Los Angeles is the great American photoshop. The crowning jewel of the American West-coast is reliant on the transmission of a certain image, one characterised by throbbing wealth, gilded cinema and all the blearing UV radiation a retired octogenarian can endure (and there are many). Yet, disclosed in the streets off Sunset Boulevard, such painted attributes exist in juxtaposition: The City of Angels is one predicated on disparity, shallowly graved to the prospective brochure-leafer by star-studded sidewalks, homogenous movie studios and the relentless grind of the Disney mega machine.
Regardless, the Californian propaganda hodgepodge is magnetically effective. Whether taking advantage of the air-conditioned boutiques of Rodeo Drive – in those precious moments before recalling your poverty – or roasting like a foiled baked potato, tossed atop the sand-dusted plains of Venice beach, your experience will be blighted by an inescapable scourge: the crowd. Your time in LA is much like the tube at rush hour, but the inconveniently oversized patron to your right, and curiously smelling traveller to your left are permanent additions here. From LAX to LAX, Los Angeles in peak season is a battery farm in need of human rights legislation. You’ll struggle to take in the city. New York, for example, is diverse enough in attraction as to relieve the rambling hoards. But fret not, there is an upside. My advice, dabble in the obvious, devote the bulk of your time to the road less travelled, the street-corner eateries and quirky museums that compose the real heart of the city, beating subtly below the grandiose.
LA is all about the overbearing. Such is represented, if in nothing else, by an extortionate price-tag. American tourism broadly is often a luxury reserved for the seasoned gap year saver, committed part-time employee, or eccentric great-uncle death beneficiary. Of course, you’ll save the odd penny in the typical ways: heaving worldly possessions into brimming carry-ons, and flying at stupid o’clock are time-honoured approaches. But be sure to take into account the length of your stay, and the fatiguing implications of the Doctor Who opening credit-like mess of time zones you’ll be navigating. Also consider the following: really, why bother? As is the case with many of more traditionally opulent destinations, the gilded image is superficial. Put thought into just why LA tops your list. There is much of the city to be had elsewhere, the art, the food, the sand. If, for you, Los Angeles represents little more than heat, do away with preconceptions and consider shopping locally. If there’s more to the calling, by all means, do away with the rambling of a self-professed cynic, and embrace Tinseltown in your own light.
Assuming then that the backyard – Spain, southern France, Kos – just won’t cut it for you, turn to the staple of budgeted travel that is the hostel, and sift through a surprisingly wealthy catalogue of businesses that cater to the golden bracket: that essential balance between affordability and practicality. As an urban sprawl, LA is composed largely of inner-city blocks, with tourist hot spots centring a few particular streets. This concentration renders difficulty, in pinning-down a guest house within walking distance of many of the typical hypes. However, the city is served by an effective public transport network, enabling you to venture far out from the city’s epicentres, with minimal inconvenience. But trains and buses also serve a higher purpose, they are some of the only environments in which you may interact with ‘real’ people of Los Angeles. Irrespective of where in the city lose yourself, many patrons are kind, helpful, and quite often genuinely interested in your story. These aluminium bubbles isolate from the chaos of the street, permitting good conversation, and are evocative of those special, smaller moments that are so often the most cherished.