Waiting to depart San Fran at SFO airport, there was about a 40min delay. Why? To film some kind of ad/porno for the Lufthansa A380 we were about to board. It featured a burly silver foxed pilot clad in obligatory leather jacket and aviators disembarking to a waiting Harley then riding to meet a lady friend. Pin point accuracy for realism I’d say. While it was interesting to watch a couple takes, why they couldn’t choose another time/flight (one that wasn’t about to board) I have no idea, but like any A380 the wait was more than worth it with lushness abound on a 3 week old model, still had the new plane smell πŸ˜‰ And off we set…

Filming of Lufthansa A380 "ad"

Exterior A380 tail cam

It’s a running joke and a long time clichΓ© about its miserable weather but its really hard to deny it when you’re flying into Heathrow through sheets of wispy drizzle and grey haze, once again, London DID disappoint.

It had been about 5 years since I last set foot on the convict exporter’s soil but it all came rushing back as soon as I purchased an Oyster card (essential for public transport and small purchases at selected stores) and made a bee line for the Tube. First timers may choose to take the express from the airport into Paddington then transfer, but for a fraction of the price (at the expense of crowdedness depending on the time you travel) you can just as easily take the Piccadilly line straight into the city. As we were staying at Bloomsbury, we saved ourselves some Tube tunnel running with all our luggage and stayed on till Kings Cross/St. Pancras Station, strategically pre-empting a quick jump off for the next leg to Paris πŸ˜‰

The Wardonia hotel (full review here) is only a short walk from the station but having come out the wrong subway entrance with pouring rain we missed the street sign scurrying for cover and subsequently took the scenic route.

Travel tip: Apart from major centers, very few streets are sign posted. Street names are usually on small plaques posted high on the traffic flow side of buildings, so if you’re walking against traffic you will have to look backwards.

With the luggage dropped off, we had just enough time to pop into SOHO for a quick look. It was still early in the evening, yet we were disappointed at how many of the shops were closed or closing, strange for London we thought, however it wasn’t till the following morning when we were “discussing” with the Macca’s chick why we couldn’t get breakfast at 10.32am… turns out it was 11.32am thanks to daylight saving time…oops.

Travel tip: Always check your destination to see if they’re in DST. Better yet, confirm local time at the airport as you try to get through immigration, if your pilot, like ours doesn’t do his courtesy spiel on arrival.

Even though most of the shops that were on our list had to be checked out another day, we still managed a look in at Niketown, Johnny Cupcakes London and JD Sports. Niketown is London’s flagship store with the usual run of latest and greatest but with a different continent comes different stock and region specific releases. A “Nike – London” tee over a clichΓ© Union Jack one was an easy choice πŸ˜‰ This store is also home to different Nike exhibits, last time I was there they had a history of Air bag technology and the different shoe models it appeared in, very cool. This time on the back of the Football season they had a little skirmish of 3 on 3 inside a small “field” complete with goal nets, definitely added to the experience, almost made me want to pull my shirt over my face and do aeroplanes.

Just down the street is JD Sports, direct competitor to Footlocker and most of the times beats them in range and quantity of stock especially in clothing. Sneakers are on par but they both do slight variations on one another, though JD still has plenty of “JD exclusive” tags and ample sale/clearance racks.

Johnny Cupcakes London

Johnny Cupcakes‘ London store conveniently opened a few months before we arrived so it was high on the must-see list. The small store is nestled with the many other cool boutique stores in Carnaby, a short walk down from Oxford Circus. Following the limited edition trend of the JC range, there were plenty of London exclusives with one drawback… limited sizes ): Thankfully my ADD took over and I soon forgot about the disappointment when their Rube Goldberg style machine kicked into action πŸ˜€ The prices are almost identical to USD however thanks to it being it BP it works out to be quite alot more expensive (about 60%!), but when you see a shirt with a double-decker bus topped with frosting, its hard to say no!

There is also plenty of eating spots in this area, so it didn’t take long to pop into an Asian quick serve spot for some dumpling soup.

Early to bed, early to rise for a big day of sight seeing planned with the central London landmarks and the world renowned Chelsea Flower show up next.

London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

So we’re back in West Hollywood. Kinda like catching up with an old friend really. You know their quirks, you know what you have in common, you by pass the touchy subjects and jump straight into reminiscing.

We covered the bulk of the West Hollywood stores previously here and here, but just to quickly recap, Flightclub LA and Sportie LA are always good stops for consignment/pre owned gear, though some of their prices are starting to get a little greedy. If you worry more about how good you look while skateboarding than how good you can actually skateboard then you might wanna pop your head into the stores of
Supreme, Diamond Supply and Crooks and Castles. Each trying to out do each other in hipster arrogance and poor service. What’s worse is none have the inventory to back the attitude, with limit range and sizes, give the glorified check out chicks a miss, there’s nothing you cant buy online or at another store for cheaper.

Flightclub LA

Sportie LA

Johnny Cupcakes is always worth a stop in for in store exclusives. A recent subtraction from this cluster of shops is Loyal Army, sadly they pretty much upped and closed their store overnight with very little notice. They are however still selling online and from their San Francisco store in Haight.

Japan LA

On the plus side, JapanLA has moved on to Melrose not too far from their old location to a newer and bigger store. Still the same good selection, abundance of Hello Kitty merch, friendly staff, sale items and now also sporting a small gallery room at the back with works from local artists.

Meltdown Comics

Last stop in West Hollywood was Meltdown Comics. Easily one of the biggest comic stores we’ve seen in awhile. Huge selection of comics and just as big selection of collectibles, figures, toys and plushes ranging from movie/comic based items to urban vinyl collectibles and blind boxes. They also have the complete range of So So Happy merchandise, which means if you’ve got a sweet tooth for the sickly cute and colourful you’ll no doubt go into a diabetic coma here.

Pop Killer

While you’re there, pop over the road to Pop Killer. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling of vintage and vintage styled new items. Mostly clothing but also a range of accessories, knick knacks, novelties and house hold items.

Mulholland Drive

As the sun slowing slipped away at a leisurely 8pm we took a drive up to Muholland Drive. Just follow the road up to the lookout (with fixtures and signage, not just dirt!), even though there are spots before this, parking is a little hit and miss as is the view. Don’t forget to take a jacket as well, those mountain breezes are very unforgiving! The view here is mostly of west LA, to see more of downtown follow the road around and head east through the tiny residential streets. You will eventually go over the mountain and start heading down, half way down on a rather Mt. Akina style of road, there’s a dirt spot to pull over to get your cityscape pano on.

LA cityscape (click for big)

Next up, we hit the downtown area where dodgy and awesome go hand in hand like Jesse James and Kat Von D!

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

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 πŸ™‚ 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