” Welcome to Hollywood. What’s your dream?”- Pretty Woman
We hit the freeway and took the 30-minute drive from Santa Barbara to Hollywood. Since I can remember, I have always dreamed of seeing the iconic sign in the hills. We took the roof of the Mustang down, played the “La La Land” soundtrack and kept our eyes towards the hills. Once I finally caught sight of it (cue: dramatic reaction) I gasped and shed a small tear of happiness.
I had finally arrived.
After composing myself from the excitement, we checked in to the trendy Mama Shelter Hotel. The Parisian based hotel chain (where we visited the Paris branch for dinner back in 2014 and loved it- worth a visit if you are in the region) opened it’s doors Stateside in 2016 and boasts Hollywood sign views from the bedrooms and a fun rooftop bar with panoramic views of the dense city.
Our room wasn’t quite ready so the reception team invited us to check out the rooftop bar. We gladly accepted and enjoyed a glass of bubbly overlooking the Hollywood sign. Pinch me moment! The rooftop was definitely an attraction for us when making accommodation decisions.
Our room was minimal but very comfortable and contemporary. We had a spot-on view over Hollywood and enjoyed cute little touches such as Apple TV, Star Wars lamp shades and The Big Lebowski script at the side of the bed for some night time reading.
This 3-star hotel is perfect for anyone wanting to stay in the heart of Hollywood at an affordable rate yet still receiving that hip boutiquey feel, which can be tricky to find in this very touristy area.
We headed for Hollywood Boulevard, just a couple of blocks away from our hotel. I anticipated the crowds of tourists and an element of tack, so decided to get this part of the Hollywood pilgrimage out of the way early doors. As I took my first steps on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we played the game of listing each famous person’s star that we came across and subsequently began hunting for all of my favourites from the worlds of cinema, T.V and music! (Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart, Gene Kelly, David Bowie etc.). We made a pit-stop outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and put our hands in the famous concrete imprints from the stars of past and present.
Other key locations along this stretch are:
Take a tour at the home of the Academy Awards.
Grauman’s El Capitain & Egyptian Theatre
Another of Sid Grauman’s landmark 1920’s picture houses. It is said that the first movie premiere was held at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre.
Hollywood & Vine Intersection
The famous intersection and once home of the film industry in the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’.
Capitol Records Tower
You will also find the Capitol Records Building on Hollywood and Vine. Designed to resemble a stack of records with the spike of a record player,the building is frequently featured in motion pictures.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The historic luxury hotel on Hollywood Boulevard and the oldest in L.A.
The Four Ladies of Hollywood Statue
Located at the top of Hollywood & La Brea, the Four Ladies of Hollywood represent diversity of Women in Hollywood (Dorothy Dandridge, Anna May Wong, Dolores Del Rio, and Mae West) with Seven Year Itch Marilyn Monroe as the cherry on top.
After indulging in a couple of hours of Hollywood tourist fun (Note: The Walk of Fame etc really is a tourist haven and is unfortunately exploited by annoying street performers and tacky stores. If you go with this expectation, you will not be disappointed. It is a part of L.A that you MUST see, but try to do your Hollywood homework so you can target key historical locations ), it was time to grab something to eat and where better to grab an L.A bite, than In-N-Out Burger on Sunset.
That evening, we made a reservation at the exclusive, The Nice Guy restaurant in West Hollywood. With a zero-photograph policy and it’s dark corners, The Nice Guy is ideal celebrity territory. Imagine Frank Sinatra in a dimly lit club eating spaghetti and sipping on an Old Fashioned- that’s The Nice Guy…..oh and don’t forget to grab a souvenir picture from the photo booth- this is 2017 after all.
It’s Disneyland Day! Being a Disney Park veteran we woke up early and took the 50-minute drive to Anaheim, deciding to grab breakfast on Main Street overlooking Sleeping Beauty Castle!
Disneyland is a full blog/ itinerary post unto itself so look out for that one coming soon! In the meantime- here are a few pictures from our day. The park opened at 8 am and our Disney stamina took us through to 11 pm! It was a tiring but unforgettably magical day.
After a crazy few days in L.A so far and still exhausted from the Disneylicious extravaganza the previous day, we decided to take a lie in and grab some breakfast at the hotel. Mama Shelter prides itself on its Californian breakfast and we particularly enjoyed the LA sunrise omelette and homemade biscuit sandwiches.
We drove slightly north to the iconic Griffith Observatory. Featured heavily in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause” and the more recent “La La Land”, the Griffith Observatory is a Hollywood star in its own right. Despite making the mistake of arriving before the observatory actually opened, we made good use of taking in the scenic views, exploring the grounds and enjoying the peaceful ambience. One of my highlights from the trip and not to be missed if you are visiting L.A and Hollywood.
After enjoying the Observatory and surrounding areas (we drove north to Burbank and passed the famous Disney & Warner Brothers Studios), we returned the car to Mama Shelter, grabbed a quick bite and got ready for our excursion to Studio City to see a live taping of a famous T.V. show.
After a short queue and ticket in hand, we arrived at CBS Studios to be a part of the studio audience for The Late, Late Show with James Corden. We managed to secure tickets through 1ota and had a brilliant time! The full taping lasts a couple of hours and if you are lucky you may appear on T.V like we did. Be prepared to follow dress codes and cheer and clap like you have never done before. Our hands were red raw by the end and our jaws were locked in big smiles!
It is also a great opportunity to see what it is like on a real T.V. set and perhaps see some famous faces. Being interviewed on the day we visited were Demi Lovato, Rupert Friend and Charlie Hunnam (phwoar!)
After the show, we picked up an Uber (definitely the cheapest and simplest way to get around the city as parking can be incredibly expensive) and headed to Koreatown for some dinner. We settled on traditional Korean BBQ restaurant Gwang Yang BBQ and despite being novices, were soon shown the ropes by the super hospitable staff. Two bottles of wine later- we became BBQ pros! The cuts of meat were delicious and overall the meal was great value for money.
We grabbed another Uber and arrived at the infamous Chateau Marmont for drinks. We were both excited to visit this hotel on Sunset Boulevard for some cocktails and the landmark did not disappoint. This 1920s hotel has an air of mystery and intrigue to it and is a place to see and be seen. A bucket list location for us and a fitting end to another brilliant day in L.A.
With slightly hazy heads, we took the short 7-minute drive to Universal Studios, Hollywood to ‘ride the movies!’.
Universal Studios is a far smaller park than Disneyland and easily manageable to do in a day. Highlights of the day were:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Wander the streets of Diagon Alley and step inside Hogwarts to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This is an incredible ride- we rode it three times and couldn’t get enough!
Jurassic Park- One of my favourite films of all times and the ride is ‘ROARSOME!’. Just remember- YOU WILL GET WET!
Studio Tour- More of a ride than a legitimate studio tour, this is the signature attraction at Universal Studios. Hop aboard the tram as it takes you through the legendary backstage at Universal. There are plenty of Hollywood surprises along the way. One small negative for us was that the audio commentary was too quiet so we missed a lot of the facts which I would have particularly found interesting.
After another long and weary theme-park day, we picked up dinner on Universal City Walk. City Walk is home to many well-known bars and restaurants and being in the U.S.A, we thought it would be entirely acceptable to indulge in some Heavy Metal Wings at the Hard Rock Cafe (although the Hard Rock is a guilty pleasure of mine in any city…sorry- not sorry!).
After a much-needed lie in and hearty breakfast, we took an Uber to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You may think a cemetery is a bizarre place to visit during your jollies but hear me out! This is no ordinary cemetery. Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for many notable residents such as Rudolph Valentino, “Wizard of Oz” Director Victor Fleming, Cecil B. DeMille, Hattie McDaniel and more recently Judy Garland, who was moved from her original burial spot in New York to the Judy Garland Pavillion here in Hollywood.
With the Hollywood Hills as the backdrop, the cemetery is a peaceful space in this concrete jungle where you can walk the gardens and pay your respect to these legends of the screen.
Just a few blocks from Hollywood Forever is the last movie studio still working in Hollywood, Paramount Studios. We booked on to the 12:30 tour and enjoyed going behind the scenes at this historic home of classics such as The Godfather, Top Hat, Sunset Boulevard and many more.
Our tour guides were really enthusiastic and informative however, if I was to do this kind of tour again I would choose the VIP tour to receive a more intimate experience. Unfortunately some members of our group were more interested in the filming of Dr. Phil than Forrest Gump!
We got changed and journeyed Downtown. We had tickets to see the L.A Lakers in the evening so we visited Grand Central Market for some street food and popped up to Perch L.A, a trendy rooftop bar in the centre of Downtown for some pre-game cocktails overlooking the sunset!
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore the other notable attractions in Downtown such as The Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Grammy Museum, but these are reasons to go back right?!!
After a few glasses of wine and cocktails at Perch, we took the short walk to the Staples Center and enjoyed a thrilling basketball game! It was the Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings and proved to be a close game in the last few minutes. Word of warning- if you want to get a beer or margarita at the center (we need more margaritas at sporting events in the UK by the way!) ensure you take your passport. Foreign drivers licences are not accepted by bar staff.
I came away wanting to try out as a Laker Girl. It was definitely an exciting way to end our final evening in L.A.
As we had a few hours left in L.A before leaving for the airport, we decided to check out and drive to Beverly Hills. We enjoyed touring some important sites such as Spadena House, (the Hansel and Gretel storybook style house in Beverley Hills) Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place in Pierce Brothers Memorial Park and of course, “Rodeo Drive baby”.
As I was at the end of my vacation and accompanied by a shopping averse boyfriend, I couldn’t be too spendy. Despite this, I still enjoyed window shopping and pretending to be Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” as I sachet-ed along the street with my little Sephora bag (*sigh*- not Chanel but one day-one day).
We caught a final L.A meal at The Farm of Beverly Hills and enjoyed people watching from the patio.
The holiday of a lifetime was drawing to a close and I started to reflect on my time here. California is a rich and diverse state steeped in modern history, dramatic landscapes, culinary delights and variety.
In terms of my Hollywood pilgrimage, I felt I only just scratched the surface . I refer back to “La La Land” here where Ryan Gosling’s nostalgic character Sebastian explains;
“That’s L.A.- they worship everything and value nothing”.
I wanted to capture a feeling of Golden Age Cinema but unfortunately I think you have to spend longer than five days to excavate Hollywood or speak to more folk who share stories of their familiarity and knowledge of this this special era in Hollywood history. In L.A, you get the impression that everything is moving forward and striding ahead before it can catch a breath and enjoy its present. Billy Connolly quoted;
“I love Los Angeles. It reinvents itself every two days”.
By no means did I come away feeling disappointed with my experience in L.A as it exceeded all of my expectations. However it did give me more of a reason to return.
My final view of L.A- the “You are the Star” mural located just a few minutes walk from our hotel and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (also featured beautifully in Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land”). Supposedly, the mural conveys a switching of roles where Hollywood legends sit in a movie theatre and are looking at us, the audience in the outside world. In a plastic city full of people with big dreams of becoming stars, I think this mural is poignant…
Well, at least I could be a star for a brief moment! Thank you for the memories California and L.A. I will be back and until then- I will see you in the movies.