Face Haus

Los Angelenos and Los Angelenas, we need to talk about something. Disclaimer: this post is NOT even sponsored.

Face Haus, a self-proclaimed “massage bar” located in Studio City and West Hollywood, is a gift to humanity. A friend of mine gave me a gift card to this place for my birthday last year and somehow I didn’t use it until today. When I got the gift card, I had never heard of Face Haus, but I’m always excited about getting facials. I finally decided to get my last year’s birthday facial at the Studio City location to treat myself for finishing school.

First of all, this store is so cute. There are encouraging neon signs on the walls and the coolest hanging chairs I’ve ever seen.

Also, the facial felt great on my skin. I got The Haus Special, which is meant to hydrate the skin and is great for special events where you’ll be wearing makeup like my graduation on Friday. My facialist started by exfoliating my face with this cream that smelled like a blend of coconut and shea butter and then applied some moisturizing cream. My face was so dry that the cream stung badly. After a couple rounds of moisturizing, extractions were performed. This was an add-on to the Haus Special, but definitely worth it. Extractions hurt a little, especially when done on the lower cheek (at least for me), but they are so good for unclogging your pores. After the extraction, my face was moisturized a couple more times and then my facialist misted my face and put this really cold gel on it. The cold is meant to close your pores, but it is also incredibly relaxing. She used what I’m guessing is ice to massage the gel into my face, washed my face with cool water, and then gave me a face massage for a couple minutes. My skin feels so rejuvenated and certainly graduation-ready after that facial.

The prices are the best part. At only $55 per each facial, Face Haus makes skincare affordable and easy. My facial was about an hour long probably because of the extractions, but the express facials are only supposed to be 40 minutes. I’m not going to explain the facials I didn’t get, so Google Face Haus menu if you’re interested. At the end, my facialist referred me to some products personalized for my skin and gave me a “prescription” on how to keep my skin healthy in the next week.

There were two things I didn’t like. One, the Studio City location is pretty loud and they don’t really make an effort to keep it quiet. Two, it’s really bright, which makes it harder to relax when you close your eyes. I think this is just because Face Haus is more like a hair salon for facials rather than a spa. For quick skincare help, this place is legit heaven on Earth. However, if you want something more calming, you might prefer a spa and an eyemask. Seriously though, this place is worth your time. If you’re a Los Angeleno/a or just visiting, check it out.

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The Great Ocean Road

After flying into this tiny airport I forget the name of outside of Melbourne, we rented a car and began driving on the Great Ocean Road. Still, in my airplane clothes from Sydney (a hoodie and matching sweatpants), the first thing I noticed was the heat. I wasn’t even that far from rainy Sydney, but wow Victoria was a lot hotter.

We drove for an hour or so until reaching a golf course where kangaroos are allowed to roam free. Yes. Kangaroos. Running around on a golf course. To everyone who’s not an Aussie, it’s as weird as is sounds, but also one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The kangas were smaller than I thought they’d be, but they were absolutely adorable, and the ones on the golf course were pretty accustomed to humans. I was able to get super close to some of them, but of course, didn’t touch any of them (that comes later).

We got back in the car and ate at this place called Airey’s Pub, where I got the best mushroom burger I’ve ever had. This place is super off-the-beaten path, and there was horseback riding nearby, so we took my sister to go pony riding. Next was Aireys Inlet, which is a gorgeous beach near the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. Aireys also has a really pretty lighthouse.

Knowing the Great Ocean Road has a lot of wildlife, I went to look for koalas in nearby eucalyptus trees. No one thought we were going to see any, but I ended up spotting one high up in a tree. Too bad it was so high we could barely see it. We checked a camping area next and saw a crowd huddled around a tree. Another koala was up there, but still too high to see clearly. So I decided to search for a bathroom in the large campground. The bathroom was at the end of a hall of tents and the area between where my parents were and where I was lined with trees. In my periphery, I saw another small group under a short tree. I slowly walked over to check out what they were looking at and couldn’t believe my eyes. A koala was literally eye-level in front of me, on the lowest branch of the tree. I ran screaming back to my family and they were all scared something was wrong before I dragged them back to the now crowdless tree with the koala.

The little koala was sleeping in the tree, hugging the trunk with its claws and furry arms. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Ever. Of course, I took lots of pictures and video footage of the koala, but I think I must have sat there staring at it for at least an hour. When it woke up, I could see its little eyes and how it slowly adjusted its position. My mom practically had to pull me away from that tree, but I finally left and went to Apollo Bay for the night.

Apollo Bay was a cute little town right on the ocean. We stayed the night in an Airbnb apartment, but the owner didn’t leave us a key so my sister and I sang Moana for two hours while waiting. There are some shops around the town and the restaurants weren’t bad. Overall, I didn’t spend much time there so I can’t really judge.

Next morning we were on the road again. This time we started with a walk in the rainforest, which looked straight out of Jurassic Park. Unfortunately, the only animal we saw was a cockroach. Same day I went to Otway Fly Tree Top Walk. The Tree Top Walk is basically a long metal platform you can walk on. The platform is level with the tree tops, so when you walk you can see the whole rainforest below your feet. There’s also a tower you can walk up to get a better view and it looks exactly like the one from Tangled but with stairs which I tripped down.

That night, we stayed in a house literally in the middle of nowhere and the house/the area around it had no wifi. It was strange to be offline, but I managed to save my snap streaks during dinner in a nearby town. When we left the next morning after a “home”-cooked meal, I was kinda upset to get back online.

That morning, we drove to the Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge, which are amazing natural structures on the coast. Took a lot of pics there of course and then we went on to Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road is such a must for any visitors to Oz who like wildlife. Although you might not see koalas as up close as I did, even seeing them from a distance was awesome. From the Jurassic Park rainforests to the golf course kangaroos, the Great Ocean Road was a fantastic break from the city.

Sydney (Part 1)

School got out for Spring Break at 3:10 on Friday. Only seven hours later, I was on a 13-hour flight to Sydney, Australia with my parents, my brother, and my sister. I sat by the window so I could take Hyperlapse videos of landing in Sydney the following day and slept most of the flight. I dreaded the long flight, but it turned out to be much smoother than I expected. Okay, so it wasn’t literally smooth because there was a lot of turbulence over Hawaii and the Pacific, but for whatever reason I enjoy turbulence. Whenever the pilot announces turbulence and whenever I hear the ding of the seatbelt light turning on just before the flight gets rocky, I feel calm. To me, turbulence is not only fun, but it also rocks me to sleep. So yeah, I slept a lot that flight.

The only problem was that my brother and I were seated next to this guy whom I had to climb over every time I went to the bathroom and who piled his trash on the floor in front of him. In fact, I even slipped over his trash pile when I got up to see my sister mid-flight.

I woke up about two hours before landing and read a book until getting to Sydney. The Customs line was extremely long and when we got out, my dad spent an hour trying to buy a SIM card, so my mom, brother, sister, and I went to get some coffee. This was my first taste of the Australian chai tea lattes, which (trust me) are different than the ones I get in LA. They’re a thousand times better. I guess it’s that they’re sweeter, but if any of you know why the Aussie chai lattes are better, please DM me on Instagram or write a comment explaining it because I don’t know how long I can last without it in LA.

Finally, we got out of the airport and waited in yet another long line to get a cab. I found out Aussies drive on the left side of the road as our driver took us to the Intercontinental right on Sydney Harbour. It’s a beautiful hotel with amazing service, comfy beds, and it’s in a fantastic location. Only a six or seven-minute walk away is the world-famous Opera House. Walk out the door and down a short hill and the Harbour Bridge is right in front of your eyes. Like every new location, it was surreal to be there at first. The Opera House, which I had seen so many times in photos, was staring me in the face. Sydney was a gorgeous city.

The problem was that the whole (first) time I was there, it rained. Hard. I was definitely unprepared for the weather. I packed a lot of bathing suits and tank tops, expecting Oz to be hot, as their summer has just ended. Nope. It was a lot colder than I expected. It was okay though because the cold was just an excuse for me to get more chai lattes. So the first day, we just explored Sydney and walked around Circular Quay and The Rocks.

The second day began with a trip to the Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney, which was a highlight because I love aquariums. Of course, it wasn’t Barcelona, where I got to dive with sharks, but it was still pretty amazing. From penguins to dugongs, that aquarium has it all. The aquarium is divided into different attractions. My favorite one was where we got to ride a Small World from Disneyland-type boat through the penguin exhibit. We watched penguins being fed and I even got to stand right next to one (ignore the fact that there was a glass wall between us). We ate lunch at the Queen Victoria Building and explored Sydney’s CBD, then went up the Westfield Tower to get a better view of the city. My dad and I were so close to doing the Tower’s skywalk, which is where you get to walk outside the building with the city below you. The day didn’t end there. I walked through Hyde Park with my sister and father and remembered the sacrifices soldiers make to keep the world free every day at the ANZAC Memorial. Finally, we went to Chinatown for dinner and I got boba (my fave drink) in Sydney.

I spent the next day at Taronga Zoo where I saw lemurs up close and watched a Tasmanian devil being fed*. Tasmanian devils have always been some of my favorite animals and I was really excited to see them. Taronga is on the opposite side of Sydney Harbour than the Circular Quay, so you have to take a boat to get there. I can’t imagine using ferries as a form of public transport or taking a ferry every time I wanted to go to the LA Zoo. After the ferry, you can take a gondola, bus, or a hike to the entrance of the zoo. My family took the gondola for a better view of the city. Seeing elephants in the foreground with the Sydney skyline in the back was pretty unreal. The zoo is divided into different sections for different animals, so there were different areas for various regions. The animals there were interesting and unique and, aside from the tassie, we saw a lot of other animals being fed also. Later that night, my family met up with my uncle who lives in Sydney at a nice Italian restaurant outside of Luna Park called Ripples. It was really good and seeing my uncle was amazing too! It’s pretty cool to know people from Poland to Australia.

I spent the final day in Sydney at Manly Beach, which is a beach (obviously) surrounded by a cute shopping strip and town. The beach was nice, but my dad lost his phone and we didn’t stay for too long. I shopped at Sportsgirl and got a denim skirt and a white shirt with a lightning bolt on it. The denim there was actually pretty nice considering the prices were pretty good. One of the things I really liked about Sydney was the setup. The area around my hotel had the Circular Quay, The Rocks, and the CBD/Queen Victoria Building, but just across the bay, Sydney looks more like the isolated beach of Yelapa near Puerto Vallarta in México. Manly and Bondi felt like completely different cities, even though they’re under an hour from the CBD.

Sydney has it all. From interesting museums to great shopping to delicious restaurants, there’s truly something for everyone in that city. And if you ever get tired of the city itself, you can easily (and cheaply) hop on a ferry and take a weekend trip to a suburb like Manly where you feel like you’re not even in a city at all.

Still, if you really want to experience unrestricted nature and being away from most hallmarks of modern society, we’re going to have to talk about the Great Ocean Road. But I’ll leave my stories about koalas and no wifi to the next post.

*Tasmanian devils are actually at risk of extinction due to a very contagious facial cancer which has ravaged native devil populations. They are adorable and very intelligent animals, and with humanity’s help, we can prevent tassies from going extinct. To learn more about these animals, please visit Devil Island Project and to donate to this cause, click here.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and to commemorate, I want to talk about my experience at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

The “march” (I put it in quotes because it was so crowded no one could walk” was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. Especially compared to the inauguration the day earlier, the energy at the march was overwhelmingly positive. I went up to numerous men and women I had never met before and by the end of our conversation, we were following each other on Instagram and Snapchat.

The positive energy is especially a surprise considering that I spent most of my time next to pro-life protestors yelling about how abortion goes against the Bible and how women belong in the kitchen. I actually ended up interviewing one of the protesters and cross-examining him to the point where he admitted that abortion is actually never mentioned in the Bible. I tried not to get heated, but ended up in a screaming match when one of the protesters asked me if I had “done my civil duty and procreated.” I told them my age and they responded that I should at least be married by now. The women marching tried everything from dancing to turning their backs on the protesters. At one point, I was standing next to a self-proclaimed hippie with long hair and a ton of photography equipment while he twerked on a protester. The protester asked where the real men were and I pointed to the hippie and said they’re right here at the march.

My favorite moment was when security let me stand on some kind of heater to take photos. A guy around my age and I were suddenly inside the circle of protesters standing above the sea of people surrounding us. I danced on the oversized green box and riled up the crowd.

This was one of the first times in my life I witnessed history being made and was an active participant in it. Women all around the world, especially in developing countries, deal with income inequality, persecution, sexual assaults, and lack of resources for their health every single minute. It’s time to change this inequality and discrimination. Feminism should in no regard mean women are better than men, but we deserve to be equal. As human beings, we deserve equal pay, equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal safety. Furthermore, increasing educational  and birth control opportunities for women worldwide

Furthermore, increasing educational and birth control opportunities for women worldwide is good for society and the environment. It’s proven that more education reduces the total fertility rate (how many children a woman has), which in turn controls our growing population. Overpopulation is an environmental and a social issue we will have to deal with in the coming century. How can we make strides in bringing down our population growth rate? Education and empowerment for women. If we fast track schools in countries where the total fertility rate is really high, the world’s population could be 8.8 billion in 2050 as opposed to the current estimate of 9.9 billion.

Women’s empowerment will benefit each and every person on Earth. It’s necessary to protect our environment, our future, our society, and our humanity. My sister deserves to grow up in a safe environment where she will be treated as an equal to her male counterparts, and I feel more empowered than ever to fight to guarantee this future for all little girls. I hope some of my photos from the march inspire you as much as the event inspired me.

Trump’s Inauguration

I try to be as bipartisan as possible here at À l’Ouest du Monde, but I have to clarify that I am not a Trump supporter and was overall not a big fan of this election. I signed up to go to D.C. before Trump was elected, and decided that going to see the inauguration was still worth it even though I did not support the candidate. I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I wasn’t about to miss out.

And a once-in-a-lifetime experience it was. I threw on my most patriotic outfit- a striped long-sleeve shirt from Armor-Lux and a Calvin Klein red rain jacket- and headed out with my group to the National Mall. About two hours before Trump’s swearing in, the Mall is already bustling with excited Trump supporters from all over the country. In fact, that was probably one of the coolest parts about the inauguration. I met people from all walks of life, all over the country, and even from all over the world. The first person to tell me he didn’t like Trump was actually a young boy from London sitting on his father’s shoulders.

My friends and quickly pushed our way to the front of the Silver Section, and although we were not able to clearly see the people at the Capitol building, we watched the inauguration on huge screens positioned at the front of each section. As the important political figures stepped out onto the Capitol balcony, the crowd went wild, screaming for each Republican and booing most of the Democrats. You should’ve seen (and heard) the crowd when Hillary walked out.

Mike Pence was sworn in first, and it was almost surreal to know that, less than a week earlier, I shook the exact hand he held up to get sworn in and talked to him. And now he was the Vice President of the United States.

Trump himself was sworn in next and gave his extremely populist speech afterward. The speech echoed the likes of Nasser in the sense that Trump appealed to the masses and discussed giving power back to the people. The speech itself was invigorating, electrifying even. The crowd stood still, quiet for the first time in the entire inauguration, and stared in awe at our new leader.

The speech was followed by a short prayer service as well as the singing of the national anthem by Jackie Evancho. My group decided to beat the crowds and leave during the prayer service. I had the opportunity to interview some really cool Americans on my way out of the Silver Section, so I’ll include some pictures from those.

Overall, no matter who you hoped would win the presidential race, an inauguration is a historic event that I’m happy I was able to see. Being a teenager from Los Angeles, I hear mostly extremely liberal opinions. I’m definitely one of the people who wondered what “the other America” was like after Trump won, and going to the inauguration allowed me to meet this other America. It was essentially a wake-up call that the neoliberals I encounter from Los Angeles are not the only Americans out there. We are one country and have the same end goal of doing what’s best for America’s future. These people at the inauguration, no matter what their views were, were fun to talk to and amazing people to meet.

D.C. Day 1

With my Sony camera around my neck, I began my first day in D.C. by eating breakfast looking over the Potomac River and the D.C. skyline. Today is Martin Luther King Day, so I devoted my morning to walking around The Mall and seeing the monuments. I was in D.C. not too long ago (in June before going to Barcelona), and, although it’s only been six months, D.C. is a completely different scene. With less than a week to go until the inauguration, D.C. is bustling with people setting up. We almost couldn’t get up the Lincoln Memorial due to construction right in front of it. We were actually not allowed to leave the monument for 15 minutes, but as soon as we were allowed out, I fell down those huge marble steps (typical).

Being MLK Day, I had to stop at the Martin Luther King Memorial. It’s a massive and amazing dedication to MLK carved in stone, although it’s not entirely finished because the fight for civil rights is not over yet. Completely coincidentally, our next vice president, Mike Pence, showed up to honor the legacy of Dr. King with a visit to the memorial. Although it seemed fairly ironic that Mr. Pence was commemorating the Civil Rights Movement, I was and still am in awe that I got to see him, shake his hand twice, and even tell him that I am here from L.A. to see the inauguration. He responded by thanking me for coming to D.C. for his and Trump’s inauguration.

Dr. King’s values live on today in many of us. The struggle for freedom and justice will always be pertinent to our society and today I was reminded not only by MLK but also by the World War II, the Korean, and the Vietnam War Memorials that liberty comes at a large cost.

Looking Ahead to 2017

My family welcomed the New Year in Las Vegas, Nevada this year by watching Beatles Love at the Mirage, with an amazing Italian dinner from Zefferino in the Venetian, a nighttime gondola ride, and finally watching fireworks from our suite in the Palazzo. The trip to Vegas and Utah, which I am currently writing a post about, was my last trip of 2016, a year full of travel and change for me. I’ve already got high hopes for 2017, which will be another year packed with amazing trips and opportunities.

In just a couple weeks, I will be in Washington D.C. for the historic inauguration of Donald Trump. Despite all the outrage about his victory, I’m super excited for this experience as I love politics and have always wanted to see a new president get sworn in. Although the main purpose of this trip is to watch the inauguration, I will also be visiting Arlington National Cemetery, the Supreme Court, and many other amazing sites. This is my third trip to D.C. in the past year, and I have some exciting D.C.-related news to share with you as soon as I can.

In February, I’ll be back in Vegas for Presidents’ Day weekend just to visit. This trip will be different from the one I just returned from as I’ll be staying off the strip and will hopefully get to see parts of Vegas that most tourists don’t go to.

For my spring break trip, I’m headed down south to Australia. This is a trip I am insanely excited for. I’m flying into Sydney, but other than that, I don’t have a set itinerary. If any of you have tips for visiting Australia, send me an email or DM me on Instagram. I would love to hear from you!

I have no plans for summer yet, but there’s a high probability I’ll be living abroad once again in one of my two favorite cities. A lot of you know that I am currently finishing up my last year of high school, so by the end of this year, I’ll have a new home. I’m not going to tell you guys what college I’m going to yet, but I will say that it is on the East Coast and that I am so excited for this chapter of my life.

I can’t wait to expand À l’Ouest du Monde more than ever this year and already have a couple new projects in the works. Happy New Year everyone and thank you all so much for your support throughout 2016.