California

The Coffee (and donuts) of Venice Beach/Santa Monica, California

My heart is in SoCal (I was born and raised there). I spent a quick two days in Santa Monica, California recently and wanted to share some great coffee spots I visited. And yes, I went to four coffee shops (and one donut place that technically had coffee) in two days. Disclaimer: I didn’t take great photos so these are pulled from my Instagram story. 

Espresso Cielo

3101 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Espresso Cielo in Venice Beach

This is the first place I went in Venice for a morning cappuccino and it was perfect. Just a few blocks away from the beach, I took it to go and strolled along the sand and waves. Cute atmosphere and a friendly barista. We even met a couple puppers inside. I love how dog friendly California is!

Dogtown Coffee

2003 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Dogtown Coffee in Santa Monica

My two go-to orders at a coffee shop is either cold brew (black) or a cappuccino. But I was so intrigued by Dogtown’s signature Salty Dog Caramel Ice Coffee (cold brew sweetened with caramel and topped with sea salt infused foam). It was pretty good – the foam was interesting. I don’t think I’d get the same drink again, but it was fun to try and great for someone who likes sweetener in their coffee. I loved this place and bought a bag of whole beans to take home.

Bulletproof Coffee

3110 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Bulletproof coffee is a brand known for creating coffee with added grass-fed butter and oil to boost energy. This is their first standalone shop. It was right next to our Airbnb, so I had to stop by for an afternoon pick me up. I ordered the cold brew because I wasn’t brave enough to try the butter coffee. I’m still not sold on this idea but I know people that love it.

Modern Times Brewery (actually in Los Angeles)

832 South Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Vegan Cortado at Modern Times Brewery in Los Angeles

Yes, in California they have breweries that also make amazing coffee. I didn’t try any of their beer, but the selection sounded amazing. I ordered a chile relleno burrito from their all-vegan brunch menu and a cortado with a delicious vegan milk (hemp or oat maybe? Can’t remember) in an adorable cup. Yum! This place was super cool, I’d love to come back and try some beer.

DK’s Donuts & Bakery

1614 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404

This place is the best thing that ever happened to me. OK, not really. But after a night out, we ordered a Lyft to the one food place still open. Little did I know, it was this magical bakery of the most amazing donuts. They have fun flavors like ube, maple bacon and cookie dough; and even a giant donut you may have seen on Facebook. Honestly, you can skip all that and get the Original O-Nut. Seriously. Do it. It’s basically a croissant donut hybrid which I didn’t know is a thing. But it’s a great thing. DK’s O-Nut is covered in magical glaze. I could eat 100. Oh and they had coffee, too, but the donut shop kind.

I love visiting local coffee shops when I travel! What places did I miss in Santa Monica? Or what other cities have amazing coffee spots? Let me know in the comments below!

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10 things you need to do in La Jolla, California: scuba, tacos, coffee and more

I just finished about three weeks of travel for work. In between there, I went to Phoenix for my dad’s 60th and then extended one of the work trips for a weekend in San Diego, California. I decided to stay in La Jolla so I could squeeze in some scuba diving off the coast. Ever since I became a certified diver, swimming with seals and/or sea lions was on my bucket list. Happy to say I checked that off…

Sea Lion on California Beach - La Jolla Cove

I fell in love with the La Jolla area and hope to be back soon. Everything I did was walking distance or a <$15 Uber ride (besides the airport). Here is how I recommend making the most of a weekend trip there.

Activities

  • Dive with San Diego Snorkel and Scuba This was the highlight (and the purpose) of my trip! I did the Kelp Forest and Sea Lion scuba dive. I was the only one who showed up, so the guide and I had a great time! We saw tons of lobster, yellowtail and Garibaldi. We also ran into two horn sharks and several sea lions. I would definitely dive with this company, and the Dive Master, Rich, again! They provide everything you need for a fun, safe dive!
  • Watch the Sea Lions at the Cove – because after swimming with these playful creatures, I couldn’t get enough of the sea lions. I walked down to the Cove to watch them bark, play and nap on the beach.
  • Hike at Torrey Pines – This is an enjoyable and easy hike! It was a Saturday so it was pretty crowded, but I didn’t mind while finding quiet spots to gaze at the views of the Pacific ocean, cliffs and the rare Torrey Pines. From Windansea beach, it was about an $11 Uber drive to the Torrey Pines natural reserve. I did all the hikes that were open at the time. They are very well marked and mostly flat. It was overcast the entire time which led to me experimenting with some moody photos.
  • Beach, duh! My Airbnb was just a couple blocks away from the lovely and quiet Windansea Beach. Next time I’m thinking of signing up for surf lessons.

Lodging

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Windansea Beach

Food

  • The Taco Stand – I ate my meal so fast that I didn’t get a picture. BUT, these were some of the best tacos I’ve had in a LONG time. I think that means a lot coming from someone in Texas. I finished my meal with the churros. Highly, highly, highly recommend!
  • Promiscuous Fork – cute little spot for a craft beer and gastropub food a couple blocks from the beach! I got the mac n cheese with short rib.
  • El Pescador Fish Market – I’m not sure if I ever had a fish “sandwich” before, but WOW! Go to the counter, ask them what’s the freshest and order it as a sandwich with avocado. I had the yellowtail and it was PERFECT. 10/10 would eat again and again again. Just look at this bread…

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Coffee

  • The Living Room delicious, smooth and flavorful nitro cold brew! I also had a chorizo croissant sandwich that was amazing!
  • La Clochette du Coin – this was right across from my Airbnb, but I only went on my way to the airport. I was disappointed I didn’t check it out sooner! Delicious espresso (served with a chocolate!) and oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and almond butter.

Before and After: Seally Beach

Excuse my inappropriate pun. 🙂 Funny? No… OK.

Here’s another before and after photo editing experiment. The photo is of a California Sea Lion basking in the sun at La Jolla Cove. These are actually different pictures – I saved over the original, unfortunately. I wanted to show you how I cropped the photo, tilted the horizon straight and played with tint, shadows, highlights and saturation to make it a more vibrant and eye-catching photo.

This was last weekend at La Jolla Cove. Check out the full post of my weekend here!

Sea Lion on California Beach - La Jolla Cove

After Edits

sealbeforeeditting

Before Edits

Camera: Fuji Film XT-2 Editing: Adobe Lightroom

I tend to be a bit heavy-handed on the saturation with my editing style. I may have overdone it a bit with this one, but practice makes perfect. What can I say? I love bright colors and want them to pop in my photos. Do you have any feedback on my editing techniques? What’s your favorite editing style (for example, mine is bringing out colors)? Tell me in the comments below!