Thursday, 23 January 2014

Los Angeles Living

After finally arriving in Los Angeles after a long drive through Nevada and California and encountering some spectacular scenery, we reached our home for the next four nights- a lovely detached house situated about a 10 minute walk away from Hollywood Boulevard (or the Walk of Fame). It was a great house and I love the freedom of not staying in a hotel- while it may initially cost a little more (although in a group it normally is about the same) you can save so much money not being forced to eat out for every meal! Also, when travelling (particularly with family in this case) it can be best for everyone to have their own space.

Rising bright and early, we headed to our first stop of the day and where better to start when in Hollywood than at a major film studio? Based on a recommendation, we headed to the Warner Bros studio. The only studio tour which offers you a glimpse at it's live workings, we weren't sure what we would see as each of its 2-hour tours is completely different based on it's filming schedule. Due to the time of year, with many of the TV shows filmed there being on a mid-season break, a lot of the lots were deserted meaning chances of spotting a star were slim! It was still very cool to wander around the different lots, including the back lot which is set out to look like a New York street and is where many shows and movies have been filmed including Friends, Annie and The Mask.

Strangely, most of the buildings are only facades and have no interior. It's very surreal standing in the midst of a set, tapping a 'wall' and realising it's made out of fibreglass or plastic rather than brick. Everything is done for appearances sake and as our guide explained, it gives the various directors the option to change everything cheaply and quickly! 

Driving further through the lot on a golf caddy type vehicle, we stopped at the 'property' department which contained all the props which are available to hire for filming. With everything from huge chandeliers to grand pianos, wardrobes to photo frames, anything and everything is available to breathe life into a film set and place the set in the correct era, geographical location and context. We saw props which had been used in the Matrix, Inception and Casablanca and saw how set designers and creative directors could browse this live catalogue picking things for the next big blockbuster!

At the back of the props department was a space dedicated to one of Warner Bros biggest TV hits- Friends. As a completely avid fan who can quote multiple episodes the whole way through (best episode has to be 'The one with Ross' tan' mostly for the cameo from Jennifer Coolidge- 'can you believe I've never had professional dance classes?') I was so excited to see the iconic set. Central Perk was there in it's former glory as a remnant of the cultural phenomenon and I even got to sit on the sofa!! 

After the excitement of that passed, we headed onto one of the sets of the currently running programme- Pretty Little Liars. I've never seen it but it was still cool to walk around a partially constructed set and be able to see the various processes which go into making a believable set for filming. Again, most of it is plasterboard or fibreglass so when you're stood on it you can see it's not real, but as our guide explained, it is real enough for the audience to then subliminally fill in the rest of the details using their imaginations! No cameras allowed on this set unfortunately!

The final two places we visited were the garage hosting some of the more famous cars from previous Warner Bros blockbusters, and the museum holding the costumes and props of current and past shows and movies. There was a great selection including One Tree Hill, Big Bang Theory, My Fair Lady, Christopher Nolan's Batman series, The Hangover, The Great Gatsby and Casablanca...

Upstairs was a whole floor dedicated to Harry Potter, the most successful film series ever and I (as a proud Potter geek) was in my element!!

That pretty much finished off the tour but it was a great experience and I would definitely recommend it!

After finishing at the studios and some great Mexican food (obviously being so close to Mexico with a huge number of Mexican immigrants there's a wide selection) we headed to one of the more natural areas of Los Angeles- Griffith Park. We drove up the steep hill within and parked at the top near Griffith Observatory which is one of the most visited places within LA. Stepping out of the car, we realised why. The view across LA was amazing and it was a fantastic place to catch our first glimpse of the famed Hollywood sign!

It was much smaller than expected, but it was still cool to see in real life after it's appearance in so many films- one of my favourites is where Justin Timberlake gets airlifted off it in 'Friends with Benefits'! The observatory itself is a beautiful building with a huge white dome and a stunning position at the top of the steep hill.

We caught one of the shows in the planetarium there which was surprisingly interesting about the science behind the Northern Lights, and the history of the Nordic and Viking legends which had surrounded them before the dawn of modern science. Coming out of this we went to watch the sunrise over LA and were in for a pleasant surprise as we spotted a celebrity (living the Hollywood stereotype I know)- Ed Westwick AKA Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl fame! Me and Adam (my brother) are massive fans of I the show so we stopped him and asked him for a photo which he kindly agreed to-

All in all, we had a perfect first day in the 'City of Angels' capped off with watching the sun set over Hollywood...

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