After an overnight stay in Santa Maria, the coastal drive that started up in SF continued the next day with stops in Santa Barbara, Malibu (plenty of surfers were out) and eventually coming to a halt where Route 66 also ends (or starts): the Santa Monica Pier.
What an anticlimactic letdown, this was...Both the pier and the beach. Heavy traffic all around. Very cheesy. A true tourist trap with not much to offer. Ditto for Venice beach. Crowded. Equally cheesy. Extremely cramped. Parking nearby almost nonexistent. Another spot to just check off the list and move on…
Santa Monica Pier
Next day we jumped on a double-decker bus for the obligatory tour around the most notable spots Tinseltown has to offer: the Chinese Theater and all the sidewalk stars on Hollywood Boulevard, Chateau Marmont and all the “old school” spots on Sunset/West Boulevard (that frankly not many stars frequent any longer, despite the notes from the audio guide that urged us to get off to potentially meet celebrities), Beverly Hills (stepped off to walk around a bit and window-shop the high end designer stores), the Farmers Market (where we stopped for lunch) and Santa Monica Blvd.
... and about...
As you can sense, LA is not my cup of tea. I think it lacks personality. Seems artificial. Superficial rather. And “busy” in a chaotic sense. I’m sure there are nice areas around this large metropolis, just noting that personally attracts me to it.
Last day was actually a bit more fun: Warner Bros Studios tour. Well run, informative, with opportunities to see the sets for Two Broke Girls, the Big Bang Theory and a few others (the shows were on hiatus for the summer) plus a nice Batman exhibit celebrating 75 years of the superhero. Too bad the biggest fan, and youngest in our group, could not experience it (since some sort of “liability” exposure that the WB lawyers came up with prevents them for allowing admission to anyone under 8).
Two Gryffindors and a "Dementor"
On the way out, heading south towards San Diego, Newport Beach is worth a stop. Not as crowded as Santa Monica and Venice, and although not as “famous” it’s actually nicer, cleaner, more secluded. But this is Orange County after all… Irvine, Laguna Beach, San Clemente… Different standards apply here.
|The pier at Newport Beach|
That’s LA. If I were to make an analogy, NY would be an unapologetic, sophisticated, street-smart independent woman, SF, a high-tech early-adopter life-loving free-spirited adventurer, and LA an attention-grabbing superficial bimbo with an IQ in the low 50’s (apologies to anyone that may be offended by this comparison).
A “few” years ago (21 to be exact) I was here for the World Cup (therefore my focus was pretty singular at the time); I didn’t care for LA much then, nor did I care for it now. The Rose Bowl game where Romania defeated Columbia (a huge favorite at the time, with Valderrama, Asprilla, Valencia, Rincon, etc.) is still a vivid and pleasant memory. So is the face paint dripping off my face in 120F (49 Celsius) field-level temperature during the US game (when I was wondering, “How could they run in these conditions, when I’m wilting just sitting down?”). Oh, what memories… After the game we went to the hotel and took pictures with what I’m now realizing was the best Romanian team ever!
|Getting an autograph from "the King" Hagi|
(and above, Rose Bowl and "Nea Puiu")
Great memories from a great World Cup!
Yes, LA is one of those places that one has to visit at least once, but clearly does not appeal to me. It seems like the whole place is a movie set: nice façade, but if you look beyond that, it’s all just a propped up painted wall …
Yet, before wrapping up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some places that might be worth a stop (some are on the culinary route, of course):
- Restaurants (a short list as I was researching options): Animal (enjoyed dinner there one night, loved the [extreme] all-carnivore arteries-clogging protein options, including bone marrow, veal brains, pig ears, and so on, but disappointed in the limited wine list), Son of a Gun (seafood joint owned by the same folks), AOC, Maude (a Curtis Stone place, in case you want to splurge), Baco Mercat, and Bestia.
- Other recommendations (from a good friend that calls Thousand Oaks home) – these with more of a “LA flavor”: Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, Elf Cafe on W Sunset (there is no sign outside), El Cholo (oldest Mexican place in LA; I hear the table side guacamole is awesome), Gladstones, or Moonshadows (heading down towards Malibu) for a drink right on the ocean and for downtown near Union Station, Pierre's Sandwiches – allegedly first place to offer French Dip.
- As for more touristy stuff: Audience Unlimited (check online for tickets to be in the audience for specific shows) or the actual show sites themselves (like Jimmy Kimmel), any of the other studios (for my taste Warner Bros seemed the best) but Paramount or Universal are good options as well, China Town (although can’t be much different than NY or SF)
- Disneyland (down in Anaheim) for the original park (opened back in ’55); but outside of pure nostalgia, why would anyone want to go there, since the Orlando parks are so much better?
That’s all I have. Some of my friends who call LA home will likely no longer talk to me now. Maybe one day, when I’m in a different state of mind I’ll give it another try…
But for now, let’s keep driving south. Off to San Diego. With heightened expectations for the place I was visiting for the first time…
Links to the rest of the itinerary:
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Links to the rest of the itinerary:
- Death Valley
- Napa Valley
- San Francisco
- Pacific Coast Hwy (from SF to LA)
- San Diego
- Grand Canyon West & Hoover Dam
- Las Vegas