Sunday, November 3, 2013

Is Los Angeles worth California Dreamin'?

My love for the west coast has a big limit.  As much as I love San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle (hmm, the three S’s?), I have never really been a big fan of LA.  I have been to LA and its surrounding environs oh so many times, but the city and I never really clicked.  Maybe it is the old NYC-LA rivalry, although as a New Yorker I honestly don’t think it’s much of a rivalry.  Or maybe it is the insufferable attitude of some Angelinos?  Whatever the reason, I have never felt a compelling reason to spend a lot of time there.  On this west coast trip, however, I would spend two days in LA and its neighborhoods, and to my surprise, found some parts of it better than I had remembered.

I drove up from San Diego early in the morning.  As I approached LA, I was a bit ahead of schedule, so stopped off at some of the beaches just to the south of the city.  I have to say, the beaches are always one thing that LA will have on NYC.  And the weather, too, I guess.

I stopped for a pleasant casual lunch at Laguna Beach.  I guess I should caveat my blasé feelings about LA…I have always liked Laguna Beach.  It’s a charming town with an attractive beach.  It is just far enough from LA to have its own character and yet close enough to the big city to take advantage when needed.  The Ritz Carlton here is also one of the better hotels in the country.  I didn’t make it up to the Ritz, but did enjoy hanging around the village, visiting a couple of art galleries, before continuing up to LA.

I reached LA and kept busy for the rest of the day.  It was almost nightfall when I eventually checked into the Redbury Hotel.  I booked this hotel because I had needed to be downtown, and the Tripadvisor reviews of this offbeat hotel made me curious.  I encountered two surprises when I checked into my room.  First, they had a working phonograph with old vinyl records (yes records) from the 70s and 80s.  I immediately put them on and smiled broadly, enjoying every scratch and hiss from the old 33 RPMs.  Second, the room had a kitchen and a table, but the table had what appeared to be dance pole connecting it to the ceiling. Umm, what kind of parties did people have in this place?

I wandered outside for a bit trying to find a place to eat, but ended up back at the hotel for dinner.  The hotel (and their guests) were still celebrating Halloween.  I enjoyed the meal and drinks, but did not have the energy to stay up too late.

The next morning, right outside the hotel, I found a Hollywood Star for an old time actor whom I kind of admired but sure no one knew about.  I guess it doesn’t take much to get a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

I checked out of the hotel, taking note of its famous location on Hollywood and Vine, and played tourist by snapping a photo of the Capital Records building next door as well as local “art.”

I didn’t have any obligations today, so I thought I might as well continue to play tourist and drive around.  I saw some iconic parts of LA.  Among other things…

I witnessed an erstwhile Buddhist monk on a daily hike.  Or was I mistaken?

I saw the LA skyline from the popular Mulholland Drive.  The good news was no smog.  The bad news was it didn't make much of a difference.  Ho-hum.

I don’t really get the popularity of the Hollywood sign, but it’s still there in any case so I took a photo of that, too.

After enough boredom, I decided to drive up to Santa Monica.  I walked around the pier a bit, and then continued north to explore the nearby towns.  It was a great day for a drive, and I kept wishing I were in my convertible.  So was getting OUT of LA the best part of being in LA??

Getting hungry, I turned around to head back to LA. I debated where to stop for lunch.  I hadn’t been to Venice Beach in ages, so decided that would be my last stop.  My analog to Venice Beach is Greenwich Village from a couple decades ago, full of characters (some a little shady) and with a very distinct subculture.  I like both facets.  I walked around, stopping off at the arts and crafts stalls, T-shirt vendors, and other people along the walkway.  Mostly, it was fun just people watching for awhile.

After lunch, it was time for me to head to the airport and back to the east coast.  As I thought about my two days here, my opinion of the city hadn’t materially changed.  Still, I really enjoyed the weather and the people watching.  And while much of LA-proper was as boring as ever for me, other parts, including the surrounding towns, offered glimpses of promising exploration.  Maybe I will give Los Angeles another chance yet.

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