September Favourites

September’s been a relatively busy month. I’ve started work and have since flown twice to Chicago for training sessions. I’ve also been drinking more coffee (getting back in that work routine) so there are a few caffeine drinks part of this month’s picks. I also went to the Stratford Festival one weekend, which was a great small-town getaway, and below you’ll find a gem of a restaurant recommended.

On the whole, here are a bunch of great little products and places I’ve come across this month.

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DRINK PICKS 

  • Balzac’s Iced Americano: The Americano at Balzac’s is bold and crisp – just the way I like it (I despise watered down coffee beverages). This café also provides free of charge soy, almond, or coconut milk to add in beverages.
  • MOS MOS: This tiny coffee front inside the Toronto Path is always bustling – don’t be frightened by the long lines though, they tend to move very quickly. I usually go for the regular coffee with one milk and one sugar, a combination that almost tastes of a HK style milk coffee. I’ve recently also tried the chai matcha latte with soy milk, which is absolutely phenomenal.

 

FASHION PICKS

  • Frank + Oak Women Jeans: I went to the Frank + Oak warehouse sale and got two pairs of jeans: a black pair, fitted at the top and flared at the bottom, and another pair that is white and fitted. I love the jean material, thick and sturdy. Each pair retails for $90 but the price dropped to $30 for this sale event.
  • Topshop Cigarette Cropped Dress Pants: I find it difficult to find work pants that aren’t baggy or boxy in shape, so I was quite happy to find the cigarette style ones at Topshop. These pants are high-waisted, tight at the waist and well-fitted. I bought a pair in black and navy blue, $45 each.

 

FOOD PICKS

  • Bijou Crostini, Escargot, Weth Mushrooms, 63 Degree Egg, Smoked Cheese at BijouThis beautiful restaurant in Stratford served one of the best dishes I’ve ever had – a textural delight of escargot, creamy poached egg, and silky cheese; all-paired with a thick, crisp crostini. All the flavours worked incredibly well together.
  • Hungry Hippo Coconut Crisps: This snack is so flavourful, crisp, and relatively healthy. I got these coconut crisps at the annual Veg Fest in Toronto, but they’re also available at many grocery stores.
  • IKEA Veggie Meatballs: These veggie balls contain only natural ingredients, including corn, peas, and carrots, which you can actually see as whole pieces inside the balls. They’re flavourful and filling, and make for a healthy substitute to regular meatballs.

 

TRAVEL PICKS

  • Lavender Oil Applicator: I stayed at the Westin hotel in Chicago, which provided in every room a small oil applicator scented with lavender. Its gentle scent is soothing, and it’s quite nice to apply some on the wrists or temples when trying to relax or before sleeping.
  • Samsonite Spinner Suitcase: The inside of this suitcase has straps to secure clothing and interior pockets to hold smaller items, helping users stay organized throughout their travels. The wheels also move any direction, allowing users to wheel their suitcase beside them in tighter corridors.
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Humber Bay Park & Parkdale

Yesterday I went to Humber Bay Park, a waterfront park located in Etobicoke that is home to the new Toronto driftwood sign. Toronto locals Julie Ryan and Thelia Sanders-Shelton had worked in secret for seven days to build this sign, and it was the first time either of them had worked with driftwood. The sign is so beautiful, yet delicate, so be sure not to grab its posts when you are near it.

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Nearby, someone else had built another driftwood sculpture. It resembles a man casually lounging by the lakeside and admiring the CN Tower in the distance.

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Afterwards, we walked along the lakeside all the way to Parkdale, which begins where Queen St. and King St. meet. In this area, we stumbled across a thrift store called Common Sort. After digging around for a bit, I found a J. Crew denim vest for $20. I’ve actually had my eye on several denim vests for awhile now, so I was really happy to find this one, especially since the fabric is already worn in. I love how versatile this item is; I can wear it as a light jacket in the summer or layer it over a sweater in the fall.

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I also got a leather peplum top for $18. I was never in the market for a top like this, but it fit my size perfectly so I just had to get it.

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I was quite surprised by how busy Parkdale was on a Wednesday evening, although there are a lot of cool shops, bars, and restaurants in this area. We had dinner at the beloved Guu Izakaya, (from where I would highly recommend the cauliflower karaage and mushroom & cheese bibimbap if you go).

Last Stop: Athens

I realize that I never wrote about my last stop in Europe, which was to Athens, Greece. We flew there from the island of Santorini, which was only about an hour flight away. Warning: If you go to Athens in June, it is crazy hot. Many shops and restaurants close during the hottest hours in the afternoon (between 2 to 5 pm), which our Airbnb host described as a siesta-like period for Greeks.

There are many important historic monuments to check out in Athens, as well as cool flea markets and shops. As the capital of Greece and a major transportation hub, Athens is also a convenient place to do day trips from.

Here are a list of things to do (and around) Athens:

1. Acropolis of Athens

The main feature at the Acropolis is the Parthenon, dedicated by the Athenians to Athena Parthenos, the patron of their city. I highly recommend visiting this site in the morning, as it tends to be less hot since the sun hasn’t reached its full peak yet.

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2. Take a ferry to Hydra

Athens is close to many islands, one of them being the island of Hydra, which is located in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic Gulf and the Argolic Gulf. There are short hikes you can do in Hydra to some beautiful beaches, where the water is as blue and clear as the sky. A one-way ferry trip to Hydra from Athens takes less than an hour.

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3. Watch the sunset over the water

This is just one of those classic vacation things you must do in Greece. The photo below was taken while we were waiting at the dock in Hydra for our ferry back to Athens.

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4. Visit the farmers market in Athens

It’s a little hard to communicate with vendors, who for the most part only speak Greek, but the farmer market in Athens was quite an interesting and fun experience. The produce here is really cheap; for instance, I bought a large bag of plump, juicy cherries (around 3 lbs) for two euros.

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5. Explore Monastiraki

This flea market area is always buzzing with tourists and locals alike. There are tons of cool shops, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops to check out. I recommend trying a fish foot massage at Doctor Fish Athens, where you place your feet inside a tank and little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. The sensation was really ticklish at first, but it soon became soothing and even nice. My feet also did in fact feel softer afterwards.

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6. Buy some Greek sesame snacks & honey

We bought a lot of souvenirs, such as snacks and beauty products, to share with our friends back home. Most of the snacks we found in Greece contain either honey and/or sesame seeds. There were also a lot of olive oil products for sale in the markets; we bought cream and shampoo containing this ingredient, as well as some olive wood products.

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7. Explore Coffee Shops

During the hottest hours of the afternoon (between two to five), many shops and restaurants are closed and it also tends to get too hot to wander outside – making it the perfect time to explore Athens’ coffee shops. There are tons of really neat ones around the city, my favourite being the cozy Little Tree Books & Coffee.

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8. See the Acropolis at night

There are many restaurants with rooftop patios near the Acropolis of Athens, allowing guests to see the beautiful Acropolis light up at night. We visited Kuzina, as recommended to us by our local Airbnb host. This restaurant tends to get quite busy so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

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9. Daytrip to Delphi

From Athens we took a day trip to Delphi, a famous ancient sanctuary about a two-hour drive away from Athens. The site is on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus, overlooking the coastal plain to the south and the valley of Phocis. Showcasing monuments built by important ancient Greek city-statess, Delphi embodies Hellenic unity and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Must-Try Foods 

Not only is Greece absolutely beautiful, but the country’s cuisine is also phenomenal. From street souvlaki to grilled squid, everything I ate was incredible – and at prices that I know I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Here are some dishes you have to try when in Greece:

1. Gyro and Souvlaki

Gyro is a special Greek delicacy consisting of meat, onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce served with pita bread. The gyro meat is cooked slowly on a vertical rotisserie and is served as strips or small slices of meat. Souvlaki is also a Greek dish, but is prepared as small meat cubes and grilled vegetables on a skewer. A great place to try these dishes is at Sfika, a restaurant that serves some of the best grilled meats in the city, according to our local host.

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2. Greek Salad

Made with the perfect balance of feta cheese, crisp vegetables, and buttery croutons, the Greek salad at Kuzina Restaurant was absolute perfection.

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3. Greek Frappé Coffee

The traditional frappé coffee is a Greek foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee, water and sugar. The frappé has become a hallmark of Greek coffee culture, and is available in virtually all coffee shops across Athens. I got one at Coffee Island, which sells a real strong traditional Greek frappé for 1.10 euros.

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4. Asian Greek Fusion at Mr. Dim

This may sound almost silly, but this Greek Asian fusion shop called Mr. Dim served one of the best bao creations I’ve ever tasted. The tender, juicy gyros meat worked so well with the flavours of the Chinese sesame bao; even my Asian parents adored this fusion dish.

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5. Grilled Squid

I highly recommend the grilled squid at Smile Restaurant, a local family-run business. I normally don’t love grilled squid because it tends to be too chewy for my liking, but the texture of this one was amazing and grilled to perfection.

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6. Moussaka

This traditional Greek dish is either eggplant- or potato-based, and is layered with ground meat in a fashion similar to that of a lasagna.

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7. Koulouria Thessalonikis

These giant sesame bagel-like treats are sold everywhere on the streets in Athens for typically less than one euro. They’re deliciously chewy on the inside, and carry a fragrant toasted sesame taste – perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

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Happy traveling!

Coldplay in Toronto

Last Tuesday, I went to go watch the Coldplay Concert at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. I’ve heard amazing things about the band’s concerts last summer, so I was excited to go – yet I wasn’t too excited since my friends and I had bought the 500 row seats (basically the seats furthest away from the actual stage, all the way at the top of the dome.) The tickets were the cheapest we could find ($40) and we figured that we would still be able to hear the music anyways.

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After we arrived to the Rogers Centre and climbed an eternity of staircases to get to the our seating area, one of my friends happened to see her friend who worked at the Rogers Centre and walked over to talk to him for a little. Five minutes later, she comes back over and gushes, “I got us floor seats!!” Turns out that the people who previously bought those floor tickets got promoted to even better seats, so they were just extra tickets waiting to be given out.

If I am being completely honest, I wasn’t even sure what floor seats were (I usually cap the amount I’m willing to pay for any concert at $50.) But sooner than later, I realized that floor seats are basically where I can stand and lean close enough to touch Chris Martin’s arm.

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The concert was absolutely surreal, one of the best that I had ever been to. The band sounded amazing live, and I loved the graphics that went along with the different songs too.

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The best part was that they gave each attendee a wristband that lights up in coordination with different songs. Looking around and seeing all the wristbands twinkling all throughout the arena was absolutely captivating.

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I still can’t believe that it’s possible to randomly get promoted to floor seats from the 500’s, and I am so, so grateful for that guy whom I know nothing about except his name (THANK YOU NATHAN). Coldplay gave such a phenomenal performance; next time I will surely be willing to spend more than I had previously planned to on their concerts (haha).

August Favourites

My birthday is in August, making it my favourite month by default. I also find that the long weekend in August is also a good time for my family to get together for trips. This year, we went to the Tobermory and Collingwood (Blue Mountain) area to do some hiking, picnic lunches, and boat riding. Here are my favourite products that I’ve encountered throughout this month:

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APP PICKS

  • Carrot Rewards App: Linked to a user’s Aeroplan, Petro-Points, More Rewards, or Cineplex’s Scene, the Carrot Rewards App allows a user to complete surveys about health and fitness for reward points. This app has recently been subsidized by the Canadian government in hopes of promoting better nutrition and fitness among Canadians. Use the code jasmineh5166 to redeem bonus points when you sign-up!
  • Ritual: With a large number of restaurants on the app, Ritual allows users to conveniently order food for pick-up. Every order collects points, which can be used to redeem discounts or special offers. Use this link in your mobile browser to get $10 off your first order.

 

BEAUTY PICKS

  • Kiehl’s Mango Lip Balm: My lips became severely chapped after hiking in the sun during the August long weekend. After a day’s use of the Kiehl’s lip balm, I could see significant improvements in repairing the damage of my skin. This product is more expensive than regular lip balms ($12), so I would only strongly recommend it if your lips are severely chapped.

 

CLOSET PICKS

  • Fitness Leggings by FableticsThe material of these leggings is comfortable, breathable, and most importantly, opaque. Some leggings on this site also have outside pockets to store your phone/iPod, which is ideal for jogging. New members of Fabletics also receive special discounts, including workout leggings for 2 for $24.  I’ve searched around and trust me, getting two pairs of such high quality for less than $25 is an amazing deal. 

 

FOOD PICKS

  • AYCE Sushi at KaKa: I love All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) sushi dinners every once in a while. My visit to KaKa this month was actually my first AYCE this year, and it was incredible. The restaurant has an impressive range of items, as well as specialties including torched sushi, pressed sushi, spring egg soup, and takoyaki balls. I absolutely love the taste of torched fish, so having an AYCE experience with it was amazing.
  • Black Sesame Ice Cream at Kekou Gelato: I’ve tasted quite a number of black sesame ice creams before, but the one at this gelato shop was impressively creamy and rich in flavour. Kekou also has many other interesting flavours, such as Vietnamese Ice Coffee, Oolong Tea, and Whiskey Green Tea.
  • Cornish Hen at Peoples Eatery: This unassuming restaurant in Chinatown Toronto always seems to be buzzing with people, and for good reason. I finally tried eating here this month with some friends and loved it; everything from the atmosphere to the food was amazing. I would highly recommend trying the Cornish Hen, General Tso Tofu, and HDB (sashimi salad). I shared these three dishes among four friends, and it left us all completely full.

Post-Move Post

Since my travels to LA, I’ve moved to a condo in the King West area in downtown Toronto. I am really happy with the location; it’s close enough to walk to work (yet not too close), but also close to many cool restaurants, shops, and bars. I’m currently brainstorming ideas to decorate my room, which is small but cozy.

My family also went on a trip to the Tobermory area during the August long weekend. We based ourselves in Owen Sound, and did day trips to hike around different national parks, including the one on Flower Pot Island. It was a lot of fun, and it was definitely nice to do a family outing altogether.

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I realized that I quite enjoy hiking through forests; it’s much more fun that running on a treadmill. The ground is also uneven, so you must always remain relatively alert to avoid tripping on any branches that happen to be sticking out.

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I also turned 22 this month! On my birthday, I went to Medieval Times for the first time. It was lot of fun, and I have to say, I was very impressed with the jousting and overall show. The food was also much tastier than I anticipated, and the portions much larger. I swear they had served me an entire chicken.

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I also had a small gathering that weekend. I made white sangria for the party, and I followed this recipe, which only required two ingredients. It was absolutely delicious, although I did add a few shots from a tiny lime vodka sampler, which came with a bottle that I had bought to make a spiked jello cake. It was a good time, with mostly me trying to deny the fact that I was turning 22. (Earlier that day, I had spent the day at Wonderland, only to come to the sad realization that I am turning quite old, as demonstrated by my growing fear of fast-moving-upside-down-going roller coasters).

So here’s to adulthood and moving downtown Toronto (AND to a location that’s less than a 10-minute walk to one of my favourite gelato shops ever)!!

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Side Note: If you go, you have to try the black sesame gelato.

Dine LA at Erven

I used to love Toronto’s Winterlicious and Summerlicious, two culinary events where restaurants across the city offer a fixed price menu for a limited period of time, with prices ranging from $15-25 for lunch and $25-45 for dinner. I remember back in high school, my friends and I even had lunch at the CN Tower for $25 (lift included) during Winterlicious, an experience typically worth at least double that amount. Over the years, however, I found myself becoming more and more disappointed with these culinary events. Rather than featuring their best dishes from their usual menus, restaurants started creating lower quality menus just for Winterlicious/Summerlicious. Portions seemed smaller and the ingredients of lower quality; my overall excitement for these annual events hence diminished.

That’s why when I heard about Dine LA, a similar event in Los Angeles where restaurants across the city offer fixed price menus for a limit\ed two-week period, I was skeptical. I skimmed Eater’s list of “Best Dine LA Dinner Restaurants” and found one, however, that I was quite interested in trying. Erven Restaurant in Santa Monica used to be a strictly vegan restaurant until just recently, when it added a few meat and dairy products to its menu.

I was also impressed that unlike most restaurants during Toronto’s Summerlicious, Erven’s menu for Dine LA featured items on its regular menu. In fact, the main courses on its Dine LA menu were typically worth more than $20 each – making the three-set course for $29 a great value. I booked a table for the last Friday of this culinary event.

I liked the vibe of Erven. It was a nice restaurant, yet didn’t seem pretentious. The waiter offered us complimentary white sangria upon our arrival, and promptly seated us to our table. The white sangria didn’t taste like typical sangria; it was sweeter yet lighter in the fruit taste. We liked it so much, we ordered a carafe to share ($12).

For starters, we ordered the beets with peas, pistachio, rose and strawberries, as well as the charred California avocado with macadamia tahini, chili-garlic salsa and pomegranate seed. The beet dish played a lot with temperature; there was this green foam that resembled frozen gelato.

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The charred avocado was amazing, and unlike any other avocado dish I had ever tasted. I normally don’t like avocado much, unless it’s in sushi, but the sear on this one was amazing. The tahini and pomegranate seeds paired with the avocado also contrasted well with its rich taste.

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For our mains, we got the salmon with chorizo, corn chowder, basil dumplings and smoky tomato, as well as the vegan Thai-style burrito. The salmon dish was one of the best-cooked fishes I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying a lot about Erven, considering that it used to be a completely vegan restaurant.

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The Thai-style burrito was quite interesting; it was stuffed with fried rice, tempura sweet potato, lime cream, peanuts and tom yum gravy. My only criticism would be that the wrap itself was a bit too thick, almost overpowering the taste of its stuffing.

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I was already full by the time the two desserts came, but there’s no way I would have left them untouched. We had ordered the cheesecake with roasted plums, corn nut crunch and goat cheese ice cream, as well as the vegan chocolate bread pudding, made with peanut butter, fluff and banana.

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I’m not too big of a fan of savory ice creams, such as goat cheese ice cream, but it was interesting. The chocolate bread pudding contrasted with the rich peanut butter and light marshmallow fluff was absolutely delicious.

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I was highly impressed and satisfied with my Dine LA experience, and I would recommend it for those who are in Los Angeles in time for it!

July Favourites

I like the month of July – smack in the middle of the summer, when you know you still have one more month afterwards before reality strikes again in September. This month, I’ve been busy studying for my GMAT, catching up with friends and family, and traveling to LA for two weeks. Here are my favourites that I came across in July:

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CLOSET PICKS

  • Black romper from Oak and FortI am in love with anything that looks like a dress but actually hides a pair of shorts (and bonus points if there are pockets too.) I found this black romper during Oak and Fort’s Summer sale, where it was discounted by 40%. It’s a breezy piece that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
  • Long beige-rose dress from Oak and FortI also got this piece (photo above) during Oak and Fort’s sale period; my favourite part of the dress is the small slit on the left side. The slit allows for extra leg movement, but isn’t excessively high that you would have to worry about accidentally revealing too much.

 

COFFEE SHOP PICKS

  • Coffee Tomo: Tomo serves the best pretzels in Los Angeles (try the sweet potato & cheese one) and has a great seating area for studying or catching up with a friend.
  • Cafecito Organico: Not only does this coffee shop in Silverlake serve an amazing almond milk cold brew, but it also has a gorgeous backyard patio ideal for studying, chatting, or just hanging out.

 

FOOD PICKS

  • Dark Chocolate Almond Milk by Silk: This is the perfect way to fulfill your chocolate cravings while meeting your daily calcium needs. It’s rich and nutty, but not too sweet since it’s made with dark chocolate.
  • Caramel Cookie Crunch by Talenti Gelato e SorbettoSold in small tubs at local grocery stores, this gelato is so heavenly – layered with smooth caramel and morsels of cookie bits. I finished a whole tub in one day (with a bit of help).
  • Mint Mojito Iced Coffee at Philz: I wasn’t too sold on the idea of mint leaves in my iced coffee when I first heard about this famous Philz drink, but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. The mint leaves added a refreshing twist to my usual morning beverage, and weren’t overpowering in any way.

 

EVENT PICKS

  • Cinespia: I highly recommend this event for anyone in LA during the summer. Cinespia is an outdoor movie screening inside the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (yes, a cemetery). People bring their picnic blankets, a bottle of wine, popcorn, and other snacks to enjoy a chill night out. Get here early to reserve a good spot!
  • Dodgers Game: I didn’t think I would like watching baseball, but it turned out to be a lot more fun that I thought it would be. For ten more dollars than a regular ticket, you can snag a seat in the Coca Cola Pavillion that has all-you-can-eat nachos, hot dogs, soft drinks, popcorn, and peanuts!

 

TRAVEL PICKS

  • Camel Hydration Packs: This is essentially a backpack with a built-in hydration system, as it can hold large amounts of water in a reservoir (made of light plastic material) with a built-in-hose to allow the wearer to drink hands-free. I wore one when I was biking from Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach, and it was great at allowing me easily drink water without stopping since I’m not the best at biking hands-free. My pack also held up to 2L of water so it helped ensure that I stay hydrated all-day!

8 LA Things to Do

There are some things in life you can only ever experience in Los Angeles, such as movie screenings inside a cemetery, or a food market where people line up for almost half an hour to eat deep fried shrimps from the inside of a pineapple. Either way, here are some things that I think are worth experiencing while in La La Land.

1. Cinespia

Cinespia is an outdoor movie screening in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (yes, a cemetery). The shows almost always sell out every week, and people often get to Cinespia right when gates open to reserve a nice spot for the movie. Visitors bring either their lawn chairs or their picnic blankets, as well as some wine and snacks. I even saw some people with a full-out buffet-style picnic spread.

A movie in a cemetery – I really don’t know where else you can find this.

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2. Rockin Roe Bowl at The Korean Mkt.

Poke has become a growing trend recently, but only in LA have I ever seen it taken to the extreme – filling rice bowls with colourful fish roe instead of the usual raw fish. I highly recommend this bowl (if you like roe), which is available at The Korean Mkt in Sawtelle. Everything else at this small shop is delicious too.

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3. Throwing exploding rocks on the ground in Chinatown

As we were strolling through Chinatown one evening, all we could hear was the sound of tiny explosions. They were too quiet to sound threatening, yet frequent enough to raise mild concern. We realized that a lot of children here had bought popping rocks – tiny bundles that make a small explosion noise when thrown on the ground – and were continuously smashing them on the ground all around the streets. We bought a small pack too ($0.25) to play with, since all the cool kids seemed to be doing it.

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4. Smorgasburg

This is basically where people get “instagrammable” food; lineups for the most popular vendors tend to have wait times anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. To be fair though, the two items that I tried (passion fruit strawberry shaved ice and Hawaiian shrimp pineapple rice) were both really delicious.

The Smorgasburg market is also in NYC, understandably.

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5. The Getty Center

Entrance to this stunning garden and museum is free and iPhone audio guides are also free for use. Many gardens that I’ve visited before had an entrance fee, so take advantage of this free opportunity!

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8. Buffet at The Dodgers Stadium

For ten more dollars than a regular ticket, you can opt to sit at the Coca Cola Pavillion at the Dodgers Stadium, where there are all-you-can-eat nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, peanuts, and bottomless soft drinks. Although the Dodgers lost the night I went, the buffet made it all worth it.

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Other places worth mentioning are the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday evenings for its Twilight Concerts, By Chloe for its amazing vegan “fast food,” Sqirl for its locally-sourced creative brunch dishes, and Fly Wheel, a cycle class that allows participants to compete by keeping track of their progress on a scoreboard at the front of their room.

Happy exploring in Los Angeles!

California Dreamin’

Despite it being my third time going to LA in the span of twelve months, I still love the city so much and am always able to find new things to do or new places to check out. Although I have to study while I’m here (GMAT cramming), it’s also become a good excuse to check out different cafes around the city.

Here are some of the places that I’ve visited over the past week:

On my first day in LA, we went to Melrose Avenue, which starts at Santa Monica Boulevard, at the border between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and ends at Lucille Avenue in Silver Lake. There are lots of cool shops, restaurants, and coffee shops all along the street, as well as cool graffiti (and the infamous pink Paul Smith wall). We went to Alfred’s Tea Room to try their Earl Grey boba tea, then settled down at Alfred’s Coffee to study for awhile.

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The next day, we went to Malibu Wines, a small park with nice seating area and booths selling wine tastings and bottles. Entrance is free, and visitors are welcome to bring in their own snacks. We tried a white wine flight; it’s always fun trying to decipher the different flavours of various wines. It’s not on the menu, but you can also order mimosas at the central booth in the park.

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After church on Sunday, we ate lunch at Smorgasburg, a market that only happens every Sunday in the DTLA area. It features really creative food vendors; we tried the Hawaiian Shrimp and a passion fruit shaved ice. Be prepared to wait in long lines at Smorgasburg!

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Afterwards, we studied at Verve Coffee in DTLA. This shop offers juice tasting flights, which is the ideal solution for people like me who can never decide on just one thing to order.

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In the evening, we went to the Grand Central Market, and ordered Thai food at Sticky Rice. This unassuming stall makes one of the best Khao Soi dishes I’ve ever had, and their portions are also quite large for the $10 price tag. We strolled around the area afterwards, and came across the majestic Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

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The next morning, we went to Santa Monica Beach, and I studied on the beachfront at Perry’s Cafe. It was nice being able to enjoy the hot weather and dig my feet into the warm sand while studying. Afterwards, we strolled down Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a nice street by Venice Beach with neat shops and cute cafes. A great place for ice cream on Abbot Kinney is Salt and Straw, which has really unique flavours, from olive & feta cheese to black tea & coconut stracciatella. The TOMS Flagship Store is also a great studying spot, as the back door of the store leads out into a grand patio with outdoor seating (and free WiFi).

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On Tuesday, we checked out Coffee Tomo in Sawtelle, which has the most amazing pretzels in all of LA. They bake them fresh, and the pretzels are so soft they almost resemble like a croissant on the inside. I recommend the sweet potato & cheese flavour, which oozes with sweet cheese and a taste of condensed milk.

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Afterwards, we went to Jimmy Kimmel Live in Hollywood. It was my first time attending a live filming of a TV talk show, and it was so exciting to see it all being carried out. The show has a “hype guy” who never actually appears on the show, but he’s in charge of hyping up the audience and making sure that the audience is clapping and shouting as loud as they can. By the end of the taping, my cheeks hurt so much from laughing, and my hands hurt from clapping excessively hard, but it was so much fun, and I’d definitely love to attend another one. We had to book the Jimmy Kimmel tickets a month in advance. Although the tickets are free, they run by a lottery system, so try entering for as many days as possible.

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In the evening, we went to the Comedy Store, which featured comedians David Spade, Tiffany Hadish, and Howie Mandel for the night. I didn’t think I could laugh anymore for the day after Jimmy Kimmel, but the comedy store was really, really good. I’d recommend it for a fun night out with some friends.

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With its perfect weather and endless list of things to do, Los Angeles is definitely up there on my list of favourite places in the world.