We’re now on the home-stretch; the last city before home. This made us a little sad, but we still had days full of adventure, and even managed to redeem LA in our eyes. The first time we visited LA we found it to be dirty and dusty, and full of crazies. This time was a whole other ball game…
Day One we landed in LA in the morning, went through the whole rental car process, and made our way out to the Citadel Outlets. I had a hankering to check out what the Kate Spade outlets would have to offer, as no matter what season they bring out, I love me a bit of Kate Spade. The designs are just so darn cute and fun, with bright and bold colours and prints and little thoughtful details. This was my turn to be a kid in a candy store, whoop! I left with one new girlboss handbag, one decent-sized card holder for allll the business card holding and protecting, and one fun novelty champagne-bottle handbag for kicks! Stoked! (photos soon) We also did a round of the Disney store for the littles in our life, and was this close to buying a Belle doll for myself! Haha! Had a squee moment when I overheard the adorable girl at the counter (with Betty Bangs, might I add!) squeak “I’ll be with you in a Mickey minute”. Disney is a pro at the adorable and magical, damn them! After getting settled in our somewhat-fancy Beverly Hills hotel room, we wandered out for a local dinner. It was ok.
Day Two we got up for a cooked breakfast at The Griddle, which served the most ginormous pancakes I’ve ever seen! Suffice to say, we barely made a dent in them and took away leftovers. I have a friend that worked for Nudie’s, the custom western wear company that made Nudie Suits during the 1950’s to 1970’s, dressing cats like Elvis, John Wayne, Johnny Cash and Ronald Reagan. It had always intrigued me, and so we road-tripped north to check it out. The store is more of a café these days, but we got all sorts of stories from the owner Jamie, after she spied Steve’s Sun Studio shirt, as her dad was the piano player for Johnny Cash way back when. She’s also the grand-daughter of the original founder of Nudie’s. WHAAAT?!? We kept running into people who had stories like these; comes with the territory of living in America I guess (and especially Hollywood), someone knows someone who knows someone. On our way out of town we picked up a lotto ticket for the 1.5 billion dollar draw that week (we didn’t win), and made our way to Burbank to fit in one big vintage store, Playclothes, before we were due in the hills.
I had booked us a tour at the famous and swoony Stahl House, and there was no way we were going to be late for that! I’d picked the evening tour which meant that we got to view the home and its view at daytime, sunset and evening. And THAT HOUSE I die. I didn’t want to leave, ever. Our tour group was full of architecture design enthusiasts, so I think given the opportunity, none of us would have left. What a beauty, and how lucky are we that the family still allows public tours through the place! No-one lives there on a full-time basis, but family do come to stay when in town. And why wouldn’t you?!! THAT VIEW! Be-still my heart… We were the first ones in, and the last ones out. We left on a high, and had a delish dinner locally at the sassy Mexican chain, Pink Taco, and visited the LACMA lampposts. But now, piiiiics… (excuse the quality, only cellphones are permitted)
Day Three, still on a mid-century high, we drove our way to Palm Springs for another drool-fest. Leftover giant pancakes became breakfast that day. On the way to Palm Springs there are the famed Cabazon Dinosaurs (ya know, from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) so we had to stop for refreshments and the photo opp. As soon as we got into Palm Springs we visited Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway, but didn’t end up taking the tour, and opted instead for meandering around the gorgeous mid-century neighbourhoods full of ranch-style and atomic houses. I was in heaven! We even came across a few little stunners that were up for sale… ooooo, tempting! On the shopping strip with did a little vintage shopping and came across the SHAG gallery/shop. SHAG is one of my most fave mid-century/tiki artists ever, so that was all pretty exciting! We loved this 3-piece set of tiki lamps, which came with matching prints, but due to renting, would have nowhere to set them up, dangit! After chatting with the shop guys about local hotspots and purchasing a few little trinkets for the collection, we were back out on the road for more architecture scouting. Like everywhere else in the US in winter, we were losing light fast. But that long sunset sky! Dreamy!
Once the light disappeared completely and we were ready for some food, we found that the main shopping strip was now closed for the weekly street market they have there, which in turn also made parking near impossible! All parked up we wandered around the market, and started noticing that the crafts of the area seem to be going through a 90’s revival; braided friendship bracelets, ear cuffs, henna tattoos, glass beads, hand-painted/dyed clothing. We wandered into a music and memorabilia shop and chatted away to the guys behind the counter, who advised that Quentin Tarantino had recently opened his own movie theatre in LA, where they play his films (obvs) and others that he likes, and sometimes he pops in… WHATT?? We tried to go to a screening of Hateful 8, but there weren’t any on a day/time that worked with our schedule, dangit.
We found one of the local tiki spots that the guys at SHAG had recommended, called Tonga Hut, and settled into their lounge setting, complete with boardgames, for tropical cocktails and delish island food. I’d read online that there was a secret room behind a false wall, so I asked the host if we could see, and instead of just saying yes, he took us on a full tour of the restaurant. And it turned out they had at least two pieces of original Witco tiki pieces in their collection of wondrous tiki artworks and furniture. Witco is a big deal on the tiki scene, and I’d seen both of these pieces in my beloved Tiki book, Tiki Modern by Sven A. Kirsten. I was pretty dang excited. The host gave such a great tour, and I think was stoked that we were totally into what he was showing us, and knew how big of a deal it all was. After we left, with barely any room to spare, I got to check off one single regret I had about my last US trip; never tasting the famed Dole Whip from Disneyland. There, in Palm Springs, was a little ice-cream shop that served it; and it was everything I’d hoped it would be! Palm Springs, I love you.
Day Four’s schedule was an extension of our SHAG discovery from Day 3. The helpful and friendly shop guys let us know there was also an LA gallery for SHAG (with lots of No.1 prints!), and based on our underground/alternative art interests, that we would also love the La Luz De Jesus shop/gallery. Funny thing, that was near the top of my list for our last LA trip, but we’d never made it. Visiting La Luz De Jesus is a MUST for anyone interested in art, design, fashion, alternative lifestyle of ANY description. It is an emporium of wonderful books, homeware, giftware, collectables, clothing and stationery for weirdos. It was a lot to take in! And in the back was a gallery space showcasing some incredibly talented realism artists, and original pieces by Camille Rose Garcia, SHAG and this gorgeous Maori-inspired piece by Scott Scheidly.
With tummies rumbling, we reluctantly left this giant treasure trove of artistic wonder, and grabbed a burger at Umami Burger just up the street. Their Maple Bacon Fries were the SHIZ, and the burgers were dang good too! Tummies satisfied we found the LA SHAG store, had a peruse and moved onto the super famous vintage clothing spot, The Way We Wore (of LA Frock Stars fame). Leaving empty-handed, we visited a highly-recommended ice-cream store called MILK. They make their own flavours onsite, and I indulged in a double, featuring Red Velvet Cake and Blueberry Crumble Pie. Yes, they were the flavours, and they were legit.
Full to the brim, we chilled back at our hotel room, watching as much of Cry Baby as we could before heading out to The Hollywood Improv to see a live show of the Kevin Smith podcast, Hollywood Babble-On (for Steve). We got there early to secure good seats, and had dinner and cocktails while we waited. Early arrival paid off, as we were right up the front, and Steve was stoked when Ralph Garman read out the email he had sent them, getting to enjoy a little back-and-forth banter with them, which you can hear here. We had a great night and met some really wonderful people who happened to be sitting around us.
Day Five was our very last day in the States. We didn’t have anything concrete planned, other than revisiting Burbank for more vintage shopping, so I suggested having breakfast at one of the old original 1950’s diners that still stand in LA. First we visited Norm’s, but it looked packed, so I just snapped a few pics of its architecture and we moved onto Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. The breakfast was terrible but the setting was cool, and full of 1950’s memorabilia from the area. I would probably recommend hitting hipster places for food when in LA, because it tends to be better eating than the retro touristy spots. It seems like they’re just cashing in on the heritage, and not giving a hoot about the food they put out.
We hit up the full West Magnolia Blvd strip, including its many vintage stores, and the physical Unique Vintage and Pinup Girl Clothing stores. I didn’t end up finding anything I loved (which is my mental check before purchasing), but still enjoyed the hunt. I asked if it would be ok to hit the LA Agent Provocateur store to make the most of their mega-sale (and being able to try things on) one last time; Steve obliged. Leaving the shop with my second little pink and black bag on our trip, and that satisfied shopping sparkle in my eye, we started the downhill slope of driving the car back to the rental place, then bus to the airport, and wait for our flight. As chance had it, in front of us in the line for boarding was Zoe Bell, kiwi stunts-woman and Tarantino fave. We had a little chat, and she was exactly the smiling, lovely kiwi lady that you see on the big screen, with that big grin and bright crinkly eyes. Famous. What a way to end the trip!
LA, you get my tick of approval. We shall see you again!