As a result of my late night in Koreatown, I ended up oversleeping and missing my slot at the Sony Studios in Culver city. However, this did mean I had more time at the beach!
I started off at Venice Beach (an actual mission from Hollywood!), which is definitely the cooler, better looking cousin of Santa Monica beach (although I imagine it would be a bit dodgy at night, given the amount of homeless people sleeping there!)
In addition to the usual beach facilities, Venice beach had a basketball court (yes!) and a couple of shops offering bike rentals. Deciding that some exercise would be a good idea, I rented a road bike (USD 20 for a couple of hours and requires you to leave behind some I.D.; I would recommend getting one with gears) and headed off towards Santa Monica beach, stopping every so often to take in the view (and the beautiful people!):
Before I headed to L.A., I was recommended by a friend to taste a “concrete” from Pierburger. Despite the strange term, a concrete is a rather delicious dessert of frozen custard and assorted toppings:
I went to return the bike and headed off towards 3rd Street Boulevard to get a bus towards the Getty centre – voted as one of the “must do” things in L.A.
Before jumping on the bus, I spotted this:
The Getty Centre is located in the middle of nowhere: you get off the bus just before you hit the dual carriage way and take the futuristic looking cable car all the way up the mountains (close your eyes if you are scared of heights!).
Despite the 1+hour journey from Santa Monica beach to get to the Getty, it was incredibly worthwhile: in addition to the beautiful views of L.A., the Getty has multiple (ever changing) galleries and exhibitions that would put most galleries (perhaps with the exception of the Tate Modern) to shame.
Even the building itself is a piece of art!
There is also a Getty Villa near Santa Monica Beach that showcases art from the Greek and Roman times – this is on my must do list the next time I visit L.A.
I headed back to Hollywood feeling mightily cultured and full of knowledge….only for it to be lost in a brain cell destroying burger session at the infamous In-N-Out.
This chain of burger restaraunts, together with Shake Shack, are probably America’s most famous take-outs.
The reason for In-N-Out’s infamy? The secret menu.
You see, customisation is the name of the game at In-N-Out: You can get anything from a Neapolitan (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry milkshake) to something as complex as an animal style double double with extra tomatoes and gherkins.
After ordering my animal style fries, cheeseburger with extra tomatoes and a chocolate vanilla milkshake, I was giddy with excitement. This was the moment I had been looking forward to most ever since I heard about In-N-Out – THE burger addict pilgrimage.
And when the food came….I have to say disappointment probably best describes my experience. Although the milkshake was miles better than anything you could get in the UK and the burger bun was soft yet firm, the patty and chips were a disappointment- especially when compared to Umami, Patty and Bun or Meat Liqor.
I still polished it off though..
Waking up the next morning in a post burger-haze, I headed off to Westlake/MacArthur Metro to have breakfast at Langers – an L.A. institution renowned for its Pastrami sandwiches.
The first thing you notice is how many signature sandwiches they have (I counted at least 89!). To make my life a bit easier, I asked for a recommendation and was told to try out the #19 – a simple sounding Pastrami, Swiss Cheese and coleslaw sandwich, served with pickles and a Russian style dressing.
Despite how deceptively boring this sandwich sounded to a pastrami fiend like myself, I was in for a suprise!
The stacked melt-in-mouth pastrami was layered onto melted swiss cheese and a mildly spicy Russian dressing, held together by a crusty rye bread studded with fennel seeds. IT WAS BLISS, and, possibly the best sandwich I have ever eaten (sorry Brass Rail, sorry Monti’s). All for $20 (inc tip) too!
To top it off, the staff were incredibly friendly and were full of stories (its a family run business after all!) that I could sit and listen to all day.
However, I had a full-on day, so heaved my ever growing gut off the stool and onto the street.
First thing I visited was Pigeon Island™, an island opposite Langers full of pigeons. Yeah, it was grim….
I then walked down 8th towards the Flower market.
Despite what people say, Downtown is cool and kinda reminded me of a Mexicanised Dalston, but much much trendier!
Having found the Flower Market (766 Wall Street), I paid $2 to go inside and look around.
(As a hint, I would recommend going inside even if you have Hayfever – it is incredibly beautiful!)
My favourite was the Asian-themed Mr Orchid.
I then headed off towards the Fashion District, stopping every so often to have a snoop at what was cooking on the Mexican food vans.
I didn’t find the Fashion District that interesting….it was kinda like being back in Mong Kok, with multiple shops all selling the same wares and/or hustling tourists.
Deciding to move on, I headed west towards the Staples Centre and bumped into a load of cheerleaders!
The reason for their arrival was that tonight was the play-offs: the Ducks were playing the Kings (Go Kings Go!) at the Staples centre.
As all the tickets were (predictably) sold out, I headed back towards Hollywood to get changed for my hike of Runyon Canyon – a beautiful hiking destination with awesome views of LA.
On my way there, I spotted this:
It probably sums up most people’s views of L.A.!
The hike itself can be done via 2 routes: an easier westerly route and a steeper eastern route. If you are scared of heights, I would NOT recommend doing the eastern route at all – even I got jelly legs after the first 20 minutes.
However, don’t let this put you off.
coupled with the cute dogs and the adrenaline rush made it all worthwhile.
(The one thing I noticed about LA is that everyone has a dog. And they are all so cute! If I ever move there, I’m definitely getting myself a Pomeranian named Simba!)
I even saw people make their own routes! Talk about thrill seeking!
After walking back down towards Hollywood, I noticed that a huge crowd had gathered around the Dolby Theatre. Not one to miss out, I dived into the crowd, only to find that the Godzilla premiere was on!
And it was awesome!
I even got an autograph from Ken Watanabe!
However, what ruined the experience was the group of professional autograph hunters, who will do anything to get an autograph. Some of the stuff they were saying about the actors/actresses was actually quite sickening!
Anyway……feeling peckish, I headed off to Baco Mercat for dinner after a quick change. Now, I have heard many rave reviews about this place, with the much hyped “caesar” brussels sprouts creating quite a stir.
When I arrived at 9.30pm, the place was absolutely rammed!
Luckily for me, there was a place by the bar, so I quickly ordered a tamarind and mango bäco pop (not as awesome as it sounds – it was way too sweet), the “caesar” brussels sprouts (nothing special – it tasted like a very cheesy caesar salad) and “the toron” bäco (a saliva inducing oxtail sandwich and worth every cent!).
To finish off, I ordered an Old Rasputin and a baked semolina cake, the latter of which was quite awe-inspiring for a wannabe baker like myself: crunchy, gooey and perfect for those with a sweet tooth. I suspect the crunch was a result of the dessert being finished off in a saucepan; however, I will need to experiment at home to confirm!
My impression of Baco Mercat? I think that it would be a great date location, especially given the lively vibe and proximity to trendy bars.
Before I headed to L.A., many people said that Downtown was best avoided. To see whether the comments about downtown were true, I walked through a couple of blocks towards Perishing Square.
Ok, so you get the odd homeless person (one came up to me and said “I’m here to make rhymes, not crimes”) and a couple of rowdy kids. However, NOT once did I feel unsafe (obviously you have to have some street smarts, but if you keep yourself to yourself, nothing will happen).
I actually found Downtown kinda cool – the trendy bars, the “cycle to churn your own ice-cream” places and great restaurants definitely makes it a contender for places to stay for my next trip to L.A.!
I spent my last full day in L.A. checking out some of the other gems in Downtown.
I started off the morning by getting a cold-pressed (believe the hype, it’s good!) from Juice Crafters (the greenest #3 was pretty good!) before going for breakfast at Grand Central market:
The market itself reminded me of Hong Kong’s grocery markets, but much much cleaner!
Anyway, the reason for my visit was to have breakfast at the ridiculously named Eggslut – a breakfast/brunch location devoted to eggs (my sister drooled uncontrollably when I showed her the menu).
I have so much respect for these guys. You see, the owners gave up their day jobs, did the whole food truck thing to build up a following before taking up permanent residence. That is literally the Tangmanstyle dream!
To start, I had the ice-cold bottled coffee (great idea, not so great taste wise)
before opting for a sausage, egg and cheese (think double sausage egg McMuffin, but so much better!):
Just look at that!
The couple sitting next to me had “the Slut” (coddled egg, smooth potato puree and crostini soldiers), which looked sooo tempting!
I also recently heard on the grape vine that, apparently, Eggslut have recently expanded the menu to include a coffee bacon-jam burger – giving me another excuse to go back!
(Hint: You have to order first at the till before sitting down!)
At this point, I thought that nothing could make my day any better…..little did I know what was coming up!
You see, my next point of call was the Disney concert hall – the new home of the L.A. Philharmonic.
The building itself is a absolute piece of art. Even with my dodgy photography, it looks stunning:
Once inside, you can opt for an audio guide (need to leave behind a piece of ID) or the walking tour. As the walking tour wasn’t for another hour, I decided to take the audio tour.
And it was AMAZING! The tour guides you through the history and concept of the building, how the architects tried to blend it into the L.A. cityscape and how the architects made it so unique.
Seriously, this place would be the first thing I would recommend you visit in L.A.. I’m just gutted I didn’t get to see a concert here!
Despite wanting to stay there for the rest of the day, I had Little Tokyo and Chinatown to visit (hey, I am Asian after all!).
On my way there, I spotted a market and went for a quick nosey.
And was offered to try some Dou Fu Fa (a Chinese tofu dessert), Malay style coffee.
It was surprisingly good!
When I finally arrived at Little Tokyo (you can so easily tell where you are in L.A. – the people and architecture just changes!).
I was surprised to find out how small it was. However, there were some cool shops and details:
I then jumped on the metro to Chinatown. And, like in Vegas, this was another disappointment. THERE IS LITERALLY NOTHING THERE!
Actually, I lie. Phillipes (a L.A. institution, famous for its double dip sandwiches) lies on the outskirts of Chinatown and offered a decent lunch.
I followed the lead of the locals in front of me and ordered a double dipped Beef dip sandwich, hoping to try out what some call “the best sandwich in the world”.
To be honest, it was OK. It tasted exactly as described – a protein, bread and beef stock. If I went to L.A. again, I would give this place a miss.
However, just around the block is something so awesome it will BLOW YOUR MIND.
You see, there is a little Mexican block just down the road from Phillipes. And within this is Mr Churro, which sells (you guessed it!) churros.
Now, forget anything you have ever known about churros, because this place reinvents them! Walking in, I ordered the standard chocolate churro and was presented this with this beast.
It was literally like drinking the best hot chocolate through a doughnut straw. Yeah, just take a second out to picture that…..
To burn off the excessive amount of calories I consumed since breakfast, I headed back home for a quick change before jumping on a bus to Griffith park.
Griffith park is famous for a number of reasons: many movies are filmed there; it is home to the infamous Hollywood sign; there is the beautiful observatory and it even holds a golf course.
However, I went for the cycle: you can hire a bike for c.$20 for the day and cycle all around the park (it is 4,310 acres in total!). Despite all the hills (probably why people in L.A. are so attractive), it was such a beautiful ride.
Unfortunately for me, they had closed the route to the observatory to film a scene for a car chase (it happens alot in L.A. apparently) so I ended up missing out on the observatory (sorry Ant!).
However, I did get to see the Hollywood sign (as close as possible) and check out the awesome views.
My final night in L.A. was spent watching the Clippers lose to OKC in a bar and learning about the NFL Draft from some locals. It was surprisingly fun and quite interesting to hear views from other fans (Go Packers Go! Boo Vikings!).
And so ended my Journey to L.A. It has been 3 weeks since I left L.A. and I still miss what has now become my favourite city. I always thought that NY would be where I would end up living, however L.A. has seriously put some doubt in my mind. I guess I just have to visit NY again to confirm!
Anyway, I appreciate that these are long posts, so for those who (like me) have a short attention span, I have summarised my trip below:
Getting around: Get a TAP card, use UBER where possible and use the Flyaway service to get to/from the airport.
Favourite place to eat: very difficult choice between Eggslut and Langers. Langers probably just edges it due to the great service and incredible sandwiches!
Favourite attraction: Warner Brothers Tour (I am a Friends and BBT fanatic!)
Favourite district: Koreatown
Must do: Go to the Getty and hike both Griffith park and Runyon Canyon. Also go to a film premiere.
Biggest regret: Probably missing out on seeing a Lakers game and not having enough time to eat out at the other amazing restaurants (Gjelina, Bestia, Ink etc)
Hint for tourists: LAX is rubbish for shopping/killing time. Try to buy all your gifts from Macys/Robertson Boulevard beforehand. Also consider getting UBER – it is such a great app for getting around!