I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting when I went to LA this time. I knew this wasn’t going to be a theme park and shopping trip, but in a town of 18 million people and 6 million cars, I wasn’t planning on the scenery being the highlight. But this place clearly likes to surprise.
Stop one was the very aptly named Hermosa Beach. (it means beautiful in Spanish) Gorgeous white sand, (that my cousin said is imported from Brasil) life guard beach huts like you see on television, volleyball nets waiting for players, and not a speck of rubbish to be seen.
Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach right next door are where you see spectacular sunsets and where you can’t help but contemplate how fortunate you are as you watch the perfectly round bright yellow sun sink into the ocean.
The houses along the Strand are multi million dollar mansions, a quick google while writing this saw one on the market for 14 million… For that price you’d want to hope global warming isn’t real, because there’s about 4 meters of footpath between the houses and the beach.
This place was quite village like and friendly. In fact, while in Hermosa Beach every single person I came across talked to me. A super friendly town with a beautiful beach… this was a great start to my brief American adventure.
For the second part of my Los Angeles trip I based myself in West Hollywood, I figured out the public transport system, because trust me, you really don’t want me driving on the other side of the road, and spent a few days exploring different areas.
From Santa Monica Beach to Silver Lake, from Downtown LA to Studio City, I public transported myself around to get a feel for this town without the theme parks and the movie star homes tours and such… and what I noticed was… the scenery.
Just above Hollywood is Runyon Canyon, which may be my favourite Los Angeles spot, and not because I didn’t need to catch the bus to get there. I am not a super fit person, and the walk to the top of Runyon for me was hard. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have made my first trip in the middle of the day under the belting sun, because Runyon has no shade. I think I saw one tree that cast a tiny shadow, and I may have shoed a dog out of the way, so I could escape the sun for a few minutes, and even with that initial struggle, when you get to the top, the view is worth it.
You’re surrounded by parkland with a view that one way, looks over the city and out to the ocean and in the other direction are the contoured layers of the Hollywood Hills dotted with impressive homes.
Even though I was exhausted and potentially delirious, I already knew in the middle of that hot day that I’d have to visit again at sunrise and sunset… and I did… and it was worth it. At night you see that Los Angeles really is the land of a billion lights, and if you want to see the good in everything, you can thank smog for the really pretty sunsets.
Next, I public transported myself to Santa Monica. The beachy area is fun and friendly. I don’t know if the salt air makes people a little more relaxed or if I just got lucky but this was a really nice seaside visit.
The Santa Monica Pier has been around for over 100 years and is a great tourist attraction with sideshows and events happening all the time.
I was fortunate enough to stand on the end of the pier to watch the sunset with a troubadour type singer busting out some really good music. Add some great street style taco truck Mexican, a cheeky wine and the beautiful sunset, and you realise, you’re having a pretty awesome holiday.
Griffith Park is over 4000 acres of parkland in the Eastern Santa Monica Mountain Range… or if you’re not up with your mountain ranges, just above Hollywood.
This park has the famous Griffith Observatory, The Greek Theatre, hiking trails, picnic areas and horse riding… which was to be my next LA activity. A 10 minute drive from Hollywood Boulevard, with the Russian taxi driver who won the Green Card lottery 10 years ago, had me surrounded by horses and barns and cowboys and girls ready to take us on a not so wild ride.
It’s amazing to me that in the space of a few miles you can go from the place that hosts the Oscars, with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, to a dusty ranch with cowboy boots and horse poo. If you want diversity in a holiday, you’ll get it here.
The sunset ride took me to the top of Mount Hollywood, and showcased more spectacular Los Angeles scenery as well as the suburbs on the other side of the Hollywood Hills. Even on a horse that was constantly moving it’s hard to take a bad photo.
The guides tell you stories of films that have been made in the area and wild animals that live around here and keep reminding you to look in the other direction at something else pretty wonderful.
Los Angeles is a town that can offer you lots of different things. You can make it a theme park adventure, you can take tours to the homes of the rich and famous, or like any other city in the world you could come here to shop…. But you can also find great walking tracks and parks and activities that you don’t quite expect in the big city… and it’s nice when the place you visit surprises you.