As all people unburdened by sense and financial responsibility know, the best way to alleviate post-holiday blues is to book your next one. When I returned from a few months in Korea in November, one of the first things I did was scour Skyscanner while WhatsApping my dear pal, Ally T. He mentioned he was going to LA so guess what? I’M COMING WITH. If I recall correctly, I don’t think I even asked if it was ok to crash his holiday, but there we have it. If you’re going west (or indeed any which way), you’re taking me with you.
So hello from the sky, ladies and gents: I’m writing this two G&Ts down and 51,000 feet up on Virgin Atlantic’s LAX-LHR route. Incidentally, Virgin have got this whole ‘brand experience’ lark nailed. I’m in economy right now (heaven FORBID the lady travels in such conditions) but the bog standard Virgin experience easily beats the first class leg of my trip (San Francisco to LA, American Airlines). Keep the Bombay Sapphire flowing, Dario; I’ll require more than one consolatory tipple as my Californian road trip comes to a close.
And what a bloody road trip. Hardly the most original contribution to my bucket list but certainly one of the most long-standing, driving along the Californian coastline has been on my mind ever since I paid a fleeting visit to San Francisco as a teen. I’ve always said SF is the only place I would want to live ‘permanently’ (whatever that means) outside the UK but after the past two weeks, I’ll extend that statewide.
If my surroundings and travel buddies weren’t quite so photogenic, perhaps I wouldn’t have had to sift through well over 1,000 photos and hours of video footage. With so much to show and tell, I’m going to split this blog into three parts: LA, the bit in the middle, and San Francisco.
Also, here I am with ‘vodka sauce’. Which is about as tempting as my facial expression.
My Los Angeles diary deserves a preamble.
I’ve heard LA is ballachingly widespread. I’ve assumed it’s vacuously obsessed with celebrity culture. I’ve been told it is, for want of a better phrase, a bit of a shit hole. To be honest, I approached it as a sort of layover on my way to Big Sur, the jagged coastline that’s more ‘my scene’. I’m a coastal, country girl at heart, you see, and no amount of Kardashian bullshit will change that.
As with so many prejudgements, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I loved LA. It was my favourite destination on this little trip and now, it’s second only to London on cities I’d like to call ‘home’. It’s got sunshine, avocados and so many beautiful places to go hiking. Everyone I met was relaxed and friendly (without the obligatory smell of weed that came with San Francisco’s friendliest inhabitants). It has all the buzz and none of the stress of a world city. Permanently or for a holiday, I’d go back in a heartbeat. And so the quest for a visa begins.
I jest. I think.
I was only there for two days, so forgive my cheesy, touristy agenda. You know the drill: day one, walk of fame. Day two, Hollywood sign. All the former served to do was highlight how few icons and celebrities I give a monkeys’ about (only David Bowie was enough to get me excited about a star on the floor. You can read more about my love for Ziggy Stardust here). The latter was a big sign.
When I’m new to a city, one of my favourite things to do is choose a neighbourhood, wander around it with my camera, and sit in a coffee shop for hours. I’d say that people-watching gives me more than a Lonely Planet guide ever could. I did a tiny bit of that in LA; first in La Brea and second, near our hostel in Hollywood. Incidentally, it was perfectly adequate and I’d recommend it, as long as you’re happy in shared rooms.
While in La Brea, we came across a large farmers’ market. I’d definitely go back. Ally wasn’t a fan of my carrot crisps but yay, all the more pretentious foodstuffs for me! And in Hollywood, we stumbled across a very newly-opened coffee shop and bar, Demitasse. So new, in fact, it was but three days old when I first wrapped my lips around its unforgettable Kyoto Iced Coffee. That place was so good it deserves its own blogpost, so eyes peeled for that.
I always struggle to articulate what it is that draws me to certain cities and pushes me from others. Seoul is my spirit city (as I ramble on about here); but I think LA could be a second home. It can’t be the sunshine; everywhere outside London has good weather. It’s not the iconography; I could take it or leave it. I think it’s more to do with the juxtapositions. The downtown buzz and the hillside hiking; the burger subculture* and the healthy-healthy lifestyle; the creativity and the ruthless ambition.
*for which Umami Burger is at the helm. It’s a delight.
To borrow words from Billy Connolly, “I love Los Angeles. It reinvents itself every two days.” Well, I’m non-committal and a walking contradiction, so my hometown needs to have multiple personalities. LA, when it’s over between London and me*, you could well be The One.
*Not for a long while. This shit’s serious.
Next up: part 1a, all about the delectable Demitasse Coffee, Hollywood!