29 March 2008

California, Here We Come

Today we'll have my last in a series of posts about the United States before I go back to blogging about my usual stuff. Thanks to all the people who've commented and welcomed me back. Please do write me if you ever plan on coming to the Philippines. I won't be so bold as to write "I'll make it worth your while," but one can try. I'll begin with a fortune I received in a cookie:
Peking Palace Fortune Cookie
I'm not much for tooting my own horn but I truly hope you have a good sense of who I am and thoroughly enjoy my blog posts and comments. Now, on to the rest of California!

Our itinerary basically consisted of: Daly City and San Francisco - Las Vegas - Long Beach - Folsom - San Francisco again - San Bruno. We've already covered the Daly City, San Francisco, San Bruno, and Las Vegas parts so here are the rest of my adventures. There are relatively fewer sequential pictures of food so I've incorporated them into the post unlike the last three.
Shoreline Village Lighthouse
Long Beach Boats
From Vegas, we took a plane to Long Beach and my Aunt Ellie immediately whisked us off to Shoreline Village for a bit of sightseeing. Very touristy, and we got a pirate tourist teaspoon-- Don't ask. We stopped by to take home a huge Costco pizza. The fat-free swirled Kirkland Signature frozen yogurt made me curious-- I got one a little later. It's probably bombarded with sugar but it sure takes care of a soft-serve ice cream craving.
Me and my aunt, cousin, and friend at Hokkaido
That night, we ate at a buffet in Hokkaido, a Pan-Asian restaurant. The pizza was still somewhere up there, but I still ended up eating more than I could handle, and I was the only one who got dessert, even. Smart. I'm on the treadmill as I type. That's me with my Aunt Ellie, her super-cool and ebullient daughter Christina, and her super-nice boyfriend, Derek. I love their family. We stayed at the Mariott Courtyard on 1st Street and I absolutely recommend this hotel. It had free Internet where I could (and did) bug you guys at no cost to me.

We had a day trip to Los Angeles on a suave Lincoln town car (we don't have Lincolns in the Philippines). Our driver was a mixed Native American-Spanish-Mexican guy in his late 20's, James. I love his distinctive accent-- a mix of Californian and Native American, each syllable distinctly pronounced, and kind of surfer-sounding. As you have no doubt picked up, I am quite an accent-ophile.
Los Angeles
Los Angeles is pretty much everything I expected. We didn't have a lot of time, but I observed that the abrupt change in scenery-- from the extravagant to seedy-- was very jarring. Imagine transitioning between some motel where they film amateur porn and then to Paris Hilton's luxury suite. No, wait, actually that's not such a big leap. Anyway LA is virtually Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club album come to life.
Santa Monica Boulevard
"All I wanna do, is have some fun, until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard..."
Grauman's Chinese Theater
"We'll be down on our knees outside Grauman's Chinese-- palm prints there on the street, immortality's neat!" I couldn't decide which celebrity I wanted to match my feet with. I have one with Charlton Heston, but I actually don't know him. Will Smith's feet and hands are huge. There must be padding.
Criterion Theater, plus me
Here's the Promenade on Santa Monica, where several boutiques are lined up. I wish I had more time to go into the shops. I don't know what's so significant about the Criterion Theater but the signage reminded me of Bert Monroy's work so I had to have a picture taken.
Mickey Mouse's Star
I honestly would have preferred to have my picture taken at Bugs Bunny's star and not the mascot of an evil corporation (oh, I'm kidding), but there it is.
Kodak Theater
The Kodak Theater. No Academy Awards or American Idol finals when we went. Booo.
La Creperie
La Creperie's menu
Romeo and Juliet at La Creperie
We spent our last evening on 2nd Street. It was near closing time so I wasn't able to buy any quirky kitchen items (sigh), but we did eat at this gorgeous café called La Crêperie. While I do enjoy the quiet, peaceful places, I do on occasion enjoy these joints, bustling with activity, sophistication, conversation, and a man playing ragtime music on a loud piano. Awesome. I wasn't too hungry so I used the opportunity to order a crêpe. That is the Romeo and Juliet Crêpe, and it was divine.

We boarded a Jet Blue plane to Sacramento, where I had a nice conversation with a guy visiting his extended family. Yeah, Americans, so unfriendly! Haha. I saw some struggling Christian rocker too toting his huge, obnoxious guitar. Maybe I should have gotten an autograph just in case.
View outside my cousin's apartment in Folsom
My cousin, who is a pediatrician (we're both first-generation doctors) works in Folsom, not far from Sacramento. This is a view from her apartment. It's freakily beautiful. I would literally die with happiness if my job consisted of clinic duty, then going home to a great, (relatively unused by her, unfortunately) kitchen. And that would be my view. The environment here is so amazingly lush-- I will one day show you the view from my bedroom and it is butt-fugly, folks.
Boreal, plus me
We took the opporunity to take my cousin to places nearby that even she hasn't visited, among them Boreal ski resort near Lake Tahoe. My brother plunged his shoe into the snow and I was like, "OMFG WHY DID YOU JUST DO THAT?!" It is literally too cold for human inhabitation, but hey, this is what I get for being an islander. My thick Zara hoodie was a lifesaver, but it's still not proper winter-wear. So that is my first taste of real snow. Fifteen minutes of freezing my ass off after an hour and a half of driving. By the way, here in the Philippines, we don't pump our own gas. Actually I've been puzzled about this, but at least it creates job opportunities and maybe curbs any attempts at theft or tampering.
Tahoe Joe's
Chicken Club at Tahoe Joe's
We ate at Tahoe Joe's, a Sacramento chain. Service took a long while, but I got a good chicken club.
Romano's Macaroni Grill
We also ate at Romano's Macaroni Grill, which is an American-Italian chain of restaurants. The servings were huge and tasted great. My picture of the food, though, was not.
Tofu Satay at Amarin
For a change, we ate at Amarin, a Thai restaurant. I had Tofu Satay because I was feeling very guilty about everything I'd eaten so far, and I must say, that was mighty tasty for something wholesome. Sampling the other dishes ordered by my family (Beef Rendang, Yellow Chicken Curry, Pad Thai), I'd say it was a great dinner.
Artesa Visitor's Center
The other place my cousin hadn't been to was Napa Valley, known for its vineyards. I'm not a particularly extravagant person (despite what some of my friends may sometimes think, I'm not Frasier personified), so instead of a tour, I suggested that we go to a well-renowned winery, Artesa. Here you can find great wine, beautiful art (sculptures, paintings, fountains), and a few kitchen knick-knacks for sale. That's my brother walking away from me inside the Artesa visitor's center.
Wine Tasting Menu
Champagne at Artesa
Here's the wine tasting menu (uh... we went for the $10 one). Since I'm not used to alcohol, my visual acuity very suddenly improved (haha). And because I'm no expert, I won't offer you any advice regarding the wines we tried, but I would not want to drink the 2004 Elements again. We bought a bottle of the 2004 Limited Release Syrah. We came at a bad time for food, though-- I wanted to eat at Zuzu or Pilar, but most restaurants only open at night. We ate Chinese food at Peking Palace, where I had the nice fortune cookie. It was good food, but I was disappointed not to have eaten where I initially planned, and we have great Chinese food here at home anyway.
Syrah at Artesa overlooking Napa Valley
So, that is, in more than 120 pictures, my trip to the States. We have more but I didn't include pictures of my mom and brother. I'm sure you can tell that I had a fantastic experience with few regrets, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Here's a horribly centered (hey, I've had a few sips of wine already) glass of red overlooking beautiful Napa Valley, for all you kind readers. Thanks so much for reading and I hope you'll come back soon to read about my now American-enriched culinary adventures.

(PS- Actually, I still haven't chronicled my 2004 trip to Europe yet, but it's not very gastrocentric. Someday, when I'm not so busy. I just hurried to publish these before I forget the details, which is a good practice for after any vacation.)

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