Hurray for the Vacay!
So, Day 1 was mostly uneventful. We got up around 4:30 am EST, showered and finished packing and hit the road. We had a 2.5 hour drive - including bathroom stops - to Chicago to get to the airport for our flight. We stopped at Speedway and picked up a couple of breakfast sandwiches and a couple of caffeinated drinks for the beginning of our trip. The drive was foggy, but humid. The dew point was at 75 degrees with 100% humidity. The fog seemed to burn off after awhile, but returned the closer we got to Chicago. In fact, as we got into Chicago, the Sears Tower looked like it was floating inside a cloud - the fog was that thick. The funny part was getting a text message from my friend, Diana Murdock, at 6 AM (that's 3 AM her time) asking if we arrived yet. LOL!
Getting tickets and passing through security went more quickly than getting a shuttle from the parking lot to the terminal. Seriously, they went by us as we got out of the car and started unloading it, but since we weren't ready, they didn't stop. We walked to the nearest shuttle stop, but none of the shuttles were driving by it. So we hiked it over toward the train that was shut down due to construction and finally had a shuttle stop for us.
We went inside terminal 3 and handed over our driver's licenses and checked one bag, which went through its own security check before we did. We had one carry on and my purse to take on the flight. Then it was time for our security check. We were smart and had flip-flops on to make it easier to get off for this part of our journey. It was my first time going through the new full-body scanners. I haven't been on a flight since 2003, so a lot had changed for me.
Everything went smoothly and we were on the terminal. There were no seats available at our terminal, but we were early enough to check out a shop down from the terminal and get second breakfast at the McDonald's across from our terminal. By the time we got back and our food was ready, they were boarding the flight and we had a couple of seats available for us to sit down and could enjoy our breakfast sandwiches and drinks before our section was called. Unfortunately, they received word that there was construction at LAX that is delaying our flight for another hour, so they unboarded the plane.
We people-watched during that time. There were a number of interesting characters available to watch and laugh about at O'Hare Airport. Funky hairstyles and clothing choices was my favorite part, but we also had a number of sailors - both men and woman - walking up and down the terminal hall. I didn't take any photos because I really wanted to have my phone for photos later in my vacation.
They started calling sections again and we decided to take turns going to the bathroom to keep our seats. While I was waiting for my turn, they called the first class section. I decided to take a chance and look over to see who that might be. There were a lot of uninteresting people in line, but third back was a tall blonde woman dressed all in black with a small backpack on. She looked so familiar as she waited for the three people ahead of her in line. She turned slightly and I could barely make out her profile, but the sense of familiarity increased. When my boyfriend came back from the bathroom, I asked him to look over the woman carefully and tell me if she doesn't look like Jane Lynch. He said she had a strong resemblance and we should take a closer look as we get on the plane. We IMDB'ed her to get a fresh idea of what Jane Lynch looked like as we waited to be called up. I was hopeful. This trip was about visiting a place where I could see celebrities first hand and this may be my first of many encounters.
Finally, our section was called and we were in line to board. Slowly we inched onto the plane as people held us up by putting their carry-on's in the overheads and moved around the seating arrangements - getting in and out as people arrived for their inside seats and such. The plane wasn't nearly as full as one would expect. There were several empty seats, in fact.
And First Class finally was in sight. As we inched through, I looked through the seats that were already occupied with individuals wrapped in red blankets with ear buds in and sleeping or on the verge of falling asleep. It made me wonder if these people were allowed to stay on board to be so far gone already. All the seats in First Class were taken - upon first sight. The last row of seats on the left were occupied by a couple of technicians that were in the process of fixing the seats, especially the one by the window. Jane was in the first row of coach on the right and avoiding eye contact. Her arms were crossed - her face looked cross too. I don't blame her for being upset having to wait even more for her comfy seat. First we waited because of an unexpected delay, and now her seat was broken. As much as I wanted to tell her I love her game show, she obviously wasn't wanting any attention, so I opted out of delivering her words of praise. If I were in her position, I wouldn't want to hear anything from a fan, either. It was definitely Jane Lynch, though. There was no doubt about it. My boyfriend agreed, it was definitely her and we gave her the peace we would have liked if in her situation. Jane, if you ever come across this blog, please know, we had nothing but compassion for your situation and we love the Hollywood Game Show. Keep bringing on those celebrities to get drunk and make them do goofy things - it's crazy hilarious!
While our flight started at 10:30 instead of 9:25 and we were expected to arrive in LAX at 12:30 pm instead of 11:25 am, we still had many hours of flight ahead of us. Fortunately, the flight experience was wonderful. Virgin America had little screens on the back of every chair, plenty of room for my boyfriend's long legs, the ability to make orders on the same screen as you watch free satellite TV or play free video games. I fell asleep watching a YouTube of the King of Random. It was pretty cool with a lot of random facts. We had white wine with cheese, crackers, and fruit as a snack on the plane, plus some on-the-house drinks. We did have to get up and use the facilities and stretch our legs during the flight, but with so many open seats, it was easy to do that as well.
Then, we arrived. And it was time to use the restroom again. Unfortunately, there was a ginormous line in the ladies, and not a one of them a celebrity to gawk at. Oh well, do your business and get out. Then, we went to get luggage. Ours was the fourth one on the carousel, so that was pretty sweet. Then we had to wait for a shuttle to take us to the Alamo rental place. A little more time than we would have liked being as hungry as we were, but it was pretty quick to go on the kiosk, fill in all the needed stuff and pick out our car. We went with a bluish silvery Hyundai Sonata. It was big compared to my boyfriend's Toyota Scion. We loaded up, got our GPS hooked up - bringing that was smart as it would have cost us $5/day to use Alamo's GPS - and found the nearest Subway for lunch. Wow, was that more than I bargained for. For the same thing back home, it cost under $10, but in L.A. it was almost $16.
So here is the kicker, my boyfriend was telling me he found a site where it tells you how much a $100 is really worth per state. For instance, in Michigan, $100 is more like $105. In California, $100 is more like $88. Ouch, my wallet is hurting just talking about it. I probably should have done more research on that before going. But, I was there, will have to be more savvy in my search for places to eat. A little 16 ounce bottle of water was going for $3 in Cali where I was used to buying a liter of water for $1. Needless to say, I was pretty thirsty most of the time.
So, we have lunch and a car, and we put in the address for our hotel in Irvine. Boyfriend was so great at finding bargains online. At Hotels.com, this place was going for $96 a night and was close to Costa Mesa. It boasted the "I" experience on the website and it was probably the most comfortable and quiet room I ever stayed in.
We arrived about 45 minutes after we left Subway. Traffic wasn't as bad as it could have been and what we ended up experiencing later, but it was way more congested than we were used to. I think traveling south was what made the traffic lighter. In fact, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach traffic was way better than Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills traffic.
We arrived at the hotel, checked in, discovered the additional cost of $18 a day for parking and took photos from our window. All the photos on this post is from our hotel room the first day. We were on the seventh floor and had a fantastic view of the mountains. After unpacking, we headed for a dip in the hot tub and pool. We had the place to ourselves after another couple left. shortly after our arrival.
Then we were famished. We went back to the hotel room, rinsed off, changed and researched places to eat. I was in the mood for fresh caught fish. The first place we found was called the California Fish Grill and ended up being a chain restaurant. It was California's version of Panera Bread, but with fish. So our next place was in Newport Beach. It was called Blue Water Grill. There was at least a fifteen minute wait and we got a nice table out on the deck right on the pier. It was beautiful to be surrounded by the boats and water as the sun set. I tried oysters on the half shell for the first time. It was not terrible, but not my favorite either. Now I can say I've had them. I ordered the Jumbo Shrimp Linguine and my boyfriend ordered the tilapia. The jumbo shrimp was large, perfectly cooked, and seasoned deliciously. The tilapia was buttery, well-seasoned and melted in your mouth like mashed potatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We had some cocktails and wine with the meal. I had my first Mai Tai - it was so yummy, but definitely put me over the pleasant buzz the wine and first cocktail had me at. I don't remember the name of the first cocktail, but it was more sweet than alcoholic tasting with a light tartness. It was tasty, but reminded me of Koolaid.
We went for a walk after dinner. It was dark and cool and there was a Bachelorette Party going on at the restaurant at an adjacent pier. Then we had a fifteen minute drive back to the hotel and we crashed the blissful crash of the exhausted traveler. First day is done. Join me next week for Day Two.