Friday, December 10, 2010

#144: The Grotto Hike in Malibu

Number 144 comes to us from the beautiful mountains of Malibu. Last weekend our hiking gang travelled north on PCH and then 5 miles east on the car-sickness-inducing maze known as Yerba Buena Road to get to Circle X Ranch's Grotto Hike. The Grotto hike is only 3.5 miles roundtrip, but it took us about two hours because of the rock scrambling and exploring we did.

The car-sick hiking gang at the trail head

The first part of the hike is straightforward. Just park for free in the Circle X Ranch parking lot and head to the left toward the trail head sign. Follow the dirt path through some gorgeous mountains until you reach a dead end at a stream.

When you reach the dead end, head to the right towards these rocks

Next, head toward the right where you see a bunch of rocks. From here, you must rock scramble downward to reach the grotto. Rock scrambling reminded me of being a kid again. It was really fun, but a little tricky to get down there, so wear good shoes. After a short distance, you will see a crevice in the rocks. Slide down the big rock and you will have reached your destination!

To reach the grotto, you must slide down this rock

Brad standing inside the Grotto. The ceiling is one BIG boulder balancing on smaller boulders!

The Grotto is stunning. It's amazing that these huge (I mean HUGE) boulders fell on each other "just right" so that it created this giant cave with water in it. The whole ceiling of the grotto is one gigantic boulder that is balancing on smaller rocks. When I was in there, I had a frightening vision of an earthquake shaking all of the rocks loose. We had also seen the amazing movie 127 Hours a couple of weeks ago, so I had scary boulder scenes running through my mind from that movie as well. Anyway... I'm not trying to scare you away! Go see the Grotto--it's breath taking.

Near the grotto

Kelly and me!

If you continue below the grotto, you will see this area.

Look at the size of them rocks! This is a pond below the grotto.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

#143: Solstice Canyon Hike

Brad mentioned that he loves hiking, but he hates how hot it can be when there's no shade on a hike. I googled "shady Los Angeles hiking" and found the Solstice Canyon hike in Malibu. On Thanksgiving weekend, Brad and I drove out to Malibu to hike to the waterfalls and see the ruins of once-beautiful mansions in the Malibu mountains. The hike took about 1.5 hours (we were walking slowly).

the skeleton of a house

Solstice Canyon Park is on Corral Canyon Road just off PCH. There are two parking lots. One is very small at the base of the road, and the second larger lot is .2 miles in. Parking is free. Dogs are allowed, but I believe that bikes are not. The hike itself is absolutely gorgeous, semi-shady, and the perfect length for a hiking rookie like myself. It's an easy hike (Brad did it in flip flops), and we saw many people, dogs and families along the way.

the fork in the trail

On the way to the falls, you will encounter a fork in the trail. The left fork goes up and the right one goes down. They meet up, but if you take the lower path, you have to cross a stream two times.

Of all the hikes I've been on in L.A., this is one of my favorites.

ruins from fire

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

#142: Binocular Building

Frank Gehry's colossal black Binocular Building on Main Street in Venice oddly blends into the surroundings---so much so that I drove past this building many times without even noticing it!

On Thanksgiving, we made a trip to see this striking building up close. It is huge (see me in the above picture for scale). Cars can drive through the binoculars into a garage. I read somewhere that this building used to be an advertising agency. I have no idea what it is now though.

Venice, true to character, has a lot of unique structures. Across the street on the corner of Rose and Main is the famous clown ballet dancer.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

#141: Calabasas Hindu Temple

Thank you Henry for your comment suggesting a visit to Calabasas' Hindu Temple! After a beautiful Thanksgiving brunch at Paradise Cove, we traveled the windy road into the Calabasas mountains to see the temple. The short journey from PCH was absolutely gorgeous. When we got to the Hindu Temple, there were a lot of people there. It didn't seem like there were a lot of tourists--most of the people there were there to worship. We took off our shoes then wandered the area.

Brad had been to the temple years ago, and he commented that it looks a lot more run down now. There were skeletons of tents, pipes, and buckets littering the grounds, and the whole area was covered with a film of dirt. The architecture, however, was gorgeous. I could see that with a little cleaning, this temple could look breath-taking.

Parking and entrance are free. This is worth a visit if you're in the Malibu area!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#140: The Santa Monica Airport

The Santa Monica Airport is so much more than an airport. Here you can catch a performance at the Ruskin Group Theatre (yes, a theatre at an airport!), play soccer at Airport Park, and dine on scorpions and crickets at Typhoon. On the first and fourth Sundays of the month from 8 AM to 3 PM the airport parking lot becomes an Outdoor Antique Market, and on Wed-Sat from 12 PM to 6 PM you can visit the Santa Monica Art Studios.

Last but not least is the Barker Hangar, one of the Westside's premier spots for big events like the Sanrio "Small Gift" anniversary celebration that took place this past week. Now I don't worship at the altar of Hello Kitty, but curiosity got the better of Brad and I and we stopped by to check out the festivities. To celebrate 50 years of all things Sanrio, the event featured a mini golf course, carnival games, multiple photo booths, food trucks, face painting, sand art, an art gallery (my favorite part) and a gift shop. I thought it was a perfect place to bring kids (new converts!).

The airport is currently constructing a Museum of Flying which will house numerous aircrafts and feature children's exhibits. Can't wait!

Have you been to the Santa Monica Airport? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

#139: Hollywood Farmers' Market

Well hello again after a long hiatus! Wedding planning took up much of my time these last couple of months, but I am back (a married woman!) ready to experience L.A.'s finest. Here we go with #139...

I had always wanted to check out the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Selma and Ivar, but "it's so far away" and "parking must suck there" prevented me from venturing out to that side of town. No excuses today, I thought to myself. Brad and I woke up semi-early and headed off to Hollywood (it only took about 20 minutes driving there from West L.A.!).

Everyone raves about this market, and now I can see why. I counted three stalls selling free-range chickens, one stand selling grass fed bison, a few stalls selling eggs from free-range chickens, two oyster purveyors, one specialty mushroom stand, and tables full of greens, persimmons, apples, pears, berries and flowers. Samples are abundant, and we tried everything from squid salad to fresh cheese curd, pumpkin flan and hummus. As the clouds parted and the sun warmed our little stretch of Hollywood, I sighed contentedly to myself. It was a perfect way to start a Sunday.

The unwrapped sweet sticky rice with banana

For brunch, we got two pupusas, a strawberry lemonade, and a sticky rice ball with banana. This, combined with our samples, kept us full for most of the day.

Very sweet strawberry lemonade

Plentiful parking is available for $2 at the lot on the corner of Delongpre and Ivar. Just get your ticket validated at the Information Booth of the Farmers' Market (located right in the middle of everything).

The Hollywood Farmers' Market is a fantastic farmers' market with an eclectic crowd of people (quite different from the west side F.Ms). Check it out every Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm.

Fall Bouquets
Balloon Guy for the kids
Free samples!
Brad eating his pupusa

Half eaten pupusa

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#138: iFly Hollywood

My favorite dreams are the ones in which I am flying, so when I saw that Groupon was having a sale on iFly tickets, I jumped on the deal. $35 for two 1-minute flights, a DVD and free valet parking is a small price to pay to recreate my Peter Pan flying dreams. (btw, the package usually costs around $85. Yay Groupon!)

iFly is a vertical wind tunnel located on Universal Studios City Walk next door to the Hard Rock Cafe. Imagine a towering clear tunnel that blasts winds upward in a vertical column that you can float on. It's an unforgettable experience that reminds me of Willy Wonka's fizzy lifty drink chamber minus the scary fan up top.

We got there about 30 minutes before our flight time and were shown a brief video that taught us proper body positioning and hand signs that our instructor used to communicate with us in the tunnel (it's loud in there, so talking is useless). Then our class of 12 was taken to the suiting chamber where we were given zip up body suits, ear plugs, safety glasses and helmets. In our group there was a kid who looked like he was 4 and a gentleman who looked like he was in his 60's. Apparently, anyone over the age of 3 can iFly!

The tunnel was loud and the wind was strong enough to make our cheeks wobble. Even when we were waiting our turn outside the tunnel, we could feel the wind blasting our face. Once we got inside, our instructor wrestled to position us. Balancing on the wind is harder than you think! Our second time in the tunnel, our instructor grabbed onto us and we went really high in the tunnel and did all sorts of tricks.

I loved my iFly experience and would definitely do it again if there's another discount. (Btw, this would be a great place to have a birthday party!) Equally fun was watching the DVD of our flight when we got home. The cheesy music and seeing ourselves looking incredibly clumsy in mid air was enough to make Brad and I laugh so hard we were crying. The first two flights are awesomely terrible, and the last two are better. Toward the end, you can see the instructor taking us for a ride! Check it out below.

Have you experienced iFly? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!

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