This past Monday was the first time in my three-and-nearly-a-half years at UCLA that I had visited The Grove in Beverly Hills during the holiday season.  Before, I had only heard of it and never had the chance to actually see it in all its splendor during the time of year that it is decked out in Christmas decor.  No matter how much my friends tried to convince me, though, I seemed to have never found time to explore that corner of Beverly Hills.  That is, until now.

My life was changed Monday night (if not my life, at least my week) when my roommates hijacked our dinner plans for Persian food down Westwood Blvd and steered it towards Beverly Hills instead.  Apparently, the gourmet burger joint named Umami Burger that had been attributed legendary status amongst my friends has their 14th branch in The Grove, and we decided it was imperative that we went there to try it (despite that Umami had just opened a branch in Westwood which, my roommate swore in retrospect, is not as good as the one at The Grove).

Thus began our journey across Wilshire, and by the time we arrived at Umami and placed our orders, we were absolutely famished.  I’m not sure whether it was the first few bites into the buttery but fresh medium-rare patty, or the follow-up of their crisp sweet potato fries, or the novelty of having a shiitake mushroom in a burger… but it has certainly found a very special place in my heart (and stomach).

The rest of the evening was spent wandering up and down 1st Street (The Grove’s mini main street) and admiring all the work that was put into bringing so much Christmas spirit to a tiny corner in LA.  If other shopping centers think having a Santa’s Workshop is enough, try a suspended sleigh strung high across the plaza, complete with Santa himself, his presents, and reindeer mid-flight.  I’ve always stopped at decorations, but The Grove had a 100-foot tree and made it snow at 8pm (granted, it wasn’t actual snow, but the clumps of bubbles that floated down from the heavens and got lodged in our hair in a snow-like fashion were real enough for me).

It was a wonderful evening of good food and holiday cheer (although it always beats me why holiday decorations are thrown up before Thanksgiving is over, but I don’t mind).  Our fall weather has been slightly more temperamental this year, with fluctuations between gloomy days of 18-20°C (what my friends tell me is mid-60s in Fahrenheit) and warm weeks of close to 30°C (mid-80s F).  It’s as though summer is reluctant to leave its grip and give way to fall, and when it succeeds, we have days warm enough for shorts and sundresses in the middle of October.  As always, I can’t complain, since having spent most of my life in the tropics I appreciate warm weather that isn’t humid beyond disbelief.  Sadly, I will be out of town this weekend when it’s forecasted to be warm again, but experiencing the winter chill in neighboring Canada will be a nice change.