Three days of gorgeous hiking, great craft beer, and intriguing art while retiring each evening to a secluded cottage in a fairyland forest. Did I travel to Portland or
Boulder? Let me add “sunshine,” “beach” and “lots of driving” to that list. Surprised? Yes, these all played a role in my Los Angeles trip over MLK weekend (yes I realize this was well over a month ago, I’ve been busy and am now breaking up into two posts).
Thanks to a $ 107 R/T Southwest ticket and poor schedule coordination, I found myself flying into Orange County with the weekend as my oyster. With a “metreat” in mind, I found the perfect spot on AirBnB (hint: use “funky” as a keyword) just 10 minutes from Santa Monica and 20ish from the other stuff in LA I wanted to hit up.
Arrived in the early evening (hurrah for hour flights) and met up with my former Marquette College of Communications mentee, Nicole, who lives with her boyfriend in Orange County. I joined them at a vegan fast food spot in Costa Mesa, pretty much the opposite of anywhere we ever met while in Milwaukee. I enjoyed a surprisingly tasty Enslata Azteca and surprisingly cheap ($3.95) Bison Organic IPA. Wonderful to catch up with recent, talented grads with the world and their careers ahead of them. Though always good to see old friends, my suburban time limit expired and ’twas time to skeedaddle. Driving my VW Beetle (thanks, Avis!) north afterward, I wondered just how many malls one county could have.
Shopping centers slowly faded into giant swaths of freeway as I entered Los Angeles, until my GPS directed me onto beachfront highway, then a darkened canyon road. I felt slightly bad for the locals stuck behind me, but turns make me so nervous. When I pulled over, about seven cars passed me at top speed. Finally I hit the village of Topanga and found the compound where the Storybook Cottage could be found. Peeking around just a bit, I made myself some hot tea and retired to the cozy attic bedroom, space heater keeping me warm, tree frog croaking me to sleep.
The morning didn’t start as planned. Turned out while fumbling around in the dark, I’d ended up locking myself out of the downstairs part of the cabin where my clothes and car keys spent the night. Luckily I could sit on the sundeck, listen to birds and visit with the kittens and puppies (seriously!) who came by to greet me. Opted to move my run to the next day, grab a bacon tomato quiche at Topanga’s Cafe Mimosa and spend my morning exploring the canyon. The internets suggested the Eagle Springs Loop, a nice six mile hike with vistas of the canyon, the Pacific and Catalina Island. One also gets to climb out onto Eagle Rock, which certainly feels quite badass. And, as sometimes as the universe aligns for me, whilst on the rock, exploring the natural arches with a random Frenchwoman, one gets to hear three individuals from the LA Meditation Center, perched in a cave, singing a Buddhist chant. Everyone else on the rock fell silent, and spent several minutes staring out over the canyon, at the ocean and beyond. Hooray for the universe.
Completing the loop, I swung by the cabin for a quick shower and change before starting my return back into a more urban environment. With 5 p.m. plans to meet a high school friend and needing to factor in traffic (such a foreign concept to a woman who bicycles with a 7×7 radius most weekends), I opted to spend my gloriously sunny afternoon in Santa Monica.
Thanks to Draft Magazine publishing their 100 Best Beer Bars list just days before I traveled, I possessed a handy guide for my weekend’s imbibing. Luckily many of the recommendations also served food. I found myself at Father’s Office for lunch, where I enjoyed a delightful burger (no substitutions here – they’re extremely strict) and a tasty post-hike Heavenly Hefe from Craftsman Brewing Company.
With about 90 minutes to kill before braving the freeways, I headed to the beach. My plans of lounging thwarted by an ultimate frisbee tournament, I discovered better plans. I could rent a bicycle for just an hour! Mounting up on a beach cruiser, I pedaled my way down the beautiful beach path through the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach until it terminated at Marina del Rey. The people watching didn’t disappoint and the next time someone tells me that Northern California wins the “weirdo” award, I’ll point out that I biked by a stand where you could get gongs banged in your ears and another where you could purchase hugs. So…yeah.
Returned the bike right on the hour and drove toward West LA (probably getting neighborhood name wrong here) to meet Pat. Thanks to the power of Facebook, I reached out to a few folks and Pat luckily was game to show me around on Saturday. Oddly enough, he lives just blocks from where Mary Ann resided when I last visited her in LA. I found stellar parking and we actually walked (!) to LACMA where I had a 5 p.m. ticket for the Stanley Kubrick Retrospective.
For anyone who’s a fan of Kubrick, or heck, the movies in general this exhibit is a must go. I’m split on his films that I adore (Dr. Strangelove, The Shining) and that I’m just not that into (Barry Lyndon – sorry, Mary Ann), but this actually changed my opinion on 2001 (yes, I’ve lost friends by not being a fan of this film) realizing that it basically set the stage and tone for so many sci-fi movies that I love. One warning: seeing the space baby in real life is SUPER CREEPY (I actually had a really messed up dream that night about it). Also, I had no idea that Full Metal Jacket was filmed entirely in London! Anyway, this runs through June, so make it a part of your trip if you’re heading to Los Angeles before then.
After the museum, Pat offered to drive us to dinner at one of his favorite spots, which happened to also be a Draft Mag rec – double win! We headed across some unsavory parts of town (hey there Skid Row) to a recently revitalized area to eat at Little Bear, home of Belgian beers, fancy grilled cheese and not-to-miss frites. I passed on the true Belgians, and went for a local golden ale – The Bruery’s 5 Golden Rings, a fruity and delicious accompaniment to my smoked salmon sandwich.
We had a nice visit about traveling the world and the differences between LA/SF and growing up in Portland. I retrieved my car after a nice break from driving and headed back on the freeways. As it was still relatively early on a Saturday night, I decided to make a stop at another Draft (as well as my friend Sunny’s) rec – The Daily Pint in Santa Monica. This spot was much more my speed in terms of a beer bar, trading the fancy interior or artisan food for a slightly musty smell and beer (and whiskey) done really well. I sipped on a Green Flash Hop Head Red, but stayed a little when a friendly patron bought me a very delicious Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. I enjoyed visiting with a group of working class locals, but appreciated my distance and sobriety to give me an excuse for an early exit.
(Don’t worry, Mom, I alternated all these with water breaks and was plenty fine to drive.)
Stay tuned! I hope to get my Sunday/Monday adventures of this mini-trip up in fewer than six weeks.