Street art (or graffiti as we like to call it in NZ), rubbish, homeless people. Anywhere else, words such as these would not exactly inspire one to visit. In Los Angeles … no problem!
The last time I visited Los Angeles for any length of time was in 2009 when I stayed for a week in Venice Beach. I really enjoyed that experience and came to love the laid back and boutique culture of Venice. For this trip, I required a location that would see me through to my Alaska departure.
Using airbnb.com, I was able to book a quaint apartment right on Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake for a very fair nightly rate. I had not explored Sunset before other than several nighttime visits while in Venice, so was very excited to experience this part of Los Angeles.
There was one small glitch on the day of arrival that actually turned out to be quite beneficial. The apartment owner had to attend to an urgent bit of maintenance so offered me alternative accommodation in their lovely backyard sleep-out (fully equipped with bathroom, kitchen etc.). The hosts house was in central Los Feliz right across the road from the iconic Prospect Studios where are a number of TV series have been filmed including one Grey’s Anatomy.
I really enjoyed staying in this area. It was only a 5 minute walk to a number of very cool eating and drinking locations. The area is also very well serviced by the [LA bus service]. However, my preference for any travel in LA was UBER. One of their drivers told me that there are now over 30,000 UBER vehicles in LA! So you literally have a vehicle around the corner when you make your booking.
I visited many cafes in Los Feliz. Choosing a table outside provided the best people watching. LA is rich with diversity and this area did not disappoint. I have been generally disappointed with the coffee while travelling in the States, but did manage to have several very drinkable Lattes in Los Feliz. Tip: don’t order the large size! One cafe I can definitely recommend is the Figaro Bistrot – awesome service and plenty of sidewalk tables.
A stroll along North Vermont Ave reveals many boutique designer stores and eateries. There were two stores in particular I enjoyed visiting: Skylight Books and Sumi’s Handmade Designer Store. Skylight Books were open late so was a nice option to end the night after a meal or movie.
I decided to go retro for one of my dinners at Fred 62, also on Nth Vermont. I have a soft spot for American Diners. Surprisingly, this was the worst service I experienced at a restaurant in any of the US locations I have been to! I was literally forgotten about even though I was seated right in front of the bar. The food was fine once it arrived, but I got the feeling the staff would have rather been anywhere but the Diner that night. I had a far better experience at Little Dom’s Italian Restaurant on Hillhurst Ave which was recommended to me by my host.
While in Los Feliz, I took advantage of being very close to the Griffith Observatory. Griffith Park offers visitors a spectacular view of LA and the famous Hollywood Sign. I was treated to a magnificent sunset on my visit. The observatory itself is a beautiful building housing several powerful telescopes and expo halls showcasing our solar system. You are free to wander throughout the building and ask questions of the many enthusiastic staff available. I really recommend a visit if you are in the area.
If you want to see how the other half live … take a walk up Prospect Ave to Ronda Vista Drive. So many beautiful homes. A great way to see the diverse architecture of the area also. As an aside, I did visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in the Barnsdall Art Park. An interesting structure but not one of my favourites of his – the bleakness of the morning LA smog may not have helped!
Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake
I got to spend two nights at the Sunset Blvd apartment. A great little studio right in the heart of the Strip. Walking either direction offered a myriad of eating, drinking and shopping options. Sunset is very very laid back. Quite similar to the Venice vibe.
I purchased my favourite pair of Vans from a surf shop owner (Mollusk) who could have definitely played the part of “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski.
There are treasures to be found all the way along Sunset Blvd. Saturday morning is great for markets and cafe crawling. One brunch spot in particular was incredibly popular with a queue that stretched down the road – Millie’s Cafe. Millie’s has been a stalwart in Silver Lake since 1926.
At the other end of Sunset Blvd, I recommend a visit to Echo Park. Located opposite the impressive Angelus Temple, Echo Park boasts a scenic lake populated by many colourful pedal boats. Echo Park has a reputation for being a Hipster hangout; I liken it to a K-Road/Ponsonby weekend crowd. Make sure you are carrying plenty of cash to sample the various mainly Mexican food carts.