California: living like a local

For this break, California may not have been the Japan or Egypt on my bucket list, but I think I had more of a good time there than I would’ve outside of the United States.

It didn’t take much to be prepared for the trip, we packed, booked a hotel and checked for flights the night before, allowing me time to attend my friend’s sweet 16 birthday party, even though we had to the leave the next day.

The day of, we left early in the morning, dropped my kitten off on the way, and were off to a three hour flight to Santa Ana, Orange County. Walking into the airport, I was hit by the memories from my trip to California a few of months before, which, as can be told by my “Plane CATastrophe” entry, was something I wouldn’t be able to forget.

But this time, instead of worrying about Simba, I thought I’d try new things and really enjoy my time. So, after retrieving our luggage, I hopped down to Starbucks and tried the iced coffee to drink outside in the midst of palm trees for an aesthetic feel.

After checking into our hotel, it was time for dinner. The moment we set our stuff down we went back out to Mas’, a restaurant we have been going to for more than 11 years. It was a family-owned restaurant so when we’d visit we’d see the family grow and get older as our’s had too. There we ordered our usual corn soup, fried rice and orange beef, and let me tell you, it tasted delicious and no one should miss out.

Since California is like a second home to us, we not only knew the best places to eat, but also the best places to shop. There’s a strip mall, which I keep forgetting the name of, about 15 minutes away from the Chinese restaurant we’ve been visited every time as well. My mom and I went to our usual sections and perused through the racks for things to take back home.

Me drinking hot chocolate Downtown Disneyland in front of some of the many Christmas decorations there.
Me drinking hot chocolate Downtown Disneyland in front of some of the many Christmas decorations there.

From the time we got into the restaurant to when we finished shopping, it never really felt like we left Dallas. The moment we were done, I thought about calling my friends to go catch a movie later and then to my house. I didn’t snap out of this illusion until my parents began talking about going to Disneyland to catch the fireworks.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the show. But, it was really nice walking around Downtown Disneyland while listening to the street performers, appreciating the Christmas decorations, and sipping hot chocolate in the pleasantly cold weather. 

On our first full day in California, we planned to go out of the Santa Ana area, to the beaches and cities in proximity to Santa Monica pier. As expected, the beaches were beautiful and standing on top of the pier, watching the waves felt good. But, my favorite part was visiting Koreatown and trying out the popular Dragon’s Breath dessert at Chocolate Chair.

The Dragon's Breath dessert I tried at Chocolate Chair. It was so cold that I couldn't hold it that long, otherwise I'd get a cold burn.
The Dragon’s Breath dessert I tried at Chocolate Chair. It was so cold that I couldn’t hold it that long, otherwise I’d get a cold burn.

The Dragon’s Breath dessert is basically cereal balls served in liquid nitrogen, so when you’d bite into it, smoke would come out of your mouth and nose. It wasn’t really like a filling dessert, it was more like a fun candy that you’d probably want to try once in your life. Even then, I really enjoyed putting the crackling dessert into my mouth and then being surrounded by the cool smoke that’d erupt through each bite.

Now it was time to eat some real food, so we drove back to Santa Ana and found a Syrian restaurant called Aleppo’s Kitchen. Upon looking at the huge serving sizes per each dish, I knew that more than half of it was going to need To-Go boxes. But, the food was so pleasing and delectable that there was no need. My favorite was the shawarma platter which was served with strips of beef, rice, salad and of course, hummus. If I could, I would definitely order extra to bring back home and enjoy, but for the sake of time, we had to finish up quickly.

To me, this trip was more of a chance to explore another place I call home. I enjoyed continuing past traditions while creating new ones to look forward to. California may not have been the exotic international location I was interested to discover, but I enjoyed the fact that this trip was more relaxing compared to a hectic trip trying to understand the foreign ways of another country.