Monday, March 28, 2011

Rainy Escape to LA: Good Food, Fun Hotel and Naked Korean Spas

Two weekends ago we celebrated Nic's first spring break as a graduate student with a long weekend getaway to LA. Cheap plane tickets bought and sceney hotel booked, we planned the trip over a month ago with hopes of sunshine and pool side drinks. To our bitter bitter disappointment it turned out to be a ridiculously rainy weekend with temperatures rivaling San Francisco. Weather be damned, we spent four awesome and uber-relaxing days in LA filled with good food, friends, 3 celebrity citings and some new cultural experiences. (Sadly my flippin iphone crashed shortly after this trip and I lost ALL my awesome pictures but I will attempt to fill in the blanks.) Keep reading for all the hot spots and travel tips...

Where we stayed...
We wanted a hotel with a cool pool, good bar and a great location for under $200 a night so we chose the uberhip Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. This great spot has small but modern rooms, a legit hotel gym and some very cool bars. To be honest the palm tree lined pool is what really landed us here but clearly we weren't swimming with the 50 degree temps. We also had celebrity citing #1 here - Kelly Osborn checking in with two obscenely small dogs and a legit bouffant hair-do. Nice!

Conveniently the LA marathon course went right by our hotel so on Sunday we rolled out of bed and stood under umbrellas to watch my two friends running in the marathon. Our spot was perfect and both friends (Julia and Chelsea -- HOLLAA!!!) ran by us, completely soaked and speeding on as we were only at the 11 mile mark. They were running at different paces but we managed to stay entertained in between their passings by our favorite fan who was unabashedly getting down to the loud speaker Michael Jackson tunes. Check out the video I caught on my phone and managed to upload to youtube (pre iphone crash)...

Dinner spot
Fortunately the rain put no damper on the food and friend portions of our getaway and Saturday night we headed out to dinner at Susan Feniger's Street. We got there early to have drinks with my high school friend and were quite pleased with the yummy and creative cocktails. The drinks were good but pricey whereas the food was amazing and totally reasonable. The menu is creatively inspired by international street cuisine and has a mix of meat, fish and veggie dishes. A highlight was a toasted coconut jam sandwich served with a fried egg and soy sauce that turned out to be the most delicious combination of flavors we never expected. The plates are small so you can try a few things. I had some amazing squash dumplings, a honey baked spaghetti squash dish and some deliciously tricked out brussel sprouts. We had the second of our celeb spottings (Teri Hatcher dining with friends) soooo all in all it was a very successful LA evening.

Breakfast Spot
On Sunday after a great workout in our hotel's well-appointed gym we got a brief break in the rain and ventured out on a walk to a highly yelp reviewed breakfast spot called "The 101 Coffee Shop". The vintage diner vibe and amazing breakfast menu completely won us over. Plus they put sauteed bananas in the oatmeal... done and done. I would highly recommend it!

Lunch with a View
Sunshine starting to show, we headed to Santa Monica to see the world famous Santa Monica pier with our friends Julia and Tristan. The pier was as iconic as I had imagined and the sun came out to give us a great view of the beach. We ate lunch overlooking the water at BOA, which had an upscale lunch menu and a very legit drink list.

On Tuesday we hit up Hollywood's "Real Food Daily" - a creative vegan restaurant with salads, entrees, baked goods and smoothies that were light and tasty. It was a bit more sceney than the dreadlocked granola-eatin' vegan crowds you find in San Francisco and we had celebrity spot #3 --- Evan Handler aka "Harry" from Sex in the City.

Stuff to Do...

Wi Spa
Lamenting the lack of a hot tub at our hotel, Nic and I decided we needed some spa time so we headed to Korea town to hit up the super cool Wi Spa. If you have never been to a huge Korean spa like Wi or Brooklyn's Spa Castle you might want to go now. This was an experience like no other. For $25 each you buy a full spa pass and they give you a little outfit: cotton pull on khaki shorts, yellow Wi Spa t-shirts for the ladies and white ones for the guys. They then give you a waterproof wrist band that has a number on it corresponding to your locker. The band opens and locks your locker when you wave it in front of the lock and also allows you to charge things like food or spa treatments by waving it over the relevant registers. Weird outfits in hand and nervous expressions on our faces, Nic and I headed to our respective locker rooms with plans to meet up on the coed spa floor in 10 minutes. In the very nice ladies locker room I changed into my spa outfit, locked up my clothes and purse and quickly headed up the elevator to meet Nic. We arrived barefoot in our matching outfits and found families, couples and friends lying on the heated floor, playing cards and relaxing. The floor had 4 different saunas: a rock salt one, a clay ball one, an ice sauna (basically a walk-in freezer) and a 240 degree rock wall sauna. Each Sauna featured a large flat screen tv that exclusively shows Korean soap operas. TRUE STORY. We tried all but the super hot sauna and then made our way to the Korean cafe. We split a delicious bowl of bi-bim-bap: a traditional Korean dish featuring hot rice in a stone pot topped with various vegetables, pickles, a fried egg and hot sauce. It was delicious and the novelty of paying with a wristband was not lost on us. After our snack we parted ways to go to our respective unisex floors. The unisex floors are strictly nude so if you're squeamish being naked in front of a lot of nice korean women - this might not be your place! Luckily I went to a boarding school without shower curtains soooo... no biggie! I stripped down and made my way into the bathing room which featured 3 large hot tubs: one super hot, one medium hot and a cold tub. The facilities were as clean and inviting as any nice spa that I've been to. A few feet from the hot tubs women were sitting in the decked out shower/bath stations shaving their legs, washing their hair and chatting. The staff kept everyone supplied with clean towels, tooth brushes, toothpaste and water to drink. There were also saunas on this floor as well as services like pedicures, manicures, massages or hair treatments that you could pay for with your wristband. I wished I had some girlfriends or my sister there with me to enjoy all the great facilities! All in all it was an awesome experience and we left convinced that if we had a place like that near us we would get an annual membership.

Runyon Canyon Park
On our last morning in LA the rain stopped for a couple hours and we walked a few blocks from our hotel to Hollywood's scenic Runyon Canyon Park. This park was filled with locals walking their dogs. It was a great place to stretch our legs and take a hike to a nice view of the city. This is a good stop if you are craving a bit of excercise on your trip. I realized I was staring at every passer-by with hopes of seeing some fit celeb on a run but alas--- no celebrities, just a lot of really attractive LA peeps who don't seem to have to work on a Tuesday... must be nice!

All in all it was a great trip and while I'm not sure LA is somewhere I'd want to live I will definitely visit again --- especially on a sunnier weekend!


  1. Char, you forgot the most important part! Who were the celebrities you spotted?!

  2. it's in there! You must read carefully :) --- Kelly Osborn, Teri Hatcher and Harry from sex in the city!

  3. If you come back to LA again I PROMISE it will be sunny. Scout's Honor. If I remembered the Camp Runamok oath I'd do it here.