Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 2 (Part 1) - Venice Canals

January 25, 2016 (continued): After many of the heavy, sleep-inducing, carb-laden meals I’ve had throughout the trip I was craving something lighter and cleaner for breakfast. My plan was to explore the Venice/Santa Monica area so I googled juice places near there. I chose Juice Served Here as they had a few food options as well. There were only a couple of parking spaces out front, the building itself looked like a converted garage with a cool, glass roller door. The interiors were clean, modern with a slight industrial feel.

For breakfast, I chose the juice flight which was a selection of their juices in shot sized glasses that were supposed to be a re-invigoration for the day. There was an order to which one you drank first, including starting with Green Easy (Cucumber, Red Apple, Kale, Spinach, Lemon, Romaine, Green Pepper), to things like Charcoal Lemonade (Filtered Water, Sugar Cane Juice, Lemon, Montmorillonite Clay, Activated Charcoal), to finishing it off with the “dessert”, Cream Party (Coconut Water, Coconut Cream). As someone who regularly made their own smoothies and tried similar juices before, I didn’t mind the veggies in my juice thing as I know some people get weirded out and think it’s gross, but honestly the fruit flavors usually balance out any “green” tastes. I thought each juice had their own unique flavor profile, and the flight was a good way to test out which juices you might prefer over others.

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I also ordered the vegan grilled cheese to round out my meal. Usually, I’m pretty wary of vegan imitation products as it’s never quite the same but thought I’d give it a go. As a connoisseur of grilled cheese and lover of dairy (but trying to cut back on it), this was one of the best grilled cheese I’ve had in my life. It was packed with flavor, with some red peppery bits in it, and a nice amount of creaminess to it. The melty, stringy cheese part was a little lacking because, well it’s not cheese but I didn’t really miss it. Since I am so late to writing this post, I don’t think they have it on their menu anymore unfortunately!

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My first sightseeing stop of the day was at the Venice Canals. I’d wanted to visit as it was the scene to several movies, plus a few YouTubers I watched had also been there, the location looked interesting and artistic so it was definitely on my list. Since I had started my day off early the place was almost empty apart from the residents, so I had it all to myself. The interwoven walk amongst the canals was one of the most peaceful, serene, and picturesque places I’ve ever been. I can see why one resident had to post a sign saying that they’d never sell so stop asking!

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I loved crossing the bridges and stopping to take in the scenery of the canals, each one was slightly different and unique. Funny story, there was a young man who went on one of the bridges and sat down with his puppet and started talking to himself, at first you’d think quite odd but then this is LA so I figured he was rehearsing for some project. Not sure why he had to sit on a bridge to do it but whatever helps the process I guess!

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Each house was decorated in their own unique way, which for my curious/detail oriented mind was like heaven just stopping at each home to see what they had done. The architecture was also unique in itself with some resembling quaint cottages, to clean and modern, to artsy/hippie decor, to some that looked like what I’d imagine was out of a Hansel and Gretel storybook.

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There were also several animal spottings like the ducks gliding down the canals, or in someone’s backyard, to doggo’s chilling on the porch, to crows and squirrels getting their feed on.

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In conclusion, this was one of my favorite places I had visited, as it touched on a number of my top things, arts, architecture, animals, nature, water, the peace and tranquility (especially for my introverted self). It was such an expansive place that I couldn’t see everything thoroughly but I knew if I was ever back I’d have to visit again.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 1) - Blue Bottle & Alcatraz

January 21, 2016 (continued): Being raised in New Zealand - home of many coffee connoisseurs, my eternal search for a great cup coffee in the States continued with Blue Bottle Coffee. I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to start off my day there with breakfast.

I walked to the cafe from my temporary residence, seeing great little snippets of art and architecture along the way.

I arrived there early, yet a line had already formed out the door - thankfully it moved pretty quickly. I made my order of a eggs and toast with I think was a salsa verde sauce, and a mocha. The meal and coffee were a bit on the higher end of cost, but both were well made so I had no complaints. I also liked watching their cool siphon contraption and watching the barista stir the coffee in a beaker over an open flame, it felt like being in a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Finishing up my meal, I hopped on a tram towards my next locale - Alcatraz! Being a tourist in this city, why not visit the No. 1 tourist destination in the States. I pre-booked my tickets through the official site, before I left for my trip as I read that tours are nearly always sold out on the day.

Going into the tour, I only had a general knowledge of it being the most notoriously inescapable prisons, for the most hard core criminals. My curiosity leaned more towards why everyone who had visited previously, encouraged others to do so fervently.

The line for the ferry was snaked around the lot and I can see why you should definitely pre-book your tickets, we eventually hopped aboard and departed from Pier 33. The ferry consisted of indoor seating but of course, most people chose to wrap themselves around the outside decks. It was definitely a brisk, prickly combination with the mix of San Francisco winter winds and the speed of the boat but the view was worth it. We got to witness views of the Bay Bridge, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and the mass of seagulls overhead and diving below - fishing for their next meal.


We arrived at Alcatraz and gathered near the dock where the docent welcomed us in and gave us a little introduction into the history. At the gathering point, you could still see remnants when the Native Americans took over the island. After the introduction we were free to explore on our own, and once inside you could get the guided tour headsets. Walking around the outside, it was a kind of eerie feeling seeing all the abandoned buildings where nature and time had taken over.

In one of the exhibits, they had displayed many of the prisoner’s personal stories of what lead them to be incarcerated. It was incredibly moving and gave you pause to not paint everyone in prison with an “evil” brushstroke. Many of them were in desperate times, stealing to provide for their family, or got caught up with the wrong people and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I made my way into the main prison area, where they gave you headsets that guided you through with the corresponding numbers above each area. Seeing it in person you got to see how big the prison really was, with stacks up stacks, and rows upon rows of cells that were so tight you could practically touch each end with arms stretched.

It was also interesting to see remnants of the numerous escape attempts by inmates, from widening bars with a nut and bolt contraption and starving themselves to fit through, to the infamous Battle of Alcatraz where prisoners overpowered officers, and gained control of weapons and the hanging key from the gun gallery. You could still see the damage on the floor where security had dropped grenades through the roof in an attempt to corral the prisoners to a certain area.

Out of the Administration building you could see the skyline of San Francisco as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back inside the Admin building, there was this creepy red handprint above the doorframe that wasn’t mentioned in the tour but through later google research is apparently from the Native American occupation.

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I headed into the prison area where the only successful escape attempt took place. Four inmates were in on the plan and they had sculpted dummy heads in their likeness from soap, toilet paper, hair clippings from the barber and paint from the workshop. These were placed in bed the night of the escape. For 6 months they had widened the hole of the ventilation duct in their cells using various tools found discarded around the prison, this lead to the utility corridor behind the walls that was unguarded. Three of the inmates escaped successfully and their disappearance was only discovered the next morning.

I finished off my tour walking through various parts of the prison including the kitchen and underground where they showed a film on the history of Alcatraz. In the gift shop there was a former inmate there promoting his book on his experience.

I ended my tour and got onto the next ferry heading back towards San Francisco. My overall experience of Alcatraz showed me why many recommend visiting, it is thought-provoking, eye-opening, and you get to see humanity or lack thereof that took place. It is also being able to experience a piece of history that has been frozen in time, and how often do you get to do that?

Weekend Playlist 🎧 🎶

My job has been non-stop busy lately. The upside to that is I get to listen to a lot of music while I work. So I thought I’d share some things that have been in my playlist rotation recently. I discovered a new-to-me artist, Sevdaliza through those random YouTube recommendations. I’m glad I clicked through because, wow - just love everything about her vibe, aesthetics and of course, sound. Her music has a kind of haunting quality to it with certain beats that gave me tingles when I listened to it through my headphones. Below, are some of my favorites so far. If you like her style, I suggest FKA Twigs as she was burning up my playlist for the past couple years and am so glad to have found similar music.

Now for a TV and music recommendation in one - 3 words, Big Little Lies. At first, I was apprehensive about watching as I heard about some of the grim and difficult to watch storylines but I kept hearing so many great things so I gave in. I binge watched this show in a couple days, I was riveted to say the least. The acting, storylines, and cinematography were outstanding. The characters showed human elements in their flaws, which allowed you to connect with them. This is definitely not light fair, but it left a significant impact and will have you thinking about it after it’s over.

Here is the trailer, but don’t base it off of that as it is so much more.

While watching the show, I fell in love with how a lot of the music was so carefully crafted to help tell the story in the most poignant scenes. It was a fantastic mix of classic and modern, I immediately had to go on Spotify and find the soundtrack.

Here’s some of my personal highlights from it:

What are some of your favorites to listen to at the moment? Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 2 - Seattle Public Library & The Pink Door

January 16, 2016 (Continued): Due to the heavy downpour that ensued after visiting Bruce Lee’s gravesite, and my hesitance to walk around in the freezing rain to tour the Lake Union area, I decided to head back into town and visit the Seattle Public Library.

Now, why would you visit a library when visiting another city? The Central branch of this library is known for it’s stunning glass and steel built architecture, and was voted #108 of 150 on the American Institute of Architects’ list of Americans’ 150 favorite structures in the US. It is free to visit as it’s a public library and there’s even a cafe inside to enjoy a little hot beverage while you read.

The structure was definitely impressive in person and the huge diamond cross windows give you 360 views of the city. You can go to the top floor and get a little vertigo when you see the ant-size people walking around below. It’s a good place to check out if you’re in the area, or if you need a little shelter from the rain. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but it was interesting view to take a break in.

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Hunger struck, so I headed back to my hotel room nearby to change for dinner. I was greeted with pretty, leftover Christmas lights adorning the trees as I walked.

For dinner, I decided to go to “The Pink Door”, a highly coveted Italian - American restaurant located in the Post Alley near Pike Place Market. Reservations were already booked out, so I took a chance to see if I could get a walk in. When I got there, there were no signs, only a literal “pink door” to signal you’ve arrived at your destination and a line of people hanging out front. I guess exclusivity is the best advertisement! I made my way through the crowd of people inside towards the hostess and turns out flying solo has its perks as they had an open space at the bar, where they served the full menu.

I love handmade pasta and will try it any chance I get, so I decided to go with the PAPPARDELLE AL RAGÙ BOLOGNESE slow simmered meat sauce, fresh pasta. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the sauce was rich but clean, I was satisfied although it came in a somewhat small portion. 

For dessert I opted for the fresh made bombolone with custard dipping sauce - basically a fried doughnut deconstructed. The bombolone was perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside. The dipping sauce was nice because you could control how much sweetness you wanted.

Another perk of solo travel, and being seating side by side at the bar is you notice things that you normally wouldn’t being with other people (though it was hard not to due to their yelling because the room was packed). This particular night was a group of former Microsoft employees griping on how things have changed within the company over the years and it just wasn’t the same. It was an interesting inside scoop on the mega-corporation.

Filled to the brim as the carbs expanded in my belly, I made my way back for the night, since it was too chilly and rainy to explore further.

All photos taken by me via Canon 70D and iPhone 6.