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Saturday, March 10, 2018

See Soupy Eat :: Clifton's Cafeteria

     It's not often that I get excited about food.  Don't get me wrong.  I like food, but just in general - I definitely don't consider myself a foodie.  When someone suggested we check out this place in downtown L.A. called Clifton's, I thought it would just be another hipster hangout - typical the movement to revitalize downtown L.A.  So so wrong.  First, Clifton's has been around a long time - since the 30s!  It also is an actual cafeteria (the largest of its kind in the country if I'm not mistaken), which made eating there a much more novel idea that it normally would've been. The more I found out about the history of this place, the more I looked forward to this visit.

     We parked at Pershing Square, and from there, it was a short walk to Clifton's.  Some nearby places of interest include Grand Central Market, St. Vincent Square, and The Last Bookstore.  

     I desperately had to go to the bathroom when we got there.  A little walk down some stairs and I also encounter this display.  This is an actual neon light that they found inside the walls (still plugged in) from over 70 years ago when they did their renovation!

     The inside of Clifton's is a photographer's dream.  I know I'm late to the Clifton's game, but I've never seen anything viral about Clifton's.  It definitely deserves some Instagram love!

     This place carried some good stuff!  Just to name a few, they had Stumptown coffee and Pinkberry available!

     The desserts and pastries were so cute - pricey, but cute!

     I'm coming back for this homemade chili!

     I loved their little cafeteria trays...and for $55, you can have one of your very own to take home! 

     These were called tasters (I think?) and were 4 for $6.  I need to come back to try these as well.  I love the presentation!

     For the main dishes, they serve their meats for about $6 for meat only, and $14.75 if you get 2 side dishes with it.  I heard they serve turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing at Clifton's, and anyone that knows me, knows I'm not leaving without my Thanksgiving dinner! 😊

     Oh man, I still remember how excited I was to eat this! Check out that little jar of whole berry cranberry sauce. 😋

     Just like any true cafeteria, you pay before you take your food to the dining area.

     This was called camp fire cake.  It looks like a giant toasted marshmallow and tasted like a s'mores cake - so good. 

     From what I saw, there are three levels (not including the lower level where the bathrooms were) at Clifton's.  I saw two main bar areas.  This one was at the main dining area.  

     I'm not sure why, but this dining area was closed off.  I read somewhere that this upper level is only used during the dinner service.  I'd love to come back and eat on this level.  Check out that lion - it'll be like eating on a safari! 😂

     So many cool spots for photography.  I want to bring people back here to shoot.  No one seemed to mind that we were upstairs unattended and taking photos which is a good thing!

     While the main dining area reminded me of rainforest cafe meets natural history museum, the second floor reminded me of haunted house victorian home meets safari.

     This giant fake tree goes through all three floors.  I have no idea what's on the third floor.  I'll have to come back for dinner to find out.

     This bar is gorgeous.  It reminds me of bars at a club.  

     It even has it's own meteorite!

Second floor looking down.

     To top it all off, there are all these nooks and crannies where you'll find the strangest things.  This one little alcove had this old TV and a giant crystal thing.  So weird and quirky.  Not too far away from this was a little room where you can sit and look at this diorama of a forest scene (very reminiscent of Yosemite National Park, I thought.)

     I don't know if these were here since the 1930s, but it just adds to the quirky nature of Clifton's.  As the signage in front of the restaurant suggests, it really is a "cabinet of curiosities". 

     Before you walk into the cafeteria, you will walk by a little gift shop area.  Just about everything in this gift shop was pretty pricey!

     I'm coming back for that jello at a later date! 😋

     After we ate, we decided to check out this place called St. Vincent Square.  It's basically this dead end little street that has fake facades for some small store fronts.    

     So many new eateries pop up in downtown L.A.  I made a mental note to come back to this one.  I don't know what it's called, but I've never seen it before.  

     And finally, The Last Bookstore!

     This visit to Clifton's reminded me that there are so many more undiscovered places in L.A.  Sometimes when you live in SoCal, you feel like you've seen it all, but then you realize there are hidden gems like Clifton's - who knows what else is out there?  Seriously, though - if you've never been, I highly recommend it.  Price-wise, it's no more or less than what food would cost at a regular restaurant.  The ambiance is so cool and different, and I think kids would enjoy eating here as well.  

Sunday, March 4, 2018

WPPI 2018 :: Las Vegas

     A couple of years ago, I went to my first WPPI convention and had a blast.  For some reason, I was really itching to go again this year.  It may have been that I was looking for a new rolling bag, and perhaps a replacement for my old Shootsac lens bag.  The WPPI expo has been known to have special pricing for a lot of things, so when the $70 round-trip ticket showed up on Kayak, I was sold!  Then I saw which airline it was, and I started to get anxiety.  I decided to just get over it, and book it.  My plan was to fly in for the day, and if I found any goodies that didn't fit in my one personal item (my backpack), then I would have my friend Mike haul it back for me since he was in Vegas for the whole week for WPPI. He also volunteered to be my Uber for the day (sucka! 😀)

     It was on this day that I discovered that I am too old to be doing this.  Doing what, you ask?  Oh, you know, waking up at 3:00 am in order to catch a 6:00 am flight out of LAX.  Let's just say that even though there were no hiccups along the way, I still barely made it to the airport on time to board the flight.  I did score a window seat though, and really loved the views on the short 45-50 minute flight to Vegas.  

All photos were taken with my G7xII (since I soon realized at the expo that bringing my DSLR was a bad choice!)

Flying over Catalina Island

Landing at McCarran Airport

The airport was pretty empty near baggage claim, but the security line was crazy long!  You know you're in Vegas when there are slot machines at the baggage corral. 

     I've had short layovers at McCarran, but never actually flew into Vegas since it's close enough to drive to.  I must say, I really enjoyed flying in, despite having to first drive to LAX at the ass crack of dawn. The signage is great, and the passenger pick up area is really well labeled.  There was a time that I dreamed of wearing all these great outfits to the airport.  I even pin them on my Pinterest board.  Well, this picture just confirms that those dreams are dead. It was too cold for my California blood and since I knew my itinerary for the day included tons of walking, I was perfectly content with my Skechers and stretchy jeans. 😍

     Once Mike picked me up, he had this coffee for me.  OMG, it was so good.  I made a mental note to look for this coffee brand because it tasted better than most coffee I've had.  He said he got it at the Chevron gas station.  Nothing but the best for this gal. 😉

     Our first stop was breakfast at Bouchon at the Venetian.  Talk about fancy and opulence!

     This bacon and spinach quiche was soooo creamy. 

     This pecan bun was lightly crispy and not too sweet. 

     The WPPI expo was at Mandalay Bay this year.  Afterwards, we were going to head to New York New York for some Shake Shack burgers.

     I stopped by the Peak Design booth.  They didn't really have anything I wanted or needed (and by that, I mean that I already own everything I want or need from them haha!)

     This camera is $15,000 for the body only.  I added it to the list of things I won't be owning. 😊

     It's always cool to see well known photographers at the expo.  I think that next year I'll try to stay longer and take some classes.

     There was this booth called and they had the CUTEST flash drives, cups, and mugs.  

     I ended up getting a water bottle for myself.  Shhh. 😉

     With the DSLR market getting more and more competitive, I definitely noticed a stronger presence by Sony and Fujifilm this year.

     I didn't have time to look at everything, but I did come away with a new Tenba rolling bag (the Roadie 21) and saved $100 off the Amazon price.  I also picked up a new Shootsac lens bag at the expo price as well.  My free tote bags were full of freebies and catalogs of things I'll have to do more research once I got home.  My favorite freebie was my Leica keychain (to go along with the Leica camera I don't have). 

     After about 3 hours of the expo, we were finally headed to Shake Shack!  It's always better to have it in New York City, but hey, I wasn't gonna complain.  

     This Shake Shack is so much bigger than other ones I've been to.  I love the flashy signs (the Vegas touch).

     Our next stop was to head over to the Cosmopolitan for some cereal milk soft serve from Milkbar.

     Mmm... cereal milk soft serve with corn flake topping. 😋

     I remember when Vegas just had regular crosswalks.  Yes, that's how old I am.  It's such a chore to have to go up an escalator, over a bridge, and sometimes back down an escalator just to cross a bridge.

     We made a quick beeline to the shops over at Planet Hollywood.  I'll always remember this place as Aladdin though.  I have so many memories from this place!  I recall the first time I saw the fake cloud ceiling, and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

     Next, we went across the street because I wanted to see the conservatory at the Bellagio.  It was decorated for the Lunar New Year.

     After the conservatory, we went on a mission to find these chocolates that were never found.  Apparently, the store was closing and they didn't make them anymore.  I tried to be positive and look at it as bonus exercise, but man, I was BEAT by the end of the day.

     When Mike dropped me back off at McCarran, I was content just sitting down and playing on my phone for about an hour and a half.  I was also thankful for the short flight home, and there's nothing that welcomes you more back into the chaos of L.A. than LAX itself. 😂