Notes from a traveller: part eight

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Kaye’s itchy feet have taken her to LA. Read the latest instalment of her ‘Notes from a traveller series’, only on Just About Travel

Continued from last time

On touching down at LAX, I was greeted by airport staff with a cheery “Welcome to Los Angeles!” After three months in Spanish speaking South America, I felt so happy to be among Americans – aka people that speak English as a first language – that I almost burst into tears.

For the fact of the matter is that I love Americans. It’s easy to make fun of them and their enthusiasm for everything (even a humble breakfast bagel will be hailed as “awesome”) but I’m very fond of the Yanks. Their friendliness, zest for life and unbridled love of their nation never fails to lift my spirit.

I’ve been to LA – or the City of Angels, as it often termed – briefly before, but have always wanted to return for longer, much to the mystique of many London colleagues who claim that a pot of yoghurt has more culture than Los Angeles.

That may have been once but just because it was, doesn’t mean it is. LA has undergone an enormous renaissance in recent years – particularly the Downtown district. It used to be sketchy (Skid Row anyone?) but now it’s super cool. Downtown has fantastic museums – don’t miss the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art – and galleries galore, a great food scene (check out recently renovated Grand Central Market, that’s home to over 30 of the best food vendors in the city) and South Broadway, an area that’s being touted as LA’s next big shopping destination. Downtown is also home to a host of hip new hotels like the latest Ace offering and The Line –  a chic industrial space in up and coming Koreatown.

And yet it’s not the flourishing arts and culture scene that has lured me back to LA, nor the theme parks or year round sunshine (something I think, given the unexpectedly chilly climate, may be a myth. ‘May grey’ and June gloom’ are two LA weather descriptions that never make into the tourist brochures back home…) Rather I suspect it is down to the fact  that  LA is a city of dreamers, a label I have been brushed with on more than one occasion. Historically Angelenos are seekers or descendants of seekers drawn by a dream or fame, fortune or rebirth. Or as the opening lines of Pretty Woman put it:

“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here. This is Hollywood, the land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t, but keep on dreamin’. This is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

photo 1

The Angelenos, for want of a better word, seem to ‘get me’ – a simple yet magical phrase. The friends I have met and made – take a bow Tara, Jacki, Jax, Jose, Brittany and Nick – during my brief stay in the city don’t question the choices I have made because they have made similar, unconventional ones themselves. (Normal is a setting on a washing machine in Los Angeles). Conversely back home in Harrow, I often feel like I am in a foreign land, trying to explain myself.

There was nothing in my upbringing to indicate that, at 34, I would be eschewing marriage and motherhood in favour of solo travel but from an early age, there was definitely something adrift with me. I’ve always felt as though I’d been born without the north west London rule book – out of step with those around me. I’ve tried to fit in and do the ‘normal ‘things that my contemporaries did: I went shopping on a Saturday, bought bags I didn’t need and couldn’t afford, joined a gym, met friends for after work dinner and drinks, had nights in at my flat watching films… and yet I couldn’t shake my compulsion to flee and see the world. I’ll confess: I’m obsessed. Friends and jobs come and go while travel has become the one constant in my life.

Only in LA...

Only in LA…

But I digress… back to LA. I can understand that it’s not a destination for everyone. Coming from the crowded streets of London, I’m always struck by the fact that there are virtually no people to be seen on the LA sidewalks. Rather absolutely everyone drives (or as the Missing Persons famously sang in the eighties “Nobody walks in LA”)  for the car is king. I’ve been getting around by bus and Uber (a ride sharing app, that’s like a gift from the Gods!) but it’s been a struggle owing to arduous waiting times for public transport, or lack of Wifi to request an Uber car.

To be continued on Friday (12 June)

To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here

To read part two click here and here

To read part three, click here

To read part four, click here

To read part five, click here and here

To read part six, click here and here

To read part seven, click here and here


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