Monthly Archives: June 2010

Travel

Travel guides: For the people. By the people.

Who said print was dead? By combining the immediacy and ingenuity of online technology with the portability, comfort and tactile familiarity of print, Stay.com has created the perfect balance in travel guides for the unique, organized and engaged traveler in all of us.  My latest and most favoritest website allows folks, like you and I, to leisurely peruse through virtual aisles of concise summaries of local attractions, restaurants, museums, bars and shops by city, which you can then add to your very own personalized and customized city guide.  Once the destination wish list is compiled, the little computer elves on the backend magically organize all the places you’d like to hit up in a practical little brochure-like list, fully wrapped, signed, sealed, and delivered with a pinpointed map that you can print and conveniently shove in your purse/butt pocket for quick retrieval and reference.

So what are you waiting for?  Check them out for yourself! Afterall, they did make this guide especially just for you.

Social Scene: LA’s Greek Festival – Where OMG! meets OPA!

So I live in LA, the city (Los Angeles); not the state (Louisiana).*  And to me, LA is special.  LA is home.  However, it wasn’t always that way.  LA and I, we’ve had a very tumultuous relationship resulting in numerous fights, break ups and makeups.  You see, I’m originally from a small cow town up in Washington state and in my mind, LA was just that.  LA.  It, and for all intents and purposes all of Southern California’s culture, has had the reputation of being the culture with no culture and for years, I believed that.  We’ve been called superficial, materialistic, body obsessed, fake, spoiled, dumb, vapid, vain and the list goes on and on. We weren’t just given the nickname of LaLa Land, we earned it.

However, what I, and most people, didn’t know was that we are also the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Los Angeles is a city where people are at liberty to express themselves regardless of sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnic background, fashion sense, socio-economic class and spiritual or nonspiritual belief, without having to risk complete social suicide.  It is a place where those who are brave enough to be true to themselves, brave enough to have their speech and actions be congruent with their beliefs and thoughts, are rewarded with being welcomed by their own niche community with open arms and a loving heart.  LA is the land where people come to be who they were meant to be without fear of unwarranted persecution; a place where they come to live their lives and achieve their destiny, and a place where they come to see their dreams comes true.  Because although everyone hates on LA, everyone still wants to live here.

Many people, particularly immigrants and refugees who didn’t have those freedoms in their own respective countries, have recognized this extremely valuable fact and have made the smart move to make Los Angeles their home.  The Greek community is one of the many rich cultures that have done so and every year, they have a festival celebrating their heritage where they share their love of music, dance and food with the fine people of LA.  The Greek Festival occurs in various cities throughout California and this year I chose to attend the one in the Valley.  Although it was rather small, it did just the job of taking me away from the hussle and bustle of city life and into, what felt like a quiant Greek summer backyard picnic and bbq with all the fixings.

Although I speak English, French and Chinese, unfortunately, one of the languages I don’t speak or understand is Greek…and well, math.  And people always say that math is the one universal language in the world that everyone understands.  But I’d wager that the language of food is giving math a run for it’s money in maintaining that title.  Because, unlike the former, when one is speaking in “food”, people are actually listening.  And the food that was being served at the Greek Festival was definitely speaking to me loud and clear.  With every bite, I understood the uniqueness of Greek culture.  And, not unlike their Spanakopita and Dolmathes, I could taste the richness and depth of their traditions, history and heritage.  The food was plentiful, rich, full of flavor and most importantly, authentic as they offered all the traditional Greek specialties that would be served during a family Sunday dinner at Mama Papadopoulos’s house.  Along with the aforementioned Spanakopita and Dolmathes, they also had Moussaka, perfectly Grilled Greek Chicken, Souvlaki, Pastitsio (which had run out earlier in the day), Loucaniko and Calamari.

And it didn’t end there.  No, that was just the beginning as their sweets were just that; sweet.  Not just sugar sweet but fragrant honey suckle sweet as almost every one of their desserts were drenched and swimming in honey sauce.   To my diet’s demise and my taste bud’s pleasure, they had just as many dessert offerings as they did savory, with every variation of Baklava known to man including chocolate, pistachio, custard filled and original just to name a few.  And to make the day that much more glutinous, they also had freshly fried Loucoumathes, also known as Greek doughnuts, drizzled in honey and dusted with cinnamon for sale for just $5.

So as you can see, us Angelenos are blessed to live in a melting pot city where one of the great things about living in this diverse concrete jungle is that you don’t have to wait for a festival to partake in the various different cultures that have set up shop here.  Unlike most metropolitan cities, Los Angeles doesn’t really have a main pedestrian focused city center. There isn’t one single nucleaus. Instead, there are several.  It’s a city that’s made up of many other smaller cities, that are further made up of little towns.  And because LA is home to many different cultures of the world, naturally, these towns have come to house some of the most amazing and authentic ethnic diasporas in the United States, if not, the world.  And it is these neighborhoods that have become, in their own right, the central nucleus of their respective towns.  So for those of you who are brave enough and adventurous enough to think out of the box and step out of your comfort zone, you’ll realize that one doesn’t have to travel far or spend lots of money to experience another country, its people, hospitality or its culture.  China, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, Cambodia, Vietnam, The Philipines, Ethiopia, Iran, Morocco, India, Mexico, Greece, England, France, Nepal, Brazil and so many other cultures are right in your backyard and have been all along.  They’ve all been there just waiting for you to discover them.

So with that said, I can honestly see why it’s so easy to envy and dislike her.  LA is successful.  She is the life of the party, is extremely beautiful and attractive.  She’s sexy, outgoing and fun.  And if you look deeper, she’s bright, extremely cultured and naively sweet and loving. She’s open minded and welcomes anyone who wants to be welcomed, with an open heart.  She’s always warm and sunny and on the days when she is moody and begins to cry (causing a mudslide and a car wreck or two), it’s only for a short period of time.  Just give her some space and I guarantee you that she’ll be back to her sunny and peppy ways again within a few days.  And once you learn to maneuver your way through traffic and around her multiple personalities and truly accept her for her eclectic ways of cultural richness and diversity, I promise you that you will begin to appreciate her for who she is and all that she has to offer.  So don’t be scared.  Make nice and check her out.  Who knows, you might realize that you two have more in common than you may have initially thought.  I know, I did.

*I’m seriously not trying to be patronizing but someone actually thought I was referring to Louisiana once when I said I was from LA. So ever since then, I try not to be presumptuous and assume that us Angelenos have staked a claim to that acronym.