LA: the home of Hollywood hopes and beachside gyms. It was also home of my aunt for a couple of years, so I hopped across the pond to live out my 90210 dreams for a fortnight.
Naturally, I started off my trip like a celeb, dosed up to the high hills on prescription meds (all legit; it was my first solo long-haul flight and I'm not a flying fan), basking in extra legroom despite being (just) shy of five foot. LOLs.
I am very much like my aunt where travelling is concerned, so the moment I touched down at LAX, it was sightseeing central. I’m all for living like the locals (or with a local, in this case), but here are a few tips on how to get that silver-screen experience when you hit up Hollywood. Limo not included, sorry.
Start at the top
Literally. Of course, everyone heads up to the Griffith Observatory to get the classic Hollywood sign selfie #basicbitches (JK, obvs I got one), but the observatory itself is v. interesting, too. The Foucault Pendulum, which Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dance around in La La Land, draws in a lot of people and I was fascinated. In layman’s terms, the bronze ball’s swing depends on the Earth’s rotation at any given time, demonstrating that yes, we are rotating daily. I know we know this anyway, but for someone with little scientific background, it’s pretty cool to see the concept right in front of your eyes. Go on, have your own La La Land moment - Ryan Gosling optional. The view of the city below was also great for my mild OCD tendencies; the grid system made the land below look all neat and nice and I loved it.
Get on the big screen... kind of
It’s something a little different, but see if you can get into the audience for the filming of a TV show. Your face may not get on the big - or small - screen, but your laughter will. And really, what is Friends, or The Big Bang Theory, without that chorus of chuckles? Like a lot of the audience attendances in the UK, those with free tickets still need to queue up, and it’s first come, first served; you need to get there early in order to guarantee a seat.
Follow in the footsteps of others...
Another attraction that goes without saying is the Walk of Fame. For some reason it wasn’t too busy when I went, so we perused the whole street and I discovered Meryl Streep has MUCH larger hands than I do. My fave star was actually not on the Walk of Fame itself though; a few days later, we passed a local church and I looked down to see a replica pink star in honour of Jesus. It made me laugh a lot. Well played, JC followers.
We also drove through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, admiring the places I had grown up seeing in films, TV and magazines. I absolutely love palm trees - they are my favourite type of tree, and plant for that matter - and they weaved up high into the sky everywhere I looked. I was in my element. It’s lucky my aunt didn’t have a convertible, because God knows I would have gone full stereotype and waved my arms in the air while screaming at the top of my lungs.
As a lover of water, of course we also hit up the beaches in the area. Venice Beach is pretty cool but, personally, I preferred Santa Monica. One day I’ll go on an America road trip, but for now I settled for a photo next to the end point of Route 66. I also took LOADS of photos on our visit to the Grammy Museum, which was a lot more exciting than I had anticipated. All floors were super interactive and it was great to actually see the history behind the world-renowned music awards, as opposed to just remembering Lady Gaga crawling out of an egg...
A little less museum, a little more theme park was Universal Studios which, again, was a place I’d grown up seeing in pop culture and was *so* excited to visit. I’m not even a fan of rides, but I was so chuffed at finally getting a photo in front of that globe. I felt like I was on a film set from the moment we approached the grounds at 8am. Yes, we got there WAY early, but we were the first ones to get on the studio tour that day meaning we didn't have to queue for most queued-for attraction in the park. I survived a national disaster, rode through Wisteria Lane (RIP Mike), headed to the Kwik-E-Mart and, of course, came face to face with the shark from Jaws. I even had my own “Oh my God. You’re from London?!” moment. A very good day.
...but go rogue too
Get off that beaten path and visit parts that you might not have necessarily seen in the media. Go to the Old Town, head into China Town; don't just go to the Grove! It’s worth noting here that although I’ve focused on the sleek, glossy sides of LA in this post, one thing I noticed is that it is one of the most integrated cities I’ve ever been to. By this, I mean you could go from absolute decadence on one street, turn a corner to be in poverty, then back to a street where there’s a stupid amount of money pumped in again in a matter of minutes.
In terms of lesser known attractions, definitely hit up the temples in the area. We first went to Hsi Lai Temple, the largest temple on the West Coast, situated in Hacienda Heights. Again, the view was great and exploring the grounds was pretty cool. There was a room FULL of different-sized Buddhas, which was an amazing sight to behold, as well as various holy statues, gardens and carvings. I observed monks who had taken a vow of silence, and first learned about America’s weird (read: amazing, if you’re an easily offended American, aka Trump) rule about having their flag higher up the pole than any other countries’ flag. We also visited the serene Svivnanda Inner Peace temple, which I can’t recommend enough to take some down time, while The Getty Museum was also a hidden gem of lush green gardens (as well as the amazing art collected by J. Paul Getty, of course).