LA Grand Central Market

So this post is a little bit of a throw back, unfortunately into the span of time before my phone took a lovely trip through a washing machine but after my last computer sync, so all the pictures are gone (*sad face*) but this LA market is so well photographed a simple search will give you all you need to know.

Way back at the end of September, some friends, my dad, and I participated in the Homeboy 5k – a charity run to support a great LA foundation that is really close to our heart because it’s kind of literally close to home – and since we got up to go so early and the track was full of hill, we had worked up an appetite. If you have ever ran or walked one of these events, you know that all the food venues near site are crazy after the race ends – if you are hungry, probably so are the other hundreds of thousands of attendants.

We all took a quick drive to LA’s Grand Central Market. If you have been to larger cities and gone to their indoor food vendor markets, this isn’t new to you at all – the idea is more or less the same no matter where you go.

So what are some things to know?

The truth is, with all of these markets you are dealing with gentrification – even if they have been around for a long time! You will find a lot of really trendy vendors who serve really good but pricey street food which will basically be all organic, home-made/grown/prepared, and will use fancy words like ‘aioli’ – guys, this literally means sauce.

The atmosphere also means a very specific kind of crowd – young hipsters and groups looking to brunch, mixed with brunching families. It’s mostly communal dining and first grab, first sit so you have to be quick or charming enough that people give you their table as they leave.  So yea, crowded which isn’t helped by all the people walking around carrying food trays or snapping shots for Instagram – yes. Guilty as charged.

Dad and I got really good tuna melts from one of the vendors while most of our group got bagels and lox, but I was lucky enough to try both. The tuna sandwiches were really good and large enough that I didn’t feel bad about the cost and the same can be said about the lox – size and cost was one of the reasons I hesitated ordering them but I was gladly mistaken.

In fact, eating from Belle’s plate almost made me wish I had ordered it, except it was a little odd. The Salmon is prepared by the group that runs the booth and I know that smoked lox is not an easy task, however, the fish was slices thicker than I am used to and it wasn’t as salted. I know this could be part of the freshness, but it was off-putting to some in the group – hence me getting to eat more of it!

Instead of going home straight away, we decided to explore a little longer which lead us to an amazing artisan ice cream booth – I mean, Lavender and Earl Grey and Biscuit ice cream? Yes, please! and eating the Churro flavor – again real with pieces! – made me feel like I was in Disneyland (the only place I really eat churros….). The prices are a little hefty for what you get but with everything else you are bound to try, they are surprisingly filling and rich. Basically, watch out because they sneak up on you.

None of this is to say that I didn’t totally enjoy myself and all the food I got to have, because I did – after all, I usually don’t write about a place unless I enjoyed myself – however, I probably wouldn’t race into the city just to come back, and I wouldn’t drag out of town friends here unless it was because we were passing through. But that’s just me.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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LA Grand Central Market

Geeky Teas, Los Angeles

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As you may have read last week, I have been pre-writing all of my posts for the last few months, but now I have caught myself up. Why? Well, mostly because school has been crazy and then Ryan was in town meaning I was living out of a car and two houses and having things finished and scheduled was so much easier – which means break next week will definitely be a point where I sit down and start writing!

But for now, if you love board games, nerd stuff (of all kinds), teas, cats, and supporting small businesses, this is absolutely a stop for you!

I first heard of Geeky Teas when my friend, Paul, brought me their Capitol Cocoa Tea – a Hunger Games based teas – and I fell absolutely in love with it. Still, I never managed to wander back until about a few weeks ago when I dragged Ryan along with me in order to pick up a variety of teas that wouldn’t break the budget; he bought me a giant IKEA teapot that we were using about two or three times a day.

As I hinted with the Hunger Games tea, every tea in the store is geek themed. From cartoons to geek classics like Firefly, Star Wars, Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, and so much more. We had so much fun reading the teas makeup and making our choices and the shops owner knew exactly where to find the bags around the stores.

While I was so consumed with the teas that I didn’t see anything else until I had made my purchase – prompting a second when I found a Firefly necklace I couldn’t pass up – Ryan was enamored with the board games (specifically the huge range of strategy games). What I loved was witnessing the owner interacting with a group of customers asking after specific games that weren’t held in store for purchasing – mostly because they aren’t made for off-line whole sale. Still, she was able to point them into the direction of other small-businesses like her’s that work together to stay afloat that might have some of the games.

If all of that doesn’t pull you in, there are so many more levels of the shop: There are rooms and nooks full of nerd merchandise from cups and tea paraphernalia, to jewelry, to art to so much more; then there is the cat adoption and rescue which means every once in a while there are wandering cats; and finally, there is the fact that there is a schedule of events from 21+ board game nights to movie nights and everything in between.

I seriously can’t recommend this shop enough and can’t wait to get back. If you are interested in helping local businesses as a visitor a local, you should definitely swing by.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Geeky Teas, Los Angeles

Travel Confessions of an LA Girl

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Driving Los Angeles. Los  Angeles, California. 2016.

In case I haven’t made it obvious before, I am a Los Angeles native. While I am a valley girl, I have always lived a quick drive from the city and some of my favorite spots are such because of the cityscape I get to see from them. I love walking through downtown whether searching for murals to take pictures of; checking out architecture; exploring the markets, parks and museums; going to Marches; or visiting the fabric districts for the best deals – there is so much to see and do in the city that makes living near it amazing.

However, despite my 26 years living near cities – LA, San Francisco, and London – and a solid 10 years as a fully licenced driver, I absolutely hate driving in the city.

Give me crazy freeway Los Angeles drivers, flying at speeds that scare folks from the central, fly-over states; The lines of motorcyclists who weave in and out of traffic; the never-ending construction zones that make the freeways expand and contract at dizzying intervals – I will take it all over driving into the city on surface streets.

I will gladly be chauffeured into the city by family or friends for group things or I will take the metro, but driving in the city drives me absolutely bonkers! I had to do this for my senior thesis in high school. Part of the paper required going down to the LA Public Library after school and meeting with your teacher so they can talk to you about the topic as well as give you suggestions on how to find sources as well as how to use resources like libraries.

I loved the library – I hated driving there. I had a terrible GPS that kept crashing or loosing signal between the buildings and when I tried redirecting myself, I ended up going up a one-way street in the wrong direction! While It was fine and I had plenty of time and space to turn it around, as a seventeen year old, it left an impression and even thinking about driving in LA makes me cringe.

So if you are traveling into a big city – especially Los Angeles (I find San Francisco so much easier to navigate!) – I will always recommend considering all your transportation options before automatically going for a rental. I love driving in LA but we have a very specific driving rhythm which feels like mayhem if you are not used to it – in fact, if you mess up the rhythm, often times, you will be making the roads less safe than the normal ‘crazy’ LA-based driver.

But it is true: I love my city, but if there is a choice of driving into the city myself or staying in the valley – purely for my driving sanity – I will usually opt for the latter.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Travel Confessions of an LA Girl

Using the LAX Flyaway…

So, I’m back! And as such I have quite a lot to talk about as time (and posts) go on, but first things first, a little from Los Angeles.

Whether you are from the greater Los Angeles area or visiting, there is something about driving to The Los Angeles International Airport that causes a headache. If you are from out of town, the traffic – dealing with the LA driving style more than anything – and stress caused by traveling alone is enough to make people avoid this city. And as a local, driving around LAX with people who don’t understand LA driving and the fierce, crazy taxis, we generally avoid it as well.

This is why for years my parents have relied on the amazing service provided by LAX Flyaway. This bus service gives quick, reliable and cheap round-trip or single fare options for getting to LAX from a variety of locations – Van Nuys (our usual drop off location), Hollywood, Westwood, Union Station, or Long Beach. This not only makes traveling to and from LAX easier but makes flying into the city easier.  While we may make the drive for long term travel or international destinations – for sentimental reasons – the fact that you can really only pick up and drop off at LAX means there really are no reasons to drive into the chaos especially for quicker trips, ie Kansas.

Of course, if you aren’t looking to go into the city and have other options – like Burbank, if you are more valley-bound – you can avoid the whole mess. However, I have to caution (as always) to research locations. My brother-in-law had an out-of-town guest who didn’t pay attention to this and, thinking the Long Beach airport was closer as well as cheaper, booked a flight there only to need a pickup an hour away with no traffic.

If you are from out of town, this is a great service that can get you to Union Station which can then get you all over the city and beyond.

I know this isn’t about Kansas – but trust me, you will hear plenty about that in the weeks to come – and a little disjointed, but I am still a bit travel-lagged and promise that this service is well worth talking about. But for now,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Using the LAX Flyaway…

In LA? Surf’s Up!

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Surfer at Huntington Beach Competition. Huntington Beach, California. July 2016.

If you area visitor in the LA area right now – and, alright, even you locals as well – the first thing I have to say is sorry: these fires suck! Air quality is bad, lighting is all screwy from the ash clouds, and it is so hot that no one really wants to do anything. This is not the California I signed up for when I moved home but at least us locals are used to fire seasons and the burning in the chaparral – again, for you visitors, I am so sorry.

But this week and into the weekend there is a pretty cool excursion which more or less helps you escape the orange lighting  which makes LA city look a lot like an angry Mordor upon approach:

The Vans US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach.

From young surfers to older and more experienced pros, these athletes are quite the sight. The event has spaces for two simultaneous surf competitions, as well as BMX and Skateboard arenas.

Whether you are a beach junkie (yes!), photo-bug (yes!) or a fan of any or all of these sports (a little calmer but still, yes!), then this is worth the drive. These are also pop up shops including a Van’s mega-pop up which sells exclusive 2016 US Open gear if the heat gets too much for you or you are just looking for a break.

We went last Saturday which was day 1 of the competition and it was already pretty crowded so I’d plan to get there early especially as the finals roll in this weekend. There is lot parking but that usually fills up hours before things get truly underway and parking on the street isn’t crazy expensive so I would plan to park on the street and walk in – again, be wary as you may have to walk a fair amount!

Unfortunately, while we were there, the fog was so heavy that there wasn’t much to see on the water. For the three hours (two of actual surf time) we snapped pictures, each site seemed to get less than a single heat scored. Still, a lot of photographers – my father and myself included – did pick up a few good shots of practice runs from the pier during the standstill.

Photographers! Remember to set up and protect you camera and gear for the conditions (moisture, wind, sun, heat, salt, ect) and that the pier gets crowded so finding a good vantage point can be really hit or miss.

I didn’t mind the conditions except for the little bit of fuzz in my pictures, so as long as you enjoy watching the surfers do their thing regardless if you get perfect shots, you’ll have a great day.

Because of scheduling and the fog, we only stayed a short while but I have heard that you get quite a show from the other competitions as well, so they are worth stopping into. The skate and BMX competitions start closer to noon so keep an eye on the schedule. If I managed to get back out there this weekend, my camera and I will definitely be running around every inch of the competition!

Until then, remember your hats, glasses, and sunscreen and stay safe out there LA!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Going to the Zoo

The amazing new Los Angeles Zoo renovations that are so worth the visit.

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Prowling tiger hunting hidden meat. Los Angeles Zoo. July 2016.

I’ve always loved the zoo – school visits,  family outings, or simple art excursions, it’s always a great day. This could be me being an education nerd – I spent a good chunk of my day talking about cool tech additions they could use as a way increasing visibility and audience interactivity – but the new additions to the zoo are the areas that really deserve attention.

There are many who – rightfully so – dislike zoos for the same reasons many now avoid Sea World; enclosures are too small and they don’t fit the needs of animals whose natures’ dictate room to move and, in many cases, hunt. While the hunting issues can’t really be fixed in any publicly approved ways – no animals released to be attacked in the paddock, but they do hide food for predators to have to hunt down before they can eat – in terms of space, the Los Angeles’ zoo has been going leaps and bounds to improve the situation.

A few years ago, this dealt with updating the reptile house but, most recently, was the opening of Rain Forests of America – the new otter enclosure.

This enclosure houses a single family of otters which has been growing rapidly since the opening of this amazing space – happy otters = otter babies. Filled with a rushing river slide,  large diving space and plenty of land to sunbath on, this is the most spectacular area I’ve ever seen in a zoo.

Anyone who has been disappointed with this zoo in the past should see this enclosure and the work being done to improve the lives of the animals housed here.

Whenever there is extra money or donations made, those funds are put into improving habitats. One serious show of trust in the reintroduction of Australian animals – Australia is extremely selective in where their zoos send animals.

And don’t forget, it’s summer so you should definitely check out the events calendar – Brew at the LA Zoo (for adults only) and music events like Friday music shows as part of the Roaring Nights series.

Finally, don’t forget other local treasures you can hit in one go – such as Travel Town Railroad and Shakespeare in the Park in Griffith Park throughout the summer (this year it’s Richard III and The Tempest).

Below are a few more pictures but if you are in LA – visiting or just home – locked in like I am – I really can’t recommend a visit enough. It’s summer and gets busy so don’t forget you can download digital tickets online even on location!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Going to the Zoo

On Tracks: California Edition

And welcoming our guest writer (and an amazing travel companion): Bex!

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That’s right, this week we have a special guest writer, my little sister Bex – this is the same sister I’ve traveled through the UK and Europe with pretty much every time I talk about my recent travels here on my blog. I haven’t traveled up to her at school yet, but after reading and editing this post, I may be looking at following her lead and use our California public transport! But for now, read on and enjoy!

I just recently used the Amtrak to travel between Fresno and Los Angeles for the weekend and I’ll admit, I’m not a regular commuter on public transportation – I always figured it was easier and faster to just drive myself between the two when I had to and not make the effort to get dropped off and picked up from a station.

The week I decided to use it was the second weekend of four in a row I was planning on making this back and forth trip and the idea of driving for 3+ hours each way four times in a row really didn’t appeal to me. So I decided to check prices before resigning myself to either driving anyway or just scrapping my plans for that week. Round trip cost turned out to only be $64, just slightly more than it costs me for gas.

There were pros and cons – as with most things. I didn’t have to drive, which meant that I could get some reading done or watch things on YouTube or Netflix because the trains I was on (both ways) had free wifi (always a plus!). On my train back, they also had a food car which wasn’t too overpriced.

Another good thing with Amtrak is they have guaranteed connections. My train down from Fresno was delayed about half an hour (and when you get your ticket, you can put your phone number and have them text you notifications about delays which is handy) which meant we got into Bakersfield late. However, my bus connection and all the others were still there because they don’t leave until the train gets there and their passengers have made it to the bus they’re meant for.

All the employees I dealt with had a good attitude and seemed cheerful when checking tickets and offered those with luggage help. I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and not having large amounts of luggage (I only had a backpack) made it even easier to do.

one of the downsides I discovered was that it took longer than it would have to drive myself by about an hour (though that’s not a huge deal by any means).

The big thing is that train doesn’t reach everywhere. My trip to LA, as I mentioned earlier, had me switch out from train to bus at Bakersfield because there aren’t actually direct trains from Fresno to Los Angeles. Also, even when you’ve reached your final destination, you still need to arrange a way to get to where you’re staying in that city instead of just going straight there while driving.

There are also the same hassles whenever you’re taking public transportation – not every other passenger is considerate of those around them and if your train is crowded there is little to no privacy.

However, I can see the appeal in using it from time to time. As a group, I think it would be interesting to take a train to other places – have a group experience without having to worry about being pulled over or distracting the person who’s driving. And even when you’re by yourself, you get to see the places you may drive often from a completely different perspective.

I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and not having large amounts of luggage (I only had a backpack) made it even easier to do.

I hadn’t known when I got my tickets, but many times if you’re a college/university student, your school may have access to codes that can cut down on the ticket price so be sure to check that as well. Tickets can be bought online as eTickets or to be picked up at the station or can be bought directly from the station. I used the eTicket and it was as easy as paying and then printing it in my apartment.

So all in all, a big thumbs up and would go again for Amtrak and that’s all from me!

This is Bex writing for Leave on the Wind, (but still) helping you soar.

On Tracks: California Edition