HERE’S a tip when travelling to Los Angeles, hire a car and drive.
Once a regular visitor to the City of Angels, I found driving a great way to explore the city and its surrounds. Signage is easy to follow as freeways are labelled numerically and by direction, which makes getting around quite easy and when it comes to hiring the car, the range is as big as everything else in the US of A.
On one trip, I cruised Hollywood Boulevard in a sleek black Hummer, which was fitting as while driving this infamous road I found myself caught up in a media frenzy courtesy of the latest Terminator movie premiere. With red carpet laid out and barricades in place, super sized limos were lined up outside the Kodak Theatre depositing the beautiful. For a moment I thought they mistook my black Hummer with tinted windows and a mysterious air as containing someone of interest, but no, I was waved on without thought.
On another trip my friend and I were given the choice of hiring either a red Dodge or a silver convertible Mustang, our choice was obvious for our trip to Santa Barbara and so we were soon driving along the 101 freeway with the roof down, while Bob Segar crooned to us about his love of Hollywood nights. From LA proper the 101 carves through the hills framing the Los Angeles basin and eventually hugs the coastline. This route is a pleasure to drive, even if you don’t have the luxury of a convertible.
After a few hours exploring the sights of Santa Barbara we were headed back to our base at Long Beach when the Mulholland Drive turnoff caught our eye. As this road is home to many famous people, an exploration of this area beckoned. But instead of Mulholland, a wrong turn had us navigating the Mustang around the winding Topanga Canyon Boulevard through the Santa Monica Mountains. Being late afternoon on a clear spring day the view we were afforded was nothing short of spectacular. We chose to take advantage of a lookout which offered the opportunity to stop and further take in the view of Los Angeles and its surrounds without fear of plummeting off the road into a rocky canyon below.
Our unexpected exploration of the mountains ended when Topanga Blvd deposited us onto the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), just north of Santa Monica and Third Street Promenade where a myriad of shops and restaurants awaited our patronage. With stomachs rumbling we settled on dining at Bravo, a quaint Italian restaurant. A good Pinot Grigio accompanied by a delicious serving of bruschetta as local buskers serenaded us in the relaxed atmosphere was just what the doctor ordered. As night descended, fairy lights illuminated the tree-lined promenade creating a wonderful ambience. To walk off our meal, we wandered past shops such as Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Gap, H&M and Victoria’s Secret.
Without the luxury of a car, we would not have had the opportunity to experience LA as we did, so when you are next in LA, drive. And if you do happen to find yourself a little lost or daunted by the freeways, stay positive as you could find yourself having more fun than expected.