Travel tips: Los Angeles by Gabrielle Pollock

Hi, I’m Gabrielle Pollock and aside from being a Boss model (10yr anniversary this year!), I’ve recently become a yoga teacher and am exploring wellness coaching, along with finishing my studies in psychology. Raised in the Eastern Cape, with most family now in Cape Town, I spent many years abroad between the States and Europe before, for the most part, settling back on home soil.
In light of the COVID-19 chaos and the industry halt that has come with it, I’m sure many of us have a good amount of time to read and I hope you find this article useful for future travels. It provides some lifestyle tips on one of my favourite bases, Los Angeles. As we know flights and social gatherings are off the cards for now, playing a huge role in our careers as well as daily life, so with that in mind please note that my tips are mostly for when the COVID-19 crisis has come to an end.
It’s important that we spread all the love and compassion amongst our communities, far and wide, and luckily technology has given us the advantage of doing so. I know many friends in faraway cities experiencing this strange time away from their loved ones, and I know how tricky it can be! So use this time to be proactive, put some goals and plans together for the future, work on your knowledge and your skills, explore topics about our industry and the different markets you’d like to explore. Do a home work-out, yoga or meditation sesh and start up some old or new hobbies. It helps to see this as one big preparation opportunity, above all else.
So for starters, some basic questions and answers about getting it together in the City of Angels:

Best airline to fly if coming from South Africa?

  • Definitely Emirates for me, they have a fantastic loyalty program (Skywards) and often bump regular flyers up a class. Their business class lounge in Dubai is available to all Silver, Gold and Platinum members, and is a great place to relax, sleep, shower, eat, work and grab a fresh latte en route to your next flight. When I did a round-trip from Europe to the states for a wedding, Norwegian Airlines was a good option, they had incredible prices and were very efficient.

Where do I buy a simcard?

  • Tmobil – tons of branches, great bundles and friendly staff (I used to pay $40/month for unlimited voice & data, the best deal I found at the time)

Where do I find accommodation?

  • Initially I stayed in Wilhelmina’s model apartments and they were perfect, although I know they have since changed. The first was located in Beverly Hills so safe, close to the agency and all amenities. The second was in DTLA in an amazing block with a pool, sauna, all entertainment amenities and a great bunch of girls which obviously makes all the difference. Definitely do your research and ask for pictures before if you are going the model apartment route, as I’ve heard some horror stories in almost every city I’ve been to! Also come prepped with a back-up plan to move to if you’re not happy. Your environment is crucial to your wellbeing, and although it’s a great way to meet people when traveling alone, if it’s not working out rather find somewhere else to stay. It’s better to pay a bit extra for a place you feel relaxed and comfortable in. After my first two trips I booked accommodation with or was lucky enough to stay with friends, I also found some great spots on Airbnb when family/friends came to visit.

Where do I get my coffee?

  • Alfreds – the instigators of “But first, coffee”, Alfreds on Melrose has a cool, relaxed atmosphere, unreal graffiti art, friendly staff, and a fab almond-milk latte. If you prefer matcha for your daily caffeine dose they serve those too, iced or hot.

Fav brunch in town?

Little Ruby’s in Santa Monica – my go-to good weather eatery. Owned by an Aussie, the atmosphere is chilled, bistro-style and the food is delicious! A friend first took me to the New York branch (Ruby’s), and being a fan of relaxed dining opposed to stiff and formal, I fell in love with it’s great music and laid-back vibe. With homey brekkies like eggs on smashed avo toast, sweet corn fritters or a Vegimite sourdough if you want to remind yourself of Marmite ;). For lunch the fried brussel sprouts, Beyond Burger (vegan) and their sweet potato fries are out of this world! Being coeliac I found they had many options and serve gluten-free pasta and bread upon request. Joans on Third is another good option, with a very typical LA feel, it has a ton of options to suit everyone and is always buzzing.

Fav juice & smoothie spot?

Earthbar – order the Lucky Charm – seriously, just do it! When my fiancé came to visit me for the first time we literally grabbed one every day, if not twice a day, he rated it the best smoothie of his life, topping his best milkshake too, and I agree, it’s that heavenly! They have a huge array of health supplements and fresh juices too and a delicious quinoa porridge.

How do I get my groceries?

It all depends on the area you’re in, but AmazonFresh and Postmates deliver to your door so were a real win for me! Easy to do online and arrives quickly, it’s also priced the same as your local grocer. Erewhon has an incredible selection of healthy staples and a ready-made meal bar too. 

How do I recommend getting around?

Uber worked best for me. Viavan arrived on the scene when I was living in NYC and I believe it works well in LA too. Definitely rent a car if you can and feel comfortable, it’s big help! But keep in mind the traffic laws are different to ours and it can be pretty tricky driving on the other side of the road. People are generally friendly and helpful and if they have the same casting offer a lift, contributing to parking or petrol is always a nice way to say thanks. I know they were finishing up the DTLA-Santa Monica metro last time I checked, which would save a LOT of traffic time.

A few favourite things to do:

  • I used to live a short walk from Runyon Canyon and loved starting or ending my day with a hike up. It reminded me of Cape Town and the beautiful view over LA is breathtaking. I took my parents, sisters and almost every friend who came to visit up there – the sunsets are pure magic. A great way to escape the buzz of the city, get some fresh air and reset. Cobra Fitness Club is run by Mark Hunter, an incredibly talented photographer with infectious energy that I came to know through a shoot we did for Woolies years ago. It’s a welcoming community for all and seriously fun so if you’d like to join their runs or fitness sessions, definitely hit him up (@cobrafitnessclub). I can’t remember who hosts them, but they also offer meditation sessions at Runyon regularly.
  • Do a yoga class or boxing session – my studios and trainers alternated depending on where I lived, so explore the spot closest to you for convenience. The competition for good quality service is high, so almost every studio you go to is incredible. 
  • Make a daily gratitude list, preferably in the AM – 3 things is all you need to make an impact on your mood and mind and set you up for a better day. It can be tough for many being away from home for long periods, and taking care of your happiness is NB.
  • Find a great lunch spot! The list of places I’d recommend is endless, and I don’t want to spam this post, so if you’re curious about some of my other recommendations you’re welcome to message me.
  • Pack a picnic and go watch the sunset from Griffith Observatory, the best view over LA and the same location scenes from  “Rebel Without a Cause” were shot for the James Dean fans 😉
  • Visit Venice, Santa Monica or Malibu and go for a swim or a surf and visit Malibu farms and the Ghetty museum when you have more time.
  • Visit DTLA and all the culture it has to offer, it feels like a piece of NYC. The Last Bookstore and Ace Hotel were my favourite spots there.
  • Hang out at Barnes & Noble post Farmers Market at the Grove. Used to love meeting a friend for a market visit and strolling in find a good read after. Highly recommend not buying too many books though haha – it’s happened to me and traveling with them is a real mare. The Grove has just about everything you need and there are often events on so get involved!
  • Try out something new, like sound meditation, Spanish lessons or cryotherapy. LA has a host of activities I’m certain most of you haven’t tried, and that’s one of the best things about it. Put yourself out there, whether you bring a friend or two along or not, and try something new.

Fav weekend getaways?

  • Big Bear for the avid skiers
  • Big Sur and the famous Route 101 – I’ve done this road-trip twice, both times over a long-weekend, stopping over in San Francisco for a night the second time round. It’s totally doable in a short space of time and features some of the most humbling sights I’ve seen in the states. Most highly recommended trip I can give!
  • Palm Springs is great for birthdays or a girls weekend away and there’s also a National Park on the mountain where it’s almost always snowy that you can take take a cable car up to.
  • San Diego – totally different atmosphere to LA
  • Orange Country – my aunt used to live in Newport, and later moved to Laguna Beach. A weekend at either can be great for grounding the soul.
  • Mexico – it’s closer than you think and if you get a good deal a quick and inexpensive flight. I hardly drink, but when I do, it’s almost definitely tequila. So if you’re also a tequila fan you’ll find it even more of an experience seeing how seriously they take their tequila culture, starting with shots in the morning! 
  • Look out for flight specials to visit other states, if you have a totally free week or weekend and are based in LA for a while, try visiting family or a friend somewhere new and experience the differences that are hard to fathom exist in one country! Through bookings I saw some of the most random cities I probably wouldn’t have had the desire to travel to, and I’m so glad that I did, because what I experienced almost always surprised me for the better.

Top events + festivals in the USA:

  • Coachella – so much fun and always amazing artists performing! A great way to discover new talent, and the place I watched Tash Sultana, Beyonce, Florence & the Machines and Bon Iver for the first time (and promptly cried to Skinny Love). There’s always an element of surprise with unexpected performances. Being a lover of hiphop, the 2Pac hologram with Snoop Dog definitely topped anything I’ve seen live. As with any festival, be sure to go with a solid crew and people you’re good friends with.
  • Sundance – where I learnt to ski (well, mostly pizza!). A fantastic film festival in Utah, I loved every second of it.
  • Cinco de Mayo – a Mexican celebration probably equally as cerebrated in LA as in Mexico City. Just like Halloween, everyone dresses up and goes all out! You can celebrate in almost every bar, or head to a concert or event or nightclub, there will be something for everyone.
  • Agency parties – they’re a big thing in LA, and agencies usually do a great job of making their models feel at home and included as soon as they arrive. Obviously every agency is different, but definitely go if they have one on, it’s a great way to meet people. 
  • A music evening at the Hollywood Bowl. I watched the LA Orchestra play on my first visit, and Kanye and John Mayer the following year. All of these shows were phenomenal with a beautiful outdoor setting under the stars.
  • Ultra Miami – coming from a lady who hates heavy house – I was just as surprised I enjoyed it that much! Totally went against what I thought it would be.
  • Fashion Week – if you’re not taking part, try watch as many shows as you can. I know it’s LA and their fashion week certainly isn’t mass publicized, but it’s a cool experience, good to support and has come a long way since it started. I was really impressed by some of the shows. If you’re not already taking part and are able to travel, definitely visit NY during fashion week too, the energy is infectious.
  • Art Basel – amazing showcase of contemporary art held in Miami each December.
  • The Oscars & the Grammys – tons of events following these in LA so keep a look out.
  • Screenings & premiers – if there’s one place you’re likely to attend a screening or premier, it’s Hollywood. There is always something coming up. Do your research and if the opportunity comes up, go for it! 
  • AMFAR – similar to the event held in Cannes, LA hosts an AMFAR AIDS charity event each year. I know girls who have gone through their agency, so it’s worth asking about. I went one year as a +1 for a friend, and witnessing what they managed to raise for AIDS awareness was phenomenal, and very special to be a part of.
  • Comedy Central shows – there will be a whole host to choose from. The Justin Bieber Roast was an experience, weird to see what goes on behind the scenes as the audience witnesses double takes and the filming process. I was just happy Will Ferrel came on – they cut parts out, but it was the best skit I’ve seen live!
  • I’m not sure I’d label this as an event, but a day at Universal Studios is so much fun! Six Flags is less touristy, but I’d only recommend for those not afraid of heights.

To further add my two-cents, here are a couple of other things you may find useful to know:

  • People are much nicer, and a great deal more genuine than I was warned of before I arrived. Because of this misconception, Los Angeles was actually the first city I was nervous to travel to! Of course, as with anywhere, it totally depends on who you hang out with, value and give time to. It is easy to get caught up in the wrong crowd, but that’s up to you to control.
  • The city is basically instagram’s muse. Amazing lighting, colours and venues literally styled for social media. It’s like walking into a Hollywood fairytale.
  • It’s spread out, and yes traffic is a mare, but there are so many ways to come together and meet new people. The best thing I’ve done in any city I’ve lived in is make friends outside of the industry too, it helps keep me grounded and sane and gives me a break from living and breathing work. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoying having friends in my industry, I value them equally, it’s just important to have a balance I feel, at least for me.
  • Be inspired by the lifestyle, and see all the good it has to offer. Apart from sunny weather similar to South Africa, one of the greatest things LA has going for it, is it’s health and wellness focus, which is far above many of the cities I’ve lived in. Get active, eat well and look after yourself.

In closing I hope this has been informative, and if you were thinking about giving LA a try in the future, follow through with it! It’s a real adventure, and I think one of the most amazing parts about the fashion industry is our opportunity to travel, explore other cultures and grow our minds. Stay safe, socially-distant (in literal terms) and happy.

Gabrielle Pollock xx