After twelve hours in the air, I landed at LAX. A little uneasy on my feet thanks to a wave of vertigo, I stand at border control in a state of delirium but also, for some reason, wired. It's a bizarre and unlikely combination, I know. Over the past couple of years, I've been working to combat my fear of flying, something those around me struggle to understand, having gone from living to flying to despising it overnight. I don't know why, either. The last time I went to LA or the USA, in general, was ten years ago. Ironically, I visited LA, Yosemite and San Francisco. I last visited across the pond on a family road trip across the Californian state. This time, I touch down a week before December, when I will eventually end my journey in the city that never sleeps, NY. Before my final commute to NY, I have eight days in LA and many shoots to complete for our Winter Issue of HATC Magazine. This is our first business trip to the US. Launching HATC Magazine in lockdown and getting to the US even after the pandemic has been near impossible with travel restrictions and economic and environmental factors. But here I am, finally, excited and now, come to think of it, unsure what time my body thinks it is. I move through border control smoothly, and after refusing to pay $6 for an airport trolley, I navigate my way with rather a lot of baggage that's only set to increase outside to the taxi rank.
Now let me tell you my first regret of the trip, which concerns prior preparation. I didn't read the goddamn guidebooks my dad so kindly lent me. It's not so much I didn't want to, but more so that I neglected to find time for them. Having visited ten years ago and on a family trip, it's all different this time. After spending 15 minutes working out why my Uber wouldn't be able to pick me up at the terminal, I pieced together Uber's rather light instructions on how to transfer using the shuttle bus to where I could catch a taxi. I like to think of myself as worldly and practical, but after 12 hours of flying across two continents, I'm lacking in that department.
For the first two nights, I booked with the Ace Hotel downtown. It's getting dark when I arrive at the hotel, with the downtown streets lit to the nines. The hotel is dominant with baroque-esque architecture. In terms of location, it's perfect for several downtown shoots we have in converted lofts. My first two days in LA are all about adjusting. My body clock is thrown, with me waking up an average of three times at night, with 2 am and 4 am being party time. The first thing on my mind is breakfast, which The Ace Hotel has down to a tee. Weeks later, I still dream of Butter Milk ricotta pancakes with a blueberry compote. Currently, being on a low-fat diet thanks to my gall bladder, I may have too much information; I was nervous about how I was going to navigate food for the entirety of my 11-day trip.
Although I packed enough breakfast bars to get me past starvation, I would rather avoid venturing down that road like I did in Paris earlier this year. I digress; the breakfast was, hands down, my favourite breakfast of the whole trip. That day, I made a few plans other than visiting the Griffith Observatory. I booked an Uber to take me up to the Observatory, hoping the walk back down through the trails would help cure my vertigo. Once at the Observatory, it's relatively busy with tourists. I have fond memories of the space, with it being one of my favourite parts of our family road trip ten years ago. I decided to skip the museum, having done it before, but I'd recommend it if you still need to. It's worth the 8 dollars it costs. But if you don't fancy it, you can still move into the Observatory to view the beautifully hand-painted astronomy-themed roof before climbing to the top of the outside of the building to view one of the original telescopes. The Observatory remains the best view of LA. Whether you're on the roof or stood outside, you get a 360 view of LA and the Hollywood sign, and if you're lucky enough like I was to be there on a crystal clear day, it's pure magic.
Trainers on, I decided to walk down through the hiking trails. If you're more energetic, you can hike underneath the Hollywood sign. Headphones in, I hike down (hike being a strong word) before wandering through the suburbs to find a coffee shop and eat ice cream. The weather is mild in LA, or what we Brits would call spring weather, compared to the sub-zero morning temperatures. Having packed for two seasons, what feels like Spring in LA and what will feel freezing in NY, my 23kg suitcase has got me covered. Having a bikini and winter coat packed in my bag for the same trip, the irony isn't lost on me. After my first experience with LA's bus and metro transportation, I returned to the hotel. As a Londoner, tubes and buses are life. I spend more time on them than at home (a slight exaggeration), but it's not the same in LA. It didn't deter me enough as I used the metro another two times before I called time on the experience. Evening at The Ace is fun, with their rooftop bar delivering cocktails and an electric atmosphere. I hit the hay relatively early with my intention of being up fewer times in the night as a priority.
Ok, the good intention was there, even if I was up multiple times again in one night. Rome wasn't built in a day. Today is the day I do more cheesy experiences, notably Hollywood. Before I grab a taxi to the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood stars and stip, I need to grab a few remaining things for the first of our five shoots in LA. It will be a busy few days, fitting in 5 shoots in 4 days, but God loves a trier, right? I knew I was destined for the superstores, starting with Ralphs the night I arrived. However, I didn't think I'd visit a total of 7 variations in 5 days. Having concluded that I spend way too much time in supermarkets, I often wonder when it'll end, but for this purpose, it's necessary for the camera film to shoot props. Over the entirety of the trip, I made several notes on my phone about the bizarre and honestly bonkers parts of the journey, from buying a whole chicken instead of a packet of chicken breast as the entire chicken was cheaper to the truly stereotypical. Shout out to everyone who fell in love with my Quin intestinally British accent; it was a pleasure to speak for you. The Hollywood walk was quiet compared to my August visit ten years ago. I take a stroll around the block, keeping an eye on the names below my feet. After seeing Queen (I'm a big fan), I call it a day. Of course, you have the usual exhibitions from Madame Tussauds to Hollywood sightseeing tours, and had I not been working, I would probably get one of the vehicle tours; after all, I'm a sucked for efficiency. I am back at the hotel after one last experience of the metro, for I had one previous night downtown before relocating to Short Stories Hotel.
Moving to Short Stories, I jump in a taxi post-shoot, bags packed and head towards West Hollywood. Upon arrival, I was greeted at the door and introduced to the staff members on shift. Checking in was a smooth and well-oiled experience as I was shown around the hotel's space and presented with its amenities. Something about the space reminds me of our family road trip ten years prior. Its aesthetic gives you the feel of an all-American motel, just luxurious. The pool overlooked by an eco wall is the perfect temperature for a dip at any time of the day, and with the restaurant open from 4 pm, the menu is to die for, delicious with thought in every option. Each night I stay, I find myself in The downstairs space, being ultra British, asking for a cup of tea. I wish it weren't the first thing I bought – tea bags- but it was. No matter the trouble, Short Stories staff offer to help, and it's this form of hospitality; I love the thoughts. Outside in the foyer is a seating area perfect for their daily coffee and tea hour from 8:30 am. The December LA weather, which is almost a British Summer, is the ideal space for me to write and edit Issue 14. Short Stories booked us into their suite, a gorgeous room with living space and a large bathroom for my stay. Considering how much I've accumulated over the past few days, the space is perfect. The bed is almost the size of the Kitchen in my first London flat, and a 10/10 for comfort, something I'm hoping will mentally encourage my jetlag to take a day off. With a table and sofa, I have enough space to work and then space to relax and unwind, separating the work from my downtown. The bathroom was also significant, with black marbled stone and a his-and-hers sink. But for me, it's the personal touches throughout the room and bathroom, from snacks to books and trinkets. Nowhere in the room was an afterthought; every corner, every space was filled after having been thought of; for me, that's what makes a space feel like home, and when you're away, every moment is filled with every emotion known to man, let alone the jet lag, those all-important touches are what make it manageable, and that warm and fuzzy feeling stay.
Over the next few days, I split my time between the Hollywood Hills and downtown LA photography studios, creating and collaborating on Issue 14's Winter covers. Our second shoot is with Becky G, who is on location at the hotel. The theme for the shoot is BTS glamour, meaning Short Stories is perfect from glam in their private writing room to shots in their rooms. And when I'm not on a shoot, you'll most likely find me on a lime scooter (I'd only ever used the Bikes, which I love), getting around West Hollywood supermarkets and meetings. With very little time to spare on nights after shoots, I would desperately want to order food and relax in the comfort of my room. So, after jumping on a lime scooter, I would find myself making my way to Bao for the best buns in town.
For my penultimate day in LA, before our last shoot for HATC Magazine, I had a bit of time after my morning meetings. I decided to walk from their offices to the Beverly Hills sign; I know that's very touristy for me. I then headed up Rodeo Drive before returning to the hotel for one last evening. The next day, I woke up early to scoot one more time to, yes, you called it, Target for more film. As I packed my bags and somehow moved downstairs to the writer's room (I have no idea how I'm going to get everything to NY with two hands), I prepped for my final podcast in LA. We journey to see La's Urban Lights to incorporate into our cover shoot and finish our shoot as the evening goes dark at Short Stories. I wave goodbye to our team, book a taxi, make my final journey on this side of our Issue 14 trip, and prepare for what will most likely be an uncomfortable 7-hour overnight flight to NY, or at least compared to my suite at Short Stories. FYI, let it be known that a neck pillow doesn't compare to the Short Stories beds mattress.