A Virgin Airlines flight feels a lot like a nightclub. The flight attendants are blond and bubbly. Upon boarding, the overhead lights are neon pink and purple. I’m half expecting someone to offer me bottle service, and instantly the five-hour flight ahead seems fun (except for when they announce that, due to a passenger’s airborne peanut allergy, no one can consume nuts during the flight, and you can guess what kinds of snacks I brought). I had put off my first trip to the West Coast for too long and finally, my opportunity appeared: my best friend was coming to the end of her first year in Los Angeles, and my favorite (contemporary) band was playing at a festival that weekend (see below). The stars were aligned, as were the complimentary Virgin-sponsored music videos on my flight.
My whirlwind of a trip was more than I had hoped. Rather than submit readers to a long-winded recounting of my adventures, I’ve decided to highlight places or events along my trip (including one run-in that left me starstruck).
Food Spotlight: Lemonade, Perch, Food Trucks, and The Farmer’s Market
Overall, the food in Los Angeles was everything I had expected AND MORE. Every menu seemed to be healthful and fresh, organic and local, with many vegan and gluten-free options (not that I observe either dietary lifestyle–but vegan food tends to be more creative, so I love i ant).
Lemonade was a healthy soul-food kind of place, with cafeteria-style meals served over a vitrine. It was hard not to eat with my eyes, and I ended up packing a to-go container (conveniently placed by the straws and napkins–clearly, this happened often). I selected avocado/tomato salad, a spicy butternut squash concoction that tasted like Doritos, apple-chicken salad (someone get me a star recipe for this NOW), and a buttermilk chicken breast. True to the name, they featured a variety of lemonades, including a seasonal flavor. The desserts looked equally irresistible but for maybe the first time in my sweet-toothed life, I had absolutely no room.
A more upscale spot was Perch, a French restaurant located on the fifteenth floor of a building downtown. Above the restaurant was an adjoining rooftop bar, where a friend and I waited for our table. Though the wait was supposedly two hours, my friend worked his magic and we enjoyed the view for far less than that. I would recommend this place just for the atmosphere alone, but the food gets my vote, too (make a reservation!).
In this case, a two-hour wait is fine with me.
I was able to grace one of the many food trucks in Los Angeles, little slices of heaven on wheels. They were parked in a competitive row outside the LACMA. I fell victim to a sinful pulled pork grilled cheese from Street Kings Gourmet, accompanied by sweet potato fries. This food truck sold me on its laissez-faire varieties–they offered a certain selection of meats, and you could have them anyway you liked–in a grilled cheese, on mini sliders, and more. Yay food trucks!
The last food item I’ll mention is The Farmer’s Market. This permanent covered market reminded me of Le Marché des Enfants Rouges in Paris (and many others like it). I successfully crafted that evening’s dinner–fresh Pacific cod–from the market’s offerings. There is nothing like preparing a fresh catch with local, organic produce, and it was one of many moments during my trip that I saw myself living happily in Los Angeles. I had an emotional breakdown in Monsieur Marcel‘s, a French bistro and specialty food shop straight out of Paris, complete with obscure jams, excellent wines, and other brands reminiscent of Francelandia.
Light, fresh, and pan-seared.
Sight Spotlight: The LACMA, Tar Pits, and the Griffith Observatory
I was impressed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) collection–I had no idea it was so overwhelming, with a wide collection of the Europeans and a good selection of contemporary work. There was this crazy light exhibit by James Turrell, but the wait was worse than Disney World and I was hungry. Trying to write about the LACMA would be akin to writing about the Met or the MFA, so I’ll stop here.
After the museum, I wandered over to the La Brea Tar Pits to enjoy some of California’s famous sunshine (it only rains about five times a year in Los Angeles, which seems absurd to me, coming from a place where summer means a daily afternoon thunderstorm). The tar pits, which bubbled to the surface 10,000s of years ago, exist inside what is now Hancock Park. I learned that “la brea” means “the tar,” so the name literally means “the tar tar pits.”
A steep, picturesque drive up through the mountains landed us at Griffith Observatory, complete with a planetarium and various astronomical exhibits. The observatory, donated by Colonel Griffith at the end of the 19th century, was intended to make astronomy accessible to the public. Surrounding the observatory is a bird’s eye view of Los Angeles, including the notorious Mount Hollywood.
Adventure Spotlight: Santa Monica Pier Concert, Malibu Creek State Park, and FYF Fest
In the summertime, the Santa Monica Pier hosts a weekly concert, featuring a different genre of artist each week. We spread out some blankets on the sand beneath the pier, and I got to experience the classic rock band The Zombies, of whom I had no prior knowledge (Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). But they were straight out of 1964, and it was GREAT. Unlike Miami, Los Angeles nights are actually cool and bearable–here at home, the thermometer may read 92 at 10:00 PM.
Perhaps one of my favorite experiences was our hike through Malibu Creek State Park, prefaced by a drive down the historic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). At every turn, I was assaulted by the majesty of nature. The elevation I’m used to comes in the form of golf courses and sky rises, so actual mountains are always a marvel. Throw some ocean on the other side of the road and you’ve got another emotional breakdown for Thais. The trail led to a secluded pond where we jumped off cliffs and enjoyed other free-spirited activities (like obligatory yoga poses on rocks).
Oh, and did I mention we ran into some wildlife on our hike…Justin Bieber? I don’t suffer from “Bieber fever,” but apparently the Biebs does: one of his posse was carrying a giant boom box blasting his own music.
And last but certainly not least, FYF Festival at Exposition Park. Man. I’ll just reference you back to this post about the experience.
I could write about many more adventures on this trip, and even then, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Los Angeles has to offer. Thanks again, LA.