Southern California

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018

I can't believe it was two short years ago that I first learned about POW! WOW! On a three-day press trip to Long Beach that truly changed the course of my life, I was introduced to Jasper Wong and his team of dreamers and do-ers that put on dozens of mural festivals each year in cities across the globe. I've been lucky enough to attend both POW! WOW! Long Beach and POW! WOW! Hawaii twice, and POW! WOW! D.C. and San Jose are both on my wishlist for the near future. They explain it this way: POW! is the impact that art has on a person, and WOW! is the reaction the viewer has to it.

It's an incredibly inspiring week, and the Long Beach tourism board gets that. They generously invited me down for a few days to experience the festival and all that their amazing city has to offer. Long Beach has such a different vibe from Los Angeles despite being twenty miles from the heart of downtown. It's a place I could consider calling home within the next few years, and hopefully you'll be able to tell why by the end of this blog post.

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

As soon as I arrived, I took myself for a seafood dinner at King's Fish House just a few minutes from my hotel. After a busy day of airporting, flying, and running errands as soon as I landed, I was ready to head to bed early to hit the ground running the next day. There's an adorable and delicious cafe, Cuppa Cuppa, just a few minutes' walk from the Westin, our home for the week—we absolutely loved our central location & the friendly staff. Coffee and avocado toast was an easy decision for breakfast before a leisurely walk to the beach and back. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool waiting for my friend and photographer Michele to get into town, and when she did...that was when we hit the ground running!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Long Beach is a surprisingly walkable city. Most neighborhoods contain several murals from the current year and years past, so once you get to the area you're going, you can park for an hour or two and pound the pavement. Make sure to seek out a POW! WOW! "Passport" on the day you arrive, which is your guide to finding the locations of each artist's mural. They're available at most POW! WOW! events as well as select retailers around the city (P.S., they're free!). There's also a digital map on the POW! WOW! website, but if you get your passport stamped you can get discounts at local restaurants and shops.

Typically, my days at POW! WOW! follow a pretty similar schedule. After breakfast, I grab a coffee to go and stop by as many murals as I can to check on the artist's progress. Passersby are encouraged to stop and say hi to the artists and ask them about their work, so I usually like to make conversation. Lots of them are surprised to hear I've attended four POW! WOW! festivals now—which, if I'm being honest, also surprises me. It's just such a powerful event that I get terrible FOMO whenever I don't attend.

However, on this trip to Long Beach, the tourism board set me up with some activities outside of the festival. Alamitos Bay is a popular spot for beach-goers and watersport enthusiasts—you can get on paddleboards, kayaks, or even gondolas. The canals you can paddle through are lined with incredible vacation homes and have five beautiful bridges to travel under that make you feel like you've kayaked into a different country. I love kayaking any time I vacation near the water, so I definitely made time in my schedule.

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Of course, it's always important to break for sustenance, and Long Beach has a ton of incredible dining options in addition to the aforementioned locations. One of our favorite meals was at the newly opened juice bar and health food stop Salud Juice. I am not vegan or gluten-free or any of the things I should be, but I can't tell you how much we enjoyed our savory raw salad bowls! (The acai bowls unfortunately left much to be desired—make sure to get your bowls from Revive Juice Bar, they are too good to be true.)

Another standout meal was Michael's Pizzeria, where we enjoyed pizza, pasta, olives and rosé to our heart's content. For breakfast, a favorite spot is Berlin Bistro (they're also my favorite coffee stop in Long Beach). Matcha, chai, lavender Arnold Palmers...you name it, they have it. Make sure to stop into the iconic Fingerprints Music store next door!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

After spending four nights at the Westin Long Beach, it started to feel like home. My favorite spot on campus? The pool area, of course. It was so serene and made the perfect place to hide out for a few hours and read as a bit of a respite from the city. Even on work trips, I have to step back every now and then to get some time to myself, especially on one like this where I'm constantly meeting new people and going to events every night. This girl has to put her feet up...especially in southern California heat!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

As murals wrap up toward the end of the week, there are a ton of closing events and parties, which becomes a lot of darting back and forth across town. I was so grateful to have our Ford Escape (which is coincidentally the car I want to buy!) from Enterprise. I love the additional space an SUV offers for traveling, and it happened to be the cheapest car option available from Long Beach Airport. Pickup and dropoff is always so easy with Enterprise—they truly run the best customer service game in the business.

Speaking of the airport, Long Beach Airport is one of my favorite airports in the whole country. It's open air and the landscaping is so pretty. JetBlue flies nonstop from Seattle to Long Beach all the time, which is an easy and comfortable flight. I try to fly into LGB every time I go to Los Angeles—it's one million times better than LAX and just about the same distance from everywhere (unless you're in rush hour, then add about forty minutes onto your drive time—still, worth it! It takes me that long to walk through LAX anyway).

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

As always, I'm very grateful to the Long Beach tourism team for having such contagiously positive attitudes toward Long Beach—thanks to them inviting me to visit once, I've fallen in love with the city as much as they have. There's nothing better than being waterfront with such tremendous art opportunities around you. They really are the #BeachWithBenefits

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Thank you to Visit Long Beach for hosting me!




Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles

It was my absolute pleasure to spend a few nights at the SOFITEL Los Angeles five-star hotel in Beverly Hills. Located smack in the center of where I wanted to be, Sofitel is a magical little pocket of respite and relaxation in this city of stars. I'll take you through my stay and some of my favorite surrounding spots below, but I'm starting with my number one favorite: Esterel and Le Jardin, which is the breathtaking garden lounge outside.

Hotel photography by Marie Buck

Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

Esterel is a beautiful and striking space, and on a Tuesday morning at 10, it's also quite slow-paced and perfect for enjoying a quiet breakfast. I usually keep my breakfast simple, but for some reason there's nothing like restaurant scrambled eggs—I'm not sure what they put in them, but they're always extra soft and fluffy in ways I cannot recreate at home. Esterel was no exception. I had the pleasure of chatting with the marketing manager who was quick to advise me to visit the Sofitel in Vienna on my upcoming trip to Austria—one of their most stunning locations in the world.

Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

In typical truelane style, I still found yet another place to eat on the property: poolside! It's so cool to have a slice of paradise just a few stories above bustling streets—yet the noise isn't so bad that I couldn't knock back a few hours of poolside slumber. I spent my last morning before my flight wining and dining myself between dips in the pool to cool off. I was only joined by one or two other guests sporadically during the afternoon. Sofitel hosts a lot of business travelers who use more amenities like conference rooms and business lounges, so i just about had the pool to myself.

Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
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Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

However, the magic of visiting Sofitel starts as soon as you walk in. Sofitel is a Paris-based and French-inspired brand, so you're greeted with a 'bonjour' from the valet and front desk before being whisked away to your room, where if you're lucky, your next greeting will be from a smashing view of the Hollywood Hills. I was particularly smitten with Los Angeles on this particular trip, with no real reason why, but I have to say I spent several hours over the course of my stay simply staring out this window daydreaming. L.A. has plenty of room for your biggest dreams.

The front desk attendants treated us as if we were Hollywood royalty ourselves, despite the fact that I walked in looking a little less than glamorous after a day at the beach. We were welcomed with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot in our room, and were immediately ready to get exploring. We got to enjoy dinner at Gracias Madre with some of our friends, and over the next couple days a few more local hot spots I'll share below!

Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

It's really quite something to treat yourself to five-star luxury in a city like Los Angeles, where status is everything. As soon as you say hi to someone, they're asking what you do and what you drive. If you're going to be walking the streets of the rich and famous like Rodeo and Robertson and Melrose, you might as well feel the same.

Speaking of walking streets like Melrose, Beverly Hills is central to so many wonderfully iconic Los Angeles location—I couldn't have asked Sofitel to be at a more perfect locations. Below are a couple of my favorite spots I visited during my stay!


Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

Carrera Cafe

Never before have I seen a flamingo on a cup of coffee before—I'm so glad my photographer Stefanie brought me here. It was such a sun-soaked, laid-back L.A. vibe that I wish there was a Carrera Cafe up here in Seattle to transport me back to this moment. They had a ton of delightful latte art designs that make this spot an Instagrammer's paradise. My latte was delicious too!

Cafe photography by Stefanie Marie

 

Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane
Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

Griffith Observatory

I'm a huge astronomy nerd—I have been ever since my senior year astronomy class at the community college and fell for a boy who loved the stars as much as I do. On the same wavelength of the Space Needle in my hometown of Seattle, I never realized the Griffith Observatory is truly a space destination. There's a lot of information in there I didn't expect to learn. All I was expecting was a stellar sunset, which I also got sitting by myself listening to the La La Land soundtrack all the way through (not my favorite movie or anything, but it really sets the mood for the more romantic glitz and glam that Hollywood once had). It was such a magical way to end my trip. 

 

Home Sweet Hotel: Sofitel Los Angeles | truelane

Alfred Coffee

There are a few Alfred locations (and I'm pretty sure it's where all the celebrities go), but I particularly love this Melrose Place location tucked off the street in a quiet corner. It's pricey, but everything is beautiful and delicious including the chia pudding bowls we got for second breakfast. And of course, you'll need an iced coffee before you hit the road anywhere in Los Angeles. They don't joke around about the traffic there.


Thank you to Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills for hosting me.




A Weekend in Redondo Beach

My third trip to California, I was entering new territory—Redondo Beach. I've spent most of my time in SoCal around Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Laguna Beach, so the coastal cities just outside of Los Angeles were unexplored territory. I was stoked to discover our gem of a hotel, The Redondo Beach Hotel, was right across the street from the beach. As soon as we pulled in to the parking lot, exhaustion from the flight was gone and my sister and I were ready for adventure.

Riding around on cruisers along the beach was the warmest welcome to Redondo Beach. I would know, I got sunburn all across my face! Elyse and I rode down to Captain Kidd's legendary fish market, where you can order basically any seafood you want, cooked any way you want. We had corn on the cob and French fries on the side with a cold beer to wash it down—I have never been more blissed out in my life. Biking there and back was the best way to wake up after a long flight!

A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane

 Our bikes from The Redondo Beach Hotel were super comfortable, and cost just a few dollars to take out for a couple hours. After lunch, we headed over to explore the bustling Redondo Beach pier. Everyone was out eating ice cream, churros, iced coffee and cotton candy. Elyse and I got gelato to keep our energy up before our next leg of cycling. 

A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane

The ride to Hermosa Beach is about eight minutes up the coast. I had just seen La La Land for the first time and recognized a ton of filming locations from the movie, which was an unexpected surprise. After a few hours of exploring, we zipped back to the hotel for their free Thursday happy hour. It takes place Monday-Thursday and includes free beer and wine, as well as snacks like trail mix, cheeses, charcuterie, hummus, and fruits!

A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane

There's nothing like a beach day to remind you that you're in California, so that was the plan for our next day in Redondo Beach. We packed up umbrellas, beach blankets, a few games to pass the time, and grabbed two of our best SoCal buds, Mik and Spencer, to spend the day with! The sand and waves in Redondo Beach are just about unmatched, and it was the perfect setting to spend some time with friends. Afterwards, we were so exhausted we headed back to the hotel to nap by the pool after stocking up on snacks and drinks.

A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane

Long days in the sun always leave my stomach rumbling, and Elyse and I were craving pizza like crazy. After looking up the best places nearby, we decided on Locale90 and watched the sun set just beyond our patio chairs. I've seen a lot of sunsets, and the one this night was the absolute most spectacular I've ever seen. The full spectrum of Roy G. Biv was in there. It was stunning!

A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane

For our last morning in Redondo, we enjoyed the hotel's continental breakfast at a lovely patio table. It was one of the better ones I've ever had—bagels, yogurt, waffles, cold cereals, oatmeal, fresh fruit...and don't forget, lots of hot coffee. However, we still had to visit the very popular ROMANAROMA cafe up the street...and let me tell you, it is not to be missed. I ordered an espresso con panna off the menu (just ask for a single espresso with ice and whipped cream on top!), and it was everything I wanted. They have a gorgeous and shaded patio space outside the light and bright interior, where Elyse and I finished our coffee before one last bike ride to the hotel to check out. I even made it on their Instagram page!

A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane
A Weekend in Redondo Beach | truelane

Some places have the power to truly transport you away from the doldrums of everyday life, and The Redondo Beach Hotel is one of them. The staff there is helpful and cheery, and a huge part of what makes it feel like such a home away from home! Although I don't normally get to wake up to balcony views of palm trees, a dazzling marina, and endless waves, The Redondo Beach Hotel makes it extra special.

Thank you to The Redondo Beach Hotel for hosting our stay.