One of the inaugural gripes that fresh-off-the-boaters have landing in L.A. is that it’s “so spread out and hard to navigate.” As the city is built nearly on a grid system (if you discount Wilshire and Santa Monica’s sneaky crossover in Beverly Hills), it’s actually quite easy. The hills are up, the ocean’s left, the flightpath’s down and the skyscrapers are right. If you’ve transplanted from London, though, it should be easier still, as when you place an L.A. map on top of a London one, much of it is strikingly similar.
1. Central L.A. = Central London
Everyone says L.A. has no center. It does. It’s called Central L.A. on Google maps, and the garish nucleus, just like London’s Leicester Square, is full of neon, famous cinemas, movie premieres and tourists. And a stone’s throw from Hollywood is Sunset Strip, which, just like Covent Garden and environs, has equal numbers of tourists and locals, with restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels that are eternally cool (Chateau or Sunset Marquis) and others you wouldn’t be seen dead in. Until its recent revamp to Herringbone, the Mondrian hotel’s Asia De Cuba even had the same menu as its St Martin’s Lane London’s sister.
2. Hollywood Hills = Primrose Hill
It’s a bit posh up there, quite leafy for a city, with fancy houses full of meejah dahlings, hills and a couple of secret exclusive restaurants like Pace in Laurel Canyon and expensive schools. People take Sunday strolls up there and look over city views for fun. Sounds suspiciously like Primrose Hill? You’ll find it north of the neon action, just the same.
3. Silverlake = Shoreditch
Struggling, aspiring, authentically creative suffering meejah darling? Hate capitalism but happy to fork out a car payment for an artisan coffee? In the L.A. locale, mustachioed musos, in vintage independent clothing that all looks identical, hang out in deliberately dive-styled bars listening to undiscovered bands. Silverlake is often referred to as “gentrified” or up-and-coming by those with city jobs but no down payment because they’re paying hipster-tax to drink out of a can. If you want your fix of Brick Lane and Shoreditch, here’s your place, conveniently squeezed East between the neon and the bankers. Disclaimer: there is a dearth of good Indian food in Silverlake; you’ll need to travel further East to Alhambra for that. You will find a good salt beef (corned beef) bagel, but bring your own Colmans.
4. Downtown = Central East London
Guess what? Not everyone in L.A. works in the entertainment industry, and DTLA is where many of their grindstones are based. The jewelry district, fashion district and flower markets are closely combined near the bankers just like Hatton Garden, Spitalfields and Columbia Road in Central East London. And, of course, these areas are peppered with gastropubs and cocktail bars that are tough to find but cool when you get in. Elegant and solid architecture is juxtaposed with gleaming modern towers and entertainment complexes on the fringes, as the Staples Center and L.A. Convention Center mirrors East London’s Excel and O2 arena.
5. Beverly Hills = Kensington
Sick of the hoi polloi? Rather hang with the cast of Made In Chelsea than TOWIE? Then don your Gucci shades and gold cufflinks and hotfoot it to Rodeo Drive, L.A.’s Knightsbridge and Kensington, full of swanky shops and ladies who lunch. You’ll find cosmetic upgrades and socialites aplenty on the map just west of center, conveniently on the way to the airport…
Which, while we are on the subject, lies southwest of the city center whether you’re landing at LAX or Heathrow. The only difference being the view from takeoff.
7. The Beach
OK, technically, if you did travel west out of London, you would at some point arrive at a beach, though no guarantee of quality or sunshine. However, rest assured that on your way, before you were to hit Santa Monica’s ocean view, you would hit the unfathomably comparable Staines Reservoir.
8. The 10 freeway = A4
Just like the A4, the 10 travels east to west out of town and is guaranteed to be jammed.
9. The Valley = Watford
Ah suburbia. Family homes and shopping malls, generic nightclubs and car dealerships. It’s all here in the Valley. If you want directions, head northwest. But if you use any excuse not to go, it’s probably for the same reasons you avoided Watford and Hemel Hempstead. Without the heat.