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Los Angeles. Venice Beach. Windswept in sundresses. Melissa Legarda & Kate Hegarty. 2015.

Riding the subway escalator up to Hollywood & Highland, we smelled something sweet, pungent, and familiar. Turns out the kid on the step behind us was midway through rolling up a massive blunt. Kate and I stifled our chortles. We were definitely in LA.

Ah, the City of Angels. Sun-soaked, glamorous, alive.

The last time I came to Los Angeles, I stayed for a month with close family friends. I loved it. I think the true spirit of LA has to be shown to you through the locals.

This time, it was a far more touristy affair. We stayed in a gorgeous little AirBNB apartment in Hollywood, which was phenomenally, spectacularly tacky. Public transport around the city was shocking, as was the homelessness issue. Both were pretty bad.

Yet for all the city’s ills, what other place could let you be in the throbbing heart of Western culture one minute, and surfing waves at the beach in the next? Therein lies the charm of Los Angeles, whose memories return to me in hot, glitzy flashes . . .


Breezy Manhattan Beach and bustling Santa Monica Boulevard. Milkshakes and banana splits at Mel’s Diner. Sparkling lights and a sky full of stars. Cheesy celebrity tours and even cheesier tour guides. Snaps of the Hollywood sign, glitter in our eyes. Hollywood Hills. Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive. Sierra and Sunset. The vintage shopping, boutique-lined awesomeness that is Melrose Avenue.

People, maps, more laughs. Running through Grand Union station, laughing, stressing, hysterical. Talking politics with strangers over sweet potato fries at In-N-Out Burger and high-fiving Adam Levine-esque douchebags in drugstores.

Reunions with Becky and little Daniella, not quite so little anymore. Wildstyles and AUX cords, losing ourselves in record stores.

Did I forget to mention Disneyland? Princesses and Minnie ears. Wonderland teacups. Starry eyes and firework displays. Rollercoaster screams and soaking log rides. Tears of overwhelmed awe. Deep conversations with a close soul beneath a smoking sky . . .

We dodged hip-hop artists pushing mix tapes along Hollywood Boulevard. Slurped ramen at Little Tokyo and overdosed on crazy amazing sushi, all dragon rolls and sashimi arranged like art on a plate at a hole-in-the-wall. (Could eat sushi forever.)

And then . . . Venice Beach. Venice Beach, Venice Beach, Venice Beach.

(Leo DiCaprio as Romeo, forever.)

Navigated skateboarders popping ollies down the boardwalk and free spirits running without shoes. Weed glasses. Thong bikinis. Kitschy, glitzy consumption. Smiled at iron-pumping meatheads and sun-kissed potheads, the latter waving “Need Money for Weed” boards.

Hey, honesty is the best policy, right?


All these things in four whirlwind days. Puns and laughter. Old friends, new lives. A promise to return.

As our plane left for Vegas, we stared down at Los Angeles one last time, electrified and exhausted, all at once.

Los Angeles, California - Santa Monica Boulevard Sunset - illumelation
Los Angeles skyline, view from Hollywood Hills. 2014.
Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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