A lot about food and traveling with a toddler

Here are the last of the pictures from LA, the babymoon we went on with baby #1 before baby #2 came:

I was really excited to take Ella to the zoo because she loves dogs so I thought this was an obvious sign that she loved all animals.
I was kind of wrong.
Ella pretty much could care less about the zoo.
But I think the main reason for this is because the animals were too far away to really appreciate.
She sort of liked the goats since we got to be inside the pen with them.
Her disinterest was also probably due to the fact that she was running a fever the whole day, which I didn't realize until we were at the mall that night (another zoo of sorts) and she was acting so groggy I asked a cop at the mall for a thermometer and found out that she was at 104 degrees-- I kind of freaked out when I saw that because downtown LA is the last place I want to have to take my kid to the ER. 
Luckily after a bath, some fever reducing meds and some prayers we got the fever down, so we didn't have to visit any hospitals.
Anyway, back to the zoo...

Ella loving the goats and you know, just me with a goat, because who doesn't want a picture of themselves next to a very handsome white goat?

Please note the matching sunglasses that all three of us are wearing.
Adam and I got ours while on our honeymoon and when I was pregnant with Ella we found a matching toddler pair that we obviously had to get (Adam loves when we all match).

Oh, what was that you said?
You want to hear me ramble on endlessly about the wonderful food we ate and hotels we stayed in while in L.A?
Well that is such a coincidence because I feel like rambling about it!

The Food
Some people, when they go on vacation, they just want whatever food is cheap and easy and quick so that they can have the energy to just keep on exploring and having fun, the food doesn't need to be anything special.
That is not me.
The food is one of the most important parts of a vacation for me.
I will remember the food we ate on a vacation for years to come.
For example, when I went backpacking through western Europe with my dad five years ago, I can remember what we ate in each and every country we stopped in. 
That deliciously cheesy panini in Rome, the best and thickest hot chocolate I've ever had in my life in Paris, and the warm chocolate croissants in Venice (chocolate was a major theme of my entire summer living in Europe, it resulted in major pound gainage but it was worth it).
I think food is one of the best parts of daily life.
So as you can imagine, some serious planning went into the food we ate while in LA. 
It doesn't need to be expensive, it just needs to be good.
I looked up the most highly rated restaurants in LA on Urbanspoon and wrote down the addresses of the ones that sounded the best to us (and that were actually in our price range) and then we carefully plotted out where we were going to be each day and saw how close we would be to each restaurant and chose out which restaurants to go to.
This actually turned out to be an awesome way to go.
^Walking to breakfast, it's crazy how LA can be all cement on one street and then turn the corner and it's gorgeous and green on the next.

With a toddler it was vital that we had every detail of the day planned out before we even woke up because on the few days when we decided to just "wing it" Ella would inevitably be grumpy and crying in the backseat and I would desperately be looking up places to eat close to wherever we were and then it just involved a lot of driving and Ella getting more frustrated and hungry and getting lost in LA traffic and not being sure where to eat. 
So having it all planned out was good, plus it made sure that we could hit the highest rated restaurants.
Although, even when we did plan it out last minute we would look up the restaurants close to us and look at their ratings on google and decide on where to eat based on those ratings and that resulted in some really yummy meals as well, but it was just a lot more frustrating to get to them. 
So here were a few of our favorite places:
The #1 rated restaurant in LA on Urbanspoon is Porto's Bakery and Cafe in Glendale.
We loved this place.
It was yummy and cheap, a combination that we are big fans of.
There were yummy sandwiches and tons of desserts and pasteries that were all cheap as can be, we ended up buying two sandwiches, a couple of potato balls (I know, sounds weird, but they're good and very recommended on Urbanspoon) and 3 desserts and we loved all of it.
We sat outside under an umbrella and it was perfect!
The #2 place is Bay Cities Italian Deli and Bakery in Santa Monica.
We got the Godmother sandwich, which is very highly recommended on Urbanspoon.
We liked it, but to me it didn't belong in the #2 spot on the list.
The sandwich was certainly better than anything you'd get at Subway, but it isn't anything I would rave over and the atmosphere wasn't anything special.
We skipped #3 because it had $$$ next to it, but #4 we LOVED!
#4 is Diddy Riese Cookies, next to UCLA.
A friend of ours had recommended this place as well and we ended up going there twice and would have gone more if we could have.
They make incredibly delicious cookies and the thing to get there is an ice cream sandwich with two of their cookies and some Dryers ice cream.
It is a mere $1.75 for a ton of deliciousness.
There were long lines both times we went but it was well worth the wait.
#7 is Phillipe, which apparently has the original French Dip Sandwich, we tried to hit this spot on a couple of occasions but it just never worked out, but we definitely want to try it next time.
#13 is The Griddle Cafe and it definitely deserves it's spot up on that list of top places to eat.
It is a breakfast place that serves frisbee-sized pancakes that are heavenly!
I'm really picky about my pancakes but I loved these!
Apparently they have the nation's best french toast, but unfortunately I was a less than impressed by it (when you've had Kneader's French Toast, it's hard to find anything as wonderful as that).
The pancakes, on the other hand, were fabulous.
We hit this place twice and the best time was when we simply ordered one stack of pancakes and split it between the 3 of us and we couldn't even finish it all.
Plus, they have about 20 different flavors of pancakes, some of them are really exotic (like throwing frosted flakes into them) but they are so good!

A few places we liked that weren't on the list:
Layla's Cafe
We found a groupon that made this place totally worth it.
It's a Mediterranean restaurant with good food and a lovely atmosphere.
Tomato Pie
A hole-in-the-wall pizza place, Adam thought it was fine, I thought the perfectly crispy soft crust made it awesome!
C+O Cucina
This is an Italian restaurant.
The pasta is okay, not amazing, but the thing that makes this place worth going to is the garlic rolls, oh my gosh, I died with how deliciously buttery and garlicy they were.
I've never had bread at a restaurant that tastes this good.
Ella ate like 10 of them.
They just keep bringing them by your table throughout the meal, hot from the oven.

And then we hit a few that we've eaten at before and love, like Earl of Sandwich, Macaroni Grill and The Cheesecake Factory.
My crazy lists of where to eat, where we were staying, places to visit and the cost of everything, I love lists!

Another thing that is necessary to a good vacation is making sure your toddler gets enough sleep so that you aren't dragging a crank-monster everywhere you go (Ella is a definite grump when she is tired, she plays hard and then she crashes hard).
So we stayed in 4 separate hotels while in LA so that we were always within a 20 minute drive of where we were having fun and where Ella's bed was.
We stayed at Knott's Berry Farm in Anaheim so that we were close to Disneyland, we stayed in this adorable inn that I would totally recommend (called The Inn at Marina Del Rey) on the days when we were playing at the beach.
^Little Girl met Snoopy at the Knott's Berry Farm hotel

And for the days that we explored downtown and the zoo Adam found this amazing Hotwire deal for this incredibly glitzy Hotel called The W Hotel Hollywood (in a room that normally cost $400+ per night, and we paid MUCH less than that...like 75% off and in a city where a dumpy hotel costs $80+, that was a major steal).
This place was crazily high class (at least by mine and Adam's standards).
We were escorted in and out of the hotel by body guards...seriously.
It cost $40/night to park your car there (we parked our car a block over so that we wouldn't have to pay that crazy fee and just prayed that our car didn't get broken into).
Everything was ritzy glitzy and so were the people.
This is what the very classy lobby looked like:
And what our room looked like:
And this is a picture of the rugs in the elevators that they switched out three times a day to say "Good morning," "Good afternoon," and "Good evening."
More on this hotel later...

So as soon as signs of grumpiness began, we finished up whatever we were doing and drove to our hotel to put her to sleep.
The hotels were super accommodating to making sure we had a room with a bathroom that could fit a pack-n-play in it so that Ella could sleep there.
^Ella's bed in the bathroom, she had just woken up and was a little bit upset that I was taking her picture instead of getting her out.
^And this is what we would do while Little Girl was napping, eat desserts and plan out the rest of the day.

This meant that if we ever needed to use the bathroom in the evenings after she was asleep we had to go down to the lobby.
At The W, the downstairs turns into a club in the evenings so going down there to use the Little Girl's room was an adventure.
Clubs aren't really our thing.
I seriously started wondering what country we were in because is it legal to only wear only a shirt and underwear with no pants on out in public?
I've seen that in other countries but never in the U.S.

There were security guards that stood in front of the elevators up to the rooms and most people have to show them their passes to be able to get to the elevators and go up to the rooms but to show you how totally out of place I was at this hotel, I never had to show them my pass because they remembered me out of the hundreds of people who passed by.
I was the the one with the pregnant belly and a shirt with sleeves on it and actual pants.

^I pretty much live in stretchy skirts and dresses and leggings these days, the stretchier, the better.

^Ella found these water fountains far more fascinating than any animal we saw at the zoo.

^While we were exploring downtown one day, this little boy walked straight up to Ella, pulled her into his arms and started kissing her on the face.
His mom insisted that he had never done anything like that before.
Ella was rather upset with his forwardness.
We laughed about it for a while.
And that concludes the babymoon of wonderfulness!
It was so fun and I'm so glad we could do that before our lives totally change, but it was also good to get back and get Ella on her regular schedule.
 The day after we got back I took Ella to Walmart to get groceries and she was absolutely ecstatic to be in a place that was familiar to her, Walmart has never been such a joyful experience.
Now it's time to finish prepping for Baby Boy to arrive in 6 short weeks.

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