In the Valley, 75 degrees is a cold spell

I for one can't see why people complain about the weather here. Today, a more typical day for October in the San Fernando Valley, an area that has become synonymous the world over for dull, lifeless, upper-middle class suburban mediocrity, replete with strip malls and sprinkler-systems working over time, the mercury poked at a respectable 85. Lying in my friends' garden, sipping iced water, I've come to the conclusion that even suburban mediocrity can't be that bad under the benevolent rays of the California sun. Especially when there are a lot of good, cheap places to eat nearby. Everywhere has its pros and cons, I guess, but I'd pick here over the Home Counties any day of the year. Who needs winter or old buildings anyway?

My sojourn in the city of Angels has so far been a reasonably eventful one: Los Angeles may not boast the same magic of spirit or physical beauty of the Bay Area, but the chaparral cloaked mountains and endless sunshine certainly have their appeal, not to mention mile after mile of soft white sand lapped by a warmer, dirtier part of the Pacific than San Francisco. My first night here took me to the Hollywood Hills: a friend's friend's party in a luxurious modern mansion that proved upscale living in 21st century L.A. can be far more tasteful than anything you see on 'Cribs'. Sipping on Patron and swimming in the pool may seem like a ridiculous cliché, but for my money (or not, as the case may be), it's also a lot of fun. The slightly surreal experience was rounded off nicely in the morning when I awoke to be warned about the Mountain Lion in the garden, followed by the howls of what we could only imagine was a neighbour's pet meeting an untimely end.

The days that followed have consisted of pure indulgence: sunbathing, foot-high stacks of pancakes, strolling along the beach in Santa Monica, delicious tacos and Don Antonio's (an L.A. institution), and relaxation. The highlight was the Getty Center, worth a visit for its spectacular views of the L.A. basin and Santa Monica Bay and Mountains alone - the city's low density means that despite the noise, traffic, smog and smattering of skyscrapers, a lot of it still resembles a carpet of green. Although, given the arid climate and nearby desert landscapes, this verdant appearance may well have more to do with human intervention and the aforementioned sprinklers than nature's continued triumph over the ultimate postmodern sprawl. However there is much more to the Getty Center than the spectacular view: its design could serve as a model for new cultural attractions the world over - combining high quality architecture, a user-friendly yet spacious and scenic layout, well designed public spaces, gardens and generously proportioned exhibition rooms and galleries. The range of art on offer is large without being intimidating: particular highlights included Irving Penn's photographic portraits of 'Small Trades,' and impressive exhibition documenting the rise of french landscape painting. And did I mention the views?