Los Angeles. Home to Hollywood, beaches, palm trees, excellent Asian food, and so much more. If you asked me three years ago if I would ever want to visit Los Angeles, I probably would have been apathetic about it. “Yeah, sure…maybe after I visit all the other big ones.” To me, LA was this faraway city on the other side of the country that was far too big – an urban sprawl of suburbs – filled with terrible traffic, rich celebrities, and not much more. Several things changed my perception of LA: I made friends that came from LA, which gave me an excuse to visit; and I saw the movie La La Land and absolutely fell in love with it.
This past month one of my best friends from Taiwan, Angela (who has definitely appeared and been mentioned on this blog – take a look at our adventures in Chengdu and Shanghai) got married to her fiance Kevin (also a friend from Taiwan). The wedding took place in LA, which is Angela’s hometown, and I decided to make a quick weekend trip out of it. I decided to fly in for the wedding and spend one extra day sightseeing before booking it back to DC before my next work trip started. I got in touch with my friend Annie (a friend I also met in Taiwan who recently moved to LA) to see if we could meet up. It turned out to be a great trip: the wedding was wonderful and so much fun, and Annie and I had a great time cramming all the key LA sights into one full day of exploring.
The adventures began before I even got to LA. I was working a day trip on Friday, the day before the wedding, and I planned to finish at 4:30pm and hurry over to the first Washington-Los Angeles flight and try to get on it as standby. Well, this being the middle of summer, a huge thunderstorm hit Dulles while my crew was in Detroit, ready to take the plane back to base on our last leg. Dulles was placed on a ground stop, which is when Air Traffic Control decides the weather and conditions are too dangerous for takeoff or landing and stops all flight activity. This means flights out of Dulles are delayed (you could be taxiing out to the runway and have to pull over to the side and wait), and flights going into Dulles are also delayed.
Luckily our Detroit flight was just boarding when we heard the news, so we quickly told everyone to go back into the gate to wait, which is much more comfortable and relaxing for both parties. Passengers don’t want to sit on a plane and complain and ask questions, and crew don’t want to deal with them when they have no news or information. Dulles was ground stopped for two whole hours. I missed the 4:30pm LA flight and didn’t get into Dulles until close to 7:00pm. The next flight to LA was canceled due to weather. I had one more shot of taking a direct flight to LA that night and my chances were slim. Standby lists were long, the airport was in chaos, and the flight board was covered in delays and cancellations. The customer services lines in the terminals stretched the entire building. The first gate I stumbled upon when I returned to the United terminal was a delayed flight to Las Vegas that was just about to start boarding. With the standby list at only four people, I figured I should give it a shot. The flight got in close to midnight, and Las Vegas was only an hour from LA. I could spend the night in the airport and take the first flight in the next morning.
I ended up doing exactly that. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but it didn’t turn out to be that bad. The LAS airport is pretty lively at all hours of the night, and there were lots of other people spending the night there, which didn’t make it too sketchy. I boarded a 6:00am flight to LAX the next morning and got there with plenty of time before the wedding to catch up on sleep.
Angela and Kevin’s wedding took place on Redondo Beach with a view of the water. It was great getting to see them again after a year away from Taiwan. I even met some friends from our church back in Taipei that had returned to the States just before I went, so we just missed each other. We had a great time catching up and dancing the night away.
Early the next morning Annie came to pick me up at my hotel for a day packed with sightseeing. Coincidentally, we’re both huge fans of La La Land, so we agreed to try and hit as many film locations in the same vicinity as possible. We started off with Hermosa Beach Pier, where Ryan Gosling sings City of Stars for the first time. We only stopped there briefly because it was near my hotel. It was early in the morning and the boardwalk was just waking up. We admired the view of the water for a bit before heading off to Grand Central Market for breakfast.
Grand Central Market is an indoor market downtown filled with food vendors. This is Los Angeles, so of course you have juice bars, trendy fusion Asian and Latin American food, hipster coffee bars, and organic produce, all with aesthetically pleasing product branding and design. Grand Central Market’s most famous vendor is Egg Slut, known for their egg breakfast sandwiches. At 11:00am on a Sunday, the line for Egg Slut wound around the entire vendor. But the line didn’t take as long as we thought, and we were soon sitting at the open kitchen bar eating our egg sandwiches.
Grand Central Market was also featured briefly in La La Land during a montage of dates Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s characters go on, including having dinner at the Salvadorian restaurant in the market. I remembered to grab a picture of the neon blue sign.
Right across from Grand Central Market also happens to be Angels Flight, a cable ride that operated for years in the 1900s before being repeatedly shut down and reopened due to safety issues (which seems strange to me because it literally looked like a small stretch of slanted railway that brought you to street level). The ride is currently permanently closed, but we took pictures because it was featured in La La Land.
We headed over to The Last Bookstore after breakfast to explore another one of LA’s most famous spots. Although not featured in La La Land, I didn’t want to leave LA without seeing the famous book displays in this independent bookstore. The Last Bookstore has an extensive collection of modern bestsellers, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, vinyls, DVDs, and used books. What draws the crowds are the unique ways books are used to decorate the store, such as a book covered information counter, a giant wave of book pages hanging on one of the walls, a book tunnel on the second floor, and much more.
Next was LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This museum is famous for tourists as well because of it’s forest of vintage lampposts outside the museum, that are great for photos. But Annie and I actually also paid and visited the rest of the museum too! LACMA had a great collection of both contemporary and fine art, as well as art from many Asian countries. The LACMA was also a great place to hide from the midday sun and heat.
Annie knew of a cool cafe nearby that had a La La Land mural and $7 lattes, so we decided to go check it out. The spot, Carrera Cafe, also happened to be right across the street from the famous hot pink wall you see on Instagram. The wall actually belongs to Paul Smith Limited, a clothing retailer. The entire side of the building by the parking lot is painted bright magenta, so no wonder people love taking pictures by it. I can only imagine how many times the valet personnel by the wall roll their eyes each day at the people who come to take hundreds of pictures of the wall and they go on their merry way. Annie and I did exactly just that.
Unfortunately Carrera Cafe had changed it’s mural to something else and the La La Land artwork was no longer there. But if we hadn’t come, we wouldn’t have gotten cute pictures of the pink wall. Feeling quite hungry at this point, we decided to hit up In-n-Out before driving up to Griffith Observatory for our last La La Land and Los Angeles landmark.
Griffith Observatory, located on a mountain in Griffith Park overlooking the city, is obviously a famous Los Angeles location for many films, the most famous being Rebel Without a Cause. In fact, there’s even a bust of James Dean at the observatory. It’s interesting how La La Land was actually referencing Rebel in their movie. We got to see a great view of Los Angeles from the top of the observatory, as well as the beginnings of a beautiful LA sunset.
We were both quite exhausted at this point and had checked off everything on our sightseeing list, which I was pretty proud of. We only had one day and I managed to see everything I wanted to see in Los Angeles. Super thankful Annie was able to take me around and that we were able to catch up and have some good laughs. Los Angeles is a city I’ll definitely be visiting again, hopefully for a little longer next time.