For most of the world, L A is where all the stars alight on earth. The stars who connect us to the fantasy world. Awed by the experience they share and star struck by their talent, how many times have we pretended to be one of those characters, fantasizing traveling to another planet or falling in love with a handsome stranger, yet again!
And for all us movie buffs it wouldn’t be Los Angeles without a scene on the freeway. However, it’s when I landed here realized that the city is made for the stars to drive their Lamborghinis. It’s not just on Rodeo Drive but everywhere else you could see those dream cars. Which also means, it made me count stars by the time I got from one place to another. Public transport isn’t great and the city is vast and spread out.
The good thing is, it’s probably one of the few places on earth where the climate is bright and sunny all round and matches the mood.
Let’s ride the Metro Red Line to Hollywood Highland. This drops you off directly at the Walk of Fame. This 1 km stretch is amazing, sidewalks with pink stars rimmed with brass with the name of the honoree Hollywood celebrity. Interestingly there is also an emblem inside it to denote the category of the contribution, whether it’s from the classics or comedy. Not just legends but there is a star for Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, Snow White and The Munchkins. And for $20 you could get your name embossed for a photoshoot. The brass letters are ready with the street vendors and all it needs is the bell of the money purse.
Now, this is a real tourist destination, took a stroll past the district’s historic theaters, including Disney’s El Capitan Theatre and TCL Chinese Theatre. The pagoda style architecture in the midst of LA took me by a surprise, there was a long Queue outside with dragons and the lions guarding the gate. Didn’t realize until I went closer to it that this IMax theatre is the biggest movie theatre in the world.
Had no interest to join the long queue on a sunny afternoon. So decided to hang around the patio and check out the celebrity footprints and handprints.
The boulevard has many superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – Superman and Disney characters. Many are homeless and live in a tent or under tarps in the outskirts of the city. On a good day like this, they make maybe a 100 dollars, some days are bad and might not fill their stomach. As Aristotle said, wish this city had a golden mean – a desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.
And it’s show time !!!The next stop was Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. The place where on the oscars night, the stars arrive and walk up the stairs for the red carpet. The steps look like specially designed to make it easier for all those ultra-high-heels. Standing there, on those stairs I tried taking a selfie ..imagining wearing a beautiful red gown ….with the hand-on-hip look, turning to the side, tucking the tummy in.
Gosh, that was a moment of truth !!! Felt very much a part of the Hollywood brigade parading in their regalia along the Hollywood & Highland.
The complex has some fancy stores from Victoria’s Secret to Sephora and MAC. I followed the crowd, even though had no reason to. And guess what hit a jackpot on the treasure hunt – I am sure you can relate to the following scenario: whenever I am on a day outing and happily admiring sights, sooner or later is faced with this paranoia, the feel of fluids stretching my bladder. I tend to ignore it first and then a lil later have to try and divert my mind till it reaches a point of distress call …. At this point, my face starts to turn a bit pale and breathing slows down, in a careful attempt not to give into heavy breathing for the fear of letting the control go. It was at this exact moment that I discovered – A washroom that too an Oscar painted one. What luck!
The stargazing trip is not complete without capturing a picture of the famed Hollywood sign. The best views in town of the sign are from 3rd level of Hollywood & Highland. The closest you can get to the Hollywood Sign is through Griffith Park. The hike will take you about 2-3 hours round trip, hiking one way from the trailhead to the sign is about one hour and I didn’t have the energy to even think about it. Maybe another day. For today, lemme click a nice pic for an Instagram post.
Looking down I saw this over-sized yellow color sofa, and people were crowding around it for a pic. For a moment I thought it must be some furniture shop with a display outside. Someone told me, this is the most popular spot for a photograph at Hollywood and Highland. The term “casting couch” originated with unscrupulous casting agents, whose office furniture mostly the “couch” which was the villain. I wasn’t sure if this was for real until the recent controversy.
By now my legs are aching and badly need a couch. Walked into a fancy restaurant and started talked to the girl who was serving food. She said she was covering for her friend who was at an audition, apparently, almost everyone in the restaurant except for the chef’s were actors. Being a waiter/waitress works because the schedule works. And if your colleague can pick up your shift as a favor, and you can go for an audition anytime.
This day has been filled with paradoxes, the hope and despair going hand in hand like sun & moon.
But the excitement is far from over, I still have a long list to cover. But for now the most important piece Universal Studios.
Back on the Red Metro Line, at the Universal City Station, there wasn’t much of a crowd as I expected. The tram from the station looked nothing like I expected. The uphill climb would have been a pain, had there not been a free tram every few minutes. I dunno what is it with me and the trams, every time I see one it brings out the childlike joy in me.
There was a big queue for a Selfie at Universal Studio’s iconic spinning golden globe.
I am no big fan of amusement parks and joy rides, the fear of height – Acrophobia kills all the fun for me. I would never dare to risk my life and sit on those huge roller coasters or Doctor Doom’s Fearfall. My heart would e doomed even before the seats are bucked.
The best I could do is to get on the Hogwarts Express and check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter but no, not shoot the chute at The Jurassic Park. However, love the vibe here and the live shows. Maybe somethings are done better when you are young, and it’s easy to gather the courage and make a stride.
An evening at California Coast
There was a slight chill in the air as we headed to Santa Monica in the evening. Uber took around 40 mts from downtown LA and reached the pier just in time for sunset.
One trip to the California coast and you agree to why they say, “West coast is the best coast”. The charming Pacific Ocean, with a small town vibe. Ideal for swimming and sunbathing or even binge eating —the possibilities are too many!
The Santa Monica pier is always crowded, there are musicians and artists – there is live painting, there are dancers and acrobats. A surreal experience I must say. There is loads of talent, am sure they came to the city of dreams to catch their stars and are waiting for the stroke of magic. Do we recognize talent in an unexpected place? He may be the next Joshua Bell or Ed Sheeran. Do I have a moment to stop and listen, or am I just running the race, how many other things am I missing ???
Back on the pier you can ride the Pacific Ferris wheel, try a funnel cake or have your face modeled onto a plaster-cast doll head. Here is the official end of Route 66 and you get to ( Forrest’s turning point).
By now your tummy is probably talking to you, so stop at one of the outdoor cafes and have a beer while taking in the scene. There is Albright- for fish&chips or Pier Burger – The best burgers in the whole world. Crunchy and spicy, the ideal mix of flavors that explodes in your mouth. This one is worth skipping the Bubba Gump Shrimps for.
What’s a vacation without lots of shopping, right? And the topmost item on my bucket list is window shopping and people watching. I found the perfect venue in Santa Monica Third Street Promenade – an outdoor shopping area with a garden, ideal for a romantic stroll and enjoy the ambiance of Armani- & J. Crew. You can wander all day through this upscale shopping area. It has little nooks of art galleries and boutique restaurants, there are bookstores and saloons. You won’t ever get bored here!
Most people get around LA by car and that’s what I miss. Beverly Hills is just 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Santa Monica. No trip would be complete without browsing the designer shops on Rodeo Drive or sipping coffee at Two Rodeo, a cobbled lane with prime people-watching opportunities.
I have to absolutely check out the Beverly Hills Hotel (the “Pink Palace”) on Sunset Boulevard, check at least the houses of Madonna and Micheal Jackson & Walt Disney and Nicolas Cage.
City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
I felt it from the first embrace I shared with you
That now our dreams
They’ve finally come true
* Couch (Pic courtesy – change.org)
Don’t forget to join me on A Date with San Francisco