Short Trip to L.A.

My most recent trip overseas was a short, week-long stay in Anaheim. Before you ask, yes, I did visit Disneyland but I’ll save that review for another time. This week, I just want to discuss L.A. I apologise in advance for some of my photos’ quality. Many were taken through the car window and I had no chance to retake any that were less than perfect.

The first topic I’d like to discuss is the length of my trip. Many doubted that a week would be long enough for an overseas trip. The important thing to remember is the time difference between Australia and America, especially the west coast. It was a 17-hr time difference. This meant I actually restarted the entire day that I had just spent travelling. This was a huge bonus at the start of my holiday. However, being unable to get into my room until 4 p.m. was an issue. I rarely get more than an hour or two of sleep on any plane ride and it causes a real issue when attempting to adjust to such a major time change.

I used most of the time learning the orientation of the surrounding streets. This is perfect to ensure you use your time wisely. I learnt a great deal about what was around my hotel, how to get certain places and what not to do for the rest of the week (don’t attempt walking to Disneyland).

I stayed at the Clarion Hotel. It wasn’t a bad hotel but it was outdated. I had a power point in my room that was barely attached to the wall but I just avoided using that one. The rooms were massive, plush and convenient. The only issue I really had was the fact that the hotel only had a café, no restaurant. This meant if I stayed in for the night, I had to order room service which came with a 15% surcharge. If you’re on a strict budget as I was, you couldn’t afford to eat. I was also told by a local to only eat at a chain restaurant as the food quality at all the others was poor. This is due to the fact that  I was a 5 minute drive from Disneyland. Tourists really had no choice but to eat at nearby restaurants and therefore the owners and staff didn’t even bother trying. Sad, isn’t that?

As I was on such a limited time frame, I had to choose my activities wisely. The unfortunate thing about Los Angeles is that their public transport system is sorely lacking. This makes it extremely convoluted for a traveller to get from Anaheim to downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles itself is also very large and spread out, making walking to all the sights impossible. Because of this, I opted to take a tour that I found at the hotel. This tour took me to all the places I actually wanted to visit without me having the hassle of finding my way there. It was honestly the best thing I could’ve done.

The tour picks each person up from their hotel, which is obviously convenient. From the hotel, we entered the freeway, where there was traffic as far as the eye could see. Most would assume this to be the boring part of the journey, however our guide and driver filled the monotony with fun facts about Los Angeles, its culture and history, and even pointed out well-known film sites such as Grease’s spillway car race scene and Speed’s route on the then unfinished freeway.

The trip to L.A. took roughly an hour. The traffic is so thick that there were a few times where we were barely moving. Once we reached the city, however, our driver began pointing out famous landmarks and buildings such as the Staples Centre and impressive police station.

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Our first stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In all honesty, I was mainly coming on this tour to hit all the tourist spots. I had very little interest in Los Angeles itself. Seeing those stars, however, had a big impact. To think that people that I had idolized for years had stood at the very same spot as their name was stamped into the ground. Some have even passed on yet I can find their name immortalised by a golden star on the pavement. It was inconceivable.

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After the Walk of Fame, which traverses both sides of the street (I didn’t know this), it was simple to find other famous landmarks such as the Chinese Theatre and Hollywood sign. Outside the Chinese Theatre, you’ll find even more stars’ names such as Rock Hudson and Anthony Hopkins, their coarse hand prints still as thrilling as the golden stars. The Hollywood sign, however, is not so easily reachable. In fact, they have built a “viewing platform” just beyond the Theatre that ensures you can see the Hollywood sign but that’s about it. It was very much a let down. No selfies with the sign, guys.

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After buying a small souvenir, we were off to Beverly Hills in an attempt to see some stars. Of course, modern celebrities have to protect their privacy so the most you’ll be able to see is the gate, a hedge and maybe the roof of the house. To me, it seemed pointless to even waste fuel on something you can’t see but it was interesting to know that beyond that gate and hedge, lives one of the most famous actors the world has known. We were able to see a full outside view of Frank Sinatra’s house, however, as it was built during an age prior to paparazzi.

For lunch, we headed to a place that I was excited to visit; the Farmer’s Market. After all, surely that’s where the best food can be found without paying an arm and a leg. Well, I was wrong. It was expensive (unless you call $8 for a sandwich cheap). There was a variety of great stalls, however, from all different cuisines. I loved the fact that it was locals that were selling their wares but the prices were a tad steep for my liking. I bought lunch and a few bags of lollies to try before wandering up into an 1920s-style region.

There were a heap of brand name stores, a theatre and a variety of eateries. The atmosphere was very peaceful, no doubt because of the lack of cars. There were also a number of interesting statues and a lovely shaded grass area where people can sit and relax. The thing I loved the most, however, was the working trolley that ran along the street. It reminded me so much of Meet Me In St Louis.

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After lunch, we drove to Santa Monica pier. I had read so much about the pier (and had seen it in many movies, of course), that I had high expectations. For myself, I’m not quite sure what the attraction is. Sure there’s the beach, and the rides and food, but I didn’t find anything spectacular there. It was very crowded but there were a number of shops and restaurants that weren’t even open. One such place had a sign at the first window saying walk to the door around the corner but at the door it stated they were closed and to use the window. So were they open or closed? I don’t know.

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Next, we visited Venice Beach. The story behind the name is that the wealthiest man in town, Abbot Kinney, had visited Venice, Italy, and was so enchanted that he decided to reconfigure the town to emulate Venice. Canals were created and the name was changed to Venice Beach. The only other parallel is the stench that they both have. Venice Beach is a hub of drugs and dodgy-looking stalls. I felt very nervous whilst I was there, if I’m honest. I walked the boulevard and found that hawkers will dog you until you firmly tell them to get lost. There are pop-up tattoo parlours and fake doctors who will actually give you a prescription for medical marijuana. The police helicopter circled overhead the entire time and the police car patrolled along the main stretch. I realise this should’ve made me feel safe but all I can ask is what has happened that makes it necessary to have both the chopper and a patrol car on watch the entire time? There was also an enormous amount of homeless that made me want to cry.

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That pretty much recounts me trip to Los Angeles (aside from Disneyland). Because of the effort it took to get to the city, I found I was more prone to stay in Anaheim. I know this week I sound very negative and, in many ways, I am. There were so many things that I didn’t enjoy about my trip but don’t mistake that to be the city’s fault. I personally drift towards Europe so this trip was exploratory, to see if I would like to do a big trip to the States. I found I didn’t particularly like Los Angeles but I in no way regret my holiday and I would never dissuade someone else from visiting.

Travel is personal. Something that I don’t like could be something that you love. The purpose of my blog is to give an insight into the places I visit to help my readers make an informed decision. I want to whet your appetite for exploration, not dissolve your love for living. If my opinions in this post has offended anyone, I do apologise.

Happy travels.

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