Friday, 29 August 2014

Los Angeles: The City of the Angels

After a day and a half of chilling out, relaxing and not doing very much in Pismo Beach, we hit the road again and headed down Highway 101, singing along happily to possibly the best driving music ever: Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits. And I do not jest when I say this. If you haven’t listened to Springsteen on a road trip, you’re really missing out. And if you’re going to America on a road trip, you need to seriously prioritise bringing some Springsteen with you. In fact, if you’re travelling with a spouse, it’s more important to pack Springsteen than it is to bring your driving licence because, bizarrely, in California, husbands and wives can drive on each other’s licence. 

Soon the dusty hills of the San Rafael mountains gave way to palm-lined avenues and we knew we’d made it to L.A.  We checked in to our hotel in the downtown district and went for a walk around. We approached one street corner and found lots of people shouting in Spanish, holding signs that were indecipherable to me because I don’t speak any Spanish and indecipherable to Vincent because he couldn’t see very far. There were lots of police officers waiting around, so Vincent put on his best confused English tourist voice and went over to ask what was going on. They told us that the Mexican president was coming through and soon enough, a motorcade of about 30 cars and motorbikes came speeding past, all looking very official. Sadly, they didn’t stop to chat to the protestors. 

In a very exciting turn of events, an old friend of mine from university called Sarah had messaged me before our honeymoon started to remind me that she lived in LA and to ask if we would like to meet up when we were there. Of course we would! I was super-excited to see her again and even more excited when we got to the spot she’d chosen for us to meet up: the roof-top bar of the Standard hotel in downtown L.A. It was a really cool spot for soaking up the glamorous L.A. atmosphere and we had a fantastic evening. Sarah is a really interesting and entertaining person and she indulged us by answering lots of questions about America. We learned that we should have been asking for the restroom not the toilet and that we weren’t on holiday, we were on vacation. She had a good laugh when we explained that we’d asked for a plaster instead of a band aid earlier in the holiday and she explained lots of things about driving in America that we probably should have researched before taking to the road. 

Sarah grew up in L.A. and has been working in the T.V. and film industries there, so she was the perfect person to give us an introduction to the second biggest city in the US.  Bowing to her far-superior knowledge, we based our whole itinerary on her advice. As a result, the following morning saw us getting up bright and early to head over to Sunset Boulevard for breakfast at Griddle Cakes, a pancake shop serving delicious but ENOURMOUS pancakes. Even Vincent couldn’t make it through more than a third of his breakfast. We then headed further up into the Hollywood hills to walk up to the top of Runyon Canyon, where true Angelenos go for a workout. It turned out that the day we’d picked to visit was street cleaning day, so parking was pretty tricky and we had to drive through a maze of beautifully manicured streets before finding somewhere to park.  When we got out of the car, a cheerful Hollywood bus tour came past and we could clearly hear that we’d parked outside Laurence Fishburn’s house – an actor from the Matrix. Not particularly interesting I thought, and soon forgot his name. 

Once we got to the canyon, we found that nearly everyone was wearing sports clothes, apart from a small but distinct minority of women who opted for the alternative outfit of very short shorts and a bikini top. It was a scorching hot day and the hills were very steep, but we were rewarded with a great view of the famous Hollywood sign and some fantastic people watching. My favourite people to watch were the really burly men walking teeny tiny dogs, some of which were dressed in extravagant outfits including sunglasses and even a superman cape. Hilariously, once we got back down to the entrance to the park, we found ourselves in trouble because ..... we’d lost the car! Feeling a bit foolish, we headed off in the general direction of the car and hoped for the best. Vincent had remembered the name of the actor whose house we had parked in front of earlier, which was very useful but I didn’t fancy having to explain to someone that we needed to find Laurence Fishburn’s house because we’d lost our car in front of it. Thankfully, after a few minutes of searching, we rounded a corner and found the car. It was a big relief!

We divided the rest of the afternoon between the Griffiths Observatory, which was really interesting to explore and very educational, and Venice Beach, a.k.a Muscle Beach, which was educational in a different way. I have to admit that Venice Beach wasn’t really my scene, but it was definitely interesting to look around. We headed back to get an early night to prepare for the most exciting stop in our trip..... Universal Studios.

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