Road Trip USA – Los Angeles
Compared to the other driving stretches we had undertaken, the 125 miles to Los Angeles was a relatively easy journey and we arrived on Friday afternoon at Moonpad Hostel, our residence for the next three nights. It was technically full, so we were offered a beanbags and a couch for a cheaper price, which we accepted without complaint.
The hostel was located around a ten minute drive from downtown and had an amazing view over the skyscrapers that mark the financial district of the city. The evening was spent driving down Sunset Boulevard, seeking out a couple of bars to get a feel for the area’s nightlife, before heading into the hills and negotiating the length of Mulholland Highway to find a spot to see downtown by night.
2am saw our return to the hostel and an uncomfortable night for me on a cylindrical leopard skin beanbag under the stairs. Like a camp Harry Potter.
Saturday arrived and the afternoon was given over to Hollywood; the glitz, glamour, upmarket shops, tourist spots and the hills that the rich and famous call their home. After a bit of research, I found that the best place to see the Hollywood sign from is at one end of Mullholland Highway (6108 Mulholland Highway if you’re typing it into Google Maps). Here, we were right below the landmark and managed to get some great photos.
Next was the Hollywood Walk of Fame leading up to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I found it particularly pleasing that musicians such as Duke Ellington and Isaac Stern are given pride of place amongst the Cruises and Schwarzeneggers of the movie world. Perhaps even more pleasing is the fact that I have the same size hands as Tom Hanks; determined, of course, by the indentations in the concrete outside the theatre. By the same measure, I was filled with glee that JC’s hands were the same size as Julie Andrews’.
A leisurely late afternoon drive saw us exploring Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, the settings of the famous Pretty Woman, before heading to our hostel to catch sunset over the city and an early night.
Sunday was to be our relaxation day. Arriving at Venice Beach at midday, we strolled down the boardwalk, drinking in the obscurity; rollerbladers, cyclists, tattoo and piercing parlours, open-air gyms, bikini contests and more “medical” marijuana shops that one can shake a stick at all fighting for space on the narrow stretch of concrete.
We sat on the beach, played frisbee and football, ate Martin’s freshly-cooked spaghetti bolognese and laughed all afternoon. As we were getting up to leave, sirens descended over the area, wailing louder and louder as no fewer than fifteen LAPD police cars and quad bikes raced down the beach. We would find out later that a man had driven his car at full throttle down the boardwalk, killing a woman and injuring eight other pedestrians. A lucky escape for us, I guess.
I drove up to the Hollywood Bowl Overlook that evening as the sun was setting. There was a concert happening right below at the Bowl which I would have given my right arm to be at: Gustavo Dudamel conducting Verdi’s Aïda.
A minute later, however, I wasn’t too fussed, as Ron Howard, director of one of my favourite films, A Beautiful Mind, came down from his house above the Overlook and greeted the gathered tourists. I shook his hand and thanked him for directing the film I find so humbling, and he replied, “I made it for you.”
What a dude.
The next morning marked the end of our adventure in the most daunting way: a 1,000 mile drive back to Portland, Oregon.
In all honesty, Los Angeles hadn’t blown me away. Out of everywhere we had stopped and spent time exploring, it would be the last on my list to revisit. I feel that tourists go to Los Angeles to look at other tourists and it took for me to witness it first hand to understand that.
I wonder what would happen if, one day, no tourists were in Los Angeles. Would all the attractions go bankrupt? All the streets be empty? Probably not, but Rodeo Drive would get a maximum of three customers and the residents of Mulholland Highway would notice the huge decrease in traffic…