[Don’t] Take Me to the Beach

It’s been about nine months since I last travelled, and I must say – as tiring as it is, I love doing it…as long as I get to come home at the end of it.

My family and I went down to Los Angeles (for the first time in almost two years for me) to visit my brother and visit all as many cool places as a day and a half and bad SoCal traffic would allow us.

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe

Part of a breakfast fit for kings | Photo by Courtney Cheng

“Had we but world enough, and time…” for all the pastries and baked goods, is what Andrew Marvell clearly didn’t say. But he probably could have – and would have – if he had visited Porto’s Bakery as well.

Porto’s Bakery was founded in 1960 by the Porto family when they emigrated from Cuba to California. At their current three storefronts, they offer a myriad of baked goods ranging from muffins, cakes, and cookies, as well as their trademark specialties: Cheese Rolls, Refugiados (guava and cheese strudels), and the infamous Potato Ball.

From left to right: Blueberry muffin, Cranberry scone, coconut macaroon, (individual) lemon poppy seed bundt cake | Photo by Courtney Cheng

While my breakfast sampling leaned more toward the traditional pastry and baked good side (as pictured above with a few slices of walnut & raisin batard and their house coffee), I did have a chance to sample the Potato Ball and their Chicken Croquette, both of which were simply divine when fresh and piping hot out of their ovens.

Pair this breakfast extravagance with a bit of backroad LA sightseeing – AKA admiring ornate houses, passing by the massive marble gates of the Bel Air and Beverly Hills communities, and celebrity spotting (I wish) – I would 11/10 do it again.

Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica

Why don’t they have these in the Bay Area? | Photo by Courtney Cheng

This outdoor strip mall truly reminded me of the streets of Vienna or Munich. The large, paved walkway was surrounded on both sides by stores of varying sizes and offerings; musical acts scattered themselves throughout the center of the lane; and people bustled about, each enjoying their own afternoons.

Though I’m usually an introvert, I really enjoyed the busy environment there. It was great way to enjoy my Friday afternoon, leisurely strolling in the beautiful weather and taking in the ambiance. For those two and a half hours, I didn’t feel like I had to think about anything. I was somewhere else, somewhere nice and peaceful, where I didn’t have to worry about reality anymore.

I wish I had had enough time to go to the beach just three blocks away, but alas. I suppose that simply means I must go back soon, eh Peter?

The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore, featuring improv performers | Photo by Courtney Cheng

I always want to type the name of this as “The Lost Bookstore” rather than “The Last Bookstore.” Perhaps this is because one could very well get themselves lost in the maze of books that is housed in this corner store in Downtown LA.

This isn’t the sort of place you go when you’re looking to find a book to purchase. Well, if you stay on the first floor and half the second floor, then you might have a fighting chance of finding the exact thing you’re looking for. Once you stray a bit further, however, the store’s layout loses all rhyme and reason.

Rooms of books (one of first editions, mind you) – found as you walk through dungeon and vault doors – are arranged in no particular order. And while you can buy a “book for a buck,” good luck finding the best bang for it with their beautifully color-coded sections. All the same, there’s a particular charm to this strange, not-so-little place, that makes it hard not to love right when you step in.

It's books all the way down.
It’s books all the way down. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

I didn’t have nearly as much time as I wanted to have in this store – curse you, LA traffic – but then again, when would I ever have enough time (especially when they don’t offer public restrooms)?

Before you ask, yes, I did purchase a book before I left: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. I confess to knowing essentially nothing about this book or its author, but since I’d always seen Murakami’s quotes floating around on Tumblr, I felt it was worth giving him a shot, particularly on a late night impulse book buy.

Los Angeles, even though I hate your traffic and your sunshine makes me so terribly sleepy, you’re not so bad. I think I quite like you. I suppose we shall see each other again in the near future when I visit my brother once again.

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