Africa XXI: Nomad Tours Day 9+10, Northern Zanzibar

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam
Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we finished exploring Stone Town and headed up to the northern tip of Zanzibar for 2 days of resort bliss!

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Our luxurious stay on the island is at the Amaan Bungalows on Nungwi Beach. After finishing our walking tour mid morning, they arranged a bus to take us to the northern part of the island. Mid drive some people on our tour elected to do the extra excursion of a spice tour. I decided I’d rather skip the tour and head directly to the beach!

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Once we dropped half the group off at the spice tour (which Erica went on, so check her blog for details on that), our van continued on north. Since this van was smaller and less conspicuous than our Nomad Truck (Tommy), now was my chance to snap some photos of local life through the window of the van.

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This was typical architecture in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

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This was also common, seeing children collect water from local watering spots. The home in the back is also typical Tanzania architecture with a thatched roof and everything.

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Above is an example of their type of strip-mall shops. Each stall would have a vendor (butcher shop, general store, fruit stand for example) and has big metal doors to close up at night.

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After about 40 minutes we arrived at the Amaan Bungalows. It was like heaven! This time we didn’t have an ocean view, but it was still super adorable and a 3 minute walk from the ocean. This girl can’t complain, especially since I’d been camping so much of the trip and it was nice having a bed and bathroom.

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D19 above was our bungalow for the next couple days.

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This place was really nice. I can see how people would honeymoon here. Our room was very nice, clean, adorable and snake-free. I ended up having some sickness/stomach issues around this time of the trip, so I was in the room more than I expected and it was a comfy place to be when feeling sick.

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Before my sickness set-in, I had one full day here of relaxing by the pool and general awesomness. This resort had many food options, a coffee/ice cream shop, bars, stores etc, so there was no reason to leave. All the resorts are in a line and connected along the beach, and each has different restaurants and shops, so if one doesn’t have what you want, walk 50 ft and you’l be at the next set of shops and restaurants.

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This is the reverse view from the pool. You can swim in the pool while looking out at the ocean. I should note that even the ocean water felt like bath water.

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Above is the view from the resort walkway leading down to the water. At high tide the water comes right up to the steps. It’s incredible. You can walk from the stairs right into the water.

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Above, here are the steps at low tide. This is a great time to walk the beach. On day 2 when I wasn’t feeling well, I couldn’t partake in any of the excursions. I was going to do the all day snorkeling trip (I think it was $15 USD) where they bring you out to the island, provide you with lunch and the snorkeling gear. Some people did it from our tour group and liked it. I was sad to miss it, but hanging around the resort was still awesome. I could be within bathroom distance but still have a relaxing fun time.

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I spent the morning walking the beach, after a lovely complimentary breakfast (they do a nice job). It was fun looking for unique shells and starfish and feeling the super soft sand against my feet.

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The fishing boats are beautiful.

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I just loved watching the water. I could walk this beach all day.

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Red starfish!

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One thing I noticed around 10am was that many local women were in full clothes out in the water with spears. They were catching crabs, as there were many in the water even by my feet as I walked.

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Tide pool fun.

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I have no clue what this sea creature is but it was spiky and cool looking. 3 seconds after I took this photo it burrowed back into the sand and was never seen (by me) again.

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I passed through so many honeymoon type resorts. They were all beautiful and unique.

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There were local fishermen selling what they caught that day along the sand. I decided to stick to fish at the restaurant and not try to DIY dinner.

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Sunset! Another excursion offered was a sunset cruise. This was another case of “I can’t be away from a bathroom for that long”, so I had to pass. But I imagine it was a lot of fun and it was very reasonably priced. But I must say, the sunset from our resorts outdoor bar was pretty excellent 🙂

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Here’s an example of sunset at high tide The water really flows right up to the resort. You have to time your beach walks accordingly. I have to say even with my stomach acting up, I had a fantastic time here.

Up next on Wednesday, I’ll share my last Africa post as I head back to Stone Town, Zanzibar for my last night of the tour and then endure my 4 flights back to US soil (NYC!).

Found Object Art: Plastic Classics

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Design Sponge today posted a link to this awesome article about famous pieces of art made out of found objects. How cool are these?! The artist is Jane Perkins and this series is called “Plastic Classics”. Click HERE to see more of her work and an article about her on Demilked.

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Wet Doggies

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I’m sorry I didn’t get to post an activity yesterday 😦 Especially since it was cinco de mayo and there was plenty going on. One day I’ll be done with my time consuming job and I can focus more on you, but in the meantime I hope you’ll accept this as my apology gift: ADORABLE WET DOGGIES!! See all of Sophie Gamand’s Wet Dog collection HERE!

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Secret Stair Walk #42: Pacific Palisades – Giant Steps

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Time for the LAST Secret Stair Walk!! I’ve been wanting to share this will you for weeks, but between weekend activities and work/mid week adventures I’ve not been able to fully focus on writing this post. For the last secret stair walk my good friend Grace joined me and we were warned by my book that this was a monster step walk.

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The walk begins high up in the hills about Sunset in Pacific Palisades. On our way to the trek we pass giant homes in a beautiful neighborhood. Once we find street parking we loop through a few small streets until we reach a dead end and the road becomes a trail.

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The views in this canyon are incredible. Once we pass through the neighborhood it becomes more of a hiking path with cliffs and incredible views.

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Up we go!

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This path leads to the Rustic Canyon entrance of Topanga State Park.

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Higher and higher! I know what you’re thinking- how is this a secret stair walk? It’s more of a hike! You’ll see….

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Eventually on your left youll pass this break in the fence. This is where our stair climb will end, but it gives you a view into the canyon and the estate built by Winona Stephens in the 1930’s. Folklore says that Stephens was convinced by a Nazi-sypathizer named Schmidt into investing her fortune and land into creating a self-sustaining compound so that they would be ready in the event of Hitler taking over America. At one point all the land in the photos below were part of this compound which included water tanks, diesel fuel tanks, generators and living quarters. This compound fell into disarray when Schmidt was arrested for being a Nazi Spy during World War II. Eventually the property was deeded to the state and is now a frequently visited spot by urban explorers, stair lovers, and graffiti artists.

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Stair Time!!!

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This stair climb begins by dropping down to the bottom of the canyon. Looming in our minds is the eventual climb back up the canyon walls.

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This climb s covered in graffiti and littered with trash, so be careful with each step.

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This empty water tower is after the first big descent, but then lower you must go!

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Down…

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Down…

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At last we make it to the canyon floor.

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This is where we really see the compound remains… and all the graffiti.

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Every inch of this structure is covered in graffiti and the floors are covered in empty paint cans.

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Bath tub!

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There are many trails and loops at the bottom of the canyon, and after we’ve had our fill we head to the last set of stairs that take you from the canyon floor back to the top of the trail. This is the largest known staircase in Los Angeles with 531 steps.

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Time for the monster!

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We had to snap a photo to celebrate the last staircase. And yes, it is one continuous staircase with only a few larger steps that act as landings. You’ll probably have to rest a few times going up, and the higher you go the more impressive the canyon views.

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We did it! Celebrating at the top of the climb!

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That’s all folks! That’s the end of my Secret Stair book. It’s a relief to have it completed as it is an accomplishment, but Im sad to know I’ve completed all the walks. It’s been an amazing challenge that’s gotten me to explore neighborhoods I otherwise would have no reason to see. It’s opened my eyes to LA, gotten me outside on a sunny Sunday, and it’s given me countless hours of free fun. I also want to thank everyone who’s joined me on the walks. And to those of you who’ve told me you bought the book, do the walks. You’ll have a good time, I promise.

Secret Stair Walk #11: Downtown Los Angeles

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Time for another Secret Stair walk and we are getting close to the end of the book. This downtown LA walk was a really fun way to spend a Sunday. My friend Jamie and I carpooled downtown on this beautiful weekend morning.

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We started at Grand Central Market, but didn’t grab breakfast. We decided a celebratory meal was in order at the end of the walk instead of the beginning.

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Since I was last downtown the Market has had some upgrades done. For example there’s a craft bar for kids, a cool coffee shop, and of course…

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The EGGSLUT stall! It’s no longer just a food truck, and it’s worth the wait in the long line. Trust me.

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After a walk through the market we continued on the stair walk. Angels Flight is currently being fixed, but that’s no worries since we were in it for the exercise.

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At the top of Angels Flight is Grand Plaza with shops and outdoor seating. In the summer this is where Grand Performances holds it’s free events. I HIGHLY recommend visiting this plaza and also seeing one of the free shows. Bring some grapes, cheese and a blanket to sit under the stars and enjoy a free show.

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Downtown murals.

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Downtown LA has amazing sculptures all over the place.

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This is taken by the public Library at the top of the steps.

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This is the front of the library entrance.

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Sculptures, sculptures, sculptures…

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There are so many bridges and walkways downtown with incredible views. Also I had no idea Los Angeles had it’s own World Trade Center.

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The Westin.

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I’m afraid of heights, so taking this photo scared the beets outta’ me.

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Indoor stairs count as stairs on this urban stair walk.

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I told Jamie to pose like I was taking an action shot of her running. I think this is hilarious. Also, this hotel has a running track as one whole level of this attrium. That’s pretty cool. The whole floor is dedicated to work out spaces.

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Back outside we explored more urban oasis’s hidden in the city.

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We went down to to the Walt Disney Hall and looped around the back of the building.

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This art piece is behind the buidling. It’s made of broken porcelain plates.

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We looped back to Grand Plaza by the Moca. We had to stop in and browse the gift shop.

We made our way back to Grand Central Market where we ate at the Egg Slut stall. It was amazing. So delicious. Jamie and I agreed this was such a great day. The weather was perfect for playing outside and it’s always fun finding new little gems downtown. I highly recommend it!

Secret Stair Walk #10: Happy Valley and Montecito Heights

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

It’s FINALLY Saturday, and I’m in weekend zen mode while trying to fight off the start of a cold. I’ve got a candle lit, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is on my tv (I’ve never seen it!), I’ve just slept in a little and now I’ve got the pleasure of sharing a Secret Stair walk with you.

This next walk is #10 in my book, and was extremely unique. It took me to the neighborhood of Montecito Heights, which I’ve never explored before.

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It begins in an area with a mixture of low income housing and apartment buildings.

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Tiny motorcycle with sidecar…  Amazing.

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These short steps lead to a little park just off the main road. This private area was also a midday love nest for teens, so I adjusted my route to avoid catching people in compromising positions.

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Back along the trek we started to head up into the hills. This walk had many adorable yapping dogs like this cutie above.

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… Higher and higher up and down rolling hills.

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High up on the hillside, the views were smoggy. It’s crazy to think how close to downtown this neighborhood is and yet there were times the homes became spread out and very rural. In fact at time the roads became dirt and only wide enough for 1 car.

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This loop is a 3.7 mile trek with lots of staircases. It was a great workout.

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At the top of the next big hill, the views were incredible.

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And at the top of that hill the road became dirt again. There were actually houses off this road. Here we are just a few miles from downtown LA and there are dirt roads and…

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TUMBLEWEEDS! Actual tumbleweeds (and many of them at that) were rolling all around me.

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The road was so bumpy it was hard to walk on it so I imagine cars have difficulty on this steep hillside.

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Another cute white fluffy doggie.

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The houses were very sparse up on this hillside, and several looked more like squatters using the land. I saw so many old dumped cars that looked like they were rehabbed to be like a room for tenants. It was a really strange place to be. Especially given the amazing views, you would think this land would be worth millions, and yet the properties looked like sheds with outdoor fire pits as kitchens, and cars used as bedrooms.

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As I looped back down the hillside, more signs of traditional living popped up.

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I turned a corner and got this view of a relatively bare hillside with odd looking massive concrete homes lining the edge of the hill. All of the homes have fallen into disrepair and yet the incredible views these homes have… I just don’t get it?

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After looping back to the main road, I was met with signs of life other than doggies. This mural is near a local school.

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As I was crossing to end the loop and get back to my car, this lovely bird sat for a while on the crosswalk button I needed to hit. Also, don’t you love the texture on that wall?

Well, that’s the end of this loop. I hope you’re all enjoying your Saturday. Why not get out there this weekend and do some Secret Stair walks?

Secret Stair Walk#5: Mt. Washington

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Sadly, Im no longer in the funemployment game, so my Secret Stair walking days are now reserved for weekends only. Thankfully I have a handful that I still need to tell you about. This next walk is Secret Stair Walk #5: Mt. Washington.

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The walk begins by the busy intersection of Figueroa and Avenue 45. It starts with congestion but then quickly becomes a quiet neighborhood trek.

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I love finding little neighborhood details.

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After a steep hill, comes steep staircases. Thankfully, what goes up must come down.

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This walk was “pre-rain” so the sky still has a cloudy (cough* smoggy) haze to it.

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This old ranch had some fun colorful lighting to jazz it up.

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It’s rare you see tile work like this along the driveway.

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Reaching the top of the hill, I could barely see the faint outline of the downtown skyline. Grrr smog.

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This residential neighborhood opens up at the top of the hill to be a quiet valley without many signs of life.

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After the short dusty loop, it becomes a plush neighborhood again. In fact, it leads right to the Self-Relization Center on Mt. Washington which has super pretty gardens open to the public. It’s so relaxing there.

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They keep the gardens so well manicured.

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This is some tile fun on a bridge just past the meditation center.

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I passed a few local schools up on Mt. Washington. I imagine the neighbors walking their children here. It must feel so far from LA, because it’s all so peaceful up on the hilltop.

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Thankfully, I was not attacked by a dog here.

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Stairs, stairs, stairs…

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The faux broken turtle trying to climb the stairs…

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I love doors and gate doors are no exception.

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Back down to the hustle and bustle of Figueroa.

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you have a busy weekend full of Secret Stair walks!