The Biltmore Estate…
A fifty dollar ticket into the Biltmore gives you a self guided tour of the large house and access to the adjacent gardens, a lake and a shopping area with wine tasting, food and live music. We were there on a rainy, hot and humid Tuesday. It was crowded, very crowded. Wall to wall people from all around the world.
The house was an impressive time capsule… rooms with Haunted Mansion-like wood finishings, velvet tapestries and ornate wallpaper, fancy hand carved furniture, hallways packed with portraits, a large spiral staircase and the kitchen/pantry/laundry wing was fascinating. There’s an indoor pool in the basement with zero windows that everyone swears is haunted. A cinderblock basement room was festively hand-painted by a younger Vanderbilt for a New Year’s party. The art was taken from a Russian circus troupe’s flyer and it looked like a mash up of the Tim Burton signature spiral background, Dr. Seuss’ spikey bear-like creatures, matryoshka doll drawings mixed with some light opiate use. And to round out the 80+ rooms, there are many specific rooms for changing, smoking and sitting. Apparently, people used to change their clothing several times a day. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but if it was allowed, we’d all be trapped in a sea of selfie sticks and tripods.
There was a lightning storm passing overhead as we toured the house. The moment the booming stopped, we rushed over and had the gardens to ourselves before the masses descended behind us. We were so lucky to have a bit of quiet time with the flowers.
Afterwards, we ran up to the Deerpark lodge and had lunch at Cedric’s, named after Cedric, George Vanderbilt’s St. Bernard
. How cute is he??
It was a whirlwind tour! I think we saw more of Asheville in 2 1/2 days than most people see in a week! :)
Next up… Hillsborough and Charleston.
You know how your family would plan vacations months in advance? You’d research and read reviews, get a feel for your destination, plan out each day accordingly and budget your time at each place, right?
My Mom said she was coming out from Los Angeles fairly last minute and we decided to go to Asheville for a few days and the rest of the week was up in the air!
So, we rented an adorable duplex cottage house in Asheville from a lovely couple. Upon our arrival, we were told that we had just missed a mother bear and her 3 cubs, steps from the front door of the rental cottage. Bummer. Instead, we saw turkeys (and baby turkeys!), lots of lightning bugs and a few deer. Here’s the view from our back deck…
We went into town one day and did some window shopping, but missed the Pinball Museum being open! (dang it!)
With little warning, my Mom declared that she wanted to see waterfalls. We both only brought sandals… go us…
At the pace we were moving, I can honestly say that I can’t really remember where those waterfalls were… it was exhausting.
Next up… The Biltmore Estate…
I found an old sketchbook from the 1990’s that has had several fun sketches of places I had been. This one was different, because it was somewhere I had frequented. A lot.
This is one of the stairways leading up to Club 33 at Disneyland. It’s a courtyard in New Orleans Square.
There are SO many awesome pictures of this on Pinterest:
You can find this pin here
You can find this pin here
You can find this pin here
Really enjoying looking into the past via pencil and paper!
In the late 1990’s, I was lucky enough to accompany my Mom on a trip to London. We stayed at Claridge’s, which is a beautiful and very charming hotel near Oxford Circus. Late one night, I sat out on the balcony, high enough that I was looking down on the adjacent building, and sketched the image below.
Seeing as we are now in the future, I was able to look up the street on Google and see what it looks like these days! Apparently I took quite a lot of creative license because I cut off the entire first floor. Or maybe I couldn’t see it. So, here are the street views of this building, but they are from a different vantage point:
Kind of fun to look at old, beat up sketch books and find little bits of your own travel history!
Our first trip to Napa was at the end of March for my Mom’s Birthday. We took the Napa Valley Wine Train, which starts with a trip to a vineyard and then ends with a gourmet meal on their train. It’s kind of expensive for what you get, but it was a great experience, especially if you’ve never been to Napa or only plan on taking one trip and want to have a mini-adventure.
First stop… Raymond Vineyards. The vibe here was fantastic… sort of a funky, relaxed boutique feel. We wandered around, checked out their “Red Room” and got to try a few wines.
The “Red Room”
Leopard Grapes with Marilyn… why not
Coincidentally, one couple in our group, used to live in La Crescenta… how about that!
After touring Raymond, we got on the train to enjoy our meal…
After our train experience, we drove around a bit, went to the Beringer Winery
and then headed back home.
The cherry blossoms were shedding their petals… it was gorgeous!
Our second trip was at the end of May, and we took Nutmeg with us. It was 92 degrees and miserable for those with a permanent fur coat.
We traced our steps and started at the Raymond Vineyards again. Coincidentally, they are very dog friendly and had a little barn “Salon” area for visiting dogs, it was too cute!
AND they had a video feed in one of their tasting rooms so we could keep an eye on her while we purchased bottles… it was fun to watch her tail wag as people approached the gate!
We rolled over to the Beringer Winery again, but it was SO dang hot that we cut our trip short and headed home
On the way home we stopped at a beautifully manicured vineyard that had this engraved in marble over their entrance. Someone named H.B. must have been dragged, against her will, to Napa to run a luxury vineyard. Sounds AWFUL. (lol)
We got home just in time to watch Game of Thrones and have a bit of “Frenchie” Merlot from Raymond.
And Meg got to try a little bit, too. Wine is terrible for dogs, but… after that long hot day, we thought she deserved a tiny sip.
Located 17.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay is a small gem of a beach called Bean Hollow State Beach.
If you park and walk north, there’s a tiny beach with little bean-like pebbles, instead of sand…
And awesome rock/coral formations, too!
If you head south, well, you hike along the side of a little cliff next to some tide pools, over a bride or two and then… seals. Lots and lots of little seals (or are these sea lions? Need to become more familiar with aquatic life!). We sat and waited patiently and then… little visitors would pop up and check us out!
It was quite adorable! Can’t wait to go back :)
It’s kind of like Los Angeles… but… the weather is cooler, there are bridges, trains and trees everywhere, and not just of the palm variety. You can drive to several big cities, distinctive beaches and get any kind of food you want. The produce… is amazing. It feels like the California I grew up in… only… something’s different. So, I’ve been calling it “Bizarro LA”.
We’ve been working on getting all settled… the last 2 months have been a blur. So much driving, so much to do.
Here are some pics from our 6th cross country trip in the last five years and what we found when we got to the end of the line…
My (former) office back in Cary, NC. Meg was hiding out in here on the last day. It was sort of sad since she rarely wants to be away from us. Seeing the house all empty was so strange… handing over the keys to the new owner was even stranger!
Tennessee. Near Knoxville. We got to experience lots of interesting hotel smells on this trip.
Hello snow, we didn’t expect to see you here! Before this blizzard hit, we got to hob-nob with the truckers and discuss alternate snow-routes while at a Flying J truck stop in Amarillo, Texas. I thought these seasoned drivers would use their years of experience, navigational tools, someone’s bum knee that could predict precipitation and guide us through the storm safely. None of that. We were told to “go with our gut”. That’s the big secret. Drive ’til you can’t drive no more, which actually did happen. White out conditions… the road actually “disappeared” as the snow accumulated, and it accumulated very quickly. We landed in Tucumcari, New Mexico. We grabbed some delicious truck-stop Indian food and hunkered down for an early evening while listening to the wind howling outside.
The next day, lucky for us, the only stretch of highway they didn’t close was the 30 miles we needed to be on. But, it was closed in every other direction.
We got up to the Bay Area and rented the first place we saw, which was surreal. We stayed at a hotel in Half Moon Bay and waited to get our keys.
I think that’s Alcatraz off in the distance?
She can smell the hustle and bustle
The bay bridge currently has a light show attached to it
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Bridge, take 1
Golden Gate Bridge, take 2
Golden Gate Bridge, take 3
Thought those clouds were curiously nifty
More Half Moon Bay
More Half Moon Bay
We also explored San Francisco, drove up and down some steep-hilled neighborhoods with Meg’s head out the window, poked our nose into Golden Gate Park, approached the Golden Gate Bridge from every angle imaginable and found a few more beaches…
And this… we stopped here. They recently repainted the sign with their new address of “1 Hacker Way”. How fancy.
Down the street from our new home is a silent movie and train museum.
And here is our stuff. If I never see the inside of another Pod again, I’d be a-ok with that!
So… here we are! (Where is that exactly?)
With all of my online shops on vacation hold, I had the opportunity to try something new to occupy my time while we were in LA.
I’ve been told I should look into doing Production Design by a few people. I’ve heard of it, and thought I was doing it when I made animated pieces and films, but I think I was only scratching the surface when I storyboarded out my pieces, constructed a tiny donut western town or set up displays at the shop. There’s a look and feel with sets and props, but there’s a LOT more involved than that when it comes to real Production Design (with an art department and everything!).
Production Design, or Art Design is more intense than just designing a space or dressing the space or Mise en scene (love that word!)… you are designing the whole feel, look and soul of a film. It’s how in ‘The Sixth Sense’, the color red was introduced when a dead person is in the room. That was planned early on. That secret pop of red props sets the entire tone and mood for the film’s big reveal, which was the trademark M. Night Shyamalan twist. Pretty brilliant… and It’s Pretty intimidating to pull off correctly, if you ask me!
We studied this in film school… how a film uses mise en scene to show that a character is changing, that tension is building… something is going to happen. The film we studied in tremendous detail was Rosemary’s Baby.
As Rosemary falls in with those evil people and becomes pregnant, her sunshiney yellow happy apartment gets darker, the walls seem to shrink and suffocate you… her world is slowly getting scarier and filled with less joy in each scene. Camera angles, camera lenses, strange sounds, make up, lighting, sets and props… all morphing and merging scene by scene towards that last scene with the demon baby. Totally brilliant! (and disturbing!)
So, here I am… a few weeks left in LA and wanting to work in the art department on a film.
A friend of ours told me about Mandy.com. It’s a place where people post jobs for film and television. Some paid, little pay or no pay.
Well, as far as working in the art department of an upcoming production in the small window of time I had, I didn’t have a ton of choices. I ended up applying for two different productions and got called by one. A seven day shoot on a short independent film. I signed up for four days, no pay… in the Art Department as a Production Assistant. Yay!
Since I was new to this, I had no idea what to expect. So, I will describe what I did as a PA in the art department for those of you who are curious…
- Call time: 3:40am
- Location: Los Feliz to Long Beach to Riverside
- Call time: 7:00 am (But I got there at 1:00 pm, since I didn’t have a car until then)
- Location: West Hollywood night club
First duty… Run to 7-11, get bottled water for everyone. Then I helped move furniture around. The night club had photos on the wall turned into wallpaper of burlesque-ish dancers getting ready. I thought this was a great idea! (I want to make iphone picture wallpaper!).
Second duty – More furniture moving, glass and bar accoutrement moving to set the mood in different rooms. And we added some candles, too.
Since we used this nightclub as 3 different locations, each room had to have a different feel. The first scene was a more cozy bar, so it was in an area with a small, cramped bar with bar stools at the actual bar. The second was the well-lit energetic dance floor and the third was more of a laid-back, sophisticated lounge (this is where the candles were!). One location had all of this to offer. Pretty cool.
Third duty – run and pick up juice at that 7-11 to make mixed drinks for our club-goers. I also got a lime and a lemon. I’m not a cocktail expert, but the other art PAs knew how to mix faux drinks really well! See, I would have totally used real booze… not watered-down diet coke… probably would have ruined every shot with the drunk actors everywhere ;)
This is Zodiac the skink. He was really very cute… in a lizard sort of way. And look, he’s smiling. He was in one of the scenes in the film. Mise en Skink! ;) (I know, I know… but it made me laugh)
Fourth duty – putting ice in drink props and then made sure a few dozen actresses stayed quiet during one of the scenes they weren’t in.
I was hanging out with one of the assistant directors (shown here) and we were “shhh-ing” girls left and right. It was surprisingly difficult.
Before I left, I turned row after row of booze bottles back around so the labels were facing out, since the nightclub was going to open that night.
- Call time: 9:00 am
- Location: Los Feliz then to the Hollywood Hills
First duty… load up my van and run to a prop house in Sun Valley to return a few props. It was really really cool there. I wonder if they give tours?
Second duty – Drive 2 cornhole game boxes and bean bags to Burbank. I thought this was particularly entertaining because we hadn’t ever really seen the game of cornhole until we moved to North Carolina and here I am… in Burbank… with something that wasn’t brought to my attention until I moved to the sort-of South. (Read the rules and terminology at wikipedia… you’ll see why it’s funny). The owner of the games of cornhole was really really nice… had a fun chat with her.
While waiting, I would check my phone often. I thought this random neighbor’s wifi name in Los Feliz was great.
3:30 pm – Take furniture to Studio City and unload, load more, then take that furniture to West Hollywood and carry it up 2 flights of stairs. Then, I drove to Whole Foods and got some food props for our next location which was in the Hollywood Hills, near the Hollywood Bowl. While a show was going on at the Hollywood Bowl. Did you know that the Hollywood Bowl seats 18,000 but it only has parking for 2,800? We both learned something! So, getting to the next location took some creative map searching since the parking spill off was tremedous. Once I was there, I ironed some hand towels and an apron. Pretty exciting, huh?
As I was ironing, and people were running around me on the set like crazy, I kept thinking… what is the EMOTION I’m trying to convey here? What is the hand towel owner’s character like? Is she totally anal, or messy? Did she have a Sleeping with the Enemy hand towel encounter? Should there be a stain or two, a few wrinkles or should they be ironed perfectly? I went for perfect.
7:30 pm – I sort of helped make a “nanny-camera” bear by removing an eye of a teddy bear. I then pushed some furniture around and then had a very heated discussion about fireplace usage.
We then had pizza, set up some more props including a faux lobster and some candles… and then called it a night around 11:30pm.
- Call time: 10:00 am
- Location: Los Feliz
This was our last day. I wasn’t on the call sheet for the day, but I showed up to pick up some gas money and help out for a few hours.
I probably should have stayed home because while tearing down one set, I broke a sandbag. It was only a $20 sandbag, but… I know that sandbags can break if they are dropped from high places. Duh.
I’m glad all that was hurt was my ego. And one sandbag.
I enjoyed being on the set, but I must say… the hours were killer. It’s almost like a marathon you need to train for!
And… I learned a LOT, and I met a lot of really kind and talented folks, too.
Can’t wait for the film to come out so I can point out my hand towel ironing skills ;)
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