Around the world in 8 months travel blog

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City of Angels - Too Many Photos

Day 62 Hollywood

First day in LA we just have to go to Hollywood, well that is what it’s famous for. We decide against public transport as everything is so spread out. I’m glad Mark is happy driving (well queuing) in this horrendous traffic. We soon realise the whole of LA is just one huge traffic jam.

Stop one is the Hollywood sign up in the Hollywood hills. The roads wind sharply, twisting and turning on themselves up into the hills overlooking LA. The nine letters spelling out the name of this city can be seen from quite some distance away, getting ever larger as we get closer. This sign was originally a billboard advertising real estate ‘Hollywoodland’. The land letters were removed in 1949 it became synonymous with the film industry which grew up here in the early 1900’s.

Each letter is 45 feet tall and the length of the sign 450 feet. The last time I saw this iconic sign was in 1978 when it was dilapidated and covered in graffiti. Later that year it was repaired and now the public are unable to walk up to it. We make our way up to the view point and take photographs. There are lovely trails all around this area. It is even possible to walk to the Griffin Observatory and there are hikers making this journey. We decide we haven’t time and set off to Hollywood Boulevard.

The heyday of Hollywood was the early 20th Century but unfortunately in the 1960’s and 70’s the area went into decline, becoming shabby and rundown. There has been some injection of cash into the area with new hotels and shopping malls.

Starting at the Hollywood Goddess Gazebo (gaudy even by Hollywood standards) we walk down one side of the street, stopping at the stars on the walk of fame that particularly interest us. The street is partially closed as a marquee is being erected for the Frozen 2 premiere. We pass kitsch diners, tourist gift shops and seedy looking joints until we reach The Egyptian Theatre. This was the original Grauman Theatre sponsored by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Junior and Mary Pickford. It is decorated in Hieroglyphics and Egyptian symbolism and is now a cinema.

Crossing the road was walk back passing similar businesses until we reach Grauman’s second theatre. This is the Chinese theatre famous for hand prints, feet (shoe) prints and signatures of the stars. We peruse the forecourt, looking for ones which we know. To be fair unlike the pavement stars these do belong to people we have heard of.

Popping into the tourist information we are given a list of sights with their GPS. Hungry we head for Pinks hot dogs which is recommended. This historic diner has been trading since 1939 when it originally open as a hotdog stand. The place is tiny but heaving with customers waiting in line for their orders. The whole place is decorated pink and luckily Mark and I are both dressed in pink for the occasion (this is total coincidence).

The journey back to Glendale is a total nightmare. The rush hour has hit and it takes 90 minutes to drive a 15-minute journey. This is what could be called total gridlock. The lives of those living in LA must just be sitting in traffic jams, what a nightmare?

Day 63 Beverly Hills

After yesterday spent in the underbelly of LA we decide to visit the upmarket side of the city, Beverly Hills. First however we drive up to Griffin Observatory. It doesn’t open today until noon, there are school parties in the morning so we are unable to visit the telescope. The building itself is beautiful and we take in the far-reaching views of LA county. Unfortunately, there is a layer of smog obscuring the downtown area. Rebel Without a Cause was filmed up here and there is a bust of James Dean, which Mark and I pose in front of.

Driving through Griffin Park we stop at the Greek Theatre. Oh no! another building closed and we are unable to tour. It seems every tourist sight in LA is closed at the moment for upgrades. Builders are up on the roof carrying out repairs. I suppose work has to be done at sometime and this is out of season, but they could have waited until we had finished our visit to the city.

Driving to Beverly Hills we pass along Sunset Boulevard with its music venues and comedy clubs. Everything is themed in this city and it is hard to always tell what is genuine and what is not.

Beverly Hills is posh, the street driving in is lined with massive homes in beautiful manicured gardens. Turning down Rodeo drive we pass designer shops and remember the scene from ‘Pretty Woman’ with Julia Roberts.

Mark parks up and we walk along Sunset Boulevard through the gardens to the Beverly Hills sign. The gardens are full of flower beds and sculptures ‘Art in the Park’. The sign is behind a large water lily pond and is drawing large crowds. Over the road I can see an Art Deco building and I’m immediately drawn to go and take a look.

This is the Beverly Hills City Hall fronting the Civic Centre, including police station, Library, fire department and garage. The whole centre was built in the 1930’s in Art Deco style and is situated in lush gardens. We are given visitors passes so that we can explore the city hall building. The ceilings, floors and decorative panels are all in keeping with the period of construction. This is a real gem and I’m so pleased we came across it. The receptionist recommends that we visit Grey Stones Park.

Driving up into Beverly Hills we pass mansions in beautiful gardens on both sides of the road. Greystone Park is the Gardens of one of these such mansions. The house was built in 1928 by the son of an oil tycoon in the Tudor revival style. A later owner rented it out as a film location and now the city owns it. The house is still used for TV and film productions e.g. Jack Nicholson's 'Massachusetts' home in The Witches of Eastwick and as a wedding venue. Entry to the house is not possible but the formal English gardens are lovely, featuring fountains, rose gardens, arbours and ponds.

Leaving the gardens, we head to the Grove and the Original Farmer’s Market. The Market has been on this site since 1934. It has more than 100 old-world grocers, an eclectic array of shops and dozens of restaurants serving food from around the globe. As we wander, we have difficulty in deciding what to choose for lunch - American, Brazilian, Cajun, Chinese, French, Mexican, Indian or Italian. I settle on Empanadas, one chicken and one beef. Mark and Marcus have pulled pork sandwich and fried chicken sandwich respectively.

Outside in the little square is the old clock and the now closed petrol station, reminiscent of an era now forgotten. Street stalls line the pedestrian area and there are shops and restaurants facing the outside of the market.

Driving back to Glendale is not as busy today as we hit the road before the rush hour starts to hit.

A night out in Glendale is called for. We change and head out walking which is quite a novelty. This area of LA feels really safe to be out and about. We window shop on the main drag and head for Americana; a shopping area boasting cafés, bars and restaurants. It is easy to forget we are in November as the weather is warm, however, we are soon reminded by the Christmas decorations and Santa’s North Pole Cabin. Everything feels festive.

Crossing the main road, we walk down a little side street and reach ‘Oak and Vine’, a cosy wine bar. There is heated seating outside but we decide to sit in. The atmosphere is great, the wine good and the music live (a guitarist). A great combination for an enjoyable couple of hours.

Hungry again, we head for the brewery bar where we eat nachos and wings and drink cheep wine and beer. What a full day we’ve had, a good night’s rest earned by us all, except I have to do the laundry before we pack (Mark has driven all day so I think I have the best deal)

Day 64 Last day in America

Driving into downtown LA is busy. Traffic thunders along the freeway and the roads are confusing; thank goodness for Satnav. Mark decides that parking on the street is not a good idea and finds a parking lot close to Olvera Street.

We pass on open space where placards tell the history of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles. 44 settlers of Native American, African and European heritage journeyed more than a thousand miles across the desert from present-day northern Mexico and established a farming community in September 1781.

Next door is La Placita Church which was founded in 1814. It is lovely and cool inside and the busiest church we have visited whilst in the USA. The courtyard is full of people sitting chatting, eating food bought from the little stalls and drinking.

Crossing the road, we enter Olvera Street a colourful Mexican Market Place, opened in 1930. It is busy with tourists but the Plaza Park opposite is full of homeless people. As we walk down the street, we come across Avila Adobe which is LA’s oldest house still standing in its original location; built in 1818. This is now a museum and the rooms are decorated as they would have been back in the day.

We continue down the street passing restaurants, food vendors and tourist gift shops. Turning we walk back up the other side. Mark spies a plaque on the wall almost hidden away. These are the steps that Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Kid’ was filmed on.

We walk down to Union Station built in 1939 in a Mission Moderne style (an innovative blend of Spanish Colonial, Art Deco and Mission Revival styles). Large gardens front the building which in some parts is covered with scaffolding. It seems again as if everywhere is being repaired or renovated. The ticket hall is luxuriously furnished with a bar, café and restaurant.

Leaving downtown we head out to the coast. Turning north on the coat road we drive up to Malibu. The beach continues for mile after mile; surfers riding the rollers. High on the cliffs in Malibu is the Getty Villa, an imposing building housing many of the Getty museum artefacts. Malibu is a luxury coastal resort and Malibu Lagoon State beach is known as Surfrider beach for its waves. RV’s and campervans are parked along the side of the coast road and young people are braving these waves on their boards.

Further down the coast at Santa Monica we park the car next to the pier. On the beach we pop a bottle of fizz and toast the end of our time in America. We all agree that the last 2 months have been fantastic. We have seen so many wonderful sights and had so many brilliant experiences.

We walk along the sea shore down to Venice beach. The beach is busy with families enjoying the last of the sun and splashing in the sea. There is a bicycle path, lined with palm trees, the length of the coast which welcomes bikes, walkers and joggers.

Suddenly we realise it is 3 p.m. so we turn back and walk towards the pier. We pass a beach gym where very fit, toned individuals are working out on bars, rings and ropes. We stand with a crowd and watch a young girl climb and then do acrobatic tricks on a rope, a man tight rope walk and another man work across rings. The crowds clap and it is very impressive. Mark decides to have a go on the rings. Amazingly this does not draw a crowd, much to his dismay!

The journey to the airport is tense. The traffic is not great and we are yet again standing nose to nose in traffic. We drop the car off and a courtesy bus takes us to Terminal B. Thank goodness we set off when we did, it takes us 20 minutes on the bus.

We are on the plane ready to take off at 9.30 p. m. Friday 8/11/19. Fiji here we come.

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