I, admittedly, get a little chatty in this post. So rarely do we get to sit down and actually write about traveling. Stick with me. Or, if you choose to just scroll in and take in the pictures, I won’t be mad. But still… you should read it. Okay. Moving on.
Day 1 – Venice
California-bound. That’s what I was. And I was EXCITED. After a couple of little flight hiccups (that resulted in FREE BOOZE), I arrived with dreams of sunny skies, warm winds, bright colors, and amazing fashion. The sunny skies and warm winds thing proved to be a little hit or miss over the course of the trip. But whatever. I’m not bitter. Not THAT bitter.
I arrived in LA around 12:45 Pacific, after about 8 hours of travel. After getting off the plane, navigating LAX, and picking up my rental (a fancy white Nissan Sentra, thankyouverymuch), I headed north to Venice. As my inaugural trip activity, I wandered around the Venice Canals – taking in the awesome colorful houses and the sweet, thoughtful landscapes. Lemon trees and succulents everywhere! The canals appeared to be a little low, but apparently that’s standard this time of year. There were little canoes and boats propped up on the sides, and I enjoyed imagining the enchanting lives of this neighborhood’s occupants.
Next, I hopped in my car for the short ride to Venice Beach. (Really, I could have walked, I just didn’t really know.) Once parked, my stroll toward the beach took me past numerous vibrant murals and animated street vendors. Due to the cloudiness of the afternoon the crowds weren’t as large as they would have been with sun, but the beach was still littered with people lounging, walking, performing, skating, playing basketball, and working. I watched a break dancing dance-off, and a woman playing the piano on the beach. A model getting touched up for (I’m guessing) a photo shoot. Lifeguards driving down the beach in their little lifeguard trucks. After all the traveling I’d done, I fed off the energy.
However, because other people’s energy isn’t ACTUALLY enough to keep one going, I started seeking out sustenance. The places I’d bookmarked in my fancy trip planning were all too far away, so I went back to the Yelp drawing board. I ended up at Plancha Tacos, a regional chain that lacked charm but tasted great. I ordered a tiger shrimp taco, a fish taco, and chips with guac. It was exactly perfect for what it needed to be. A QUICK stop with tasty food.
Next, I stopped in at some vintage shops – Animal House and Gotta Have It. Neither had anything I had to have, so I moved on. I headed inland a couple of blocks to the iconic stretch of Abbott Kinney Blvd to check out some shops. They had high-end chains like Rag & Bone and Scotch & Soda, but I was mostly there for boutiques like Huset and The Piece Collective. My favorite shop was Tortoise General Store which had a bunch of beautiful japanese modern home goods and accessories. Things were a tad pricey, but not completely unreasonable. I picked up a beautiful little bud vase.
The AK Blvd stretch was also great for fashion-watching—I saw a bunch of trendy little fashionistas that made me feel very frumpy, but also inspired. (Plus, I defensively told myself – no one is in their fashion prime when traveling. C’mon.)
In the late afternoon, fatigue from the day hit me like a semi-truck, and I needed to be at my hotel like, ASAP. (According to me.) However, Google Maps was telling me that traveling 10 miles would take 1.5 hours. I assumed it was a glitch. It was indeed, NOT A GLITCH, and by the time I dragged my beleaguered ass out of my car to the check-in office I was a crabby little asshole. (Sorry Jerry’s Motel check-in dude.) And, note to self and everyone else reading this article – the rumors about LA traffic are true. It’s freaking terrible. I thought this trip might make me want to move there. The traffic convinced me not to.
Feeling very sorry for myself, but too exhausted to find dinner anywhere, I drove to a nearby gas station for doritos and skittles. And then drooled pastel salvia all over the hotel pillows after I fell into a deep sleep.
In case you are wondering, the hotel I referenced is Jerry’s Motel – a highly-rated budget hotel in downtown LA. It isn’t anything to write home about, from a decor perspective, but it is clean and comfortable, with free parking, for around $100/night. It gets my thumbs up.
Day 2 – Sqirl, Getty, Melrose, and Hollywood
I’d decided to stay on EST for the trip, to make coming back to real life easier, so I woke up around 4am Pacific time, ready to go. However, the city wasn’t quite ready for ME. It was dark, and rainy, and nothing was open yet. Luckily, I’d bookmarked a popular breakfast spot in Silver Lake called Sqirl, that opened at 6:30. Food wasn’t served until 8, but I was able to get coffee and somewhat spotty wifi (is there anything more annoying than the paywall wifi?!) while I waited. Took a call from my mom who was petsitting to talk about where things like potholders were stored and such.
Once the kitchen was open, I enjoyed Sorrel Pesto Rice bowl, which was supa yums – it’s one of their most popular dishes. Plus, the idea of eating rice for breakfast was revelatory. I love rice so much and now I can eat it during ANY MEAL? Mind, blown.
It was early yet when I left Sqirl; not many attractions were open, so I decided to go off and find some of the views I’d bookmarked, starting with Barnsdall Art Park. It was still raining (a narrative you’ll hear quite a bit as I recount the day), so I didn’t want to spend much time outside of the car. However, I got a nice little drive around of the park and snapped some shots of the city. Next, I decided that because I was in the vicinity of Mulholland Drive, I’d drive up to experience the iconic windiness and see if I could see the Hollywood sign. I just kept setting myself up for disappointment with these decisions because of the stupid weather, but there was little else I could do at that time of day (that I knew of, anyway), and I was tired of just sitting around in a hotel or coffee shop.
I’ve given a bit of a spoiler already—I could NOT see the Hollywood sign, I could barely see anything when I pulled off into an overlook, and the experience of driving Muholland in the slippery rain is not one I recommend. But, it wasn’t the low point of my morning driving experience. That came shortly after when I decided to head to the Getty, put it into my GPS, and followed the stupid GPS lady’s instructions into what can only be described as a death trap mountain neighborhood maze. Before long, I was stuck smack in the middle of in this charming but maddening little community that consisted of two-way roads that were barely wider than my car and tended to shoot up toward the sky and drop down at alarming angles and with very little warning. I’d missed a turn somewhere, and even the GPS lady appeared to have given up in getting me out of there. The whole time I was worried about the rental car, and becoming increasingly alarmed that I was never getting out. (That is not for dramatic effect. The thought passed through my mind.)
“Architecture enthusiast (traveling alone) is found dead in her rental nissan amidst breathtakingly beautiful homes in the steep hills of California. Phone found on and in a state of ‘recalculation’.”
I just kept driving, and eventually the GPS lady started talking to me again, and we found our way out. Unfortunately, the task-oriented/Type A side of me decided I’d already lost too much time and I had to get on the highway toward the Getty instead of taking a much-needed breather to decompress. Minutes later, I was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic with a steady side of dreary drizzle, battling debilitating frustration. I thought about skipping the Getty and just going back to the hotel. I thought about just calling the airline for a flight home because “if I’d wanted gray skies and rain I could have just stayed home and not spent money and time and energy trying to get my self-prescribed dose of Vitamin D to get me through the winter AARG.” I was having very dramatic inside head self-discussion and was quite convinced the universe was pitted against me in an attempt to ruin my very first real solo vacation after months of looking forward to a warmer and bright climate. Probably the lowest point of my trip, and the only time I felt really bummed about not having someone with me. The benefit of a travel buddy is having someone to commiserate with when things don’t go as hoped.
I got to the Getty. And after almost bursting into tears AGAIN when I missed the tram by 5 seconds, and was told I would have to wait UP TO FIVE MINUTES in the chilly mist (can you sense the ridiculously low threshold for anything else going wrong in that moment?) … things started to look up. I started noticing the beauty of the mist and fog. Especially as a backdrop to the buildings of the Getty. The art was awesome, but the buildings and landscape architecture was what made it for me. See photos from that visit here.
After the Getty, I headed toward Melrose for – as you might have already predicted – shops. A quick stop for lunch at Taste on Melrose helped to calm the frayed nerves that had popped up again as I’d encountered more traffic. My mood was further buoyed after lunch when I discovered a pink satin bomber jacket, and green vintage Frye cowboy boots through stops at Wasteland (a vintage/designer consignment store with four locations in California) and Buffalo Exchange (a standard consignment stop when I travel). Then I went to the Vista Theatre in Hollywood – a fantastic historic art deco playhouse that has been open since 1923 – to see La La Land. The theatre itself was amazing – ornate decor and a dramatic velvet curtain with plush comfy seats. The movie was everything I dreamed it would be – an uplifting love letter to Los Angeles with fantastic fashion, sets, and scenes. In a way, it helped me forgive the city for serving up such a dreary experience, by giving me a little taste of what I’d been hoping for.
Day 3 – Eggslut, Silver Lake, and Camarillo
I started my day kept company as I got ready by Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia (God bless hotel cable!) That morning, after what had felt like the blink of an eye in LA, I was packing up my belongings in preparation to check out of the hotel.
Curious about downtown, I stopped in at Grand Central Market for a savory breakfast at the amusingly titled Eggslut. I arrived shortly after they opened, and there was already a lengthy line, which told me good things were to come. I stuffed my face with the most delicious breakfast sandwich I’ve perhaps ever had (called the Fairfax, btw, if you happen to check it out), while I sat on a stool at their breakfast bar with my back warmed by the sun. THIS DAY WAS GOING TO BE AWESOME.
And it was. The day was so much better.
I stopped in briefly a couple doors down to get caffeinated at Beantage, and grab some wi-fi. (Have I mentioned that I have a very conservative data plan, and using my phone to navigate Los Angeles was giving me vapors.) I wandered DTLA for a bit, but nothing was really open yet, and to be honest – all of the homelessness was starting to get to me.
I’d considered taking in another museum that day, but couldn’t bear the idea of being inside while the sun was out. So I headed in the direction of Silver Lake. I walked around the neighborhoods surrounding Silver Lake Reservoir (including a quick peek at Richard Neutra’s residence!), perused some sweet shops in a neighborhood close by (Yolk and Lawson-Fenning), tried to go to the Griffin Observatory (but the rest of the city had the same idea, so the experience turned into a drive up and a drive down a mountain which wasn’t terrible, all things considered.)
Then, I started heading north out of the city to have dinner and spend the evening with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who live in Camarillo. The night consisted of seafood, wine, and a massive giggle fit.
Day 4 – HWY 1 and Santa Monica
I woke up earlier than my family members, so I kicked off the morning by catching up on news and blogs. Which, is actually my usual Sunday morning activity; simply transplanted to California in this instance. Once my aunt got up we chatted for a while, and then I was on my way. (I felt like I was most usually on some kind of mission while I was out there. City vacations are not where Leslie relaxes. They are where she explores like a regimented maniac.)
I’ll admit – I made a quick stop at the outlet mall right after leaving. Totally not “cool.” But, I did it.
Then I just headed down HWY 1. Stopping to take photos on a fairly regular basis because the views were awesome. They day was (you guessed it!) gray and cloudy, but I guess the benefit of was the highway and pull-offs weren’t too insanely busy. The surfers were out though. I get the impression that it takes a lot to dissuade that bunch from getting in the ocean.
I hadn’t planning on going to Santa Monica, so I didn’t have any destination restaurants flagged and I was getting ravenous. So when I googled “cheap eats Santa Monica” and discovered an article praising the restaurants on Main Street (even though I’d heard it was a super-touristy stretch), I didn’t hesitate. I ended up at a restaurant I think was a chain (bummer) but it was super delicious. Aussie Pie Kitchen. Basically gluttonous pot pies. I had a traditional chicken pot pie on top of a mashed potatoes, and covered with mashed peas. Needless to say, I was not following the normal low-carb diet of a California girl. I was embracing my god-given right for food freedom while on vacation.
I poked around Main Street a bit – there was a dog adoption fair that I MIGHT have stayed around dangerously long for – and I found a couple of vintage dress gems. I also checked out Third Street Promenade, at the recommendation of my uncle, which was fun as well.
Once I was confident the Super Bowl had likely started (my strategy to avoid heavy traffic on my way to Palm Springs), I set a podcast to play and headed east. That’s right. I was heading to my midcentury modern dream destination next. Goodbye ripped jeans and hello fit n’ flare dresses.
Keep an eye out for my recounting of PS in the next week or so!