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Lost in La La Land

My inauguration to L.A. was a walking tour of the Venice canals and Venice Beach. It seemed like the perfect thing to do our first day in La La Land. In honor of past tradition, we brunched at The Rose Café in Venice, al fresco in the sunny weather, then parked near the canals for a stroll along the waterside lanes to see the beautiful homes. It was something I’d never done before, even during the years I’d lived in L.A. or gone to The Rose for brunch.

A Venice Canal

More Venice Canals

Muscle Beach (by Erica Simone)Muscle Beach (by Erica Simone)

Erica trying on sunglassesErica trying on sunglasses

The canals are there because of a crazy idea launched by developer Abbot Kinney to build a “Venice of America.” He installed the canals, imported gondolas and gondoliers to convert it into a Venice outside of Italy. The idea at the time was less than successful, so sadly the gondoliers went back to Italy, but we were left with this beautiful and unique spot that few people see – I having once been one of them. We parked on the perimeter and walked in to the area leaving the real world behind. Beautiful homes of many architectural styles line the canals, boats of all persuasions are docked alongside, ducks are paddling away and ducking for fish…it’s idyllic and seductive.

Along the pathways and on the bridges are strollers who have a silent camaraderie with the others, as if this is “their little secret.” They chat among themselves, total strangers sharing a special adventure. Doors to the big homes are open and music is wafting out. Residents are lying on lounge chairs reading or just watching the activity outside. No other world exists except for this one. We drooled with desire to have a house on any one of the canals and to forget everything else exists.

The L.A. Times wrote a great article a few years ago about how to “Take a stroll along the Venice Canals,” if you want to learn more and take the stroll yourself.

A trip to Venice, California, without strolling along the beach, however, would have been unforgivable. I can tell you that not much has changed over the years to the boardwalk. The typical Venice Beach denizens of all persuasions are still there; the muscle builders at Muscle Beach are still pumping iron for all to see; the street performers are still drawing crowds; skateboarders are still showing off their skills; a crazy array of sunglasses are still there to be purchased for under $10 and all the food vendors whose food we shouldn’t be eating are serving it up to bikini-clad tourists.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks in from the beach, shopping along Abbot Kinney is the contrary experience to the boardwalk, lined with high-end expensive boutiques, cafés and restaurants. I can remember when my L.A. business partner had a loft-like office that was cheap rent and it was scary to be walking down the street. This same spot is now a boutique neither of us can afford to patronize.

Yesterday I met a Francophile who lives on one of the canals, having lucked into the property before it went ballistically expensive, and now rents it for “beaucoup bucks” when she’s in France, where she’d rather be. Since a client of mine bought her house on the canal in 2009, Venice has become one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Los Angeles, coming in just behind the Hollywood Hills and just ahead of Beverlywood. On a price per square foot basis, Venice is tied with Bel-Air for Number Two. Only the Pacific Palisades is more expensive per square foot. For rentals, the median rental price per square foot in Venice makes it the most expensive place in L.A.

 The Leeds Home in L.A.The former Leeds Home in L.A.

Monday we met with old friend, Sean McMillan of Heyler Realty, to discuss purchasing a property in Los Angeles. We met at his office, just a few blocks away from where we lived in L.A., Rancho Park, which gave us an opportunity to pass by our old house. As we rolled past, Sean told us it had increased in value five times from what we sold it for in 1994 — confirmed in an estimate provided by Zillow.com. Of course, I can say the same thing for my Paris apartment.

According to Numbeo.com, you need more money to live in L.A. than in Paris – around 4,681.76€ (5,650.32$) per month in Los Angeles, CA to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 4,400.00€ in Paris (assuming you rent in both cities).

Meanwhile, it’s great to see old friends, and fun to see the city again. We’ve been dining out and catching up on the news. Dining out has not been a particularly extraordinary experience and it’s not cheap. I’d forgotten that the menu price doesn’t include tax and tip — another 30 per cent. While I speak the language of Angelenos, I still feel a bit like a fish out of water, going through reverse cultural experiences…serving portions enough for two, bathrooms with toilet seat covers and overly friendly sales and wait staff who couldn’t be happier to take care of you.

More fun is on the horizon…today we have plans to see the Jasper Johns exhibition at the Broad Museum downtown and later take in a show at the Magic Castle…acting like tourists and enjoying every minute of La La Land.

A la prochaine…

 2 5 18adrian LA

Adrian Leeds
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Talia Carner

P.S. Don’t forget May’s Après-Midi with Talia Carner, next Tuesday, speaking on her experiences of being caught in the 1993 Russian parliament uprising against president Boris Yeltsin and about the plight of women when this world-superpower went through a transition. Details on our Après-Midi page. Don’t miss it!

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