Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Los Angeles - Josh and Jay in LA

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions the city called Los Angeles?  Is it perhaps those giant white letters spelling out 'Hollywood' jumping in front of your mind's eye?  If you're a sports fan, then maybe the mere mention of LA directs your mind towards the Lakers or The Rams. The home of Universal? Where the 'Oscars' come from? 

Yes sure, it is the move making capital of the world and maybe all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas, or more likely waiting tables!  And, as Josh and Jay found out, there is a whole lot more to LA than making movies.

Los Angeles is a wonderfully vibrant city with so much on offer to while away the hours, days, weeks and even months. Of course, it has some interesting theatres, both mainstream and fringe, it also boasts a whole host of other cultural highlights, including the vast art collections at the J. Paul Getty Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Oh and don't forget the rather funky looking Broad (It kinda looks like a giant white cheesegrater) which has a world-class collection of contemporary works of art.  The Hammer Museum isn't a house of horror, its a house of brilliant brush strokes with works by Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Sargent. They also host lectures, symposia, readings and musical performances. The Natural History Musem of Los Angeles is also worth popping along to, especially if you got little ones to keep occupied. 

Now as you would expect for this movie town, they have a museum dedicated to the business they call show. It is located on North Highland Avenue and guess what it is called? Rather unsurprisingly Hollywood Museum and you'll find such a vast collection of movie memorabilia that the inner movie buff in you will be sated for life. Josh felt spooked by the dungeon of doom while I just fancied a nice drop of Chianti with a nibble of liver with some fava beans! 

Another fun place to be, at least Josh thinks so, is Universal's CityWalk at Universal City which has live music, movies, IMAX and 19 screen movie house, some 30 shops and 30 places to fill your tummy. It can get rather busy, so if the peace and quiet is your thing, then you'll probably want to avoid coming here on Friday, Saturday or Sunday! However, of you're young or young at heart then this place gets swinging in the evening.

One of the best places we've ever been to in LA is The Griffith Observatory high up in Griffin Park on the south side of Mount Hollywood. Its elevated position gives it some of the best views of Los Angeles you will have ever seen, right from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean - weather permitting of course.  Plus it has a distant but great unobstructed view of the famous big lettered sign which you can cleverly frame so it's on your hand/head/arm or other bodily parts in your photos. 

The building dates back to 1935 and really does offer a window onto the stars above and beyond. Apparently, it has the world’s most advanced star projector, plus loads of other astronomical displays and exhibits. It won't cost a fortune either, as there is no entrance fee for the buildings and grounds,  if you want to watch a show, which runs multiple times a day, it'll cost less than $10 and we really think you should, it's not too long and it is fascinating. Oh, and you can also get up there by Dash shuttle bus so its a cheap day out.

And if you think it looks familiar, then you'd be right, more than 50 films and TV shows have filmed around this wonderful observatory building and its grounds, including one of the most iconic movies of all time, Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean.

Some other sights to see and things to do include a visit to The Queen Mary, the classic ocean liner from times gone by. It was bigger than the Titanic and one of the finest liners afloat in its day and has a charm and a romanticism of that bygone era. It's over in Long Beach and is rather an expensive tourist hotspot, however, just to go and look at it from a distance is free and while you are there you can explore the rest of Long Beach. 

The Aquarium of the Pacific is also in Long Beach and features a collection of over 12,00 animals from over 550 different species. There is a focus on the Pacific Ocean, as you'd have guessed by its name, there are three major galleries, Southern California and Baja, Northern Pacific and Tropical Pacific. Get there on the metro blue line, which despite being called a train, is more like a tram and is surprisingly rapid. 

Want to see LA life in a relaxed and chilled way? Then no visit to this part of the US is complete without a visit to Venice Beach boardwalk, or Ocean Front Walk as some of the locals call it. It is perhaps a human zoo and great for most peoples favourite secret pastime - people watching! There are often buskers, street entertainers along the way with some odd people doing little magic tricks badly or some other skill or feat. Oh and if you're smelling something funny, in the funky sense, in the air, then don't breathe too deeply, for marijuana is legal here, for medical purposes at least, so chances are, your nostrils are tingling because it is rather surprising how many people seem to have medical needs along the boardwalk!  Another tip, make sure you change down your high-value notes that you got from the current exchange desk at the airport or ATM as you'll need plenty of dollar bills to give to the street performers unless you want to give them $20, £50 of $100 dollar notes!

If fitness is your thing and even if it is not, then perhaps you'd want to take a visit to the world-famous Muscle Beach, complete with the most massive gym we've ever seen, just by the Venice Beach Recreation Center. It certainly is a sight to see, if your eyes like to drink in a view of bronzed slightly sweaty muscle men working out and pumping the iron that is. There's a good juice bar here too, so if you're partial to a wheatgrass, cucumber and zucchini gloopy concoction while you oggle those doing the heavy lifting, get it here. Plus it gives you more of a legitimate reason for loitering around here, other than just admiring the flesh on display.  

While you're in the area, I'd say get on up to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which has previously been called the coolest street in America!  Loads of high-end boutiques populate this street, there are also numerous trendy places to eat and drink along here too, perfect for a spot more people watching, just remember to keep a close eye on your wallet - not saying its dodgy with loads of pickpockets, but you might actually spend a whole load more than you bargained for, if you don't watch the pennies!

If you don't fancy handing over your dollars for expensive grub, then perhaps you'd want to head on over to Rose Avenue and plant your behind at the rather big Rose Cafe. Great food, cheap prices and a really refreshing mixed clientele that will always ensure your eyes have something to feast on as well as your tummy. We loved the avocado toast (which is more like a sandwich) and the rather odd Ronin cocktail, simply delish!

Josh really liked Gjelina and Gjusta for a true taste of the 'Venice' lifestyle where hipsters mix with funksters, the odd celeb with the more normal of us that are just in town for the weekend. It's got some good innocent food to nosh on in a rather close atmosphere - thanks to communal tables, although you can sit on your own and just soak up the vibe. Both are also great for veggie's and brunch at Gjeliais a treat too, some rather exciting combinations.

Another popular choice, especially to start the night, is Perch. This is a rooftop restaurant that has a French feel and influence with some stunning views and it won't break the bank.  Expect to pay about $50-60 each and do make a reservation. Some feel it is a little pretentious, but hey it is hard not to be in this city sometimes and the views are great - tables outside are to go for, more than make up for any shortcomings.  They also do a brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday, which are also popular, especially Sunday's so you better book ahead if you wanna brunch with the best. 

Fisherman's Outlet Restaurant and Market on S Central Avenue in the downtown arts district is a really reasonable seafood speciality basic eatery that's just perfect for a spot of lunch. Open from around 10am to half-past three, this place has been going since 1961 and has built up a great reputation for simple, great quality food at cheap prices.

The Huntington Library, art collection and super botanical gardens are also a rather good day out, it offers a lot for the $25 entrance fee, worth it in my mind. However, if you want to save some money, email them in advance and you can get free entry on the first Thursday of the month.

There are loads of bars and clubs to heighten your nighttime enjoyment, some are hip and trendy, others are more sleek and low-key, others are so pretentious you'll need a password to get in and then others are so pricey, you'll fork out the price of a small car to just get a table. It really is a city of contrasts and keeping up with where the so-called 'in' crowd go is darn near impossible, it's probably best to stick to the more usual choices for after dark entertainment until you get friendly with a local hipster or disco dolly. Here's just a few you might want to consider - 

The skybar at The Mondrain, is a popular rooftop bar/club/pool combo, which has tons of admirers and regulars. It offers a taste of what you might think life in LA or Hollywood is all about, but it's not cheap - $90 for a bottle of wine that you can get for $7 at a liquor store down the road. A bottle of spirit such as gin will set you back a cool $400, however, a glass of Rekorderlig cider is a more reasonable $8.

Hollywood Lucky Strike is a funky little place, it is a mash-up between bowling alley, hip bar, live music venue, cafe and club. It has a really nice vibe to it and the food is surprisingly good and the drink prices are fairly average for LA, cheaper than a whole load of places, oh and sofas are sooo comfy. 

Little Bar on South La Brea Avenue, is a friendly bar that just seems to exude that small town local neighbourhood bar vibe that is really refreshing, well worth a trip here.

Fancy a beer? Boomtown Brewery is a fine destination on a night out if you would like a decent beer! They do a range of different and tasty beers in a relaxed and chilled environment which is comfortable and very enjoyable. It is a big space with rustic decor and they often do special nights like movie nights or chef nights or whatnot which makes this big space feel more intimate and cosy. 

Boulevard 3, on Sunset, used to be the place to be, it has in the past been labelled as one of the "25 Hottest Venues in the World" by Conde Nast, apparently CosMo says it is one of the "Sexiest Places To Be" and it is a nice looking place on the inside, with a balcony and a courtyard garden. Entrance fee is $20 which is reasonable, drinks are a little pricey, but hey you're in LA and you're a long time dead, so make the most of it while you can.  We didn't see a single star, apart from those in the sky and the clientele is a bit 'showy' and the staff, well they have more attitude that you'd expect and not in a good way, but the space is nice. 

The Normandie Club is a sweet little venue on West 6th Street, with a vast array of cocktails to gee up your night and perhaps the friendliest bartenders in LA. This isn't a club, it's a relaxed if slightly dimly lit lounge bar that has a good mix of people soaking up the happy chill atmosphere. Find the secret door and the red button and you could be in The Walker Inn, which is on the top 100 bars of the world list. It's only small, I think the capacity is around 25 or so and has a similar vibe to the front bar, just perhaps a little more exclusive. Apparently, they have a tasting menu if you reserve a place, which sounds like a fun thing to do to while away an hour or so and will cost you $70. Whereas cocktails in the Normandie club in the front will cost around $15 or so, which sounds expensive, but is pretty average for downtown/Koreatown and to be honest the service and ambience make it well worth it.  

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