Greetings!

It was our last day in LA so we thought we’d see it off in style… from the sky!

Orbic Air is a helicopter tour company running out of Van Nuys airport – one of the biggest airports for private aircraft in the states so you may even catch a glimpse of a celeb stumbling out of a fictional “G6″ clutching a bottle of Don P. dregs πŸ˜‰ There is a wide range of tours to suit any budgets and interests with selected scenic spots like the Getty Museum or LA Live arenas or you can go all out with an “ultimate” tour which covers all the major highlights. There are also dinner packages which include meal vouchers at the luxury restaurants in and around the airport. That said, there was really only one thing we wanted to see and that was what makes LA, LA…. Hollywood!

The process is very straight forward. After arriving, you get to wait in very nice waiting room before a short brief then a golf buggy ride out to the runway. Our pilot was very friendly and explained everything clearly and simply.

Los Angeles - its flat

LA Freeways

LA Valley college

The tour obviously focused mostly on Hollywood however you could easily see the downtown area and further. It begins with a view of some of the many snaking freeways that spaghetti the LA landscape. As the pilot said, if only he could take the helicopter home to avoid that infamous LA traffic! Universal studio city was next which looked like a permanent circus from above if it wasn’t for the War of the Worlds jumbo jet wreck and drive in movie screen sized blue screens.

Universal City

Universal City back lot + War of the Worlds plane crash

Next is the iconic Hollywood sign, you thought it was pretty cool looking up at it from Canyon Lake road? Its nothing compared to looking at it front on from about 50 metres away.

The postcard at the start of this entry was taken @30mm on FF, yep, THAT close!

Hollywood Blvd, downtown LA in the distance

Hollywood walk of fame, Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood and Highland

It was cool to fly over the main tourist spot of Hollywood Blvd and be able to pick buildings that we had visited earlier. Being the focus of the tour, you get a nice slow circle of this area before heading over to Beverly Park (Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Hollywood hills are also covered) where hundreds of the most famous and disgustingly rich celebs are out admiring their gold plated shark tanks or are building a guest house for their guest house or simply tearing down the original house and building a new one – I’d probably do the same if it was previously occupied by one of the Kardashians.

Beverly Park

Beverly Park

Beverly Park

Overall it was an amazing experience (more so if you’ve never flown in a helicopter before) made even better by the very friendly and professional staff. Special thanks to Merlinda for making the booking and admin process a breeze.

If you’re reading this Merlinda, hoping you kept that (modest) tip for yourself! We all know those pilots already get paid too much πŸ˜‰

Photo tip: if you’re quick on the lens changes, take a long lens to pick off sites on the horizon. Generally I would recommend a wide to mid-range zoom to capture the vastness as well as zooming in on some of the luxury homes, cool movie back lots and landmarks.

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

The stores covered in this section are the ones that are just that little bit further away from the “hot spots” and require a dedicated visit. This is where a car really comes in handy. Not only do you have a mobile porter with REALLY big arms but you also don’t have to worry about timing/finding transport. So of course it would be silly not to take advantage of it.

These will be covered in their respective ball park regions.

-Hollywood-

California Surplus mart

California Surplus Mart – one of the biggest and most comprehensive online stores for work wear (Dickies, Carhartt etc) and army surplus. Unfortunately the retail store does not do it justice, only carrying the “popular” colours and styles. Sizes were sporadic at best and the range sadly lacking. Still the biggest in the central area but not what I expected. Prices are average, if not a little high compared to department stores and the downtown area.

Undefeated LaBrea

Undefeated La Brea – the store from that ep of Entourage at the barren concrete end of La Brea. Not a bad range of stock, definitely the most lush looking out of the three in LA. Friendly and helpful staff, fascinated about how colourful (and durable) Aussie currency is πŸ˜‰

And Still – clothing store right next door to Undftd. Big range of team apparel and vintage styled sports apparel. Lots of Starter gear. Larger double store with locker room inspired decor.

Off Broadway Shoes

Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse – At the Santa Monica end of Sunset Blvd, OBSW can not be missed, a huge two story warehouse style building with only one level. This one is definitely for the girls with 2/3’s of the massive range falling in to the “girlie” strappy, slippy, boot-y, healy, slutty (!) range of woman’s footwear. They also have a large selection of sneakers for guys and girls but all in the active wear vein from staples like Nike, New Balance, Puma, Asics, but don’t expect anything very “fashionable” for these. The guys also get a big selection of work boots and hiking wear from Caterpillar, Mack, Timberland, Merrell, Northface etc. Even though the “talent” isn’t the best, the prices are more than reasonable with true clearance pricing of discounts on top of discounts. A perfect place to stop when you realise the mistake of wearing Chucks or Shelltoes as travel shoes πŸ˜‰

Hollywood and Highland

Hollywood and Highland – They were asleep at the wheel when they named this shopping complex, being the cross streets the building sits on but most people would know it as the building with the big elephants on the roof. Planted right in the middle of tourist heaven(or hell to some) it stands grand with its Egyptian theme. Conversely, the shopping center itself is quite small, consisting of the usual combination of high end and regular souvenir stores. There is a Sanrio store but like most, only stocks the Hello Kitty range. On the plus side you can pick up a Hollywood x HK exclusive with the kitty sandwiched in a movie scene marker ^__^

This is also a good viewing spot if there’s a premier (Pirates of the Carribean – On Strange Tides while we were there) at the El Capitan theater across the street. Take some binoculars for some celebrity spotting.
H & H also has a wide range of eateries and restaurants. Our recommendation for a quick and healthy bite is the Mongolian BBQ place tucked in the back corner. Pick your own ingredients and the chef fries it up. Reasonably priced as well.

The Church of Scientology is just down the road too if you’ve sinned and need to say a couple hail Tom Cruise’s.

Church of Scientology

-Beverly Hills-

Niketown Beverly Hills

I know a lot of people would die to shop on Rodeo, but realistically the best most could muster is window shopping and attracting glances that suggest you either just threw up on yourself or “you’re wearing THAT???”. Suffice to say, the majority held very little interest for us other than the Nike flagship store. Being The ‘Hills it had more focus on the active wear side of things (LEFT!! LEFT!!! – re: Spanglish), personally I preferred the Santa Monica store. One of the reasons you’d come here is for the dedicated store tee’s “Nike – Beverly Hills” though you will need a large amount of finger snapping to help pull that one off. Which I no doubt would struggle with and hence respectfully declined the purchase.

-West LA-

Giant Robot 1

Giant Robot 2

Giant Robot 1 and 2 – Yep, there’s two stores with in about 100m of each other. Thankfully the same stuff isn’t rehashed over both stores, #1 has more of the stuff you’d expect from a vinyl collectible store. Blind boxes, collectible figures, cute plushes, anime/Threadless inspired tees and a small selection of related books. #2 has a slightly more grown up feel about it with a large range of books and clothing in a more vintage style rather than cutesy. They also have some house wares like retro patterned travel mugs. Definitely worth a stop in if you’re out Santa Monica way.

Blackmarket LA

Blackmarket LA – No, not the legendary UK DnB DJ, it’s a store in a similar vein to the GR’s and is next door to GR1. A double lot store which has a clothing side with lesson known brands but more than likely rating high on hipsters’ wish lists. They also have a limited range of shoes and accessories. In the second room there’s a wide variety of kitschy knick knacks, Asian style ornaments, a small selection of Kidrobot vinyls and some Lego keyrings and clocks which we didn’t see anywhere else. Prices are a little high on some items, easily notable on the KR merchandise being $1-2 more on top of the usual retail price.

-East LA-

Citadel Outlets

Citadel Outlet Mall – very much in the same vein as Harbour Town on the Gold Coast – a large outdoor mall with outlet stores from major brands. It is also the home to the worlds biggest Nike outlet store with a floor dedicated to each sex (kids stuff is upstairs with the women’s wear). Once you’re off the Santa Ana freeway on Telegraph road its pretty hard to miss the row of giant LED signs topped with Sphinx like statues. Inside, its all your fave stores but in discount form – Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Puma, Journeys, DC Shoe, Converse, Skechers, Vans, Volcom, Under Armor, Quicksilver, Billabong. Prices range from “ok” to “crazy fire sale clear out!” but like any outlet stores its more about being there at the right time when the stock is there…. and in your size!
Also take a moment to visit the rest rooms, strange request but you’ll thank me, easily the most lush ones I’ve seen at any strip mall!

Nike Outlet - Citadel Outlets


-Silverlake-

Undefeated Silverlake

Undefeated Silverlake – This is the largest of the 3 LA stores. Wider range of colours and styles. Clothing is on actual hangers instead of being folded up, much better for customer friendly browsing.

Secret HQ LA

Secret Headquarters – couple doors down is this comic and graphic novel specialist and right next door is Vacation Records – for your rock music on vinyl, you know, those big black plastic round things.

Wacko - Soap Plant

Wacko / Soap plant – This is one of those places that you’re so glad that you made the effort to pop out to. I know it’s a pretty big call but I would have to say it is THE best toy store in LA for variety and quantity when it comes to collectibles. The store is huge compared to your regular niche vinyl toys and collectibles store and swaps snooty arrogance for down to earth friendliness. From the outside the building is eye catching with “hippy” style colours and art work yet rather unassuming along Hollywood Blvd’s other randomly coloured buildings. The company itself has a rich and long history in LA dating back to the 70s (see website).
You might feel a bit uncertain walking in and seeing rows and rows of books but don’t doze off just yet, these are the sort of books that are conversation starters and should adorn everyone’s coffee tables. They’ve got it covered from pop culture and low brow to fine art, to technical and historic books, they even have the Big Book of Breasts…in 3D! You’d seriously need a bigger house to fit in all the Win!
As you make your way to the back there are sections of plush toys and household and stationary items which then blend into movie and TV merch, clothing and then a back area with “the good stuff”. Blind boxes galore, many older series and series you’ve never heard of before like CI Boys work, the only place I saw these in LA. They now join their other buddies from the same series I nabbed in Japan πŸ˜‰
Plenty of older models or out of run items next to rarities like the So So Def afro man, this and a lot more on top of our big purchases would have found a new home if we weren’t already shipping 3x 10kg boxes back home! The list goes on with wind up toys, vintage style pop culture items and a general assortment of “oh COOL!” knick knacks. My only disappointment is not being about to “have all the cats” ;p

All items are reasonably priced for their value and the staff are friendly and helpful. The website has a few items but doesn’t do it justice.

-Van Nuys-

Big Kid Collectibles

Big Kid Collectibles – Definitely out of the way unless you’re going to the Van Nuys airport, but if you are, its worth a look in, especially if you’re over 45. I know what you’re thinking, its all penny whistles and moon pies, not so, but you’re along the right lines. A vintage lounge complete with clear plastic covering only adds to this.
They boast an extensive range or original and replica vintage items, brand/sporting memorabilia and lollies/candy – how some of these are still being made (or are actually edible) I don’t know! They even have original Dr. Pepper glass bottles!
Preowned items adorn a lot of the cabinets (original Smurf and Winnie the Pooh figures are in there too) along side classic faves like Etcha Sketchs. There is also a clearance table, not quite 1950s prices though πŸ˜‰
Staff are friendly and only too happy to have a nostalgic yarn.

Up next we close out our epic stay in Lala land by taking sight seeing to a whole new high πŸ˜‰

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

If you have even a passing interest in cars then this stop should be mandatory on your LA itinerary. A large two level building covers not only the history of motor cars but also an extensive range of modern super cars, hot rods, movie props, motorcycles and even a Hot Wheels toy section!

1921 Model T Ford

The lower level starts of with the forefather of motoring, the Model T Ford and the earliest Cadillacs evolving to the first race car complete with era specific dioramas. Strangely, possibly due to space restrictions, a very Vegas neon lit section displays a 24ct gold coated Delorian and 1994 model Bugatti GT.

Gold plated De Lorean

1994 Bugatti GT

Also speckled through out the displays are era related details, including the evolution of the petrol bowsers/fuel pumps, corner store and workshop garages.

Era replica petrol/gas station

Petrol bowser/Gas pump evolution

Era replica Chevrolet showroom

"Elvis II" and "The Egyptian"

The pinnacle of race engineering, the Indy car 625+hp V8 engine and car, and the future of cars and car designing round off the lower level.

2007 Indy car V8 engine

Car designs of the future

Paintings and photos adorn the escalators to the top floor we’re you’re hit with another vegas style set up this time from the one and only Speed Racer. Shown here in MK5 form it was one of the props used in the live action movie.

Speed Racer MK5

Other show stoppers include, the 90’s Batmobile – looking more like a top fueler up close than a “toy” with is Mickey Thompson slicks and all business cockpit; Green Hornet‘s Chrysler Imperial; THE General Lee from Duke’s of Hazzard complete with “authentic” front end – one of hundreds destroyed in the TV series; Magnum PI‘s Ferrari – warning! Standing too close will cause an unwilling desire for Hawaiian shirts and moustache rides; everbody’s favourite bug, Herbie – in Nascar mode, found in the days when Lindsey wasn’t a complete trashbag, and finally they even have Professor Fate‘s…err… six wheeler “car” from “The Great Race” movie.

90's Batmobile

Dukes of Hazzard - General Lee

After a terrible segue of the history of alternative fuels, hello steam powered cars and the very first hybrid (it seems the smugness was prevalent even back then), the floor opens up to every teenage boys wildest dreams (before the internet). There’s no messing about with the first car being the seminal Bugatti Veyron, then a Maserati MC12 and Mercedes CLK GTR. Germans and Italians go at it like Ford and Holden (only with more style and character) with their dream teams, Porsche 959, Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari F40 and F50 Spider.

Bugatti Veyron

Porsche 959 and Lamborghini Countach

Ferrari F40 and F50 Spider

Grease Lighting” sits by its lonesome, probably in shame for looking so hideous. Unsoiled by the abomination outside, the hot rod section its all chopped, dropped and blown with more custom jobs and glitter paint than a Hollywood A list party.

Grease Lightning

Hot rod - Peterson Museum

Hot rod - Peterson Museum

Hot rod - Peterson Museum

Further along, needless to say the Hot Wheels exhibit was a personal favourite. Easy over a thousand different models on display along with the very first incarnations and processes on design and construction, some of which making its way into the full size productions.

Hot Wheels exhibit

Hot Wheels exhibit

The top level is rounded out with a look at competition drag racing, top fuelers and dragsters and a small exhibit of about 15 motorcycles for those organ donor types.

Drag car simulator

If you didn’t drive, take a quick pop out to the parking garage for a few bonus vehicles. One being some kind of rocket car. Everyone loves rocket cars!

Skeleton Bike

Afterwards, check out the extensive range of merch and a crazy skeleton motorcycle in the gift shop. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, or are craving the classic American diner experience then a stop in to Johnny Rockets is a must. Service is fast and friendly, meals are reasonably priced and thankfully not overly clichΓ©d covered in grease and you get a smiley face in ketchup! Enough to put a smile on any petrolhead’s dial (:

Johnny Rockets LA

Travel tip: Check the opening times! Allow approx. 2 hours for a relaxed look, more if you want to read all the plaques and info snippets. Also keep an eye out for free parking or discounts paired with Johnny Rockets.

Photo tip: Wide angle and high ISO is the way to go. Wide angle lens to fit in full shots of cars, especially if there’s a few people about and high ISO for the usual dimly lit exhibits. Most are manageable but there are some sections that are a bit darker.

Next up we wind down LA by hitting the ‘burbs for one last shop.

Complete Peterson Automotive museum photos here

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

Hollywood sign

Even though you’ve probably already caught many glimpses of the sign from around town (and destroyed in countless movies), there’s nothing quite the same as seeing it up close and personal. There are plenty of places recommended on the net but nothing gets you closer than Canyon Lake road (There is no (legal) physical access beyond this). The road is easy enough to find on a map or via GPS. A slow drive through winding residential roads, you will come across a clearing on your left with plenty of place to park but go a bit further up where the road ends and it becomes a little one way street to get that little bit closer. This is a no parking area so you will have to park elsewhere and walk. Remember this is a residential area so show some respect and don’t go parking in/across driveways, unless of course you “live there”.

Photo tip: If you have a 200mm+ lens handy, you’ll fill the frame with the sign nicely. If not, a wide angle will capture some of those rolling Hollywood hills.

Farmers Market LA

Farmer’s Market

It’s the place where Walt Disney sketched out plans for Disneyland and where James Dean had breakfast before forgetting how to drive, the LA Farmer’s Market.
LA Times has also listed these markets as one of the best places to spot celebrities. While we didn’t catch any in their relaxed habitat, possibly because we were there before noon, by all reports it’s a popular spot for meetings and “alternative” foods (that being not from the 5 basic American food groups of meat, cheese, salt, sugar and grease) and subsequent veritable gold mind for idolisers. Personally if I wanted to see someone that gets paid way more than me for doing way less I’d just look up at the tiers of managers above me :p

If celebrities aren’t on the menu then getting there early is the best way to go. Any time before 11am and its rather quiet. There’s ample covered and uncovered parking, unfortunately validated at only a select few stores (not even the by the big retailers like Nike!) but don’t sweat it, couple hours is only a few bucks.

Outside the actual fresh food section is an open air mall with a cinema and the clothing and “body” shops that would cater to -that- crowd. A Nike store sneaks its way in amongst the designer labels but sticks to the down the line active wear for the tennis instructor you’re trying to impress or the paparazzi you’re trying to fool. A large 2 level Zara store is close by for that last minute wardrobe change before your next “I’ve got a good feeling about this one” audition.

Inside its like your everyday fruit and veg market with fixed fixtures, no fresh food laid out on the ground for us! For those that have been to the fresh food markets in Coorparoo, Brisbane, it is very similar, but in a semi open air location. As with all good markets of this type its covers anything and everything, stuff you’ve never heard of before and stuff you probably wished you didn’t. Especially when it comes to some of the weird meat/fish products. Plenty of eating to be done as well, with countless hot and cold food stalls. Want to lapse back into a diabetic coma? Just take a glimpse at the dinner plate sized stack of pancakes covered in chocolate sauce and icecream and topped with a bacon heart attack, just in case you get cold feet heading into that coma.

Souvenir stores line the outer ring of the market stalls, some with slight variations of style/products but generally the same thing and generally with the extra “locality tax”.

If however you are craving a bit of show biz authenticity you may be lucky enough to catch a live filming of a news clip or entertainment program brief like we did. Mario Lopez (yes the token ethnic kid from Saved by the Bell) was there doing a bit as co-host for entertainment news show Extra. Complete with latex thick make up and Liquid Paper white teeth looking more like the young Jeff Bridges in Tron, he was none the less entertaining and the process (and numerous takes) interesting to watch. If you caught the episode, try and spot me in the crowd throwing up gang signs πŸ˜‰

Mario Lopez at Farmers Market LA

While we were here, we popped over the road to the Peterson Automotive Museum, that’s next!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

Before embarking on our trip, we didn’t hear the end of how trashy LA is and how much better NYC was, but I’ve always chosen 2pac over Jigga :p
I guess it’s the same as what most Brisbane people think of the Gold Coast, but like the GC, if you avoid the touristy/trashy areas you can appreciate the laidback lifestyle and friendly locals. It also helps if you don’t stay in Hollywood or downtown LA, so what better place to stay than Santa Monica.

The trade off for choosing any hotel in a coastal area is usually distance to beach/view versus cost. We found that unless you were within a block or 2 of the ocean it was pointless spending the extra to wake up with sand in your teeth. If you planning on spending more time in your hotel room than outside, then the extra money will be worth it, but you also have to ask yourself why are you wasting your holiday in doors πŸ˜‰

The happy medium is finding a nice hotel within a short walk of the beach, enter Double Trees, Santa Monica. This is a well known hotel chain in America (they have the one right in the middle of Times Square NYC) and for the average traveler facilities are quite luxurious. Price is a little more than what you would pay for similar places on the Hollywood side of the Pacific Coast Hwy but being on 4th street its only a 10-15min walk to the beach and 3rd street Promenade, which brings us to the shopping.

Shopping

3rd street Promenade is very much the Queen Street mall of Santa Monica minus the Myer Center. Chain clothing stores, eateries and plenty of boutique stores, everything you’d expect from a buzzing commercial hub. This is also where you’d go to catch a bus to downtown.

Nike SB Greenbay Packers

Sneakers are covered with Adidas, Footlocker, Skechers and Puma. Special point of interest is CCS which stocks a leaning towards skate wear, so plenty of Nike SB’s and Dunks along with the usual skate and skate inspired footwear brands, but is one of the few places I saw in LA that sold Nike SB apparel (tees and hoodies).

Journey has less “sport” brands but plenty of Chuck Taylors/One star Converse and Doc Martins also deserves a quick look in.

For toys, figures and games you can’t go past Puzzle Zoo. They stock a big range of commercial action figures, collectibles and anime. They also cover those little mind game puzzles and quirky toys (unlink the rings, roll the ball bearing thru the wood maze anyone?) similar to what you’d find at National Geographic stores. They’re also big on souvenir and personalised gifts, license plates, mugs etc.

If you need to take a break, grab a Wetzel Pretzel, pull up a bench and watch one of the many street performers that frequent the area. Anything from breakdance routines to juggling. If the pretzel wasn’t enough there’s plenty of places you can grab an “English” pub style lunch and a pint.

Hang around the promenade long enough re: till the sun sets and you will see the street lit up like it was Christmas!

3rd Street Promenade

Lastly for the music heads that want to get their fingers dusty, head in about 1km on Wilshire Blvd from 3rd St Promenade for Second Spin. One of several stores in LA that has a vast collection of new and used music and dvd’s, records and cd’s. Prices are very reasonable and there are usually deals if you spend a certain amount or for multiple items. The stores also carry different stock than the website. I thought I could save on postage by ordering online then collecting from the store but their online stock comes from a separate warehouse and is subsequently sent from there. Turns out this was a good thing since I ended up ordering over 70 albums :p

Boardwalk/Venice Beach
Big multi-nat corp shopping not your thing? Then its time to mosey on down the boardwalk. It, like most of LA is pretty flat so walking is a breeze. If you want to get around a bit quicker (and don’t have too much to carry) then hiring a bicycle is the way to go.

Starting at the Santa Monica Pier end we chose to follow Ocean Front Walk down and then come back via the boardwalk. There’s not much to start with but once you get about 1/3 of the way towards Venice Beach, it quickly becomes cluttered with market stalls, tourist shops and a slow meandering Ekka style crowd. The markets themselves stock all the usual things you’d expect to see, from hand crafted jewellery and ornaments to the “hand painted” clichΓ©s of LA and movie stars. I say “hand painted”, because a lot of the stuff is made to look that way and could very well be, but its mass produced so you’ll see the same “original” pieces over and over again. Also be on guard for anyone approaching you trying to sweet talk you into buying a product or service, they will literally tell you anything to part you from your lucrative tourist dollars!

For a change of pace, head in land two blocks to Main st. This has more of a James st. in New Farm feel with a plethora of boutique shops, designer and quaint indies. For sneakers, Undefeated is the spot, yes the one and the same from the episode of Entourage when Turtle is trying to track down his Fujiyama customs and Vince is pipped by the late DJ AM at this store. Check out the clearance section near the register for some bargains.

Undefeated Santa Monica

Clothing wise there’s plenty of vintage stores but a must see for a nostalgic moment is the ZJ Boarding House shop, better known as Zephyr Skate. Pretty much the birth of skateboarding and further made famous by the movie Lords of Dogtown. Since 2007 it has been officially listed as a LA landmark. Even though the store is now a shallow existence of its former self (looks like every other mass produced surf/skate shop out there) it is still owned by the same people that rebirthed it back in 1988 even if Heath Ledger isn’t drunk off his tits throwing surfboards off the roof πŸ˜‰

ZJ Boarding House

Further towards Venice Beach there are a couple sport stores but none I found of much interest.

Next up, the cheapest and possibly the best thing to do at the beaches… sight seeing! πŸ˜‰

Los Angeles holiday photos here

Los Angeles part #1 – West Hollywood
Los Angeles part #2 – West Hollywood(pt 2)
Los Angeles part #3 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Shopping
Los Angeles part #4 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Sightseeing

If you missed the first part of our LA adventures, check them out here

Sunset Blvd

Keep on cruisin down Melrose and you’ll come across a skate shop – few less clichΓ© skate items/brands and a few Nike SB items; Fat Beats for your hiphop music needs; forget trying to find the Footlocker, its gone but is still listed in directory searches; plenty of little boutique clothing and jewellery stores; then a few metres right, into N Fuller Av is JapanLA. As the name suggests, they stock cutsie Japanese inspired fashion, mostly Tokidoki but with more variety and generous sale items. There’s even boxes of clearance items at the back, hello Gloomy Bear figures for $7. The staff are very friendly and very easy on the eyes πŸ˜‰ They also stock Mr. Egg and Mr. Toast! ^__^
Shopping in between season means you get winter bargains like Tokidoki hoodies for $30-40US. Winner!

The vinyl obsession continues a couple doors down with Munky King. This store is set up more like an art gallery than a retail store. Minimal lush fittings and an art space towards the rear of the store. They stock a big range of the usual Kidrobot and associate style vinyls as well as a few other more obscure designs and artists. There’s also a small selection of apparel. Definitely the place to visit if you’re getting sick of Dunnys or Labbits.

On the subject of vinyls and similar toys/action figures, be ready to pull them out of your carry on at American customs, especially those with small parts like Revoltech figures. Thanks to the unusual shapes and small parts, under the x-ray machine they tend to come up as “unknown”.

The shops start to thin off after this, but hook a left into La Brea for a couple of LA’s colourful landmarks. First is Pink’s Hot Dogs, no, not the singer but just as famous with many celebrities choosing to pop in for a quick bite and also being featured in many movies and TV shows. We weren’t disappointed when we walked passed and saw a banner “Pink’s welcomes David Hassellhoff“. Sure enough, The Hoff was there slingin dogs to a line half way down the block. Though a long line up is hardly out of the norm and is classed as part of its charm. We didn’t have time to sample the cuisine but all reports say its worth the wait.

Pink's Hotdogs on La Brea Hollywood

If you didn’t want to wait for food there’s a few fast food places including Macca’s as you head north on La Brea. Couple blocks on, you’ll also come across a Best Buy (like a cross between Office Works and Harvey Norman) and a group of shops including Target. In this centre, if you walk up the stairs to Target, there’s a landing where you have a clear view of the Hollywood sign. Perfect if you aren’t going up in the hills to check it out. Photographer’s tip: for a nice big shot of the sign – point and shoot users – you’ll need at least a 10x zoom; dslr users – 200mm is ok but 300mm if you want to fill the frame. Another photo op is available on Sunset Blvd at the intersection looking west at sunset (they don’t call it that for nothing!) against a backdrop of the clichΓ©d palm tree lined street.

Hollywood sign

A block and a bit further you’ll come across everyone’s favourite tattooist, Kate Von D and her famous LA Ink store aka High Voltage Tattoo. If you’re familiar with the TV series, the store is just as crazy in real life with wall to wall decorations of memorabilia, varies knick knacks and art pieces. Even if you only have a passing interest in the pierced and painted, simply hanging round the store sees all matter of subjects from the quirky to the down right weird! Good luck getting an appointment on short notice tho!

If you’re Google mapping, search for “High Voltage Tattoo” which is the actual store, “LA Ink” shows up as its studio which is further down the block.

LA Ink - High Voltage Tattoo on La Brea, Hollywood

Beginning of Hollywood walk of fame

About 4 blocks after that and passing Jim Henderson’s Muppet Studio, you’ll hit Hollywood Blvd, which is the start of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and home to iconic landmarks such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe it or not and Capitol Records Tower.

Hollywood Blvd

There are also plenty of tacky tourist shops on this strip, but the pricing for the most part is reasonable and you can pick up multiple souvenir tee’s for $10US. Just check their quality first, even though the design might be the same, the consistency of the shirts tend to vary.

Hollywood Blvd

By now you’re probably just about spent but if you’ve still got a couple bucks left in your wallet and the shopping bags haven’t completely severed your fingers off, jump in a cab and head to the Beverly Center
On the cheap: find a bus that goes all the way down N La Brea to W 3rd St then get another that goes from there out to La Cienega Blvd.

The Beverly Center is probably the closest you’ll find to Brisbane’s own Myer center. Couple large higher end Department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and then the countless specialty shops with the majority leaning towards female shoes and apparel. There is a cinema and food court on the top level but the real reason to head here is for the view. There’s an outdoor courtyard on the top level with a nice broad 180 degree view of LA.

Photographers tip: bring a tripod to set on a chair to shoot over the glass partition or a point and shoot to sit on top of one of the frame if you’re shooting at night to get pass the reflections, unless of course you carry a black bed sheet around!

LA at night - view from the Beverly Center (click for big)

In the way of sneakers you have a choice of 2 sporting stores Champs and Finish Line and 1 specialist (on the top floor level 8 ) Shiekh Shoes and Footlocker (floor 6). While only Shiekh Shoes has a selection of slightly more obscured models and colourways the real benefit is they all have a good selection of items on sale at great prices. 2 pairs of Adidas Attitudes for $50US? Don’t mind if I do! The Footlocker here is quite large as well so there’s a chance you’ll find a few extra colourways.

Useless fact: In the movie “Volcano” they have scenes when the center was still under construction.

By now, you’ll probably be as broke and broken as we were. We contemplated paying $50 for a cab back to Santa Monica but with a bus stop on the corner, we caught one up La Cienega Blvd to Santa Monica Blvd, got some booze and aspirin from the CVS drug store and then another bus all the way back out to 4th street in Santa Monica for a fraction of the cost.

Back in Santa Monica we hit the hay so we could hit boardwalk the next day.

Next up… Santa Monica and Venice Beach!
Los Angeles holiday photos here

Los Angeles part #1 – West Hollywood
Los Angeles part #2 – West Hollywood(pt 2)
Los Angeles part #3 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Shopping
Los Angeles part #4 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Sightseeing

Melrose Av West Hollywood +cliche' cop car

After a day stopover in Ueno, Tokyo we were on our way to Los Angeles. Crossing the International Date Line meant it was going to be the longest Saturday ever, even longer than that 3 day bender in college where I was down to drinking Vodka and cordial dregs from the night before by the end of it… but that’s another story.

It’s true what they say, “nobody walks in LA”. Simply because everything is so far apart… and to add to it, the public transport is pretty rubbish for a major city. So your best bet if you’re staying longer than a 2-3 days is to hire a car. Being the USA this can be quite cheap but remember you will need to find and pay for parking.

Since we were only there for 3 days we opted to skip the car and go with the alternatives. Coming from the airport, the easiest and quite reasonable option for door to door is to use Super Shuttle, a private shuttle bus company at pretty much every major city in the States. They’re easy to spot as you leave the terminal, big blue vans with bright yellow writing. You can just go to the stop and wait for one or pre-book, save a few bucks and guarantee yourself a seat, roughly $20-25US. Note that you will more than likely be sharing with other passengers over several pickup and drop off points so the journey can take some time. We also noticed there can be a lack of order/priority at times between the driver and the representative at the pickup point, pretty much whoever yelled/nagged or was stubborn the most got their way!

If you’re on a tight budget then your only real option is to catch a bus which may not be feasible if you have to make 3 transfers and still have to hike it with all your luggage. The up side is it’s a fraction of the cost (round $5US) and you don’t need to tip the driver.

After circling LAX 3 times with a full van load we hit the motorway along with LA’s oblivious sloth-like drivers. A bit over an hour later we were at our hotel, the modestly luxurious Double Trees in Santa Monica. 4 star/3 diamond rated, short 10min walk to the beach, 15min to the pier and definitely one of the better priced hotels for the location. The big warm chocolate chip cookie on arrive was a nice touch :) Room size was more than adequate, large lounge area with kitchen space and large bedroom. Not to mention it was so good to have a shower after wearing the same clothes for more than 56hours!

I wrote a more detailed review on Tripadvisor, complete with a whinge about housekeeping taking our shoe boxes!

West Hollywood

We only really had one major day for shopping in LA so we wanted to make it count. While downtown has it perks you really cant go past the one stop shop, that is West Hollywood. If you want strictly high end designer gear than you’ll wanna keep going till you hit Hollywood for some Rodeo Drive action, otherwise this is a great place to start for modern streetwear, quirky vintage, good selection of sneakers and a generous serving of everybody’s favourite retail dish, sales!

First stop is Melrose Ave. complete with “Melrose place” (the street, which looks nothing like the show and no one actually comes back to life after they die (if only it was the same for the show)). This stretch of 10-15 blocks is great for a day, or even a half day power play shop-over.

We started down the western end at Burton/Analog. Plenty of ski, surf and skate wear, relaxed staff and even their pet dog lounging next to the counter. A little further along is Fred Segal, kind of like “Country Road” meets Roger David and Cue, mostly noted for its vine covered building and in store toilet (a godsend since there’s no public toilets that we could see till you hit La Brea Ave more than 1km away!)

Heading east you’ll hit Bape, Adidas Originals and then a little cluster of the coolest group of shops you’ll ever come across. Kidrobot, Tokidoki and Loyal army covers the Japanese inspired art, vinyl collectibles and apparel so cute you’ll leave with sore thumbs from pinching the cheeks of everything there!

Loyal Army and Kidrobot on Melrose Av

Paul Frank continues this theme with their large store. They had quite a few items on sale but on the day we were there they were also handing out scratch-it coupons where you received a mystery %-off discount. The shopping gods smile upon us that day as we scored 40% off. If we didn’t have to try and get it home, the beach cruiser bicycle would be sitting in my garage right now!

The last shop of mention in this group is one of our favourites, Johnny Cupcakes. For those that don’t know, no, unfortunately they don’t actually sell cupcakes, but they do sell cupcake related clothing and accessories in a less cutsie and more So-Cal rock kinda way and the store is set up like a 50’s bakery!

Retro ovens, display cases, fridges and even a black and white checkered floor. Most of the items are in the fridges and a cafΓ© pastry style display case. Not only that Mr. Cupcake, Johnny Earle himself is quite the entrepreneur and only too happy to share his knowledge on his blog and tours business seminars to uni students and work expos. The designs range from baseball and sport themes to their classic cupcake and bones logo, all in a variety of bold and vibrant colours. What makes the designs special is they are all limited, once the batch has sold out that is it forever. Definitely one way to not be another General Universal Pants clone.

Johnny Cupcakes on Melrose Av

A couple blocks along Melrose, you’ll hit North Fairfax Av. With Flightclub LA and Supreme. Flightclub has a feel of a Hong Kong or Tokyo shoe store. 2 large walls from floor to ceiling of shrink wrapped sneakers, very impressive. They also deal in pre owned items like K-Skit but don’t opening advertise it as such, so if you’re after brand new, you might want to check first. Either way, you’re in for some bargains and maybe some rare finds. The selection is predominant Nike and Jordans with a scattering of other brands, a small rack of tees and a selection of G-Shock watches and New Era caps. I picked up 2009 Nike SB Greenbay Packers for $60US, which are more than double that to buy locally at $160AU rrp and 2009 Nike AF-1 Armed Forces Ltd Ed. for $70US.

Most of the sizes are on display but don’t hesitate to check with them, just in case

Flightclub LA

Further down Fairfax is Supreme if you have a penchant for the more designer stuff or love muppets apparel πŸ˜‰

If you’re still feenin’ for sneakers, back on Melrose is Sportie LA, which is divided up into 3 separate stores, new footwear, new apparel and preowned. The new footwear store is one of the few places that focus less on Nike, in fact they don’t even have a brand listing on their site, instead they opt for Converse, Adidas, Vans, Asics, Supra and even LA Gear. Though if you’re looking for some rarities or a bargain or just something a bit different than the norm, the preowned store is the one to scope out. There are some items that have clearly been on display forever and are subsequently “shop soiled” and dusty (no shrink wrapping), but the majority of the stock is in good/mint condition. Further in to the store is all new stock, with plenty of boots and dressier shoes for the ladies.

Stay tuned for part #2 when we continue to cruise down Melrose, up La Brea to Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles holiday photos here

Los Angeles part #1 – West Hollywood
Los Angeles part #2 – West Hollywood(pt 2)
Los Angeles part #3 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Shopping
Los Angeles part #4 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Sightseeing