Los Angeles, City of Angels, is lapped by the Pacific Ocean on the western coast of The United States. Four million residents make it America’s second largest city after NY. The city’s wingspan is truly enormous. It sprawls so widely beyond the network of public transport that conversations about cars, fuel prices and GPS have become the obsession of Angelinos. Families of five often keep five cars so that everyone can be mobile. L.A’s famous streets such as Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue can run for twenty miles each from downtown to the ocean. In L.A it is vital to know the exact cross-streets before setting off to locate a place.
Chiselled silhouettes are the other obsession. I started out walking along Malibu beach but was embarrassed into jogging. Everyone else toted weights whilst sprinting, huffed on the out-door gym machines and smacked volleyballs with gusto in mid leap. In the water the surfers tamed angry waves with aplomb.
Ageing is arrested in LA’s famed clinics where the Paparazzi have an easy time photographing the rich and famous as they to and fro from surgeons adept at smoothing and lifting, nipping and tucking.
Angelinos are miserable about the economic slump California is facing, as the state is practically bankrupt. What they love about their home is the agreeable Mediterranean climate; the cheer-inducing rays energise them practically 325 days a year, and vineyards are aplenty. Nature has also blessed them with varied topography; as an Angelino said, “We are fortunate to live next to the ocean, amidst lovely hills and close to a beautiful desert.”
Movie star land
I’d read somewhere that although L.A may not have a monument to its name, its cultural influence on the world is outstanding due to the sheer number of movies, TV shows and music productions that emanate from here and make it to the small corners of the world.
For a brush with tinsel town, visit the Hollywood Hall of Fame and the historic Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Rent a convertible and meander into the central neighbourhoods of L.A starting with Hollywood Hills which is brimful with beautiful homes of movie stars. Jim Humay of *Tour du Jour* showed me around, pointing to actor Keanu Reaves house where a stalker regularly writes love messages on his walls with red lipstick. Pointing to another house he said, “Madonna sold it to De Caprio. Jodi Foster lives next door.”
The Beverley Hills neighbourhood is flatter and grander, and each major street is lined on both sides by a single species of trees such as Jacaranda, Maple, Olive, Ficus or Palm. Here you’d run into the likes of Tom Cruise and Christina Aguilera. We swept past Greystone Mansion where Batman, Spiderman and Ghost Busters were filmed.
The Holmby Hills neighbourhood is considered the most desirable. Michael Jackson and Elvis Prestley lived here, as does Barbara Streisand. What must it be like, if you’re Walt Disney and the guy blocking your jogging path is Frank Sinatra, I wondered.
Head out to the Getty Centre north of Malibu. The light, airy, sweeping lines of the edifice designed by Richard Meier are uplifting. Sit under trees created from clumps of bougainvillea and admire the cut-stone stream and circular, waist height maze. Once indoors, meander through roomfuls of exquisitely curated western art and sculpture.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens to the east in Pasadena are not as well known, but they’re a great place to spend a day exploring desert gardens with palms, sculptural cacti and succulents. There are also Rose Gardens, a Chinese and a Japanese garden, each one staggeringly beautiful.
Walk along Rodeo Drive and Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, lined with chic shops and cafes. Julia Roberts might just be around and willing to pose next to you.
Best time to go- Early summer and autumn.
Stay at- Top end Beverley Wilshire, Wilshire Boulevard.
Affordable style- Farmer’s Daughter Hotel, 115 S. Fairfax Ave, 3rd St. W. Hollywood.
Explore- Farmers’ Market on Fairfax.
La Brea Tar Pits- mired in these were found dinosaurs and sabre tooth cats of a bygone era.
LACMA- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has an exciting array of art and contemporary installations. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA is a Frank Gehry masterpiece with a steel façade.
Best Beaches- Malibu, Santa Monica, Will Rodgers State Beach and Manhattan beach.
Paramount Studios tour- it is the last movie studio with LA city limits.
Further Afield- Picturesque and eco-friendly Catalina Island.
Guide- David Jarvi or Jim Humay of *Tour de Jour* 1 310 659 2929.
Lunch at- The Ivy, 113 North Robertson Boulevard, Urth Café, 6565 Melrose Avenue.
Dine at- Red O restaurant 8155 Melrose Avenue, W Hollywood.
Stand Up Comedy and Improv- Comedy Lab on Melrose Avenue and Laugh Factory and Comedy Store on sunset Boulevard.
Shop at- Robertson Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, Rodeo Drive, Brentwood Country Mart, Santa Monica