We landed in Los Angeles (LA to friends) starting our road trip on the US West Coast, but saw from the city only a motel, a Wal-Mart and the parking lot of the Escape agency where we picked up our van. It deserved a follow-up inspection, right ? So we made the most of our time with Marijke, enjoying 2 days off in Los Angeles, between Karolin’s departure and the reunion with the guys. It was hard to pass by one of the biggest symbol of the American Dream; the city where anything can happen, capital of cinema, music, stars… And even a bit more than that ! The main advantage, LA being such a big city (almost 1300km², more than 10 times the size of our beloved Paris), is that you can reach it by any transportation mode easily; we got there by bus from Las Vegas, having no vehicle at the moment (it was actually quite the adventure, thanks Greyhound). Let’s go visit the city, by foot and public transportation !
» But before we start : Los Angeles, do we like it or not ?
Roh, we are already starting with the tough questions ! I often say that it was one of my least favorite stages for the whole journey… But be careful reading these words, because we still had lots of good times with Marijke ! But I guess that, compared to all the other places we have visited, I was probably less impressed by this one, it was maybe more in keeping with what I imagined. Or I was so used to national parks and Navajo lands that I forgot what a city looks like. An American city I mean. Another point is that we were on foot, which certainly limited our possibilities, the city being so huge. Initially, we were supposed to do couchsurfing, but had to fall back last minute on a hostel (all in all still nice and well located : Samesun hostel). The experience lived with the eye and the tips from a local must be very nice in such a big city. We focused on quite touristic activities, and with more time, maybe we could have visited more original places – I am pretty sure there are plenty. Whatever it be, we still managed to brag to our friends (“We are in LA guyyyys !“) and to take a selfie in front of the Hollywood sign (“Small but actually there !“). This step is then not to missed… Because it is still cool to say that you were in Los Angeles, but I recommend that you :
1. Have a car : you could go further, and spend less time getting from A to B.
2. Manage your time : if you plan on staying a short day, go on your way to be honest.
3. Read blogs : this is perfect to unearth good adresses that will make you forget about the crowd, the noise, tourists, blisters, etc. (I regret not having done that beforehand, Internet overflows with tips)
» Discovering the heart of Los Angeles by foot
Well, by foot… and public transportation ! We were staying hight on Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the Hollywood/Highland station served by the Red Line and close to many bus stops. It allowed us to make it up for the fact that we had no car. You simply have to buy a Tap Card and charge it according to your needs (better take the day pass). We started off around our hostel with the Walk of Fame situé on Hollywood Boulevard. Inaugurated in 1958, it goes along 2.1km in the heart of the city and pays tribute to numerous international celebrities that marked the world of cinema, music, theater, etc. To date, there are more than 2500 stars engraved in the street ! My impressions ? It is fun to see, you cannot miss it. But well, you better get your basics right because in the end, you end up on a lot of unknown names haha And you also have to be patient sometimes, because the most famous names are popular and you might have to wait to get your picture. A detour is mandatory but do not waste a whole day there !
We also went to the city center – especially in the business district, where building are really scraping the sky. At their feet, places and small gardens are popping up here and there : isn’t it nice to leave work and chill under a palm tree ? Without a guide, we wandered to suit our whims and fancies, and ended up at Grand Central Market. It is a huge covered market, packed with small shops smelling like food from all over the world. It was not lunch time unfortunately, but we wish we could have stayed a bit more !
After a quick detour through Chinatown, but also the quite original city hall, we went by the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers (Marijke was probably more pleased with the basketball side of this than I was, not being the sport expert myself). As we went by, we also found some street art everywhere, it makes the street come to life and some warmth to the concrete.
» Enjoying the perks of being by the ocean
What is nice in California is that in big cities, buildings from the city center mix with the endless beaches of the Pacific Ocean a few kilometers away ! You can therefore not go to Los Angeles without stopping by Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach, two major symbols of the typical postcard.At the end of Colorado Avenue, you will find Santa Monica Pier. It is a boardwalk going into the ocean and from which you can admire the coast. There are attractions as well, a big wheel and a rollercoaster.
From the pier, you can reach Venice Beach. Hippie spot, the place will also remind you of the setting of Baywatch with lifeguard stations on the long beaches. There are gym apparatus to follow up on all the cliches, but we
unfortunately have not seen that many tanned American bodybuilders ! I was actually surprised that it was not that crowded, it was probably because we were there beginning of May and the temperature was not warm enough to put the bikinis on.
» Going around Beverly Hills like tourists
For this one… yes, we totally gave in ! And we got on a bus to discover Beverly Hills with a guide who showed us the celebrities’ houses (it was more like a convertible minibus in fact). Honestly, it is soooo cliché but really fun to do ! The guide was fun and nice and, through a tour along the Los Angeles hills, pointed out the different celebrities’ houses that were on our way (see here above) : Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, Jackie Chan, Eddy Murphy, etc. We had to guess their names with small charades – unfortunately only a few of us understood English properly, which made the exercise quite funny. Clic clic. After a few pictures and anecdotes, we went on towards new discoveries.
» And what about this famous Hollywood sign, when do we see it ?
That is basically THE main question, isn’t ? Well, for starters, you will have to give up your dream to have a romantic picnic or drink a few biers with some friends at the bottom of the letters, like in the movies… because it is actually forbidden. But it will not prevent you from rising above Los Angeles to have a beautiful view over the hills and the worldwide known Hollywood sign, from Griffith Observatory for example. You can go by bus, but we had a hard time finding the stop (no, that is not a joke), so we went up by foot. And in the end, it was great ! Admittedly, you have to get over the steepness, but you will enjoy small and quiet streets and discover very original houses (and of course be jealous of their occupants).
Once you are at the top, you will have many vista points over the city… and the Hollywood sign ! To be honest, I was a bit disappointed because you see it from afar, and that makes it quite small on the pictures… But to get a closer look, you better go by car to other vista points. To go back to the city, you still have the option to go by foot, and otherwise, there are shuttles that can be found very easily. Do not forget to keep some change in your wallet, an American had to pay for our tickets – a bit shameful… !
See, There is plenty to do in Los Angeles ! We only stayed 2 days, and had no really appropriate transportation mode, and we still managed to visit some places, as you can read about it. I will not go over my impressions of the LA bus central station at 4 in the morning… haha Even if it was not my favorite stage, it was still cool to see this places and put pictures on this famous city. And newt time, we will add the Universal parks to the program for sure !