Emily M. DeArdo



California Diary: Recommendations

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Doubletree by Hilton LA--Westside

6161 W Centinela Ave, Culver City, CA

("West" in LA parlance means "south" to the rest of the world.) 

This hotel is really close to Sony Studios, hence the reason we stayed here. Lots of business travelers but I also saw some families. There's a pool and hot tub that are open year round (the pool is heated), and towels are provided there. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the room service menu is great. There's also a fitness room. The "business center" is two computers and two printers in the lobby. The people in reception also serve as concierges. 


Bouchon, Beverly Hills (Restaurant, bakery, bar) : Great wine list, classic French bistro menu, and the macarons are divinity. Be sure to stop at the bakery and pick up some yummy treats because they'll be closed after dinner! (They close at 7 PM, while the restaurant starts dinner seating at 6 PM) A great place for a nice dinner, and apparently kid-friendly-there were several people who had brought their kids to the restaurant. (Obviously, make sure your kid can handle a nicer restaurant before you do this.) 

Killer Shrimp, Marina Del Rey. This is a local chain, and it definitely had a neighborhood bar feel to it, but I liked that. It felt less touristy, you know? Coconut shrimp is amazing. 

Bubba Gump, Santa Monica Pier. Locations across the country. You don't have to know anything about Forrest Gump before coming here--I didn't. Fantastic view of the beach. 

Santa Monica Seafood, Santa Monica. They have a VERY small eating area, so you might want to eat on the earlier side. We were there around five, and got right in. 

Ghirardelli Soda Shop, Hollywood. This is also a sort of Disney Store. Pins are its main bread and butter, I think--the special Soda Shop pins can only be purchased here, and the line can be out the door and around the block when new pins are released. That said, the store sells tickets to Disneyland (get them here!), DVDs/Blu Rays, stuffed animals, some clothing, and things that tie into the most popular/newest Disney releases. But really, it's all about the pins. 

The Soda Shop has a very large menu and everything sounds amazing. 



Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood (When you see the walk of fame, you'll see a lot of other things too, like the Chinese theater, the Dolby theater, etc--if you're in the "main drag" section--the Chinese theater has all the footprints, etc displayed outside so you don't need to pay to see them) 

Dolby Theater, Hollywood. Where the Academy Awards take place every year. See all the best picture winners on the pillars inside. Go up the steps and you'll find a shopping center that will, eventually, take you to a spot where you can see the famous Hollywood sign. 

The Getty Center, Brentwood --free admission, $15 parking fee. The Getty is great for all ages--they have a lot of stuff for kids and families, including a family center and a kids' gift shop. The cafe is impressively diverse and you have great views of the city from the dining room. There's also a pricier restaurant, but the menu is a lot smaller--just go to the cafe! The permanent collection is also supplemented by various special exhibits--check before you go to see what's on. 

If you're taking Uber or RideShare, there's even a special place to wait when you're ready to leave--a nice bonus, I thought. We got to the benches marked for Uber and called the car from there. 

Disneyland , Anaheim--more below 

Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica--restaurants, gift shops, fishing, beach, carnival rides and games on the pier. 



Ticket prices here. They vary according to the season. 

Food: Carnation Cafe (Main Street), Naples (in Downtown Disney, adjacent to the park, and I do mean adjacent--it was literally right out the park gate, to the right), Mickey beignets (French Quarter), Dole Whips (by the Tiki Room--to save time, get in line on the Tiki Room side; order your Dole Whip of choice, eat it, and then "ride" the Tiki Room--the line is MUCH shorter this way!)

Downtown Disney has restaurants, shops (including a large Disney store), and a movie theater. It's a nice place to relax after your Disneyland adventures. If you're going to get an Uber from here, you might want to go over to the hotel that's next door--it's easier to give them a location that way. 


Uber--we used Uber almost exclusively (a few cabs) and had absolutely no problems with it--it even took us to Disneyland and back. The Disney trip was the most expensive: It was $40 each way, but given that it took an hour, that's not terrible. You pay $50 in NYC going from the airport to midtown.  Most of our trips around LA and environs were much more reasonable--anywhere from $8-14 each way. The app is  great, but do not call the car until you're at the pick-up spot, because they come fast! I saw a group of tourists sprinting from the elevator to the front door of our hotel because their Uber driver was waiting for them.  

There are plenty of cabs at the airport for you to grab to take into the city, and we used cabs after each day of taping--the producers would actually call one for me, which I thought was nice. But the rest of the time--Uber. 







California Diary-- Santa Monica

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It was entirely too cold to swim in the ocean, but that didn't mean we couldn't go wading!  

The Santa Monica pier has entrances to the beach proper, which we did after we had lunch at Bubba Gump's on the pier. The day was beautiful, sunny, and breezy, and the waves were such a fantastic blue that you definitely don't see on the Atlantic side of the States. 

The pier has restaurants, shops, a small carnival with rides and games (and similarly overpriced for being what it is), and even places for buying bait and tackle so you can fish off the pier, if that's your sort of thing. A few people had cast their lines off the end of the pier and we're waiting to see if they could reel in some fish. 

The pier itself wasn't too crowded, which was nice, because we weren't all crammed in. I wish the weather had been a bit warmer so we could've hung out on the beach and not been blown away. The wind was fierce. But it was such a beautiful place to be. 

Looking south from the pier 

Looking south from the pier 


East Coast Beaches? West Coast Beaches? Which do you like better? 



California Diary: The Getty and OP Appearances

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View from the Western Pavilion at the Getty 

View from the Western Pavilion at the Getty 

On Thursday of our CA trip, we decided to get some high culture by visiting the Getty Center in Brentwood. Mary and I both love art, and the best thing about the Getty is that it's FREE to visit their amazing collection and special exhibits. FREE! Since we took Uber, we didn't even have to pay for parking! 

We were especially excited to see this exhibit, which closed May 1, so we just squeaked in!

Tapestry and weaving has always fascinated me, so this exhibit was really well-timed for us. We couldn't take photographs of it, though, in order to preserve the tapestries, so I have nothing other than this shot.

But I did take plenty of other photos of the art work the Getty displays all the time.

The Getty is different in that it's not your typical museum, where everything is under one roof. Here, it's open air pavilions, with a main hall that opens out to the central "hall" space, and the four pavilions are located around them. There's also a cafe and a restaurant with breathtaking views of LA. 

The collection included illuminated manuscripts, European masters from all eras, sculpture, furniture, photography, and a few special exhibits other than Woven Gold. Van Gogh's Irises, some Monets and Rembrandts, and a Rodin sculpture were all on view--but I loved finding some hidden Dominican friends!


This painting depicts St Francis (L), a pope, St John the Baptist, and St Dominic, and was painted by a Dominican--Blessed Fra Angelico, one of the patron saints of artists. 

A few galleries later, I found these matching paintings: 

These two paintings, by Domenico Beccafumi, depict two scenes in the life of St Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the church, co-patron of Europe, and Lay Dominican. The top painting is the moment she received the Stigmata--the wounds of Christ--and the bottom is where she received communion from an angel when she couldn't physically attend a Mass. 

Such beautiful paintings of such great saints! But wait, there's more!

St Thomas Aquinas, another Doctor of the Church and Dominica friar, on this portable altar

OP power is alive and well at the Getty!


Some of my other favorites:

Irises, Van Gogh


The Baptism in the Jordan, Veronese


This little girl:


This woman pushing away Cupid made me laugh:


The miracle of the House of Loreto--if you're new to this, basically it's a story that says Angels picked up Mary's house in Nazareth and moved it to Loreto--whether or not it's true is debatable, but it's a great painting: 


This medieval chasuable:


Sight read this, yo! 


This painting of Mary Magdalen:


This reunited family, after a "not guilty" verdict is read: 

I love art museums, so the time in the Getty was well spent. It was such a beautiful day that spending time on the patio, reading and writing, was fabulous (I did that while Mary went to check out some period French furniture  After walking more than seven miles at Disneyland the day before, my legs needed a break!) 


California Diary: Disneyland!

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Time for some true confessions.

When I was first thinking about what to do in California, Disneyland was on the "maybe" list, because, to be honest, I'd heard a lot of "meh" about it.

It's small.

It's boring.

It's not as "cool" as WDW.

I am glad I did not listen to these people! 

There is an intangible magical aspect to Disneyland that's probably the fact that Walt was involved in every aspect of it--from start to finish. He was planning WDW at the time of his death, but Disneyland was his baby, and that shows. 

The park is smaller than WDW, but that is a plus to me, because it means you don't have to rush through it like a crazy person in order to see everything you want to see. We had plenty of time to ride everything we wanted to ride, each a leisurely lunch, shop, and get character photos, without ever feeling rushed or crushed by the crowds. And the weather has WDW beat--it was 70 degrees--perfect. I was actually COLD at  a Disney park, which I didn't think was possible! 

Also, Sleeping Beauty is better than Cinderella, to me, so I was happy to see Aurora's castle and accompanying things around. (It's not that I don't like Cinderella-- I just prefer Sleeping Beauty.)

We took an Uber to Disneyland--we used Uber almost exclusively this trip, and had ZERO problems, so I'm a big fan now--and arrived a little after 8:30. We'd bought our tickets at the Ghirardelli shop on Sunday, so we had those, and got in the line for the entrance. The park opens at 9:00, but Main Street opens at 8:30 So we got in, I got a hat (needed a hat, per my dermatologist--gotta protect the head!), and we headed through the castle to Fantasyland.

Mary saw Mary Poppins and Bert, so we got a photo with them because her sister loves Mary Poppins, and then we went on to ride two more English rides--the teacups and Mr Toad's Wild Ride. 

I love the teacups, but I'd never been on Mr Toad's Wild Ride--I hear it used to be at WDW but it's part of the Winnie the Pooh ride now This is silly to me, because I loved Mr Toad! I thought it was such a fun, simple ride that anyone could enjoy, even if, like me, they weren't too familiar with his story.

Small World also has the bonus touch of Disney characters inserted into the ride, but in a low-key way:

I thought that was a really clever job by the Imagineers. 

Another fun thing was New Orleans Square, which I liked a lot better than "Liberty Square" at WDW--the theming of New Orleans was a lot more fun and specific than the sort of colonial "Liberty" square era at WDW. The Haunted Mansion has a decidedly Southern theme here, and even Pirates of the Caribbean begins in a firefly lit bayou. And Mickey Beignets? Mary said oui to that. 


The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland 

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland 

Of course, there's always the unexpected Disney things:

Yes, that's a real cat in the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad--and she was totally fine with all of us watching her!

Yes, that's a real cat in the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad--and she was totally fine with all of us watching her!

There is an undeniable charm to Disneyland that's nice--and the people are so low-key. No one was grouching about waiting in line I didn't see parents hauling screaming, crying kids out of the park around 2:00 because they'd been there since 6:30 waiting for "rope drop". Maybe I just got a lucky day, but it was blessedly free of the hordes of scooters and pushing, crying crowds that you often see at Disney World. It just seemed more "mellow" than its Florida counterpart. 

We had a great lunch at the Carnation Cafe, and even got Dole Whips before we went on the Tiki Room (you don't really "go on" the Tiki room--you enter the Tiki room, I guess). I shall reveal a super-secret tip on getting Dole Whips Quickly in the wrap up at the end of the series! 


List of rides: 

  • The Tea Cups: Always a winner
  • Mr Toad's Wild Ride: My favorite "new" ride
  • The Carousel (Spelled "Carrousel" at Disneyland): Classic, especially due to Saving Mr Banks
  • Small World: The original, with Disney characters! Find Nemo!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow and red headed women
  • The Haunted Mansion: Longer and scarier than the one at WDW 
  • The Tiki Room: Always good for a laugh (name that movie)
  • Indiana Jones: I was totally underwhelmed--least favorite "new" ride
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: It might not be huge or showy, but it's a solid, smooth coaster ride

We ate dinner at Naples in nextdoor Downtown Disney, and then we headed home, getting back to the hotel (thanks to Uber) around 8:00

Have you been to Disneyland or Disney World? Which do you like better? What's your favorite ride? 

California Diary: Tuesday Night--Dinner at Bouchon

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OK, so I'm not going to write about Monday/Tuesday on the Jeopardy set--at least, not yet. I am saving all those things for when the episode actually airs in July so I do not risk giving away trade secrets pre episode air. But the episode airs July 18--that's a Monday night--so write it down!

However, I will continue to tell you about our trip--sans Jeopardy.

So Tuesday we had dinner at Bouchon, one of Thomas Keller's restaurants. Even if you're not a "foodie", you know who Thomas Keller is if you watch movies--he was a consultant for Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille and designed the version of the title dish that you see in the film (he was also the voice of a patron). He also worked on Spanglish to create "The world's best sandwich" for Adam Sandler's character. Finally, he's the creator of the insanely popular and acclaimed French Laundry restaurtant in Yountville, CA, as well as other restaurants Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Per Se, Ad Hoc, and Addendum.

We weren't anywhere close to Yountville--but there is a Bouchon in Beverly Hills, and Mary and I love French bistro food, which is what is served here--and it's reasonably priced (especially for a Thomas Keller restaurant--Dinner at Per Se can be over $1,000, with wine). So we decided that this would be our Tuesday night dinner.

In the Beverly Hills Canon park before dinner 

In the Beverly Hills Canon park before dinner 

The restaurant didn't open until 6, and we were there early, so we went to the connecting Bouchon Bakery for some treats and coffee.

The book is full of exquisite macaroons, which were eaten later ;-) 

The book is full of exquisite macaroons, which were eaten later ;-) 

It was really an exquisite night--just perfect--so when we had the option of eating on Bouchon's patio, which overlooked the park, we jumped at it.

The menu is classically French bistro food, and it was so hard to decide! We started with a three-piece cheese plate, because we need cheese, we love cheese, cheese is a wonderful thing--I can't say enough good things about cheese. 

I felt a lot like Remy in Ratatouille here, saying things like, "Oh! If you combine the cheese with the honey AND the cranberry, it's AMAZING!" And all sorts of those things. I was waiting for the little flavor animations from the movie to pop up.

After the cheese, we ordered our wine (A glass of Cote du Rhone for each of us, please!), and our mains. Mary got the croque madame (a ham and cheese sandwich with an egg, basically), and I ordered the lamb shank special, which was served with ratatouille (I mean, come on! I Had to get it!). 

Our waiter was so attentive, and so fabulous--he was really the creme de la creme of waiters. We had a great meal with him. For dessert, I ordered chocolate ice cream, and Mary ordered profiteroles. The chocolate ice cream was the pinnacle of chocolate ice cream. It's exactly what you want/think chocolate ice cream should be.

When I drink wine, it needs to be documented, because I don't drink it all that often 

When I drink wine, it needs to be documented, because I don't drink it all that often 

The meal was so great, and the atmosphere so relaxing, that neither of us really wanted the meal to end. But end it must--and we were going to Disneyland tomorrow, after all ;-). 

What's the best vacation meal you've ever had? 

California Diary: Saturday/Sunday

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Salinas--Steinbeck Country--from the plane 

Salinas--Steinbeck Country--from the plane 

Saturday was interesting

I've never had bad luck flying in my life--I've never even had a late flight  But the Saturday we left for California, we had a flight was six hours late  Instead of getting to LAX at 4:25 PST, we got there at 10:30 or so, PST

And my bag was lost

So basically, I got all the bad luck except for a cancelled flight in one trip

Saturday, the flight was six hours late--a "mechanical problem" whatever that meant in actuality  What it meant in reality was that we got to Oakland late, and we had to change planes--when originally we didn't have a transfer  So Mary and I bolted down the empty hallways of the Oakland airport at what felt like 1 AM to us, for the flight to LAX

We got to LAX, and as I thought, my bag hadn't made the trip So I had to fill out the form in the baggage office, and we hailed a cab and got to our hotel, where we had no problems and received warm cookies, and fell into bed around 2 AM our time--11 PST

Since my bag hadn't arrived when we woke up the next morning, Mary went to Mass by herself and I stayed back in the room since I didn't have anything else to wear to Mass, and I didn't want to go in the outfit I'd worn yesterday--and let's not even talk about my hair 

After checking with the front desk a few times, it was revealed that my bag HAD been delivered at 3 AM--but the front desk forgot to tell me  So I retrieved it around 11 AM, took a real shower, put on clean clothes, and felt human again

After Mary got back, we decided to tour Hollywood, so our first stop was the Ghirardelli chocolate shop in Hollywood, so I could do some pin trading!

The pin trader sundae at Ghirardelli--you get to customize it

The pin trader sundae at Ghirardelli--you get to customize it


For those of you who don't know what pin trading is--basically it's like baseball/hockey cards, except, with pins The pins depict Disney characters/rides/hotels/theme parks--anything Disney-and you can trade them at the parks, with cast members, with other collectors, and online Pins from the Ghirardelli shop are especially prized, because you can't get them anywhere but this shop in Hollywood So I had to go and get my own Pin Trader Sundae Pin I got Winston, the butler from Oliver and Company


After ice cream, we walked some of the Walk of Fame, and went to the Dolby Theater, where the Academy Awards are held  One of my favorite things about this was that the best picture winners are arranged on the pillars, by year--and the pillars go until 2071! 


(One thing about the Walk of Fame--you have to pay to have a star there  A committee decides who will be offered a star, but the star (or the star's company) put up around $30,000 to get the star put on the Walk of Fame  Donald Trump has one, and man, that star was getting a lot of abuse, so I guess his $30K will go toward keeping it free of graffiti, which tells everyone exactly what people are thinking about Donald these days) 

We decided to have dinner at Santa Monica Seafood, which was a great decision  I had an exquisite salmon fillet, and it was a beautiful spot  I had no idea that roses grew so well, so close to the ocean  Obviously, I knew the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade were in Pasadena, which isn't too far away, but the sheer extravagance and variety of roses that were everywhere we went was overwhelming


Look at those striped roses! These were in Santa Monica Seafood 

Look at those striped roses! These were in Santa Monica Seafood 

On Monday, I had rehearsal at the Sony studio (which was actually also a potential tape day, although I didn't know that then)--so we went back to the hotel and I was in bed pretty quickly, since I had to get up around 6:15 the next morning!




Back from the West Coast

travel, JeopardyEmily DeArdoComment
The Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Beach

The Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Beach

So, I'm back--and with a computer that has a period key that doesn't work!

So no, I'm not experimenting with new fun forms of punctuation--I'm going to get it fixed soon--but I wanted to pop in here and say that I'm back and I can't wait to share my adventures and California thoughts with all of you!

Obviously, I can't say what happened during my Jeopardy adventure, but I can tell you that the episode will air July 18 (That's a Monday)--so write it down now! :) 

As I've done in previous travelogues, I'll take you through each day, and I'll have a final post with everything we did and my recommendations, if you're traveling to the LA/SoCal area and want to know what I thought was a good bet for food/fun/etc

One thing that was definitely a good bet, though? 

Oh, I was dazzled, Olaf--totally!


Daybook No 118

DaybookEmily DeArdoComment

Outside my window::

it was really sunny and blue skied earlier, but now it's clouded up. Might rain later? 


Jeans and a Boden striped top. I love these things. 

In the CD player:

Audrey Assad's Inheritance.


Chicken piccata with herbed basmati rice. There's not a lot of cooking going on this week since I'm leaving on Saturday for LA. I'm basically trying to use up all the perishables. 

On my mind::

LA. Packing, the taping, packing, driving a car around LA......all sorts of things. I'm working on iTunes playlists for the flight and books. It's a seven hour flight--the longest I've ever been on. So that's sort of exciting but also--gotta make sure I've got my reading material ready. I can't bring too many hard copy books because my suitcase is going to be pretty full, what with the clothes I need for taping and then the clothes I Need for a week in LA, plus things for the beach and Disneyland (and all that). I'm generally a pretty minimalistic packer--I can do a 3 day trip with just my Vera Bradley Large Duffel bag and my backpack. But this time it's proving sort of challenging. When you're going to be on TV in front of the entire country, it can inspire the Overpacking Tendency! I'm trying to rebel against that 


The Contemplative Hunger, Little House in the Big Woods (because why not), and my LA/SoCal travel books .


I have gone to TWO Barre3 classes! My first one was last Thursday, and I was very sore for the next day or two.  My second was yesterday and that was a lot better--I mean, it was still hard, but I can walk today. :) I have my third class on Thursday. There is a Barre3 studio in Santa Barbara, where we're planning on taking a day trip, but I think I'll just "be on vacation"--and I'm sure to get enough physical activity in during this next week. The great thing about this workout is the modifications. I can't hold a regular plank for two minutes--but I can if I'm doing it at the barre instead of on the floor. (The skin graft on the wrist really cut down on the flexibility and strength in my hand and wrist area.) Modifications are awesome, as the instructor said yesterday--and I'm not the only one who takes them. Even better. 

I have to fight against the tendency I have to not want to do things I'm not good at. Math is a prime example of this. I'm terrible at math. But Dad would tell me there were some areas, like algebra, where I really wasn't bad. Part of it was I just didn't want to learn--and the other part is, my brain doesn't work that way. But in this case, I have to realize that anyone who starts anything is not perfect in the beginning. It's that way with sports, art, writing, music--whatever. So I'm trying to be nicer to myself instead of demanding PERFECTION immediately. 

Potential Travel Ideas: 

This is what we've worked out so far: 

Sunday: Mass, the Getty, LA Farmers' Market

Monday: Hollywood 

Wednesday: Disneyland!

Friday: Santa Barbara Day Trip

I'm so excited to be going, and the weather looks perfect--low 70s. No jacket, no sweating like crazy. Win!


I think I've reached the end of revisions on my 2014 NaNo novel. Now I have to go back and put a solid ending on my 2015 NaNo novel. And fill in parts of the 2013 NaNo novel. 
And I'm still shopping the memoir manuscript. So, I'm not lacking for things to write, over here!


Have you been to LA/SoCal? Any places we shouldn't miss? 

What do you pack in your carryon when you fly? 

Seven Quick Takes No. 109

7 Quick Takes, travelEmily DeArdo1 Comment


I leave for California in eight days. That's right guys. EIGHT DAYS. So today I'm getting my hair trimmed in anticipation of its TV appearance, and then I really have to start packing in earnest. I have a list, and I have some things laid out, but the time has come to Get Things Into Bags and Make Sure It All Fits. The fortunate thing is that it's going to be pretty mild, weather wise, so I won't need to pack a huge variety of non-show clothes. 


Of course I also want to do fun things while I'm in LA, so I'm trying to narrow down that list as well. I'm a little sad that the ocean will probably be too cold to swim in, and the air temperature won't be warm enough to necessitate a plunge into freezing Pacific Waters. But hey...it's the beach! 


In case you're late to this party--I'm going to be a Jeopardy contestant, so that's why I'm going to California. Obviously, that is paramount in the scheduling. I'm trying not to freak out too much. I mean, I have performance experience, so crowds don't bother me, and I've done quiz show things before (Thanks, College Bowl!) so I've worked buzzers and such. I just haven't done it on national television. I'd like to not totally screw up. And no, I can't tell you how I did. I can tell you when the episode will air--but you don't get to know how I did in advance. Lips are zipped. It's a rule!


I turned 34 last Saturday and while it was snowy and cold, it was still a fun day. We had dinner at PF Chang's, which involved Birthday Cake flavored ice cream, chocolate cake, and honey shrimp, so that's always good, and my family. Melanie was in Texas, sadly, but I did get her gift. :) 


I went to my first Barre3 class yesterday and while I am sore today, it was a good workout and the teacher was great. I've scheduled three more classes for next week before I leave because going to be on TV. So, you know. Even though you won't see much of me on said TV, I have some pride here people. :-P


I love Colonial Williamsburg, and I especially love their adorable sheep! If you like adorable things, check out this story about Baby Lamb Edmund. 


If you have any suggestions on things to do/see/eat when I'm in Southern California, let me know! I don't want to miss anything good!