#California, Part 1

So, I'm back. After five weeks and three days in California, a trip which consisted of nine Airbnbs, two hotels and one speeding ticket (yup), I'm sitting at my desk, thinking it's about time I blogged. Since coming back I've been working on my new business site, charissekenion.com (launching next week!), so today is my first opportunity to express my love for the place that showed me so many things, and surprised me too. As we saw so much, I'm breaking down the trip into several parts; the first of which will explore our first week in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Then San Diego and Joshua Tree, plus many more will follow. I'll also be giving you my Airbnb recommendations along the way.
 Shhh, no photography allowed at the Sunset Tower Hotel.

Shhh, no photography allowed at the Sunset Tower Hotel.

I've hummed and hawed about airing what happened when we first arrived at LAX. Part of me wants to indulge in a good old bashing of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) for fining me US$585 to merely enter the country, due to the fact that I didn't renew a visa that I used when I lived in the UAE (long story, way too long). I know a bashing would no doubt draw sympathy from people across the globe, including US citizens, but what's the point? It is what it is. All I can say is, after a traumatic arrival, I could have easily turned into bitter, America-hating tourist, if it wasn't for the BF being so amazing, and the fact that our first Airbnb host was a total star.

When we first arrived in LA's Silverlake (kind of similar to London's Shoreditch, but the trendies are way more tanned and friendly) we stayed in a small bungalow that had everything we needed to live like the locals; fully functioning kitchen, living room, bathroom, all ours. Outside we had the most beautiful little chilling area. There was a tinkling fountain, loungers, a hot tub and a yoga deck. The first night we arrived I plonked myself down and just tried to let the nightmarish day wash over me. I'd had a racking cough for weeks, and my tiredness seemed to have made it 10 times worse. Luckily, our lovely new host, Peter, went into his apartment and brought me some DayQuil and Night Nurse, plus some Zinc tablets. He also told me there was a bottle of Champagne in the fridge, to celebrate my birthday. At that point, I could have kissed him. You know when you have such a shitty day and someone does something nice for you? Peter had also assembled an epic guide to local eateries, and although we were thoroughly wiped out, we walked down the block to a Thai restaurant that was meant to have seriously tasty vegan options. (FYI I'm still not vegan; I'm merely trying to support the BF, as he's serious about it. If I have to succumb to a label, it would be eighty percent plant based, eighty percent of the time, but if there's anywhere in the world to try veganism, it's LA). Bulan Thai Vegetarian Kitchen did not disappoint. I ordered the buffalo 'chicken' wings, thinking they would be laughably disgusting, but I was so wrong. The texture, taste and even the crispy skin, was mind-blowing, as were the freshest, crispiest Spring Rolls. As with many shitty days, good food went a long way to making us feel better about the madness, but it was the following day that went further in changing my mindset. 

Waking up to the sun: there's nothing like it as far as I'm concerned. But being able to sit in the sun and just be, to just do nothing, was something I quickly fell in love with. I realised I hadn't sat still and done nothing for a while! I couldn't even tell you what we did that day; all I wanted was to stay put, sitting in that little sun trap. 

We stayed in Silverlake for four nights. During our time there we took ourselves to Runyon Canyon; pretty cool, but apparently not as cool as it used to be 10 years ago, and did a small section of Melrose to do a bit of pre-birthday shopping. Then, the day before my birthday, I found out that the BF had booked us into the beautiful, Art Deco Sunset Tower Hotel. Dating back to 1931, this hotel is full of old Hollywood tales, and I honestly felt special, particularly after they upgraded our suite! 

Dinner at the Sunset Tower was full of hits and misses; the saltiest spinach I have EVER tasted, as well as the worst calamari (basically the scrapings from the bottom of the fryer) but this was all with the most amazing view, which included Courtney Love. Such a great place to people watch and whisper. The next day I got ready to head out for a birthday surprise, but instead of me leaving, the surprise came to me. For around eight hours I was treated to the most ridiculous amount of pampering - and being a beauty journo, I know pampering! The BF had booked IV drips for both of us (interesting, but ultimately, probably not the best way to spend a few hundred dollars), a mani pedi, 80 minute massages, hammam, a facial and makeup artist, all ahead of our dinner at Cecconi's that night. I have to say, the food was way better than I expected - I'd mostly been looking forward to a few cocktails. I started with burrata, beets, avocado and pistachio salad and it was fresh and creamy, but I couldn't resist the BF's gnocchi with gorgonzola: UHmazing, just too good. For mains he had a squash and sage pasta while I went for the farro orrechiette, cime di rapa and pecorino  - basically broccoli, cheese and pasta, and again, so good. We both ordered desserts, but the tastiest fun came courtesy of the two 'gentlemen' seated next to us. Between the two of them, both white, late fifties, wearing blazers and 'slacks', we got a running commentary about the women walking in and out of the restaurant. They constantly mocked this guy who was seated with a very blonde, very booby woman. Even though this guy was sitting with said woman, these two commentators were convinced he 'wouldn't get any', as if she would gladly come and sit on one of their laps. Every other woman that moved was given a review, and when they actually spoke to me (while the BF went to the loo), I found it very challenging not to say something. Instead I took comfort in the fact that both of their wives seemed to hate them.

 Top: Salted Caramel Bread Pudding, bottom: Cold Brew Coffee Cheesecake 

Top: Salted Caramel Bread Pudding, bottom: Cold Brew Coffee Cheesecake 

On our last day in LA we made it to the B Sweet Dessert Bar, whose Instagram I have been leering over for months. Honestly, you will gain a pound just by looking at their posts of puddings and ice creams. Because I knew it was unlikely we would be visiting again, I pushed the BF to get us three desserts; he chose the donut bread pudding, I went for the salted caramel (ridiculously rich and good) and we also went for the cold brew coffee cheesecake - a revelation, super smooth and just the right amount of coffee. Put simply, worth the plane ticket. 

Next: A train to San Diego, a car to Joshua Tree

Where would you recommend we go next time? Let me know in the comments below! Oh and feel free to tell me of any sad TSA stories!