I've clandestinely penned getaways; even relocations for many years now. One year the desire was so intense, I spent my days perusing Trulia, researching property and neighbourhoods alike whilst bombarding my poor cousin with nuisance queries over earthquakes and general structure capabilities. Even frivolous investigations about flooding and the actual possibility of landslides up in the infamous Hollywood Hills. Clearly my obsession with this town knew no bounds and neither did my dreams. When the opportunity presented itself to venture out to La-La Land, I snapped it up immediately and eagerly anticipated the adventure that lay await.
There are a few things that remain constant in LA. Cerulean skies are guaranteed, as is sunshine; even during the winter months. Traffic is vast and plentiful and the humans navigating those vehicles tend to be rather impolite. And speaking of humans, this place seems to be a mecca for "beautiful" ones. All sun kissed skin set against perfectly sculpted bodies. There's an air of consumerism and expectation of perfection juxtaposed with spirituality and vitality. Something which doesn't come as quite the surprise really. And while grandeur is undeniable, homelessness was ever so rife. And in a sea of visible wealth and abundance the divide between two extremes was utterly jarring and very much saddening. You couldn't turn your head without noticing a desperate soul (or five) settled upon the pavement. Driving beneath and above overpasses, makeshift communities were (presumably) banded together by cardboard scraps and impaired camping tents. Even during a humble lunch at Carl's Jnr we noted hungry individuals roaming the floors, on the lookout for uneaten leftovers at emptied tables. Some even brave enough to approach and politely ask if you'd finished your meal.
With so much poverty abounding, I don't know how people manage to overlook such an issue. It's simply not one or two buskers in a city centre, it's four or five at every single corner.
And yet, despite such contrasts LA managed to capture my heart still, and not just tug at my sense of humanity. Or rather I was smitten because I was finally reunited with my crazy amazing cousin Michael and fortunate enough to meet up with even more amazing bloggers. Rita from Coast with Me and Katherine from Wanderhour.
When it comes to Los Angeles, there is an obvious fusion of styles paralleled in both the humans who call it home and in the architecture itself. And speaking of it was a fascinating and most unexpected treat. There are so many forgotten Art Deco gems, some pallor and abandoned while others teemed with life. At times some parts of town felt like you were traipsing through Manhattan itself, others it was undeniable that you were in California. Every town had obvious characteristics that differed from its neighbours. Beverly Hills exuded much wealth and eccentricity, Santa Monica felt more youthful, shiny and carefree, West Hollywood was the place du jour and Los Feliz was brimming with artistry, spirituality and true bohemia.
HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD & LOS FELIZ
Quintessentially LA, you can not associate Hollywood when speaking of Los Angeles. The two go hand in hand, thanks to its most iconic symbol, the Hollywood sign. And while this can be viewed from many angles while out on the streets, we found getting even remotely close to it was insurmountable. We dedicated an entire day to this search but it seemed that the closer we got to it, the more obscure it became. We did manage to find the private gateway into the park itself, but seemingly it was a fenced off and ensconced by trees.
The focus of our search was originally set for Lake Hollywood Park, a dog park with (apparently) the best views for the sign. Of course we never found this locale. Nor did it occur to us to venture back to the Griffith Observatory. A place we visited on our second night here. Of course the Hollywood sign was again concealed to us by the dead of night.
Seemingly, they decided to switch the lights off that night.
We decided to hire out a home using Airbnb which was situated in the neighbourhood of Los Feliz. The home itself was such a vintage gem and surprisingly enough, incredibly spacious. I could easily envisioned myself residing here, it was that magical. And our hosts were also incredibly wonderful too. The location though was by far uber favourable, being a mere five minute drive away from the Walk of Fame and a good ten minutes away from the Griffith Observatory too. It was convenient to say the least in terms of location and the neighbourhood was equally as appealing with many a Deco delight to be found throughout. We had many amenities within walking distance, including a lively high street with copious bars, restaurants and ice creameries. The entire atmosphere of Los Feliz was very much relaxed and felt like the kind of suburbia you find back in Melbourne. We didn't get to thoroughly explore this part of town either, which was a shame because I felt like there were some incredible places to discover.
Another gem has to be Griffith Observatory. On our first attempt I managed to get lost in The Hills, thanks to my outdated GPS device. It took us to the "old route" which was inaccessible. When we finally figured out how to get here, the stress and annoyance of the drive itself evaporated with the view before us. It is utterly bewitching up here, looking down below. We came at night so the city below sparkled and twinkled away. I can only imagine what it must be like during the day, especially having the Hollywood Sign in perfect view. The museum itself is rather intriguing, even if you're not a fan of what lays beyond our skies. The observatory itself is open to the public and is free, and that night I managed to cross something off my bucketlist, looking up into space through an enormous telescope. With my poor eyesight however it was lost to me as the cluster of stars the telescope was fixed onto wasn't as crystal clear as I had always envisioned it to be.
While the Hollywood sign was just not meant to be this time around, we did get to thoroughly explore another Hollywood icon, the Walk of Fame.
And I do mean thoroughly.
You see the at the first signs of available parking, I claimed it immediately. Best of all it was a free, two hour parking spot adjacent to an intriguing building housing blooming bougainvillea and a grand skull motif. What this place was? I had (and still have) no idea. I did however have every intention of revisiting this site and investigating further, but alas this too was just not meant to be.
In the excitement of that parking spot we'd miscalculated the actual scale of the Walk of Fame. While we were parked a mere few feet away from its beginnings, the main hub was a good thirty minutes away. Which didn't really phase me and because of this lengthy walk we managed to take in a fair bit, like the wonderful abundance of vintage neon signage and street art. And this seemed to blossom more vividly as we approached the central hub, Grauman's Chinese Theatre. As does the amount of people and tourists you encounter. While we ventured out here early on during the week, we didn't find this type of congestion problematic. However I did note that on Anouk from Luxessed's recent travels, that amount of people swarming here was more than quadruple what we experienced.
Overall the Walk of Fame is definitely something you should see at least once in your lifetime. It's gimmicky and flamboyant. You'll get endlessly pestered about "Celebrity Bus Tours" and even have your personal space invaded by opportunistic movie characters that line the area. But it's the experience and the sheer palaver of it all that does make it worth while.
Oh so alluring! It is opulent at best, flawless and surprisingly full of eclectic individuals. Something I expected to see more of in West Hollywood. The infamous 90210 also felt very much like home to me, utterly reminiscent me of Melbourne's shopping scene's and renowned cafe culture. And compared to other locales this area was immaculately kept and polished with not a stray vine in sight.
The main attraction, Rodeo Drive lives up to the hype. Shopfronts are design marvels and of course what lies within is enough to make any style maven salivate. Yet again this was something we didn't get to properly peruse due to time constraints, but I'd rather come back with all the time (and money) in the world behind me. Shopping here is obviously impeccable and not just for the filthy rich. The Sephora store was so dreamy, it housed every beauty product you could think of.
We lunched at Villa Blanca. And if you're a Housewives fan then you'll immediately recognise this restaurant. My travel companion managed to catch a glimpse of Ken seated behind a desk out back as she walked to the bathroom. Me however, no such luck. During the entire trip I saw zero celebrities, which doesn't surprise me because I've never had much luck with it comes to these kinds of things. Villa Blanca is an ideal place for people watching and counting how many Bentley's creep past. Food was also rather delectable and our waiter was honestly charming. From previous reviews I'd seen about this place I was expecting the opposite, especially in terms of service.
This was a favourite area of mine and one that upon my next return I'll no doubt call home. This beachside hub is iconic for its pier and (like most of LA anyway) palm tree laden sidewalks. There's a real sense of freshness about, even a dash of hipster too. Best of all the shopping is impeccable and utterly convenient. Everything is essentially within walking distance which is oh so ideal in LA too.
We only managed to spend a few hours here and unfortunately I did miss that infamous sunset. Though I managed to capture a few mere tendrils before it disappeared beyond the horizon. We didn't make it to the pier either, but I did get to browse it from a distance. Most of our time was spent browsing through stores so not all was entirely lost. I finally managed to acquire this monogram mug from Anthropologie, a piece I'd been lusting and obsessing over for ages now. I also did a bit of damage over at Cotton On Women. Which in hindsight is laughable as it is so widely available (and probably cheaper) over here in Australia.
That night we dined at Trastevere, another wonderful haunt for people watching also. But with less Bentley interactions.
When it came to shopping, store selection is truly immense, but overall I found shopping in general this time round not as worthwhile and impressive as it was five years ago. To be honest I was incredibly disappointed actually. Everything felt overly pricey and virtually on par with what I was paying for back home. Food included. My last trip I managed to continually find steals at stores and outlets, like a pair of Michael Kors heels for under $100. During that trip I filled an extra suitcase up with designer finds and bargains. This time I arrived with one suitcase and left with the same bag, five kilos heavier. This could be a California thing, or it could be a poor Aussie dollar issue. Either way I wasn't impressed. One store in particular really disappointed me and that was Forever 21. It was a store I was itching to browse, having found so many pieces online that I wanted to make mine. And yet, when I got there everything felt small. As in, children's sizing. I also couldn't find one top that was of "average" length. And again, I don't mean crop tops. Basic pieces, slogan tops and embellished ones, all sat slightly below mid torso for me. I don't know, maybe it was this store in particular or maybe I'm just getting "old" now. Zara however did not disappoint. And while prices weren't exactly ideal either, product selection was. The sale items were also rather favourable too.
Traveling to Los Angeles for the first time was extraordinary, and yet in hindsight I'm incredibly disappointed in myself for not actively exploring this town. Especially for someone so fervently consumed by it. I certainly did not make the most of it nor did I see even a small percentage of what I initially set out to view. As alluring and thrilling as this town is, I found it to be slightly overwhelming at times; exhausting even. Albeit in a good way. Moving around isn't the easiest of tasks, so a car as a mode of transport is highly recommended. That said traffic congestion is utterly horrendous. And at any time of the day too. Parking can be confusing and problematic at times.
But despite it all, Los Angeles is such an ebullient place. It is a place for the dreamers and the shakers. It's brimming with abundance yet teeming with scarcity. There's endless blue skies with matching effervescent waters and palm trees that greet you at every corner.