L.A. L.A. big city of dreams

….but everything in L.A. ain’t always what it seems.

Back in March 2013 when I went to a work conference in Los Angeles, Joel introduced me to the song “L.A. L.A.” by Capone & Noreaga, Mobb Deep & Tragedy Khadafi. Now whenever I think of L.A., the song runs through my head. This was especially true as we headed into the City of Angels on a Wednesday morning, after we left beautiful Pismo Beach.

Ironically “L.A. L.A.” is by a bunch of New York rappers, a response to the Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” (of course you would know that if you know your East Coast/West Coast rap feud history). An East Coast gal myself, I do prefer New York to Los Angeles and wasn’t particularly charmed by the West Coast’s largest city.

I only planned for us to spend one night in L.A. Not long after I made the reservations for our West Coast trip, I found out my (pregnant) sister was moving out there.  We would have stayed longer had we known beforehand, since her little girl Skylar was born a week and a half before we arrived.

Twenty-four hours after our arrival, though, I was ready to get out of the damn traffic. Driving in L.A. is a bitch. The traffic started as we got within an hour of the city. We had some time to kill before checking in to our hotel and going to see my sister, so we crawled slowly towards Santa Monica.

We parked at a meter and stretched our legs with a little walk down to the beach and over to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a beautiful day, blue skies as far as the eye could see and temperatures settling around the low 80s. The whole scene seemed like a caricature… buff men in tight outfits wandered around Muscle Beach, cleavage galore spilled out of bikini tops, tall palm trees swayed over us at the slightest breeze. One of the stranger sites was a couple having a huge fight in the middle of the swinging rings.

View of Santa Monica Pier from Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California

A good chunk of the pier is the Pacific Park amusement park, home of the iconic ferris wheel. There were plenty of touristy places to eat and selling trinkets too.

Pacific Park ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica Pier in California

We walked to the end of the pier where we found a friend:

sea lion

I’m pretty sure he was just waiting around for food. A decent-sized crowd formed to check him out but he seemed unphased by it all.

On the way back to the beach, we stopped at the Route 66 “End of the Trail” sign and watched the swimmers and surfers for a bit. For a Wednesday afternoon, it was pretty crowded.

Route 66 End of the Trail on the Santa Monica Pier in California

Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California

We stopped for lunch at Big Dean’s Oceanfront Cafe where we fueled up on a few beers and tacos before hitting the road. We had originally planned to stop at the La Brea Tar Pits, but we were short on time due to traffic. And we were about to sit in more — it took us about an hour to go the 14 or so miles from Santa Monica to our hotel in Hollywood, the Magic Castle Hotel. We did take Santa Monica Boulevard, which meant that “L.A. L.A.” was competing for space in my head with Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” (you know, all she wants to do is have some fun “until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard”).

Our hotel was interesting. The staff was super happy, friendly and helpful and did a cute introduction to the place. It apparently used to be an apartment complex and sorta reminded me of the Melrose Place complex, only in bright yellow. It is right next to the famous Magic Castle Club, where I imagine lots of magic happens.

Magic Castle Hotel and Club

And to keep with the magic theme, the rooms had some interesting art:

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We were just a few blocks from the Hollywood and Highland corner, one of the busiest parts of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and home to the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars take place), Grauman’s Chinese Theater and more. It was sorta skeevy. I constantly felt like I was going to be pickpocketed. Walking through, I had a death grip on my purse — no one was getting my goods.

We took the subway over to Koreatown to see my sister, her boyfriend and my adorable niece.

West coast trip

We ordered in Mexican and hung out for the evening. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped for a selfie in from of the Chinese Theater (or at least our best attempt at a selfie) and a quick shot with Bruce Lee’s star.

TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Bruce Lee, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles, California

The next morning we did some laundry (clean underwear always makes for a better trip), grabbed a quick breakfast, dinged the side of our rental car in the tiny parking garage (buy the loss damage waiver! It can save you a lot of grief) and finally headed back to my sister’s for one last visit before heading to Vegas.

Tall palm trees in Los Angeles
^Sky-high palms on my sister’s block

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^Isn’t she gorgeous??

Since we WERE in Hollywood… we couldn’t leave quite yet without checking out one last spot. We headed to Griffith Park and drove up to the very, very packed Griffith Observatory. We were there to see the Hollywood Sign of course! If we had been there longer, I would have loved to hike up to it, but since we were only there for a day we just stopped quickly to snap a photo or two.

Hollywood Sign from Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California

So, we survived L.A. and all it had to offer, like the traffic, smog and shady characters. Next up.. the City of Sin!

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