Bees, and thorns, and snakes! Oh, my!

Exploring Southern California!

A couple weekends ago my friend Gina came down from Santa Barbara to visit. When I was in Fort Worth last month, our tour guide at the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland house mentioned that California’s apple orchards are great to visit. So I brought the idea up to Gina and she was game for going! Sweet action!

After using The Google to research apple orchards in Southern California, one of the best reviewed ones I found was Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen, CA. There are a ton of orchards in this area of California, but Riley’s Farm was one of the few that included almost year round fruit picking (not just apples). And though this time of year is not apple season, it is great for rasberries, blackberries, and strawberries! Once we made the one and a half hour trek east of Los Angeles, Gina and I arrived at the winding gravel road of Riley’s Farm tucked at the base of mountains. It immediately gives off this charming rustic vibe and I knew we had found a great place to spend the afternoon.

We arrived!

Driving through the farm

View from Riley’s Farm

First, we had to check-in at the General Store. This is where you purchase your basket to go pick berries. $5 for a pint, and $3.50 for a 1/2 pint. Very reasonable for organic fruit! After some tips from our very friendly and colonial dressed guide, she pointed us in the direction of the berries and we were free to roam the rows ourselves.

The General Store

This is where you check-in to get your baskets for picking

Inside the General Store (sorry for the blurriness)

Tips: 1) The raspberries are good to pick when they practically fall off at your touch. Also, bees LOVE raspberry bushes (more on that later). 2) The blackberries are ripe when they are juicy. And the best ones are underneath the bush leaves. Beware of their thorns and spiders. 3) The strawberries are hidden underneath the thick leaves of the bushes. Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes! “Wait, what?!” (that was my reaction lol)

On our way to the berry fields

Passing by some “old time” relics

As Gina and I approached the raspberry fields you could begin to hear the faint humming of the bees. This is when my fear immediately kicked in! I’ve never seen so many bees in one place before! There were hundreds and hundreds of beings swarming the raspberries bushes. The entire time we were in the fields you could here their humming, and it took all my strength to not make sudden movements and stay put with Gina in the raspberry fields. The good part is the bees are not interested in the raspberries, but rather the flowers on the bushes. But I learned the extent of my fear of bees when I could only muster up enough courage to pick a total of five raspberries haha. Gina was the warrior in this round of fruit picking. She was fearless in going up to the bushes and filling up her basket with raspberries. And she was never stung nor even had a bee land on her. They were very uninterested in us. But I couldn’t get my fear to understand that rationale haha.

Raspberry Fields

Gina braving the bees swarming the raspberry rows!

This is about as close as I got haha

The raspberries are mostly underneath, and the bees are attracted to the flowers on top of the bushes.

View of the mountains from the raspberry rows

Another raspberry row

Gina’s raspberry pickings!

After the raspberries, we headed over to the blackberry fields. Here we had to watch out for thorns and spiders. I learned that I am fearless when it comes to thorns! I had no problem sticking my hand in the blackberry bushes to find the ripe berries. Gina was a little more timid here so we tag teamed it. Gina would hold up the leaves while I picked the blackberries. I enjoyed this part of the farm!

Blackberry Fields!

Blackberry row

More blackberries!

The blackberry bushes were really thick! Lots of berries underneath.

Up close view – most of these aren’t ripe though. You had to get underneath the bushes to the ripe and juicy ones!

The blackberries really stained our fingers!

After we nearly filled our baskets, we headed to the strawberry patch. We both were pretty timid here since we were afraid of a rattlesnake popping out at us, but we did not see one, only snake holes.

Passing by the Apple Orchards on our way to the strawberries! I’ll have to come back in the fall to pick apples!

Mountain views on our walk to the strawberry field

More mountains 🙂

A pear tree waiting to be picked

Strawberry Field


View of the main house from the strawberry rows

Chicken coop by the strawberries


View of the mountains from the strawberry field

The strawberries were pretty picked over so we only found a couple ripe ones. Thus, we headed back to the raspberry and blackberry fields to finish filling up our baskets. I went to the blackberry rows, while Gina tackled the raspberries.

Back to the blackberries!

Filling up the rest of my basket with more blackberries!

View from the blackberry field

Riley’s Farm

Gina going back for more raspberries. I watched from afar.

After we finished picking, we were hungry for lunch! We headed back to the General Store to have our berries wrapped up, and then we walked to their lunch area where they cook their own BBQ over a big outside wood burning cooker. We both ordered the BBQ beef sandwich and it was delicious! We ate our sandwiches out on their patio looking up at the mountains. It was beautiful.


Outdoor patio area where Gina and I ate our lunch

BBQ pit

During apple season, they make homemade carameled apples and apple pies!

They also make cider during apple season!

After lunch we drove back to Los Angeles, and hung out in my neighborhood of Burbank until dinner. For dinner, I decided to take Gina to Philippe’s in downtown LA. This is a Los Angeles must!

Philippe’s, The Original

Philippe The Original is the oldest continuously running restaurant in Southern California. It was established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, and it is here that the “French Dipped Sandwich” claims to be invented. According to their website, the story goes “One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the “French Dipped Sandwich,” so called either because of Mathieu’s French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer’s name was French. The answer is lost to history.”

In 1951, Philippe’s moved to its present location in downtown Los Angeles, across the street from Union Station and on the border of Chinatown.

Fun fact: The price of a cup of coffee remained a nickel until 1977, when it was increased to a dime. It currently costs only 45 cents.

To order, customers wait in the lines leading up to the long display counter where the servers take your order and prepare your meal. The meals are served cafeteria-style on paper plates and trays, and seating is family style. Philippe’s is delicious and affordable, and worth a visit if you are in LA!

This is where you wait in one of the several lines to order at the counter.

“Philippe’s “French Dipped Sandwich” is the specialty of the house and consists of either roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey or ham served on a lightly textured, freshly baked French roll which has been dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts. Swiss, American, Monterey Jack or Blue cheese may be added.”

Another specialty of Philippe’s is their hot mustard. They prepare about 40 gallons of the hot mustard twice weekly. It’s a marvelous compliment to their famous dipped sandwich!

We drove by the Walt Disney Concert Hall after we left Philippe’s

Our adventure for Sunday was The Huntington in Pasadena. The Huntington is a library, art gallery and botanical garden. I’ve gone here before with my family, but it poured rain the whole time we were there so it was nice to return and actually spend time exploring the grounds.

The Huntington in Pasadena

The Huntington was founded in 1919 by Henry Huntington who had a passion for books, art and gardens. Throughout his life, he amassed one of the greatest research libraries in the world, as well as establishing a grand art collection and beautiful botanical gardens representing many countries around the world.

Unfortunately Gina and I did not have enough time to visit the art galleries and library, but we did walk most of the gardens. It was gorgeous!

Just starting our walk

At times it felt like I was in the jungle!

Hey, bamboo!

There are 120 acres of gardens, mostly separated by their respective geographical ranges. The most notable gardens are the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden and the Chinese Garden. I highly recommend visiting The Huntington. It’s a beautiful way to spend the day.

Beautiful 🙂

Lily pond

Tall trees

Cool tree

I spy a hawk!

Rose Garden

Hundreds of types of roses!

So pretty 🙂 but the bees liked roses too…I was around a lot of bees this weekend…

Gina in the Rose Garden

Wide view of the Rose Garden

Rose Garden Tea House – you can have high tea here 🙂

Willow Tree – give me a good book and I’d sit under that tree and read for hours.

The grounds are lovely everywhere you look.

Entering the Japanese Garden

Tall bamboo!

More bamboo!

A bridge in the Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Bonsai trees

Dry Landscape Garden

Waterfall in the Japanese Garden – sadly it’s hard to make out the water in this picture.

Posing in front of the waterfall

View down on the Japanese Garden

Pond in the Japanese Gardens

Now we’ve entered the Chinese Garden

Pond in the Chinese Garden – I think it needs a fountain to stir the water and keep the algae away.

Chinese Garden

The architecture in the Chinese Garden

You can see the mountains from this part of The Huntington

The Conservatory

So humid inside the conservatory!

Exiting the conservatory

Another view of the conservatory

A pretty fountain

“The 18th century limestone statues on each side of the North Vista depict characters from classical mythology and folklore.”

“Mr. Huntington personally decided on the exact location for each piece of garden statuary. Some of the statues were moved as many as three times until Huntington was satisfied.”

“The Library contains more than 6 million manuscripts, books, photographs and other works in the fields of American and British history, literature, art, and the history of science, medicine, and technology.”

After we left The Huntington, we drove by Pasadena’s City Hall to admire the awesome architecture!

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