I recently returned from a tour of most of the West Coast of the United States of America with my first stop in Los Angeles I’ve decided to compile a to do list for South Africans. I was lucky enough to have my significant other’s family driving us around which made the touring a little more easier as L.A is more built up and not as easy to traverse on foot alone.
My first piece of advice, if you don’t have a complimentary tour guide would be to hire a car. What’s fantastic about a South African driver’s license is that because it is in English, you don’t need to apply to get an international one. As long as it is valid and in English you are good to go.
The city of Angels is renowned for being home to many of the great stars and even though I wasn’t lucky enough to see anyone famous, I got to visit all of the landmarks which were still incredibly enjoyable. I would recommend that you give them a bash and hopefully you are fortunate enough to see a celeb or two on the journey.
Hollywood Hills. Do be warned that it is a steep climb and darn hot. Go earlier so that you can get parking closer to the hills. The last thing you want to do is a fifteen minute trek up those winding streets just to get to the gate. I also had this ridiculous notion that I would be able to get SUPER close to the sign but unless you are pulling illegal stunts to change the name, the closest you get to the sign is a little koppie where you can view it in all of its majesty, from a distance. Again, driving is really the only way to get here and while you’re up there, you may as well wind through the streets and gasp at the majestic houses. Just keep your GPS nearby because they are not easy to find your way out of.
2. Venice beach.
What a sight. I mean the beach was lovely but that boardwalk nearly caused my neck to seize from whipping around to take in all of the sights. The seemingly endless stores on the right hand side, offering anything from t-shirts, to smoking paraphernalia, tarot readings and a mini freak circus with an array of extremely unique people putting themselves up for display. On the left hand side are the stalls set up by yet another collection of individuals selling anything from artwork, handmade knick knacks and even some performers selling their music. My favourite would have to be the drunken mermaid – for nothing other than having the balls to lie on the floor drinking wine, dressed as a very ratchet mermaid and asking for money. They lay on their tummy shouting at people and if I’m not mistaken, I saw a handful of coins in their collection.
Don’t let me forget the little gym situated along the boardwalk- interesting not for those aiming for Adonis status but more for the mere fact that it’s there. Half naked men and women stained almost mahogany flexing their muscles at one another in a lurid mating ritual of sorts. It was quite a sight to behold.
3. Beverly Hills.
Obviously. Driving down boulevard through the enormous palm trees it is like seeing every movie filmed in LA ever. The little Beverly Hills sign is nestled on a side road so be sure to keep an eye out or you’ll miss it. We barely saw any tourist types there, perhaps because it’s such a classy area and fancy people are too busy being fancy to be touristy.
Beverly Hills sign
4. Chateau Marmont is the iconic hiding place of celebs and their dark secrets. It is rumored that anything is allowed as long as you can afford it. Tucked away behind enormous greenery I could only stand at the boomed entrance and imagine all of the goings on within those lavish walls.
The mysterious Chateau Marmont
5. Rodeo Drive.
Visit it on your tour through Beverly Hills. Referring to both the two mile stretch of road as well as the three blocks surrounding it, only the renowned and wealthy can afford to shop here with 45 exclusive stores created to resemble a European shopping alley. I loved the cobble stoned road; it reminded me of Prague, except of course for the Maserattis and V8s driving up and down. I was surprised to see the number of Middle Eastern high rollers on fleek.
6. Huntington Beach.
A lovely pier takes you into 592m into the Pacific Ocean at the end of which you can stop for a bite at Ruby’s diner, which is a 40’s themed restaurant complete with vintage waitress uniforms. It truly is a novelty worth the meal. Huntington is also known for its incredible surfing conditions and is considered one of the top surfing beaches in the world.
Pier on Huntington Beach with Ruby's Diner at the end
7. Downtown L.A has skyscrapers that fill the street with shadows as they block out much of the light. There are some wonderful buildings such as you have never seen before. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is covered in stainless steel panels which offer a matt finish and beautifully follow the contours of this uniquely shaped venue. Situated adjacent to the concert hall is a mesh looking art museum called The Broad. Not too far away is little Tokyo complete with little Japanese styled building and shops selling trinkets from the East.
The Broad and The Walt Disney Concert Hall
8. Walk of Fame.
I think the lack of tourists in Beverly Hills is overcompensated by the numbers that populate the Walk of Fame. With over 2500 brass stars containing names of stars- musicians, fictional characters, actors, directors and notable historical figures, spanning over eighteen blocks in total. Parts of it go through areas that I can only describe as seedy. Sorry to disappoint. The best place to start viewing is the TLC Chinese Theatre outside of which you can see Michael Jackson’s hand and foot imprints in the cement. The strip is lined with all sorts of characters who are basically ‘cosplaying’ and charging for photos. We came across Donald Trump’s star and by the time we had doubled back, someone had taken a permanent marker and scrawled a four letter word above it that caused quite an uproar. We also got to see picketers and a religious fanatic with a megaphone shouting out about how we were all doomed and had to turn or burn. The all American experience I think.
Picketers along the Walk of Fame
L.A is stunning even though the view from the plane when landing is reminiscent of a computer motherboard. The tree to concrete ratio is minimal, with only little dots here and there. L.A is the home to Hollywood and the stuff that movies are made of. The veneer is so thick it almost appears real and it is the showiness of it all that one can appreciate.