We had a loose rule on our second trip to Los Angeles to try and do things that we hadn’t done before on our first trip, which included not repeating food spots and accommodation. In fact we stayed at five different places on our six day trip just to mix things up a bit (there was a meticulous packing methodology). We have still come away feeling like we’re not quite sated and there’s still an arm-long to-do/see list, which means it’s more than likely that we’ll come back for more. LA, we really do heart you. A lot.
- Trust my British self to moan about the weather on the first day of our holiday. But only because I did feel a bit peeved that for the first few days, it was actually hotter in London than it was in Los Angeles. We had booked ourselves into Shutters on the Beach to spend a lush first night in Santa Monica and woke up to this…
- In fairness, it did brighten up so that it looked like the above about four hours later so my initial gripes were completely unfounded. Plus Santa Monica/Venice Beach is still awesome regardless of the colour of the sky.
- As expected LA treated us good food-wise. Following our rule about not repeating food spots twice we also tried to go for things that are basically hard to find in London. Our eats included an awesome boat noodle soup at Pa Ord, interesting bacon-imbued and pork-fat-rendered flavour combinations at Animal, ceviche tostadas at El Sietes Mares, sorrel lemonade at Sky’s Gourmet Tacos and a nom nom undressed lobster roll at Blue Plate Oysterette.
- I really wanted to check out Heritage Square Museum because I had seen pictures of their annual Vintage Fashion Show and Tea online. Eight historic structures mostly constructed during the Victorian era were saved and reconstructed here by Montecito Heights. There are more “real” examples of this kind of architecture elsewhere in the city but I loved the odd juxtaposition and assembly of houses right by a busy freeway.
- Something ultra cheesy had to be on the agenda. The Dearly Departed tours were all booked up so we headed to the Hollywood Museum in the old Maxfactor Building. If you’re errr.. into pan-cake style make-up on dusty pink dressing tables and Daryl Hannah narrating a ye olde documentary on the history of Maxfactor, this is the place for you. I’m a sucker for old Hollywood memorabilia though so I kind of loved it.
- Unlike London, Los Angeles has a lot of distinctly themed areas dedicated to the many ethnicities that make up the city. Olvera Street is the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles with Spanish settlers founding the city in 1781. Today, it’s an ode to its past as a Spanish/Mexican outpost with a ton of tourist-y kitschy market stalls. Always up for getting any sort of fix of Mexico of course, however cliched. Nearby, is Chinatown, which isn’t really where LA’s Chinese community live (need to make it to San Gabriel Valley for the good Chinese eats…) but again is a kitschy reminder of the past when it was actually bustling and the centre of the Chinese community. It feels more like a hammed up Hollywood set than a real functioning Chinatown but it definitely has its charm. I love that Ooga Booga, an interesting and conceptual zine/book/gift store is nestled in the middle of plaza.
- Steve and I kept on lusting after home and garden decorations as stores along Abbot Kinney and Lincoln Blvd were tempting us to overdo it with our luggage allowance (we only bought a few things but still had to plead with the airline to let us go over our limit). On Abbot Kinney, The Piece Collective, A Plus R, Tortoise General Store and Chariots of Fire were full of lovely things. General Store on Lincoln Blvd is also fantastic.
- In particular, we got quite obsessed with cool ceramics and little plant pots. Since we didn’t bring that many back, I’ve been tirelessly searching Etsy for alternatives. South Willard had an intriguing exhibition on local pottery artists Michael and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess. Alchemy Works in Arts District and Fifth Floor in Chinatown also had a few names for us to take note of.
- There seems to be a lot of love for Craig Green in LA which is great to see! People instantly recognised and ID-ed his tie-dye shorts from SS14, which I was wearing and there was a healthy amount of his stuff at the store 12345. Go Craig!!!
- We’re currently in the process of re-doing our garden and a cactus corner is a must because of all the cool cacti we saw out in LA. It won’t look as cool in our flat grey light but will definitely be a reminder of our trips.
- Every area in LA seemed to have one of these Apolis Local + Global market bags, which originated in LA-based socially motivated lifestyle brand Apolis’ arts district store and have slowly branched out to partner with stores all over the world. I love the new Koreatown version sold in Poketo inside The Line hotel. They’re made by a group of women in Bangladesh and as this harrowing BBC2 documentary on the Rana Plaza disaster attests, any initiative to ensure Bangladeshi women get to earn a fair living under safe conditions is definitely worthy of attention.
- The ridiculous reason why I wanted to go to Las Vegas for a day was because I needed the air miles to top up my account. The sensible reason was that I’d never been. Perhaps less than 24 hours wasn’t really enough time to devote to the city of sin but I have to be honest… Las Vegas basically felt like Leicester Square and Macau x 100 rolled together with the added downside of searingly hot temperatures (walking around outside at night was like having a hot fan heater blowing in your face the whole time). We don’t gamble and we didn’t really know how (yes, I know I’m betraying my Chinese roots here but my dad abhors gambling and likewise instilled that in me) and spent a while just watching people do it. Then we went to strip club for the “fun” of it and found it to be an utterly depressing experience, watching girls in mismatched bras and panties sidling up to men for dances (I say dance loosely – they were just bouncing up and down to get dudes turned on). But…
…I really did love driving further up the strip towards downtown to see the shotgun wedding chapels at night even if we did have to pay an extortionate fare to a cab driver to get him to drive us up and down the strip.
- On a food note, the Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace defeated me. One starter plate, one main plate and a few of the desserts were all I had. I brought shame to my expert buffet eating family. Thumbs up to the truffle layered potatoes, the clams in chorizo sauce and the dipped strawberries.
- Back in LA, we opted to spend our last night in a new-ish hotel called The Line in Koreatown. It had a fab view of Hollywood Hills and the interiors designed by Knibb Design were pretty ace (especially loved the plastered white t-shirt ceilings) but not everything was open yet – looking forward to coming back to check out the Commissary cafe, which is housed in a greenhouse by the pool. It was handy to be near all the Korean eats though and it was great to eat a really decent tasting funked-up congee for brekkie. Didn’t get to sample Roy Choi’s food at the restaurant hotel Pot but like I said, this place is definitely one to revisit.
- Downtown LA is still a pretty interesting area to comb through. This time we checked out Bradbury Building aka where they filmed Blade Runner in. It’s an incredible mishmash of architecture inside with Parisian-derived apartment iron fretwork coupled with Mexican tiles and Italian marble, with a central skylight allowing light to flood in. Across the road, Million Dollar Theatre and Grand Central Market are also worth snooping around. Especially in the latter, where we tried Salvadorean pupusas. Plus there’s an eatery called Eggslut. Yup, Eggslut.
- In a shop called Round2, the owner described downtown as “kind of like New York in the 80s… things are just getting started around here.” Not sure if the analogy is entirely true but DLTA definitely has its own vibe, that’s very separate from shopping in Hollywood or out in Silver Lake/Echo Park. Round2 felt like an LA version of Cyber Dog and I found great plastic fantasic pieces by local designer Michelle Uberreste (apparently an ex Project Runway contestant). I also loved The Last bookstore, quite possibly the largest and most well-organised second hand bookstore I’ve been to. I didn’t get to check out Please do Not Enter, a newish concept store downtown but again, leaving one for next time.
- Outside In ‘n’ Out near the airport (our only repeat eating experience because well… it’s In ‘n’ Out!), where a girl yelped my name and repeatedly screamed/hugged me and then ran away without saying anything. I kind of loved her. Please make yourself be known if you are reading!