Friday, 24 January 2014

Hollywood Highlights

Continuing on from our first exciting day in Los Angeles, we spent the next couple of days exploring the rest of the sights in the city and outlying areas. Los Angeles is a county which is made up of multiple districts and cities and we wanted to see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Downtown Los Angeles, Fishermans village, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. With such a limited amount of time, we opted to use of of the many 'hop-on, hop-off' bus services available for tourists which circle the city and provide commentary. Usually I'm pretty happy to find my own way around but unless you drive (paying astronomical parking charges and navigating huge amounts of traffic) LA is not a city to explore yourself- it's public transport services are laughable given its size.

We walked up to Hollywood Boulevard making a quick stop outside of The Chinese Theatre where stars throughout the ages have marked their handprints and signatures in the cement outside- Marilyn Monroe, the cast of Star Trek and Tom Hanks to name a few. Continuing up the street we kept an eye out for stars representing some of the most recognisable names in the world.

We headed to the bus and took the Hollywood route first, passing some notable landmarks along the way including buildings featured in movies and places where stars had first got their big break for example the Comedy Store where Robin Williams and Jim Carrey were first discovered. 

We also passed the restaurant where Brad Pitt once worked dressed as a giant chicken!!

We got off the bus at Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to explore. This iconic street features in loads of films including the scene in Pretty Woman (great film) where Julia Roberts goes on a shopping spree. It's a great place to window shop although with labels like Herve Leger, Lanvin and Dior it's a little out of my price range. It was the Screen Actors Guild awards in Hollywood that night so I kept my eyes peeled hoping to spot someone collecting their awards night outfit but to no avail. 

Beverly Hills itself is beautiful with amazing mansions lining the wide, manicured boulevards and if you had the money, I'm sure it would be a beautiful place to live! 90210 doesn't do it justice!

Heading further along, we passed through other famous sights including the Sunset Strip which holds loads of famous clubs and bars, including the Viper Room where River Phoenix overdosed in the early 90s. We then headed along Melrose Avenue which has more of a unique vibe to it with plenty of vintage stores and independent boutiques.

We stopped for a quick lunch at The Farmers Market which is a great purpose built place with hundreds of stalls selling loads of different types of food along with a section dedicated to fresh produce and more unusual delicacies such as one shop dedicated to different chilli sauces and another to macaroons! Outside this was the Grove which was a great open air shopping mall with dancing fountains!

Completing the Hollywood and Beverly Hills route, we started towards Downtown LA. Downtown LA looks a lot more like New York with a high concentration of skyscrapers whereas the rest of the city is quite flat. Driving through it transports you back to the 1920's with loads of art-deco style architecture which is so nice. This area also houses Little Tokyo and Chinatown as LA has a high percentage of Asian immigrants making the area very diverse.

After getting a great overview of the city, we headed back to the house to get ready for dinner. We had booked a table at the Ivy- a Hollywood institution. We had a great meal with amazing service but unfortunately didn't spot anyone famous...

It's apparently so famous, they don't even have a sign hanging!

The next morning, we headed westward and away from the city to the beach area of LA. we went to see two cities while we were there- Venice and Santa Monica. Santa Monica is famous for it's old-fashioned pier and it's great beaches and it was very quaint and charming. The pier is a great backdrop with a large Ferris wheel and an old-fashioned carousel. It's a great place for people watching!

Walking along we saw loads of street performers including one girl, Lana, who had such an amazing voice I bought her self-recorded album from her. Hailing from St Louis, Illinois, I really hope she gets her big break in the music business- 

The Main Street also looked lovely with tiny boutiques and street caf├ęs littered along its length but we didn't have a huge amount of time to explore unfortunately! 

Waiting for the bus, we were treated to a rather 'interesting' display of Tai Chi from a local man which basically involved him kicking the air repeatedly and making some strange noises. Not really the traditional way I suspect. Following out proceeding trip to Venice Beach, I suspect he may have originated there as this was full of some very unusual characters.

Walking along the Venice Boardwalk was very surreal but amazing. It's renowned for it's role during activism in the 'summer of love' back in the sixties and it's still got an air of abandon and hippie was surrounding it. You can smell weed everywhere with one of the buildings 'an assessment centre, for medical marijuana with a 'guarantee' you will get a prescription. There was again a lot of street performers with steel bands, reggae and drums meaning there was dance, music and art everywhere.

There were signs everywhere about a Homelessness Bill which is currently passing through Government. California is traditionally viewed as a liberal state but apparently there are still a number of very conservative republicans in the countryside who are trying to criminalise homeless people for using things such as public restrooms. Hard to believe, but the protest we saw going on that day was very well populated.

All in all, the contrast between Venice Beach and Santa Monica was crazy given that they are only a mile apart but I preferred Venice as it was much more interesting and less contrived. It definitely had character. Also, we met this lady here...

Getting back on the bus, we headed along to Fisherman's Village which is an upmarket area in Marina Del Ray. It looks like a tiny fishing town with brightly painted clapperboard houses and lovely restaurants. The luxury yachts and seaside views make it incredibly pricey to live there though!!

We saw loads of LA in the three days we spent there but I still feel we only scratched the surface. I think it might be one of my favourite cities which I've visited so far and would definitely love to return one day! For now though we were once again on the road and heading along to San Francisco...

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