Sept, 2016: Los Angeles has all the bold brashness that makes America so awesome but also warmth, outstanding food and a varied culture which we hadn’t really expected. For most of my life LA had conjured up thoughts of a soulless town full of glitz and glamour and while we certainly found a good dose of this we also found so much more.
We based ourselves in Venice with Fi’s cousin which in itself was a stroke of good luck as Venice was everything which I thought LA wasn’t. We got off to a cracking start when no sooner had we washed off the grime of our 24 hour commute from Honduras did we have an awesome lunch down at Superba Food and Bread. A celebratory bottle of local, crispy chardonnay was the perfect partner for a warm salad of roasted brussel sprouts, miso and slow poached egg plus another delicious salad of grilled peach and burrata. Yummm. After 10 months backpacking through Latin America it felt mildly naughty but so amazing to hold fine stemmed wine glasses filled with perfectly chilled vino while feasting on a meal that featured fruit and vegetables verses beans and rice.
Our mild crush on Venice continued with walks through the leafy laneways lined with beautiful houses, getting surprised when friendly locals would say hello as they walked past with their pooches. We also loved the contrasts of the beach itself from the odd, earthy surfer cycling down the fairly deserted, wide stretch of sand; to a gang of sweaty skaters roller-dancing to Michael Jackson; or to a random intense asian dude playing out his best Bruce Lee impersonation. We loved watching all the beautiful people strolling down the Abbot Kinney street festival while to one side food trucks were pumping out Korean inspired tacos or pulled pork rolls. Even a trip to the supermarket was rather exciting when we took a break from picking organic heirloom tomatoes and imported burrata at the Venice Wholefoods to enjoy a craft beer flight at the in-store bar.
Further afield from Venice we found more treats. We drove through the mansions of Hollywood to take in a beautiful sunset at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook and mixed it with the bold and the beautiful at NOBU on the Malibu coast. We took a ride down Rodeo Drive and even managed to spot Owen Wilson outside a premier on Hollywood Boulevard. While obviously we had the luxury of driving outside of peak traffic times we couldn’t help but enjoy charging down the massive freeways listening to a local hip hop station at full volume. Gold! We spent an intriguing couple of hours exploring downtown where in the space of a few blocks we had a delicious lunch alongside a bunch of trendy hipsters in the Grand Central Market, were spun out by the intense sales spiels in the jewellery district and then shocked by the hopelessness that is skid row.
Arguably the biggest highlight came from our feast of delicious modern Korean (for want of a better term) at Here’s Looking at You in Korea town. While many dishes were amazing, their Beef Tartare with chilli, turnips and cress was arguably the standout with our double order barely being sufficient. Once again I really appreciated the trappings of being in a bustling modern city with a thriving food scene. Even just getting endless bowls of slightly charred sourdough was a treat after so long struggling to find bread which was over processed and slightly sweet.
While food was obviously a stand out in LA, there are a bunch of other little moments which stick in my memory. When we drove down to NOBU in Malibu the drive down along Santa Monica beach at sunset was epic. Watching the golden orb of the sun drop behind those iconic lifeguard huts on the beach brought a big grin to my face. Or, walking along the canals of Venice which were at once kind of weird but also rather charming with the cool ‘old’ houses opening out onto the water. Even just going for a burger at In-N-Out and slurping down a thick shake was amazing for all it’s ‘Americanness’.
I know that our view of Los Angeles was seen through rose tinted, privileged glasses. And to be honest, after 10 months backpacking, any modern city was going to be a welcome relief. Still, we both saw enough to want to go back and explore more.
Los Angeles travel and feasting tips:
- Definitely make the trip to Venice and take a walk down through the lanes (we nearly always started at Nowita Place just off Lincoln Boulevard), stop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard for a coffee or beer and then continue down to the water for sunset. Walk down the beach a little and check out the bizarre body building fest at Muscle Beach.
- Superba Food and Bread (1900 Lincoln Boulevard) is a great spot for good coffee, good sourdough and interesting, tasty food. Mildly pricey on a backpackers budget but we thought worth the splurge.
- Head down town for a Rueben sandwich from Wexler’s Deli in the Grand Central Market (317 South Broadway). There were so many other food outlets we wanted to try that we could have come back for lunch everyday. After lunch walk a few blocks and check out the cool, old, art deco architecture, the street art, the Mexican wedding shops and the jewellery district. Watch out for skid row though, it’s best avoided.
- Splurge a little and go for an epic feast of Japanese at NOBU Malibu (22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu) while the surf breaks in the background
- For something slightly more hipster but equally delicious and enjoyable, head to Korea Town to Here’s Looking at You (3901 West 6th street)
- Pack some cheese and a baguette, grab a bottle of wine and drive up through Hollywood to watch sunset over the huge expanse of the LA from the Hollywood Bowl Overlook (just off Mulholland drive). You’re not supposed to bring alcohol up there so try and be somewhat discreet.