While researching an article, I got stuck on Pinterest and its slew of amazing pictures. I tried to drag myself away from the screen — it was tough. So, to make the most efficient use of my time, I decided to compile an honorary Pinterest board on the blog. Each image has some connection to LA… and that’s as much a theme as you’re going to get. Dream on!
Magical spots that transport you far away from the freeways, smog, and traffic exist in LA — you just have to go beneath the surface. Enter Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake. Although it’s located on busy Sunset Boulevard, once you walk through its door and cut across the restaurant, a glorious patio awaits with the open arms of an ancient Ficus tree. Hugged by sky-high bamboo hedges, you may as well be sitting in the tropics while drinking cocktails and feasting on comfort food. Unfortunately, Cliff’s Edge is no secret: it’s best to make a reservation if you want to be seated for Sunday brunch.
I love Venice Beach even more after having discovered it is a quasi-peninsula, bordering the inlet into which the Pacific Ocean flows to feed Marina Del Rey’s waterfront views.
Scenes taken with the phone camera on a lovely 80F day.
Echo Park: You could say it echoes Brooklyn’s Bushwick; it might even be compared to nearby Silver Lake (a less developed version of it , anyway). This neighbourhood, located 10 minutes from downtown LA, has that energetic feel so prominent of communities that attract a newly-moved-in younger demographic of artists, foodies, and entrepreneurs.
Take Brite Spot, for example. I’ll admit to having passed it a few time, only to dismiss it as just another old-school American diner. Hey, it’s painted bright blue, it’s on busy Sunset Boulevard, and claims to be Echo Park’s original diner since 1949. Ever since I tasted “the best margarita” in New York, I have avoided places making grand statements. However, my husband was convinced is was going to be a find based on many favourable Yelp reviews, so with a twist of the arm, my tummy gave in. We hopped in the car on one very warm Sunday in May and drove inland for brunch.
I have to say that when I entered the diner, I was quite taken with its cosy interior. Even more promising was that the place was buzzing with all sorts: yuppies huddled in a booth discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a lone brunette in the corner reading the paper and eating eggs over easy. The space looks like a 1970s ski chalet crossed with grandma-chic — bronze vinyl booths and large windows that let in the gorgeous L.A. light line one side; perpendicular to it is a wall of mirrors, interspersed with retro-looking black-and-white light sconces. Wooden swivel pub chairs surround the central coffee bar, mood lit by an overhanging orbital chandelier. On the menu: on-trend items like egg-topped kale salad, vegan Garden Burger, as well as modern twists of the usual diner fare: 2 eggs any style with sausage and bacon (note: substitutes include egg whites, tofu, or veggie bacon). But it’s the dessert display case that was the apple of my husband’s eye — I immediately knew that our meal would end with a piece of the sinful-looking Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie, piled high with lashings of freshly-whipped cream. I have to admit that our meal was good. Really good, and fairly priced.
Served by a tattooed, plaid-shirt-wearing waitress and surrounded by patrons of all ages — yuppies discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a bookish young lady reading the paper over eggs in a corner — Brite Spot Diner feels like a microcosm of what’s happening in Echo Park today.
So, what is going on in this ‘hood? Here’s what Eric Brightwell wrote in the Los Angeles Times back in late 2011:
All you hipster-haters need to check yourself. Yes, hipsters are offensive to the eyes, ears and nose and yes, they provoke violent urges in me but remember, the Echo Park you grew up in wasn’t always that way either. Echo Park began as a wealthy, white, Victorian neighborhood. Places change for the better and for the worse. I remember El Prado when it was a dive (I liked it then) and like it as a posh wine bar too (certainly there are more women in there now).
I miss some of the old Echo Park but it’s still got the Film Center, Pizza Buona, Echo Park lake, the Baxter Stairs, the memory of Room 8 the Cat, Jensen’s Rec Center (with its cool sign).
My advice? Ignore the haters, the hipsters and (most importantly) the hype. It’s not the Williamsburg of LA, it’s Echo Park… oh, and lying WEST of the LA River, don’t be an idiot and call it the EASTside.*
Today, the facades that stretch along this part of Sunset Blvd look relatively unchanged; the burrito joints, liquor store, and tobacconist have probably been here since the 1960s. It’s easier to make out progress by the new condo developments that have been fitted in between many Craftsman-style homes, standing since the early 1900s. If you take a drive down the quieter Echo Park Ave, you’ll pass newly sprouted coffee shops selling $5 coffee pour overs to a WiFi-dependent clientele, as well as a yoga studio, a quirky boutique, hair salon, a bodega, and a real estate agent.
Based on some research I had done earlier, we scouted a beautiful home on Valentine Street. Designed by architect Raphael Sorriano and built in 1938, it is a salute to Modernism – sleek , simple, and lots of windows. Because the neighbourhood is so hilly, many homes have great views towards the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory, downtown LA, the Valley and the 5 Freeway. Some downhill descents are so steep that with the gradual build up of momentum, and a subsequent “woosh,” you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster.
Echo Park is certainly an area to watch and has the familiar feeling of a community on the verge… It’ll take some time to get there but I am happy about that as things seem to happen way too fast in this technology driven world.
“Like so much in LA, if you look around enough, you see straight past all the uniformity to the wonder of it all.” ~Moby
Who knew one could hill hop Hollywood’s infamous backdrop? All the way from Lake Hollywood Drive to the Hollywood sign, you’ve got a 360 degree view over Los Angeles’s urban sprawl. The only body of water seen from this vantage point is the Reservoir. For the Pacific, you need to cruise further West.
If you’re keen to travel the trail, it is called Cahuenga Peak; added to Griffith Park as public land with help of donations by City of LA, Tiffany&Co, Foundation Aileen Getty, Hugh M. Hefner, State of California, Steven Spielberg, Lucasfilm Foundation, amongst many others.
Inspired by the words of LA resident Moby, here are some pictures taken from those hilltops.
Here’s a better look at that Hollywood Sign:
The well worn trail is indicative of activities past; an artistic imprint of horses hooves, sneaker soles, and bike tire tracks. Orange, dusty, and dry, yet tufts of green have sprouted in between the cracks of its facade. Though the ground appears to be sapped of moisture, the undulating mountains around us are blanketed in thick shrubbery and grasses; yellow and purple wildflowers, like swooshes of watercolour, are painted along their sides, and plush meadows cover their valleys.
There’s a chill in the air – the sun is intermittent as it shies behind threatening dark clouds, which needn’t look so imposing for they never do precipitate more than a drop or two. A scare tactic, perhaps?
Except for the chirp of crickets and bird song, I can only hear the sound of the wind in my ears. Even my husband, who is walking alongside, is quiet. I recall a quote by Wilfred Thesiger, travel writer, from an article I’d recently read, “It was very still, with the silence with which we have driven from our world.” I am sure his description of the Middle Eastern desert was wildly different to what I am experiencing, but at this moment in time, I feel the sentiment.
We are deep in the Santa Monica Mountains, about a 15 minute car drive from the Pacific, but 1000’s feet higher – the horizontal line where the unending ocean meets the infinitive sky is out of sight. Hiking along a trail that will eventually round out at the 8 mile mark, we are reliant upon a path that doesn’t hint as to what is along the way – a fog topped mountain vista is instantly replaced at its turn with a scene that wows with the sheer size of an eroded and well sculpted rock formation, a product of volcanic and earth buckling activity.
Mountains, hiking, and stillness – atypical word associations with “Los Angeles”. Yet they are so deserving and true.
Where: Topanga State Park. Parking is $10; a map is $2. Street parking is available; the map is a necessary guide.
What: They are plenty of trails to choose from – walk anywhere from 2 miles along the Santa Ynez trail – there’s a waterfall at it’s end, or 10 miles to Will Rogers State Historic Park (both routes are quoted one-way). We walked to Temescal Peak (2,126 ft) via Eagle Rock (1,957 ft) which was an 8 mile loop.
Note: all photos were taken with a Smartphone. Next time, the DSLR will take the trip too.
With you, the glass is always half full… Who’d think that 3 years later, we’d be celebrating where it all began, at Silverlake’s Lamill Coffee?
Readers, if you are in Los Angeles and visit Lamill Coffee Boutique – a happening spot in architecturally pleasing Silver Lake (think Modernist), I recommend the Orange Infused Cappuccino with Cocoa. Coffee+Orange+Cocoa go so well together, especially on a chilly winter’s day.