Hey folks! Yes, we're at it again. It's double blog time. If you weren't around for the last one, here's how it works: this entry is posted in both my blog and Susan's - it was written by both of us as a description of our vacation together. It's REALLY long, so if you don't care about our vacation, you'll probably want to skip it. It's extremely detailed & is pretty much a record for us of our trip, so I don't know how exciting it will be to everyone else. But it's here if you're interested. Hopefully you'll get something out of it. Enjoy!
Sunday, April 25th - Took the drive to LA & made it there in a decent amount of time. We visited Anna's friend Leanna at the new townhouse she's sharing with her fiancé and on the way there, we were almost run down by a crazy black truck after Susan flipped the driver off for riding our tail. Guess that'll teach us to not aggravate the SoCal drivers. Had dinner with Leanna at a 50s diner by her place and enjoyed yummy milkshakes and food. Then headed to Little Willow's workplace to pick her up, but got lost trying to get there. Ended up driving several miles down Ventura Blvd and had to take detour after Ventura was closed for possible filming. STUPID LA STREETS!! Picked up Little Willow and went back to her place where we hung with her cats, watched Alias & chatted.
Monday, April 26th - This was our BtVS locations tour day. Our first stop was Cal State Northridge which was used for filming the new Sunnydale High School seen in Season 7 of BtVS. While there, Susan had her first Jamba Juice ever. Then it was off to UCLA, though we had some trouble getting there. First, we couldn't find the exit, then once we spotted the sign for it, we had trouble finding the correct street to take us to the campus. Also had parking problems as the machine ate our parking ticket and we had to go back to the main parking area to get a new one. While on campus we saw various places used in The Freshman and other UC Sunnydale locations. We also stopped at the bookstore and bought UCLA merchandise. While in Powell Library (which was used in The Freshman as well), we checked our email for free and enjoyed the super fast connection. We had made ourselves sandwiches for lunch, and after we finished up at UCLA, we sat in Anna's car in the parking garage and enjoyed our food. Next stop was Torrance, home to the Summers house and Sunnydale High School (aka Torrance High). Got some lovely pictures of the house and we just drove by the school as we'd been there before & school was still in session. On our way to the next location, we took a nice drive through Ghetto Torrance - thankfully we weren't lost this time, it was just on the way. CF Braun Business Park was our next stop (it was used to film various UC Sunnydale locations), but unfortunately we couldn't find any recognizable buildings from the show, so we took random pictures of buildings just to have it recorded & begged to use a bathroom. We managed to get lost when leaving, thanks to the security guard giving us incorrect directions. We finally found our way to the freeway & went to Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, but unfortunately that was closed. We drove by several times just to get pictures of front of cemetery. Once again, we got lost trying to get to Halliwell House (used on Charmed), thanks to the weird freeway entrance that wouldn't let us get over to the left lane before our exit. Once we found our way onto the proper freeway, we found the exit for the house didn't exist. Since it was getting late, we decided to skip it & went to Angel's mansion in Griffith Park instead. Got to drive on a really fun winding road up to house - that was rather insane, but still fun. We took some nice pictures of house & then drove through Hollywood to get to Syd's apartment from Seasons 1 & 2 of Alias. The building had a very attractive dumpster in front to add decor to our photo. We then headed to Sherman Oaks Galleria to meet Little Willow for dinner. The Galleria was also our last tour spot as the mall scene from Innocence was filmed there, but unfortunately it was remodeled a couple years ago and it no longer looked anything like it did in Innocence. However, while there, we spotted Robia LaMorte (Jenny Calendar on BtVS for you non-BtVS folk) on the escalator heading the opposite direction. Anna happened to look up and saw Robia smiling at her (probably because she saw Anna's BtVS t-shirt). We didn't yell or scream, just smiled and waved because we are polite fangirls. Robia smiled and waved back - very sweet & cool of her (btw, she is very lovely in person). Finally we went to Cheesecake Factory to meet Little Willow for dinner, though poor Little Willow was late due to circumstances beyond her control. It was a nice night, so we asked to sit outside, but unfortunately the outdoor seating was not non-smoking, despite being enclosed. EW! So we asked to be moved inside and all was fine. Had yummy food & took cheesecake home to enjoy at Little Willow's. We spent the evening chatting with Little Willow and petting her kitties.
Tuesday, April 27th - We got up very early and had breakfast at a nearby diner with Little Willow. Then we drove through evil LA traffic trying to get Little Willow to work on time (though we ended up being a couple minutes late). Afterwards we drove to the BW Hollywood where we were staying that night. We checked in early, set up our room & walked to Hollywood & Highland for the Kodak Theatre tour. There was some filming going on at Hollywood Blvd, but none of locals we asked knew what it was for. The Kodak tour wasn't too long, but it was entertaining & the tour guide was your typical LA actor/stunt double (and he happened to be from Chicago, so he picked on Susan the whole time). We got to stand on the Oscar stage (and Susan will be there again someday to pick up an award of her own) and rode in VIP elevator (which apparently is also the freight elevator on non-Oscar days). After the tour, we walked to the Hollywood Entertainment Museum but it was closed (evil!). So we stopped at an internet cafe for a bit & then walked to Hollywood Book & Poster, but didn't find anything appealing to purchase. We stopped to get iced tea at a Starbucks because of the excessive heat (we thought we were being overdramatic about temperature, but according to the news that night it really was 102 degrees in LA). To escape the heat & blow some time, we saw "Ella Enchanted" at Gruman's Chinese Theatre. Very cute movie - Anna had seen it already, but Susan had not. We then had dinner at the Hollywood & Highland California Pizza Kitchen & went back to our hotel room for Tuesday night TV fun in the form of Gilmore Girls & One Tree Hill (yes, Susan is TRULY obsessed with the show). Afterwards, we watched a bit more TV & went to sleep.
Wednesday, April 28th - After checking out of the hotel we drove to Anaheim and checked in at the BW there & walked across the street to Disney's California Adventure. We went to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot first and saw Muppet Vision 3D. It was cute, but could have been better. Definitely aimed at kids. We then hung out at Disney Anamation for a while singing along with various Disney songs. We had lunch at a Boudin's & sat at Pacific Wharf. After we finished eating, we had to ride the carousel at Paradise Pier, then rode the swinging ferris wheel while laughing at folks on the California Screamin' roller coaster (we referred to them as the "whiners"). We got on roller coaster & had fun with the 55 MPH take-off from the front seat. Still didn't think it was scary enough to scream about though (the Magnum at Cedar Point has much bigger drops). Then we rode the Mulholland Madness roller coaster which was more painful than exciting. Next up we saw an overly biased "documentary" called "Golden Dreams" about California's hisotry which seemed to exclude many dark moments from the actual history. It also had really corny commentary by Whoopi Goldberg. We definitely recommend skipping that. Afterwards we went to A Bug's Land and saw the 3D film "It's Tough to be a Bug" based on a recommendation from Anna's aunt & enjoyed the surprises from it. Definitely see that instead of "Golden Dreams." We had planned to do more there, but park was closing so we made a run for the gift shop & bought out traditional pens as well as yummy candy & cookies. Then we headed back to the hotel & ordered pizza to enjoy while watching Smallville & Angel. We both thought Angel was random & are hoping for more explanation as to what was up with that ending.
Thursday, April 29th - We began the long trek to Las Vegas around 10am. We stopped at a rest area for lunch (had sandwiches & snacks we had brought with us). While we were there we saw some lovely crows belonging to Paul Walker (aka the Crowmaster). (Don't ask. We're just insane.) Once in Nevada, we headed to Hoover Dam before going to Vegas & got lots of fun traffic along the way. We found a fellow BtVS fan while there... always a good thing. And what to say about Hoover Dam? It's very big & we got to be in two states within the same minute (Nevada & Arizona). We enjoyed visiting it, but it's something you see once & that's enough. We then headed back towards Vegas & arrived there in a timely fashion, but had trouble finding the registration parking area at the Luxor thanks to their crappy signs. We also learned that we know nothing about tipping, but we tried our best. Got settled into a lovely room there - in the pyramid & on the 13th floor (we didn't even know hotels had those). Had dinner at the Pyramid Cafe complete with a wacky waiter. We then headed into the casino there and played $20 each on the slots & promptly lost all of it (we did win quarters here & there, but weren't able to hold onto it). We had fun despite the monetary losses & then decided to wander over to Mandalay Bay. We stopped for yummy chocolate cake there, but found all the other shops had closed by that time. Wandered through the casino a bit, but we liked Luxor's better. Headed back through Luxor to Excalibur, but found it to be not quite our cup of tea, and went back to Luxor. We hung out in the casino a bit more, but both of us were very tired & rather sick from all the smoke, so went back to our room around 2am & slept for a few hours before getting up at a very early hour to get to breakfast.
Friday, April 30th - After eating breakfast, we saw very lame re-creation of King Tut's tomb at the Luxor (hey, it was free!) and checked out of the hotel (couldn't get a second night there as everything was sold out, so we were exiled to a BW way off the Strip). We found that Anna's car had an almost flat tire (which had been repaired in SJ before we left, but apparently Shell did a crappy job), so we had to fill it with air at a nearby gas station & then hunt down a car repair shop. Though it seemed like a very shady car shop from the looks of the place, the employees were very nice & fixed up the tire like new at a much better price than stupid Shell. Finally got on our way to the BW & found it to be a craphole (okay, not that bad, but not the BW standard we're used to - especially for that price). We settled in & called a taxi to take us to the Strip. We paid $20 for the slow ride there, but finally arrived at the MGM Grand. We visited the gift shop & Lion Habitat there, then wandered around the casino, where Susan managed to win $25 on a slot machine (our one lucky win in Vegas). Following that success, we headed to New York, New York. Had lunch at a pizze place there & skipped the roller coaster thanks to the overly excessive price of $12.50 per ride. (Insane!) Next up was the Monte Carlo. We didn't wander there too much, but instead sat on steps outside where Susan talked to her mom on the phone & Anna tried to recover from the disgusting smoke inside all the casinos (seriously... it was nasty). After recovering, we walked to Bellagio & saw the beautiful conservatory there, along with the Monet garden display. We loved the beauty of the hotel & wish we had the money to stay there. We also appreciated how very clean the hotel was (the Venetian, Mirage & Paris were also this way). We then went to Caesar's Palace & walked around the forums for a bit. Susan dragged Anna into the Celine Dion shop in order to get a present for her mom. Then we walked to the Mirage & visited the gift shop (we are gift shop fanatics). We went outside to see the volcano show, but it was still too early for that, so we headed across the street to the Venetian where we watched the gondolas sail by & listened to the gondoliers serenading their passengers. Went inside for a bit to check out the gift shop, then wandered onto the balcony to watch the volcano show at the Mirage. We had a lovely view from there & loved the show - very exciting with the pyrotechnics & lighting effects on the water. Definitely a must see. After that was done, we waited in a very long line at the Venetian to catch a taxi to Paris Las Vegas (and Susan insists she spotted a former high school classmate in the line, but didn't have the nerve to speak to him). Then we got to listen to our taxi driver curse out every other driver on the road. We finally arrived at Paris & had dinner under a fake, but still lovely, Paris sky. Picked up a couple things at the gift shop, then waited in another line to catch a taxi back to the BW. We thought it would be another long ride, but our driver apparently comes from New York & loves to speed. But hey, it was a cheaper ride & he was quite entertaining. We caught the tail end of CSI: Miami where David Caruso once again proved that he's a dork by uttering the line "Ummm... NO." to finish off the show. Yeah, that's why we don't usually watch it. We much prefer William Petersen as Grissom. Yay Grissom! We then crashed due to exhaustion & the prospect of a 9 hour drive back to SJ the next day.
Saturday, May 1st - The long drive back to SJ. We stopped in Barstow (aka the "armpit of California") for lunch at McDonald's. Apparently we drove very fast because it only took us 7 hours to get home (excluding time for stops). Yes, we drive fast. The evening was spent sitting around catching up on shows we taped while away (Charmed, The O.C., Friends, CSI, & Tru Calling - yay Nick Wechsler!).
Sunday, May 2nd - Our day of rest, aka BtVS Marathon Day! We played around on the computer & talked about ideas for Susan's new blog layout while watching the ten episodes we chose for our marathon: The Body, Once More, with Feeling, Passion, Prophecy Girl, The Wish, Storyteller, Normal Again, Checkpoint, and Who Are You. Chosen was our last episode, but we saved it for Monday as the other 9 episodes took us very late into the evening (mainly because we took marathon breaks to watch Charmed & Alias). We chose our marathon episodes by picking one episode from each season, mutually agreed upon. They weren't necessarily our all-time favorites from the season, but ones that we both enjoyed & felt like watching again. We then each picked a wild card & one we agreed on. Susan chose Storyteller, Anna chose Normal Again, and we agreed upon Checkpoint. Then we drew random numbers to assign the watching order, but left Chosen as the last episode, no matter what. In the evening we took Shasta to the park to play frisbee where she had a blast and we tried to stay away from the creepy loner guy leering at us & the kids in the playground. Ew, much?
Monday, May 3rd - We left for Half Moon Bay in the morning, taking Shasta along with us. We had an easy drive there, but had trouble finding a beach that allowed dogs. Finally we spotted a random one along Highway 1 & stopped there. Trooped halfway down the beach along with all of our stuff & Shasta dragging Susan. We played frisbee with Shasta for a bit, then relaxed on the beach for a while. We enjoyed our yummy lunch of bagels & various other snacks, then played with Shasta a bit more. We both managed to sunburn our legs (Susan also got the top of her feet), but thankfully we had remembered to cover ourselves with sunblock everywhere else. Had a great time there despite the sunburn pain and we enjoyed the seclusion of the beach. We then headed back home & went to dinner at Black Angus because Susan was craving steak. We had delicious food there & stuffed ourselves silly. Then headed back to the house & finished off our BtVS marathon with Chosen. After that, we watched "Finding Nemo" since Susan had never seen it before. She enjoyed it & thought it was a very cute movie. Then watched Joan of Arcadia & other random things on TV before crashing.
Tuesday, May 4th - We went to Napa Valley for a bit of wine tasting. Our first stop was Beaulieu Vineyards & we did a bit of tasting there; while we enjoyed the wine, we didn't think anything was worth the $30+ price. We then drove to our favorite winery, V. Sattui, where we had a lovely picnic lunch and made jokes about the One Tree Hill character, Lucas (aka the Man-Whore). After lunch, we did our wine tasting there & enjoyed everything V. Sattui had to offer, other than the Madeira (a port, which was definitely not appealing to us). We both bought a few bottles of wine, then headed to relax in the car for a bit as Susan was feeling a bit lightheaded (apparently she's a lightweight & can't handle too much wine ). We decided to stop tasting wine for the rest of the day, but did visit a couple more wineries just to see the settings and such. We stopped at Sutter Home, which had a lovely garden & sat in the gazedo there, enjoying the shade & cool breeze. We then headed to Beringer & wandered around the grounds & their gift shop for a bit (where we were forced to listen to the horrible Macarena). Along the way back we stopped at a very fancy chocolate shop in St. Helena & bought ourselves a treat to have later in the evening. On our way out of the valley, we stopped at Robert Mondavi & took a look at the grounds there. Then it was back to SJ & through the fun traffic. We arrived home just in time to listen to the "musical stylings" of TOMB (aka Transcending Over Mankind's Boundaries). If you're wondering what the heck TOMB is, it's the band that Anna's brother Bryan belongs to. We found Anna's parents hiding out in her room, trying to comfort poor Shasta who was quite freaked out by the music. Finally the torture ended & we were able to fix ourselves some burgers for dinner. We spent the evening in Anna's room watching Gilmore Girls & One Tree Hill with Dawn (she and Shasta don't get along so Shasta spent her evening whining outside Anna's door). At the end of One Tree Hill, Anna got to witness Susan's insanity firsthand when she let out a VERY loud scream during the previews for next week's episode. Yes, she is crazy, but we still love her. Then we watched Law & Order: SVU while Susan chatted away with other OTH obsessees. At 11pm it was time for The Daily Show (Anna loves Jon Stewart) & then off to bed!
Wednesday, May 5th - We got up at a decent hour so that we could go to Henry Cowell State Park with Anna's mom & Shasta to see the redwoods (as Susan hadn't seen them before). We had a lovely time there & took a short walk around the Redwood Grove. We then drove back to SJ and stopped at Bill's Cafe in Willow Glen for lunch & got some frozen yogurt across the street as well. Came back home to relax for the rest of the day & began writing this. We stopped to go out to dinner with Anna's parent at Mexico Lindo (which was very busy since today is Cinco de Mayo), then came back home to finish this entry up and watch Smallville, Angel & The O.C.
So that's it from us. Tomorrow Susan heads back to Chicago. We've had a wonderful time together. The days literally flew by and neither of us can believe it's been almost two weeks We can't wait until Susan moves to California so the adventures will be even more frequent.
As Giles would say, "The earth is definitely doomed."