Los Angeles: The city of many secrets

By Alison Godfrey

Alison Godfrey peeks under Los Angeles' grimy facade and finds charm in the most unexpected places.
Los Angeles at night.
Los Angeles at night.

Ever wondered why some people can't get enough of Los Angeles while others think the city of angels is the work of the devil?

If you really hated Los Angeles, you probably weren't doing it right. LA is a city of secrets. The people who love LA, the ones who really gush about it are the ones who have cracked the city's grimy veneer and found the diamonds underneath.

LA is not what you see on the outside. A big red bus tour won't show you this city's soul; it will show you doors that aren't open.

LA's charm is unexpected and concealed. It's like Dr Who's tardis. You really have no idea what's behind those doors until they open for you.

It's a city full of the famous, fabulous and wealthy - people who are on show all the time and who really value their privacy.

That's why LA likes to keep so much hidden from view.

Back entrances, clubs you enter from the basement valet, and Uber cars with tinted windows are all part of LA's charm. So what looks to be just a carpark or a normal street door actually hides a restaurant so good that the food will leave you speechless.

Take Bestia for example. This rustic Italian restaurant in Downtown LA won the LA Times people's choice award last year.

On the inside this building is industrial chic with chandeliers hung on meat hooks, bare shipping-container walls and glamorous lighting. When it comes to the food, chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis create pasta so fresh and soft it would make Jamie Oliver weep.

The restaurant is so popular you need to book months in advance, which is possible if you're planning a trip there.

But from the outside there is no way any tourist would ever walk past Bestia and think "that looks good, let's give it a try". The entrance is in a carpark with valet. There are no amazing views, just amazing food.

Instead of taking the celebrity bus tour and viewing celebrities as you would zoo animals, walk among the celebs and experience what they like to do. Photo / iStock
Instead of taking the celebrity bus tour and viewing celebrities as you would zoo animals, walk among the celebs and experience what they like to do. Photo / iStock


The same can be said of E.P. & L.P. This incredible West Hollywood bar and restaurant looks like any other door from the outside. But take the lift up to the rooftop bar (L.P.) and the sunset over the hills will take your breath away.

Downstairs the restaurant (E.P.) turns away almost 500 people every weekend. Food is created by chef Louis Tikaram, formerly head chef at Sydney's Longrain and Australian Young Chef of the Year in 2014.

That's not to say LA celebrity life is exclusive and out of bounds. It's just that the city makes you work harder to get to know it. Instead of taking the celebrity bus tour and viewing celebrities as you would zoo animals, walk among the celebs and experience what they like to do.

Fork out the $53 for a Soul Cycle class in West Hollywood. Not only will the combination of spin cycling and dance moves make you sweat and pump up your ego, you're just as likely to see celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens, Lady Gaga, Alessandra Ambrosio and Selena Gomez sweating alongside you.

Have brunch (in the US that comes with alcohol) at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills. You can book a table, and who knows, you may be seated next to Kim Kardashian, a regular visitor.

Do your shopping at the Grove, where spotting celebrities is a daily occurrence. And the best part of that experience for Kiwis is that Verve, in the Farmer's Market, does amazing coffee, which will make you feel right at home in this crazy city.

Walk along Melrose Ave in West Hollywood and you will find incredible art painted on the sides of carparks and shop walls.

On any given day, you will find tourists and locals alike using the walls as a background for Instagram photos. The walls have also been used in music videos and fashion shoots.

Justin Bieber's cover art for his new album was shot at the Retna wall on Melrose Ave.

So if you really hate LA, remember that this city is not what it seems. Try living it the way the celebs do. Then you too may just fall in love.

Checklist

GETTING THERE
American Airlines flies from Auckland to Los Angeles from June 23. Return Economy fares start from $1178.97.
aa.com

ONLINE
visitcalifornia.com
visittheusa.com.

- AAP

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