Having a cousin (well, not any, surely he is the best on earth!) who lives in Los Angeles, I am probably both very lucky and unlucky at the same time. But as if that’s not enough, he even lives just a stone’s throw away from Venice Beach. Hence, I can’t deny that I was moved to tears on my very first morning, after having woken up long before sunrise thanks to my jetlag, when I walked to the beach to watch the sun rising over the ocean. I mean wow! The sea! The sun! A blue sky! California, holidays… I knew this would become a perfect trip, and it did indeed.
Los Angeles got me hooked immediately, although it’s probably be better to say “my” Los Angeles, that is: those parts of the huge city that I have actually discovered: namely and mainly Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Starting with Café Gratitude on Rose Avenue, a vegan café where I went several times for a superfood smoothie or “mini mighty” energy balls, to the whole length of Abbot Kinney Boulevard I really enjoyed Venice Beach’s laid back atmosphere. One beautiful shop follows the next, and in-between lie a lot of welcoming and inspiring coffee shops such as Intelligentsia, where coffee is served in proper ceramic dishes rather than in take-away cups (which sadly isn’t often the case in the US, I realised) and the friendly staff even prepares a flat white if you ask for it. If you’re looking for a place to have breakfast, try Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and for a fresh and colourful lunch, head to Gjusta – you will not regret it, trust me!
If you follow me on Instagram you might have realised that I’m having a slight weakness for sunsets (besides sunrises, haha!). And I must have been lucky: Apparently, sunsets in December are the most beautiful ones in California! The most stunning sunset – including a pink sky, black palm silhouettes and the swooshing sea – I’ve probably watched from the top of the roof of Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach: overstimulation to the max, I tell ya!
In Santa Monica it’s worth to just walk along the beach, where people tend to do all possible kinds of sports, whether it’s running, yoga, weightlifting or playing tennis. From the beach you may easily walk to Urth Caffè on Main Street, which has a beautiful sunny terrace and a lush breakfast menu (try the poached eggs with salmon on sourdough bread) as well as lunch options and coffee and cake.
Being known for my spleen of walking everywhere I guess I also liked the area around Venice Beach and Santa Monica most because you do actually see other people walking around there, too, whereas in the rest of Los Angeles (as well as in San Diego, what I will tell you more about next time) people seem to rather drive around – and I don’t blame them, the distances are insane!
In (West) Hollywood you might want to enjoy the view from the roof of E.P. & L.P. whilst enjoying a glass of wine and a serving of tofu fries (trust me, they taste better then they sound). If you’re rather in the mood for shoppong, Melrose Avenue is your place then!
If you have enough time, I highly recommend you to head south to Manhattan Beach! Being located just 20 minutes (by car) south of Venice Beach, the atmosphere here couldn’t be more holiday-y. Starting from the pier, from where you might want to watch surfers for hours, you may want to just walk along the beach and look at the many crazy (and sometimes beautiful) houses, to then finish off your day with a cheapish, but oh-so delicious dinner at The Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya. However, my true Manhattan Beach highlight was our dessert at The Creamery, a place we only discovered by coincidence on our way back to the car. Ice cream sandwiches, cupcakes, whoopie pies and co. are lined up next and underneath each other and are giving anone, not only children, a hard to deciding what to choose best.
If you are panning a trip to L.A. and, just like me, fancy a relaxing time off, I suppose that Santa Monica and Venice Beach are the places to be. It didn’t actually bother me much that I have not seen as much as I probably should have from Downtown, Beverly Hills and Hollywood: “My” Los Angeles is rather laid back and endued with a proper fresh ocean breeze. However, if you’re in the mood for more sightseeing, culture or hustle and bustle in general but happen to not have a car handy, Uber will be by your side and get you around for little money. For instance, I paid 30 Dollars from Venice Beach to Downtown L.A. and just 11 Dollars from Venice Beach to the airport. Nonetheless, one must not underestimate the traffic jams that might easily jangle one’s nerves no matter where in the city and at what time of the day. Hence, I assume there’s only one right thing to do the next day after a busy day out and about: enjoying another calm day at the Beach – no matter if it’s (once again) Venice Beach or Manhattan or perhaps even Malibu. That was actually the only thing I was really sad about, not having seen Malibu at least once. But luckily, my cousin has already spoken out on my next possible visit, and he’s happy for me to come back any time. Well, I guess I shall be back for good then soon!
Sending you a lot of sun!