‘City of Stars, are you shining just for me?’- La La Land songs not only touched many hearts, but also won it’s music composer Justin Huwirtz 2 Oscar awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. La La Land refers to a dreamy state and is also a nickname for Los Angeles, popularly shortened as LA, which goes well with LA LA Land. This movie features the story of two characters who fall in love in LA while pursuing their entertainment career dreams. Hollywood is the heart of LA and many dream of visiting for the chance of seeing their favorite celebrities. For me, it was more about the La La Land movie and the theme of dreamers that moved my heart to visit, and of course, the sunny Californian weather.
My Los Angeles vacation was the third instalment of one of the best road trips in USA, two weeks in Arizona, Nevada and California. We drove from Las Vegas to LA following highway I-15S in the night time. During our visit we explored the LA life, visiting a few of the beaches, Hollywood staples and had my ultimate La La Land experience gazing at the Californian sky at night from Mount Hollywood.
I drove ~300 miles non-stop from Las Vegas to LA on the Highway I-15S which I think was the most difficult drive during the trip to California, especially when getting closer to LA. There was very heavy traffic and restless drivers switching lanes often without warning, which felt like a video game where you only get one life. Looking back I am proud of this drive, as I conquered one of the most busy highways myself while my friend Arun was asleep still recovering from his Vegas night out. We reached our Airbnb hotel around 10pm, ordered some Indian food and passed out. While I was in LA, the traffic reminded me of the opening song of La La Land, Another day of sun, showcasing bored drivers dancing in a LA traffic jam.
In the morning, we went to pick up the latest addition to our Los Angeles vacation, my friend Andriani who had a flight from the UK to the United States. We picked her up along with our new rental car and came back to the Airbnb to freshen up. Choosing the car was pretty easy with the majority (two girls) only caring that it was RED, outvoting the disappointed Arun who wanted to drive a more luxurious car during our California vacation.
The Airbnb we stayed at was stereo typically American, complete with a basket ball hoop in the garden. We played around a bit and enjoyed some fresh fruit from the orange tree, before heading out to find breakfast and our first landmark, Venice City Beach.
- Explore Venice City & Beach
- Santa Monica Pier
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Beverly Hills
- Sunset Boulevard
- Hollywood Sign Board
- Griffith Observatory
Venice is a neighborhood with residential and commercial areas next to a beautiful beach and gains it name probably from the residential complexes being connected by canals resembling the Italian Venice. The Venice beach vibe is too good with folks and families all around enjoying activities such as cycling, running, skateboarding, BIRD-ing and you will also come across surfers, artists, performers etc. I envied a few folks who were reading books in hammocks tied around the palm trees.
The public Art Walls of Venice are definitely worth a visit during your California vacations, they showcase stunning street art, not just on the walls themselves but also on nearby trees. We met and spoke with some artists busy painting while we were there and found some had traveled from around the world to paint on these walls. Graffiti artists are one of my favorite people on the planet, just like musicians, they can put out a lot of their thoughts so loudly via their paintings. Respect!
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is a one-mile street market that runs parallel to the beach and has lots of many funky shops and street performances by free spirited people. While you enjoy all the weird and wonderful creative activities, you can also try a wide variety of food here. We were aware that in California marijuana is legal so when we saw the underground based marijuana shops, we challenged Andriani to go buy a packet as she was the only one carrying her passport required by the strict security for entry. Andriani went in bravely to only realize there were too many varieties to choose from and she contacted us for help. As the policy we follow for everything else in Europe, like when trying to buy cheese from hundreds of options, we gave her our simple recommendation, just buy the cheapest 😉 5 minutes later brave Andriani reemerged with our Weed. Stay tuned for the next post to find out what happened to it 😉
We spent until evening here roaming around Venice City which is filled with amazing art.
We decided to call it an early night as we were all tired and left for a fine dining restaurant to eat at and chill the rest of the night.
Santa Monica Pier is very charming with lots of fun activities and parks making it a great place for a family day out. We strolled around for around two hours enjoying some live music, street shopping and even watching some scuba divers in the blue sea. We ate an early lunch and then left for Hollywood and Celebrity hunting after we had completed the mandatory photo shoot.
We headed towards Hollywood Boulevard to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame first – one f the main destinations during a trip to Los Angeles This street has brass stars of all the famous celebrities engraved on them. We followed the star lane and managed to spot one name which we all recognised the star of the American guitarist, Jimi Hendrix.
Next, it was time to head towards the famous Beverly Hills which is a popular hunting ground for celebrity spotting as many famous celebrities live nearby. We have all watched many of those videos of celebrities shopping around here, so we wanted to make sure we saw this place. Of course, we had no intentions of scrutinizing people’s faces or quizzing anyone if they had seen any celebrities around 😉
While we were strolling around, we were approached many tourism agents who were offering to take us for a ride and offering their vacation packages to show us some celebrity houses. We were not going to pay the price for the guide but got intrigued and decided to take the Google approach to hunt celebrity homes. We read an article about a boy in Sunset Boulevard who sold maps containing the location all of the celebrity homes in the area and we became determined to obtain one for ourselves. We set off focused on hunting the celebrity map boy and almost forgot about hunting for the celebrity houses themselves. Throughout our searching we didn’t mange to spot anyone on the streets and found the majority of house had huge gates that blocked any views, so after almost an hour we conceded defeat and decided to go checkout the Hollywood sign instead, since we at least knew where that was.
We were pretty convinced that Hollywood board wouldn’t be anything pretty but for the sake of ritual we needed to check it off our list of California road trip ideas, as couldn’t say we’d been to LA but not seen the famous board itself. We drove as far as we could up the hill and discovered that to get to the sign itself required a long hike but after our unsuccessful celebrity hunting we didn’t have the energy left for this and decided the view from the Griffith Observatory in the Mount Hollywood would be good enough for us.
I captured a LA traffic from the top of the Hill, when it again reminded me of the La La Land song, Another Day of Sun and the lyrics.
It was sooo…… relieving to get a picture with the Hollywood board from the Griffith Observatory before the sun sets.
Griffith Observatory is a public astronomy site also located on Mount Hollywood and gives one of the best views of the LA basin. The observatory makes a perfect location for either a romantic or geeky day out, or both, with a variety of attractions including a planetarium, geeky shops, cafes and a public telescope to gaze at the Californian sky. It is a heaven for science lovers and when I saw Neil deGrassse Tyson‘s books in the stores, I just wanted to sit there and read them all- maybe another time!
One of the main attractions here was the Pieces of Sky exhibition, which displays actual meteorite pieces that had been excavated across the US. I found it so exciting to see these pieces that had originated far out in the solar system and fell to Earth many years ago.
Overall the Griffith Observatory was my favourite landmark in LA, and it gave me the ultimate La La Land experience. The sunset and city views from here were so magical and dreamy. I walked around many times and was constantly reminded of the La La Land movie poster.
It was time for Arun to part from the trip as he had work engagements to attend in New Mexico. Early the next day, Arun flew off to New Mexico and sent us the to picture of his rental car for his trip that continue there. This time with free rein to choose as he liked, he opted for a Mustang whereas Andriani and I jumped on the California Amtrak and headed down to San Diego.
Checkout the other parts of the journey here, keep in touch for the exploratory journey that continues…