Stopped by Intelligentsia (3922 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029) for a coffee fix. I grabbed a bag of espresso beans for my father. The environment and interiors of this establishment is beautiful with its blue and white tiled floors and wooden façade. It is a relaxing space to be in.
After the coffee fix, we drove over to Griffith Park and drove straight up to the Observatory. Did you know the owner of the land put it in his will that he wanted the park to remain free forever to all visitors. Arrive early to find parking. The observatory is beautiful and shows a great view over the city. The first Saturday of each month, there is a star party that is open to the public for star viewing.
We didn’t really have the time to hike (so sad). We drove up Mulholland Drive and parked by the park after a windy and narrow drive up. We walked to an area that was front facing of the Hollywood sign and took photos. A quick stop to pick up 2 of our friends and off we went to Anaheim to Angel Stadium to watch a baseball game with our friend JP. It was Star Wars night meaning the giveaway was a stormtrooper rally monkey. The night became a little dewey as fog started to fall near the end of the game. Sad to say, the Angels lost that night but our night didn’t end there as we went back to our home and hung out for a while.
The plans for our final Saturday (or last full day) was divided into 2 groups – group 1 – surfing and beach bum at Venice Beach and group 2 – myself and Vivien who were on a mission to meet up with our friends and family in LA. The beach group slowly made their way to the beach while the people wanting to surf went a little earlier for surf with our friend Van. Myself and Vivien hopped into our car and off we went to West Hollywood to have breakfast with my friend Brian McCarty at Canter’s Deli (419 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036) – an institution in West Hollywood that is open 24/7 and serves food at a very reasonable price. They have a parking lot and its free when you validate your parking. Brian is a photographer who specializes in his work with toys but more recently has been deeply involved with his on going series – War Toys. Brian alongside art therapists travel to war zones and refugee camps and collaborate with children who are or have been affected by war express what they see and deal with on the regular through art therapy. They use locally found toys then place and posed them in locations known to the children as a way to expressively show their unaccounted perspective on what is happening around them regularly in these war zones.
I was unfortunately about to meet up with one family that I basically spent all my time with when I lived in LA 6 years ago but was fortunate enough to meet up with Wendy Polish, my friend who I spent almost majority of my time working with. Wendy lives in Silverlake and for a glimpse, I was also able to once again see her daughter Logan whom I haven’t seen since she was 10 years old. I regret not getting a photo with her after all this time. Wendy, Vivien and myself walked from her home to Sunset Junction Coffee Shop (3916 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029) for a little snack. Although its been 6 years, we picked up where we left off like time hadn’t past. Afterwards, we returned to her place for a bit and she showed us her beautiful home and we took portraits of her dog Hank. Wendy is an designer and artist who co-founded a beautiful candle company called Le Feu de L’eau.
I said my goodbyes and off we went to our next destination – Yolk (1626 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026) – a beautiful little gift shop that also sells the cutest children clothes as well as housewares (including but not limited to Le Feu de L’eau candles). We went next door to LA Mill Coffee before making our way across the street to MILK (1639 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026) in which my Instagram feed kept showing these beautiful ice cream macaron sandwiches which were a must try! Just like any other ice cream store, you can sample a few of the flavours. I got myself a Thai Tea ice cream macaron sandwich ($6USD) and it was absolutely delicious. The Thai tea was a perfect balance and unlike drinking Thai Ice tea, the after taste didn’t linger in your mouth. I would definitely come back and eat more if I had the time.
After our refreshing treats, we drove east past of Pasadena to Glendora where we visited Vivien’s cousin who’s wife was only a few days away from giving birth to their second child. They had the most adorable little daughter Victoria who doesn’t quite known personal space boundaries but that made her even cuter. We played, chatted and read a few books before making our way through LA traffic back to Venice beach area to retrieve our friends from Abbot Kinney.
This was our last night and once we all returned home, we all showered, packed and decided that since our flight was at 6AM and we needed to be at the airport for 4AM. We packed up the car, checked out and headed to dinner where we would then stay out all night before going to the airport. We said our goodbyes to our home for the week and drove to Little Tokyo where we had dinner at Toshi Sushi (359 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012). Toshi Sushi is a cozy little restaurant but the food had big flavours. The boys for the Chirashi bowls which looked amazing and the look on their faces you could tell it was delicious. I got the Toshi Black Cod special and it was melt in your mouth delicious. Our plan was to meet up with our friend Van for $1 oysters however she ended up falling asleep as the early morning surfing drained her. We ended up walking around Little Tokyo and grabbed Boba at Twinkle Brown Sugar Tea where I got a Thai Tea boba and yes the aftertaste remained but it was a delight to have some BOBA (Bubbletea). Since we had time to kill and we didn’t necessarily fill up at sushi in hopes we were going for $1 oysters, we went back to Daikokuya and had a second dinner. My meal from Toshi was very filling so I opted for Takoyaki instead of a ramen.
We walked through Little Tokyo Plaza once more trying to kill time and I was able to step into Mikawaya once more and grabbed a peaches and crème ice cream mochi just a minute before they closed up for the night. We drove over to Marina Del Ray trying to see if we were able to walk around but we were denied and from there, we made the decision to goto the LAX. Before leaving a car that you have rented and used for a whole week, make sure to check all the pockets, seats and whatnot before departing so no items get left behind. The flight was direct heading home and once again I ended my trip the way I started – a whole row to myself to lay down and sleep. Los Angeles, I will be back for you one day soon.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
Once we got settled in, we drove over to James Beach (60 N Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291) where we intended to have dinner but in the end, we went across the street to Plancha (2024 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291) for tacos. James Beach has many reviews and is known for their fish tacos and made famous from the movie I Love you Man featuring Paul Rudd. At Plancha, I ordered the Tiger bowl ($6.95USD) which consisted of garlic tiger shrimp and the contents of a burrito.
After dinner, we decided to drive over to LACMA (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036) to see the Urban Lights by artist Chris Burden. His installation is located at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance of the LACMA and consists of lamp posts that at one point in time have lit the streets of Southern California before being restored and installed in that one location. We spent a lot of time here just taking photos and just hanging out. It’s a great atmosphere to be in with friends.
After a late night, we drove over to Hermosa Beach for surf lessons. My friend JP created a website called GOJPGO that makes exploring LA so much more accessible with helpful tips and advice. My group wanted to go for surf lessons and JP had recommended us to go with his friend Kawika at Pier Surf (21 Pier Ave Hermosa beach, CA 90254) and we were not disappointed. 8 of us took part in the 2 hour surf lesson that Kawika along with Ryan another instructor took us to the beach and taught us the basics before hitting the waters. The waves were perfect for beginners and they explained to us that the waves are about 5-10 miles per hour and we want to reach that speed to catch a wave. It was a tiring but a very rewarding experience for sure and we definitely recommend them!
Right beside Pier Surf was Hooked where we ordered Poke bowls. You can customize your own bowl and I decided to go with a large ($12,50USD) with Kelp noodles, spicy tuna, sunomono cucumber & fish roe. If I were to go again, I would change my base to rice as the kelp noodles texture was strange and a little too tasteless for me. Otherwise, the poke was tasty with a little kick of heat to it. We ate and recovered from our surf lesson and just laid out on the beach for a few hours before a few of our friends headed to LAX to head home. I couldn’t leave the beach without getting myself a acai bowl. As the gang napped on the beach, I walked over to Paradise Bowls (1246 Hermosa Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254) and got myself a mini $6.95USD (the small is massive) Guava Pipeline acai bowl (blended acai, banana, mango, guava juice with strawberries, bananas, granola and honey as the topping) delicious.
After a little more time lounging on the beach, we packed up and drove back to our Airbnb area in Venice beach but not before stopping off at Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries and also my favourite – Unsulfurated Dried Mangoes – sad to say my other favourite – dark chocolate edamame beans have been discontinued!
After everyone showered, we drove over to Little Tokyo for dinner and dessert. Since we arrived late, we went for dessert first at Mikawaya (Japanese Village Plaza, 118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012) for Ice cream mochi. I fell in love with ice cream mochi 7 years ago from this place. The Ice cream mochi is fresh and comes in multiple flavours that rotate through. They are about $1.30USD ea but well worth it. I had the Pistachio, Guava, Toasted Almond & Raspberry (my favourite). Once we finished devouring these tasty pieces of heaven, we walked across the street from the plaza to the well known yellow awning ramen restaurant – Daikokuya (327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012). I fell in love with this ramen place 7 years ago and to this day, I still think this place makes the best ramen (and I’ve been to Japan before). It could be an overstatement but the line outside proceeds me and from memory, the broth, the atmosphere, the taste still lingers and just makes it my top notch choice for best ramen I’ve ever eaten. With a group of 9, we walked in to write our name down and waited outside as they slowly went down the list. Trust me, it is worth the wait. I ordered the Combo meal – Daikoku Ramen with beef bowl ($9.95 USD for the regular ramen) and that is more than enough food. The ramen on it’s own is filling enough and you can also customize it with their special broth (Kotteri flavor from the back fat extracts). The soft-boiled egg just adds to it.
With our trip to Trader Joe’s and going across the street to the dollar store, we gathered enough ingredients to make a big family style breakfast that consisted of coconut pancake mix from TJ’s, cookie butter ice cream, cookie butter, eggs, bacon, bananas, grapes, apples, cereal and beer. It was a great bonding experience and also a great use of the outdoor patio we had.
After breakfast, we all went to Venice Beach and of course one of the main attractions ( I could’ve just stayed there all day) was the Venice Beach Skatepark. Not only were the locals out in full force skating, a few did intricate tricks which were great to see front row centre. We also walked over and tested our ability at the free muscle beach which consists of a few bars and rings. You can also pay $10USD/day to use the actual outdoor Muscle Beach gym but looking at the equipment, everything was wrapped in saran wrap and not my cup of tea.
Our main group then said our goodbyes to Susan and Kevin and off we went to drive east of Los Angeles to Joshua Tree. We made a stop at Toys R Us that detoured us south before heading east. Since we didn’t go according to our original plans, we started our drive to Joshua Tree really late and we got stuck in traffic. We made one more stop at In-N-Out (well done fries and a animal style cheeseburger are the way to go). What is so mystifying and entrancing are the wind turbine fields. The drive does get a little windy as you drive through mountains. Once we arrived by the main Joshua Tree visitor centre (which was closed when we arrived) the sun was starting to set. We drove in and stopped off on the side of the road to climb some rocks and take photos of the trees. Our end goal since we didn’t really have a chance to hike especially with the remaining light was Key Views Road which is the highest point in the national park that overlooks the park and the city. We took in the remainder of the sunset and light before laying down on the ground and gazing up into the sky as it darkened and the stars glistened and covered the sky. Incredibly sad that I wasn’t able to spend the day there and hike. I also hear and have been recommended to check out Cholla Cactus Garden.
After taking in all the stars and the vastness that we were surrounded by, we made a run for it back to LA. Koreatown was our end point for dinner at Tangji Gamatang (3470 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020) for a family style meal with our group before calling it a night.
When you feel the need for a break from the city – this is the place to go.
Griffith park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027) just took my breathe away. I didn’t get a real chance to actually hike when I visited as I had the opportunity to assist on a photoshoot for a Japanese clothing line back in 2010. The client requested shots around golden hour / sunset and chose Griffith Park to shoot. We stayed on the south side and the view was amazing. This spot is particularly memorable visually to me as can see where the rest of the city lays and the separation where downtown begins with their tall buildings.
Situated in Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles, this park is one of North America’s largest municipal parks. There is free parking which is so hard to find all over LA. Activities are plentiful here whether you want to visit the old or new zoo, picnicking, soccer, swimming, tennis and of course the observatory just to name a few. There are tons of hiking trails and multiple ones that will take you to the glorious Hollywood sign.
I lived in Pasadena for about 3 months back in 2010 and this was my saving grace. Price and quality can’t be beat here. The ultimate grocery store for the college kid and for everyone else whose on a budget and who wants to shop at a cheaper version of Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s has their own line of products that can range from food to even cleaning products. Organic or not, the food is great, fresh and plentiful. NYC is one of the only place on the east coast to have these beautiful stores and every time I go, I make an effort to stop by to purchase their amazing snacks; specifically their unsulfurated dried mangoes and dark chocolate edamame beans that I have grown addicted to. The atmosphere is fun with their employees sporting hawaiian shirts and each store has a plastic lobster hiding around. There are usually tons of sampling going on inside the store but I’ve heard that if you want to try something that isn’t being sampled, you can ask an employee and they can open one up for you. They also sell their own line of reusable totes and I still use mine till this day for everything.
Order off their main menu or order off their “not-so secret menu” the fast food chain is quick and tasty. It has that retro vibe to it and is the west coast equivalent to Shake Shack in the east. Animal Style is a burger of your choice with hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty; add pickle, extra spread with grilled onions OR if you want to opt for it, you can get all of that on your fries. My goto meal here is usually a double double (2 patties, 2 cheese slices) and animal style fries. Pictured below is an “animal style” cheeseburger with fries.
Run by the talented Christine Moore and her team, this little cafe & bakery shop has amazing quality food for a reasonable fare. Their menu has a good selection for brunch, lunch and dinner. Catering is also available here which we used multiple times during my time there. I don’t think I’ve had anything on their menu that I didn’t like. My favourites were the old fashioned turkey – $9.50USD (oven roasted turkey, comte, aioli, mixed greens, tomatoes on whole wheat) and their Dal Bowl – $10USD (brown rice, curried cauliflower, garlic, spinach, chutney, tofu, raita and yellow lentil dal). This shop is also great for pastries, local goods, gifts and their homemade sea salted caramels and marshmallows are mouthwatering. A must stop if in Pasadena!
Located on Meridian Ave. and El Centro Street next to the Gold Line South Pasadena Station.
Near by the Trader Joes on Mission St, this farmers market opens Thursdays year-round from 4-8 PM. Local vendors selling a large variety of local goods and local produce. It’s a great community event that sells products such as Kettlecorn, tempah, to handmade soaps just to name a few.
A landmark of South Pasadena is Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain and yes it still is used as a pharmacy to this day. On the corner of Mission St and Fair Oaks Avenue, this establishment has been running since 1915 under another name. The Pharmacy is now state of the art and the soda fountain still in its prime to make their homemade malts, ice cream floats and milkshakes. The ambiance is still that classic vintage feel so take a sit on a stool by the counter or slide into a booth for your taste of the past with their tin ceilings and honeycomb tiles. I got a grape ice cream soda and a turkey bacon avocado sandwich.
Another landmark – Fosselmans has been a staple name in Pasadena since 1919. In 1974, they moved shops to its current location in Alhambra. Their ice cream is homemade and was recommended by a local who said it brought back memories of childhood for him. They offer coffee and sandwiches in addition but the ice cream is definitely the highlight of this place (their ice cream can be purchased in multiples places). It’s the perfect solution for a hot sunny day. I got myself a black raspberry milkshake and it was amazing! – Cash only!
So good that I came back again. I ordered #3 which was beans and cheese torta that included avocado, jalapeño, mayo, and some other things I can’t remember. I paired it with a pineapple soda and I practically inhaled it. There was also a place she mentioned called Father Nature which serves really healthy but really good or as the sign says lavish panini’s and next time I’m in the area I will definitely try that out.
My all time favourite place for ramen – hands down. This place is where I recommend everyone to goto if they are ever in LA. Daikokuya isn’t hard to miss with its yellow awning and usually with a line out the door. I’ve been here twice and will be back the next I’m in LA. If you have a large group, you will have to wait to be seated as the restaurant is more on the smaller size but cozy with decor of vintage coca cola ads from Japan. If you are eating alone, you can be seated at the counter and watch the magic happen as ramen is made and sent out. I had the Daikoku Ramen $8.50USD which is the specialty ramen and it was SOOO GOOD. The broth is like no other that I’ve had. – Cash only!
If you like ice cream mochi, you gotta go here! Mikawaya, is 105-year-old confectionary company known for inventing mochi ice cream which is located in Little Tokyo. In recent years, it was privately sold to a firm but still produces the same loved confectionaries they always have made. This shop sells Japanese ice cream & sweets and specialize in various flavours of mochi but the piece du resistance is their mochi-lato which are ice cream mochi. I have a huge thing for mochi especially ice cream mochi and this place hits the spot! I’ve eaten so many but ones that I always got were green tea, raspberry cream and mango and they were so divine. For just around $1USD each, they were the size of hackysacks and just leave a smile on your face. I can’t wait to go back for more.