What to say about LA. Los Angeles is, from a European view, an unimaginable assault on the senses. It’s massive. 60-mile freeways are the rule, not the exception. Its grubby, and mesmerising, scary and enthralling, a constant challenge and yet that something, that magical chemistry that has drawn dreamers and actors, musicians and millionaires to this slice of Pacific perfection, is always there. It’s funny, having grown up with American TV, I felt like I’d been there a million times, yet driving down Sunset in our Camaro, it was one of the best feelings of my life. I’M in LA! Los Angeles!
I love music. LOVE music. And my wonderful sister brought me up on the finest 80’s hair metal. Think Guns n Roses, Poison, Bon Jovi, Kiss and Motorhead. So when my ever-patient wife gave me free reign for one night, where else than the Sunset Strip. A quick Uber from our motel, the Coral Sands in Hollywood (cheap, safe, clean and FREE PARKING!!), and we’re there. The epicentre of 80’s rock awesome. We took in live music at Whisky A Go Go (overpriced and disappointing), ate in a booth at The Rainbow Bar (so exciting I was squealing in my head the whole time, and fantastic quality food and drink) and lived my teenage dream of being a debauched rockstar.
As it happened, it was the constant, side street double takes as we cruised West Hollywood and Beverly Hills that provided the most memorable moments. The Capitol Records building, awesome. The Hollywood sign glimpsed between high rises, The Roxy Theatre, The Troubadour, Paramount Studio’s gates, the Beverly Hills Hotel, they’re just there. RIGHT THERE!
I’ve skated since I was a child, rollerblades and boards, I (kind of) surf and love to snowboard, so the idea of visiting Venice Beach, the seed of skate culture, the home of Jay Adams and Tony Alva and the Dogtown riders, it was a real draw to SoCal for me. I wasn’t disappointed. The bowls on Venice Beach are nuts. So deep and SOO steep, the guys riding were at the top of their game, it’s not a place for fakers! Venice and Santa Monica were quite a surprise for both of us, equal parts cool surf culture and crushing poverty. It was hard to get excited about something so silly as standing on a bit of plastic on a wave when people were literally homeless next to Lamborghinis and million-dollar condos. It was pretty sobering for sure.
That evening we drove up to the Griffith Observatory. If it’s the only thing you do in LA, make it this. We paid about 3 bucks for parking and got the view. THE view. La La Land perfect, right over Hollywood and Downtown and all the way to the coast. The Hollywood sign, whilst far away and tiny (no-one ever tells you these things!) was good to get at insta perfect piccies at sunset. The drive back down the hill through Los Feliz really made us feel like we could settle here (not that we could afford that particular ultra-hip, celebrity-laden West Hollywood enclave).
Now the bad. LA is not nice in a lot of places. Not nice at all. Hollywood particularly is rundown and not the glamorous home of the Silver Screen we expected. We didn’t have any problems personally, but we didn’t feel safe at night and relied on Uber to take us door to door from the hotel to wherever we wanted to go. The homeless problem is massive and widespread, every underpass is filled with tents and shelters. Drug addiction seems to be a real problem too, Venice, Hollywood and Downtown were particularly ‘edgy’.
It would be unfair of me to draw too many conclusions of LA from this one short trip. As I’ve mentioned, it is huge, and we saw so, so little of it. The parts we did see were right on the touristy trail, so for me I’d love to spend some time with a real Angelino, to get under the skin of the city and be less blinded by the bright lights of ‘Hollywood’. When we first left, I didn’t think id really enjoyed it, but its left such a lasting impression on me that I’m really excited to be going back, to see more, do more. The City of Angels grew on us slowly, but I think we’re not done with each other quite yet!