Our plane ride back to the mainland was OK. We watched a movie and then we both slept fitfully for a couple of hours before landing at LAX early. We collected our bags within 20 minutes and then looked at our watches, 4:20am on a Monday morning, what on earth were we going to do??? Sleep deprived and slightly grumpy the only thing on my agenda was to find a bed so we exited the airport and somehow ended up on the Radisson Courtesy Shuttle, how did that happen???
We were given a room at a very cheap modest rate and jumped straight into bed, just about managing to undress first and slept for almost six hours before it was time to move on. We decided against spending our final two nights in LA here because it was such a mission to get anywhere so we booked a hostel in Venice Beach and off we went.
It was relatively easy to get to Venice Beach. We took two buses and arrived after about 45 minutes and we found the hostel really easily as the bus stop was only a few metres away. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the hostel and doing a bit of planning for New Zealand. It was not the nicest weather in LA and we were certainly feeling the drop in temperature. Dan felt as though he had the beginnings of a cold so we just took a breather for a couple of hours. Our room looked out onto the street below. Directly opposite was a cafe bar, where some filming was taking place. We're not sure what this was for and we didn't see anyone we recognised, but one production crew member was wearing a CSI hoodie.
Later on in the afternoon we went out for a stroll along the beach and watched the sun set over the ocean, bloody freezing and not a patch on Hawaii. As the sun went down we noticed a slight shift within the area. Many of the local businesses were starting to lock up and put bars across their doors and street sellers began setting up their stalls. Homeless people started moving around and finding shop doors to settle into for the night. Large groups of gangs started forming and so did my nerves. We both silently agreed to go back to the safety of the hostel, stopping only to buy something to cook for dinner.
This hostel was lovely, with a large open kitchen with two sitting areas on either side. The only negative point was that residents were allowed to smoke in these sitting areas, which we found incredulous for America. Our room was OK, clean and with our own bathroom. We were also given as much pasta and sauce as we wanted, making our evening meal very cheap as all we had to buy was vegetables (we couldn't find anywhere selling meat so we turned vegetarian for the evening). We had some banter with other people cooking at the same time and after doing the dishes we headed to our room.
The next morning we woke early for breakfast. Once again the hostel provided pancake mix, for pancakes or waffles so Dan and I had a feast of these with maple syrup, setting us up for the day in Celeb Ville. Shortly afterwards we went and found the bus to take us to Hollywood. Once again we needed to take two buses, this time spending almost 90 minutes to reach our destination. We really couldn't understand why the transport network in this city was so poor but preferred this slow method of transportation to driving on the lethal roads.
The sun had come out (hooray!) and we had a lovely day. We arrived on Hollywood Boulevard and checked in for the trolley ride. We boarded our vessel and sat outside, taking advantage of the warm sunshine and Dan would be able to take as many photographs as he wanted, result! We set off, passing the Church that was used in the Omen movie and Sister Act (I saw the latter movie for the first time on my first holiday to LA SEVENTEEN years ago!!) We then headed towards Hollywood Bowl, an amphitheatre mainly used for big events and gigs. We got off the bus and had a walk through the venue, which was huge, and pretty at the same time if that's possible. There were some little booths where you could sit with your friends and family and have picnics. It has hosted some big names, such as The Beatles, Elton John and Kylie, but is primarily used in the summer for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
We then drove past Capitol Records and the Paramount Studios, which was enormous, and also the previous locations of CBS, Fox & Warner studios. We saw the Hollywood sign a bunch of times and stopped to get a photo shot from down in the valley. We then headed back to Hollywood Boulevard, stopping once at the very famous Las Palmas Hotel, which was the location of the apartment in which Edward climbed the fire exit staircase to proclaim his love for Vivienne in one of my all time favourite movies Pretty Woman. I was now a very happy girl!! Our driver was great fun, telling us stories he really probably shouldn't do and kept us all laughing.
Onto our next tour which was of the Celebrity homes (I know a lot of you are groaning at your computers right now but it was great fun. If you really want to depress yourself go on this tour and see how the other half live!!) We saw the homes of The Beckhams, Robert Pattinson, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Sylvester Stallone, Orlando Bloom, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Snoop Dogg and so many more. We also passed the last home of Michael Jackson, which was also where he died. The Beckhams and Tom Cruise live in what look like Stately Homes, HUGE buildings with a vast amount of land. We drove for a good mile before we came to the end of Tom Cruise's garden. The Beckhams live on a hill, above Mark Warlberg, and must have a fantastic view of Beverly Hills, and Michael Caine lives opposite, what lovely neighbours to have.
We drove along Roxbury Drive which is THE place to live in Beverly Hills. Everyone who is anyone lives along here and the houses prices begin at eight figures. It started to get a bit frantic driving along here because the dialogue we were given was "On the right we have the home of Christina Aguilera" *turn to admire humongous house and try and get camera focussed* "And that house there is where George Clooney lives" *hang on a minute I haven't taken a pic of the first one yet* "Just across the road is the home of Mariah Carey" *bloody hell I can't keep up!!!* A Dan said "It was mental"!
We also saw the houses used in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Beverly Hills Cop. We cruised along the Sunset Strip, past Johnny Depp's notorious Viper Room bar, where River Phoenix died outside, and also passed the Regent Beverly Wiltshire Hotel, another one of Pretty Woman's famous locations. We drove down Rodeo Drive, where a £1 million Bugatti Veron was parked. It's owner Bijan, a world famous designer (no one I've heard of!) has two of these beauties. Our driver informed us this guy paid someone to rotate the two cars out of the parking space directly outside his shop so he didn't lose the space! Some people have far too much money!!
We learnt lots of trivia as well, such as the streets of Beverly Hills are lined with one type of tree per road, ie all the trees are palm or maple or ash etc. If the fire hydrants are painted silver then you know you are in Beverly Hills, which is a city in it's own right. The Post Office has valet parking as well! You've heard it all now haven't you?!
It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours and before we knew it we were being dropped off on Hollywood Boulevard once more where we disembarked. We walked up and down a short way looking out for our favourite stars and recuperated in Starsucks before catching the bus back to Venice Beach.
The next morning we woke feeling excited. We were ready to leave the States after an awesome time and head down under to New Zealand. We were allowed to keep our room for a little while allowing Dan (whose cold had developed) some much needed time wrapped up warm before being kicked out. Our flight wasn't until midnight and we had planned to go to Santa Monica and cycle up and down the two beaches but Dan wasn't well enough so we caught the bus instead. We had a wander through the shops and bought some exceptionally cheap converses, thinking we wouldn't be needing our flipflops for a while and found somewhere to have a hearty lunch to keep us going until we got to the airport. I looked at some Levis thinking my jeans might not last much longer but decided not to spend any more money and past them by.
Santa Monica is exactly how I remember it, clean, lively and the place to be. The malls were filled with designer shops and all the hotels and apartment blocks were sparkling and clean. Dan wanted to get some fresh air and hopefully blow his cold away so we walked along the beach all the way back to our hostel to pick up our luggage. The difference between the two beaches is quite clear and the closer we got to Venice the buildings became more run down and dirty. Do you not notice these things as a child or has the area changed so much since I were last here? The famous muscle beach, where Arnie was spotted, had also gone, and a few monkey bars and hand swings remain but that's all.
We picked up our luggage and went and found our bus stop. The sun was starting to go down and already there was tension in the air, two homeless people started arguing, one of whom threw some shoes at the other, and a large African American started shouting at someone he passed on the pedestrian crossing because he was in his way. I was very relieved when the bus arrived two minutes later!
We eventually managed to check in when we finally arrived at the airport but it was a bit of an ordeal. There were only two security desks open and if you paid 70$ you could bypass the queue and go to the second one and be seen straight away, or you could hop under the barriers as some people were doing and queue jump for free, such a farce! We spent our final American Dollars on a scarf (a wise purchase) some medicine for Dan and a couple of burgers before finally boarding and saying Au Revoir America!