Underwhelmed in L. A.







When you've traveled around as much as I have, you are aware that few destinations can actually meet the expectations you have. It's a fact of life, and no worries about it. Actually, most of the time the city/region, while not being what you thought it would be, will nevertheless amaze you in ways you could not have foreseen.

Hence, I never make a big deal about expectations and I try not to have too lofty ones when I board a plane for a new destination. Some cities like New York City, Paris, Berlin, London, Riga, yada yada yada, will blow your mind, whatever you expected. Others, like Brussels and Zurich, leave more than a little something to be desired.

Los Angeles falls into a special category. No matter what you think it's going to be, it's far from that. We all have that glamorous image of the city in our minds, but L. A. is everything but that. Every traveler you meet prior to getting here tells you not to expect too much or you'll be sorely disappointed. Those who are visiting L. A. right now are all a bit underwhelmed. With the thousands of tourists who visit L. A. every day, it strike up conversations with dozens of random strangers all the time. And what we all have in common is a mild to a major disappointment in what L. A. turned out to be.

It's not all bad, mind you, and I'm having fun nonetheless. It's just that Los Angeles is nowhere near the sort of city I envisioned. Which is partially my fault, and partially the fault of the media who sell us the glamorous, star-studded image of an amorphous giant of a city that is dirty and ugly for the most part.

For that reason, man am I happy to have book accomodation in gorgeous Santa Monica, two blocks from the beach. In a way, the oceanfront portion of Santa Monica is the Los Angeles everyone comes to see and experience. Ask everyone staying here, and they'll tell you that it's the shit. But go up Santa Monica Boulevard toward the L. A. proper, and things quicky dissolve before your eyes. Plus, the public transportation, though cheap and efficient, takes forever to go anywhere because we have to rely on buses that get stuck at every fucking traffic light. From Santa Monica to Hollywood, a mere 12 miles will set you back about an hour. An hour!!!!:-( And that's with the express bus, no less! Wherever you go, it will take you quite a while to get there. And driving is not much better, what with all the traffic you encounter along the way.

Still, for all the time it takes us to get somewhere, everyone here is happy to stay in Santa Monica. And I would recommend it to anyone planning on coming to Los Angeles. The pier is neat, though nothing to write home about. But you have long stretches of sandy beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Bars and restaurants along the 3rd Street Promenade. And the hostel, the H. I. Los Angeles-Santa Monica is a real bargain at about 34$ a night.

Spent my first afternoon exploring Santa Monica. Then made my way to Venice Beach. You know when you get there immediately. The Oceanfront Promenade becomes dirty, everything feels like an open-air flea market, and you can't really tell who's homeless and who's a resident. Tacky and kitch to an extreme seldom encountered, it nevertheless remains a must see. Just so you can realize how weird everything feels. And Muscle Beach was a major disappointment as well. Feels like a gym that has not changed its inventory since the 70s.

The second day was spent visiting Hollywood. They tell you that the best view for the Hollywood sign is at the end of Beachwood Drive. Don't believe that crap. Continue on to Ledgewood Drive till you reach its end, and then make a left on that street for unencumbered views of the famous sign on the adjacent hill. The Walk of Fame is nothing special, though it does feel kind of cool to be there and soak up the atmosphere. For the first time in my life, I actually caved in and had my picture taken with a pair of Stormtroopers in front of the Chinese Theatre.

The third day was devoted to Downtown Los Angeles. Most people told me to skip it, as it was supposed to suck big time. But I wanted to find out for myself, so I want. . . And realized that they were right on all accounts. Other than Grand Street and the Financial District and the area around Staples Center, L. A.'s downtown is quite lame. Fortunately, the day was saved when I elected to go to Beverly Hills. It's quite fun to walk along Rodeo Drive and the surrounding streets where all the posh shops are situated.

Though it cost a fortune, I went to Disneyland yesterday. Yeah, it was 117$US in total with the shuttle, but let me tell you that it was worth every penny. It sure did bring the kid out of me, and I had a total blast. Too bad the lines are so long that you can't go on all the rides. Yet we did more than enough to enjoy it to a degree that we had eyes as big as any child there!

Spent most of the day at the beach in Malibu today, and I unfortunately have the sunburns to show for it. We played volleyball and made the most of our time there. Sadly, no celebrities were spotted there, nor in Beverly Hills, or anywhere else.

In the end, although Los Angeles was nothing like I thought it would, I still managed to have a great time. I probably won't be coming back, though. But one can never say never, as the old saying goes. So who knows. . . L. A. might yet grow on me.

Flying to San Francisco tomorrow morning, and there's a pub crawl tonight. God I hope I'll get up on time to catch my flight!

7 commentaires:

SQT said...

I used to live in West Hollywood, and "underwhelming" is the perfect description of L.A.

The beach is probably the main reason the area is so populated-- well, that and the weather. But it is a dirty, smoggy and sometimes unsafe place to live. I spent as much time at the beach as I could and moved out as soon as convenient.

Tia Nevitt said...

I took a Google Street View stroll down the streets of L. A. and my thoughts were, "Wow; it looks just like Phoenix, with more billboards."

I'm glad you're having a good time anyway.

Redrabbit said...

I'm guessing you're not a museum goer or you'd mention the Getty Center - my personal favorite of LA destinations

MrMathMan said...

Downtown is awesome. But you have to know where to go: Phillippe's, Olvera St., the new Cathedral, Disney Hall, Angel's Flight, the Bonaventure, the Bradbury building (where they filmed Blade Runner!), the Pantry... Not a ton a to do, per se, but so fun to walk around and you really see some cool stuff.

Patrick said...

Redrabbit: I love museum, but after a crappy spring in Montreal the weather here got me staying outside.

It was my last day in L. A., and it was either the Getty Center or the beach in Malibu.

Malibu won, no contest!

Khaled said...

LA is a tough tourist destination because everything is so spread out, and because of traffic it's unrealistic to travel to even a handful of sites in just 1 day -- much different from SF. I will say, though, that a neat part of the 'downtown' area is koreatown. Glad you kind of enjoyed your time here. Maybe next time, you'll come over to Pasadena and see our sites (Rose Bowl, Huntington Gardens, etc...). Have fun in SF!

David said...

LA is a wonderful place, but people do things there that they would otherwise have no interesting in doing. Like Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Unless you're superrich and planning on shopping or are obsessed with celebrity and film, it's just going to leave you disappointed.

What's strange is that when people visit any other city, they go to museums. But no one does that when visiting LA, when that's really what everyone should be doing when visiting LA.

Mostly it comes down to a transporation isssue. You spend a large amount of time traveling rather than actually experiencing.