Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dates in Redlands

I have been to Redlands more times than I can count in the past few years, but I've never actually ventured to far off from the college campus. Just an hour away, the trips there were not based on the location, but revolved around seeing Scott and hanging out with him. The Redlands campus is beautiful, so I had never really thought to explore the surrounding neighborhood.

But a few weeks ago, Scott decided we would have a day full of dates/activities around the area, and it was so much fun. From hiking to waterfalls to more sushi than we could eat, we spent the entire day driving around Redlands exploring the area. Sadly, I lost my iPhone the Tuesday after the weekend so my many pictures of beer, sushi, and ice cream were lost. This post is long overdue, but pictures or not, the date day in Redlands deserves a blog post on it's own if for no reason other than to brag about how awesome my boyfriend is :)

Our day started with the drive to the San Bernardino National Park. 20 minutes away and you're surrounded by much chillier weather and cute little wood cabins. For $5 daily parking, we started our hike to Forest Falls. While it was short hike overall at just around 3 miles, we added our own little excitement by challenging ourselves to take the hardest route to the waterfall. Our little rock climbing shortcuts were briefly interrupted by stopping to take pictures of the beautiful surroundings. It was so much fun making it to the park, and I didn't realize that a quick trip to the Mountains was just about 20 minutes away from Redlands. Scott and I are already talking about going back for a longer hike next time.

After we finished the hike, we made a quick stop back at campus to meet Zeus--aka the cutest German Shepard puppy in the world--and to change out of our gym clothes.

Our next stop was to Hangar 24. The business is actually owned by a friend from elementary school, and it's a really laid back brewery across from a private plane hangar. The whole place overlooks the small planes and the mountains, and it would be a fun place to go back and order a tester tray. For now, I just ordered their orange beer and really enjoyed it (although, I'm pretty sure it was the girliest option I could have picked haha).

For dinner, we went to a cheap sushi restaurant that I've been to once before. It has an awesome half off menu, and we decided to be more adventurous since everything was cheap and delicious. We got a little overzealous on ordering and after a side eye from the waitress we mildly toned down our order to California rolls, cucumber rolls, spicy tuna rolls, tiger rolls, scallop and shrimp rolls, and even octopus (which was surprisingly good). They also have an all you can eat option which may be the smarter option for our next date ;)

The date ended in downtown Redlands at the ice cream shop A La Minute. It's a super cute shop which makes the ice cream using dry ice and liquid nitrogen, and the end result is super creamy and delicious. I got salted carmel which was delicious and stole bites of Scott's mint and chip. The rest of the weekend was spent doing our usual hang out on campus and get breakfast burritos routine, but I was so happy that Scott had planned a whole day of dates for us. Any day filled with hiking, food, and visiting puppies is pretty much a perfect day in my book. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Last Weekender: San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my happy places. It was one of the first places I ever traveled too, and one of the few cities that I've had the chance to visit over and over. From going to Berkeley with my Model United Nations team twice during high school (complete with a day of sight seeing in SF both times) to two weekend trips to San Francisco in college for the Weekender, I was excited to spend the weekend in the Bay area.

(Every year, USC students head up to San Francisco for the Weekender--the weekend that our football team plays either Stanford or Berkeley.)

Every trip has been spent with good friends and have only lasted a weekend, but slowly and surely I've been checking off all the To Do's around San Fran---multiple trips and vintage shopping adventures on Haight & Ashbury, Golden Gate Bridge photo ops, eating a bread bowl with clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf, shopping in Union Square, riding Bart and Muni all over the city, and exploring Berkeley. I was excited to relax this trip and just spend the weekend hanging out without worrying I was missing anything. I only had one goal for the weekend: to make it to Ghirardelli Square for the first time to try an ice cream sundae.

Since I had a night class until 8, we left for our road trip at 8:30 and started the long drive to my roommate's house in Los Gatos for the night. Despite an I'n'Out drive through stop (sense a theme happening?) and stop for gas and snacks, we made it to her house by 2am. After sleeping in and eating a Starbucks breakfast, we drove the last hour into the city. It was my first time staying in a hotel in the city, so I had zero expectations. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Union Square because my roomie's dad had work connections with the hotel. I was already impressed by the location and skyscraper, but my jaw dropped when we walked into our room and raised the blinds. Our room was on the 31st floor (woo! highest I've been in a building) and the view of the bay, city, and Alcatraz was incredible.

It was around noon and we started looking Ike's place's online menu for lunch. With some scandalous names and crazy combinations--the Kryptonite sandwich has 7 meats and 6 fried food items shoved in there--Ike's Place was recommended to us as having the the best sandwiches that are also the size of a small child. After ordering the Nacho Girl sandwich with avocado, lettuce, cheese, and salmon burger, we all hopped onto Muni to grab the food. Once we walked a few blocks and found the shop, we skipped the growing line and picked up our sandwiches, chips, and Ike's sodas to go. The concierge at the hotel told us the local thing to do would be to picnic in the park, so we grabbed a spot on the hill at Dolores Park and dug in.

With one brief stint of someone crazy yelling and strangers helping people fly kites barefoot, I think we all felt pretty satisfied that we were experiencing the true city. We hung out for awhile and somehow all of us managed to eat our entire sandwiches while promising we were never going to eat again.

Our never eating again plan quickly ended once we got back to the hotel, put on some warmer clothes, and taxied over to Gharadelli Square. While it was underwhelming, I wanted to finally check this tourist stop off my list. I wish I had saved more room to have a sundae all to my own, but the bites of the original sundae were absolutely delicious. After eating, we moved on to the next stop request of irish coffees. I tried a sip of a friend's, but seeing as how I don't drink coffee and don't like whiskey I was happy not ordering my own.

A quick taxi ride back to the hotel, and our food adventure continued with hotel treats. One of the best parts about our hotel was that we were allowed into the hotel's "club" which had free breakfast, snacks, and appetizers at 6. Our food intake for the day was already reaching all time highs, but we managed to grab several fried macaroni and cheese appetizers and fruit for dinner in the room while we got ready to go out for the night.

Friday night was spent at the Triangle Bars, and although I had a great time there last year, I ended up in a bad mood and having a pretty meh night. I'm going to blame it on sleeping on a couch the night before and walking all over San Fran that made me get tired and grumpy.

The next day we had breakfast and quickly threw on our USC game day outfits before catching BART to UC Berkeley. I always geek out over public transportation and BART has always been my favorite, so I was very happy to start off game day that way. The weekender game day went pretty similar to USC: we stopped at the frats to tailgate, ate a bacon wrapped hot dog, and headed to the stadium. It was fun hanging out with so many Trojans and friendly Cal students at a few frat houses. After spending half the game in the stadium and realizing we were going to win, we celebrated at the college sports bar Pappy's next to campus. It was so much fun being at a college bar which was actually affordable and nicer than the bar at USC. As much love as I have for the 90, having actual cheap drinks and a bright atmosphere was a very nice change of scenery. It was a ton of fun, but by the time we finally took BART back to the hotel we were all so exhausted that we napped and rested until dinner.

We ate dinner down the street from the hotel which was slightly expensive and average (except for an amazing Russian Mule drink) before heading to a bar called Playland. Although we were skeptical of the name, it ended up being so much fun. With a chiller bar on the first floor and a dance area on the second, we stayed there for most of the night and had a great time. A little after 1 we decided to try to bar hop with little success--we made it to another bar before realizing that it was a little too odd to hang out in or mention on the blog and called it a night.
Best drink of the night.

That Sunday was the end of my first week of half marathon training (btw training for my first half marathon!), so I knew I had to do my first long run or lose the momentum I had just started. I ran 4 miles down Market Street and along the harbor. It was nice being in cool air and getting to run downtown and along the ocean in such a pretty city before having to make the 7 hour drive back. Before leaving, I took advantage of free breakfast with a view at the club one last time before throwing all my stuff in my suitcase and heading out.

The rest of the road trip back was filled with In'n'Out (duh), playlists, traffic, and a million weird conversations. It was a little sad knowing that was our last Weekender as students, but if Instagram is any indicator of after grad life (obviously the best source to take seriously) then we will soon be one of the millions of alum that make the annual trip up to the Bay next year. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SC v. Stanford

One of the hardest things about fall semester ending is knowing that this is my last time sitting standing in the student section at football games. With a crazy past season involving some major disappointments and the midseason firing Kiffin at LAX, these past few football games have been exciting as Coach O and our team made a comeback. Despite our few past successes,  I was still nervous our homecoming game against Stanford. As a senior, I have never seen USC beat Stanford--and if we lost, our class would only be the third class in the history of USC to have never seen at least one win against Stanford.

My goal going into game day was to get the best seats possible since this game was going to be special for a few reasons. One, Scott was here! I had bought him a student guest ticket early in the summer, and we had no idea how lucky we were about to be for choosing this game. After coming to a home game last year and getting some pretty terrible seats, Scott and I wanted to be as close as possible to the field. Two, this felt a little bit like my last real game. The only other home game would be against UCLA over Thanksgiving so many students would be home and frats won't necessarily be tailgating. I've never really put much effort into getting great seats, so this last game with a sold out Coliseum was my last chance. Scott and I left an hour and a half early to grab seats and were very happy to snag the sixth row in the student section. I was very excited for the game to start and to watch it from our seats.

After defending our seats from the crowd, the game was finally about to start and our friends all made it. The energy in the Coliseum was already crazy within the first quarter as USC went from being ahead and tied a few times as everyone realized how crazy this game was going to be. From our new Coach O chant (my favorite) to the "All We Do is Win" dance, this game was spent on our feet and screaming the entire time. It's rare that I get this invested in a game, but this was hands down the best football game in my life and I felt every emotion from excitement, anxiety, proud (Marquise won my heart when he went back in to get the last yard after being injured), and overall just amazed that Scott was here next to me for such a great game.

We won in the last 19 seconds by 3 points and the entire stadium freaked out. We quickly saw that all the students were going to rush the field, and being so close it wasn't really an option to opt out--and we didn't want to. After a jump off of the concrete wall (which I did more gracefully than I expected), I ran hand in hand with my friend Andrea to the middle of the field and joined in the USC and we are SC chants while not so cutely crying with happiness.
If this isn't a picture of me looking insanely happy, I don't know what is
I also quickly realized I had lost Scott in the process of jumping walls, but he ended up having an even more ridiculous adventure of his own. Luckily we managed to meet up by our seats, and headed back to campus to celebrate--aka pass around a handle of Fireball between a group of 12 people before Scott had to drive back (he opted out of the drinks).

The game was the perfect way to (almost) end my senior year football season. It was the type of game that only seems to happen in movies. Add our amazing seats and Scott being there,and it was honestly the best game of my entire life.

I know I still have to post my San Francisco blog post and one about hiking in Redlands, but this needed to be remembered too ;)

Monday, October 28, 2013

...Stays in Vegas

Saturday morning, we had planned to head to a sandwich place that multiple friends had recommended. Sadly, after walking across the room to grab water, I quickly realized walking the whole strip to get food wasn't in my future. Maddie and I spent the next few hours sleeping and watching Netflix on my Kindle, while the rest journeyed out to pick up lunch. They came back a few hours later with our caprese paninins (which could not have tasted more like heaven) and soon we were all fully recuperated. A quick change into our bikinis and coverups, and we set off for the strip with plans to go to Cosmopolitan's day club Marquee.

But after being told there was a $20 cover charge to get in, we quickly turned around and headed straight back to our hotel. Actually, straight back may not be the best phrase since we decided to cab it without specifying to take the strip back. The cab took us on a freeway and made no attempt to hide the fact that he was scamming us. As soon as we were close and recognized where we were, we demanded to get out and walk the rest. Finally, we made it to the Tao day club which was way crazier than we had pictured. There was a college travel company that had organized a trip for a university in Kansas, so we were already a little off put when we walked in. After grabbing a very expensive drink and hanging out by and in the pool for a little bit, we decided that 40 minutes was our limit. Vegas definitely has a potential to be creepy, but this was the only time I actually felt uncomfortable. There were men in their 40s in their bathing suits underwear just looking around, and I actually thought the night clubs we went to were much more fun. I also have a feeling that if everyone didn't already know each other and we had a few more drinks before, our opinion on the club would be very different.

We spent the rest of our time hanging out in the jacuzzi away from all the craziness until we decided it was time to grab food and head back to our room. I won the award for weirdest snack food again and ordered a salmon sandwich with fries as an early dinner/snack. A few Netflix shows and several shower rotations later, we got ready to go out again. Another celebratory shot of Patron, and we started to head out to dinner. Red 8 was an Asian restaurant at the Wynn hotel and was pretty reasonably priced. I ordered a mojito and lettuce wraps which were very average, but made me happy that I ordered food a few hours before.

During their search for food on the Vegas strip earlier, Andrea, Madison, and Joanna had talked to a club promoter and got on the VIP list for Excess. Afrojack was playing a set, and we were extremely grateful to be able to just walk in once we saw the huge line that was already growing at 11:00 pm. We grabbed our free drink and walked around admiring the outdoor table areas and the club. While Tao was definitely more flashy and Vegas, Saturday night ended up being extremely fun.

From watching Mario Lopez come in and celebrate his birthday, being front row for Afrojack, being invited up to the VIP area (before being asked to leave 20 min later--I guess not talking to people and just taking drinks wasn't the best idea), to meeting and hanging out with fun new friends, the night didn't end until 4 in the morning when we got in line for the cabs. At 5 am we were finally posted up in our hotel room eating a delicious slice of Pizza de Enzo cheese pizza (which I can't believe I had passed over for tomatoes the night before) before quickly falling asleep.

Luckily the four hours of sleep I got didn't leave me with a huge hangover, and we packed up our things while taking precautionary sips of powerade and pedialite (gross, but the most helpful thing we could have packed). On our sad walk to the car, we grabbed food from the Venetian food court--a breakfast burrito that I knew I would not have enjoyed under any other circumstance.

With that last goodbye, we started our road trip back home. As we passed the Bellagio fountains, I finally saw them going off from the car and decided that it counted for my "sight seeing."

The rest of the car ride was spent pitying those who were more hungover than me, drinking an insane amount of Diet Dr. Pepper, and laughing about all the ridiculous things that happened this weekend. While I didn't see any of the sights or even leave the hotel that often, I had the exact Vegas experience that I wanted. I'm so happy that living in LA (and the fact that I actually staid under my small $300 budget including hotel rooms) means that I will be back very soon.