Posted November 4, 2014
By LEXI WILLIAMS
LOS ANGELES — For as long as I can remember, I’ve longed to stand under tall palm tress, dip my feet in clear blue waves and feel the warm sun on my skin. Sure, maybe I grew up doing just that in my hometown of Sebastian, Fla., but something about doing those same things in Los Angeles seemed all the more magical.
Lucky for me, I was finally able to do just that after nearly 21 years of waiting. Unlucky for me, however, L.A. was not my final destination; it was more of a pit stop on the way home from a three-day adventure. To make the most of our six hours in the city, my travel companions and I incorporated both the typical tourist attractions and more laid-back activities into our tightly packed schedule.
We arrived in Los Angeles in the late morning and went straight to the Hertz rental car center to pick up our red Chrysler minivan. Renting a car is the best way to get around the city, as the key visiting points are quite spread out and cab fare can easily become pricey.
The company was quick and efficient, and even upgraded our car when we told them that our travel group of five had turned into six.
After hopping on the infamous I-405, which was not jam-packed with traffic like we all expected, we headed toward UCLA. Although we were only there to drop off one of our companions, we were awed at the campus and all the shops and restaurants that surrounded it.
The next and most necessary step was lunch. Rather than hitting a familiar chain restaurant or a swanky, expensive café, the driver of our car and most seasoned California traveler took us to Lemonade, a cafeteria-style eatery with locations around California.
“Lemonade is really laid-back and fun for a relaxing lunch,” said junior Donatela Vacca, who suggested the lunch spot.
We parked on a side street in Beverly Hills and walked a block over to the small, yellow-accented building. The serving line featured healthy, sustainable dishes, which we could pick and choose to create our own plates.
I ended up with one portion of orecchiette, cherry tomato, mozzarella, chimichurri salad, a portion of Israeli couscous, wild mushroom, parmesean, lemon truffle salad, half an avocado stuffed with salmon salad and topped with a tangerine slice and a sugar-free, cucumber-mint lemonade, all for under $20.
We took our plates and drinks to the deck and ate our fresh, nourishing meals under the warm California sun.
For the first time in my life, I knew what the phrase “so L.A.” actually meant.
Next up was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As the only first-time California traveler, I had to use some persuasion in order to get there. The four-mile drive took 15 minutes due to traffic but a fellow traveler and I took the pavement on foot and walked the majority of Hollywood Boulevard, stopping only when we reached the Chinese Theatre.
Tour guides lined the sidewalk, offering “Tours of the Stars” to every pedestrian walking by. “Come on ladies,” one called to us. “Come see Hollywood with me…maybe I’ll get you to see a celebrity.”
“We live here,” I squeaked politely, as we hurried away from the grubby man waving brochures in our faces. Though there were many, the street hawkers were nonintrusive, and we were able to point out famous names on the cement stars in relative peace.
Because of the time constraint, we only spent about five minutes outside the TCL Chinese Theatre— formerly known as Grauman’s— looking at the stars’ names in the cement, taking pictures of the building itself and chatting with Johnny Depp and Zach Galifinakis look-alikes.
“I enjoyed going to the Walk of Fame,” said my fellow travel companion and UM senior Stephanie Meadows. “As someone who loves pop culture, it allowed me to see my favorite stars that I grew up [watching].”
Unfortunately, again due to our short amount of time and long to-do list, we couldn’t see the all the stars we wanted, but made the most of our time all the same.
After our hour of sightseeing, we hailed an Uber (a cab-like car system operated in the form of an iPhone app) to take us to the rest of our travel crew, who were at an art show near Rodeo Drive. The three-mile drive took around 20 minutes, again due to traffic. After a quick stroll down Rodeo Drive (none of us wanted to spend money in any of the shops), we loaded up the van and set off for Venice Beach.
During the 20-minute drive, with the windows down and music blasting, a conversation was brought up that I knew was inevitable: would we try to visit a dispensary? One of the few states in the U.S. that sells marijuana, California is well known, especially to college students, as a go-to spot to score some marijuana fairly easily.
One of my travel companions had a friend living on L.A. who gave him the name of a dispensary that was known for being lax on checking medical marijuana cards. I must admit I was slightly intrigued; it seemed I was struck with the “when in Rome” mindset. However, my rule-following mentality took over and, when the time came to drop off those who wanted to check out the dispensary, I kept my seatbelt on and waved off the three who wanted to go.
We remaining three travelers drove a few minutes on until we reached the beach—
Venice Beach, that is. After paying $5 to park in the beach lot, we unloaded ourselves from the van and strode the few yards down to the shore to feel the Pacific Ocean for ourselves.
The 4:30 p.m. sun hanging low over the water cast a beautiful light on the palm trees, sand, water and all the beachgoers in sight. There was a clear differentiation between the locals and the tourists, made obvious mostly by attire and activities. Some surfers, clearly on their home turf, laughed and shook their heads as they walked by the three of us girls, fully dressed and taking jumping pictures at the edge of the water
After getting our street clothes thoroughly splashed with salt water, we knew we had to move on if we wanted to see more of the area. Cursing our 10 p.m. flight, I reluctantly took one last look at the ocean before beginning our journey on the sidewalk along Ocean Front Walk.
Situated at the beginning of our stroll were modern houses and apartment buildings that were small, yet clearly expensive. While they were fun to view, the main attraction started a few blocks down; the Venice Beach “boardwalk.” While not a real boardwalk, the area was evocative of, and may as well have been, one.
Lined by gift shops and snack spots, the boardwalk is a hub for tourists and locals alike. Tourists come to shell out money for anything and everything stamped with the words “Los Angeles” or “Venice Beach.” Local artisans set up across from the gift shops with handcrafted items like seashell collages and 3-D paintings.
With only an hour left, we tried to stop in the most interesting looking shops, choosing unique gifts for our loved ones and ourselves.
By the time 6:30 p.m. rolled around, we realized we’d better hit the road in order to make sure we made our flight. Traffic in L.A. is a little unpredictable.
With one last look at the setting sun over the Pacific Ocean, we loaded up the minivan and said “peace out” to Venice Beach.
If You Go
LAX Hertz Rental Car Service
Address: 9000 Airport Blvd, Los Angeles, Calif. 90045
Hours: Open 24 hours
University of California, Los Angeles
Address: Los Angeles, Calif. 90095
Lemonade Beverly Hills
Address: 9001 Beverly Blvd, West Hollywood, Calif. 90048
Hours: 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Address: 7018 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, Calif. 90028
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Venice Beach Parking
Address: 512 Rose Ave. (5th & Rose), Venice, Calif.