Thursday, 14 June 2012

California Dreaming: LA and Venice Beach

Our West Coast USA road trip on iconic California State Route 1 took us from San Francisco (A) to Monterey (B), through the Big Sur and on to Santa Barbara (C), a stop in Venice Beach (D), a quick hop across the state boundary in to Las Vegas (E), back to Los Angeles (F) and on to San Diego (G), before saying goodbye to California and flying home. Part four, LA and Venice Beach, is below, click here for part one (San Francisco), here for part two (Monterey) and part three (Big Sur and Santa Barbara) is here.

We set off from Santa Barbara and picked up Route 1 again, heading for Venice Beach, through some famous beach towns including Malibu and Santa Monica.

We’d heard some, erm, questionable reports about Venice, with reviews suggesting it’s seedy, dangerous and ugly. In the same way I disagreed with other people’s thoughts on Athens, I found Venice Beach edgy, interesting and full of character. It reminded me of Brighton with a bigger sense of humour, customer service and better weather! Bigger, busier, full of colour and the craziest crazies you’ll ever see! Yes you get offered “legal marijuana” every ten minutes, yes the various street performers all blend in to a bit of a cacophony crazy after a while and yes, after dark I can imagine the human circus gets a bit intimidating, but I liked it a lot! Our super-funky hotel (the Hotel Erwin) had an achingly cool rooftop bar that was apparently incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike so we made sure to book ourselves in for our sundowners early in our stay… and tried our best to act appropriately cool… hmmm.

Hotel Erwin Rooftop Bar

Although we made Venice our base, we also made time to walk down to Santa Monica pier to see the famous ferris wheel, stand at the end of Route 66 and check out the neighbourhood… which couldn’t be more different from Venice. I loved how the elegant, understated glamour of the hotels and restaurants in Santa Monica was diametrically opposed to the grunge and edginess of Venice. Think white-painted wood, sparkling glass beachfront villas, mimosas served with brunch and high-end beach weddings with white-curtained pagodas and creamy rose domes on the beach, versus graffiti, burger joints, Muscle Beach and tattoo parlours about 500 metres away. Only in America!

We also spent some time in “mainstream” LA, including Hollywood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills and the surrounding areas, checking out the tourist sights like the Walk of Fame, the Chinese and Kodak theatres, the Hollywood(land) sign, Griffith Park (obvs!), one or two “celeb hotspots”, some lunch and cocktails on Rodeo Drive and, of course, a sneaky look at the “Reg Bev Wil*.

I heart Mr G

I know that everyone will tell you that LA and Hollywood are a bit of a disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much, and that’s why I think I quite enjoyed it. It was fun seeing all the tacky memorabilia lined up in the shops, the ubiquitous celebrity “lookalikes” hustling for the best spot and seeing the iconic sights we see so often on TV and in films with my own eyes. People told me it was soulless and boring but, like Vegas (review up next!), that IS its soul. It’s not trying to be historic Rome, elegant Paris, vibrant New York or diverse London, but it has no shame. It has its own history, its own elegance and its own vibrancy and diversity. I’m not going to say it’s my favourite city, nor in my top five, or even ten, favourite cities. But it’s a city I desperately wanted to visit, and a city I’m glad I spent some time in. A lot of people say they wish they hadn’t bothered, but I’m glad we made the time to explore.
Movie star homes!
Bubbly on Rodeo...

Pop back for Vegas, next!

*A quick aside about this, my Dad was once staying here and my mum called his PA to get in contact with him and his poor PA had a bit of a breakdown thinking that he was staying with a woman called Beverly Wilshire, i.e. having an affair, and how she would tell my mum where he was, without getting him in trouble.  Obviously wasn’t a Pretty Woman fan….


  1. Hiya, I clicked through from Florencefinds but just had to comment as I think I had cocktails last September at that same bar you're at on Rodeo Drive! Looking forward to your thoughts on Vegas as I couldn't decide if I loved or hated it!!

    Anita x

    1. hey! We went to Vegas for our one year anniversary in 2010 and I think I loved it... well I must have as we went back and planning a big girly one out there asap.

      I thought I'd be a bit ashamed to admit it, but seems I'm not! Tee hee! Will post about it tomorrow (hpoefully) xoxo