One week ago today, I was driving north up the 5 highway, scrolling through myriad snapshots on my phone and making sure to press "repeat" on that one A$AP Rocky song that cannot be typed on a family-friendly blog (my mom gets wary when I talk about personal grooming on here, she'd likely pass out if I dropped a full curse word!) that became our dance party anthem of the weekend. What was the occasion, you ask? My dear high school friend of 16 years (how insane is that? Our friendship can get a driver's license!) is getting married this fall, and decided to have a Ladies Weekend in Los Angeles over Memorial Day weekend to celebrate. Largely planned by her sister and co. via an overly-packed Google doc, the weekend was meant for eating, laughing, dancing, and champagne-ing. And champagne we did!
While what little "tan" I got has since faded, I've only just started reliving (and reorganizing) the memories of that weekend for blog format. Since my travel log has been a bit light lately, I'll be linking to all the adorable places we went (and some we didn't have time to visit) over the next few posts.
One thing is for sure: I would stay in the Ace Hotel again in a heartbeat!
I made my way down south from San Francisco with Sherri (the bride-to-be's younger sister) and Rachel (another bff from high school) at the primo driving hour of 5am. Though we gave Rachel a bit of grief for this plan initially, I have to admit, it was perfect - we cruised down the freeway with time to spare before picking Freyan up at LAX only 20 minutes after her plane had landed.
We made our way downtown and, after several three-point-turns involving some confusing valet signs, dropped off the car and unloaded our luggage.
Upon entry, the entire hotel is exactly what you'd imagine from a renovated theater-and-studio-office-space: seventies chic, hipster, very cool and minimalist and a bit imperfect. The checkered marble flooring contrasts the high ceiling in the foyer. The hallways are dark and moody, but only in comparison to the natural lighting in the elevator lobbies and the sun-filled rooftop. The interior rooms are a mix of Hollywood glamour, black wood and leather fixtures, with the naturalistic feel of colorful blankets and white marble countertops.
But, that's the aesthetic! The Ace Hotel line is based on revisiting the vintage style of each hotel's location: Palm Springs harkens back to days in the sun lounging with a drink and a tanning reflector, full of desert earth tones and textured decor; the New York spot, deep in Midtown Manhattan, belies moody colors and rich, dark leather; the Seattle locale sports airy light and crisp green plants amongst the original hardwood floors. And on and on.
The mini bar, which none of us touched for fear of automatic debt incursion in the triple digits (and, more realistically, because there are so many amazing restos and bars in LA that we had to get to), was stocked for Hollywood royalty. You can almost envision a rowdy leather-clad band returning from a show at the theater downstairs and coming back up, needing a beverage, some candy, or maybe a shave before doing an impromptu interview.
Alright, I'm making that up - but anyone who wanted to stay in the room the entire weekend would be well tended with this stockpile alone.
The beds reminded me of futons in someone's summer house - but that's not a criticism. Shockingly comfortable, and conveniently low to the ground, they played centerpiece to our room happenings without the typical feeling of a hotel bed, constantly getting in your way as you maneuver around a small space.
Please note the sinks-in-room aspect. While, at first, this seemed peculiar, we quickly realized the genius of it -- especially for four women staying in one room. While any one person showers or uses the restroom, at least 2 others can use the mirrors and sinks to get ready. There was also another mirror in the entryway, on the sliding door closet hiding the hangers and mini-bar.
The bolsters behind our pillows were actually removable and supremely comfortable (or so says one of our larger entourage who crashed in the hotel on Saturday night with us. All names removed to protect the intoxicated.)
We arrived in our room to find that one of our high school crew, unable to make it out to California for the weekend, had sent ahead chocolates, flowers, and champagne. So thoughtful, and so fun! It almost felt like a celebration for all of us (as we all reaped the bounty of good wishes from Freyan's special event... more friends get engaged, please!)
The room was sparse, but pristine. And really, what else do you need in a hotel room? The point is that you bring all of your possessions with you.
I will say this: though the Rudy's Barbershop shampoo/conditioner/bodywash trio looked like an upgraded version of the gym shower set, I deeply regret only trying them on my last day. The "gift shop" in the lobby sell all three, and had I not just refilled my favorite products prior to this trip, I would have snapped up the complete set. I still fully intend to do so when my current supplies run out!
After taking some time to settle in to our new digs and recuperate from the hours-long drive, we decided to venture out for some food and drink to perk up before our evening out.
Several of us had heard that Verve Coffee Roasters, just two blocks away from the hotel, was a gorgeous spot to relax. We headed off in search of caffeine and found the place in no time.
I was too busy admiring to fully capture the spot in film, but suffice it to say whoever is responsible for the decor should be given a bonus. The interior was monochrome and clean, while still bustling with patrons, the perfect mix of zen and modern style without intimidating customers with silence or coldness.
We sat outside near the wall garden, which continued up to the ceiling and over the entire exterior patio.
Rachel and I took this selfie just as a skateboarding man asked us if we were using the table. I replied that we only needed it for the picture and he said, "Alright, cool" and waited while we posed. A perfect LA moment.
Newly rejuvenated with our coffees, we set off in search of afternoon sustenance. Freyan had heard of a spot within walking distance that housed dozens of food and drink vendors: Grand Central Market.
I have to admit, whilst journeying there in the LA heat, I wasn't entirely sure it would be worth the additional trek when there was a taco spot right next to our hotel.
Boy, was I wrong.
The minute you walk through the door, your eyes are flooded with signs floating above each stall. Bel Campo meat (there are locations in Larkspur and SF!), multiple Mexican food vendors, Japanese cuisine like Bento Ya, Eggslut sandwiches, Horse Thief barbeque, oysters, coffee, hand-crafted beers and candies, the list is endless. I honestly can't read the list of vendors right now or I'll start salivating on my keyboard and booking a flight I can't currently afford.
We settled on Ana Maria tacos. I got the carnitas, loaded to the brim of each tortilla (they give you extra, those kind gentlemen) for only $3.50 a pop. I'd say, for the amount of roasted meat you get, that's a serious steal.
We took our haul and sat at the tables near G&B Coffee. Munching on salsa-laden carnitas and debating the names of the various coffee drinks (macadamia nut/almond milk espresso drinks, kombuchas, teas sounding more like Game of Thrones characters), we surveyed the gorgeous lofted ceilings and people watched for a while.
Eventually, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with our two Los Angeles locals for dinner preparations and to enjoy the bottle of champagne Kate sent.
After opening a couple of surprisingly quick-popping (there's a joke in there somewhere...) champagne bottles, we toasted to the weekend and started jostling for space in front of the mirror.