Los Angeles is not so straightforward. It is, according to Dorothy Parker, is 72 suburbs in search of a city. She's right, it's a sprawling mass of 'burbs, with no obvious centre. So where should we start our next house hunt?
We left our hearts in Malibu, and in many ways it is the perfect place to live in LA. That's because it's not actually in LA. It's separated from LA by just a couple of miles of Pacific Coast Highway with clear ocean views on the west side and scrubby bluffs on the left. Those two miles are all you need to feel you can breathe more deeply, drive more sanely, and leave the nonsense of LA behind you. Of course that's an illusion, for Malibu is a slice of LA life replete with plastic surgery victims, flash cars, and all the rest - but it feels a little bit apart from the city. It's also outrageously beautiful. If you like scrub-covered, blue topped mountains and miles of beach, all bordered by the sparkling Pacific, you'd like it. There's a sweet little shopping centre with a playground and some useful shops (as well as some pricey boutiques), and a branch of Nobu. There's a farmers market, a dinky library, and the schools are good.
|Our old 'street'|
Sadly, not being Hollywood hotshots, we can't. If we were really set on Malibu we could go up to Point Dume, a neighbourhood that bucks the Malibu trend by being both walkable and right on the beach. But it's right up at the other end of those miles of scenic beauty, an awfully long way from the airport and our friends in LA.
There are some lovely parts of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, where TLOML used to live when I first moved over. They have plenty of sidewalk and plenty of great shops, bars and restaurants to sidewalk to. But, this being LA, you drive everywhere, even places that are a ten minute walk. The drive also takes ten minutes, thanks to LA traffic, but at least you have the aircon on and you don't need to get the soles of your shoes all scuffed. Then, if you're going to drive everywhere you might as well head to Brentwood where the lots are large and the yards are green. But despite their appeal these areas all massively lack beach.
So we're considering the beachy LA suburbs which are more central than Malibu. Places where you can walk everywhere, including the beach. Venice is great for restaurants and for feeling like you're in an urban environment. But the schools are awful and we do need to future proof a little. Santa Monica is gorgeous, green and clean but awfully expensive and a lot of it feels rather far from the beach, to me.
We are becoming converts to an area known as the South Bay, just south of the airport. Towns like Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have classic SoCal wide, sandy beaches complete with piers, volleyball courts and joggers. They have leafy, family-friendly streets, great schools and low crime. They aren't as well connected to Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and (possibly as a result) they do feel a little bit provincial. But in a kids-ride-their-bikes-to-school, white picket fence way way.
And although Lady P has yet to master bike riding, it feels like kids riding their bikes to school is a more important feature of our 'hood than the hipness of the eating and drinking scene. Bring on the playgrounds and the white picket fences.