Saturday, August 29, 2009

Best Burger in Los Angeles

Everyone has a right to their opinion. I am no exception. And it is my opinion that Barney's Gourmet Burgers, which is actually an expansion into Los Angeles from the socialist haven of Northern California's Bay Area, makes the best burger in Los Angeles.

You think I'm just going to show you the burger? No. You have to wait. This is the inside of Barney's, which Barbie and I walked to today.

How lucky do we consider ourselves that we live walking distance from here? Not lucky at all. It is not luck. It is design.

There she is. The Hickory Turkey with blue cheese in place of the standard Jack. When the flavors of the blue cheese, the barbecue sauce, the bacon, and the turkey patty come together, it is a festival of pure joy. Sure, you can get it with a beef patty, but I prefer this.

And I will have you know that I have eaten a few of these and continued to lose weight, because it arrives and I immediately cut in half and only eat half. I take my time, enjoying the iced tea between every bite, and half is all that I need.

It is a serious joy in my life to know that the second half sits in the fridge as I type.

And that, my friends, is the best burger in Los Angeles.

(Yes, this was shared due to everyone loving the food pics from Europe. It is only fair to share great meals at home, too.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cabo San Lucas, Day 3

Today was supposed to be a travel day, pure and simple. Wake up, eat breakfast, head to the airport. But... a rep from the hotel called (at 8:30 AM, which is what one might call uncool) to set up a time to show us other rooms on the property.

When we finally gave up on going back to sleep, I opened the curtains.

Not a bad view to wake up to.

Yes, we ordered an omelet to share that was identical in every way to the omelet we shared yesterday.

Except that we got a fruit plate as well. This fruit was crazy good. And how cool is the coconut?

I promised you a pic of the big ass bathroom door. And I delivered. If you tell me you have seen a larger bathroom door in your life, I am going to have to demand a picture. Because without concrete proof I will think you're lying.

Hotel rep guy came and took us to several different rooms and villas on the property. I took a lot of pics. A few highlights follow.

This is the front of a Casita. It doesn't matter how ignorant you are, you likely know what that word means.

This is the view from inside the Casita. Every room at Capella Pedregal has its own private plunge pool. You saw our infinity plunge pool many times. But this plunge pool is pretty remarkable.

The plunge pool behind a two story, three bedroom villa.

Barbie loved the stone turtles that were around the property.

The guy who woke us up at 8:30 AM wanted to show us even more rooms, but we had a plane to catch. Can you imagine if I was able to blame one person for both costing me sleep and making me miss a plane? That would be a lot of animosity, I would think. Good thing we left with plenty of time to spare. Too bad I didn't take a picture of the beautifully wrapped turtle cookies that they gave to us as we left. I ate mine on the plane.

Flying out of Mexico on a Thursday is brilliant. Nobody leaves right before the weekend. Travel like this too much and you forget what standing in line is like.

This is literally the last I saw of Mexico.

We normally sit exit row, which means I take pains to frame shots from the plane around that annoying wing. For some reason, it finally occurred to me to accept the wing as not a large obstacle blocking my view but as an essential element of my view.

It isn't until you fly over other cities and then come back to Los Angeles and fly over it that you really grasp when the word "vast" should be used.


(I left out the wing pic with Catalina in view. I think this was a mistake. Hang on for a second.)

Okay, that took longer than a second. For me. For you, it was effortless. We took that odd flight path to LAX where you go out over the ocean, then come back over the land around Long Beach Harbor, and then make a wide left swing back to the landing route over the 105 freeway. The point being, we went out over the ocean and I was suddenly looking down at Santa Catalina Island. How could I not snap one of it with my new friend, the wing?

And now we were home again.

Cabo San Lucas, Day 2

Today marks our only full day away from home this trip. After all, this was just a quickie down to Cabo to check out this new property. No need to drag it out. After being away for two months this summer, we're both pretty pleased to know we'll be home tomorrow afternoon.

Today's Agenda: Massages. Nothing else specific.

Remember how I talked yesterday about the tunnel that separates the Capella Pedregal from downtown Cabo San Lucas? There she is.

When we arrived at the restaurant for breakfast, we were again treated to the "post nuclear last couple on Earth" vibe. The red circle shows where we chose to sit. I think you'd agree that table was the only truly valid choice.

For someone who orders iced tea constantly, I'm not at all an iced tea aficionado. But here they gave three choices, two with a fruit flavor and one without. (I'm not afraid to say it was entirely based on a quick assumption about calories. I've lost 15+ lbs since Europe and I'm not letting a few days in Mexico set me back.) But with the rather good tea flavored iced tea, they gave me a shot of a cinnamon infusion. I took a tiny sip, and it was a delicious combo of cinnamon and sugar dissolved into water. I didn't pour it in, because I don't like my tea sweet, but I could see many a person being overjoyed to pour in the whole mixture.

We ordered an omelet to share, and of course they brought it pre-split onto two plates. It was an excellent omelet, though our discipline to not have cheese in it means you cannot compare it to the great omelets of Paris.

You want to know what kind of "little things" they do at Capella Pedregal to impress you? The ice cubes in my iced tea were made of the tea itself. No watering down this tea. Impressed?

Barbie hit the pool and I hit the gym. The red circle denotes the elliptical machine I spent 45 minutes on. (Had to stop short of an hour for the spa appointment.) You know what was awesome? I wasn't crazy about the music in the gym, and as I was about to put in my iPhone's earbuds I noticed that the music was coming from one of those boom-box iPod cradles. Since I was alone in the gym and, really, nobody was coming in there no matter how long I worked out, I pulled their iPod out and put my iPhone in and, voilà, the music playing throughout the gym happened to be all the music on my iPhone shuffling. Privacy rules.

By the way... people checked in! There are now at least 5-8 other guests; they walked by the gym as I worked out.

At this point, we go to the spa for massages. It's a shame I left the iPhone in the room. The spa facilities were wonderful, with a separate pool as well as steam, sauna, jacuzzi, and a cool room with crushed ice in the center. The massage rooms were around the pool, with stones you walked across to your massage. Now... sure, those would have been great pics. But it didn't seem like a good idea to bring the iPhone along.

We headed "into town" for dinner. It is dreadful. All the main streets are torn apart by a corrupt construction company that has taken forever to complete the new-look streets and sidewalks. I didn't take pictures of the guys trying to drag me into places where women dance around poles. Yes, they asked me to go in spite of being an old white guy walking with his wife. (Full disclosre, my skin is not at all white so maybe I just looked like a guy, not a white guy.)

We walked to... the Hard Rock.

I got myself a Cadillac, but I can't afford the gasoline. (This one rests over the Hard Rock doorway.)

My Corona Light (it IS Mexico, after all) and Barbie's Coke in a guitar.

I neglected, somehow, to take a picture of my tortilla soup and Barbie's nachos & chicken strips. It was all very tasty.

The torches that line the tunnel back to Capella Pedregal.

Sometimes you play around with pics. In this instance, the minimalist imagery of the tunnel torches made for a nifty kaleidoscope image, no?

And thus ends our full day in Cabo. Mañana we fly home. Like a bank job, "In and out, nobody gets hurt."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cabo San Lucas, Day 1

It is not like we were dying to get out of town again, but a new resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, invited us for two nights and... who would say no?

The great joy in this trip, for me, is that for Cabo there was no need to put things like pants and socks into the bag. In fact, I should have a t-shirt that reads, "Have sandals, will travel." Sandals, shorts, bathing suit, t-shirt, and one decent shirt for dinner. That is it. I could have filled the pockets of my cargo shorts and gone bagless.

The last view of Los Angeles.

Okay, this is the last view of Los Angeles. Something about the sun on the ocean...

This is where we went. Almost exactly.

The first view of the Mexican sky.

If only I could have taken pictures of everyone's feet. I think 9 in 10 people were wearing sandals on this flight. The degree to which we all anticipated the Mexican heat was beautiful.

Passport time. Funny how for most of my life a CA Driver's license got me in and out of this country, while today I need a Passport. Meanwhile, for much of history you needed that passport to move from country to country in Europe, and today you travel freely across borders.

We arrived at Capella Pedregal through the 300m tunnel they blasted into the mountain. See, this resort is next to the heart of downtown Cabo San Lucas, yet a tall hill stands between it and the town. They brought in mining crews to blast out a tunnel through the rock and Voila, a new luxury resort next to yet seperated from the town.

The resort only opened last month, and as you can see what are clearly going to be water ponds are not yet finished.

But this part looks finished. I'd say that this would do the trick if you were seriously burned out and needed to refresh your soul. Just two hours from home.

I didn't get around to taking pics that really show the niceness of the room. But see that bathroom door? It's the height of our 14 foot ceiling, and moves with ease. I've got to figure out how to get a good pic of the largest bathroom door on Earth.

Our room, like every room at Capella Pedregal, has a private plunge pool. It's skin temperature.

Hungry for lunch, and settling in, we ordered room service. Tortilla Soup for him, Chicken Nachos for her. Too delicious, by the way. I don't want to have a major setback to all the post-Europe weight loss.

By the way, the genius of the infinity pool is that the water perpetually flowing across that infinity edge takes all leaves, grass, and general yuckiness away. The surface always looks perect.

The restaurant next to the pool.

What else did you expect? Cabo has an interesting history, it is true. But this quick jaunt to Cabo is about one thing... the pool and spa. Well, two things.

If pool pics bore you, leave now.

Does not the infinity edge to the pool absolutely make it look like Barbie is in the surf?

Included for the wave. Not the ocean's wave. The wife's.

This one gives you a feel for how close the pool is to the waves of the Pacific. This is the Pacific, so it is chillier than the Sea of Cortez side of Cabo. Of course, here the bodies of water meet and I have no idea where they draw the line. But I trust our driver who told us this is the Pacific; a young Mexican guy from Los Angeles, who moved here 10 years ago to live and work, and is now married with three kids. His parents visit from Los Angeles when they can. I did include these facts for those of you open to thinking more deeply about the complexities of migration over the USA-Mexico border.

Barbie with the swim up bar behind her. Have you noticed yet? We are the only people here. Like, ONLY. Clearly this is because they just opened and it is mid-week. Most travel agents were here over the weekend, but we delayed so that we could attend a wedding on Sunday.

If you'd like to have a luxurious resort to yourself, consider the value of travelling Tues-Thurs.

I have so far failed to mention that the pool is saline and skin temperature.

No, a pool does not get better than this.

Included for the curious types who were thinking, where does that infinity pool end? Of course, the really curious types are asking, "Why do they call it infinity if it has an end? Why not edgeless? But the edge is right there." You can be too literal.

This is Larry. I have around 20 pics of Larry. I started taking them from very far away, one every second or two as I slowly approached him. It was right after this one that he flew away. Larry is the smartest bird in the area. He has figured out the advantages of resting by a pool next to the ocean between fishing expeditions.

Larry is right THERE. He came back after I vacated his spot. Oddly, I suspect he was looking at me and named me Larry as well.

As we left, I turned back and had it not been for the bag I was carrying I would point out the two lounge chairs we used. Full disclosure: I didn't use mine once. There's no need to ever get out of the skin temperature saline pool, so I didn't.

Yes, this is the end. For today.

No more pics. Just two people in a room on laptops. We'd have the news on but gosh darn another famous person has died. Ted Kennedy's passing has now eclipsed all other news. Why is it that when we travel the 24 hour news networks devote 23.99 of those hours to a recent death?