L.A. and P.C. (Park City, that is)

by Britta on 4 February 2011

in Across the USA,The Freelancing Life

I go to Southern California to visit my relatives. I lived there myself until I was in junior high, when my family moved to Alaska, and I have considered myself Alaskan—as opposed to Californian—ever since. So it’s to see my family that I go to SoCal, not necessarily to have a “travel” experience.

Hiking in the Mormon Rocks

California Hiking with the Cousin

My cousins love to take me hiking with them when I visit. Sometimes we go up in the hills behind their house and sometimes we try to find a trail in a place we’ve never been. We’ve discovered some very interesting places that way, and I’m glad they are the adventurous types, because they take away a lot of my angst over visiting a place that, I’ll admit, I don’t always like that much.

It’s not that it’s a bad place, it’s just that, when you come from Alaska, where you’re surrounded by wilderness almost everywhere you go, it’s hard to appreciate the sprawl, the smog and the congestion that is unfortunately a big part of Southern California living. It’s suburban for miles and miles in all directions, and, at least to my unfamiliar eye, there isn’t always something that differentiates one place from another. I have a hard time telling neighborhoods apart.

The LA Experience

This time, when I went and visited my family over the holidays, we did something a little different. Californians who live near Los Angeles, but not in it, usually try to avoid it as much as possible. I fly into the Ontario airport when I visit, not into LAX. Traffic in and out of the city is nightmarish during much of the day, the streets are unfamiliar, parking is impossible. However, this time my family braved it so we could all have an “LA experience” while I was there, and I have to admit, I really enjoyed it.

LA Farmer's Market

LA Farmer's Market

Markets, My Favorite!

We went to the LA Farmer’s Market, which has been around since the 30s, and wandered through the fruit stands and souvenir shops and food carts. Every kind of culture was represented in the food, from Korean to Mexican to Brazilian to French. Tourists and locals alike wandered through the market, marveling at the caramel apples in the candy store windows in one aisle and the pheasants, game hens and squab (pigeon) at the butcher’s in the next.

I wandered, as a good tourist does, with camera in hand, shooting both obviously and surreptitiously, making my cousins pose for pictures and making the fruits and veggies stand out. My aunt, a former home economics teacher, and I wandered through all of the stalls wondering what we could do with each fun thing we came across, whether mundane or exotic. The souvenir stands held the typical Hollywood keychains and t-shirts, but also had a few odd things you wouldn’t find everywhere else, like vintage lunchboxes and quirky salt and pepper shakers.

It wasn’t crowded but it wasn’t deserted, either, and snippets of conversations in several different languages wafted past, and people of every different age seemed to be enjoying the food and the atmosphere. My aunt even saw a couple of her former students as we wandered from stall to stall.

At the Griffith Observatory

"Reenacting" Rebel without a Cause

City Observations

That evening, we went to the Griffith Observatory, located just underneath the Hollywood sign and overlooking the city, and where James Dean’s “Rebel without a Cause” was filmed in the fifties. The observatory is open to the public, with regular shows in the planetarium. Ironically, the show we saw was about the Northern Lights.

It had been raining over most of California in the couple of weeks before I came to visit, and it had rained again the night before we went to LA, and as a result, the sky was clear and there was no smog in the air. It also meant that from the top of the hill, we could see the lights of LA, including the high-rises downtown, all the way out to the Santa Monica pier and the ocean. It was windy and cold (for the Californians) up on the top of the hill but the night was so clear we couldn’t stop taking pictures of the city lights, and ourselves in front of them. We also staged a “reenactment” of the knife fight scene from Rebel without a Cause.

LA from the Griffith Observatory

LA from the Griffith Observatory

My only disappointment of the day came when we discovered that the Hollywood sign was not lit up that night. I was under the impression that it was always lit up, but maybe that’s only in movies or TV shows. Regardless, a night shot of the sign would have rounded out my photos perfectly. Next time, I guess.

So, for a city that has drawn my dislike for so long, I actually really enjoyed it. It was an urban, rather than a suburban, experience, and though I don’t consider myself a city girl, I usually find I still have interesting experiences once I make it to the heart of a city.

The Best Snow on Earth?

After LA, and a couple more days with my family, I headed to Park City, where I stayed with my sister’s in-laws in their condo (thanks, Jim & Linda!). While it had been raining in California, it had been snowing in Utah, so we had several feet of new snow to ski on, with perfect bluebird skies and twenty-degree days for the week we were there. And, a hot tub to relax in when we came in from the slopes. Heaven.

Skiing in Park City

Skiing with Joslyn in Park City

This year, I’m learning to telemark (or “tele”), so I stuck to the green runs most of the time we were there, with a couple of easier blues thrown in at the end. The resort is quite a bit bigger than Alyeska, so even though I was limited to green I still had a choice of runs and I could ski from top to bottom without having to do a run I couldn’t handle. I had a few face plants, but by the end of our time I was feeling much more confident and comfortable on my tele skis (unless of course, you watch the videos Aunt Cindy took—I seemed to flop over every other turn whenever the camera was on).

A few days before I arrived in Park City, Passage learned to crawl, and he was our entertainment after that. We didn’t watch TV or movies, we didn’t play games, we just watched Passage. I taught him to go from sitting to crawling (that didn’t take him long at all) and Grandma Linda taught him how to shriek and squeal (and subsequently lost her voice. Passage found his). He got so many toys for Christmas that Chris and Joslyn had to take an extra suitcase home.

Downtown Park City

Downtown Park City

Downtown Park City was just like I pictured it —quaint storefronts framed by rooftops of fluffy snow, the ubiquitous souvenir shops dotted amid upscale art galleries and boutiques. Park City is the home of the Sundance Film Festival, and the city was gearing up for the Hollywood-types (or People in Black—PIBs, as the locals refer to them), who would arrive to see the premieres and showings of new and independent films. Apparently, it’s impossible to get a table at a restaurant during the festival, but it’s a great time to ski, because no one is on the slopes.

The condo is on a golf course, so one day we took a walk and marveled at the multi-million dollar homes built around it. They were beautiful, but many of them were apparently too beautiful and the owners couldn’t keep them. We made a game out of guessing the prices of the ones for sale, and seeing how close we came when we encountered one with a fact sheet attached to the sign. I was never even close. And we even took a wrong turn at one point, too, a requisite for a good travel experience.

Passage Ready to Ski

Passage Ready to Ski

So, while I went on this trip thinking it was just that—a trip and not travel—I was proved wrong by the places I visited. LA can indeed be a fun city if you let it, and Park City was novel simply because I had never been there. Alas, it was not a vacation—freelancers apparently don’t get to take those—but it was just what I needed to break out of my routine and let some new experiences take over. Travel is always a new experience.

Freelancing My Life Away

What I like about freelancing is that it’s not about the routine. I can show up for work when I want, wearing what I want, and as long as I get the project done well, it doesn’t matter how long I spend on it or when I do it. However, that mostly means I work all the time, not just a little bit here and there, and when I have a big deadline, all-nighters are more the norm than the exception. But, long hours and creativity combine to create The Quick and Easy Guide to Creating a Website, Lodging Edition, which is complete and now available on my professional website. It’s a guide to, basically, doing what I do, for beginners or updaters. Please take a look, and if you know someone who could use it, pass it on!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pat Perry February 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

Great posting – really liked your last statements about vacations – guess I’ll break the routine tonight and get Dennis to go to a local basketball game tonight. Small breaks…. and plan for the next big routine break to ????

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