California Living: Kicking summer Off in Style

School got out at the end of May and the first chance I got I started my vacation off in style with a trip to CALIFORNIA!

I had been to California once before. I was four and all I remember is going to Disneyland. And all I remember about Disneyland was a yellow submarine ride and being upset that Mary Poppins looked nothing like Julie Andrews (I mean, what four-year-old likes impostors?).

So when I won a free ticket last year and had to use in by this June, I figured I'd squeeze in a trip to see some friends and explore the West Coast.

First Stop: Carlsbad/San Deigo, CA

When planning my trip to Cali, I decided on the location because of my good childhood friend, Valerie. Val is an absolute doll. She moved to Nigeria in '95/'96 and I remember down the long driveway to her house, knocking on the screen door and introducing myself within days of her family's arrival. We became fast friends and even when we both moved back to the States and lived in different states, somehow we kept our friendship alive. She recently got married (and honored me by asking me to be a bridesmaid) and she and her husband now live in Carlsbad.

Sweet Welcome from Val
Anyway, I get to Carlsbad and spend the first day reading and resting. Val and Robert (her husband) gave me use of their car while they were at work. Val had made me a list of fun things to do in the area and so while they worked I tried to hit off everything on the list. I went to a Zen/Meditation Garden, walked through downtown Encinitas, hung out in Carlsbad Village, visited the San Diego Zoo, went to my first farmers' market, and rode an electric bike to down the coast to Oceanside Pier.

Driving a Prius! Felt so Cali! :-)
Oceanside Pier
such an awesome zoo! Although expensive...
apparently I weigh very little.
Especially in comparison to a polar bear.
Riding an electric bike from Pedego
(check them out if you're ever in Carlsbad/Oceanside/Encinitas).
Great tours and experience! 

view of the ocean from the self-realization garden I spent some time relaxing and reading at. Great way to de-stress and just chill after a long and busy school year! It's so peaceful that if anyone talks too loudly, a guy rings a bell to silence you (you can guess how I found out about that little feature).

Stop 2: San Francisco

After spending the first three days with Val and Robert, I flew to San Francisco to see my "Twin" cousin. I flew on Virgin America and got to see Todrick "live."

It was good to see my cousin and just hang out and talk. We always have good conversations and we get along well. He had to work on Friday, so I spent the day exploring I spent part of the day exploring San Fran on my own. I got off at Union Station/Square and then walked up through Chinatown and to Lombardo Street and eventually made it to Fisherman's Wharf. I didn't get to make it towards the Golden Gate Bridge or the Disney Family Museum. But... I guess that just gives me an excuse to visit again!

Of all the public transportation systems I've used in cities across the world,
 the BART is my least favorite. But I got the hang of it! 
Entrance to Chinatown

I was told which roads who have tough inclines and which would be flat.
I decided to be brave and go for the inclines... 

Painful walking... 
...beautiful views

That evening, we explored Oakland. The first Friday of each month is "First Friday" and they do a bunch of stuff around town and there's just a lot of people out and about. It was fun!

The next day, we explored Oakland some more... I went to my second farmers' market, tried new food (sort of, hehe) and my cousin got me a book. It was super chill, but it was just nice to spend time with my Twin!

Me and my Twin! 

Cool Mural

Stop 3: Disneyland

After San Fran, I head back to Carlsbad and the next morning Val, Robert and I head to DISNEYLAND! I'm obsessed with Disney. Not enough to be like crazy psycho fan, but enough to get ridiculous excited about anything and everything Disney. And so of course that was going to be a stop on this trip. It's pretty expensive, so we only did Disneyland and not California Adventure Park (but again, it simply gives me another reason to visit again!).

In some ways, Disney wasn't anymore impressive than Six Flags in Arlington. But... the theme elements would make any fan giddy, which explains why its the happiest place on earth. None of the rides were like crazy, fun roller coasters. They were more about creating an experience... Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion, it's a small world, Storybook Land... I could go on.

Stop 4: Los Angeles

Last stop of the trip was LA to see my high school BFF Todrick! I wasn't sure if I would get to see him because he's been so busy and our lives have taken different paths since high school. But I love him to death and he'll always be one of my besties, so I really wanted to see him and I'm so glad it worked out!

I took the train from Oceanside to LA and then took the Metro to get around in the morning. (Metro is MUCH easier to use than the BART. And much cleaner than New York or Chicago. I think I'd compare it to the tube in London or the metros in Paris or Madrid.) I walked around Grand Park for a while and then since I didn't get to go to the Disney Family Museum in San Fran, I went to the Disney Concert Hall in LA. It's soooooo beautiful!

I also stopped by the Central Library which I was obsessed with. I didn't even need to see the books. The outside was amazing and I think it should be a mecca for all book lovers! They even have a library store with a lot of cute literary memorabilia. I was almost as obsessed as I was about Disney being in this place. Almost.

Jane Austen stuff at The Library Store
I tried going to the MoCA, but it's closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays, so I just explored the area outside.

After doing that, I met up with Todrick and got to help out with one of the new videos he's working on. Anyone a fan of Disney Dudez?! Well... be looking out for the sequel... :-)

I took a little nap in the Green Room. We worked until 4am.

Being a part of the crew reminded me of how Todrick got his start with plays and how much fun I had helping him try to put on each of his plays. The only difference this time was that it was on film and so there was a lot of takes that had to be done and resetting of music and stuff. I was put to work instantly. It might have been my vacation, but it was fun to pitch in. And while I am way too old to swoon over the boys of IM5, it was a pleasure to meet them. All five of them were super sweet, although I mostly only got to know/talk to Cole and David.

Can't reveal any pictures from the set, but I can share this... Todrick is a super hard worker! I'm not sure if I could do this every day!

I'm thankful he found some time to just hang out and relax a bit with me, too. We went to Hollywood Blvd and I got to geek out about see my favorite stars names and visit the Chinese Theatre.

Absolutely one of my favorite people!
(it helps that we share a love for Disney and Judy Garland :-))

Many of Todrick's YouTube hits.
Beauty and the Beat and The Wizard of Ahhs are my favorites!

Coolest light ever! And completely describe Toddy as a person. And Toddy's life! 

I see/hear so much about Chester through Instagram and random e-mails and phone calls. It was so great to actually meet him. I can see why Todrick loves him. I love him, too! 

Stop 5: Back to Carlsbad and Farewell to California

And that was basically my trip. I only spend one night in LA and then headed back to Carlsbad to fly back to Houston the next day. I happened to be arriving the same day my mom was leaving for to head back to Nigeria. So after landing, I high-tailed it to the next terminal and got to say a quick goodbye! I'm glad our flights sort of intersected so I could have this moment with her.

Love my mommy! 

So the summer started off with a bang and there's only more to come! 

Next summer adventures include Peru and then India!!!

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