September 1, 2014

Labor Day Weekend Part One

I'm in love. 

With the ocean. freedom. adventure. summer. 


I woke up rather early this morning, got ready and finished packing up my belongings. Our family friends came to our house, we finished packing up the car and we drove off. We stopped at Jack-in-the-Box for breakfast, then made our trek to Long Beach. We had a lot of entertaining conversation about going to New York sometime soon, the ALS Challenge, among other things. I started listening to the playlist I had created for awhile, but was too interested in everything else that was happening to really pay attention to that.

We made our way into Long Beach and went straight to the Queen Mary. We bought our tickets, then climbed aboard the ship (after walking the red carpet and checking out the fancy cars in front). It really felt like we were going on a long voyage, and oh, how I wish we would've been.

Our party decided to check out the new Princess Diana/Royal family exhibit first. It was FREEZING inside, which I think had something to do with preserving the memorabilia. Princess Diana was someone that my grandma always seemed to really like. I remember the night that Princess Di got killed so vividly and how no one could believe it. I didn't understand her impact at the time, but through the years, I have come to have an admiration of her myself. The exhibit was fascinating, looking at all of the different plates and invitations that the royal family had owned. But, obviously, I was most interested in everything dealing with Princess Di. She truly lived such an extraordinary life. Yes, she was gorgeous and graceful...All of the things that a princess should be, but she genuinely cared about people. In so many ways, Taylor Swift reminds me of her. They both have so much success/fame, but they have this relatable factor that draws everyone to them. This exhibit was really like a step inside of Di's world - How she felt about the spotlight and her role in the public eye. They expected so much of her, but to her it seemed worth it at the time. But, it killed all of us to see how happy she seemed in the earlier years, thinking that Prince Charles actually loved her, only to find out that he'd been having an affair. She was really only there to give him kids and make their family look good. I'd really like to start looking into her life more and reading more about her, because she's certainly someone to look up to for all of the things she did, not just her title. It was also incredibly neat to see some of her gowns in all of their glory. It's amazing to me how different they look in person, while comparing it to the picture. It was so funny to me how a lot of styles from the designers/stores like TopShop, etc. have stayed the same throughout the years.

There was also a section dedicated to Kate Middleton, which I was freaking out about. I love her and Prince William. Some of her most famous outfits were put on display, like the "see through" gown she wore the first time Prince William saw her, her dark blue engagement dress and a few others that she wore while pregnant. I'm obsessed with her style, just like every other girl around the world. She is so much like Princess Diana, but I just think it's adorable that her and Prince William really seem to love each other and help others. But, how adorable would it have been to see Diana and Kate doing stuff together?

We couldn't take any pictures of the clothes or anything inside, but in a way I was actually kind of glad. It gave me a chance to really absorb everything and let History come alive after hearing so much about it.

The exhibit took us quite awhile, as it was much bigger than we had anticipated. But, of course, we looked through the gift shop and I wanted everything. They had so many adorable tea pots and tea cups, pillows, books about style, British tea and stationary. It was way too expensive though.


After spending so much time in the Diana exhibit, we decided to take a bit of a break. We went to the restroom, grabbed some chips and a coke, then sat down for awhile. My parents and I also stepped outside to take a few pictures and take in the view. We even checked out a few of the stores on the ship that made us feel like we were actually on a cruise. People were dressed up like the 1920s, and I so wish I had known. I would've worn a dress or played the part with them; so fun!  They also had some old timey vendors on one of the decks with signs, perfumes and Downton Abbey inspired jewelry. It was like a step back in time. 


Awhile later, we decided to start our self-guided tour of the ship. We started out on one of the decks, doing our "King of the World" impressions, which somehow was just not the same without Leonardo! HAHA! 

Doing the self-guided tour was a bit trickier, because we just sort of wandered around to see what we could. We saw the old nurse's station and read about the deaths that had occurred while out to sea. We saw the captain's station and what some of the state rooms used to look like. It's crazy to see how much has changed, especially with the technology these days. And we stopped along the edge to check out the beautiful view of the ocean and the rest of the city. 

We made our way into the last exhibit of the Queen Mary, which was dedicated to Bob Hope. There were a lot of awards and accomplishments, as well as some of his outfits. It was a really cool exhibit and it felt much nicer inside than outside, so I was all for it. But, we were all pooping out and getting hungry. It was so hot out and we felt a little gross, so we had planned to go back to the hotel to change. But, by the time we made our way into the city, we just decided to stop for dinner.


We walked around this beach-themed shopping center, which resembled one of the coolest places we visited in South Carolina. After checking out some of the restaurants, we decided on Yardhouse, which was a really nice seafood/steak place. Ever since we've been visiting that area, I've always wanted to try that and was so excited we were finally able to. Would've been the perfect place for a "first date," but then again, what do I know? I've never really had a first date. HAHA!

We were all so tired and it was hard to hear one another talk, because the music was loud and we were in the bar section. But, I really enjoyed going out for some food with great company. We laughed and talked a little, but mainly we were just really tired and needed FOOD. Lol. I had a grilled artichoke, because I thought I'd try something that I don't always get. It was really tasty and filling.

We didn't have any plans after dinner, so we decided to wander around the shopping center. We walked into a few neat stores that sold soap and other trinkets, then walked over to a pier, admiring the view as the sun went down. As we watched boats gliding across the water, we had started talking about taking a boat ride. Before our trip, we had mentioned doing that, but didn't know how the rest of the day was going to go. My mom and Tami looked online and we found one that sounded like a good idea. So, we found a water taxi and caught the 7:15 boat just before it left. Long Beach has easily become one of my favorite places. I was trying to come up with plots for future stories as I walked along the street. There's nothing like a trip to the beach or just simply spending time in nature to inspire you. There's absolutely nothing like it. I feel so calm and relaxed. I'm not in a rush to do anything. I feel like I can be my best self...And those moments reminded me that I can't wait to get out. I'll miss my family and closest friends, absolutely, but I was born to be somewhere else - traveling and seeing the world.

It was amazing. The weather was starting to cool down and we were out on the ocean...My happy place. I love losing myself out there. Every other care and worry goes out of my mind. Out there, it's nothing but the unknown. I don't need to have everything figured out and even if I did, it can wait because nothing else matters. I never feel more alive than when my hair is just flying in the breeze, smelling the salty sea air and my phone is put away. Once we moved out of the "5 Mph" zone, we were bouncing over the waves. All I could do was just smile. Everything I'd been worrying about with school starting up/ finding a job just didn't seem as important. I started thinking more about my life and where I'm at, the things I've done and where I'm heading. You know what? I'm darn proud of everything I've accomplished and the strength that I've acquired over the years. Something came to my mind that was similar to a Brooke Davis quote on One Tree Hill. "I do what I do and I like what I like, and that's just who I am." I don't need the validation of others to make me feel worthy. I don't care if other people agree with what I'm doing. I've done just about everything that I've wanted to do or could have hoped to do at this point in my life. I mean, sure, I look back and there are a few times that I wish I'd hung out with my friends more, but overall, I'm content with where I am right now and I'm still working towards the goal. Someone is always going to have an opinion of what you should be doing - Having a boyfriend, getting a job, doing this or doing that. But, I found peace out there on the ocean and forgot about all of the other hats that others want me to wear. I don't need to be anyone other than me and I have no problem doing that anymore.

After our boat ride came to an end, we walked around the pier/shopping center again. They had some vendors hanging out along the sidewalk and I bought a fancy straw hat, which I was very excited about. I decided to put on for a little bit, so that made me feel very cool ;) Then, it was time for dessert. I got a cappuccino heath flurrie ice cream. It was yummy!

In this moment, THIS is the hat that I want to wear. HA!
Once we finished our ice cream and had seen everything we wanted to, we decided it was finally time to find our hotel. We checked in, then went to our rooms. Paul and Tammy were on a different level than we were, so we had talked about getting together again to hang out, but I think we all got pretty comfy where we were. I decided to download pictures to make room on my phone and hung out for the rest of the night. It was so nice. It's probably the earliest I've gone to bed in quite some time, too. *Sigh*



I was the last one to get up in the morning, naturally. I rolled out of bed groggily and started getting ready as soon as my eyes opened all the way and I felt fully awake. I don't take long at all to get ready, so once I was finished, I packed up my stuff and we were ready to go. We met Paul and Tammy in the lobby to check out, then headed to our car.

Then, came the question of "where do we want to eat?" We couldn't think of anything in town, so we just kept driving. Eventually we decided on Cheesecake Factory, so we ate at the Sherman Oaks Galleria location. It was also Paul's birthday, so wherever he wanted to go was cool with us. It was a really nice shopping center, but doesn't have very many stores. I'm kind of obsessed with Cheesecake Factory...We eat there a lot. So, I was excited that was where we ended up. We were going to eat on the patio, because it was SOCOLD inside, but after stepping outside, we decided to get a booth instead. We glanced at our menus, completely intimidated by the size, because there are pages and pages of meals. I always say I'm going to try something different, and while I've tried many items, I also tend to stick with my same favorites. Yesterday, I tried something totally off the wall - the grande burrito. Well, they weren't kidding when they said it was "grande." I think I ate about half of it, and it was so good. I'd definitely get it again.

Our waiter was super friendly, too. My dad always asks if celebrities have come in recently when we're at restaurants in the LA area, so he asked our waiter. He told him that he had just waited on Selena Gomez the other day and that she was very sweet and very nice. I thought that was cool!

We finished with lunch, then decided to get a move on (but still stopped to shop at Urban Home for a few minutes). Then, on we went to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley. I've been there several times before, but they had a new baseball exhibit that my parents wanted to go to. Plus, it had been awhile since we last visited, so I was all for it. It was a little drive, but I love car trips, so I was all for the 'rocking out to music' and chatting with good people.

Once we arrived at the library, we realized it was going to be pretty busy. There were cars winding all around the hill, but luckily we were able to find a parking spot in the lot. PHEW! We bought our tickets, then started our journey. There was a short video that showed an overview of Reagan's life, then we were free to roam the museum. Everything was at your own pace, so we took our time going through each exhibit...Or at least trying to see everything. It was extremely busy, so it was an act of maneuvering in and out of people to see the cases you wanted to.

The museum is one of the most organized, starting with his early years and working towards his most influential moments and ultimately, his death. Ronald Reagan was someone who lived a FULL life. He seemed to be a good student, he was involved in clubs and school spirit. Early on in his life, he was all about making a difference and doing something about what he saw. He wasn't called "the great communicator" for nothing, because he made such an impact on a lot of people, not only in our nation, but our world. I also enjoyed the fact that there were many "interactive" stations that allowed people to stand at a presidential podium, see a replica of the Oval Office and plan a party as if it were at the White House.

We made our way out to the hangar, where Air Force One is located. They also have old secret service cars and a helicopter in there now, which was exciting. It allows you to get up close and personal in ways that other places don't. We walked through the airplane, then decided to check out the helicopter. I didn't want to, at first, because I thought it would make me a bit claustrophobic. At the last minute, I decided to give it a shot. It wasn't very big, but it was cool to be in a helicopter that used to belong to Reagan. It's not every day that you get to do something like that. 

When we finished there, we made our way over to the new baseball exhibit, but apparently, we were just starting the second HALF of the museum. A lot had to do with the Berlin wall/Soviet War, etc, which we went through that portion rather quickly, since it wasn't quite as interesting to us and we wanted to make sure we saw everything else. I personally loved the "ranch"/country section, because that was such a big part of who Ronald Reagan was and it's also a big thing for me as well. Proudly displayed were his belt buckles and some of his clothes that he wore on the ranch. There was even a horse to pretend that you were riding alongside him! HAHA! Now, that I had to do. 


The last section was about his death and the legacy he left behind. That was such a powerful moment. I had written a report about Reagan in 5th grade, so I knew what a great president and leader he was. Though I never met him, I felt connected to him, like so many other people. To watch video from his funeral was really starting to make me tear up. We weren't sure whether we'd have enough time, so we skipped the video about his life, which was kind of a bummer. But, we still had to make it to the baseball exhibit that we had really come for. It was also rather large, with plenty of memorabilia. My dad really took his time going through each and every corner, since his baseball is his thing (or any sports for that matter). There were a lot of old pictures of players, jerseys, gloves, replicas of stadiums and baseball cards. Down below, there was another room that looked like a baseball field with old banners, older jerseys and more. I can't believe how many items were in there and that have been taken care of for so long. 

Ronald Reagan's library knows how to do it right! It was lively and really gave a closer look at their life. He's another leader that did so much for people and really helped them. But, he also got the job done. And that's a rare task. When we finished seeing everything we wanted to, we went to the gift shop. I bought a journal (of course) and a postcard of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, because they were adorable together. I would have liked to have gotten the book about their love stories, including their handwritten letters to one another over the years, but ya know... Maybe another time. 

We made our way outside to check out the view of the valley. The museum is perched on a hill overlooking Simi Valley and it's absolutely breathtaking when the sun is shining down. There are gardens of flowers all over the lawn, a piece of the Berlin wall and Ronald Reagan is actually buried out there. It's a beautiful memorial spot. There were, however, signs on the yard that said to watch out for rattlesnakes since that is their natural habitat. Fortunately, we did not see any. 

After spending several hours at the library, we were all starting to feel a little worn out. We stopped at Dairy Queen for a quick bite to eat, then hit the road. Oh my gosh...I love our car rides. My dad and Paul were making us...Well, me, laugh so hard because of their ridiculousness. HAHA! Our road trips with family friends are everything to me. It's truly great to have those friends that you've known forever and can constantly say "remember when" to just about everything, because you've lived it out together. 

We stopped at McDonald's for a potty break and to get something to drink, and didn't have much longer before we were home. It was dark when we got back to our house and was close to 9 p.m. We unloaded the car, said goodbye to Paul and Tammy, then spent the rest of the evening doing our own thing. Awhile later, we started getting hungry, so my dad and I went to Taco Bell to grab something to eat. 

I took a shower and relaxed for the rest of the evening. It was such a good weekend, but I was totally wiped out from all of the adventures we had. And the party was going to continue into today, so I wanted to be ready for all of that. 

That's all for now,
Shelby :)

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