California Love! A Mini Travel Guide To Los Angeles
California was just the getaway these Virgo gals needed. With an abundance of sunshine, plenty of time by the sea & lots of fresh air, it was the perfect holiday in every way.
You see, Nubby & I have this tradition: we go away together at least once a year. It’s a total treat, especially since we live on opposite sides of the United States (she’s based in Portland, OR while I’m in New York City). It gives us a fantastic opportunity to reconnect, recharge & get reinspired. I woke up on our last morning together & realised this has been a tradition now for five years! We’ve been all over the place — New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Paris, Reykjavik — but even when we repeat cities, we like to do it differently every time. We rarely stay in the same hotel, & we always seek out something new.
Of course, inevitably we get to that last day: the day when we wake up early, finish packing, check out, get in a cab & bid each other a sad goodbye. Another inevitability: every time we say, “This was the best trip ever!” It’s true — this was our best trip ever! Even better than France, even better than Iceland, even better than Las Vegas. Every vacation raises the bar, but then, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
What follows is a travel diary of sorts, containing holiday snapshots & some recommendations of hotels, shops & restaurants that we loved! I hope that you’ll check out some of these ideas if you’re heading to Los Angeles in the near future!
The last two times we visited Los Angeles, we stayed at the Palihouse Hotel in West Hollywood. Make no mistake, the Palihouse is an incredible hotel — it’s more like a short-term apartment than a hotel room, with massive rooms, a cute lobby & very chic decor. But we wanted to try something new, so we decided to stay at The Viceroy. We didn’t really have any idea how much this switch would change our experience, which made it a very pleasant surprise!
Firstly, The Viceroy is in Santa Monica, which turned out to be a complete blessing. Secondly, because it isn’t intended for long stays, the vibe is completely different: people staying at The Viceroy are there to relax, not to sit in their room & work on their screenplay. The Viceroy has a fantastic pool scene: two gleaming turquoise pools surrounded by immaculately landscaped lawns & black & white-striped cabanas. You can lounge poolside all day, ordering drinks & food, getting some sun & dipping your toes into the heated water on a whim.
The rooms at The Viceroy are about 1/3 the size of the rooms we were accustomed to at the Palihouse, which was a surprise to us, not least because The Viceroy’s price-tag is significant. But the experience is completely different. The Viceroy is a getaway, a departure from your day-to-day life. It’s an escape; an experience. Not to mention, The Viceroy easily makes up for its smaller rooms in other ways: Kelly Wearstler’s interior design is out of this world, the service is unequivocably excellent, the entire hotel smells incredible & let’s not forget, the location is fantastic.
Is The Viceroy a bit of a splurge? Yes, definitely — but it’s worth it.
Nubby & I don’t like to drive in Los Angeles. It’s a little bit terrifying. We’re usually with friends who, in an act of extreme generosity, will happily ferry us around to wherever we want to go. This time, we didn’t have constant access to a friend with a car — but it turned out to be a great thing.
West Hollywood, where we normally stay, isn’t the most thrilling place to walk around, but Santa Monica IS! Every morning we would walk over to Urth Caffe, get coffee & people-watch (always super-fascinating in California). Then we’d walk down to the beach & inhale the salty sea air while we discussed our plans for the day. Walking along Main Street & the Third Street Promenade is delightful, & being so close to the beach really changed the way we structured our days.
All that sea air must have gotten to Nubby, because she actually agreed when I suggested we take advantage of The Viceroy’s complimentary poolside yoga classes, & even better, we rented bicycles & cruised down to Venice Beach!
Other great things about Santa Monica: It’s pretty much raw food mecca, if you’re into that. You’ll find Raw Food Daily, Juliano’s, Euphoria Loves Rawvolution & a massive amount of other super-healthy places to eat & drink. The Santa Monica Pier — with its ferris wheel, rollercoasters, photobooths & swings — is super-fun. Also, Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian plaza which glows with fairy lights at night & is filled with performers, food trucks & people walking around until midnight. We both absolutely loved it.
Usually when we’re in Los Angeles, we spend 70% of our time in traffic. Instead, we woke up at 6.30am every morning, got ready & launched into our day. We didn’t have to wait around for anyone else, we just launched into whatever activity felt best! The other great thing about walking around everywhere is that you get to see things that you would otherwise simply drive past. We saw so much cool street art, as well as discovering hidden storefronts & adorable houses.
I couldn’t have fathomed how much the change in location would impact our trip, but I am so, so glad we stayed in Santa Monica!
I have been a fan of Lucky Scent for a very, very long time — in fact, even before I started this blog in 2006! When I was researching what I wanted to do on this trip, I was delighted to realise they had a retail location in L.A., & it immediately became an essential stop.
What a fantastic store! Tucked away on Beverly Blvd., this shop is the ultimate treat for your nose. Staffed by immaculate olfactory geniuses, this is the place to go if you want to smell absolutely delicious. The best thing is that Lucky Scent is known for purveying unique scents: as much as I love Lolita Lempicka & Angel, you won’t find them here. Instead, they concentrate their efforts on small, boutique fragrance houses who produce really special scents.
We were helped by this gentleman, who spoke perfect French & whose moustache was perfectly-groomed. I didn’t catch his name, but we adored him!
I couldn’t leave without buying something, & I settled on Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Vanille Abricot, which smells absolutely insane. I also picked up samples of Histoires de Parfums’ 1969, Kai & Montale’s Chocolate Greedy.
In fact, we were all so obsessed with Vanille Abricot that every morning, Nubby would demand, “Spray me!” …& I would, obliging friend that I am!
Bloggers love a photobooth, & we stumbled across two while we were in town! The first is on Santa Monica Pier, inside the video arcade… but it’s a tricky endeavour. We got one $4 strip out of it, & when we went to do another one, it stopped accepting our coins at $3.25! A bit of a battle ensued, & after some hand-wringing, we resorted to brute force. We would draw the curtain (so no one could see us), then take turns kicking the coin-slot until we heard the satisfying “clunk” of a quarter swallowed & accounted for! Anyway, we got our photos… but hopefully we didn’t break the machine!
The second photobooth we found was at Le Labo on Abbot Kinney, a really cute shopping strip in Venice. Even better? Le Labo’s photobooth is FREE. They simply give you a handful of tokens when you ask about it. It’s a digital photobooth, but the pictures are B&W, so you get the retro feel with the perks of a clean-looking picture! Perfection. It’s such a cute shop, too — I recommend visiting & stocking up on candles & fragrance!
I met Mary in 2006 in San Francisco, about three days after Burning Man had completely obliterated both of us! We have kept in touch ever since, & she is such a blessing. Mary is one of those people who can make anyone feel good: she is smart, sensitive, positive & of course, a little ridiculous!
Mary also happens to manage Hidden Treasures, one of my favourite vintage clothing stores of all time, so when Nubby & I invited her over on Friday night, we didn’t know what to think when she walked into our suite hauling three enormous bags full of vintage dresses! It’s true: Mary had been stockpiling those dresses for us since last time we were in town (a year ago!). Of course, a crazy dress-up party ensued, complete with bizarre way-too-short girl scout dresses, a Frankenstein-esque patchwork nightmare & a whole lot of incredible treasures! I really, really want to tell you about Nubby’s big score but I won’t; I’ll let her break the news to you in her own way! (Trust me when I say it’s good!)
We also explored Abbot Kinney with Mary, ate at In-N-Out, shared lots of embraces & laughed at extremely inappropriate times. It was great! We love you Mary. You made our trip so magical. Thank you!
Kat & I had so much fun with the Made U Look Girls in New York City a few weeks ago, but did you know they’re actually based in California?! Of course, I had to send them an email inviting them out to dinner & drinks, & we decided to shoot some pictures while we were all together!
What transpired was an absolutely incredible afternoon & evening filled with snapping shutters, lots of laughter & a gorgeous ferris wheel ride at sunset. I absolutely LOVE those girls: they have hearts of gold & are completely delightful!
We can’t wait to show you the pictures we took at the hotel, on the beach & the boardwalk!
This was a major highlight of our trip. On Monday morning, we woke up early, got breakfast at Urth Caffe, & then walked down to the beach to rent bicycles. Mine was pink — of course!
We made quite a sight, I’m sure. I was wearing a pentagram t-shirt, pedalling in a pair of motorcycle boots & wearing a black sequin backpack, & Nubby was in black skinny jeans with her Miu Miu handbag sticking out of the basket on her handlebars! We were quite different to all the groups of families & Very Serious Cyclists (TM) that we encountered!
The ride from Santa Monica to Venice Beach is a quick one. Riding along the boardwalk, with the sand & the sea on one side of you, you instantly feel refreshed & alive. Riding back & forth was one of our favourite moments from our time in Los Angeles. I definitely recommend it if you have time!
My dear friend John — aka Halcyon — made the drive from San Diego just to come up & say hello. I was so flattered, & it was fantastic to spend some time with him. We’ve hung out a little bit in person, at Burning Man & SXSW, but this was the first time we’d spent more than ten minutes in one another’s presence.
He set up his video camera & pointed it at us while we sat beside the pool & chatted. Our conversation veered from beauty to fashion to radical self love & gratitude, & I think it’s a cute look into the kind of chats we have!
Afterwards, John, Nubby & I headed to Abbot Kinney where we met with Mary Bee, drank coffee at Intelligentsia & mooched around. As we walked into Intelligentsia — known to be some of the best coffee-purveyors on the West Coast — John said, “This is too fancy for me. I’m more of a, ‘Does this gas station have coffee? Cool’, kinda guy.” It made us laugh so hard!
By the way, John’s weekly Hugnation broadcast is awesome. You should definitely make watching it a part of your regular routine!
Ever since I got my iPhone, I’ll admit that I have been massively slacking on the photo-taking front. Actually, that’s not strictly true: I take plenty of photos, I just do it all with my phone. It’s constantly in my handbag, which makes it ideal for snapping anything of interest. My digital SLR started to seem really bulky & unnecessary, & before I knew it, it was literally covered in a layer of dust.
I decided this was nonsense, so I blew the cobwebs off my dear old Nikon & packed it in my suitcase… & I am so glad I did! There are some things an iPhone just can’t capture. I kept it in my handbag at all times & used it like mad.
It reminded me how much fun I’ve had with a digital camera over the years, & now I’m totally inspired to keep one on me at all times. Just the simple act of carrying a camera reminds you to keep looking for the beauty in every moment: something I always like to keep in mind!
When we arrived at The Viceroy, I made Nubby sit down & watch The Californians! Hahaha. It’s one of my favourite ever SNL skits. In truly obnoxious fashion, we spoke with that accent basically all week… & repeatedly mentioned the 405!
Say what you will about California, but they have healthy food on LOCK. Everywhere you go, there are ample vegetarian, vegan & gluten-free options: if you ask to have your food prepared slightly differently, they are thrilled to oblige you. This contrasts considerably to New York City, where, most places, half a cow on two pieces of bread is considered an excellent lunch!
We ate so well on our trip. The food at The Viceroy was fantastic (I recommend the grilled chicken salad!), but we also had fantastic meals at Urth Caffe, Joan’s On Third (the West Coast version of Dean & Deluca, I think), True Food Kitchen (where we went two nights in a row), M Street Kitchen, & even the food court in the mall on Third Street Promenade! We loved the yoghurt & granola at Coffee Bean, too.
It’s amazing to me how extremely different the East & West coasts are. It always makes me think about where culture comes from, & how much a place can influence us personally. I am convinced that if I moved to California tomorrow, it would significantly affect the way I live my life — in both positive & negative ways. I love California & think we will probably end up living there someday, but for now, I’m happy just to visit… & I’m always happy when I come back home to NYC!
The Coffee Bean; MAC Cosmetics on Third Street (thank you!!!); Books & Cookies; bird poop; walking across the beach feeling like we were in a desert; ordering chocolate & rhubarb tarts to our room at midnight; splashing around like a mermaid; reviewing our photos every night; the Prince Pandora radio station; “a-choo!”; the library; The Viceroy’s insane Wizard Of Oz bathroom; True Food Kitchen (best wild mushroom gluten-free pizza EVER!); eating salad by the pool; free wifi at The Viceroy (this should be a standard in ALL boutique hotels, thank you for trailblazing!); not taking my laptop with me (who needs more than an iPad on vacation?); listening to Warren G & Tupac in Mary’s car; complimentary drink tokens at Intelligentsia; going for lots of walks; getting some major girl time & enjoying the change of pace!
Next time I see Nubby will probably be in October, & we both have so much we want to achieve by then! Before my plane took off, I texted her, “Love you! Get lots of work done. By the time we reconvene in October we will be new women.”
I can’t wait to see her again!
P.S. If you want more L.A. madness, check out Nubby’s post!