We arrived in Hollywood very early in the morning after a somewhat uncomfortable coach journey from San Francisco. Straight away we found ourselves surrounded by stars as we exited the metro directly on to the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
We followed the stars all the way down Hollywood Boulevard searching for our hostel, and on the way we found the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Cameron Diaz and Mickey Mouse.
After settling into our hostel (and having a quick nap) we set out onto Hollywood Boulevard again to visit the famous Chinese Theatre (which is where many of Hollywood’s glitzy film premiers are held) to see all of the famous hands and feet that have been imprinted in cement on the pavement.
Also on Hollywood Boulevard is the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are held annually, and we climbed up onto the third floor to see our first glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign.
Feeling that we’d been immersed in Hollywood history, we signed up to our hostel’s walking tour of Beverley Hills to see how the ‘other half’ currently live. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any famous people on our tour of the leafy avenues filled with giant mansions – in fact – we didn’t see much of the giant mansions either. It was more like a tour of impressive gates or hedges that a celebrity house lay behind. To make matters worse, our guide often didn’t know the current occupant of the house we were trying to see through the undergrowth – so it was actually a tour of gates or hedges that a house where a celebrity used to live lay behind! One interesting aspect of the tour was that much of the time we were walking on the road because there were no pavements – our guide said this was to discourage people like us walking around ogling the houses and their occupants.
The tour’s saving grace was a quick look around Rodeo Drive, where all the most exclusive (and expensive!) shops have an outlet. Although we didn’t see any famous faces here either, it was a real eye opener to see an actual Picasso for sale in a shop window – not a museum, a shop!
The next day we took a trip to Santa Monica, which is like a lovely seaside town within the city of LA. It was full of interesting shops and had a gorgeous beach, complete with a famous pier where we had a quick go on the ferris wheel.
From Santa Monica beach, we walked along the sea front to the equally famous Venice Beach Boardwalk. It was certainly more ‘vibrant’ than Santa Monica, but I was surprised at how run-down it seemed to be. I guess I had presumed that all famous places in Los Angeles were beautiful and glamorous – Venice Beach Boardwalk was neither of those things!
On the bright side, the beach had an amazing skate park where hundreds of people were gathered just to watch people doing (quite impressive) tricks. Also, just off the boardwalk was the famous ‘Muscle Beach Gym’ where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out in his Mr Universe heyday. Interestingly, the real Muscle Beach was next to Santa Monica Pier and was given its name after gymnasts in the 1930s used to practice acrobatic feats. You can still see people having a go at acrobatics there today.
After spending a few days in LA – the home of modern film-making – I decided our trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to an actual studio. There are loads of studios to pick from, including Warner Brothers, Paramount and Sony – but we decided to go with Universal Studios and we weren’t disappointed.
The Studio Tour, which takes you through all of the working studio sets in a buggy, was amazing. It was incredibly surreal to be coasting through the streets of New York one minute, and then be in the middle of the Wild West the next. The tour also showed clips of famous films (like Jaws, Psycho , Back to the Future and King Kong) that were filmed in the sets we were staring right at.
After the tour, we got to go on the virtual-reality rides – which involved sitting in a cart that moved you around, while the screen showed you falling off the side of a building or going inside Maggie Simpson’s mouth! Although it doesn’t sound impressive, the effect was immersive and at times it really felt like you were falling.
Before leaving the USA, we wanted to go and see one of the American sports – Football, Ice Hockey or Baseball – being played. Luckily for us, it was Baseball season and we managed to get cheap tickets to see the LA Dodgers playing Colorado at their home stadium. The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing and, after realising the game was almost identical to rounders, I really enjoyed it. We even saw Kiss bass player Gene Simmons there – so we didn’t leave LA without seeing any famous people.
In the morning we were up bright and early to check-out and catch our 5pm flight out of the USA and into Colombia. We were expecting to get a flight to Houston, Texas, where we would get a connecting flight to Bogota – but on waking up we found we’d received an email from United Airlines saying that our first flight was delayed by six hours – meaning we would miss our connecting flight! Luckily, using the power of Twitter, we got in touch with the airline, which transferred us to another flight to Colombia with Delta. By 3pm, we were boarded and safely on our way to Bogota!