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Published: February 20th 2012
Late September, and still warm!
AKA The Birthday that Started at the Spa and Ended with a Sprain
I decided this year to mark a big birthday, all I wanted was a place near a beach where I could celebrate with friends and lots of food. Since two of my best friends (Dan and Ilya) live in Los Angeles, and I happen to really love sunshine, a weekend jaunt down the coast sounded perfect.
After a great Virgin America flight, I kicked off my birthday weekend in style-- by using a Travelzoo local deal for a massage and mani/pedi at Spa Luce
at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. I had never been to Spa Luce before, but I will definitely go back. The space was relaxing, with lots of white/natural decor and plush seating. My massage therapist was great-- not timid about moving my arms and legs to give me the best massage possible but understanding that my main reason for being there was to relax. After the massage and some time in the great steam room, I donned the provided robe and accepted a fruit punch flavored adult beverage as I was led to a separate space to start my pedicure. Polina was fantastic
Venice Beach from the Water
Standing in the water and looking back toward shore.
(I swear that manicure and pedicure lasted forever!) and was interesting to talk to as well. She also set me up with an extra complimentary fruit punch drink, so she gets five stars in my book for that alone. The spa was a perfect way to remind myself how to be on vacation.
With knock-out nails and a little fruit punch buzz, I set out for the rest of my day. I cut through the crazy Hollywood/Highland
area with all of the tourist displays and the Walk of Fame on the way back to my rental car, and I realized that even with Los Angeles traffic I was too early to check into my vacation rental. Must be time for a friend ambush.
I'm lucky to already know my way around L.A. from multiple visits to crash on friends' couches. Because of that, I headed to the other side of the 101 to surprise my friend Dan. To be fair, I sent him a text about 5 minutes before I knocked on his door. Hey, he knew I was in town-- it was only a matter of time before I showed up to reunite with the couch I've
Breeze Cottage Kitchen
Perfect place for cooking up a storm.
spent so much time on in the last ten years! Being a writer, Dan is usually down for adventures during the work week, so eventually we hopped into my sweet rental to tackle traffic all the way to Venice to check into my vacation rental, the Breeze Cottage
. Due to the off-season, I got a great deal on this 2 bedroom, one bath space on a Venice walk street near Pacific and Venice Blvd. It's less than a block from the beach, with gorgeous interiors and a hot tub. We dropped off my luggage and took a walk down the street to Venice Beach since I love all of the random people watching on the Venice boardwalk. It feels like every time I make it to Los Angeles I find my way to this area, so it's perfect that I get to spend the weekend here. We finished off the night with more traffic as I drove Dan back to the Burbank/North Hollywood area and we stopped at the Other Door
to say hello to the best bartender in the world, Amanda, before I trekked back to Venice.
Friday, my birthday, I woke up to warm weather, sunshine, and no morning
Breeze Cottage Patio
Hot tub and a cabana in a completely private setting.
plans. Time to sit in the hot tub and read a book? Why yes, I believe it is. Wrinkled yet reluctant, I eventually got out of the hot tub and walked over to the Venice Farmers' Market
. I love farmers' markets, and this one had a great neighborhood feel with a good variety of fresh foods. I got some heirloom tomatoes for bruschetta, some dried mangoes for snacking and some fresh flowers because they make me happy.
My relaxing birthday continued as I met a friend at Tart
near The Grove for a yummy spinach salad lunch, then headed to the beach with a book in the late afternoon. Later that night, Dan joined me at the cottage and we drove to LAX to pick up Courtney, my best friend for 30 years (yikes!), who was amazing enough to schedule a 36 hour trip to Los Angeles just to celebrate my birthday. As soon as we picked her up, Courtney suggested In-N-Out
, and it took less than a second for me to aim the car down Sepulveda towards a tasty burger. Best birthday dinner ever. We ended the night at James Beach
, a bar within walking distance of the cottage. As usual
Me and Courtney making the big birthday dinner!
we made new friends and I marveled at the differences between this bar and bars in Seattle-- namely that we were in an area with no roof and everywhere I looked there were really pretty people. We stumbled home at closing time (which was 5am according to Courtney's internal East Coast clock.)
We were really in the vacation swing the next day-- hot tub in the morning, then the beach until early afternoon. My idea of a perfect birthday was making dinner with my great friends, so Dan and Ilya were joining Courtney and me for a big birthday feast on our last night in town. Courtney and I stocked up at Whole Foods and started prepping the food for a menu of pork loin and filets on the grill plus mushroom risotto, veggie kabobs and bruschetta. There was a lot of food and some tasty drinks. There were dance parties. There was a lot of laughing. It was a great night.... until I just had to wear heels out to the garage to get more diet coke. I stumbled on some uneven pavement and went down HARD. I was fairly certain I sprained my ankle, and so the tears started falling full force. My friends, who all know me so well, sprang into action. Dan went to grab the things I left sprawled in the alley. Courtney sat me down on the couch and got me to stop crying. Ilya ran to his truck for a first aid kit. Before I really knew what had happened, my ankle was wrapped, I had an ice pack and I was laughing again with these people who I'm sure are used to my clumsiness by now.
A few hours after going to bed, the alarm went off so that Courtney would be up and ready for the car that was picking her up for the airport. We realized that with the excitement of my sprained ankle, we never cut the birthday cake. Later that day, as I hobbled my way through LAX holding a "happy birthday' balloon, I realized that it's a good friend who will eat birthday cake with you at 6am.
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