Found in L.A.: The best flea & farmers markets

The best thing about Los Angeles flea markets and farmers markets is that they’re open year-round.

What also makes them so damn special is that a lot of the produce you’ll find is locally grown and is therefore often reasonably priced and incredibly delicious. As for the thrifted clothes, furniture and accessories… well, you’ve got a lot of L.A. style to choose from.

This post… well, it only scratches the surface of the flea and farmers markets L.A. has to offer, but I couldn’t wait any longer to share photos from the few I’ve had the chance to check out. I’m a little biased toward Silver Lake, but their twice-weekly farmers market it just a mile up the street from me. The novelty of this, as you can imagine, has not worn off.

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The Silver Lake Farmers Market is the epitome of a neighborhood market done right. Most of the vendors are regulars, but many of them also switch out a lot, so there’s always something new to check out. I love this spot because you can buy fresh fruit, flowers and vintage clothing all in the same place. It’s been a great way to meet people who live in the neighborhood, and it’s a fun spot to people-watch. (And yes, there are LOTS of hipsters.) Very casual, friendly vibe. It’s open every Tuesday and Saturday.

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I also had the chance to check out the Melrose Trading Post in West Hollywood, which is a flea market lover’s dream. You have to pay $3 to get in, but you can literally get lost it’s so huge. The market is open every Sunday, and you can find everything from valuable antiques to what looks like junk out of some guy’s closet.

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And back to my neighborhood (because I don’t have to venture very far to get to the good stuff)—the Silver Lake Art, Craft & Vintage flea market is another spot worth checking out every second Saturday of the month. It’s much smaller than the others with a decidedly quirky vibe. It’s also perched just above a community garden, where there are always groups of people getting things done. (There are also chickens… on Sunset Boulevard.)

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Angelenos! I’m looking for a new adventure. Where should I head next?

 

Found in L.A.: The Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Want to know about the time I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast when she discovers the castle’s library? Visiting The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. was kind of like that.

If you love books, this is a book lover’s heaven. And if you don’t—though I’m not sure how that’s possible—The Last Bookstore will make you love books.

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

This magical place was named with irony in mind, but as the number of book stores continues to diminish, well, just about everywhere, this really is one of the few that seems to be thriving. And as soon as you walk in, it’s easy to see why. The 10,000 square foot space is the largest-selling independent book store in California, selling new and used books and records. It’s easy to get lost. (I totally forgot about the parking meter, which I let expire while I browsed.)

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Last Bookstore

Upstairs is what’s called the “Labyrinth,” where there are more than 100,000 used books for just a dollar each. THAT’S RIGHT, FOLKS. You can really get your reading on here. If you’re into bookshelf porn, this is the place to visit. The Labyrinth really lives up to its name, too. I couldn’t believe how expansive it was. Every time you think you’ve reached the end of the books, there’s another hidden corner to turn. And what better place for a bibliophile to get lost?

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The Last Bookstore also commissioned several artists for funky, permanent installments, which really add so much to the whimsy of the place. Can you imagine how especially fun this would be to explore as a kid? You could turn any child into an avid reader by bringing them here.

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There are also lots of events at the Last Bookstore, like readings and open mics. Apparently, you can even get married there. (Would be well-suited for a couple of book-lovers, no?) I can’t wait to go back.

Would anyone else like to spend his or her whole day at The Last Bookstore? Angelenos, where should I visit next?

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Found in L.A.: Urban river bike path

A couple of weeks ago, John and I took our bikes out for a ride. We visited the L.A. River bike path, just a short stretch of cyclist-friendly road that parallels the interstate.

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The bike path is an odd mix of urban jungle with a mountainous view. We went in the late afternoon when it was cool enough so that we didn’t break a sweat. There were a bunch of “real” cyclists out and about, and others out walking their dogs. There were also a few people who seemed to be living and/or scavenging in the trees below the embankment. Los Angeles! It has everything.

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The bike path was pretty in a way—we saw a blue heron in the shallow, marshy water, and riding toward the mountains in the distance kind of felt like being out in the wild—if it weren’t for the cars riding alongside you. It’s also grungy in parts, but that’s what gives it its character. Right now, the L.A. River bike path is broken up into two short and unconnected paths. But the river is under a $453 million renovation to make it a 51-mile continuous path by the end of the decade. It’ll be cool to see how it changes in the coming years. It seems L.A. is trying to become more bike-friendly, which I know a lot of people are anxious for.

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It felt really good to get out on the bikes. The air was crisp, the sun was bright, and we biked several miles before heading home and immediately stuffing our faces. Yet another round of city exploration achieved!

To any Angelenos (or frequent L.A. visitors) out there, do you have recommendations for where I should visit next?

Found in L.A.: Brewery Art Walk

Brewert Art Walk

Last weekend, John and I ventured to the Arts District downtown to check out the twice-yearly Brewery Art Walk at the old Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery. The complex is one of the largest artists-in-residence communities in the world, and more than 100 artists open up their home studios for people to walk through and get an intimate glimpse of their lives—fun for those of us who like to see how these uber-creative types live and work. Best of all, the event is free.

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All kinds of artists live there—photographers, painters, sculptors, and mixed media artists. Some of the art was cool—and some of it sparked a discussion about how art is subjective anyway—but the neatest part about it was checking out the sweet lofts and the architecture of the buildings in general. Who wouldn’t want to live in a converted industrial space with giant, gorgeous windows and tall ceilings? It felt a little strange slinking in and photographing strangers’ homes while they chatted with other guests in the kitchen. You could tell some people cleaned up before they opened their doors to the world, while others still had dirty dishes in the sink.

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The atmosphere was casual and festive, and it felt like one massive house party. People were walking around with their dogs, there was food and beer (some people even brought their own), and the weather was perfect.

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The rooftop was pretty special, too. You could see all the way downtown and all the way to the mountains. Gotta love those clear days in Los Angeles.

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The exploration of a new city continues! I love how it’s impossible to be bored here, and you don’t have to spend a lot (or sometimes any) money to have fun. The next art walk will be in the spring, and I’ll be bringing my own six-pack.

Found in L.A.: Secret stairs of Silver Lake

John and I have been going on lots of walks lately, and this past week, I took my camera along with me. I used the following series of photos for a class, and there are a whole lot more to break up into a couple of blog posts. There is SO MUCH to explore in my ‘hood, you guys.

Secret stairs in Silver Lake

Contemplating the climb (Photo by John)

I came across my first set of secret stairs while out on a run. I was at the base of a hill, and the road ended at a tiny cul-de-sac. But instead of turning around, I decided to see what was at the top of the nondescript stairs just to the left of a house. It was a long way up, but that could only mean there was a view at the end. Not only did I get that view, but I got a great workout.

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Not long after that, we were at Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, and I picked up a book that not only explained what these stairs were all about, but it also had complete maps of all the stairs in the city with suggested routes. (Turns out, the book Secret Stairs was written by a professor at USC. Hi, Charles Fleming—I’ll be looking up your classes now!)

So John and I checked out a few more. If my consternation in the first photo wasn’t telling enough, those staircases are intense. One near us consists of 137 steps. I’ve been working my way up to running the whole thing without a break. I’m not there yet.

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These stairs were originally constructed in the 1920’s as a way for people to get from their homes to transit lines at the bottom of the hills. When it became a car city, though, the stairs were mostly obsolete. Now, they’re just a great way to explore and quickly get to the top of a hill on foot. Plus, they help facilitate my endless need to spy on all my wealthy neighbors. (I’ll have a post dedicated to the homes in the hills for you soon.)

Turns out, there are a lot of other people interested in trekking up these staircases. There’s a meetup dedicated to hiking them all.

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And, of course, there are the views. It’s hard to capture without a zoom lens, but you could see for miles in every direction from the vantage point below. The gorgeous rolling mountains, the houses nestled in the hill across the way, the tiny cars below (seriously, we were so high up). Totally worth the climb.

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If you come visit me—and I recommend that you do—this is where I’m taking you first. (And then we’ll head to the grilled cheese shop on Sunset afterward.) So bring your walking shoes.