Palm Springs

The desert city of Palm Springs is about a two hour drive East of Los Angeles. Situated in a valley between two very dramatic desert mountain ranges, it's got it's own microclimate with constant sunshine. We headed over for two nights at The Ace Hotel for some sun and to check out the modernist architecture.

Make sure you don't miss The Workshop Kitchen + Bar when you're here which has great food. The King's Highway at the Ace is also pretty good. One the way back to LA I recommend a stop at this outlet mall.

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This is us trying to fit in with the hipsters at the Ace. (I think the lack of tattoos gives us away)

During the 20th century Palm Springs was known as a stomping ground for the Hollywood movie stars and it was also popular among architects who used it as a playground for experimenting with ideas from the modernist and Bauhaus movement. This resulted in the largest concentration of mid-century architecture of any city so there is lots to of interesting buildings to go and see.

Also worth exploring is the Joshua Tree National Park which is an hour or so further East. It's a huge area with an empty eerie landscape full of unusual rock formations and of course a lot of joshua trees.

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The Hills of LA

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As soon as you cross Sunset Boulevard which divides the city from the Hollywood Hills, everything quietens down, the landscape turns more lush and the houses get a lot bigger. It's like leaving LA for the country side but keeping the site as a beautiful backdrop. 

We started out by taking a drive up to Los Feliz to see the Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright. It turned out to be in an area full of interesting architectural building interconnected by swirly roads and steep steps like the one above. Well worth a look around!

After that we headed to Griffith Park where we went for a hike up one of the many hills. That's where we took the photo below which is my favourite from the whole trip. You can see the Griffith Observatory in the centre and below that is the whole of Los Angeles with the downtown skyscrapers to the left. Such a stunning view!

If we would have had more time we could have made it all the way to the Hollywood sign which you can see below, but that would have taken a few more hours of hiking.

We ended the trip in Little Dom's in Los Feliz with is well deserved pizza. It's a great little place with good food and a very hipstery vibe. Also worth visiting nearby is the Intelligentsia coffee shop in Silverlake. It's a hipster barista heaven serving expensive artisanal coffee which is known as the best in LA.

The Beaches of LA

The beach of Santa Monica is huge so cycling turned out to be a great way to see it all. We started by going all the way to the Northern tip where Santa Monica turns into Malibu, then down again to Venice beach. We got our bikes from here but beach cruisers are available to rent along the beach front too. 

The beaches are beautiful, bright white, super wide and endlessly long. It's easy to pick out the very fit and sporty locals from the many tourists (like us) going down the promenade. It's all both glamorous and cheesy at the same time which is a great combination!

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I wasn't that impressed with the Venice Beach front at first - it's a bit like Camden Lock Market gone tropical (for those of you who know London). Once you get to this area, I suggest you head inland instead to see the canal system. It's great for house spotting which happens to be one of my favourite pastimes.

Whilst in Venice don't miss Abbott Kinney Boulevard which has a great mix of restaurants and shops. For food I strongly recommend Gjelina, it's well worth queuing up for. I had the most amazing avocado sandwich with cheese, sprouts, pickled veg and aioli and Dan had the meatballs.

For a dose of culture, visit one of the Getty Centres which are both close by. We went to the villa which was very pretty but in hindsight I think I may have enjoyed the modern architecture of the centre more.

We finished off with a quick drive through Malibu in the sunset, I just can't get enough of the palm trees!

West Hollywood & The Ivy

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I'm really excited to have managed to squeeze in 5 days of holiday on what is a very busy work trip to LA. For the first time I've had a chance to see more of this city and I'm slowly starting to get my head around what it's all about. However amazing uber is, having a rental car makes a world of a difference.

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Apart from the Hollywood sign I also wanted to check a visit to the famous Los Angeles landmark, The Ivy, off my bucket list. It may seem a little cliche but I absolutely love the place. They serve free champagne whilst you wait for your table so hanging out until an outside spot becomes available (highly advisable) is nothing but a joy. The people and car watching is amazing.

It's by far the most colourful restaurant I've been to, with a wild combination of floral patterns and tropical colours. It may seem a little over the top but it somehow works, especially after a few glasses of champagne. 

These cheese filled zucchini blossoms served with lemon and a garlicky tomato salsa were my favourite.

Dan opted for fish tacos which he was very happy with. All in all, a pretty successful lunch!

Apart from The Ivy I also strongly recommend the Urth Caffé for an on trend hearty organic lunch and Cecconi's for a dinner with a side of people watching.

Blueberry Pancakes

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These super simple and healthy banana and blueberry pancakes are my favourite thing to have for breakfast on a weekend. They're also great with raspberries or any other berry with a nice tartness to it. This recipe makes about 6 small or 4 medium pancakes.

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FOR THE BATTER:

1 ripe banana

2 free range eggs

8 tbsp almond meal

1 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Small pinch of salt

 

FOR COOKING AND SERVING:

1 tbsp of virgin coconut oil

150g fresh blueberries

 

Warm the coconut oil for the batter in a pan until it's runny and leave to cool.

Mash the banana in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, including the coconut oil.

I fry mine in a really small pan but if you have a larger one you can make two or three at a time. Add some of the coconut oil and let it melt then dollop in the batter and add a few blueberries on top. Once they've turned golden, turn them and fry on the other side.

Serve with honey an more blueberries.