City of Angels?

Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
Trip End Feb 26, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Having survived interrogation by LAX's Homeland Security (they asked us many, many strange and devious questions and then cross-checked our responses with each other), we jumped in a shuttle bus and rode to Hollywood. Yeah, Baby!

We spent the afternoon wandering up and down Hollywood Blvd, feeling rather shell-shocked after three weeks in the Cooks. We did, however, manage to see all of the sights in the area, including: the Hollywood sign, which we can see from our hostel (very exciting!), the Walk of Fame (I think we recognised approx. 5% of the names!), the Kodak and Chinese Theatres (where movie premieres are held) and the hand- and footprints of the stars. Wow, Arnie’s feet are big! The whole area is pretty run-down, nowhere near as glamorous as the red-carpet ceremonies would have you believe. Within a few hours, we’d seen and talked to many out of work and struggling actors/writers, 'living the dream’. That evening, we went to the convenience store and spent a good ten minutes staring in wonder at all the junk food and wondering if they really were all bigger than the rest of the world or if we had shrunk. To decide, we bought a giant can of beer and a coke (24oz!)

The following morning, we set out to explore Santa Monica and Venice Beach, stopping first on Sunset Blvd so that Stuart could have his photograph taken at the Elliott Smith memorial wall (it features on the front cover of one of his albums). We took a bus down to the coast, taking us through Beverley Hills for a glimpse of the lives of the rich and famous. This is the closest we were going to get as we didn’t fancy shelling out for a tour to take us to the George Michael toilet and somewhere where someone famous once lived, among other pointless attractions!

Santa Monica has a really nice feel, with lots of bars, cafes and shops positioned just a couple of streets from the ocean. The grass along the beachside promenade also appears to double as a homeless shelter with lots of people sleeping rough. We had a walk along the pier, which is a smaller version of Brighton Pier, then set off along the beach to Venice. On the way we saw hundreds of joggers, inline skaters and cyclists, all out enjoying the winter sunshine. We also passed Muscle Beach: "birthplace of the physical fitness boom of the 20th Century", basically an outdoor gym with hanging rings like on the Gladiators and other frames where LA ‘hunks’ show off their muscles. Stuart also got very excited by the Baywatch-style lifeguard huts, although everyone was off-duty.

When we got to Venice Beach, we found it was everything we had expected: a real-life human freakshow. We had a very enjoyable afternoon people watching. Some of our favourite characters were: roller-skating turban-wearing guitar-playing man, the self-proclaimed Sheriff of Venice (who dispensed such advice as: “careful who you pay your taxes to, man”), Captain America (in his sixties, with a boombox, stumbling around the toilets wearing only a stars and stripes thong), lots of people trying to give us prescriptions for legal marijuana (Kush), a very delusional hippie-style band, and the list goes on…

For lunch we had our first hole-in-the-wall slice of pizza. Then we sat and had a very-cheap happy hour drink before walking back to Santa Monica and rode the bus back to Hollywood. The hour long journey was spent listening to more future celebrities discussing their plans and how they are going to be the one who WILL make it.

Our final day was spent exploring downtown LA (financial and cultural centre of the city). We saw a few of the sights, including Union Station (straight out of Blade Runner), El Pueblo de Los Angeles (the birthplace of the original city, now a Mexican themed square and market), City Hall, Little Tokyo (where Stuart finally got his hair cut after three months), Walt Disney Concert Hall and the super modern Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels.

In the afternoon we took the Metro back to Hollywood and had a (long) walk along Sunset Blvd, stopping for lunch at a tasty Vegan restaurant (the only place we have found where you won’t come out dripping in grease and two clothes sizes bigger!) We finally found what we had been looking for: the Rock Walk, similar to the hand and feet prints outside the Chinese Theatre, but for rock musicians – very cool! Stuart then spent ages trying guitars out in the shop while Rachel stared longingly at the digital pianos and studio gear. Exhausted and with sore feet for the third day in a row, we headed back to our hostel for a couple of hours before heading to the airport for the red eye flight to Miami…
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