Posts in Travel
City Guide: Los Angeles

I consider myself an northeast girl at heart. I've never met a rust belt city I haven't liked. New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit. But when my friends at Expedia.ca suggested a weekend away on the west coast, I couldn't refuse. From mid-century modern design to Old Hollywood hotels, Los Angeles has no shortage of iconic landmarks. But over the past couple years, creative types have paved the way for the exciting new shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and galleries that have surfaced over the city’s sprawling landscape. And they are changing the way we see and experience downtown LA. 

WHERE TO STAY

Certainly Hollywood and the glitzy, tacky Sunset Strip will come to mind for many. But LA's downtown has become a cultural hotbed of sorts. Nestled between Chinatown and the Arts District, it's now a covetable destination for the best new restaurants, cultural curiosities and under-the-radar shopping.  Expedia.ca's Top 10 List is a great starting point for your search. But I of course, have a few faves myself. A crown jewel of downtown Los Angeles, The Ace Hotel is housed in the historic 1927 United Artists building. The atmosphere here is perfect. Staff are upbeat and keen to offer their recos of what to do, see, eat. They even helped us find a hip local barber for Adam to get a straight shave. Start your day with brunch at LA Chapter, a brasserie just off of Ace’s lobby. Or grab a coffee to go from Stumptown. By night, take in a show at The Theatre next door, or admire the city lights and downtown view from the rooftop pool. Similarly, The Standard is another boutique hotel, this one located in a 1950s Standard Oil building. Rooms are minimalist and modern. Stunning panoramic views can be seen from the rooftop pool and Biergarten. And the location is ideal -- just a quick walk from the nearest Metro rail station from which you can head to Hollywood or Universal Studios. Plus you're right by a row of art museums and just blocks from Frank Ghery's Walt Disney concert hall. 

GETTING AROUND
By now you are likely starting to get a sense of just how expansive Los Angeles is. With a growing Metro rail system you can definitely explore the city far and wide. In fact, the new EXPO line takes you from DTLA to Santa Monica in under an hour. But if aren't confident you can figure out the transit system, you may want to rent a car during your stay here. 

 Birdies LA

Birdies LA

WHERE TO SIP/SNACK
Saturday mornings are meant for mimosas and brunch. Luckily, downtown Los Angeles is brimming with incredible food hot spots. Eggslut is an LA institution of sorts, with lines definitely worth the wait at Grand Central Market, Cafe Gratitude in the Arts District is sunny spot with communal tables and a wrap around bar. Serving up an organic, plant based menu and fresh pressed juices, it's a must on your list for a healthy fix. Alternatively, if you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, Birdies LA makes fresh artisanal donuts on the hour. I recommend the lemon pistachio thyme. Over in Silver Lake, lengthy lines and street side tables surround Sqirl. One you try the brioche French toast stuffed with jam and served with creme fraiche, you'll understand why its worth lining up for.

For dinner, head to Bestia. The interior is raw, industrial. But the restaurant serves up homey Italian dishes -- think house-cured charcuterie and handmade pasta like ricotta dumplings with housemade pork sausage and black truffles. If you'd like to venture outside of downtown, Night + Market Song is a vibrant spot (picture a hot pink facade and vinyl tablecloths) for spicy Thai street food. And I hear the fried chicken sandwhich (off the menu..) is among the city's best. Over in Echo Park, Ostrich Farm is a cozy space, with a marble topped bar and seafoam-green banquette seating. The brussels sprouts with pancetta and egg is a must. And a perfect compliment to the wood-grilled and roasted menu items, like the half roast chicken, with braised chard, and roasted hatch chili corn pudding.

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WHERE TO EXPLORE
Spend an afternoon exploring The Broad Museum, housing more than 2000 works of contemporary artworks from the Broad Collection by artists like Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons and Jasper Johns. The upper level has almost an acre of airy gallery space, diffused with natural light. And as you head down a spiralling staircase from the third floor, you'll catch a glimpse into their holdings in the vault. Truly impressive. Admission is free, but you should reserve your spot in advance. Over on Wilshire Boulevard, known as LA's Museum Row, you find the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) alongside La Brea Tae Pits and Museum, and beautiful art deco buildings. 

There are historic landmarks and and iconic modernist architecture throughout Los Angeles. An architectural walking tour is a great way to take in some of these incredible buildings while learning about the history of the area. Especially in the Financial District and Broadway Theatre District, with historic theatres along Broadway, to the Bradbury Building and gorgeous turquoise Eastern Columbia Building. Or you can venture out on your own to explore the buildings of interest to you. I recommend a tour of The Stahl House, a 1960s design in the Hollywood Hills with floor to ceiling glass windows and sweeping views of the city. While the Eames’s Case Study House #8 is a private residence, you can take exterior tours while catching a glimpse of the interior. Union Station, a train station built in 1939, is an architectural beauty, blending Spanish colonial revival and art deco styles. Set high up in the Hills, Griffith Observatory is a stunning art deco landmark with high powered telescopes and unique vantage point of the Hollywood sign. I suggest hiking up to the observatory before sunset. Just take one of the hiking trails which start near the Greek Theatre or Fern Dell. 

 

 The Broad Museum

The Broad Museum

WHERE TO SHOP
Heidi Merrick's new coastal cool shop in downtown Los Angeles, brings the beach to the city. The bright, airy storefront is stocked with her full womenswear collection and surfboard collaboration with her brother, Britt Merrick. Right by the Ace Hotel, Formerly Yes curates a concise collection of housewares, books and objects with the thinking that fewer is better. Row DTLA is an emerging warehouse/arts district with a rotating collective of creative retailers like Capsule Home and Tokyo Bike. And over in Culver City, Platform LA offers a unique collection of shops, cafes and culinary spots, including Janessa Leone and Freda Salvador's gorgeous brick and mortar space. And no visit to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Melrose Place to shop The Apartment by the Line's unique range of fashion, art and home goods in an intimate apartment like space. Or The Row's dreamy flagship complete with a courtyard pool.

 The Apartment by the Line

The Apartment by the Line


Thinking of booking a weekend away in Los Angeles? Head on over to Expedia.ca to save with their flight and hotel packages! 

City Guide : Montreal

Sometimes the best getaways are right in our own backyards. And with so many amazing Canadian destinations, you need not go far for a weekend away. There is no shortage of exciting travel experiences that are close to home. Recently my friends at Expedia.ca helped me plan the perfect long weekend trip to Montreal. 

When you are planning a weekend away, there's nothing like having an insider’s perspective of where to go and what to do. After all, part of the fun of travelling is finding the local gems – from restaurants to pop-up shops, to concerts and the latest exhibits at art galleries. I've rounded up my favourite experiences and finds in Montreal to help you plan an amazing trip. 

WHERE TO STAY

Montreal has a number of boutique hotels, from Hotel Le St-James, to Hôtel Oui Go! or the W Montreal. Expedia.ca makes it easy to check them all out here. We decided on the Renaissance Montreal Downtown. Recently renovated, its mix of eclectic artwork, modern furnishings and decor, and rooftop views stood out to us. And we ended up having a stellar stay there. The rooms are spacious, and both functional and fun, with awesome work spaces and details like in-room Nespresso machines and local artwork. The hotel too, has a vibrant atmosphere, from the playful lobby with DJs spinning tracks throughout the weekend to the rooftop with pool and panoramic view. The rain didn't hold us back on our first night there. We spent our time sipping sangria on the covered terrace taking in the scene and the sight-lines of the city below. But what we loved most was how helpful for their concierge-style staff, or "Navigators' are, offering their suggestions for the best local cafe, shop and tips on how to spend your time in town. 

WHERE TO SIP & SNACK

The local flavour in Montreal was definitely something I wanted to experience. With a long list of Insta-worthy food spots, it was impossible to get to them all. There are plenty of pizzerias in the city, but No. 900 was a favourite. Try the sausage and spicy pepper pizza, with fior de latte cheese, rapini, pesto and almonds. 

For brunch, head over to the neighbourhood of Saint-Henri to Arthurs. Raegan Steinberg and Alex Cohen, the owners of Back of House Catering opened this modern Jewish style nosh bar in the summer, paying homage to European classics like schnitzel, perogies, cabbage rolls, and smoked fish. The atmosphere is lively, and the wait well worth it. Foiegwa is a French diner in the same neighbourhood (with a back-alley speakeasy, Atwater Cocktail Club, behind it.) A new venture by Barroco Group (the owners of two Montreal hot spots, Barroco and Bocata) and a few others, its already stirring up quite the buzz. With it's cheeky name, dreamy interior (think white tiled walls, beautiful leather banquette seating) and perfect plating for each dish, I was sold. Try the homemade butter and black truffle spaghetti with egg and parmigiano-reggiano.

I was definitely drawn to neighbourhoods like Saint-Henri and Little Burgundy for food and drinks. It seems they are slowly experiencing the kind of revival we have seen in Hamilton with an artistic community and chefs opening up exciting culinary destinations here. 

 Photo by Randall Brodeur

Photo by Randall Brodeur

WHERE TO shop

The shopping! From the local designers to independent boutiques, Montreal is a shopping dream. I love WANT Apothecary in Montreal's Westmount area. There is a neighbourly feel, with the shop tucked alongside independent grocers, florists and coffee shops. Well curated with clothing labels like Acne Studios, Tomorrowland, Filippa K, Maison Kitsuné and, of course, WANT Les Essentiels, you'll also find luxe beauty products including some of my favourites like perfume from Byredo and body-products by Grown Alchemist.

Ssense is always a must visit boutique when strolling around the Old Port. Housed in a beautiful historic building, the wares are on the higher end, with labels ranging from Saint Laurent to Vetements to Yeezy. In the Mile End, Boutique Unicorn stocks cool Canadian labels like Eve Gravel and Amanda Moss. L'intervalle is a Montreal based shoe label that I am obsessed with. Not only are they incredibly well made, but they are on trend and on point with prices. 

Where to Explore

From the cobblestone boulevards of historic Old Montreal, to the vibrancy of former industrial districts like Saint-Henri, Mile End and Little Burgundy, Montreal lives up to its nickname: La Belle Ville, the beautiful city. Whether you take in the current exhibits happening at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, or explore local galleries like Parisian Laundry or Arsenal –  a space known for both its architecture and the contemporary works it features – the city is immersed with creativity and culture.

And of course you'll want to experience the historical gems Montreal offers, like 17th-century Rue St-Paul and the beautiful 200-year-old Notre Dame basilica. Afterwards, stroll over to Tommy, a cozy neighbourhood coffee shop that serves up sandwiches and sweets in the setting of a stunning heritage building built in 1874. Or make afternoon plans for high tea at the Ritz Carlton Hotel

Thinking of visiting Montreal? You can find some amazing boutique hotels on Expedia.ca here, and their vacation packages here