Every year, for the 4th of July holiday, we visit my brother Kaustuva and his family in San Francisco. We usually tag on another California destination to make a week long holiday. This year we decided that the other destination would be Los Angeles. I was beyond excited to go to LA. I had not seen the city since I was a child visiting with my parents on a trip to DisneyLand. The weather in Chicago had been so inconsistent all spring that I was looking forward to some consecutive warm days, feeling some west coast laid back vibe and just getting to know the city.
Through VRBO I had rented a bungalow in West Hollywood, as this location was fairly central. However, we could not check into the house until 3pm. So after arriving at 9am at LAX airport, we decided to drive to Venice Beach for breakfast.
At this time of the morning, the notoriously awful LA traffic is not too bad. It took us around twenty minutes to get to Venice. Driving along Lincoln Blvd, as soon as we entered the beach communities of Southern California, felt the sea breeze, drove by the palm trees and the Spanish style bungalows draped in bougainvillea, and saw the spandex clad women and men in shorts either going to exercise or coming back from excercising, it was impossible not to snap into a holiday frame of mind. The body immediately relaxed, the sunglasses went on, and thoughts of colorful drinks and delicious food filled the brain.
We stayed in LA for four days. Here are the highlights:
The minute we turned and drove down Rose Ave in Venice Beach, I wished I had booked to stay at The Rose Hotel. It is a gorgeous 1950’s style bungalow boutique hotel, a stone’s throw from the beach. Talking about the beach, the boardwalk is a beehive of activity, full of rollerbladers, sidewalk artists, vendors, body builders and just about anyone else who wants to put on a show. I don’t know about you, but in every city I visit, as I am walking around, I am subconsciously thinking about which neighborhood I would live in if I lived in that city. For me, in southern California that neighborhood is Venice Beach.
Superba Snackbar www.superbasnackbar.com delicious light healthy meals from a very edited menu.
Blue Bottle Coffee www.bluebottlecoffee.com One thing to say about this San Francisco transplant – please open in Chicago !
Mona Moore www.monamoore.com so happy that boutiques like these are still in business and appear to be thriving – this place has a excellent range of shoes, bags and jewelry.
La Brea neighborhood
I had read about this up and coming neighborhood in West Hollywood, and I am really glad I checked it out. Trendy boutiques such as Steven Alan and DNA home store, along with galleries, restaurants and bars line the street. There is plenty of side street parking and no crowds to fight through. We came here every day for the delicious breakfasts at The Sycamore Kitchen.
The Sycamore Kitchen www.thesycamorekitchen.com the egg and chorizo sandwiches are a calorie busting must have!
Odys and Penelope www.odysandpenelope.com. A few doors down. The same owners of The Sycamore Kitchen. This casual restaurant is great for grilled meat.
Los Angeles being the land of Universal Studios and celebrity culture, one may not think of museums to visit in this city. However, the Getty Museum should be on every travelers to do list. The building is a beautiful modern structure sitting on top of a hill in the Santa Monica mountains with sweeping views of downtown Los Angeles. Parking is $15 per car but entrance to the museum is free. A train takes visitors up to the museum. There are places to eat, gardens to relax in, and of course the museum is full of European paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography to admire. For me this was a unique place to visit in LA.
LA is of course the land of the automobile. The city is so spread out that a car is essential. One of the activities I enjoyed most was just cruising the streets of Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. Window shopping and looking at the mega mansions and trying to guess which celebrity lives in which mansion.
The Hollywood sign is perched on Mount Lee overlooking West Hollywood. The sign can be seen from various points around LA, but to get an unobstructed view, the best place is Griffith Observatory. The Observatory, which is a high-tech planetarium, is perched on a hill. The drive up allows great views of the city. It is best to park on side of the road and walk up. There are public telescopes for viewing.
Bar Ama www.bar-ama.com In downtown LA. This casual place has some of the best Mexican food I have ever had.
Spago www.wolfgangpuck.com this restaurant was a splurge. It was by far the most formal place we ate at and it was a treat.
Osteria Mozza www.osteriamozza.com Mario Batalli is co-owner of this restaurant and while the service was not the best the food was very tasty.
What surprised me most about LA is how much I liked it. I had heard so much about the urban sprawl, the lack of intimacy and the superficiality of the people. However, in LA, I found a city that had quaint neighborhoods, families enjoying themselves everywhere, and a diverse and friendly population. I think no matter where you are, if you have family and friends around, you can make any place what you want it to be. I can’t wait to go back.
Do you know a place I should visit next time I am in LA ? please let me know. All recommendations are warmly welcome.