In the City: Melrose Trading Post

Melrose Trading Post

What: A weekly vintage goods, arts and crafts bonanza

Where: West Hollywood, in the parking lot of Fairfax High School (corner of Melrose and Fairfax)

When: Every Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Good Stuff to Know: Get there early. Parking fills up quickly, but there’s ample street parking in the surrounding neighbourhood – just be prepared to walk. Also, it’ll set you back three bucks to enter!

The Scene: Hipsters, ahoy. Looking for a terrarium, high-waisted shorts, scuffed (but not too scuffed) Doc Martens or an old typewriter? Melrose Trading Post has got you covered. Run by a partnership between Greenway Arts Alliance and the Fairfax High School community, the Trading Post is a great place to start a lazy Sunday in LA.

After cooler-than-expected December temperatures LA finally warmed back up, and I wandered aisle upon aisle of vendors wrapped in the warmth of the mid-morning sun. The Trading Post has a Spitalfields vibe to it – with more artists selling handmade goods (A++). I picked up several pairs of retro-inspired earrings and a few Christmas presents, and wished for a larger suitcase to cart home some of the shabby chic furniture and home decor dotted all over the market. One of the most popular booths was a vendor selling nothing but vintage postcards and pictures, meticulously organized by state. I’m not sure which my brain appreciated more, the travel aspect or the insane attention to detail.

Other things that tickled my fancy:

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  • $5 ugly (and I mean ugly) Christmas sweaters! Why are these so expensive here? Why are there so many in LA? Is this where Christmas sweaters go to die? Note to self, stock up here next year and resell them at home for a tidy profit. Or, just throw amazing ugly sweater parties (more likely).
  • Actual bathrooms!
  • The vendors I spoke with were all lovely! None were pushy and all seemed pretty laid-back for a flea market.
  • The enormous Macho Man Randy Savage body pillow that I really should have bought but couldn’t figure out how I would transport home. Would I have had to buy him a seat on the plane? How awesome would that have been?! I’m sorry Mr. Savage, I should have taken you.

Many vendors are equipped to take credit cards, but bring extra cash for haggling ease. And a friend who’s not an enabler – it took a lot of restraint wandering there solo. There are also a few food vendors and a cute little coffee booth (I opted not to have any coffee, as I was still coming down from Saturday’s activities), and a live band!

Do you have a favourite flea market?

LA Coffee Crawl

I had the brilliant idea to embark on a coffee crawl while in LA recently (Venice Beach, to be precise). The sun was warm, I was a tad sleepy, and I thought it would be a fun way to explore the neighbourhood.

A few notes:

  1. I can’t drink a lot of coffee. Caffeine makes me jumpy, excitable, nervous, twitchy, etc. etc. And by a lot, I mean more than a shot of espresso. Maybe two cups of regular coffee over the course of a day. I KNOW.
  2. Bar crawls are social endeavours (unless, you know, you have a problem). Important to have company for any type of crawl. Yep.
  3. By a tad sleepy, I mean I was exhausted after accomplishing a weird triathlon-esque 10K run and 25K bike ride the day prior. Sorry, legs.

So, armed with a book and a notebook, I set out. Here’s how it went.

8:30 a.m.: LEGS OW. COFFEE YES. First latte of the day at Cafe Collage! Conveniently around the corner.

9:30 a.m.: Intelligentsia! You fancy. (ordered: cappuccino and a gluten-free banana muffin, about which I noted “Sustenance is needed for this task. I am committed to my craft.”)

Coffee, with love

9:40 a.m.: Seriously, people line up for coffee? Venice, you crazy.

Intellegentsia

9:45 a.m.: Trying to rewrite lyrics to “Macarena” with “banana muffin.” (I can’t make out these notes)

10:30 a.m.: Book finished, but my head hurts.

10:31 a.m.: Oooo, hipster soundtrack ahoy! They’re playing Arcade Fire AND Pavement.

10:32 a.m.: AGHHHHH. (I think my head started hurting again)

10:40 a.m.: Please. Feed your screaming baby next to me (the entire place was empty, yet the seat next to me was chosen for this task)

10:45 a.m.: Coffee three! Cow’s End! Let’s go to the beach! (just a coffee this time, because espresso was making my heart race)

Coffee three!

11:13 a.m.: Debating renting a skateboard because am now feeling invincible and positive and that nothing can go wrong in life. 

11:30 a.m.: I’ve come to my senses, thanks to overwhelming NOOOOOs from Twitter. Thanks guys.

11:45 a.m.: Almond milk latte from Groundwork. SO GOOD.

Noon: I think I should stop.

12:31 p.m.: Took a break from the coffee bender because guys, I’m not a machine here.

2:30 p.m.: Hang on, has Target always sold booze?

3 p.m.: Actual food needed. Heading to Manhattan Beach.

Waiting for Lunch of ChampionsBest. Sandwich. Ever.

3:30 p.m.: Can’t talk. Eating. Sloopy’s, I love you.

5 p.m.: Ended the madness at four – three espressos and one coffee. Drank nothing but water for the next seven hours.

Thoughts once I’d come down from all the caffeine:

  • Intellegentsia was nice, but too pricey for my regular tastes. A fun splurge, and excellent muffin.
  • Under $3 for an almond milk latte and a great selection of brews makes Cow’s End one of my favourite places for coffee, anywhere! I’ve rambled on about my love for them before.
  • Seriously the Target I visited in LA sold booze. And not just wine.
  • If Sloopy’s in Manhattan Beach ever closes I can’t go to LA any more, so PLEASE DON’T EVER CLOSE.
  • Any type of crawl activity needs more than one person, not just for the social company but so one can carry the other’s ass home and put them to bed so they don’t drive almost to Watts (South Central, to be precise) looking for a craft store and then miraculously find one and wander its aisles singing along to a Backstreet Boys song playing on the radio, softly. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

Venice Boardwalk, Or, How to Attack All of Your Senses At Once.

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For the first time…maybe ever, I’ve travelled without a camera on purpose. I feel so lost without it, however on the flip side my shoulder is thanking me for not having to lug it around. I left it at home for two reasons:

  1. I’m finding myself a bit too reliant on capturing moments on film (or I guess memory card) versus memory. This is a test to see how well I remember things for visual cues, sounds, smells, etc. Senses, ahoy!
  2. The aforementioned weight of the camera. Also pulling out a lens takes time and I miss stuff happening. And for safety reasons, as nothing says “Oh haiiii, I’m a tourist” like a DSLR.

And so yesterday I took nothing but a notebook and a coffee and spent my first morning in Venice Beach on the boardwalk and beach, people watching. And I jotted down a list of words I would use to describe the boardwalk, which included:

  • Loud
  • Colourful (both in the literal sense – there’s great graffiti here, and in terms of language used)
  • Sunny
  • Eclectic
  • WTF

That last one is particularly apt. I think if I was asked to explain what the boardwalk was like, I’d equate it to turning a radio knob quickly and scanning through a lot of stations at once (yes kids, this makes me old enough to have willingly used a radio with a tuning knob). As you flip through, you’d hear some West Coast rap, country, Spanish jams, classical, more rap, Bob Dylan, meditation music, Christmas carols (’tis the season) and a man in a Santa costume singing Justin Bieber while strumming away on a guitar. While your eardrums are processing this combination, you’d notice two men juggling sticks on fire whilst sporting nothing but thongs, a man artfully twirling a snake, and vendors hawking silk-screened T-shirts and beaded necklaces. Friendly women will approach you asking if you’d like a medical marijuana assessment (which you politely decline, for you’ve had enough of a contact high already this morning). It smells like churros, sunscreen and a 70’s basement, with every kind of incense and candle stinging your nostrils and the aforementioned waft of pot every now and then. In short, it’s an attack on all your senses, but in an awesomely entertaining way.

I love Venice – the people are the friendliest I’ve encountered while travelling, the vibe is low-key and there’s a quirkiness to it that keeps me coming back. The boardwalk is no exception.

Four Days in Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Every morning at sunrise I ran along the boardwalk. Usually when I run, I need music to keep my mind occupied (meaning: distracted from the sounds of me wheezing and my internal monologue of PLEASE STOP THIS) but I kept one ear tuned into my surroundings and the other focused on the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach.

Around 6:45 a.m. a familiar man would appear on my right. Dressed all in black save for a well-worn Santa hat, he sat casually draped across a patio chair, smiling at the world. “There she is!” he’d exclaim as I came along. I would be lying if I didn’t appreciate the chance to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath, and he’d chat about his plans for the day and how excited he was to be alive.

As anyone who knows me can verify (or even if you’ve read a few of these blog posts, such as this one), I travel to California quite a lot. I love the sound and sights of the ocean and mountains, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the copious amounts of vitamin D. But most of all, I really enjoy the warm nature of the people that I encounter, particularly in areas like Venice Beach. While it is gritty in spots (particularly along the boardwalk) and rather eccentric in general, I find residents to be quite friendly. I went just before Christmas for four days and encountered west coast charm at every opportunity – from shop owners on Abbot Kinney and baristas in the local coffee joint, to morning joggers and surfers getting their boards ready for a morning session. People just seem to be really content with life and that spirit is quite infectious – I recommend checking it out.

If a trip to Venice Beach tickles your fancy, here are some favourites of mine:

Continue reading “Four Days in Venice Beach”