We will be returning to LA, if nothing more than for a flight out of the US, but for now it’s goodbye. It was also goodbye to our trusty Hyundai when we dropped it off close to the airport on Wednesday. That was quite sad, we’d come along way together; literally. I fact 3,844 miles to be precise. From cold and windy Chicago, Illinois to the sunny Southern California coast through desert, mountains small towns and ridiculously over the top cities (looking at you Las Vegas). We felt a bit lost without it, suddenly America seemed like a much harder place to navigate, we were thinking far enough ahead to drop our bags off at our Airbnb in south LA before taking the car back so at least we didn’t have to lug them around. We ended up taking Uber’s everywhere around town as the transport system isn’t that extensive and it turns out we hadn’t picked a great location for exploring this huge city. Especially given that unlike normal towns things aren’t focused in the centre but are spread out everywhere like one big conurbation I guess it really is! Fortunately Uber is quite advanced in LA (as you might expect given its California’s biggest town and California is the epicentre for more thingstechnologically advanced) and they have a pool system that means you share your taxi with other going in a similar direction reducing your fare by up to half. So in the end we didn’t pay a fortune more than we would have on public transport and we didn’t have to spend 4 hours a day travelling back and forth between everything.
We’d been given plenty of differing views of what Los Angeles would be like, as with any city, I guess. And it’s easy to see why people love it and hate it. You can walk from the middle of Hollywood up to the hills overlooking the sprawling city through a lovely green park and enjoy the sun the peace and quiet but then when at the top have the views spoiled by a haze that you weren’t expecting with a clear summers day. You can sit for, probably, hours in traffic cursing stupid drivers but end up at miles (and miles and miles) of beautiful beaches filled with beautiful people. You can peruse round the world greatest shops trying to ignore the feeling nagging in the back of you head that even if you weren’t on a budget due to your over extravagant holiday you’d never afford more than a pair of pants. But, if you are happy, calm and relaxed (which you should be living in the Southern California climate) and you like people I can see why people love the place, I certainly enjoyed it, but after Hollywood and the beach I’m not sure what else there would be to see.
The hike up to the Hollywood sign saw us cross Hollywood boulevard for the first time to the foot of the Hollywood hills. What we had planned to be a simple up to the sign and back 6 mile walk ended up being a nine mile loop across a ridge running west from the famous landmark and down some steep terrain as we found another path and I don’t like missing anything so I insisted we take it. It took us 90 mins from Hollywood town to Hollywood sign up some pretty steep sections but the path we followed took us right round the back so we could view the famous lettering with the city behind it. The views were impressive with the beautiful landscape intertwined with the urban grid system. The distance faded by the smog that obviously hangs over the city, I guess they don’t have clear crisp days. We enjoyed the views for another hour as we transversed the hill range before descending to the Hollywood reservoir and back round to get a view of the sign from the front. It seemed that every time you rounded a corner the sign had unexpectedly sneaked a bit closer to you until we were back to the perimeter fence preventing pesky tourists getting a closer look. Any thoughts you might have about quickly hopping the fence to touch it are quickly thrown from your mind by the helicopter that seems to circle every 15 minutes watching for anyone up to no good! After a good day we completed our walk through the streets lined with plush houses back to Hollywood Boulevard, didn’t see anyone famous in them, it at least one of them must have belonged to someone right!?
If walking up to the sign had been an energetic day we made sure we’d prepared ourselves well by spending the preceding day relaxing on Santa Monica beach. Being a Thursday and “off season” (it was 20+ degrees C weather that British beaches dream of in their on season!) the beach was nearly deserted. It seemed bizarre to think that the city leading up to the beach was so busy yet this place was so quiet. After a few hours of R and R and a run along the coast we strolled south towards Venice beach and its boardwalk. Similarly to Santa Monica the beach was quiet, but the sea front and the boardwalk we very busy, people roller skating, skateboarding, cycling and just walking enjoying the street performers, shops, cafes and bar. We stayed here to watch the sun set across the ocean before getting out of the cold and back to our Airbnb (we were still in beach gear!)
After two days enjoying the cities natural attractions we celebrated Suzanne’s birthday with a walk from Beverly Hills to Hollywood to explore the famously expensive shopping district and find stars on the boulevard. If people think it’s easy to loose money in Vegas, it must be easy to loose money just as quickly on Rodeo Drive. We didn’t buy anything. Once in Hollywood we didn’t miss the opportunity of going to see a movie, the birthday girl went for Beauty and the Beast. We watched it in one of Hollywood’s iconic old movie theatres; the TLC Chinese theatre which hosted The Oscars in the 1940’s and to rival the boulevards celluloid stars has hand, foot and even paw prints of movie stars moulded in the concrete. After the film, and the birthday girl feeling very satisfied, we strolled down the iconic start lined pavement watching numerous impersonators, from Michael Jackson to Marilyn Monroe, from Superman to the Red Power Ranger they were all out mixing with the local. It did make me worry about who was protecting the universe!