Hollywood - home of the stars

Trip Start Jan 17, 2007
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Trip End Jul 20, 2007


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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, July 5, 2007

Contrary to common belief, public transport in LA is actually very good, fast and very cheap, it's just difficult to figure out which route you should be on. After mastering the bus and metro systems we found travelling between Hollywood, Beverley Hills and our hostel in Melrose (West Hollywood) easy and gave a better glimpse of the side of LA that the tourist board tries to hide. Our hostel was more like a boutique hotel, very friendly (we even saw some people we had met in the Cook Islands!), extremely good value and a better location than many of the expensive hotels. The famous "Walk of Stars", the Hollywood Hotel, Grauman's Chinese, El Capitan and the Kodak theatres were only a short bus ride away. We had a great day seeing the sights and treading where so many famous feet have stood.

The "Walk of Stars", along Hollywood Boulevard leads you to the Kodak theatre where the Oscars are held and where you can also get a great view of the famous sign in the hills. As you walk along the stars you will see many names that you know, some that you think you know and many many names that you will never have heard of! The Kodak theatre is actually filled with shops and cafes with a very grand staircase leading up to the main auditorium. Next door is the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theatre which is where most world movie premiers are screened (including Harry Potter which was on just after we left LA). Outside the theatre is where the famous hand and foot prints of icons old and new are laid in the floor. We had fun searching out different names we recognised, including the newly laid Ocean's Eleven team, but had no trouble finding the main attraction as it was constantly surrounded - there are few people that have as small hands as Marilyn Monroe, but Jilly is one of them!

More than anywhere, the extremes of wealth and poverty are visible in Hollywood. Just one block behind the glitzy walk of stars is a dangerous, seedy underworld of derelict buildings invested with drug dealers and prostitutes - that said, if you stick to the tourist spots and taxi's you would probably not be aware this side of LA and we tried to stay well away. One thing you will notice wherever you are in LA is that the population is predominantly Mexican and Spanish is spoken by over half of the 9.5 million residents. The glamour and wealth associated with Hollywood and projected by the media is a far cry from the reality of the majority of LA and extreme poverty is strikingly close to even the most glitzy of neighbourhoods.

One of the most glamourous and overtly superficial areas of LA is Beverley Hills and particularly, Rodeo Drive. This is where the majority of film stars live and is most accurately portrayed in 'Pretty Woman'. Rodeo Drive is oozing with sparkly clothes, jewels and toys for the rich and famous, there are definitely no prices displayed in the windows and entrance is only granted by guards on the doors. It's a fun place to walk around because it looks like a film set, is immaculately clean and very quiet compared to the rest of the city. To get back to Hollywood we walked through some of Beverley Hills and saw some of the incredibly big walls surrouding the grounds of the houses belonging to the stars! Although the houses are very grand, they are all very close together and have little or no view so we've decided we will come home in a couple of weeks like planned!

We had a great time at Universal Studios, one of the highlights being a tour of the working studios and back lots. Whilst we were there they were filming Desperate Housewives and 'The Bourne Ultimatum' but they are careful to keep the celebrities away from the cameras of tourists. It was great to see some of the sets from classic films like Jaws, Jurassic Park and King Kongs as well as the huge props used in multi million dollar films like War of the Worlds. It was an extremely hot day so we took shade and went on some fantastic rides and simulators. We went to a couple of shows that explained what happens behind the scenes and how special effects are made and used- pretty cool and very very funny.
In the evening we went to Universal City - a hub of LA's biggest and brightest bars, restaurants and clubs. Hard Rock, as always, was amazing - good food, great atmosphere and another pin for the ever growing collection!

We were lucky enough to have been in LA on the 4th July, Independence Day, and one of the biggest celebration days in the American calendar. Houses are decked out with colourful banners and flags, it's a public holiday and the smells of backyard bbq's fill the air. The biggest organised event in America is at LA's Rose Bowl and we managed to get tickets. The Rose Bowl is one of the biggest stadiums in the world, seating over 100,000 people and is mostly used for football matches. Outside the arena was a large fair with rides, stalls, live bands and a food court surrounded by families having picnics and relaxing in the evening sun. The AmericaFest concertinside the Dome was a tribute to all things American and the biggest show of patriotism we've ever seen. Nearly everyone wore red, white and blue and children had their faces painted with the stars and stripes. Mexican and East Asian people actually far outnumbered English speaking Americans and were definately the loudest in their show of patriotism. The concert was brilliant - a mix of bands, the California Philharmonic Orchestra and classic American marching bands complete with dancers and majorettes. The highlight of the night was an amazing 30 minute fireworks spectacular - one of the largest ever displays and really was brilliant. The huge fireworks were set to music and interweaving quotes from past presidents, leaders and passages of the Decleration of Independence. Also amazing was the security presence around the Rose Bowl - 10 helicopters hovered over the stadium for the duration of the show and fighter jets flew overhead to ensure people of their safety. Even then, many people left the show early to avoid any chance of attack (which most people seemed to fear would come at the highpoint of the show in the last 10 mins). We were very glad to have satyed till the end and to have seen not just an amazing show but also a really good piece of American culture and tradition.

We've had an amazing time in LA and fly to Las Vegas tomorrow before heading off to the Grand Canyon - can't wait!!

Lots of love,

Laurie and Jilly xxx
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