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Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Our trip to L.A. wouldn't be complete without a visit to Hollywood.  To me, it was as essential as seeing Times Square in New York City.  A quick ride on the Metro took us from Pasadena to Hollywood and Vine.

Even the Metro stop itself was movie-themed.  Check out the station walls and ceiling covered in old film reels, and note the "stage" in the background.

Hollywood and Vine Metro Station

A street shot at dusk:

Hollywood and Vine

The Walk Of Fame was a must as well.  It's hard to avoid, actually.  From the Metro stop all the way to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, there were hundreds of stars.

Including mine:

[the star actually belongs to Laura La Plante]

Outside Grauman's:

Hollywood friends

Blooper reel:  we took our time strolling down Hollywood Boulevard, checking out the star's names, dodging evangelical end-times promoters, partaking in happy hour, etc.  The final destination was the Hollywood and Highland centre, where there was supposedly a great view of the Hollywood sign.  We all really wanted to see the sign "lit up at night" at the end of our stroll.  Well, here it is folks:

The Hollywood sign?

Apparently a myth (made up by us) that the sign is lit up at night.

Epilogue:  before Mike and I left the city, we ended up exploring Beverly Hills and serendipitously got a shot of the sign after all (full daylight).  Mind you it was at 15X zoom through power lines, but it was still fun to see in person!

Hollywood sign

Next stop, Santa Monica.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Following up on my last post, I'm here to tell you a little about Pasadena.  It's not only home to that little old lady, but also the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where my brother's been pursuing his PhD for the last several years.

As you can see, it's a tad northwest of L.A. itself, right at the foot of the mountains.

It seemed like a great place to live!  Clean, well kept, a nice downtown area with great shops and restaurants.  Of course, the warm and sunny weather didn't hurt the first impression.

A shot of city hall:

City Hall

Hanging out downtown:

Colorado Blvd.

Mike and my brother, the whole reason for the trip!


This was taken at Lucky Baldwins, a fabulous Pasadena pub where they know good beer.  Excellent beer in fact, so much so that I felt like I was back in Belgium (they had a Belgian beer festival on the go).  Mike and Tim were beside themselves when they found out there was a very special launch of a Californian triple IPA happening on Sunday afternoon.  West Coast IPA is their favorite type of beer, so this was going to be triple the fun.  We had to jump through several hoops to qualify for the tasting, but it was worth it!

Here we are with our coveted glasses of Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing Company's IIIPA:

Pliny the Younger

(I've been known to like a West Coast IPA myself).

Later that day...

We found ourselves poolside at the Westin Pasadena, soaking up some California rays!  The heated pool and great view didn't hurt either.

Pasadena pool view

Vacation gang

On Monday, Evan took us to school for a tour.

Astrophysics building at CalTech

This is his building - home to some great minds.  The building itself was impressive.  The architecture was interesting with few right angles to be found.  It was filled with creative thinking spaces, for instance, rooms with entire chalkboard walls and colourful, comfortable seats.  When you are a theoretical astrophysicist, a place to think is the main tool you need (oh, and a ridiculously large computer).

The campus is home to many olive trees.  At one point, the dean had a bet with some students that they couldn't produce a bottle of olive oil from these olives.  Well, they did, and you can now purchase Caltech olive oil!

Olive trees

The "Gene Pool" - check out the double-helix tiling at the bottom.

Gene pool

Loads of turtles in the turtle pond!


We did see more of Pasadena - mainly restaurants, which I'll try to cover in a "California - the food" post soon.  It was great to finally see Evan's home here.  As I said, it seemed like a beautiful place to live.  Particularly since there was no snow and it was 25-30 degrees in March!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Just a week ago I returned from a vacation in glorious, sunny, southern California.  The trip was a long time coming.  My brother has been in grad school there for the past four and a half years and we were long overdue for a visit on his turf.  Also, friends of ours have been raving about southern California as a vacation destination for years!  They twisted our rubber arms a few months ago and before we knew it, the four of us had the trip booked.

First afternoon: all of us at poolside in Pasadena.  Thirty degrees - not bad for March!

Vacation gang

 Just a taste of the fabulous food we had:

Pier Burger

I fell in love with palm trees...

Palm trees at dusk

... and generally felt right at home in California.


More posts to come!