Day 1: Koreatown, Downtown LA & Santa Monica Boulevard/Pier (34,531 steps - 26.35Kms walking)
After two comfortable flights (even on American Airlines, but with the help of some prescribed sleeping tablets and liquor … who’d have thunk it?) we touched down in LA at 6.05am on a sunny Sunday morning, 08th October 2017.
It took us a while to get our private shuttle into the city, but after eight phone calls (no shit) and a relatively pleasant chat with our ex-pat Cambodian driver and his ‘travel guest’ (for use of the carpool lane - smart), we were at hotel check in (https://www.thelinehotel.com) at the corner of Wilshire/Normandie in Koreatown (K’town) for 8.15am.
Our room wasn’t going to be ready for a few hours, so we left our bags and headed off exploring. We strolled through K’town - nothing too exciting … block after block of Korean BBQ’s, massage parlours & 7/11’s.
So, we said we’d venture into Downtown LA.
Downtown’s a bit of a dump to be honest. We strolled around for an hour or so & all we saw was homelessness, hopelessness and a bit more homelessness … oh and a few crazies.
There were however some beautiful parts and the street art is unique and interesting, so not a completely wasted visit.
But the problem with Downtown is that at every second or so turn we were met with incessant mumbling of phrases like ”can you see me?, can you see me?, can you see me? .......” & ”SICKNESS”.
This was entertaining for a while, but we were getting tired and deciding we’d had enough Downtown - we first checked into the hotel proper and then metro'd to Santa Monica Boulevard for a look and a stroll down the Pier after’s.
Santa Monica’s more upmarket, but still has the mandatory homeless people with their un-relentless begging.
As well as begging they also expect a tip for things like opening a door at a late night 7/11 (which was alien to us - not them though).
They were oblivious to the fact that we were both capable and not really wishing to give a tip for services neither wanted nor deserved.
And there is no shortage of weirdo's in LA.
We searched Santa Monica for a cool eatery and even though there were places, they were few and far between and after a long ass search we decided to head back to K’town and try our luck.
And lucky we were - on a positive after a l-o-n-g first day, it was finished off with the most delicious Korean BBQ experience in K'town - the Korean potato salad was S-O fucking good.
We’d googled where to eat, but that joint was closed … so we ended up just trying the next place we saw & holy fuck - it was DELICIOUS!
Day 2: Griffith Park/Observatory & Hollywood (41,647 steps - 26.35Kms walking)
We got up early, soaked in the view from the hotel room and walked to Griffith Park and up to the Observatory - a truly amazing experience.
We walked through the heart of LA (Melrose, Sunset Boulevard & countless other neighbourhoods) to get to the park, which was cool.
But we were hit with the stark realization of the gulf between the rich & poor neighbourhoods as we weaved in and out of affluent - poor - affluent - poor.
Poor areas (and there's many) seem to be overlooked by the City's Sanitation Department and there is garbage strewn everywhere.
People seem to just toss their unwanted shit (mattresses, furniture, general household waste - everything) on any corner as they see fit. And the city just seems to play 'fuck it'.
The closer you get to the park - the more impressive the neighbourhoods get. And the waste problem seems to disappears with the Belair postcode taking over.
We'd decided to hike up the Boy Scouts Trail (it looked steep, dusty and fun) and the higher we got the less we could make out the finer details and see the waste littering the streets we’d just trodden and the more beautiful the city looked from an elevated viewpoint in the searing 30+ degree heat.
After an hour enjoying the view and taking the obligatory selfies with the Hollywood sign behind us we walked back down a different path and saw some cool scenery, wildlife and even got some shade from the 30+ degree heat - LA is HOT in October.
From there we walked to Sunset Boulevard for my In-N-Out Burger (one ‘had to’ of the trip for me) and to get there we had to walk part of the Hollywood walk of fame.
It should be called the Hollywood walk of filth – it’s vile. We witnessed a man shooting up in a doorway on the main drag at 3pm.
We saw a kid (20 years old at most) with one arm lost from just below the shoulder and the other so black it looked like it was going to fall off. His face was infested with some sort of insects visibly moving under the poor cunts skin.
After that one, we left the main drag and took the less travelled path on quieter streets to get my In-N-Out Burger.
It was worth strolling all the way there though - it was de-fucking-lightful, the animal fries S-O good. And with a full fuel tank off we went towards Hollywood Boulevard to catch the metro back to K’town.
Outside the Chinese Theatre we saw the usual dress up’s - my favourite was the 50+ year old Tinkerbelle, who’d most certainly been rang a few too many times over the years.
Then I was kindly given a CD from an established rap artist who informed me he was playing in Belfast with Drake in 2 months.
The level of idiocy in this area of LA made me sad for the human race, but on reflection after was funny as shit.
That evening we ended up searching for a nice place to eat after our 40,000+ steps, but again - couldn't. So back we went to K'town and had another AMAZING Korean BBQ dining experience.
We finished off the night with a gin & tonic in bed looking out at the Hollywood Sign/Observatory and talking about the highs and lows of LA so far.
Day 3: Venice Beach, Venice Canals & Abbott Kinney (30,035 steps - 19.24Kms walking)
I always wanted to visit Venice Beach after that scene from ‘I Love You Man’ with Peter Klaven/Sydney Fife strolling down the beach promenade and while it is cool looking at it from the outside in - when you're immersed in it, it's a bit of a different experience.
It's grimy, the smell of urine lingers in one’s nostrils at all times and it full of more 'established artists' trying to hock their signed CD's to unsuspecting tourists.
They are a complimentary bunch though and if a shot of self-confidence that’s required - they'll be only too happy to give it out.
I was told on many occasions that I was a very lucky man with the prize on my arm with one dude saying "hey big guy - you won the lottery with that hot piece of ass on your arm. You’re one lucky son of a bitch".
Gotta love that shit. (Cheryl most certainly did - L-O-V-E-D it)
From there we strolled along the canals and soaked up the midday sun and really enjoyed the laid back experience in comparison to the full on beach buzz.
We uber’d back to Santa Monica from Abbott Kinney (very cool spot, but LUDICROUSLY expensive … tried on a cracking shirt and was about to purchase until I noticed the $535+tax price tag) to get the metro back to K'town.
William picked us up in his Toyota Camry and we caught him mid-call with his Chinese Accountant grilling him on how he could survive on such little money?
We reckon that’s what caused his erratic manic lane changing cRaZY driving soon after, because William was a demented driver. I felt like we were trying to break a land speed record to go from Abbott Kinney to Santa Monica.
Lucky to get out alive, we strolled down the clean tourist friendly Santa Monica Boulevard and into the metro. All sweet until 7th and Metro when we were unwittingly accused by a rather stinky middle aged white lady with obvious mental health issues of ‘spitting on her’.
I can promise you right now not only did I not spit on her - but neither Cheryl or I spat full stop. Disgusting habit, but that’s neither here nor there in relation to this crazy bitch.
As she stared us down, constantly changing eye contact between Cheryl & I, while screaming “YOU SPIT ON ME YOU FAGGOT, I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU”. Our preferred method of dealing with this was in true Irish fashion and avoid eye contact at all costs and pretend it wasn't happening in public in front of a huge crowd of people.
Wendy (I don’t know her name, but I think this suits for a crazy stinky white bitch) eventually tired of us and boarded the train still spitting tacks.
We went to another carriage (obviously) and sat back to back with two dudes engaged in a heated debate over his wife sleeping with Andrew.
I thought ‘shit here’s more entertainment’ but was absolutely flabbergasted when I turned to have a sneaky peek when the voices raised ceiling level and saw that it was one person … having an argument with himself … IN TWO TOTALLY DISTINCT SEPARATE VOICES. Again – WTF?!?
Now that was scary as shit.
Impressive as fuck, but scary as shit!
Luckily, he continued the self-discussion while we made a quick exit left and after a quick freshen up back at The Line, we hit up The Staples Centre for the Laker v. Utah Jazz preseason game.
The game was boring as shit and we’d seats so high up in the stand that my nose bled, but The Staples Centre was sick - one of the best set-ups for a live sporting event I’ve ever been to. Cheryl loved the kiss cam and Americans do love to perform when they get caught on the big screen - thoroughly entertaining.
After the game we strolled about and soaked up the post-game atmosphere in the behemoth that is The Staples Centre and the surrounding commercial areas. After our fill of the bright lights and big crowds we said she’d been another full day, so we jumped back on the metro.
Arrived back in K’town around 12am and in true LA fashion, we got some tacos and Mexican fries (YUM) from the food truck out the front of The Line.
Great call - delicious tacos and finished off with a hotel bar G&T before a well-deserved snooze in our comfy as all shit bed made even better with the cracking air con and blackout blinds.
The Line was a beautiful base for the week - couldn’t have been any happier with our hotel choice for comfort, cleanliness, location, coolness factor, helpful staff - everything. The Line rules K’town!
Day 4: Santa Monica Boulevard & The Hollywood Bowl (23,884 steps - 15.63Kms walking)
We decided to do some retail therapy so headed back to Santa Monica Boulevard in the am. to hit the shops before some lunch at The Cheesecake Factory and then back to The Line for a few pre-gig drinks.
The National were headlining at The Hollywood Bowl with support from Local Natives/Daughter that night. We missed Daughter due to freeway traffic (bugger - really wanted to hear Youth live … next time) but Local Natives and The National were amazing - best live gig I’ve ever been to ... hands down!
There were the usual stereotypical Americans in the crowd asking that we refrain from talking while The National were on stage, but as the yank behind me said “nah - fuck her man, we’re at a gig, not in church”. I liked that.
They played a lot of new stuff from ‘Sleep Well Beast’, but it’s a well-rounded album so was happy with that and a mix of old stuff. Day I Die was awesome live but highlight for me was Conversation 16 - blew me away live. In fact - they’re better live than album … dude’s voice is AMAZING live.
And the Hollywood Bowl is so freaking cool … this was the reason for the entire trip and it did not disappoint on any front. I was blissfully drunk by the end being, helped by being carried into a heady daze with beautiful notes, the warm Cali night air and the general surroundings that felt almost surreal.
That’s a gig I will never forget.
After buying some non-legit gig t’s and a good yarn with a super friendly member of the LAPD (Paul) about NZ and some other stuff (I hope Paul follows through and comes to visit us in NZ someday), we strolled to Hollywood and from there headed back to K’town by Uber.
We ended up in a dirty late-night Korean BBQ joint for all you can eat pork bulgogi and a few large Hite’s.
Got back to the hotel for about 4am that night after the best gig I’ve ever been to – what a cool night all round.
Day 5: Long Beach & Catalina Island/Avalon (25,534 steps - 16.64Kms walking)
Our second last day and after a long lie on we decided to head to Catalina Island for a day trip.
On the metro to Long Beach ... we noticed that we didn’t have the usual friendly Cali voice coming through the tannoy informing us of what to jump off at this or that stop to get to tourist attraction wise.
Nor were there any tram stop maps on this line. Seems that people who travel the Blue Line know where the fuck they’re going.
After we got out of the main drag we had Eric selling designer fragrances, Gucci for men & Nicki Minaj for women - one for $5 or three for 10. No takers on our carriage.
You'd expect that in some place like Thailand or Fiji with people trying to sell you anything and everything, but it's a bit surprising in the country that’s the strongest economy in the world.
Got to admit - I was feeling very 'Irish' on that tram ride too.
When the early-20's African-American gentleman sleeping behind me on the tram gently prodded me in the shoulder I thought: "uh oh - here we go", so I ignored it. At first. And second. But on the third prod and realising we'd another 700 stops to go I said to myself: "ok - I'll bite".
"Have you seen my phone man?"
"Nope - sorry dude, ain't seen your phone. What's it look like?"
"Nope - ain't seen a white phone bro - sorry"
"Can you look under your seat?"
So as I looked under my seat I couldn't help but notice the look of absolute terror on Cheryl's' face as all the news stories we hear on good ol 'Murica with their random unprovoked gun violence and all the other shit visibly running through her brain and she was no doubt planning on raising two kids by herself after getting my body back to NZ for the funeral service.
"Nah sorry man - I can't see your phone"
What did you do with my phone bro?"
At this juncture in the story I thought it better to turn back, sit in my seat and let the problem play itself out. Which I'm glad to say it did.
My young friend searched around for another two minutes looking for said white phone whilst all the time throwing accusatory glances in my direction.
But obviously strained from his efforts, he laid back down and decided to go back to sleep probably remembering that he left the white phone in the crack den the night previous before his mom had to take her first punter of the day asking CJ to leave and go ride the metro for the day.
Thank fuck for that!
I have to admit it was a colourful trip and travelling through Compton and the rest of South Central LA we got to see a different side of LA - a grittier side with a mixture of people jumping on and off as we made the 20 or so stops between Wilshire Normandie and Long Beach Downtown.
We arrived at the Ferry Terminal just before the boat departed (2pm’ish) and cruised in the glorious sunshine for just over an hour to Catalina Island being entertained by all the yanks on route over for the Catalina Jazz Festival.
To be honest I wasn’t too keen on heading here with my post-gig banging hangover and Cheryl kind of pushed me into it, but I’m S-O glad she did.
Catalina Island was another highlight in the overall Cali experience. It was like we were in the Côte d'Azur with the colourful houses set back into the hillside with the casino proudly standing at the end of the dock surrounded by yachts and the picturesque little township in the background.
There’s very little cars in Catalina and most people use golf carts to get around. Very very cool.
It was another surreal place and we loved strolling around the beautiful little Avalon.
We climbed the steps to the Chimes Tower that stands overlooking the bay and just as dusk was settling in we got a beautiful view of the entire town/port.
We made our way back down the hill and had a cold drink at Luau Larry’s (cool spot - Larry was cool as fuck too and first place that a G&T costs less than $10) before getting the ferry back to Long Beach.
Tried Chinatown for dinner, but couldn't because nothing was bloody open ... but it was lovely with the Chinese lanterns and the general vibe - so well worth a visit.
Since it was our last night we decided to shake things up … so we went for a Korean BBQ in K’town before heading back to the hotel to pack ready for check out the following morning.
Day 6: Memorial Park, Pasadena, Howlin' Rays & TBIA (22,454 steps - 14.25Kms walking)
We checked out at 12am after another lie on and over the course of the day hit up Memorial Park, Pasadena, Chinatown and a few other spots.
We finished off LA with a trip to Howlin’ Rays - the B-E-S-T Southern Fried Chicken Joint of all time. It took us an hour and a half queuing to get food, but my good Lord was it worth the wait!
The eating experience was amazing, but the overall experience was even better. Every person ordering is met with a fist bump or a high five (or both) from the till agent and it just feels like you’re in America.
The dudes in there were the happiest, coolest, friendliest and funniest people we met in LA. Standing at the counter waiting on order #93 the Chef asked me where I was from:
“Visiting from Ireland via NZ for a week brother, this was top of my to do list”.
“Hey kitchen – listen up!’
“YES CHEF” from all in sundry – around seven kitchen aides in total.
“We got Ireland in the House”
“HEY IRELAND!” went all seven voices in unison.
That was met by raucous hoots & cheers from the crowd and was pretty fucking special. They even gave me a free Howlin’ Rays t-shirt (still dunno why?!?) and its pretty dope!
LOVED everything about Howlin’ Rays … I’d highly recommend everyone who visit LA go there!
After that, with very greasy hands and another full tank we made our way back to the hotel and out to the airport and started the long ass journey back to NZ after doing nearly one half-marathon distance each day of our trip!
It’s a requirement to take your shoes off going through security at any airport in America and I reckon that’s the wrong call because after 140+ Kms over the week I could smell my feet (& Cheryl’s) through sneakers on. The waft when they were removed to go through biosecurity was horrendous.
The look on the lady’s face in the queue behind me was hilarious – a mental image framed from the last day of the trip that will last lol.
Did the usual Duty-Free grab at Tom Brady International (got some nice American Gins for my every growing collection) and even picked up some tacky Donal Trump (CHINA) related souvenirs for the folks before boarding a cramped bumpy long flight back to Auckland NZ.
We probably won’t ever be back to LA apart from a stop over, but it was an amazing week all the same with memories that will last a lifetime.
The Line Hotel
The Hollywood Bowl
Wayne & Cheryl, LA Trip 2017 x