“Los Angeles is just New York lying down.” (Quentin Crisp, Writer)
After our visit to Disneyland, Olivia and I headed to LA, roughly 60 mins drive from Anaheim.
Los Angeles in Spanish translates to ‘The Angels’ and is therefore nicknamed ‘The City of Angels’. It is huge, even bigger than what it looks like on a map. Situated in Southern California, LA is surrounded on three sides by mountains. The city is designed along a grid plan, with uniform block lengths and the occasional roads that cut across blocks. Most of the major streets are designed to move huge volumes of traffic and many of these streets are also extremely long, as are the highways (and they are everywhere).
It is important to know where you want to spend most of your time before visiting because that will help you decide where to stay. Otherwise you will spend the majority of your time on a highway.
As we were visiting Universal Studios at least twice, I decided not to stay in the heart of LA but closer to Universal Studios. We also wanted to visit Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice Beach and Santa Monica for our Shoot My Travel photoshoot but planned to Uber there and back. We did spend half a day on a hop-on hop-off bus but decided it was a waste of time and got off at The Grove and LA Farmers Market.
I lived in LA for a time in my youth and found even harder to get around this time. We used Uber the entire time. It was reliable, quick and efficient and as a bonus we got to meet some great Angelenos.
Accommodation – The Garland
We stayed at The Garland in North Hollywood; about 10 mins drive to Universal Studios. I chose this hotel not only because of the proximity to Universal but also because it has a cool bar, excellent restaurant with great reviews, and a free shuttle to and from Universal Studios.
Built by Hollywood actress Beverly Garland and her husband Fillmore Crank in the 70s as the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge, it was renamed The Garland in 2014. The hotel is still owned by family and managed by her son.
The staff were great from check in to check out. When I realised our room backed onto the highway, I asked to be moved. To their credit they moved us immediately to another quieter room.
The Front Yard restaurant was great, the food is not cheap but after eating Dendys, iHop and Disneyland food for the preceding 4 days, it was nothing short of nirvana. As we arrived on Thanksgiving we were able to experience a buffet thanksgiving meal for the first time. Loads of fun!
There are plenty of options for vegetarians but nothing I could see was gluten free. This seemed to be standard everywhere we visited in LA. The only place that catered to vegetarians, vegans and gluten free was The Butchers Daughter in Abbot Kinney Blvd.
There is a Lobby Bar where you can watch the television or grab a drink and take it to the pool area. And there is a little shop selling the most gorgeous Californian trinkets and necessities.
About 10 mins down the road there is a Walgreens that sold practically everything you would need, including pharmaceutical goods, food, cosmetics and magazines. There were also a handful of food outlets and a Starbucks.
Our room was beautiful and room service was prompt. Everything was served in cute environmentally disposable containers, which meant you could save some of it for the next day.
- Use Uber. It is so much easier to get around with an Uber. One driver even told us that Angelenos Uber to and from work because the public transport is so bad.
- Santa Monica is tacky. There I said it… It was worth walking from Venice Beach (about 45-60 mins walk) but the pier itself was disappointing.
- Hollywood Boulevard is only worth visiting during awards season when they do her up and remove all the shysters. My daughter actually thought I was pranking her when we arrived there, because she didn’t believe this dirty street was THE Hollywood Blvd.
- Hop-on Hop-off buses are really a waste of time and money. The ear pieces didn’t work, the drivers couldn’t care less and you spend a lot of time on highways. Next time I would book an LA Insider private tour.
- Be aware of the scam artists and shysters. It was particularly bad in LA, particularly in Venice Beach and Hollywood Blvd. People have no problem bailing you up in the street, so be prepared.
- If you stay at the Garland, do try their homemade Wildberry Pop Tarts. Absolute heaven!
LA is certainly different and I am very thankful that I chose to stay outside of the main CBD. The Garland was an oasis in the madness of LA.
“Los Angeles: seventy two suburbs in search of a city.” (Dorothy Parker)