Californication

They say the best things in life are unexpected. This was a sentiment I never truly understood, until I lost my passport within two hours of landing in Los Angeles for Reading Week.

Let me preface this by saying that, as much as I enjoy the notion of spontaneity, I had meticulously planned my dreamy California escape for weeks. I would catch up with some friends in LA, explore San Francisco on my own, and then end the trip with family near San Francisco. Pro tip: When embarking on an adventure through California (or anywhere really), try not to leave your backpack containing all of your money and valuable documents in the back seat of a taxi.

All was not lost though. After calling all of the cab companies and being told they wouldn’t be able to get back to me for two days, I did what any completely independent, totally responsible adult would do. I called my mom. She told me that 1. I was a dummy and 2. I shouldn’t completely waste the trip and try to enjoy myself until the cab companies called back. Accordingly, I cancelled my flights and hotels in San Francisco and spent the full week in Los Angeles instead.

Which brings us back to the beginning. I started my trip staying with a friend at UCLA. We spent the first day walking around Venice Beach, a colourful place crowded with street vendors and performers, as well as the occasional green doctor that will prescribe you a medical marijuana card for $40. In short, any conceptions you may have about Venice are probably true. The bohemian vibe here makes for a truly unique experience, and is definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

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Another highlight of the trip was a tour of UCLA, courtesy of above-mentioned friend Scott. The sprawling campus, featured extensively in movies likes Legally Blonde and Old School, is not unlike Queen’s in the sense that it looks plucked straight out of a postcard. Picture a lot of greenery and staggeringly beautiful architecture. It is also worth noting that their cafeteria is, unsurprisingly, light years ahead of the culinary epicenter that is Leonard Dining Hall. Kale vinaigrette and a person whose sole job is to hand toss your salad (and ask you if you want chicken or shrimp with that) are real things that exist.

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We continued our tour with a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Along with taking in all of the regularly featured exhibits, we were lucky enough to visit the Diane Von Furstenberg Journey of a Dress Exhibition (running from January 11th– April 1st). While not technically part of LACMA, the exhibit is in a building on the property and is free admission. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the iconic wrap dress that put DVF on the map, the exhibit is filled with 200 iterations of the famed silhouette. It also features old photos, ad campaigns, and portraits of Mrs. von Furstenberg herself. The bold colours and prints of the display perfectly reflect DVF’s fun design aesthetic.

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My favourite part of the trip was spending the day in Malibu, something I would have had no time to do had I gone to San Francisco as planned. My aunt and uncle picked me up, picnic basket in hand, and we relaxed on a secluded strip of beach for hours. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway and getting lost in the intermingling blues of the ocean and sky is a memory I hope I never forget.

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Of course, in addition to sightseeing, I also happened to eat my way through Los Angeles. Here are some spots worth checking out:

Cici’s Café

8912 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA

One word: pancakes. While the busy brunch locale has just about every kind of breakfast food you can imagine on the menu, the pancakes are the real standouts here. The green tea tiramisu pancakes were my favourite (although the red velvet pancakes were delectable as well.)

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El Cholo

Multiple locations, 1037 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA

No trip to LA would be complete without some Mexican food. El Cholo has a chill atmosphere and would be great for groups. You can ask the knowledgeable waiters what they recommend, but pretty much everything on the menu is delicious.

Urth Caffe

Multiple locations, 451 S Hewitt St, Los Angeles, CA

This eclectically decorated café, with a smattering of locations throughout the city, is a celebrity favourite. Don’t make the same mistake I did by going at a peak time, as the line up can get a bit ridiculous. However, the long wait times are well deserved; Urth’s green tea latte bobas are a revelation.

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Saffron and Rose Ice Cream Shop

1387 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Just as the name suggests, this offbeat Persian dessert shop offers up a bevy of unique ice cream flavors. White rose, ginger, and lavender are among the top sellers. Despite being a die hard Ben & Jerry’s girl, I now go to bed dreaming of their saffron pistachio ice cream.

Ultimately, my backpack did end up being returned to me a few days later, and with the exception of some missing money, I was lucky enough to get everything back. Just like that, my notions of being stuck in California forever and taking up a career as a street peddler went out the window.

In hindsight, the setback that derailed my plans ended up providing me with a completely different, yet equally awesome, experience. I saw friends and family, visited new places, and the weather was above freezing point. At the end of the day, what more could you ask for?

Yours creatively,

Sanam Yar, Online Contributor

Images: Sanam Yar, Anas Abu Baker