Monday, June 1, 2015

Amtrak Adventure - Day15 - Los Angeles

Walked out of Union Station, Los Angeles at about six am in the morning to find a huge police presence, patrol cars and SUV's with lights flashing, roadways blocked and some guy being put into the back of a police car. It looked like a scene out of a movie, but apparently it wasn't. Even our taxi driver was curious as to what was going on, but we never did find out. 
Hardly a welcoming start to our visit.

Not being able to check in to our hotel at such an early hour, we stored our bags and set out looking for somewhere to have breakfast. Despite it being a weekday, this proved quite a challenge as everywhere seemed closed until we found a Dennys on Sunset Boulevard. Maybe the day starts later in LA than most cities?

Fortified by a huge breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage (was I really expected to eat it all?) we headed for Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street where the Walk of Fame begins. Maybe it's a sign of my age, but I recognised a good many of the names, old and new. One section seemed to focus on British stars including two of my current favorites:

Further along the street we came to the elaborate El Capitan movie theatre which has been in use since 1926 as "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama." 

Directly across the street, a more modern if somewhat strange sight - giant washers and dryers, apparently a set for a beauty commercial. This must be Hollywood! 

And a little further on, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with its concrete blocks in the forecourt with the hand and foot imprints and signatures of various stars. I was surprised there were not more but it turns out that only those who are considered to have made a particular contribution to Hollywood cinema are included outside the theatre entrance. Many of the more recent ceremonies have been done purely for publicity purposes and paid for by the studios. 


The whole area was a little over-commercialized and tacky so we headed down the quieter Highland Avenue back towards Melrose Avenue to our hotel, The Historic Hollywood Hotel. Opened in 1927, the hotel is now on the National register of Historic Places. With its location just across the street from Paramount Studios it was once popular with celebrities and the corridors are lined with black and white photos of stars of bygone eras such as this one of Shirley Temple. 

The lobby of the hotel has been lovingly restored and overall the hotel provided a delightful alternative to more modern chain hotels.

The hotel's location across from Paramount Studios was particularly convenient. We were able to take a two hour afternoon tour which took us around the enormous lot past 32 stages, workshops for everything from scenery to costumes, the Production Park where screenwriters, directors and producers work, and many buildings named for the stars who used to use them while on set. We also went into a prop warehouse containing a selection of items from recent movies. 

This car was used by Tom Cruise in the 'Jack Reacher' movie. According to our tour guide, he wasn't supposed to crash it, but did which is why it's now a bit of a wreck!

And if, unlike me, you have seen the Transformer movie, you might recognize this:

Part of the lot is known as New York because of the permanent sets depicting streets in Greenwich Village, The Upper East Side, Brooklyn, Washington Square and the Financial District. There is also a 'Chicago' street. I was impressed by how realistic they were. The tour makes you realise how much work goes into making a movie or a television show, especially behind the scenes, and the lengths that the creators will go to to turn an illusion into apparent reality. 


We ended the day with a walk to Beverley Hills (perhaps not surprisingly given this was LA, the only other people we passed were dog-walkers!) and along Rodeo Drive. We didn't get there until after the stores were closed but judging from the goods displayed in the up-market shops that was probably just as well. Fortunately, on nearby Santa Monica Boulevard, we found Panini's Mediterranean Cafe which offered tasty food at prices we could afford. 

Verdict: A fun but exhausting day. LA is a sprawling city and to do it justice you probably do need a car, but I was surprised at just how pleasant and easy it was to walk around - at least in the Hollywood/Beverley Hills area.   

1 comment:

  1. Great recap and pictures, Mel! Love LA--and yes, it's exhausting, even with a car :-)