The second largest city in America has enjoyed a number of stereotypes and criticisms both in the media, and in the opinions of various people I have spoken to. With the number of people who told me they hated it (mostly us English) I looked to Americans for inspiration who tended to deliver rather a different story. Enduring memories in the minds of pessimists include smog, traffic, dirt, grime, crime, industrialism and pretentiousness. LA delivers all these in spades, but there is so much to see here and so much to do that even a born-again tree-hugger like me wasn't bothered by the lack of parkland. Fitting then, that after all my detestful scribings about the overuse of concrete in America my favourite city should be the worst culprit of them all.
Now you may or may not know that I am an avid people watcher, and more than anything else, I love weird people. They provide me with a sense of exuberance and wonder that can never be had from a regular conversation with a regular person. Imagine my pure and utter joy then, when I found that probably 80% of the world's weirdest people are living here in this blissful metropolis.
I stayed in the heart of Hollywood which - for all its gaudy commercialism - I thought was fantastic. Stars lined the pavements for blocks in each direction, Japanese tourists took pictures of themselves in front of every building they could find, shops sold wigs and samurai swords, scientologists touted their faith to curious visitors. It was simply majestic. If I hear another old fogey in a guide book going on about how much better it was in the 1930s I'll scream, not only because they probably weren't around then, but if they were then they are far too old to appreciate the wondrous modern sights that make the place so appealing.
The tramps here ('homeless people/bums' for the American readers) especially are of a different breed altogether. Not in LA will you hear anyone say "Got any spare change?" in a barely audible mumble. Oh no. First you might hear a story involving dragons eating grandmas and hospital costs, or of jails and bus fares. Then there are 'The Performers' - tramps that have developed an interest in astrology, or a method of clicking and clapping to a complex rhythm whilst singing through crack ravaged vocal cords, tramps that can pull rabbits out of hats and that claim magical powers lie within the strange animal teeth around their necks. Hollywood is a comical feast - a garden of people so strange that they had to move to the last frontier on earth in order to fit in.
The hostel in Hollywood was the best I have stayed in up until now. The rooms were cleaned every day, regular tours were operated to Beverly Hills, the Hollywood sign, Venice Beach and plenty of other places. Everyone I spoke to was great, the bar was fantastic (you could even bring your own beers), they had a free comedy night, an open-mic night... The place was simply awesome.
One thing I have noted as a lone traveller is how important the atmosphere is in a hostel. You can be provided with a place that is cleaned like a hospital and looks like a 5-star hotel, but if you don't have the means to provide a great atmosphere then the place is just another 12-foot desert island - nice to look at but ultimately dull. USA Hostels Hollywood was Ibiza (with fewer drunken retards) and one of the staff there looks, sounds and acts exactly like Jack Black!
I took the tour up to Beverly Hills with Jack who entertained us with his celebrity witticisms and his knowledge of the houses. It was actually more of a tour of rich people's front gates but interesting all the same. After the tour I got a quezadilla suiza (not as nice as the one in San Fran) and had a quick stroll around Rodeo Drive, stopping to take a snap of the £330,000 McLaren Mercedes SLR parked outside one of the extravagant shops.
The following day I took the bus to Santa Monica Beach and lazed around for a few hours before making my way down to Venice Beach on the promenade. It was here, by some bizarre coincidence, that I bumped into Steve - the guy I met in Flagstaff. We went for a cup of tea in true British style and had a chinwag for an hour or so. After that I had a small amount of time to look around Venice Beach before it started to get dark, then it was time for a great evening of beer and boisterousness at the open-mic night, and a flight to Hawaii the following morning. I will definately be coming here again.