4 July 2015

The City of Angels, guitars, beach sidewalks and Santa Monica Pier

Los Angeles, the city of angels, thrums with grit, glitz and glamour. Infamous for the celebrities who flock towards the fame-inducing hills (and a magnet for wanna-be actors determined to fill in the hours between waitressing jobs, or so I'm told), we found the streets hummed with music.

Not the tribal sounds of hand drums, the energy of flamenco guitars or dreamy European accordians on a cobbled lane, but a raw rock sound that tantalized my better half and I along the long, long boulevards. Our 3 days of unexpected stop over in LA was surprisingly full of tune.

Santa Monica Pier sunset


We started as all good holidays do, fresh from a jet-lag recovery sleep by wandering along the eastern end of the Sunset Strip lost before turning to our smartphones to fill our grumbling bellies (google 1, guidebook 0). Appetites sated in proper rockstar style, we discovered we were perhaps two blocks from the Guitar Center, an international mecca for the strummety-strum brigade aka Mr Kiwi Heaven.

Los Angeles brunch The Guitar Center

(Now, here's a case in point of differing travel personalities; I had a good idea of what I wanted to see and how to get there. He had a secret dream of visiting two or three different places and never mentioned it until I discovered them in the guidebook and knowing he might be interested suggested we visit thus revealing his keenness... why oh why!? I must have said a dozen times 'what do you want to do?' "oh, you know, whatever")

First you walk over their own walk of fame; the handprints and signatures of music gods imprinted over the entranctrance blocks, it is a fascinating corner of the Sunset strip itself.  A temple to smooth-stringed mistresses, the store is a monolith of 4 floors+ hung with every kind of guitar you can imagine and try to strategise fitting into your suitcase. As a non-guitar player (though guitars and I had a brief dalliance in my teenage years) it was utterly fascinating. The rock memorabilia, captivated strumming in corners and beautiful instruments were quite something.

The Guitar Center wall of fame

Peeling him from this mecca, we popped on a bus out of town and segued beautifully from Iron Maiden sidewalks, to the 90s beach pop of Sheryl Crow. It just makes you want to jump up and dance like a hipster, all cool like.

Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard...


For so many of my teenage years I heard so many bands write song mentioning Santa Monica. About a half hour drive from Hollywood and fifteen minutes from Rodeo Drive, it's a cool beach community where the sun shines and skaters drift along the boardwalks.

Without a single cloud in the sky, a soft breeze and perfect temperatures of 25°C we meandered through the town to the beachfront pier. Shoes full of sand, we walked the length of Santa Monica pier from one live band tucked in a nook, to the next, listening to them jam. We heard covers of The Beatles, acoustic versions of Led Zeppelin anthems and love songs.

Santa Monica beach

Santa Monica beach

We seized an excuse to try a Bear Claw, an almond pastry under the palm trees...

Santa Monica beach

 ...and a couple of cocktails (my favourite a surprising Strawberry Basil concoction) in a badly serviced hotel bar which we swiftly vacated...

Santa Monica beach
...to wander some more along the West Coast shoreline until our appetities reared again, letting ourselves be guided by online reviews to a foodtruck specializing in Korean BBQ.

Out last item on the agenda for the day was sunset. We wanted to watch the sun sink into the ocean horizon, alas due to the time of year it hid behind a range of hills, but it was beautiful nonetheless. (Another thing on Mr Kiwi's secret bucket list.)

LA Day One was sadly complete.

Santa Monica beach


See, travel personalities are absolutely a thing. I can't not research because of a sense of FOMO - what happens if you never return? - whereas my husband will happily just wander into discoveries only to get home and be disappointed at the things we missed.

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