Jax Travels: L.A.
On July 27th 2013, my plane landed at LAX. It was night, and the cool breeze through the palm trees didn’t help wake me up. My mother and I were traveling together, going to California for the first time in both our lives. This trip was a birthday gift to me. I found out my favorite band System of a Down was playing a single show in the United States that year: The Hollywood Bowl. I was totally okay with going that one night, but it was decided we should take a few days and see the sights.
After we unpacked, I got our itinerary ready (yes, I’m extremely organized and love to plan trips) we fell asleep, excited for the week ahead and all of the new experiences we would have.
Finding the Best Places to Go
I love using Yelp to find good food places, so the next morning we visited The Griddle Cafe on Sunset Boulevard, when our taxi dropped us off, there was a line out the door for seats, but I knew the wait would be worth it in a little breakfast food place like this one. We got a seat at the breakfast bar, and were served coffee from a french press.
Yes, that is nutella stuffed french toast.
I was surrounded by museums, (touristy, I must admit) but I have a burning passion for films and cinema that our next stop was The Hollywood Museum. I was enthralled by all of the history and artifacts they had on each floor, but of course, the basement/dungeon of the museum was my favorite. That was where they showed off the horror movie icons and props, and there is an exact replica of the hallway to Hannibal Lecter’s cell from The Silence of the Lambs.
The first poster you see as you descend into the dungeon.
For lunch, we tried In N Out burger for the first time. I tried to be un-touristy and order something off the secret menu (monster fries) and honestly, I was excepting better food. I must have been holding it on too high of a fast food pedestal.
After all that fun, my mom and I decided to head back to the hotel and relax poolside. Unfortunately, the California heat isn’t as hot as I was anticipating. I didn’t go in the pool…too cold. After the chill got to us, we retired back to our room. We got ready for our first dinner, eating at The Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City Walk (our Hilton had a free shuttle to this attraction, so I made the decision to eat there as often as we could, thus saving money on cabs.) I don’t like to eat at chain restaurants, but it gives me a good opportunity to people-watch. As a writer, I never get the chance to, especially not on the West Coast surrounded by vacationing families.
At least we took a sick photo. Ft. Mom
Just Call Me Jack
The next day, as per my itinerary (just call me Jack from Meet the Parents) we had breakfast at The Crepe Cafe, and, you guessed it, had crepes. We decided that day was going to be filled with afternoon shopping, so we hit up all the stores in the City Walk. The only one of note is the toy and comic store, Things from Another World complete with a UFO sticking out of the wall.
We stopped at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner, but you have to understand that I had to go because I love that movie, and all movies, okay? That night I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see my favorite band of all time. They are all of Armenian descent, but chose this venue because they originated in LA, which is where they first met, grew up, went to school, and formed the group. When I bought my tickets I got the ones as close to the stage as I could muster, but seats don’t matter at a rock show when we rush the stage once the bands steps on. The venue itself is impressive, with a nice VIP section, although it is all outdoors. Anyway, the show was incredible, and I was mere feet away from being able to touch Shavo’s leg (the bassist) so overall, I’ll never forget that night.
The next day, I wanted to ride the rides at Universal. The first being the House of Horrors, a year-round haunted house. After completing the attraction, I stepped out of the exit door and was immediately accosted by Beetlejuice. I immediately professed my love for him, we were married, and the rest is history.
I also got to see the most famous movie car of all time, the DeLorean from Back to the Future. Let’s just say that at this point I was beside myself with happiness.
Me Ft. Hoodie and popcorn
Last Day in West Hollywood
Sadly, the next day was our last full day in West Hollywood, and we would be flying out the following morning, back to Pittsburgh and (surprisingly, not a lot of) jet lag. We had breakfast at a very low key, yet classy place called Tiago where I was served, get this, porridge.
We visited Madame Tussaud’s on Hollywood Blvd, once again, enthralled with all the life-sized renderings of film favorites.
Hannibal Ft. Alien
We doubled back to the hotel and lounged by the bar until it was time for our final dinner and destination. (While sitting at the bar, I was served a free virgin drink and desserts by the bartender after he learned that I’m a straightedge celebrating my birthday in Cali.) I had made prior reservations at a very fancy seafood restaurant in Santa Monica called The Lobster, making sure that my mom and I had a dinner overlooking the Pacific before we left.
Santa Monica is not close to LA, it might be about an hour or less by cab. Seeing 9 lanes of highway really puts it into perspective how many people live in Cali, how many travel a day, and how seasoned those drivers are who take driving in that kind of traffic as second nature. We got to the pier and it was a beautiful day. We rode the rides and I demanded we go on the ferris wheel, so we did.
Once the sun began to set, our fingers turned blue and we headed to the restaurant, being served the best food I’d ever eaten. Servers and bartenders in California are much more open to people like me who don’t drink, they were quick to serve me a blackberry virgin mojito, now my favorite virgin drink, but unfortunately will never be replicated in my state. Asking for a virgin drink on the East Coast only gets confused looks and responses like “We can’t do that here.” I have given up long ago. But, I digress.
Dinner by sunset, FTW.
Now we arrive at the focus of my post, our unplanned trip to see sights only residents know about, and a midnight visit to Venice Beach. Our cabbie stopped in Venice before we went back to our hotel, telling us that we should see a few places before we leave for good. We drove past buildings and monuments, him explaining the backstories all the while, and slowing down to allow me to take quick snapshots in the dark. We all left the cab, and my mom and I walked out to the beach, our toes meeting the Pacific.
Later, he took us back, (he had turned the meter off, telling us this was all on the house) and at the hotel, we packed up and prepared to depart.
I was glad to have that extra time, being shown sights that not many would have seen, unless they knew exactly where to look.
Thanks for reading!
(All photos by me & Instagram filters)