Saturday, February 16, 2013

Los Angeles, CA: The (Touristy) Right Way To Go

Headed to Hollywood, baby

When I turned 30 many years ago (I'm kidding it was five years ago) I went on a trip to Los Angeles with four of my good friends. It was a dirty thirty trip even though nothing even remotely dirty happened. We only had a weekend to see the city and a major part of my reason for going was that there was a vintage expo being held in Santa Monica. If I have never mentioned this in previous posts I will tell you now that I love fashion so a trip for that purpose was a worthy trip indeed.

Now I notice that many travel sites will tell you to avoid certain "tourist traps" when visiting popular  destinations (check out this link for a briefing), but I don't always agree with that sentiment. In fact when I went to L.A. my friends and I proceeded to do some of the cheesiest things possible and had an incredibly fun time. Here's where we headed:

Hollywood Bouleveard
After the hotel it was straight to the legendary Hollywood Boulevard. Let me tell you that we got embarrassingly excited as soon as the sun started to go down. Remember the movie, "Pretty Woman" and the opening scene? Well, that's exactly how it looked and felt. I can't say for sure if we saw any pretty women, though there are some strange characters that inhabit the Boulevard. My friend, Erika, actually stopped to take a picture with Elmo. No, I do not know why Elmo was on Hollywood Boulevard and we weren't smart enough to ask.

Erika and the mysteriously present Elmo

Hollywood Wax Musuem
We giddly  handed over our money to go into the Hollywood Wax Museum that has been described as a "waste of money". Nope, not to me. I got a huge kick out of critiquing all of the statues and rating the celebrity likeness quotient. They didn't do Angelina Jolie justice in my opinion.
Kaniese with Samuel L.(waxed) Jackson

Ripley's Believe It Or Not
This was inevitable because I have always loved Ripley's since I was a kid. As soon as I saw it I couldn't resist popping in. I looked in some strange box and a woman was blinking up at me. Yowza.
Kim, plus a few pounds!

Frederick's of Hollywood
I don't know. I really do not know why we were so keen to shop at Frederick's of Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard, but it really seemed like something we needed to do at the time. Period.
Celebrity Home Stalking/Sightings
Okay, say what you will, but this was totally worth it. We bought an over-priced map from a very gentlemanly sounding man (he charged more than the price on the map) and we gassed up the rental and headed to Beverly Hills and beyond. Let me say that Beverly Hills is a beautiful area full of hills, trees, and of course, gorgeous homes. Driving through it was a real treat and we spent hours looking for and at properties.
However, any celebrity worth their salt had a gate as high as the Berlin Wall. We saw nothing. Well, we did see Jennifer Lopez's cleaning lady heading into the house if that counts for anything. We also must have stumbled upon someone truly famous in a SUV because when they saw us driving towards them, they ducked under the steering wheel. My friend Melody said it was a woman. We drove for blocks trying to guess who it could have been:Jennifer Anniston? Drew Barrymore? Paris Hilton? It remains the mystery of the headless woman.
Side Trip: Santa Monica,CA
How I loved Santa Monica. I have never been very impressed with beach towns, but this one got under my skin.The Third Street Promenade is officially one of my favorite places in the U.S. The boutiques, shops, and sights are fantastic. The area has the feel of a small town with an upscale vibe.  Bonus: we found a diner that served some of the best breakfast I ever had, and I'm sorry I can't tell you the name of it. 

So, yes, in one weekend I tried to do as many touristy things as possible while in L.A. Am I ashamed? Not even a little bit. I had a great time. Sometimes it's just fun to go to all the places you've heard about and experience it for yourself. Does that make you a bad or unsophisticated traveler? Not at all. Forget the rules and do what feels right for you. If it makes a great memory, then it was a worthy trip in my book.

The Usual Suspects Taking Over Hollywood
(yours truly on the left with my necklace hanging weirdly over my breast)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Missing Paris? Here's A Cure

I told myself before I went to Paris that if I truly liked the city and the culture that I would learn to speak French when I returned home. The only problem is that I was a bit afraid because I took French in high school and the only thing I could remember from the whole experience, besides fruitless attempts at learning the grammar, is how to say hello and goodbye. I did some research and found out about the Alliance Francaise de Chicago, Chicago's French cultural institute.  I signed up to attend their open house on Wednesday to take advantage of a trial lesson in French. Oh, and the wine and cheese.

Little Singing Cutie Pies
The event opened with a small concert given by the students from Lycee Francais Chicago, a bilingual school that teaches k-12th grade. The kids were adorable and excited to be the center of attention. They did a fantastic rendition of "We Will Rock You" in French and English! 

After the concert, our French language class began. There were about  18 of us and we learned the art of introductions by practicing with each other, which was fun and a little nerve racking. I now know  how to properly introduce myself and a friend. This will come in handy for my next trip to Paris. I spent my last visit saying ,"Bonjour! Parlez-vous anglais?" 

After class while having wine and cheese I toured the center; beyond the language classes the center provides cooking demonstrations, cultural events, film screenings, and other opportunities to enjoy French culture. They also have an extensive library of  French film, books, and CDs that members can borrow. Bonus for Kandice: they have a cafe that meets monthly for learners of all levels to practice their skills. 

I definitely plan on attending more events at the center and signing up for classes sometime soon. If you are interested in joining or visiting an Alliance, they have centers all over the U.S. and abroad. Go to their website to learn  more.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

10 Things That I Loved About Paris

I  mentioned I went to Paris in October. Well, I loved it and I can't stop thinking about it. Today I tried to think of my favorite things from Paris, then I made a game to pick 10. I think these might be it, but this list barely scratches the surface.

  1. Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) every morning 
  2. Chocolate so good that you need sit down just to eat it ( I love you,  Le Maison du Chocolat)
  3. Outdoor cafes on every corner
  4. Balconies on beautiful limestone buildings
  5. Cobblestone streets
  6. The fact that people really do say "oh la la"
  7. Leisurely dining
  8. Paris at night
  9. The cute clerk at my hotel
  10. La Seine