Many of the preconceptions are on the money - the sun really does shine pretty much every day; nobody walks anywhere, and this is one of the most polarised cities on the planet, with extreme wealth and poverty in close proximity; but just as many are wide of the mark. LA is not a cultural vacuum - witness the booming contemporary art scene; LA is not a concrete jungle - take a hike in vast Griffith Park or swim off Venice Beach to dispel that one; nor is it just a fame flame to which wannabe moths are inevitably drawn, only to get burnt - the creative scene and the talented types busy fuelling it really do produce a stimulating atmosphere of positivity and possibility that soon rubs off.
So, how to navigate these possibilities in this huge, sprawling city of cities, encircled by the Pacific, mountains and desert? Our advice - choose the LA for you, and stick to it. Beach bums should decamp to Santa Monica and South Bay for some of the best city beaches and surfing anywhere in the world, with excellent hotels and restaurants in close attendance. Movie-goers will find themselves gravitating to the Hollywood Hills and the iconic studios that churn out the blockbusters. Meanwhile, art-lovers should head to edgier Inglewood for contemporary art collectives and street art. Get LA right, and it's one of the greats, and you will leave with your conceptions truly altered.