Birthday Weekend in LA

It gets harder and harder every year trying to come up with a plan for my birthday. I miss the simplicity of inviting your class to a celebration at home with balloons, pizza, cake, and a piñata. Or even the college days of just telling everyone to meet you at a bar to celebrate. Last year I threw a 90’s themed party to bring in my 25th birthday and honestly there was no way I was going to top that this year.

So, I decided to do a little trip instead! My siblings and close friends all agreed that a weekend trip to LA would be perfect. My friend Andre was also born in September, so we made it a dual birthday celebration. Now, I didn’t take any time off from work since I had taken a vacation to Stockholm just two weekends before. This means I had two nights and only one full day to make this the best birthday trip. [Spoiler alert: It was]

DAY 1: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

I worked until 4:30PM before heading to Washington Dulles International Airport, which is conveniently only 10 minutes from my workplace. I flew with American Airlines scheduled to depart at 6:59PM, but was delayed about an hour. So, instead of arriving at 9:45PM at LAX, I arrived closer to 11PM. I’ll be honest, I grew quite impatient and was so ready to get out of that airport and meet up with my friends and siblings. My ride was waiting for me as soon as I scurried through the crowd and I was so relieved to be on our way to the AirBnB we rented for the weekend. The apartment was located in Hollywood, which was a decently central location. Although I prefer West Hollywood, this location wasn’t horrible. The place itself was nice, clean, and modern with plenty of space for 6 people.

At this point it was around 11:30, so we quickly got ready to out for the night. Took a few shots as a pregame then headed off to The Normandie Club. This dimly lit establishment was more of a bar instead of a club despite the name. Think “club” as in secret, exclusive membership instead of raging out, grinding up on people. Thank goodness because this was more of my scene. While drinks were pricey, they were very well made. We stayed here until closing, which was at 2AM.

Then the drunchies hit, so we decided to head to BCD Tofu House for some late night Korean BBQ. Alright, I’ll admit that at this point I was already a few shots and two drinks in, so I can’t quite remember how tasty the food was. But, I do know it hit the spot. After filling our stomachs up, we were ready to head back to the apartment. My cousin from LA and her friend met us back at our place and since we had food in our systems…we continued the party. We stayed up until 6:00AM drinking, dancing, and laughing the night away. I ensured everyone that I was determined to go hiking the next morning. Even if I was to only run off of 1 hour of sleep, it was going to happen…

DAY 2: Saturday, September 17, 2016

And it happened. I woke up at 7:00AM to get ready for our hike to the Hollywood Sign. The troopers included myself, my cousin Tom, and my college roommate Tina. Although we struggled in the beginning, it was a great start to our day! The hike was a bit long and strenuous since you are going uphill the entire time, but the clear and wide trail made it fairly simple. We didn’t make it to my ultimate goal, which was behind the Hollywood sign because we took a wrong turn. By that point we ran out of water, so we decided to just head back instead of proceeding another 3 miles to get to that spot.

After the hike we grabbed a quick smoothie from Jamba Juice to revive ourselves. Then we headed back to the apartment to freshen up and get ready for the day. Tina and I went to Melrose Ave to visit the Supreme store before meeting up with the rest of the crew at Tatsu Ramen. I liked the set up of this ramen establishment where you order as soon as you come in at iPad stations. You provide your receipt to the hostess, get seated, then they deliver your prepared ramen to you. The ramen itself was pretty good and portion size was great. A bowl of hot soup is always necessary after a night of drinking.

Melrose Ave is my absolute favorite spot to shop. Since Tatsu is located on this great strip, I continued my shopping adventure after our meal. I visited Wasteland, which is a consignment shop. Although it doesn’t quite have that thrift store price, you can find a lot of great trendy items. I scored two grunge items that both had huge pictures of animals plastered on the front. One being a wolf and another a cat with hippie sunglasses. Statement clothing items that I can’t wait to style. We then grabbed coffee (ahem, I went for the beer) at Fratelli Café. Fratelli is a small café, but with a cute outdoor seating area. They serve a variety of beverages so there’s something for everyone.

After the nice refreshment, it was time get dessert. Of course, we had to go to Milk. Milk is a dessert shop that is known for their macaron ice cream sandwiches. Besides those yummy, picture perfect sandwiches, they offer a variety of ice cream flavors, cookies, cakes, and other treats. My sweet tooth is absolutely ridiculous, so this establishment makes my tummy extra happy. I decided to just go for the Thai Tea ice cream in a cake cone. I recommended the blue velvet cake to Andre, which he loved. My cousin and brother opted for the strawberry ice cream macaron sandwich dipped in white chocolate and fruit pebbles. Talk about sugar high.

We decided it was time to take a break from food, so we cruised around LA jamming out to music before heading to our next stop. Who doesn’t love a good jam session? Bringing out the good ol’ 90’s music. We arrived at our destination – The Bates Motel by Vincent Lamouroux. This abandoned motel was scheduled to be demolished. Instead an artist saw it as an opportunity to transform the motel into a public display of art. He did so in a very simple way: painting the entire  building, gates, and surrounding palm trees white. To be completely honest, it looks better in photos than in person. Nonetheless, we stayed for a bit for some photos ops.

After we pretended to be models, it was time to head to the coast. We contemplated on Santa Monica or Venice and for some odd reason Venice was the winner. As you can tell, I’m not a huge fan of Venice Beach. The area is crowded and you can encounter some strange individuals there. We walked the boardwalk for a little then grabbed poke from The Poke Shack. Poke is a must to try when in California and there are numerous options all around. We went with this place because it was nearby and had pretty good reviews. My personal opinion: it wasn’t that great. While I did like that they offered a variety of options as far as toppings went, but even with all the toppings and sauce the combination lacked flavor. The salmon I had didn’t seem very fresh and the sauce it was covered in tasted bland. We chowed down anyways to get some food in our system before getting our night started.

Traffic is LA is just as crazy as everyone mentions. It’s not a myth, so beware. That being said, we had plenty of time to have yet another jam session while heading back to the apartment. Ja Rule, Usher, Nelly, you name it. We were taking it back and reminiscing on the memories we shared with those old songs. Once we arrived to the apartment, we got dressed, drank, and posed for group photos. And then of course played a practical joke on my brother before heading out. We really act like children sometimes, which is why I love hanging out with this crew.

We took an Uber to Adults Only, which my cousin Amanda chose for the night. I didn’t really know what to expect because the only rule I mentioned was that it couldn’t be a club. We arrived to this plaza and I thought to myself, oh no…it’s about to be a hookah bar or something. As I walked through the doors, I already knew I would love the place. It had a speakeasy feel to it, which is my absolute favorite. You’re initially surrounded by VHS tapes as if you’re in a video store. Then you enter this small nook of the room where it’s covered in nude photo clip outs while old school porn is playing on a small T.V. Through the curtains is a huge room with a bar, music, and projector screen displaying movies. At one point in the night they put on Scarface and I may or may not have had a mini heart attack. The place was great. Great crowd, friendly bartenders, and the DJ was spinning all sorts of genres of music. We had an amazing time dancing all night. Around 2:00AM we went back to the apartment to hang out some more. At this point I was running on only one hour of sleep, so I didn’t stay up quite as long as I had the previous night.

 

Day 3: Sunday, September 18, 2016

For some odd reason, I woke up at 7:30AM. Therefore, I received a solid 4 hours of sleep. However, I felt well rested so I hopped off the bed and got dressed for the day. While everyone else was still sleeping, I decided to do a little solo roaming around Hollywood to get coffee. I stopped at Javista Organic Coffee Bar. I ordered a latte and enjoyed some quiet alone time in this adorable coffee spot.

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Once the group woke up and we all packed our belongings, we checked out of the apartment and went to grab a bite to eat. I had been wanting to check out JiST Café for quite some time now, so naturally that’s where we ended up. This café is located in Little Tokyo and offers up some amazing brunch options. They are well known for their Chashu Hash Skillit, which is braised pork belly and potatoes served with two 6-minute soft boiled eggs. Of course that’s what I ordered with a side of rice like the true Asian that I am. I also ordered a Blood Mary cocktail made with soju to prevent any lingering hangover that would sneak up on me. It was pure perfection.

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We quickly explored the Japanese Shopping Plaza nearby where we had mochi ice cream and I purchased an abundance of face masks. I was also able to meet up with one of my high school friends, Robin, before having to leave to the airport. Always nice to see old friends even if it’s only for 15 minutes! On our way to the airport we stopped in Santa Monica to take in the beautiful views of the coast.

And just like that…the trip was over. We departed from LAX at 4:30PM to head back to Virginia. Work was a struggle the next morning and we all experienced LA withdrawals. I will never get enough of that wonderful city. It was such an amazing birthday trip with some amazing people. I continue to count my blessings every single day.

Want to do a weekend trip for your birthday? Click here to see where the cheapest destination would be!

Note: Photos provided by Cina Nguyen and Tom Huynh

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