10 Tips for the Second Time LA Tourist, Calif.

It’s inevitable that, as a first time visitor to Los Angeles, you will be drawn to its better known sights like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Venice’s Muscle Beach. I am all for it; the media and motion picture industries are part of Los Angeles’ DNA, and what we might read about, watch on TV, or see in the movies can greatly influence our itinerary choice. It’s on the second trip that you may want to reconsider the Star Line bus tour and tourist-friendly draws however, and explore the layers beneath LA’s celluloid surface.  What you’ll find is a patchwork of cities and neighborhoods that enrich the county’s culture and communities.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you sidestep the well trodden tourist path:

1. Mulholland Drive – Perhaps one of the most appealing things about LA, aside from its warm climate, is its proximity to the ocean and mountains. To see it from top to tail, rent a car and cruise along the 21-mile stretch of winding Mulholland Drive. The road will take you through the Hollywood Hills, over the Valley, and to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Tip: GPS is essential in navigating this road as it is broken up in parts.

An overlook on Mulholland Drive - looking at LA's downtown

From Mulholland Drive, looking over LA’s downtown

2. Hollywood – LA looks different when you look at it through the letters of the Hollywood sign. To get to the top of Mt. Lee, Google: Beachwood Drive and Hollyridge Trail. There’s room for parking and it’s about a 40 minute walk, one way. Tip: Keep on track by staying left of the trail.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

3. Griffith Park – Los Angeles is home to a variety of architecture; Moby even has a blog dedicated to it: Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog. A beautiful example is The Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. At once futuristic and historic, the details of its precast building blocks harken to Mayan times; you may also remember the house from the 1980’s movie Bladerunner. Tip: Address is 2607 Glendower Ave, Loz Feliz.

Part of the Ennis House

Part of the Ennis House

4. Echo Park – Echo Park Avenue has the artisan feel. Street art colours the hilly neighbourhood; cafes offer pour over coffees for $5 a cup. Located close to downtown LA, the area feels like it’s on the cusp of something big. Tip: Go to FIX for a pour over coffee – order anything from the “Handsome Coffee Roasters” line. Pazzo Gelato on Sunset Blvd offers $1 scoops during its 4-6pm Happy Hour. The Pear Sorbetto is highly recommended.

Top: European Yoghurt, Strawberry Custard Gelato; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelaro

Top: European Yoghurt, and Strawberry Custard Gelatos; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelato

5. Silver Lake – More than 500 staircases around Los Angeles used to serve its public transportation system; now they are a good excuse to stairwalk and see a neighbourhood up close. An excellent starting point for the novice is the Music Box Stair Loop in burgeoning Silver Lake, made famous by the movie starring Laurel and Hardy. Tip: Check out Walks @ Secret Stairs-LA for more routes. The website counts the Music Box set to have 133 steps across multiple landings as part of a 2.5 mile loop.

The shaky looking "Music Box" Steps

The shaky looking “Music Box” Steps

6. Downtown LA – Newly built condos in the area have attracted a young entrepreneurial community. The Art District has injected a creative vibe in this part of town, and galleries can be found along Spring and Main Sts between 2nd and 9th. Tip: Check out a couple of the laid back eating spots: go to Urth Caffe on Hewitt St for a Moroccan Mint Latte, or a Belgian Beer at Wurtskuche on East 3rd.

Arts District

Arts District

7. Westwood – In the midst of a cluster of office buildings rests Westwood Village Park Memorial Cemetery. Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, and other stars are buried here. Tip: Located at 1218 Glendon Avenue, the narrow street looks like the entrance to a parking lot – it’s easy to overlook.

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

8. Pacific Palisades – For a panoramic scene that spans downtown LA to the ocean, hike to the top of the Los Liones trail. It’s 2 miles each way and not too strenuous but wear your sneakers. Tip: Go on a sunny day for a clear view.

At the top of the Los Liones trail - Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

At the top of the Los Liones trail – Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

9. Malibu – Perhaps one of the loveliest museums in LA is The Getty Villa. High up in the mountains, with the Pacific as the backdrop, it feels Mediterranean – manicured gardens, fountains, and a herb garden surround a villa that houses antiquities and sculpture collections. Tip: Allocate some time to lunch on wine and cheese in the courtyard, but don’t forget to reserve your entry free tickets on http://www.getty.edu prior to visiting.

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

10. Venice Beach – The Pacific is alluring, the boardwalk is not. Navigate the Venice Canal Walk in the direction of Abbot Kinney – a retail stretch of road where you’ll build up an appetite as you window shop. Tip: Go to Gjelina for an excellent modern Italian meal, or stop at TOMS for a pair of shoes. Browse as you sip on an espresso made to order from their in-store coffee bar.

Inside the TOMS store

Inside the TOMS store

Intermission III: An Oscar-Worthy Trip to LaLaLand

The final week of a great trip is always tough. Each day seems to pass quicker than that preceding it, and the list of things to see and do inevitably grows longer as one becomes better acquainted with their surroundings; immersing themselves further into the fabric of a place.

This is how it went for my sister, Katya, and I in the last few days prior to her departure. We packed it all in: Universal Studios, LA downtown (we needed to drive by the Cecil Hotel, currently making crime story worthy news), Malibu, as well as a side trip to San Francisco. We made pit stops at all of Urth Caffe’s locations, scattered over different parts of LA, and managed to catch some spectacular sunsets either from the car, or from a prime vantage points.

Though the trip may have started with tourist spots at the forefront, it finished with talk of a UCLA transfer. I couldn’t have been prouder – Katya had successfully transitioned from wide eyed tourist to enthusiastic traveler. Here are some highlights of the final days in LaLaLand, and beyond.

At The Getty Villa, Malibu

At The Getty Villa, Malibu

Seated Hermes, Greek God of travel and commerce

Seated Hermes, Greek God of travel and commerce

Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier

City lights from the Griffith Observatory

City lights from the Griffith Observatory

Sunset from the Griffith Observatory

Sunset from the Griffith Observatory

Lombard St, San Francisco - the world's windiest street

Lombard St, San Francisco – the world’s windiest street

Painted Ladies houses line Alamo Square, San Francisco

Painted Ladies houses line Alamo Square, San Francisco

My sis and I making heart shadows

Me and my sis making heart shadows

Sea Lions at Pier 39, San Francisco Wharf

Sea Lions at Pier 39, San Francisco Wharf


Views from Sausalito -  joined to San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge

Views from Sausalito – joined to San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge

Me and my sis - meeting of the minds as we look over the view from Sausalito

Me and my sis – meeting of the minds as we look over the view from Sausalito

Golden Gate Bridge via iphone

Golden Gate Bridge via iphone

Sis taking pics

Sis taking pics

Panorama via iphone

Panorama via iphone

San Fran's Filbert Street at night

San Fran’s Filbert Street at night

Francis Ford Coppola's, Cafe Zeotrope

Francis Ford Coppola’s, Cafe Zeotrope – in San Fran


My sis with The Simpsons, at Universal Studios

My sis with The Simpsons, at Universal Studios

Sunset views of LA's downtown

Sunset views of LA’s downtown

Tree line from Elysian Park, near Echo Park, LA

Tree line from Elysian Park, near Echo Park, LA

Farewell cake made by my husband for my sis - Raspberry baked cheesecake accompanies by prosecco topped with those red berries

Farewell cake made by my husband for my sis – Raspberry baked cheesecake accompanied by prosecco topped with those red berries

Setting Resolutions ~ Santa Monica, CA

Have you set yours? Perhaps after looking at the sunset on the horizon, you might get inspired.

Happy New Year, dear readers ~ 2012 has been one good blogging year for us! *imagine a chorus of “cheers,” and clinks of champagne flutes*

Looking over the Malibu

Looking over the Malibu


Santa Monica Pier




Lovebirds in Malibu ~ Los Angeles, CA

In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence. ~ Robert Lynd

Being by the ocean is so calming; reinvigorating. It’s got alot to do with that mix of sweet-salty sea smell, the vision of its multispectrum blues, and a feeling of being on the edge of something infinite.

The Pacific Ocean along California’s West Coast is one of the most beautiful shorelines I have ever seen. Along the Malibu Pier, the moments during sunset feel as if they’re yours alone to enjoy. Well, almost…

A Passion for Travel

Recently I was asked to write down why I am interested in travel photography…

Well, I love the way I feel when I travel.

Malibu Pier, CA

I remember wishing to be a travel agent when I grew-up, and I fulfilled that ‘dream’ at STA Travel, only to realise that I’d rather be the one doing the traveling. I got into the media industry to fund my addiction; ultimately, it propelled me to embark on a working stint overseas.

Park Avenue, NY

What interests me most about travel is anthropology; there’s nothing more inspiring than immersing yourself in another culture and being able to “walk in another person’s shoes,” to quote Anthony Bourdain.

Walking towards the Hollywood Sign; downtown LA in the background. As seen from the Hollywood Hills, CA

To me, documenting travel means that writing and photography go hand-in-hand; placing images alongside words better tells the story. I’m interested in showing the reality of a place or space – using words and images to stimulate a response, a feeling. Whether I choose to shoot street photography or architectural compositions, that depends on the nature of the story.

The Binoculars Building, by Frank Gehry - Venice Beach, LA

To know I may have inspired, educated, or motivated someone through moments captured with my words or through my lens makes me happy.

And that was my answer. What would you have said?

Street Art - Silver Lake, LA

Breathing Travel: My Photo Picks; Meaningful Scenes

Choosing a favourite photo is not an easy task so I am bending the rules a little in my coursework at Breathing Travel | MatadorU and featuring three meaningful shots taken on a recent trip to Southern California, as well as a bonus image from Spain.

I am open to your critique of the shots as this is part of the learning experience so please share any feedback if you can; I am developing a thick skin.

Here goes….

I like taking night shots, though struggle with them because I am always shooting from the hip. (The tripod hasn’t had a test run yet). This first shot, of the Capitol Records building, was taken on our final day in LA enroute to the airport. I jumped out of the car to take this photo; I tried to keep a steady hand though I was shaking in my boots for standing in the middle of a downhill sloping road.

To me, the photo is symbolic of the the music industry in its heyday; the architectural design is meant to resemble a stack of records on a turntable. I also like the lit up Patron Tequila bottle, advertised in the background.

The second image was taken at Westwood Memorial Park. It is symbolic of Old Hollywood. It is in the memory of an icon that will never be forgotten. “We are all stars, and we deserve to twinkle” – Marilyn Monroe

The third image is of The Cafe at the Getty Villa in Malibu. I like this shot for a couple of reasons. It was taken at one of my favourite museums. Secondly, in composing this photo, I was drawing inspiration from the talented photographer, Julius Shulman.

This last image – a bonus shot – was taken with my Sony Cybershot of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I was scrolling through photos today and really liked how the cranes seemed to mimic the towers of the church. A cool juxtaposition, I thought. Gaudi’s masterpiece is due for completion in 2030 (or thereabouts).

A Sunday Thank You Note

It’s been six months since I started my blog, Inspired By Travel, and I will be eternally grateful for it.

Not only did it push me to write about my greatest passion in the world – travel – but it urged me to take more photographs to better tell the story. I have always enjoyed writing though I never knew I’d embrace photography as much as I have; I owe alot of that to crafting these posts.

Spot the (easter) egg ~ contemporary art at LACMA, CA.

Sharing my posts with a community of readers has been the best thing to come out of the blogging experience. Knowing that an image, words, or a quote evoked a positive emotion – whether it be across the world, or across the room – is for me, the most inspiring thing ever.

At The Getty Villa, Malibu, CA

In that vein, I’d like to thank some bloggers for the awards they have nominated me for; I am so happy to have received them. Thank you to All the pretty jars and MiltonJohns Photography for the Versatile Blogger Award, and My thoughts, pics and personal opinions for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. These three blogs are all so different but inspiring in their passion and points of view. Click on the links above to find out why.

I wanted to share some posts that have made me smile; I nominate their blogs for those awards as listed below. I hope they will make you smile. Thank you!


An Easter fix. The photos are divine – hot cross buns!. This post is delicious to just to look through. Not That I’m Egging You On… | Assia’s Kaleidoscope.

No matter in what part of the world, this blogger always posts excellent photos of those travels. Here’s one taken in my hometown of Sydney. Wanderers in Sydney « A Certain Slant of Light Photography.

Iran is a country I would love to visit. Until then, this blogger is giving me an on-the-road account of their experience. Almost Nothing/ Dasht-e Kavir « A Vagabondage.

The Met Museum in NY is one of my favourite places. The photographs in this post make me want to visit again. Going to the Met | barbaraelka.

Brazil and lots of colour. Yes, please. APRIL 02 COLOUR BLIND……….. « shpics.

Violets remind me of Sydney and I always associate them with the memory of my lovely grandmother. I just learned that they are symbolic of love, and that the flowers can be made into tea. This post made me smile wide. Nature in your Yard – Heralds of Spring. « Seasons Flow.


An artist and an inspiration, every post is worthy of an award. Here’s the latest – you can scroll from it, backwards: Vestiges: Curiosities, Continuations, Comparisons « draw and shoot.

Prepare to be wowed by the photographs on this blog. Here’s a favourite of mine: Grand Central Terminal | Travel Photography by Dmitrii Lezine.

Spring heralds the start of cherry blossom season. The photos in this post are exquisite.Cherry Blossom « Cornwall – A Photographic Journey.

Tropical flowers (love those fragrant frangipanis), nostalgia, and avocado on toast – this post is reason enough to fly to Malaysia. Mornings in the Garden « Skybambi.

A lovely post on Brighton – prompted by putting “pen to paper .. write about a place which you treasure,” accompanied by two gorgeous photos. Brighton: A Treasured Place (#wpthu) « Mufidah Kassalias.

From across the Atlantic, it’s nice to share a mutual love of nature with this blogger. Little Ladybird « Little Trot.

Cirque du Soleil, Hollywood