Got a yen to travel, but time, finances or other reasons have you vacationing at home this year? You can get the flavor of many of the world's exotic locales without leaving California. No passport hassles, forget the shots, leave the traveler's checks behind. Just jump in your car and go.
There are many international locations in Southern California--the more familiar Chinatown and Koreatown among them. But here are 10 other areas that suggest foreign destinations--all in, or within a short drive of, Downtown Los Angeles.
India: The tastes, smells and sounds of India are captured on Pioneer Boulevard between 187th Street and Artesia Boulevard, Artesia. More than 1,100 Indian families have made the area their home, and merchants sell everything from multicolored silk saris to videocassettes of Indian movies. Sitar music plays in the background at restaurants, such as Little Khyber, 18435 Pioneer Blvd., (213) 402-7111, and Reenas Tandoori, 18413 Pioneer Blvd., (213) 402-3434. Several Indian candy stores are in the area.
Germany: Just off Interstate 110 in Torrance is Alpine Village, 833 W. Torrance Blvd., (213) 327-4384, where brass bands sometimes entertain and diners sit in a huge Munich-style beer hall. More than 20 shops sell a variety of imported goods. German Day will be celebrated Aug. 24, and sausage- and pretzel-eating contests are scheduled for September. The traditional German Oktoberfest celebration takes place at the beer garden Sept. 6-Oct. 26, weekends only. Call for hours. For a more sedate taste of German culture, try the Black Forest Inn, 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 395-2212, or other German restaurants.
Greece: Tony Koursaris, one of the three partners of the Great Greek Restaurant, 13362 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 905-5250, said he wanted a place where people could feel they "have left America and come to Greece." Greece-born waiters entertain as they serve. Decor focuses on the achievements of the past two centuries of Greek history.
"Scattered Lights: The Remnant of Israel in Rural Greece" is a photographic exhibit through Aug. 30 at the Skirball Museum, Hebrew Union College, 3077 University Ave., (213) 749-3424.
Italy: Sighing for the bridge of sighs? Gondola Getaway, 5437 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (213) 433-9595, will whisk you through the canals of Naples, Long Beach. Sunshine or moonlight cruises; hors d'oeuvres, wine bucket and glasses provided--you bring Chianti or beverage of your choice. A 32-foot, two-gondolier boat is $17 per person, minimum seven people; a 25-foot, one-gondolier boat is $40 per couple, $10 each additional passenger, minimum six. Fleet cruises $17 per person, maximum 40.
Several restaurants serve up opera along with the pasta. Among them: Verdi, 1519 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 451-5162, and Maldonado, 1202 E. Green St., Pasadena, (818) 796-1126.
If a classical Roman villa is what you had in mind, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu may be your style. Reservations are required: (213) 458-2003. England: At the King's Head, 116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 451-1402, you'll get what some Brits describe as the best fish and chips this side of the pond. They also do pretty good bangers (sausages) and mash, Cornish pasties, Scotch eggs (sausage wrapped around hard-boiled eggs) and mushy green peas. Wash it all down with a pint of Guinness or Watneys, and have a go at a game of darts.
Visiting British celebrities have been known to drop in at the Tudor House, 411 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 451-4107, for sausage rolls, cakes and scones.
Russia: Mischa's, 7561 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 874-3467, features onion-dome drapery, Russian-accented waiters and patrons and a large selection of vodka. Try some of the borscht with cabbage and a pirogi, and burn off the calories with some Cossack-style dancing. Or you could drop by Gorky's, 536 East 8th St., Los Angeles, (213) 627-4060. Described as a Russian "avant-garde cafe with working-class prices," Gorky's is a meeting spot for many Russian emigres. Drop in Sunday evenings around 6 p.m. and hear Russian-Jewish music performed.
France: A French picnic lunch is the perfect accompaniment for a leisurely drive along the ocean. Cafe Suisse, a French bakery and small restaurant at 500 Pacific Coast Highway, Seal Beach, (213) 596-6458, offers pastries, pates, breads, cakes, cold cuts and salads for takeout. For dinner, try the Bouzy Rouge Cafe, 3110 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (714) 673-3440.