Parisian Shock

Parisian Shock

Oh France, oh Paris. Instead of falling in love with what is supposedly the romantic city on Earth, I left exasperated, exhausted, and not to thrilled about our experience there.

Leaving London
Leaving London

I wasn’t at my best physically, since the soreness I first experienced in Wales was sticking around…along with bloating and major water retention. One thing I’ve always hated about traveling internationally is how it messes up with my hormonal/monthly cycle, and these PMS-like symptoms didn’t help me feel eager about wanting to continue our travels to France.

The Eurostar train ride was about three hours, and it was time I used to get some sleep. We reached Gare du Nord, the beginning of our troubles, around noon Paris time.

We spent a while scrambling to find the “left luggage” department so we could drop off two of our larger suitcases so we wouldn’t have to lug them around for three days. Then we stood in front of the Metro ticket station, clueless as to what was the best deal. We ended up getting a little book of tickets (more like stubs…) and caught a train heading to Bréguet Sabin, where our Airbnb was located.

Gare du Nord --- the scene of our unfortunate encounter
Gare du Nord — the scene of our unfortunate encounter

We waited at the station, minding our own business, but then I remembered something about pickpockets being notorious in Paris. I reminded my sister quietly so as not to bring attention to ourselves.

When the train came, I was hesitant to get on because it seemed like a lot of people were getting inside…and there were a group of guys standing near the door who were eyeing us and not going out of their way to make room. One of them offered to help my sister up and I was like “Oh no…“.

After that, my sister said she felt someone tug at her bag strap but it was a woman sitting behind her. We later found out the woman tugged on my sister’s bag in order to prevent them from pickpocketing her. Then my Dad who was trying to sit down lost his balance because some of the guys were getting to close to him. He ended up falling on another guy and saying, “Sorry mate…”. It’s something we laugh at now, but the entire time I was thinking why on Earth did we get on this train??

One of the guys that originally surrounded my Dad before the fall “helped” him up and tapped on a hand rail on the side, suggesting that my Dad hold onto it…most likely so they could reach into his pockets. My Dad didn’t oblige, and so we were able to thwart our first pickpocket encounter.

My sister was somewhat shaken up by the experience, but she was thankful for that woman’s help. She ended up calling her out French angel who we couldn’t even say “merci” to because we were at a loss for words, haha!

We got off at our stop in one piece after that shocking experience. Our Airbnb was a ten minute walk away, and walking along those Parisian streets to get there was far from romantic.

Yes, we passed cute cafes and shops, but overall the environment wasn't overly welcoming...
Yes, we passed cute cafes and shops, but overall the environment wasn’t overly welcoming…


The roads were dusty, every other person had a cloud of cigarette smoke around them, and I got the vibe from my surroundings that you either fit in here or you didn’t, and if you didn’t you were ignored. Yeah, I get it that tourists can be annoying but I knew from then on that Paris was not going to be a welcoming city.

This unassuming blue door did not disclose the pain that we would endure just to get to our flat.
This unassuming blue door did not disclose the pain that we would endure just to get to our flat.

Our flat was six floors up, and I definitely underestimated the ascent even though our host warned us via message. Climbing up after a long morning of travel and with luggage was a challenge to say the least. We were sweating bullets by the time we reached the top.

We were semi-joking about wanting to stay in the flat for the remainder of the trip, but we were able to take some time to calm down and cool off to decide to walk to lunch. I heard about a cute vegan burger place in a SAFE neighborhood, and we used the opportunity to see what Paris was like on foot.

Eyeing that French architecture
Eyeing that French architecture

For lunch, we made it to Hank Burger, an all-vegan burger place that was built within what seemed to be an old loft.

Hank Vegan Burger
Hank Vegan Burger

We ordered downstairs and then climbed up to the top floor where wooden booths were covered in soft blankets and pillows. The chairs and other furniture were tiny though!


Our burgers came with special sauces depending on what type of burger we got. The tray papers were adorable too.

My burger had a fig-based sauce (left-most)
My burger had a fig-based sauce (left-most)
If I took French high school, maybe this could have been useful now as a worksheet :P
If I took French high school, maybe this could have been useful now as a worksheet 😛

The burgers were enough to make us feel more calm and comfortable with our surroundings. After lunch, we had enough fuel to walk back towards the flat, but not without stopping by Bastille which was nearby.



We also stopped by flower garden, but the heat was getting to us so we slowly made our way back eventually. I also still felt incredibly sore and bloated so going back and resting up sounded perfect.

Short walk around some nearby gardens and park.
Short walk around some nearby gardens and park

We stopped at a local grocery store on the way home so we could pick up some snackables to have for “dinner”. The remainder of the evening was spent on the couch relaxing while French dubs of American tv shows played in the background.

We weren't like the locals who were out that night waiting in anticipation for something...
We weren’t like the locals who were out that night waiting in anticipation for something…

I got one appreciated the extra rest that evening because the next day was just as eventful…

Carbs, but No Loading

Carbs, but No Loading

I didn’t go out of my way to carbo-load the day before the marathon, but I did eat throughout the day, kept hydrated, and stuck to foods I knew wouldn’t throw me off.

I was sent two vouchers for a free bread item and a drink to use at one of 85C Bakery’s newest locations—in Glendale. Since E and I have been hanging outside of lab together more frequently now, I asked if she wanted to make a day out of it, and she happily agreed.

We met in downtown and then took a bus that stops close to the Galleria. From there, it was a short walk to the bakery.

85c Bakery – Glendale

The inside of the bakery was clean, and the baked goods were organized in a similar way to that of a bakery I visited a while back in Koreatown.

Ah, what to choose??

E and I both got trays and walked through the aisles, seeing what lovely little bread creations we’d come across.

Baked goods

I decided to get a cranberry cream cheese yudane roll, while E got a wild mushroom cheese bread loaf.

Cranberry Cream Cheese Yudane Roll

For my drink, I opted for a hot green milky tea. E ended up going for a cold lemonade. We found seats by the window, and as soon as we had our food and drinks, we settled in.

Hot green milky tea (or rather, water)

My cranberry cream cheese yudane roll had a rough texture on the outside, but this was completely opposite of its interior texture. The roll had a sufficient amount of cream cheese and cranberries (though both of these ingredients tended to separate from one another) and was quite chewy. The milky green tea on the other hand was watered down in my opinion. There was a faint taste of tea, but overall, it just tasted (?) like warm water.

E’s mushroom bread

After our bread/tea break, we walked over to the Galleria and made a round inside the mall. Both of us did end up buying something to add to our wardrobes, but we didn’t spend too much time shopping.

Taking a break before heading back.

We soon walked over to the Americana at Brand right next door, and stopped to sit down and hydrate with some water. As it approached 4pm, I felt like it would be wise to head back and rest up for my race the next day, so we made our way to the bus stop for the ride home.

Do you prefer sweet bread items (danishes, sweet rolls) or just go for the 100% sweet stuff (cakes, pies) ?

85°C Bakery Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tiramisu Thoughts

Tiramisu Thoughts

I left my house Sunday morning around 7:30am, waking up to a light fog cast around my neighborhood. I only needed to put in 8 miles that day. The running miracle that is ‘tapering’…

I ran a route close to home solo, since many of my teammates are undergrads that went home for spring break. I took it as an opportunity to run AT home, and eat here after the run as well.

Urth Caffe – Santa Monica

I finished my run on Main St., pretty much at the steps of Urth Caffe. It had been a few years now since I’ve been to one…the visits I paid the WeHo and DTLA locations were when I was a fresh Los Angeleno craving weekend foodie adventures and soaking in as much of the city as possible.

Two and half years later, I walk into this Urth Caffe with a straighter posture and resting LA face (much like a another “resting face” people are more familiar with…). I get in line, knowing that crowds are expected even at 9am on a Sunday, barely giving the menu a glance since I already know what I’m going to get—a Spanish Latte with soymilk and an Earl Grey Tiramisu.

Feeling like a latte…

I take my honey-glazed, sweet-filled pastry over to a counter seat by the window. I dig in with a fork, and people-watch as I think about a number of things. The fact that I walked into this place on a whim…it wasn’t planned. I felt like having something sweet paired with something warm, Urth was nearby, so I just went.


Even two and a half years ago, I would have been riddled with panic if my food plans had to change. Any and all visits were planned, and excuses were made if anything tried to “destroy” those plans.

Hello, gorgeous.

But now, I was digging into this tiramisu with enjoyment. The calorie counter was still ticking in my head, but the number didn’t phase me as much as it used to. I got this tiramisu not because of its number, but because I was craving it as my post-run treat.

When my latte arrived, I held the mug in both hands, took a sip, and was immediately transported to Barcelona.

Something warm.

A young woman sitting next to me looking over sheet music asked how I was doing with a huge smile, which at first took me by surprise, but then I gave a her a huge smile back. There was no need to hold on to my “resting LA face”. Happiness starts with YOU, and welcoming every smile or greeting bestowed upon you by others only helps to grow and sustain that happiness.

“I may not be in Barcelona, but I’m going to pretend I was there yesterday morning since this Spanish Latte certainly made me feel like I was”

I left Urth Caffe feeling refreshed and fulfilled with my self-care time and reflections. I have so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to. I used to fear the unknown, rather than look at it with anticipation.

Slice of decadence…

I could sit back, and worry about not hitting my goal to run under 4 hours at the marathon this weekend. I could ruminate over whether or not I can sustain the relationships I am cultivating now in the future. I could be anxious about reaching my academic and career goals…but I’m coming to the realization that letting those thoughts take up brain space leads to wasted time…

I’d rather be using that time laughing with E in lab over a coffee break, smiling to myself when I reread funny text conversations between my sister and I, and taking pride in my daily running achievements (whether that be a new fast pace or just getting out to run despite not having the motivation).

Honestly, life is just too short…get that piping hot Spanish latte, demolish that decadent tiramisu, and take pride in knowing that life is yours for the taking.

“Run 8 miles, replenish with an Earl Grey Tiramisu”…and enjoy life.

Urth Caffé Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Speedy for Smoothie (Bowls)

Speedy for Smoothie (Bowls)

Last Sunday proved to me why running in a group or with a team makes all the difference. I ran a little under 6 miles at a solid 7:30/mi pace, and was able to maintain my pacing without completely blowing out of steam! Marathon training has picked up yet again, and I’m trying to make all of the runs with my team high quality workouts.

Also working to not get left behind of the pack is a good motivator too 😉

I was really proud of my efforts, and for lunch had to walk at least another three miles once in Santa Monica. It was way too hot to be October, and I had to get to a place that offered something cool and refreshing pronto.

Kreation Cafe on Montana Ave.
Kreation Cafe on Montana Ave.

My first visit to a Kreation Cafe/Juicery was a great one. I cooled off with an irresistible bowl full of nutrient-dense fruits and healthy fats, on what was an extremely hot day. Made sense that my second visit was on a day just as hot.

Crowded quarters.
Crowded quarters.

Unlike my first visit, there wasn’t any seating on the inside…only patio and back seating. The line for ordering and pick-up also got scrambled since there were too many people waiting inside! I wanted to try a different bowl this time around, so from the two options I had left I went with the Jungle Bowl.

Random crystal rock by the cash register!
Random crystal rock by the cash register!

The wait was ridiculosly long however. I think I was standing for at least 20 minutes until my bowl was ready. I saw that three people who ordered after me got their meals before I did, so I thought that was a bit frustrating. I let that go when I did get my bowl though!

A green swampy soup of sorts!

I sat at a table outside on the patio to enjoy this fully.

Jungle Bowl – Coconut milk, kale, spinach, mango, apple, almond butter

The color of the bowl reminded me of a swamp, with fruit bobbing throughout it of course. While it was a pretty bowl, the diced apple caught me off guard since I was expecting pineapple as originally stated on their menu. I didn’t really taste any hint of almond butter either. In all honesty, the bowl was less of a smoothie bowl and more of a slushie bowl—in other words, a disappointment. Looks can only take you so far…

Kreation Kafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bread in Beverly Hills

Bread in Beverly Hills

Disclaimer: I was compensated with a gift card for this review, but all opinions (as always) are my own.

When Panera Bread first opened a location in my hometown a couple years ago, my family and I had never heard of the restaurant chain, but we were fascinated by it. I mean, a fast casual restaurant that offered high-quality soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta—and obviously, bread? It was certainly a game-changer in the restaurant scene of my suburban community, which was already flooded with too many restaurants serving that “all-American” burger and diner fare…

It’s hard to believe that they’ve been around since 1987, and already have 1,900+ bakery-cafes in almost every state in the country, as well as some locations in Canada, but I guess that shows that they’re doing all the right things to stay afloat in the ever-changing food industry.

One thing I always admired about Panera Bread was their commitment to community. I was able to see this first-hand with my hometown location, since in my high school days, I often practiced with a music group that used a local church’s kitchen space for our weekend rehearsals. We’d often see tables full of loaves of bread that were donated to the church by our local Panera Bread, and every week, they would be distributed to whoever needed them.

Since moving to LA however, I’ve paid more attention to trying out local restaurants, and places that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I didn’t consider paying a visit to restaurant chains as a “unique experience” since I thought I could visit the same restaurant in another city and the ambience, service, and food would be the same…

But I soon learned that Panera was opening up a new location in Beverly Hills—-which caught me by surprise since we all know that neighborhood has some strict polices about what it considers is worthy for its borders 😉

busy in BH

It recently opened this past Thursday, and while I missed out on the opportunity to snag a coffee tumbler or enter for a chance to win free bread for a year, I visited the new location over the weekend to see how this location stood against its competitive Beverly Hills neighbors.


This Panera Bread location was able to secure the former Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce building as its home, and as a result, many of the building’s features were worked into the design of the restaurant. This was certainly evident when I walked in.

panera bread front

For only being open three days, everything was in full swing. I was able to easily place my order for a Soba Noodle Bowl with Edamame and a French Baguette on the side. I chose to sit in the back, where there was ample seating, dim lighting, and an exposed brick wall that brought a cozy feeling into the room.


And even though the design has kept many traditional features dating back to 1940s Beverly Hills, this location has added Panera 2.0 Enhancements, with the most prominent enhancement being the Rapid Pick-Up area.

pick-up shelf

As I was getting my water, I saw this area in action—customers waiting for their orders were able to sit across from the shelving unit, and were able to monitor the status of their order on a screen next to the shelves. I’m sure anyone who comes in hangry and desiring food ASAP would appreciate the real-time information about their order!

Fortunately, I did not come in during one of my hangry episodes. Even so, I didn’t have to wait long for my dine-in broth bowl.

edamame broth bowl

The noodle bowl was comprised of soba noodles and a medley of vegetables including spinach, napa cabbage, mushrooms, onions, fire-roasted edamame, all of which was marinating in a miso broth.


And of course, letting the side bread roll soak up the miso broth was mandatory after finishing up the noodles and veggies!

bread with noodles yeaaaay

Overall, I found this Panera Bread location to be quite cozy and welcoming. The brick walls may play a large part in that, but the feeling of the entire restaurant was upbeat and customer-friendly. Calling the busy Beverly Dr. home will definitely be a perk for this location going forward, since the rich and famous sometimes need the comfort of familiarity, and a warm broth bowl on the occasional cloudy day.

Have you visited a Panera Bread outlet?

Click to add a blog post for Panera Bread on Zomato

Cool Down Walk

Cool Down Walk

I thought running 18 miles would leave my legs dead and useless for the rest of the day on Sunday, but they actually felt less sore when I walked back to my apartment than when I got up from sitting down in the car I carpooled in from the run site.

I also thought I would be back later in the day, but ended up home two hours earlier than I had planned! This meant I could take my sweet time getting ready (not leaving until I was 100% sweat-free!) before going out and celebrating my latest personal distance record.

The past two long runs both started off chilly, but I was a sweaty & sticky mess by the end of each. It was no wonder I was craving something cold to eat sometime during each run, and I knew I had to resolve this matter immediately by heading to Koreatown and checking out the closest establishment to Wilshire and Western serving pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice.

Empty streets on Super Bowl Sunday, while I’m celebrating long-run Sunday…

A quick search on Yelp in the days prior to long-run Sunday helped me locate Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee, which was carefully tucked away at the corner of a block. I wasn’t even sure if they were open since it was so dark inside, at least through the windows!

When I did enter the café, there was what looked like to be a group meeting of elderly Korean women at one corner of the café, and I wasn’t sure if I was interrupting a private event. The owners, who I assumed were a husband-and-wife team, approached me and asked if I had a computer. My first thought was, huh? But then I realized that many people visit the café not only for the tea, coffee, and pat bing soo, but for the free wi-fi and the quiet, elaborate study space.


I let the owners know that I was there just to eat, and asked for a menu even though I knew exactly what I wanted to get. I “pretended” to look at the menu with great concentration, but asked for a bowl of pat bing soo without hesitation after a couple of seconds of acting like I had no idea of what to order.

I seated myself at a table close to the window, and took in the calm environment that mimicked the emptiness of the streets outside.


I could hear the shave ice machine whirring in the background, and couldn’t wait for the bowl to arrive to my table. I was glad I wasn’t the only one dining when I saw two other groups come in as my bowl was being prepared.

The group meeting that I thought I was interrupting when I first came into the café had all of a sudden become a birthday party, since I heard the group clapping in unison and quietly joining in song, singing “Happy Birthday” in Korean. Since they were all elderly Korean women, it was an adorable sight to see. I almost wanted to walk over and join the party—but that definitely would have been awkward!

I don’t think I was missing out though, because I was celebrating my own accomplishment with my very own bowl of pat bing soo. Party for one, don’t mind me!

 shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings such as chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red bean paste
This bowl had shaved ice mixed with condensed milk, chopped fruit (I believe melon), red bean paste, and topped with green tea ice cream, mochi, and peanut powder!

The female owner also came by with some complimentary tea cookies, and hot tea.

It was fun dipping the cookies into the ice cream!!


The only other awkward moment I had while dining was follow-up service. I usually prefer not to have waitstaff check in on me every five minutes when I’m eating out, but I found it odd that despite being one out of three customer groups in the café at the time (with the exception of the meeting-turned-birthday-party group), the owners didn’t come by until it had been at least twenty minutes after I had finished eating.

I guess it gave me the time I needed to contemplate over whether or not I should order another bowl. The first and previous time I had pat bing soo, I split it with my sister and friend when we were visiting LA 2 ½ years ago, and I remember it being a giant-sundae-sized kind of deal with all the mochi in the world and three different kinds of ice cream! This bowl was a baby in comparison, and even though I was hesitant to ask the owner for another, I went ahead with my decision to do so because hey, I ran 18 miles and one bowl was not going to cut it! 😉

 My second bowl looked identical to the first...looks like their is a little more fruit though  :)
My second bowl looked identical to the first…looks like their is a little more fruit though 🙂

I ate the second bowl in similar fashion as with the first: eating through the ice while also mixing in spoonfuls of bean paste/melon, and saving the scoop of ice cream for last with the tea cookies.

I almost waited half an hour after finishing my second bowl before receiving the check. I suppose the owners don’t mind giving their customers time to ponder over life while sipping on tea. Needless to say, they were very lenient with offering their space. Perhaps I should return on a day when it’s much busier outside, to see if the calm atmosphere is really an everyday thing here!

Have you ever had pat bing soo?

Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee on Urbanspoon

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