Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My (Love) Hate Relationship With Driving - Post by Akhil Mittal

Okay I have a confession to make. I am a man but I do not like cars. I always knew I was different from other boys while growing up. I had absolutely no interest in checking out the new Mercedes models and unlike other pubescent teens, did not get aroused when I spotted an exotic car with both horsepower and mileage.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Healthy Lifestyle Despite Long Working Hours

The Girl Boss Series - Healthy Lifestyle with Long Working Hours

I work as a consultant, and my work hours vary by the project I am working on. Sometimes it is 10 hours a day, and other times it is 15. That said, it is never less enough for a lazy person like me to be able to include a regular 1 hour workout routine to my lifestyle. Hence, I have to live with a mix of good food and some heart-pumping, amidst the innumerable client dinners and weekend outings to maintain a balance.

Part 4 of the Girl Boss Series on my blog is all about how I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, while working long hours. I am NOT the most healthy or the most health-freak person out there, and I DO have to make that extra effort to stay (somewhat) fit. Especially with today’s fast lifestyle, where even if we want, we cannot keep ourselves surrounded by greenery and eat pesticide-free fruits and veggies, I feel nothing is worth NOT being able to invest in yourself.

For the purpose of this post, I will break it into 3 parts – eating well, working out, and de-stressing. All these three go hand-in-hand and my skin and weight does the talking when I am able to stick to this routine.

Eating Well


Eating Well is the First Step to Staying Fit

I am a Bengali - Rice and sweets are a part of my staple. As I grew up and realized that my metabolism is slowing and these 2 things are doing more harm to my body than any good to my taste buds, it took me a lot of disciplining myself to eating rice once or twice a week, and giving up sweets after every meal! Even today, when I cheat, I would usually cheat on desserts and Biryani, rather than pizza and fries.

1.   Ghar ka Khana – The most essential thing I try to do is take home-food to office for breakfast/lunch. The fact that I cannot eat outside food continuously for few days definitely helps my case. When I was stuck in a hotel room for 5 months on my last project, with no access to kitchen, I easily gained 4 Kgs in no time. Hence, I cannot emphasize this step enough. I know it is not easy for everyone to do it, but we can always try to cook one big batch and use it for the next 3-4 days. In India of course, help is available easily, and that is what I leverage.

      I also try to keep some healthy snacks, like a box of cut fruits, or dry-fruits to munch on between the meals. That way, I don’t have to rely on unhealthy snacks when I feel bored or hungry. Can you tell I carry my entire day in a hand-bag?
      
      Check out here what some of my other must-haves are.

2.    Drink lots of Water – They say, drinking sufficient amount of water helps in detoxifying the body, thereby keeping you away from dry skin, bloated stomach, breakouts, etc. What I have noticed is, when I am well-hydrated, I also feel less hungry. Some calories saved right there!

I usually carry an empty bottle with me (isn’t water too heavy? Well, my shoulders aren’t that strong), and fill it up and keep on my desk. If I don’t have it in front of me, then I would probably end up going to get myself a glass of water ONLY when I am thirsty, and hence end up drinking less. On a busy day, when I am working at a stretch, drinking some water also helps break the monotony. Too many positives to give up on this one!

3.    Avoid liquid calories – We don’t realize, but coffee and other drinks accompaniments with food result in piling up the calories pretty effortlessly. The lemonade, the cold coffee, the coke with a slice of pizza – I know we are much more aware of the health hazards of these today than we were 5 years ago, but just in case you do this, now is the time to stop.

Especially in the western countries, I feel since Water costs as much as many of these other sucrose-added drinks, people would go ahead and buy these instead. Rarely, have I seen them not ordering a coke along with a sandwich!

Well, coming from India and the spicy food we serve, I have always been used to having water with my meal. That said, evidently, having water WITH a meal dilutes the enzymes and reduces metabolism. So I try (more often than not I fail) to hydrate myself 30 minutes before or after a meal.

4.    Avoid processed food – If you have ever tried to count calories in food mindlessly you would have noticed processed food have fewer calories. For example, Oats has more calories than corn flakes, brown rice has more calories than white rice, so on and so forth. And THAT is why we should go for healthy food, than just count the calories. Processed food is stripped off of fibre, and end up giving you a bloated stomach when consumed too much. Pretty much empty calories they are.

Simple things like baking an Atta cake, or going for the Atta noodle if you HAVE to, can go a long way in making for a healthy living.

5.     Fix a schedule for eating out – Let’s face it – we love to eat out once in a while. And healthy living doesn’t have to be about giving up on that Chhole Bhature or trying out new restaurants in town altogether! What works best for me, is making a schedule of how many times a week I am allowed to eat out. I have restricted it to once a week. That just helps break the dullness of home food, and also helps keep a check. Otherwise, I would never have a count of the random calories piled on.

6.     Don’t skip breakfast – I am sure we have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is also the easiest to skip with today’s lifestyle – we wake up late, we don’t have time for breakfast, and coffee seems to be an easy option to keep us full till an early lunch.

However, ever since I have been having a little something in the mornings, I have realized that it helps keep me full throughout the rest of the day. I don’t mean I can skip lunch or dinner altogether, but I feel full with much lesser amount of food during my other meals. I am guessing that saves me some calories in the long run?

Some easy breakfast options I swear by:

a.    Chilled Oats – I recently discovered this, and here is a detailed recipe of this super easy and delicious option. You can also make this once, and store for the next 3-4 days. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it!

b.     Spinach Banana Oats Smoothie – Just blend them all in a blender with some ice, and the perfectly healthy and filling smoothie is ready. The green color of this smoothie makes me feel good (and pretentious?) as well. Are you weird like me?

c.    Boiled Egg/Potato Sandwich – For days when I crave for a savory breakfast instead of sweet, I just put in some boiled potato or boiled egg slices in a whole wheat wrap or 2 slices of whole wheat bread, with some chopped onions and tomatoes. Yogurt or Guacamole can serve as excellent dressing/spread, and salt and pepper for added flavor. Sometimes I would use Avocado, but more often than not, it is not easily available in India. At least not around me.


Work-out


Working Out is as much about the Clean Air as About the Heart-Pumping

Getting the heart rate soaring is very tricky business for me. As much as I can, I try to avoid it. But I am not getting any younger, and putting on weight has never been easier.  Although, even THAT is not adequate to get me to the gym every day. I mean, is it just me who detests the sight of driven young people running on the tread mill?

Let us just say, listening to music and running on a machine is just not inspiring enough for me. So I am on a constant lookout for innovative and fun ways to keep myself fit. Hence, things I do in this section, might not be for every one of you out there, but if you are lazy and easily bored like me, keep on reading – some of this might come handy.

1.    Cardio isn’t a synonym for treadmill – There are so many other ways to get some cardio in life. I feel it is important that we all choose something that we enjoy doing. Personally I find it more fun to take a walk in a park than running in an enclosed room we love to call Gym.

Swimming, Cycling, Zumba, Dance classes – these are some of my favorite things to do. Many of them aren’t probably as efficient as hitting the treadmill but these are some activities I can continue to do without it getting monotonous and then me quitting. THAT to me is more important than being super-effective one day and snoozing the rest of the week.

I would usually go for a 30 minute swim 5 days a week and since I am in Mumbai, I can keep doing that across all seasons! Many days, especially when I am on taxing projects, I feel like giving up, but I enjoy swimming so much, that it is like a welcome break for me. More like some me-time away from the world.

2.   The elevator is for the lazy – Even if you aren’t able to get to working out 4-5 times a week, there are always other ways. And the easiest of them is to take the stairs at work whenever you can, take a short walk when you are taking a break, etc. This is no rocket science, but a reminder once in a while helps!

3.   Monitor footsteps – Setting targets and tracking them is probably one of the easiest ways to keep yourself motivated. I learnt this when there was a walking challenge introduced in my workplace last year. When I had a set target and was meticulously tracking my footsteps to reach there, I was inadvertently pushing myself to walk around and take the stairs at times when I would otherwise be sitting.

For instance I was walking around when on an office call. I was forcing myself to take the stairs so increase the count on my tracker by 50 rather than taking the elevator or escalator. The challenge is now over, but I am still tracking my steps. The feeling of accomplishment when you have exceeded your target, is inexplicable!

De-stress


De-stressing is As Important As a Heavy Work Out to Complete the Healthy Lifestyle
De-stressing is probably as vital as working out for a healthy lifestyle. This is something we easily tend to forget these days, in our rush to achieve the world in a much lesser time!

1.     Sleep – Easier said than done but 7 hours of continuous sleep is what I aim for in a day. Gone are the days when I would spend a night out and survive the next full day on a Red Bull!

2.  Pamper yourself – After a busy week, unwinding is again a key step I don’t like to miss on. Weekends for me are meant to be for hair spas, and facials, and a visit to a massage parlor whenever my time and wallet allows.

3.   Lemongrass – Lately, I have started believing on Aromatherapy. Ever since I got a Lemongrass essential oil from Muji, I have been using it non-step in my diffuser. The room smells like a spa and falling asleep at night with a relaxed mind has never been easier!

Hope this lazy girl’s guide to a somewhat healthier life comes in handy for you. For all the super-active healthy people who have accidentally found my blog, sorry to disappoint :P This was not by any means a health lecture, just some things I do to make my sedentary lifestyle a little more hale and hearty.

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Check out the previous posts on this series:

Keep a lookout for my next post on Apr 29!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When Healthy Breakfast Gets Delicious - Chilled Swiss Oats


Chilled Swiss Oats - Easy No-Cook Recipe
Having come back home after a 5 month long stay in a hotel, my hands were itching to do some random experiment with food. But I hadn’t even gotten time to go shopping to get some grocery yet! So I just had to do with whatever I had in my kitchen.

There was this chilled oats I had once had in one of the breakfast places back in DC, so I thought might as well try to replicate that. Turns out, the Swiss like to serve their oats chilled. Mind you, I had no recipe from Google, or from the coffee shop for that matter, but had a gut feeling about the ingredients from how it tasted. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised, when the taste turned out to be very similar to what I had had. Am I becoming a pro already? :P But then, it is chilled oats, had some dairy, some nuts, some fruits – how different could it really taste!

A little bit about the recipe – it is no-cook, with easy ingredients (like I said, I did not have to go shopping before this), nutritious, and oh-so-tasty. Don’t shirk from this post at the sound of Oats! I know it is not everyone’s favorite. But the chilled version is more like a healthy dessert than actual oats. AND, since it is chilled, and it is sweet, should I call it a perfect summer breakfast yet?

It is my favorite already, and I am planning to make a huge batch for the rest of the week. But before that, couldn’t stop myself from penning it down for the world.


Ingredients for 2 servings

Ingredients - Chilled Swiss Oats

1.      5 table spoon full of regular Quaker Oats
2.    2 table spoon honey – you can add according to your taste. The fruits which I add in the next steps also add some sweetness to the deal
3.      4 table spoon plain yogurt – adds a creamy texture to the oats
4.    1 tea spoon Vanilla Essence (this is the only ingredient which you might have to go out and buy; I usually have one in my kitchen always, since I bake a lot. It also comes in handy to put some in coffee/tea to give it a different flavor – try it out J)
5.     Cut fruits (I feel we can experiment with what fruit to use – I used banana, apple and pear)
6.     Some milk to dilute the mixture
7.     Dry fruits to garnish and for some extra crunch

Recipe  


I feel funny penning the recipe, because it is literally just mixing all the ingredients (yes it is THAT easy), but I will give a shot at it anyway.
1.     First I put the yogurt in a container and beat it to make a smooth consistency.
2.   Added some honey in it – now one could use Sugar-free to reduce the calories, but I prefer to stay away from them. You could also add sugar, if you are out of honey, but honey is just more nutritious compared to sugar, which is simply empty calories. And morning is the best time to put some sugar in the body, to give you some energy, and also burn it by the end of the day, so it is not stored as fat. I’m no expert, but so I have heard.
3.     Then I added the vanilla essence and the cut fruits into the mixture, and mixed it well, such that all of the oats were coated with yogurt.
4.   Alongside, added some milk to make the consistency a little thin. The oats soak up the moisture anyway.
5.      Covered this with a lid and put in the refrigerator for 4 hours
6.     When I took it out, the oats had soaked up a lot of moisture, and I felt as if I should have added a little more milk. But it looked awesome nevertheless!
7.     Finally, served it chill with some crushed almonds for the crunch, and some more cut fruits to garnish it

Serve with Almonds and / or Cut Fruits

Everyone in my home loved it! This is an ideal recipe for all those working men/women as well, who, like me, have crazy mornings, and the last thing they want to do is prepare breakfast. Such times, I mostly end up eating some junk from the office cafeteria, only to feel guilty later. But, that is now a story of the past! This recipe can be stored easily for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, and I am planning to store it in batches, grab one box each morning, and probably have it on my commute! Easy and hassle-free. Isn’t it?


Please check out the latest post on the Girl Boss Series on my blog if you haven’t already! As always, thanks for taking time to go through this post.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Girl Boss Series - Must Haves for Office Handbag



When I had just started working fresh out of college, my friends would joke about my purse being a Santa Bag – if you put your hand inside and really prayed for something, you will never come out with your prayers unanswered. The fact that it was red/maroon in color, did not help my case at all. As much fun as they made of the bag, they would always have to come to me if they needed a sanitizer, or some Vaseline, or for that matter an aspirin.

Welcome to Part III of the Girl Boss Series. In this post, I talk about all the things a working woman should have in her hand-bag, according to me. After all, we spend 30-40% of our weekdays in office! Not that I had a comprehensive list from day 1 at work, but over the years I have learnt more from my mistakes than anything else. The list might seem long, but you don’t have to keep EVERYTHING. You can pick and choose what suits your day and work. Additionally, with so many travel sizes available these days, it has become easier to carry the entire day in your hand bag. Santa bag indeed, eh?

1.     Essentials


Let us talk about the no-brainers first, and set them aside for the rest of the blog
What is in my Office Handbag - Essentials

a.      Battery Pack – When I am traveling to or from work is when I am most active on social media. And my biggest nightmare is to have a low battery. With a battery pack in my bag, the only bottleneck is Mobile Data. Even for that, you now have Reliance JIO :P Forget social media, for someone as bad as me with roads and directions, I always have to be on Google Maps as well, to instruct my cabbie where to drop me off.

b.      Sunglass – More often than not, each of my hand bags have a pair of sunglasses. However, I keep the expensive ones safe in my closet for times when I know I will have maximum sun exposure.

c.      Umbrella – Very important for my fellow Mumbai-kars; you never know when the clouds will leak. One moment it is sunny, and the next moment you might have to reach out for your umbrella. I suggest getting your hands on a light 4 fold one, so that it doesn’t add to the weight of your bag.

d.      Scarf – Don’t we all hate it when the wind dishevels our hair when we are in public transport? I always cover my head when I am out in the roads. A bonus – it can also save the skin from all the pollution and dirt in Indian roads.

 2.       Snacks


“Never say sorry for what you said when you were hungry.” I am sure you have the ‘Snickers’ ad on TV. Cure those hunger pangs with some healthy snacks from your bag, before they start talking in front of your boss or client!
What is in my Office Handbag - Healthy Snacks

a.      Apple – Did you know Apple is a negative calorie fruit? Which means, it uses up more energy to digest than it offers to the body. Such a healthy and non-messy item to carry around too.

b.      Granola Bar – Sometimes I miss my lunch (not a good thing, but what can you do when you are running from one meeting to another). Best to have a granola bar than to stay hungry in such dire times.

c.      Sprouts – Such a healthy option, but it is definitely for the non-lazies. Some days when I am able to plan ahead, I get sprouts to work. Nothing like popping some into your mouth when you need distraction from the monotony of work. You will not even know and will end up having something healthy J

d.     Dry fruits – Another healthy option for between meals. Don’t overdo this though. It is easy to put on weight with too much dry fruits in a day.


3.       From the Pharmacy

What is in my Office Handbag - From the Pharmacy

a.      Sunscreen – Most days, I would put sunscreen under my makeup, and don’t want to reapply in fear of spoiling it and re-doing the entire face again. But I keep one in my bag anyways.

b.     Female hygiene products – It is sad that most corporates in India don’t keep a Pad/tampon dispensing machine in the women’s restroom. And you never know when Aunt Flo would feel like saying Hi! Hence, I usually carry one or two pads/tampons with me always. An extra one just in case someone needs to borrow.

c.      Medicines – Head ache, stomach cramps, cold. May be the pollution in Indian metro-cities is killing my immunity. But I have to pop in some of these pills from time to time. Although, I would say don’t be like me (too many medicines hasn’t done anyone any good), but sometimes, in emergencies, you cannot just help. I just feel a lot more secure when I have these in my bag.

d.     Band Aid – Do you love shoes and heels as much as I do? Then I am sure you are not unaware of shoe bites with new shoes. It is super annoying when you get them while hard at work and all you can think of is how you will get back home at the end of the day. For times like this, throw in 2-3 band aids in your bag!

e.      Sanitizer – Ok I admit, I am super lazy. I don’t feel like going to the rest room every time I want to get my hands clean. I also have this weird habit of using some Sanitizer every time I sneeze. TMI?

f.       Tissues/Wipes – Just, you know, good to have. Especially if the place you order food from, ALWAYS forget to send across napkins. Also, if you are an oily skin girl like me, you would know that the struggle is real. I try to keep some blotting paper to dab my face every now and then, but when I run out of it, some dry napkins/tissue papers work just as well.


4.       Make-up & Beauty

It takes some hard work to not look like a hot mess by the time you are ending your day! Also, my colleagues are too bad at pre-planning after-office gatherings. Some make-up stuff definitely comes in handy to freshen up your look after every few hours. If you haven’t checked out my easy work-appropriate make-up look yet, click here.

What is in my Office Handbag - Make-up

a.      Compact Powder – I have very oily skin, and while I mostly use blotting papers/tissues to soak the oil up, it is good to have a compact handy, if need be.

b.     Lipstick – I think each of my purse has a few lipsticks. Sometimes I forget I own a lipstick, until I find it in one of my bags! When I am feeling like it, or may be have a lot of free time, I would re-do my lips after a meal. But most times I just slather on some tinted lip balm to get some color back. Have you guys ever tried the Maybelline Baby Lips Candy Wow yet? It has a very good pigmentation for a lip balm and leaves the lips smooth and supple at the same time.

c.      Eye liner – With an oily skin person like me, especially if you live in a humid place like Mumbai, make up is always melting. And I hate looking like a raccoon. Who doesn’t? Hence I keep a liner in my bag always.

d.     Hand cream – You know, how there are folks who always remember to moisturize their body after a bath, follow the three step day time and night time routines? Well, let us just say I am a unique. Some days when I am typing on my laptop, I would notice how dry my hands really are, and how I AGAIN forgot to moisturize them before getting out of the house! For times like those, I keep a hand cream in my bag always. And you don’t need to buy a separate product, you could just put in a travel size body moisturizer, or small case of body butter instead.

e.     Face mist – Sitting 8 hours in a day in AC, can make the skin feel very dry. Nothing as refreshing as spraying some mist on the face.  Helps in waking me up quicker than coffee, AND helps extending the make-up wear time. Talk about killing 2 birds with one arrow!

f.       Perfume – Not smelling your best after the long travel to work? Spilled coffee over yourself? Just take out the goddamn travel size perfume and spritz some on you. I have heard, aromatherapy improves concentration as well!


5.       Miscellaneous

What is in my Office Handbag - Water & Miscellaneous Items

a.      Water – I feel, I drink more water when I have it in front of me. And since water adds a lot of weight to the bag, I would usually carry an empty one, and fill it up when I am sitting at my desk. When I see that bottle sitting by the laptop, my hands would automatically reach out to hydrate myself. Also comes in super handy when you are traveling. You can fill the bottle after the security check at the airport, and save yourself the hassle of pressing the button to get an air-hostess’ attention, waiting for what seems like a year, and then eventually giving up. The struggle is real!

b.      Gum/Mint – Aren’t there times when you feel too bored / tired while working continuously for a long time, and you have already had 3 cups of coffee since morning? A mint at such times really helps me break the monotony. And if I am feeling sleepy after lunch, chewing on a gum helps me focus. Not to mention, the fresh breath it gives you!

c.      A Small Note Pad – I like to keep my work notepad at my workplace, but always do keep a small notebook and pen handy in my bag, in case I need to write something down – may be groceries I need to buy on my way home; errands I have to run after work; a new blog idea that just struck me – the list in unending. I am very traditional that way; cannot take notes on my cell phone. So much for being active on digital platforms. But I am trying to improve! :D

d.      Stain eraser – True story: one day during my first year of working, just about 30 minutes before a client meeting, I spilled some tea on my pastel blue blouse. Needless to say, I freaked out! Tried removing it with some water, and then dry out the water patch, finally ended up trying my best to cover it with a Blazer. To save myself from similar embarrassment in future, I did a quick google search on stain erasers to-go. That is when I was introduced to this beautiful world of Tide To-Go Instant Stain Remover Pen. It wasn’t available in India then, so I happened to pick a few up when I was traveling to US, but I see now that it is available on Amazon. At a much higher price than in US though L But nevertheless, I try to keep one in my bag all times.

Well, this was a long list. But if there is anything not in this list that are YOUR absolute must haves, I would love to know about them in the comments below.

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Keep a lookout for my next post on Apr 15!                

Thursday, April 6, 2017

2 Days in Los Angeles - Travel Guide

Santa Monica Pier on a Sunny Day

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear of Los Angeles? Hollywood? Popular TV Series sets? Forrest Gump? Well, I won’t blame you – these are some of the things which symbolize Los Angeles for me too. And after 60 days of debating with myself if dealing with a 6 hour flight and a 3 hour time zone difference is worth just the two days in LA, I thought of finally taking the leap. A picture of my friend having coffee at Central Perk Café (any other die hard F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans?) on my Facebook wall did the trick.

The city has so many diverse attractions points – from beaches (Venice Beach) to architecture, from museums to science related stuff (Griffith Observatory). But with just 2 days (actually, one and half to be practical) in hand, I knew I had to spend each second soaking up the Hollywood vibe of the city. You know, to justify the 6 hour flight and the time zone difference. And that is what I ended up doing indeed! Priorities.

Day 0 – The Day I Landed

I landed in LA late in the night, and as soon as my cab got out of the airport, I was frantically looking for the Hollywood Sign. OK, I admit, I included Day 0 here, ONLY to make the point that the sign is not visible so easily and from any part of the city. Don’t know why I was naïve enough to believe that I should be able to get a glimpse of it on my way to where I was resting the night.

But I did not. It could also be because they put off the lights sometimes and it is hence, not visible in the night time. We got to know of this later in our trip, that folks staying around the area had complained and gotten the lights off, to stop nuisance-creating folks to trek up after light has fallen. So, not just that night, I managed to end my LA trip without having seen the Hollywood Sign at all! It was a big deal and a bit of a bummer from me. But hey! Gives me reason enough to go back someday again!

Nevertheless, the city, with its little hillocks, pretty neighborhoods and fancy shopping stores, charmed me at the first sight itself!

Day 1

I unfortunately lost the first part of the day to work, but in the evening, I, and my friend who I was visiting, we were in for some city vibe, some good food and shopping!

Rodeo Drive – The Hollywood experience HAD to begin with shopping (or just gawking at beautiful things) at Rodeo drive. This is a long stretch of road with luxury shopping and dining destinations. I have been told that mostly celebrities and rich kids shop here. The glam of the place definitely got me – the stores were so beautifully decorated, that I did not dare to go inside one in the fear of leaving shoe dirt on the spic and span floors. Also, because I knew I couldn’t afford anything in there. (But let us just pretend that it wasn’t that big a deal-breaker)
Rodeo Drive - Los Angeles

But what is so special about a shopping street you say? Well except for the fact that if you are lucky, you could watch the rich and the famous shopping at big labels such as Tiffany, Coco Chanel, and Dior, they have this pretty little street going up the intersection of Wilshire and Rodeo. This little corner just took my heart away! It is sort of a parallel street and curves slightly upwards; the lane is cobblestoned – has some eateries and an outdoor café. But most importantly, the architecture is all white and oh so luxurious! The black painted street lamps lining the lane brings back a little bit of Europe into this American city.

Google had told me that evening time is best to visit this place, and see it in its grandeur and all the fancy lighting; however, I wish I could see the actual colors and the beauty of this place in daylight! It is not a very crowded street, but occasionally one would find tourists window shopping and star-spotting in this area.

Beverly Garden Park – This was our next stop, as I wanted to check out the illuminated ‘Beverly Hills’ sign. If you haven’t heard of this place, Beverly Hills is home to many Hollywood stars. I am not sure, but I think I even read Priyanka Chopra having taken a house somewhere here.
Beverly Hills Sign - Beverly Park, Los Angeles
Anyhow, this is a 5 minute walk from the Rodeo Drive and the sign is right at the entrance of the ‘Beverly Garden Park’. Nothing else special here, but I was on a mission to click pictures at all Hollywood-y places across Los Angeles. And while we were driving out of this place, I did see a couple of beautiful houses there in little hillocks. Beautiful is an understatement – with the peaceful neighborhood, the luxurious lawns, and the palm trees lining the streets. <Deep Sigh> God – why so unfair? :P

Hollywood Walk of Fame – This place wasn’t the top of my list – I mean studded stars on the sidewalk with names of stars written on it. How exciting could it be? But the street was supposed to be our dinner point – hence we went anyways. If you have to reach this place, put the Chinese Theater on your navigation app.
Hollywood Walk of Fame - Los Angeles

There is a Chinese theater there, which has become famous only because of the hand and foot prints of stars in the concrete outside of it. Unless one is a crazy fan of one of the stars, and you want to take a picture of his/her star, this place can totally be given a miss! However, the vibe of the place is nice. There are eateries, cafés, and a lot of tourists roaming around.
The Chinese Theater - Los Angeles
Foot And Hand Prints of Hollywood Stars in front of Chinese Theater - Los Angeles

Dolby Theater - While we were there, we happened to check out the Dolby Theater – where the Oscars were held this year. Now THIS place was cool! They have mentioned the best films in Oscars for each year since (I don’t remember from when). And they have placeholders for the upcoming years as well.

The Theater opens into this open Galleria with ice cream parlors and pizzerias. AND, the best part is you can see the Hollywood sign from here!!! IF, you are in daylight that is. This is where we got to know that they have recently started switching off the lights here. May be only I was so excited to see the sign, because my friend told me when he was in LA, the sign was ‘HOL YWOO ‘ instead of ‘HOLLYWOOD’. I again missed seeing the place, since it was dark by now.

But, the good thing that happened was, we spotted a KIKO Milano store in that Galleria – ended up spending an hour there, doing some major damage to the wallet. But one can never have too many lipsticks!

Remember how I said the Hollywood Walk of Fame was our dinner point? Well it turns out we spent more time at KIKO Milano than we should have, because by then most of the restaurants were shutting down. Ended up having McDonalds :P But we had an exciting day 2, to keep us going!

Day 2

We had a really busy day planned ahead of us – and it was all so Hollywood-y, that I couldn’t contain my excitement for the day ahead – Woke up at 7 on a Saturday, despite being a night person, and was up and about by 9!

Santa Monica Pier – This is a beautiful pier, and the warm weather the day we visited, made the trip worth its while. For me, the Huge Carousel they have here is what I identify the place with. This one has been used as a background in innumerable number of Hollywood movies and television series. Pictures tell me that this place looks even better in dusk because of the dusk colors, but we did not have the luxury to stay back till then. Busy day, remember?
Santa Monica Pier - Backdrop for So Many Hollywood Movies

As a big fan of the Forrest Gump movie, the child in me was doing Bhangra by the time I got to this place. They even have a ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp’ there selling Forrest Gump gears and clothes. For all those who do not understand the reference, the restaurant chain was evidently started inspired by the movie by a Viacom subsidiary (one of its other subsidiaries was a distributor of the Movie). The main character of the movie, Forrest Gump got into the shrimping business – hence the relevance.

I will let pictures do the talking for this pier, however might be useful to let you know that this is an expensive place. There are shops selling beach stuff, but the prices are very unlike what you would expect at a street shop. But then, the entire city is home to the rich, so not sure we can blame the prices. I ended up buying a fridge magnet from here, but wasn’t happy with the price at all L
Do You Remember this Part of Santa Monica Pier from Forrest Gump?
Just Another Pne from Santa Monica Pier

But that aside, I could have spent hours sitting at the pier and reading a book perhaps, if we were not running so short on time. We did try to get some lunch at Bubba Gump, but it was crowded AF and the wait time was an hour L

The Neighborhoods around the Pier – You know how they say, the best way to get the vibe of any city is to walk around the streets? I am a firm believer of this, and I love to walk around, trying new cafés, shop at boutiques. Especially in US, since they have proper walkways for pedestrians, where you could walk peacefully without fearing for your life.

The street opposite to the Santa Monica pier entrance is lined with coffee shops and other small eateries – a dainty little road, but abuzz with people nevertheless. Managed to spot this English restaurant (such a score this find was) with a nice outdoor seating. It is called ‘Ye Olde Kingshead’ and has the best éclair I have ever tasted in my life! The chicken pot pie which I ordered for lunch, wasn’t that great though. But the ambience and outdoor seating totally made up for it.
Food Diaries - The Best Chocolate Eclair I have Had in my Life

Our next stop was what I was THE MOST excited about in my entire trip!

Warner Bros Studio – What comes to your mind when you hear of this place? I am a big F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan, and have watched all the episodes at least 5-6 times. So much so, that I know most of the dialogs by now, but I still laugh as hard as I laughed the first time. Needless to say, I HAD to visit the place where the series was shot, and may be buy some cool merchandise or coffee mugs? They even have a replica of ‘Central Perk’. For folks who don’t understand the reference, what are you even doing with your life? :P Please get the first month of free Netflix subscription and watch the series. I am sure you will finish all 10 seasons way before your trial period ends.

Warner Bros. is basically a huge shooting campus where tons of television series and movies are shot daily. They have live sets, innumerable props and backdrops, and gives you a sneak-peak into this world of sets and shootings which most of us as audience are oblivious to. Some of the live sets (for which shooting is still ongoing) here of my favorite shows are The Big Bang Theory, Full House and Fuller House, Shameless (ok confession – I started watching this only after so many references in this tour, and am totally hooked onto it right now).
Set of a Coffee Shop in Warner Bros. Studio - Los Angeles

You can pre-buy tickets for a 2 hour trip at Warner Bros. They cost approximately $ 62 per adult, and you can select a slot that works best for you. Once there, everyone is grouped into groups of 6-8 and each group has a tour guide to take you around the whole campus in those extended golf cart type rides, for the lack of a better word for it. It is a huge campus, and 2 hours is definitely not enough to go through the entire place, but you will get to see the highlights and get enough flavor of some of your favorite shows.
Set of the White House at Warner Bros., Los Angeles

The Inside of the White House Set - Guess who is Acting President Tonight :)

Tip – they say no two Warner Bros. tour is the same; each one depends on your tour guide, and your fellow tourists. So be very vocal about the sets and places you want to see, and the tour guide will make sure they take you there. In fact they will ask you at the beginning of the tour what some of your favorite Warner Bros. shows are. If you are indifferent though, just go with a flow, and you will be able to see Harry Potter costumes, Batman and Superman cars and costumes, and a ton of other interesting stuff amongst others.
The Trolley Car - Our Ride for Warner Bros. Studio, Los Angeles

What I found most interesting was how a camera can trick you into believing things. For instance, they have a Coffee House Façade in there – it is just a one-dimensional wall with a door in it. It is evidently used in many shows to shoot scenes where the actor is opening the door knob to get in. Once you get in, of course you hit the wall, since it is one-dimensional. The illusions that a camera can give you are surreal!
Dobby - The Actual One Used in Harry Potter Shoots

Throughout the tour, we were given references to episodes of popular TV shows, and they also got us into a full set tour. Our group chose for ‘The Big Bang Theory’ one. Let me spend some time explaining what we learnt here. Also, unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed in the live sets, hence I will have to try and explain as best as I can in words.

Once we got in, what hit our eyes, was a huge amphitheater kind of a thing, with tiered seating areas and the actual set (Sheldon’s favorite couch, the kitchen, the bedroom) in front. Turns out, the group takes 5 days to shoot one episode for the week – they shoot Mon-Fri. They also have a live audience sitting in the seating areas, and while the actors are acting, the writers take cues from the reactions of the live audience. Accordingly, if they feel something is not appropriate, something is not funny enough, they would modify the lines. Ain’t it cool?

At the end of the tour, they dropped us at the ‘Central Perk Café’. It is an actual functioning coffee shop run by Starbucks, and I was literally dying seeing the words written on the Glass door! They also have a replica of the coffee shop set where folks get themselves clicked.
The Central Per Cafe - I was Dying Seeing This in Front of my Eyes!
Yeah Yeah, We Miss No Chance to Pose - And This One Was Special. The Central Perk Set Replica at Warner Bros. Studio, Los Angeles

The Warner Bros. Studio tour definitely ended on a high and after clicking loads of pictures, we headed to our next, and last stop for the LA trip – the Universal Studios Citywalk.

Universal Studios Citywalk – Universal Studios is a grand theme park with loads of roller coasters and 3D rides. This itself can take up one full day, if you haven’t been to a Universal Studios in one of the other locations. All Harry Potter fans out there, this place will make you go crazy! For me however, I had been to the one in Orlando already, and hence had not budgeted a day to spend inside the theme park.

Read my Universal Adventures in Orlando here.

Finally Managed to Get Some Shrimps at the Bubba Gup Shrimp in Universal Citywalk, Los Angeles

However, there is a colorful lighted and vibrant road leading up to the theme park’s entrance and is free for tourists to go around the place. They have so many shops, coffee shops, and eateries out here. The place was vibrant no wonder, but too crowded for my taste. However, I did manage to do some damage to the wallet by picking up a few things from Lush (I am so bummed that we do not get Lush in India anymoreL) before heading for dinner.

Oh, and we finally managed to get some shrimps at Bubba Gump (they had an outlet here as well). The dinner made the trip to City walk more than worth it! Are you slurping yet looking at the pictures below?


Overall, the LA trip was a really fun one and I did manage to go around seeing all the Hollywood-y places in 2 days. There are some other places around the city on my next visit here, whenever that happens, and the Venice Beach and the Boardwalk leading to the beach tops the list! Hope you had fun reading this post, and find some of it useful as well.

Read some of my previous Travel Blogs here:

Also, if you are interested in some laughs, head here     


As always, thanks for reading, and drop in a comment if you like what you read. Connecting with like-minded people is what keeps me going!

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