Oh LA, why do you feel like a lifetime ago? This time last month I had just returned from a two-week solo adventure to California – Los Angeles to be exact – and editing these pictures reminds me exactly why I fell in love with the city of dreams.
Ever since flying to San Francisco last year on a solo trip, I knew I wanted to return to California and discover more of the Golden State. And on a whim in June of this year, I booked a return flight from Manchester to LAX (I flew with Virgin Atlantic return for £340, just carrying hand luggage because I’m an absolute boss at packing), and then started to hunt for an Airbnb.
If I’m staying somewhere longer than a week, I’ll often use Airbnb because it proves much more cost effective when you have your own kitchen and you’re not stuck in one small hotel room for a long period of time. I didn’t want to just create a base, I wanted to act as if I was living like a local – you know, just in case I ever decide to spend longer there (hint that’s the plan).
I ended up finding the most amazing Airbnb called The Iris Coastal Sanctuary, which sits right in a super quiet street bang in the middle of Venice and Santa Monica (if you use this link when you book any Airbnb for the first time, you receive £25 off your booking, as well as £9 towards an Airbnb experience). It had a huge garden, felt incredibly safe as a female solo traveller, with a Wholefoods at the top of the street and was only seven blocks from the beach.
Although some people head to LA for the bright lights, fame and fortune, the thing that drew me was the openness of spirituality, the woo and manifestation. They’ve fully embraced living a more natural, holistic lifestyle and I was more than a little scared that I’d go over my luggage allowance with the amount of crystals I planned on buying (I ended up buying four, as well as two books, a print for my office and some essential oils).
In this post I wanted to share my chilled-out guide to LA, as we’ll often see features on the best roof top bars in LA, or the best places to shop in LA, but for me, I wanted to spend two weeks relaxing, recharging and getting ready for the huge shift in my business I was returning to.
As mentioned, I was staying just seven blocks from the beach and Santa Monica was somewhere I’d wanted to visit for years. Although I loved it – especially Sidecar Doughnuts and Huckleberry Café (order the chicken burger!) – it was much more touristy than I expected.
As jet lag had kicked in, I was down at the beach for 8am the first morning with my journal, sitting watching as the waves came in. I absolutely love being by the sea, I genuinely feel like it cleanses my energy a little. Plus, it was so quiet, it was the ideal way to relax into the day after 24 hours of travelling door to door.
Santa Monica pier is definitely a must-visit in California, but the only downside as a solo traveller is that you’re unable to go on the Ferris Wheel alone, and I was told I’d have to wait by the line to ask a family if I could join them. I mean, come on. Safe to say, I took my single pride with me and made my way back to the beach.
If you’re feeling a little plush, Perry’s Beach Butler Service offers you two deck chairs on the sand, waters to drink, and butler service for the day to bring food right to you. This was $70 per two deckchairs.
Getting around Santa Monica on foot was absolutely fine, but going a little more into the city, I found Uber was a super easy, affordable way to travel. On the second day – again up at the crack of dawn – I made my way to the Griffith Observatory.
I suspect you’ve seen this iconic building before – I remember it being in The Hills and I was like, what the hell is that place!? With views of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, I knew it would be the perfect spot for some photographs of the LA landscape. Plus, they have binoculars in case you wanted to spy at the gorgeous homes of the Hollywood Hills.
If you come up in the morning, the smog over the city can be quite dense, so your view might be a little restricted. However, coming up on an evening or weekend can mean long queues up the hill if you’re getting dropped off. I came at midday through the week and I had no trouble at all. It was a great way for me to see the Hollywood sign without having to hike anywhere.
After making my way back down through Griffith Park, I decided to visit Beverly Hills – taking a little detour in the Uber to view some of the most amazing houses I’ve ever seen in real life. The one thing I was most interested to see in LA was the architecture and boy, it didn’t disappoint. The houses were out of this world, each one different in design and size.
After stopping at the iconic Beverly Hills sign (which to be honest, is just a sign in a pond at the side of the road), I crossed over and started to make my way down Rodeo Drive.
The store designs are amazing, and the Louis Vuitton store in particular was so well designed. I made my way into Louis Vuitton as they had a fantastic free exhibition on, X, sharing the history of the brand and showcasing not only bags and accessories from throughout the years, but also the intricately designed dresses worn by celebrities at events such as the Oscars and Cannes Film Festival.
I thought I’d spot more famous faces during my stay in LA, especially on Rodeo Drive, but I think I was so deep in my own bubble taking snaps that I didn’t really pay attention to anyone else.
In terms of a little more affordable shopping, next I took myself off to The Grove, which has shops such as Barnes & Noble, J Crew and Charlotte Tilbury. I absolutely loved wondering around here, and even paid a visit to the cinema ($19 a ticket) to watch Joker, grabbing dinner afterwards at the outside eatery by the fountain, enjoying a glass a fizz on the eve of my 35th birthday whilst reading the new book I’d just bought.
As mentioned above, I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in LA, and I decided that on the actual day itself I would head over to Malibu. I felt such an affinity to Malibu before I’d even visited – mainly because of the laid back beach lifestyle – and it didn’t disappoint.
I decided to spend my birthday in style so I opted for an Airbnb experience, where I was driven with five other travellers, along the Pacific Coast Highlight in a mint green camper van with Chase, our driver.
Visiting one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been on, Zuma beach, we then made our way to another private beach to eat Malibu fish and chips (not as good as ours but still delicious), before visiting Malibu pier which had such an eclectic mix of shops, and places to eat including Malibu Farm which focuses on organic local produce.
By the time we drove back down the coast, stopping to get polaroid’s along the way, I was the kind of sleepy you only feel when you’ve spent the day by the ocean in the sun. What a way to spend my birthday. This experience cost around £124 and I would definitely recommend it if you want to see Malibu in style.
Now, Manhattan Beach wasn’t originally on my list of places to visit, but as the weekend approached, and I began craving more time on the beach, I decided to make my way south to a little spot which is off the beaten track to tourists.
Costing just under $30 in an Uber, it was around 25 minutes’ drive from Venice and let’s just say, alongside Malibu, it was one place I’d return to again and again.
Full of beautiful lifestyle shops including Dacha and Waverly, bohemian dresses and the most amazing waffles for breakfast, Manhattan Beach is perfect if you want to escape to somewhere a little more local and chilled.
I ate ice cream from Manhattan Beach Creamery, before sitting on the pier for a good two hours just reading and watching the surfers. This place had such a relaxed vibe, and I wish I’d stayed for longer.
Welcome to an Instagram influencers dream, Melrose. Melrose Avenue to be exact. I knew I wanted to visit Melrose at some point during my stay, but I waited until Sunday morning when I could visit Melrose Trading Post – a vintage market in the grounds of Fairfax High School. Entrance is $5 and it’s best to get in early if you’re looking for the best pieces but this was an absolute dream way to spend a chilled Sunday morning, fresh orange juice in hand.
From dream catchers to crystals, old vintage band tee’s to essential oils and plants galore, I spent a good two hours rummaging around and spending my dollar. Taking place every Sunday from 9am – 5pm, I’d highly recommend visiting, before making your way down Melrose Avenue.
Melrose was exactly how I expected it to be, full of amazing stores, and full of people clambering to get a picture in front of the famous pink Paul Smith store.
After taking pictures of people taking pictures, I made my way down to Crumbs & Whiskers, which is an insanely expensive place to sit and pet cats. Would I recommend? Not really, you can come stroke mine for less than $18 dollars for 15 minutes with nowhere really to sit.
In terms of food, Fig & Olive proved the best spot for lunch as I sat outside, right by a film crew shooting what look to be a 70’s cop drama. Order the salmon burger if you visit – it was absolutely gorgeous and the staff couldn’t have been more attentive.
Truth be told, I stayed in central Hollywood for no longer than hour. I’d be warned that Hollywood wasn’t all that glamorous, so I made my way down the walk of fame, saw the Chinese Theatre, got lost in a slightly dodgy side street, and waited for an Uber back to the quietness of the coast.
There was a premier for Will Smith’s latest film, Gemini Man, while I was there, so the streets were probably more packed than usual, but if you’re looking for a chilled vibe, Hollywood is most definitely not that.
At least I got to drive down Sunset Boulevard, from Hollywood right down to the coast, with my Uber driver being my own personal tour guide. That’s one thing I’ll say about the drivers in LA – most are super friendly and happy to tell you where to go, what to see, and the best times to travel. Certainly a lot more talkative then here in the UK anyway.
Venice was everything I expected it to be – quirky, a little grubby in places but overall, my sort of vibe. The homeless issue in LA was like something I’d never seen before – even more of an issue than in San Francisco, but never once did I feel unsafe or intimidated.
Obviously wherever you travel, you need to have your wits about you, especially as a lone female traveller, but these are just regular people who have fallen into a situation they’d rather not be in. When you see families living in tents on the street with all their belongings in suitcases and boxes next to them, you understand just how bad the issue of losing your home really is in the US.
Although the air at Venice Beach Boardwalk was filled with a little too much cannabis for me, I loved sitting at the skatepark and exploring the crystal shops. The Venice sign was a must-snap, but the areas I loved the most had to be the Venice Canals, which is modeled on the Italian city, as well as Abbot Kinney boulevard.
From eating at The Butchers Daughter, to shopping for the most amazing stationery and lifestyle gifts at Urbanic Paper Boutique, this one-mile stretch of shops, eateries and cool places to shoot, was high up on my places of recommendations for a chilled trip to LA.
So there you have it, my huge essential chilled-out guide to LA, including all the best places I visited, ate at and and would return to again and again. I’m already planning my next trip and definitely feel aligned to living there for a longer period of time in the future – Malibu is calling my name I think.
Have you been to LA before and if not, is it on your list of places to visit? I’d love to know your thoughts on the city of dreams below.