I didn’t get up to very much hiking during the Fall last year, but I was still busy having other kinds of adventures! I’ve never been to Los Angeles and this is probably one of the most spontaneous trips I’ve gone on since I lived in Europe a decade ago. It seemed like everyone on social media was seeing Harry Styles in concert and less than a month before the trip, I impulsively decided that I wanted to go see Harry in concert too. A quick google search revealed he would be in Los Angeles, which is near enough to Vancouver without being too far away for a weekend.
I sent Carolyn a quick text message and we had the following exchange:
Mar: I’m thinking of going to LA to see Harry Styles in November, you interested?
Car: Oooo, I’ve never been there and that sounds fun, but I need to sleep on it.
(9 minutes later)
Car: Forget it, I’m in!
She came to my house a few days later and we booked the flights and concert tickets.
We both used points for the flight, so it was pretty reasonable and we flew direct both ways. The concert was a good deal more expensive than the flights, so we decided to re-visit our younger years and stay in a hostel to save money. I’m definitely past my hostel days and prefer a quiet room to myself, but the accommodations in LA are outrageously expensive and Carolyn got it in her head that we should stay in Santa Monica (pretty much the most expensive). So we scrimped on the hostel so that we could stay in Santa Monica and spend the money on ubers instead. It was mild torture being hungover in a communal space on Sunday morning, but I didn’t regret it too much. YOLO.
Similar to when I went to Vegas, I didn’t expect to like the city, but ended up actually having a really good time! LA is a big city known for its urban sprawl and lack of transit, but it was so much friendlier than I was expecting. It felt a lot less grimy than when I recently re-visited Portland and I actually felt pretty safe as the people were quite nice. California and the PNW in general are known for being a bit more liberal and I definitely found this to be the case in LA. Plus the weather rocks!
It was around 20 degrees celsius when we visited, which appeared cold to a lot of the locals judging by their choice of dress (puffy jackets!), but it was nice and balmy to us and we wore shorts all weekend. We were treated to sun throughout the entire trip and it was lovely to take a break from Vancouver’s monotonous rain and clouds in the middle of Fall.
We left after work on Friday evening and got to LA late on Friday night. Neither of us had a working American cell phone (or even a roaming data plan), but we managed to find enough wifi throughout the trip to call ourselves ubers whenever we needed them. After a confusing departure from the airport, we arrived to the hostel in Santa Monica in time to go to bed. Sadly our companions were up at the crack of dawn, so being early risers ourselves, we made a reasonably early start on the day. We saved even more money at the hostel’s breakfast bar before flushing it all down the drain trying to purchase bus tickets. In our defense, the machine overcharged us and we ended up with a handful of extra passes.
We took the bus into West Hollywood, which ended up being our only bus ride of the trip. You can take two hikers out of the woods, but you can’t make them stop walking. We ended up logging more than 10km walking around the city on Saturday. Carolyn humoured me with a visit to two bookstores right at the start and they were both amazing! The first was Book Soup, which is an independent bookstore with a fantastic collection and actual ladders on the walls. Then we hopped around the corner to Mystery Pier Books, which is a specialty store that just sells first editions of books! It was pretty incredible; it had all these old editions of books, but I’m not sure how much they actually sell because they’re all so special. I thought they should charge $5 to get in the store because you get a lot of busy bodies like us (okay me) who are enthralled with the concept, but unsurprisingly purchase nothing.
So after that obvious highlight of the trip, we spent the rest of the day walking around Hollywood. We started on Sunset Blvd, where we had lunch, before eventually transitioning up to Hollywood Blvd to do the Walk of Fame. I visited 3 Targets trying to find Taylor Swift’s special Midnights album for Emily to no avail. Once we had our fill of cupcakes on the Walk of Fame, we walked around some more looking for wifi to call an uber to the Royal Observatory in Griffiths Park. This involved running back and forth across the street a few times to get the best network, but we made it work!
It was so worth it! It was crazy busy at Griffith Park, but I loved everything about the observatory. From the cool architecture, to the science museum, to the view of the Hollywood Sign. It’s a desert right in the middle of the city. We debated calling an uber back when we were done, but ended up deciding to hike down through the park instead. It got us away from the crowded road, but we didn’t really have enough time to wait for the bus, so we still ended up having to call an uber to take us the lengthy distance back to Santa Monica.
Once back at the hostel, we quickly got ready for Harry Styles while picking a restaurant to eat before the show. We were literally getting ready to leave when I got a text from Emily telling me that Harry had cancelled the show! We knew it was a possibility because he had cancelled the previous night’s show, but he had given more than just an hour’s notice when he cancelled the previous show, so we’d been optimistic our concert would happen. But alas, it was not meant to be. It was pretty disappointing because neither of us was interested in coming back for a concert that would be re-scheduled mid-week in January, so we decided to make the best of it and went out in our concert apparel instead! We were able to get our money back for the show, so our logic was that we now had a pretty hefty entertainment budget for the evening.
We started at Onyx Rooftop Bar in Santa Monica where we ordered fancy cocktails to enjoy outside on the roof. It sounded like a swanky idea, except for the little issue where we were the only people who actually found it warm enough to be on the roof. But instead of crying over our $35 drinks, we befriended the only other people on the roof and got some club recommendations for later.
We left the rooftop in search of cheaper drinks and decided on a Mexican restaurant, only to accidentally go into the wrong building and end up eating at a much less exciting grill. Unsurprisingly, neither of us noticed until we were halfway through our entrees and started commenting on the lack of tacos on the menu. It was too late to remedy the situation, so we decided to go next door to the Cantina for a drink afterwards instead. Our Harry Styles shirts were a big hit among the street crowds and our bartender took pity on us a treated us to a round. After that, it was time to finally find some dancing.
If you ever travel with me, the first thing you’ll learn is that while I extensively research all the natural attractions I want to visit, I don’t care a toss about restaurants and clubs. I like to eat good food and have fun, but I’m just as happy to wonder into some hole in the wall restaurant as a fancy one. Our young and hip friends from the Onyx had advised us about a hot club called The Bungalow, but we opted for a Google find first called Harvelle’s. It was only $10 (and no line) to get in and we ended up loving it! It’s a small little jazz bar with live music. It doesn’t attract the young and hip crowd, but we had a great time dancing to the live music and having enough space to actually walk around.
That was a real contrast to The Bungalow. We had to wait in line to get in and once we did, it was wall-to-wall people. It was definitely a party with a massive dance floor and DJ, but it was very chaotic and we ended up chatting up some new friends rather than get trampled on the dance floor. If you’re 23 and in LA for the first time, it’s definitely the place to be, but we’re 30 now (lol), so we’d give the edge to the jazz bar!
We slept in as much as possible the next day, but eventually packed up to explore Santa Monica. We’d only brought a small carry-on backpack with us, so we carried our stuff around with us on Sunday. We got coffee and pastries from a cute coffee shop nearby and started the day with a visit to the pier. It’s pretty cool, but neither of us was in the mood for rides, so we ended up walking the beach instead. We walked more than 7km on Sunday and stopped about halfway between Santa Monica and Venice (Oceanview Park) to search out a restaurant for lunch.
We stumbled upon a farmers market and Carolyn humoured me with visiting a few more bookstores. Venice Beach had a different vibe than Santa Monica for sure, but it was still a pretty neat place. We checked out the canals and then spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach eating fruit before heading back to the airport for our return flight. So overall it was a very whirlwind trip – less than 48 hours in total – but I still feel like we got to see a bunch of things. We stuck to the most basic of attractions, but still caught a little bit of the flavour of the place. We made lots of friends while out partying, which really cemented LA as a much friendlier city than anticipated. I would visit again, but I’m not really in a rush. Maybe the next time Harry Styles plays the Kia Forum we’ll make a second attempt with better results. Fortunately neither of us are superfans, so the trip was far from ruined!