A Spanish Reflection

A Spanish Reflection

After spending a full Saturday exploring pockets of Barcelona, I woke up the following Sunday morning thinking it would be nice to get a run in, even though I couldn’t run in the Cursa De La Mercè race. 
 
Sunday morning walk through streets
Sunday morning walk through streets
 
I ended up doing a short 3 miler, out and back, on the city streets. There weren’t too many people out, and since a race was taking place, there were actually a number of runners warming up. I actually ended up walking by the course and seeing the runners when I was on my way to coffee and chocolate con churros, haha! 
 
Forn d'en Pau , Sant Antoni neighborhood
Forn d’en Pau , Sant Antoni neighborhood
 
For my late-ish breakfast, I actually ended up having churros with just coffee. The language barrier prevented me from clarifying if the churros came with hot chocolate, so what I ended up getting was coffee to dip them in. 
 
Churros & Coffee
Churros & Coffee
 
The churros themselves were hot and crispy, but they had no sugar or cinnamon on them so they literally tasted like fried pieces of unflavored dough. But at least it was authentic unflavored Spanish dough? 
 
After spending some time in the cafe, I walked back to my Airbnb and packed up all my things slowly. I made the walk over to Sants station so that I could catch a train headed to Sitges, where my conference was taking place. 
 
Rao
Rodalies de Catalunya

The train ride to Sitges was about a half an hour, and a lot of the people that got off with me were decked out in beach gear and barely had any belongings with them. A sign that this beach town was a getaway for most people living in the city. The first thing I noticed while looking out the window on the train was how bright blue the ocean was…like, unbelievably, I’ve-never-seen-the-color-blue-until-now, blue.

The train station was a small one, and the set-up of he town was adorable. Of course I made the wrong turn when trying to navigate to my Airbnb with Google Maps, but once I was able to orient myself correctly, it was just a short walk away from the station to my Airbnb.

The cute town of Sitges
The cute town of Sitges

Later that afternoon, I walked over to where my conference was taking place, and it happened to be just around a mile in distance so it was another short walk.

Sunday afternoon views
Sunday afternoon views

The conference actually began in the late morning, so I arrived in time for some of the later talks and the reception.

After marking my attendance there, I slowly walked back so I could take in the gorgeous landscape around me.

<3

Along with stalking stray cats…

Two cats and a kitten---I died ♥
Two cats and a kitten—I died, their cuteness killed me ♥

The views were just incredible…no wonder the city folk come here so nonchalantly for a break from bustling city life.

♥

I ended up on a path that led me directly to the shores of the beach, in front of a couple of restaurants. I saved time for more exploring the next day, since I was feeling a bit tired and wanted to get back so I could just chill, haha.

I spent the majority of the day the next day at the conference, jotting down notes during the talks, sipping on cups of free coffee, and munching on finger foods and a buffet-style lunch at the hotel restaurant.

Conference views...
Conference views…

Poster session 1 also took place that day, so I was able to review and discuss the projects of other grad students and post-docs who were presenting. My poster presentation was the following day, so it was a good preview for me.

In the evening, I went out for a long walk, starting out in the opposite direction from where I started yesterday.

I stumbled upon opportunities to capture panoramic views of the gorgeous Mediterranean sea…

♥

I walked through the neighborhoods and felt like I stepped back in time…

The architecture was just...gahhh
The architecture was just…gahhh

There was so much activity and noise from people strolling about…there was so much to see.

Purposefully getting lost :P
Purposefully getting lost 😛

I walked for a while on the road parallel to the train station, walking in and out of shops until I ended up in a residential area.

Wonder how much that real estate costs...
Wonder how much that real estate costs…

I stopped to sit down at a bench facing the sand and ocean when I got closer to the beach again. The sun was setting, and the moment was just perfect to stop and reflect. I didn’t have a pen or paper to manually write thoughts onto, but I did write a personal entry into my Notes app. I was definitely feeling some feels, so jotting my thoughts down (even digitally) was something I had the urge to do.

And because it had some iconic significance, I stopped by the Iglesia de San Bartolomé y Santa Tecla (I totally copied/pasted the name from Google, haha). Just like you can’t draw the NY skyline without Lady Liberty of LA’s without the Hollywood sign peeking from the background, this church found its way into all of the coastline pictures I took.

♥

I realized my stay had been a short one the next day, after attending and presenting my work on the final day of the conference. It would have been nice to have had an extra day (rather than just two evenings) to explore the town more. The people I had been staying with were so thoughtful and engaging, and they even helped me out with getting a return train ticket back to Barcelona since my whole credit card/PIN thing was an issue at the Sitges station! I wish I could have had time to talk to them more too. I guess all of these are reasons to go back one day…

Barcelona, 6:30AM
The green side of Barcelona, 6:30AM

I took the train back to El Prat de Llobregat since I was staying at a place close to the airport. Again, because I could not purchase a metro ticket because I lacked a PIN number, I learned that being close to the airport was equivalent to ~50 minute walk. It was the first time on this trip I did not make a single wrong turn when heading out.

Literally walking to the airport...
Literally walking to the airport…

My 2.5 mile walk with luggage was enough of a reason to get a legit order of chocolate con churros. I spotted Caffe di Fiore when I entered my departing terminal, and was grateful that I had enough time to sit down and eat!

Hello, food
Hello, breakfast.

Now, this was what I imagined when I set out to find this on Sunday morning:

Yas.
Yaaaas.

The churros were crispy (not at all soft and doughy on the inside like the ones I had on Sunday were), and the hot chocolate was thicker than a generic Swiss Miss hot chocolate drink, but had a thinner consistency than say, chocolate frosting.

Whatever, it was good, and that’s all that matters.

I took Aer Lingus from Barcelona to Dublin, and even though going through three security checkpoints in Dublin felt like a total nightmare, at least I didn’t have to worry about all of that fun stuff when arriving in LA. It was like getting off a domestic flight: straight to baggage claim!

I got out of my jet-lag funk and processed a lot of thoughts post-trip—

Usually when I come back from a really good trip, I feel a longing to be back that eventually goes away with time and settling into my routine, but it’s as if the opposite happened with Spain.

I was feeling hurried and worn out before I left for Spain. I was coming off of three additional overnighters in lab, and wrapping up some time-sensitive experiments. There was no time to really plan anything. It was like I was going with a “just got to get this conference thing checked off” attitude vs. a “OMG I’m GOING to Spain on my own for the VERY FIRST TIME” one.

My feelings changed over the course of the day I spent exploring Barcelona. I felt so independent, confident, and free, going where I pleased and finding joy in everything around me. And then when I got to Sitges, it felt like I was the leading female protagonist in one of those “young woman goes abroad on her own” novels, haha.

To be honest, I did come with a sense trepidation, considering the idea of being targeted by pickpockets or being singled out because I was a young lady traveling on my own, but I actually found the people I interacted with to be very kind and thoughtful. I didn’t leave with a heavy heart, but even as I write this almost a month later, I have a longing to go back.

The experience made me realize that I want to travel, or at least live in a different country for a few years.

When I moved to LA in the fall of 2014 (time flies by so fast…I can’t repeat that often enough!), I was anxious and excited to finally be living on my own and in the city. Over the course of three years, I found a way out of my eating disorder struggles, I worked my way through the beginning stages of recovery, I established strong friendships (both old and new), and most importantly, I found (and continue to find) peace with my body. Self love and confidence were probably the things I would say I am most grateful for achieving since moving to LA.

And after this past year of travel and exponential self-growth, I am seriously considering moving outside of the country for my “next move” after getting my PhD. I feel like I would only be holding myself back if I stayed here…in my now comfort zone. I feel like I want and need to ready myself for a whole new cultural immersion and way of living. I’m excited just thinking about it…

Barcelona, will I see you again soon?
Barcelona, will I see you again soon?

I’m not setting anything in stone or making my mind up permanently, but I am comfortable with keeping my options open. After living so long with limitations, just feeling limitless is exhilarating enough.

Being in Barcelona, Day 1

Being in Barcelona, Day 1

So, about Spain.

I’d have to say that the chance to go was definitely unexpected. Work-related business ultimately led me to this opportunity, and I’d go so far as to say that it was one of the best experiences of this year. I’d like to use my last recap post of the trip as a “personal reflection”, but I’m incredibly behind on recapping in general, so I’m just gonna get right to it!

I left for Barcelona on a Thursday morning, Cali time. It felt odd to not go into lab, but I quickly got into the traveler’s mindset when my Lyft came by to take me to the airport. I flew to Charlotte via American Airlines, and while this leg wasn’t so bad, I quickly grew to despise AA when flying out of Charlotte.

I was carrying a conference poster rolled up in a tall case, and every time I tried to secure it in an overhead compartment, it would promptly roll out. Passengers around me had no problem tapping my shoulder and pointing at my loose poster roll, but did anyone bother to help me out? Yeah-no.

When it fell out and the cap burst off and rolled under someone’s seat beyond my reach, I requested their help but no one would budge. I asked a stewardess to help, but she quickly proved herself to be one big female canine if you know what I mean…

Eventually a guy stood up, found the cap, and helped me secure the poster better. I thanked him but I still felt heated from the whole situation. At least I had eight or so hours to myself and to cool down…

I arrived in Barcelona at around 11am local time. I didn’t have a window seat, so I missed out on getting a sneak peak of the city, but my concern upon landing was how would I make it out to the city.

My first Airbnb was near a major transport hub, and my host recommended Intake Aerobus. But that’s when I encountered my first issue.

Hmm...should have been simple, but it became complicated quickly...
Hmm…should have been simple, but it became complicated quickly…

Lesson #1 – Always bring cash when traveling in Spain from another country.

I quickly learned that in order for me to be able to use a credit card overseas, at least at a ticket vendor machine, I needed to have a PIN associated with that car. Clueless me was puzzled about this when I attempted to purchase an Aerobus ticket. The ticketmaster ultimately came over, and after trying it for himself, he simply said “No.” and handed the card back to me.

Again, my concern was just making it out to the city in one piece, so I had to find a way. I next tried to purchase some Metro tickets at one of the automated kiosks. No luck there, since it once again asked for a PIN and I was stuck. Luckily, a woman who was supervising the area gave me the recommendation to get a HOLA BCN card at the counter, since I could purchase it with a credit card without providing a PIN.

That was a success, and it only cost me €14 for a 48hr pass! I immediately found the station out, and headed towards Plaça de Espãnya.

.
Plaça de Espãnya

I was staying at an Airbnb that was near the center of all things—it was close to a multi-story mall that was converted from a bull fighting arena, and there was just activity all-around.

The architecture of everything had me stop in my tracks...
The architecture of everything had me stop in my tracks…

I was in awe of everything around me…I did clutch on my backpack and suitcase tightly because I had read about pickpockets (and I wanted go avoid what I had experienced in Paris earlier this summer with my family), but as soon as I saw the Airbnb I was staying at, I became more relaxed.

I checked in easily, set my things aside, and immediately fell into a glorious nap! I woke up later that afternoon and talked to my Dad for a bit before deciding that I should at least go for a walk to get rid of the grogginess. It was cold and rainy outside, and I probably should have packed a jacket, but I made do and walked north in the direction of Plaça de Cataunya.

Rainy day in Barcelona
Rainy day in Barcelona

I walked by an array of shops, markets, paella cafes, and coffee cafes, but what blue me away was how clean the streets were. Compared to the polluted streets of London and dusty roads of Paris, Barcelona was pretty much spotless, haha!

There were two Starbucks along my route, and I stopped at each in order to use their wifi and check where I was. I didn’t want to go out too far as it got darker and colder, and since I was feeling tired, I turned around after getting to Plaça de Cataunya. I tried to find a vegan place that was supposedly in the city center, but it was hard to navigate to and I was getting more tired, hungry, and impatient.

I ended up deciding on a place close to the Airbnb: SandwiChez.

Falafel wrap & tea at Sandwichez
Falafel wrap & tea at SandwiChez

It was a cozy coffee shop chain, and I got myself a simple Falafel Wrap with a side of chai tea. Everything was warmed up, and I found a convenient little spot by the wall to relax and enjoy my meal.

Something to soothe the jetlag.
Something to soothe the jetlag.

I surprisingly didn’t have too much jetlag that night, and I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly. I did wake up a few times in the early morning, but I was tired enough to stay in bed until 9am the next morning. I slowly got ready, and tried to map out what I’d like to do and what would be the best way to get to these attractions.

Park Guell sounded intriguing, almost like an architectural amusement park. It was also a destination that required some travel planning, so I decided to check that out first. I used the Metro to get to the closest station, and when I exited, I found myself in the most gorgeous-looking, quiet, European neighborhood. It almost reminded me of the hilly streets of San Francisco combined with the green earthiness of the PNW.

Where am I??
Where am I??

I ended up walking in the wrong direction for about 20 minutes before re-orienting myself and actually heading towards Park Guell. Even though it was on top of a hill, it wasn’t too arduous to get to…there were escalators guiding visitors up!

And the view was very well worth it…

That's Barcelona over yonder...
That’s Barcelona over yonder…

Everything was architectural eye candy…

l

My favorite were these iconic arch structures:

Falling in love with Park Guell ♥
Falling in love with Park Guell ♥

After walking for a bit, I stopped for some coffee, and even took a look inside the gift shop.

Coffee break
Coffee break

There were so many colorful and cute knick-knacks, but I didn’t find anything that called out to me as “gift material”.

Gift shop!
Gift shop!

I soon walked out of Park Guell, and into another coffee shop (Coffee Park) that was just outside the exit. Since I didn’t have any food (just coffee), I was on the hunt for some churros, or something.

What actually ended up catching my eye were the cannolis. I intended to order one, but since they had a minimum credit card charge, I “had” to get two 😉

Italian dessert in Spain lol I know
Italian dessert in Spain lol I know

They were delicious, but maybe two was overkill, haha.

I walked back to the closest metro station and easily used the map to get off at the Sagrada Familia station. As soon as I stepped out from underground, I was met with a stunning view of a gothic cathedral. Everyone around me was just standing and staring at the grand, behemoth building before them.

Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família

It was hard to get a clear picture due to the sun rays, so I walked around to the entrance on the other side. I didn’t go inside the cathedral, but seeing the outside was enough for me.

I did some more exploring of the neighborhood by foot. I even stopped inside a supermarket and just walked around, familiarizing myself with what a typical Spanish person eats on a daily basis.

There was a whole section for donuts...that was an interesting find.
There was a whole section for donuts…that was an interesting find.

I heard that the Arc de Triomf was worth checking out, so I used my HOLA BCN card to hop on a bus. Ever since moving to LA, I’ve made it one of my unofficial missions to learn how to use the modes of public transit in the cities I visit. I got a taste of how the trains work, so it only made sense that I hop on board a bus eventually during my visit.

The Arc De Triomphe of Paris is nothing compared to Spain’s.

Arc de Triomf
Arc de Triomf

Just walking under the structure and along the pathway was such a happy event. There was a good crowd, not too many people, and so much activity taking place. I really wanted to take a selfie but angles just weren’t cutting it.

Exploring the area
Exploring the area

This was proving to be the place to be, especially on a sunny day right after a cold and rainy one.

To be continued in Part 2!

A Weekend in LV, Part II

A Weekend in LV, Part II

My second full day in Vegas started off at a steamy 95 degrees. I kept waking up throughout the night due to the heat/constant shuffling in and out of the bathroom of the other guests, and so I decided to actually wake up at 6, since sleeping in just wasn’t going to work out.

View from the convention center
View from the convention center

I told my friend to pick me up from the convention center at 9, and so to kill time, I tried to find a session or two to join in. I didn’t find anything too remarkable, so I just participated in a yoga class that was going on. It made me quickly realize that as a runner—I need to stretch more.

When my friend arrived, she looked tired due to her long working day on Friday, but we still followed through with our plans and headed out to Red Rock Canyon.

Driving to Red Rock Canyon
Driving to Red Rock Canyon

But just soon as we stepped out of the car, we stepped back in. The heat was unbelievably unbearable, but we couldn’t leave without a selfie, haha.

Red Rock Canyon...so hot!
Red Rock Canyon…so hot!

She was hungry and had a craving for eggs, especially after hearing about a chain of brunch-type restaurants called Egg Works. We stopped by one of them on her way to work.

Eggworks in Summerlin
Eggworks in Summerlin

It definitely had a mom-and-pop vibe, and even though we were offered seats at the bar, we were able to snag a cozy booth and enjoy our meals without background kitchen noise.

Their menu was extensive, with not only egg dishes, but the sweet breakfast stuff too. But since it was practically noon, I was all about something savory and eager to get some protein in me.

<3

The Veggie Benny was mine, while my friend ordered a Benedict as well, with extra bacon on the side.

Veggie Benny ♥
Veggie Benny ♥

 

A working girl's plate...
A working girl’s plate…

I pretty much wiped my plate clean, except for the tomato slices I had on the side. Maybe I should have been like my friend and gotten some cubed potatoes for my side…

After finishing up brunch, we drove around for a bit on the way back to Town Square since my friend had a shift a work starting at 2pm. I found a spot in Whole Foods to work on some things via laptop to pass the time. I grew restless about two hours in, and decided to spend the rest of the time doing some window (and real) shopping.

Haha, of course this statue would catch my eye. There are a variety of these around Town Square, painted for different themes.
Haha, of course this statue would catch my eye. There are a variety of these around Town Square, painted for different themes.

I met up with my friend again after 6pm, and from there we drove our tired selves over to The Strip. It was still blazing hot outside, but we managed to find free parking at Planet Hollywood, and after going down five flights, walked inside the hotel casino before stepping out and walking in the southern direction of The Strip.

For dinner, we agreed on burgers and Bobby’s Burger Palace was on the way.

BBP
BBP

Of course it was packed, like any other restaurant on The Strip on Saturday night. Everything was also very meat heavy, except for two veggie options: a Veggie Burger and a Grilled Cheese.

♥

I went for the veggie burger, and even though my friend and I ordered back-to-back, her plate came out a good fifteen minutes before mine did. We blame it on the party of ten who ordered at the register next to us…we think their orders got mixed in with ours and caused the delay, haha.

My Veggie burger was alright thought! I mean, even Bobby is looking adoringly at it on that napkin holder. There was a good ratio of sauce to burger, so it didn’t taste too dry or soggy. It also came with a huge pickle on the side, all of the burgers did actually.

♥

After getting food in our systems, we were in a chattier mood. The sun also went down so it was a bit cooler than an hour before. Our next destination was Sambalatte, right outside Monte Carlo.

♥

It was a cozy little coffee shop, and while it didn’t make much sense to get coffee at night, I had my reasons…

♥

I would drink coffee at midnight if it meant having a mug of this Unicorn Latte. For the ‘gram, if nothing else.

Unicorn Latte ♥
Unicorn Latte ♥

TBH, it’s taste didn’t match it looks. While it looked like it was a coffee made out of rainbow rays, it needed the help of some sweetener. My friend and I took turns sipping at the mug, and then walked into the casino next door. We quickly turned around when her BF texted her to come home since the were meeting family for a late night get together. The abrupt change in plans was a slight disappointment, since I didn’t know the next time I’d be able to see my friend again, but she offered to drop me off at my BNB before heading out.

The next day was nothing momentous. I was glad to finally leave that weird BNB and head back to LA. Of course I wish I could have spent another day or two with my friend, but she also looked like she needed some rest. I guess as long as she’s there, I’ll have a reason to come back to LV.

Bobby's Burger Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First Stop, Iceland!

First Stop, Iceland!

Our European adventure began on a Sunday morning, with a stop for bagels before heading to the airport. My Dad had a rental since we used it to move my sister’s stuff, so before heading over to our terminal, we dropped it off and took the shuttle from there.

Checking in and security was surprisingly not too bad! TSA Pre does have it’s advantages…since our first leg was a domestic flight to JFK Airport in NYC.

Our flight was about six hours long, but on Jet Blue, so we were set, haha. Once we landed, we realized we had to walk over to another terminal and go through security again (this time, a much more tedious process), before being able to find something to eat.

Options for food at JFK’s international terminal are all things mediocre and mundane. We ended up getting personal pizzas and a salad to “get our greens in”. It took about an hour between dinner and finally boarding on Icelandic Air.

When we did board, we were handed cute water bottles with the top part of the bottle shaped like a glacier. And the music playing was very Enya-like.

Glacier bottle?
Glacier bottle?

There were no free inflight meals or snacks, but we came prepared with our own. I mostly slept for the majority of the flight, so hunger wasn’t a huge issue. We reached Reykjavik (actually Keflavik) by morning.

Upon landing, we had to exit out of the side of the plane (in the cold…) and board a bus to take us to the airport. After going through immigration and collecting our luggage, we were able to grab a rental and head out on Icelandic roads.

Everything looked so dreary and foggy, but overall it actually felt quite peaceful. It was an hour drive from the KEF airport to Reykjavik proper, but we knew we were in “civilization” upon seeing large warehouses and more traffic.

The address to our Airbnb was so short, I was surprised Google Maps didn’t come back with an error message. We weren’t too trepiditious about the apartment we would be staying in once we got settled in.

Airbnb digs.
Airbnb digs.

Yeah the bathroom was tiny, but the rooms were simple, clean, and our host left us a good number of blankets on the sofa so we wouldn’t get cold. Plus, I think tiny bathrooms are part of the whole European living experience, haha.

After freshening up, we got in our rental and drove to the city center. It was freezing cold, and I wanted to make sure we knew exactly where our coffee/breakfast destination was before getting out of the car! Good thing we parked in front of Reykjavik Roasters.

Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

It was like walking into someone’s kitchen/garage. Half of the space had a bakery counter and tables, while the other half was “storage” for large bags of coffee beans.

coffee
Eclectic decor, eclectic people
roasters
Bread and baked goods 🙂

We first realized Iceland was pricey when we saw that the coffee would be 800 Kroner…$8 USD for a single cup of coffee. It was sticker shock for sure, but we knew we’d only be here for two days so we put up with it. Along with coffee, we split some fresh nut bread with cheese and jam, a cinnamon scone, and a coffee “jogart” parfait topped with honey and almonds.

Icelandic breakfast
Icelandic breakfast

Everything tasted so fresh and warm, and even though I was the one that had the coffee jogart, I gobbled up my piece and leftover crumbs left from the scone.

After our authentic coffee break, we walked a couple blocks towards the water. There was a huge walking path that was carved alongside the water, hugged by rocks. Walkers, runners, and photographers could all be seen walking along the trail.

icelandddddddddddd
A glimpse of Icelandic coast

We stopped to take pictures along the way, including one of what we thing is an abstract sculpture of a viking’s ship.

Before heading back to the apartment for a few hours of rest, we stopped at a shopping mall called Kringlan to see if we could grab some snacks that weren’t, uh, so pricey in comparison to the morning’s meal…

kringlan
Kringlan

We stepped inside a store similar to the dollar store, and came out with nothing since everything for sale was extremely overpriced for what it’s actually worth. It left me wondering, are Icelandic people just richer than the rest of us? Or is it really that much of a struggle to live here?

1500kroner
An expensive fish pilow

We felt more justified buying food, and when we entered Bonus, an Icelandic-based grocery store, we were able to make it out alive with our wallets not undergoing a huge drop in weight, haha!

bonus!
Oh hello Nutella!

After our purchases, we were able to rest up, and then head out again for dinner—at Kaffi Vinyl! More on that in the next one 🙂

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_
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.

bakery
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.

85c
Baked goods

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

cranberry
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.

hotmilktea
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.

bread
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.

glen
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.

_front_
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.

menu
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.

window
Views.

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.

tiramisooooooo
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.

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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.

cup
“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.

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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.

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

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

Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

I got a good dose of endorphins and happy hormones last Saturday. Actually, the happiness rush began last Thursday evening, when I received a care package from my Dad! He says it’s for passing my quals, but I think he would have been kind enough to send me a little something regardless 😉 . It absolutely made my week and I thanked him for it!

care__package
“This is what happens when your Dad wants to surprise you for passing your qualifying exam a little over a month ago…and when Sprouts has a 3/$5 deal on @lennyandlarrys cookies. Shipping just the cookies alone in a small mailing box did not justify the shipping price. So in went some other items, and the box naturally grew wider 😂. Haha, I was so happy to find this at my doorstep yesterday evening ☺️”

On Saturday, my friend from lab (let’s call her “E”) and I were able to hang out outside of lab again. We had not spent some free time together since our movie outing to see Hidden Figures last month, so a girl’s day was overdue!

We both met in lab (duh) Saturday morning to take care of some things for our experiments. From there, we bused to Koreatown, laptops in hand and with coffee on the mind.

She used to frequent a little, hole-in-the-wall place known as Document Cafe. Based on her previous ventures, she has been insisting that we both go together sometime to have coffee and get some work done, since they have a good environment for working and strong wi-fi.

working__2
People here know the drill…

We finally did so on Saturday, and I was able to prevent her from buying for me ;). She got a simple cappucino (with barista foam art) and I felt adventurous and bought their affogato.

affo
“Affogatos and data analysis on a Saturday afternoon with the lab bestie ☕️ 🔬 🤓. This vanilla bean ice cream + chicory root coffee mix from @document_coffee_bar was excellent!”

We found seats by the wall, set-up our workspaces, and waited for our caffeinated creations to be completed.

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Waiting for treats!

My affogato immediately reminded me of a mini root beer float. It had a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the bottom, chicory root coffee throughout the cup, and then another generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the top.

little_Affo_spoon
Cute little spoon to eat the Affogato with.

I will say that it doesn’t taste good unless you completely immerse the coffee with some of the ice cream, the melted parts. Otherwise the drink tastes too bitter…

We spent about 2 hours at the cafe enjoying our afternoon treats and working on lab-related data analysis/readings. We also chatted while doing so, just so that we made the whole experience a little bit more fun.

After getting our fill of caffeine, we had enough energy to walk to Wilshire/Vermont. It was approaching 4pm, and we figured why not have some froyo before calling it a day?

Yogurtland was just down the way, and I went to town with three different flavors of froyo, poppers, mochi, maraschino cherries, and Whoppers chocolate malt balls.

froYO
“Yesterday’s fun day out in K-Town naturally ended with a stop at @yogurtlandinc . Froyo makes the best accompaniment for lab gossip 🙊😜”

We gossiped about lab and the crazy antics of our colleagues. It felt so good to be able to vent and laugh with E outside of lab!!

I left for home around 5, and got back around 6. Since our “last” team long run before the marathon was the next morning, I went to sleep early to ensure I’d be rested enough to put in a good effort into the taper 😉 . Sure enough, it worked since I ran the 12 miles at an average pace of 8:07/mi! Really, really hoping that I can pull off a sub-4:00 come next Sunday!

I definitely do think that having days much like Saturday have been helpful in keeping my mood up, and feeling validated by my running improvements has also helped a lot. I know that it’s normal to have an ebb and flow with moods and feelings (it’s HEALTHY to feel sad sometimes), but if I can find ways to keep my happiness up the majority of the time, why not 🙂 ?

What do you do to keep happy?

Document Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

Once Wednesday morning rolled around last week, I felt much less anxious, but I did have some lingering adrenaline because I could not sleep. Post-presentation jitters? I guess that’s a thing.

I did treat myself to a latte in the morning: the new Cascara latte from Starbucks.

As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.
As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.

I saved my celebrations for the weekend though. My friend from lab and I snuck out a little early Friday evening to head downtown and see Hidden Figures. It was my friend’s second time seeing it, but she loved it so much that she didn’t mind seeing it again with me.

She ended up buying both of our tickets even though I insisted she didn’t. Ah, now I owe her—if she’ll ever give me the chance 😉 !

I absolutely loved the movie, though I will admit I love movies and books about people and their stories. I loved reading biographies as a kid, and even now I prefer memoirs over anything else literature-wise.

On Saturday, I gave myself a rest day knowing that the next morning I would have to get up and run 15 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my day, knowing I had it all to myself with no impending items on my to-so list…

IMG_9104
Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

I ended up walking around Santa Monica in the morning because I woke up ravenous, and I wanted to get donuts from DK’s. Unfortunately, my debit card wasn’t working and I couldn’t withdraw any cash to buy any donuts from the cash-only shop. I don’t understand why they can’t take credit cards at this point with all their success/recognition, but one day I’ll be able to see what the hullabaloo is about…when I have cash in my pocket.

In the meantime, I had to find something pronto because my stomach was growling…

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

I totally forgot about SuperFood Cafe’s existence, even though I had been planning to check this place out a while back. They have an incredible amount of vegan and vegetarian items, hinted by the size of their large laminated menus.

At the counter, I ordered a warm bowl called Chef Tofu and a coffee because that morning I desperately needed one. I then found a seat and admired the high ceilings and warm, cozy color tones.

coffee and art
Nothing says comfort like a giant mug of coffee

I added two packets of brown sugar and one serving of creamer to the coffee, which made it taste much more magical. My bowl came in a very interesting-shaped bowl—it looked like something you’d find in an art gallery.

chef_tofu
That crazy looking bowl though.

The bowl itself contained organic tofu, hemp seed, organic broccoli, kale & spinach, and organic tomato-corn-chipotle salsa. The tofu had a nice spice to it, being coated with a light curry sauce and all.

chef_TOfuuu
Ah, a bowl of yum!

With my hunger satisfied, I decided I might as well do something fun, but cultural, with my free day. I took the bus (which stopped right in front of SuperFood, conveniently!) to Westwood, and decided to check out the Hammer Museum since I hadn’t been yet!

hammer_museum
Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

The museum was actually pretty small. From the outside it looks enormous, but then I realized that the bulk of it was a parking garage…so much for culture! While it was gorgeous on the inside, there were only TWO art displays open, and so my visit was drastically cut down to a fifteen minute walk-through…

interior_
Pretty, but small & quiet

So, I ended up doing what I pretty much do on my weekends when not in lab…grocery shop, and then head home to nap! At least at my grocery stops over the weekends, I treated myself to some delicious new finds:

I had this Falafel Wrap from Trader Joe’s on Sunday, after a 15-mile long run with my team. After having the Veggie Hummus and Grilled Eggplant wraps though, I found this one to be awfully dry even with the provided tahini sauce. It didn’t help that all the falafel were to one side (it made it harder to dip that side into the sauce cup)…maybe if they had been assembled in a staggered arrangement, it would have helped with the dunking?

falafel_wrap
Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

I also used some Vitamin Shoppe points I had to go towards my first jar of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter!

I tried D's Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It's a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S'mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that's balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!
I tried D’s Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It’s a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S’mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that’s balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely 🙂

backofjar
I will be on the hunt for the others!

I would say that my post-exam jitters finally went away Monday morning. I woke up feeling much more refreshed than I did last Wednesday, and so far, that feeling’s been holding up pretty well 🙂

Does it take you a while (psychologically) to get back to your normal routine after a long stressful event is over?

Superfood Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yes, It’s Done!

Yes, It’s Done!

It’s so hard to believe that the past couple of months had me so anxious/stressed all over one little day. Well, on Tuesday I passed my qualifying exam, and it literally felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I had been working on it for so long that I forgot what it felt like to go out on the weekends and explore the city.

Now the only major thing left in this whole grad school thing is getting to the end—defending a dissertation and graduating! That won’t be for at least another 2.5 years, but I honestly think the hard part is over, at least in terms of academic requirements.

Last week however, I was feeling 10x more stress and anxiety compared to how I feel now.

Last Thursday, I stayed home to work from home. I was glad to save time from commuting, and I even squeezed in a run and Whole Foods/Vitamin Shoppe stop before heading home to work.

barz
RX Bars

To my surprise, I found two new-to-me RX bars at Whole Foods, and snacked on them at the store.

Coffe Chocolate had a rough texture and the chocolate chips against the coffee flavor was strong, and overall I thought it was alright. I truly loved Apple Cinnamon though—tasted like Apple Pie if one added nuts into the crust!

coffee_applecinnamon
Coffee Chocolate // Apple Cinnamon

I also had a Smores flavored Combat Crunch bar that I picked up from Vitamin Shoppe, and it tasted like a higher-quality Milky Way bar. Basically a Milky Way bar with a thicker, crispier, crunchier chocolate-coating shell.

smores
Smores Combat Crunch

On Saturday, we got a day break from the rain. I used that to my advantage and went out for a ~11 mi run. I was thinking about attending the women’s march taking place in downtown, but my priority was working on my PowerPoint presentations.

out_
Uplifter’s Kitchen

Before heading to work, I had to get some breakfast in me. I ended up going to Uplifter’s Kitchen for a quick, small bite in a cozy atmosphere. Despite it being sunny, the temperature was still chilly from the rain.

inside
Where to order

I ended up getting a seasonal mixed berry scone with a cafe latte on the side made with almond milk. I could have consumed this on the go, but I truly did want to give myself a break before transitioning to work mode.

scone_
A seasonal mixed berry scone with juicy fruit!

This scone was encrusted with sugar crystals, and the blackberries and strawberries were so juicy!

scone_latte
Also got a latte with my scone 🙂

The latte on the other hand, was sub-par. Maybe because they hadn’t sweetened it themselves, and when I got it I was too lazy to figure the right amount of sweetener to add. At least the frothy part looked pretty, and it was made from locally-sources almond milk? That is a plus, right 😉 ?

tapatio
Picked a seat by the wall.

I also later found out that my scone made a difference! Haha, apparently, the proceeds that Day were going towards organizations that support women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality and protection from discrimination for immigrants. I was thrilled to hear that, and safely came to the conclusion that I was able to contribute to the day despite my own personal to-do list 🙂 !

Well—since my quals trials are over, I am overwhelmed (with happiness) thinking about what I could do this weekend! Ah, it feels like I need to catch up with the entire world, haha.

Uplifters Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Choc-A-Lot Lovin’

Choc-A-Lot Lovin’

When I lived near DTLA, it honestly sometimes felt like a chore to plan long runs on the weekends. When my marathon team was training, it was easier to run the long runs with them because of the company (safety in numbers!) and varied routes/locations each week. On my own however, I was restricted to a limited route in downtown that often included multiple loops, depending on if it was a 10 or 14 miler. I also had to be weary about the time I set out to go run, either due to weather or safety concerns.

While those urban runs have a soft spot in my heart, these circumstances have made me more grateful that I have the opportunity to live where I do now. Running to the beach, running alongside the beach, and just being in Santa Monica makes running so much more easier. Sometimes just running alongside the beach can get mundane, but the views are so humbling.

bythebeach
Hello home 🙂

After I finished a 11 miler on Sunday, I had to stop and take in the moment atop some steps by the pier. Once I had my moment of gratitude, I continued on forward because a certain donut shop was calling my name 😉

Another thing I love about living in SaMo is the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, cafes, and shops here that people from all over make their travel plans around. I was (and still am) that person who has a long list of all the foodie places I want to go to. When I first moved to LA, the majority of them were in Santa Monica/West LA, and since then, the list has grown to include even MORE places in the West side of the city…

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Sidecar Doughnuts!

One of those places was Sidecar Doughnuts. They recently opened shop in SaMo, expanding north from their roots in Costa Mesa. The line was already long when I came by a little before 10.

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Hipsters wait for doughnuts.

They had all sorts of fruity and seasonal flavors, but for some reason the chocolate flavor called out to me so loudly, haha. Maybe it was the glaze, glistening brightly through the glass.

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Um, yeah doughnuts!!

Everyone around me was getting sampler trays and boxes. I have yet to purchase more than one doughnut from a doughnut shop, but maybe one of these days I’ll have a reason to.

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That lady was busy picking out a box of doughnuts, lol

This time around, it was just me and this Choc-A-Lot doughnut 🙂

side
Raised chocolate ring topped with chocolate glaze and cocoa nibs

The doughnut had a cake texture, and the chocolate glaze had solidified so that the cacao nibs on top stayed perfectly in place. It was photogenic and worthy of a food magazine cover shot.

I also had a latte on the side, but it was disgusting. Sidecar, just stick to doughnuts please…

dontgetthis
This latte, ick.

I would not call myself a doughnut person, but I would rank this particular doughnut high, high up there. Plus, all the Cali hipsters were here that Sunday morning. That’s gotta count for something right 😉 ?

Sidecar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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