Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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L.A.’s most endearing lunch spot: I ate tortilla soup and sipped fresh-squeezed watermelon juice, while my husband opted for tacos, from Loteria Grill, a restaurant that specializes in Oaxacan fare. My daughter went for an egg- and cheese-filled treat from the French Crepe Company. Food in hand, we grabbed a Formica-topped table in the sun and dug into our lunch, with a side of Los Angeles history.
Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market, in the heart of the city at Fairfax Av. and 3rd St., has been serving up good food since 1934. That’s when a collection of farmers converged on land that had been a dairy farm to sell produce to residents of the burgeoning city.
The farmers market was a hit, and soon permanent stalls were being built. Today, shoppers still pull classic green wooden carts — which are built by hand on site — as they fill up on California’s fresh produce, English toffee made from a family recipe, roasted nuts and other food stuff from more than 80 vendors.
We headed there after a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a fascinating network of museum buildings and open air spaces. We saw a Calder exhibit and another devoted to art inspired by soccer, “Futbol: the Beautiful Game.” That show included an Andy Warhol portrait of soccer great Pelé and a mock-up of a soccer match featuring Hulks vs. Transformers surrounded by a stadium filled with Virgin Marys, gnomes, Roman soldiers and other surprising fans.
We skipped the museum’s own open-air restaurant, because I knew the market would offer other reasons to gawk.
There is the baker decorating a cake in the window of his stall; two dapper gentlemen discussing growing old in an image-conscious town; children licking ice cream cones. And then there was the tall, bearded guy.
“Jeff Daniels,” I whispered to my husband. Not quite. Far cry, really. But it never hurts to keep an eye out, whether for actors or the hungry residents of L.A. The market always puts on a good show.
Pre-check envy: A friend on his way to New York posted, “I love TSA Pre! I kept my shoes on and laptop in my bag and didn’t have to show my shaving cream.” A Facebook boast like that — when wait times at MSP demand we arrive more than two hours ahead of our flight — is akin to those selfies of legs on a beach chair with some warm ocean in the distance. It’s an invitation to envy.
Or maybe, it’s simply meant as encouragement to join the fast crowd, the one that skips the long lines at airport security checkpoints because the Transportation Security Administration has scrutinized their fingerprints and background and determined they are safe to board.
Applications cost $85 (not refunded in the event you are not approved), which means that the outlay for my family of 3 would be enough to buy a round-trip ticket, at least during a fare sale. Besides, what’s the point of zipping through security if my family will wind along the security line for an hour? Of course, I could just wait for them somewhere. Say, Surdyk’s Flights, glass of wine in hand? If you want to join, too, go to www.tsa.gov.
At one end of the block, scores of hipsters chat in a loosely aligned queue outside Tartine Bakery.
At the other end, a shorter line (in both length and the height of patrons) smack their lips outside the Bi-Rite Creamery.
In between, people of all ages bask at sun-splashed tables and gulp down insanely fresh salads and deftly charred pies at Delfina Pizzeria, while foodies pour into the treasure-filled Bi-Rite Grocery.
San Francisco is packed with not only a gazillion great food purveyors but also countless compact areas (North Beach, South of Market) with plentiful stops for the gastronome. But this single block of 18th Street, running between Guerrero and Dolores streets (and leading to the splendiferous Dolores Park), takes the quality cake in one of the world’s foremost food cities.
Few would argue that the city has a better bakery than Tartine; Bi-Rite’s shelves are laden with most everything a serious cook would want or need (along with a truly stellar wine selection), and at night the “regular” Delfina serves up some of the finest Italian food anywhere.
Sorry, Nicollet, but it’s hard to call anything but this “Eat Street.”
No rest for the weary: I chaperoned once when my daughter’s class spent a few days and nights on a Wisconsin farm. Turns out I was no match for the five first- through third-graders in my room. They finally got to sleep around midnight. Like the children, I returned home exhausted. So when a reader called to ask if she should head to Italy as a chaperone for her daughter and some classmates, my muscles tensed. (Chalk it up to flashbacks.) She had only five days to decide, and the trip would cost her $4,100.
I knew what I would do. But I tried to be judicious, realizing that such a decision depends upon the individual. Would she take delight in seeing the world through the wide, excited eyes of youth, or feel ripped off when the schedule deprived her of a leisurely morning cappuccino?
As the reader said, “I don’t know which should play a bigger role, the destination or the situation.” It’s an interesting conundrum. If you’ve been a chaperone on an international trip, we'd love to hear about your experience.
Lyle Lundeen, an 89-year-old retired Navy pilot who lives in Bloomington, found an old palm-sized notebook that brought back some memories -- and some signs of the wrench inflation has thrown into road trips. His parents kept track of costs on a 1940 drive from Minneapolis to California. Cabins were $2. Gas was as cheap as 15-cents a gallon.
According to his calculations, the whole trek for four cost less than $120 for gas, "eats" and lodging.
Ace Star Tribune copy editor Bruce Adomeit put the somewhat staggering figures into context:
According to the inflation calculator at www.minneapolisfed.org, $118.95 in 1940 dollars for the California trip is equivalent to $2,002.03 in today’s money.
Gas in Salt Lake City at 20 cents a gallon sounds dirt cheap, but that equals $3.37 a gallon in today’s dollars. www.saltlakegasprices.com shows that Saturday’s average price in Salt Lake City was less than that: $3.266.
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