We departed from our usual slate of European adventures to fly to LA for Randolph’s sister Penny’s wedding. This was our first visit back to the US since we moved to Germany nine months ago, and I missed Germany already almost immediately after we arrived! Don’t get me wrong – LA is cool and I almost cried when I walked through the Whole Foods produce section (so many options!), but I immediately missed the orderliness of Germany. It really bothers me when self-serving people break rules purely for their own benefit and even though I was already hugely aware of Americans being experts at that, living in a place where people do always follow the rules only magnified my frustration. It’s one thing I’m dreading about our eventual move back to the US.
We left Germany in the afternoon and arrived at LAX shortly before midnight, local time. By the time we got the rental car and got to the hotel in Anaheim it was around 1:30 am (I think – I’m a little fuzzy on this). We immediately crashed.
We forced ourselves up at a “normal” time partly to stave off the jet lag and partly because Randolph had an appointment to drop his instruments off at the repair shop. It was painful. There was a lot of caffeine involved.
We drove into LA and our first stop was RDG. Randolph chatted with the repair guy for a bit and also with a clarinet friend he hadn’t seen in years (who is now working at RDG).
After RDG, we headed down Melrose to grab some food at a place Randolph wanted to take me to – Urth Caffe. As we drove up I started laughing. I already recognized the building across the street without even seeing the sign – it was the new Restoration Hardware West Hollywood (RH is my former employer). I swear, that place just follows me everywhere (except to Europe).
Urth Caffe was completely packed, so we wound up getting take-out. We made a quick trip through RH while we were there (yep, RHs still look the same) and then ate our food in the car. And drank coffee.
Randolph then took me to The Grove, the fancy outdoor mall, since we wanted to get in a bit of shopping while we were in the US. And then we also stopped by another shopping area nearby. While it’s probably boring for most people, going to a shopping center with Saks Off 5th, Nordstrom Rack AND Marshall’s was super exciting at the moment.
(*side note: Germany is where fashion goes to die. I literally searched for months for an outfit for the wedding and still hated what I wound up with. I love Germany, but the clothes shopping is horrendous and beyond frustrating.)
After we were sick of browsing through stores (and had made a couple small purchases), we headed off towards the restaurant Randolph had selected…for tacos! In addition to fashion, another thing that’s terrible/hard to find in Germany is Mexican food. There’s a Mexican restaurant near where we live that’s so-so (probably about what you’d find in the Northeast US), but our time living in San Antonio really upped the ante for me with Mexican food. I’d been craving good Mexican food for a while. Guisados did not disappoint. The only thing missing was a good margarita, but I guess I’ll have to keep waiting for that.
In the evening, we met up with Randolph’s family for dinner at a Japanese buffet near the hotel. We finally got to say hello to everyone who was already asleep when we arrived during the night! We chatted with everyone and told our stories, although I think we were both getting pretty tired by that point.
It was a very early morning for us. We were sharing a suite at the hotel with Penny, so at 5am the hair and makeup people arrived and set up shop in the living room. We dragged ourselves out of bed, too (although Randolph was already awake, thanks to his jet lag).
The wedding was at a very beautiful Japanese garden and Penny had planned out some very nice Japanese touches for the wedding, including pretty paper parasols for her and the bridesmaids. Standing there with their parasols on the little bridge over the pond they looked like they belonged in a beautiful painting.
Fortunately, there were some umbrellas over the guest seating. Unfortunately, I still managed to get burned a little. I was only briefly in the sun for some photo-taking, but even in that little bit of time I could feel the intense sun frying my pale, pale shoulders. Thank goodness for those umbrellas during the ceremony or I would have been in so pain afterward!
There was some time between the ceremony and reception, so the groom’s brother hosted the family for lunch. After a little bit of food and petting their dog for a while, the jet lag and lack of sleep was catching up with me and I fell asleep sitting there in the living room. On the way back to the hotel to change back into our party clothes we stopped for coffee and I woke back up.
The reception was at an Asian seafood restaurant and the food was really delicious. There was so much amazing food I can’t even remember what all we ate, but I know there was lobster and shrimp and crispy duck buns.
After a long day we went back to the hotel and passed out.
This was our “fun day”! I had never been to Disneyland before, only Disney World (when I was little). People from California (i.e. Randolph) are always very insistent that Disneyland is better, no holds barred. So finally, after five years, Randolph got to take me to Disneyland! I don’t really remember much about Disney World since I was only two when we went to Magic Kingdom and then when I was in middle school we only went to Epcot. But I officially give Disneyland my seal of approval and I understand why its fans are so loyal and defensive. It has a certain vintage, retro charm that can’t really be replicated.
The only thing I was apprehensive about was wait times for rides. I thought we’d literally be spending the majority of the day in lines and I was afraid I’d get frustrated by that. But we got sooooo lucky. The park was busy, of course, but not ridiculously packed. I could see from how the ride line-up areas were roped off that it could have been so much worse. Disneyland has a system called FastPass. It’s not for all the rides – just the more popular ones that get crazy wait times. What you do is insert your ticket into a machine and it spits out a FastPass with a one-hour block that you return during. Basically, you’re virtually standing in line and then jumping to the head of the line when you return. You can only have one FastPass at a time, but we did really well with them. We’d pick a ride to get a FastPass for, and then while we waited we’d do some rides you have to stand in line for. But because it wasn’t crazy busy (and also because the park is a wonderful model of efficiency) we got through a lot of rides like that! I think the longest wait line all day was 20-30 minutes, which is nothing. When you’re busy chatting and listening to the great arrangements of Disney music playing in the park (some were truly excellent), time flies.
We started with the classic – Fantasyland. The first ride we went on was Peter Pan (and that was our longest wait all day). While we were waiting in line, we were looking around and I had to laugh at the buildings all around us. They were reproductions of the colorful half-timber houses we’ve seen so much around Germany and France. How ironic that I saw the real thing before I saw the Disney ones.
I made Randolph go on all the classic rides with me – teacups, carousel, Dumbo…the works. He was rolling his eyes, but I told him that he had to indulge me and put up with it since it was my first time. I was totally enjoying being a little kid for a day!
I was having so much fun going on all the rides and because we were so lucky with wait times (and a few random “Oh you’re only two people? Jump to the front of the line!” situations) there was never a moment for me to lose the fun and the magic. I seriously think I was smiling and giggling like a little kid the whole day. After hitting up Fantasyland, Tomorrowland (now Star Wars themed), Adventureland, New Orleans Square (a good area to go for lunch, btw), and Toontown, we headed across the street to California Adventure for a while.
Our first stop there was the Tower of Terror. Since they’re closing it down soon, we knew this was our one and only chance to experience it. We immediately headed over there to get our FastPass and then killed some time on the Monsters Inc ride (special front-of-the-line pass for two!), got coffee (desperately needed by then) and checked out some shops.
I think my joy in going on all the rides (including Tower of Terror) is pretty evident in this hilarious picture. The picture for the roller coaster later on was similar.
Randolph’s expectation was that we’d be lucky to hit most of the major rides, but in reality we were able to hit not only all of the major ones but also lots of secondary and tertiary rides. The new Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters ride in the Cars section was a surprise favorite (I couldn’t stop giggling), and it’s apparently only been around since March.
I insisted that we go to the boardwalk section and do the Screamin’ Coaster (once again, lots of joyful laughing on my part) and the flying swings. After a few more rides in California Adventure we went back over to Disneyland to spend the last of our time there until the fireworks at 9:30pm. I was pretty exhausted by the time we left at 10pm – we’d been there for 13.5 hours!
We wanted to go back downtown again for a while until it was time to pick up Randolph’s instruments from the repair shop, and Penny and Alex joined us for a low-key afternoon.
First we ate lunch at Crossroads Kitchen, which serves vegan food that’s so well made you’d never even know it’s “missing” anything. And it looks like a “normal” nice restaurant – not the “hippy crunchy granola” look that vegan places typically have.
Our next stop was Milk for some macaron ice cream sandwiches – which are as delicious as they sound – and coffee. I’d found both Crossroads and Milk via some pre-trip food research on Pinterest.
We went back to The Grove for just a little bit and then Penny and Alex stayed there while Randolph and I went to RDG.
We met back up with Penny and Alex at the Whole Foods across from The Grove so that we could pick up a few things to take back to Germany (like salsa! and tequila!). The produce section made me sad – German groceries are higher quality in general, including produce, but the selection is less. There are things that aren’t available in Germany at all (golden beets) or are rare in German diets, therefore very expensive (avocados, sweet corn). Even though I love our German grocery store, Whole Foods was breaking my heart a little.
We were meeting up with the rest of the family for dinner and we headed over pretty early. Despite the LA rush hour traffic we still got to the area early, so we made a stop at Trader Joe’s for a few more food items to take back to Germany with us.
Dinner was at Farrell’s, a 50’s style diner/ice cream parlor. It was loud and the food was mediocre (if I’m being generous). I feel like when you’re singing a cheesy birthday song to literally 95% of the tables that come in, then it’s time to stop singing for birthdays. After listening to two birthday songs, every time they started another (about every 5 minutes) all I could think was “noooooooooooo…”. I just wanted to eat my food in peace. I actually think we might have been the only table there that didn’t get sung to. And I felt so bad for our waitress. I could tell she was tired. I could tell she hated her job. I could tell she just wanted to go home. I know that feeling and it sucks.
We headed back to LAX and managed to have pretty uneventful flights, aside from our layover in Iceland getting cut short (but we still squeezed in a quick trip through the duty free shop for Icelandic Schnapps). We made it home safe, but tired.
My parents are visiting in early September and we’ll also be going on a little trip with them.