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Old 13 Dec 23, 06:31 PM  
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Travelling From Coast To Coast August 2023: Day 6 - Los Feliz Flea and Icons of Darkness

Day 6: Saturday 12th August 2023

Today was our second accommodation move. We would be heading out a little later than is the usual for us on holiday, primarily because our first couple of stops this morning opened a bit later, but this also gave us a chance to finish packing up a little slower. Unfortunately for me, I was awake at 4.25 am as I was still feeling the jet lag in the mornings.

I took this photo of the bathroom soap as it amused me that it was scented ‘English and Pear.’ Ah, my favourite smell…English.

I went back to bed but didn’t really sleep. Eventually I just got up again, showered and then Mat and I carried on with the packing. My slightly slower, more relaxed packing didn’t quite work out as planned as I was struggling to cram everything back into the suitcases in a way that would make it easier for us when I came to unpack again later today. I absolutely love lots of different accommodation stops on a trip, especially because it feels like it makes the holiday pass slower, but I do not love all the packing and unpacking.

Everyone was getting hungry and as this morning’s breakfast destination opened at 8 am, we abandoned the suitcases and piles of clothes about 15 minutes before that. We got in the car to head out for breakfast. I was hoping that when we got back it would all come together a little easier.

Why don’t I have a view that includes a palm tree from my driveway at home?

It took us about ten minutes to drive to Little Barn Coffee House in Glassell Park. It was street parking only but we didn’t have any problems finding a spot just across the street. Little Barn is a very cute little kiosk restaurant selling breakfasty vegan food (they also have a lunch menu) and is owned by two Latina LGBTQ women. We arrived a couple of minutes after it had opened and there were already a handful of customers ordering food and coffee. It’s clearly popular with locals and regulars as they had customers arriving the entire time we were there.

We had a look at the menu and Freya decided this morning was an ‘Ew there’s no way I’m eating vegan food today, not even a vegan croissant’ kind of morning. Perfect. So she was grumpy. She was moaning that we needed to go somewhere afterwards so she could eat. This wasn’t ideal as it would slow us down with finishing up the packing and getting to where we needed to be this morning.

While Mat and Seren did the ordering, Freya and I went to sit at the patio seating area behind the kiosk which was just lovely. Luckily the moaning doesn’t come across in my photos.

As the food is cooked to order and there were a good few customers here, we had a bit of a wait for our food. I used the time to google where we could take Freya to get eggs nearby since that was what she wanted. There was a Denny’s about five minutes drive away but I couldn’t get online ordering to work so we’d have to order takeout when we got there. That placated her enough to not moan too much while the rest of us had our breakfast. Instead she just sat there with a face like thunder. She does have hangry tendencies.

Mat brought the food round when it was ready. I had the vegan bacon avocado scramble which was Just Egg (you could also have tofu), vegan bacon, avocado and vegan cheese. Seren had the vegan veggie scramble with Just Egg (again instead of tofu), mushrooms, spinach, onions and vegan cheese. Mat had the OG breakfast sandwich (marinated tofu, tomato, basil, red onion and vegan cheese on a croissant.) Seren got an iced vanilla latte and Mat will definitely have had a double espresso too.

The food was really good and we will definitely be back. Oftentimes vegan restaurant food, especially with breakfast, can feel a little ‘too’ healthy to be a treat but this was definitely much more comfort food than healthy. Highly recommended. Seren didn’t like hers so she didn’t eat much and we ended up swapping half our meals with each other. It’s hardly surprising she didn’t like it as she doesn’t like mushrooms or spinach so I think my making bad menu decisions had become contagious. I actually preferred hers as I thought it was more flavourful and had a more savoury taste than mine. Plus contradictory to what I just said, it tasted healthier which is my preference.

While we were there, only one other group sat in the seating area. Most people were definitely taking their food away. I didn’t really enjoy eating out of the paper carton to be fair and I’ve seen on their instagram that they seem to have paper plates so I don’t know if they just assumed we were taking our food away. Next time I’m going to try and get my breakfast on a plate instead of out of a carton as I think that was the only thing that could have been improved besides the option of not having to listen to a hangry teenager during the experience.

Once we were all done, we made the drive to Denny’s. We pulled up and Mat and Freya went inside to order. Mat hadn’t been to a Denny’s before whereas they were a breakfast staple during my childhood Orlando trips. He said it was busy, old fashioned but in a good way and there were lots of what seemed to be regulars there from the conversations they were having with the staff. He said the staff were very friendly. They ordered Freya two sunny side up eggs on English muffins and it didn’t take long for them to be ready.

We drove back to the AirBnb and Freya ate her eggs while Mat and I finished off the packing. We were all ready to leave about 10.15 am (check-out time was 11 am.)

I took a photo of the plant in the bedroom to hold onto the memories:

These succulents lined the pathway to our access to the AirBnb and I very much appreciated them:

There were some little crystal animals in the beds too:

We had to drop our luggage at the Hollywood Hotel which, as per our last luggage drop off, I’d booked via Bounce. I had liked the idea of using a hotel because I thought it would be easy since they had a big car park and they would have proper luggage storage facilities. Plus in my head I pictured an old Tower of Terror style hotel that we could have a quick nosey at while we were there. We drove the seven or so minutes to the hotel in East Hollywood.

First up, the hotel car park was gated with a keypad entry system. Okay, so no easy big car park. We drove to the entrance and were able to pull up outside the door as it was signposted as check-in parking, however it was single file traffic so my people-pleasing anxiety kicked in a little as we would potentially be blocking access for anyone coming in behind us. Mat reassured me it was fine as we wouldn’t be in there long and just needed to get our business done.

We unpacked the car and noticed the lobby staff had to press a button to let us into the hotel reception. It definitely felt like we were in Hollywood now as this was one of the first times we’d been aware of safety measures being in place. Hollywood isn’t considered the best part of LA by any means, although as per everywhere else we went on the trip, we really didn’t experience any problems ourselves.

We went inside and had to wait a few minutes for one of the two reception staff to become available. We encountered about seven or eight parties checking in / out while we were dropping / collecting our luggage here today and at least five or six of them were British. We barely came across any other British people while in Los Angeles for two weeks and yet the relative concentration of them here was remarkable. So if you’re in LA and looking for fellow Brits, head to the Hollywood Hotel. But maybe do some research first as the google reviews aren’t great. I think I was almost there with my ‘Tower of Terror hotel’ idea except this felt way less grand than that and a bit more like a Best Western circa 1990s. But definitely a faded glory kind of vibe.

The clerk asked us if we were checking in and I explained that we had a luggage reservation. He took us down the corridor to the luggage storage room which was quite a small walk-in cupboard. So not quite the ‘it’s a hotel so it will have plenty of space for our stuff’ situation that I had pictured. It took a bit of effort to get everything in and he then gave us tags for the luggage in the same way guests do if leaving luggage before check-in / after check-out at a hotel usually.

The girls had headed back to the lobby to use the restroom while the desk clerk had been sorting our stuff out. When we got to the lobby they were nowhere to be seen and the reception restroom doors were locked. Another staff member told us they had coded entry and that the girls had gone in there. Mat went to use the Mens (honestly my family can go nowhere without checking out the restroom facilities) while I waited in the lobby praying that no one pulled up behind our car and kicked off because they couldn’t get past. Honestly, the things I get anxious about. Eventually we were all present and correct and heading back out to the car.

So yes, the Hollywood Hotel wasn’t quite the ‘Hollywood hotel’ / luggage experience I was expecting but it got the job done. It was notable that at this hotel, staff were restricting access to the car park, lobby and lobby restrooms and I would definitely recommend using that information if looking to book a hotel in Hollywood itself. For anyone looking to visit Los Angeles, I don’t think it would take much research on Reddit, Trip Advisor and the like before you stumble across the advice that staying somewhere like West Hollywood, Burbank, North Hollywood (specifically near Universal) or Santa Monica is preferable to Hollywood. Hollywood is fine for a short daytime visit but even as a paid up member of the Los Angeles fanclub, I wouldn’t choose to stay in Hollywood itself overnight.

On the way back to Los Feliz, we happened to go over the Shakespeare Bridge that we’d taken photos of from underneath the previous day.

We were going back to Los Feliz for a flea market next but had a bit of time before it was due to open at 11 am. Seren, in true Seren fashion, requested we make a quick Starbucks pitstop. She had ‘helpfully’ tracked one down only a few minutes’ drive from where we were. It was busy at the Starbucks being mid Saturday morning and we managed to grab the last available parking spot.

Mat went in with Seren to get her iced vanilla oat latte but refrained from buying a coffee for himself as we planned to get one at the flea market and sit and chill while the girls shopped. We then got back on the road and attempted to find Walt Disney’s first home in Los Feliz on Lyric Avenue but I think we struggled to locate the correct house. Doofuses.

We drove over to John Marshall High School where Los Feliz Flea was to take place and found our way to the parking lot. I think we arrived at the ideal time, about 10.45 am, as there were quite a few parking spaces available when we pulled up but by the time we left the car park after applying sunscreen at 10.55, the lot was quite full.

The girls were very excited about visiting the flea market which had been one of two fleas on the list for the trip for quite a while. This one, as was the case with the other which we’d be visiting tomorrow, was a two birds with one stone situation as the girls got to shop at a flea market which is one of their favourite things to do, and I would get to visit the high school playing field where they shot the end scene of Grease.

From the school car park, we had to go back out onto the street to enter the flea market. As we were walking towards the street, we came face to face with the aforementioned playing field. As I said in yesterday’s report, I’m a huge Grease fan and have been since the age of eight, so this was super exciting for me. In fact, I got a bit teary (again.) This kind of stuff is just so exciting to me and the idea that an iconic scene from such a well, iconic movie was filmed in this spot just over 45 years ago….it just makes me so happy to visit these places in real life.

Here are 900 photos of it to provide the opportunity to join me in my excitement:

There was a…I want to say American Football match or soccer match or practise session taking place (I don’t know what they were playing as I wasn’t looking at the young guys, I was looking at the scenery, unlike my daughters.) Looking at the field, it’s apparent that the film crew shot the scene (particularly We Go Together) from the end where we were standing because the building to the right is in shot (you can make out the fire escape steps). Griffith Park (if my geography is correct) is behind the cast while they’re performing that song. The running track is new but other than that it’s evident that this is the location. I had to kind of be dragged away to the actual flea market by my family. I took another few photos from the street because the first ones weren’t enough:

Entrance to Los Feliz Flea is free. We walked in and immediately came across the coffee truck. Seren was stressing because she didn’t have cash. She had it in her head that the vendors would only accept cash as she watches a lot of thrifting videos on youtube and apparently cash only is a thing at flea markets. All the info I could find said that most vendors here accepted card payments (so fine) or Cash App / Venmo (which wouldn’t work for us being international visitors). There was an ATM on site located at the back of the market but it hadn’t yet been set up as it was only just 11 am. With Seren’s ADHD, we know that in a situation like this we have to just help her sort out the issue she’s hyper focused on because it’s only going to snowball otherwise. We planned to get the ATM situation sorted before coffee, but because of the delay with setting up the cash machine, we told the girls to start having a look around while it was being set up and we grabbed our usual coffees from the truck. The guy was nice and friendly, and the coffee - although it took me a long while to drink because it was so hot but no complaints here as I had several hours of chill time ahead of me - was very good.

We walked through part of the flea…

…and found this lovely courtyard seating area where Mat and I would base ourselves.

Continued below...

Edited at 12:44 PM.
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Old 13 Dec 23, 06:33 PM  
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Mat went with the girls to the ATM which was now in business. Seren got her cash out from the ATM and I think Freya took some out too to be on the safe side. To be fair, Seren spends money like it’s going out of fashion so it was probably good from a budgeting perspective that she was using cash. They then headed off to explore.

John Marshall High School, as well as being used for the final scene in Grease, was also used in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Pretty In Pink and the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie. The buildings are really beautiful and I was extremely happy just sitting there chilling and taking it all in while drinking my coffee.

They were playing music that was generally all the same genre: 70s / 80s funk pop / R&B style stuff. Mat and I were grooving along to such classics as Automatic by The Pointer Sisters and Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing) by Zapp which are lifelong favourite tunes of mine. They were promptly added to the holiday playlist so we could listen to them again throughout the trip as they were now ‘holiday songs’.

After about 50 minutes, the girls popped back to drop off what they had bought so far and to have a drink of water (it was pretty hot).

They were absolutely loving Los Feliz Flea, it was fair to say. We had a brunch reservation we needed to be at a little later so we told them they had about 30 minutes left before we needed to leave. I had seen on Instagram that there was a stand here selling natural frozen fruit lollies and I fancied one so Mat, who isn’t great at sitting around for too long, went off to find one for me. It took a while but he tracked them down in the end. The lolly was mango with a spice, possibly tajin but I didn’t note it down. Because of that it wasn’t very sweet which was absolutely fine with me. I very much enjoyed it.

Just after 12.30 pm the girls returned all shopped out (or at least out of cash). Freya had bought this sweatshirt, a Michael Myers t-shirt and a pair of Hooters shorts that were a bit big for her.

Seren bought a few t-shirts including a vintage Disney World one, a men’s knitted sweater vest a la Chandler Bing, and a couple of skirts, again one of which is way too big and needs adjusting but for now just hangs out in her floordrobe. The girl has way too many clothes.

We headed back round to the car and set off for brunch. We were heading west to Nic’s on Beverly on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. When planning the trip, google maps had estimated it would take between 25 and 55 minutes for us to get there on a Saturday lunchtime. With such a wide-ranging journey time, we wanted to give ourselves a bit of buffer room to arrive by our 2 pm reservation. The restaurant closes at 3 at the end of brunch so we had aimed to get there a bit before our reservation time so we wouldn’t be stragglers with staff cleaning up around us.

We went back over the Shakespeare Bridge:

We passed Quentin Tarantino’s cinema, New Beverly Theater:

I wish our local garden centre looked like this:

It did take us about 45 minutes to get there today. We pulled up around the back where they have their own paid parking lot which was pretty quiet today. The attendant came over and we paid in cash, I think it was $10.

The back entrance to the restaurant wasn’t operational.

We walked around to the front of the building where the restaurant’s entrance was.

Cute sidewalk art:

It was about 1.30 pm so we were about half an hour early for our reservation which wasn’t a problem. The outdoor patio was pretty busy, but the indoor seating area was fairly quiet. Unfortunately my husband and eldest daughter do not like eating outside (I think their fear of the sun has to do with their fair skin and Scottish roots) so we would be sitting inside today as per usual.

Okay, so Nic’s on Beverly is a fully vegan restaurant owned by a guy in LA, Nic Adler, who has a few vegan restaurants in the city. It comes up pretty quickly when you start researching vegan restaurants in Los Angeles. According to the LA Times it’s a favourite of one of the world’s most famous vegans, Joaquin Phoenix. I really liked the look of their brunch menu which is only offered on weekends, and the food is pretty highly rated. So it was in the plans fairly early on that we would be eating here on our first weekend in LA. And then two months before our holiday, Nic made an instagram post announcing that the restaurant would be closing a couple of weeks later because their landlord was asking for payment of all the rent they couldn’t pay during covid because of not being operational. It was clearly a very emotional situation and there were lots of comments from customers expressing how sad they were about it. Less than two weeks later, there was another post from Nic saying he had been overwhelmed by the response and by how many people had come into the restaurant to eat there ‘one last time’. And also that the restaurant was now staying open as he’d sat down with the landlord again and they’d managed to work something out so they could continue.

So here we were. I am so glad Nic’s on Beverly didn’t shut down because it was hands down my favourite meal of the entire holiday. The restaurant is gorgeous and the food was absolutely amazing. The only very minor point deduction would be that the hostess who welcomed and seated us was snooty. But all the other staff we had contact with were absolutely lovely.

Look how pretty:



Rare sighting of the other side of the table:

I ordered a Wishing For Spring cocktail which was also the best cocktail of the trip, head and shoulders above the others I had. Granted I don’t often order cocktails as I generally find them disappointing especially the weak, icy, sweet ones that are common at Disney. I had too many of those this trip (one is too many to be fair.) But the point being this cocktail was outstanding. Strong, delicious and interesting. It was gin, creme de violette, lavender syrup, lime and aquafaba. It was perfectly balanced.

Mat ordered an orange juice and Freya ordered a Diet Coke but they only serve a different brand so she had that and probably didn’t drink it. Seren stuck with tap water. To eat, Freya went with the Impossible burger and house-cut fries. It’s rare that she wants a full meal rather than just fries but I think she was feeling pretty hungry after all that shopping. She ordered it plain with just ketchup. Mat ordered the Crispy Mushroom Sandwich which was an oyster mushroom with cabbage slaw, herbs and spicy ranch served in a bun with fries. Seren picked the Country Breakfast which was Just Egg, fingerling potatoes, onions, mini sweet peppers, sausage and jalapeno aioli (which Mat and I relieved her of as she wasn’t interested in it and we both very much were.) I had the Rise and Grind (organic tofu ‘migas’, farro chorizo, black beans, avocado, chipotle tahini crema and breakfast potatoes.)





Honestly, looking at these photos is making me seriously want to click ‘book’ on the BA page I’ve been hovering over for weeks. It could be this meal that prioritises booking next year’s holiday over waiting for possible summer concert dates from my two most loved bands in the world. And I would never put food over music so that just shows how good this meal was.

All of the food, as I've said, was outstanding. MIne was one of those meals where you can’t help but groan with happiness when you take a bite. All of the elements individually were absolutely delicious and then they all went together so well too. Ugh, I wish I could just go back there right now and eat it all again. Even the fries were outstanding. Once I’d finished my cocktail I ordered a nice glass of prosecco to finish the meal off.

Nic’s on Beverly charges an annoying service charge which was $4.20. I’ve discussed the service charge situation in Los Angeles before and how it’s not gone down well with customers as it seems to just be a sneaky way of charging customers extra and goes straight to the owners in most cases. This wasn’t a cheap brunch at $183 after tip but as it was such a good meal I’m not going to think too much about how expensive it was and to be fair we’ve paid more at Disney for not good food.

So in case it isn’t clear enough, I highly recommend Nic’s On Beverly.

We left the restaurant at about 2.45 pm and drove to Ovation Hollywood to park up. Now, we all know Hollywood Boulevard around the main touristy bit by the Chinese Theater is…what it is. When I came to Los Angeles as a teenager with my family back in the 90s, we visited this area and it was tacky, touristy and a bit grim back then. According to Wikipedia, it became seedy in the 1970s. I knew things hadn’t improved out on the Boulevard from everything I’ve ever read from locals and tourists and had told Mat and the girls this. We knew we were making a quick pitstop as this was the best place to park for the museum we were visiting which was a two minute walk from Ovation Hollywood (formerly Hollywood and Highland.) I had said that if there was time and we felt comfortable, we would spend a few minutes looking at some of the handprints outside the Chinese Theater and a few of the Walk of Fame stars. Seren already had it in her head on the way there that she was going to hate it and feel scared but I told her we would just chill and play it by ear.

We got a little preview as we arrived at Ovation:

When we got to the parking garage, it was evident that things had changed a lot since my last visit, which was probably in about 1993. I remember we parked in a little open air parking lot behind the theatre and walked round to Hollywood Boulevard to take photos. I remember my parents being a bit…concerned about the area when we parked up and it was a very quick, efficient visit to be able to check off seeing the Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame. It actually made me feel pretty old that now there is this huge shopping and parking structure there, which of course I already knew about from youtube videos and other trip reports etc.

Anway, we entered the parking garage which was very busy with it being a Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer. We had to go down a few levels (the garage is underground) to find open spaces.

We took several escalators up to the main shopping levels. I thought it was pretty nice to be fair.

I made the girls pose with the Hollywood Sign in the background…

..before we took the Oscars stairs (the Dolby Theater stairs) down to street level to head out onto Hollywood Boulevard.

Continued below...
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Old 13 Dec 23, 06:46 PM  
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They really don’t look thrilled about heading out there but I kept reassuring them it would be fine.

We had about 20 minutes before our museum booking so we decided to have a little look at some of the handprints in front of the Chinese theatre. One half of the area was shut down to prepare for an event so the tourists (and there were a lot of them) were all condensed into one side.

To be honest, while it is a bit tacky, my only problem around the Chinese Theater was the flipping tourists who had no idea of personal space. A couple of times I had someone step onto the handprints square I was taking a very quick snap of even though I was standing at the edge of it and it was clear that’s what I was doing. It’s infuriating when you exercise patience and consideration in situations like this and wait your turn and plenty of other people don’t bother to show the same courtesy. The ‘bad’ tourists give us all a bad name. Rant over.

I had hoped to see Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s hand prints to add to my La La Land trip photos but I knew their…rectangle? concrete slab?...was in the closed half. Oh well.

We didn’t actively seek out any Walk of Fame stars as it was really busy so I just snapped a couple as we passed:

We took a walk a few feet to the left to one of those really tacky tourist gift shops. We did that really just for an air conditioning break. It was as expected and we pretty much immediately turned around and walked back past the Chinese Theater to our next destination as it was now about time to check in.

We were visiting Icons of Darkness and were booked on the 4 pm tour. I had seen Icons of Darkness in a Grimm Life Collective youtube video a month or so before the trip. The video was absolutely fascinating and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in movie costumes and props, particularly horror, superhero, sci-fi, fantasy and action movies. I should say that I don’t like horror, superhero, fantasy or sci-fi movies at all, yet I was completely hooked by the video. Basically, Icons of Darkness is a costume and props collection owned by this guy called Rich Correll who started working as an actor in Hollywood at the age of eight. He eventually co-created, directed and produced some iconic Disney Channel series’ such as Hannah Montana, and produced and directed sitcoms such as Happy Days and Full House. But he has a real passion for the types of movies featured in the collection and over the past 50 years, he has amassed the world’s most extensive privately-owned collection of authentic sci-fi, fantasy and horror movie memorabilia (yes that line is taken from Icons of Darkness’ website.) One of the reasons the video was so interesting to me is how engaging Rich is and how much knowledge he has about the items featured in the exhibit.

In the video he talked in detail about a lot of the items in the collection but it was explained that visiting Icons of Darkness works a bit differently as it’s basically a guided tour. I had a look at the website and reviews and found out it is a 30 minute group tour through the collection and that there are jump scares. I thought this would be a no-go with Seren as she hates scary things and the idea of anything like Halloween Horror Nights petrifies her. But I decided to show the family the video and see what they thought. They were all as impressed as me and wanted us to add Icons of Darkness to the plans, so I did and here we were.

We checked in and the friendly person on reception told us to have a little look at the few exhibits in the lobby while we waited for everyone on the tour to check in. She said Ryan would be our guide and he would be along shortly and we’d get started right at 4 pm.

We said hello to Jack Skellington and then it was pretty much time to get going.

If I recall correctly our tour was the four of us, two couples and one solo guy. We had been made aware of the solo guy before the tour started because he was talking to all of the staff in the lobby area. And it was evident that he was very much a superfan of the stuff we were here for. He very much liked to talk about the subject matter and kind of didn’t stop talking.

Ryan rounded us all up and introduced himself. He was awesome. A proper movie / horror and sci-fi geek with so much knowledge and extremely engaging. We were a bit concerned about how the tour was going to work out with our fellow participant replying to pretty much everything Ryan said with a comment like ‘Well actually….’ There was a time pressure on the tour and we knew this guy was capable of derailing that a little considering how much he’d already said before we’d even left the lobby.

The actual space isn’t very big but it is most certainly crammed with so many exhibits. It’s really impressive. We got moving and Ryan was excellent at talking about the memorabilia and using his pointy stick to show us things. After a couple of minutes we heard a loud noise up ahead as another group were heading back towards the lobby. I clocked that this was one of the jump scares. Ryan said ‘Don’t worry about that right now.’

Here are some photos of the highlights and then I’ll talk about the jump scares and what we thought overall without giving too many spoilers.

Such a legend he needs two photos:

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... continued

Rare photo of Ryan:

Freya’s least favourite part was the Arachnophobia memorabilia as she is very scared of spiders.

I think there are about five jump scares and I think they’re triggered by the guide’s pointy stick. The group has to stay close together and close to the guide, but most people in our group were quite slow and hesitant and I kept finding myself at the front which meant that at least a few times, I was closest to the jump scare action. I was actually quite apprehensive about the jump scares although Ryan had told us they were automated and no real life people were going to jump out on us or anything. When the first jump scare happened, I (funnily enough) jumped and let out a little scream. Pretty much everyone else in the group seemed totally unfazed. Even Seren. My teenagers were a bit ‘Don’t be embarrassing Mother’ which didn’t help as my nerves about the jump scares actually increased after the first one. I wasn't overwhelmed with anxiety about it or having a panic attack or anything and it was all good fun but I was definitely nervous about where and when the next one would take place.

At the back of the exhibit there’s kind of an enclosed ‘horror corridor’ and it was quite dark and scary in there. Ryan told us we all had to stay close together while we walked through and looked at those exhibits. He was hinting there was going to be a jump scare in there. That was definitely the most anxious I felt and even the people in our group who were very laid back elsewhere seemed on edge during that part. Freya and I were clinging onto each other as we walked through. And yes there was a jump scare in there. I realised in the ‘horror corridor’ that I could never do Halloween Horror Nights either.

Photos from the horror corridor:

It was over all too quickly which my nerves were very grateful for. I’d seen reviews from other participants who had felt they would have preferred to tour the exhibition at their own pace but I think it’s really special the way it is presented. Apparently this is only a portion of Rich’s collection and he would like to move into a bigger space to showcase more which we would definitely go back for.

Back in the lobby, we thanked Ryan for being such a brilliant guide. I love that he was selling copies of his werewolf novel at reception. We took a photo of the girls with Jack Skellington and the door staff offered to take a photo of us all together which was very nice of them and finished off the experience perfectly.

We would all absolutely recommend Icons of Darkness. It was truly a highlight of the trip and pretty much makes all of our top five, which is high praise indeed considering we did at least five things a day for two weeks in Los Angeles. Admission is $30 per adult which I guess is a lot for 30 minutes but it really does feel like a special, unique experience.

*EDIT: UPDATE - Icons of Darkness Hollywood closed at the end of December 2023. They are reopening in a larger space in Las Vegas in the summer *

So, today was a day of huge highs. I had loved Little Barn Coffee House, Los Feliz Flea, Nic’s on Beverly and Icons of Darkness and cannot recommend all of them highly enough. We were all in high spirits after Icons of Darkness and I was thinking this was a perfect day. Little did I know things were going to go south in a little while.

We took another photo on Hollywood Boulevard as we headed back to the car. As you can see my daughters absolutely loved being out here.

I will say again, besides being very busy with tourists and there being a couple of guys with megaphones shouting about something, there really wasn’t much going on for the Boulevard to live up to its reputation this afternoon.

We headed back up the escalators.

We were all really thirsty so we decided to grab a couple of Diet Cokes from Johnny Rockets. It took a few minutes for them to be ready as they were pretty busy up there but the staff were very friendly and the drinks very much hit the spot.

Seren restroomed (of course) and then we paid for the parking and went back down the escalators to the car. It was probably about 4.55 pm as we drove out of Ovation.

We needed to buy a few toiletry / medical bits and I think yet more water so we drove to Vons on Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood as it was on the way to the Hollywood Hotel where our luggage was waiting patiently for us.

We bought the bits we wanted and it took a few minutes as we had to get a member of staff to come and unlock the antiseptic cream we were buying for our insect bites. Sidenote: none of us usually get bitten really on holiday but oh my, did the insects in Los Angeles love all of us. This supermarket is very much one of those where a lot of the products are in locked cabinets, even things like antiseptic cream and deodorant. Ooh I also bought some hand washing liquid as I wanted to wash my white shirts, and Seren needed hair removal cream. This obviously isn’t very interesting but it will become semi-relevant a little later.

Seren had decided she needed yet another iced latte from the instore Starbucks so she and Freya had been waiting to order there while Mat and I paid for the shopping.

There was one employee working at Starbucks so it was taking a while. After we’d paid, we were all standing with Seren waiting for her to order when Mat suddenly ran off to talk to a guy shopping in the aisle behind us. We were pretty alarmed that he had decided to harass a random shopper but as the guy turned around to see who was speaking to him, it became apparent that they knew each other.

Mat had somehow bumped into a friend. Marco, (who lives in Toronto) in the middle of a supermarket in Hollywood. The guy is a documentary film maker and as Mat is a music writer in his spare time, they had become friends through working together. Mat appeared as a talking head in one of his films. Neither of them had known the other was in the USA, let alone in the same city. Marco said he had only been thinking of Mat the day before as he’d seen a record that reminded him of him. Talk about the law of attraction. Mat introduced us and then when Seren finally had her coffee in hand, we headed out.

From Von’s, our next stop was to collect our luggage from the Hollywood Hotel. Picking up the luggage was basically a repeat of what had taken place this morning but obviously reversed.

And this is where the day took a turn. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the specifics of our new accommodation because of how it ended up. Our experience was our experience and it could be that we were just unlucky and the issues have been rectified now.

From East Hollywood, we travelled to the Hollywood Hills.

We arrived at the AirBnb about 6.20 pm. This property had actually been the first AirBnb we had booked for the trip (or in fact ever) and we had chosen it primarily for the location and the view.

First impressions were…not great. We had known the decor was classic and that it hadn’t been renovated but the reviews were good so we assumed it was clean and comfortable and weren’t too worried about it. As soon as we walked in, we noticed that the design was more old fashioned and quirky than we had been expecting. We didn’t love it and as we moved through the house it didn’t get any better. The living space was upstairs and that was where you entered the property. The bedrooms and bathrooms were downstairs. It was really dark downstairs. There were even a couple of creepy portrait paintings which were a bit freaky. The place definitely had a weird vibe and as I said, we didn’t love it. At this point, although I was disappointed and freaked out, we agreed that we would just get on with it and make the best of it. We were trying to be positive and said maybe it would be fun being in a creepy house. It would definitely be an experience, and at least we were only here for two nights. Plus we were really only here to sleep anyway.

Freya’s face says it all about how we were feeling at this point:

It was a bit of a pain carrying all the suitcases downstairs but we got on with it and did a bit of unpacking. The original plan had been to get here a bit earlier and do an urban hike in Beachwood Canyon before dinner at the Harry Styles cafe (as mentioned in day 2) which was nearby. When we added in Icons of Darkness we knew this would be a bit of a stretch. The girls didn’t want to go back out for dinner or a walk. We discussed just Mat and I going for the hike and getting food delivered and that kind of became the new plan. We did a little unpacking down in the bedrooms and I tried using my phone to look into getting food delivered but there was no reception down there and we hadn’t had a look at the wifi yet. When I did manage to get a bit of signal, I searched a couple of restaurants I had in mind that technically weren’t very ‘far’ but they didn’t deliver to where we were. I’m guessing being in the hills can be a bit of an issue for food deliveries as it’s a bit of a trek.

We popped out onto the deck which was the real selling point of the house with views of the hills and the Hollywood Sign. We were considering getting some food from the store at the bottom of Beachwood Canyon and sitting out here to eat, thinking we may as well make the most of the best feature of the house. The views were stunning.

Mat and I sat down for a minute and immediately became aware of two things. Firstly, there was a consistent drip from a pipe on the upper floor onto the deck beside us, and secondly, there was a party taking place in the outdoor space at a house further up in the hills. They were playing loud annoying dance music (I hate dance music.) It was before 7 pm so it wasn’t like we were trying to sleep or anything, but we knew it would impact our enjoyment of sitting out here to eat.

It was kind of too late to do the hike now and the store closed at 8 pm so we decided that Mat and I would drive down there and get snacks. The girls still cba to go back out, and none of us were that hungry so we thought we’d just get some crisps and some water and alcohol and have a quiet, early night. The girls were a bit scared of the house so we set them up in the upstairs living space (the upstairs was less creepy than the dark downstairs) with the TV and a DVD from the rack and then headed out to the car.

First challenge was that the parking space in front of the house where our car was parked was…tight. You kind of had to sweep the car into the space so it was parallel with the house and the road. So you drive in one end and straight out of the other. Which is fine except there is a kerb which doesn’t make it easy and a wall at the top end that doesn't give much room at all. So for us it meant a bit of backwards and forwards trying to manoeuvre out of the space without getting stuck on the kerb or hitting the wall. That was a bit of a challenge but the bigger issue is that the roads in the hills are narrow and bendy. It would be really difficult to turn left out of the driveway and go back down the hill because immediately to the right of the house was a big bend in the road. So you couldn’t see at all if something was coming down. Plus with the road being narrow and there being a bank directly opposite the house, it would take a bit of backwards and forwards in the road to do so and anyone coming down the hill wouldn’t see the car in the road until they’d cleared the bend, by which time they’d probably be in the side of your car. So we made the more safe decision to go up the hill further and find our way from there as we would at least be on the ‘right’ side of the road.

There was a group of people hiking down the road so we had to wait for them to pass before we could finally get onto the road. I’m pretty sure there are parking restrictions on some of the roads around the hills here until 6 pm in an effort to dissuade hikers and tourists from dumping their cars along these residential roads. We saw a good few groups of people walking the winding roads around here while we were out this evening so I think there are people that come after 6 pm for a cooler evening walk with less restrictions on parking.

We headed up the hill and google maps told us it would take less than ten minutes to get back down to the store, Beachwood Market. It’s pretty surreal driving around the houses here with the Hollywood Sign just hanging out in the hills between the properties.

Unfortunately we took a wrong turn (the way the roads in the hills connect is pretty confusing) and the time to destination increased to about 25 minutes. We didn’t love the idea of spending longer driving around these flipping roads as the roads in the hills are not fun. We have family in Cornwall and have long not been fans of what we call ‘Cornish roads’ ie country roads that are single file and bend a lot so you can’t see what’s coming. These were Cornish roads dialled up a good few notches as there were cars parked everywhere outside the houses, plus they were much more winding than we were used to and also very hilly (being in the Hollywood Hills). It seemed to take forever to get down to Beachwood Market and just as we did, Seren called to ask how long we were going to be. She may be 17 but she sounded like a little girl on the call. She said she was scared and that she felt like she was getting bitten by insects while they were sitting there on the sofa. I told her we’d got lost and would be as quick as we could but really just needed to get in and out of the shop so we could get back asap.

We went inside and the store was super cute. I had already decided by this point that the Hollywood Hills wasn’t an area of LA I’d want to live in because of the roads and it being a bit too remote, but Beachwood Market would make a lovely little local shop if you did, and it’s right next door to Beachwood Cafe (Harry Styles Cafe) which is also a good selling point for the location. There were a couple of people in the store who were definitely locals as once we got in line at the checkout they chatted to each other and the cashier. In my head they were definitely rich ‘industry’ guys and in reality I could well have been correct if they lived around here.

I think Mat and I were both feeling quite anxious by this point. We were disappointed with the accommodation, had had quite the experience driving down to the store and were concerned about what Seren had said about being scared and getting bitten. I was starting to think it was naive that we could put the experience down to a bit of fun and was imagining the girls being too scared to sleep and what the night ahead might entail. I didn’t take any photos in the shop unfortunately which is a shame but trust me when I say it was super cute.

For some reason, we didn’t end up buying any snacks. I think it was a combination of feeling too anxious to eat and this being a small store with not many vegan snack options or anything that would impress our fussy non-vegan teenager. We did however, make a beeline for the alcohol department. Despite being a small-ish convenience store, they had Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic (stocking the good stuff) which was the best thing to have happened in the last hour. I picked up a bottle of that and a bottle of Beefeater gin (not my gin of choice but it didn’t seem worth paying for a premium brand.) Mat chose a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and we got some water; ‘normal’ water for us and a bottle of Fiji for Freya who by this point was pretty much refusing to drink any American bottled water as no matter how many brands we tried, she kept saying they were ‘disgusting.’ This diva behaviour was frustrating but she doesn’t drink enough water anyway and has had heat stroke a few times before so it seemed necessary to give into her demands on this one.

Our shopping was $43.57 and the cashier was nice and friendly. I’ve said it before but we found pretty much everyone we spoke to in Los Angeles was lovely and friendly. The cost of living may be out of control in LA and everyone moans about the traffic but my very biassed theory is that living in such a beautiful place with generally excellent weather means people are happier (yes this is an oversimplification and I’m saying it with tongue firmly in cheek.)

We drove back to the house and found the girls still sitting on the sofa. They were both complaining of being bitten constantly by insects. Seren said she had seen one on the sofa. They were both itching their legs and we could see the bites. I already said it in today’s report; we all got bitten by insects in LA more than usual, but it would be one or two bites during a day. They both had about eight bites on their legs they hadn’t had when they arrived here a couple of hours before. I sat down at the table in the living room and started to feel like I was getting bitten, as did Mat. The girls said they had felt like they were getting bitten downstairs in the bedroom while they were unpacking too so we were pretty concerned how sleeping down there would go.

Mat and I agreed we couldn’t stay here. None of us would likely get much sleep and we didn’t fancy continuing with being insect food. As much as we could have dealt with the house being creepy and old fashioned, the bites were a step too far. As it was already coming up for 8 pm, we needed to come up with an alternative accommodation plan. I decided to see if the hotel we were booked to move to two days later had rooms available so we could stay there for four nights instead of two, which at least would save us having to move again on Monday.

They didn’t have the same room category available for tonight but I was able to get a different suite for less money for the next two nights with it being short notice. I always book via Expedia for Quidco cashback and perks such as a $35 food / beverage spend and tonight was no different. Once it was booked, we all spent a mad 15 minutes throwing things back into suitcases and dragging the luggage all back up the stairs and into the car. That part was actually quite fun.

Once we were all loaded up we set off and this time managed to take the correct road according to google maps so didn’t have the detour. Despite being called The Montrose at Beverly Hills, the hotel is in West Hollywood (very close to the Beverly Hills border) and with it being a Saturday night there were lots of people out and lots of traffic on our route. We arrived at the hotel just after 9 pm.

The girls and I went in while Mat sorted out the car outside. Parking in West Hollywood is a) expensive and b) limited as it’s a residential area with permit controlled parking. Therefore a lot of hotels do the same as this one which is to charge an extortionate daily fee for valet with it being the only option. Hotels in West Hollywood are expensive and the room rates at The Montrose are more reasonable than some of the others but when you whack on that parking charge it obviously makes it less of a good deal. I’d just about swallowed staying here for two nights at $65 per night parking but didn’t love the idea of doubling that. However at this point, $130 down the drain seemed preferable to two nights of being bitten by insects and potentially a lack of sleep so it was what it was.

First impressions were very good and to be honest, as much as we had loved our first two AirBnbs of the trip, it felt nice to walk back into a hotel which is much more familiar territory for us. I would write a complaint to AirBnb either later that night or the following morning, I forget which, in the hope of getting at least a partial refund on our current booking under the circumstances. But for now I felt a sense of relief and that we were able to put what had happened behind us to a point.

The valet, security and reception staff were nice and friendly and greeted us warmly. And relax.

Also they had album artwork beside reception featuring my boys in the top left so definitely good vibes.

I explained to the lady on reception that I had two consecutive bookings and that we’d just had to leave a nightmare AirBnb experience. I asked her if it was possible for us to please stay in the same room for both bookings. At the time, with us paying less for this first booking, I was of the understanding that this suite was a lower category room and so by not moving to the higher category suite in two days, it was us who was ‘losing out’ rather than the hotel, and when she said that was no problem, I was still under the impression that was the case. The receptionist said we would technically have to ‘check out’ on Monday and ‘check in’ again but it was a matter of just doing the paperwork at reception rather than physically leaving the room and checking out and in again. When I did that on Monday and explained to the (different) receptionist that we’d been told we could stay in the same room, she was a little surprised and indicated that our first room was technically the higher category but it was still no problem. She didn’t actually say it outright but I got the gist. This second lady appeared to be a manager and was fine with authorising us staying in the technically higher cost room for the extra two days and I was very grateful that she was so accommodating and kind. Looking at the bookings now, the difference was only about an extra £30 per night based on how much I’d paid for each.

We hauled our luggage upstairs and into our room which was technically a signature two queens suite with balcony but actually didn’t have a balcony, just a lower level roof space outside the window. I guess by that point in the night the best rooms in that category with proper balconies would have already been assigned. It made absolutely no difference to us that it didn’t have a balcony to be fair and beggars can’t be choosers. We all loved the suite. It was interesting, funky and high quality. And for £561.70 across the two nights in one of the most expensive areas of Los Angeles, it definitely wasn’t too shabby and there was much more space than a lot of hotel rooms we’ve stayed in. I think it was 500 sq ft.

My photos don’t especially do the suite justice as our stuff is everywhere and I was too worn out to try and take the most aesthetically pleasing photos by this point.

The living space was up a few steps from the sleeping area. The door to the left is the door out to the corridor and the closed white door in the background is the bathroom:

Kitchen area:

Art in the bathroom:

The bathroom was lovely and very big with double sinks but unfortunately I didn’t get a photo.

We decided at this point that we were actually a bit hungry after all the kerfuffle. Freya wanted some fries (as usual) and I knew there was a Veggie Grill nearby that should be able to accommodate all our needs and with it being a Saturday, shouldn’t be closed already like a lot of restaurants seem to in the week. Mat loaded up Uber Eats and we placed an order. Both the girls got fries, Mat got a Chipotle Harvest Bowl and I ordered Southwestern Nachos. The app said it would take about 45 minutes so in the meantime I unpacked. At this point we realised we (well Mat) had left the antiseptic cream, hand washing liquid and a couple of other bits of shopping at the AirBnb in our haste to get out which was annoying.

Mat had a glass of his wine and I had a gin and tonic, both of which went down very well after the stress of the last few hours.

The food arrived about 10.10 pm and Mat went down to collect it from outside reception. The fries were fine but Mat and I both found our meals disappointing which was a shame as I’d seen Veggie Grill recommended a few times online. Maybe our enjoyment was affected by everything that had happened and the fact that it wasn’t entirely fresh having travelled to the hotel. It just didn’t seem very good quality. I ate about 235 portions of vegan nachos in Los Angeles so I feel like I became a bit of an expert, and these were definitely the worst.

Once our food had settled in our stomachs, we all crawled into bed after quite an eventful day. Seren’s front-of-leg bites at bedtime:

As I said earlier, right up until arriving at the AirBnb, this had been one of my favourite days of an altogether amazing trip. What happened with the AirBnb was definitely a blip, and I still had to deal with the complaint and hopefully getting some money back, but I felt happy going to bed knowing that we were in a hotel we really liked and wouldn’t have to move again for four days.

Edited at 02:34 PM.
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Old 20 Dec 23, 01:53 PM  
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Loving this trippie...!

Hoping to do a west coast tour in next few years so gleaming the info as I'm reading... making me itch looking at those bites though..! ...Eeeugghh - we had similar 2 years ago with a Virgin AOA Villa in Orlando, had to spend the 1st night in it, never again...

Oh, and how was Nic's in Beverley ?, was it good ? ..

Looking forward to the rest of this...
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Old 26 Dec 23, 10:21 PM  
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Oh I’m so loving this trippy Michelle! I love that you’ve fallen in love with LA, you’ve definitely made me want to explore more of the city.
I flew out yesterday to LA with Jim and the kids and we have Boxing Day and most of the 27th here so I suggested doing the hike up to the Hollywood sign for today but the kids didn’t like the sound of that so here we are in Six Flags theme park 🙄
I’m sorry that your AirBnb wasn’t great, it sounded awful! A bit like the first one we ever stayed in in New Jersey. Thankfully it was a one off so I hope this is for you too. Such a shame it came at the end of such a great day for you all but the new hotel sounds fab!
I hope you do manage to go back next summer, press that Book button 😂
All my previous reports can be found HERE

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Old 16 Jan 24, 01:05 PM  
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Originally Posted by Moz View Post
Loving this trippie...!

Hoping to do a west coast tour in next few years so gleaming the info as I'm reading... making me itch looking at those bites though..! ...Eeeugghh - we had similar 2 years ago with a Virgin AOA Villa in Orlando, had to spend the 1st night in it, never again...

Oh, and how was Nic's in Beverley ?, was it good ? ..

Looking forward to the rest of this...
Thanks so much, glad you’re enjoying reading the report 😊.

Yep the bites were definitely a low point! 😫 Sorry you had a similar experience in Orlando and had to spend a night there.

How exciting that you’re planning a West Coast trip for a few years’ time, hope you have as good a time as we did.

I can highly recommend Nic’s on Beverly 😉🤣.

Originally Posted by smithlane View Post
Oh I’m so loving this trippy Michelle! I love that you’ve fallen in love with LA, you’ve definitely made me want to explore more of the city.
I flew out yesterday to LA with Jim and the kids and we have Boxing Day and most of the 27th here so I suggested doing the hike up to the Hollywood sign for today but the kids didn’t like the sound of that so here we are in Six Flags theme park 🙄
I’m sorry that your AirBnb wasn’t great, it sounded awful! A bit like the first one we ever stayed in in New Jersey. Thankfully it was a one off so I hope this is for you too. Such a shame it came at the end of such a great day for you all but the new hotel sounds fab!
I hope you do manage to go back next summer, press that Book button 😂
Thanks so much Alicia . Not at all jealous that you got to spend Christmas in LA 😂 and how lovely that you got a few days there with Jim and the kids. Shame they chose Six Flags over beautiful Griffith Park though!

Yes it was a real shame about the dodgy Airbnb, sorry to hear you had a similar experience in NJ. And yep, fingers crossed it was a one off 🤞🏻.

I did it! I pressed book! Unfortunately flight prices had gone up in the five weeks or so I hesitated but with the girls both finishing early for summer after A-levels and GCSEs it’s still a lot cheaper than last year. I’ve booked a couple of AirBnbs so far including one repeat visit so what happened last year hasn’t put me off AirBnb 😊.

Thanks for reading along and commenting! 😃
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