My LA Vegan & Wellbeing Guide
LA is a city that I truly love although I appreciate that it's not for everyone. Jack Kerouac called it the “loneliest and most brutal of American cities”
It’s a city of dreams, but also disappointments. I went there with a reality show (Hollywood Trials on RTE) when I was 24 and again when I was 27 and did the audition circuit - and came home a bit broken. People hear stories about making it in LA overnight but from what I see it’s a city of grafters, day in day out, working to be the best they can across wellness, fitness, acting, music and the production of global culture. I went over this time to do a week-long cooking course in Plantlab in Vegan Desserts.
The course was based in Venice and so we rented an Air BnB between four of us. Having been to LA before I knew I wanted to be in a more relaxed area and also wouldn't be too interested in the neon and nightclubs of West Hollywood. Hollywood is an hour's solid drive on the freeway and LA traffic is awful at the best of times so I would advise situating yourself in the areas you want to be as unlike other cities navigating around every area might not actually be possible.
Restaurants I Loved
Being Vegan is still something relatively new to eating out in Ireland, whereas LA totally caters and has plenty of hip, cool fully vegan eateries that I was so excited to check out. The style here is relatively casual and only when we went out for a fancier meal on my birthday - more details below - did I dress up. Generally jeans shorts, which is what I lived in will suffice for nearly all places, especially at lunch. Tipping is a big thing here and most bills showed calculations of what 18% of your bill equalled as a suggested tip to leave. Just bear that in mind when ordering especially in groups as the price you see, wont be the price you actually pay.
I had Matcha pancakes here and a rose latte with cardamon. It was amazing. 90's hip-hop blared and this is a cool buzzy place with lots of people watching. The food was delicious and like nearly everywhere we went - the service was great.
I've mentioned that a raw chocolate smoothie in Cafe Gratitude back when I was 27 was a turning point and possibly the first time I ever considered vegan food as something to consider. It's an organic vegan cafe and the food is fabulous. The desserts here are really special so save some space !
If you're looking for a nice cup of coffee or a smoothie loaded with elixirs be sure to pop into Moon Juice in Venice for a brain dust latte. You may have heard of the now very famous brand and seeing the cafe where it all began is great. Stocking skincare, supplements and snack products the tiny cafe holds a lot and it's always busy. There's space to sit outside and it's just opposite Cafe Grattitude.
This is a plant based Mexican and possibly my favourite of all the places we went to because it took me by surprise. The cocktail list is extensive and there is kombucha on tap- which I loved - the menu consists of tacos, tortillas, rice bowls and one of the best vegan burgers I have ever had in my life. The food here is so tasty and the guacamole and chips alone are worth coming for.
Although both are fabulous I am not doing dedicated sections for each of the above for a few reasons. We went to The Rose Cafe on our first day and it was fabulous but we returned a week later and service was slow, items were forgotten, and the menu was limited - it was a Sunday afternoon. It's still well worth checking out for informal lunch.
GJelina is a really cool Italian that we went to for lunch. They didn't have many vegan options which is why I am not including it in a dedicated post but I ordered a roasted vegetable sandwich and roasted cauliflower and both were superb. The atmosphere is buzzy and again the service is impeccable.
For my birthday I wanted to go for one really special dinner. I had heard a lot about Shutters On the Beach and apparently the view is incredible. It is literally situated on the beach and is a fully functioning hotel but you don't have to be a guest to enjoy the bar and restaurant. We booked in at 7 pm and asked for a window facing table so as to see the sunset and it was so beautiful. The food was good but again this was not a dedicated vegan place. Service was ok, but not exceptional. If you're going here it's more for the atmosphere which is fabulous.
Sites to See
We were staying around Venice beach area and they had little scooters that you could use - similar to the Dublin Bikes - for just a few dollars and they were a great way of getting around. A walk along Venice beach is a must and there are some gorgeous smoothie and açai bowl bars along the way.
We went on the Paramount Studio tour on one of our last days and I am so glad we did. All the studios have them and I just picked based on proximity but they all come highly rated and it's fascinating to see the history that the city is built on. Tour groups were limited to seven people and I would suggest booking in advance as we just turned up but had to wait for over an hour.
Lie poolside at the Roosevelt if you want to just soak up the sun. Entry is free but there is requirement to spend $50 at the bar per head and then you can enjoy using a sun lounger and the pool - ideally whilst sipping a cocktail.
Swimsuit - €14. Sandals - €9. Bag - €12 all available in Penneys*
Things to Pack
Honestly I was blown away with the amount of plastic everywhere. I feel Ireland is really taking major steps to try an minimise single-use plastics but in LA I didn't see nearly as much as I had assumed. I bought a Keep Cup with me which I got all my coffees in and also recently I got a beautiful gemstone water flask. There are so many studies on the effects of crystallised water and you can check out the site >here< Most importantly by bringing it with me every time I got a coffee they would fill it up with cold filtered water free of charge, and saving plastic. In my yoga studio they also had a water foundation and a counter showing how many bottles had been saved.
LA is the home of virtually any niche or major form of treatment, nutrition, supplement or fitness practice in the wellness arena. If it's something you would like to try, there is likely a class just around the corner. Initially I thought I wanted to try a few different classes on a drop-in basis but as we were driving to our accommodation we passed a huge Yoga studio. Modo Yoga does Hot Yoga classes and they had an introductory offer of $50 for unlimited classes for the first month. Although I was only there for half that amount of time I still got great value and went to about 8 classes over the stay.
There was also an amazing crystal museum - think rose quartz the length of your arm- and store called Mystic Journey. They also have yoga classes, sound baths and events so keep an eye on their site if that's something you think you would be interested in.
I had also seen Spellbound Sky in a Vogue Documentary and on our second last day we paid it a visit. They don't sell online and they only open at noon so research their opening hours before going. It's truly one of the most stunning crystal shops I have ever seen. All the walls are white and minimal. I bought a few pieces including these Malachite cats.
Lastly if you want to book in for one of the most intense body scrubs imaginable then look no further than Olympic Spa. It's a Korean spa and the treatments are not for the shy or faint of heart. After plunging in and out of hot and cold pools I was laid on a plinth and scrubbed to within an inch of my life, followed by a massage that did what several others had failed to do. I had the Goddess Package and honestly I loved it. If I lived here I would get this regularly.
Lastly if you want a good walk and one of the better photo opportunities possible a trip to view the Hollywood sign is a nice day out. You can't actually get close to it but there are some good places to see it from linked >here< You park by the iconic (Get Him To The) Greek theatre and then there is a bus that can take you up or otherwise it's a 1 hour walk uphill. We could have gone further and gotten a better view but bear in mind it's very hot so you will get tired quicker than usual.
Why I Was There..
As you all know I am a complete vegan foodie and I am constantly looking for inspiration. One of the best vegan cooking schools in the world is Plantlab based in Venice and booking myself onto their Vegan desserts masterclass was the tipping point for this whole trip. I adored the whole course although I was exhausted at the end of the days (9pm!) and was so grateful we had a few days afterwards to enjoy. I learnt so much and am so excited to use all the different techniques now I am back at home. We were really encouraged to elevate our presentation which I really needed! I've included a few images of my creations on the course below!
LA really is an amazing place and honestly I'm looking forward to going back already! If you are planning on visiting I hope these tips are useful!
*Thank you to Penneys for collaborating with me on this post.