Los Angeles: Palos Verdes & Warner Bros. (Apr 4-5, 2015)

Another perfect reason to visit LA is to be able spend time with my best friend! Since she’s all about fitness now (if you read our exchange of messages on facebook, they’re all about motivating each other to work out and eat healthy), hiking was our chosen agenda for the day. Though there are a lot of beautiful hiking spots around LA, my sister suggested Abalone Cove in Palos Verdes, since it’s also on the list of The OC filming locations.

Before descending the mountain w/ da crazy G!

Before descending the mountain w/ da crazy G!

It was actually more of a walk, than a climb, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t normally go on hikes. You’d have to park your car first, get down and walk through all these rocks to get below that cliff.

As you can see, the sun was blazing that day, but the wind is cool and dry, which makes it a good day to be out. Just be sure to apply sunblock because the sun is pretty harsh and you wouldn’t wanna get burnt!

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A few minutes away from this cove, we found the Wayfarer’s Chapel, which is actually where Julie Cooper & Caleb Nichol got married (I swear, this is the last OC reference I’ll make 😆 )

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If you ask me, this makes for such a great spot for meditation, right on top of a hill and with a view of the ocean!

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The next day was spent exploring back lots & film sets, visiting sound stages and seeing actual props & costumes used in movies and TV shows at Warner Brothers Studio! You could just imagine my excitement being there.

My favorite TV cartoon character as a kid!

My favorite TV cartoon character as a kid!

After buying our tickets at the front desk, near this Bugs Bunny statue, we were grouped into 12, and away we went with our tour guide on one of these golf carts. She drove us around these backlots and would tell us fun facts about which movies/shows were shot in each spot. Though these buildings look real, they’re actually practical sets, meaning you can’t go inside most of them!

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Celebrating 75 years of Batman, Warner put up a showcase of the Bat mobile through the years, as well as costumes used in the different films.

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Harry Potter fans, including myself, would be delighted to find memorabilia from the films on the second floor. There’s even a sorting hat that tells you which house you belong!

Their clothes from The Deathly Hallow pt 2

Their clothes from The Deathly Hallow pt 2

Mail for Harry flooding the Dursleys'!

Mail for Harry flooding the Dursleys’!

Petrified Hermione!

Petrified Hermione!

Ron Weasley's boggart

Ron Weasley’s boggart

And the geeking out and excitement for me simply does not end there!! I’m pretty sure you can guess which show the couch we’re sitting on is from!

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Central Perk is here!

Central Perk is here!

Got to enter the props house as well, where people even from other productions could rent their stuff. Including this fancy pirate!

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Why fly your entire cast & crew to New York when you can have it constructed instead?

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One of the walls on this corner is where they shot the famous upside-down Spiderman kiss. And this may look familiar to those who are fans of Rent, as well!

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If you remember that episode in Friends where Phoebe was running really weirdly through Central Park, flailing her arms and all, this is where they shot it– not in the actual central park!

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Based on the amount of photos I took, you can easily tell how much I enjoyed this tour! Though there is one sound studio that we entered that we weren’t allowed to take any photos of, I learned some trivia about the show that’s being shot in it. Apparently, Two Broke Girls is performed in front of a live audience; it doesn’t just make use of canned laughter! Plus, if no one from the audience laughs, the writers would have to come up with another joke on the spot. I was surprised to find that they didn’t shoot it in different rooms, rather, each set was next to each other in a parallel line, and the production made use of only one-camera set up.

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After that exciting studio tour, my sister and I were ready to hit the hills! This time, we hopped on an open-air bus and our tour guide pointed out a number of celebrities’ homes, most of which were of course, heavily gated.

Reservoir Dogs director Quentin Tarantino's home

Reservoir Dogs director Quentin Tarantino’s home

The photo above is Quentin’s home, which has a good view of studio city. Yes, the area of Universal Studios, Warner, and Paramount has its own postal code and is its own city!

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If the house on the left of this collage looks familiar to you, that’s because it was used as the headquarters for Charlie’s Angels. The one on the top right is Justin Timberlake’s house, which has high-level security because he once got punked there by Ashton, and the one below is Bruno Mars’ house.

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And in the left photo of next collage, you’ll find Denzel Washington’s cozy home, probably a personal favorite out of all the big houses I’ve seen during the tour. Although I still don’t understand why he has so many chimneys when LA doesn’t even experience winter. The house I don’t understand the most though, is Justin Bieber’s (right) which is two floors, but has an elevator… talk about lazy!

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In loving memory of Robin Williams

In loving memory of Robin Williams

At night, we were supposed to go to the Griffith Observatory, but I decided I could save that for another trip and visit my cousin Yasmin whom I haven’t seen in the longest time, and her adorable son who I met the first time! Such a lovely trip for me to be able to visit family & my best friend!

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New York: Upper East, Chelsea, Brooklyn (March 28-29, 2015)

On my third day, the weather dropped a little below zero in celsius, the coldest I’ve ever experienced in my life, and my first time to see snow! No, I didn’t jump up and down with excitement nor go outside to take a selfie. Just stayed buried in my sheets a while longer and turned up the heater

All bundled up!

And made sure to stay bundled up! You can try to guess why I decided to have lunch at the MET steps and why I included those girls in my shot hahaha. Hmmmm.. what show was that from? 😆

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest museum in the US, housing artworks dating back to pre-historical, Greek & Roman times. The vastness can be overwhelming to some, so if you walk up a few more streets, you can pay a visit to the Guggenheim Museum, and pay as you wish on Saturday evenings at 5:45-8pm (recommended is $10).

Solomon R. Guggenheim 89th & 5th

Solomon R. Guggenheim 89th E & 5th

At present, the spiral interior showcases the works of Kawara, a Japanese artist who lived in New York, Paris & traveled around Europe. Instead of seeing the usual sculptures & paintings of this artist, his conceptual art centers on the passage and marking of time. He would simply paint the date of each day using the language of the country where he was at that moment, in front of which would be the newspaper published that day. On display are postcards which Kawara sent to a couple of friends, daily for a decade, and they simply said “I am still alive” or “I got up at __(time)__”. Basically, Kawara’s work lists information- names of people he’s met, locations of his travels, or the exact time he got up at a certain day, but never details of how he felt, or even what exactly he did that day.

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The next day turned out to be a better one in terms of weather- the sun was finally out! I treated Bea out to her favorite restaurant, least I could do for letting me stay at awesome apartment with her flatmates. 🙂 Her source of comfort food is a Japanese restaurant in Nolita which specializes in soba, Cocoron.

Mera Mera Soba & Green Tea Affogato. Both highly recommended!

Mera Mera Soba & Green Tea Affogato

I’m not sure how popular this restaurant is, seems a bit of a hole in the wall, given its size, but I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone going to New York. Yes, Grimaldi’s, Katz Deli, Shake Shack & Halal Guys are most likely already on your bucket list, but you’ve just got to add this one! I’m just about going crazy in this heat, craving for that green tea, red bean, mochi & cornflake goodness. I’ve never been much of a fan of our halo-halo because it tends to have too many ingredients, but this dessert was just perfect for me.

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After lunch, Bea went to spin class in Chelsea, so I decided to walk the line in the meantime. The highline is an old repurposed railroad track, spanning 1.45 miles and has been turned into a park.

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Walked quite a lot that day, and was lucky to catch the sunset over Brooklyn Bridge.

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Aside from being able to see more of this wonderful city, it was great to have spent time with Bea, laugh at our old high school days, discuss how we’ve all grown- we’re all different yet still the same, and how strangely, so many of the people we know have boyfriends haha! Bea and I were close in highschool, having been seatmates for two years. That time, she had a goal of helping me become fit, because I was such a lanky stick back then, and I motivated her to study (what a nerd) hahaha. Shortly after graduation, she moved to New York for college and now she just can’t see herself leaving. I can definitely understand why, I’ve fallen in love with it in that short a time!

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Then I asked her where the most hipster place in New York would be, which is when she decided to have dinner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. True enough, the first few stores I saw were all organic and locally made, and people were clad in true hipster fashion. I even noticed that the Dunkin Donuts was black and gold over there, but apparently that was besides the point. Bea said that caused a big issue there for a while since people in Williamsburg didn’t want any big corporations putting up businesses over there.

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We capped off the long day with dinner, drinks and lots of stories in Sweet Chick. Now here’s another restaurant you simply must try! I highly recommend their specialty, Sweet Chick Chicken & Waffle, BBQ Pork Sliders paired with their delicious mac and cheese, and of course, any of their cocktails. A sweet near-ending to my trip to New York, but I swear I will be back here soon! Just love it too much 🙂

New York: Midtown West (March 26-27, 2015)

Deciding to go on a trip to the city that never sleeps, was quite spontaneous- one of the best decisions I’ve made yet. If you haven’t already heard, Philippine Airlines just opened flights to New York via Vancouver last March 15.  What was supposed to be a trip where I would tag along with my mom on her flight, ended up becoming my first solo trip, to the Big Apple at that!

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Being on my own meant it was important for me to blend in with everyone else, so instead of a map, I carried a small blue notebook where I would jot down my entire route for the day. As much as I wanted to take hundreds of photos with my dSLR, I left it at home and made good use of my GoPro, in areas that were tourist-y. None of the stop-at-every-corner-and-take-a-photo because what the movies have been showing us is true: there is such a thing as a New York walk, and you just gotta keep up!

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My first day exploring the city made me realize how most of the spots a first-timer would wanna see are actually close to each other. It must be the efficient subway system, something I definitely wish we had back home, and the way the streets are lined up into a grid that make it easy to navigate.

Flat Iron Building

Right off the subway at 23rd St. on 5th, I spotted the interesting Flat Iron Building, a skyscraper built in the early 1900’s, meant to be shaped as, you guessed it, a clothes-iron. Was surprised to find Eataly nearby, and thought it best to have a well-deserved, sit-down late lunch after that long flight from Manila. And I must say, this place is to die for, especially if you love authentic Italian food! Mounds of people flock here, so it’s either you make a reservation ahead of time, or visit during lean hours. And anyway, even if you’re still cueing up for a table, you can shop for fresh ingredients in the meantime because it doubles as a grocery. In fact, they have such a wide variety of food & wine, that once you enter, you have to choose a restaurant: La Pizza & La Pasta, Il Pesce, Manzo Ristorante, La Piazza, and so on. The huge selection can get overwhelming, which is why people can never get enough of this place, but the best part for me is how fresh the ingredients and how authentic the flavors are that they cook it for you on the spot.

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Madison Square Garden

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New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Walked up several streets and capped off my day at the place that I’ve been looking forward to visiting, my entire life—

TIMES SQUARE!!

TIMES SQUARE!! 🙂

I’ve always been a fan of plays and musicals, especially since I used to participate in Repertory summer workshops, where we would adapt Broadway plays like The Wiz, Footloose, Mamma Mia, and my favorite, Lion King. Though I didn’t get to see it this time around, being in Broadway simply felt surreal.

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Confident of my navigation skills during my first day at New York, I decided to venture a little more downtown West the day after, then head back over to MOMA at 4PM for the Uniqlo Free Admission Fridays. A daily routine for me before stepping out of the apartment would be to refer to Google Maps and take down my entire day’s path on a notebook. I guess that ate up too much time since I woke up late from jet lag. I intended to visit the Friends apartment at Grove Street, drop by the Greenwich letter press, see the Film Forum and walk along Bleecker Street.

Unfortunately, none of those happened that day because I ended up getting myself lost. The difficult thing about the West Village is that it doesn’t follow the grid system, unlike the rest of Manhattan. Instead of numbers that intersect, the streets used names, which is why it wasn’t surprising even to the locals that I got lost. I ended up stumbling from subway to subway, even found myself up north on 153rd street, where I was finally able to ask how to get back midtown.

Shake Shack Burger: comfort food after getting lost

Shake Shack Burger: comfort food after getting lost

Despite being very late, I made it to the last hour and a half of the Museum of Modern Art, and absolutely enjoyed my visit! I didn’t really know what to expect, so I was surprised to see paintings from some favorite artists.

Pollock

Pollock

Picasso

Picasso

Can someone tell me who painted this? Fell in love with it but forgot to take it down!

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Frida Khalo

Frida Khalo

Warhol

Warhol

My personal & the crowd favorite, Van Gogh's "Starry Starry Night"

My personal favorite, Van Gogh’s “Starry Starry Night”

Headed back to my friend Bea’s apartment to meet up with her before the Klingande concert. It was perfect because I wanted to experience the music scene in New York and she happened to be going to a concert that week. I didn’t know much of Klingande, save for his popular hit, Jubel, but I’m really glad I went and discovered his music. I just loved the sound of that saxophone accompaniment!

Thankful to Bea & her friends for letting me tag along :)

Thankful to Bea & her friends for letting me tag along 🙂

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Klingande

Klingande