When you ask a lot of people about what Los Angeles is famous for they will automatically talk about Hollywood. But unlike some other cities which are famous for something, Hollywood itself is actually quite intangible for the average visitor. Sure, there is the famous Hollywood sign which you can photograph (from a distance) … so that’s 10 seconds out of your day. Then there is Hollywood Boulevard and the walk of fame which is (and I hate to sound like a killjoy here) a row of shops with some people’s names written in stars and maybe the imprints of some hands and feet set in concrete. So far then nothing like as impressive as say, the Taj Mahal or even our own Big Ben.
Delve a little deeper into the city and you have Beverley Hills (and look at some houses which you will never be able to afford) and follow that with a trip down Rodeo Drive where there are some very fancy shops selling stuff which you also can’t afford. Window shopping may do it for some people but my advice is to drive Rodeo Drive rather than walk, that way you will probably see most of what’s worth seeing and have far less risk of arriving home to an unexpectedly large credit card bill!
I wonder whether tourists actually enjoy being in Hollywood or whether there is more enjoyment in telling people they were in Hollywood (with an appropriate selfie in front of Chinese Theatre)?
Anyway if there is little excitement in Hollywood where to head to?
Driving up the coast
For me is the coastal areas which really define LA, heading out to Santa Monica and either up the coast to the expensive homes of Malibu or down to the more lively areas around Venice Beach. Malibu has some massively expensive homes (in the many millions) and while the ocean views are spectacular the area seems a little crowded and highway 1 is hardly a sleepy back road. I would also be put off by the risk of wildfires. However, as I’ll never have the millions to buy a property here, it’s a choice I will never have to make.
If you’re spending some time on this part of the coast you could do worse than have lunch at the Reel Inn as we did, which has great fresh fish dishes and al fresco dining at very reasonable prices all within touching distance of the ocean.
What really makes this area though is the beach itself and Venice Beach the place. The beach is spectacular with mile upon mile of soft golden sand. The size of the beach from front to back and its length means that it in no way feels crowded (Mediterranean take note) and the sea has just the right amount of ferocity and warmth to allow either a gentle paddle or a full-on dive through the waves experience.
Venice beach is everything you have seen/heard and probably a bit more with its mix of the eccentric, more than its fair share of piercing and tattoo parlors and a smell of ganja so thick that you really wonder whether you should be driving. The highlight of Venice beach seems to be the public participation fitness areas with variously basketball, weight training or gymnastics being the order of the day with the locals showing off their talents. The tourists are welcome to join in and to my surprise, I can still climb a rope although the burns on my feet suggest I am not so good at coming back down.
It wouldn’t be a day in LA if we didn’t mention cars and traffic. LA is well known for its love affair with the car and after spending some of the day driving on six lanes of crowded freeway I can see what they mean. The traffic around LA is heavy and you need to have your wits about you as people will come at you from all angles. My advice though is not to try and swap lanes too often, just pick a lane you like and stick to it but look at for your exits and make sure you are in the right lane well in advance as moving across six lanes of traffic requires good timing and patience. Relax, you’re on vacation!