Saturday, March 28, 2015

Santa Monica - Day 4

We had not yet made it to Korea Town, so today was the day.  Just like every other day, it was going to be around 80 degrees and sunny.  We took this route and headed over to Korea Town.

It is ironic that so few people bike in LA, with the weather being what it is.  I get why... there are so many cars, the air quality sucks in the summer and the infrastructure for cycling has a ways to go.  Beverley Hills (swimming pools, movie stars... did see any of that) has good east-west routes in 4th Street, 8th Street and Gregory.  Like a lot of places, crossing freeways can be a real problem.  We found ourselves taking the sidewalk at times.  Free walk, so it wasn't a problem.  There is also the problem of the drivers.  Few (1 in 5, by my estimation) use turn signals.  Most have no regard for the cross walks, and stop in a way that blocks the crosswalks.  Few walk, so generally this isn't an issue.

We enjoyed the ride, nonetheless.  Our first stop was IOTA Coffee and Bakery for lunch.  The New York Times featured this place on their travel column about LA.  The Salad, Cappuccino and cake did not disappoint.

We had two more stops to make in Korea Town.  The first was a bar called HMS Bounty.  The place is part bar and part restaurant.  It is adjacent to the Gaylord Hotel/Apartments.  It is dark inside, some describe it as a dive bar.  I would;t necessarily go along with calling it a dive bar.  It looks like a reliable sort of bar to me.

After having a drink we walked across the street to the former location of the Ambassador Hotel.  This was the site where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.  The Ambassador was torn down in 2005.  There is a small memorial there with quotes from RFK and others.  It was worth a stop.

Sant Monica - Day 3

The weather on Day 3 in Santa Monica is just like the others.  Sunny, warm, slight breeze and 70-something degrees on its way to the mid-80's.  You can tell why 25M plus people live in California.

We pedaled over to Abbot's Habit for breakfast.  We shared a breakfast wrap and had an espresso.

After that it was a short pedal to the Venice Farmer's Market, where we purchased some kick-ass brownies from Crave Dessert.  Note to self - they ship.

We headed south on the Bike Trail that follows the beach for about 5 or so miles, then headed back north.  After finding Charlie and Marcy's place (2429 Frey, Venice) and Bill and Karen's place (2420 McKinnley, Venice) from Californication, we ended up at the Bergamot Station Arts Center, a former train station that is now a collection of Art Galleries.  The Andrew Weiss Gallery in D4 was very interesting.  They had pieces by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Renoir on display and available for purchase... un-fucking-believable.  Plus there was some art by Bob Dylan and a bunch of Marilyn Monroe photos. That gallery completely blew my mind.

Our late lunch was at Swingers Diner in Santa Monica.   Diner fare plus a number of vegetarian and vegan choices.  It was good, as was my afternoon nap.

For dinner we walked to Santa Monica's Main Street and had Sushi at Tsukiji Sushi Sen.  It was OK, not the best nor worst that we ever had.

In pedaling around Santa Monica, Venice, Hollywood and Beverly Hill we have seen a number of (house) tear-down projects.  We saw two real quaint and neighborhood homes with a sign that indicates that a tear down permit has been procured.  In Hollywood there were a number of signs protesting teat-down projects.  I guess it is happening everywhere.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Santa Monica - Day 2

We kept it close to home on our second day in Santa Monica.  Breakfast was in, and we headed out to the trail along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice.  We rolled over to Hank Moody's apartment in Venice and took the attached photo.

We took in the Venice Canals, they were created by Abbot Kinney way back in the day.  Apparently there used to be more canals and some still remain.  We shopped on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, scored a shirt and some things for the kids.  Abbot Kinney has not yet been taken over by chain stores.  It is worth a visit.  

Lunch was at a place on Abbot Kinney caked Kreation Organic, with an emphasis on the E-A-T.  Its a place that has a large outdoor seating area that features an effective, interesting and SoCal sort of mist that keeps the patrons cool while ingesting some real good food.  Organic, made from scratch,  smoothies, Detox program and people-watching... that kind of place.  Recommended.  

After lunch it was more shopping... Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.  Unlike Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the chains have seized firm control of Montana Avenue.  The best part of the street is a place called Ten Women Gallery, a collective of local art.  There is a Whole Foods on Montana Ave, and we witnessed a conversation between two actors, one male and one female.  They just sort of struck up a conversation that led to an exchange of contact info.  

This evening we went to the Troubadour to see The Wild Reeds, supported by Air Traffic Controller and River City Extension.  The Troubadour has hosted some famous acts... James Taylor, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Neil Young and so many more.  The place is very small, maybe a capacity of maybe 300-400, and there is an upstairs with four rows of bleacher style seats.  The club is nice, we would return.  The only downside is that the beer and wine selection is a little aged... not anything available that is micro-brew.  

Going to the show we missed the 4 bus by about 30 seconds and the next one was to be 60-90 minutes out, according to the LA Metro's website.  We grabbed a cab ($30 with tip) to the show.  Driver was a nice guy who had apparently worked too many hours.  The system logged him out and he was unable to log back in.  The ride home was with UBER and their pool service.  Kashi from Russia was our driver, and we were pooled with Richard.  Richard's destination was Santa Monica, as was ours.  Here is the cool thing... the fare for our 9.5 mile ride was $5.  Five bucks.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Winter/Spring Getaway - Santa Monica -Day 1

This year's winter/spring getaway destination was up for debate.  Nashville?  San Francisco again?  Memphis?  We decided on a place where (1) good weather was most likely to be a lock, (2) we preferred a Blue state and (3) must be bicycle friendly so we can bring and ride our Brompton Bicycles.  We decided on Santa Monica.

We booked a place on VRBO near 11th street and Ocean Park Boulevard.  It's a studio cottage behind the owner's house.  Quiet, private and close to everything that we want to see and do in Santa Monica.

Our flight had us in early and we arrived at the cottage at about 10:30AM.  I set up the Bromptons and we headed out to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market.  All food, all appeared to be local.  We scored some staples like bread, Olive oil and fruit.  We located a food truck on the way back to the cottage and shared one of the best quesadillas that we ever had.

After that we rolled out to the LA Original Farmer's Market, which is now a high-end shopping mall. Its nice as far as malls go, but I wouldn't recommend it.  We had a Jamba juice and peeled out of there.

The next stop was the Music Box Steps, where Laurel and Hardy's classic The Music Box was filmed in 1932.  After that, it was espresso and coffee beans to go at nearby Cafecito Organico.  The espresso did not disappoint.  Cool place with a nice outdoor seating area too.  

After that it was a 16 mile pedal back to the cottage.  We are both a bit tired after a flight, 40 miles on the Bromptons and a full day.

Today's routes includes this route, this route and most of this route.  There was some good riding, some OK riding and some awful riding.  We had to take side walks on busy streets from time to time, mostly to get around/under/over the freeways.  Almost no one walks in LA, so it usually was't a problem.  Santa Monica has done a good job with their bike accommodations, other cities are working on it. Beverley Hills and Hollywood has some nice neighborhood street to pedal.  Venice Boulevard has bike lanes, but also has 6 lanes of cars.  4th street near Korea Town and Central LA was very nice.  There are sharows, light traffic and a residential through street that went east-west.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Begur - Oct 10

The weather today was much like the other days, although there was a bit of fog this morning that quickly burned off.  There was a bunch of us that pedaled the one mile to the coffee shop at Fornells De La Selva.  After that, Kay, Jeff and I did a 26 mile loop that was the same as the other two days.  The one change was a pedal up to the top of Llagostera.  They have a mushroom festival this Sunday, and one bar owner there said it will be very busy. Here is Jeff at the top of the hill in Llagostera.    

After the ride, Kay and I took a drive to Begur.  Begur is an old medieval town with a tower at the top. The tower offers great views of the coast and the area.  We arrived during the siesta once again, so the shops were closed.  Unlike Cadaques, Begur did not have a lot of tourists.  It was a cool place.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Figures & Cadaques - Oct 9

We took another ride this morning, same route as yesterday.  We see a lot of cyclists here.  There is a network of gravel trails that run through the area, and the road riding seems to be good.  The trails are in decent shape, although it rained a lot here last week and a few areas are just a little rough.  The trails get a lot of use by locals and tourists alike.  We have the Brompton bikes and they are adequate.  A hard tail mountain bike would be a good way t roll, even a 32x16 single speed would work.

I should add that the weather has been fabulous.  Sunny, lows around 60 and highs around 80.

Figures is where the Salvador Dali Museum is located.  I did just a little studying about Dali before the trip.  His art is odd and to my liking. The museum tour took about an hour.  The place wasn't very crowded today.

After the museum we took a drive to Cadaques.  The road goes up and down the mountain, and to the coast.  The mountain road is pretty tame, it has a guard rail the whole distance (maybe 15km).  Cadaques is a stunning costal town with white buildings... and a lot of cats.  I will post pictures later.  There was a certain tourist vibe to the place, but it wasn't overt tacky.  I am glad that we made it to Cadaques.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Barcelona - Oct 7

Our entire group of 13 people took the train to Barcelona today.  The people who own the villa advised us to drive to Caldes do Mallavella because (1) the parking is free and (2) all of the RENFE trains stop at that station.  After a bit of road construction we arrived on time, purchased 13 round-trip tickets and were on our way.

Barcelona is a place that feels alive.  There are people walking around, bicycle infrastructure and a good feel about the place.  I had heard about pick-pockets, but we didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Our tour guide Luanna Riccardo from Unicabcn Tours met us at Casa Mila.  UNICABCN Tours is run by Luanna and her husband.  They conduct tours in Spain, Italy and Germany.  She did a great job and is a good contact.  Other stops included Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.  Luanna kept referring t the group as "family", it was pretty cool.

We decided on Tapas at a place called Cervecería Catalana.  Jessica and Andrew were given this place as a recommendation, and they went there earlier during the trip.  It is at Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona. It is near Passeig de Gràcia train station.  It was really great, would recommend as well.

Bike Ride and Girona, Oct 8.

We got up, found coffee and rolled out for a 25 mile rural bike ride.  From the villa went south to Sant Andreu Salou, continued on to Caldes De Mallavella, east to Llangostera, north toward quart and then west to the villa. The route is something that I found on, and I saved it here.  I would be ok with repeating this ride another time.

I have this Garmin Edge Touring GPS unit that I purchased for this trip.  I have a love-hate relationship with the damn thing.  After tying to use it to get through Girona I was committed to selling it.  Today - I am good with the device.  It is probably my impatience, incompetence or the fact that I am accustomed to iPhones/SmartPhones and how easy their maps are to use.  Net-net - I am keeping it until the pendulum swings the other way.

After the ride we drove to Girona. The mission was to park without getting towed (someone in our party did get towed in Girona, it cost 98 Euros to get the car back) and eat Tapas that were nearly as good as last night in Barcelona.  I googled for Best Tapas Girona and found Bubbles Gastrobar i Restaurant.  There was free parking available nearby, very near the bus station.  The food did not disappoint. We were the only tourists in the place. The Nachos with Guacamole was especially good. I will post a picture; it was unique.  

After tapas it was a walk around the wall.  I read a few travel blogs and other sources about Girona.  It was nearly unanimous that Girona was great.  Not terribly crowded, good weather and interesting things to do.  I like the place too  It is like a small scale Barcelona. The wall offers great views of the city and the area.  We did a little shopping after coming down front he wall.  One of the interesting shops was a place called Polakos, a clothing shop run by Alicja i Michal Jankiewicz, a Polish woman.  They sell clothing from Poland made from natural fibers. I even got to work on my Polish language skills with Alicja.  

The rest of the tour included a walk through The Call neighborhood, back the car and then a drive back to the villa.  

Monday, October 06, 2014

Amsterdam - 2014

We are our way to Girona, Spain to celebrate our friend Rich's 60th Birthday.  On the way we decided to take a few days in Amsterdam to take in the bike culture and other things that Amsterdam has to offer.

Our stay was at the Time Hotel in the Jordaan area.  We stayed near here before.  The Jordaan is quiter than many other places in the city.  The first stop was at Pott Change to exchange our USD to Euros. I read where the exchange rate here is far better than probably anywhere else.

We spent much of our time bicycling around the city.  We went mainly south and west and we almost always had particular agenda or course in mind.  We did take in Vondel Park, the Albert Cuyp Market, and Waterloopien Market while on the bikes.  There were two museums that we visited, Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, both worthwhile.  ProTip - buy your tickets at your hotel.  It was the same price, but we saved about 30 minutes getting in.