Sorry for a great pause in my otherwise regular posting. Last week, I visited family in Long Beach. I flew there for about four days and it felt like a nice break from the everyday grind here in the Bay Area.
The weather in Long Beach was okay; it rained for a couple of days, and the remaining days were sunny. While living in the Bay Area, I have been to Southern California number of times – San Diego, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles, Orange County, you name it – I have seen it all. It’s the Northern California region that has remained unexplored. However, Long Beach was an unexplored territory for me too. A good friend from high school went to college there and talked about it. It sounded like Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo in Central California. However, it is so much more. My brother was nice enough to show me around the city and of course Los Angeles.
I flew in on Thursday from San Jose Airport into LAX. The car ride from LAX to their apartment in Long Beach was about 45 minutes. The traffic was smooth luckily, which sounds rare in cities like Los Angeles, but is to be expected in cities like Long Beach. I unpacked once I reached the apartment and then took a long nap. In the evening, we went to a really cool Chinese restaurant in Long Beach called Nomads. Nomads is a halal Chinese restaurant my brother always raves about and since I eat only halal, I was excited to try it out. The décor of Nomads is very low-key, but the outside patio is pretty nice.
We started off dinner with hot-n-sour soup, a staple when we go to any Asian restaurant (lol). The soup was okay, a tad salty in my opinion. For the entrée, we ordered Mongolian Beef and Caramelized Black Chicken Pepper with rice. We also ordered some sort of beef roll which was delicious. I preferred the entrees over the soup, and consider Nomad’s a nice, low-key restaurant in Long Beach to go to for some Chinese food.
The next day, I woke up alone in the apartment since it was a weekday and everyone was at work. I had the toughest time navigating the new kitchen so I ended up eating Nomad’s leftovers for both breakfast and lunch. I didn’t even know how to work the coffee machine or where the tea bags were (embarrassing, but that was a serious coffee maker). Anyways, that day it was cold, cloudy, and rainy, so I just stayed inside. I had made an appointment at The Petite Retreat Spa, but I ended up canceling it and they were nice enough to not charge me the last minute cancellation fee. I just stayed home and worked on some stuff and took naps. These kind of lazy vacation days are nice to slow down your body clock and relax.
In the evening, we Ubered to a Thai restaurant called Long Beach Thai. The place was crowded, and our wait time was about 25 minutes. Once we finally sat down at a table, I ordered a Jasmine Tea, which was sooo good. Since this place wasn’t halal, I ordered the Spicy Eggplant with rice dish. It was nice, but for a Thai restaurant, I would have liked to have the food spicier. It seemed like it was very toned-down Americanized Thai food and catered to people who don’t like the authentic Thai flavors. So not a must-go place, but the staff was super friendly and caring. Coincidently, we took an Uber for this outing and had a Muslim Uber driver each way. On the way to the restaurant, we had Egyptian music and on the way back we had a Pakistani driver who had Arabic music playing in the background while he chatted us up about his pilgrimage to Mecca (I asked him for her got his air freshener from and he said it was from the trip).
Saturday, we lucked out on the weather because that was our sightseeing day. That day, my brother showed me around Long Beach. It is a really neat city and the fact that it is by the beach made it more special. The houses reminded me of Palo Alto, but the parking situation is a disaster there. So do take note of that if doing home shopping here (random advice, I know). I also checked out the neighborhood which is right by a canal. My brother calls it “Venice in Long Beach”. This was a neat neighborhood as the houses were gorgeous, expensive and there was a dock with a houseboat in front of each home. If you are in Long Beach, do check this place out. After our little Long Beach drive, we made our way to Beverly Hills. The funny part is that as you enter you immediately know you are in a nice place and you fall in love. The sun shines brighter, the trees are greener, the roads are wider, and there is a sweet stench of money in the air. Lol. Just kidding.
The first item on the agenda was to meet my best friend from college, Mahin and her new husband, Ishmael. I have known Mahin for over ten years and she is kind of like my sister from another mother. I missed her wedding last year so this was makeup time. We took a table at Crème de la Crepe (Beverly Hills). The place is kind of small and tight. We got lucky and got a seat by the window so the soft sunlight was streaming through. The conversation was great, but the food was okay. We all ordered something different. I ordered the Vegetarian Crepe because I eat only halal and it came with a small salad. The crepe itself was not that moist (is that weird to expect?) and the stuffing was scarce. The salad and dressing were good though. The place had 4.5 stars on Yelp! so I am surprised I wasn’t impressed. But the reunion with my friend and the conversation made up for the otherwise dull menu.
After lunch, we drove to UCLA and took a tour of the campus. UCLA is a really pretty school. I was really impressed by the red brick buildings and the vast grass patches. I still think Berkeley is prettier because of its natural beauty and the obvious presence of art/culture. After our tour, we drove to Rodeo Drive and walked around it. I didn’t do any shopping here, but it was pretty fun looking at all the cute pooches and of course, the posh shops there. At the end of our walk, we stopped at a French bakery and had their tiramisu cake. I was tired by then so instead of going to La Petite Restaurant in LA like we originally planned, we went home. For dinner, we ordered pizza from Tom Yum Pizza, which was so good, because it was like Italy and Thailand were in your mouth. Highly recommend it.
The next day (Sunday), I woke up, made myself some breakfast and packed. My flight was at noon so we drove up to LAX and said our goodbyes. Overall, this trip was just what the doctor ordered. Awesome food, awesome conversations, okay weather, and plenty of rest.