I left my heart in Sin City

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Las Vegas…Sin City…City of Lights…Divorce Capital of the World…The City of Second Chances….Luck be a lady tonight…however you want to refer to it, this city shines like no other!

Hello…. My name is Sally….and I LOVE LAS VEGAS! Not sure where the cool factor is at on admitting this, but I’m confident enough in who I am to stand up for how I feel. It’s been a long, slow-brew relationship, but I would say it has definitely reached the stage of love. There is something incredibly sexy about the lights, the sounds, the sheer insanity, the excessive over-the-top energy pulsing through the streets, it’s oh so electrifying and contagious! Las Vegas has changed so much in the years since I first started visiting, which can be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing, but I always find myself enraptured by each new attraction as well as feeling that childlike excitement when I come across something from the old days of Sin City. All the gambling, dancing, dining, drinking, swimming, socializing, shopping, strolling, pampering, exploring, entertainment of every kind and then some, and if nothing else, good old-fashioned people watching! And thank the Lord Baby Jesus, since its beginnings in 1905, Vegas still maintains its status as the ultimate adults-only playground, which makes it even all the more desirable! And the icing on the cake…time and age are of no consequence here. Now that’s my kinda town!

Take your pick from the fabulously monstrous casino/hotels that line this 4.2 mile stretch of road famoulsly referred to as The Strip: MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay at one end, ALLLLLL the way down to The Wynn and Stratosphere at the opposite end. And as you continue your walk on the wild side, you will find yourself on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, which is a whole other universe in and of itself. The parade of neon signs, classic old timers such as Binion’s, the El Cortez and Golden Nugget, not to mention the nightly Fremont Street Experience light and music show. Have you ever walked THE ENTIRE STRIP? Do it sometime. The optical illusion met by the thought “it’s only a couple blocks away. I can see it from here.”

People come here from all over the world, escaping to this city to indulge in…whatever floats their boat. If you can imagine it, it can happen in Vegas. I have seen countless shows and concerts, comedians, magicians, Cirque du Soleils, all of them utterly fantastic. Watching a concert from inside the wave pool at the Mandalay Bay Beach Resort and then heading inside to the casino to play some roulette. Dancing the night away to the DJ with strangers in close quarters at Rouge Lounge inside the MGM after a concert at the Garden Arena. Renting a cabana at the pool of the Paris Hotel and Casino with a group of friends and spending the day lounging, laughing, eating and drinking poolside while ogling behind dark sunglasses. Watching the majestic dancing waters of the Bellagio Fountain. Sky rocketing up to the stars on a roller coaster or waving hello to them from a pod in the High Roller. Visiting an aquarium or shark reef. Strolling through downtown and stepping back in time as you wander through the surviving casinos of yesteryear, playing the slot machines at El Cortez where you can actually still pull the handle, perusing through vintage historical photos in the poker room of Binions, checking out the always outrageous street performers on Fremont Street. Stopping in the Golden Nugget for some pampering complete with catered snacks and bevvies. Spending the day exploring the depths and wonders of The Mob Museum, snapping millions of photographs at the Neon Boneyard or enjoying game after game at the Pinball Hall of Fame. Take a trip through the unassuming doors of downtown’s Golden Steer restaurant which has been serving savory delights with class to the likes of the Rat Pack, Elvis, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe since 1958 and treat yourself to a  genuinely exquisite old school meal with 5-Star service. There is something for everyone here; never a shortage of deliciously wild, indulgent and/or devilish activities to choose from, it’s just a matter of what you’re looking for. It warms my heart to see this city bustling once again after the Great Recession. Busy streets, busy casinos, sold out shows, that’s the way Vegas should be!! The ever changing, morphing creativity and ingenuity of this city truly boggles my mind. It must be respected, if not loved. My Grandpa, the King of the Imperial Palace, must be one happy camper watching all the action from up above sitting back in his lounge chair in the sky. Viva Las Vegas and may the ghosts of the past always be there to retain the character and foundation this city was built upon.

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Rouge Lounge in the MGM is one of THE BEST places to boogie down to a DJ in town.

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The Mob Museum…my latest Las Vegas crush. This fascinating experiential museum will blow you away! A must-see on every visit to Vegas! Learning about the underworld can be great fun!

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Who could visit Vegas without thinking about the infamous Rat Pack? They ruled this town back in the day. The Kings of Cool.

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MGM Garden Arena is an excellent venue for large scale concerts. Not a bad seat in the house!

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The Golden Steer…what a GOLD MINE of Las Vegas history. Everyone who was anyone ate here at one time or another. This is Elvis’ favortie booth that he would sit at while having dinner between shows down The Strip at the International. I honestly don’t know which is better..the food or the ambiance!?

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The Pinball Hall of Fame is one of THE COOLEST places to spend an afternoon in Vegas. It’s a museum of the world’s largest pinball collection where you not only view games as old as 1948, but you get to play them as well! All revenues go to non-denominaitonal charities. How cool is that? This is Mike, he volunteers his time here all for the love of the game and he is standing in front of the first pinball machine he ever purchased, back in Atlantic City. What a great guy! What a fantastically fun place!

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Downtown Las Vegas…jam packed with vintage neon, casinos, and more!

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Ultimate inconic Las Vegas neon!

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Neon heaven in Downtown Las Vegas!

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My one and only real weakness in the casinos…the one armed bandit! GOD HOW I LOVE THESE THINGS! I sure do miss the days of being able to pull the arm AND watch your coins fall out of the bottom! LOVE IT!

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Las Vegas history is unbelievably interesting. The good, the bad and the ugly. So cool!

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A neon photo fanatic’s dream!

 

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Can you just feel the energy?

 

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Golden Nugget…a real classic!

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Neon on Fremont Street

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Benny Binion…need I say more?

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The Fremont Street Experience light and music show. One of the trippiest, coolest uses of today’s cutting edge technology. The Doors’ show was outta sight!

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One of the many interesting street performers along Fremont Street. He was dressed as a member of the band KISS. Love the boots…

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Las Vegas early days…what a town!

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The Strip…creativity and engineering at its finest.

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A vintage slot machine displayed at The Mob Museum

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You just never know who you might run into while you’re in Las Vegas!

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Mandalay Bay Beach summer concerts are THE COOLEST way to see a show. EVER. You can sip on a beer or cocktail while frolicking in the resort’s wave pool or on the sandy beach. Doesn’t get much cooler than that, does it?

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The Golden Steer Restaurant, a Las Vegas fixture since 1958. Do yourself a favor and check it out. You will not be disappointed!

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Pampering your pup and your dogs at the same time…only in Vegas!

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Art and magic… everywhere you look…

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Insider Tip: check out the bands that play in the lobby bars..they are THE BEST! This one was at Mandalay Bay. They had a packed dance floor all night long. Awesome fun!

 

Time to start planning my next visit. Las Vegas...who loves ya baby?

Time to start planning my next visit. Las Vegas…who loves ya baby?

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.38 Special: Still Rockin’ into the Night

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.38 Special rocked us into the night at Eastside Cannery in Las Vegas on August 10, 2014

.38 Special rocked us into the night at Eastside Cannery in Las Vegas on August 10, 2014

Who doesn’t love some good ol’ classic southern fried rock? I was on my last night of a 3-night music binge weekend in Vegas and what better way to bring it to a close than with .38 Special? The venue: Eastside Cannery off the Boulder Highway near Henderson. I have never been to this part of Vegas before and it has a completely different vibe than the Strip or Downtown but all seemed copasetic, easy to find, plentiful parking, albeit a tad off the radar. The room filled up with bikers, long-hairs, and generally down to earth, average dudes and dudettes while ZZ Top tunes blasted through the sound system. No pretensions, no 20-something hipsters, no thugs, I was digging it. .38 Special has still got it and I was happily surprised at how well preserved they are musically.

Belting out hit after hit...I was a happy camper!

Belting out hit after hit…I was a happy camper!

I love and respect bands that play all the hits the crowd wants to hear. I mean after all, isn’t that what we pay for when we spend our hard earned money on concert tickets? The hits just kept rolling in one after another. “Rockin’ Into the Night,” “Back Where You Belong,” “Fantasy Girl,” “Like No Other Night,” “Back to Paradise,” just for starters. And wow!! They played every one of my personal faves “Second Chance,” “Like No Other Night,” “If I’d Been the One,” “So Caught Up in You.” This never happens to me at concerts anymore! I was PSYCHED! And of course, no .38 Special concert would be complete without a crowd singing along to “Hold on Loosely” followed by the finale with a hard rockin’ version of “Traveling Band.” What a show! These guys know how to rock! Apparently I am a much bigger .38 Special fan that I realized… I knew almost every single song they played and by some form of magic, the lyrics were flying out of my mouth as well! There is something really comforting about being at a show and rocking out with a crowd who were all born before 1980. Why haven’t I made it a priority to see these guys in concert until now? They were fantastic! The only thing I would have changed, is seeing them at a bigger, perhaps outdoor venue. And now, to close with a few words of wisdom. Hold on loosely…but don’t let go…if you cling too tightly…you’re gonna lose control.

And usually it’s too late when you…realize what you had!

McDonald’s: Revisiting the dream, San Bernardino 2014

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A trip down memory lane with Ronald and the gang!

A trip through the past with Ronald and the gang!

In a day when McDonald’s is seen as the (golden) arch enemy, the presumed single reason why obesity rates in adults and children are sky high, people forget about the fact McDonald’s started out in 1940 as a simple food stand called “Airdrome,” which relocated from Monrovia to 1398 N E Street, San Bernardino, California and turned into a Bar-B-Que drive-in restaurant. After realizing that most customers just wanted to order hamburgers, brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard (“Dick”) McDonald switched gears and debuted “McDonald’s” as a hamburger joint in December 1948, serving a menu of cheeseburgers, fries, shakes, soft drinks and apple pies. And the rest… is history. Fast forward to more than 33,000 locations, approximately 75 hamburgers sold every second, and the sad fact that the golden arches are recognized worldwide by more people than the holy cross.

I visited the original site/museum of McDonald’s and it was a surprisingly sentimental trip down memory lane. Set in a now rundown neighborhood that holds remnants of better days, it was certainly safe enough to get out and explore this slightly off the beaten path gem. As someone who hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s more or less since 1988, I still hold fond memories of Ronald, Grimace, The Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, the Fry Kids and the rest of the crew, Happy Meals and their secret prizes and my once favorite menu item as a child, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich dripping with tartar sauce.

Before there was  Spongebob and Patrick, there was Ronald and Grimace!

Before there was Spongebob and Patrick, there was Ronald and Grimace!

That shifty Hamburglar, up to no good as usual!

That shifty Hamburglar, up to no good as usual!

 

Everyone's favorite...Apple Pie Tree!

Everyone’s favorite…Apple Pie Tree!

What a campy photo of McDonalds from way back in the day!

What a campy photo of McDonalds from way back in the day!

 

My childhood favorite!

My childhood favorite!

This building is utterly fascinating, though a tad bittersweet as well. Perhaps more of a graveyard than a living memorial? Jam packed with framed newspaper clippings, vintage photos, employee spotlight articles and love stories, fryers, milkshake machines, original McDonald’s paper bags and straws, even the merry-go-round! Regardless of what McDonald’s has become in some people’s opinions, I think everyone would agree that we all hold fond memories of this place from our childhood. Simpler days, simpler ingredients, a well-meaning fast food restaurant that grew so far beyond its founders wildest dreams, eventually morphing in to the colossal giant that we all know it as today. Side note: no one is forcing anyone to eat here, yet somehow McDonald’s netted $5.59 BILLION in 2013. Mind boggling, isn’t it? As much as I avoid fast food, I will always have a warm place in my heart for the McDonald’s I knew as a little girl. And let’s all face it, if you are going to succumb to a fast food binge, you may as well enjoy the tastiest french fries known to man, RIGHT? Such a worthwhile stop on Route 66. I still get a laugh thinking of the days when I thought I was cool for eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese with my friends at lunch in high school, and better yet… when everyone was attempting to learn and sing the tongue-twisting lyrics “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.” Long live the memories!!

An original Multimixer milkshake machine from the early days of McDonalds. Introduced by Ray Kroc who convinced the brothers to franchise the restaurant. And the rest...is history.

An original Multimixer milkshake machine from the early days of McDonalds. Introduced by Ray Kroc who convinced the brothers to franchise the restaurant. Who would have ever guessed the global impact of this business decision.

Before the days of calorie counting and worries of fat grams and cholesterol.

Before the days of calorie counting and worries of fat grams and cholesterol.

One of many photo stories sharing wonderful McDonald's memories.

One of many photo stories sharing wonderful McDonalds memories.

Richard and Maurice McDonald, the founders of the world famous McDonalds fast food restaurant.

Richard and Maurice McDonald, the founders of the world famous fast food restaurant.

Thoughtfully preserved artifacts displaying the history of the McDonalds empire.

Thoughtfully preserved artifacts displaying the history of the golden arch empire.

 

Jake Owen: Beachin’ It at Mandalay Bay, August 9, 2014

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Let me take you on an enchanting journey. Picture this. Hot summer night in August in the middle of the desert. Temperature is still over 100 degrees. A sexy country singer on stage decked out in hot pink board shorts and a Tshirt. People around you wearing shorts, no shoes and ……swimsuits swaying and singing along to the music. “Wait. Where the hell am I?” you think to yourself as you take another sip of your double vodka mango lemonade. “Is that a wave that just crashed against the top of my thighs?” Hell yes it is!! You’re at a Jake Owen concert in the resort’s giant wave pool at the Mandalay Bay Beach in Las Vegas, baby!!

Jake was as easy going and friendly with the crowd as always. He seemed genuinely psyched to have been asked to play this incredibly cool venue and he was going to make sure everyone had a good time. He opened the show with “Beachin,” (but of course, right??), as well as showering us with “Anywhere with you,”Alone with You,” and a fun filled “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” sprinkled with a cover of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” as we all chanted along with those Will Smith lyrics that are permanently etched into our brains.
Jake could have been singing show tunes for all I cared, I still would’ve had the best time ever. How much cooler does it get? I mean really?! I cracked up as he called people out for getting frisky in the pool, and spotlighted the one lifeguard up in her chair who was so nonchalantly taking in this whole scene from above.
The Mandalay Bay Beach venue is beyond comparison, getting to play in the hotel’s ginormous wave pool, or hanging out on the beach if that’s more your style, really nice staff, (though incredibly long lines for beer and cocktails), unbelievably well behaved crowd and plenty of lifeguards on duty in case anyone got carried away on a wave. This was one big wet country music bash.
Without a doubt, THE ULTIMATE SUMMER CONCERT EXPERIENCE. EVER.

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Justin Timberlake: MGM Garden Arena, August 8, 2014

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Justin Timberlake. The world’s most loved Mouseketeer since Annette Funicello. Everyone’s favorite member of NSYNC. And there he was last night, in all his glory, at the MGM Garden Arena to grace us with his many blessings on his 20/20 Experience Tour.
Let me start by saying, hands down, this guy is one multi-talented, handsome, witty, entertaining and all around good natured Southern Boy. He has a voice that rivals the best of the best, past and present. And clearly, his fans love him, scratch that, they absolutely crave him.

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While I really couldn’t say even one actual negative thing about Mr. Timberlake or his show, I will say this, watching a performer who is idolized for who he is by his fans, is a lot different than watching a show where the crowd idolizes the music itself. Justin’s fans desperately ache for him. In a way, it would be like watching Elvis Presley perform as women are passing out, screaming their heads off and going totally bananas for Elvis himself. (Which of course, I would have been one of the many.) Justin, as an individual, is an idol to his fans. It’s not that he doesn’t write some fantastic songs, because he is a talented musician without any doubt. But last night the energy was clearly out of obsessive love FOR JUSTIN. If that makes any sense at all?

The show seemed a bit overproduced and scripted at times, almost like his lines were “Are you ready to party, (insert city name here)?!??” “(Insert city name here), are you ready for more?!?!???” Somewhat mechanical at times in my opinion. He told the crowd twice, “What happens in Vegas, everyone should know about,” as if he were reminding us all to be sure to post binge on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Just struck a strange chord with me. And please don’t take my words in the wrong way. I’m certainly not harshing on Justin’s talent or his fans. I dig him just like everyone else does… just doing my best to describe the scene from my perspective.

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Justin is looking slightly beefed up (yummm!) and his footwork was as fancy as ever. This boy has got serious rhythm.
Some personal highlights of the show were a guitar-heavy “Cry Me a River,” beatbox style “Rock Your Body,” a superb rendition of “My Love,” a burning hot “Love Stoned,” and a soulful “Until the End of Time” on the piano with an arena lit up by cell phones (made me miss the old days of LIGHTERS).
The crowd went absolutely nutso to Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Fever,” but I about flipped my lid when he started in on Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison”… OMG … AWESOME!!
“Suit and Tie” was the first taste of dessert and “Sexy Back” was over the top! The laser show throughout was impressive but during this song, it transported me right to the club.
Off the hook.
While the show overall didn’t totally blow me away, it was truly excellent, Justin sounded just as good as I would’ve imagined, his band and dancers were spectacular and the crowd was clearly in a frenzied state of mania. Let the groove get in you…

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Tracy Lawrence: Just a good ol’ boy, Oakheart Country Music Fest 2013

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I love country music. I just do. And I love classic country even more. The ballads, the stories of workin’ for the man, love and heartache, drinkin’, beloved dogs, riding horses and driving trucks. Such uncomplicated yet beautiful and heart felt music carried by truly talented vocals and musicians. Country is the music of our roots. It’s in our blood as Americans. I had the chance to see Tracy Lawrence perform at the Oakheart Country Music Fest in Ventura and I jumped at the chance to see this legend play live. What a fun, down-home, location for a show! Basically a big soccer field somewhere inside Thousand Oaks complete with families, food trucks, fun in the sun, free flowing beer, fine looking’ cowboys and fantastic country music!

I was over the moon that he sang all his best tunes “Sticks and Stones,” “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” and my all-time faves “Alibi’s” and THE BEST EVER “Time Marches On.” I actually had goose bumps on a hot summer night. Watching this big, burly cowboy play his guitar and sing his songs with his well-preserved voice in such an intimate and casual outdoor setting couldn’t have been a more perfect concert experience. Chatting up the crowd with his adorable southern drawl just made me smile from the inside out. His back up band is top notch and the fiddler is superb. How can you not love this guy? This is real American music, y’all. No one else can do it like we do! Two-step, anyone? I love me some Tracy Lawrence!

Country music artist Tracy Lawrence singing all his best cowboy tunes to us on a warm summer night.

Country music artist Tracy Lawrence singing all his best cowboy tunes to us on a warm summer night.

Such talented musicians and Tracy's vocals are good as they ever were!

Such talented musicians and Tracy’s vocals are good as they ever were!

What a random awesome find! So glad I was able to go to this fun country music event!

What a random awesome find! So glad I was able to go to this fun country music event!

Weekend Update: August 1-3, 2014

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And the sun goes down on another outstanding weekend. Ahhhhh….

My weekends here in LA quickly gained status as my oxygen, my saving grace from a weekday existence at a job that is shall we say, less than ideal, therefore I decided early on to take the high road and turn each of my weekends into sensational mini vacations of exploration, discovery and fun all over Southern/Central California as well as Las Vegas. My weekend posts are therapeutic for me and hopefully for you as well if you are in need of a virtual escape from the stresses of your life wherever you are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! This weekend was a good mix of activity that fed the mind and soul. Friday night was the REO Speedwagon and Chicago concert at the Greek Theatre and Saturday night was the Arcade Fire experience at the LA Forum (both reviews are here on my blog). Saturday I took a leisurely bike ride along the beach soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean as well as paying a visit to my favorite street musician. Always a good time and so rejuvenating. Sunday we decided to get out and explore the LA neighborhood of Los Feliz. I hung out in this area back in the early/mid 90’s(!!) at the world famous Dresden Room (of course, who didn’t??) but haven’t spent any substantial amount of time there since. What a Sunday treat! Started our adventure at Barnsdall Art Park, perused the Rodin exhibit (awesome!) at the Municipal Art Gallery and got some background on the gallery from the extremely friendly curator. Unfortunately, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, which he built in 1919 for an oil heiress, is closed for renovations so we could only see it from the outside. I can only imagine the intricate splendor as per usual Frank Lloyd Wright and I look forward to a tour in the near future. The views from this park are spectacular! Looking out, above Los Angeles and up at the Griffith Park Observatory and Hollywood sign. Such iconic symbols of this city! So glad we stopped here!

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The LA Forum…my new favorite large indoor venue!

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Redondo Beach is such a fantastic and family-friendly beach. Sadly, no dogs allowed on the sand in LA County.

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One of dozens of fabulous ocean front properties in LA’s South Bay.

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This friendly character hangs out at Redondo Beach Pier and sings his littler heart out. He is actually really good and an incredibly nice person as well!

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Barnsdall Art Park … spectacular history filled park with outstanding views.

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Entrance to the Hollyhock House, built in 1919 by Frank Lloyd Wright for an oil heiress in Los Angeles.

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Rodin exhibit at the Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park. Spectacular!

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One of many of Rodin’s etchings … seems as though he likes the human body from a sensual perspective.

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Loved the views from atop Barnsdall Park near Los Feliz in Los Angeles. Hollywood sign to the left and Griffith Observatory to the right. Awesome!

On to Los Feliz Village. Insider tip: you can park behind Dresden Room for as long as you want for $4! Three city blocks of eclectic and Euro-feeling sidewalk cafés, boutiques, shoppes, a movie theatre, newsstand and a smattering of bars. A few noteworthy observations: mostly really friendly and cool people. Not nearly as overrun by emo hipsters as I had feared. An exciting blend of old and new which is always encouraging. Highlights were Figaro Brasserie, Palermo, Skylight Books, Sumi’s and Los Feliz theatre. I got a real kick out of the store Y-Que as I chatted with the owner about Sea Monkeys and the good old days. I even bought an aquarium to take home with me. Why the hell not?? He reminded me that they are a life long commitment and he doesn’t want to see them down at the homeless shelter. Ha! I strolled over to The Punchbowl and chatted up the pressed juice barista. Such a cool chic. She hooked me up with some chocolate cashew milk. Well, when in Rome, right?? All the stores are worth taking a look-see and I was thoroughly entertained by the fact that Vintage EVERYTHING is still very much alive and well in Los Feliz Village. Purses, shoes, dresses, jewelry, memorabilia, vinyl, books and more. Love it! Always have, always will. We landed at il Capriccio on Vermont for a glass of vino and a salad. So delightful! And for dessert, we made it back to the West Side just in time for an epic sunset over the water. Life is good!! Really good. On the weekends anyway!

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Just one of the 98723942874923847 vintage treasures to be found in the shoppes in Los Feliz Village.

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Colorfully playful. Los Feliz Village.

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Vintage dresses galore to be found in the boutiques of Los Feliz.

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Relaxing after a hard day of having fun in Los Feliz. A glass of wine and a salad on the way at il Capriccio on Vermont. The world famous Dresden Room just across the street.

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Books, books and more books at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.

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Incredibly cool boutique, Sumi’s, in Los Feliz.

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Figaro Brasserie … where all the cool people are seen sitting at the sidewalk tables. Maybe next time.

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Sea Monkey Aquarium purchased at Y-Que. Can’t wait to meet my new little friends!!

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The Punchbowl serves up cold pressed juices, smoothies, shakes and gourmet milks, all with a smile!

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Vintage chic will never die … at least in Los Feliz! Love it!

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I can’t think of a better way to end my weekend than to take in this view. Manhattan Beach, CA.