If I close my eyes long enough, I can still feel the warmth. The sun on my face and the briny breeze of the Pacific blowing through my hair. Los Angeles was wonderful and I get the hype. It wasn’t what I expected and that was a good thing. If you haven’t been you might have had the same expectations as I did; traffic everywhere, litter lining most streets just as much as Ferrari’s do. I suppose, I wasn’t wrong. I experienced all of those things but there was so much more. Palm Trees towering above the landscape like guardians of the city. The brightest bluest sky above the cold ocean. I drove along the famed Sunset Boulevard and stared up at the legendary Viper Room. Though sadly, no Johnny Depp sighting.
The best part was travelling with my husband and his parents. Maribel and Tony are so full of love and adventure it’s incredible. They landed in L.A. a few days earlier and stayed in Santa Barbara at a meditation retreat in the middle of the woods. After, they drove through the vineyards of their favorite film, Sideways and wine tasted their way back to Los Angeles to pick us up. His parents are well traveled, having visited the United States almost every year since they had their first child, Ariadna, they’ve seen it all. New York where they stayed in an AirBNB in Harlem and again in Brooklyn. They brought their children to an Indian Reservation in Arizona where they rode horses and slept under the stars. I hope I still have their sense of adventure and zest for life when I’m their age.
Maribel told me to plan the itinerary for our weekend in Los Angeles. “I trust you to choose the best spots in L.A. she said, tell us what you want to see.” I chose to take them to In-N-Out Burger on our first night. Directly after leaving LAX, we drove to the closest one near our home, on Sunset Boulevard. It was poppin and we parked next to a Lamborghini as we went inside. The Grilled Cheese, Animal Style did not disappoint and his parents loved it. “We would have never come here if it wasn’t for you and it was great-and so cheap!”
The AirBnB where we stayed was nestled in the neighborhood a few blocks from Rodeo Drive and West Hollywood the other direction. I cannot recommend using AirBnB enough, such a great decision, truly!
If you only have a weekend in L.A. and want to hit the streets and make the most of it, here is Day One of my Wanderful Guide to Los Angeles
Breakfast in Beverly Hills
Breakfast at Nate & Al’s in Beverly Hills. We had to visit because my husband has a man crush on Larry King. From reading his biography, he learned that Larry frequents this place often and was hoping he and Larry would have made the decision to go on the same day. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case but my husband ate breakfast happily knowing that Larry might have sat in that same booth at one point or another.
It’s a deli like Carnegie Deli in New York, somewhere the locals frequent as well. It’s casual and low-key and absolutely delicious. We didn’t make a reservation but only had to wait ten minutes. We went around 9am on Friday morning and it was fairly busy. There are many more two top tables so finding a seat at one of those went quicker. We sat down and our veteran Russian waitress took our order. I had the Eggs Florentine and it was my first great decision of the day! I am a little bit of a Eggs Benedict snob and these were runny as they should be, the English muffin was perfectly crisp and the spinach was cooked just enough. Husband has scrambled eggs with pastrami, which he told me to highly recommend to you meat-lovers out there. Coffee came in the old-school pitchers, decaf with the orange rim as you might remember seeing and the people watching-divine.
The table next to us were two regulars, given their interactions with our waitress. Two older gentleman, one in business casual and the other in a track-suit, talking business both with a slight New York accent. They each ate a halved melon with a spoon and drank coffee. I could have sat and listened to them all day. As we ate our breakfast, we saw more and more ‘agent-y’ types who kept running into old friends as they came in. ‘Oh, Hey Alec, how have you been, good to see you..” and so on. I felt that I could come in everyday as well if I lived in Beverly Hills.
Walk Of Fame
It was an overcast morning and we went to Starbucks next door for me to get a Mocha and headed towards the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. I know, I know but not only did I want to find Tom Hanks’ Star but there was a Zara there and it was calling out to me. Make a note, there are buskers there and some who harass. They try to hand you a ‘free’ cd and if you take it, they will demand money. These guys have been in every city I’ve ever visited, just ignore them!
Really, you can spend an hour there and have enough (the Walk of Fame that is, not Zara, Ha!) time to see Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Stars. We did some shopping and then went to the Dolby Theatre for our tour of where the Academy Awards are held.
For twenty dollars you get a half hour tour of the Dolby and a behind-the-scenes look at Oscar night. Our guide was fantastic and led us through the venue from the moment the celebs walk in to the time they win an award. Highly worth the money and the time to go through a place so iconic. Tours run everyday beginning at 10:30. Here’s some insiders information: The Dolby is really a shopping mall. They hide it with drapes and curtains on Oscar night to mask the storefronts but that’s what it is! I was shocked by that but it’s all smoke and mirrors in Hollywood!
There are loads of parking garages so you needn’t worry about finding a spot. It’s free the first two hours and you pay a reasonable fee after that but don’t expect to park next to a Lambo in there. We made our way out to Rodeo Drive. It was still fairly early, the shops didn’t open until almost noon so we arrived just as Louis Vuitton was opening their doors. The sun had come out by this time and the world was awash with possibility. There aren’t too many places to eat in the main shopping area bu we did find a place called Panini Cafe. A Mediterranean restaurant with an extensive menu and lovely wine. I opted for a Roasted Red Bell Pepper, stuffed with Organic Wheat Pilaf, Mushrooms, Parmesan Cheese, Red Onions, Spices and Marinara. It was served with Hummus, Tatziki and Pita with a side of Romaine and Avocado Salad. A vegetarians dream meal, really. Something I will work on recreating for you! It strangely tasted exactly like Paella which blew my mind. I drank a glass of Coppola Diamond Chardonnay which paired superbly with my meal.
Dessert came next, of course. I went to Sprinkles and got Ice Cream while Maribel got a mini cupcake. I have never had ice cream as good, it was creamy and delicious and perfect. The quote on the wall inside described the entire experience better than I could- “All of Beverly Hills is an entire butterscotch sundae”, he wasn’t wrong.
Next door to that, is a little cake boutique. Their claim to fame are tiny ‘cloud cakes’ that are made with meringue and truly taste light and airy. I suppose in Beverly Hills they take out the calories…!
It’s a tradition of mine to buy a scarf, a magnet or a book from places I go. Normally, I get to buy all three. In between the sightseeing, we had time to stop by a great little bookshop called Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard. Each shelf is adorned with tags with hand-written staff picks, one for every category. Reading those are a pleasure as there is so much heart behind each recommendation. Apparently celebrities peruse this shop because it is so amazing. I unfortunately did not run into Tom Hanks, but I’m sure I just missed him. If we had had more time, I could have spent a couple of hours here, easily. If you are in town, check out their site to see if you can catch any author readings going on, it is a great space that seems to be adored by locals!
The Griffith Observatory
An absolute must to complete your wanderful day in Los Angeles. We left Rodeo around 4pm so that we could make it to the observatory by sunset. Our timing was perfect as we arrived shortly after 5:00. There were tons of cars though we managed to find a spot. Most people had parked way down the mountain and were trekking up to the top. The air was chilly and I was happy I had bought my scarf at Zara earlier in the day. The Hollywood sign can be seen in the distance and just about every spot has a perfect view. We made our way around the Observatory and went to the top. If you are there at 7pm you can use the Zeiss Telescope up until 9. Check the calendar to see if you will be there during one of the Public Star Parties that happen from 2pm to 9:45 on certain days of the month. It’s free to visit the Observatory and you can wander around the exhibits inside if it gets too hot or too cold for star gazing.
It is possible to see a lot of L.A. in three days, you just have to plan it well! Check back for Part II of my Wanderful Guide to Los Angeles when I take you through Venice Beach and Santa Monica!