I hate to admit it but our weekend in La La Land was La La Lackluster. The city, in my eyes, is a stark reminder of everything that is wrong with our country. We arrived just as Biden was declared president-elect and the celebrations erupted into the streets and sidewalks. Watching those who were rejoicing yelling at peaceful Trump supporters and even flashing their middle fingers way too generously at the Trump car processions really bothered me. Biden won. Isn't that wonderful for our country? His supporters should be happy yet even in moments of glory many resorted to expressing their disdain vehemently. Why is the divisiveness continuing to be spread and by the victorious albeit? I expected the Trump supporters to be the ones showing aggression as the "losers". Instead, from what I witnessed first-hand it seems like some Biden loyalists won't stop the harassments until any point of views not in line with their own come to an immediate halt. Can we please respect everyone's right to their own opinion? I'm not sure this code of conduct is one that is valued in this city (or many other cities in this country for that matter).
When we walked around a recently depressed Third Street Promenade we almost didn't recognize it. Practically every store is boarded up with plywood in anticipation of riots and protests that were expected around election day. In contrast to our previous visits in the past, this once bustling shopping and dining center in Santa Monica was barren. The people that were honking their cars victoriously for our newly elected President are often thought to be the same ones who participated in the riots and looting that occurred post George Floyd's unjustified death. It is their very behavior of fear implementation tactics that caused Los Angeles to be boarded up once again." Follow our lead or face our wrath", their threats loom everywhere here and the boards stay up to remind us of the consequences of having differing opinions.
When we drove to Venice, excited to walk around and enjoy the beach vibes with the kids, we quickly left the neighborhood without ever leaving our car. The entire boardwalk is lined with tents presumably housing the homeless population. This is a problem in the city that has gotten out of control causing it to be unenjoyable to explore many areas. Witnessing a beautiful city's slow demise is painful to watch. Perhaps it reminded me too much of what is happening back home in NYC. Mark my words, like the residents in the Upper West Side of Manhattan who have been loyal social justice advocates who later banned together to disband a homeless shelter that threatened the safety of their community, the folks of Los Angeles will soon be regretting their active participation in the destruction of a once lovely city.
Oh, and the traffic here is unbearable. We also happened to arrive on the two windiest days in the city's history making walking around very uncomfortable. We received our first parking ticket since being on the road and overall, simply put had our first terrible day in the last four months. The infamous Californian Vibe skipped over the City of Angels when we arrived.
While we are quite happy to put LA behind us and move forward with our next adventures, we did enjoy some great meals and a nice morning by the pier. Another highlight was meeting with old friends who moved out here and catching up over drinks.
Santa Monica Pier
Although the amusement park was closed due to the pandemic, the pier was open for a nice stroll. Only a handful of others dared to brace the wind's wrath on the morning of our visit. It was quite beautiful to watch the waves crashing while the mountains in the backdrop stood motionless.
Third Street Promenade
We visited this outdoor promenade a few times each day because of its close proximity to our hotel. As I mentioned earlier, the ever dominating boarded up storefronts were just a depressing reality of the "new normal" some cities have wrongly accepted. In reality, they boarded up in anticipation of anti-Trump protestors should the President have won presidency again. To me, this is a staunch reminder, via wooden walls, of where our democracy is heading. There is only one side that can be adhered to or else a tone of aggression, cancellation and destruction looms as a reminder of what will lie ahead to all traitors of this forced upon mainstream ideology. For better visuals of how this neighborhood has been affected, please see my Los Angeles "stories" on Instagram. Below are the best pictures I could gather.
Similarly, Beverly Hills is boarded up as well. Chanel, Barneys and every other store you can name have all put up their shields in fear of being raided and violated again. Rodeo Drive was entirely closed off. Heart breaking. We just drove through and never bothered getting out of our car in a neighborhood I once loved to stroll through and grab a yummy bite while people watching.
We got a $68 ticket for parking in an unclearly marked parking space for a fifteen minute walk down the Walk of Fame. This was more than enough time to walk by some seedy characters and crowds of tourists. I don't think we walked more than two blocks before we all wanted to turn back to our car and get off the strip. As we left the area in search of a great viewing spot of the iconic Hollywood sign, we almost got into a car accident. Things were really not working in our favor here. Just when we couldn't be more annoyed, a rainbow magically appeared. This was our second rainbow sighting of the day! We were greeted by one on the way out of Palm Springs and again in Hollywood. I was mesmerized by the rainbow which sucked me into recalibrating the energy of the day and the bad perspective I was holding on to. Just as I was starting to relax, a giant monster truck pulled up near us and honked so loud I nearly flew out the window. That set me off into tears. Gosh Los Angeles and I just didn't get along.
The Huntley Hotel Santa Monica Beach
Perhaps our experience of Los Angeles was destined to be ruined and if so, my first clue should have been when we checked in to this hotel. The hotel is very well reviewed, in a great location just one block from the beach and two blocks from Third Street Promenade, with a trendy restaurant that requires a bouncer on the weekends and tastefully decorated rooms. Yet, upon arrival I was asked to sign a three page Covid waiver releasing the hotel of any liability if we were to get sick at the property. What a warm welcome! We have been on the road for four months and have stayed in several hotels in several cities and not one has asked us to sign such a ridiculous contract. We were then told that our rooms were ready and available for an early check in at a rate of $50 per room. Isn't early check in usually a courtesy? Finally, when my husband and I went down to the bar to pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy in our room we were told that due to Covid we can no longer order wine from the bar and that we'd need to order it through room service. Um, doesn't adding another person to the mix of who contacts our bottle increase the chance of the virus spreading? No thanks. We are just operating on a completely different frequency than everyone here.
This was one neighborhood that wasn't boarded up that we found truly enjoyable to be in. We loved driving around the area to house gaze and stroll in the town's upscale village. On Sundays they host a large farmer's market filled with local goodies. There are various retail shops for all shopping desires as well as a delicious chocolate shop, Sees Candy, which we of course checked out. Things were finally looking sweeter.
One thing Los Angeles is still getting right is their culinary scene. We had some fantastic meals here and the service staff was consistently friendly, warm and attentive. During Covid, indoor dining is not allowed anywhere so restaurants have spilled on to sidewalks in order to accommodate their diners.
Located in the Third Street Promenade this lively restaurant offers a delicious menu in a fun environment. The bar concocts great cocktails and a funky mix of music blasts to please its young crowd. We ordered their donuts which ooze with jelly and are paired with a delicious white chocolate caramel sauce for dipping desires, the best string fries you could hope for, a yummy gluten-free macaroni and cheese, perfectly crispy brussels sprouts, a fried chicken sandwich loaded with toppings, a juicy burger that yielded many groans, a falafel salad filled with flavor and a breakfast burrito that is hard to compete with. This was a meal for the books.
Also in Santa Monica, Art Table serves fresh, local American fare in a creatively converted outdoor space that spills on to former street side parking spots. I really love the clever way they incorporated the parking meters into their new outdoor space and how they added turf to the curb they fenced in creating a garden feeling. We munched on their fried calamari, loaded Mexican corn, avocado toast, lamb burger and coconut curry halibut. Everything was solid and very satisfactory.
The Penthouse Restaurant
We enjoyed a lovely Sunday breakfast at our hotel's restaurant. We loaded up on waffles, granola, berries, chocolate croissants, omelets and chilaquiles which were well appreciated in their newly converted outdoor patio space. I wish they had a proper espresso machine in their not-so-temporary Covid space. Drip coffee only.
A Votre Sante
After driving through Brentwood to scope out some of the homes of the kids' favorite celebrities (like Jim Carey and Lebron James) we headed over to this neighborhood joint loved by locals. A Votre Sante offers an adorable outdoor patio and a delicious, healthy menu loaded with vegan and vegetarian options. Our nachos which were drenched in vegan cheeses was surprisingly scrumptious, the taco salad filled with veggies like corn and cabbage was equally enjoyable especially with the added flavor of the meatless steak and chili oil, their Beyond Burger is stuffed with sauerkraut, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado, the huevos rancheros and Oaxacan scramble were big hits too. We left the table with happy bellies once again.
The homemade pasta, along with the other authentic Italian menu offerings, is perfectly prepared at Locanda Portofino We all enjoyed every single bite in their romantic patio. The service staff here is attentive and the atmosphere and pricing aim for a more formal experience. This is a great date night choice. I am still dreaming of my porcini pappardelle drenched in arrabbiata sauce.
Our perspective locks in many of the ensuing circumstances in our lives. When we arrived to Los Angeles we were not in the best of spirits for all the reasons already described. As soon as we realized that our negative energy was driving us into a blackhole of obstacles and detriment we made a conscious decision to quickly snap out of it and begin viewing things in a better light. This new outlook truly helped us have a more enjoyable visit considering our lack of connection to the city. Had we not shifted the way we viewed our experience, I have no doubt that more catastrophes would have come our way. In reality, any day that I am alive, healthy and with my family is a great day. Then, throw in a couple of rainbows and its truly a spectacular day. The rest is just background noise which Los Angeles has too much of, resulting in momentarily distracting me from my focus.
La La Land, you're not for us but there's a reason twenty million people have made you their home. Take care of those who love you loyally and I will do the same.