I'VE BEEN to the Grove in Los Angeles before, a long time ago when I was a freshman. It's an upscale outdoor shopping center that has events every week and supposedly lights up at night, literally, with thousands of glowing lights--or maybe that is just at Christmastime. In short, it's a place of bustling activity, located in an area that is anything but typical--surrounding it is Wilshire boulevard on one side, where Museum Square and office buildings such as the one containing Wenner media, which I have mentioned before. If you look a little ways down the corner that the Grove shops are located on, you will see beautiful apartment buildings that are characterized by palm trees and women entering them with big sunglasses and shopping bags. If you drive three minutes to the left, you will see an enormous 99 Cent Store that boasts to be the "official headquarters" of whatever holiday is around the corner, (right now it's "Your official Easter headquarters"). If you inch your way towards the highway through traffic lights that seem unnecessary, as you stop every few minutes, you will end up in Little Ethiopia, which from what I saw basically consists of a few run down apartments with the windows unhinged, as well as a dozen Ethiopian restaurants.
Although I have explored the Grove before, I've never been to its Farmer's Market, though I heard great things about this wonderful place where you can get any kind of food imaginable, for a steep price. The Farmer's Market at the Grove is where I got lost.
Upon first glance, the market doesn't seem like anything. A Pinkberry and a Starbucks line the dark entrance to a little pathway that identifies itself as "Farmer's Market" with a vintage sign. I was surprised that a Starbucks and Pinkberry would even be there because of their omnipresence and the fact that they are the last thing I think of when I think of Farmer's Markets.
When I first walked in, I felt disoriented. Not because of the crowds, (it was surprisingly empty), but because of all of the different things that existed in one place. I didn't know where to start, and I felt actually lost wandering around the different shops, as if I didn't belong at all and as though it was so obvious I was an outsider who didn't know what she was doing. Maybe it's my imagination, but I felt like the shop owners and patrons caught on to my naivety and being actually lost. People were there for a purpose and knew exactly what they were doing, whether it was the couple placing a specific order for sausage at the meat stand, or the mother and daughter enjoying an early dinner at the French Bistro near the entrance.
I recorded some words that described what I saw and felt upon first walking in and that I knew would jog my memory for writing about my experience later: spices, Mexican, clean soap, lavender, things burning, BBQ, more soap, stickers, baked goods, hot sauce, Little Spain.
Now, looking back on my experience, I realize what all these words mean to me and represent about my experience exploring and getting lost in the Farmer's Market. Just as Los Angeles, can be described as a melting pot for different cultures, people, and experiences, the Farmer's Market is a melting pot for not only different restaurants and cuisines, but different cultures entirely, as well as different ideas.
Is there anywhere else in the world where you can buy stickers, hot sauce, soap, flavored pasta, BBQ, meat, baked goods, smoothies, Mexican food, Italian food, American food, coffee, fruit, nuts, vegetables, beer, and vintage goods, all in the same small confined vicinity? If there is, I would like to know where, and I would bet that it's somewhere else in Los Angeles.
Side note, I will explore Little Ethiopia next.
--Photos Credit: Pacificlistings.com