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I recently took a 2 week course in a very vibrant area of Los Angeles, Highland Park. I’m sad to say that I don’t know that much about the area, but from what I’ve seen of it, it’s amazing. I recently heard Trekking Los Angeles, an organization (spawn out of LA Commons and UCLA School of Urban Planning) that promotes the culture, food, and art of a few neighborhoods of Los Angeles via a walking tour. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on attending the one in Highland Park! Check it out!

I’m actually a huge fan of audio tours. I use to think it was such a dorky thing to do, but it really beats staggering behind a boring long-winded monotoned tourguide or being completely confused with why some gwady building is so important. So, audio tours? AWESOME!

A few audio tour options

1. Check with the organization/front desk: Lots of museums and historical sites have audio tours and usually range from free to $10. Also, visit their website ahead of time. Traditionally, they give you a headset and remote, but now many museums offer ways to download the podcast ahead of time. Going to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art? Download their audio tour and listen to it on your ipod! Visiting Los Angeles? Check out DowntownLAWalks and take an International Walking Tour!

2. Google a podcast: A new-ish trend in the travel industry today is podcasting audio tours. Many websites are dedicated to providing audio podcasts for free or a small fee. Just download it to your ipod and take it with you to where ever you’re going. Rick Steves has a series (gotta buy it off iTunes) for Europe. AudioSnacks.com lets you download podcasts (for a fee) made by other members or you can make one too! CityStoryWalks.com guides you through San Francisco. StrollSanFrancisco.com offers 33 different tours depending on which area you want to explore!

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A local LA surfer passed this along to Wanderus:

“If anybody who read your website wants to come to Cali to try out surfing, they should definately keep this in mind… cuz i’ve been yelled at plenty of times in the water, cuz i didnt know the rules.”

——-
The purpose of this list is to help new surfers understand the often unspoken rules that exist in surf lineups throughout Los Angeles. If you plan to start surfing or have only been surfing for a short time, commit them to memory before you go back to the beach.

1. This Ain’t the “Aloha” State

Surfing in Los Angeles is a contact sport. When you paddle out, be prepared to be run over, yelled at, threatened or pushed off of a wave. No one is going to greet you in the lineup with a lei and a kiss. The fact is that there are too many bodies in the water these days. When the waves and weather work together to deliver a beautiful day, it can get downright ugly; the presence of newbies, particularly those who fail to follow surf etiquette, is unappreciated, to say the least. It is best to be prepared for this by learning the rules and learning your place in the surf lineup pecking order.

2. You Aren’t Kelly Slater and This Isn’t Blue Crush

Unless your skills are such that you can surf anything and everything, leave your ego at home. Neither a $700 shortboard nor the cutest Roxy wetsuit—with matching zinc oxide face paint—will miraculously transform you into the surfer you are in your dreams. The space you occupy is at the bottom of the surfing totem pole. Be patient, and take the time and humility to work your way up.

3. Nobody Cares How Much Money You Have or What Car You Drive

Money talks at The Ivy. And Spago. And wherever else the monied class chooses to congregate. Money means nothing in the water. Waves cannot be bought. Respect cannot be paid for. Your surfing and behavior speak for themselves. That $70,000 car that you arrived at the break in could be a $70,000 car with waxed windows and flattened tires by the time you and your superior attitude emerge from the water. Remember, your position on the surfing totem pole remains the same whether you are rich or poor.

4. Get Out of the Fucking Way

This one is self-explanatory. Remember to look left and look right before you paddle for a wave. More often than not, there’s someone already up and riding. All too often, a beginner or oblivious surfer will drop into a wave right in front of someone, thereby ending the first surfer’s ride. Always apologize and, more importantly, never do it again (at least not in that session). Dropping in on an experienced surfer is good way to find out the depth of someone’s hatred for you and your kind. If you are still at the point where you cannot pop-up and surf without trouble, stay in the kiddy pool and leave the better waves to those who can appreciate them.

5. No One Owns the Waves, But Squatter’s Rights Often Prevail

You will find locals at just about any break you surf. Locals lay claim to that beach and to those waves. When you step out of line by ignoring surfing etiquette or disrespecting those who surf those waves day in and day out, the locals will put you in your place. They will take your waves, curse you and your firstborn and make you run home with your tail between your legs. Remember, a good attitude is your best defense. A little civility goes a long way when dealing with the locals. (All bets are off at breaks where the “Locals Only” code is enforced. Those breaks are well-known; enter at your own risk.)

6. Stop Staring

Toto, you’re not in Kansas anymore. The stereotype of the young, blond and male surfer died a slow and painless death a long time ago. This is Los Angeles. The diversity you see on the streets is the same diversity you will see in the water. What? Never seen a black surfer before? Look to your left. There is another one over there. Yes, that guy who just dropped in on you is your grand-dad’s age. He also surfs better than you do. And so does that Asian woman tearing up on the longboard. Get over your preconceived notions about what a surfer should look like and remember where you are.

7. Never Underestimate the Women in the Water

While some women, particularly newer surfers, will back off when a sexist wave hog asserts himself, the more experienced women will not. Those women who have been surfing for years know what to do with the likes of you. They will take your wave and then give you the stinkeye when they paddle back out. The smart guy leaves it at that. The not-so-smart guy, the one with the bruised ego, says too much. Before he knows it, he is facing off with that woman’s (a) boyfriend/husband, (b) girlfriend/wife or (c) male friends. Give the women the same respect you give the men.

8. Treat Your Equipment With Respect

Are you one of those surfers who straps the board to the top of the car wax-side up, and then drives away with the still-attached leash swaying in the breeze? Do you see nothing wrong with jamming a nine foot longboard into the back seat of your sporty little convertible? If you are serious about surfing, prove it. Buy a board bag. Buy a vehicle that accommodates both you and your board. Stop looking like dorks! (You will thank me for this advice when you follow it and realize people no longer snicker at you when you pull up at a surf spot.)

9. It’s Not Your Trash, But Pick It Up Anyway

Our beaches are filthy. Be part of the solution. When you see trash on the beach, take a few minutes to pick it up and throw it away. Keep your eyes open for plastic refuse. Plastic does not biodegrade. It simply breaks down into smaller pieces, toxic pieces that are eventually ingested by sea life. Plastic will be the death of our oceans unless we learn to recycle. Your homework for today, class, is to read up on the “Pacific Garbage Patch”.

10. Give Respect to Get Respect

Enough said?

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About twice a year, I take a ride from Orange County to Downtown San Diego. It’s about a hundred miles, and depending on your pace, may take you anywhere from 5 to 10 hours. At the end of your ride, you hop on the Amtrak Surfliner back up north while you think to yourself “let’s never do that again”.

Here’s a quick look on what you swear off every time:

  1. Look at me ma! I’m riding on the freeway: Part of this ride forces you to go through Camp Pendleton Maine Base. Cutting through the base isn’t always a viable option; you’re really at the mercy of the guards at the gate. The more reliable route is the 7 mile long bike lane on the I-5 Freeway. That’s right, the bike lane. On the 5 Freeway. This lane is actually one of the wider, flatter, smoother pieces of asphalt along this trip. However, you never really get to enjoy it because you have to avoid debris, storm grates, stalled cars, and CARS COMING FROM BEHIND AT 80MPH. (Actually this is usually pretty satisfying when you can pass people stuck in traffic, what now Toyota Prius?)
  2. Point of no return – Solana Beach: This is the second to last Amtrak stop before downtown SD. While this may seem like a sign of encouragement that you’re almost there, it’s hardly indicative of what’s ahead. After Solana Beach, there’s a large series of hills (we’ll get to that in a bit). There are also some sketchy areas where there’s no bike lane, and this part where you have to ride through San Diego Airport. If you don’t think you can make the last 30 miles, this is your stop. There’s beer on the train, I heard that goes well with your tears of shame.
  3. Torrey Pines: 3 miles long. 400 ft high. Don’t make the same mistake I did the first time, thinking “Oh, I’ll ride up the pedestrian route.” No. Bad roadie. You put your nose to the wheel and climb up that hill with the cars. For starters the pedestrian path is much steeper and secondly it’s filled with pedestrians. Old pedestrians. Old pedestrians that don’t seem to see that you’re trying to push this 30 degree incline on 48×16 and fuck up what little cadence you have left.

As always, don’t forget to wear your helmet and bring the necessities. Riding a full century isn’t like a normal 40 mile training ride. Keeping your caloric intake is a must for continued riding. Fortunately for those who aren’t into Powerbars or Camelbaks, there’s a plethora of places to eat along the way; I’m not really sure if they’re any good as I end up eating Del Taco everytime.

(Find more information about Southern California in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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Part I: Eats: Knowing the San Gabriel Valley Basics

Here are a few examples of the diversity of Chinese restaurants you’ll find:

(Image via Yelp)

  • Cafes: The San Gabriel Valley is stocked with “Cafes”: Baccali Cafe, Garden Cafe, JR Cafe, etc. These cafes serve a Cantonese-interpretation of American food (What? Chicken steak with black pepper sauce over white rice?) These places are known to have big portions, bad service, cheap eats, and a loud atmosphere to sit around for hours and talk with your friends. $10 – 15 per person


  • Large Seafood restaurants: During the day, these restaurants serve dim sum, or Cantonese tapas. Older ladies push carts piled high with dim sum around the restaurant. Pick what you want to eat and they’ll keep a tab of all that you order. At nights, the restaurant puts away the carts and serves amazing seafood dishes, including live crab stir fried in green onions and garlic. NBC seafood restaurant, Ocean Star, Empress Pavillion, 888 Seafood. $20+ per person

(image via Din Tai Fung and Yelp)

  • Specialty restaurants: Some places will only serve dumplings (Din Tai Fung), Taiwanese food (Old Country Cafe), Hainan Chicken (Savoy Kitchen). Unfortunately, for people are aren’t familiar with the San Gabriel Valley, it could be rather difficult to find. But your best bet is to go into a restaurant, survey the patrons. Is everyone non-Asian in here? Is the word “Oriental” in the title? Is the restaurant sign spelled out in a bamboo stick font? If any of the above is true, skip it. Just like clubs in Hollywood, look for the one with the longest wait. $10 per person

(Find more information about San Gabriel Valley in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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(images via Yelp.com)- Sam Woo BBQ

Just to be clear, this is not a food blog. However, Los Angeles is very well known for having great Asian cuisine and a huge concentration of great Chinese food is just east of Downtown LA, in the San Gabriel Valley (ie: Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Arcadia, etc). For many Asian Immigrants, the San Gabriel Valley is the first (and last) stop when they arrive in the US. Food is culturally significant for many Asian groups, as it can be a social event. And with so many restaurants in the area, the food has to be good or it’ll sink quickly.

Three general things to know about San Gabriel Valley restaurants:

(Image via KevCheng on Yelp) – Indian Restaurant

1. Don’t be scared!!: Ordering food in a restaurant that only has Chinese menus and Chinese-only speaking workers can be intimidating. But don’t be or you’ll miss out on a culinary orgasm. yes. ORGASM. Take a look around at what everyone is eating and order it. You may be shocked to find out that Chinese people don’t just eat chow mein and eggrolls. Whenever I get caught in these types of situations, I survey the tables and then ask the server what HIS favorite dish is and order it. Is everyone eating a clay pot? Try it out!

2. Egg Foo Young isn’t real: I have no idea what Egg Foo Young is. For that matter, I’ve only seen General Tso’s chicken in pictures and I’ve only eaten Moo Shu Pork once out of curiosity. East Asia is vast and each region has its own distinct flavor. It’ll be up to you to explore the different types of Chinese food, but ask your server what type of Chinese food it is.

(image via JayChan H and Jenny K from Yelp) -Sin Bala

3. Service lacks: I’m a foodie that enjoys the full dining experience. I love it when I get great service at restaurants. But whenever I eat in the San Gabriel Valley, I waive aways all my expectations of service. Chances are, 80% of the time, it’ll suck. You probably won’t be greeted with a smiley happy face. You might have your order taken by a server in a rush. You probably will get your food before your drink. BUT, you will probably get your food on your table a few minutes after you order, your meal will be less than last night’s bar tab, and it’ll be the best Chinese food you’ve ever had. Forgo any expectations of great service and you’ll have a great meal.

(Image via Jim C. from Yelp) – Din Tai Fung

Side note: A simple truth in all LA restaurants is that the entire kitchen is probably staffed with Mexicans and other Latino groups. I’ve even encountered a Latino server in a restaurant who speaks perfect Chinese. Don’t be too surprised if you sneak a peek into the kitchen and you don’t see any Asian people. LA’s a diverse and interesting place.

(Find more information about San Gabriel Valley in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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(Image via Terry)

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Despite the 20,000 judgmental stereotypes you have already formed by that first sentence, I: 1) do not have breast implants; 2) am not materialistic; and 3) am not stupid. So unless U bais mee Breast implants and a Prada Bagz stop judging me! Digressing.

Anyhow, I love LA! It’s a beautiful city with great food, beautiful people inside and out, and fabulous weather. However, LA can be daunting for tourists if you don’t know a few simple things.

Three basic things to know about Los Angeles:

(Source: http://www.sigalert.com)

1. Know when to move around traffic: If you can avoid being on the freeways during rush hour, do it. The best time to drive on the freeway is between 9:30am to 3:30pm and 7:30pm to 6:30am. Yes, believe it. But if you have a dinner clear across the city at 6:30pm, go early and explore the neighborhood. OR simply have dinner in whatever neighborhood you’re in! There’s tons of great restaurants in all neighborhoods. Sigalert (www.sigalert.com) shows you freeway conditions as they are happening. Avoid getting stuck in a traffic accident by looking up the traffic conditions ahead of time.

2. Don’t walk around Hollywood Blvd at night: Look, downtown LA, Hollywood Blvd, and Sunset Blvd isn’t somewhere you can walk around at night. Remember, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman wasn’t walking around Hollywood Blvd for fun! If you do do this, be sure to wear your Rolex and your $2,000 digital camera where everyone can see. You’re going to witness a quick mugging… so bend over.

(Source: Google Maps)

3. Little Ethnic Neighborhoods: Los Angeles is a huge suburban sprawl. There are tons of ethnic neighborhoods in Los Angeles that you have to drive to. If you’re planning on doing any neighborhood exploration on foot, expect to do this within one neighborhood and then drive to the next. Noteworthy cultural communities to explore:
Little Tokyo: Believe it or not, there are actually Japanese people who live here. Spend the afternoon flipping through manga at Kinokuniya Bookstore or wander through the Japanese American National Museum learning about the Japanese internment camps.

Echo Park/Silver Lake: A gentrifying young hipster neighborhood filled with little boutique stores so that you can shop as your heart desires.

Olvera Street: Although Olvera Street is a tourist attraction now, it has a lot of historic buildings and interesting history with Mexican-Californian history.

San Gabriel Valley (Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, etc): Highest concentration of authentic Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has the highest Asian population in the United States. You won’t find Egg Foo Young or General Tso’s Chicken here.

Leimert Park, Los Angeles: A lively artsy African-American neighborhood filled with history.

(Find more information about Los Angeles in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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abcnews.com

Source: abcnews.com

1. The Beginner – a safe and touristy place to start learning how to surf in Southern California is Santa Monica. There are numerous surf board rental shops and places where you can get lessons. And if you’re sick of surfing, there isn’t a better place in LA to walk around, shop, and eat.

2. Local Convenience – a convenient place that the locals go to is El Porto. The word is that really good surfers don’t go there because there are better places, but not many places are better for convenience (for people who live near by that is). It may not be touristy like Manhattan Beach or Venice Beach, but it’s a good place for surfing.

3. Two Hours South – for the Pros, a better place may be 2 hours south down in San Diego at a place called Trestles. If you are ready to leave the city sights of LA, then go here and get ready for some good surfing.

A further note… there are actually good places to surf around LA too, but the secret spots are taken very seriously by the locals. For example, there’s a really good secret surf spot off the coast of Palos Verdes, but the people who know it won’t even tell their friends about it because they don’t want it to become too crowded, even though it’s only really good for surfing during the winter. Supposedly, if you go unknowingly and come out of the water while being spotted by the usuals, you’ll find your car window broken. The locals are very protective of their secret spots. Lastly, remember to check the surf reports before you go out as wave levels may change on a daily basis.

(Find more information about Southern California in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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