So ‘Vacation/jolly holiday’ time once again! This year’s destination was Los Angeles, California: City of Angels…
We had more than one reason this became our intended destination for 2018’s mad vegan caper:
For him: As Vegan Husband (VH) was desperately missing soccer (aka football to any Brit or European!) and Manchester United happened to be playing there in the off/Summer training season this year, this was something we ended up booking accommodation/flights around. United were playing AC Milan at the StubHub Centre in Carson, LA (originally set for the Rose Bowl, but I suspect not big enough crowds). Anyhoo – this was very much a treat for VH to enjoy.
As far as vegan food – well, we didn’t anticipate anything, and so ate a very good vegan meal from a great local restaurant in Redondo Beach (see below) before heading out to the stadium, and this turned out to be a wise choice, as the place was extremely limited in what you could take in – tiny clutch bag or clear wallet/bag that you must provide yourself…. So no way of taking nice snacks in either.
Darling Vegan Daughter went armed with earplugs in to soften the noise of the crowd, and although not as into the game as Husband/Dad, we actually enjoyed being there – which I have to say, is oh-so-much more engaging than watching on TV… I mean, REALLY!
So that was one of the reasons we were going to LA.
For her: Another reason was DVD (daughter, remember?) and her admiration of all things American:- American Girl doll store, funky clothes shops, Target (don’t ask!), and of course: Universal Studios Hollywood for the Harry Potter experience! We decided we wouldn’t have time/$$ to squeeze in Disneyland this year, and would wait until another year, as Star Wars Land is due to be finished sometime on 2019, I believe – and that would be worth seeing for a family of SciFi geeks, for sure!
And for moi: Well, I used to live over in Venice Beach and Santa Monica a couple of decades ago (*blushes*)… I was, you understand, very, VERY young back then… Just a young kid running around the craziness of Venice Beach, no money, no job, but having a heck of a lot of fun in the sun, regardless…
So this was a kind of return to my youth in a way – and to see what had changed… to see how it felt to be back, but now as a grown woman with a family and with seasoned, somewhat wiser eyes…
And the reality? It was just great…Truly lovely…It has changed a lot, and is a heck of a lot busier (though it IS Summer, I guess), but the vibe is still there… and all the street names and places came flooding back…
We started off in Malibu… I knew that we were packing a lot of things into this vacation, so I wanted to start off with a relaxing vibe. And this was perfect (well, if you remove the late night arrival, massive line for car rental, then mad scramble on the 5 lane freeway in the dark, along with inevitable shouting spat between DH and myself as we tried to decipher the sat-nav instructions!).
The place was small, but perfect: pitched overlooking the ocean and Pacific Coast Highway, but just at the start of the canyon hill, so not too noisy, and perfect to enjoy views of the wildlife, birds, canyon hills and ocean… Along with the obligatory biker hurtling down PCH:
“Get your motor runnin’…
Head out on the highway…
Lookin for adventure….”
(*holds mic out to crowd, hand to ear): “All together now…!”
We had done a lot of research on where to eat in ‘Bu (as we locals call it!), before flying out and found there were a few places that had some vegan options, but as you might expect – much of the fair was seafood orientated. So an Airbnb would give us the kitchen… and we made use of the Pavilions (large grocery chain), along with the Vintage Grocers (both off the run of PCH on the northern end) to stock up with some basics: –
Breakfast was frequently croissants (that are accidentally vegan), to which I add 3 or 4 organic dark choc chips to before rolling into shape and popping in the oven – super easy and although not the same texture as original/fresh baked from scratch, they do the job and keep daughter happy in the meantime. We alternated with vegan waffles and fresh fruit. The idea was that although I didn’t want to spend my vacation cooking in the kitchen as at home, when the options to eat out are a little slim, then it makes sense to eat in…
We did find that some places had vegan options that were not listed on the website – which was a reminder to me, that the internet does not know everything (or rather: many people forget to update their sites!). One of these places was D’amore’s Pizza (next to Pavilions near Zuma turnoff. They had Daiya vegan cheese – which we tried out (very nice)… And they even had a picture of Howie Mandel (comedian – America’s Got Talent) – so there you have your other obligatory sighting in LA – a star of some kind! 😉
The Malibu Farm Pier café also has a tofu scramble for breakfast/brunch, and we had intended to try out the following:
- John’s Garden: Lunch and snacks with a few vegan and veggie options
- Malibu Burger: Has vegan burger and cheese options… Though we are very happy to see they offer this, we are not so big on burger joints, tbh (just our personal feelings).
We were only in Malibu for 3 days, but in that time, we visited the Getty Villa (not the larger Getty Center museum in downtown). Note: – although the Getty Villa is off PCH; you need to be heading North to access it properly.
We also had a great time sitting out with umbrellas and beach mats on Zuma Beach, along with the iconic ‘Baywatch’ type Life Guard towers, mountains and rolling surf, as well as discovering a few coves that were dotted along the coast there. But mostly, we hung out at the idyllic property, in the hills, read some books, chilled out and got some desperately craved r&r, before all the ‘events’ and attractions began.
Next Stop: Santa Monica:
I picked SM as our next stop, due to its proximity – closer to downtown for Universal, easy to walk around and shops (3rd st Promenade/Mall), Pier, beach etc. We actually stayed just on the edge of SM – in Pacific Palisades, but it was still only about 15-20 mins walk to 3rd St (with child who wanted to take the car), and minutes to Palisades Park and Ocean Avenue (with footbridges over PCH to the beach). This was in July – so hot, hot, hot… even quite early in the morning…
We stayed in another wonderful Airbnb (not advertising, honestly!), for convenience of a kitchen again, but there are lots of places to eat vegan in SM – I recommend Happy Cow for a comprehensive list.
- Rosti’s: We visited Rosti’s Tuscan Kitchen on Montana, as it was walking distance and also offered a separate Vegan Menu (yay Rosti’s!). This was also handy when meeting up with my old friend who still lived in SM with kids of her own (non vegan)… They have Italian food (pizza, pasta, etc.) as well as Sunday brunch offerings. I tried out the eggplant dish (substitute for pasta – shredded and cooked with sauce/veggies) as per our waiter’s recommendation (delicious and a refreshing change from regular pasta). The second visit, I had the LT Sandwich (as in “no B/BLT!”): – both were delicious. VH is almost always happy with his food lot – he had a veggie filled pasta plate. Daughter loved her vegan pizza so much, she even left on the basil (might be her getting older and less picky, dare I say?!), and even wanted to go back there before we left. So that was a score. I am always a little overwhelmed when faced with a full vegan menu – I guess it is just years of having slim pickings, but I am most definitely NOT complaining! 🙂
2. Veggie Grill: Another place we ate at in SM was Veggie Grill (on Wilshire Blvd and a few other locations). This was a nice casual dining place, with plenty of options, and fries and mac n cheese vegan for fussy children! 🙂 Husband had a burger, I had black beans and rice – The place was reasonably priced, with many options and take-out looked very busy with the locals.
3. Santa Monica Place (Mall at bottom of 3rd St promenade) has changed an awful lot since I used to live there… Now largely outside, with upscale shops (Tiffany’s, Louis Viton, etc.). We were considering eating at the True Food Kitchen on the ground floor, but it looked a little busy when we first arrived, and then it turned out the rest of the family decided they were starving right there and then, as we stood on the rooftop floor (food court)…There is a really lovely open rooftop patio area, with bar seats, couches, umbrella covers, etc. – which is really nice to sit out and take in the view. So I found a healthy eating bar that had some vegan salads and wraps, there was also a pasta bar with some tofu and vegan options too… and of course… fries (I guess we are on vacation, hey?). I later spotted the Four Carrots small food bar inside Bloomingdales that appears to have a few options too…
Santa Monica restaurants are dotted all around on most of the streets branching off 3rd St, and also on Main St, and there are plenty of options for vegans here (check out Happy Cow for list, as too many to show here). There is a dedicated Thai that is vegan as well as a vegetarian/vegan only Indian restaurant… Definitely spoilt for choice here, and most places were very aware of what ‘vegan’ means and were happy to ‘veganize’ things, we found! 🙂
So we spent our first four days in SM visiting Universal Studios (took about 25 mins heading out early am), the SM Pier (both those places were farrr too busy in Summer – even on a Monday!), shopping, Venice Beach (for old time’s sake for me). RE Venice Beach: I recommend avoiding early evening in Venice – as it starts getting a little loud and ‘sketchy’ for a 12 yr old, IMO. For vegan food, I would recommend skipping the boardwalk and heading either onto Main St or Abbot Kinney… Again: check out Happy Cow for options. We didn’t eat here this time, as we only managed the evening to drop by, and had plans later that night.
I got to catch up on the old store I worked at on the beach, filled in some blanks for the years in between, and came away feeling older, wiser, content and with fond memories floating dreamily around my head.
Daughter did not like Venice Beach so much: “…too many crazy people”. Yes, I could see that… and in hindsight, would have/should have taken her there earlier in the day/morning maybe…but in my youth – these were exciting, colourful characters that made up the vibe of the place.
Then we packed up again, and headed south to Redondo Beach. This time staying in a hotel: The Redondo Beach Hotel. We had a room overlooking the marina, which was nice. We booked to stay here due to proximity to the StubHub Center in Carson (for the soccer match). A quaint little old-fashioned town, I would say, with a beach, pier, marina, and a couple of great little vegan/veggie places we found to eat:
- Happy Veggie: This place was a lovely little gem, close to the hotel… The vibe is relaxed, welcoming… and you get a free soup to start you off… Our food was delicious – I had a tofu/veggie plate, husband a curry and daughter had rice and steamed veggies. We added spring rolls as starters – all wonderful. Husband had a beautifully aromatic green tea with jasmine…Juices for the little one and I. Service was quick, but we were not rushed. Would definitely seek this place out again, if we come back here…
- Green Temple: – Vegetarian Restaurant: So cheese options and Daiya Cheese offered too… Lovely little place off PCH in Redondo.
Breakfast was free with the room, though not expansive. Still – toast/bagel, OJ and coffee with some fruit helped start the day before we headed out. We were only there 2 days really, as we checked in at 2pm, went out to eat and then headed out to drive to the stadium for the soccer match that evening. The following day, after a late start (due to late night return), we drove a little North to Manhattan Beach and Hermosa – both nice little beach towns, with a bit more going on than Redondo, I would say. The day was very hazy, though hot, so we hung out at the beach for a while, then drove back.
Back to SM and Hollywood:
We rounded the last few days up back at Santa Monica (I had expected we might be frazzled by now and the ease of walking, if we were bored of being in the car might be wise)… But we had also planned a surprise trip to see Annie – with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Hollywood Bowl. The show was AMAZING – sitting there in the amphitheater in the open air…with the mountains and (*TIP!!) free view of the Hollywood Sign in the hills! Magical…
We found directions to the Bowl not so great – coming from Hollywood Blvd and directed onto the freeway… it should have been simple enough and pretty close, yet we found ourselves on a bit of a constant loop, until we headed back in the opposite direction on the freeway, and sure enough found the exit sign this time…Could have been our tired brains, as we had attempted to slot in a quick visit to Hollywood Boulevard and stars/handprints at Mann’s Chinese Theater first. Boy is that place (Hollywood Blvd)overcrowded at early evening… (Another TIP:) Visit the blvd early to avoid madness of crowds…
So that was our trip – a great time was had by this vegan family… Food was great, entertainment outstanding (as one might expect from LA), some relaxing happened, lots of laughs and memories came back to the front of my brain… old friendships rekindled and, as I bask in the afterglow of vacation, I would say I presently hold a more melancholy attitude on life. Which is weird, considering how incredibly busy LA is now… (PCH is nuts at the weekend… and the freeways… oh the freeways!!) – You would think I might come back with a bit of feistiness after that, but no – I think that maybe going back somewhere (anywhere) after a lengthy absence can have a calming effect on the soul… maybe I am recognizing my journey in life so far… maybe I am feeling grateful. Thanks LA – this Vegan Family loved visiting…
And… “We’ll be back” sometime soon, I promise!