I was so close to not going to the City of Angels. Things were happening in my life and my health that it didn’t make it wise for me to truck off alone to the USA. There came a point when I even began to lose the motivation to go. It took until the last week for me to finally book all my rooms, and I was packing my bags in the final few days. I decided to go because I needed to step away from my stress for a while, not to ignore it but to deal with it.
Like Jefferson says in the musical Hamilton:
“If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse, you can’t put it out from inside the house”
Any doubts of whether I wanted to travel were extinguished when I touched down in LAX. It was a direct, eleven hour flight from Gatwick with Norwegian Airlines. You need to ensure you pre-book food because if you don’t, you will not be fed. Unlike OmanAir or Virgin Atlantic they also don’t give you a travel pack! Blankets and headphones must be paid for. It’s very basic.
Needless to say I arrived in Los Angeles exhausted and hungry. I waited for so long for my bag to arrive and began to panic that someone had nabbed it. As tired as I was, I asked about the price of a taxi.
“Depends on traffic, could be sixty or seventy dollars.” I laughed and walked back to the Flyaway Bus stop.
The Flyaway Buses go right into the heart of Hollywood, but there are also buses into Union, Van Nuys and more. The buses make no stops, so you must ensure they have the destination name on the front. It took around 45 minutes to come, and payment was by card at the end. The journey was pretty uneventful until we drew nearer, and I saw the street sign for Sunset Boulevard and began to get teary. The Hollywood sign was in the distance, and as we pulled up, I looked down to see the Walk of Fame.
I hobbled my way down Hollywood Boulevard looking quite like a moving target for the shifty characters weaving their way down the street and running out in front of traffic but I had one mission. Food. I had not eaten anything but boiled sweets since 11AM English time and it was now 3AM. I found a place selling pizza by the slice and ate it faster than one might down a shot. I checked into my hostel and my head hit the pillow and I was out like a light.
It meant I could be up early the next morning to make my booking at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I planned to get there by public transport, but I couldn’t decipher the bus stops so I instead took an Uber. On my way back to the hotel for wifi to book it, a sweet and shy guy asked if he could take a picture of me. We drove past the Chateau Marmont and my jaw dropped, and when I saw the Beverly Hills sign, it all felt so surreal.
The Beverly Hills Hotel is breathtaking. It’s pink, with palms and fronds and is Instagram picture perfect. I was gracefully led to my seat at the Cabana Café and given ice water and my maple syrup pancakes promptly. I was sure that everyone was judging me as I stood to take a photograph of my meal, but I had worked hard to get here, enjoy my meal and be in this place and dammit I would take this photograph!
I asked the concierge to take a picture and headed onwards down the residential part Rodeo Drive to Beverly Drive, where there is Beverly Gardens Park. For whenever I want a picture, my trick is to wait until someone is struggling to take a selfie then offer to take the picture for them. I then sneakily ask for one in return!
From there it was a walk through Beverly Hills to the Beverly Centre to find a Sephora, although I wasn’t so impressed with the rest of the mall. I walked around the wonderful West Hollywood, delighting in the Pride street paintings and Pacific Design Centre, before walking along Sunset Boulevard to the Chateau Marmont.
I got adventurous and wanted a picture of the Hollywood sign, even though it was 3PM and my legs were getting tired. I turned onto Fuller Drive, thinking it would lead me there – actually, it led me to the Runyon Canyon Park. I was disappointed to walk up such a steep hill to not see the sign, but Runyon Canyon is beautiful in its own right.
It was another long hour before I found the best place to see the sign – up Beechwood Drive. It’s best to walk all the way up to the café for the best view probably, but I stopped a little before that and got a nice view.
Finally, my walking tour was done and I dragged my heavy legs back down Franklin and along Hollywood Boulevard one last time to find food, drink and get a quick glance of the Chinese Theatre and some all important stars…
Having walked 25km, I think I was done. Apart from the Beverly Hills Dog Park, I had seen all the places I wanted to see and I was more than satisfied. I loved it. Los Angeles was beautiful. I liked the people, friendly, always willing to smile and say hello and let you greet their cute dogs – and believe me, all the dogs are cute and like the front lawns, more groomed than I was! A homeless guy asked if I was homeless and a guy on Beechwood asked for my number. I could sit on benches and have the freedom to stop and write as I wanted to. I felt so free and happy and welcomed into this city of dreams. I don’t feel like it is fake – the laid back atmosphere was indescribable and I wish London would take a leaf out of its book.
Safety: There are areas full of tourists where you need to be mindful of pickpockets but generally it is safe. I walked down E 7th Street in DTLA before my coach and it really is like a favela. I was carrying all my belongings and could sww quite clearly it was better for me to turn back so I did.
Hostel: Hollywood Walk of Fame Hostel
Positives: centrally located, clean, lots of activities to get to know people
Negatives: The breakfast is very small! Toast, bagels and oranges pretty much!