Los Angeles!

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For the 4th of July weekend, Eric, Drew, Nik & I headed down to LA to eat & explore. For such a short trip, it was quite fun and full of good experiences. Here’s hoping the next visit isn’t too far off.

We drove down from San Francisco, all eager to leave behind the summer fog.

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Upon the recommendation of several friends, we stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch (Natural Cafe, wouldn’t return) and did a little exploring. Their 4th of July parade was winding its way through the city center as we walked by, which made for interesting people watching.

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Nothing says “USA” quite like a segway. Or, you know, revolutionary soldiers.

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After lunch we walked to the courthouse, a Spanish Colonial Revival style building with plenty of hallways, towers, and courtyards to explore.

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Then back to the car, headed for the City of Angels.

We stayed in an airbnb in the Los Feliz neighborhood, which ended up being quite a perfect location. We were able to get around to all our destinations easily (in under 20 minutes) and had Texas-style breakfast tacos within walking distance. It made it easy for us to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House soon after settling into our LA home.

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After stretching our legs walking around Barnsdall Park, we headed to MessHall for snack and drinks. Highly recommended for its drinks and wonderful service, especially when compared to the disaffected service that is so pervasive in SF. From there, we walked to Little Dom’s for dinner. The atmosphere was charming, but the food a bit hit or miss. With full stomachs, we headed for the hills (of Griffith Park) to watch fireworks. The park was closed, so we watched fireworks from a neighborhood street we were diverted onto. After about 15 minutes, we drove into the heart of the city (and the fireworks) and explored. It was difficult to tell which fireworks were “authorized” and which were being set off by patriotic peers. The result was a city that appeared to be under siege — an interesting way to first get to know LA.

The next morning began with a short walk to HomeState for breakfast tacos and migas, two of my favorite foods that for mysterious reasons don’t exist in San Francisco. It was a glorious breakfast. After breakfast, we stopped at Target to pick up a few provisions (note to self: when you offer to share your beach bag with everyone, don’t leave said packed bag on the sofa) and enjoyed the very Los Angeles spin on the ubiquitous chain – dance music was piped through the air of the outdoor shopping area that the Target was sited in.

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Once we had killed enough time buying beach towels and sunscreen (so much sun…), we headed to the Schindler House on Kings Road. Amusingly, there was a line of people waiting to get the key to Social Pool, but once it was clear that only one group could receive the key, they all scattered and we had the property to ourselves to explore.

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The scale of the home and the material choices were immediately striking – it almost felt like an architectural model that had been enlarged just enough for habitation. While most of the connection details were understandably rough (it was constructed in 4 months!), the way the spaces flow and connect (or deliver privacy) and the ideas about how a home can influence lifestyle are powerfully apparent.

From Kings Road, we spent time in West Hollywood exploring a few design shops (B&B Italia and DDC, a building originally designed by the Eames but not worth the pilgrimage) on foot, and then by car. We ate at Robota Jinya, a surprisingly good ramen/Japanese lunch spot. While thoroughly enjoying their vegetarian ramen broth, we lamented that SF has so few “middle of the road” restaurants. Everyone tries to be so fresh, original, and precocious all the time that unassuming, quality food is all too difficult to find.

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We followed lunch with a stop at LACMA and La Brea Tar Pits. I thoroughly enjoyed both sites; the museum and its surrounding public art and plazas feels immensely successful at being a welcoming, gathering space for everyone. The tar pits are such a unique thing to see in the heart of a city and their story is well told through diagrams, signage, and viewing areas. Both would be worth a quick stroll during even the shortest of visits to LA.

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These 2 installations (Urban Light and Penetrabile) on the LACMA grounds just might qualify as the most photographed art on this earth.

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From LACMA, we made a quick stop at Heath to say hello, then to Sweet Rose Creamery for an ice cream cone. By then we were creeping into mid-afternoon and it seemed time to tear ourselves away from West Hollywood and into a new part of the city, downtown.

First stop: Walt Disney Concert Hall. We circled the building then headed to the public park on the 3rd floor.

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On the left, the original building facade material. On the right, the scrubbed version to diminish glare and reflection.

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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the building and the spaces it creates. We next walked across the street to the John Ferraro Building, which houses the LA Dept of Water and Power. It is an understated building with an amazing feature: a water surround! It makes a lovely place to explore, take a break, and cool down (the breeze off the shallow water was noticeable cooler) amidst the forest of buildings.

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We drove around downtown some, ogling the beautiful buildings, before stopping by the Ace (and being promptly turned away due to a forgotten license, drat) and then Grand Central Market for dinner.

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The market was wonderful – an intriguing mix of prepared food stalls and grocery stalls, high-end artisan makers and ethnic streetfood. We were all able to mix and match to create a satisfying meal after our full day. After dinner, we began winging the itinerary and things were less successful, though still enjoyable thanks to good company. We first tried (again) to go to Griffith Park observatory, only to sit in traffic for an unreal amount of time due partially to a ’90s concert at the nearby Greek Theater. In a strange coincidence, (1) Drew mentioned he had never before heard of K-Ci & JoJo (one of the performers), (2) we flipped through the radio and stumbled across a station playing their most famous song, (3) then Eric turned off the radio to point out that they were also playing it live as we slowly inched by toward the observatory. I doubt I have heard a K-Ci & JoJo song since I was in my teens, but it’s nice to know that when you need to hear it, it will be there.

We finally made it to the parking area for the observatory, but there were so many people we just kept going, deciding it wasn’t worth it. Next, we headed toward the Hollywood sign (yes, we became those tourists), only to discover that they put up road blocks to deter people from visiting the sign at night. We made it to the “scenic overlook” but never the sign itself. Next on our tour of touristy LA things ended up being the Hollywood Bowl, where we very nearly got stuck in more traffic of people coming/going to the amphitheater. We followed this by inadvertently ending up on the very touristy part of Hollywood Boulevard before throwing in the towel and heading to House of Pies for consolation sugar (it was meh).

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Sunday morning started with a 3rd (and finally successful) visit to Griffith Observatory followed by donuts from Kettle Glazed. I don’t recall why it was important to have pre-brunch donuts, but it was decided and they were delicious. We headed to Santa Monica with our sights set on the beach, but stumbled upon the ARCO Helios House and stopped for photos (and gas).

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We had brunch at The OP Cafe (more meh), before finally making it to the beach. We swam in the ocean, that wonderful beach pastime that is nearly impossible in Northern California. I experienced an under current for the first time and after ingesting way too much salt water, we finally made the journey back home. Let’s not discuss the 3.5 extra hours it took to finally pull into our driveway.

Ideas for next time.

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