Jaunts With Jackie

Fill your life with adventure. Have stories to tell and not things.

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Backpacking to Dry Lake

Backpacking to Dry Lake was a real surprise. One benefit of the wet winter here in Southern California is that Dry Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness is not dry, it is currently full. An average Spring will bring some water to the lake, but it quickly dries up with the warmer temperatures. The past few years Dry Lake as been that very dry, but this year it looks spectacular.

Backpacking to Dry Lake

My fellow adventurer, Sally and I are training for a trip to the Sierras. We decided on a 3 day 2-night backpacking trip to Dry Lake. The trail starts at the South Fork Trailhead in Angelus Oaks. This the one lot that has plenty of available parking spaces. Adventure Passes are required to park in the parking lot. At this time permits are not required for day hikes, but permits are required for an overnight.

South Fork Trailhead

We struggled to get our packs on. They were heavy. This was our first time hiking with bear canisters. Black bears are prevalent in the San Bernardino National Forest, however, bear canisters are not required for Dry Lake. If we didn’t carry a canister we would have had to hang our food. This trip was a practice run for the Sierras so we opted to add the extra weight of a bear canister. I could feel the extra weight and it took up so much room in your backpack, but I wouldn’t want to have an encounter with a bear in the middle of the night.

South Fork Trailhead

A Little Detour

This winter’s weather played havoc on the beginning of the trail. The first 1/4 mile of the trail has too much debris to make it safe. Forest Service has marked an alternate starting point. It is easy to follow, you can follow the pink ribbons until you meet up with the original trail.

Horse Meadow

The trail to Dry Lake is 6 miles. At the 1.5 mile mark you find yourself in a meadow with some old structures. This is Horse Meadow and it is a beautiful spot for a picnic. There is a picnic table, but there is no overnight camping allowed. We took a little break and enjoyed taking off our backpacks and getting a drink.

Horse Meadow
My very heavy backpack.

Poop-Out Hill

After leaving Horse Meadow you walk through low brush on the way to Poop Out Hill. At 2.5 miles you can take a slight detour to take you to the top of Poop Out Hill. There is a sign for San Gorgonio Wilderness and an amazing view of San Gorgonio.

The junction to Poop-Out Hill.
At Poop Out Hill

Water Crossings

We got back on the trail that was heading up, through an area that burned in the 2015 Lake Fire. We spotted plenty of wild flowers, mushrooms growing on the dead trees and carpets of green grass. After you get to the junction of where to turn off for either Dry Lake or Dollar Lake we had to cross the river 4 times. Some of the crossings were easier than others. One crossing required us to walk all the way across on a downed log. Luckily we made it across without falling in.

Switchbacks All The Way To Dry Lake

After the water crossing, it’s just straight up the switchbacks until Dry Lake. On the way up we had to climb over two large trees that were blocking the trail. It wasn’t easy getting over the top with full packs on without falling down the other side of the mountain.

A First Patch Of Snow

A little before the 6-mile mark we started to see patches of snow. At 6 miles we could see Dry Lake. We walked on the right side of the lake looking for a place to camp. The next day when we walked around the entire lake we found out we should have walked along the left side of the lake. On the left is a sign with a map showing where the designated campgrounds are and also where the Spring is.

Dry Lake was actually full of water and beautiful.
Dry Lake
A nap of Dry Lake, the campground, and the spring.

Finding The Campground

Since we walked the wrong way and missed the sign we set up our tent closer to Lodgepole Springs Campground. A large group that we had walked up behind sat up their tents on the edge of the lake. No camping is allowed within 200 feet of the lake, stream, spring, meadow or other campers. The following day when we got back from hiking the large group had relocated farther back away from the water. We assume a ranger had come and asked them to move.

Our tents. We made sure they were more than 200 feet from the edge of the lake.
We could still see the lake from our tents.

Filtering Water

We didn’t bring a lot of water with us, so we had to filter water. The first night we couldn’t find the spring so we used our Sawyer Water filters to filter water from the lake. After our camp chores were done we sat down to heat up our dinners on our camp stoves. No campfires are allowed in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. While our meals were rehydrating I made us some Trail Margaritas. I mixed one packet of Crystal Light Lemonade with with a 1 1/2 shots of tequila, a slice of lime and lots of fresh snow. They were seriously the best margaritas I’ve ever had. We called it an early night and got in our tents and read. We had big plans to try and get to the top of San Gorgonio the next day.

I used a Sawyer squeeze filter to filter water.
Filtering water using the Sawyer.
Cooking dinner
Supplies for backpacking margaritas.
Making Margaritas
I made backpacking margaritas using 1 packet of lemonade, 1 shot of tequila, fresh lime and snow.
Trail Margaritas
The sun setting on Dry Lake.
Goodnight!

3 Must See Museums in Paris

When you think of Parisian museums you probably only think of the Louvre. The Louvre is everything you have heard of and more, but the Musée de l´Orangerie and Musée d’Orsay should also be on every tourist must-see lists as well.

The Louvre

The Most Popular Museum in The Worls

The Louvre is as large as some small towns. It would take you days to see it all. It would be ideal to be able to see small parts of it on several different days. We chose to go on a day that the Louvre stayed open late. We had a museum pass so we were able to queue up next to the pyramid. This was a definite benefit to the museum pass. Our line was not long and it moved rather quickly. Security in all of Paris is no joke, so be sure and plan extra time for it. If you are only going to visit for one day as we did, I suggest you do a little research and make a list of your must-sees.

The Mona Lisa

Of course, we wanted to see the Mona Lisa. We headed there first assuming it would only get more crowded. First of all the painting is small. Secondly it is behind glass and lastly, the amount of people cramming in to see the painting is crazy. It’s not possible to spend any amount of time studying the painting. To stand in front of it you risk getting trampled to death. After inching my way up close, I took a quick look and then a quick picture. As hard as it was to make my way in front of the picture it was twice as hard to squish my way out.

The Mona Lisa
Trying to inch my way closer.

Winged Victory

Next, we took a breather and saw my favorite piece the Victoire de Samothrace (Winged Victory.) It is located at the top of a grand staircase. It is possible to get a good view of this fabulous sculpture from many different angles.

Victoire de Samothrace

Venus de Milo

The Venus de Milo is another sculpture that can’t be missed. The Venus de Milo is assumed to be Aphrodite the goddess of love & beauty. The sculpture is large. She is over 6 feet tall. They believe she was sculpted between 130 and 100 BC. Other than her missing arms she’s in good shape.

Venus de Milo

Apollo Gallery

We took a walk through the Apollo Gallery. The Galerie d’Apollon is famous for its high vaulted ceilings and painted decorations.

The Ceiling in the Apollo Gallery

The Musée de l´Orangerie

The Musée de l´Orangerie is a small museum that is known for its eight large water lily panels painted by Claude Monet. There are also other impressionist paintings. The museum is on the edge of the Tuileries Garden. The entrance is also included in the museum pass. The Monet panels are the highlight. They are floor to ceiling in a round room. There are benches in the middle of the room and the panels depict Monet’s garden in all four seasons.

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies

The Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay is my favorite museum in all of Paris. The museum is located in an old train station. It holds mostly French art from the impressionist area. It has paintings, furniture, sculpture, and photography. The highlight of the building is the old clock.

The clock overlooking the Seine River.

The building itself is as beautiful as the art that it holds. It is two stories and has grand staircases at each end of the building. There are many galleries filled with amazing art.

The view from upstairs.

These are the three museums that can’t be missed in Paris. It would be possible to spend multiple days in each one. I think that is a great excuse for another trip to Paris.

The 3 Best Pizza Slices in NYC

Everybody has their favorite style of pizza and the best part of visiting New York City is you can try it all. There is a pizza place on every block. While visiting my daughter Nicole in Brooklyn we decided to give some a try.

Juliana’s Pizza, 10 Old Fulton St. Brooklyn, NY

Juliana’s Pizza

Our first stop was Juliana’s Pizza on Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Juliana’s is an old school pizzeria that opened in 2012. The proprietor is Patsy Grimaldi. Patsy owned Grimaldi’s under the Manhattan Bridge just a few doors down from Juliana’s. Grimaldi’s was a New York institution. Lines would snake down the street for blocks. About 10 years ago Patsy and his wife sold Grimaldi’s and settled into retirement. Much to the delight of Brooklyn after a few years of retirement, he opened Juliana’s Pizza named after his mother. We went for lunch on a rainy afternoon. There was a line outside, but we were a party of two and we agreed to sit at the bar so we were seated quickly. We had an amazing view of the coal pizza oven.

The coal pizza oven.

We split a salad and decided on the classic Margherita. It has a typical New York thin crust, with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. We also tried the War Flag an American Pilsner brewed in Brooklyn. The salad was a nice start. It was fresh and tasty.

While we waited for our pizza we sipped our beer and watched the pizzas go in and out of the coal oven. Our pizza came out piping hot. The crust was thin and golden. The cheese tasted fresh and it was gooey. The pizza was basically perfection. Between the two of us, we ate a whole pizza, and that left no room to try dessert. Maybe next time. I paid in cash, but I did notice that you can use your credit card, unlike at Grimaldi’s which is cash only. The restaurant was very busy, but at no time did we feel rushed and the service was excellent. I believe Juliana’s is a must-try for an authentic New York City Pizza.

War Flag, an American Pilsner brewed in Brooklyn.
The classic Margherita Pizza.
Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Spumoni Gardens

The first Saturday in April was opening day for Luna Park at Coney Island. We took the train to Coney Island and rode the old wooden Cyclone. After the roller coaster ride and the walk along the boardwalk, we decided to go try some pizza at Spumoni Gardens. We took the train one stop and then walked to the restaurant. Spumoni Gardens is located in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

When we got there it was a lively Saturday afternoon on their patio. Spumoni Gardens is known for its Sicilian pizza. They sell their pizzas as whole pies or by the slice. Their Sicilian pizza is made in a rectangle. One slice is $3.00. It was a thick crust and the sauce is on top of the cheese. We ate on the patio and they serve it up on a paper plate. We each got a slice and sat on the patio with a lemonade. The crust is thick and the sauce is plentiful and it was easier to eat it with a fork. It was good and I’m glad we tried it.

Thick crust Sicilian Pizza with the sauce on top.

We both got a serving of Spumoni Ice Cream for dessert. Their Spumoni is a mix of Vanilla, Chocolate, and Pistachio. In my opinion, it was the star of the meal. We ate on the patio, but they have a full-service restaurant inside. The whole area had a down-home family vibe.

A serving of Spumoni Ice Cream.

Joe’s Pizza

Joe’s Pizza is a Greenwich Village institution. It was founded in 1975 and has been listed on NYC’s best pizzas over and over. They have a simple menu. Whole pies or by the slice. They also have Sicilian pizza on the menu, but I have never tried it.

Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine St.

Joe’s Pizza is a walk up and orders pizzeria. There are a few stools and stand up tables, but mostly you order to go. The day Nicole and I went she saved us seats on a bench in the square across the street. The square is officially Father Demo Square. It has a fountain and benches and is a good place to sit and people watch. I went and ordered our pizza.

We both chose a slice of cheese pizza. It is a huge slice and they serve it on a paper plate. They have cans of soda and bottled water for sale as well. They do not accept credit cards. Joe’s pizza is the quintessential New York slice of pizza. The crust is thin and if you look around you will see people folding their slice in half. This is what all walk-up pizza should taste like, flavorful and not greasy and a perfect not floppy crust. Joe’s Pizza serves both the local neighborhood and hungry tourists. Joe has become so popular they now have 4 other locations scattered throughout New York City.

A slice from Joe’s Pizza, Greenwich Village.

These 3 pizzas are just the tip of the iceberg. There are 100’s of other pizza places in New York City to try, but I would definitely make a return trip to all three of these locations.

A Walking Tour of Brooklyn Bushwick, Cobble Hill & Dumbo……

I landed at JFK on a gorgeous spring day in April. After dropping my suitcase at my daughter’s apartment in Brooklyn we set off on a walking tour of Bushwick. I wanted to see the graffiti and street art that is part of The Bushwick Collective.

Biggie Smalls

The Bushwick Collective

The Bushwick Collective is located off of Flushing Ave. in Bushwick. There are blocks and blocks of murals that you can visit by just walking around the neighborhood. There really is something for everyone. We saw both portraits and cartoon type murals. It appears that this area of Bushwick is up and coming. We walked past fancy new coffee shops that we were next to functioning machine shops. We were also able to peruse a couple of eclectic vintage shops.

Till Death Do us Part
My own super model.
A quilted wrap for the telephone pole.

Finding a Lunch Spot in Bushwick

After walking around we decided it was time to eat. I had heard about a restaurant in Bushwick Called Dock. We weren’t sure they would be open because we were there during the weird hours after lunch and before dinner, however, when we go there we found that they were still serving lunch specials for another 40 minutes. Dock is a busy restaurant and reservations are usually a must, but this was the perfect time to try it. Dock was started by three chefs that have different backgrounds. They have combined their talents into one fabulous restaurant. Dock has 3 different head chefs one for sushi, one for Thai cuisine and one for ramen.

Lunch At Dock Restaurant

Our lunch special was $10.95 and included a soup, egg roll, or salad and one entree. I had the Oyster Soup and Pad See Ew. Nicole had an egg roll and Ramen. We split a Kyoto Matcha IPA . I’ll start with the Matcha IPA. I’m not a fan of IPAs they are usually too bitter for me, however, this one was great. I could taste the bitter hops, but it was balanced out by the matcha. The color was fantastic. It was a deep grassy, green. My oyster soup was delicious. It had the perfect amount of heat and sourness mixed together. It lots of fresh oyster mushrooms and fresh vegetables. My Pad See Ew was also good. I had it with tofu. It wasn’t overly spiced and that allowed me to add my favorite chili oil to enhance the flavors. Nicole’s egg roll was ok. Probably not the star of our meal, however, she liked her Ramen. I give The Dock 5 stars out of 5 and I will be going back to try something else on their extensive menu next time I’m in the area.

Three types of Asian Food in one restaurant.
Kyoto Matcha IPA
Oyster Soup
Pad See Ew with Tofu
Ramen

Exploring Cobble Hill

After lunch, we headed to the subway and went to the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn. I wanted to go to an independent bookstore that I follow online called Books Are Magic. Of course, I loved it. They have the cutest mural painted outside and inside is filled with books. Their staff has curated sections and titles that they recommend and they have an amazing section for children’s books. We spent a long time looking at books and I had to buy a Books Are Magic t-shirt before I left so that I can wear it at home in my library.

I think Books Are Magic!

Heading to Dumbo, Brooklyn

After the bookstore, we hopped back on the subway and head to Dumbo. For those not familiar with Dumbo it is an acronym for down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass. It is one of my favorite areas of Brooklyn because of the amazing views of Manhattan. We went to the Empire Store on the waterfront. We walked up the stairs to the top and had an amazing view of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the Manhattan skyline.

Dumbo

A view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Perfect Views in Brooklyn

Walking along the waterfront is always entertaining. The views are amazing. There are always lots of photoshoots going on. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to stop at. Because it was April as soon as the sun went down it got very chilly. We decided that it was time to get back on the subway and head back to Nicole’s apartment. We had an amazing day wandering around Brooklyn.

The Perfect view.

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Henniger Flats…..

On a Saturday in April Sally and I decided to go on an overnight backpacking trip to Henniger Flats. We are training for the Sierras and trying to get in lots of practice packing and carrying our backpacks. We started on Pinecrest in Altadena. There are strict parking rules on Pinecrest so we parked a few blocks away on a city street. The trail from Pinecrest to Henniger Flats follows a fire road. It’s a steady incline all the way up. It is about 3 miles from the start of the trail to the lower campground. I would rate this hike as moderate. Lots of casual day hikers passed us on the way up, but we were carrying heavy backpacks. I weighed my backpack before I left and it was 37 pounds. That is really heavy for overnight. The main source of weight was there is no water at Henniger. You have to bring everything all with you. This includes what you need to drink, cook and brush your teeth. I carried up 9 pounds of water plus my hammock and book. All things that I don’t usually have with me.

Almost to the campground.

Hauling My Backpack to The Top

We started up in the early afternoon knowing that Henniger gets crowded on the weekends. There are about 30 spots spread out over 3 levels and they are first come first serve. When we arrived there was only 1 tent set up at the lower campground and the coveted spot #1 was unoccupied. We decided that was where we were going to camp. Spot #1 is popular for its spectacular views of Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, and Catalina. It was a little cool and overcast so we could see Los Angeles and the ocean, but not Catalina. We were thankful for the cloud cover because there is no shade on the hike up. It would be a scorcher if the sun was out. Currently, you are allowed to have a fire at Henniger, but it has to be in their fire stove and not on the ground. In order to have a fire, you need to check in with a fireman that is on duty 24 hours a day. He will issue you a free permit to camp and make a fire. We found him inside the little museum that is at the top of the lower campground. There are bathrooms at the Henniger. I thought they would be vault toilets, but they’re flushing. Unfortunately, there was no toilet paper or running water.

Downtown Los Angeles is the little dot under the orange clouds.
Inside the Museum
An old fire look-out that has been relocated to Henniger Flats.

Setting Up Camp

After checking in we set up our tents and then tried to set up our hammocks. I might need to invest in some strap extenders. We had a hard time hanging our hammocks up, because the trees were either too close or too far away. I finally got mine up and enjoyed laying in it and reading a book.

The view from my hammock.
It was hard to concentrate on my book with this view.

Making Dinner in The Woods

We each made couscous for dinner. We’re trying out different backpacking meals for our longer trips this summer. After dinner, we noticed we only had a few pieces of wood by our stove. We had read that the Los Angeles Fire Department – Forestry Division provides firewood. We walked back over and talked to the fireman and yes, they do provide firewood. He was so nice that he offered to load some up in his truck and drive it over to our site. Sally had made some firestarters at home. She mixed vaseline and dryer lint together into little balls. It worked great and we had a fire going in no time. We sat around the firebox and enjoyed the warmth while we had shots of Patron. We stayed up long enough to see Los Angeles lit up at night. Eventually, we crawled into our tents. The temperature wasn’t bad, the low was 50 degrees. I woke up lots of time, mainly because of a crow flying above us screeching about “murder.” All in all, I slept better than I have on some of our trips.

Firewood that the fireman delivered for us.
A nightcap next to the fire.
The view of Los Angeles.

Good Morning

I woke up Sunday morning to three deers munching on the grass in camp. We watched them until they moved on. For breakfast I made coffee and I tried out making instant oatmeal by just adding the water to the little packet and it worked. No need to use a bowl, this is good information for our trip to the Sierras. After breakfast, we packed up our backpacks and headed down the hill. It took us less than an hour to get down and it was still early so it was cool outside. We didn’t see any snakes, but we talked to a man that saw a baby rattler. Again, we were thankful that it was cool outside. Overall, this is a perfect hike to test out your backpacking gear and practice packing and carry your backpack up an incline. Henniger Flats was pretty and I would go back again.

Two deer heading out of our camp.
Ready to hike down.

The 5 Best Doughnuts in NYC

You might think that while visiting New York the only round food you should try is a bagel, but then you will be missing out on some tasty donuts. While visiting NYC in April, my daughter and I decided to try out some of the specialty doughnuts the city has to offer.

First Stop: Dough

First stop was Dough in Brooklyn. Dough now has a few other locations throughout the city, but the Clinton Hill location in Brooklyn is the original. Dough makes traditional yeast doughnuts with untraditional glazes and toppings. Inside their storefront, you can take a peak and seem them making their fresh doughnuts. There is not enough room to eat inside, so plan on taking your doughnuts to go. I decided on the Lemon Poppy Seed. The lemony glaze had the perfect ratio of tartness and sweetness. The poppy seeds were more for aesthetics than taste. The donut had a nice rise from the yeast and wasn’t greasy or heavy. Overall, a very satisfying donut. Dough makes their doughnuts daily and they have seasonal as well as daily varieties to choose from.

Lemon Poppyseed from Dough

Second Stop: Doughnut Plant

Day number 2 and our second stop for our donut tour was Doughnut Plant in Chelsea. Like Dough, they have other locations throughout Manhattan, but their Chelsea location was their first. We decided to order coffee and sit down and eat our doughnut inside because there are tables and chairs. We both order coffee of the day and I ordered a Peanut Butter & Blackberry Jam Doughnut. Nicole ordered the Hazelnut Chocolate Filling covered with Roasted Hazelnut Glaze. The first thing to notice is Doughnut Plant is home of the square doughnuts. They have been in business since 1994 and they make their doughnuts without preservatives, eggs, or trans fats. The peanut butter & blackberry doughnut tasted just like mom’s peanut butter & jam sandwich. It is a square donut filled with jam and covered with the peanut butter glaze and because of its square shape you get jam with every bite. It was yummy and super filling. The hazelnut doughnut was round, rich and delicious. The Doughnut Plant has a nice mix of yeast and cake doughnuts to choose from. In addition to their delectable doughnuts, they also have some amazing stuffed doughnuts decorating their walls. There is a stuffed doughnut to represent each one of their doughnuts that they serve.

Peanut Butter & Blackberry Jam and Chocolate Hazelnut from Doughnut Plant

Because it’s a square doughnut you get jam in every bite.

Doughnut Plant has the cutest stuffed doughnuts hanging on their walls.

Third Stop: The Donut Pub

Stop number 3 on our doughnut tour was at The Donut Pub in the West Village. The Donut Pub is known for their doughnuts, pastries, and cookies. They are open 24 hours a day. Inside the Donut Pub is a small counter to sit at and also a few tables. We tried the French Cruller and the Croissant Donut. The Cruller was a fancy, twisted design. It was light and had sugar glaze over the top. We sat at the counter and they served it to me on a paper plate and I need lots of napkins. It wasn’t greasy, but the glaze stuck to my fingers. The Croissant Donut was served warmed up on a small paper plate. After the first bite, you could tell that butter had to be one of the main ingredients in this doughnut. Out of all the doughnuts that we tasted this one was definitely the richest and most filling. It had so much butter in it that it left a buttered ring on the paper plate. We were happy we tasted the cronut, but I don’t think either of us needs to eat one again. I would go back for a cruller and maybe try one of their other flavors. I would also like to try their Black & White cookie. It’s been rumored to be the best in New York City.

The Donut Pub in The West Village
The Original French Cruller
The Croissant Donut
My view while I was sitting at the counter.
Maybe next time a Strawberry Croissant Donut

Fourth Stop: The Doughnuttery

Our 4th stop was The Doughnuttery in the Chelsea Market. While our other doughnuts were regular size, the Doughnuttery makes their doughnuts in a small bite-size version. We ordered 6 minis for $6.00. We watched the small cake doughnuts plop into the fryer. They are then scooped out and covered with your choice of a sugar and spice topping. With the minis, you can pick two toppings. We choose House of Cardamon which was cardamon, orange zest and star anise and Paris Time which was lavender, vanilla, and pistachio. I liked the House of Cardamon best. The orange zest gave it a fresh taste. Nicole liked the Paris Time, because of the pistachio. The mix of sugar and spices coating the doughnuts made them flavorful without being too sweet, however, out of all the doughnuts we tasted these tasted the most fried. I would order them again to try a different topping, but these were not my favorite.

The Doughnuttery inside of Chelsea Market
The Menu at the Doughnuttery
House of Cardamom mini doughnut
Paris Time mini doughnut

Fifth Stop: The Doughnut Project

Our 5th and final stop was The Doughnut Project in the West Village. They are now for their unique and seasonal doughnuts. I had previously been to the Doughnut Project and ordered their famous Everything Doughnut, so this time I wanted to try something different. I ordered The Black Gold AKA Brownie Batter and Nicole ordered the Bronx (Olive Oil and Black Pepper.) They have a few bar stools to sit at, but they were all occupied so we took out doughnuts to Washington Square Park to eat them. The Black Gold had an extra dark chocolate glaze with house-made chocolate cookie crumbles and sea salt. It was like biting into a light and airy brownie. If you are a chocolate lover then I say this is a must-try. Nicole’s Bronx was also light and airy. You could taste the olive oil and you got a little zing from the black pepper.

The Doughnut Project in The West Village
I love the art on the inside of The Doughnut Project.
The Black Gold AKA Brownie Batter
The Bronx

Overall, we have gone back and forth about which doughnut was our favorite and we can’t come to a conclusion. All 5 locations were good and they all offer something a little different. I think it all comes down to what you are in the mood for.

Paris on a Budget

A trip to Paris does not have to break the bank. With a little research and some careful planning good deals can be found. My daughter, Nicole and I chose to visit Paris in August for our birthdays and we found August is a less expensive time to visit. August is when most of Europe takes a vacation. It is often hot in Paris in August, so Parisians head for the coast. Furthermore, business travel slows way down in August. This means that it is possible to score great deals on hotel rooms.

Choose Your Airline Carefully.

We first booked our airline tickets. I was traveling from Los Angeles to New York first. After a week in New York, Nicole and I both flew to Paris. Nicole’s round trip from JFK to CDG on Virgin Atlantic was $400 round trip. My ticket cost a little more because my flights were considered one way tickets because I flew from JFK to CDG to LAX. I paid $470 on XL Airlines. The old saying, you get what you pay for is very true with XL Airlines. Nicole had a great flight on Virgin with food and drink service and plenty of movies to choose from. I on the other hand had a flight that was delayed for 6 hours and did not depart JFK until 3:00 a.m. Not only did my plane not have movies to watch, it did not even have individual screens in the seats. It had the old drop down from the ceiling screen that was impossible to see. That being said, I will still fly on XL Airlines, because they have great deals. Because we flew different airlines and my flight was delayed we landed in Paris at different times. We each made our way to the hotel using the Metro. It cost 10.30€ and only took about 40 minutes.

The 18th Arrondissement is Magical

We chose to stay in the 18th Arrondissement, Montmarte. Looking online I found a great deal at Hotel de Flore. We stayed for 8 nights and our room was $650.00. The room was small, but comfortable. We had 2 twin beds and our own bathroom. The hotel was extremely clean and every staff member we talked to was nice and welcoming. They offer breakfast downstairs each day for an additional charge, but we choose to grab croissants at the local boulangerie. The hotel offered restaurant recommendations and Paris maps. The hotel is a very short walk to the Lamarck Metro Stop. It is about a 10 minute walk to all of the major sites in Montmarte.

Montmartre, 18th Arr.
There is art on every surface in Paris.
The view from the top of Montmarte.

A Parisian Breakfast

For breakfast each morning we went to the boulangerie down the street. The man working the counter did not speak English and he was very patient with our basic French. We each ordered a croissant and one extra pastry to try. Croissants were 1.25 euro. They were heavenly, flaky, buttery and delicious. We tried the regular, chocolate, and the almond. At the end of our trip after stopping in every morning we were treated like regulars. On our way out the door he always wished us, “Passez une bonne journee.”

Our favorite bakery.

Using The Metro Is The Easiest Way To Navigate Around Paris.

To get around Paris either walked or we took the Metro. We had a 5 day unlimited pass that came with our Paris Pass. The Metro was quick and easy to figure out. Like in most big cities after you figure out your stop, you look to see the end of the line on the train you are taking and then you head in that direction. We were able to change change trains and get around with no problems. The one big to remember about the Metro in Paris is that it does not run 24 hours, so be sure to check the hours if you plan to ride it after 1:00 a.m. Paris is very walkable city. Some of the best parts of our days were just wandering around neighborhoods.

Should You Buy A Paris Pass?

Because it was our first time in Paris and we were staying for over a week, we bought the 7 day Paris Pass. It gave us entrance to the museums that we wanted to visit. One of the huge benefits of the pass is it allows you to skip the lines at most museums. Most being the key word, not at the Palace of Versailles (where we stood in line for two hours.)  The pass also includes a 5 day Metro Pass, a one day hop on hop off bus tour and wine tasting at the Les Caves du Louvre. We rode on the bus and listened to the guided narration for one loop around the city. It was a nice break from all the walking. We made reservations for the wine tasting. We did not have high hopes, but we were wrong. The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable. We learned a lot about French wines, tasted some excellent wines and had a good time.

Picknicking In Paris.

Our favorite activity in Paris was picnicking. We brought a little blanket from home. We would buy a loaf of bread from the boulangerie, fruit from the farmer’s market and cheese or salted butter from the Magasin de fromage (the cheese store.) In Paris, you can buy wine Picknickinhand Champagne from little convenience stores such as Franprix. If you ask them nicely they will even uncork your bottle for you. We were also able to buy cups and knives from them for 10 cents each. With our picnic supplies ready we would scout out a perfect location. One of our favorite locations was on the bank of the Seine look at Notre Dame.

Picnicking on the Seine.
Cheers in front of Notre Dame.

We met a variety of Parisians picnicking and it is a popular summertime activity. Another beautiful location to picnic in was Luxembourg Gardens. The grounds are beautiful and there are plenty of chairs and tables to sit around.

Luxembourg Gardens
Our provisions.
The Fountains at the garden.

Save Money And Visit Paris In August.

Paris is a very expensive city, but if you are on budget there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city and not feel as though you are missing out. We were worried that it would be too hot in August, but the weather was actually very nice. There were a few small stores that we wanted to visit that were closed for their August vacation, but all in all August is a very budget friendly time to visit the City of Lights.

Poppy Fever & Waterfalls

Southern California has received a significant amount of rain this winter and as a result there is  a “Super Bloom” happening and lots of water in our local falls.  The poppies are looking amazing. The hills are a lush green and in some spots they are carpeted with poppies.

When the sun is out you can see them glowing a brilliant orange from the freeway. You can get up close and personal with the poppies in Lake Elsinore at Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve.

The land is owned by the preserve, but there is a 4 miles loop that you can walk around and see an amazing display of spring flowers. It seems that most of Southern California is trying to talk selfies with the poppies. If you visit on the weekend, I suggest you go early and bring plenty of patience. Exit at Lake St. off of the 15 Freeway and head towards the poppies. You can park along the side of the rode in either direction. The city of Lake Elsinore has put out a few porta-potties and trash cans. The first part of the trail is a little steep, but we saw ladies in sundresses and fancy shoes heading up along with several people with canes and one man with a walker. The further you walk up the trail the less people you will see.

A Common FIddlehead

We wanted to see the poppies up close, but soon realised there is a variety of different flowers to enjoy as well. It was partly cloudy the day that we went, so we spent some time waiting for the sun to poke out from the clouds. To get the full effect you should try and go on a sunny day. Poppies only open up when it’s sunny. 

Look closely to see the flowers close to the ground.

Hiking San Juan Loop

After walking around and enjoying the flowers we decided to leave and try and hike to a nearby waterfall. When we got to the car it was a complete zoo. There were people parked on both sides of the rode for over 1/2 mile. Again, go early. We drove up Lake to Ortega Highway. It is about 15 miles from the poppies to the parking lot for Ortega Falls. There is a parking lot across the street from the Candy Store. This is part of the Cleveland National Forest so you need to display your adventure pass. If you didn’t bring one they sell them at the candy store for $5.00. To reach Ortega Falls you start out on Old San Juan Loop. It is only .3 miles to the top of the falls.

Ortega Falls

We only stayed up top, because the water was roaring and muddy. It was too cold for us to make our way down to the bottom and playing in the water. We decided we would continue on the trail and head to Chiquito Falls.

A little plant growing on a rock.

This is as close to the water as we got.

Time Time To Turn Around

It was 3 miles further, unfortunately after a mile we came to an impasse. San Juan creek was roaring from all the rain and there was no safe way for us to cross. We walked upstream and found a log, but it didn’t look like we could make it across. We figured it would be a bad idea and we didn’t want to be one of the people that rangers are rescuing every weekend. We continued hiking on San Juan Trail and ended up back at the parking lot. 

Ortega Oaks Candy Store 

We were back so early we went across the street to the Ortega Oaks Candy Store. When it’s warmer they serve refreshing rootbeer float, but the day we were there it was way to cold for that.

Ortega Oaks Candy Store

We settled on coffee and brownies. We browsed all of their candy selection and I settled on sour watermelon gummy bears. 

Jawbreakers

We had a great adventure and because we didn’t make to the falls we have an excuse to go back again soon. 

Invader Hits Los Angeles Art District

French street artist know as Invader has returned to Los Angeles. Invader is know for his rogue tile art that is hidden in plain sight in large, urban cities. His pieces are based on the old school video game, Space Invaders. There are approximately 200 pieces of his art in Los Angeles. Over the Influence Gallery in Los Angeles is currently hosting an exhibition, Invader, “Into the White Cube.”

The show runs through December 23, 2018 and it is free to the public. Invader has reproductions of his pixelated art hanging on the walls along with photos of his art in cities across the world. In addition to the art there is a continuous video that was playing about how Invader sent a “space invader” to space in Florida in 2012. FYI: It was a success. I took pictures of my favorites like the invader with the avocado and I Love L.A. There is a store front next door that sells kitschy and very expensive knickknacks.

Invader also has his own app that you can download from the Apple Store. It is called Flash Invaders. Basically, you take a picture of an invader that you find in the wild and if it is one that has been authenticated you receive points as if you were playing the video game. The app has a leader board and you can see other people’s pictures and what city that they found the invader in. It is along the same vein as Pokemon GO. I am pretty bummed that I did not know about this app when I was in Paris, because we saw lots of Invaders while we were walking around there.

The Best Ramen in Town at Daikokuya Little Toyko

After visiting the gallery we walked to Little Tokyo to get some Ramen. Dylan knew of a place that he had been to with his friends, Daikokuya Little Toyko. When we turned down the street we knew it must be really good, because there was a long line waiting for a table.

We went in and added our name to the list which was on an iPad. This system is genius, because it allows you to use your phone to check back in and see how many people are ahead of you in line. There were 29 tables ahead of us, so we went across the street to Tokyo Plaza and went shopping. It took a little over an hour for our table to be ready. The inside of the restaurant is small and no thrills. We were starving. We ordered iced Oolong Tea and a Spicy Tuna Role as an appetizer. Nicole and I both ordered their #1 best seller the Daikokuya Ramen with tonkotsu soup base infused with their secret blended soy sauce. Dylan ordered a teriyaki chicken bowl. The broth in the ramen tasted rich and full bodied. The ramen was delicious and definitely worth the wait. I googled Daikokuya after we ate there and found that they have won a ton of awards and we all agreed they deserve the accolades.

Shopping at Tokyo Plaza

After dinner we went back to Tokyo plaza for a little more shopping. We stopped to take a picture by the Christmas Tree and got sucked into watching karaoke. We watched a guy that was so bad, he was good. He was having such a good time it was contagious.

Ice Cream at Bae

We decided that we would get some ice cream before headed back home. We settled on bae. bae is a new soft serve ice cream shop on 2nd street. The inside is swanky, chandeliers, leather seating and a black wall with a cute saying that is Instagram ready.

They are know for their activated charcoal pineapple flavor which is pure black. I had the Earl Coco, a swirl of Earl Grey & Coco Puffs. Dylan had the Matcha Chocolate, a swirl of Matcha & Chocolate. Nicole had the Heartbreak which is the Activated Charcoal Pineapple with a charcoal sugar cone. The heartbreak taste very similar to the Dole Whipped at Disneyland. The Matcha was not sweet and paired nicely with the chocolate. The Earl Coco was a nice combination because the tea flavor kept the coco puff flavor from being too sweet. Ice cream is $6.00 in a cup or for $1.50 extra you can get it in a cone. They have a red sugar cone, a black activated charcoal cone, and a green Matcha cone.  Street parking is available or you can find a parking garage attached to the Tokyo Plaza. Both the art district and Little Tokyo are accessible to the Gold Line as well.

https://baebae.co/

http://www.daikoku-ten.com/locations/littletokyo/

http://overtheinfluence.com/exhibitions/

Chinese Lantern Festival

I have been seeing ads pop-up on Instagram and Facebook for different lantern festivals. Sunday night we went to the Chinese Lantern Festival at the Pomona Fairplex. Originally I had wanted to go to the Moonlight Forest at The Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, but all the discount tickets for Sunday were already sold. Same day tickets are $28.00 for adults plus a $4.95 online fee. I was taking my reluctant son and could not justify buying tickets at that price. I settled on the Lantern Festival, because discount tickets were still available. I was able to buy 3 tickets on Groupon for $17 each and no service fee.

Parking

We arrived at 5:30 p.m. With the time change, it was definitely dark enough for the lanterns. We entered at Gate 17 and had to pay $12 to park. Probably because it was opening weekend it was not crowded. We parked close to the entrance and only had to wait in line for 5 minutes to have our tickets scanned.

Welcome to “The Wild.”

My dates for the night.

Experience The Wild

This year’s theme is “Experience the Wild.” The majority of the lanterns are animal themed. The promoters promise that there are 1,0000 lanterns at the festival. They are lit up with LED lights. Most of the lanterns are stationary, but some move. The lanterns are beautiful when lit up. The most spectacular lanterns were the underwater themed ones located on the water. The reflection of the jelly fish on the water was magical.

The jellyfish.

The elephant

Don’t Go Hungry

Now for the negatives. We went to the festival hungry, because we saw pictures of delicious looking food. Unfortunately, there is only one small booth selling food and the lines were long. The online information about the festival says that there are unique hand-crafted keepsakes. They were there, but there were only 4 artisans at one small table. We sat down to watch the Kung Fu show, but the sound was not working and we could not hear anything, We left after about 10 mins. The last negative is people do not follow the rules. So many people disregarded the no touching signs and touched the lanterns. They also climbed up over embankments and took selfies with the lanterns.

The only place to get food.

In Conclusion:

Over all, I would recommend the Chinese Lantern Festival. The lanterns were beautiful and the setting at the Fairplex made walking around enjoyable. I would not pay full price for the tickets. A quick google search will show you all the available discounts. The festival runs through January 6, 2019. It is held Thurs – Sunday nights and there are some special dates that they are open for the holidays.

These elephants were made of cups, saucers and spoons.

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