Alone time in Venice, California

A few Saturdays ago, I decided to live like a tourist in my own city. So I went over to Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice for some quality alone time.

What an AMAZING afternoon!

I started off with tea at Caudalie Spa while waiting for my facial appointment.  I love this place.

Why is everyone smiling while looking at the ground??

It’s because of this little guy, who walked up to greet all the ladies. After I took this photo, he did his rounds and came over to me, before dragging his human (a single guy) to another group of appreciative ladies –too bad they appreciated the pooch more than his partner…

Anyway, I first read the book “The French Beauty Solution” by Mathilde Thomas (the founder) a few years back, and I was drawn to her paraben-free, eco-friendly approach to beauty products. And when I tested out some of the lotions, I fell in love with their light, airy scent. So I spent a heavenly two hours at Caudalie sampling their new products and getting pampered. I walked out with radiant skin, tightened pores and a bag full of goodies.

Then I walked down the street to explore. Though Abbot Kinney and its hordes of hipsters always make me feel pretty square, I really enjoyed touring the well-curated boutiques and soaking up the cutting edge design. The street is like a mix of Soho and WeHo, with a very strong beachy vibe.

I spent a good hour at Le Labo, testing out fragrances and treating myself to (yikes!) two delicious new scents. (I probably look like a crazy lady nowadays because I’m constantly sniffing myself, thanks to Le Labo.) I first discovered Le Labo a couple of years ago while traveling through Provence. One of the boutique hotels we stayed at had Le Labo products for all their toiletry items, and I immediately had to find out more about the company. Little did I know they opened a shop just a few miles from my house…dangerous! And apparently, in the past few years, fashionistas have glommed onto this brand, and their scents are now ubiquitous. (Is it just me, or do you tend to run the other way if something becomes overly popular??) But Le Labo’s scents are so lovely, I couldn’t resist, and the store is a pleasure to wander through. It’s organized like a cross between a lab and a gallery.

Anyway, while at Le Labo, this guy ignored me for a while, despite my smiles and pleas to hang out.

But when I opened my package to admire my new purchases, he rushed over to see what I got, all smiles and tail wags. I bet he was hoping it’d be a cheeseburger. Too bad, buddy!

And then, when I walked out, I nearly fainted. Across the street was this lovely ice cream truck.

I felt like a kid all over again as I ran down the street screaming “ICE CREAM TRUCK!!” (JK.)  You DO NOT scream, nor do you run, on Abbot Kinney—no, you casually saunter over as if you’re too cool for school, although you’re feeling frantic inside and drooling all over your shirt 😉  A Van Leeuwen ice cream truck!!  I’ve been obsessed with Van Leeuwen ever since we discovered they have a few outposts outside of NYC, and one happens to be nearby in Culver City. They have a divine chocolate and they often have Willa Wonka-inspired flavors like peanut butter marshmallow cream. But my absolute, hands down favorite is their mint chip. It is THE BEST MINT CHIP EVER.  Mint chip is my favorite flavor of all time, so I’ve had a thousand varieties throughout my life, and VL’s is the absolute best. First of all, it’s not green, so you know it’s legit. And the small dark chocolate chunks are irregular in size, as if someone hand-crushed a bar, and they have a nice, satisfying crunch. So scrumptious. It’s pricey ice cream, but it’s a super high quality treat that your tongue (but maybe not your pants) will thank you for. [UPDATE: As of July 2018, I change my mind about Van Leeuwen’s mint chip. We’ve been to their shop multiple times when their mint chip was icy and grainy, not creamy and smooth. It’s no longer the same quality as when I wrote this blog post. The winning mint chip is McConnell’s. It’s smooth, refreshing, and it’s not bright green. It’s far superior to Van Leeuwen’s current iteration. Too bad, Van Leeuwen. You’ve lost a frequent customer.]

I spent about four hours on Abbot Kinney, and could’ve easily spent another four.  Does anybody else remember the 90s, when there wasn’t much on the street besides Joe’s (which closed a few years ago)?? Am I dating myself?? Well, Abbot Kinney was a pretty undeveloped, sleepy street when I was a high school kid in SoCal. Now, it’s a bustling, super-hip destination with some of the most stylish boutiques and tasty eats in L.A.

Other recommended addresses on Abbot Kinney:

Gjelina – Amazing pizza and small plates. Cute terrace.

Salt and Straw – Another standout ice cream spot. They have creative flavors like chocolate zucchini bread. There’s an actual shop there, rather than a truck, but lines are usually out the door, so be prepared to wait (it’s worth it!).

Salt Air – Good seafood in a sleek setting.  (But if I had to choose between a meal at Gjelina and Salt Air, I’d pick the former.)

For coffee lovers, there’s Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle and Groundwork Coffee.

Have fun!  Let me know if you discover some good addresses 🙂