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An Alternative Tourist Day in Los Angeles (away from Mickey)

Posted in Style & Travel

The rules for staying  at my house are:

  1. you have to rent a car
  2. you have to eat whatever I make for dinner without complaining
  3. you cannot force me to go to Disneyland or Universal Studios with you. Not now, not ever and
  4. you must get along with dogs

Other than that, all are welcome. Family, friends and friends of friends. The dogs love having guests too and the rest of my family usually embraces the visitors with a mixture of grace and non-commitment.

Since I moved to Los Angeles 18 years ago, my various abodes have welcomed their share of people looking for a place to stay when just passing by or taking a vacation. And I truly enjoy having visitors provided I am not expected to be a tour guide, unless I am in the mood for it.  I will counsel you against going to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Universal City Walk but I understand if you just have to do it (and then you will tell me how much you hated it).

What I enjoy most, besides having my family and friends under my roof for short snippets of time, is indeed seeing my city through their eyes. Different nationalities are invariably attracted to different experiences and shopping destinations (Italians love Beverly Hills, the beaches and still look for Timberland shoes. Everybody loves Santa Monica).

Sofaboy just left after a week here, his first time in LA if not his first in the States. Depending on my visitors’ inclinations, I love to join them in doing something I might have never done/seen before. Here are a few things  we did together, for veterans to Los Angeles or tourists who want something a little bit different and can’t stand the thought of spending an entire day with Mickey Mouse and screaming children.


The entrance to the California Science Center

Much has been said and done about the Space Shuttle Endeavor arriving to its final destination in Los Angeles. I was in the camp of those who couldn’t care less but it might be because I didn’t grow up here and the Space Program has no intrinsic meaning to me. Still, because sofaboy and I share a passion for all things Egyptian (and  English history, with a special penchant for the Tudor period), I got us tickets to Cleopatra,

One of the Cleopatra artifacts

an exhibition currently on view at the California Science Center, focussing on the underwater excavations of Alexandria. If you have been to Egypt, to the British Museum or any other Museum with a good Egyptology Department, I would skip this particular offering, that will be travelling to Milwaukee in January.

What did catch my eye, though, were the Apollo and Gemini capsules, amongst other space and flying artifacts, that can be seen up close. I was awed and horrified by the tiny spaces and analogue command dashboards that looked so antiquated. Did someone really sit there for three days? Did these things really make it to the moon? And, if you are an Endeavor fan, the Shuttle is now on view.


Mural inside the Centrl Library

I have known about this organizations for years but never took advantage of it because I always worked on Saturdays, the  only day they offer tours. The LA Conservancy was borne out of a need to save historical buildings and, as part of their educational outreach and fund-raising, lovely and knowledgeable docents conduct tours of various parts of the city. We opted for the basic Historic Downtown and, just before 10 on a Saturday morning, we showed up at our meeting point in Pershing Square (reservations are suggested but “crashers” are usually welcome). For the paltry sum of $10, you will be treated to a 2 1/2 hours walking tour of buildings you might have passed by and never entered, not to mention fascinating historical facts. Yes, LA has a very interesting history and did not start with the movies. This is now my favourite Saturday activity, maybe followed by brunch at Bottega Louie or the Central Market.

Check out their offerings here. I am told the Angelino Heights tour of original Victorian homes is fantastic (and definitely off the beaten path).


The meat “avoider” in me feels funny recommending a BBQ place but sofaboy really wanted to try it as itwas mentioned in various food blogs of repute. So off we went. They have two locations – one in Venice and one in Hollywood, the one we opted for. The ambiance is charming in that old and messy but trendy way of many old school LA eateries (this has been around since 2004 only). Definitely a fun place to take out of towners to or  to join the bold and the beautiful on week-ends. I am told their BBQ is really excellent. I can only testify to a shrimp Po’ Boy with shrimp that were perfectly blackened and spiced, if a bit meager – a po’ boy is supposed to be messy but, even with coleslaw, remoulade and the many sauces to choose from on the table, nothing dribbled down my chin (the XXX or porno hot sauce is way hotter than you can imagine). The buttermilk mashed potatoes were horribly dry. Sofaboy did enjoy his brisket sandwich, way fuller of chopped brisket than my sandwich was. All in all, a good find for the meat-eater in you.

Sitting on the table at Baby Blues


I am a new convert to the metro, which we took for our jaunt to the CSC. I love it. You park your car at many of their stations, you buy a card that can be recharged anytime (a ride is $1.50) and you can explore the whole of downtown without worrying about the 10 or the 110 and their traffic patterns. Check out routes and schedules here.

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  1. […] first noticed this Botanica on  a walking tour of downtown LA a couple of months ago, as it sits across from the Bradbury Building and right next to Grand […]

    January 22, 2013
  2. Nice! I live in LA too and everytime someone comes to visit I always blank out on suggestions, other than the usual tourist must sees.

    November 7, 2012
    • I know! How many times have we practiced the evil glare to get people to stand up and leave???

      November 6, 2012
      • Thank you. I sort of read it as explaining good karma for the more self-absorbed out there

        November 9, 2012
  3. silvia

    LA Conservancy would definetely be my first choice for next time – so get ready my dear! Last time we were there we kind lost ourselves walking around with no precise destination and were lucky enough to step into that wonderful building as shown in your first picture. We didn’t have a guide but everywhere was mentioned the fact that that place was chosen as one of the locations to shoot Blade Runner. We were very impressed by its deco architecture and would love to visit it again, especially with someone who could tell us more about it.

    November 6, 2012
    • The house is always open and you are a veteran of the rules

      November 6, 2012
    • Just know there will be a Campari waiting..

      November 6, 2012
      • I might take you up on that 🙂
        Even though Campari as a drink is not really my thing (too bitter).

        November 6, 2012

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