This sprawling megalopolis is one of the most enigmatic places in America. At once a gaudy spectacle and a sublime patchwork of intimate neighborhoods, L.A. can be tamed-if you know where to look.
AUTHOR TRICIA ROMANO PHOTOGRAPHS AMANDA FRIEDMAN
JAZZ AGE RACONTEUR Dorothy Parker once said, “Los Angeles is seventy-two suburbs in search of a city.” When she lived there in the 1930s, it was still practically the Wild West compared to the more settled cities of Chicago and New York. Today, L.A. is a megacity, the second-largest in the U.S., spread over nearly 500 square miles of beaches, foothills, bike paths and winding, tree-lined roads. All those suburbs—closer to 100 these days—are now connected by a latticework of some 23 freeways, with top-flight restaurants, bars, parks and hotels popping up like daisies. They’re also connected by a proud, sun-dappled plurality: L.A. is a quilt of neighborhoods, each with its own unique identity—from the beach culture burgs of Venice and Santa Monica, to the arty hillside hoods of Los Feliz and Silver Lake, to the hubs of celebrity such as Bel Air and Beverly Hills, to the woodsy enclaves of Topanga and Laurel Canyon.
If you try to see it all at once, you’re going to spend most of your time en route. So plan carefully—that way, you can hit the beaches, the hills and the shopping strips, and experience one of the most diverse, beguiling and, yes, laid-back cities in America.
Image – Amanda Friedman
DAY ONE You wake up at the edge of the world, where the continent runs into the Pacific. From your bed at Shutters on the Beach (1), a posh resort that’s more Newport mansion than Tinseltown hotspot, you look out your window and watch surfers carving picture-perfect waves, then head down to Coast, one of the hotel’s two beachfront restaurants, to nosh on some lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh berries.
The Santa Monica boardwalk is irresistible, so you rent a bike from Spokes N’ Stuff (2) and pedal south, waves crashing to your right. Succumb to the urge to stop on the beach and dig your toes into the sand for a few minutes. Your ultimate destination, though, is Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a street that has been transformed in the past decade from a hippie bastion into an upscale shopping district. Here you’ll find the rustic, too-hip-for-a-sign-out-front restaurant Gjelina (3). Sit out on the back patio and admire the modernist, woodsy design of Culver City– based architects Modern Arc Inc. while nibbling on marinated heirloom tomatoes served with delicious burrata cheese, sweet basil and green olive oil. Top off lunch with a visit to the most revered espresso artisans in LaLa Land: Café Intelligentsia Coffeebar (4). Although the ordering system is a little confusing—a “concierge desk” routes you to one of several espresso stations—the rich black coffee is well worth the effort.
Peristyle of the
Image – Amanda Friedman
Sated, you head back to Shutters and trade in your bike for the shiny Cadillac CTS-V you rented and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. If the scenery looks familiar, it’s because this iconic strip of blacktop has starred in more films than all the Hollywood powerhouses who live along it combined. When you get to Malibu, your first stop is The Getty Villa (5), the smaller of L.A.’s two Getty museums (the larger Getty Center is in Brentwood). The Villa focuses on Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, but what really catches your eye are the lush scenic gardens, complete with waterfalls and ancient Roman bronze sculptures. Though a visit is free, you’ll want to make a reservation.
You’d also be wise to reserve a table for dinner. That way, there won’t be any delay when you get to the Paradise Cove (6) in Malibu; you’ll be able to feel the sand underfoot right at the table as nosy seagulls gaze greedily at your oysters. Sadly for the birds, you finish every last one before turning in for the night. Feeling perfectly sun-kissed from your day near the beach, you take in the view of the water to the right and mountains to the left as you drive back to Shutters and collapse happily in your well-appointed bed.