As the crowning glory of my time in California, I went on a city trip to Los Angeles in September. The City of Angeles had always fascinated me and since I can remember, visiting L.A. had been one of my biggest dreams. Even though the city has been criticized for a long time, opionions are devided and a lot of people had told me that Los Angeles is not the glamourous metropolis most people imagine it to be, I am happy the I had the chance to fulfil my dream. Within 48 hours I could learn surprisingly much about the city and it did not take a long time for me to understand why Americans often refer to it as “Los(t) Angeles – The City of Fallen Angels”. And the term probably describes the prevalent contrasts perfectly.
Downtown Los Angeles
On September 19, I took the AMTRAK from San Diego to Los Angeles and although I had just undergone a tearful farewell to San Diego my anticipation was growing fast. I had difficulties to realize that I had left my temporary home and that it was now time to move on. I had the chance to make my dream come true! And finally, after three hours, I got off the Pacific Surfliner at Union Station with a big smile on my face. I had arrived in the legendary city.
I reached the hotel after a ten-minutes drive in a taxi. The Kawada Hotel is comparatively cheap and the staff was really friendly. The facade looked attractive whereas the rooms could not keep up with it. But whoever only wants to reside in the hotel to sleep and spend the days in the city can book it without doubts.The hotel is located in the center of downtown in close proximity to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Times. However, you should keep in mind that most tourist attractions are located in the western parts of Los Angeles: i.a in Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Universal City. As L.A. is an incredibly big city you are dependent on the city’s public transport, which is one of the worst ones in the USA. But staying at the Kawada I was lucky to have a metro station within a five-minutes walk.
Driven by curiosity I walked to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the afternoon of the same day. After I spotted the impressive and spectacular facade of the building I joined a couple of tourists taking photos while simultaneously watching the photoshooting of a bridal couple. I had actually intended to discover the nearby area but after walking just a few minutes the area became unpleasant so that I decided to turn round and go back to the hotel. After all, I had planned to discover the city the next day.
Griffith Obervatory & Hollywood Sign
I got up early in the morning as I had made a date with two other German girls. I had met them in San Diego and coincidentally, they were in Los Angeles on the same weekend. Lena and Nadine were already waiting at the Metro station when I arrived and when they wished my a happy birthday I remembered that I really turned 21 that day. And as a present, I fulfilled a special dream of mine: a photo in front of the Hollywood Sign. We took the LADOT Shuttle and paid less than one dollar to get to the Griffith Observatory, which is said to be one of the best viewpoints if you want to see the Hollywood Sign. And what we have heard was true! From the parking lot, we enjoyed a wonderful view on the Sign and after the first euphoria of taking photos was over I realized that I was really looking at the sign I had dreamt of for years.
Not only did we enjoy the amazing view on the Hollywood Sign but we were impressed by the Observatory. The building itself is fascinating and the short walking tour around it offers a view on donwtown Los Angeles that cannot be missed. Furthermore, the entrance to the regular exhibitions inside the observatory is free, which many tourists were delighted about as they could escape from the heat outside.
We ate a snack in the café of the Observatory before we took the Metro and another free shuttle to Universal City. There, we marveled at the famus globe of Universal and we could also catch a glimpse of the hustle inside Universal Studios.
Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to visit Universal Studios and so we contented ourselves with a stroll around Universal City, which basically is a colorful shopping- and entertainment center located next to the Studios. he streets were lined with extravagant facades and shops that looked flashy too. On our way back, we made a stop at the Walk of Fame, where we finally said goodbye to each other. Even though we had known each other for a relatively short time it was a weird feeling to leave them with the knowledge that the would go back to San Diego.
Beverly Hills & Walk of Fame
The next morning, I started my further exploration of the city by myself and bought a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off Starline Bus Tour. Probably, this tour is the best – if not the only – way for tourists to get around in the city without a car. Starline Tours offers 4-5 different routes and I decided to explore the red route, which is also the most popular one. Departing at the Walk of Fame, the bus headed west to Beverly Hills. Here, I hopped off the first time and explored the area for a while. Unlike some of the other stops along the route, this one seemed absolutely safe and I was not worried at all to walk around as Beverly Hills is wealthier and much more touristic than the other districts. On my to the most popular shopping promenade, I followed a couple of tourists and walked along the Beverly Hills Gardens Park, where I passed the famous sign of Beverly Hills.
After just a few minutes I reached Rodeo Drive, which was crowded by both tourists and the high society, with the only difference that the tourists were staring at the expensive and exclusive shops with eyes that were wide-open.
I had planned to hop off at Paramount Studios a second time but when I got off the bus I was two or three blocks away and felt uncomfortable in the area. After walking just one block I decided to turn round as I did not feel safe. So I waited for the next bus to come and after 20 minutes I was happy to be on the way back to the Walk of Fame. And when I arrived there, I first checked out the famous Dolby Theatre built in 2001.
I was impressed by the tall building and when I entered it I immediately gazed at the wide staircase in front of me. Even though it was “just a staricase” I was overcome by a feeling of glamour as I remembered that this was the staircase which is climbed by the crème de la crème of film industry. Of course, I also had to climb these stairs and when I was done my attention was drawn to the pillars lining the way. Each of them had a timeline, starting with the winning movie of 1929 up to “Birdman”, the winner of 2014. Passing all these pillars, I felt like a time traveler traveling through the glorious film history of Hollywood and finally reaching the future. Until 2071, every movie will get its space in the history and I would really like to know where the winner of 2072 will be found.
I had checked every corner of the Dolby Theatre when I stepped out on the Walk of Fame. I walked the sidewalk paved with stars and ocasionaly stumbled into people who directed their attention to the stars on the ground. With an apologetic smile we were fine and I did not even try to see the entire Walk of Fame as I supposed that 2 563 stars required a lot of space. However, I was amazed to see the well-known celebrities like Mickey Mouse, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney.
Of course, I also went to see the TCL Chinese Theatre located a one-minute walk from the Dolby Theatre and where the hand- and footprints of the stars can be found. Every concrete slab offered another celebrity whose footsteps one could literally step in. It was obvious that there were lines in front of some of them and people were waiting to get close to Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson or Donald Duck. Especially the large slabs immortalizing the stars of Harry Potter or the Twilight Saga were surrounded by a crowd of people. But my euphoria was so overwhelming that waiting seemed to be not a probem at all. There was something to discover in every corner and I was so happy to be there that there was nothing that could dampen my mood.
Well okay, I was kind of sad when the shuttle brought me to LAX the next morning. I could cast a last glance on the city of glamour and entertainment but I also knew that Los Angeles is also a city that deals with a lot of poverty and other problems. The tourism industry of the city tries to seal itself off from these problems, which does not always work. Although I had read a lot about Los Angeles before and had not arrived there with naive expectations the trip helped me to develop a more realistic and critical opinion on the city. But I had fulfilled my dream and with this knowledge and precious memories I had collected during the two months in California I boarded the plane and was looking forward to going home.
Special thanks goes to Lena & Nadine for making my birthday in the City of Angels even more heavenly!
Here are some tips for those who want to travel to Los Angeles:
– Book a hotel in close proximity to the Metro Red Line.
– Use a city tour to get around if you don’t have a car.
– Take the LADOT to get to the Griffith Observatory and spend the forenoon there.
– Some areas can be quite scary for women and even downtown Los Angeles is spooky at
night. It is therefore advised tp move around in the crowded touristy areas.
– If you want to go to Santa Monica/Venice Beach, keep in mind that these places are far
away from the center. You should better plan to spend the entire day there.