Although I have been extremely busy since I got here, I have had one or two opportunities to go out and explore parts of Los Angeles other than the UCLA campus!
Santa Monica & Venice Beach
Mum and I had lots of time to explore Santa Monica before I moved into the dorms, and as the blue bus goes directly to Santa Monica from Westwood, it was very convenient. We strolled along the pier and watched the fishermen, perused Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Shack, watched the sunset and even stumbled across a live screening of Carmen from the LA Opera House! I really enjoyed the pier – it was like Brighton pier on steroids, complete with aquarium, ferris wheels and an excessive number of buskers.
We went for dinner at Shutters on the Beach on our last night before I moved in, and I had the most glorious mac ‘n’ cheese complete with crispy onion and bacon pieces. I can honestly still taste it, it was that good!
On our first visit, we walked down the beach path to Venice Beach – a distance of about 2 miles – narrowly avoiding being mown down by cyclists and skaters more often than I would like to admit. The closer we got to Venice the sketchier the house fronts looked and the wares sold by shops grew dodgier. Camden-on-sea?
The murals and graffiti were quite impressively colourful, and the beach was, naturally, gorgeous. We passed through Muscle Beach and had a protein smoothie from the official Muscle Beach Smoothie Shop. We even found some actual muscles! The acrobatics and flexing on display were very impressive – although there was considerable whiff of ego in the sea breeze!
We didn’t venture beyond the sea front on our initial visit to Venice, which is a shame as the further back you get from the beach the nicer the neighbourhood gets. Apparently it’s called Venice because there’s a residential network of canals, which I would have loved to have seen.
However, I had the opportunity to return to Venice on Friday 6th October (a few weeks ago) as part of a Theta ‘sisterhood’ – these are events where the whole sorority is shipped off somewhere to bond and have cool experiences. It just so happened that Friday 6th was a ‘first Friday’ in Venice, where gourmet food trucks from all over the city gather for the day and people from all over stuff their faces with all sorts of weird and wonderful dishes. I played it pretty safe with (another) mac ‘n’ cheese, although this time it had steak and breadcrumbs in it! For my pudding (or desert I should say – ‘pudding’ means mousse over here) I had a very strange but delicious ‘breakfast cupcake’. This consisted of buttermilk cake (which tasted like pancake), maple syrup and coffee icing with little bits of crispy bacon on top. Definitely an experience!
We even travelled there in yellow school buses – so that ticked something off my bucket list!
Another sisterhood event put on for us by the sorority was rollerskating last Tuesday night. We were shipped off (again) in yellow school buses to Northridge, San Fernando Valley (I think?). I was a little nervous as skating-related activities have never really been my strong suit, as anyone who has seen me on an ice rink can attest.
It was all ok though! I did fall over multiple times and I still have bruises on my palms, but I had a great time and got to know some lovely people in my house. I even won a game they put on for us!: It was like musical chairs but with paper plates. When the music stopped everyone had to try and grab a plate – if you don’t, you’re out. I was lucky
the first two rounds – people dropped theirs – but in the last round I gave up on my wheels and threw myself to the floor to claim my prize (hehe). My reward was either a free trip back to the rollerskating centre or $1 worth of sweets from their shop. Guess which one I went for!
On Friday 13th (oooh) I ventured to Melrose Avenue with two fellow British exchanges, Freya and Kat. They had both been before and told me all about the famous murals that have made the street a tourist hotspot – including the bright pink instagram-able wall my old housemate Manny had told me about before I left.
We spent a lovely (if slightly hot) day wondering down the avenue, admiring the spectacular street art and browsing in surprisingly good value vintage stores. There were lots of quaint looking hipster coffee shops complete with walls of fame of famous ‘influencers’ who have given them custom. I’d definitely like to go back there simply for the shopping – so far most of the shops I’ve perused have been expensive designer labels, so it was refreshing to like the look of clothes I could potentially realistically afford.
On Sunday, I went waterskiing with the UCLA Waterski team for their ‘try-out’ weekend. It was the furthest outside of LA I’ve been and I really did feel like I was in the middle of nowhere! Definite Breaking Bad vibes at the gas station we stopped at en route.
The waterski lake was a functional catfish farm – something I tried not to think about too much. I had a great day in the desert heat, although I struggled to transition from two skis to a wakeboard. My arms hurt a lot today!
Westwood is the neighbourhood in which UCLA is situated. It’s a very happening place, with lots of shops, markets and events going on at all times. I wouldn’t describe it as a student town, as there aren’t very many student hang-outs or bars etc. and the price of living there is probably pretty high, but if you fancy a bubble tea (‘boba’) or a vegan steak sandwich, Westwood is the place to go!
Lots goes on in Westwood considering how far it is from central LA. On my first night at sleeping on campus they shut down a whole block of the village for a welcome back student party – complete with DJs, roller rink, photo booths and even a petting zoo! Wholefoods became a dance floor and the parking lot became an outdoor cinema. It was pretty crazy!
The cinema in Westwood is also a bit of a big deal – I had heard that celebrities were sometimes spotted there, but no one really ever gave specifics so I didn’t really think much of it. That was until I was wandering back from getting a smoothie with a Theta girl and we stumbled across the Westwood premiere for Only the Brave, starring Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller and Josh Brolin…and they were all there!
UPDATE: the Suburbicon premiere was held in Westwood on Sunday 22nd Oct and I saw George Clooney! Woo!