Twice a year my company holds a sales meeting out near the headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA. In meetings past, the location has been in places like Santa Monica or San Diego, but it’s always around the southern California area giving many of us remote East Coasters and Midwesterners a chance to see the sunny West Coast on our company’s dime.
Obviously, this is a work trip so much of the time is spent in conference rooms, but my company does do its best to treat their employees well and take us out for group activities. And usually after the meetings, most of us take the weekend to enjoy being on the west coast for a little vacation. Here’s a recap of a few of the highlights during that trip.
Westlake Village Inn – Our meetings were held at the hotel where we all stayed. Located in Westlake Village, this resort isn’t really located in any sort of “going out” type area, but is ideal for those looking to get away and enjoy the southern California weather in peace. Because of the size of the resort and the picturesque pond it surrounds, the hotel is a great location for meetings or weddings (my co-worker’s aunt being one such bride). The rooms are extremely comfy, each with a little deck to sit out on and they make you feel like you’re crashing at a rich friend’s summer home. FYI – my deck light was really bright which flooded into the room at night – keep that in mind for you light sleepers.
The resort is also adjacent to a golf course for those looking to play a few holes (and was right outside the meeting room window for all of us to jealously look out onto). Also, Bogie’s bar in the resort apparently is the hot place to be on weekend nights, but since our meeting was during the week I can’t confirm whether or not that’s actually true. The bar itself though was pretty fun when we were there and has a lot of outdoor seating. And finally, the pool and gym are both a little small, which is surprising considering how much nicer the rest of the resort is.
While the food was actually quite good at the resort, there are a slew of restaurants within a few miles of the resort. A couple that I’d recommend are :
Cisco’s, a local mexican chain with fantastic Samuel Adams Beer Battered fish tacos and massive margaritas.
Boccacio’s, which is situated on Westlake lake and has a tremedous view of the Santa Monica mountains. I would highly recommend the Chilean Sea Bass.
Sunstone Winery – Located in Santa Ynez, CA, this was the first of many wineries I would visit in the days to come (stay tuned). Fans of the movie Sideways will recognize this area as the setting of Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church’s escapades. And while the vineyard at Sunstone was beautiful and the wine tasty, the 2 hour drive from L.A. only makes the venue worth a visit if you’re in L.A. for an extended period of time and if it’s a nice enough day to enjoy the coastal drive up. If you do decide to visit, the tour is very informative and the tasting room at the end allows you to sample several of their vintages and olive oils – be sure to try the garlic olive oil.
The Beverly Hilton Hotel – Renown for hosting the Golden Globe Awards and more recently, the site of the death of singer Whitney Houston, the Beverly Hilton Hotel has a long history of hosting the rich and famous (myself included). Located at the heart of Beverly Hills, the hotel itself surprisingly seems rather old in some ways, but also new in others. The resort is the type that has a weird Rat Pack feel to it, but also is the type that has TVs in the bathroom. Our room was located very conveniently by the pool (literally, we could walk out of our room and the pool was four yards in front of us), and we took advantage of this by going for late night swims at 2-3 in the morning that the staff didn’t seem to mind.
TMZ Hollywood Tour– I’m not a TMZ fan, I’ve only seen parts of it on parodies such as The Soup. But when our friend suggested we go on TMZ’s bus tour (he’s a big TMZ fan), I decided to roll with the punches and go with it. In actuality, the 2 hour bus tour starting at Mann’s Chinese Theater was quite entertaining and gives you a pretty good “paparazzi’s” eye of Hollywood.
Don’t go on this thinking you’ll see huge celebrity houses in Beverly Hills. Rather, you’ll go down Rodeo Drive to see million dollar cars and stores, drive by Beverly Hills Police HQ and the comedy club where Kramer famously dropped the “N” word over and over again. You’ll also see notorious hotels (where Cher and Elton John own the top floors), sidewalks where naughtiness occured (the curb where Hugh Grant got caught), and restaurants where celebrities frequent (we apparently just missed Halle Barry at one of her favorites). It’s a trashy tour at best, but I can’t say that I wasn’t throughly amused throughout the ride.
Jimmy Kimmel Live – Probably one of the top experiences of the summer was being able to sit in the audience during the taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live. One of my co-workers was able to get a few of us tickets through an old college friend of hers who works at the show. We definitely let the feeling sink in as we walked past the crowds waiting in line outside for tickets and into the backdoor “Green Room” entrance. We were all hoping that we might get a glimpse of the evening’s guests, Jennifer Garner (Alias) or Paul Scheer (The League) back there, but we weren’t that lucky. After downing a couple free beers, they escorted us into the studio where we were entertained by a comedian who gave away t-shirts for various different reasons. The studio itself was shockingly smaller than how it looks on television and when Kimmel came out to do his stand up routine at the beginning, he’s practically in the front row. Obviously, his TV personality isn’t going to be the same as his off camera personality, but Kimmel was certainly friendly enough to the crowd in-between the recordings and entertained us with back and forth banter between him, the band, and Guillermo (his famous Latino sidekick).
We were lucky enough to have crowd pleasing guests in Jennifer Garner (who is as hot in person as on TV by the way) and Paul Scheer, so the crowd’s laughter didn’t need to be forced. The musical guest was The Fixx, who before that night I had not heard of and my guess is most of the crowd hadn’t either, so we were strongly told to cheer louder (and we even had to re-tape on of the songs because the audience wasn’t into it enough). Funny part was that when we watched it later that night, they only showed one of three songs that they sung, and not the one that they re-sang. It was a great experience overall and certainly made the Los Angeles experience that much more authentic.
On a final side note: I was surprised at how much seedier Hollywood was than I thought. Yes, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is pretty cool to see, but the sidewalks were packed with the homeless, drunks and solicitors. Definitely not a place where I’d spend a lot of time, but glad I saw it to say I did.
Up next: We jumped in a car and headed our way to Las Vegas.