I’ve never been to Los Angeles, CA and honestly had really only heard negative things about it. The traffic is horrible. It’s terribly expensive. There are too many people. There are earthquakes. So my expectations were really low, which may be why I absolutely fell in love with LA.
I arrived at the famed LAX on a Thursday night and checked into my hotel for the first night, the Courtyard by Marriott (there for business one day so it was paid for). It was late and I had been traveling most of the day so decided to just check out the hotel’s bistro. Normally hotel bars and bistros are pretty limited for me since I’ve been a vegetarian for over 4 years. But wow, LA is a vegetarian’s dreamland! I was really happy that I had multiple choices and they were all really good!
Friday morning I ventured out to breakfast at this adorable place called Cafe Vida in Culver City which had so many delicious sounding items it was hard to decide. I went with the egg white veggie scramble and rosemary lemonade. From here I left and drove to my home base for the rest of the weekend, Santa Monica.
Santa Monica immediately lived up to my expectations. Within five minutes I saw every stereotype you could think of, existing together. There was a guy playing music on the sidewalk, a person with a teal blue Mohawk, people roller skating, a woman dressed in a full astronaut costume with pink hair and pink umbrella, families, homeless people, foreigners. It was amazing! We walked along the pier, by the famous Ferriswheel
and then got lunch at Big Dean’s Oceanfront Cafe, which I think uses the word “oceanfront” a little toooo liberally. I sat outside on the patio, had a few beers, some pretty decent veggie burgers and enjoyed one of the greatest things I have ever seen on a dive bar restaurant…a basket of half fries, half onion rings. I mean really, how genius is that?
I really can’t talk about how perfect the weather was. It was sunny, not a cloud in the sky, not humid and cool enough that I was comfortable in jeans. I had heard I couldn’t miss Venice Beach so I took advantage of the bike path that runs 26 miles down the coast south from LA and rode to Venice Beach. This bike path is amazing – flat, wide, and runs along the ocean. It was the perfect way to get to Venice Beach, which is indescribable. The main board walk area is home to artists, homeless people, musicians, conspiracy theorists, and a little bit of everything. There was a homeless man playing a grand piano next to a bunch of mannequins wearing bikinis, next to a woman with a display about aliens living among us. I had been told not to go there at night and now that I have seen it, I agree. I felt a shade unsafe being there during the day, so if you go stay away after sunset. But definitely go because it is amazing.
I wanted to get a drink but didn’t want to go far so stopped into Chez Jay, this little dive bar across from my hotel. I really only chose it because it was so close, walked inside the dark room decorated vaguely like the inside of a circus tent and took a seat at the bar. It was 3pm so not many people there, but the ones that were clearly were regulars. The bartender was just OK and a bit standoffish so I kept to myself and took a look around. There were pictures on almost every inch of the wall and you could tell the place had been there for a very long time with little to no upgrades over the years. A random tourist came in, ordered a drink and said he was “expecting to see Billy Bob sitting at the bar” and that he “loved that show.” So I googled Chez Jay and Billy Bob and was surprised to see that this little bar I was in was actually quite famous. The show this man was talking about was Amazon Prime’s Goliath (which I have since watched and is worth watching) but the history of this little dive was astounding. The owner did not tolerate paparazzi so it became a haven for celebs who just needed to get away. I just had one drink and left, but am glad to have stumbled upon such an iconic piece of Hollywood lore.
I was in LA to celebrate my birthday so for my “big dinner out” I asked around and was told that Catch LA was a good place to go. I had googled and found out it was indeed one of “the” places to be seen. Usually I would stay away from places like that, but it was LA so I figured it would be fun to live life like a celebrity…plus they had a ton of vegetarian options on the menu. A TON. I got the Veggie king roll, the crispy cauliflower, the gnocchi, Brussels sprouts and noodles. Yes, it was way too much food, but wow was it delicious.
And because it was my birthday, I HAD to get the special “Hit Me” cake made with chocolate cake, topped with a Klondike bar, roasted white chocolate ice cream, a brownie and devil’s food cake. HOLY CRAP you should go to LA just to get this dessert. It. Was. Amazing.
I stayed at the Sea Blue Hotel which is exactly what it looks like online and at the same time, totally different. From the street it looks like a dive motel and there is a ton of construction going on. The door to the office is locked at all times and you need to be buzzed in, which is alarming as a first impression. But once you get your keys, you walk through this little courtyard and it is absolutely adorable. Each room has its own terrace and deck and while small, the rooms have recently been redone and the decor is this adorable 60s surfer vibe. The hotel is old though, so while the bed and tv are new, the bathroom is not. The shower ran hot and cold and there was basically no counter space. It also had no sound proofing and the sounds of my above neighbors woke me up each day. But the location was ideal so overall I am still pleased with it. I walked down to the pier after dinner and put my feet in the (quite cold) Pacific Ocean. There were a ton of people on the Pier, even at 10pm. Every 10 feet there was a different person playing some sort of music, or selling their crafts and oddities. It really is the most magical, odd place.
Saturday morning I headed to Hollywood to check out the Walk of Fame, which honestly is disappointing. I was there for less than 20 minutes and while I guess it’s good I checked it off my list, it was underwhelming. First, it is very long with over 2600 different stars.
Second, the person has to pay $40,000 to get the star, so many people I would have liked to see (such as Prince) refuse to pay to get their star. The whole area smelled like urine and there were so many people “giving out” their CDs (for a small donation of course) that it made it uncomfortable and not fun to see the sights. More than anything LA taught me, is that I am sheltered from truly sick and crazy people which live out in plain view in LA. I was glad to get in the car and head up the Sunset Strip, where I got to see where Whisky A Go Go and The Viper Room (where River Phoenix died) as well as The Laugh Factory and of course all the famed billboards. It was worth a drive down for sure.
Sunset Strip dead ends into the Pacific Coast Highway, which I took up the coast to Malibu, home of gorgeous landscapes and gravity defying homes. I stopped at El Matador State Beach and hiked down to see the rock formations. This is one of those beaches that I feel like has been the back drop of so many shows or bathing suit ads that it seemed instantly familiar to me. It’s gorgeous, not crowded and if I lived in LA, could see making it a regular weekend hangout.
I spent my last night in Santa Monica having one of those movie montage perfect nights. I started with dinner and drinks at The Misfit Restaurant. There was a bit of a wait, so I
walked to the back of the bar and took it all in. The base of the bar is a card catalog and on top of the bottles are rows and rows of books. The drinks were delicious and odd and again I was delighted by the sheer number of vegetarian options on the menu. The mac and cheese was one of the best I’ve ever had and I finally tried the much hyped avocado toast, which was fine. After dinner I walked down to the Third Street Promenade which is a third shops and cafes, a third performance location for street artists and activists and a third just really amazing people watching. There was a group of 20ish vegans in an outward facing circle, wearing masks, holding TVs showing the slaughtering of chickens next to a woman in her 80s in full Indian dress, dancing and inviting others to dance with her, next to a man in his 20s unsuccessfully acting like a mime for money. The entire area is only a few blocks long but it was another fantastic walk and just capped off what I hoped Santa Monica could be.
I had a Sunday morning flight so checked out of the hotel and looked for something to eat. I am not sure what people who live there do for breakfast but it was nearly impossible to find something open early. I went to the only place that was open at 9, a cute little building called Ivy at the Shore. The food was ok, the service was phenomenal but the prices were ridiculous. My very basic omelet was $35. My juice was $17. I know LA is expensive, but $35 for a two egg omelet with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and basil was not worth that at all.
So yes, I fell in love with LA. Yes the traffic is bad. The prices are impressive. But the weather is perfect and there is just such a feeling of anything goes, it’s comfortable and gorgeous. I am already thinking of my next trip there and missing the ease of everything.