Your Guide to Los Angeles
Posted September 8, 2011 by Bethanie Lunn
L.A. is a town full of opposites – laid back and wild, vintage and pristine, accessible and A-List. All of that merges to form a style and vibe unlike any other city I’ve visited before…and it sucks you in.
Before I travelled to Los Angeles a.k.a. La La Land, I was full of the usual stereotypical preconceptions but post visit, I feel slightly embarrassed of them. L.A. is magical place and no, I’ve not been bitten by the Hollywood bug but instead I quickly grew to admire the people living there. There is the general consensus of working hard to succeed yet balancing out their busy careers with a healthy lifestyle that pauses to concentrate on enjoying life too – not just working through it.
During my stay I enjoyed lunch with L.A.-based Stylist and Fashion Feng Shui® expert, Catherine Shepphard at the utterly beautiful Restaurant and Gourmet Market, Bottega Louie. When I confessed to Catherine that we Brits have a general perception that the lovely ladies of L.A. consider carbs the enemy and shy away from any type of excess (‘you’re sooo healthy’), she answered with a giggle, ‘We do eat pizza and bread and we enjoy a glass of wine or two but are focused on a healthy lifestyle so we opt for organic produce and have treats in moderation’ and this was claimed as we tucked into a sausage pizza washed down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Point taken.
She continues, ‘Women here focus on our careers for sure but also on having a good time and balancing and enjoying that with the good things in life, like a day at the beach or a dinner party with friends. Besides, the clubs close at 1 or 2AM so early nights are easy and I’m usually in bed way before then!’
I loved the idea of ending a tough day in the office at the beach and it’s not just the lifestyle consensus I noted. Dressed for the sunshine but not in the way us Brits do, (or don’t as it were), L.A. girls do so with panache and manage to balance practicality with style and professionalism with cool.
Sun dresses get turned up a notch with wedge heels, over sized sunglasses and designer handbags for a more polished look. The overall image is more laid back than the glamorously groomed of New York and less indifferent and unkempt than Londoners yet still elegant and eye-catching.
L.A is a large city that is spread out with a huge focus on being active and outside. Everyone therefore tends to walk everywhere when possible making ballet pumps and thong sandals top choices.
Straw trilbies are the most popular choice of head wear. Not only do they protect your hair and scalp from the sun’s rays but they look chic to boot. Hair and make-up is kept simple and fresh looking. Perfectly placed highlights framing the face, creamy luminous skin and pearly white teeth are some of the best accessories a girl can have alongside the ultimate must-have, a designer bag large enough to fit in the essentials. This is usually a notebook to capture your inspirations, sun cream to stay safe in the sun, facial mist to refresh and cool instantly and most importantly – a BlackBerry. Well, if you could run the office from the beach, wouldn’t you take that option?
In terms of where modern girls go, I see the city as being divided into key areas each with a different crowd, atmosphere and appeal.
Hollywood is the bustling centre home to the famous sign, Walk of Fame and usual tourist attractions. Most people rent a car so you can get from A to B as the locals do, yet there are plenty of tourist buses available if you can withstand the fake British accent of the Dale-Winton-a-like pouring from the recorded voice over.
Hollywood was a lot cleaner and less frantic than I thought it would be and the views from the world famous Chinese Theatre, home to the historic Hollywood forecourt featuring handprints of iconic celebrities is worth a look.
Farmers Market is a tourist attraction and historic landmark which first opened in 1934. Located the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in the Fairfax District, it now features more than 100 restaurants, grocers and tourist shops plus a market perfect for foodies. I first discovered Forver21 here before it came to the UK and found it terribly easy to splash that cash.
Next door to Hollywood is Beverly Hills – home to the rich and famous. I heard that even the rubbish bins are painted silver to maintain the gleaming and immaculate look of the streets. Connecting Hollywood to Beverly Hills is Rodeo Drive, baby – the shopping area that became even more iconic after Julia Roberts in hit movie, Pretty Woman was sent there with Edwards credit cards. If only!
Driving away from Beverly Hills toward Santa Monica, you’ll drive though Brentwood – now one of the prominent districts of the Westside and among the wealthiest neighbourhoods in all of Los Angeles. Wilshire Boulevard, San Vicente Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Saint Vicente is my favourite for a bevy of outdoor cafes, cupcake bakeries and prestigious hair and beauty salons.
When you reach Santa Monica, you’ll be welcomed with views of Venice Beach and the wide stretch of soft white sand and clear blue sea, the unspoiled streets of Ocean Avenue populated with boutiques and eateries and an outdoor circus of activities and entertainment.
Santa Monica features several shopping districts, a pleasure pier, great beaches, resort hotels, historical buildings, artwork everywhere and fantastic food. I loved nearby Barney’s Beanery, a tip-off a local gave me. It has the casual unfussy appeal and hearty portions of comfort food that a roadhouse diner would offer – complete with road signs and licence plates coating the ceiling- and the buzz and excitement of a sports bar. Multiple plasma screens showcase the latest games for keen sports fans and the food is delicious but not for those who count calories with masterpieces such as the Mish-Mosh being ordered every 10 minutes. I indulged to investigate just for you! How could I not when a plate combining scrambled eggs with salami, onion, bacon, spinach, mushrooms and hot peppers, topped with melted cheese is under my nose…with a side of toast. Calories-schmalories. I guess you can see now why I’m embarrassed to have once thought that L.A. girls held a crucifix up to a loaf of bread?
Venice Beach and Boardwalk
Venice Beach is very much a collection of the weird and wonderful. A string of stalls along the beach front sell anything from fantastic photography to knick-knack jewellery and palm reading. There was even a ‘Freak Show’ with a bearded lady and a five-legged dog (apparently). Speaking of our furry friends, I spotted a dog wearing a matching coat and sun hat with a pair of doggy sunglasses attached, perched stylishly on the end of his snout. Yes. Really. So if you want to visit a place where you won’t be able to believe your eyes – you will see something of that calibre along Venice Boardwalk.
The perfect retreat for people watching and one that provides an edge of cool, calm and culinary delight amongst the mayhem is The Venice Ale House created to bring quality locally sourced organic produce to the otherwise less than great food on the boardwalk. The beer list is impressive with Kona’s Longboard Lager being a firm favourite of loyal customers as are the drafts from favoured California breweries, including Stone, Green Flash, Ballast Point and Lost Coast.
For romantic meals for two, visit The Lobster which stands at the corner of Ocean Avenue and the Pier. The atmosphere is electric and the clientele beautiful. The sea views that you can admire through the floor to ceiling windows make it a stunning location and it’s a great hang out for cocktails and oysters or a sit down banquet.
There isn’t much in the form of clubs this end but for a great night out try Makai Lounge. I wasn’t bowled over in the daytime but this place transforms at night serving everything from beer and wine to specialty cocktails, ranging from $4 – $7 plus an audacious Happy Hour menu that reduced those prices right down to prices around $3! The crowd is a real mix of models, cougars and fashionistas who are all friendly but love to impress (think hip shaking before their male targets to flaunting $100 bills for buying strangers drinks with- just to showcase themselves). Don’t be put off by this, it is very interesting and what they all have in common is a love of good fun, boogying and great music.
DJ Nitelife was playing during my visit and I LOVED his bouncy house, dance, disco mix. Since I wanted to share just how good he is with my lovely readers, the man himself has given us all some FREE download links so you can have the beats of this amazing L.A. DJ in your own home – wooh! Download his sounds here:
Further out of town is Abbot Kinney– an eclectic, cutting-edge mix of over 100 boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, bookstores, design firms, coffee shops, clubs, salons and even a film studio. The scene is very bohemian-chic with plenty of vintage stores, eco brands and new artists. You cannot go to L.A. without coming here – there is so much to offer and you must stop off at one of the legendary pop-up food vans. They’re not like the gruesome and suspicious hot dog vans we have in the UK, people flock to these for good grub and the coffee at Abbot’s Habit is absolutely fantastic. Try the Eggs Benedict or tuna burger at 3 Square Café and Bakery for true food heaven too.
Then you reach Venice itself, lined with exotic plants and palms, a blend of modern architecture and quaint cottages with every house being different to its neighbouring abode. This is a much quieter part of L.A. with a private feel to it and so is the choice for many stars to live. I visited the Venice Canals which has an interesting history.
A man named Abbot Kinney originally built the canals in 1905 (hence the nearby street previously mentioned), who planned to recreate the Venice in Italy complete with several miles of canals and gondolas and Kinney Pier. Sadly a fire destroyed the pier in 1920 but it was rebuilt in Abbot Kinney’s name following his death earlier that year only to have most of the canals filled and paved nine years later (politics, tsk). The residents weren’t having any of this so part of the beauty still exists today presenting an intimate, peaceful area of canals lined with beautifully eccentric homes and arched bridges and of course being nearby to the bustle of Abbot Kinney.
Wherever you go in Los Angeles, you’re going to love it. There is so much to do and see, taste and indulge in and to experience. The food is exceptional and the feel is so relaxing. This engrossing city seems to expertly give you the best of both worlds – the opportunity to unwind and the opportunity to go wild. Another opposite.
Positivity exudes from the people and surroundings right down to the art work on the street walls beaming words of wisdom such as ‘remember who you are’. Cliché to some, perhaps but motivating to me. I hope you enjoy discovering this fabulous city as much as I did and do so with a margarita, it’s the in drink don’t ya know!