While suffering with a recent back injury I was confined to our house, so much so, that the lounge and sofa became my closest friends. As I was pretty much immobile I was stuck watching TV most days and believe me there is nothing good about daytime TV. So I switched to TV boxsets, and found one called Entourage. A good friend of mine always spoke so highly of the series, so I started watching it.
Entourage is about a young, up and coming Hollywood star and his close friends life’s in LA. I was hooked, and have now finished every single episode. It got me thinking though, I have been to LA five times and I have never bumped into any film stars! And these guys seem to see them walking down every alley – I feel so cheated.
Los Angeles was always top of my wish list when I was younger, along with New York and I have to say my first couple of visits were pretty disappointing. Yes you heard it here first A Wandering Memory is not a fan of Los Angeles.
Firstly Los Angeles is HUGE, there are so many different parts of what I thought was just a single city, from Venice Beach to Hollywood is 16 miles, Long Beach to Beverly Hills is nearly 30 miles. It’s not necessarily the distance that’s the problem but the traffic – either of those trips could be over 2 hours! I found getting from place to place always was such a hassle, and if you timed it wrong you could find yourself sitting in a carpark of traffic.
I could never find the centre of the city either; you know a real downtown area. I have been assured there is one which is that iconic view of the few tall buildings, but it’s really not a place to visit. Los Angeles is not like New York where you can walk from place to place, or even catch a subway – I found the only real way to get around is by car or bus. Don’t get me wrong there are places in LA that are well worth visiting, but for an outsider or tourist it can just feel draining and to me suffocating.
A number of the cities highlights are located in the coastal areas of Venice, Huntington, Santa Monica, Hermoza and of course the iconic Malibu. And a bit further afield you have Orange County and Laguna Beach. The majority of these house gorgeous beaches and sublime coastal scenery. My favourites have always been Santa Monica as it reminds me of a little village in itself and Venice as it’s so ridiculously eccentric. Venice is the location of muscle beach, some very hippy cafes and a LOT of people – from the normal rollerbladers to the more eccentric crazies.
Malibu boasts the best of the hidden covers and waterfront in my opinion. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll see Keanu Reeves out surfing or Vin Diesel down the local bar… I think you have to be really lucky – and I have never had that experience in LA.
The other highlight for me is the Hollywood Hills and Mulholland Drive. This is pretty much the other end of the spectrum to the coast, with miles of windy hill roads leading to multi-million dollar properties hidden away. The vastness of these hills is astonishing, as in reality they are tiny in comparison to the rest of LA but they just feel enormous. Up here is also where you can get a view of the iconic Hollywood sign, but I have never found the entrance to it (even though it’s now been shut off). It’s so much more peaceful up here than the rest of the city.
Of course you have to visit Hollywood Boulevard to see the iconic stars and Mandarin theatre which hosts the Academy Awards and a number of film premiers yearly. Don’t stray too far afield as the area is not actually that nice, once off the iconic street. It just feels a little too fake to me, the amount of tat shops that line this attraction is simply astonishing – and the number of vendors that try to see anything from tours of the stars homes to illegal drugs is overwhelming. From here you also have Beverly Hills down the road – another huge disappointment as in all honesty rodeo drive is just the same as a host of other countries most expensive shopping streets.
Then we get into the real touristy locations of Universal Studios & Disneyland, both well worth a visit if you’re there, but again not the real reason you should visit a destination. I loved Universal as I am a big film fan, but apart from the studio tour – which is great, the rest is very dated. Disneyland interestingly didn’t live up to expectations either, and I preferred both its European and Japanese counterparts.
The city is full of iconic places, from Hotel California to Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Pier to Marilyn Monroe’s house – there is a lot to see. But to me it just didn’t live up to the hype. I revisited with my mate Nils who now lives there, and still it just didn’t resonate with me at all. We went for food and drinks that were enjoyable but nothing like those nights and parties you see in the movies (Entourage included). We also got to experience a beach party with a huge bonfire which again was a cool experience. Now I am not stupid I realise that I am just average Jo but really I expected more from a city with such a reputation.
There are also parts of LA that are not touristy at all; the areas of Compton, South Central, Skid Row, and Inglewood all have reputations that would keep you away. Gangs and crime are very much still apparent in a vast majority of the city however it’s very unlikely you would just walk into one of these neighbourhoods by accident. Interestingly one of the more touristy areas; Hollywood Boulevard can be very unsightly especially after dark.
I just simply can’t convince myself to like LA – but on the other hand I have two very good friends who have moved from the UK for work, plus the friend I referred to earlier and they all live very happy lives.
I think my problem with LA is its iconic stature – unlike New York that lives up to all expectations, LA simply stalls in not offering an easy hassle free visit. It’s so vast just doesn’t tick all of the boxes for me and that’s usually why when I fly into LA I usually rent a car to get to Vegas, San Francisco, Yosemite or San Diego as soon as I can…
Let me know your perceptions of Los Angeles – did it live up to expectations?