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One Day in Los Angeles (is enough), California

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Hollywood sign from Beechwood Drive

Hollywood sign from Beechwood Drive

Californians have a reputation for being slightly wacky, and it’s more obvious when arriving in Los Angeles from down-to-earth Oregon.

Oregon and Seattle feel all about quality of life. Solid houses home solid people. People eat home-grown food, whilst listening to home-grown music.

Northern California was equally down-to-earth, but the area around Los Angeles is much more about appearances. From Santa Cruz onwards, pretty houses on stilts line the coast, inhabited by beautiful people. Music involves more hairspray and the food is daintier.

Nowhere is this more noticeable than between Hollywood and Beverley Hills. Poodle-haired rockers wander the streets of Sunset Boulevard, green or pink hair held aloft by a hole in the ozone layer. Waiters arrive with perfect teeth and tight abs, waiting for that big acting job. The food they deliver is no longer thrown in a basket – a simple order of onion rings comes stacked on a spike, with a cheery smile hiding the dismay that someone would eat that many calories.

Chinese Theatre

Chinese Theatre

The marginally more successful actors are standing around outside the Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, dressed as movie characters. Admittedly Captain Jack Sparrow (from Pirates of the Caribbean) and Superman (from err…Superman) looked excellent. Supergirl appeared to be missing her underwear, so was popular with the teenage boys and their dads.
Steve McQueen Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Steve McQueen Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Tip: Most of the car parks there are all-day and very expensive. We found an underground multi-storey called Central Parking on North Sycamore that was just $3 an hour. Perfect if all you want to do is briefly look at the theatres and a few of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Another Tip: Cars really are the easiest way to get around in LA, but the roads are full of potholes and there seem to be a lot of people driving whilst doing anything other than looking at the road. Be careful!

Beverley Hills Sign

Beverley Hills Sign – at least these haven’t changed

Beverley Hills

I first went to Beverley Hills seven years ago, and remember it being quite glamorous. Crystal chandeliers hung in place of street lights and beautifully dressed people flitted from shop to shop in their open topped Mercedes.

This time it was a traffic jam. There were no chandeliers and only a few Mercedes, but they were driven by red-faced men shouting into their mobiles.

Griffiths Observatory

Griffiths Observatory

Griffiths Observatory

From Sunset Boulevard we drove up into the Hollywood Hills, where the Griffiths Observatory has an amazing view over the city.

Looking down over Los Angeles from the Griffiths Observatory

Looking down over Los Angeles from the Griffiths Observatory

The observatory car park has a distant view of the famed Hollywoodland sign, but there are far better views from Beechwood Drive. Much like at Cannon Beach it seems the residents are getting understandably tired of tourists driving slowly through the narrow streets.

Paramount Studios Main Gate

Paramount Studios Main Gate

Paramount Studio Tour

Back down in Hollywood, we went on the Paramount Studio Tour.  Having been to Universal Studios before, to enjoy the rides, see the movie sets and watch the live shows, Paramount was very different. As a working studio there’s a far more serious, almost reverential air about the shows they produce.

It’s also more about US television than Hollywood blockbuster movies, so had far less appeal to me and almost none to H. We visited the sound stage of shows I’d never heard of, and looked in awe at the door through which Lauren Bacall once walked…

Forrest Gump Bench at Paramount Studios

Forrest Gump Bench at Paramount Studios

The guides did a good job of making it entertaining despite our lack of knowledge, but even the Americans on the tour hadn’t heard of a couple of the newer shows.

The tour was $48 each and supposedly lasts two hours, although ours was only 95 minutes. Appointments are necessary and parking opposite the main gate is $10.

If you’ve got kids or not that much interest in lesser known US sitcoms, I’d recommend going to Universal Studios instead for a far more enjoyable day.

There’s lots to do in Los Angeles, but we found it hard to really enjoy the place so moved out to Anaheim. It’s less fancy, less full of itself and far more laid back.

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Since leaving London in 2006 I’ve travelled, worked, volunteered and lived in over 90 countries. Highlights so far would be driving along the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, a complete circuit of South America and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. I’m currently back in Beijing, as a base to visit more of Asia and attempt to learn Mandarin.

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