Beverly Hills: It’s Not For Hillbillies

Since I’ve written about Hollywood, the not-so-charming entertainment district of Los Angeles, I thought I’d devote a post to Beverly Hills, home to the rich and famous, to some of the most beautiful –and expensive– real estate in the country, and some of the most exclusive retail shops in the world. This will complete the Tinseltown portion of this blog…

What can I say about Beverly Hills? Well, for starters, it is a beautiful place. If you come to LA, you must go see it.

The residential streets of Beverly Hills are lined with multi-million dollar mansions, towering trees, and miles of manicured green lawns. Driving around Sunset Boulevard and some of the streets north of Sunset you will see some of the most spectacular mansions in California. Stay away from them, though. The residents of such mansions have very tight security in place, with armed men and all…

The commercial areas of Beverly Hills are packed with good restaurants and most of the shops you’d find at a mall, plus other fine boutiques. I love to go there for a meal or some light shopping along Beverly Drive and Canon Drive.

Of course a visit to Beverly Hills, especially if one is a tourist, must include at least some window shopping along Rodeo Drive, where most of the luxury shops are. That can be fun, even if you don’t buy anything. Go in and check the prices… A t-shirt for $500? A simple cotton dress for $1,200? Sure, dah-ling! Why not?

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Just as in Hollywood, don’t expect to see movie stars parading around the streets of Beverly Hills, although the chances of spotting someone there are a bit higher. Stars have their routines and unless you follow the paparazzi around town, it’s hard to catch them. But if you do, act cool and try to snap a picture without them noticing. It works better than jumping on them and getting the cold shoulder…

Although Beverly Hills is part of LA County, it is an independent city, with its own government. In 2014, the City of Beverly Hills will turn 100. The community is putting together a year-long celebration consisting of tourism initiatives, regional events and community activities to pay tribute to Beverly Hills’ past, present and future. That should be a good time to visit!




One Year in LA. No Regrets

One year ago yesterday I arrived in Los Angeles. October 1, 2011 was a beautiful day, as most days are in L.A. We arrived at LAX late morning with our oversized luggage, and a couple of hours later were having lunch at BOA in Santa Monica, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. What a great feeling!

Some friends back in D.C. thought this move was, well, insane! After living in the nation’s capital and working for a highly reputable international development organization for many years, why was I moving to “LaLa land” of all places? What was I thinking?!

L.A.’s hardest critics are usually people who’ve either never been here or just visited briefly. They have a stereotyped image of the place –Hollywood, celebrities, money and frivolity. Nothing worthy of substance and cultural value could ever happen here. Actually, it was this kind of misconception about L.A. that inspired me to start Discovering L.A.

Having lived in California and visited L.A. many times, I knew there was much more to it than Hollywood and celebrities. I knew that besides its beautiful views of mountains and ocean, and its fabulous weather and beaches, this city had a lot to offer. L.A. has great museums, a fantastic Music Center, home to the L.A. Opera –with Placido Domingo at the helm– and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It has prestigious universities —UCLA and USC among others–that offer academic and cultural opportunities, and a large number of think tanks. There’s also a lot of activism in L.A. on myriad issues.

And, yes, you can indulge in celebrity culture, if that’s your thing. Hang out in Hollywood and Beverly Hills long enough and you’ll eventually catch a glimpse at one of the Kardashians or a real movie star. I must confess, I often forget that Hollywood is just around the corner. And if it weren’t for the Oscars, the Golden Globe, Emmys and other award shows, I wouldn’t remember I live in the entertainment capital of the world. But I have seen my share of celebrities, in very relaxed and informal situations, mostly around Santa Monica. No big deal.

Anyway, one year later, six months of which were spent on finding, buying and remodeling a house, I have no regrets. This was not a move made on a whim. California was our first home in the US many years ago, so moving to L.A. felt more like a long-overdue homecoming than a risky adventure.

June Gloom? Bring It!

I had been warned: the months of May and June in Los Angeles have lots of gray, gloomy days.

It was hard to envision that after having seen fall and winter days that were ten times sunnier than some spring and summer days on the East Coast! But locals assured me it would happen. And lo and behold, as June came along, so did those gray, breezy, gloomy days…

I don’t know about “May gray” –I didn’t notice anything special about the weather last month– but “June gloom” is for real! So far, almost every day in June has been cloudy and windy and somewhat gloomy.

This phenomenon is the result of three things that occur around this time of the year: cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California Current, and a high pressure formation known as the Pacific High. Put these three together and voilà! Welcome to June gloom!

While tourists and locals may dread this weather, I must confess I am enjoying it. I actually welcome a little cloud coverage in this intensely sunny city. For one, because, as many Angelenos do, we decided not to use our garage and turned it into a gym. That means our cars can bake in the sun for hours, making the first few minutes of a ride quite unpleasant. These cloudy, cooler days make a huge difference in that regard…

I also noticed that this phenomenon takes place mostly in the morning and early afternoon. By mid to late-afternoon the sun starts to break through the clouds and the rest of the day ends up being quite pleasant.

Whether one likes or hates June gloom, I guess it’s safe to say that June is not the best month to visit the L.A. area, especially if lying in the sun in Santa Monica or Malibu is your number one priority. Save that for the other summer months.

But no matter what your plans are, or what time of the year you come to L.A., the thing to always remember is that temperatures here vary within just a few miles. For example, when it’s 72°F in Santa Monica, it might be 80°F downtown, and even hotter in the Valleys. And the coast remains cool and comfortable, even a bit nippy, throughout the summer. No wonder the weather forecast for the L.A. area is a rather complicated report on what’s happening in the mountains, the desert, the valleys, the basin, the beaches, etc.

The bottom line? When visiting L.A. always dress in layers!!

P.S. Those are not my feet… 🙂