Category Archives: West LA

About Hollywood

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Hollywood?

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Briefly its own city, Hollywood merged with the municipality of Los Angeles in 1910 and has a remained a business and residential district within LA since then. You can think of Hollywood as situated between Downtown Los Angeles (east), the “Valley” particularly North Hollywood/Burbank/Studio City (north), West Hollywood and Beverly Hills (west) and just above Hancock Park and the Fairfax district.  Three well-known boulevards are fascinating and ever-evolving attractions to Hollywood: Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.

 

WHAT characterizes Hollywood?

Hollywood is an essential part of the Los Angeles experience. As the cradle of American cinema, Hollywood became synonymous with the film industry, and with it the glamour, fanfare and star power.  Later, television studios moved to Hollywood adding more allure and worldwide recognition to the area. In the late 20th century, when the entertainment business spread beyond the literal boundaries of Hollywood, much of Hollywood’s glitz and appeal began to fade. But not for long! Hollywood has been breeding new music, musical stars, elaborate attractions and massive renovation bringing it back to a new heyday.  Tourists, as well as residents, are back in droves discovering Hollywood’s vibrancy and eclectic offerings.

Mann's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard

Mann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard

One of the landmarks etched in the minds of tourists is the TCL Chinese Theater, formerly known as Grauman’s or Mann’s Chinese Theater, and having its official name-changing in January 2013. The iconic theater, recently renovated, resembles a giant red Chinese pagoda with fantastic detailing on its façade. The overwhelming steady lure to the theater was less about its architecture than an accident that occurred in 1927, when a footprint, presumably Mary Pickford’s, was embedded in the wet concrete in front of the new building. Today, there are over 200 Hollywood celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs in the concrete of the theater’s forecourt. In September 2013, an amazing state-of-the-art IMAX theater opened within the Chinese Theater premiering an IMAX 3D version of The Wizard of Oz assuring its place as more than a historical monument.

The area surrounding The TCL Chinese Theater, mostly on Hollywood Boulevard, is rife with tourist attractions and revitalization.   The Walk of Fame consists of over 2000 star plaques with the names of old and new celebrities.  Grauman’s Egyptian Theater and the El Capitan Theater hold Hollywood history too and still fill to capacity. The Hollywood Wax Museum is the longest running Wax Museum in the United States, and nearby, the Ripley’s Believe it or Not is well, what it is!

Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard

For many modern decades, shopping in the area consisted of an endless array of souvenir shops and the ever-famous Frederick’s of Hollywood for Tinseltown’s homage to glamorous lingerie.  Then in 2001, the Hollywood and Highland Center opened, further elevating the status of the Chinese Theater and housing chic stores, top restaurants, fabulous nightclubs and the Loews Hotel.  Many of my local friends and I began revisiting Hollywood for ourselves, not just to traipse around our visiting relatives!

And for all of the approachable symbols of Hollywood, none could ever compare to the unapproachable Hollywood Sign!  The 45-foot-tall, 350-foot-long world-famous sign is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. I venture to say that the famed Hollywood Sign garners more affection from Angelenos than any of its landmarks combined.

To the outside world, Hollywood may be mostly known for all of

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

its symbols and its relationship to the magic of movies. But residents know Hollywood as a district beyond kitsch.  The Griffith Park Observatory reopened in 2006 with extensive science exhibits. Thousands of local students and residents visit yearly.  And especially popular with Angelenos is Runyon Canyon Park.  Super-fit 20-and-30-somethings (and okay, older too?) jog to the top almost daily for mesmerizing panoramic views of the city. Not to name drop, but how many times have I seen Jake Gyllenhaal running down?  Too many to count!  Runyon is an off-leash dog park too and one of LA’s best-kept secrets.  Oops.

View from Runyon Canyon

View from Runyon Canyon

Nightlife flourishes in Hollywood.  From the magnificent Hollywood Bowl for the finest acoustics to the ever-popular Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes, going out in Hollywood has it all!  Despite the health fanatics running up Runyon Canyon in the mornings, Hollywood attracts more partying singles at night than any other area. Big clubs have doormen and lines seven nights a week. Dive bars, funky bars and old school ones have their regulars and newbies.  Large and small music venues bring young and old. Restaurants highlighting every conceivable cuisine are hopping throughout Hollywood. The Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard brings huge splashy national touring companies of Broadway productions and draws audiences of all ages from every corner of Southern California.

Hotels abound in Hollywood and many with recent renovations.  So, too, are residences popping up all over the area’s landscape.  A recent drive through Hollywood’s streets had me quite agape at the amount of huge condo edifices under construction in the heart of Hollywood.  Old estates remain in the hills and still-fabulous houses are dotted throughout the sloping streets above Melrose.  The gentrification of Hollywood is in full-effect.

 

WHO is in Hollywood?

Hollywood HomesIt is fair to say that Hollywood as a residence does not have a large draw for raising families.  Hollywood attracts urbanites.  There is so much to do on foot and public transportation options are aplenty.  The culture of residents is widely diverse and perhaps surprisingly so is the age range.  Statistically, there are more single men than women living in Hollywood.  More and more, pre-middle-age to middle age singles with upper scale incomes have discovered the charms of Hollywood and may be able to get more bang for their bucks than in neighboring districts to the west.

DINE AT THE TOP:

Hatfield’s
Katsuya
Littlefork
Osteria Mozza
Providence

DINE IN THE MID (range):

Ammo
Hungry Cat
Jitlada Thai
Loteria Grill
Pizzeria Mozza

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Grub
In-N-Out Burger
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles
Stella Barra Pizza
Umami Burger

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

Library Bar and The Spare Room (both at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel)
The Pikey
Wood and Vine
The Writer’s Room
Velvet Margarita Cantina

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Hollywood and Highland Center
Hollywood Boulevard – sidewalk stores for souvenirs, kitsch and miscellaneous
La Brea Ave. – particularly for home design
Melrose Ave. (east of Fairfax = hipster, west of Fairfax  = upscale)
Universal CityWalk
A classic store worth noting is the world-famous Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard, the country’s largest independent music store.

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Condos average (coming soon)

Single Family Residences (coming soon)

A one-bedroom apartment averages (coming soon)

Hollywood Boulevard Red Carpet Night at the Oscars

Hollywood Boulevard Red Carpet Night at the Oscars

Hollywood landed on everyone’s mental map because of its association with the illustrious entertainment industry.  It has stayed there because of much more.   Though billions of people all over the world still tune in for the annual Academy Awards Show televised live from Hollywood, we locals are tuning into Hollywood for its new trends too. I’d be lying to say that I don’t turn my head every time I see a new red carpet installation preparing for that night’s movie premiere staged on Hollywood Boulevard.  The excitement is still palpable even for many of us too cool to admit it.

About Malibu California

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Malibu?

Map-of-Malibu

Malibu is a 27-mile stretch of California coastline that runs from Topanga on the south all the way up to Ventura County line on the north.  Malibu virtually “hugs” the Pacific Ocean making it a most coveted destination for living. Combined, Malibu’s incorporated and unincorporated areas cover about 45,000 acres.  Within these areas lie various beaches, high and low canyons as well as flat-topped hills known as mesas. Such a varietal landscape also includes enclaves of differing climates that create an extraordinary environment, one that is almost mythical.

WHAT characterizes Malibu?

As I’ve been describing other areas of Los Angeles as gems and jewels, Malibu would be the Hope Diamond.  Having lived here 18+ years, I still find it the most elusive, even enigmatic area in Los Angeles and still feel like a tourist when I’m there.  That said, I could vouch for residents who feel the complete opposite, true ownership and belonging.

Paradise Cove

Paradise Cove

Malibu immediately conjures images of surf and sand.  Whether you have some vague memories of Gidget (which by the way, and crazily coincidentally, my mother’s first cousin directed all of the Gidget movies) or Baywatch when it filmed at Paradise Cove, or more recently as the home of Hannah Montana, the association with surfing and the style that accompanies “the surfer” come to mind.

Malibu-Creek State ParkLess familiar, and perhaps more significant, Malibu is steeped in rich history.  The Native American Chumash people from whom Malibu got its name, originally settled the area.  The Spanish brought the California mission system to the area in the early 1800’s after which a large portion was passed to Frederick and Rhoda May Rindge.  Their legacy of going to all lengths to keep the area private may well have triggered the mystique I associate with Malibu.  It wasn’t until the 1900’s that the state won a court case against the Rindges; and PCH, the famous Pacific Coast Highway, was built.  The Rindge house, currently known as the Adamson House is a California Historical Landmark that is now part of Malibu Creek State Park.

Additionally, Rhoda May Rindge opened a tile factory in 1926 that lasted for six years before a terrible fire destroyed it.  In that time, however, tiles were used throughout the county as decoration and became an integral part of the Los Angeles architectural styling.  The tiles are considered highly collectible.

In 1991, the city of Malibu was incorporated, driven by residents’ desires to keep large public works projects from extending to their sheltered environment.  Having won incorporation, it seems to me that Malibu has been able to secure an essence of privacy and self-control that many Los Angeles cities do not evocate.  To Malibu’s credit, it adds to the allure and the ever-increasing wonder of many tourists and residents.

Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier

The beaches of Malibu are simply awesome and probably, locals aside, the biggest draw to the area.  Zuma beach is pristine, family-friendly, dotted with cafes, and even has clean bathroom facilities.  The most seen and scene beach is probably Surfrider Beach next to the Adamson house.  You can always count on seeing a steady of stream of surfers there and surely you’ve caught scenes from 50’s and 60’s surf movies like Gidget, which were all filmed at that same spot. For an intimate beach day where you can nestle beside giant boulders and between notched cliffs, head to El Matador State Beach.  Other beaches, like Paradise Cove, charge a fee and enforce tighter regulations for beachgoers.  Many of the world’s most renowned celebrities and million/billionaires have beach homes and understandably, they have aimed to maintain privacy at the smaller beaches behind their homes.

Getty-Villa

Getty Villa

When not in flip-flops, there is nothing more sublime than a day outing spent at the Getty Villa, an art museum that is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum.  It sits at the lower edge of Malibu and it is sometimes attributed to the Pacific Palisades neighborhood.  To me, it signals the beginning of the Malibu lifestyle.  It is elegant, beachside, and mystical.  It has an air of exclusivity and yet the people who work there could not be friendlier.  Every time I visit, I am blown away by its splendor.  The setting, the antiquities and the gardens are breathtaking and a must for Angelenos and tourists.

 

WHO is in Malibu?

 Barbara Streisand and Bob Dylan. Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Goldie Hawn and Pamela Anderson.  Dustin Hoffman and Diana Ross. Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber. Haven’t even begun. Should I go on?! An embarrassment of riches, for sure, for one city of only 13,000 residents! Since Malibu housing includes anything from mountain mansions, to huge beachside dwellings to retro ranches, new townhouses and old bungalows, there is a fit for many budgets but not much for the economy-minded budgets.  Having some of the most expensive real estate in the country it is bound to attract the well-heeled and 2%ers.  At the same time, I’ve encountered renters who live the bohemian/writer/artist/surf life in Malibu.  Additionally, and uniquely, Malibu currently is a center for addiction rehabilitation centers and while the residents with those needs live there, the growth of that industry has likely drawn new professionals to the area.

DINE AT THE TOP:

Geoffrey’s
Mr. Chow
Nobu
Taverna Tony
Tra di Noi

DINE IN THE MID (range):

Cholada Thai Beach
Duke’s
La Costa Mission
Malibu Seafood
Moonshadows

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Coogie’s
Howdy’s Taqueria
Lily’s Café & Pasteries
Neptune’s Net
Reel Inn

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

Blue Lounge Bar
Coral Beach Cantina
Moonshadows
Spruzzo Restaurant and Bar
The Sunset

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Malibu Colony Plaza
Malibu Country Mart
Malibu Lumber Yard (name of center)
Malibu Village
Point Dume Plaza

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Condos average: (coming soon)

Single Family Residences: (coming soon)

A one-bedroom apartment averages: (coming soon)

Malibu, of all my favorite places in Los Angeles, has been the most difficult for me to “get.”  When I first moved here, I spent a shopping day at the Malibu Country Mart on Cross Creek. The very trendy stores being shopped by preppie or practically barefoot customers right from the beach perplexed me. And like shopping on the Mediterranean, the ages of the shoppers had a much wider range than in most of Los Angeles.  A third were over 65. The restaurants had a classic presence and the diners were in bathing suit cover-ups.  My black-colored city fashions never felt so out of place, not even in the other beach towns.  Then a friend urged me to take horseback riding lessons up on Point Dume.  Was the teacher serious that I had to pay handsomely to spend 45 minutes grooming the horse and 15 riding?  She was; I did, twice.  I’m a fish out of water in Malibu; the Surfrider waves and I have never been drawn to each other.  And still I know when I’m in Malibu, awestruck at El Matador and mind-boggled by sunsets at Geoffrey’s, I am in a very special place. Malibu is an admirable community that is philanthropic, arts-minded, ocean loving and discreet.  After 18 years, I’m starting to “get” it and like the Hope Diamond, I’ll just admire its beauty, visit now and then, and imagine the stories of those who’ve worn it.

How To Fall (and Stay) In Love with Los Angeles – Volume 2

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

Relationships take work.  Love affairs are dynamic relationships that challenge us more than, let’s say, friendships.  Best sung by Motown’s Four Tops, one of my favorite old-school songs titled “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” concludes with this refrain:

Los Angeles At Night“If we can try with every day to make it better as it goes
With any luck then I suppose
The music never ends.”

The love affair I began with Los Angeles in 1991 has gotten better because of will, effort and intention.  I’m committed to my relationship and I believe that Los Angeles loves me back. It is my hope that even if you’ve begun your LA divorce proceedings, you can reconsider and rekindle the fire!

In Volume 1, I sent you west on Sunset Boulevard as far as the road can go.  It’s a cheap trick – that drive to the ocean at sunset is fail-safe.  Who wouldn’t, who couldn’t fall in love with that breathtaking crescendo?  Admittedly, it’s been a bit trickier to navigate that ride since road construction has threatened our “marriage” but if you stay the course and keep going west, the payoff is worth it.

Here are some other detours, chosen ones, that can lead you to more of LA’s charms.  They offer good reasons to veer off the road even if there are no roadblocks.  On a day when a schedule is not harrowing and you have the time to breathe (oh, that’s key in all of this love affair stuff – breathing), explore in and around Sunset Boulevard as you’re heading west.  Some of these divergences are as free as the ride; others will call upon your wallet.  You’ll know which is the right diversion for your particular exploration.  Keep in mind that the goal is to revive your love affair with Los Angeles or begin a new one.

Beverly Hills Hotel 1989

Beverly Hills Hotel 1989

The first stop, should you choose, is The Beverly Hills Hotel, affectionately called the Pink Palace.  I’ve done this stop many ways.  Try one on for size.  I’ve pulled up to Valet Parking bidding my friendliest greetings to the valets and doorman (I wouldn’t suggest shorts and flip flops for this version) explaining I’m meeting a friend.   And then I just wander – and sometimes just sit in the lobby.  It’s a small lobby, not particularly inviting but I just sit and breathe.  On one stop, I saw a very young, very awkward, regal sort sitting there bemused.  I began light casual conversation with him to ease his way.  Little did he know, I had no business there at all.  Long story short, he turned out to be a prince in Norway (and no jokes about the Prince of Bel Air).  No, really, a royal prince!  I’ve since seen him on the news.  His entourage and his grand limousine (let’s just say this one is not in uber’s fleet!) were at the ready to have me join him for a tour of the area.  We spoke for hours though his “people” stayed near.   He was so hungry for a person with a life in the real world with whom to communicate.  Despite his eagerness to have our friendship continue on another day, my work at my detour had ended.  Los Angeles was magical again.  “Only in LA,” it’s said. Being friendly in a royal hotel costs nothing.

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool Area

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool

I’ve also been enchanted at the Beverly Hills Hotel with lunch or snacks there on my own. (Remember these are mostly unplanned detours!) Not at the Polo Lounge where the bill will set you back some serious change.  No, the way we locals do it is to head directly to their pool and sit at the Cabana Café.  Surprisingly, you do not have to be a guest to sit in this gorgeous, albeit exclusive-feeling setting.  And lunch can be whatever you want it to be – including a cup of tea and a bagel.  And the other locals’ secret is to go downstairs from the lobby to the Fountain Coffee Shop.  Get a milkshake – or have breakfast – at the counter.  It’s an authentic old-school diner, except that it’s in the basement of a palace.  Then back to Sunset the boulevard or the rose-colored one in the sky.  By the way, Options #2 and #3, the meal ones, don’t require valet parking.

Spelling Manor

Spelling Manor

If hotels and people watching are not your thing, another alternative route off of Sunset Boulevard is to explore Holmby Hills.  I discovered this quite by accident on one of my Sunset Boulevard meanderings in the mid-90’s.  I turned left on Beverly Glen and then noticed magnificent homes and landscapes tucked on some of the streets behind Beverly Glen.  I turned again onto Charing Cross Road, then onto Mapleton. Inching my car slowly, I remember getting quite an eyeful ogling properties on Mapleton.  I had no idea that I was heading to the Spelling mansion at the time, the penultimate eyeful. What’s key about this kind of exploration is that it not trigger resentment, animosity or worse, feeling bad about your own life.  These rides are supposed to feel like receiving a bouquet of flowers unexpectedly.  Don’t make up stories about the inequality of wealth at these times; it defeats the purpose.  There is a purity of aesthetics that your new eyes can bring to the vision.  Greenery, architecture, texture, color, and surprise light your mind as you take in new things each time you explore.  Years later, I took a New York friend to see the Spelling mansion.  It was a Sunday afternoon and we slowly pulled up.  Wait, what?!  How did I not know? Purely by accident, our car kept getting guided towards a Valet Parking umbrella in front of the compound. It was Tori’s wedding day, at home. They thought my friend and I were guests and we kept smiling, okay flirting, with each of the officers directing our car.  It was such an uproarious spectacle.  We laugh.  Only in LA.  Love.

Playboy Mansion

Playboy Mansion

By the way, Charing Cross Rd., on the other side, will lead you to the Playboy Mansion.  That is a horse (pardon the reference) of a different color.  And driving up and thinking about what has gone on and for how long may just amuse you. Or not.  It doesn’t pull my chain (pardon the reference).  Seriously, there is lore, not necessarily lure, and American history there and it’s right in our L.A. backyard.

Volume 2 ends there with two forks in the road – the right turn into the hotel or the left turn into Holmby Hills. When we continue, we will be turning right, into what look like private gates, the gates of Bel Air.  It’s an elegant twilight zone.  Can’t wait to continue…  til next time.

About Bel Air

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Bel Air?

Bel Air Sign

Bel Air is, according to mapquest, a 21 minute drive from LAX due north on the 405 freeway.   If the 405 freeway and you are friends, or if you’ve never had any “issues,” with it, then I think you’re okay in planning.  (The 405 and I have been in therapy for years with marginal progress).  Geographically, Bel Air is situated between Brentwood and Beverly Hills and on the northern edge of UCLA, stretching across Sunset Boulevard and continuing north into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.  It lies south of Sherman Oaks and north of Westwood Village.

WHAT characterizes Bel Air?

Two words come to mind: residential beauty.  Bel Air is an extraordinary community of homes, often hidden but always exuding an air of exquisiteness.  Large mansions are overwhelming to behold and many small ranch-style homes prevail more and more as the roads of Bel Air wind upwards.

Beverly Glen

Beverly Glen

At the core of Bel Air is the founder’s vision. In the 1920’s, a highly successful farmer, Alphonzo Bell, bought a large ranch with a main house atop what is now Bel-Air Road.  The natural beauty at that location was awe-inspiring to him (as it still is to me), thus motivating him to develop a magnificent community of roads and generous-sized lots for the original founding families of Los Angeles.  During this subdivision, Alphonzo conceived and built the Bel Air Country Club and the Bel Air Beach Club, completed in the mid-1920’s.  Alphonzo and his wife, Minnewa Shoemaker Bell traveled extensively, in grand style replete with limousines and a governess.  While in Italy and France, Minnewa was inspired to name the streets of Bel Air and to this day the names remain. She became involved in the community, upholding her husband’s vision and formed the Bel Air Garden Club dedicated to maintaining the beauty of the gardens and the surrounding community.  The enclave continued to flourish and in 1945, construction began on the now-famed Bel Air Hotel.

There is an exclusive and private air in Bel Air and the illusion of grandeur is present.  Less known is the civic-minded and charitable heritage that Alphonzo Bell and his family continued. Alphonzo Bell left the larger share of his wealth to various charities – including Occidental College, UCLA, the L.A. Presbyterian Church and other charitable organizations. His son, Alphonzo Jr., served in Congress for eight terms and was reputed to be fair-minded and honest.  Somehow, I am comforted by the knowledge that this elite neighborhood of homes and homeowners had a balanced legacy of giving back to the community and a meaningful interest in the preservation of the natural environment.

Home of hit TV show "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"

Home of hit TV show “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”

Today, Bel Air upholds the tradition of single-family residences. Multi-family dwellings (apartment or condo buildings) are prohibited.  Truly, the estates of Bel Air etched in the hills above Sunset appear regal.  In fact, to enter Bel Air, cars still ride through now-faux gates on Sunset Boulevard. There are no guards or qualifications needed to enter but the representation of the old iron gates makes one feel as though the property is private or as I like to think, I’ve been invited!

Restaurant inside Bel Air Hotel

Restaurant inside Bel Air Hotel

Aside from the homes and gardens, the Hotel Bel Air captures Bel Air’s essence.  When I was much younger, I was almost afraid to walk into the Bel Air Hotel as though two guards would pick me up, one at each elbow, and escort me out for not being a hotel guest!  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  This is a simply gorgeous property where everyone is friendly and welcoming.  Yes, it fits with the allure of Bel Air. The hotel is secluded, private, and intimate in nature, but with an understated accessible elegance too.

Less staid and more fun are the facts about Bel Air relating to the television and movie industries.  The facades of homes in Bel Air reached millions of Americans on their little screens when the Beverly Hillbillies was TV’s most popular program.  The exterior shots for the show occurred around 750 Bel Air Road.  Other shows and movies followed (The Rockford Files, Get Shorty, and recently House of Cards).  According to the Bel Air Association’s website, filming is invited as long as guidelines and permits are in order.  Just saying!

 

WHO is in Bel Air?

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

Perhaps the question should be, “Who WAS in Bel Air?   My reflexive response would be Elizabeth Taylor! She was emblematic to me of Bel Air’s secluded grandeur.  Her house at 700 Nimes Road was the house I was determined to glimpse when I moved here in 1995.  Many celebrities of her stature and some of questionable repute have lived or currently do live in Bel Air. You can categorize as you see fit.  To name a few – President and First Lady Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Meg Ryan, Rudolph Valentino, Gregory Peck, Jerry Lewis, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alfred Hitchcock, Lauren Bacall, Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, Rob Pattinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor. “And the beat goes on, on and on and on.” Oh that reminds me, Sonny and Cher lived in Bel Air!

DINE AT THE TOP:

Bel Air Bar and Grill
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel Air
Vibrato

DINE IN THE MID (range):

Le Chine Wok
Shu

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Communitea and Coffee Cake
Starbucks

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

The Bar and Lounge at the Hotel Bel Air
Bel Air Bar and Grill
Vibrato

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

Beverly Glen Marketplace  – shops, restaurants and weekly Farmer’s Market 

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Single Family Residences $1,700, 000

If you land in Bel Air, you’ve landed in the lap of luxury.  The neighborhood exemplifies elegance, rich in charm and wealthy in natural beauty.  The Bel Air Association actively lives out its mission to maintain a safe, beautiful and vital community. If I can’t ever live in Bel Air, you have my permission to spread some of my ashes there.  Just check with the Association first.  I’d hate for you to be escorted out by your elbows.

How To Fall In Love with Los Angeles – Volume 1

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

I am in love.  It began before I moved here in 1995.  In fact, one could make a case that it started in Philadelphia when I was four years old.  It was then that I spun my fable to my Hollywoodneighborhood pals that my doll had been hired to play a baby in a Hollywood movie and I would have to move there to be with her.  I will save the genesis of that tall tale for another time (think prequel).  I didn’t actually get to visit Los Angeles until the mid 80’s and truthfully, my boyfriend and I were not really attuned to where it all happens in LA though we thought we were super-uber-cool.  We rented an oh-so-fab furnished condo in Marina Del Rey feeling like Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, when in actuality, we were more like Saturday Night Live versions of them.

Four Seasons Beverly Hills

Four Seasons Beverly Hills

In 1991, the full-on love affair with Los Angeles that has never waned began when I visited a close girlfriend who came here to follow her dreams. I spent the first six months of that year socking dollars away to visit Victoria in the summer of 1991.  No expense would be spared for our first girls-only trip together through LA.  I rented a shiny new convertible at the airport, then pulled up to the Four Seasons Hotel of Beverly Hills (though a rarely accepted truth, it’s on the LA side of Doheny and not in BH) and parked myself for 10 days of the summer.  We put glamour on steroids, turned nightlife outings here into Olympic sport and dined at the trendiest and (ouch) most expensive restaurant offerings the city had.  Then shampoo, rinse, repeat in 1992, 1993 and 1994.  When I said goodbye to Victoria at the end of the summer of ’94, I told her that my next visit would be to move here. And it was.

I told her I wanted my life there to replicate our visits, that if I could live at the Four Seasons, I would.  Unfortunately, my budget called for a monthly rent that was approximately 3-nights of staying there.  I did the next best thing and lived near the Four Seasons, where 18 years later I still reside.  And no one’s carrying my shopping bags in, no one’s parking my car, and I am my own concierge. So might one think that when reality hit, my love affair faded?  Think again.  This is a city that if you choose to, you can fall in love with every day, all over again.  I wake up 300 out of 365 days every year thinking, “Pinch Me!”  And the other 65, I’m well aware that I’ve found my soul’s home mate.

Los Angeles SunsetFor those of you contemplating a move or those of you living in Los Angeles who have a love/hate relationship with this complex city, or worse, an abusive one, help is on the way.  Ilene’s psychologically and spiritually sound guide to loving LA is on the way in several volumes. And since I’ve already alliterated with the “S” sound, I will leave you with our first volume’s tip: Sunset.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get in a car on a Saturday or Sunday at approximately 5:00 PM and ride west on Sunset Boulevard beginning at La Cienega Boulevard and not stopping until you hit the Pacific Coast Highway – and stay there until sunset.

Let’s talk about it in our next session.  Until then. . . .

About Santa Monica California

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Santa Monica?

Santa Monica View

If beach cities across America could gather and talk, my guess is that there would be lots of location envy when it comes to Santa Monica.  Few beach cities anywhere in the world feature such a proximity to a renowned city like Los Angeles.  New Yorkers trek two hours to the Hamptons.  Parisians find themselves over eight hours from the South of France.  Santa Monica, a seaside delight is 18 driving minutes due west from mid-city and within 30 minutes of Downtown Los Angeles (and no, not at 2 AM, but yes, presuming light traffic).

WHAT characterizes Santa Monica?

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica thrives as a small metropolis as well as a beach town.  For travelers, Santa Monica works wonders as a vacation getaway providing both city attractions (great dining, shopping, art galleries and nightlife) and the ample stretch of Pacific Ocean beach to walk, ride, sit or surf.  For residents, Santa Monica has the density of a city, minus overcrowding, replete with all conveniences of city living in a glorious ocean side setting.  From the fun attractions on Santa Monica Pier to the varietal restaurants on Ocean Avenue to the specialized shops on Montana or onto the

Third Street Promenade

Third Street Promenade

shopping/entertainment mecca of the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica offers something for everyone, even me, a die-hard city dweller! The choices for residences range from multi-million dollar homes set in the flats or the canyons to condos and apartments peppered throughout the city. (See below for additional info about living.) An ethos of protecting the environment has emerged as a central theme in Santa Monica reflected in the styles of homes, the variety of transportation options and the mindset of its population.

WHO is in Santa Monica?

Santa Monica Monkey BarsGiven the superfluity of outdoor activities, Santa Monica attracts the fitness-minded and health conscious.  In fact, for the farm to table cook, the Wednesday Farmers Market is arguably the best in Southern California.  With an impressive commitment to being green, Santa Monica appears to have as many bicyclists as drivers.  At night, you are more likely to find a preppy casual partygoer than a black-clad late night owl.  A lively college and just post-university crowd have found their S.M. haunts along Main St. or Wilshire Blvd. in which to get their flirt on.  As for the older set partaking in Santa Monica nightlife, don’t be surprised if Tom Hanks and his wife are dining near your table.  And you’re less likely to find me and my over the knee black boots on a Friday night in Santa Monica than you are Jack Black and his family.

DINE AT THE TOP:

Giorgio Baldi
JiRaffe
Josie
Melisse
Rustic Canyon

DINE IN THE MID:

Border Grill
Fig
Hungry Cat
Sugarfish
Tar and Roses

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Bay Cities
The Counter
Father’s Office
Fritto Misto
Umami Burger

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT: 

Bar Chloe
Copa d’Oro
The Misfit
O’Brien’s
The Penthouse

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

Fred Segal
Montana Ave.
Santa Monica Place
Shops on Main St.
Third Street Promenade

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Condos average $600,000

Single Family Residences average $800,000

A one-bedroom apartment averages $1200/month

Santa Monica Homes by BeachThe coastal city of Santa Monica with its picturesque beaches, ideal climate and dramatic cliffs has wide appeal for visiting and even grander appeal for staying! I feel like a little kid whenever I catch sight of the mammoth Pacific Ferris Wheel and the arcade below it.  And when tasting red wine in the intimacy of Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi, I might as well be an Italian princess on the Mediterranean.  Santa Monica – a California haven.

About Brentwood California

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Brentwood?

Getty Center View

For our purposes, Brentwood, CA, is a prominent area in West Los Angeles not to be confused with Brentwood, CA in Northern California located in Contra Costa County.  The LA Brentwood district is located at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains directly west of the San Diego Freeway also known as “the 405.” Who could forget 2012’s Carmegeddon?! Wilshire Boulevard is at Brentwood’s southern end and both the city of Santa Monica and Topanga State Park are its western neighbors.  Brentwood is 14 miles from LAX and accordingly should make it a 22-minute drive most times of day – no, not at 6 PM.

WHAT characterizes Brentwood?

Brentwood today, and even then, is one of the most coveted neighborhoods in all of Los Angeles.  It is not so thickly populated allowing residents a feeling of privilege with their spaciousness.  Generally speaking, Brentwood is less diverse than many Los Angeles communities. According to Wikipedia, it is “84.2% white,” and considered to be the home of some of the highest incomes in Los Angeles.  Statistics report that the residents of Brentwood are more highly educated than all other Los Angeles neighborhoods, and nationally more educated than average communities in the U.S.  I guess it’s no wonder that Brentwood contains seven private schools and two public schools.

Brentwood Country Mart

Brentwood Country Mart

There is one main shopping district that runs through Brentwood, along San Vicente Boulevard.  The community’s meeting place would be the charming Country Mart, and it marks the dividing line between Brentwood and Santa Monica.  There are no highly commercialized malls in Brentwood; nevertheless there is no shortage of shopping options.  The Country Mart is a circular center of shops and foodstuffs.  Its architectural frame presents a feeling evocative of a time gone by, a period of penny candies and a town shoemaker.  Lately, however, the Country Mart has undergone a middle-aged facelift causing some traditionalists to grimace.  But there’s no denying that the chic new stores (e.g. James Pearse, Intermix, Jenni Kayne) and new eateries (e.g. Farmshop and the Sweet Rose Ice Creamery) have brought the Country Mart into its new day.  Die-hards will never let anybody push out Reddi Chick though! At the other end of San Vicente Blvd. is a modern strip mall where Sugarfish (Sushi) is a huge draw. Right in the middle of the San Vicente shopping district, you’ll find Brentwood Gardens but don’t expect much greenery unless you’re shopping for an emerald!  Filled with high-end stores and chain-like restaurants, the chic crowds flock to shop there.

Brentwood Farmshop Dining Area

Brentwood Farmshop Dining Area

Between the Country Mart and the sidewalk shops on San Vicente Blvd. lies the venerable Brentwood Country Club whose manicured grounds face the boulevard, giving Brentwood’s flatlands a view of lux greenery. Along here, residents ride bikes, jog and walk from early morn through the dark of evening, often with dogs in tow. Such quiet suburban civility had previously led me to believe that Brentwood’s residences were all expensive condos and resplendent homes. As it turned out, when my niece moved to Los Angeles at 24 years old, her first rental apartment was in Brentwood and she loved it.  There is a vibrant section of rentals for the young and single, mostly southeast of the country club. However, my preconception was not far off the mark. The homes set above the club, and particularly north

Getty Center

Getty Center

of Sunset Boulevard are simply breathtaking! But the exteriors are only half of the story, which hopefully you’ll see if someone is kind enough to invite you inside!

However, no interior will take your breath away like the collection of art and antiquities living in splendor at the Getty Center.  And while all of Los Angeles would proudly claim this cultural mecca as its own, the zip code of the Getty Museum address, off of the 405 freeway is definitely 90049.  Only one neighborhood in Southern California has that zip code; yep it’s Brentwood!

WHO is in Brentwood?

When measuring the median age of its populace, Brentwood’s population seems to be more suburban than urban. This is a scary statistic (to me) based on the fact that it’s considered to have an “older” population because the average age is 35!  Yikes! As noted earlier, Brentwood had not developed its true potential for ethnic diversity as many Los Angeles neighborhoods have. The young singles of Brentwood have settled in the aforementioned apartments. But abundantly, Brentwood’s homes are filled with families who have room to grow. In fact, one of the reasons that the community is homogeneous is that parents who raise families in Brentwood stay there from the time that their children are babies until they’re long grown.  One friend has had her 20-something-year-old kids return after college to move back in!  Brentwood’s families, especially those in the single-family residences, represent a wide variety of industries, from the world of entertainment to businesses and professions of all kinds.

 

DINE AT THE TOP:

Divino
Katsuya
Tavern
Toscana
Vincenti Ristorante

DINE IN THE MID:

Amici Brentwood
Brentwood Bar and Grill
Farmshop
La Scala
Sugarfish

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Belwood Bakery
Chin Chin
Coral Tree Café
New York Bagel Co.
Sweet Rose Creamery

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

Bar Food
Bar Toscana
Brentwood Lounge
Q’s Billiard Club
(I searched high and low and could not find another bar in Brentwood – many nearby but not IN Brentwood!  Guess it’s the family vibe!)

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Brentwood Gardens
Brentwood Place Shopping Center
Brentwood Village
The Country Mart
San Vicente Blvd. shops

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Condos average $747,000

Single Family Residences average $2,345,000

A one-bedroom apartments average $2,540/month

Brentwood is a largely residential community with happy walkers. On a six-block stretch of San Vicente Boulevard, you can shop and dine to your heart’s content and find the conveniences of groceries, gas stations, doctors, dentists and pharmacies, all by leaving your car in one spot!  On Sundays at the sublime Brentwood Village Farmer’s Market, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for either Mark Peel or Arnold Schwarzenegger where both have been spotted!

About West Hollywood California

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is West Hollywood?

West Hollywood Overview

West Hollywood extends for a maximum distance of about 3 miles east to west and 1.25 miles to the north and south. It is surrounded on the north by the Hollywood Hills, on the east by the community of Hollywood, on the south by the Beverly-Wilshire district, and on the west by the City of Beverly Hills.  West Hollywood is midway between Downtown Los Angeles and the beach (perfectly situated if you’re both a city and beach lover!).  And we’ve all heard that there are only three things that matter in real estate: “location, location, location!”

WHAT characterizes West Hollywood?

WeHo is an eclectic and diverse city that was incorporated as a city in 1984.  Figure this math:  34,399 people living within 1.9 square miles = one small, densely populated, very popular city!  Its diversity is the probably the most appealing aspect of the city and may be WeHo’s single most significant characteristic. I’ve lived in West Hollywood for 18 years and love it as much today as I did when I first moved here. I left the great city of Philadelphia, mostly because the enclaves of neighborhoods were extremely homogeneous and proud of their insular nature.  I always sought a rainbow social life that was inclusive and colorful, young and old, as well as culturally and politically attuned.  For me, West Hollywood was that perfect fit.

Emser Building

Emser Building

To some of us, a cutting edge atmosphere is exciting.  West Hollywood’s energies toward cutting trends have always been balanced by its commitment to classic glamour.  Note its iconic edifices still pulling focus when you amble throughout WeHo. Sunset Boulevard’s section of European-style cafes amidst designer boutiques feel timeless while everything food-and-shop-related on Melrose Ave. feels counter to that.  Again, to live in WeHo probably means you’re just as comfortable traversing either area.

West Hollywood is home to fabulous (and I say that in three very long-winded syllables: faaa-byou-luss!) hotels.  The Chateau Marmont, high up on Sunset Boulevard is the quintessential

View from Chateau Marmot

View from Chateau Marmot

resting spot of the coolest-ever, including the happening-now and glories-past Hollywood stars. The boulevard also boasts the Art-Deco landmark building known currently as Sunset Tower which often plays host to Jennifer Aniston, David Bechham or J-Lo.  Newer trendier places, The Andaz, the Mondrian, the London or Sunset Marquis are less predictable in terms of crowd and celebrity but all ooze some industry “cool.”  When I brunch at any of the above, if nothing else, my eyes take in the hippest fashion, newest attitudes, and best tech devices!  Of all of the areas in Los Angeles, I get the largest percentage of “hot off the press” sightings of things and people in West Hollywood!

Gay Pride Parade

Gay Pride Parade

West Hollywood’s Hills may dominate many of your ideas of the views of WeHo.  As a resident, we admire the changed skyline provided by the architectural masterpiece, the Pacific Design Center sometimes referred to as The Blue Whale.  Visit the public spaces there and shop the design stores and galleries nearby on Melrose Ave., Beverly Blvd. or Robertson Blvd.  These mostly modern stores for home décor are like perusing contemporary art museums.  They serve as much for inspiration as they do for purchases by your Interior Designers.

West Hollywood Cafe PeopleAcross from the Pacific Design Center is the home of the brand new West Hollywood Library, adjacent to recently renovated West Hollywood Park.  Both make good stops as a tourist or resident. Once on that west side of San Vicente Blvd. heading toward Robertson and Doheny or north to WeHo’s western stretch of Santa Monica Blvd, you will find the area that is home to a large thriving gay community.  Restaurants, bars, music lounges and stores of all kinds abound on both Robertson and the S.M. Blvd.  It’s fair to say that whether you’re a tourist or you live here, it’s a must to spend part of an afternoon or evening at The Abbey, the legendary West Hollywood gay bar.  Once there, you will know (if you don’t) whether you’re gay or not, bi-curious or not, open-minded or not. Ultimately you’ll feel that it’s simply fun and has nothing to do with being gay or straight. The Abbey serves more than great Martinis; it provides enlightenment about people and living.

West Hollywood House of BluesOnto the very happening music scene!  Music venues such as the House of Blues, Whisky a Go Go, The Troubadour, The Roxy Theatre and Viper Room have something going on every night of the week and support the eclectic tastes of Los Angeles residents.  And once you’re feeling invigorated by the music scene, head onto the endless arrays of bars and nightclubs peppered throughout WeHo, on (mostly) Sunset, Santa Monica or Melrose, but not exclusively.  The list is so long and ever-changing that I’d do a few google or yelp searches prior to heading out to be updated.

When a city is densely populated, the options for living are extensive.  From high-rise living, to duplex life, to mid-rise condos, there are practically endless opportunities for finding what you’re looking for.  Old style (the average age of homes in West Hollywood is 40) and ultra modern to suit the tastes of many art-oriented residents, there is no shortage of real estate.  Houses abound on the slightly sloping streets of West Hollywood and as you move higher onto the steeper streets of the city, in the hills, prices and views go up higher.

WHO is in West Hollywood?

The stereotyped way for viewing West Hollywood has been related to its support of a thriving

Melrose

Melrose

LGBT community and has also been associated with the goings on of young Hollywood. From my point of view, the larger point is missed when looking at WeHo’s diversity.  The greater theme that applies to a truly mixed community, since I am neither gay nor “young Hollywood,” is that by its very nature, there is an underlying theme of acceptance. Oh sure, individuals have unique personalities and some will invariably be snarky and others may judge those who are different, but by and large, in West Hollywood, the consensus is “I’m okay, you’re okay!”  And there is a wide range of differences in people – corporate climbers (high income, high expenses), “makin’ it” singles (as in upper scale income), and foreign-born urbanites (multi-age immigrants with diverse languages and skills) – just to name a few. Here is one recent statistic that may be telling; 53% of the population is single while 27% is married, 13.6% opposite sex marriage. 7% include homes with kids. Another is that 13.6% are Russian speaking.  Approximately one third of West Hollywood’s population identifies as LGBT). Did I say diverse?!

(** Disclaimer – as with all of our “About” sections, it is nearly impossible to limit these lists to 5.  West Hollywood is the hardest to limit by far.  We will have links to more extensive lists of restaurants and shops! Coming soon.)

DINE AT THE TOP (dollar):

Boa
Eveleigh
Ink
Lucques
Nobu

DINE IN THE MID (range):

Boxwood Cafe
Comme Ca
Fig & Olive
Pace
Taste

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Hugo’s
Ink Sack
M Café
Pink’s Hot Dogs (had to, it’s an institution)
Tender Greens

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

The Abbey
Bar Lubitsch
Barney’s Beanery
The Belmont
and of course. . .
All along Sunset Strip

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Melrose Ave. (east of Fairax – hipster) and Melrose Ave. (west of Crescent Heights – high end)
Robertson Boulevard
Sunset Plaza
The Grove (unofficially West Hollywood)
W. Third St. (between La Cienega and Fairfax)

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Condos average:

Single Family Residences:

A one-bedroom apartment averages:

As I’ve ventured forth, it was often said to me after I shared with friends some outrageous story rife with coincidences and lucky stars, “Only Ilene!”  It made me feel unique and inspired me to experience more of the same.   In the same way, I often hear “Only in LA,” or more specifically “Only in West Hollywood!”  West Hollywood is a standout city overflowing with culture and creativity, the refined and the radical, the outrageous and the elegant.  Visit or live here and feel a part of it.  I do!

About Beverly Hills California

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Beverly Hills?

Beverly-Hills-Sign

Uniquely, Beverly Hills is entirely enclosed by the city of Los Angeles. Incorporated in the midst of Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills is a small regal city sitting within a mammoth one.  Santa Monica Boulevard bisects the city; on the south of which is the renowned area of stores and restaurants, above which are the residences and hills. It is located about 15 miles west of Downtown Los Angeles and 15 miles northeast of LAX airport.

WHAT characterizes Beverly Hills?

Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive

Once known as the playground to the glamorously rich and fabulously famous, Beverly Hills is still the home of some of California’s most opulent homes, hotels and personalities. Visitors have been flocking to the Hills to experience the allure of Hollywood since Hollywood moved west to Beverly Hills and beyond.  It is a city known for its world-class shopping, fine dining and, of course, star-gazing. Unlike the Grand Canyon with its natural wonders, I still wonder who’s at the foot of Coldwater Canyon inside the iconic and pink Beverly Hills Hotel. For decades, the hotel has played a discreet host to the then and now famous. While most of Los Angeles has evolved over the years, there is a sense of time standing still in much of Beverly Hills. Nothing characterizes the city as much as Rodeo Drive and every single day of the week, tourists flock to Via Rodeo for its European grace.  As pristine as 50 years ago, Rodeo Drive with its flagship

Bouchon Beverly Hills

Bouchon Beverly Hills

top-end stores and outdoor cafes is everything it looks like in the pictures, only better. And on days when I’m not quite dressed the part, I am easily reminded of Julia Roberts shopping there in “Pretty Woman.”  Rodeo Drive is one of the last of the great American shopping streets where shoppers might still be inclined to wear their finest street wear. You’ll never have a wallet-draining day if you just peer in Rodeo’s windows and watch the passersbys.  It’s a magical street 365 days a year!  Beverly Hills offers city living in the flats and private majestic living in the hills.  Just riding in those hills can increase my serotonin without any medication!

WHO is in Beverly Hills?

Beverly Hills HouseWhile the physical environs are much unchanged, can I resist saying how many faces have changed in Beverly Hills?!  The affluent residents find many of the world’s top plastic surgeons and dermatologists settled in between the stores and restaurants. Botox jokes aside, Beverly Hills has an array of magnificent homes scattered throughout the hills at varying altitudes, some with breathtaking views. Magnificent real estate, often secluded and set back from the street, attracts celebrities (e.g. Faith Hill/Tim McGraw, Albert Brooks, Mark Wahlberg, Taylor

Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive

Swift and Rod Stewart), chief executives and the internationally wealthy.  What is less known is how livable the flats are for the less well-to-do. In five miles of flats, the city houses middle to upper middle class residents who find apartment, condo and townhouse living well-located and convenient for all residential needs.  The flats attract the young and the very old, with some families sprinkled in between.

DINE AT THE TOP:

The Bazaar
Cut
Matsuhisa
Spago
Urasawa

DINE IN THE MID:

Barney’s Greengrass
BierBeisl
Il Pastaio
La Dolce Vita
Momed

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Brighton Coffee Shop
Il Tramezzino
Jack and Jill’s
Mulberry Street Pizza
Sprinkles (cupcakes only- but THE cupcake)

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

Bar Bouchon
Bar Nineteen 12
The Honor Bar
Nic’s
Vampire Lounge and Tasting Room

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

Barney’s
Neiman-Marcus
Nike
Rodeo Drive
Saks Fifth Ave.

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

Condos average $1,000,000

Single Family Residences average $2,000,000

A one-bedroom apartment averages $1600/month

Beverly Hills continues to be celebrated as a destination offering the finest hotels, indulgent pampering, world class luxury shopping and exceptional dining. And while I take a fair amount of displeasure in commuting from Hollywood to Santa Monica for weekday work, one of the daily highlights is driving through Beverly Hills.  Every day, Beverly Hills smiles, not smugly, inviting me (and you) to appreciate its elegance.

About Venice Beach California

Ilene Wendy Silk

West LA resident and expert/lover of Los Angeles!
http://www.thedblogger.com/

Latest posts by Ilene Wendy Silk (see all)

WHERE is Venice?

Venice-Map

Venice, CA, also known as Venice Beach is a 3.1 square mile beachfront neighborhood directly south of Santa Monica due west of Culver City. Driving from LAX, it is a simple ride north on Lincoln Blvd and west (as in left) on Venice Boulevard. Once there, you want to ask around to find two particular areas in Venice that represent the “then” and “now”. It goes without saying that you must visit the Venice Beach boardwalk (really a beach sidewalk–no, really a steroidal carnival!) and after your fill of beach tourism and street performers, head to the chic and trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the eponymous street named after the founder, developer and visionary of Venice, CA.

WHAT characterizes Venice?

Abbot-Kinney-Festival

Abbot Kinney Festival

Venice-Boardwalk2

Venice Boardwalk

Venice is known for its canals, funky artist colonies, contemporary restaurants, the eclectic shops and galleries on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, boutique hotels, and of course, its beaches.  And as if those attractions aren’t enough, Venice is home to the legendary “boardwalk” that is Southern California’s number one visitor attraction — a two-and-a-half mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors.  Stretching about one and a half miles along the sands by the ocean, the boardwalk is a large part of what makes Venice unique. You can see everything from break-dancing to broken-glass walking to mimes, musicians, jugglers and jesters. You can have your fortune read, get a temporary tattoo or have your name written on a grain of rice. As off-the-wall (literally) as that sounds, the boardwalk is also a market of arts, crafts, souvenirs, food and drink.  Recreationally, Venice boasts Venice Breakwater–a favorite local surf spot next to the famous outdoor basketball courts that served as inspiration for the 1992 film “White Men Can’t Jump,” alongside the $2-million Venice Beach Skatepark that opened in 2009, resonating the 1970’s Z-boys who revolutionized skateboarding.  And most famously (or infamously) is Muscle Beach, the outdoor weightlifting area known for showcasing oiled tans and hard bodies.

Venice-Canal

Venice Canals

In 1905, developer Abbot Kinney originally designed Venice to be America’s own version of Venice, Italy.  The canals originally covered the entire area between Abbot Kinney, Pacific Ave., and Venice Blvd and featured token gondola rides.  Between the forces of nature over the years and the changing needs of modern times, most of the canals have been closed, though several remain, while artists have covered the walls with murals amidst the streets. The color of Venice is alive and well in the canal district!

A California real estate agent explained that just as the city of Venice is anything but “cookie cutter”, the neighborhoods offer a diverse range of living options from “stately Craftsman homes built just after the turn of the century and little 1920’s California bungalows to avant-garde contemporary homes and loft-style residential studios.”  I simply love its affordability as an owner or a renter, though as I write that, its prices are going up!

To me, and according to GQ Magazine, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the “coolest” street in America, and this hip five-block zone grows cooler by day.  The vibrant scene of eclectic shops, creative galleries, contemporary restaurants, cafes, and bars all reflect the diversity of this 100-year-old artistic Venice neighborhood.  Every First Friday of the month shops stay open late featuring special events, live music, and refreshments.

WHO is in Venice?

Venice-Beach-RollerbladingLike all of Southern California’s beachfront neighborhoods, Venice attracts the outdoor enthusiast and fitness conscious.  Though less bizarre than its hyped stereotype, it would be true that from the athletes to the daredevils in Venice, CA, the humans who gravitate to Venice are by and large more offbeat, funky and daring than those directly north in Santa Monica! I think of my Venice friends as descendants of the “Beat” generation from the 50’s and 60’s.  Not all have the same mindset, but all connect to the notion of not conforming to a particular aspect of the “establishment.”  Many of my Venice friends have creative elements to their careers or hobbies.  One is an architect whose entire raison d’etre is to build with sustainable materials, his own house being the first complete model of his dream.  The energetic vibration in Venice is artistic – the perfect neighborhood for writers, painters, sculptors, film directors, and performers.

DINE AT THE TOP:

Ado
Gjelina
Piccolo
Salt Air
Tasting Kitchen

DINE IN THE MID:

Axe
Barnyard
Hama
Primitivo Wine Bistro
Superba Snack Bar

DINE ON A BUDGET:

Abbot’s Pizza
3 Square Café and Bakery
Café Gratitude
South End
Wurstkuche

DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:

The Brig
Hal’s Bar and Grill
High Rooftop Lounge
Larry’s
The Otheroom

SHOP TIL YOU DROP:

(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Abbot Kinney Boulevard (trendy indie boutiques)
The Boardwalk (vendors and shops)
Lincoln Boulevard (most commercial)
Rose Ave. (anchored by Whole Foods then extending to beach)

LIVE (and thrive) HERE:

• Condos average $1,000,000

• Single Family Residences average $1,800,00

• A one-bedroom apartment averages $1800/month

Venice has always been known as a gathering spot for the creative, artistic and offbeat; though art shows, little theater and lively nightspots appeal to mainstream Angelenos and tourists as well.  When I moved to Los Angeles and settled in West Hollywood, the areas to which I’d drive after a long day’s work kept narrowing, and I swore off the beach-y nightlife.  Now, Venice has become a magnet I can’t resist. Like GQ said, it’s the “coolest!”