The first time I went to Los Angeles, I was a wee freshman with a decidedly smaller worldview and a prematurely negative disposition toward the city. I had convinced myself it was San Diego's crowded, smoggier older brother. I had boarded the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and voyaged up the coast to spend a couple evenings crammed into a dorm room with six of my other friends. It was joyous, but mostly because the company I held. I unfortunately hadn't had the opportunity to explore and experience LA's famous beaches. This January, I had the chance to go back.
This time, I got to experience either the blessed brevity or the mind-numbing tragedy that is travelling by vehicle from San Diego to Los Angeles. The 5 is fought with perils -- from potential traffic accidents, insane bikers, and the ominous, ever-present fear that you have chosen to travel at the same time as 60,000 other people. Thankfully, my gridlocked gauntlet didn't occur until I was 30 miles from my destination. A semi had flipped and skidded across the five lane highway, backing up traffic to a standstill. It took almost 30 minutes to go one mile. I don't have pictures of the accident scene because I had been banging my forehead on the steering wheel too hard to be confident enough in my motor abilities to do anything but work the gas and brake pedals.
After I had arrived though, it was smooth sailing. I met my friend Zach and we headed (in his car, thankfully) to Manhattan Beach for the day. Manhattan Beach is not a New York, New York-esque replica of the Big Apple interspersed with sand and volleyball nets, but a highly affluent beach community homes to celebrities and famous athletes. While I personally did not find the beach as nice as those on Coronado Island or in Orange County, it was very pleasant and mercifully depopulated. I included two pictures below: one of the boardwalk, and one of a $300,000 car we spotted, a McLaren MP4-12C Spyder.
The next day, we decided to one-up Manhattan Beach in wealth and prestige. We headed to Malibu, and that of course meant taking Pacific Coast Highway. Arguably one of the most scenic stretches of pavement in the world, this portion of PCH runs parallel to gorgeous mansions on one side and overlooks beaches and a coves on the other -- very reminiscent of travelling through Laguna Beach via the 1. The drive would have been enjoyable on its own, but Zach had a BMW M5 -- a 500-horsepower super sedan -- that occasionally turned the sublime scenery into a wonderfully sonorous beige, green, and azure blur.
After 40 minutes, we stopped at the Malibu Beach Club for lunch. It was probably the most scenic luncheon I've ever had. We ate on a glass-sided balcony above the water with beaches and beautiful homes extending on either side. The food was tasty and, shockingly, reasonably priced. We had big entrees, coffee and dessert and got out of there for less than $50 -- great value considering the location and the quality.
After lunch, we headed farther up the coast to one of Malibu's exalted beaches. We stopped at El Matador beach, and after walking down the cliffs (very reminiscent of Point Loma's Sunset Cliffs or La Jolla Cove) we found ourselves nestled on a thin stretch of sand between amazingly clear waters and eight-figure beach homes. El Matador was wonderfully private, and again had a much more La Jolla or Laguna Beach-esque feel to it than the more open sands of Coronado, Mission, or Manhattan Beaches.
After we returned from the beach, we went out and explored Santa Monica and Hollywood. Both had a lively nightlife, and vibrant, youthful atmospheres.
Los Angeles proved me wrong. Though unmercifully crowded at times, it was a relaxing trip rife with eye-opening scenery and tremendous memorial value. Though I still prefer San Diego, I can easily see the appeal of the bustling City of Angels.