Our flight left from Orlando on December 24th, with a nearly nonstop ride to San Diego (there was one stop in New Orleans, but we didn't have to leave the plane). Our flight went quickly, and upon arriving, Adrian's mom Debi and her boyfriend Dan picked us up at the airport. The drive back to Adrian's grandparents' beach condo was quick.
Once we arrived, everyone greeted us and Adrian's relatives introduced themselves to me and everyone either hugged me or shook my hand. I finally got to meet Lissa (brasslass), Adrian's sister! Lissa will be the Maid of Honor at our wedding. She was only able to stay for two nights, but we shared a room while she was here and got to stay up late talking and bonding. I'm so glad we finally got to meet. I really enjoyed our conversations, and I'm looking forward to seeing her again soon.
It was an interesting time because Chanukah was still going on when we arrived. Adrian is in the process of converting to Judaism, and his entire family is Catholic. We decided to finish celebrating the rest of our holiday while we were in California and brought our chanukiah and Chanukah candles and lit them while we were there. I am glad that Adrian's family was able to experience us celebrating our holiday while we were able to be with them to celebrate theirs.
The day after we arrived, Adrian and I celebrated Christmas with his family. Being Jewish and having mostly Jewish friends, I had never been to a Christmas celebration. Everything was very hectic and there were a billion family members there, which is something I'm not used to because my family is very small compared to Adrian's (his mom has four other siblings, and all but one have children!).
Adrian and I received some very nice gifts from his relatives. Lissa gave us a beautiful shawl (for me), an Indian mail holder, and a gorgeous vase with Stars of David on it! She brought back all these items from her trip to India last year. Adrian's mom Debi gave us gift certificates to Burlington Coat Factory (one of our favorite stores) as well as garment bags, which we wanted and needed.
It was nice to finally meet everyone that I had previously only heard about or seen in photographs.
Christmas dinner was very nice, and we were able to light our Chanukah candles while the dinner was going. At dinner, Adrian's mom made a toast to our engagement, which was very nice. Adrian's grandma cooked all of the food, which was delicious.
The next day, Lissa had to return to Chicago. Debi, Adrian, and I went to the airport with her to drop her off. Here's a photo we took at the house before we left:
After we got back to the house, Adrian and I decided to borrow Debi's car to do some sightseeing. We first went to the Mission Bay Mall (I think that's what it's called). It was a neat outside mall, and they were having some major after-Christmas sales.
We went into one store that was having a liquidation sale. Every item was 80% off! Adrian and I picked up a pretty Menorah (six-branches) and a candle holder that holds 2 tapers and a big candle in the middle. We spent less than $20 on both, when the Menorah's original sticker prices was $60! Our Judaica collection is slowly increasing. :)
Also at the mall, we got lunch and decided to go and see Peter Pan, which was cute and enjoyable, at the big AMC theater that was attached to the mall.
Since it was a Friday night, we wanted to attend Kabbalat Shabbat services at a local synagogue. I had the addresses and directions to a few synagogues.
We checked out one in La Jolla, which looked really nice. The drive was beautiful and we saw many interesting things. I loved seeing all the wildflowers along the side of the road.
After going to see both buildings, we decided to stay for services at the downtown synagogue, Ohr Shalom Synagogue. If I remember correctly, Ohr Shalom would mean "the light of peace" in Hebrew. :)
The building was very old and beautiful.
The palm trees in the area near the temple (and all of California, really) were so pretty! In Florida, we obviously have palm trees, too, but these have skinnier and taller trunks than just about any that I've seen here in the Sunshine State. The building you see in the photo is the Scientology center, if I remember correctly.
We were there pretty early, and services didn't start until 7:30pm, so we had to find something to do. charismacb's mom had told me to check out the Gaslamp District in San Diego if I got a chance, and since we had about two hours before services started, we decided to do so!
The downtown area was really fun and pretty. We could only spot two true gaslamps, though. Here is one of them:
Not too far from the gaslamp, we came upon a true California staple: Ghirardelli Chocolate!
Adrian and I couldn't resist going in to get a cup of hot cocoa. It was absolutely delicious and very welcome on the cold night. We walked all over that area and eventually came across yet another open-air mall! We browsed around there for a while, checking out the fun and interesting stores.
This is the view of the outside of the mall where traffic is passing between the mall and a neat ice skating rink!
This is a view of the inside of the mall. All of that stuff on the bottom is totally exposed to the air... I wonder what they do when it rains!
Soon, it was time for us to head to the temple. The services at this temple were longer than we expected, but it was a beautiful service, influenced by the Mexican and Sephardic traditions of its congregation. Adrian and I were both glad that we had gone to services and experienced the traditions of another synagogue.
Adrian's grandparents took the entire family out to a delicious seafood restaurant called Anthony's Fish Grotto. They have been going there for years, and I can see why. The view is beautiful, and the food was simply delicious. Near the restaurant were some clipper ships, including the ship that was used in the movie Master and Commander.
After lunch, Debi, Dan, Adrian, me, and Adrian's cousin Celeste and her son went to Seaport Village, which was, of course, right on the water. There were many fun little shops there, including a neat art gallery called Whitt/Krauss. Adrian and I discovered an artist there named Jia Lu, whose paintings are beautiful. Adrian and I walked around the different shops and also walked up the dock and looked out over the water. The weather was amazing!
Adrian and I had both started to feel the touches of a cold coming on before we had left for California, and that night, I started feeling sick. I was running a low-grade fever, and my stomach was horribly upset. Both Adrian and I ended up falling asleep before 8pm, and we slept for a good 12 hours!
After getting some rest, Adrian and I felt good enough to go out that evening. Since Debi and Dan left that morning to go see a football game and then return to Arizona, we didn't have Debi's car to borrow. Instead we took public transportation. Adrian's grandpa had recommended that we visit Old Town, which is a historic Mexican area in San Diego. Fortunately, the bus stop right by the beach condo went directly to Old Town.
When we got there, we walked around for a while and each had a real churro - which tasted oh so much better than anything you could ever get at a mall or fairground or anything, here. It was really authentic and great. We decided against eating dinner in Old Town, since it was so crowded, and decided to go to a Mexican restaurant that I'd seen in the Gaslamp district the other day, called Fred's Mexican Cafe. Before leaving, I snapped this photo of the entrance to Old Town.
We decided to take the trolley downtown and walk to Fred's. It was kind of a sports bar type of restaurant, but the food was wonderful. The portions were huge and extremely filling. I couldn't finish all of my food! I was able to try something new, though -- a swordfish taco. It was so unique - swordfish meat with regular taco fillings, plus pineapple! Definitely some of the best food that I ate while we were in California!
After dinner, we were very full and wanted to walk off some of those calories... we walked back down to the open-air mall from the other night, and decided to check out Macy's, since we don't have a Macy's in Gainesville. I noticed that there was a Shiseido makeup counter, which we also don't have in any of the department stores here in Gainesville, so I was able to buy my favorite face-wash, which was my treat to myself.
On Monday, Adrian and I were dropped off at the Thrifty Car Rental center to pick up our rental car to go to Los Angeles! We rented a tiny red Dodge Neon for the drive.
Adrian and I decided to stay in the Days Inn/Extended Stays in Glendale, where he lived in 2002. The hotel was kinda crappy, but it was nostalgic to be there, and I loved seeing everything that Adrian had told me about - right down to the gas station next door where he often went to buy food or drinks.
Here is a beautiful view from the hotel:
When we arrived at the hotel, we were so tired, and Adrian wasn't feeling well, so we took a 2-hour nap. Lesli (blky) called us a little after 7pm, and we met her over at the California Pizza Kitchen near the Glendale Galleria Mall. Before Lesli arrived, Adrian and I had the chance to walk around the mall for a little while. It is the "One Mall to rule them all" - with nearly every one of my favorite stores... man, I'd move to Glendale just to shop there!
Adrian also showed me some places that he'd gone with midnightaria, when he did a photo shoot of her. I got to see the statue of Ben Franklin as well as the bars he used in some of the photos. It was all really neat. Here is a snapshot of me and the Old Ben statue, and here is a link to the photo with Angel and Old Ben. Amazing what a professional camera can do! :-P
After walking around for a while, Lesli called us to let us know she was here. We met her outside and walked over to CPK. It was awesome getting to meet her finally, as we've become pretty close friends just from chatting online. Adrian and Lesli have known each other for many years and hadn't seen each other since the last time Adrian was in LA, in 2002. We enjoyed eating dinner together and talking about all different things. Around 9pm, we finished dinner and took some photos with Lesli outside the restaurant before heading back to the hotel.
Here is a photo of me and Lesli. I am 5'1" and Lesli is 5'9". I look like a midget!!!
Adrian and I fell asleep soon after we got back to the hotel, trying to sleep off whatever cold Adrian had caught.
We woke up at 8am, showered, checked out of the hotel, and headed straight for the Glendale Galleria Mall again! We checked out nearly every store. Ironically, the MAC makeup store was right across the way from the Apple Computer store. Get it...? Apple MAC? ha ha! I wonder what geekazoid designed the plan of the mall! Adrian and I thought that was really funny.
There was a LEGO store! Both Adrian and I immediately thought of foxmagic, who collects Lego stuff. Adrian and I had a great time looking at all the cool toys and gadgets. I wish we had enough money to buy some of the cooler Lego sets, such as the Space/NASA themed ones.
After a while, we headed out of the mall and off on a tour of Glendale and Burbank! The palm trees here were the same kind that we saw in San Diego, but they lined the streets all the time. It was so beautiful, seeing all these trees all over the place!
Adrian showed me all of the different studios, and I managed to get a few shots of them, papparazzi-style, from the car!
A neat-looking Starbucks Coffee
After getting through Glendale and Burbank's studio areas, we headed for the Mecca of Geekdom: Fry's Electronics!
We visited one that Adrian had often visited when he lived in LA. They all have weird themes, and this one had an amazingly done Space Invaders type of theme! I thought it was so cool that I took a bunch of photos... notice all the Apple Computers. :)
They had more geeky things than I could have ever imagined! Tons of motherboards and processors and cool stuff.
After finishing up there, we headed over to IKEA! I had never been to one before, as they have no stores in Florida or the southeast for that matter, but I fell in love the moment that we stepped inside. I want to furnish everything with pieces from IKEA!!
We didn't buy anything there, but Adrian and I got many decorating ideas that we plan to use when we move into our two-bedroom apartment later this month or early next month. We must have spent over an hour there, exploring and checking out all of the cool looking furniture and knick-knacks. Everything has such a great streamlined look... even the bathrooms were cool!
The IKEA store was attached to a mall, and we decided to walk through the mall and see all the different stores. On the other side of the mall was a neat little downtown strip, and Adrian took this cool photo. I liked the sign!
After getting a bite to eat at the mall and checking out the incredibly cool looking AMC theater that was attached to the mall, we headed back to the car to return to San Diego. On the way back to the 5, we detoured through Pasadena, another place that Adrian likes, so that I could see what it looked like.
The sun was setting as we got back on the 5, and it looked like fire in the sky.
I was able to snap a photo of Downtown LA as we passed it by on the road.
Traffic was insane!! After about three and a half hours, we finally made it back to the beach condo. We repacked our suitcases and set our alarm clocks for 4:30am.
It was hard to get up so early in the morning as we had gone to bed pretty late considering our wake-up time. We made it to Thrifty Car Rental by 5:30 to return the car, and we made it to the airport just before 6am.
Southwest Airlines had a huge line of people waiting to check in. The line went well out the door of the airport. I was very worried that it would take forever and that we'd miss boarding, but it went surprisingly fast. I think we were checked in and through to the gate within 20 minutes, which was amazing!
Our flight went pretty quickly and I slept most of the time. For the first half, someone took the seat next to me, but after the plane stopped in New Orleans (just like the first flight out), we lucked out and had the row to ourselves.
Once we arrived in Orlando, we got our bags fairly quickly and took the shuttle back to Satellite Parking to retrieve my car. We decided to stop at the Chili's restaurant near the airport for a bite to eat, and then we got on the Turnpike and headed down to my parents' house in Coral Springs (Ft. Lauderdale area). There was a bit of traffic, so it took a while to get there, but eventually we made it.
It was so good to see Maya again! I had missed my baby so much! I even had weird dreams about her during the week - I thought about her that much! She had grown about a pound over the 10 days that my parents were babysitting her. It was amazing to see what just over a week could do to a puppy as far as growth! She was incredibly happy to see me and Adrian again. Spending time with my parents' dogs, Sparky and Penny, had taught her a lot. She is more disciplined now, and we were even able to teach her to sit while we were there! One thing that she does more of, obviously influenced from the other doggies, is barking!
We arrived just a few hours before the ball fell on New Year's Eve. Adrian went to sleep immediately after the ball fell, while I spent time talking to my mom and then going to bed. Over these few days, Adrian and I mainly spent time hanging out with my parents and the dogs, running errands (for me, doing wedding stuff and visiting my grandma with my mom, and for him, doing website work with my dad). My parents took us to look at wedding invitations and we were able to pick one out together, which was cool.
I also took Adrian down to the Borders Bookstore on Sunset Strip. He had never been to the east side before, and I hadn't been to that Borders in a long time, so it was fun to take a little ride. We both got calendars for the new year. I got my usual Dachshund dog planner, and Adrian got a desk calendar (the kind on a stand where you rip off each day) called "A little Joy, A little Oy," which has interesting Jewish facts on it.
Friday night, we all attended Kabbalat Shabbat services at the synagogue I grew up at, Temple Beth Israel. Rabbi Thompson, who will be officiating at our wedding, is the rabbi at that temple. We were really sad to hear that the temple is going through financial problems. They are being forced to close their beautiful building and reopen somewhere else in the future. :(
We left Saturday afternoon and made it home later that evening. It was so great to be back home after being away for so long. Maya seemed happy to be home, but I think she also misses Sparky and Penny a lot.
And that's our trip! It was kind of hard remembering what we did each day... at least my digital camera timestamps each photo! :)