There’s a moment in air travel (specifically) when all the planning, packing, researching and organizing becomes real. I wish there was a word to describe that little moment where you go from picking up your bags to strolling on Venice Beach. You’re walking into the dream but also pulling the dream into your life. That may be my favorite part of any trip.
Other trips have been more adventurous than Los Angeles but a 5-day escape was what I was after. I flew to Los Angeles to visit Danis—my oldest and closest friend that has temporarily settled in Eagle Rock for the past few months with her screenwriter husband and 2 silly, smart kids. She’s been in LA long enough to navigate the labyrinth of freeways that connect Santa Monica to Silverlake to Pasadena and beyond.
We headed straight for Venice Beach upon arrival. I feel like I blinked and I was in the land of a local, scrappy collection of muscle-heads, surfers, skateboarders and tourists. The Santa Monica Mountains in the distance and the Pacific Ocean at my feet. Leaving a drab, cold April in Toronto for this couldn’t be better. We grabbed a coffee at Intelligentsia and I was ready to stroll the beach and catch up with my bestie.
The next day we left Danis’s kids and husband and headed for the desert. We drove to Palm Springs for the ultimate 24-hour spa getaway. Unintentionally, we were the only two women under 40 that weren’t there for Coachella (the Mecca of music festivals with 100,000 attendees/day). Suffice to say, there wasn’t a hotel room in sight. We luckily nabbed the last room at The Spring Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs—a cool 15 min drive from Palm Springs. The Spring is a small, boutique hotel that suited our needs to a tee: the friendliest service, mineral, hot spring pools and a cozy, clean room.
The Coachella Valley turned out to be the ideal 24-hour destination. Definitely better than Las Vegas—less money lost. We got massaged, swam, people-watched poolside at the Ace Hotel, ate the tastiest BBQ (in a strip-mall no less) at Smoketree BBQ and drank some fierce cocktails at Bootlegger Tiki lounge. We finished our evening stopping by the eclectic Parker Hotel where we happened upon a friendly crew at the bar. This led to an unexpected evening of socializing with Hawley and Tristan of the Sidewalk Hustle and musician Kahri Mateen, who gave us the Coachella lowdown.
Before we left the next day, we had to stop at Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. Cabot Yerxa was a Desert Hot Springs founder. His pioneering ways and Grey Owl-style appreciation of southwestern indigenous culture made for an interesting tour of his self-made sprawling pueblo. I love folk art and folk tales and Cabot’s Pueblo had them all…
Then it was back to LA for a little intro to a land I’d only seen on TV. We dined that night at Hyperion Public in Silverlake and then headed downtown to Perch for the best rooftop views of the city with the live band, Doran Danoff, adding the perfect, jazzy pop soundtrack to our night.
The next day we started off with breakfast at Square One at the Boathouse in Echo Park. I couldn’t resist a vintage transcendental meditation paperback for $1 from a local selling her wares in the park. It doesn’t get more California than that. And then it was off to the Getty for us.
The Getty turned out to be a majestic sanctuary the likes of which I’ve only seen on Star Trek. After the monorail ride up the mountain, you’re gently spit out into a tranquil oasis of white marble-like stone pathways and buildings; insane views of the city and an incredible series of art exhibits. Even with 2 kids under 10 years old, we were able to spend 3 hours comfortably touring the space. With the kids strapped in (and a tiny bit cranky) we drove through Beverly Hills, Laurel Canyon and along Mulholland Drive. The views were spectacular. We were listening to the radio and Joni Mitchell came on while we were roaming through Laurel Canyon. That was my snapshot LA minute.
We finished the day in Highland Park for dinner, eating damn fine tacos at the La Estrella taco truck. Luckily, I missed out on the botoxed, celeb-obsessed, shiny world of Los Angeles. I discovered a city that loves vintage tricked-out cars, tacos and wild flora. This side of LA suited me just fine.
Liz Ikiriko is a friend and talented colleague. She lives and works in Toronto, though California sure does look good on her. Follow Liz’s wandering photo eye on Instagram @lizzles77