Long Beach and LA: Sweating and Eating My Way Through Cali

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It’s a new month and time for another adventure — my first being done with college before I start working full-time. Can you tell how excited I am?!


I flew out of O’Hare around 10:30AM with a relatively conventional experience, other than witnessing the woman in front of me try to place her baby in a security bin on the conveyor belt. I was able to arrive at LAX by 1PM and took an Uber to Long Beach, where I had booked an Airbnb. My original Airbnb had to cancel two days before (buildings aren’t too fond of in and out guests — shocker), but thankfully the trip was spontaneous anyway so I found another host nearby. 11th floor with a balcony overlooking the Port, I was more than pleased with the big bedroom and private bathroom. My host even has a dog named Pumpkin!


My host is goals — traveling the world with his dogs. Obsessed.


After catching up on email on the balcony, I went on a quick run. I ran two miles to check out the area, which is mere minutes from the beach. Lots of bikers, runners, roller bladers, skateboarders — everything. Everyone is in jackets because it’s “winter” at 70 degrees. Whatevs.

I stretched by the beach and watched the sunset. At one point, it smelled like someone was smoking weed right behind me. Sure enough, there were three people smoking weed right behind me! Pretty openly too, and they all had on some kind of work badges. Perplexing.


After I showered, I headed to downtown Long Beach for dinner. I stopped at Pier 76 for some fast casual seafood that was delicious. Wild Mahi, rice, and grilled zucchini. YUM.


I continued to walk around and check out the area, and stopped for some froyo at Pinkberry. I remembered the first time I had froyo, also in LA in 2008 when we visited with Sara’s Dance Company. I had read about Pinkberry in my Clique books, so I wanted to try it. I walk past Pinkberry all the time in Chicago, but my nostalgia encouraged me to treat myself to some non-dairy coconut froyo with strawberries, pineapple, shredded coconut, and granola. Night cap, please.


My Airbnb host has a big corner sofa, so I relaxed there for the evening with my laptop doing work for CHAARG while watching my go-to Netflix movie, the Big Short, on his Apple TV. I forgot about the time change, so I was very sleepy by 10PM. I climbed into bed, which is actually tempurpedic, so I slept like a baby. No alarm, no problems.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Still up by 6, I read in bed (Figure That Shift Out — blog to come because it’s so good) and worked for a couple hours while watching the sun come up. Once the temps increased a bit, it was time for a long run!


I ran the entirety of Long Beach through Belmont Shore, which is a beautiful path in the middle of the beach. I loved seeing that the city is tracking activity on the path. Super cool.

The best part of my long “travel” runs is that I can stop to take pics, relax, and I even talked on the phone for an interview with a CHAARG intern. I go at my own pace, but I still challenge myself more than I would otherwise.


I crossed into Naples, then crossed into Orange County for Seal Beach. I intended to run 8 miles, but I ended up running 9 trying to reach food. I had researched a perfect brunch spot that would have been delicious post-long run. But, towards the end of the ninth mile, I ran past the Spot Cafe with acai bowls. A couple minutes later, I realized I would have had to run up a huge hill to get to the brunch. Fuck that, an acai bowl sounded better in the heat anyway.


I got the Super Green Acai Bowl, added protein, and topped it with kiwi and granola. SO GOOD.

I got a Lyft back to the Airbnb to change then head to the beach. My host was generous enough to let me borrow a beach mat and towel. I quickly fell asleep on the beach — don’t worry, I had SPF 50 so no sunburns for once! It’s also not a bad day when you take a selfie, don’t look at it until you’re indoors without sunshine in your eyes, and realize your abs are peeking out without flexing or trying.


Then, I walked past the harbor to Shoreline Village per recommendation of several friends. A small set of colorful shops (resembling the Caribbean), it was so cute yet lively. Even though I had just missed the lunch specials, I enjoyed Happy Hour at Tequila Jack’s. Happy Hour aka cheap tacos and a bowl full of chips and salsa for just me. I’ve learned to enjoy the looks of confusion I get from servers when I’m eating alone and seriously pound the entire meal.


After showering, I got some work done on the balcony while watching the sunset. Again, can’t complain.


I finally got my breakfast food, but for dinner, at Roscoe’s. The recommendation was well-deserved. Again, eating an entire chicken breast and giant waffle was glorious. Usually I like crispy waffles, but this waffle was perfectly soft and dough-y. I took a bath and read, then fell asleep very early. All in all, my ideal day: Work from bed, run, eat, read, eat, write, eat — mostly by the water. I couldn’t ask for anything more.


Friday, March 3, 2017

I started my day easy again, reading, working some, and packing. I had breakfast at the Breakfast Bar, which I highly recommend. I had their famous “Naked Cakes,” which are wheat pancakes with fresh fruit, bacon, and eggs. SO GOOD.


To save money and to take the scenic route, I took the Metro to my hotel in West Hollywood. Chicago is big, but we discredit basically every suburb. It’s amazing to see all of the suburbs of LA and how unique they all are. I also enjoy taking public transit to really figure a city out. Even if it was just a day pass, it really helped me get a better feel for the layout. But, LA transit also sucks and I would rather Uber/Lyft everywhere, so now I know why everyone has cars.

Jess reserved a super cute, Insta-worthy hotel for us that looked like something Don Draper would have stayed at in the 1960s. Vintage and chic. After getting checked into our room, I relaxed by the pool on the extra warm day.


I took the bus up to Runyon Canyon and embarked on my first-ever hike. I was amazed for two main reasons: 1) the #VIEWS oh my gosh and 2) my butt is SO SORE. I knew hiking was for the surroundings but I did not expect it to be that beautiful up there. Now I want to hike everywhere. I also want to hike everywhere since apparently all of my squats, running, and cross-training are missing some important glute muscles. I was definitely not prepared for the resistance!


Hiking Runyon reminded me of the time I went to the main mall on New Year’s Eve in Singapore. It seemed totally easy to navigate, and I didn’t think much of it… until it was time to get out. I got lost trying to come down! Whenever I thought I would find the downhill, it would only lead to another uphill. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one lost. However, four people asked me how to get down. I, baffled, said I had no idea, and they all said, “You look like you know what you’re doing.” Fake it ‘til you make it, folks. If you’re confident, no one will ever think you’re lost or unfamiliar with your surroundings. I also wasn’t in a hurry, and I was impressed that a two mile hike became closer to four or five!

Once I finally made it back down, I walked to a nearby juice bar in Hollywood for a much needed snack. Qwench was by far my favorite of the weekend. Per usual, I got a green protein shake, not only with matcha but pineapple and mango too! It was so delicious, and everyone there was super nice. The rest of their menu looked just as good, and I was sad I didn’t make it back at all.


After showering, I headed to Venice Beach area for First Fridays to see my friend Richard. The First Friday of every month, food trucks fill up the street, Abbot Kinney, for many Millennials to get their street food fix. It was crazy! There were seriously so many kinds of foods and they all looked delicious. I was craving a lobster roll, but they were sold out, so I ordered a BBQ hoagie, but they were sold out, so I ended up with a jerk chicken wrap. Still delicious (and very messy) and it was so fun to catch up with a good friend and meet all of his classmates from UCLA.


I indulged on a Snickerdoodle cupcake from a food truck, and they gave me a Breakfast cupcake fo’ free. The Snickerdoodle was amazing — layered with frosting and a snickerdoodle cookie just like my mama’s. Breakfast was… interesting. The cake itself was biscuit flavored with bacon bits, the frosting was maple flavored, and topped with bacon bits. Now I know why they were giving out free samples.


Saturday, March 5, 2017

Jess got in at 3AM, and of course we were both leaving at 7:30AM. I was sad I didn’t get to go to the #GirlBoss Rally, but I was excited to hear all about it. I decided to hit up some fitness studios nearby. I first went to Rise Nation, a 30-minute cardio class that is all about climbing (and the first climb is free!). I’ve only ever seen these machines in Hardpressed Conditioning classes, but I never realized how hard it would be for 30 straight minutes. It had a spinning studio feel, with dark, “club” lights and an instructor dancing along to jams while cheering us on.

My butt was really sore from hiking, but there was no way I could keep up with the class. At times, it seemed like an overrated 90s step class, but it was still a blast. The studio has an outdoor patio with amazing views, too. I’m excited to see when this will end up in Chicago.


Then, I walked across the street to Playlist Yoga. All of the classes are set to pop and hip hop jams, so the studio is decked out in “Spiritual Gangster” type quotes. So cute, and each locker has a superstar’s name.


I loved the class, which was more of a power yoga style — fasting moving but rejuvenating.

Afterwards, there was a pop-up outside the studio from a local animal shelter to encouraging adopting dogs. There were adorable shirts in case you weren’t convinced enough. I was sad that I didn’t realize it, but Playlist had a joint class with Barry’s Bootcamp later that afternoon — run to Barry’s, workout there, run back to Playlist, and flow there. AKA my dream.


I went back across the street to Beaming, another health food store. I ordered a mint chip smoothie, which is my go-to other than matcha. I try to always order smoothies with spinach and protein, and after that I’m not too picky. Mint chip is also great to satisfy those cravings during Girl Scout cookie season.


While waiting, I tried their different granolas, nut butters, and green juices. I also saw so many woman with plumped up faces and juicy-adorned fake booties. Weird. The smoothie wasn’t as good as Barry’s, but it was decent. There were dates in it, and I think it messed up the flavors.

After showering and resting for a bit, I was headed to my third class of the day at EDGE Performing Arts Center. I danced with Lauren Bezler for years at Sara’s Studio of Dance, and after receiving a year-long scholarship to EDGE, she’s now a professional dancer. She’s a fucking boss.


We did a hip hop class with John Havic, who’s danced with Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Missy Elliott, Backstreet Boys, and was even in Destiny Child’s Bootylicious video. Did I just look up his bio so I could name drop? Absolutely. He was fucking awesome. And you should really watch that music video right now.

A combo to Bad and Boujee, it was so fun to dance again. Even dancing with Scorch at Loyola, I’m usually choreographing and it’s not as challenging choreo. Dancing with Lauren is so fun too because she’s so effortlessly baller in her ripped jeans and baggy shirt, just coming from a casting. NBD, right? Give credit where credit is due, and Lauren is the real fuckin’ deal.

After class, I showered and rested but tried to avoid napping so I could sleep at night. I walked down to LACMA and got to finally see Urban Light. Although a good Instagram, it was flooded with people, and darkness messed up the lights. Pity, because it was gorgeous. The entire museum campus was beautiful, especially at sunset.


I got dinner at Kaya Street Kitchen, which was something out of my wildest dreams. All inspired by Southeast Asian street food, it’s basically the Chipotle of Singapore. I got a bowl with pork + shrimp meatballs, rice, kale, a salsa, peanuts, and sauce. When I saw they had Kaya Toast, I had to indulge. Literally my favorite food from Singapore, I could eat this every day. If you know of anywhere in Chicago with this simple delicacy, let me know ASAP.


I got a quick mani (why are they so cheap in LA? Idk but also won’t question it) until Jess made it home from the #GirlBoss Rally. We checked out her amazing swag bag from the event, and she told me all about it. I’m so happy she was able to go, and I’m hoping there will be a second annual rally next year, and we can continue to make this a tradition. It sounds like such an inspiring experience for women like us, and we all need the support from one another to empower even more #Girlbosses.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

We were in bed by 10PM and slept in until 8AM. I guess we both had reasons to sleep that much, but that’s still crazy. We ate at Backyard Bowls for pre-hiking fuel, and of course got some perfect shots for Insta. This was my favorite bowl thus far — Coco-colada Bowl with added protein. It stained my lips purple though, and I didn’t notice til hours later.


When we began our hike up to Griffith Park, we were just following a path. The trail kept getting smaller, but we were certain it would lead to a larger trail eventually. We eventually started going more vertical and ending up climbing, but again, we were optimistic it would level out soon. Two women behind us were following us, thinking we knew what we were doing, and we became a sort of a team.

A couple slips later, we realized we had fucked up, but there was no turning back now. The path was actually from rundown water, so if we wanted to go downhill, we would have to slide down an imaginary, muddy slide. No thank you. We finally (and miraculously) made it to the top, but soon after realized there was a fence separating us from the rest of the park. We had REALLY fucked up. We didn’t know how to make it across, but luckily a passerby helped us all climb over. This was not pretty, but wow did we feel accomplished. We just accidentally climbed a fucking mountain??? My Nikes are basically shot at this point, and Jess’s poor Yeezy’s… so worth it.


We walked around the Griffith Observatory to check out all of the incredible views, and the adorable puppies.


We walked down an actual trail, with lots of other people and no steep incline or decline. About 3 miles total, we were ready for some brunch.

We showered and packed our stuff up at the hotel and headed towards Venice Beach to try Eggslut. A walk-up restaurant with typically longer lines, we enjoyed some amazing egg sandwiches. I had the bacon + egg that had a chipotle ketchup with an over-medium egg, and Jess had the Fairfax which had scrambled egg with chive and onions, cheese, and sriracha mayo. SO good, and a must try if you’re in LA.


Still, we were hungry. We walked to Lemonade, a health food staple of LA that needs to come to Chicago ASAP. A variety of a la carte dishes, you get to choose which you want. We both tried the red quinoa and fuji apple (delicious), and I got the BLT Panzanella and Jess got the shredded brussel sprouts. All generous scoops, all delicious. We were tempted to get cookies, but we decided to wait, which was a good call. We of course got some lemonade: I coconut apple lime and she blood orange. Both incredible.


It had been rainy and cool all day, so we chilled out at the hotel for awhile, resisting the urge to nap. Once it cleared up, we headed to Beverly Hills for some matcha tea at the adorable Alfred Tea Room. There’s a Californian chain of coffee shops, but there is one tea shop. The branding is so chic and brilliant, so we were in Heaven. My matcha almond milk latte and her matcha boba tea were perfect. We also got some really cute pictures with our nails and outfits matching the aesthetic. It really was coincidence though that our nails matched.


We headed to Neiman Marcus, but they didn’t have the scarves that Jess wanted. We walked around Beverly Hills some more, but it was chilly. We headed back to the hotel, changed, and departed for the airport. But first, In-N-Out. I got a burger animal style, and Jess, the vegetarian, ordered a burger-less burger. She still loves it.


With a redeye flight ahead, my first adventure as a post-grad comes to an end. I’m so looking forward to weekend trips to visit her in NYC, and more travels together as we continue our projects. It has been an amazing few days in Cali, and I’m excited to return to Chicago, refreshed, inspired, and grateful for so many opportunities. ‘Til next time, LA.


++ Mary K


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