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On the road

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ColRouleBleu

When we went on our California road trip last year, I was sure it would be my first and last time there. But hey, we had such a good time that I could not resist going again this year. The following is a summary of five wonderful days away from the harsh Montreal winter. My younger daughter was along for the ride this time (it was her x-mas gift) and some of the photos posted are hers.

March 1st:

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We flew to San Francisco and the plan was to drive to our San Jose hotel directly and just chill and rest from the travel. Since the flight was on time and quite smooth, we arrived around lunch time and less tired than anticipated so we went for a drive in San Francisco instead. Plans are made to be changed right?

13 photos: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/dannit/slideshow/Californie%202015/0301-San%20Francisco

March 2nd:

Our hotel in San Jose was half a mile from the arena so we decided to take a walk and try to catch the Habs before or after the morning skate. Unfortunately, they arrived and left by bus in the garage so we couldn't play groupies and ask for signatures and pics. We did see Pateryn and Bournival leave after being reassigned to Hamilton though. And the scariest sight of all, 30 minutes before trade deadline and about 30 minutes before the bus left the garage, we saw Pleky take a cab, alone. You can bet that I was frantically refreshing my twitter timeline to see what was going on... nothing about Pleky from the mainsteam media but still, I couldn't shake off the dread. Then I realized that he didn't have his gear and sticks with him so all was right, right? Right. Phew!

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All that excitement made us hungry so we went for lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, walked around dowtown for a while then it was time to head back to the SAP Center. That's where we witnessed first hand one of the lousiest Habs performance of the season. Isssshhh! At least we were comfortably seated in the first row and the people around us were rather friendly. The official photographer sitting next to us even offered to take a few photos with our cameras through the hole in the glass. I declined but it was nice of him to offer nonetheless.

Before totally forgetting about that game, because we all want to forget it right? Here are 24 photos: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/dannit/slideshow/Californie%202015/0302-San%20Jose

March 3rd:

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When we made the trip last year the schedule was too tight with the Coyotes games in the middle of the California games so we had to fly between each city. This year though, we had a full day to travel between San Jose and LA so we went by road, driving down the Pacific Coastal Highway.

So 8 hours of driving up and down the mountains (10 hours total including the stops), taking tight turns where speed limit was 15 mph and filling our eyes with nature's work of art. I dont think any camera could render how breathtaking the views were but here's our humble attempts. 37 photos: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/dannit/slideshow/Californie%202015/0303-West%20Coast%20Drive

March 4:

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For the rest of the trip, we stayed at a small hotel in Santa Monica. To spend some time during the day before the Anaheim game, we drove to the beach and along the coast to Malibu. We stopped a few times to test the water temperature (brrrrrrrr...) , watch the surfers and have lunch at the Santa Monica Pier, where we unexpectedly saw a seal entertaining the crowd to the sound of Mexican mariachis :lol:

Then it was a short stop at the hotel to shower and change and then a 45 minutes drive to Anaheim that took 2 hours in the LA rush hour traffic. :wacko: We made it to the Honda Center at exactly the time the doors were opening so all was good. Our setas were in the section next to the Habs bench so Caroline went near the dressing room corridor with her cute innocent puppy face on and managed to get a stick from Pierre Gervais once more (Gonchar's). Some of the other Habs fan around her asked if Pierre was her father or something :lol:

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After that it was game time and even if the result was frustrating, this was quite an entertaining game to watch. The drive back to the hotel took the normal 45 minutes and all in all, we had a great day under a 23 degrees sun.

34 photos of the day and the game: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/dannit/slideshow/Californie%202015/0304-Malibu%20and%20Anaheim

March 5:

We had seen Beverley Hills and Hollywood already last year but our daughter had not so we re-did the tourist thing with her to spend some time before the game.

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We drove on Sunset blvd, walked on Hollywood blvd looking at the stars on the sidewalk, went to take a few pics at the Chinese theater and at the Dolby theater and of course took a 2 hours minibus tour of the Hollywood Hills and surrounding area. It was a lot of fun, our tour guide, an obvious wannabe actor, was quite funny and there was a small group of New Zealand guys on board who were as entertaining as the guide. We laughed our heads off the whole time. Then it was time to head downtown LA for the game.

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Our seats were right behind the bench this time and immediately next to the corridor to the dressing room. My usual spot at the Habs road game :D We didn't see much of the game itself as our view was often obstructed by the coaches' back (as expected). That game was the one we had the most fun at, FINALLY some goals to cheer about. It's just sad that we had to have that penalty late in the 3rd, there was really nothing Eller could do to avoid it, oh well... The shootout was fun even if we didn't win. And in the end, Pleky noticed the 14 on my daughter's jersey and gave her his stick when exiting the bench. So additional luggage fees at the airport for those sticks but who cares right?

58 photos of the tourist day and the Kings game: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/dannit/slideshow/Californie%202015/0305-Hollywood%20and%20LA

March 6:

Time to fly back home :( Our flight was again very smooth and there's nothing much to report other than Pierre Houde travelling on the same flight since RDS are not the broadcasters for the next game. I could have added that Arizona game to our trip but it would have meant to fly back Sunday and would have made the return to work Monday morning way too brutal. So I'll do like most of us and watch this last game of the Habs trip on TV.

THE END... until next time

ColRouleBleu

Our California Road Trip

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March 2 2014

The alarm rings at 4:30 am and I have absolutely no problem to wake up even if I went to bed at 1am after coming back from the Bell Centre. Bags were packed the day before so only a quick shower and a last check on travel documents, game tickets, jerseys and we're ready to FINALLY start this trip. We went through the airport routine quickly enough, it wasn't too crowded. Waiting to board the plane next to us were a few journalists covering the Habs including "La Belle Chantal" of RDS.They weren't chatting about work so we unfortunately didn't get to eavesdrop on any scoop.

I had booked a direct flight scheduled to be 6 hours long but strong winds and weight restrictions had us make a fueling stop in Denver. We ended up with sitting 9 full hours in that flying sardine can. I had planned for us to be beat when arriving to LA so no activity was on the agenda, Academy Awards be dammed (we just did like most people and watched on TV).

Arriving in LA (6 photos) I was a bit apprehensive of all those highways and the sheer size of that city but in the end, everything was fine, no traffic worth mentioning and we got to see plenty of awesome cars. So we just checked in our little hotel in Santa Monica a short Interstate drive away from the airport, went for a walk to give life back to our legs, found an inviting Mexican restaurant, had dinner and walked back to the hotel.

March 3 2014

It's game day and the weather is fantastic with a sunny 18°C. (The weather was basically a sunny 18-20°C for the whole trip except in Pheonix where it was more like 26°C). We had no definite plan for the day so in the AM we went along for a drive along the coast from Santa Monica to Malibu and back (61 photos). Taking photos through the windshield of a moving vehicle is not the ideal way to render the view we had but it still gives a very good idea. We made a stop half way back to watch the surfers do their thing for a while, then we headed to the Santa Monica Pier for lunch on a terrasse and a good dose of people watching. After lunch, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the game, this was mainly a hockey trip after all.

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So we drove downtown early, found a cheap parking lot 3 blocks away from the arena and walked around the Staple Center. I was kind of expecting it but still was amazed at the number of Habs fans coming from all over North America! This made the waiting for the doors to open period quite enjoyable as we chatted with a lot of people who traveled for that game.

Then it was time for Habs @ Kings (33 photos) where despite the loss, we had a great time. We did meet a celebrity after all, none other than GreekHockeyCoach ! And Brière gave us a game puck after the first period. :)

March 4 2014

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One cannot go to L.A. without visiting Hollywood and Beverley Hills (67 photos). So in the AM we had one of those "Celebrity House" shuttle tours and in the PM a Hollywood walking tour. I'm not sure whether the residences we saw were the actual houses of the celebrity that were named or not, but our guide was very entertaining and full of funny anecdotes. I forgot half the names of celebs that were thrown at us, perhaps I should have noted them down but then again, we feasted our eyes on what wealth can produce and that was the best part so it doesn't really matter.

The afternoon walking tour turned out to be a private tour as there was no one else than us booked for it (the next group had 40 people!). So we had that very handsome guide with a great voice all to ourselves (though I'm sure hubby didn't care much about that part). I'm not too sure about what I expected from visiting Hollywood as I'm just an average movie fan and not a celebrity groupie at all but both activities were fun if a bit tacky.

March 5 2014

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Game day again! We took the long way to Anaheim by making a detour through Long Beach where we walked for about an hour on the beach, watched the great homes, had a wonderful steak lunch then drove off to the game. Habs @ Ducks (95 photos) was definitely the hockey highlight of the trip, that shootout was all sorts of exciting and of course, we met that GreekHockeyCoach celeb again. You can also see him in one of the photos of this series. You'll have to guess though as I'll leave to him if he wants to stay incognito or go public with his mug.

March 6 2014

Goodbye L.A., we're off to the desert on another game day with a logistics anecdote. Maybe it's because I don't travel that much but I found the Phoenix rental car complex quite impressive. It's at a 10 minutes shuttle ride from the airport proper and is HUGE! Great service, well organized, minimal waiting time on a very busy day, they even check you and your baggage in for your next flight when you return.

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After setting our watches one hour back, we arrived at our hotel without a problem, one of those long stay suite types that was at a walking distance from the arena/stadium complex. Now I kind of understand why the arena is empty most nights there. The complex is fairly new, very well done with many bars and restaurants but in the middle of nowhere! Glendale is pretty in its own suburban way but that's it, a suburb, not much action there and quite a drive from downtown.

We were there early enough to enjoy some time in the hotel's pool and spa under the desert sun before we headed to what we went there for, Habs @ Coyotes (100 photos). Here again, a very large contingent of Habs fans, mostly Canadian Prairies snowbirds and a few locals.

I've done it before in Florida but it's always a cool thing to go to an NHL game wearing bermuda shorts. We were not behind the bench this time but still front row and actually had a better view of the game. This would have been great except for the fact that the game was not all that good to look at, other than Markov scoring of course.

March 7 2014

It's time to reset our watches to Pacific time, hit the road, or rather the airport again, direction San Francisco.

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With two games in two night, with the travel and time zones, I had nothing special planned for our arrival in San Francisco (9 photos). I'm happy to say that my guess for the hotel choice was a good one. Small, clean, nice staff, cheap and very well situated in the Marina district on the famous Lombard street. We just went for a walk on the shopping strips of Union street and Chestnut street and grabbed a late lunch/early dinner and rested in prevision of a big day planned for the next day.

March 8 2014

Our day started with a visit of Alcatraz (49 photos). I had booked the 'early riser' tour to avoid any waiting lines so at 7am we hit the sidewalk for 2 miles towards Pier 33 where we boarded the ferry to Alcatraz. We could have stayed on Lombard to go down in straight line but the hill was rather daunting and we wanted to save our old legs for the prison tour so we walked around it via Fisherman's Wharf.

The boat ride was pleasant and once we got to the island, we had to walk up the equivalent of 13 floors to get to the prison entrance. I sure was glad we had saved our legs! The audio tour is very informative and interesting, and you can walk it at your own pace, pausing the recording if you want to linger in one area or another. I didn't take any picture of them but we could see the following quote on signs in many places around the area: "If you break the rules, you go to prison, if you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz". That place sure looked as forbidding as advertised, great visit.

I had on my trip schedule to absolutely checkout the crooked part of Lombard street, perhaps go there by bus or cable car. Coming back from Alcatraz, we walked back to the hotel but it was still very early. So I asked hubby if he was up to go check out the street now, not climb it mind you, just check it out and take a few pics. So we went and ended up climbing Lombard Street (10 photos). That was quite the workout for two sedentary old skins like us, especially since the climb to the crooked part of the street is about twice as long as the climb of the crooked part itself. But we made it! albeit with a few stops on the way up that I'll pretend were not for rest at all, just necessary to take pictures B) . Then it was a piece of cake to walk the same street downwards on the other side and arrive directly at the hotel.

Our day was far from over though, we had some hockey to attend to after a 50 miles drive. Ah! even on vacation I cannot escape SAP but I digress...

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There were still a few Habs fans in San Jose but quite less than at the three other venues. While waiting for the doors to open, we saluted Marc Bergevin walking his way from the hotel to the arena. I should have thought that the Habs hotel would be close and plan an earlier arrival so that we could have gone autograph/photo hunting, oh well... It doesn't really matter, it's not as if I never had that opportunity before.

The SAP Center looks like a large tin can from the outside but looks pretty good on the inside. The seats there are the most comfortable ones from the 16 NHL arenas I've visited so far. We also had a surprisingly good view of the Habs @ Sharks (61 photos) game from behind the bench. Normally the coaches obstruct the view from those seats quite a lot but we seemed to be on some sort of elevated platform (like in New Jersey) so we didn't miss anything of the Habs being eaten alive in the shark tank :unsure:

Since this was the last game of the trip and the next airplane would bring us back home, I was hoping to grab a stick or two like I normally do on those road trips. I didn't want them at the other games since we would have had to carry them and check them for our flights between cities. When we got inside the arena, I was a bit disappointed to see that the Habs players entrance was not beside the bench but in the corner on the other side of the ice That meant no souvenir stick. But that wasn't accounting for Pierre Gervais being so nice. He winked at us after the warm up and when the team came back to the bench for the start of the game, Pierre had an Emelin stick for me. Mission accomplished.

March 9 2014

The hockey part of the trip was over but since the Habs weren't playing again until Wednesday. The plan was to make the most of our trip and stay a couple more days so we went touring San Francisco (57 photos) in open roof buses. I know we missed a few important landmarks and I retained only a portion of all the information we heard that day but it still was way worth it.

We couldn't pass on riding on the cable cars so we did exactly that from one end of the line to the other then back, it's so cool! On the way back though, instead of going all the way to the end/start of the line, we got off at Lombard street (the top part) and I took a few more pictures before walking down that hill to our hotel.

March 10 2014

This is our last day in California and I couldn't find anything that could be better than a visit of the Napa Valley (29 photos) on a winery tour. When we woke up at 5:30 am, it was raining sheets but the tour was reserved and no way I was going to cancel it. We took a regular city bus to the Ferry Building downtown where we were to meat our guide and group and by the time we exited the bus, the rain had stopped. And by the time we had crossed the Goldengate bridge on our way to Napa, the sun was fully out. Yay!

We visited four wineries, had a comprehensive of the first one (Mondavi) where we learned all there is to learn about producing wine. It was very informative, not to mention that we got to taste some great and some no so great wines, 15 different ones throughout the day. it was a bit strange to start tasting wine just after breakfast but we got used to it pretty fast.

The tour and the trip ended with a ferry ride back to town, then a long leisurely walk back to our little Lombard street hotel one last time. We flew direct back to Montreal the next day and what I learned in San Francisco is that I definitely want to go back!

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THE END

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