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Los Angeles

LA: palm trees, glorious sunshine, deep blue skies, beautiful people, lifestyles of the rich, all served with a perfect white smile and a dose of American cheeriness; what is there not to like?

I have visited LA twice now, the first time I didn’t get it. I put it down to the fact I was 17 and on a family holiday, parents and lack of alcohol/freedom must have been cramping my style. Over a decade later, however, I still don’t get it. I just visited and came away with the distinct feeling that I was missing something. Missing the essence of the city, missing the party, missing the vibe. I was so perplexed by LA, I started to ask people what they thought. It would seem I’m not on my own; many people think LA is a bit of a strange city.

Don’t get me wrong; LA is a great place to visit, it’s just very different from, say, New York or New Orleans. For starters it’s a ‘driving city’ spread out, sprawling connected by highways most locals have a car to get around. It wasn’t always this way, in the past the city was serviced by trams (the wide streets are the legacy of a by-gone age). As a consequence, one can only assume that the shift to people being so reliant on cars, has had a knock on effect on the whole nature of the city. Especially in terms of nightlife, it seems a little subdued. You can get around the city itself without a car, the subway system works well, although it’s not as frequent as I would personally like.

In terms of what to do, the Hollywood strip is of course a must, the camaraderie the bright lights, and the iconic stars are all certainly worth a look. And you can either hike or drive up to the famed sign to get a good look at the whole city. The surrounding mountains are quite beautiful and you can spend an hour or so checking out the Griffith observatory (it’s great, and free).

For the health conscious, or if you just fancy living like a local for a few hours, a fun thing to do is to take a yoga class in a fancy studio. It hurts, but is really enjoyable. Follow this by visiting Cafe Gratitude one of the most famous vegan spots in the city. The food is really delicious – if I could cook like that, I would become vegan in a heartbeat.

As for the food in general, it’s such a diverse city, so expect high quality cuisine everywhere. I would recommend Thai town for very authentic Thai dishes and also Korea town, for exactly the same reason. Chicken and waffles, one of America’s strangest dishes are a LA creation, and if you fancy giving yourself a premature heart-attack try a cronut. A delicious combination of doughnut and croissant topped with bacon.... only in the USA.

I still don’t ‘get’ LA, maybe because I’m not into the perceived Hollywood lifestyle, or maybe because the city is just too spread out for my personal tastes. I will visit again in another ten years to see if I can find what I think I’m missing.