The next few days in LA were filled with exploring each different part of the city. We had covered the theme parks and studios and now it was time to see the rest of LA.
West Hollywood- Probably the trendiest part of LA which is also where we stayed. Our hotel was the Mondrian on Sunset Plaza. This hotel is an Alice in Wonderland inspired, architectural gem. You enter through giant doors, walk past pot plants the size of a small car and enter the equally beautiful interior of the hotel. It is very funky and modern and basically screams LA. It was our little splurge at the end of our trip, staying in a 5 star hotel and feeling like celebrities. (Ok everyone else at the hotel looked like celebrities; we looked like we didn’t know how to get dress ourselves compared to the rest of the people there. But I like to imagine that we gave off a vibe of elegant, wealthy nonchalance; like we were too cool to wear tons of make-up and high heels like the rest of the people at this place… But mostly we just looked normal.) The benefit of being right on Sunset Plaza is that everything you could possibly want to see in West Hollywood is right there on this one strip. We were next door to the House of Blue’s which we had a chance to visit and it serves great food and always has live music. We were also across the road from the Comedy Club and a 5-10 minute walk up the road and you are in the heart of the shopping precinct of Sunset Plaza. Sunset Plaza is also the home of the Viper Club, famous for being owned by Johnny Depp and also where River Phoenix tragically passed away, the Whisky a-Go-Go, where The Doors were once the house band and next door to Whisky, the Rainbow Bar and Grill, where Marilyn Monroe once went on a blind date with Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees. History is on every corner of this wonderful part of the city and if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then the abundance of bars and restaurants should cinch the deal, since this is the nightlife epicentre of Los Angeles.
Hollywood… What was once the pinnacle of Los Angeles is now more of a tourist melting pot with impersonators everywhere trying to convince you to take a photo with them. (There are some very convincing Jack Sparrows I will admit) Despite this Hollywood still has remnants of its glorious past in the Golden Age of film. Back in its height it was teeming with movie stars on every corner. Whether it was Marilyn leaving a movie set or Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall having dinner, film stars filled the area and as the industry was so small at the time, the fabulous thing was that they all knew each other and were friends! One of the places we had lunch was the famed Musso and Frank Grill, the oldest establishment in Hollywood and a frequent spot for the film stars like Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart and Steve McQueen. Sitting in there just feels special, like you’re on holy ground, a part of Hollywood history and the walls are adorned with photos of all of the regular stars from back in the day. Deals were made and scripts were discussed over martinis at the mahogany bar, F. Scott Fitzgerald proof read his novels in the back booth and other literary greats like Faulkner and John Steinbeck were also regulars. Other remnants of Old Hollywood, like the Pantages Theatre in all it art deco glory, the Egyptian Theatre and the Chinese Theatre, still stand to this day. These are all still open to the public and worth a visit. Another great spot in Hollywood, while trailing down memory lane, is the Hollywood Museum situated in the old Revlon building where all the stars had their hair and make-up done. It has now been converted into a museum and houses everything from the original make up rooms of the stars to costumes, photographs, movie memorabilia and in the basement the actual prison set from Red Dragon and Hannibal starring Antony Hopkins and Edward Norton. (my all time favourite actor) It was one of my favourite stops in our LA visit.
No visit to LA is complete without a visit to the famed Santa Monica and Venice Beach district. Leaving West Hollywood and Hollywood behind, coming to Santa Monica feels like you’ve arrived in a completely different city. It has a relaxed beach vibe, colourful shop fronts, the Santa Monica Pier and then a few miles along the beach is the famous Venice Beach boardwalk. We chucked on some shorts (scared small children with my pale, iridescent limbs) and enjoyed a day by the beach. The highlight is definitely the Venice Boardwalk. There are artists, street performers and body builders all in one place creating a colourful, eccentric vibe that I have never seen anywhere else. We also got to sit and watch a local group of guys playing a very intense game of basketball on the same courts used in American History X with Edward Norton. (I was hyperventilating. Edward Norton’s sweat was on these courts! It is hallowed ground)
On our last day we got to hike up to the top of Mount Hollywood and the Griffith Observatory. We had a local guide with us which was amazing because he gave us trivia about Hollywood and the Hollywood sign itself. ( Like did you know the sign originally read Hollywoodland?) We had the pre-requisite photo op with the sign in the background and then popped into the Griffith Observatory for a quick visit (and respite from the heat. At this stage I was sweating and breathing so heavily our guide probably thought I was going into cardiac arrest (More cardio for me when we got back home that’s for sure!) The observatory is a pretty incredible place, the building itself is fashioned in the Art Deco style and it is just as impressive inside. For the astronomy, science and physics enthusiast it is heaven as all sorts of experiments and telescopes are set up throughout. If you aren’t one for science then just the view is enough reason to head up to the Observatory. You can see all of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley and it’s the best place to get photos of the Hollywood sign. Also some more film trivia, (because I am a consummate nerd) the steps of the Griffith Observatory is where the famous knife scene from Rebel Without a Cause was filmed with James Dean. This is one of the most famous fight scenes in cinematic history because real switchblades were actually used. James Dean was basically the coolest guy ever and I am a little obsessed with him.
So that is the final instalment of our 2013 trip to the United States. It was the trip of a life time and writing about it has only reminded me of why I love America so much. I am planning the next visit there already!
Stay tuned for more travel stories and new posts lovelies.
Love – A