Last weekend's trip to LA was quick and budget-friendly. It was also the first time I had ever used Airbnb, and Lyft. I was pleasantly surprised (although after all I had heard about these two services, I shouldn't be) at the quality and accessibility of these two services. Our "host" for the room through Airbnb was incredibly responsive to any questions we had during and after the booking process, and she was friendly and personable when we met her at the end of our stay. We were within walking distance of numerous bars and restaurants, and ten blocks or less from the Chinese Theater. This made getting around to other parts of the city a breeze. This was our room, but Mary (the host) said many people preferred the other side of the house because there's less noise. Here are the rest of her rooms. We could hear a lot of street noise, but it wasn't unpleasant or disturbing for me. I could see how light sleepers wouldn't enjoy this location though. I'm not used to sharing a bathroom with roommates, but other than having to wait a few minutes to shower in the morning, it wasn't disruptive. It wasn't the Four Seasons, but for those of us less picky travelers, I can see how services like Airbnb are filling a void in the market.
Likewise, Lyft and Uber are changing the way people travel by providing a unique mix of affordability, ease of use, and a more intimate interaction. Young people gravitate more toward services that connect people with other individuals, instead of interacting with (and therefore supporting) impersonal corporate interfaces. We value small business, local culture, and a unique experience more than a glamorous one. Catching a ride with Lyft made me feel like I was coordinating and riding with a friend of a friend, not enlisting the services of a profit-motivated company. It was so easy, the drivers were nice, and it was cheap! I don't have any complaints.
Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour
In a 2-hour whirlwind tour, we viewed and experienced Hollywood's movie-making magic up close. Small groups allowed our guide to create a tour personalized to our tastes. We saw the sets for some cinematic favorites, as well how those same sets are transformed time and time again to be reused in different films. We toured some sounds stages for shows filming now, and got a moderate dose of Warner Brothers' history too! We even sat on the couch from the coffee shop in "Friends"! I may have had a total fan girl moment.
Javista for Breakfast
I'm so glad we stopped here before our amazing Warner Bros. adventure. The atmosphere is feels spacious even though the coffee shop is small. They had great vegan offerings on their menu for breakfast and lunch, and made a decadent almond milk latte. When I asked the address because we weren't sure yet how we were getting to Warner Bros., the barista set me up with a code for a free ride using Lyft, and got us hooked on it for the rest of the trip. Javista was really close to where we stayed, but I would make an effort to go back even if I stayed somewhere else.
The Hop-On-Hop-Off Double Decker Bus
We caught this bus in front of the Chinese Theater, and got an effortless tour of Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills before transferring to another bus (same company, no charge) to Santa Monica. Sometimes it's a little cheesy, but the tour dialogue was informative and intriguing. After spending the afternoon near the beach, we took the last bus from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills, transferred back to the red line, and took it all the way to the stop just before the Chinese Theater (nearest our residence). It's a lot of information, a way to get around the city, and a wind-in-your-hair joy ride if you sit on the upper level.
The feel of Santa Monica is like no other. It's an odd mix of glamour and California bohemian chic. I was glad we walked the length of the pier for the people watching and the views. The weather wasn't quite warm enough for sunbathing or swimming, but just standing on the beach listening to the waves roar and recede washed away any last remnants of work-week stress. We strolled up 3rd Street and did some shopping. I enjoyed the casual confidence that seems to seep through everyone here. No one was in a hurry. No one worried how they were being perceived. It was as if the people of Santa Monica were trying to deliberately distance themselves from the pomp and circumstance that lies just a few miles away from the beach. We lunched at True Foods Kitchen, which to me (coming from a vegan desert) felt like a piece of paradise.
Clubbing at AVALON
A very strange crowd of club goers seems to be standard for Avalon, but the music was good. This cavernous club is complete with a broad, spacious dance floor. I really liked having plenty of space to move without getting stepped on or elbowed.
Farmers' Markets and LACMA
Sunday morning positively glowed. The weather was perfect: sunny and mild. Just down the block from where we stayed, there was a magnificent little farmers' market. I wish we had better, more accessible farmers' markets at home, so this was a huge treat. We had vegan pastries and small batch, local coffee for breakfast after walking around and indulging our senses in the sweet morning hubbub. Everything smelled fresh and rich. Everywhere I looked there were rainbows of produce and wildflowers. I could have spent hours there and been perfectly happy.
We also went to The Original Farmers' Market near The Grove. Permanent kiosks and mini-restaurants shared half-walls with grocers, butchers, and bakers. It was crowded but inviting. I was glad to get some food, find table out of the way, and observe the currents of people as they passed. After we'd had enough exploring and people watching, the thrum of the crowds finally pushed us on our way.
We didn't make it to the Getty Center on this trip (I will come back!), but LACMA was a stellar art museum. There was a particularly interesting exhibit on early American art that was presented in the company of a modern, undulating exhibit space. I can't really do it justice by describing it, but the contrast was stark and compelling. Out in the plaza, "Levitated Mass," the giant boulder with a tunnel underneath, was another favorite.
With only two full days in Los Angeles, we did so much! It seems logical that I should be exhausted, but instead I'm invigorated. Travel sparks excitement and curiosity while I'm gone and gratitude when I return. My skin and my mind are still glowing with that California sun.