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Folks who love to hate L.A. must have to work hard at maintaining that passion.

Folks who love to hate L.A. must have to work hard at maintaining that passion; the Los Angeles I know is easy, breezy, fun and flirty. Forget the staid pretension of Beverly Hills and go straight to the seaside to get your feet wet - a stroll down Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade makes a great shopping warm-up. Santa Monica's tony Montana shopping strip is just a 10-minute ride away. In West Hollywood, the shops on Melrose are as about as cool as you can get, from Jonathan Adler's home store to famous Fred Segal, where browsing, at least, is free. Head back toward the beach and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, where every shop feels like a concept store.

SHOP

Aviator Nation, $70 to $170

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The look and feel of these T-shirts, hoodies and sweats are so L.A. that you feel a part of it all as soon as you slip them on. The designs are vintage-surf, but the colours, fabrics and fit are and unique enough to justify the prices. Almost. Available at stores throughout the city, or at the awesome Venice flagship store. Aviator Nation, 1224 Abbot Kinney Blvd; 310-396-9100; www.aviatornation.com

La Nogalera walnut oil, $20 for 250 mL

Forget wine - if you really want to taste California, pick up a bottle of this artisanal walnut oil. The nuts are grown in nearby Santa Barbara and processed in the traditional French manner. Add toasty walnut flavour to beet and goat-cheese salad, wild rice or even fish. It's good for you too. Grocery stores and farmers markets around Los Angeles; 805-245-9457; www.lanogalerawalnutoil.com

Heath Ceramics, $20 and up

The logo says "since 1948" but Heath pieces have a rustic-modern feel that couldn't be more contemporary. The brand has renewed itself with innovative ideas even as it honours its local, handcrafted heritage. Pick up a bud vase, the same tableware you'd find at Chez Panisse, or a one-of-a-kind piece by new potter-in-residence Adam Silverman. 525 Beverly Blvd.; 323-965-0800; www.heathceramics.com.

EAT

You can arrive at Mozza and safely expect happiness to follow. Whether you dine at the Osteria or nibble more casually at the Pizzeria, your meal will be full of freshness, imagination and respect for quality ingredients. Fried squash blossoms, white anchovy pizza and oxtail ragout are standouts. 641 N. Highland Ave.; 323-297-0101; www.mozza-la.com.

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SLEEP

Cool, unique and perfectly understated, the Oceana is a beachside hideaway that feels both hip and casual, but don't be fooled - the gorgeous rooms and luxurious beds confirm that you're somewhere special. 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; 310-393-0486; rooms from $300; www.hoteloceanasantamonica.com.

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