Beyond Hollywood: The Real Los Angeles

There's no city better suited for a staycation than good ol' Los Angeles. The destination's many facets--from the broad beaches of Venice and the sea-kissed cliffs of Malibu in the West to the granitic peak of Mt. Baldy and the arid hills in the East--as well as its different cultural textures guarantee an endless array of pursuits, all clamoring for everyone's attention.
08/31/2016 09:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Malibu (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

There's no city better suited for a staycation than good ol' Los Angeles. The destination's many facets--from the broad beaches of Venice and the sea-kissed cliffs of Malibu in the West to the granitic peak of Mt. Baldy and the arid hills in the East--as well as its different cultural textures guarantee an endless array of pursuits, all clamoring for everyone's attention. I never, therefore, pass up an opportunity to explore it whenever I'm home from my travels and in quick need of a temporary cure to fix my wanderlust.

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Downtown LA skyline (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Still reeling from my great love affair with England, I've been finding myself distracted with ridiculous efforts to recreate the trip--scouring the entire city for a Full English breakfast or even just rashers, for example. Naturally, when my family was invited for an afternoon tea at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena, we had to jump at the chance.

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Afternoon tea at the Langham Huntington (Credit: The Langham Huntington)

Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood is a brand standard for all Langham hotels worldwide, with Langham London being the first luxury hotel in Europe to serve the ritual. We came on a Sunday for the hotel's chocolate-themed tea service, which essentially means guests get to spend an hour or so indulging in sublime and at times surprising chocolate creations. Served in the fine "Langham Rose" teaware exclusively made by Wedgwood for the brand and set in the airy Lobby Lounge with an immense bay window that looks out to the property's Horseshoe Garden and the neighboring affluent city of San Marino, it was quite the elegant (and also delightfully comforting) affair. It's also wonderfully, quintessentially British, transpiring in a place whose very name evokes stereotypical images of leggy, blonde girls in Daisy Dukes and rollerblades gliding along a sunny boardwalk.

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Afternoon tea at the Langham Huntington (Credit: The Langham Huntington)

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The historic Langham Huntington (Credit: The Langham Huntington)

Earlier that day, we stopped by at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, one of the biggest and coolest in the city. The second Sunday of the month affair, with the famous Rose Bowl as its venue, boasts wares brought in from countries like Colombia, El Salvador, and even as far as Tibet and Ghana atop the usual tangle of flea market stalls selling antique furniture and vintage clothing. It's a goldmine for shoppers and bargain hunters alike; and it's also a wonderland for people who dream of someday seeing the world. What I love most about it, however, is it perfectly sums up what Los Angeles really is: an eclectic mix of cultures, cuisines and diversions.

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Baskets from Ghana (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

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Fabrics from Ghana (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

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Bags from Colombia (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Which brings me back to my earlier point: there's no finer town for a glorious staycation than Los Angeles. Forget Hollywood, red carpet events, celebrities who won the genetic lottery and the rest of those clichᅢᄅs. Los Angeles is not just all glitz, glamour and gorgeous women with toned legs that come up to your shoulder. It's not only relentless and unapologetic in its pursuits, whether it's surfing in the Pacific, window-shopping in Beverly Hills, apple picking in an orchard, or blazing a trail in the desert. It's also a melting pot of cultures, a place to sample the world: nosh on authentic Oaxacan dishes with abandon, shop for kimonos and mangas in Little Tokyo, indulge in German beer at a German tavern, see European street art in Downtown LA, hang with the hipsters in Echo Park or just have a proper English afternoon tea.

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Authentic Oaxacan fares at Guelaqueta (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

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Historic Grand Central Market in Downtown LA (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

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Echo Park Lake (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Los Angeles is essentially the entire world crammed into a golden, sunshine-swathed sprawl, a destination that's far greater than the world gives it credit for. And if, for some unfortunate reason, I can no longer travel the world, there's no place I'd rather be to experience it still.

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Downtown LA skyline (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Stay:

The Langham Huntington. 1401 S Oak Knoll Ave, Pasadena, CA | (626) 568-3900

Eat:

Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood. 1401 S Oak Knoll Ave, Pasadena, CA | (626) 568-3900
For a great cause, attend The Langham Huntington's Imagine Tea service on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 10am and 1:30pm. The event is part of the hotel's family-oriented partnership with the junior program of Magic Castle to benefit local children's non-profit organizations.

Shop:

Rose Bowl Flea Market. 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA | Every second Sunday of the month

Michelle Rae Uy is a travel writer, editor and amateur photographer based in Los Angeles. Check out her other adventures on Another Spur on the Road.