Choose from a bounty of tableware at Realm, in L.A.'s Chinatown.
No one can outshop my sister, Jennifer. She is a master in both breadth (at home in Target as well as Tiffany & Co.) and depth (culling vintage pottery from knockoffs at a glance).
Naturally, Jen appreciates a good bargain. So when I say I've planned a three-day excursion in her adopted city of Los Angeles and can't spend more than $400, she's delighted. And then, after a moment: "I could do it for less than that!"
Yep, she is, and always will be, my big sister.
Next: Boutiques, the beach, and Korean barbecue.
More California travel tips and trips
Day 1: Boutiques, the beach, and Korean barbecue
Our first stop is Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, the postindustrial strip with a shabby-chic style. We admire the beautiful, pricey furniture in Plantation and the iron garden ornaments at Bountiful.
We work our way west toward Santa Monica and boutiques full of delights, including modern furnishings at Weego Home, sweet-scented bath treats at Splash, and imported kitchen goods at Blue Door. Jen takes me to her favorite shop here (she has one in each neighborhood): Paris 1900, with delicate antique dresses. She's greeted by name.
I'm ready for a break, so we head to the water for banana-date smoothies at Perry's Cafe 2, just off the Santa Monica Pier. The sun shines off the white sand and kids yell from the Ferris wheel. "This is just the beginning," Jen promises.
We drive into downtown to wander the quiet spaces of Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels; a soft light from its high windows warms the sandstone. Jen pulls me into MOCA Grand Avenue ― the Museum of Contemporary Art's main branch ― because it's free tonight. ("We're saving $16," she insists.) But we spend most of our time in the gift shop.
"I've got the best dinner bargain for you," says Jen, leading me into the dark interior of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. We stop at a dimly lit stand, Korean BBQ Plus. The menu against the glass has faded photographs of each dish. I'm skeptical.
Jen orders us chap che chicken and spicy tofu and stocks up on kim chee. On a park bench outside, I dig in with my plastic fork. And I'm amazed: It's delicious, an enormous amount of food ― and it cost $15. Jen nods. "Never doubt a master."
She's still smug when she drops me at the boutique hotel Farmer's Daughter. (I've gotten a deal through Expedia.) My room's a modern take on denim-and-kerchief farm style; surprisingly, it works.
The tab: Day 1
Browsing Venice and Santa Monica boutiques FREE
Banana-date smoothies near the Santa Monica Pier $6
Cathedral tour $4
MOCA Grand Avenue's weekly deal FREE
Dinner at Korean BBQ Plus $15.05