Awww LA LA Land! Sunny California. Where people go to chase their dreams. The last time that I was in Los Angeles was for a brief couple of days. Since I was there for a shoot on that trip, I did not get to see much of the city of angels so I was happy when we made plans to head down there to really see what the city is all about. May was a wild month for both Josh and I. It was filled with tons of work so I was looking forward to seeing the city but also sitting poolside with a book. Our friends that we visited and stayed with on this trip live in Marina del Rey and that’s just what I imagined people who reside there do. Instead, we were go-go-go for the entire four days that we were in LA!We flew in midday and I was determined to not be jet-lagged. My goal whenever traveling is to always be awake and asleep at the present timezone. Upon landing, we immediately went to Starbucks to fuel up. When Lisa & Paul picked us up, we headed to In-N-Out for burger lunch (well I had a grilled cheese) and I was feeling very American. After dumping our bags at their place, we headed to the Santa Monica Pier and it was hopping on that sunny Sunday! We threw some rings at bottles, got our photo taken in front of the ferris wheel, wandered the boardwalk and then decided that we needed a drink.
Lisa and Paul took us to what I thought was a hidden gem: the rooftop bar of the Erwin Hotel. I have to say that this place has the best view of Venice beach and it was a great way to spend the first evening of our trip. I loved the vibe up there and I loved that hot sun (beaming on my SPF 30’d skin!). As the sun started to dip more, we decided to head out to grab some food. Our friends were excited to take us to Sage. I didn’t take any photos there but let me describe Sage in three words: Vegan Beer Garden. That’s right: delicious and healthy vegan food served with an incredible array of beers. It was wonderful. I had the Mole Bowl and my goal is to try to replicate something similar at home (or get Josh to, he’s good at that stuff). The bowl included: quinoa, brown rice, kale, avocado, pickled cabbage, black beans, edamame, corn, carrots and peas sautéed in mole sauce topped with fried jalapeño and crispy tortilla strips. Whoa whoa whoa.
Marina del Rey is a very relaxing neighbourhood. I can see why our friends chose to live there. I loved being so close to the water plus the pools and the view of the fancy yachts were pretty sweet. One of said yachts had a helicopter land on it. No big deal. Also, sea lions. I love those guys and we managed to spot a pair of them who were chilling on the docks.
Helicopters were everywhere in LA! At one point I counted seven in the sky.
For our first full day in LA, we did one of those cheesy bus tours of the city. Say what you want about bus tours but I kind of really like them. I think that they are an inexpensive and great way to see all parts of a place. You can then get a sense of the city and later decide what you would like to go back to see more of on your own. Upon Lisa’s recommendation, we did the Grand City Tour through Starline Tours. I had booked our tickets ahead of time so it was only $55 USD each for the six hour tour. We saw everything and had a few stops along the way. I have to say that with all of the tours and traveling in buses that I have done, I have become quite experienced with driving photography!
How gorgeous is the Walt Disney Hall designed by Frank Gehry?!
The first stop of the tour where we got out to walk around was Olvera Street. It’s dubbed as the birthplace of LA or the oldest part of downtown LA. It was founded by Spanish settlers and today it is all Mexico and exactly what you find at a market there. I spotted a stall selling Mexican candy and immediately found my favourite sweet treat – De la Rosa Peanut Mazapan. So good!
I am going to assume that most people who do bus tours in LA are doing so in hopes of seeing celebrities. The entire tour included the guide pointing out where so-and-so lived or where the OJ Simpson chase was, etc. So I thought that it was pretty funny when I saw this guy who resembled Ryan Gosling. We’ll just say that it was actually him. 🙂
That’s Johnnie’s Coffee Shop that is used in a lot of movies, including the Big Lebowski.
For lunch, the bus dropped us off at the Farmer’s Market/Grove. The Market was great with lots of options for food and the Grove was full of shops to spend your money on. I convinced Josh to get some shirts from TopMan because I love that store and our version in Canada just has it in the Bay so isn’t a full store.
Our next stop of the tour was Rodeo Drive. I’m not sure why we stopped here but we did. Rodeo is where the fancy people shop which was obvious by the expensive cars parked on the street. Apparently the yellow one above costs about two million dollars. Pocket change, really. 🙂
The final stop of the tour was in Hollywood with the Chinese Theatre and Walk of Fame. Of course, the Chinese theatre was blocked off for some film premiere that was happening that night but we did see some of the stars on the Walk of Fame. Starline also promised a view of the Hollywood sign and there it was, in the distance, behind all of the other stuff. 🙂
For the rest of our trip, each morning Josh and I would get up and go for a run along the Venice Beach boardwalk. I am trying my best to like running so we would make it to our halfway point, take a break to eat some fruit (Mexican-style with lemon & chili) and watch the surfers before heading back home. I love the canals of Venice. The walkways behind the houses are awesome and I love that everyone has their boats just ready for when the water is high enough for a cruise.
On our second night in LA, we headed to Gjelina for dinner. When I had asked for recommendations on Twitter and Facebook for where to go when in LA, pretty much everyone said Gjelina. Because of this, I had pretty high expectations. Everything that we had here was incredible. I love going for dinner with multiple people because then you can order all of the things. That night the four of us had: Grilled Peach Burrata, Grilled broccolini, wood roasted cauliflower, Tuscan kale salad, the meatballs and a couple of pizzas. I never order dessert but Lisa & Paul convinced us that we had to. We had a crisp with a cornbread topping and it was ridiculously good. I cannot wait to eat there again.
The following day, Josh and I rode bikes to check out the shops on Abbot Kinney. We wandered around for a while before heading to the beach.
Everyone talks about how the Mexican food in LA is the best thing outside of Mexico. Everywhere in LA seems to sell tacos. We decided to try out Cerveteca which is right on the beach. I had the grilled salmon which was the fish of the day and it was awesome. I also had Jamaica water so was in total Mexican heaven.
The next day was Wednesday and Lisa told us that we should check out the farmer’s market in Santa Monica that is held weekly so we biked a little further to do just that. The market takes place on Arizona Avenue between Second and Third Streets. The produce and flowers being sold here were awesome and I wished that we were going to be around longer so that it would have made sense to buy a stuff to cook dinner. Instead we settled for some cherries and had lunch at an Italian place on the pedestrian-friendly Third Street.
That night was bar tour night. Every time that we travel, we plan one night to attempt to hit all of the bars that Josh wants to check out. It’s work, for him, I swear. The night is always an adventure and we don’t always make it through the list but it’s fun to try. The problem with LA is that is a huge city! It is nothing like hitting ten bars in Havana when you can walk to each one. Our plan was to head downtown where there were three bars and then head to West Hollywood where there was an additional five. Lisa drove us to Culver City and we took the subway (yes, there is a subway in LA!) downtown. The ride cost us $1.50 and was actually pretty decent. The first stop was a mezcal bar called Las Perlas. Josh told me that the manager there was the king of mezcal. We arrived just as they were opening and the man himself – Raul – was working the bar. We introduced ourselves and became fast friends. Josh explained how in Ontario, we are really limited in what mezcals we have access to us so he very kindly let Josh try about one million of the mezcals that they have behind the bar. It was such a lovely experience. As we were finishing up, I asked what his wife does for a living and he said she was actually a bartender as well who worked at a bar back in Culver City called the Alibi Room. That just happened to be where we were planning on hitting on our last night in LA. I loved that connection.
After all of the mezcals, we needed to head somewhere else where we could get food. The next bar on our hit list was a speakeasy across the street called The Varnish. It’s located in the back of a restaurant called Cole’s. They don’t have food but you can order food for take-out from Cole’s and they will bring it back to you at Varnish. We ordered sandwiches and cocktails and it was all delicious. Josh got up to thank the bartender and he immediately knew him from Bar Isabel saying that his girlfriend lives in Toronto and that he is planning on moving here soon. Loved that.
Our final stop downtown was Honeycut. It was meant to be our final stop downtown before Uber-ing it to West Hollywood but it ended up being our final stop of the night. Don’t think of us as wussying out because I know that we have done way more in previous bar tours but after such a great experience at Las Perlas, I just felt that no other bar in LA would be topped so it was pointless to try. The entrance to Honeycut is in a back alley so it was a bit tough to find at first. The drinks were great though and I loved that we finished the night there. On our next trip to LA, we will conquer the bars of West Holllywood, I swear.
For our last day in LA, we finally chilled a little bit where I got in some reading poolside. We also wandered around Marina del Rey and naturally walked into a film set. Oh LA.
That night, our final night, we headed to Alibi Room which is a bar and Korean food place from Kogi’s Kitchen which originally started as a Korean taco food truck. Because of this, the food is served in take-out containers which is kind of cute. I had the Miss Tofu bowl and it was ridiculously delicious. Again, I hope that we can try to replicate it in our own kitchen sometime. The cocktails were awesome and Andrea, Raul’s wife was working. He also came by that night so it was great to see him again.All in all, the LA lag of our California trip was awesome. We did, however, forget to get a photo with our awesome hosts, Lisa and Paul. So, I made one. (I have never claimed to be cool.). LA was fun but we had to catch a plane to head to San Francisco for Barb & Brian’s wedding!