I know I'm a little late here; but everything good in life is worth waiting for, right? Except ice cream - that we want NOW! Back on track - the final day of this trip was hands down my FAVORITE! I did several things - all of which had a unique flair- and I'm so excited to write about these, in hopes that you feel inspired to get out and explore more!
1) Greystone Mansion (Beverly Hills)
The first thing you should know is that I love to read travel guidebooks. Old school - like the ACTUAL books. I decided to consult some reading about L.A. a few weeks before my trip just to see what might turn up. I fully expected to already know of everything suggested...and then- Greystone Mansion. How I hadn't heard of it I will never know; but, my other local L.A. friends weren't familiar with it either, so there's that. I was hyped and excited to check it out.
Unlike most of the places I've shared so far, Greystone does not charge admission. Know what else? Parking is FREE. YES! And there is plenty of it! I went first thing Sunday morning in hopes of avoiding a wedding or one of the other many events they host on weekends. SUCCESS! It wasn't crowded at all and I was able to stroll the grounds leisurely. Since it's situated in the heart of Beverly Hills, the drive to the mansion is a great way to oooh and ahhh at the homes of this affluent area. Just like The Getty Villa, the views are stunning and the architecture is breathtaking, although the grounds are smaller and you won't need time for inside the mansion.
Along with the views, the mansion is in more films and television shows than any other in the entire state. AND, it has a lot of lore regarding hauntings and the purported murder-suicide of its former owner/resident Ned Doheny Jr. It's a fascinating series of events (more like tragic) that have never been fully understood. As I walked the grounds, I wondered at the lives of those who once lived here, the tragedy that they experienced, and how complicated life can sometimes be. Happy to report, no ghost sightings.
While the public is not allowed inside the mansion, the grounds are exquisite and there are plenty of passageways to discover, and stairways to explore. Possibly the most impressive site is the sweeping 180 degree view from the downtown Los Angeles skyline off in the distance to the smaller cluster of Beverly Hills buildings that pop up. It is magnificent and I definitely recommend carving out an hour or two for Greystone if you're in Los Angeles and especially if you are already in Beverly Hills.
2. Olvera Street (the heart of Los Angeles)
A good friend of mine, that lives to the south of Los Angeles county recommended Olvera Street to me several months ago and even though it was on my final day, it was a "must do" from the beginning. I'll go ahead and spoil it right now - it was my favorite of all the things I did on this trip. Weekends are busy and parking was a little crazy; but, I ended up in the pay lot across the street at Union Station, which was simple and no more expensive than street parking would have been.
Olvera Street is the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles - not far from Dodger Stadium - and is known as "the birthplace of Los Angeles." The centerpiece is El Pueblo Historic Park, which is a bustling Mexican market.
"El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is located near the site of the early Los Angeles pueblo, where 44 settlers of Native American, African and European heritage journeyed more than a thousand miles across the desert from present-day northern Mexico and established a farming community in September 1781." (Source: discoverlosangeles.com)
The market is vibrant and full of energy. Merchants will all kinds of goods line the market and the buildings indicate their age and history, plus many of the shop keepers descend from the original shop owners. There is no shortage of authentic food (stay tuned) and music is playing throughout the market. An absolute cultural delight! While I did not partake in a tour, it is my understanding that free, guided walking tours occur regularly throughout the day and are a great way to learn more about the long history of Olvera Street.
Along with the market, there are two pavillions. On this day, there was traditional Aztec drumming and dance in one, and in the other, more contemporary music playing over portable loud speakers with the general public dancing around.
I adored the market and came home with some huaraches (traditional Mexican sandals), a new leather purse, and a memory of the absolute best tacos I've had ever in my life. There are MANY food options from sit down or walk up, and cookies/pastries. I tend to like the more casual options and went with El Rancho Grande and was NOT disappointed. Pro-tip: ask your server for his/her favorite thing and get that. I ended up with 3 indescribably amazing chicken tacos with fried shells. Mouth watering!
Throughout Olvera and the surrounding streets, everyone was smiling and so friendly. It was such a special place. I can't believe I've never ventured over to this part of LA before and will definitely be back in the future.
The rest of the afternoon was a mix of quick hits, nothing terribly major; but full of so much fun. The line up looked like this:
Before freeing my car from its $16 parking spot, I stopped into this super cool, deco train station. Throughout Union Station, there are some merchant carts selling trinkets and other things, a couple restaurants and bars.
I grabbed a seat at the bar of Traxx and made a new friend with the bar tender, also named Kristin. Super cool chic - she and her boyfriend are recently new owners of the bar and the fine dining restaurant across the concourse.
They had just opened (as the new owners) and I loved hearing their vision for both places. I look forward to visiting again and seeing how the spot evolves. It has so much character and she is a truly gifted mixologist.
4. Fast & Furious filming sites (Echo Park)
Ok. This one is completely a guilty pleasure. I am an excessive fan of the entire Fast & Furious franchise, so I made a couple stops in Echo Park to see the famous Bob's Market that was used as "Torreto's" in the original film, as well as the Torreto house, which is just around the corner (literally) from Bob's in real life. Other than snapping a few pics (ok, and buying a couple souvenir keychains) there wasn't much else to do. Those 20 minutes of my life though? Priceless. #fangirl
Before leaving Echo Park, I did stop at Dinosaur Coffee for the most amazing elixir I've had in ever - Coconut Cacao Cold Brew. I'm not entirely sure HOW they make this magic juice; but, I've let my favorite local barista know and am hopeful he's going to track the recipe down. We had a conversation about it today and he had brilliant ideas of how it might have been made! Fingers crossed, because wanting this drink is distracting me all day!
Also, how can you not love a coffee shop whose logo is a stegasaurus. COME ON!
5. Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Hollywood)
This one was just a drive through for me. I took my time, taking photos mostly from my rental car. I did stop a few times to get out and walk through the ultra quiet buildings that are open. It's a really beautiful cemetery in the heart of Hollywood that is the final resting place for many greats, including Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. There were a good number of (living) people there, many of whom were clearly out for an afternoon stroll in a quiet, but beautiful setting.
The grounds are vast and unique with flair that only can be found in Hollywood. I've been so surprised by how many Adventure Alchemy clients love cemeteries, so this was a particularly interesting stop to make and it will absolutely end up on someone's itinerary in the future. Probably the most surprising site, was the sheer number of Jewish and Russian Orthodox graves. I looked up some info about this once I was home and learned that half of the entire cemetery is Jewish burials. In fact, it is "One of the oldest and most historic Jewish cemeteries in California." (Source: hollywoodforever.com). That made all the sense in the world to me after having been there!
To do this final place justice, you need to know that my single greatest fear in life is doing karaoke. I've never done it and I've decided this is the year I'll do it. Doesn't seem like a big deal, right? Except I went to college to be an opera singer and I sing almost every week in the band at church. It *should* be easy, but it scares the crap out of me.
6. The Gas Lite (Santa Monica)
I decided that doing my first, terrifying karaoke somewhere where I wouldn't have to see anyone again was a good decision. I asked my friend Google for a spot and hit the jackpot with the Gas Lite.
The website said 6pm, so I showed up at 6:15 thinking it would be on the empty side. I was right. I was the ONLY one. I made quick friends with the bar tender, and hung out for a while. She said karaoke would start around 8. UGH!
I was going to stick it out - but I was going to need food. I ordered a delicious, and gigantic meat lover pizza from Rock N Pies via Grub Hub. It didn't take long for that to arrive and WOAH! was it good. I shared my pizza with the bar tender and then decided I was tired, so I left. HAHAHAHAHA! I'll still get this karaoke thing done in 2020; but not that night.
(7) Really quick before I wrap up this trip. I did spend over an hour the next day working at Coffee Connection near LAX before my flight time. I would totally go back. It's a strangely large coffee shop, with couches, heaters in the courtyard, as well as private meeting space. The vibe is comfy and it seems set up for people that want to kill a few hours working in one place. Another great find in L.A.
And that's it, friends! It was a super busy and fun "work trip" and I saw a lot... in the name of research, of course. HA! I've got some more trips like this planned for places that are ENTIRELY new to me as well. I'm always looking to learn more and more about the places I may send clients. No itinerary is ever duplicated and I work really hard to ensure activities line up with the personality(ies) of the travelers. I also work very hard to plan trips out of firsthand experience and you will feel that difference in your trips.
Want to try a Mystery Trip? Just reply to this email and I'll get in touch with you! Thanks for reading and enjoying this trip along with me.