Ask the Pro Series – Issue 1: Planning the Perfect Honeymoon with Brownell Travel

I’m so excited to share with you the first issue in my new Ask the Pro editorial series, where experts in their field share inside tips and how to’s with HDP so I can share them with you! I’ve been very selective about my partners in this series because I want you to hear from the very best in the business! Most of these partners are based in Nashville and Birmingham, the cities where I’ve lived and worked the most. However, their reach extends much further.

First up…Brownell Travel. I’m thrilled for you to get acquainted with this company (if you aren’t already),  the leading upscale travel firm in the Southeast since 1887. Brownell is a member of Virtuoso, the world’s oldest and most prestigious leisure travel association. Less than 1% of America’s agencies are accepted for membership in Virtuoso. These select agencies must be able to offer clients extensive knowledge and wide-ranging experience on travel throughout the world. Virtuoso travel consultants create experiences, not just trips or vacations.

Brownell Travel is based in Birmingham, AL, but has experienced advisors all over the world. So, no matter where you call home, they have knowledgeable pros to help plan your perfect honeymoon, destination wedding, vacation or trip to just celebrate life!

“Travel, it leaves you speechless
and then turns you into a storyteller.”
— lbn Batutta


Haisley Smith, CTA Vice President of Marketing and Development,  Brownell Travel (image supplied)

Haisley Smith, CTA is the Vice President of Marketing and Development for Brownell Travel. Haisley joined Brownell in 2005 as the Director of Marketing and now serves as the Vice President of Marketing & Development. She set her sights on a career in the travel industry after studying anthropology abroad at the University of Innsbruck in 1998. Through her position at Brownell, Haisley is able to combine two passions – seeing the world and promoting the amazing travel experiences Brownell can offer.

Haisley promotes Brownell by highlighting travel advisors’ expertise, access to authentic experiences, legendary personalized itineraries, and travel perks that come from Brownell’s strong reputation and relationships with other Virtuoso travel providers. In short – “Travel Beyond Your Expectations.”

Haisley and I have known each other since 2000, where we worked together at a magazine publishing company. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, working together on various projects for Brownell over the years. I’ve even photographed her two beautiful daughters and watched them grow up through my lens. Brownell has also planned amazing trips for me, including Paris and Mexico. Next up on my list is Italy! Haisley has never met a stranger, is passionate about her job and is truly an exceptional person. Here’s what she had to say in response to our honeymoon planning questions.

Q&A with Brownell Travel:

What makes Brownell Travel the best option for all my honeymoon planning

Connections and Experience. We’ve been in business for more than 130 years and we’ve worked with hundreds of resorts since they opened their doors and that opens (otherwise closed) doors for our clients. 

What is the best advice you could give newlyweds on finding their perfect honeymoon destination?

Your honeymoon should be as thoughtfully planned and as personal as your wedding. You wouldn’t duplicate your friend’s wedding, why would you duplicate their honeymoon? The perfect destination and honeymoon is uniquely yours. Use an expert to help you uncover what that is.

What are ten things you need to know before planning your honeymoon? 

1. If you didn’t want a cookie-cutter wedding, a cookie-cutter honeymoon from the Internet is going to disappoint you. 

2. Prices for the same room at the same resort can fluctuate by several hundred dollars per night depending on the time of year.

3. The day after the wedding is not always the best time to depart for your honeymoon. Delayed honeymoons can be even better because you have the luxury of anticipating the trip instead of worrying about wedding details.

4. All-inclusive resorts are not always a great value, but many fantastic resorts have all-inclusive packages they don’t promote to the public.

5. Domestic honeymoons are often overlooked but can be magical with the added bonus that they are easy to return to for anniversaries.

6. Don’t be fooled by pretty pictures on the Internet. If sugar-white beaches and turquoise water are important to you, work with an expert who knows what the destinations actually look like, season by season. 

7. Talk through your expectations of what you want to experience on your honeymoon with your fiancé. You may picture yourselves on a beach under an umbrella all day, but he may be expecting rock climbing and kayaking!

8. Be wary of travel advice from well-meaning friends and family. Their ideal is probably not yours, even if they are great spokespeople for their favorite destinations and resorts.

9. Agree on a budget and be transparent with your travel advisor. A professional travel advisor will not try to “upsell” you and will be very candid about what kind of experience you can expect with your budget. 

10. Even though you may be excited to use your new name, don’t book your airline ticket in your married name!

What are the top places to honeymoon in Europe? 

The hot destinations for honeymoons in Europe now are Greece, Portugal and Spain. Italy and France are always popular and always a good idea.

Canaves Oia Greece.jpg
Canaves Oia, Greece, (image supplied)
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Italy.jpg
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Italy, (image supplied)
Six Senses Duoro Valley, Portugal.jpg
Six Senses Duoro Valley, Portugal, (image supplied)
Belmond La Residencia, Spain.jpg
Belmond La Residencia, Spain, (image supplied)
Park Hyatt Paris.jpg
Park Hyatt, Paris, (image supplied)

What are the top places to honeymoon in the US?

Napa/Sonoma Valley, San Francisco, South Florida, Oregon, and New England are great honeymoon destinations.

Faena Miami.jpg
Faena, Miami (image supplied)
Acqualina, Miami FL.jpg
Acqualina, Miami (image supplied)

How would you suggest making the most out of your honeymoon when you only have a few days of vacation?

Choose a destination with a short flight or short drive. No need to waste valuable relaxing time in an airport, on a plane or on the road. Don’t overschedule or over-plan and DEFINITELY don’t over pack. Maximize your time by having a plan and not scrambling for restaurant or activity reservations on site.

What are the top three places to honeymoon in the Caribbean?

It changes every year. My personal favorites are St Lucia, Turks & Caicos and the BVI.

The Shore Club, Turks & Caicos.jpg
The Shore Club, Turks & Caicos (image supplied)
Hermitage Bay Antigua.jpg
Hermitage Bay, Antigua (image supplied)
Curtain Bluff, Antigua.jpg
Curtain Bluff, Antigua (image supplied)
Amanyara, Turks & Caicos.jpg
Amanyara, Turks & Caicos (image supplied)

Do all-inclusive resorts actually save you money in the end? 

I’m personally not a fan of all-inclusive resorts for honeymoons because the experience can be very cookie-cutter and you become one honeymoon couple among hundreds. The “brand-name” all-inclusives give many of the special, independent all-inclusives a bad name with poor service, poor food, and watered-down drinks. There are some gems out there, but in the end, you can’t put a price on disappointment.

“Wedding season” is May-August which is hurricane month for most of the Caribbean…what are other easily accessible tropical destinations?

There are lots of destinations in the south Pacific, South America and even in the Caribbean that very rarely (if ever) are affected by hurricanes. They are each very different with very different price points. 

The Brando.jpg
The Brando, French Polynesia (image supplied)
Laucala Island.jpg
Laucala Island, Fiji South Pacific (image supplied)
Gili Lankafushi.jpg
Gili Lankafushi, Maldives (image supplied)  

“We are wanting an adventurous honeymoon in the US”…what are the top places we should consider? 

The American West – we love Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona

The Ranch At Rock Creek, Montana.jpg
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana (image supplied)
Amangiri, Utah.jpg
Amangiri, Utah (image supplied)
The Resort at Paws Up.jpg
The Resort at Paws Up, Montana (image supplied)

“I want to surprise my bride with our honeymoon”…How can Brownell help me make sure I include everything she would want? 

Brownell has a really powerful tool – think of it as Netflix for travel that helps couples rank and rate their travel styles and wish-lists.

Is there a secret trick to getting upgrades?

Yes, a well-connected travel advisor has access to exclusive preferred partner programs with hotels and resorts that give their clients special amenities, perks and put them top of the list for upgrades – some at the time of booking!

Website: Brownell Travel | Phone: 205.802.6222EndCap

Photo by Heather Durham Photography in La Jolla, CA

Whether you are a bride and groom planning a Destination Wedding or honeymoon, or Parents of the Bride and Groom needing a vacation after all the busy wedding planning, if this first issue of Ask the Pro doesn’t get you grabbing your passport and online shopping for new luggage, I’m not sure what will! Thank you to Brownell Travel and Haisley Smith for sharing your expertise with us!



California Dreamin – Highlights and Travel Tips from our End of Summer Vacay in Southern California

A few weeks ago my husband Brad and I decided we needed a getaway before the kids started back to school. Neither of us had been to Southern California and we had to plan it within two weeks to make it happen.

Some friends in our neighborhood moved to Nashville a few years ago from Los Angeles and shared great local tips with us that were extremely helpful. The best tip? They told us to go to Santa Barbara! It wasn’t even on our radar until they recommended it. After narrowing down the other areas we wanted to visit, we chose to rent a convertible and drive the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to visit Malibu, Santa Barbara, then back down to Santa Monica, Venice Beach, downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.

I know I was supposed to be on vacation, but it’s just too hard to put down my camera when I’m in pretty places. I didn’t take photographs of everything, because I wanted to be present in the moment with Brad. I just shot whatever I could grab quickly along the way. Some of these images were taken with my Nikon DSLR and some with my iPhone… whatever I had handy at the time. Most of the iPhone images were taken on my morning runs, when I couln’t haul my big camera with me. I love to run even more while I’m on vacation, because I get up and out of the hotel early and have seen, explored and gotten the “lay of the land” before anyone else is up. I did this 4 out of the 5 mornings we were in amazing California weather, and was finished in time to meet up with Brad for breakfast. By foot or by bike is my very favorite way to explore a new city, because you see so much more than you would driving in a car the entire time. Plus, it helps work off a few vacation indulgences… (Hello Shade Hotel cake pops with our turn down service at night!!)  🙂

I used travel blogs and Pinterest to plan most of our trip. And, since blog posts were so helpful to me, I decided to blog my own trip and pay it forward. Hopefully someone else will benefit from this post for planning their own 1st trip to SoCal. I hope you enjoy!



Best decision of the trip? We rented a convertible which we picked up at L.A.X as soon as we got off the plane. From there we put the top down, put our hats on and drove. You’ll have windblown and hat hair the entire trip, but it’s so worth it!



EAT & DRINK: NOBU, Malibu Farm

SHOP: Malibu Country Mart

SHOOT: Malibu pier and beach from NOBU, scenery along the PCH

Leaving L.A. from the airport, the drive is pretty unremarkable for about 25 minutes, then all of a sudden you’re driving onto the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and you see the beautiful coastline and the mountains appear in view. It’s stunning! We pinched ourselves, turned on some driving tunes and continued to our first stop in Malibu for brunch at Nobu. For most of our trip, I made reservations from blog post recommendations in advance using the Open Table app; but we weren’t exactly sure how long it would take us at the airport, so we risked not having a reservation for Nobu. Thankfully they seated us immediately outside overlooking the beach and Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect start to our trip. And their homemade pumpkin seed granola was delicious. They served small portions, but delicious food with pretty presentation.

















After leaving Nobu, we drove to the Malibu Country Mart, which to me sounded like a total oxymoron.  And, it was. This quaint outdoor village of high end specialty boutiques is nestled below the mountains that rise behind it. It’s anything but a “country mart”!




[Outdoor fitting rooms…not sure that would work
in Alabama or Tennessee’s humid weather!]


[My friend Debbie from L.A. told us to be sure to get coffee drinks at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and we’re so glad she did! My go-to coffee drink is a Vanilla Latte with Almond Milk, sometimes hot and sometimes iced. They were delicious here. It’s a chain in California, but so much better than Starbucks!  We frequented Coffee Bean for our morning and afternoon coffees. Highly recommend! In fact, I want one right now!]


[One of our favorite stops was the Double RL shop, named for Ralph Lauren
and his wife Ricki. We loved it because of the broken in ranch looks,
offering both new reproductions and vintage clothes and boots.
We popped our heads in Ted Baker, Vince and Michael Stars too.]



STAY: Kimpton Canary

EAT: Bouchon, San Ysidro Ranch The Stonehouse, McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, Lilac Patisserie (for those looking for a dedicated Gluten Free bakery and cafe), Tupelo Junction Cafe (The brunch here is amazing! Treat yourself to the Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffle w/ Caramelized Bananas, Candied Pecans & Real Maple Syrup. It’s an indulgence that’s totally worth the extra workouts.), Los Arroyos

DRINK: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (These are in every city), The French Press

SHOP: Saks off Fifth, Wendy Foster, Plum Goods, Brandy Melville, Rocket Fizz (Must check out the crazy flavored sodas and candy here. Your kids will love it.)

SHOOT: Courthouse Clock Tower view, Old Mission, San Ysidro Ranch, Stearns Wharf, State Street

We jumped back in the car and headed up the coast to spend 2 nights in beautiful Santa Barbara. With its Spanish architecture, red mediterranean tile roofs and creamy white stucco, it is a beautiful site! State Street is the main street that runs through the historic downtown area of Santa Barbara all the way to Stearns Wharf and the beach. We drove by the Santa Barbara Old Mission, but didn’t take the time to go in. We just aren’t guided tour kind of people. We like to do what the locals do more than what the tourists do. A little goes a very long way with us and we wanted to leave some down time for a nap and relaxation at the pool.


We chose the Kimpton Canary, a boutique hotel conveniently located just one block off State Street, which also offered complimentary bikes for us to ride around and explore the city. We like to stay in boutique hotels vs. big chain hotels when we travel, because it just adds to the local flavor and experience, with better customer service. I also always look for hotels are within walking or biking distance of shops and restaurants. Kimpton Canary offered all of this, and was also the only hotel in the area boasting a rooftop pool with a view. It was beautiful, in a perfect location to walk and ride our bikes everywhere, and the service was impeccable. Again, highly recommend. Also, be sure to eat at Bouchon, which is walking distance from the hotel.










We did visit the Old Historic Santa Barbara Courthouse, which is definitely a must see, with its hand painted ceilings, walls and beams, Spanish tiles and amazing old lanterns. We walked to the top of the clocktower for an incredible view over Santa Barbara and then stepped inside the old ornate courtrooms. It is also a wedding venue!







[Apparently all we have in our wardrobe is black, white, denim, khaki and gray, which means on occasion we get dressed, walk out the door and are twinning without realizing it…until we see ourselves in pictures (sigh…eye roll). And for the record…I branched out for our trip and my shorts in this photo are actually blush pink, so we aren’t totally twinning, even though you can’t tell.
But check out that birds eye view behind us from the top of the Courthouse Clocktower!]








One morning I ran down State Street to Stearns Wharf to check it out. Not much I really wanted to do there, but it was worth seeing. There’s a few touristy shops, a restaurant, a sea center and people fishing off the pier. There is a pretty view of Santa Barbara beach, and the marina. Looking back at the town of Santa Barbara from that vantage point is really nice.






[State Street is full of shopping, cafés and restaurants, but I will say,
they roll up the carpets around 10:00 PM at night.
It’s a sleepy little town from 10:00 PM until about 9:00 AM every day…
or it least it was while we were there.]







[I enjoyed seeing the La Tavola’s showroom, which I didn’t realize was in Santa Barbara. We used their beautiful table linens in a wedding inspiration shoot at Springhouse Restaurant at Lake Martin a few years back.
You can see that post here.]


[Admiring Panache Bridal’s gowns in the window.]




[I had read about McConnell’s and since my hubby’s favorite treat is ice cream,
we had to stop in. He said it was delicious!]






[If you are traveling with kids, stop in Rocket Fizz to check out
their crazy soda bottles and flavors. They can also get a candy fix.]



[If you have a teenage daughter, Brandy Melville is the place to shop!]



The flowers and plants in California were amazing. Native palm trees, prolific oleander, huge succulents and interesting varieties of cactus plants were everywhere.





My very favorite thing we did while we were in Santa Barbara was drive about 15 minutes to the quaint village of Montecito and visit San Ysidro Ranch. It was the highlight of the trip for me and one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in the U.S. …a picturesque resort with two restaurants, lush gardens and quaint cottages scattered all over the property, that sits nestled below the mountains. It’s truly breathtaking! The San Ysidro Ranch has been voted America’s #1 Best Wine Restaurants by Wine Enthusiast, America’s #1 Best Resort by Travel + Leisure, America’s #1 Best Hotel by Forbes Traveler and the Grand Award by Wine Spectator. Don’t miss it. Trust me. And, if you can afford to stay there, just do it! When you look at the prices, keep in mind you are paying for cottages tucked all along the property, not just a hotel room. It’s an experience. Or, you can choose to visit the gardens and eat dinner at The Stonehouse restaurant on property, like we did and arrive early to meander around the property. We ate under string lights on the terrace as the sun went down. And to our surprise, we were able to watch a fireworks show in the distance. It was perfect. On our way out of town our last day in Santa Barbara, we drove back to the ranch to visit again in better daylight and eat lunch in Montecito Village.














[Cheers to 20 Years with dinner at The Stonehouse]


[The photos of Brad and me below were taken by L.A. based film director, writer and actor, Jason Hall, who wrote and directed the movie American Sniper. He happened to be staying at the ranch and was kind enough to grab some photos of us when we went back the next day to take another look at the gardens and cottages.]








We booked our hotel for the rest of our stay in Manhattan Beach since it’s only a 30 minute drive to the Venice/Santa Monica area, making it easy to go back and forth. On the drive down from Santa Barbara, you come to Santa Monica Beach first, but we chose to do that another day since we needed a little more time for what we wanted to do there. Plus, we had been told to only do Venice Beach during the day and be out of there by dark, so based on our arriving in the afternoon, we decided to do Venice first.  The drive back down the coast was even more beautiful than on the way up, because we were on the side of the road closest to the ocean and able to stop a few times to take photographs.












EAT & DRINK: Hotel Erwin (rooftop bar), The Butcher’s Daughter

SHOP: Shops along Abbott KinneyThe Stronghold (Men’s), James Perce, The Piece Collective, Show Me Your MuMu Flagship Store

SHOOT: Muscle Beach, Venice Beach sign over the street, boardwalk scene, Abbot Kinney shops

Once we arrived at Venice Beach, we walked the boardwalk to see the famous Muscle Beach, where Arnold Schwarzenegger worked out at the beginning of his competitive body building career. People still work out there today on the rusty, salt and sand worn weight lifting machines. Then, we made our way to see the classic Venice Beach sign over the street. Honestly, the Venice boardwalk just wasn’t our scene, so we came, we saw, we left. On our way to Santa Monica the next day, we made a quick stop to check out a few shops in Venice on Abbott Kinney. Great street for boutique shopping!





[Muscle Beach]



[Venice Beach Boardwalk]


[Had to see the MUMU flagship store (of course) and
Light in the Attic is right next door, if you are into vinyl.]


[I’ve followed The Piece Collective on Instagram and its beachy boho vibe for a while now. Do yourself a favor and follow them too.
I got a little excited to actually set foot in their Venice store.]


We also hit James Perse, which originated in L.A. I love his minimalistic and simple, yet sophisticated approach to high quality basics in amazing fabrics. Great travel bags too! Next door is The Stronghold, which is a must for specialty denim, leather jackets and vintage reproduction boots. They’ll custom make anything you want too! Cool spot. If you’re traveling with your guy, don’t miss it. And, they also have women’s. Win-win.





EAT & DRINK: Love & Salt, The Strand HouseCoffee Bean & Tea Leaf (These are in every city), Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (The turkey burger and sweet potato fries here were a real treat for lunch, but I wish we had tried their breakfast too. Every time I ran by I craved everyone’s pancakes!)

SHOP: Waterleaf Interiors, Shops along Manhattan Beach Blvd., Diane’s Beachwear

SHOOT: Houses along The Strand, beach volleyball tournaments, Manhattan Beach Pier, surfers carrying their surfboards overhead, on their bikes or in their convertibles, surfing town scenes, Hermosa Beach Pier surfer sculpture, ocean surfers

We chose to stay in another boutique hotel, Shade Manhattan Beach. Again, I always look for hotels that include breakfast and are within walking distance of shops and restaurants. This one did include breakfast as well as complimentary bikes and was convenient to everything…just one block from Manhattan Beach Blvd and a 3 short block walk or bike rid down to the beach. There’s also a small rooftop pool. And, did I mention the cake pops they left each night on our bedside tables? We liked the chilled vibe of Manhattan Beach, which is a clean, high end beach town with lots of surfers and beach volleyball enthusiasts.

Every morning I would wake up early and run down to the boardwalk along The Strand from Manhattan Beach through Hermosa Beach to Redondo Beach and back to the hotel. There were lots of people on the boardwalk running, biking, skating and strolling babies. One side of The Strand boardwalk is lined with beautiful beach homes of all different architecture styles (very close together), which also provided nice shade that time of day. The other side of the boardwalk is the beach, volleyball games and ocean.



[Waterleaf home interiors shop right by Shade Hotel Great looking pillows!]


[Eat at Love & Salt.]


[Our path down to the beach and boardwalk from our hotel.]




[Manhatten Beach Pier]


[Homes and boardwalk along the Strand]






[The SEC was represented and my alma mater’s flag was
flying high in Southern California! Roll Tide.]





[Hermosa Beach]


[Water conditions and a summer camp for surfers]




[Redondo Beach Marina]


5TH STOP: SANTA MONICA  (Afternoon/evening)

EAT & DRINK: Shutters on the Beach,(Eat any meal or appetizers and drinks), Water Grill (Amazing Chilean Sea Bass, Polenta, etc. Entire menu was fabulous and excellent service. Right on Ocean Avenue by the Santa Monica Pier), Rustic Canyon

SHOP: Shops along Abbott KinneyThe Stronghold (Men’s), James Perce, The Piece Collective

SHOOT: Santa Monica Pier, View of Santa Monica Pier from Shutters on the Beach

We spent the morning on the beach in Manhattan Beach then drove over to Santa Monica for the afternoon and evening. I wanted to have a bite and a drink on the breezy terrace at Shutters on the Beach, so we stopped there first. It’s just lovely. So happy I was finally able to experience it!





[Feeling pretty inspired.]







The Santa Monica Pier is extremely crowded and touristy, but you just have to do it. So, we decided to ride the ferris wheel and roller coaster at sunset, and have a few good laughs from watching the street/pier entertainers. At dark, we headed off the pier and down the street to eat dinner at Water Grill. This was one of our favorite meals on our trip, with a varied menu and excellent service. We ordered the Chilean Sea Bass (our favorite) and polenta. It was delicious. We sat at a booth, by the open windows overlooking Ocean Ave and the Pier.















(1/2 DAY)

EAT & DRINK: The Farm of Beverly Hills (Hint: Get a table outside facing the sidewalk for lunch. It’s a great spot to see celebrities walk by. We saw two very well known celebrities while we were there.)

SHOP: Fred Segal, Shops along Melrose Avenue, Rodeo Drive

SHOOT: Beverly Hills sign, Rodeo Drive, storefronts

Honestly, we hadn’t planned on doing this part of the trip at all. We knew how touristy this part of L.A is and we just didn’t care about doing tours and seeing the movie sets, etc. But, we were so close and had the time one day to do a VERY abbreviated (sometimes drive by) look at these areas. We drove through Beverly Hills and ate lunch at The Farm of Beverly Hills. As I mentioned in the Snapshot of Recommendations above, be sure to get an outdoor table by the sidewalk. Two high profile celebrities walked right beside our table. After lunch, we walked around the corner to Rodeo Drive and strolled down the street admiring opulent storefronts and peeked into a few. The only store we actually went in was Ralph Lauren because is the epitome of true Americana and timeless fashion. And, the Rodeo Drive store did not disappoint. My favorite part of visiting stores in L.A. and New York is the styling, display, props and presentation. It’s truly incredible. I’m going to have to go back on a girls trip so I can peruse every store just for the eye candy. I was trying to spare Brad of complete shopping boredom since this was an anniversary trip of sorts.






[My green-eyed hubby looked handsome sitting in the cafe light
while we were waiting on lunch, so I had to grab a shot of him,
since I don’t do that very often.]





[Our 11 year old son is really into cars right now and would have loved seeing the Mazaratis lined up for sale on Rodeo Drive (which is closed off and for pedestrians only).]








SHOP: Fred Segal, Shops along Melrose Avenue, Rodeo Drive

SHOOT: Hollywood Sign from Griffith Observatory, Downtown L.A. from Griffith Observatory, James Dean sculpture with Hollywood hills at Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre, Kodak Theatre

From there, we drove to an L.A. favorite, Fred Segal, then made our way past the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where Brad literally pulled over to the curb for 1 minute, while I jumped out took a shot or two of the sidewalk stars that were right in front of me and jumped back in the car. We seriously can’t handle all of the tourists hanging out on there and a street entertainer with a huge snake around his neck about scared me to death when he got too close! Since we were in a convertible, I held my camera up when I suddenly realized we were driving right by the Kodak and Chinese Theaters (a little drive by shooting). We made our way past the Hollywood Bowl to the Griffith Park and Observatory to see the Hollywood sign and downtown L.A. at sunset. If you’ve seen the movie La La Land (movie locations to visit), then you’ve seen Griffith Observatory. You don’t want to miss this! It has best views of all of L.A.’s landscape. There’s a reason it’s called the Hollywood Hills, and you’ll definitely experience them as you wind your way up to the top of Griffith Park.
















We were given great advice to spend our last day in Manhattan Beach, because we could enjoy a little more time there relaxing before our flight out, since it is only 15 minutes from L.A.X. After a morning run, Brad and I rode bikes down The Strand, then packed up and grabbed lunch at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, (which we had walked by every day right near our hotel), before heading out to catch our flight.







What a fun trip! We were able to see so much of Southern California in just 6 days. Next up… Napa, San Diego, or San Francisco…there’s more I want to experience. Why have I waited so long to Visit California? I love any state who’s tourism tagline is “Dream Big”.