Our Temporary Abode: Hotel Royal
Our budget for this mini vacation was small so luxury hotels were out of a question. We wanted to spend no more than $130 a night, and that didn't yield many promising search results on TripAdvisor. Places like Motel 6, Travelodge, Bedbug-infested Lodge and Ramshackle Inn came up a lot, but we kept searching for something that would fit both our budget and standards. Then we found Hotel Royal.
Choosing this affordable European-style pension over charmless chain motels turned out to be a wise decision. Our room was just about as big as a boat cabin, but the tastefully vibrant decor made up for its modest size. The whole place was so extraordinarily clean bedbugs and cockroaches would drop dead from shame if they ever gained access to the building. There was no complimentary breakfast, but free cookies were available all day long. And of course, there was no room service, but it took less than ten minutes to walk to a myriad of restaurants. What else did we love about it? Orthopedic mattresses. In-room Starbucks coffee. Free parking. Cute bikes to borrow free of charge. Oh and that sweet receptionist who asked me where we lived, and upon learning we were from Sacramento, attempted to compliment our city, "Sacramento? Nice. It has so many......trees!"
It might sound like a poorly made-up German last name, but "Chorizowich" was actually a delectable breakfast I had at Sweet Dixie Kitchen, five minutes walk from Hotel Royal. Not a tantalizing culinary innovation by any means. Just chorizo scrambled eggs stuffed between two superbly baked jalapeno biscuits, which altogether tasted like unbridled joy of sinless infants. Perhaps psychiatrists should prescribe this for their depressed patients to eat three times a day along with three slabs of bacon, three cups of latte, and three types of cholesterol medication.
Rosie's Dog Beach
We spent our morning at the dog beach after breakfast, just ambling around with our imaginary Beagle puppies, watching happy dogs frolicking on wet sand, wishing our apartment in Sacramento would allow pets. We sound kind of like pedophiles who love to linger near public playgrounds and leer at other people's kids, don't we? Well, I swear we're not dog molesters! We went there with no lascivious intention in mind. And unlike creepy pedophiles, we weren't at all discreet about our admiration. We adoringly gazed at the dogs, said hi to some of the owners, and blurted out "awwwwww" several times, a bit more loudly than we meant to.
Here we snooped around overpriced souvenir shops, showed great interest in their artistic merchandise, then left empty handed. (Yes, we did feel slightly guilty for giving those store owners false hope.) Then we took a stroll along the harbor, witnessed the majestic beauty of the anchored Queen Mary, and got quite amazed by how people expressed their creativity when it came to naming their boats. We came across quite a few catchy monikers, but my favorites of all were Reel Deal, Pasta Too and Sushi Hunter. And then before I could burn off the calories from the decadent Chorizowich, I refueled my body with a giant funnelcake topped with a truckload of powdered sugar and whipped cream.
El Dorado Nature Center
What did we do after two fat-laden meals? We hiked. At El Dorado Nature Center, we were offered options of a 2-mile trail, a 1-mile trail, and a paved 1/4-mile walkway. As repenting gluttons, we completed all three briskly and purposefully (burn, calories, burn!). Along our hike, we noticed several "attention" signs addressed to turtles, ducks and squirrels instead of visitors. Oh what great wisdom I learned from this. Give up on mankind and have more faith in animals. Yes, that is my new life mantra!
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
This little garden is located on the campus of CSU Long Beach. Admission was free, and we only had to pay a few dollars for parking, plus 25 cents for fish food to feed those koi in the massive pond. Judging from their sizes, I assumed they'd been generously fed, possibly multiple times a day. They probably weren't very hungry but seemed to enjoy the food anyway, as if eating was a sacred ritual they held dear. Upon that realization, I suddenly felt a strong kinship between those fish and myself. It was a truly magical moment.
After returning to the hotel and letting our tired legs rest for a while, it was time for dinner. We went to Pier 76 Fish Grill to have a healthy meal and erase the guilt of what we'd devoured earlier. And they didn't let us down. Our dinner was as palatable as it was nutritious. That gorgeous trout on my plate had been carefully deboned, beautifully butterflied, grilled to perfection, and bathed in tastebud-awakening honey-mustard sauce. Yeah, it died for my happiness, but it will forever live on in my heart.