3 NIGHTS IN LOS ANGELES
What a cultural shock to arrive straight into the craze of Venice Beach after a long transatlantic flight. We check out the coolios playing basketball and the bodybuilders showing off by the boardwalk. Everything feels like déjà vu – the tall skinny palm trees, the big blue sky, the graffitis, the red corvettes – you can’t help feeling part of it all, like an actor stepping right into the role.
Passing by a cute shop selling 1970’s roller skates in candy colours, we miss getting caught into a fist fight between two junkies on the sidewalk, minutes after witnessing a man escaping a deli on his skateboard for a stolen beer. It’s such a circus that we forget about the jet lag on that very first afternoon. Welcome to LA.
Our Airbnb is right behind Abbot Kinney Avenue, in the heart of Venice Beach. I learn about CBD while queuing for a matcha latte to keep me awake (US$6 + $4 for the CBD shot! With the £ exchange rate, Brexit feels even more like a punishment here). We queue again at night for an easy yummy vegan meal at the aptly named The Butchers Daughter, before stocking on provisions for the house at the most photogenic supermarket that I have ever seen.
I don’t know what to marvel more at in Erewhon supermarket: the aisles of beautifully displayed organic everything or the ultra cool crowd, cool in a very LA way. Stylish yogis, long beards and big smiles, moms carrying their babies on one hip, choosing fresh avocados with the other hand, a couple dressed head to toe in super chic black designer clothes .. and last but not least, a pretty young thing out of a kundalini yoga class, white turban and all, carrying her Goyard white bag on the shoulder. I am glad it’s not at the end of my street because I would be broke already.
In Venice Beach and Santa Monica: breakfast at Gjusta (seat in or takeaway) right by the original Gold’s Gym, revered by bodybuilders around the world. Lunch at Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Rd (inventor of the Kale Craze! reserve ahead). The Butcher’s Daughter (prepare to queue). Cafe Gratitude for the best buddha bowls (several locations in LA). With more time, I would have reserved a table in the pretty garden of The Rose Cafe , or an Italian meal at Jones, an institution in Santa Monica.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know my aversion to Disneyland and anything with the word resort. So I surprised myself when I bought full day tickets for Universal Studios ahead of our trip. I highly recommend to spend the extra $$ for the Universal express tickets allowing you to skip the lines for one ride each, because they can be humongous. I am glad I did, if only to hear my little Lior say ‘it was one of the best days of my life“.
Another highlight is the Lakers game we manage to get tickets for on the eve of our first day in town. I can barely keep my eyes open but the children are wide awake, pumped by two hot dogs each, and huge bowls of popcorns while being mesmerised by the whole show.
A cultured kid
We don’t make it to The Observatory because it is partly closed when we are in town, but I hear it’s a wonderful experience. With more time, I would have liked to venture downtown and check out the art scene: the Broad art gallery (with a great restaurant next door), across from MOCA (and the Disney Hall designed by Frank Gehry). Hauser & Wirth has an interesting space in an old factory. The LACMA has interesting kids art workshops. The Hammer is a private museum near UCLA with great collections. The Getty is a must in Brentwood, off Sunset Blvd, we get to spend half a day there on our return. The Huntington Library & Gardens in Pasadena is beautiful.
We’re very happy with our airbnb, it gives us the freedom of having a kitchen and lots of space for our jet lagged bodies. For hotels, I like the vibe of The Rose Hotel in Venice Beach. This place near Hollywood is nothing to rave about but gives you access to the ultra confidential Magician club, where one has to be a member to attend the legendary week end family brunch.
2 NIGHTS IN PALM SPRINGS: 1950’s DESERT LIVING
We step right into the 1950’s at Norma’s, the restaurant of The Parker Hotel designed by Jonathan Adler (good option to sleep but pricey). In the garden, a man in his late seventies is having lunch with his wife, white hair pulled back with lots of gel, huge gold glasses and a starched shirt. He must be a local. I can’t keep my eyes off him.
We spend the rest of the day splashing at the pool of the Ace Hotel. Family rooms are a bit tight for the five of us (ours is #504). Make sure to ask to be far away from the main pool to avoid the sound of the music at night. We make it work with the American king size bed, squeezing our little 6 year old in between. It’s so nice to still be able to do that.
We’re up early the next morning to go hiking in the San Jacinto National Park. We get there before the crowd for the first 10am tramway aerial but in peak season, it’s best to buy tickets ahead. The weather forecast says 36 degrees fahrenheit so we go all equipped with lots of layers. The panorama of the desert in the distance and the snow under our feet is pure magic.
We love the ride up in the turning cable car. The hikes are well indicated at the top. The children stop every five minutes to walk on logs and splash in puddles. It’s good to come back down with the midday sun, fill our bellies in town and spend the rest of the afternoon splashing at the pool of the Ace Hotel.
I was slightly concerned that we would feel like the dull family surrounded by the dudes at The Ace. As it turns out, the dudes are a bit lonely by the pool with so many children jumping up and down in the water.
Olivia from the travel blog Nohzee embarks me on her convertible Ford Mustang to watch the sunset in the hills of Palm Springs. Love love love that little ride together: the amazing modernist houses North of Palm Springs. Leonardo Di Caprio’s Dinah Shore Estate by architect Donald Wexler (1964) on 432 West via Hermosa, right near Kirk Douglas Marilyn Monroe house at 1326 Rose Avenue. My favorite of all is the Kauffman house higher up on the hills with stunning views, by Richard Neutra at 470 West vista Chino.
That night, we catch a stand up comedy show at the bar of the Ace while the children watch a movie in the room. Easy peasy.
Our favorite meals are at Tyler’s for burgers, seating on the little outdoor terrace. The portions are gigantic – of course! – and we’re sad not to be able to take doggie bags home. We’re told to have breakfast at Cheeki’s, so we do the next day. The menu is full of staple American dishes but the children tell me that the pancakes are nowhere as good as mine … smile. Lulu’s for California fares and Las Casuelas Terraza for Mexican food are both recommended by The Ace but not tried and tested..
The cultured kid
Too bad the excellent Palm Springs Art Museum is closed on Wednesday’s. We head to the Palm Springs Aviation Museum instead.
Mike, who still volunteers at the Museum at 90 years old, is originally from Norfolk UK and regals Marcelo with tales about the Spitfire. We learn a lot about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The children get to seat in the cockpit of a large military cargo aircrafts and spend as long as they want on the really cool flight simulator. A fascinating museum for the entire family.
1 NIGHT IN JOSHUA TREE: CACTI & COWBOYS
It doesn’t take very long to drive from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree, and many choose to do it as a day trip. There are three entrances in the park, the most popular one being at the North, called Joshua Tree. There is nowhere to sleep inside the park other than bringing a tent, and lots of food and water.
We drive up to the little town of Landers, 1h away from Palm Springs, for a late lunch at La Copine. Everyone raves about the food there, so we patiently wait with a glass of wine while the children kick a ball on the parking lot. Modern farm-to-table dishes in a very simple setting and super friendly staff. The French in me can’t help being frustrated to see foie gras and haricots verts in the menu, so far away from home, but everything is truly delicious. Afterwards, the road goes up and down like a roller coaster all the way to Pioneertown.
Checking in at the Pioneertown Motel is like stepping in a set from the 1950’s, when cowboy movies were being filmed here. We’re lucky that an indie rock band from LA is playing at Pappy and Harriet’s next door (Paul Mc Carney and Led Zeppelin have all performed here!). We pick up some pizza for the children at the Pie for the People, leave them in the room with a cowboy movie, and head for a beer and some music next door. Everything is so easy, we feel miles away from anything. Everyone’s on an alternative agenda at Pappy and Harriet’s. Beards have always been there. Tattoos too. It’s the real deal.
The next day, we drive through Joshua Tree National Park. We climb on boulders, take a million pictures of the beautiful cacti, stop at the many family trails and eat a picnic hiding between the rocks, the wind is blowing so strong. The landscape is stunning, I wanted to come here to witness it with my eyes. It’s bigger and brighter than I imagined. Wish we had planned an extra night not to feel rushed in the park.
With tons of dirt in our hair and pretty images in our head, we head back to Palm Springs for our flight up north to San Francisco.
More reading in these two interviews from a little while back on the blog: