People who fly into LAX get to see Los Angeles beach-first, which beats the unending suburban sprawl I faced as I drove into town from the east. Nearly sixty miles outside the city, strip malls and housing developments start showing up. The Claremont Colleges, which looked far enough away from LA on a map that I thought they’d be somewhat disconnected, were just a small island in the middle of sprawl.
It went on like this for miles. As I got closer to the city itself, houses seemed to become more dense but a skyline was not visible. Looking for my Airbnb crash pad in the Silver Lake neighborhood, I jumped from freeway to freeway, quickly exiting from one to the other, making u-turns, looking everywhere for street names.
I finally drove by a nice red-brick two-story in an upscale neighborhood and parked on the street a few houses down. I knocked a bit nervously on the second-floor door, arriving nearly an hour later than I’d said I would, and not knowing what exactly to expect.
The apartment was spacious, seemingly empty, lights were off. My room was in the back, through the laundry room and a small bathroom, and it looked out onto a backyard with a sparkling pool that I’d see the next morning.
I chatted for a few minutes with my hosts who gave me all kinds of suggestions on things to do and directions to go in – I tried to politely take it in without telling them I had no clue what they were talking about. I tried to get online to do a bit of reading on the area but internet was a bit spotty.
I fell asleep, exhausted after the Hoover Dam Tour, the long day of driving, the madness of driving into LA for the first time. I tried to sleep but couldn’t – a hummingbird wouldn’t shut up outside my window. It kept me up nearly the entire miserable night.
The next day, cranky and exhausted, I spent some time around Sunset Boulevard near Silver Lake. An excellent coffeeshop was filled with hipsters – everyone was beautiful, and everyone knew it. A Mexican restaurant down the street was delicious. I drove around a bit more that afternoon and evening, climbing the hill to Griffith Park in time to catch a dull sunset muzzled by smog and fog. I drove around Hollywood, passing Hollywood & Vine, the Kodak Theatre, other noteworthy places and such. In the search for something to eat, I found an In & Out and got a burger. Good, but still just a fast food burger.
I was surrounded by landmarks but didn’t know which or where, exactly. And what I’d seen had left me underwhelmed. And I was tired, worried that I’d sleep poorly again, and was unsure how to spend the rest of the week. Should I try to find a place on the beach for another day and then go up Highway 1 to Monterey and San Francisco or should I just go right away and give up on LA?
The next morning, I had my answer.
View pictures from LA here.