The weekend my sister arrived to settle in the OC was also the weekend one of my lab mates was hosting a potluck at his house. It’s been years since anyone in our lab has gone out of their way to organize a lab get-together outside of lab, and so I have to give credit to my friend for taking on the challenge, haha!
Since my sister had the car now, she was invited so she could give us a ride ;). Nah, she was welcome too.
We carpooled with E and another lab mate and drove to West Covina east of LA. It took us an hour in headache-inducing traffic, and we were the last group to arrive. My friend who was hosting (let’s call him J) and his wife greeted us, and led us out to the backyard where the pool and food spread was.
We got settled in with some plates of food, and sat by the pool while we ate. Everyone except E, my sister, and I made it to the pool sometime during our stay, but I was too lazy to even dip my feet in.
We left around 4 in order to avoid traffic, and still faced stopped cars on all sides. By the time we dropped off my lab mate and E, it was almost 6! My sis wanted to get dinner since she wasn’t able to properly eat over the week due to stress from moving and settling in, and I was eager to oblige. I knew how much she liked Tocaya, so we paid their Venice location a visit.
We found free street parking a few blocks away, and didn’t hesitate to park and power walk. Our hunger had caught up to us at that point, and we couldn’t afford to look at the menu for too long.
I ended up getting a Shredded Kale and Quinoa salad, while my sis ordered the bowl she fell in love with during our last visit.
My salad bowl was decent, but if it had not been for the dressing, it would have fallen flat. Even the tofu was slightly rubbery (and I prefer chewy tofu over the soft white kind!).
After dinner, we walked home with the humid beach air clinging over us, and despite there being no cooling beach breeze that night, we were able to sleep pretty soundly just from pure exhaustion.
The next morning, the weather was too great to pass up the opportunity to do something, so my sis and I hurried to lab soon after my long run. I had a ton of work to do, but she was willing to help me out and we were done in the afternoon.
I let her pick where we should go for lunch, and after reading my “foodie bucket list” excel sheet (yes I have one, lol), Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena sounded the most appetizing.
She drove, and while we did hit traffic passing by downtown, it was an easy, sunny drive to Pasadena once we got past all that. We found parking in Old Town on a side street, and walked over to the restaurant which was already packed with Sunday afternoon lunch-goers.
We were able to get booth seating, and started off with Vampire Dip as an appetizer, and then decided to split the Veggie Burger because we predicted it would be a lot of food. Annnnd, we were right, haha!
The Vampire Dip was a cheesy, garlic concoction that was super thick, and its consistency was more like a melted cheese ball than a smooth bowl of dip. It came served in a bread bowl, with some flatbread crisps and veggies for dipping.
I think the crew at Slater’s 50/50 knows how big their portions are, because our burger came to us already cut in half!
My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue 😛
After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.
Of course, I asked if we could stop by a nearby Grocery Outlet (this time the one in Rosemead), so I could get my cheap groceries for the week! My sis didn’t argue, seeing that she could benefit from the trip as well. Cheap food to off-set gas costs, haha!
Were we ready to try conquering this rough city this time?
My body still felt sore, but my hesitations about running on the city streets are what really held me back from running in Paris. To be honest though, I was in a taper week for my marathon and, I just did not feel like running. I did feel like doing some stair climbing though, and used the six floors of ’em just outside our apartment to my advantage. My legs were warmed up for the day/knocked out at the same time by the end of it, haha!
My sister wanted to have Creme Brulee in Paris before the end of our trip, so we spent the morning stopping by some patisseries and giving them a look. No luck, but the pastries were mouth-watering enough for us to fetch some macarons.
We braced ourselves as we headed for the Metro, but we were okay this time. We figured that as long as we stayed away from Gare du Nord and avoided getting on jam-packed train cars, we would be okay. Our first stop for the day was the iconic Eiffel Tower.
The weather was hot with no sign of a breeze, so taking an elevator to the top made the most sense. Plus, I already met my stair-climbing threshold for the day 😛
At the top, we were treated to a lovely, well-coordinated layout of the city.
It was a chore to get down (elevators going down were running incredibly slow), but by the time we reached the ground, we were ready to eat and were looking forward to the unique concept of our next destination. We walked over to the closest Metro stop, finally feeling slightly more comfortable with our surroundings.
Until we met the ticket police.
A guy in a ratty Nike hoodie and a beat-up nose walked over to us ordering us to hand over our tickets. He then exclaimed that the tickets we used to just get through this station were invalid. He spoke in broken English/French, so it was hard to understand—and communicate clearly—with him. It got to the point where he was asking for my Dad’s passport/to pay a fine, and we were getting pretty heated up/scared. This guy wasn’t in uniform, but his collegues were, and it all just seemed so confusing.
I tried to get the three of us to leave, but that just ended up with me running down the stairs while my Dad and sister kept arguing back and forth with the officers. I stood from the bottom floor staring awkwardly back up, both feeling worried and bored by the wait…
Eventually though, one of the guy’s colleagues came to his senses and let us go. It ended up being a misunderstanding about how to use the tickets and discard them when they were marked by the machine. The fact that they wouldn’t/couldn’t explain how the tickets were read was what caused us to be held up.
Another moment showcasing the hospitality of Paris…
Once we were let go, we continued on our journey, and got off at a station near the Pasteur Institute. We were looking for something much fluffier than pasteurized milk though…
How can one go to Paris without stopping by a cat cafe? It was an opportunity we couldn’t miss, and Chat Mallows Cafe was perfectly designed to achieve cat and customer comfort.
We had to sanitize our hands first, but then one of the employees (who were easily distinguished from customers due to their cat ears) opened a door to the seating area/cats play pen. We found a table by the window, and were immediately greeted by some furry friends.
We quickly found our favorite furries! Mine was the fat little white one (who was also the most shy/aloof)…gah, so cute!
I wish I could have packed them all in my suitcase and taken them home!
The menu wasn’t extensive, and there weren’t a lot of savory options, but we did get an omelette salad plate with some egg omelettes shaped like cat heads.
And for our desserts, I got a “blue milk” shake and my sister, who thought she ordered a chocolate milkshake, ended up with this giant brownie-fudge sundae thing that I ended up devouring more than she did! Her choice was much more delicious than what I chose, since mine just tasted like sweet milk topped with whipped cream. It wasn’t milkshake-thick at all…
After our meal and cat-bonding time, we made our way back to the Metro (now knowing how to use our tickets properly…) and made our way over to the Arc De Triomphe.
We weren’t able to get physically close to it since you had to pay to enter the ground perimeter is was in the center of, but we did take some nice shots across the street.
I was done playing the role of ‘tourist’ by that time, and suggested that we should carve out some time to check out some shops, and get gift/souvenir shopping out of the way. That ultimately led us to Galleries Lafayatte, which apparently according to our Airbnb host is where all the locals shop…but if that’s the case, the locals are making some serious BANK because everything there was designer brand and anything under 50 Euros was a rare find…
…we were able to afford macarons, haha!
We were out pretty late, or at least late in regards to French time because we got kicked out by one of the stores we were at by 7pm! Before heading back to the apartment, we had to rush to get food/snacks for the evening since the grocery stores were also closing up quickly!
I used it as an opportunity to pick up some European snackables:
I immediately picked up this Milka “Melty” bar as soon as I saw it, because I remember having some of this chocolate in lab when one of the post-docs came back from a conference in Australia. The Australian version is marketed as Milka “Collage”, but despite the difference in name, the creamy chocolate and varied, crunchy texture from hazelnuts and biscuit pieces was perfectly the same.
I couldn’t resist picking up these milk chocolate dinosaur-shaped biscuits from Lotus (the makers of Biscoff spread). European biscuits seem to have a way with being much more rich in flavor (butter perhaps?), and these were no exception.
We were all back and settled in by 10pm, just as the sun was setting. I guess traveling to the most northern areas of the globe in the summertime is not the best when you want to go to sleep soundly. Unlike the locals, we weren’t waiting for sundown for any parties to begin—we were too American for that, haha!
But at least the following day, our last day in Paris, wasn’t too dramatic…