve learned for the sets and about people named in the room. This room was truly so much fun!

Once you are out of the wand room, you enter the most dangerous room in the whole tour: the gift shop. A neat tip we got from the girl in the wand room: You can try on and take pictures with anything without buying it—robes, sorting hat, ect—though I’d note, within reason! This is great if you can’t afford to buy these items but want to instagrm a picture souvenir.

My go to purchases are the house sweaters and cardigans, and this is the place I’d go to buy them because, unlike the shop you will find in King’s Cross station (another thing I missed from fandom locations I’ve visited), these sweaters do not have house logos!

There are pros and cons to this fact, however, both dealing with the fact that they look like normal clothing. This means you can get away with going Potter-bound anywhere and no one is the wiser. It also means that your cosplay is closer to the films where they aren’t patched. Unfortunately, this means that the sweaters look like your everyday, inexpensive sweater, but with a fandom price tag which (at least) doubles the cost.

With that in mind, it’s a tossup. Since I’m not growing anymore, I’m fine with what I have now, but I’d be wary about buying for kids.

Also, make sure you get the washing instructions from the checkout; the sweaters shrink up a lot in the wash so the directions are very important since you are paying so much you don’t want to ruin them!

For all the other logistics from prices to how to get to the lot (plan well ahead for this; if you are late and miss your window, they say you may not be allowed in), check out the site. And a final note from me: be aware of the season and times you are going. Tourist season has heavy traffic through the tour as do various times through the school year (like in September!) when school trips come through!

And with that, I think this post has gone on long enough. If you have anything to add, questions to ask, whatever, comment below!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

WB Harry Potter Tour, London