la la land.

Day 1:

What I did

Took an 11 hour flight. It was part rough, part fine. I just don’t enjoy flying at all, I don’t enjoy being in a confined space for that long. But I flew Norwegian, and the plane itself was great, with relatively spacious seats for a no-frills airline, and really good in-flight entertainment (like, the plane was showing Oscar films).

Checked into my AirB&B in Los Feliz.

Met my friend Alex for dinner at Little Dom’s on Hillhurst Avenue.

What I ate

Dinner: Arancini, followed by spaghetti and meatballs at Little Dom’s on Hillhurst Ave. I was so discombobulated and jet lagged that I didn’t eat half of my main course and regretted it when I woke up in the middle of the night and was hungry.

Happenings

In the Lyft from where the bus dropped me, I saw the huge blue Scientology centre out of the window! (More on that later…)

Day 2:

What I did

Breakfast with the absolutely extraordinary, charming, delightful Lesley Kinzel at Home on Hillhurst Avenue.

Tried to resolve the fact I had locked myself out of my credit card the night before. Failed to resolve this.

Took public transport all the way from Los Feliz to Santa Monica. People always want to tell you that it is impossible to visit LA without a car, but honestly, depending on where you’re trying to get to and from, public transport can work really well. I took the red line to downtown LA then changed to the shiny new Expo Line. It took a long time (about an hour in total), but it was a great way to look out the window and see what LA looks like. And it only cost me $1.75.

Santa Monica and Venice are delightful. I walked from Santa Monica Pier into Venice, all the way down the oceanside path. Venice was kind of wild: it felt like everyone was doing something. As I stopped to sip my frozen lemonade and watch some guys breakdancing, I realised that an inclination to stop on the street and watch some guys breakdancing is a sure sign that I’m on holiday. I had nowhere else to be. No one cared how long it took me to walk to Venice or what time I ate lunch. And even though I was kind of stressed about the ol’ credit card, this moment was the beginning of truly understanding the joys of being on holiday alone.

In Venice, I got something to eat and then decided to walk back up to Santa Monica. I turned inland to see what was on a busy-looking road, and discovered that *this* Venice has canals, just like European Venice. I mean, not exactly like them, but either way, I found a stretch of extremely peaceful, beautiful canals flanked by some incredible houses.

Back in Santa Monica, I went for a walk around the town, which is lovely. But by this point, I’d done hours of walking with only a short break for lunch and I realised how tired my legs were. The sun and the ocean air had also made me feel really worn out, and I can’t imagine the jet lag helped. I couldn’t face getting the Metro all the way home just yet, so went to the cinema in Santa Monica to see Get Out. It was amazing.

What I ate

Fried chicken and waffles at Home.

Egg, cheese and bacon at Eggslut.

Grilled cheese and onion rings at a random burger place in a mall.

Happenings

I got really sunburnt. Despite a WhatsApp from my mother before I left saying ‘don’t forget to wear sunscreen!”. This happened, obviously, because I wore no sun protection, but psychologically it happened because a) I knew that Tuesday was actually the mildest forecast weather of my trip and somehow rationalised it wouldn’t be that hot and b) because I was in a city and I think you can only get sunburnt at the beach. Even though I was on a beach in a city.

My credit card got unblocked after 24 hours!

Day 3:

What I did

Met my great friend Barbara (who you will be seeing more of later) for breakfast at Alcove on Hillhurst Avenue (hey, there’s a LOT of great food on Hillhurst…).

Got picked up after breakfast by the lovely Anne and her boyfriend Mike, who had driven up from Orange County for a day of fun with me in LA!

First we went to downtown LA, starting with Olvera Street and the piñata district. From there we went for lunch, which was delicious, and then for a stroll in DTLA. We went to The Last Bookstore, which was a really nice space: like a cool cavern of books and cute things (like the pencil I bought that has MAGICAL BABE printed on it).

We had advance tickets for the Broad (apparently pronounced like ‘brode’ not ‘broad’), which meant we didn’t have to join the long line. The Broad is a perfectly-sized modern and contemporary art museum, which I enjoyed because it was populated by all the artists I like seeing at other galleries. I can never see Kara Walker, Robert Rauschenberg and Chuck Close too much. The timed tickets also worked well to ensure there weren’t too many people in the museum at one time, which meant it was always really easy to see the works. Delightful, highly recommended if you only have the time and/or inclination to do one gallery while you’re in LA.

After the Broad, we went out to Silver Lake, which is actually quite close to where I was staying (at least in LA terms). It has loads of cute cafes and shops and restaurants, and we got a coffee at Alfred Coffee and wandered around in the late afternoon.

From Silver Lake, we went to Little Tokyo, which was super cute. They even have a standalone Tony Moly store, which is great for sheet mask obsessives. I tried a peach hand cream which smelled absolutely amazing. Then, before heading home, it was dinner time in Little Tokyo.

What I ate

Country plate and a blueberry scone at Alcove.

Caramel-filled churros at Mr Churros in Olvera Street.

Indian fried chicken burger at Badmaash.

Sashimi in Little Tokyo.

Happenings

Anne gave me an incredible gift! The Urban Decay lipstick in 714, both the regular lipstick and the matte liquid lipstick! It’s an amazing, perfect red. I learned that it was called 714 because it was originally from the Gwen Stefani range for Urban Decay, and Gwen Stefani is from Anaheim, whose area code is… 714! Speaking of which…

Mike taught me loads about Orange County, the weird specificity of the Irvine area, and some cool stuff about urban planning.

I saw work by Glenn Ligon at the Broad which was remarkable.

I saw Sanam from Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money video on the street in Silver Lake. She was wearing a cool kilt-esque mini skirt.

Day 4:

What I did

I started the day by going out to Beverly Hills, which from Los Feliz was the longest car journey of my trip. I had breakfast, then had a meeting with my American agent, Erin, who is a super-cool, smart, enthusiastic woman whose company I enjoyed immensely. It was fun to be in Beverly Hills and look in the window of all the designer shops on Rodeo Drive before my meeting.

From there I went to Hollywood, because it would probably be weird to go to LA and not go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and see the handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

After that, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with the rest of my day. I started walking towards a red line station, and thought I would get on a metro downtown and figure out what to do when I got off. I looked down a side street and saw a cool fat girl coming out of a door, wearing a great flower-print playsuit. I had the thought I always have when I see a cool fat girl: “who is she? Do I know her? Why don’t I know her?”. I got a little further down the road when I heard someone calling my name, only to discover the girl I had admired was my internet friend Sophia who I was having dinner with that night. Sophia gave me some ideas for things to do that afternoon, and we arranged to regroup later on.

The first thing I did on Sophia’s suggestion was going down to the La Brea tar pits. I knew about these from an episode of Criminal about a police diver who had to dive into a tar pit to try to retrieve a murder weapon, but I had no idea that La Brea, or the tar pits themselves, were literally in proper LA. It was such a beautiful day (as it was constantly while I was there) that I didn’t want to go inside the museum that accompanies the pits and contains animal skeletons that have been recovered from the tar, so instead I just looked at the pits themselves and read all the super interesting information on the boards around them. I’ve never seen anything like them, and I’m glad I took my friend’s advice!

From the tar pits I walked up to the Grove, which is a small-ish but really lovely outdoor shopping mall, which has a fountain and a little trolley car and a mix of shops like Tiffany and Barnes & Noble and Gap and Barney’s. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that it’s just a lovely place to be. I lay on the grass and read my Kindle and walked around some shops and took the trolley car from one end of the Grove to the other because, like I said earlier, I’m on holiday and have nothing else to do. I bought a cool camouflage jacket from the Gap because they were doing 40% off everything.

I hung out there until Sophia came to meet me, and then we had a delightful evening of dining outdoors on the balcony at the (really nice) restaurant at Nordstrom and shopping at Sephora (her, not me. I just exchanged my rewards points for 2 free gifts and saved my Sephora shopping for another day).

What I ate

Bacon, cheese and potato omelette with a sesame bagel.

Cheese pretzel from Wetzel’s Pretzels at the Grove.

Apple fritter donut from Bob’s at the farmers’ market at the Grove.

Santa Fe chicken sandwich and lots of skinny fries at the restaurant at Nordstrom at the Grove.

Happenings

I found out Hollywood isn’t a super fancy area!

I bumped into someone I know, which seems improbable in a town where, proportionally, I don’t know that many people.

I discovered that the branch of Sephora at Hollywood and Highland is probably the best branch I’ve ever been in. It’s huge, nicely laid out, helpful staff and lots of brands.

A really tall, really handsome man asked me out in Nordstrom. I politely declined.

I fully became aware that LA is not just the administrative centre of the film and TV industry, it’s also a place where real things get filmed. Although logically i knew this was true, I hadn’t actually internalised it.

Day 5:

What I did

After breakfast I went to the Hollywood Forever cemetery for a stroll in the blazing sunshine. I saw the final resting place of some cool people like Jayne Mansfield and Cecil B de Mille, and I also narrowly avoided walking through a shot of NCIS Los Angeles which was filming in the cemetery.

With the realisation I’d had the night before about Hollywood being a place that films are actually made, I decided to take a studio tour. Based on the combination of a) cost and b) location, I decided to go on the Paramount tour. At the beginning of the tour, our guide asked us what our favourite films were. I said The Graduate, which, it turned out, was a Paramount film. Serendipitous. For the most expensive tourist thing I did on my trip, I can honestly say it was wonderful, perfect and totally worth it. I learned so much, I saw so much cool weird stuff (like the car park with an enormous backdrop painted like the sky, that’s actually a huge water tank they fill up when they need to film something set at sea with the sky in the background), the tour guide my group had was knowledgeable and kind and answered all of my stupid questions. My other favourite bit of the tour was where you see ‘New York’, the part of the Paramount studio that has about 5 different areas of NY (Upper East Side, Lower East Side, SoHo etc) condensed into a few streets that can be adapted with set dressing to reflect different time periods. This was really one of the best things I did on my whole trip.

I was desperate for lunch so just went to the place across the road from Paramount which was dimly-lit and old-fashioned and I liked a lot.

From there, it was back into the wild sunshine because my time had come to stomp up the hill in Griffith Park to the observatory. I had been kind of worried about this plan, because people kept using the word ‘hike’ when talking about what one does in Griffith Park. I was doing this walk/hike/whatever in a cotton sundress and canvas sneakers so well-worn that any grip the soles once had was now completely smoothed away. The route I took, which begins near the Trails Cafe, is a pretty common one for getting to the observatory, although I chose the ‘harder’ of two paths that fork at the beginning. I consulted the Modern Hiker website for the route, and they estimated it would take an hour and be really easy. It actually took me half an hour, but was a lot steeper than I thought it would be. I slipped a couple of times but didn’t actually fall, but that’s something to bear in mind if you do this- maybe take the right-hand fork rather than the left, which I hear is less steep. I took the route I took because I wanted to be able to see the Hollywood sign, and because it said the views were nicer quicker because of the greater elevation at the beginning. Once I got to the observatory, I flopped on the grass to recover from my intense stomping. It was a hot day but not too hot for a good walk, even an uphill walk. The views from the observatory were amazing: all of LA, planes taking off from LAX, the Hollywood sign. I was happy to be there. I lay on the grass for a while and read my Kindle. People often talk about sunrise and sunset from the top of Griffith Park, but I was planning to walk back down rather than take a car and didn’t want to be walking in the dark so I set off just before the sun was going down.

I went down a different route back so I would end up in my neighbourhood, which is at the foot of Griffith Park. That route had many fewer people on it and was quite steep in parts but was manageable.

The houses on the slope out of Griffith Park are absolutely incredible. I’m glad I went out that way so I could see them.

Out of the park and back in Los Feliz, I went around the shops on North Vermont Avenue. There are great bookshops, cute clothing shops, shops selling gay-themed gifts, perfume, jewellery, even CRYSTALS. Everywhere smelled really strongly of incense, especially the crystal shop which was so heavily perfumed that you could smell it in the bookshop next door.

I timed it perfectly so I could check out that part of Los Feliz, pick up tacos from two different taco places in the neighbourhood, go home for a nap and then see a show at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre on Sunset Boulevard.

The UCB show I saw was White Women’s show Your Token Friend, which had Nicole Byers as a special guest. As an actual white woman (rather than the group itself, which is all black men), I accept I am probably not the target audience for this show, but it was great, and it was cool to see Nicole Byers. I don’t think I’m a fan of improv in general, but this was especially good and she personally, and they as a group, were totally magnetic.

What I ate

I realised I hadn’t had any (California-) Mexican food so far on my trip, which was an error. So I had Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday.

Huevos rancheros at Fred 62.

Chicken and beef tacos at Lucy’s El Adobe.

Apple pie at the Trails Cafe to power me up to the observatory.

Chicken and beef tacos at Machos Tacos.

Fried fish and fried shrimp tacos at Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada (actually in Los Feliz).

Happenings

Two cute girls approached me in the street in Los Feliz. I thought they were going to tell me they liked my dress, as I was wearing a yellow sundress that is very popular, but instead they were trying to recruit me to Scientology. Luckily I was wise to their euphemisms and remained unconverted.

Speaking of Scientologists, at Paramount I discovered the existence of ‘Tom and Nicole doors’, designed for, duh, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which is two doors placed next to each other, decorated in the same way, with a smaller one to shoot a short male actor at, and a bigger one to shoot a tall female actress at, because we / actors are obsessed with men = big and women = small.

Day 6:

What I did

Today was the day I moved out of my AirB&B and went to my friend Barbara’s house for my final two days and nights. Barbara picked me and my suitcase up, we had breakfast and then we had to pick her little cat Leaf up from the vet. At the vet, we met a Pomeranian called Tinkerbear, who was extremely cute.

We took Leaf home, where I met Barbara’s delightful husband and son, and got to see her super beautiful home in Franklin Hills.

Having not really done much shopping on my trip so far, we decided to go shopping to an outlet-ish area in Glendale. I stock up on Urban Decay Primer Potion whenever I go to Nordstrom Rack because they always have it for the very specific price of $9.97 and I can’t imagine using anything else. I didn’t buy much else, until we got to Target, where I found a great pair of grey velvet trousers on clearance for $11, and was totally charmed by the Who What Wear range, from which I bought a black slip dress that looks great on. I wore dresses on several days of this trip, and it really made me think I should do that more at home. Buying this lovely slip was a way of showing commitment to that.

We got poke on the way home, which I had never had before but was completely delicious.

In the afternoon, I headed back to the great branch of Sephora I had found earlier in the week and picked up a few things I can’t get at home (like their own-brand lip stains, a Bite lipstick, a stunning green Marc Jacobs eyeliner which you *can* get in the UK but only from inconvenient places). I nearly bought a Becca highlighting powder, but checked the UK price and found I could get it cheaper in Space NK, which I fully plan on doing.

I got back in time for dinner with Barbara and her family. Over dinner we were talking about our preferred crisps, at which point her husband mentioned ‘paprikash’, which made me think of the scene in When Harry Met Sally, so when Barbara asked what movie I wanted to watch in bed, obviously I said When Harry Met Sally. I just never get bored of it. The pinnacle of romcom writing.

What I ate

Poached eggs and meatballs with salsa verde; toast with raspberry jam at Little Dom’s.

Salmon and octopus poke at Kope Poki in Franklin Hills.

Pulled pork tortillas made by Barbara’s husband.

The greatest crisps of all time, Taki’s Fuego. Thank you to Kristy for introducing me to them. Kristy is a huge Nora Ephron fan, so it felt doubly right to be eating them while watching When Harry Met Sally.

Happenings

My card wouldn’t work in the self-checkout at CVS while I was trying to buy my two favourite kinds of crisps (crunchy Cheetos and Takis Fuego), and the dude a the self-checkout next to me just said ‘here, try this’, swiped his card and left without trying to engage me in conversation. A real-life angel.

I got a Lyft Line (like Uber Pool) with a genuinely wonderful, kind, funny driver and a super sweet fellow passenger, both of whom were overjoyed to hear about what a great time I was having in their town. The driver Jorge made me really want to go to Mexico City, where he was from.

A dude hit on me aggressively in the Metro station which fully contextualised how non-scary or aggressive the dude in Nordstrom had been. This is probably the major downside of being a woman travelling alone, but also he was the only man who wouldn’t take a hint.

Day 7:

What I did

We hit the pool! As someone who likes children a lot and doesn’t have any, it was actually super fun for me to be at a pool with a 6-year-old kid who wanted to play with pool toys and frisbees. Also, Barbara’s son is generally just an extremely wonderful person who I enjoyed hanging out with all the time.

After the pool, we went to the drive thru at In-N-Out, because I knew if I came back from LA and had to tell people I hadn’t been to In-N-Out, I wouldn’t hear the end of it. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of it.

After coming home and showering and making myself look pretty with the makeup I had acquired the day before, I headed out to an event that my friends Jen and Marcie were hosting at their shop the Plus Bus in Eagle Rock. It was part of the Sister Spit tour which had 6 incredible writers performing their work, all of which was either extremely hard-hitting or really funny or both at the same time.

After the readings, a group of us went for a drink at a bar across the street and it was honestly so wildly affirming to be in the company of such fun, kind, warm, smart, articulate fat women. Not least ones I’ve admired for a really long time. If I hadn’t been so consistently hanging out with such great, interesting women, I doubt my trip would have been as memorable as it was.

What I ate

Eggs and crispy crispy bacon for breakfast.

Crunchy Cheetos by the pool.

Cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milkshake in the car from In-N-Out.

Apple fritter donut with cherry compote at Donut Friend in Highland Park.

Italian sausage pizza from Town in Highland Park.

Happenings

A dad and his daughter turned up at the pool and the little girl was (literally) the cutest child I’ve ever seen in my life. I got talking to the dad in the pool (I love dads) and it turned out he was a person of note called Tim Heidecker.

 TL;DR version

I knew I would probably have a good time on this holiday but I never imagined having the best time. LA totally exceeded all my expectations, I loved every minute I spent with my friends and I adored being in the sunshine. The downsides are the long flight, the jet lag and needing to remember to budget for cabs if you can’t drive. The upsides are everything else: the food, the weather, the wild variety of neighbourhoods, the fact it’s really not like anywhere else I’ve ever been. Tweet me or email me if you have any other questions but I hope I’ve covered everything!