If you’ve never been to Los Angeles, I recommend a bus tour to familiarize yourself with the entertainment capital. Few people live in Los Angeles, but most live in the surrounding neighbourhoods most famous are Beverly Hills and Hollywood. We started at the Staples Centre, home of the Lakers and Clippers and also home to the Grammy Awards. We drove down 11th Street pass the Nokia Theatre, home of the Emmy Awards and an area with great shops, restaurants and museums to our destination of Olvera Street, the oldest street in the city.
On our way we past a caravan of vans, trailers and busses, one of the many movie shoots happening in the city. There were over 200 movies shot on the streets of Los Angeles last year and CSI New York is almost exclusively shot on the streets of LA. We passed Fig and 7th, an intersection with giant steps that go down. It’s the site of a shopping centre that’s 5 floors below ground.
We drive through Bunker Hill the area where skyscrapers replaced charming Victorian homes. Interestingly, until a decade ago Los Angeles had a 12 story building restriction so the only location to build when the restriction was lifted was an old section of town called Bunker Hill. Today there are dozens of skyscrapers standing over the low lying city, one of the biggest is the Bank of America building where Richard Greer walked barefoot in the grass in the movie, Pretty Woman.
We passed the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a giant stainless steel building that had to be acid washed because the glare from the California sun on the building caused not only traffic accidents but also cause the air conditioners in neighbouring buildings to run constantly. Even though the building was acid washed, it certainly doesn’t distract from the beauty of this magnificent building and to see the difference, there was a large section left untouched at the back of the building. Trees were planted around it to manage the glare. It’s definitely a magnificent site to see.
We finally reached Olvera Street, a pedestrian walkway flanked with beautiful buildings of Spanish architecture and a square where buskers of all sorts entertain. Walk the private street and it’s filled with stalls with leather goods, Mexican blankets and dozens of other delightful souvenirs, restaurants and take-away Mexican foods.
After a quick lunch, the bus makes its way to Hollywood. We drive along the San Gabriel Mountain range and the majestic Hollywood sign comes into site. The sign was originally erected by a reality company to sell the houses in the area below. When the homes were sold, the realtor left the sign. Over the years the sign fell into disrepair and the city decided it wanted the landmark permanently. They offered celebrities an opportunity to buy individual letters for the sum of $27,000. Alice Cooper was the first to buy a letter followed by Bob Hope and others. The sign is now a permanent fixture on the side of the mountain.
We drove down Hollywood Boulevard, a street that is strongly eclectic in nature. People come from around the world to read the famous names that are inscribed in stars studded into the sidewalks. There are 2,400 stars in total on this 2-mile walk and 200 sit empty, waiting for a famous name to fill it. Of course Hollywood Boulevard is famous for the red-carpet walk into the Kodak Theatre for the annual Oscars. This is the same spot where I’ll be returning later in the evening for a private party.
We got back on the bus and drove through the beautiful streets of Beverly Hills where even the smallest house is valued at $2 million dollars. Each street is strategically tree lined with a different variety of tree, it’s beautiful. Next was a drive down Santa Monica Boulevard, through Beverly Hills and down Rodeo Drive lined with the most expensive stores in the world. Some of the stores are by appointment only with a minimum purchase of $14,000 per appointment. If nothing is purchased, a consultation fee of $1,500 is charged to the credit card that must be surrendered when you become a customer. It’s one of the most affluent areas of the US.
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Read all of the stories in the 4 day trip.