Despite my very off-putting experience in the USA in 2014, I met a rather charming Californian in Switzerland and in December 2015 I returned to the States (Los Angeles) for four weeks to visit him.
I admit, I arrived with adamant resistance to the American lifestyle. I did not appreciate their overbearing customer service in restaurants and stores, I hated having to tip everyone whenever you ate out or had your nails done, I absolutely couldn’t stand the look of the public toilets (or the fact Americans call them “restrooms”) and I was extremely mistrustful of the fact they rarely use chip and pin out here. However, I have subsequently flown out a number of times since then and I am now married and live here permanently, and my initial disapproval has almost all but dissipated.
Although we didn’t spend a lot of time in Los Angeles itself, there is much more beyond Hollywood and Beverly Hills. My fiancé’s aunt and uncle very kindly took me on a tour of downtown LA encompassing Chinatown, Olvera Street, Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Hills. Surprisingly, there are many vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Chinatown, but you have to stomach walking past the stores giving you the choice of fresh fish, crabs and chicken before killing them right there for you. .
Now, Olvera Street is very interesting as it was the first street in Los Angeles and is now a vibrant Mexican marketplace. The cobbled streets and brick walls are a pleasant homage to its 1930s heyday. Situated in the paseo of Olvera St is LA’s oldest house, the Avila Adobe. Built in 1818, it is listed as a California Historical Landmark. Be sure to stop and grab a bite to eat from one of the stalls, or a cocktail from the taverns dotted along the street.
Wilshire Boulevard is pretty amazing, stretching over 12 miles and home to the La Brea Tar Pits. Much of the street can be traced back to the Tongva people who would bring the tar from these pits to the settlements on the coast. We actually spent my birthday at the Hotel Wilshire; very, very nice, with a rooftop bar and pool. We got complimentary cocktails upon arrival and ate pancakes for breakfast with a view of the Hollywood sign.
For any vegans out there, my fiance took me to such a wonderful completely vegan restaurant for my birthday: Crossroads Kitchen on Melrose Avenue. The place has a very chic feel to it, with candlelit tables and tapas-style food. They even did vegan cheesecake!
After dinner, we drove up the Griffith Observatory which offers wonderful views of LA and the Hollywood sign. I haven’t yet done it, but hiking up to the sign is definitely on my to-do list.
Shortly after Christmas, we visited the Getty museum, an impressive art gallery displaying European paintings and sculptures. The Getty center also encompasses different exhibits (when we went, it was about food through the ages) and has stunning gardens to sit in and admire. There is also an education department offering classes to children, teens and adults in art and drawing.
Another thing on my to-do list is the cat cafe in LA. Opened in 2016, Crumbs & Whiskers is LA’s first cat cafe and is a haven for cat lovers. It is a little pricey to get in (around $22 per person) but you get free tea or coffee and can spend an hour playing with the cats. it is recommended that you reserve in advance (I’m still trying to persuade my husband to go).