L.A. in a Day

We arrived at Dan and Diana’s house in Echo Park, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, after a quick couple of hours in the car. It’s surprising how close things are in southern California. We set off shortly after emptying our car in their adorable house, and our first stop was down the street where Diana works at a non-profit writing and tutoring center called 826. The organization, founded in San Francisco by Dave Eggers, has multiple locations scattered across the country, with storefronts housing kitschy/funky things according to a theme; this one has Time Travel as its theme, and included a front window exhibit featuring a caveman and a robot. Seems like a pretty cool place to work!

From 826, we headed to Hollywood to do a bit of the walk of fame, passing stars in the sidewalk dedicated to Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, Jim Henson, and a bunch of old-Hollywood names that we didn’t recognize. We also passed by some Banksy street art, which Loren was excited about after having watched the amazing street art documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, by Banksy himself (which Loren strongly recommends). After that point, Hollywood Blvd became really touristy, with crowds of people pouring out of tour buses near the El Capitan theater, street performers and food vendors blocking the way. We made it as far as the Chinese Theater to take a look at stars’ handprints and footprints, then literally exited through the gift shop to get back to the car.

We took a photo of this Banksy, which seems to be doing the same

(Sophia) Loren

Dan and Diana drove us past mansions (including Brad Pitt’s estate) in an incredible neighboorhood, Los Feliz, up to Griffith Observatory, where we were a tad late for sunset, but the views were still breathtaking. It’s amazing to see how vast that city is. The observatory is a great spot in and of itself, with exhibits on the electromagnetic spectrum, celestial objects, a tesla coil that lit a neon sign wirelessly (by charging the air), and a huge pendulum that tells the hour of the day based on the rotation of the earth.

By the time we left the observatory, we were ravenously hungry. After driving back to Echo Park, we all walked down the street to a delicious neighborhood restaurant called The Park, just before the kitchen closed.

Grilled bone-in pork chop, w/fresh cranberry bean ragout, swiss chard cakes & nectarine-ancho chile jam

Hangar steak w/toasted breadcrumb salsa, fresh cranberry bean succotash & heirloom tomato arugula salad

To cap off the night, we took a night stroll in the neighborhood to a spot with an often-filmed view of the LA skyline. Along the walk, we met (and pet) about 7 cats, most of which were probably strays, and all of which were super friendly. To say that we got our cat fix that night is a bit of an understatement.

The next morning, Dan made a delicious egg scramble and bacon, and we saw Diana off to work. After a lazy couple of hours, we walked to the prize of the neighborhood, a taco shop called La Esquinita. $1.50 for a taco plus freshly made corn tortilla chips and three salsas. Spread the word, that place is perfection. Plus, it’s just a block or so away from Shepard Fairey’s gallery (he’s the artist responsible for the Obama “Hope” posters, and of OBEY fame; also a grad of RISD and a favey of Loren’s).

With our brief stay reaching its end, Loren and Dan picked some fresh fruit from the back yard’s fig and pear trees, and we added a fallen avocado to the stash as well. Echo Park, with your fruit trees and friendly cats and awesome suburban small-town feel, we love you. Thanks to Dan and Diana for the comfy couches and for showing us a great time!

Fresh figs and pears from the back yard

We drove out of Echo Park and made a stop where Loren’s grandparents lived, in Culver City, then drove out to Beverly Hills and down Rodeo Drive, before heading back out to the coast to catch the Pacific Coast Highway north.