Having explored the stunning beauty of California our intrepid journeyman James Willis this week goes tourist…and just misses out on spotting Johnny Depp.
Having officially ended the tour through California, Nevada and Arizona upon our arrival in Los Angeles, it came time to explore for myself.
At least that was until half of the tour group realised we were all staying in the city afterwards by ourselves anyway. Upon this realisation a unanimous decision was reached that we’d probably still spend the rest of the week hanging out too.
Leaving the hotel, that had been our final stop of the tour, we were reduced to myself, two Swedish sisters and two northeners. A fine group of laid back and easy going people.
We spent our first day manoeuvering our way down to Santa Monica beach after lunch, at which point I realised I was the only one not staying in the nearby hostel. In fact, I’d booked a hostel on the other side of the city in Hollywood.
Nonetheless, with bus rides for $1.50 that travel an hour and a half through the city to the beach, I couldn’t complain too much.
We spent the entire first day on Santa Monica beach, just next to the famous pier. The biggest entertainment came from a local, who was clearly high on something, and picked an unassuming group of sunbathers to try to kick off the beach claiming they had taken his spot.
With the news that the following day was supposed to be particularly sunny as well, the group decided to spend it all on Santa Monica beach again.
Just to add in some variety, me and the only other guy left in our downsized group took a walk down to the neighbouring Venice beach.
I’m incredibly thankful that my luggage has a limited size, because I may have otherwise found myself getting home with an unnecessary amount of street art.
It was also interesting to see locals taking full advantage of the laws in California, offering ‘free medical marijuana evaluations’. I imagine the only evaluating that went on was which excuse suits the client the best.
After spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing and sunbathing even more on Santa Monica beach, we hatched our plans for the following day when, for once, the rest of the group would travel to me, in Hollywood.
They arrived in the morning and we took a walk down Hollywood Boulevard, looking at the endless stars paved in the ground. Quickly realising how few I’d heard of, I resorted to pointing it out to everyone anytime a recognisable name came up.
The road led us to Hollywood and Highland shopping centre, which seemed to be the main attraction for most of the group. After a quick photo opportunity of the Hollywood sign, both pairs in our group chose to split off to do their own shopping. This left me with the option of tagging along with one of them or wandering by myself.
In a panic and having seen the northeners heading off to the toilets, I tagged along with the two Swedish sisters for the day. I quickly realised they had planned to go clothes shopping.
In order to avoid loneliness, I spent most of my day styling them like celebrities. They didn’t buy any of my choices despite my insistence that they looked fantastic in said costumes.
Nevertheless, when we finally met up with the other pair again, we took a quick stroll around the TCL Chinese theatre. This is where many celebrities have engraved their handprints, footprints, messages and autographs into concrete slabs on the ground.
Suddenly there was more of an air of Hollywood about everything. Especially since next to this theatre, was the Dolby Theatre, known for hosting the Oscars ceremony every year. Opposite us was the El Capitan theatre, hosting a congratulations ceremony for director Jerry Bruckheimer, who was having his star put in the ground.
We only found out afterwards that beyond the crowd, joining Jerry Bruckheimer at the ceremony, were Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Isla Fisher and Gore Verbinski. If only I’d put some more effort into my celebrity spotting.
The later part of the afternoon was spent back down in Santa Monica, relaxing in their hostel courtyard until the time came to say goodbye to these dear friends for the rest of my trip.
I managed to find another member of my tour group who had been in the city, to spend my final day with though. Her and an American that I had met in Thailand spent the day in and around Hollywood again, trying to find any sights that is missed the previous day.
This began with a closer look at the Hollywood sign from a ranch sitting in a small part of the Hollywood hills. A quick photo snap later and we headed off to Universal Studios ‘CityWalk’ for a look around.
This is basically the free run of shops and attractions for cheap people, outside the studios themselves. Being on a budget I felt no need to spend an extra $100 just to be allowed entrance to go on a few ‘themed’ roller coasters.
After a wander back and forth down the street, we headed back into the city in the late afternoon to drop my tour friend off at her hotel and me at the airport, in order to begin the next part of my travels.
I can’t say that Los Angeles was a vile city. It had it’s charms on occasion and I got to spend my time their with lovely friends, but given it’s worldwide ‘iconic’ status, it doesn’t seem to be all it’s expected to be.
With that said, it is somewhere that should be experienced, not in the least to see what it is that everyone’s talking about and to temporarily turn into the ultimate tourist and whip out the camera for a celebrity’s equivalent of “I woz ‘ere” graffiti.