Friday, December 31, 2010

Honeymoon Day 6:

After such a busy day in LA, today was a low key one. I warmed up the hot tub first thing in the morning and spent the day getting in and out of it, reading. Alan went for an adventure to check out Indio - the last town we hadn't been in. He ate lunch at an In-N-Out Burger, and found a Barnes and Noble to buy a book. I napped a bit.

At 3:30 we went over the Grandma and Ken's and got a tour of their housing community, then went to Burgers and Jeans night at their clubhouse. Best. Burger. Ever! Then we went back to their house for ten rounds of Rummycubes over wine and chocolates.

I fell asleep at 10.

One funny picture - the only other place besides Seattle that I've seen one of these:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Honeymoon Day 5:

Today we got up at 7, and left at 8 for our Warner Brothers Backlot tour in Burbank, California. It was raining the whole drive, but let up once we got into L.A.

The studio tour was great! The most raw entertainment for our buck was watching a very snooty, entitled woman raise hell at the manager's desk because part of her large party had shown up late, and their spaces had been given away. We were glad to discover that none of them would be in our group.

The first portion of the tour was driving through the back lots. The studio has built several generic city sets - New York, Chicago and "Midtown, USA" that can be dressed up or down depending on the period needed. The guide pointed out several key filming locations, like the front facade of Mrs. Hannigan's Orphanage from Annie, the alley where they filmed the famous Spiderman kiss, and the theater from the Drew Carey opening. We also saw the last remaining facade from the Casablanca filming, and their "Central Park" which was used in the Phoebe and Rachel running scene from Friends.

The Spiderman Alley
Mrs. Hannigan's Orphanage

The second part of the tour was my favorite! They took us to a museum that housed collections from Hollywood films of the past. The upstairs housed memorabilia from the Harry Potter Films. I was THRILLED to discover a sign thanking Colleen Atwood (among others) for her contribution, but sadly, none of her costumes were on display that day. We did see costumes from Willy Wonka, The Matrix, and the latest Batman. They also had Sam's Piano from Casablanca. We wandered upstairs to check out the Harry Potter display - but having just seen the touring exhibit in Seattle, it wasn't quite as neat. But we did see the statue of the petrified Hermione - which looked GREAT! They had Harry's under-the-cupboard set. We saw several books and letters with greenscreened portions on the cover where the moving pictures would be added in post-production, and the Dursley's fireplace with hundreds of letters pouring out. We also were sorted into houses - Alan into Hufflepuff, and for me the hat said, "Ah, another Weasley" and sorted me into Griffindore. Sadly, we were not allowed to take pictures, but we got to see ever so many great costumes up close.

I looked at the work, and thought the construction wasn't better than mine, but the budget for materials was astronimically cooler. We saw two suits made for the Twins, and they'd obviously paid someone to weave the pinstriped material for the suits. They were exactly the same color, but the two-toned pinstriping was at different widths on each suit. Color on color and multi-layered patterns appear to be the way to go in filming. It was fascinating!

Next we saw the set for Two and a Half Men. For theater people, it was interesting to see how high the audience sits, and how low the rigging comes. The set itself looked like any set, but there were bare areas off the main set where secondary sets could be brought back in, or built if needed. The backdrop was a 30' by 100' poster of Malibu. The studio is the only studio with the machinery to build posters that bid, so most of the building sized billboards in LA are made there, as well.

We were escorted through the props department - where many props were on hold for the filming of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" beginning in January. In one corner, behind a flat, they'd left the "Central Perk" set from Friends! A pushy German family sat on the couch to take a picture, so our tour guide kindly allowed Alan and I to take our picture there too. YAY!!!!!

Next, we toured the transportation department's display of famous cars from the movies. Alan saw two Batmobiles and the Grand Torino, and I saw the Ford Anglia from Harry Potter.

I asked the tour guide if there was any way to see the costume department, but he said that they don't allow them in there - and he's never even seen it. I bought a postcard at the gift shop, and went online to see if there were any job postings.

After the tour we went to Big Boy Burgers for lunch, then went on a two-hour trek to find the location of the "Batcave" in Griffin Park. After several wrong turns (It's a big park!) we made it, and Alan was made a very very happy man.

We did go into Hollywood for a while, to spend a couple of hours before meeting a friend of Alan's for dinner. We wandered Groman's Chinese, but being a holiday, it was a freakin' zoo. So we ducked into the Hollywood Wax Museum, because I had never been to one. For unexpected bang for our buck, the Hollywood Wax museum is right up there with the Robotic Dinosaur Museum. It was fun and totally chintzy - but we had a great time!

After some more wantdering and getting lost, we met Mark and Sarah for dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Beverly Hills. It was lovely - no menus - but five courses. Alan played with their son for a while, and got to catch up with his old roommate. After dinner, Alan and I headed for home.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Honeymoon Day 4:

At Cafe des Beaux-Arts

Today was was restaurant heavy. We woke up rather early (for us) and drove back to El Paseo to eat brunch at a lovely French Bistro. I knew I was in heaven when I walked in an the waitstaff were all speaking French. I had a really real Croque Monsieur, and Alan had the ham and cheese crepes. It was the perfect beginning to the day.

Next we popped down the road a bit and went to Boomers to play mini-golf. I was doing very well, coming out ahead after the first nine holes. But an unfortunate 6-stroke hole meant Alan won by four points. And now won't stop gloating, since that puts him ahead 2-1 on our running mini-golf talley. I interjected that the previous games have been on 9-hole courses, so since I was ahead in the first nine, and he won the back nine, it's technically 2-2. He's not buying. There were lovely little houses all over the course to play through or around, and we ran about taking pictures with all of them. (We also spent a really long wait in line to buy tickets checking out the ENOURMOUS rock on the finger of the woman in front of us; and wondering what her husband does for a living.)

That morning, on our way to brunch, we stopped by Grandma's to check in, and she recommended that we take the tram tour while the weather was still nice. The tram is an 80-person lift that goes up the side of the mountains near Palm Springs, and rotates, showing a view of the valley. After mini-golf, a quick trip to the store and some frozen yogurt, we headed west of Palm Springs. (On the way we stopped by a local resale shop and found two Tommy Bahama shirts for Alan.)

We wound our way up the side of the foothills to the named parking lots. We wanted to park in the grey weasil lot, but ended up in the hawk lot. We waited for the bus to the lobby. Upon entering, a driver not chosen for his people skills informed us casually that the earliest we'd be getting on a tram would be 4:30. It was 2:50. We hung in there, and made it to the lobby, walked in, saw the line, and decided that if we were going to wait for two hours in that kind of crowd, there had better be a pirate or Indiana Jones at the end of it. We walked back down the hill and left.

We stopped into a little Antique Mall - the first we've seen in Palm Springs that wasn't so ritsy that we were afraid to go in, and enjoyed our usual routine of bopping around. I bought a stack of outdated decor magazines for some hottub side reading.

With time to kill, and options running out in Palm Springs, we decided to Happy Hour Hop our way back home. Alan had a disastrous "British Pub" experience the day before. (When you walk in, and the bartender had never heard of Smithwicks - and when asked what kind of lagers they have and replies 'Bud' - you might consider yourself clued in) So, for him, we stopped into a "Tilted Kilt" - a Scottish Themed Pub. What we didn't know was - Tilted Kilt is the equivalent of a Scottish Themed Hooters. We walked into a charming pub with stained glass windows of busty girls in mini-kilt bikinis. When our eyes adjusted to the gloom, I realized that both our hostess and bartender were in the same outfit. We did stay, when they had Smithwicks, Harp and Guiness, and had a happy hour black-and-tan and some onion rings. There were some really great posters on the walls and ceiling, and authentic scottish highland dress prints in the bathrooms. I took pictures of all the ones in the girls side. I couldn't muster the guts to walk into the men's bathroom for the others.

Next we drove back to El Paseo for the Tommy Bahama happy hour. THAT one was great. Alan had a mojito, and they made a Strawberry Daquiri for me. All the waitstaff were wearing identical shirts (we were wondering if they let the employees wear Tommy Bahama, or if they mass order knockoffs). The atmosphere was great, the staff pleasant, and we saw some really nice entrees go by. We popped through the Tommy Bahama Store and Anthropologie on our way out.

Grandma and Ken had recommended a place called Jackalope for appetisers, so our last stop was there. It was a huge restaurant that for some unknown reason had giant pig statues everywhere. (We thought they'd fit in better at the Hog's Breath Inn) There was one jackalope behind the bar. I had their corn and shrimp chowder and Alan tried their Potato Skins and the Jackalope Ale. They were advertising for a New Years Menu, so we may be back again.

After all the excitement, we went back home, heated up the hot tub, and had some wine and champagne and another romantic night. And watched the new "What Not To Wear." Poor Alan is overwhelmed sometimes by how many lucid fashion comments he's now capable of dolling out - after several years of forced Project Runway viewing. When the words - "She just needs a belt to accent her figure" came out - he whimpered a little.

Tomorrow, off to Warner Brothers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Honeymoon Day 3:

Without meaning to, day 3 became a shopping day. On the way into town, I noticed a Brighton Outlet at the side of the road. Alan thought that we might be able to stop there sometime during our week. Yesterday the sun came out, and since my old pair of sunglasses (also Brighton) had died, and the Brighton Retail Store in El Paseo had discontinued my favorite pair, we decided that this would be the perfect day to start at the Outlets and work our way back into Palm Springs for lunch.

We started the day with Starbucks. Four people gave us coffee cards for Christmas and the wedding, so between them all we had around $80 to spend during this trip. Alan began the day with a quad shot venti mocha, and I had a vanilla bean frappaccino with an added espresso shot. Yum!

We drove to the outlets, realizing upon entering the parking lot that this MAY have been a mistake two days after Christmas. The lot was packed. Inside, though, it wasn't too bad. We found a Levis outlet and bought Alan two pairs of much-needed jeans ($15 per pair), then we worked our way around the complex searching for Brighton. We stopped in Gucci, Jimmy Choo, and Prada just for fun. After making our way to the opposite corner, where the Brighton sign appeared to be, there was no store in sight. We checked the mall map, and No Brighton! Disappointed, we went into Banana Republic for a top I loved last season (I have three of them, and they're all wearing out), and then into Esprit (a store I used to love, which we no longer have in the Northwest) where Alan found me a really cute peasant blouse for $9. We decided that we had shopped enough, and left for Palm Springs.

As we got on the highway, I looked back, and there were several shops on the South side of the mall that we hadn't seen from the inside. One of them was...hooray!....Brighton after all! I told Alan we could go back later, he insisted that we'd made it this far, so we ought to turn around. We took the next exit and found ourselves pulling off the highway towards a large statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. A huge sign proclaimed the existence of the "World's Largest Robotic Dinosaur Museum." Of COURSE we had to stop. We climbed up the Brontosaurus' butt into a gift shop and purchased tickets. Then we went into the museum. It was great. The dinosaurs were REALLY old. Some of them conveniently had wooden signs propped up on their stubby arms proclaiming what kind of Dinosaur they were. Since the museum was run by some seriously humor-free creationists, the dinosaurs were pictured alongside modern animals, with signs explaining why humans and dinosaurs had co-existed, and not realizing how funny it looked to have a little innocent white lamb laying quietly next to a T-Rex, or a not-to-scale frog sitting nearby while three velociraptors (one carrying his sign) hunted. It was great! We climbed all the way up the T-Rex and took pictures posing in his mouth. Finally, we made it back to another gift shop. I bought postcards. At the back was the best statue yet. A knight on a horse fought a rampaging Allosaurus! We're SO glad we missed Brighton!

We did make it back to Brighton. I ran inside while Alan circled in the car. Inside was heaven. I could go on for ages, but I'll demure. I did find one of my favorite pairs of sunglasses in a discount bin for $9.99. YAY!

We headed into Palm Springs by way of Route 111. It became downtown Palm Springs. We beelined for a Mexican Restaurant that looked promising, and had a lovely lunch on the patio. I had the seafood burrito (lobster, shrimp, and scallops in a spicy lime sauce) and Alan the Mole Enchiladas. It was so good. I didn't mean to leave with a doggy bag, but I couldn't let it go to waste. We wandered up on side of the street and headed back down the other. Alan got his picture taken with Sunny Bono.

At sunset we drove the rest of Route 111 to La Quinta, California, to find Clint Eastwood's restaurant, "The Hogs Breath Inn." I had one of their specialty rum spritzers, Alan the Hog's Breath Ale. We ordered happy hour Calamari - which were excellent! We've noticed an overabundance of excellent places to eat in this town. Each meal we take is better than the last. There's not much shopping, but plenty of golf here. Great theater at one performance center in the middle of the valley. We decided NOT to see the ancient dancing showgirls (agest 55-81!), even though it was recommended to us.

After a few drug store and grocery stopoffs, we headed back to the house to relax, put our feet up, and watch tv until the wee sma's. It was a lovely, if tiring day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Honeymoon Day 2:

Amazingly, after the exhausting day of travel, we woke and were moving at 10. By 11 we'd checked emails and called Grandma and Ken to have them show us how to work the speaker system, pool and hot tub. Ken offered to take us on a 45 minute tour of the area, and we accepted. They drove us to their other house (#3) then out and around La Quinta, CA - the town our house is in. They showed us a lovely pizza place in the Old Town, showed us the grocery stores and excellent restaurants nearby, then took us back to our resort for lunch at the Clubhouse. I had an excellent "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad."

Alan and I popped back home to pick up our car. Then, we drove Route 111 - the old highway that cuts through all the towns in the desert. We are staying at the far east end, and the far west end of the highway is Palm Springs.

Before the trip began, while Alan was researching movie filming sites to visit in LA, I was finding thrift stores and the Tommy Bahama restaurant in Palm Springs. Both (coincidentally) area along Route 111. We popped into a few thrift stores on our way. We looked at Tommy Bahama shirts for Alan and found a Vera Wang blouse for me. It was missing its tag, so the saleslady gave it to me for $2.49. YAY! We hit a few antique stores. Goodwill. Then we beelined to Palm Springs. We decided that we'd like to go miniature golfing at Boomys, and walking along the Palm Springs shopping strip.

On our way home we made another attempt to find Tommy Bahama, and found it - along with a shopping complex that has similar shops to Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara, or U Village in Seattle. Only better. The Anthropologie is next door to Tommy Bahama. How did they know we were coming? We popped into both, then upstairs to the restaurant, but the bar was crammed full for some football game involving a California team (Not the 49ers. They'd already played), so we decided to try again later. We meandered the mall, walking up to the Brighton to look for sunglasses for me. They'd discontinued my favorite pair, but that gives me hope. There's a Brighton outlet on the way back out of town. Maybe I'll find them there. We walked back to a lovely Cafe des Beaux Artes, but decided after all that the breakfast and brunch menus were more exciting than dinner. So we drove back to the pizza place Grandma and Ken had recommended.

The pizza was excellent! We had the Napa. Ham, bacon, mushrooms, apples, gouda and mozzerella cheese, topped with a mango drizzle. YUM! Gouda should ALWAYS go on pizza.

On the way home we ran into Trader Jos for some munchies and coffee. Then went home and heated up the spa. Alan sat outside and smoked a cigar he'd bought at a shop across from Tommy Bahama (it smelled SO good. I hate cigarette smoke, but the occasional pipe or cigar smells heavenly!). I drank champagne and read a new collection of "Anne" stories I found at Powells. Alan called John to gloat about our spa and putting green, and then read a Dr. Laura book about keeping men happy. We neither of us like her delivery AT ALL, but some of the advice was pretty good. I took the book when he put it down and read a chapter myself.

Once the hot tub was warm, we had a lovely glass of wine, and a romantic evening under the stars which finally showed up! What a lovely end to the first real day of your honeymoon!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Honeymoon Day 1

Honeymoon Day 1:

Hello all from lovely Palm Springs, California!

Yesterday was our travel day, and a very busy one at that! Alan and I started the morning in Vancouver, having Christmas with his family. We woke, had breakfast and opened presents with his Sister and Brother-in Law. Then we packed and shuffled off to his parents' house to say goodbye. Alan took his mom on a quick trip to find an open grocery store for a veggie tray, and then we were off - back to Seattle for a 3 hour break to wash and repack our suitcases.

We caught the 5:54 bus to Seatac from Renton (a mere 10-minute drive) and found ourselves checked in with plenty of time to spare. So we went to the Alaskan Amber restaurant for a pre-flight-pre-honeymoon drink. There we booted up our new laptop (thanks Dad and Mom) to try out the airport's free Wifi. Alan looked through the photos that we'd developed from the disposable cameras we had at the wedding. Many turned out very well!

When it came time to board, we made our way to the terminal, but no boarding was happening. I hunkered down for a wait, and Alan went off to find mints. A few minutes later the PA system came on calling for "The Wilkies" - the whole plane was boarded and waiting for us to take off. I called Alan, and we boarded sheepishly. Flying on Christmas is definitely the way to go. The airport was nearly empty. There were few lines anywhere. The only downside was a rather surly flight attendant who was clearly unhappy to be working Christmas. I finished my book and amused myself by color coding my next two months in my new Brighton dayplanner (Thanks Alan!). Alan read, too.

The flight landed right on time and our checked bag was on the carousel before we got there. A shuttle drove us to the boonies to our rental car dealer. We picked up a very loud Electric Blue Ford Focus (easy to find in a lot), and after a few wrong turns trying to find the right highway from a location several miles from our mapquest directions starting point, we had an easy drive from Los Angeles to the desert.

At 2:30am we finally rolled into the housing complex. Well, we found the front gate. There two very sleepy guards checked our identities and asked if we needed directions to the house. We did. "Paco" handed us a slip of paper with the following: 8L, 1R, 1L. We drove for ages in the dark past identical houses. We counted 8 lefts - but were unsure whether we should count every left arrow in the road, or only legitimate stop signs - and did the left turn into the clubhouse count? We turned into the 8th left. We wound through a neighborhood full of Avenidas - but none of them were ours. The perpendicular streets were all Calles. After exhausting that culdesac, we decided we must have miscounted, and went one section back. Another identical culdesac. Nary an Avenida anything in sight - all Calles and something else that means street starting with a "C" as well. We went across the street - and found the right numbers, but the wrong Avenida. Finally we gave up and drove all the way back to the gatehouse. There was "Paco" and a new guard, "Rusty." We told them the safe combination we'd been given was not helping us at all, and could we please see a map with some street names on it. They didn't have a portable one, but allowed us into their booth to show us the site map on the wall. Sure enough, we were one complex off, and had I gone the "just one more" we would have lucked into the right house.

At 3:15 we finally navigated our way to the house, wandered around the endless rooms for a few minutes commenting on how beautiful it was, picked a bedroom, and fell asleep. A successful, if exhausting, first day.