Expanding Home (Brief Guide to Los Angeles and Pasadena)

When I am abroad and people ask me where I come from, I tell them what they want to hear, but it feels like a lie. If I say Massachusetts, there is little chance they will know what I’m talking about. If I say Boston, there is more of a likelihood they have heard of the city, but probably still could not place it on a map. When I say America, there is little confusion and this is the least likely of any answer to trigger follow-up questions.

The controversy for me is in the fact that I have not even seen a great deal of the United States of America. I hardly have much knowledge of any place outside of Massachusetts(not to mention all the places within it I know nothing about). I lived in New York City for a short 5 months, visited my brother when he went to school in Miami a few times and prior to this past weekend had never been farther west than Columbus, Ohio.

Traveling abroad, I essentially feel like I am making the world into my home instead of pinning home down to one location. I have been happy with the endeavor, but it has proven there is more to see then there will ever be time for. That statement along could prove to in regard to the United States alone.

On my recent trip back to the States, I was able to find myself in some new territory: California. It’s a big state, so time is required for an thorough experience of what it has to offer, but I did have the chance to spend some time in Los Angeles and Pasadena and would like to share some of my experiences with you. This is a list of some of my favorite places I was able to visit, their highlights, and maybe some of the fallbacks

You will notices the majority of these places fall into a specific styles which tend to vibe with my laid back, relax with a good book type of personality. So, if you’re looking to find a good night club this is not the place to find it. 

LOS ANGELES

GRAND CENTRAL MARKET

The first place I had the chance to visit in LA was Grand Central Market. This place offered a literally dizzying amount of food options as you could spend hours spinning in circles trying to make a decision between all the food surrounding you. There is Chinese food, a Kabab Vendor, a Kombucha Tea Company, a deli, an egg prostitute, and many other options within the Market.

I personally tried Lupita’s Seafood. Along with their menu items they also had a range of seafood items on display you could buy and prepare to your own preference at home. I bought a fish taco and a shrimp taco for myself. They two tacos together made for a big enough meal and the taste was okay, not great, but I thought they were very fairly priced at $5.50 for the two combined.

THE LAST BOOKSTORE

This was on my short-list of MUST GO places in LA. In fact, it was really the only thing on my list when coming into LA, and it did not disappoint. This bookstore, rated on Flavorwire’s 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World, has en eclectic retro feel without trying to do too much. The extensive record collection provides an ideal place for browsing through old albums. 

The second floor of the store is an experience all it’s own with a labyrinth of book shelves, a book tunnel(pictured here), as well as galleries and studios for artists to improve and display their photography, paintings, or other artwork.

LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY

This was just a personal site of interest because I like libraries. The building itself is a beautiful work of architecture and, whether your interested or not, it may be worth a walk through. There is also a cafe inside to house the potentially hungry reader.

STUMPTOWN ROASTERS

This understated coffee shop is unique and simple. Their emphasis is coffee so, for a tea guy like me, it was a little disappointing. For my fellow tea enthusiasts, there are still options, just don’t go in asking questions about the tea expecting knowledgable answers.

For the coffee lovers this is a great place to be. Stumptown has a variety of coffees from around the world. They have apparently been thriving since their establishment in 1999 now with stores located in Portland, Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles. Some of their locations even provided courses in coffee education.

Also, Stumptown may not be the best place to sit and drink. There was not a lot of seating space.

PIZZANISTA

After living in Western Massachusetts where it’s never difficult to find a place to get a slice of pizza, I was a little surprised by LA’s apparent lack of pizza options. But, the place I did find provided a wealth of quality over the lack of quantity. A nice stylish place with a good quality of options and a friendly staff.

A deciding factor for me in Pizzeria quality is how they do their side dish options(i.e. garlic bread, garlic knots, mozzarella sticks, french fries, whatever). Too many places lack any effort in this department and will just but garlic butter on a tasted grinder roll and call it garlic bread. At Pizzanista, the garlic knots were high quality. Large, great texture, and cooked with real garlic. Great experience all around.

PASADENA

JONES ROASTERS

A friend and I only stopped in here quickly for a cup on the go, but it left an impression on me. This was another place that seemed to be focused on coffee, but their selection of tea was certainly a step up from Stumptown. There were only a few people sitting in for their drinks, but the environment was welcoming and there was even live music at 11 in the morning on Saturday, it was enjoyable during the 5 minute wait for our drinks.

COPA VIDA

This was the last stop of the cafes I went to and it was definitely my favorite. It is probably not a surprise that this was the cafe with the best selection of teas. It was not only the selection but the careful attention to detail they paid to steeping my tea. It was appreciated and the Naked Pu-Erh I had was fantastic.

The environment was great, they had lots of floor space and seating and they area was quiet even with a large amount of people.

Cope Vida also offers classes on latte art, proper coffee grinding, and tea steeping for those interested in getting the most out of their drinks. Two friends of mine took the class on latte art and said it was a bit expensive, and they probably wouldn’t do it again, but they’ve had fun continuing to refine their latte skills.

KALS BISTRO

I loved this place. The wine was great, the environment was great, the music was great, and the staff was very polite and helpful. We did not go there for a full meal as we weren’t too hungry at the time, but the music caught my ear and the style pulled me in. The dip and pita was nice and I was kind of relieved that I was not hungry because the food prices were steep, but the things I saw others eating did look tempting. The fact that it was happy hour made the drinks affordable and well worth the time. My only complaint was that they didn’t have any whiskey. 

LEVITT PAVILION

A nice place to catch a free concert in the center of a park. The  Levitt hosts all kinds of music from Jazz to Salsa, Oldies to Children’s Rock, and Celtic to Armenian Synth-Pop(not that I could exactly describe what this is). If you pay attention to what shows are on when you are in the area, theres a good chance you can catch a great concert. 

The group that was playing while we were there was kind of a folksy jazz band(this is my best attempt at describing their style). It was a great experience to relax and listen to their unique style of music.

This was all I really got to in my short time in Los Angeles and Pasadena. It was definitely a great time and I have every intention of returning. Maybe if I get the chance I will be able to make a more comprehensive guide to the area. If you have the chance I would certainly recommend taking a visit. There is much more to see than I was able to compile here.

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