Travel: Short breaks - 48 hours in LA

Actors sipping tall skinny lattes, muscle men on Venice Beach, Pretty Women shopping in Rodeo Drive: a visit to LA is the ultimate California experience. By Aoife O'Riordain
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Indy Lifestyle Online
WHY GO NOW?

Los Angeles is noted for its consistently balmy climate (the temperature rarely dips below 15oC) but, for the ultimate sunny Californian experience, it's best to arrive when the temperatures are creeping up to the mid-20s. Later on in the summer though, fog from the Pacific can be a bit of a problem (sometimes it doesn't lift all day) and the pollution gets, unfortunately, as bad as they say. To find out what's going on read the Calender section of The Los Angeles Times (on Sundays) or there is also the Los Angeles monthly magazine which has lots of up-to-date information.

BEAM DOWN

London-Los Angeles is the second-busiest route across the Atlantic, after London-New York. Five airlines fly non-stop - Air New Zealand, American, British Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic: another airline, Continental, has an allocation of seats on Virgin. Seats on direct flights for the summer are expensive, but if you can wait until autumn you can expect some absurdly low fares.

The LA bus and metro service is good. To get downtown from the airport, take the free shuttle bus to the metro station. You have to change trains once, but the one-hour journey costs under a pound. Alternatively, Shuttle Bus C runs from outside the arrivals terminal to the airport bus station, whence bus 42 (ominously marked "County Jail") takes about 50 minutes to get downtown.

Catch the waves on the Big Sur

Worship the sun on Muscle beach

WHERE TO WORSHIP

There are three things to worship in LA: the sun, the stars and the shops. For a Pretty Woman-style expedition, stroll down Rodeo Drive (6) or Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, for groovy shops like Fred Segal (7) (80100 Melrose, 00 1 323 655 3734). Beaches in LA are a personal thing, but I liked Paradise Cove (8) (Block 28000 Pacific Coast Highway) and Zuma Beach, further up the highway. If you want to ride the waves head to Surfrider beach near Malibu. Then, complete your trip to Tinseltown with a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood Boulevard) and a gawp at the "HOLLYWOOD" sign.

TAKE A BREAK

The Tea Leaf and Coffee Bean (10) is at 8591 Sunset Boulevard, a block west of La Cinega. There are a couple of these coffee bars dotted around but the coolest one is here - just the place to watch all the actors and agents hangout and drink their double skinny lattes - or a cup of Earl Grey if you're having withdrawals.

A WALK IN THE PARK

Witness the eccentricities of life in LA on the boardwalk of Venice Beach (3). Essentially a place where people come to flaunt their individuality, you'll see snake charmers, Hare Krishnas, exercise fanatics and out-of- work actors. In LA, it comes as no surprise to learn that an eccentric tobacco millionaire designed this area to mimic Venice at the turn of the century, complete with canals. The area had fallen into disrepair but, post-gentrification, it is now enjoying a renaissance with plenty of flower-laden walkways and pastel-coloured clapboard houses.

AN APERITIF

If you can duck under the bouncers and red rope, or affect the disposition of someone who should be allowed into the Skybar on the top floor, try the achingly trendy Mondrian Hotel (8440 W Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, 00 1 323 848 6025) (2). It's a great place for people-watching and downing a few cocktails. Otherwise, try the newly opened Standard Hotel a few doors up. It boasts blue Astroturf around the swimming pool.

DEMURE DINNER

Les Deux Cafes (9) at North Las Palmas Ave (00 1 323 465 0509) is expensive (count on around $100 per head), but worth it for an experience that could easily resemble a scene out of the film The Player. Try and get a table in the garden.

Make sure you visit the Getty centre

GET YOUR BEARINGS

As the Dione Warwick song goes, "LA is a great big freeway" so the way to travel is by car. LA is more a sprawling mass of communities than a neat city centre. This, coupled with a population of about 11 million and a notoriously poor public transport system, means that getting around can, at first, be a touch overwhelming. The city can roughly be broken down into six different areas - Santa Monica and the beach, Beverly Hills & the Westside, Hollywood, Downtown, the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena. Each of these areas are linked by freeways. These are heavily congested during rush hours, so you have to be prepared to spend lots of time in your car, or else get up at the crack of dawn. Alternatively the LA Convention & Visitors Bureau at 685 South Figueroa Street, between Southern Street and Wilshire Boulevard may help: call 00 1 213 689 8822.

CHECK IN

There is no shortage of expensive accommodation in LA. Your choice simply depends on whether you want to be near the beach or be in Hollywood. In Hollywood at the upper end of the scale is the Chateau Marmont (1) (00 1 323 656 1010), a quiet celebrity favourite where rooms cost from $210 (pounds 140); or, if you prefer something trendier, try the Mondrian (2) (00 1 800 525 8029), where rooms cost from $260 (pounds 199). Hotel Del Capri (00 1 800 444 6835) is in the same area of town, but rooms cost from $95 (pounds 65). If you're more of a beach babe (or boy), there's the luxurious Shutters (00 1 800 334 9000) with rooms from $335 (pounds 228), or the more reasonable Casa Malibu (00 1 310 456 2219) further up the coast: boasting a private beach, and with rooms costing from $99 (pounds 65).

TAKE A RIDE

Are you going to San Francisco? Well not quite, but it's great to drive northwards up the perilous Pacific Coast Highway, past Santa Monica and Malibu colony (where the real stars live) and watch the sun going down from Point Dume.

Hard to miss: the Hollywood sign on the hills above LA

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Fred 62 (5) at 1850 N Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz (00 1 323 667 0062) is a kitsch, 24-hour, diner-style eaterie where you can chow down on anything from a burger or the omnipresent salad to the daily soup, "Cream of Whatever Fred Wants".

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

For most people LA does not immediately spring to mind when it comes to museums and culture. But the John Paul Getty Centre (4) (1200 Getty Center Drive, 00 1 310 440 7300) which opened in 1997, is an integral part of the LA experience. Costing a little over $1bn and designed by the architect Richard Meier, this controversial building houses predominately 19th-century European art, including Van Gogh's Irises (it reportedly cost the trust $35m). Perching high in the Santa Monica Hills, with the cars of the San Diego Freeway snaking below it, the museum is an ideal picnic location with views out over the ocean and the city. Reach it by a high-tech tram from the car park at the foothills.

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