Sunday, March 17, 2019

LA Escape

Winter trips are a priority in my life. Or at least I've made them such in recent years.  Getting out, getting a break, does so much good for my soul. Fortunately Sean's birthday lands on the most trying part of the winter so we hit two birds with one stone and fled this year to Universal Studios, specifically Harry Potter World, to celebrate.

I have to say, the trip was THE BEST.  We had two fun-filled days and it was such a good time. Our post-trip high lasted a good couple of weeks.  I tried to write down all of the good memories and jokes I could think of (gotta keep a trip log, after all) and will put them here. 

But before I do,  I will first mention that the trip was a surprise for Julian.  Sean and I stealthily packed suitcases and made arrangements without his knowing and it was AWESOME.  We woke up as usual Thursday morning, got ready for the day (got the cats extra ready. Oh, need an extra heaping pan of food? Just because?) and, as a "treat," Sean got to come with us to "take Julian to school."  Just as we drove up I said, "you know what? Let's not go to school. Let's go do something FUN!"  and we drove on by and waved to all the learning-bound suckers.  Julian was utterly flummoxed. It was pure joy to see his stunned expression in the back seat, him wearing his backpack with his lunch bag packed not with lunch but with apples and carrots and cheese for the road trip ahead. YAY!

I wrote down trip highlights super randomly so I'm going to try to organize them into a sort of category as best as I can:


Turns out we kind of love this drive and are getting to know it well.  It's about 11'ish hours long, give or take, we do it all in a day and we can do it and it's not bad.  So three cheers for that. It makes me breathe a sort of sigh of relief knowing the ocean is only a day away.  Highlights of the drive include:

1. Julian's car jokes.  They had me rolling. At one point he said out of the blue, "did it ever occur to you that someone near you might not be wearing clothes?"  Without looking back, Sean yelled, "put your pants back on!" and Julian and I just laugh.  It's just such a funny thing to say. Also, after being in the car for a while, we stopped to get gas. With jelly legs and crooked knees, he and I hobbled our way into the station and he exclaimed, "how do I walk??"  Just busts me up. Seriously, how? My legs don't work anymore.

2. Snow all the way up until the mountain pass past VEGAS.  What?? All roads leading to our destination were closed and we were determined to get there before the sun rose the next day. As I have done before when the fate of our future is unknown, I went into full emergency mode, taking inventory of our possessions which included a ton of food and two huge blankets and we fully planned on pulling over and sleeping in the car, if it came to that, so we'd be ready to go as soon as the road opened.   It's kind of funny and a little bit strange how quickly I can get there.  I hope I never find myself stranded on an island with no adult supervision. Could be disastrous.  Fortunately (I guess) it wasn't long before they re-opened and we could finally get to a place with no snow.

3. Guess what, long car rides are perfect for doing schoolwork. And they really help pass the time. Julian had a storytelling assignment and was selected to tell his story (guess what? It was Millions of Cats) to the whole third grade the following Monday after we got home so the car was perfect practice time.  Also, we're a little behind on our multiplication tables no thanks to frustrating 3rd grade curriculum that doesn't stress teaching it until waaaay late in the game, but that's a story for another day.  But we drilled and drilled and drilled and we covered our 4's, 5's, and 6's.  He also had his first Battle of the Books battle on Monday so we quizzed him on that. On the drive back he didn't watch one show or play one game. It was all math drills, book quizzes, and car games. Fun parents!


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1. Let's talk about Universal Studios.  What a bizarre, hodgepodge land of misfit shows and movies. We saw characters from The Simpsons, Trolls, Beetlejuice (emphasis added for bewilderment) , Hello Kitty, Shrek, and more. At every turn I was more confused than before.  I was doing one continuous shoulder shrug the whole time. Also, let's talk about the main attractions based on super rando movies that nobody cares about.  The Mummy ride?? Waterworld?? Really? This was their main attraction in the whole park. In two days I spent more of my life reading up and talking about freaking Waterworld than I ever wished to.  They had a live performance involving stunt actors, explosions, crazy tricks using planes and jet skis and, of course, lots of water. Super entertaining but still-- why?  In the end, we decided it was just part of its charm.  Also, the Jaws attraction was closed, as well as the Jurassic World, sadly.  So, next time? When we return in seven years?

2.  There was this happy candy store called ItsSugar that Sean and I first visited a million years ago on a trip to Atlantic City. There we found the fanciest, prettiest gummies i've ever seen in my life and they tasted just as good as they looked. They sparkled like jewels and tasted like them as well. Behold!

It's so beautiful. {cry face}
We also bought a box full of Japanese snacks and ate them in our hotel room. Some were great and some were so utterly bizarre, I still don't have to words to describe.  Though, I {heart} all the things Japanese. 


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1. Harry Potter World was magical, of course.  I had been to the one in Florida but Sean and Julian had not and I had to try really hard not to compare, because the one in FL blew me away with the new addition of Diagon Alley.  The one in CA just has Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade village. And like the other, I was reminded of how desperately I want the magical to be real.  Even though the place is swarming with people, how I experience it is just me, with Sean and Julian having transformed into Ron and Hermione (I'm Harry, obviously) and we're there on just another Hogsmeade weekend.  We appreciated all the little details most of all. The structures of the buildings like the neverending rafters in the Three Broomsticks. Moaning Myrtle moaning to you as you use the toilet.

2. There are only two rides there. One is The Hogwarts ride. I can't remember the name. You walk through the castle with fun things to look at and listen to as you go from class to class (because you're a real wizard and it's a real wizarding school). That was the best part. I wish I could have just done that part of it, said Grandma Jen.  Ride-wise, knowing what was in store for me, I braced myself and kept my eyes closed for almost the entire ride because I would have puked my ever-loving guts ev-ery-where. I kept cracking open an eye only to be like, NOPE. Dang, I hate these screen rides. Give me the old school coasters! Julian hated it too but out of fear, not so much the sickness.  Sean got a little bit sick but was able to tolerate it better and loved it. He couldn't get over all the cool effects that Julian and I were sadly blind to.  So lame.  We never did that one again due to the fear but we peer-pressured Julian to do it again the whole rest of the trip which made for a fun memory in and of itself.  I did succeed to persuade him to ride the Mummy ride which i was told was like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, the best one, and WOW it was crazy, also an inaccurate comparison, for the record. Indiana Jones is a million times better. The ride started fine and calm with creepy mummy things and rooms full of treasure. Like you'd expect. Then, suddenly, they turned out all the lights and jetted us forward a million mph and then again in reverse, all in pitch black. Everyone was screaming just to keep it together. I had to sincerely apologize to Julian after that one which he didn't let me get away with so easily.  Ha ha, geez, Mummy ride.

3. Flight of the Hippogriff is the other ride in HP Land. It takes place in Hagrid's pumpkin patch.  It's a short wild roller coaster, much more Julian's style. We went on it seven times. At the end of it one time, Julian yelled "JAM!" and I thought he said something else and everyone around us laughed at my young swearing kid and I was like, what in the world?? Apparently this is a thing kids say at school. He is still so innocent and doesn't even know what the swears are and I'm trying to keep it that way as long as I can. But it was funny, but I couldn't laugh too hard, which was difficult.

Accidental yet awesome photo. Notice wand in hand.

4. Eating the fun British food at The Three Broomsticks.  We consumed butter beer in four different forms: regular, hot, frozen, and ice cream. Excellent, job well done. We got fish 'n chips, sticky toffee pudding that I want to learn how to make. 

On the second day there we had really exhausted ourselves and I was a little bit out of my mind.  As we were contemplating the menu items, in my delirium I said,

"there's bangers and mash.. shepherds and pie..."  and everyone made fun of me. "Mmm..  shepherds and your pie. My favorite combo. Classic British dish..."  

Seriously though, so incoherent.  (We ordered all of it, by the way, and it was delish and felt very British.)


1. Another moment of Jen delirium was on our second day. 3/4 through our trip, Julian learned we were in the city of Los Angeles and he exclaimed, "what?? we're in Los Angeles? I know about something here! I read a book at school about a big mural painted by Judy Baca."   a) haha that he didn't know where we were and b) we were so glad he knew about it because we put it in our GPS and went there and it was awesome! Officially called The Great Wall of LA:

We thanked Julian for his knowledge and this fantastic tip which he was pretty pleased about and he continued to thank himself for the rest of the day.  "Thanks to me..."   Here's my delirious quote, said upon arrival at the great wall:

JULIAN: Woowww, the wall is so long!

JEN: It is wall! I mean long...

Again, everyone made fun.  "Look how wall that long is!"  It was pretty funny but also kind of embarrassing when words like that just come out, loud and clear, with no excuse to blunder it up.

2. Because we were celebrating Sean's birthday and art in general as we always do, we had to see the Getty Museum he's always wanted to visit and which I would describe as the fanciest, palace museum I've ever been to. It is huge, white and sparkling, and sits on a cliff overlooking the whole city.  A Pontormo show was going on and Julian, the experienced museum-goer, knew just what to do. Get a map of the place and we race to see who can spot each of the featured artworks first.  He and I did that while we left Sean to experience it at his pace and leisure, though I would have liked to linger a bit longer in certain rooms.. It actually felt like it wasn't as much about the art inside but the overall museum experience, which was interesting.

I think we're seeing a pattern here with the cool guy poses.

It also had fantastic gardens and it just felt so good to be in a place with greenery and sun. We all got some sun on our faces and like the grandma that I am, all I really wanted to do was just sit in the sun for like 100 minutes. "No, I'm good here."  For souvenirs, Sean bought a Pontormo art book to add to his collection and Julian and I got a comprehensive history book for adults kids that breaks down all the main events through the ages, something I've seriously been on the lookout for quite some time.  Yes I spotted it and started reading it first and yes, Julian took it from me and asked if we could get it and yes the gap between our ages grows ever smaller.


     Unsolicited picture help.  Yes, we would like a terrible photo. Could you? Thx.
  Also, click here to read up on the Passerby Photographer Phenomenon or PPP.

I could go on and on about all the fun but just for my own records, I'm going to finish my making a list of random things I noted in my book. 


1. The terrible instructions at the Waterworld show. We were standing in a snaking line, in the depths of some serious crowd/territorial mentality, and someone on a speaker said, "it's not a line, people. Fill the spaces. People who get there first get a better seat.  If people in front of you don't seem to understand or aren't listening, just go around them. They'll figure it out."   Sean and I felt this was exactly what NOT to say to a huge pulsing crowd of amusement-park goers.  They really said that. It was weird and got a little crazy.

2. Then, a-midst our crowd mentality of getting a seat ASAP, as we were shoving our way in, we heard a commotion behind us and saw a little girls standing having just puked and her dad was behind her bracing her. Our reaction was so funny/ a little bit sad. As we rushed past we were like, "that kid's throwing up! Good, get ahead of it so we're not held up!"  Like, our reaction was, "get ahead of it!!!" not "oh, sad, poor girl."  No compassion! SEAT.  Anyway, we got a good seat and I bet that girl was ok, so it all worked out.

3. Driving around downtown. Seeing the Hollywood sign. LA is such a weird city. I don't know what the vibe is at all. So sprawling and varied. But with palms and citrus trees, so yay.  I cheered every time I saw an orange or lemon tree.The foliage is so beautiful. I love it so.

4. Playing HP trivia games while standing in line for rides. At one point Sean and I quizzed each other on every spell we could think of which was totally entertaining.

Question: What's the spell to fix broken glasses?  Answer: Epixy.  
Question: What spell do you use to summon something? Answer: Accio
Question: What spell makes it so people around you can't hear you?  Answer: Muffliato.

See? fun. Kind of want to make this into an official game.

Ahhh, this post is so borrriiing.  But I'm too lazy to redo it to be more entertaining. So oh well. Suffice to say, mini winter trips are the best, these two are my favorite traveling buddies and I just want to go on another and another and another, etc.

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