City of Angels – Los Angeles

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Credits: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/L.A._Skyline_02.jpg
Credits: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/L.A._Skyline_02.jpg

City of Angels – Los Angeles

The single most regret I have is not being able to click a picture such as the one above- the Los Angeles skyline in the night is extremely beautiful. A city that is featured in almost every Hollywood flick and is also the center of the nation’s film and television industry. Los Angeles, often known by its initials L.A is also dubbed the City Of Angels and is the most populous city in the state of California. Los Angeles is known for its Mediterranean climate type and ethnic diversity. During my month-long visit to the US, I had the immense pleasure of visiting this beautiful city- something I never imagined.

Have you guys ever played the video game, GTA V? If you did, then let me tell you that the entire open-world map in this video game is almost a replica of Los Angeles. I remember while playing the game with my headphones on, riding into the sunset, listening to all the beautiful sounds of the seagulls from the Marina Del Rey– pure bliss. Frankly, that is the closest you can get if you haven’t visited this beautiful city; but in reality it is far from the actual feeling of being there. I had about 10 days to go before winding up my short trip and Herwin insisted that we pay a visit to Los Angeles- who knows, I may never have a chance to come back here- which made it sound like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It was an eleventh hour plan and flight tickets were too expensive, so was booking accommodation. We decided to travel by Greyhound; again many of you may have noticed, a common bus carrier service featured in several Hollywood flicks. At first, I thought it would be a #bucketlist experience travelling in one of North America’s popular bus service but wait- I was wrong! It was the most unpleasant experience- quite frankly, the KSRTC Airavat services are decades ahead of Greyhound in terms of comfort. Long story short, ensure that you book a flight or drive down (roadtrip) but, do not take a bus. Also, better deals for accommodation if you book well in advance- we were not soo lucky but, found a decent one in the end.

Now if you ask me, there are loads of places to visit in Los Angeles and sure as hell they cannot be covered over a weekend- the dilemma that I was staring at. After spending close to a week Google-ing, I was able to short-list a few places that you not only can you fit into a weekend trip but also happens to be among the must-visit’s in Los Angeles. We boarded Greyhound Lines at 10 pm from San Jose and reached Los Angeles at around 5 am. The moment we got out off the bus, we caught an Uber to our hotel, which was about 2-3 miles from Hollywood Blvd. The Tangerine Hotel is located at W Riverside Dr, Burbank- far from the traffic congestion but quick access to Universal Studios and the surrounding areas. The Uber ride from the Greyhound depot to our hotel was about $48 and travel time, about 20 mins. Just so you know, on our return journey from the hotel to the depot cost us only $20; if it were Hyderabad, I could tell you it must be because of the traffic or time of the day etc. As I had mentioned earlier, our hotel was located quite close to Universal Studios and so an Uber ride cost us under $5 ($4.30 to be precise).

Universal Studios does not need any introduction, it is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood film studios in use. It has been dubbed “The Entertainment Capital of LA” and believe me it more than does justice to the marketing headline. Now, a visit to Universal Studios is actually considered a 1-day trip and that is mostly because of the wait time for the seven plus rides including the famous studio tour. Now, if you are on a weekend trip, spending close to a day at Universal Studios sounds unreasonable and that is why there is the Front-Of-Line or VIP tickets. Buying these tickets will help you get ahead of the queue/line for any ride and that way you can pace yourself between rides. Most families visit Universal Studios almost every 6 months and so they do not prefer the VIP tickets, which makes it even better. Some of the rides that you cannot miss- The Transformers ride, The Jurassic Park ride and Minion Mayhem- not to mention, a visit to Universal Studios is incomplete without the studio tour. In the studio tour, you get to go behind-the-scenes of legendary sets, about 13 city-blocks spread over four acres. War of the Worlds set, ABC’s Desperate Housewives set, come face-to-face with Norman Bates from The Psycho and by far the best- The Jaws set. (see below videos)

Killer, ain’t it? Well, you just had a glimpse of what it feels like to be there- there is soo much more. We completed the Universal Studios visit in about 6 hours which is something I would like to applaud- many claim as sort-of an achievement. There are a few rides which we skipped and also a few rides which were set to open in the months that followed- Fast & Furious: Supercharged and Harry Potter: The Forbidden Journey. We had a quick bite at Johnny Rockets and then caught a cab to Griffith Observatory. The Uber ride from Universal Studios to Griffith Observatory is about 6 miles and costs $12. Griffith Observatory sits on the South-facing slop of Mount Hollywood and has an amazing view of the city. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction and has an excellent view of the Hollywood sign. Now, you may have seen tourists clicking selfies at the Hollywood sign but over the past few years, the area surrounding the Hollywood sign has been converted to a residential area and because of that, the area cannot be accessed (Trust me, I tried). So, the best view is from the Griffith Observatory- dont fret, with a telescopic lens you can click amazing pictures of yourself with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Note that the Uber ride will not take you all the way to the top (I.e. Griffith Observatory) but you will have to get off near the Griffith Park and board a shuttle (frequency of 30 minutes) which will take you there. I found this to be a time-killer and so on our way back from Griffith Observatory, we decided to walk. We reached the lowest point- enough to catch an Uber back to our hotel- recuperate from all the walking and head out to Hollywood Blvd in the evening.

Hollywood Blvd is the stuff of dreams and from The Tangerine hotel, an Uber ride will cost you approx. $10. Hollywood Blvd in the night- to be present in the midst of vibrant lights, fast-moving crowd, revving cars, street performers is something to experience. The TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dolby Theatre, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Hollywood Museum, El Capitan Theatre where Jimmy Kimmel hosts his show- Jimmy Kimmel Live and more to be seen! For a food connoisseur, Musso & Frank Grill is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, opened in 1919. To me, the visit to Musso & Frank Grill was even more memorable as this was a restaurant that my favourite food & travel personality Anthony Bourdain visited.

I will continue to insinuate that this is just a sneak-peek- see it for yourself. For someone, who keeps a track of his bucket list items, I lost count the number of items I had to check in my travel bucket list. The landmarks that I mentioned above pretty much covers most of the locations that are featured in almost every blogger’s travelogue. But, there was this one other place that I wanted to visit owing to my love for the American Rock Band- The Doors, even more for the band’s vocalist- Jim Morrison. ‘Whiskey a Go Go’ is a nightclub located on 8901 Sunset Blvd on Sunset Strip- known for hosting famous rock bands and has been called the first real American discothèque. The Doors began their run as the house band between May 23 to August 21, 1966 and everything after that you know is history. My visit to this nightclub wasn’t entirely a memorable one because the evening I checked in, there was a rap battle in progress and frankly, I had moved on from listening to rap music a long time ago.

We headed back to Hollywood Blvd after a drink or two, enjoyed a sumptuous steak at Musso & Frank Grill and called it a day- headed back to our hotel. We had to catch up on some much-needed sleep because the following day would involve more walking and covering more locations than we covered on Day 1.

Day 2: The best way to see the whole of Los Angeles in a day or less is to ride on a ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus offered by Starline Tours. It is a narrated city-tour on a double decker bus and proudly claims to be the largest Hop On Hop Off service in the world, covering over 100 miles of route. There are four main tour routes – the Red Route, Yellow Route, Green Route and Purple Route – covering Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey and Downtown Los Angeles. The idea is to hop onto one of the buses and then hop-off where two buses taking different routes meet- that way subsequently you can cover the whole city. You can find more details on their tour map by clicking here.

The videos (above and below) cover our ride to Beverley Hills, Fox Studios, Camden Drive, Rodeo Drive, Broadway, Chateau Marmont Hotel, Motion Pictures Editor’s Guild eventually landing us near Venice Beach.

Here are a few pictures of places that I wasn’t able to cover in the above videos.

If your looking to follow the same route as we did, here goes- we boarded the Red Route Bus which starts at the TCL Chinese Theatre at around 9.30 am- this also happens to be the Starline terminal. The Red Route bus passes through Guitar Center, Chateau Marmont, The Comedy Store past Sunset Blvd, drives through the legendary Beverly Hills and makes a stop at Rexford Drive- now this is where you hop off and wait for the Yellow Route bus. Once you board the Yellow Route bus, it takes you past Rodeo Dr, Fox Studios and to Santa Monica Pier which is at Ocean Avenue- this is where you can hop off. You can then take the California Santa Monica Incline (a foot-walk) to enter the beach. (P.S See the video)

Santa Monica Pier with an iconic entrance is popular with residents and visitors as a landmark that is over 100 years old. The pier consists of an amusement park with a state-of-the-art solar-panel powered Ferris wheel. During the summer months the pier is a venue to concerts, movies, and other family friendly activities- free to the public. We spent a few minutes walking on the beach- the sand was extremely hot and in contrast the sea water was frigid cold. The walk on the beach itself was tiring and in the process we also developed an appetite. We headed to the main road at Ocean Avenue and caught an Uber to a restaurant located at the famous Marina del Rey- Killer Shrimp. Marina del Rey is a seaside community which also happens to be the largest man-made small-craft harbor and houses approximately 6500 boats. In this locality you will find high-rise condos, hotels, apartments, shops, and restaurants.

After a decent late-lunch at Killer Shrimp we decided to walk to Venice Beach- located at Venice, a beachfront neighborhood which receives millions of visitors a year, has been labeled as “a cultural hub known for its eccentricities” as well as a “global tourist destination (excerpts from Wikipedia).

We watched the sunset at Venice Beach and then decided to head back to our hotel room- which was a long way back. The return journey to San Jose was a complete let down- the Greyhound bus which was scheduled to depart at 9.30 pm ended up being postponed to 11.30 pm. We were soo frustrated that we were actually considering taking an Uber to the airport, renting a car, driving down to San Jose and then dropping it off at the outlet in San Jose. By the time we made up our mind to go ahead with the plan, an announcement at the depot confirmed the bus would depart in another 30 mins- so, we stayed. I guess its one of those days when you have soo much fun and you create soo many beautiful memories that life decides to throw a curve ball at you. As the bus accelerated towards San Jose, I could see the captivating skyline of Los Angeles grow dimmer and dimmer until finally it vanished on the horizon. I know for a fact that the weekend trip could very well be the only memory that I have of this beautiful city. Nonetheless, the pictures, the videos and now this travelogue will remain as a true reminiscent of my travel experience to La-la-land.