For as many reasons as I can think to take a trip, I have just as many to stay put. So, our recent trip to L.A. was both a victory and an anomaly for various reasons.
For starters, motherhood puts a nice spin on your priorities. I mean, as much as I love my kids, I count down minutes until bedtime a fair amount of evenings, but it is very hard for me to stomach leaving. The invisible string I guess. P.S. Life with toddlers is perfectly designed. They are so incredibly precious that it would break your heart for them to grow a day older, but they are also so difficult sometimes that if they didn’t get older every day you would absolutely lose your mind. It’s perfection. Anyway, nothing makes me more homesick than when being away from them doesn’t feel worth it. Pressure’s on.
Furthermore, at best, I’m a visionary, creative, peace-keeping middle child, recovering people-pleaser. At worst I’m a debilitatingly indecisive over-thinker and talker et al.* At best or worst, I’m reliably high spirited, generally roll with the flow, and am consistently procrastinating and/or distracted. I get things done and rest assured I’m full of plans and ideas, just don’t hold your breath to see all of them. These these things can make it very hard to actually a) settle on a destination and b) justify actually executing the plans.
So, in order to remedy an overwhelming feeling of indecision and fog a few weeks ago, I decided to make a decision. Focus! Do something! Go! Without overthinking it. Make it simple, make it easy. So we decided we would go to L.A. to celebrate my husband Johnny’s birthday. With the help of willing parents, babysitters, and perhaps a smidge of xanax for me, we were able to board a plane and spend 3 nights in a big, famous city that we had never visited before. I compare every big-city (best to say “Big City” in a hillbilly accent) trip to New York, and always discover nowhere is New York except New York.
Here was our trip, 3 Nights in L.A., thanks to great recommendations from friends:
Hotel Bel Air: So it has all the things. It’s a Dorchester. (Best to say this with a pretentious British accent.) It’s pink. There are swans. Citrus trees. Twinkle lights. Ivy everywhere. Really nice staff. Delicious food. Very quiet, lovely pool. Interesting guests. The charming feel of an old school hotel with fresh, updated rooms. Highly recommend it.
We took the first flight out so as to have a full day in L.A. upon arrival. A very early morning made completely worth it by an exceptional breakfast and late morning spa appointments. The spa was lovely. Nap central. Followed by pool time, more naps, and lunch (Thai Salad by the pool-yum!). It was a delight.
What we learned: it’s the kind of hotel that makes it difficult to justify leaving. There’s no real reason to leave. Each time you do, you have at least a 15 minute drive. Plus, after watching 5 Range Rovers, 2 Rolls Royces, and a few G-Wagons load up passengers in the valet line, your UberX Ford Escape or equivalent can make the drive seem a little longer and a little windier. Thus, your pampered new BelAir self will find ways to justify the Select option and your 15 minute drive will double in price. You won’t even notice as you drive by homes so sensibly square footed in the 20s, 30s, and 50 thousands. They’re mainly behind walls and hedges, but if you like the feeling of your eyes bulging out of your face just pull up your location on your Realtor.com App.
But, when we did leave the hotel, here is where we went:
Angelini Osteria: where the only reservation I could get was at 9:30. Mind you, at home, I am entering my first REM cycle at 9:30, let alone eating dinner at that hour California time. It’s called sleep walking. But I put on my big girl panties and convinced Johnny we could go at 8:00 to order an appetizer at the bar, hoping they would take pity and seat us early. Only there wasn’t a bar. So we stood outside like Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids “Help me I’m poor” and it worked!
They were so nice, and seated us early. Which was very kind because it would have been a shame to sleep outside when our digs at the BelAir were so melty. It is also an actual shame how many people there are in L.A. sleeping outside. And it’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around when you’re confronted with such an over-the-top picture of wealth everywhere- or rather than “wealth” it’s just like “Rich Rich Rich!” (Refer to Realtor.com App again.) So our waiter was adorable and the restaurant was cozy, well-lit, and full of cute couples and families (and their nannies who would bring the children by to say hello-but then just move along, what a system!). We shared a chopped salad- meh, and the Polipo- warm Mediterranean Octopus-delicious. Then, Johnny smugly ordered Grilled Rosie Chicken while I picked a pasta, the Bombolotti. But the real winners came at dessert where Johnny redeemed himself for ordering chicken with 2 desserts- Affogato and Panna Cotta. Both excellent. Dreaming of them now.
Our second day happened to fall on a Sunday, and Sunday was the birthday. So be it that I was feeling very thankful for 33 years of Johnny, or be it that after a full day of napping and quiet I was ready to be around people who were talking and singing, I moseyed on to church at Good Shepherd on Roxbury and pretended to be Catholic. Something dorky popped into my mind about Mornings at the Roxbury vs. Nights at the Roxbury
but I did not share any of those jokes bc they were, well, so very stupid. But church was lovely, all about family and feeding the multitude. The theme sticking with me that in that kind of situation, needing to feed 5000 people with a single boy’s lunch, and many others, we don’t have enough ourselves alone- but Jesus takes what we do have and multiplies that. It is only through him that it can be multiplied, but there has to be something to multiply (not always but in this story). Cue all songs that say something like “Have a little faith…” even just a “little” will do.
Then, it was breakfast at the hotel again which became our favorite meal time of the trip. This day I ordered a toasted bagel with cream cheese, pico de gallo, and diced fresh jalapenos. I felt like a genius so I recommend it as an order for both the taste and the feeling of genius.
Followed by a trip to The Broad. I had it on good authority that The Broad was a worthwhile reason to leave the hotel. It definitely did not disappoint. Here is what I posted on my Instagram about it,
and here is a link to the “Planet Monet” Podcast on Planet Money.
Lunch afterward at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood.
We had been in Miami before which was both a pro and a con. A pro because we loved it in Miami, and a con because it’s always a struggle of indecision to eat somewhere you have already been. But highlights for me were the big bunches of dried herbs hanging in the kitchen in the bar area (home goals) the overall ambience of the restaurant, the 4 over the top Russian ladies sitting in front of us- one decked out in a silk printed Versace shirt with Cadillacs on it (tasteful!) one whose fannie was sticking out of her shorts (tasteful!) with a blinding engagement ring- but most of all the Chicken paillard and the Pizza-porchetta and artichoke– So delicious!
Birthday dinner at Spago because clearly we couldn’t get enough Wolfgang Puck in our life. (The restaurants at BelAir are WP too.) Pros: It was not my first time trying Uni but I think my first time enjoying it a little. The patio, like so many patios, is covered in twinkle-lit trees. But the superstars of this meal were: 1. The cheese pizza with truffles. 2. The series of Ed Ruscha on the walls. 3. Dessert! Called a strawberry “schnitte”Wow. It was the schnitte. and
4. The playlist. Which was both because the playlist was actually good and also because all time spent on this vacation was so quiet that the music was extra-appreciated on my behalf. The hostess upon our exit even let me come in and see their playlist which was a gift to an otherwise stale music situation on my Spotify currently. More on that later.
Attempted to walk around BelAir. Not a great idea. Most houses are covered by huge walls or hedges, but the peak in here or there was pretty amazing. However, it’s very Shell Silverstein- “Where the sidewalk ends” because you can just walk along and then Poof! it ends. . Just like that, there you are, cars whizzing by so fast. (Apparently, Beverly Hills has sidewalks) So we had to Uber from a random street and cut our walk short. Which then made us less hungry than we had planned for our Beverly Hills Hotel lunch. That had the ripple effect of making Johnny’s burger feel unjustified and my poke bowl seem excessively expensive, which then started to make me feel like all my planning was beginning to fail- Trip anxiety! (I have a pressure-problem) Thankfully, anxiety assuaged after booking it back to soak up our last hours at the BelAir pool.
A particularly great people-watching day as a large middle-eastern family arrived with 5 nannies in tow. One woman was so chicly covered up, Hermes scarf dragging in the pool, discussing their plans for the upcoming weeks they would be staying there. Picture me: Unsuccessfully hiding a full forced gawk. Weeks! Scarf! So many nannies! As my sister-in-law said the other night, “Hopefully the next movie will be Crazy Rich Persians“- YAS!
At this stage in the trip everything had been so quiet and I was so starved for conversation, so desperately wanted to know everything about this family but too awkward to ask, so I went to hang with the concierge. Couldn’t have another dose of trip anxiety about poor planning so went to discuss our options. Our original plan had been to go to Koreatown. This because of watching so many David Chang expeditions there and seeing City of Gold. Then, also found this Korean Bath situation on Goop and we had visions of doubling down on our spa treatments. That is, until we discovered that Koreatown was an hour away. No can do! When will they get that space tube?
So we landed on Mr. Chow’s! Worried initially that this was a peep move, it ended up being one of our favorite meals. Any meal with soup dumplings is automatically my favorite meal. But there were several other factors too. It was lively, fun, perfectly portioned even though I was determined to order one more round of soup dumplings for dessert-I could not. Plus, some Crazy Rich Russians, and celebrities! The only one we knew by name was Kieffer Sutherland and at that we still had to google him to make sure.
Our order at Mr. Chow: Shanghai Little Dragon-Soup Dumplings, Mr. Chows Noodles, Crispy Beef, Gamblers Duck. Green Beans were Meh, but! their vinegary sambal makes anything taste delicious. First thing when I got home was mix up a bowl of sambal and rice vinegar and then felt like a genius again. It’s the small things.
And that was that. Now re-entry post Hotel BelAir, that’s a whole other story full of marriage quarrels and extreme heat but such is [real] life and I wouldn’t trade it.
Even if a pool-side Evian face spritz and a soup dumpling sound pretty good right about now…