Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three Indulgences

The Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is the famous outdoor pedestrian street literally three streets from the beach (hence the name Third Street), that nearly every tourist has heard of either from a resident or another tourist. What used to be a run down extension of the mall at one end (Santa Monica Place, presently closed as it undergoes an extensive renovation), has developed into a major draw on week-ends and summer nights, with musicians, artists, and cart vendors making it feel like an outdoor carnival. There are over 30 blocks in this neighborhood, so today I'll focus on three decadent places, all within walking distance of each other, each one with a distinct flavor.

Is it decadent to indulge in beauty? Every woman likes to feel pretty, but sometimes we need some help becoming beautiful. Whether it is applying an eye cream, make-up, or perfume, all of us perform some beauty ritual, even if it is as simple as taking a bubble bath with fragrant bath salts. By now everyone has heard of Sephora, been to one, shopped with them online, or a combination of all three. One of the first to open in Southern California was the branch on the Third Street Promenade. You can try out a new look or new colors, or if your timing is good, they may be demonstrating a line of products with make up artists who will give you a professional makeover. Even if all you indulge in is spritzing on a scent you like, just do it!

About one block away, directly across from Santa Monica Place, is Cafe Crepe which offers a French Cafe atmosphere, with huge advertising posters from the Folies Bergere or Perrier on the walls. Crepes may not be decadent (unless you are watching your carb or sugar intake), but this used to be a bar, so you can order a drink in addition to every combination of crepe you can think of from savory spinach with feta, a ham and cheese, or a sweet nutella with banana and whipped cream. The best kept secret to tourists is that the drinks here are the least expensive in Los Angeles for quality brands. Because this was a bar, the people who bought and transformed the place into a crepe cafe got the bar stocked with alcohol for a steal. A name brand mixed drink costs about $4, just slightly more than a soda; this is actually how pricing works for wine in French restaurants in France (since wine is considered a necessary part of lunch and dinner), but I have never seen this kind of pricing here in the US except at Cafe Crepe. If you really want to be decadent, go for one of their XO cognacs (which cost a third of what they would cost anywhere else). It is actually less expensive to get a drink here than to buy a mini airline size bottle!

After indulging in beauty, crepes, and some alcohol, why not complete the day with a fine cigar? Smoking has got the be the most decadent habit in California. Santa Monica is notorious for their strict ban on smoking in all public places, including on the sidewalk within 200 feet of a storefront. But for those of us who wish to indulge in this stinky habit outside of our homes (only the insane smoke cigars inside their homes), there is a haven where cigars can be legally puffed in a private smoking room. Santa Monica Tabacco has a huge walk in humidor with every flavor, size, and accessory a cigar smoker could desire; whether you are looking for the perfect lighter, cigar punch, or a humidor, they have it here. The smoking room makes me feels like I'm in a speakeasy during the days of prohibition; it's a secret place to indulge in a vice, but those who know the location go regularly.

Three decadent indulgences, what will be the fourth?

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