There are places in this world that I’ve never visited, but I’m sure I’d love if I ever found myself there.
Austin, Texas (fried avocado tacos and Stevie Ray Vaughan – come on. What girl wouldn’t love that?), Casablanca, Madrid, Seattle, Rome…the list goes on and on.
For the longest time, Los Angeles was one of those places. I was mesmerized by the city with the pretty name and all those twinkling lights where movies became reality and reality became a movie.
So last week, I hopped on a plane and headed to the place I had been dreaming about ever since I was a little kid. I can’t remember who said it but apparently, you never forget the first time you fly into the Los Angeles basin. All those lights and the sheer size of it, spread out as far as you can see. It’s gorgeous. Especially after you’ve spent the past six hours of your life trapped on airplanes filled with kicking, screaming children and gassy seatmates who don’t even have the common decency to look embarrassed.
We went to both major theme parks – Disneyland and Universal Studios – where we waited entirely too long to go on Star Tours, ate the world’s most delicious vegetarian gumbo at the Royal Street Veranda, rode rollercoasters, giggled and screamed my way through the Tower of Terror, saw numerous feral cats, came to the conclusion that the castle in Orlando beats the castle in Anaheim, took the studio tour, rode The Simpsons ride three times and lamented the fact that Doc Brown has been relegated to hawking fried chicken.
We spent the afternoon in Santa Monica where I spent the entire time humming the eponymous song by Everclear and discovered that the Pacific Ocean doesn’t smell as salty as the Atlantic. Is that weird? I grew up about ten minutes from the beach in South Florida and it definitely smells different there than it did here.
I also hiked to the Hollywood sign. I have never been on a hike before and the notion of lugging 2.5 miles up a mountain intimidated me a little. Especially when coyotes, cougars, bears and big-ass eagles that could claw your eyes out live in California’s mountainous regions. But, I put on my big girl Pumas (like I said – I’m not a hiker) and hit the trail.
Dudes, it was the best thing I have ever done. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments when I felt like paramedics might have to be summoned to bring me down the mountain, but once we reached our destination – I felt incredible. The view was stunning and if you live in Los Angeles county and haven’t done this yet – do it. It’s breathtaking.
Oh! And the best thing I did was help celebrate Raj’s birthday. I wore big heels (although they did nothing to foster the notion that I am, in fact, a grown-up), I drank champagne and vodka cocktails, I remembered why I don’t drink vodka, I hung out in the Ganesh Room at the House of Blues, I laughed a lot, I listened to great music and I had a fabulously festive time.
And I ate. Like, a preposterous amount.
The world’s best Mexican food and margaritas at El Cholo, Animal-Style fries from In-N-Out Burger (part of me is really glad I didn’t go to college in L.A. because this is the greatest drunk/hangover food ever conceived) and a glorious veggie burger from Counter Burger which totally made up for the garbage burger I ate at Lucky Devil’s. In addition to this, Brad also made cookies, bread pudding, chocolate cheesecake and a strawberry-peach-lavender pie. The man belongs on Top Chef: Just Desserts.
I also saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is actually pretty lackluster and grimy, I ate a truly terrible and overpriced veggie burger at Lucky Devil’s, finally got around to seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (liked it, didn’t love it), saw Cowboys and Aliens at the Arclight (greatest movie theater ever), played with puppies, watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (again), got really tan, saw where Jason Priestley lives, saw a coyote run across a suburban street (terrifying), watched episodes of Angel, made new friends and took a lot of pictures – a majority of which feature me looking like a total dipshit.
I’ve been dreaming of this place for years and it was exactly how I pictured it to be – a heterogeneous tangle with both the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. But I can definitely understand why people love this city.
Even though the bread is almost as bad as the traffic and they don’t have a pro football team, I will always be down to come to the coast, get together and have a few laughs.