Lay of the Land
“California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.”~Joan Didion
The de facto center of Los Angeles is Downtown, site of the city’s founding, where many of the must-see cultural venues are located, including Frank Gehry’s dazzling Walt Disney Concert Hall, which the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra calls home. To the west sits Beverly Hills with its so-called golden triangle of shops and hotels, the wealthy residential enclaves of Bel-Air, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades and ocean towns like Venice and Santa Monica, with their strollable shopping and dining streets.
About halfway between downtown and the Pacific Ocean is Hollywood, with its world-famous Walk of Fame, where 2,000-plus celebrity-designated stars are embedded in the sidewalk along several blocks of the otherwise horribly tacky Hollywood Boulevard. A few miles south, the Miracle Mile district encompasses the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the original Farmers Market and the gracious homes of Hancock Park. West Hollywood, dominated by hotels and the vast blue-and-green-glass Cesar Pelli–designed Pacific Design Center (strictly for the design trade), is home to some of the finest restaurants and shops in the city, along Robertson Boulevard, Third Street, Melrose Avenue and the divine Melrose Place.
Except for the small municipality of Beverly Hills, downtown LA, West Third Street, Miracle Mile, Venice and Santa Monica, Los Angeles is not a walking city, and it’s a pitiful fact of life here that public transportation doesn’t get you very far. What’s more, taxis are few and far between. So you might as well do as the locals do and drive a Prius or a fancy European import. With traffic congestion now (and forever) at a crisis point, it’s best to drive only between peak traffic hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., return to your hotel and work out, like Angelenos do, then head out for the evening after 7 p.m.