As August comes to a close, I’ve been in a “California Dreamin’” kind of mood, so it’s a perfect time to catch up on the fab places I visited during my vacay in Los Angeles this year. I went out to California to see my son D who moved west last year for his dream job in the entertainment industry. My daughter A joined me.
California on my mind
I’ve always loved California. It’s one of my favorite places to vacay. My late husband M and I used to travel to different parts of California every summer — San Diego, Carmel, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Monterey, San Clemente, San Luis Obispo, Pebble Beach, Laguna Beach, Gilroy (my hubby was a garlic fan and we went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival) — we would drive up and down the coast.
I hadn’t been to Los Angeles in six years. It was interesting to see how different areas in and around the city had developed and changed – some for the good and some not so good. Sadly there are quite a few homeless in some prime spots. And of course, traffic is abysmal all times of the day. I often wished I could get out and dance over the cars like the opening scene in La La Land.
A hmm, a hmm, speaking of the movies, celeb-sightings are a major enjoyment for me whenever I visit Los Angeles. Read on and I’ll give you the buzz about who I saw and who I missed because of my sixty-something delayed reaction times.
Exploring different neighborhoods
During my stay, I had a chance to check out eight great neighborhoods in Los Angeles. If I hit the lottery tomorrow I would gladly move to any one of them.
As it’s highly unlikely that I will win that big a jackpot to purchase a home in any of these neighborhoods, I’m going to keep dreamin’ and simply entice you to go exploring during your next visit to the southern part of The Golden State.
Staying by the waterfront in Marina Del Rey
My home base for my 10 day vacay was in Marina Del Rey, where my son now resides. There are nice parks and walking paths around the marina and it’s fun to watch the boats and see seals on deck or floating by. Marina Del Rey is convenient to most of the key highways which makes it easy to get around to the different towns. There’s a great farmer’s market on Saturdays and there’s a beach there too. Ooh, ooh, ooh, there’s also a lovely Ritz Carlton on the marina. Next time I want to go for a cocktail and watch the sunset.
Celeb Sighting Alert: “Mom did you see Val Kilmer pass by?” said A at the farmer’s market on Saturday. “What? Where?” I replied. “You missed him. He just passed us,” said A pointing to a man in a baseball cap and sunglasses. OMG how am I supposed to spot a celeb with dark glasses on?
North of Montana is drool-worthy
We took a drive over to North of Montana, also known as NOMA, which is one of eight main neighborhoods in Santa Monica. If you like looking at gorgeous homes like I do, these houses and landscapes are drool-worthy. Each one was nicer than the next. “This is where all the studio execs live,” said D. LOL home prices for sale range from $4 million – $69 million or more. How can anyone afford to live here?
I enjoyed walking along Montana Avenue which is filled with trendy LA shops, restaurants and spas galore. I was intrigued by one storefront called Skin Laundry that was very busy with Cali women. Among the Laundry’s offerings are facial acupuncture, laser facials (which I could use for my hyperpigmentation that keeps growing on my aging face) Botox and tooth whitening. Thought I might have a female celeb-sighting nearby – sadly not one around or one I would recognize without makeup.
Manhattan Beach is right out of a movie set
“Let’s take a ride to Manhattan Beach,” said D. “You’re going to love it there.” Manhattan Beach is one of the three Beach Cities (Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach are the other two) within the South Bay region of Los Angeles County.
How would I describe my feelings for Manhattan Beach? I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! We parked downtown and then walked over to the Strand bike path which winds along the oceanfront. Modern mansions line the walkway and side streets. Some of these magnificent homes had glass doors or facades allowing us to peak inside. There was plenty of opportunity to watch the beautiful Cali gals and guys play volleyball on the beach and view the pro surfers on their boards.
I felt like I was on the movie set of Grace and Frankie. No Jane or Lily celeb-sighting in this picturesque place.
Strolling Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard
When A and I wanted to check out the latest LA fashions, we drove over to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in the southern part of Venice. It’s about a mile long and is lined with trendy shops, restaurants, and galleries. It’s a popular spot for film crews too, so I was hoping we might have a celeb-sighting. Not one to be found.
Hiking with the hipsters in Silver Lake
My step counter reached 19,000 the day A and I went to Silver Lake. D had recommended we hike around Silver Lake Reservoir. The walking trail is 2.2 miles with a dog park and a grassy meadow. It took us about 30 -40 minutes to drive to this Eastside LA neighborhood and for sure if you drive go slow once you get there — the hills are killers. I thought my life was over when I downed one in D’s Mini Cooper.
I would describe Silver Lake as part hipster with a touch of funk. Certain sections look like they are still being gentrified, although with a population of hipsters you never know.
After our hike, A and I walked down hill to the main drag on Sunset Boulevard to have lunch. There is an eclectic selection of eateries, indie music venues, bars and boutiques.
The magic of Malibu
Speaking of celebs, you can’t go to LA without visiting Malibu. On our way home from a weekend trip to the Santa Ynez Valley (I’ll share more about that getaway in a separate post) we stopped at the Malibu Country Mart for lunch and more window shopping. It’s located off of Hwy 1 and full of high-end shops, spas and foodie establishments.
I’ve always loved Malibu for its beauty. The rolling hills and canyon trails with celeb mansions, the Malibu Pier where you can sit and watch the surfers or sit on the rocks and watch the Pacific waves. We tried to get tickets to see the Getty Museum but it was sold out during our stay.
For sure I thought we would have a celeb sighting in one of the upscale shops in Malibu. Guess the celebs were all hidden away behind their wrought iron gates leading to their private beaches.
More hiking in the outskirts of Beverly Hills
“I think Franklin Canyon will be a good canyon for you to hike,” said D as we prepared to embark for a morning trek. “Franklin Canyon is near Beverly Hills so we can have lunch there afterwards.” I felt like a true Cali girl riding through Bev in D’s Mini Cooper convertible with the top down. I had never hiked a canyon in LA but had always wanted to try. D had assured me that Franklin wasn’t too steep.
We parked at the bottom of the canyon and began our climb. I stayed focused on the task at hand with a goal to make it to the top.
Celeb Sighting Alert: “Did you see her?” said A. “That was Allison Brod.” “Who, what, where?” I replied. “She is the actress from Mad Men and Glow,” said A. I knew who Allison was but she was wearing a baseball cap with sunglasses. Ugh, another one literally bites the dust.
Back to the ascent: It was hot and seemed to get hotter as we went higher. I wasn’t nervous going up until I had to hike down. “Are you okay mom?” asked D during our descent. He held my hand and I stepped slowly, keeping my feet horizontal as not to slide or fall. I felt a big sense of achievement when I made it back to start. Lunch in Beverly Hills was a welcomed reward.
Topanga in the canyons
On our last day in LA we went to Topanga. It was one of my favorites. According to Wikipedia: “The community is located in the Santa Monica Mountains and exists in Topanga Canyon and the surrounding hills. The narrow southern portion of Topanga at the coast is between the city of Malibu and the Pacific Palisades.” With a bohemian-vibe, I could tell why this enclave attracts creative types like artists, musicians and filmmakers. And guess who else lives in Topanga? Lots of celebs!
Topanga is absolutely stunning with rustic homes, open air restaurants and hippie chic shops nestled among the mountains, trees and parks. It was a lovely way to end our vacay and finally have my first real celeb sighting.
Celeb Sighting Alert: “Okay mom, if you don’t see this celeb I give up. Look slowly. Don’t stare,” said A while we were inside one of Topanga’s shops. Slowly I turned. Inch by inch I got closer. And there she was. Kelly Clarkson in the flesh. I never would have recognized her if A hadn’t jabbed me in the side. No makeup, cowboy hat and jeans. But when she spoke I knew it was Kelly.
BTW if you plan to go to California I highly recommend perusing the #VisitCalifornia website for inspiration and tips.
P.S. Watch for more upcoming posts in September including my LA foodie recap of the delicious eateries where I dined and details on my weekend escape to the Santa Inez Valley. Plus next week, for all my single female baby boomer readers, I’ll be sharing my interview with one of the top dating coaches in the US.
Reader A said: “Your trip to California sounds wonderful! Great picture of you and your children!”