The weather has been so delightful lately, that I realized it was time to invite people to visit Southern California before it’s too late and we are either roasting alive or dying of thirst, LOL! These are my insider’s tips on visiting La-La land: the only five places you will need to know to party like a native. 😉
New York is the place to visit in autumn, as I wrote last year. Spring is the time to visit LA. When I was reflecting on Los Angeles, and trying to summarize what it is about LA that is so attractive to people — apart from endless sunshine, that is, natch — the word seductive came to mind.
A few years ago, I read this book about France and the French character. It is worth reading just to see how differently the French look at everyday life, relationships, food, tourists, Americans etc. Not to say that they are right or wrong, necessarily but truly it is a culture apart. France is seductive.
Los Angeles is like that. Someone should write a book about it (note to self). Unlike NYC that instantly triggers love or hate, Los Angeles sidles up to you and lures you in with that sultry come hither environment that allows everyone to be utterly, nakedly themselves. And that is no mere metaphor. You have permission to be as uninhibited and as outrageously ‘you’, as you want here — and that is what I love most about this city, its welcoming diversity.
There are three urban hubs that you need to hit if you want to understand California. In some ways it should be two or three states. San Francisco and San Diego are distinctive megalopolises with their own sphere of influence and mindsets. You won’t get to know or understand all three, by just visiting one of them.
People everywhere are drawn to Los Angeles, but not for the beaches, because, honestly, there are others far more beautiful. If you are looking for the ideal beach environment, go to Cape Cod, Monterey, the Northeastern coast of Brazil or the Caribbean. Don’t come to LA for that.
People love Los Angeles because of its gigantic entertainment industry and the allure of being close to the stars. If you are a wannabe, the magnetism of LA is powerful and rightly so. But, I think the true main attraction of LA is that, you can park philosophies and ideologies at the threshold when you land at LAX and step into a completely welcoming, accepting culture that signals immediately: anything goes. Relax, have a great time. Not a Hawaii-lie-around-the-pool great time. A get-out-there-and-have-a-ball. Mingle, go to barbecues, hit the club scene, do a night on the town. Be free to enjoy yourself, however you like. Angelenos are incredibly outgoing and friendly, right away. They don’t need time to warm up to you. For a transplanted NYer it was palpable immediately. Smiles and welcomes, sincere ones, not papier-mâché politeness, characterizes the citizenry.
Last week, my cousin was in Los Angeles on an assignment. She always stays at the London West Hollywood. Claire and I chatted in her sleek ultra-modern suite and then went up to the roof patio for dinner. It was a beautiful clear day looking out over LA on the top floor of the hotel in late afternoon. As we were sitting there gabbing, afloat over the city, evening fell, draping everything with its violet shawl. All around us was a crystal view of the sprawl that is the LA metropolis, its lights flickering on and the stars popping out overhead. Some miles to the east, Downtown appeared as a cluster of glittering stacks that huddled together like intimate giants sharing a secret. Farther along Wilshire, Century City was gazing across the concourse toward Westwood. It was pure magic.
Come to Los Angeles between April and July. Summers here are too brutal now, the autumn is unremarkable and the winters, well, they can be misty and dull.
Here is where I would start. Stay at one of the newly restored more affordable hotels Downtown or on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. There is a lot to do at night on this stretch of the Strip. If you like off-off-off Broadway entertainment, lol, the Strip is the place to go. Start at the Whiskey. You can walk to it from the London WH, and frankly, that is where I would stay. Rooms average about US$350, reasonable by LA standards. The other advantage you would have is being able to get to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, the Melrose restaurant row very easily, even using LA’s notoriously limited public transportation. I have ridden the Metro bus and train system locally and they are clean, air conditioned, safe and comfortable. Not like London, Paris or NY, not efficient, fast and ubitquitous, but good. You can even get to Downtown and Pasadena using public transportation, from a central hub of West Hollywood. Hollywood itself is also east on Sunset, so you couldn’t ask for a better place as home base.
Not to oversell this location, you can also take Sunset to Santa Monica, Brentwood and Venice Beach. Although, as I will explain in a minute, I would suggest the South Bay or Beach Cities instead. They are far more exemplary of what Angelenos consider beach living, while Santa Monica and Venice are for tourists.
From the hub you choose, I would visit the following places, depending on how much time you have:
- Downtown, LA
- West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose
- South Bay beach cities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach
- Beverly Hills/Westwood
As you plan your visit, just remember the LA Golden rule:
Everything is always 45 minutes away from everything else …
Downtown, as I have said previously somewhere on this blog, is really hopping now. If there is a happening place in LA, DT is it. It is packed with restaurants, clubs, bars, loft-hotels and entertainment. The Disney Concert Hall, the Chandler Pavillion complex and other similar venues for traditional theater- and concert-going are at the north end. There are museums and cathedrals as well as the very trendy and cool Grand Central Market that is worth an afternoon of eating and coffee in itself.
There is also a fab Art Walk that takes you around to galleries and the hidden creative underground/grunge that makes LA appealing for millennials right now, from burning men to urban hipsters. The Natural History Museum and the Staples Center are at the bottom of DT LA and both are worth the trip. Just walk up and down the north/south artery of Figueroa and you will see a history of architecture from the 18th through the 21st centuries, rising on either side of you. While you are doing that, make sure to stop at Fig&7th to have a snack or a drink and get in a bit of shopping. Just a block or two north and you can eat at the famous, original Pantry, continuously open since 1924. Or take Wilshire from DT, via the Metros, all the way West to the beach, and watch the progress of the city the automobile built, materialize as you go.
And while you are there, make sure you have afternoon English tea at the Biltmore Hotel. It is an LA institution and I guarantee you will gape at the world’s glitterati parading around you as they stream into DT in droves, snapping up refurbished buildings to re-rent out or install start-ups. It is very reasonably priced at about $200 per night for old world luxury.
When we are DT, we eat at various places. You can always grab a bite at the Grand Central Market, with all its many food stalls. If you are deep in the dough, try the Water Grill for perfect food in a flawless upscale environment. If, like us, you are on a budget, head to the Fisherman’s Outlet. An LA legend is Philippe’s for sandwiches.
West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose I probably don’t need to tell you too much about this part of LA, West of Downtown. This is the hub of the night scene. There is shopping, of course, with a robust array of boutiques and galleries. But clubs and restaurants are the main draw. The Viper Room, Whiskey a Go Go, the Roxy Theatre and all sorts of sky bars are strung along Sunset. Just drop your stuff at the hotel and head out in either direction on the Boulevard and you will stumble on them. Whenever I am in this area and I have time, I make my way over to Little Ethiopia for lunch. Not only is it affordable, it is exotic and exquisite food made and served by natives. Try Messob, my fave.
Pasadena may be a bit more staid but for my money, skip the Getty and the LACMA and head straight to the Norton Simon Museum, Gamble House, Asia Pacific Museum and Huntington Library and gardens that stretch from one end of Old Pasadena to the other. There is more shopping and eating in Pasadena, with every kind of food from all over the world, than in any place outside of DT LA. It is a beautiful, pristine, elegant old city that has been updated and now boasts an influx of condo dwellers at an unprecedented rate. Every possible kind of entertainment is available and you can walk to it, from the Metro which has several stations in Old Town. Definitely check out The Pasadena Playhouse for live theater, as well as various cinema complexes up and down the main east-west thoroughfare — especially at The Paseo –, Colorado Boulevard. You can attend free concerts all summer at the Levitt Pavilion or the symphony at the stunning, world class Ambassador Auditorium.
Make sure you stop by the largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vromans and have a homemade sundae at the 100 year old Fairoaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena. Eat dinner at the incomparable El Cholo, for Mexican food, SoCal style.
Southbay/The Beach Cities This may be a bit out of the way, unless you have a car. If so, head west on Sunset to the 405/San Diego Freeway and points south. Get off at Rosecrans and go west to Pacific Coast Highway, turning south again. You will be in Manhattan Beach, the largest of the three. Turn right on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take it down to the Ocean. There you will find yourself amid the real coupon-clipping laid back millionaires that teem all over this part of LA. These are the Angelenos who never work. Everywhere around you will be bronzed blonds zipping along in Italian convertibles. There are literally dozens of places to eat, in every price range, as well as boutiques and bars. But, of course, as you rise over the crest of the hill on MB Blvd., you will see the Pacific gleaming and winking ahead of you. Bring a towel and beach wear. This is the place to watch the roller-bladers gliding along The Strand in front of the multi-million dollar manses that perch at the sand’s edge. Take your margarita down there and imagine what life would be like if you had nothing to do every day but gaze out at the ocean liners and Catalina, while your help kept you supplied with refreshments.
MBch is the best kept secret in the Southland. Try the ancient Kettle for lunch and Love&Salt for dinner. Farther down PCH pointing south is Hermosa Beach. Like Manhattan, it is for play not work, but trendier, younger, hipper and more bohemian. Finally, a bit farther down is Redondo Beach. It has the Pier and attracts an older, quieter crowd. You can’t go wrong with any of the three. Hermosa has a comedy club that is actually fabulous. You never know who is going to do a gig there, often well known comics, so check before you go and reserve a seat.
Beverly Hills/ Bel Air/ Westwood I typically avoid the first two. By the way, Century City is in this area but it is largely businesses and residential. There is not much there to recommend you spend time in CC when you could be Downtown, in Manhattan Beach, or Pasadena. Beverly Hills needs little introduction. If mansion-crawling is your thing, just go west on Sunset from West Hollywood, and you will be in Bel Air in ten minutes. It is self-explanatory once you see the sign (you can’t miss it). If you find yourself in Bel Air, visit the North side of the UCLA campus, the old part of this 419 acre magnificat. You shouldn’t waste time looking at houses in BH, the main attraction of which is that Sultanic mecca known as Rodeo Drive. By the way, if you want to stay in this part of LA and actually go to the LACMA anyway, you can stay at the iconic Beverly Wilshire (Pretty Woman). But, it’s pricey.
Don’t bother eating in BH either. Overpriced, overhyped, mediocre food. No celebs will be eating there, just tourists. Eat instead in Westwood, the home village of UCLA, SoCal’s other premiere University (beside CalTech). There are so many fantastic places to eat in Westwood, I would need another post for them. Our favorite is Native Foods.
Ok, ok, I hear you saying, but what if I absolutely must tell people I ate in Beverly Hills and money is no object? Then absolutely, you have to go to Crustacean, if for nothing else, the experience of the place. You won’t be sorry — broke, but happy. If you just need to use a restroom and grab a snack so you won’t faint while shopping, go to Neiman Marcus, located on Wilshire.
Then head over to Westwood, gape at billionaire’s row on Wilshire as you approach the Westwood Village, and rest on the UCLA south campus after all this activity.
By the way, there are three more items you might want to consider: LAX, Burbank Airport and Union Station. If you want to start in the South Bay and see these three beautiful and entertaining beach cities, by all means fly into LAX. They are just 15 minutes south on the 405 Freeway. If you want to start in Pasadena or West Hollywood? Use the very nice, easy, safe Burbank Airport, you will be just minutes away from both. If you plan to start Downtown, consider taking Amtrak to Union Station and see a classic with one of the best restaurants anywhere, Traxx.
That’s it. If you just hit those five key spots, you will be immersed in LA and totally ‘get it’ ever after.
Images: Beth Byrnes, The London West Hollywood and The Examiner
My niece is marrying a billionaire.
Well, I should say, a billionaire’s son. Now, mind you, I have hobnobbed with my share of the international cognoscenti from time to time and Geoffrey’s family are well known and affluent, but this is warp-speed level in another universe.
Her mother, my sister-in-law Vanessa, groomed this kid for exactly this outcome by sending her to all the right places to meet kids whose backyard was the globe. And, she’s a beautiful girl. An actress. So, maybe none of this should be a surprise. Most importantly, her future husband (both of them are the same age, they met in college) seems to be a really great person. He’s an actor too. Of course.
Now, as riveting as I am sure all this is to everyone — this all turns into another mammoth undertaking. One cannot simply throw a few rags into a bag and go, right? After the shock and awe of the announcement at a family party last month, and recovering my eyesight after glancing at the ring, I suddenly realized that I not only have to get on a plane and fly to this destination wedding, but I have to have four days worth of outfits appropriate for that crowd, to boot. Yikes.
Luckily, Deanna and I decided we would both go. Geoffrey cannot tear himself away from work and doesn’t want to spend four days doing “silly” wedding things. Al doesn’t want to go, period. So, we are going to make it a girls event.
So, of course I went online, straight to Bergdorf’s and got three crazy overpriced outfits, luckily, on sale. I have hundreds of accessories of every kind, so I justified the cost of those outfits by thinking I could break out some of my low-tick shrugs and bags, etc.
Then Van dropped the other Choo: we are all to wear white to the wedding! Wait, what?? Noooooooooo… Yup, another trip online, this time though, I was so thoroughly chastened that I headed to Nordstroms and got my ecru evening-appropriate dress there. Now I am lousy with wedding guest duds, so I guess I will have to find other weddings to crash (and I usually avoid them like the plague).
For a very brief moment of insanity, Deanna and I considered saving ourselves a ton of hassle and skipping it.
Then we came to our senses. When would either of us ever-ever-ever get to go to four days of parties with that crowd? Would you be surprised if I told you Harry and Meghan might be attending? Am I sounding groupy-esque enough now?
It takes a lot for me to be star-struck. Growing up in NYC, and having celebrities in our neighborhood, passing them on the street without a second look, I didn’t think any of these people could possibly impress me. But my niece’s future family are just fascinating, pure and simple. I want to see what dollar-genius looks like up close and personal, LOL.
Now, of course, I am setting myself up for either being overwhelmed or disappointed. We shall see. Geoffrey just sneers at my excitement and (probably rightfully) concluded it’s merely an excuse to get dressed up, since he goes out of his way to do the opposite.
Uh, yeah! Deanna and I are going to pull out all the stops, and at the very least, have fun showing off our glam-girl sides. Something we never get to do in LA (suppose we are not hanging with the cool crowd here).
OK, enough about that. This is Banker’s Hill in San Diego. Right at the edge of Downtown, these are homes built by financiers in the early 20th century. The whole neighborhood is filled with vintage mansions, immaculately kept and updated. Most have views over the city to the water, just to the west of this enclave. The properties are astronomical but this is the place I am determined to find a hut when we make our permanent investment of a home in the area.
For now, we are still enjoying the houses we have.
Another nice aspect of the upcoming bash abroad is I will be able to share some awesome pictures of the surrounding area. I doubt we will be allowed to bring cameras to the wedding events, so my cell phone will have to do. More on that when the time comes. Meanwhile, I have to get all my other obligations out of the way so I can relax and look forward to whatever my brilliant SIL Vanessa came up with (although she assured me the groom’s parents’ staff is taking care of all the usual arrangements. Leave it to Van to have fallen into that piece of luck!).
Anyone familiar with this blog already knows what my wedding was like (hint: Un-y-mooners posts), hee hee.
Stay tuned and thank you for putting up with me as I pre-drool, copiously.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/Banker’s Hill, San Diego
Mexico has been in the news repeatedly for the past two years, and we all know why. A deranged toddler averred that Mexico has not been sending their best. Really? Has this clown ever been there? Has he been in the Southwestern United States much?
One thing I appreciate about being in Southern California, and having a second home close to the border now, is my proximity to all things Latin American, without any of the drawbacks of living there.
I have lived south of the border and while I enjoyed the cultural enrichment, it isn’t easy for a pampered American to live abroad anywhere, including in our own hemisphere, no matter how sophisticated the country.
Whenever we want to, we can drive a few minutes to Olvera Street in Downtown LA or, when in San Diego, hit Old Town.
Since I have been in Mexico half a dozen times, ranging from Puerto Vallarta, to Mexico City, to Tijuana, I can say with confidence, Old Town is the same thing — almost.
We get the benefit of the unique and delicious food, the cheerful, catchy music, the colorful art, and the fact that without Mexico and Puerto Rico, most Americans could only speak English, and that, just barely.
Don’t think for a minute you can learn another language with Rosetta or Babbel.
There is only one way, either you are raised in a multilingual household by native speakers from other countries, or you immerse yourself in another culture without the benefit of falling back on English.
Where else would our English heritage have learned to add hot peppers to our bland diet?
Who do you think taught us about chili and cheese fries?
How else would we have had the good fortune to travel close-by to resorts that cost a small fraction of those in Europe or Hawaii?
Even the Caribbean is prohibitive. Not Mexico.
Would we have the beautiful architecture of all the Mission towns in the sun belt without the early Church fathers like Padre Junipero Serra?
And, Snow Birds who can no longer afford Miami or San Diego, can live like royalty over the southern border.
As you know, if you have been in my community for the last five years, I am no fan of hot weather, so when I choose to travel, it is always north.
In fact, we just got back from a wonderful trip to San Francisco. But I would be unfair if I were not to acknowledge the priceless contribution of South America to our country.
It needs to be recalled, that the people who come here want to bring all these good things to us in return for a chance to prove how wonderful they can be.
These are not lazy, untalented, unskilled people, nor criminals. These are hardworking ambassadors that contribute to our society in manifold ways. Let’s not forget it, or the words on the Statue of Liberty.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/Old Town, San Diego. Click on each photo to view it large.
Can you believe it’s December?
I have been on such a marathon with my certificate classes, work, trips back and forth to our place in San Diego and the other householdy things I do in Valencia, that I have had almost no time to write on this blog.
Let me first say, what better time of year to introduce Little Italy on the water at the top of Downtown San Diego, than the holidays.
This old and venerated neighborhood — still hanging in there when many similar places have gone under, victims of “modernization” in other cities — is alive and hopping all hours of the day and night, all times of year.
But, especially in autumn and winter.
I had Kevin and Anna in tow when we made a shopping run to Little Italy recently. I still managed to get a few shots that could make up a series and ended up with over 150 pictures. Here are some of them.
Little Italy is colorful, as you can see. There is a misty haze in the air no matter the weather, being so close to the Pacific — evident in this set, too.
That gave me the ability to show the bright colors that characterize this enclave, yet with some softness imparted by the moisture. It is never hot or cold, just pleasant all year long.
But that is a major feature of San Diego in general. It is truly mediterranean and likely one attraction for Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The similar neighborhood is long gone from Los Angeles.
One legacy of all this is the staggering number of grocery stores and restaurants, trattorias and cafes that still inhabit the area. And, pastry shops are also unique to this little part of town.
Urban hipsters are moving in in droves. Some are able to rent the vintage wooden houses that still stand.
Others are snapping up very small but very luxurious condos with views that developers have used to attract people to purchase in this place what would buy a villa elsewhere.
You don’t want to know the prices.
But, I have figured out that for a 1000 square foot apartment with three tiny bedrooms and two tiny bathrooms, buyers are grateful to pay almost a cool million dollars.
Now, as to blogging. I have to admit, as much as I love coming here to discuss things that you and I care about, it is hard to be chatty while this catastrophe unfolds in front of us.
Those of you who voted for this deranged toddler/con-man should admit to yourselves it was a mistake. Those of you who abstained because you got it into your heads that Hillary was just as bad, you are just as culpable for raining all this down on us. Geoff and I knew we would get exactly this, just not the degree of depravity.
But, I won’t dwell on it. Like many of us, I am riding it out and hopeful that the Democrats pull their collective heads out of the sand and get the majority back so we can save this country from going any farther down this Orwellian neo-fascist road.
I don’t care who we put up for POTUS, that person had better have experience and fortitude because it is going to be an ugly fight.
That said, I would love you to comment about anything (not necessarily the politics, of course!) but you don’t have to. We are a community and I know you are here and we have each other’s backs.
Hugs to you all! Belated Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends. And Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah and Happy Holidays to everyone, as well.
Hoping to get back here in January — starting another certification class but I will post as soon as I can.
“Sogno divino” is my play on words. It can mean three or four things in Italian. It is also the clever name of a wine shop in Little Italy.
Images: Chez Bebe Assets/Little Italy, Downtown, San Diego
Now for something completely different. (Click on the pictures to view them large.)
As I mentioned in my Flickr series featuring these pictures, Geoffrey woke up one day after Christmas and announced it was time to get two new vehicles. Finally! After 15 years. I was really looking forward to it, even though we buy cars to last. I always get either a Mercedes or a Volvo. At one point I tried Mitsubishi Monteros — loved them and then for a couple of years drove a Chrysler Town & Country minivan — liked it a lot. But for longevity and safety, I am a Volvo fan.
So, I had been eyeing an XC90 SUV for a few years and didn’t even have to think twice. I ran right out and found one I loved, with sparkling dark gray metallic, just like my older one. Done and done!
Geoffrey was a different story. We already had, between us, five vehicles. He had two trucks and a car, I had two cars: my vintage Mercedes totally maintained and restored and my 2002 Volvo sedan. Both in the same silver grey. Geoffrey had his two trucks, one with an extended bed (are you sleepy yet?) and his black 2002 Volvo station wagon.
Naturally, I thought he was going to get a sedan. But no, he decided he simply had to have another truck. One that he could take to all the fancy clients when he needed to look professional and ready to work, but also upscale and sophisticated. Ugh. How does that work? Another truck? And, where would be put it?
We have three garages at our house. One of them has my Merc, one has his Volvo, and the other one is full of junk. We can squeeze three vehicles in the driveway and he keeps one truck in front of the house on our street and another one at his building in Downtown LA. Now we would have my new XC90 and his truck? We can’t hog the street, so I was really getting upset.
Also, I don’t want to drive around in another ole truck when he is driving. What’s the fun of new wheels then? I wanted something really snazzy and snappy and cool. Not a clunky truck.
So, the only resolution was to let me pick it out. Aha!!! Dangerous.
These pictures reflect my ideas as I let my imagination do the shopping.
I know, right?
Wait for it — right down at the bottom is the one we finally chose. We could agree on it because it has a regular bed and a totally tricked out luxurious “cab”.
OK, so it’s not a Mercedes, but I scored a victory by getting one that matches my car and can fit, amazingly enough, both in the driveway and in front of our house (with his other truck sent packing to his building to join the first one).
Got all that? Anyway, that’s one of the many things taking up our time as the summer draws to a close.
Thought you might enjoy seeing these “confections” that sprang full grown from my head.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/Santa Clarita, California
No, not the season of joy, love and giving.
The hunting season.
This post is for anyone who has the link.
Please do not friend, follow, “like” me or comment on any of my social media sites, if you are a hunter.
As far as I am concerned, in the 21st century, it is the cowardly and brutal act of a weak and emotionally handicapped individual.
I am not in the thrall of any organization. I have held this position my entire life.
The NRA has infiltrated every sector of American society with lies about the need for hunting. Many people call it a sport. Both would be laughable, if they were not so serious.
Hunters, the NRA are pathetic.
One hundred thousand years ago, certain tribes may have needed to hunt animals on a small, low-tech (naturally) scale for survival. There are virtually no tribes like these left. Certainly not the overweight, flaccid American men who like to hunt with computerized automatic missiles from high-speed vehicles in “preserves” where animals are cornered for the enjoyment of these sick people.
Don’t lecture me about overpopulation of deer. I am an expert on this subject. Don’t tell me you eat what you kill, that’s just as bad.
If you are a meat eater, I can understand somewhat because the animal concentration camps where the carcasses you consume are kept and tortured, are hidden and manned by immigrants desperate for work. Hunters confront their victims head on. They have no excuse.
When they wake up or get treatment, we might re-establish our relationship. Until then, I want nothing to do with hunters.
To my regular friends here on WP, I am sorry, but this is the best place to post this note. A regular post is imminent.