Our search for the Californian dream in LA

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February 26th 2016
Published: February 27th 2016
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Santa Monica BeachSanta Monica BeachSanta Monica Beach

Just what we imagined and more
As with many of the places we've visited in the US, Los Angeles is one of those destinations we've seen on tv endless amounts of times. Hollywood, the stars on the Walk of Fame, homes of the rich and famous and roller-skaters on Venice beach amongst other things. All under the beaming California sun. All of these things were on our list to see and do here, plus more.

We wanted that Hollywood feeling, whatever that was. We knew that LA wasn't all hollywood and it does have a darker side to it. Still we were surprised when we got of our greyhound bus in downtown LA. Its one of those areas that felt very impovished. We stood out like sore thumbs with our back packs. Thankfully the bus stop to Hollywood boulevard was just across the road.

Looking out the window as the bus cruised through downtown, it was shocking to see life outside. Drug addicts and homeless, it was like the whole area had a dark cloud over it. We passed by one street with a lot of homeless people on it. We just assumed people were queung up for a homeless shelter or something. We later learned this was the area known as skid row - a collection of streets, home to around 5,000+ homeless people. It sounded insane. How could that many people be homeless in a city as big as LA and a 1st world country like the US!? We couldn't believe this is permitted why is not more being done to help, instead of allocating homeless space.

As we entered into the Hollywood area, the state of the buildings, the people and the vibe changed almost immediately. It was like poverty just stopped at a junction and opulence started right across the road.

A pretty thought provoking opener but thats exactly how we felt sat on that bus.

We'd booked our hostel situated right on Hollywood boulevard so most attractions here were within walking distance. We didn't waste no time after checking in and eating some delicious thai food from the place next door, we set off up the street to see what the fuss was all about.

Stretching on for blocks, we pointed out recognisable and famous names embedded into the pavements. Some names we had no idea of, we'd never even heard of them (before our time). The names ranged from directors to actors to artists to random names like Godzilla!

We could see the hollywood sign on the hill in the distance. Taking a picture of it from afar we made a mental note to find out how to get up there for a view of the city.

The road was lined with restaurants, clothes shops and souvenir shops. Outside of some shops were open top cars with guys waving flyers at us for tours that drive by the homes of famous people. Their lists were extensive including Tom Cruise's home, the Beckhams house and the fresh prince of bel air mansion to name a few. We took note of the prices they were offering and told them we'd consider it the following day.

We continued up the street towards the crowds gathering outside the Grauman Chinese theatre. This is where Hollywood film premiers are still shown and the hand prints of really famous people are imprinted on the ground outside of it. There's even an imprint of Whoopi Goldberg's dreads on one plaque.

With Hollywood boulevard we felt once you've seen it, you don't really have any reason to go see it again. So after about an hour there was nothing left for it to offer.

Luckily we still had other places on our itinerary. Santa Monica pier and Venice Beach were both places we wanted to visit. Especially after enjoying some beach time in San diego we were looking forward to some more.

Taking the bus from hollywood boulevard it took us 2.5 hours and another bus to reach the beaches. It really is true when people/blogs told us a car is beneficial in LA.

Either way we'd made it, we'd even picked up a new friend along the way. Manuela was an Italian girl on holiday for 5 weeks in LA wanting to experience Hollywood to the fullest. Our initial plan was to walk a bit, find a spot along the beach and just soak in the atmosphere. That kind of went out of the window as we strolled from one Santa Monica to Venice Beach, chatting all the way.

When we approached Santa Monica pier, along with other tourists, we started to take pictures of the famous pier, its roller-coasters and the famous route 66 sign. One possibly homeless young adult approached P and accused her of taking photos of him and asked her to delete it. Shocked, she told him she wasn't taking pictures of him. He then demanded to see the photos. She firmly told him no, and reiterated she wasn't here to take pictures of him before we walked off although his gaze was on her the whole time. Creepy. We thought why would you come to a tourist spot if you don't want to be caught on camera in the background.

During our stroll we stopped by the famous muscle beach where Chris attempted to swing from one suspended ring to another and completed a few pull ups aswell.

The beach was just how we'd imagined it and more - roller-skaters, runners, bikes, skateboards, segways, those hover-boards thingies zipping past each other on the dedicated path under the palm trees beside the humongous beach and amazing waters. There were the weed clinics with people dressed up in fake medical outfits offering $20 evaluations to see if your eligible for medical marijuana. We were pretty sure if you walked through that door you were definitely 'eligible'.

The beach attracts a range of interesting charachters, from the heavily tanned
guy wearing a thong and an ipod doing all kinds of exercises to a guy dressed completely in white on rollerblades with a turban and an electric guitar.

There was also the memorable moment when a homeless guy was pushing a couple of shopping trollies behind P.
Unaware he was behind her all she heard in a husky voice was "Wake up!!! Get out of the way...welcome to life motherf----rs!" This made her jump out of her skin and bad us in fits of giggles for the rest of the afternoon.

As well as marijuana 'clinics' on the main walkway of Santa Monica and Venice beach there were the usual touristic t-shirt shops with special offers on and artist stalls opposite them. We stopped by one hole-in-the-wall fast food place and ordered some food. Chris ordered a standard hamburger meal and P opted to try the deep fried shrimps. Manuela wanted pizza but it never compared to back home her. The food was far from amazing but it was cheap and filled a hole in our stomachs. Did we mention we had walked for over 2 hours down the beaches. Which meant we had a walk over 2 hours back to the bus stop, not to mention the long bus journey itself.

Before returning however we stopped at the popular skatepark on the beach, watching children and adults of all abilities attempt tricks or just attempt to stay on the board, some more impressive than others.

Our hostel on hollywood boulevard and their sister hostel based in another location in LA had arranged a free bbq and comedy night. They didn't have to ask us twice, we signed up right away.

Packed in a van with other people from our hostel, we were dropped off 20mins later at the sister hostel. Burgers, salad, nachos the lot was on offer as well as free alcohol. Not bad at all. Some people staying at the hostel were already consuming their own alcoholic beverages at the back.

Taking a seat somewhere strategically in the middle (no one wants to sit at the front) we got comfy and waited for the night to start. Once everyone was seated the compere started the show. Unfortunately the group of guys who had been drinking their own alcohol were now embarrassingly drunk. More embarrassingly they were from England. They heckled the comperes jokes, made crude remarks and one even got on stage and was prepared to strip naked in front of us all. It got to the point people in the crowd were asking them to stop.

As the night got underway the comedians had to do their best to keep these drunk brits in their place. He had to applaud them on that alone as we didn't see like an easy task. These comedians were starting out trying out new material on a hard crowd. Overall most of the acts were good and we enjoyed it. Did we mention it was free!

After the comedy, everybody mingled more and got chatting to one another. Strangely it seemed all the brits seemed to drawn towards each other. The drunken brits had had enough by that point and had retired to bed (thank god). The rest of us all chatted away sharing stories and experiences in the US. Within the group were 2 au pairs, a guy from near our hometown, a party animal from Kent and a few others including a robot programmer who worked at disney creating Iron Man arms for disabled children. What a job!

Apparently the hostel also was arranging a pub crawl that same night, but they basically just led us all a few doors down to a bar and left us there. All in all it was a really good night and we got to meet and talk with some great and some crazy people.

Like we mentioned earlier, once you've seen the hollywood stars and Hollywood boulevard you've basically seen everything it has to offer. No problem for us though, it just meant we had another day to enjoy the beach. Again, we caught the slow buses there (we didn't really have no other choice).

At the beach hired ourselves something to help us reach the end of the beach strip. P hired roller blades and chris went for the beach cruiser bike. Even though we'd already been on this path the previous day, this made it a whole different experience. The sun was shining and the breeze was in our faces. We were living the ultimate LA beach life (if only for a few hours). We felt we could get used to this life.
We zipped passed all the places we'd passed the previous day, stopping at a hot dog place for lunch ordering a hot dog and cheesy chips. It was definitely better than yesterday's food.

On our way back to the bus stop we spotted one of our favourite frozen yogurt shops 'yogurt land' the other one is 'Yogen früz' both very similar and equally delicious. It was a perfect treat to end our last day at the beach with.

The bus journey back seemed to take extra long 2 hours all in all. We felt exhausted as the bus pulled onto hollywood boulevard, struggling to keep our eyes open.

We really enjoyed our time in LA even though we didn't get to visit the the main attractions like Universal studios, or do one of those celebrity home tours or even scale the Hollywood sign hill. After having a tight schedule throughout the US it felt right to take our time here and do things at a manageable pace. There's definitely a next time though. Thats for sure.

Oh and only in LA will you see Charlie Chaplin with walking stick board a public bus eating a taco.

Accommodation: Banana Bungalows

Transport: San diego to LA 3hrs
$32 for 2 people

Date: 11/10/2015

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 29


27th February 2016

Welcome to LA?
LA is the center for strangeness in California and it seems like you met a good portion of the odd people that populate our state. Maybe this is why so many people drive cars there and don't walk or use public transportation. Maybe if you are moving fast enough, you don't notice the bad parts... I'm glad you kept your spirits up and still enjoyed your visit. As I'm sure you were told, Hollywood and downtown are not really the hotspots of the city. There really are a lot of nice things to see and hopefully you will get a chance to get back! We are enjoying seeing our own country through your eyes and have enjoyed all of your blogs. Your trip continues to be amazing! Thanks for taking us along!
27th February 2016

No problem, we're happy that it still proves to offer enjoyment to others apart from ourselves. Yes, we agree we can not say we touched more than the surface in over 2 days there and would love to explore more on a future visit. You will have to give us some insider tips!! That's what people say about public transport, although at the same time we happily travelled using it without any problems and actually enjoyed using it (except for the delays). Thanks for the lovely comment.
27th February 2016
Santa Monica Beach

California dreamin' on such a winter's day!
So, there you were in your shorts on the beach in the middle of winter--ah, LA! Brilliant to stay in the famous Banana Bungalows and hang out on the beaches after your intense travels around the country. There's a fabulous new metro system in LA, but too bad it doesn't yet go to the beaches, but at least you got to see some characters on the buses. The homeless problem is huge in LA, and in fact not too far from skid row, there are incredible museums and concert halls. The government and NGOs are always working on projects, but little seems to get down. So terrible in such a rich city. But as you experienced, so many sides to that crazy city.
27th February 2016
Santa Monica Beach

California dreamin' on such a winter's day
Whenever can we say we wear shorts in the winter? Ha. California has perfect winter weather!! It sounds like such a complex problem. It's great to hear that projects are taking place. Big change needs to happen. Such as shame given the area has a lot to offer.
28th February 2016

Gritty side of things...
If you'd hired a car, you may have saved time, but would have possibly missed out engaging with the very diverse population that LA seems to have. Some cities go to such great lengths to hide what they see as their unsavoury aspects from tourists - clearly, that's not an issue here. Regardless of where I sit in the audience at a comedy gig, I always seem to get picked on! :)
2nd March 2016

Gritty side of things
Oh no. So your that easy target hey 😕. I hate that moment you make eye contact with them and you know your next. To be fair we was picked on a few times both in NYC (on our complexions questioning what sort of mix P is, then suggesting..all sorts, while stating Chris was plain African) and in LA (on our relationship). In Washington they didn't take much notice of us! Yes it's not something that was well hidden even without passing Skid Row. LA is certainly home to the diverse and like you said public transport and on foot is a great way to witness it.
29th February 2016

Ha LA... not what movies make it looks like
I believe LA is one of our most unimpressive cities and has been overhyped. Venice is a great town for people watching. Hollywood a contrast as you found. A string of interesting cities and towns surround LA so the trip is not wasted. Overall you've had the LA experience. A wealth of absurdity.
2nd March 2016

That wealth of absurdity
LA is one though places that has to be experienced.. to really get to grips with that real sense of absurdity. Glad to have witnessed it though! Would love to visit again to visit the other areas of LA people talk so highly of!

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