Go west young lass – Horace Greeley
Now Horace Greeley said “young man” but that’s plain semantics. The west coast is a dream. A dream that became a reality for us when we flew out west early last month. I don’t know what I was expecting when I landed in LAX for the first time, but it was everything and more. The palm trees in that west coast sun, the beaches, the food, the people, the scenery and so much more. There were some gritty parts of Los Angeles and some really beautiful areas of Los Angeles and it wouldn’t do the city justice if I only focused on the picture-perfect LA that Hollywood paints for us in almost every film we ever watch. For some reason, I feel it is incredibly important to highlight the good and the bad in LA. I am going to focus in on the really good spots to visit, the great people we bumped into and the experiences we had. I will speak more to the grittiness I mean later on in this post.
The second we walked out of the airport, the sun welcomed us. It’s a different sun over there, continuously bright, warm and comforting. There is just something about it that makes you so incredibly happy. The eight days we spent in California were some of the happiest. If you have the opportunity, jump on a plane and go to California, you won’t regret it. Because I have so much to write about the west coast, all my California posts have been separated into five different posts, I started with places to eat in Los Angeles which you can read here…. “9 Food Gems You Just Have to try in L.A.”
Los Angeles and it seems like California, in general, is separated into many different neighborhoods, some having history and culture going pretty far back. Little Tokyo, the first place we went to after landing and checking into our Airbnb was one of those places. It is one of only three try Japanese towns in the United States and it was one of our favorite places. We roamed the streets of Little Tokyo until it was late and we couldn’t walk anymore. I think I have said this before and I will say it again that anywhere I go I always look for a bit of history. One of my favorite things about Little Tokyo besides the food, of course, was that on the sidewalks there were plaques of all the businesses who had been there at the beginning and then the ones that came after. This was so important to me because it was once again a reminder of the contributions Japanese Americans had to our country.
Grand Central Market in Downtown L.A. was a really cool spot. I went more in-depth on the food in my food post, but it was just such a chill place. You can walk around, have a cocktail, and explore different cuisines all under the same roof. It has been open since 1917 and has an old school feel while remaining modern. If I would have had the time I would have stayed so much longer, that’s for sure.
The Museum of Contemporary Art was right around the corner from Grand Central Market. We just had to stop in; we never pass up a chance to check out a cool museum, Something really cool that they were trying out was free entry for everybody as a way to make the museum more accessible and I was so impressed by that. The exhibits were incredible and eye-opening. I always feel that art museums give you a chance to see the world from the perspective of the artist, even if you don’t necessarily agree. I always tell people to check out a local art museum when you travel because it is an interesting way of exploring a city.
So we did some really touristy things while in L.A. –> I mean you have to right? I feel like it is a must at least once in your life so you can see what all the hype is about. My honest opinion? The Hollywood Walk of fame was incredibly crowded, to the point that walking on the sidewalk was just hard. I geeked out by celebrity stars on the walk and the fact that I was seeing them in real life but that is probably the only time I will visit. A really cool museum we did get to go to was the Hollywood Museum in the Historic Max Factor Building. It had several floors of Hollywood memorabilia and my favorite was the Back to the Future exhibit. I am a die-hard Back to the Future fan and it was so iconic to see some stuff from the set and see a replica of the Delorean from the film.
We also went to Rodeo Drive. We people watched for a while because it was filled with tourists from all over the world. Lots of expensive cars up and down the road and beautiful displays everywhere. It was beautiful but after walking around for about an hour or so we decided to head elsewhere in the city and get a bite to eat.
One of our favorite experiences in Los Angeles was The Getty Center which was an incredible experience of art, culture, and views for miles. It was an experience that made you realize how art transforms the world around us. As a couple who took up photography more seriously last year, the Getty also intrigued us because they had a photography exhibit that made us think outside the box and really yearn to explore more of the world through our lens. Needless to say, we took tons of pictures while we were there and experimented with different compositional styles. Another thing to note, it’s free to get into this museum/art gallery. Plus they have these incredible gardens that just make you catch your breath. I really cannot say enough great things about this place.
After the Getty, we went to Los Feliz, which is a neighborhood close by. We found a lot of fun things to do there including the Soap Plant/Wacko which was this crazy, cool store with all sorts of things. Plus it had a mini art gallery inside. We also explored the area, it has many vintage stores and cool bookstores. It was a very different vibe from downtown LA, which honestly is the case for most of the area of SoCal that we explored–every neighborhood is different and I LOVED that.
The Comedy Store
Another of our favorite experiences in Los Angeles was the Comedy Store, an iconic LA staple where some of the world’s best comics came from. Located on the famous sunset strip it is definitely worth visiting. We bought tickets for a “16 headliner show” which promised a guest comic and OMG were we surprised. We got seats right in the front so of course, the comics cracked jokes about us all night, it was like living what we saw on TV for so many years. The surprise guest was the incredible Ali Wong and I was ugly crying you guys, I love her and for 15 minutes I was a couple of feet from her. She was the coolest.
Things to note about the comedy store, you cant take photos, and no videos. You have to at least purchase two cocktails while you’re there and I would advise anyone wanting to go to get tickets early. That was our last evening in LA and it was the best way to end it.
We decided that before driving down to San Diego we would drive to the Malibu area to check it out. It was so cool driving along the coastal road and now I can say I have driven on both coasts. We couldn’t find parking at the actual beach in Malibu so we went down a ways to Topanga Beach and it was absolutely beautiful. Views for miles, sun shining, the most perfect palm trees and oh so relaxing. The perfect way to start our drive down to SAn Diego.
Los Angeles was a place with obvious beauty, but it was also a place where the disparity in wealth was a very real concept. I was shocked for the first time in my life at how bad the homeless situation is there. We drove by multitudes of homeless “cities” and each time I have just felt such a complete sadness. California is a beautiful state but LA has a very real problem with the homeless and when I saw how real the situation was I really understood what people have been saying about it. There is so much they don’t show us in all those perfect movies, and it is up to us as individuals to go explore the world we hear about if we can. To be informed, to make a conscious effort to understand. We enjoyed our time in LA but sometimes it was so draining seeing that around us. I hope this makes you want to understand more of the situation there and if you live there and you’re reading this well I hope I was able to paint LA in both a positive light but a real light as well.
As always….explore often no matter where you are.
Life as a Maven