Unexpected L.A.

With time to kill, the City of Angels reveals a couple surprises.

Fun in the sun: Santa Monica Pier's roller coaster.
  • Fun in the sun: Santa Monica Pier's roller coaster.

It’s amazing how one person on a business trip in Los Angeles can have a really cool adventure for three bucks. I wish my husband and kids could have been here – it would've been even more fun.

Did you know for $1.50, you can ride the Metro bus from downtown L.A. to the beach? So, you’re asking, why would I do that?

Santa Monica: the bus, really?

While temporarily working in L.A. for a week, I wasn’t given a company car for the weekend. Not only did I not want to rent a car (small fortune), but along with that came the $40/day parking fee at the hotel and the parking fee wherever I went. So I decided to try the bus.

I made my way to Union Station. (Oh my, what a grand and busy place.) Being familiar with Amtrak, I was comfortable catching the bus there.

The bus arrives about every 20 minutes, so I just had to wait. I boarded with a handful of people. I paid my $1.50 fare, and off we went. After about five stops the bus was full of commuters, and on to the freeway. Twenty-five minutes later, the Santa Monica Pier (left).

With its music and entertainment, the new outdoor mall, the beach, the pier with its amusements, downtown Santa Monica is a gorgeous place. Thank goodness I didn’t have a car; parking was expensive and hard to find.

But after a few hours it was time to bus it back to my hotel. Being alone, I wanted to be back before dark.

The trip back was even easier. I asked the driver which stop was closer to the hotel and that’s where I got off. Just a two-block walk.

Next time, Venice Beach! That takes a transfer.

Hotel Figueroa: L.A. classic

During my business trip, I got a little bored and started walking around.

That's when I found this hotel. Walking into the lobby was like taking a step back in time and into a different land. The Hotel Figueroa.

Hotel Figueroa's lobby area.

Hotel Figueroa's lobby area.

Built in the 1920s, it was originally designed by the YWCA for traveling businesswomen. The top floors were women only; the lower floors were available for families. Now it’s open to everyone. There’s lots of history here.

Today the hotel lies smack in the middle of downtown L.A., with the Staples Center just across the street. While the rooms are on the small side, the place has so much Old World charm. The interior is a little dark, but it’s uniquely decorated in a Moroccan style. In contrast, the ultra-modern JW Marriott with its awesome pool is just across the street.

The pool: decidedly old-school.

The pool: decidedly old-school.

The Hotel Figueroa has a pool. It's quaint, and looks like it belongs in a ‘40s Hollywood film star’s backyard.

If you watch the show NCIS Los Angeles, you might recognize the hotel’s interior – it’s their headquarters. Even if you never spend the night here, just walk in and take a look.

Don’t forget to visit the Pantry just down the block. I was amazed that most of the staff has worked there over 20 years. It's open 24 hours a day, so you can stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner – but bring cash. No credit cards accepted.

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