My New Blog

Where have I been, you ask??  I’ve been going to lots of events and still traveling, but I’m starting a new blog and hope to stick with it this time.  If you’re still following me after my almost year long hiatus, please check out my new blog at

I’ll eventually migrate the content here on this blog to the new website.  Happy Trails!


New Year’s Eve Celebration in Grand Park, Los Angeles



Happy New Year, belated!  Well, actually, it’s Lunar New Year for many Asians, so technically, I’m not that behind, I’ll be posting some pics from that soon after I catch up with all that we’ve been doing since Christmas.

We celebrated new year’s eve in Grand Park, downtown Los Angeles.  It was fantastic!  Several blocks around the park were gated off and bags were checked for weapons, alcohol and food (none were allowed as they had food booths, so my popcorn got confiscated!).  We were worried about crowds so got there around 9:30pm, it was too early, in my opinion.  MetroLink was offering free rides from 9pm-2am so we parked at a nearby lot and hopped on the MetroLink to go to the park.  Everyone crowded in at around 11pm.  There were several good bands and a couple of radio DJs, and then the 10 minute video projection show on the walls of the City Hall building.  Here’s the video I took of the entire show and the countdown.

Brea Christmas Lights – Orange County


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The pictures don’t do it justice!  Several blocks of lighted homes, almost every single house was decorated.  Many, many people strolling around and police were on hand to steer traffic.  Driving through this took us around 1.5 hours to cover each street and cul-de-sac.  Highly recommended.  To get there:





Funtopia in Santa Ana


We recently visited Funtopia for rock climbing and boy did Audrey have fun.  For $22 ($17 for climbing + $5 extra for the slide and jump pass), she got to spend an hour climbing several different walls, get pulled up really high on a vertical slide and then dropped, and also do 3 jumps from a center contraption.  For one of them, she put  on a jumpsuit that had Velcro on her body and then she jumped and hit a soft wall that her Velcro suit clung to, splat, like a fly.  The Funtopia portion is geared towards kids and beginning climbers.  There were two other rooms with much more challenging climbing walls.

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The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles

I love bookstores so I’m always looking for new places to check out.  Found this place on Yelp and really enjoyed my visit, I wish I had had more time to browse the used books/bargain section (I was there for almost two hours, but unfortunately, my daughter didn’t find as many children’s books as she had hoped for so got a bit antsy after two hours of looking around).  Rather than repeat the Yelp reviews, you can see them here:

The Last Bookstore on Yelp

So lucky to live close enough to visit it, it’s a very unique looking place.

Plants growing in the old electronics.

Plants growing in the old electronics.

View from second floor.

View from second floor.

A vault room with books inside.

A vault room with vintage books inside.

When we were in Miami, at the recommendation of a travel book, we went to Books and Books:

Books and Books on Yelp

Although it was a very nice bookstore with very artsy books and a great children’s section, I didn’t find it as unique as the Last Bookstore in L.A.  It was worth a visit but doesn’t have the uniqueness that the Last Bookstore has.

Florida – Day 5 and 6 – Key Largo and Miami surroundings

On the day we had to checkout of our Key Largo hotel, we went on a glass bottom boat ride at the Holiday Inn next door.  Worse ride ever for me.  It’s 45 minutes out to the reef where you can see most of the sea life, and then 45 minutes back, with a total viewing time of around 20 minutes through the glass bottom of the boat.  The problem was when the boat was at the destination, it continuously rocked back and forth in the water, causing a number of us to have to go outside to the upstairs deck to avoid getting seasick and tossing our cookies!  I missed almost the entire viewing.  My daughter faired a little better and did see fish but she wasn’t that thrilled by it all and the rocking of the boat.

We stopped at John Pennekamp to snorkel and that was not successful, either.  The water was too murky.  Some of us had the luck to see 3 dolphins quickly go up and down in the water, but the swimmers nearby didn’t even notice them.

Back in Miami, we tried to go to Miami Beach and the traffic and crowds were just too crazy for us.  (On the way, we also stopped at the Children’s museum.  I think Audrey is a bit old for this now, I’d say age 7 or under is best.)  At one point, we saw a parking lot advertise $50/day parking, maximum 10 hours.  Lots of shops and restaurants, we would’ve loved to have been able to walk around there but I couldn’t deal with the traffic and parking situation, so we drove back to Miami and went to the Bayside Marketplace.  Being from California, I guess it just wasn’t that impressive, either.  It’s a nice touristy spot to hang out and eat, but the shops weren’t that great and the normal franchise stores were there.

On our last day, we drove to Butterfly World, twenty minutes north of Fort Lauderdale airport.  I loved it!  It was so beautiful, albeit very hot as it’s not near the beaches and the butterfly viewing and bird aviaries are outdoors.


Butterflies in bloom


Butterfly World, outside where all the butterflies were fluttering.


Many, many butterflies everywhere.


Cute birds and hummingbirds in the aviaries.

Florida – Day 3 and 4 – Bahia Honda State Park and Key West

We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Key Largo for 2 nights.  Would NOT recommend this hotel.  There were tiny fire ants crawling around the ceiling and desk and in the bathroom.  They also ended up in our bed the second day.  The hotel said they couldn’t spray due to people’s reaction to chemicals and offered us another room but said it happens when it’s really hot out, no guarantee the new room wouldn’t have ants.  In general, just not an impressive hotel in terms of decor and cleanliness.

Bahia Honda was nice but too much seaweed was near shore so made snorkeling for Audrey not as fun as it could’ve been, but she did see 7 little fish.


Bahia Honda State Park


Bahia Honda State Park

Key West was fun, very crowded even in the hot off-season. Gets a little R-rated later in the night when the gay men are hanging out in front of the restaurant and bars in their undies! Lots of shops and restaurants. I wasn’t really as thrilled with Mallory Square, I have a feeling since it’s not high season, the emptiness of the stalls and performers made it more quiet.


Ernest Hemingway House


Shops on the main strip of Key West.

Florida – Day 1 and 2 – Miami and the Everglades

Stayed at the Hotel Urbano in Miami for the first couple of nights.  Nice little hotel, a bit inconvenient having to valet park and pay the high price for parking, but other than that, the hotel was clean and comfortable.

Visited Vizcaya Museum and Gardens our first day.  Had dinner at Vapiano, something of a new concept for us.  You go in and get a card and they scan it at the food station that you want to order your food.  Then you take a pager with you and when the food is ready, the pager buzzes and you go pick up your food.


The gardens at Vizcaya.



Stairway leading up to more wooded grounds at the Vizcaya.



The stone barge at Vizcaya.



We checked out on our second day and headed to the Everglades on our way down to the Florida Keys.  We also were lucky enough to pass by Coral Castle in Homestead and dropped in for a look before it closed up.  It’s not really a castle, you could probably walk through it in 1/2 hour, but very interesting to see.  One man built it all out of coral.


Egret at Everglades. Seen during our tram tour.


One of seven very docile alligators seen from our tram.

Coral Castle (below)


Inside view of Coral Castle.


Entrance to Coral Castle.


Goleta Monarch Butterfly Grove


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Pics from our trip up to the Goleta Monarch Butterfly Grove.

We went in January, before the butterflies migrated off elsewhere.  Beautiful trip, beautiful day.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the parking lot to the grove where hundreds of butterflies were clustered on tree branches, and when the sun came out and hit the clusters, they fluttered around.  The grove itself is a scenic hike and near the ocean, although we didn’t have time to make it to the ocean for a walk.  After that, we headed south to Santa Barbara for the evening.