Mar 28

Our first few days…Arriving in LA to the bright lights of Hollywood

After saying goodbye to my family at Heathrow and wiping away my tears, we left the UK excited about our big adventure. We flew with Air New Zealand and were super impressed with the whole setup. The economy seats were really spacious for our long legs and the inflight entertainment was new and techy (Tom was impressed by the UI). If you’ve never seen the Air New Zealand safety video, YouTube it, it’s hilarious!  The food was also surprisingly good! I don’t usually ‘do’ plane food, but it was slow cooked beef and ale with cheddar mash accompanied by a side of yummy scones. The flight itself was one of the most turbulent experiences I’ve ever had. It came in bouts of about an hour resulting in next to no sleep.

Once we arrived at LAX, we breezed through an unusually friendly customs and then located our ‘Super Shuttle’. The ride was very bumpy and there was so much traffic considering it was a saturday night, gone 10pm. Two hours later, we arrived at our hostel, however it sounded more like a nightclub! Turns out, we’d arrived at the backend of a Saturday night hostel party in the courtyard, which progressed into a pub crawl around LA. We were in no state to join so headed to our room. It was really comfy, loud and funky. A few ants lurking  around but hey ho. We went to sleep excited for our first day travelling!

Day one in LA

Our simple mission for the day was to get our greyhound tickets, so we got up early (not expecting to, as we were shattered but still on UK time) and munched our free breakfast, which consisted of cereal accompanied by peanut butter and jam on toast. We then headed to the metro, which is LA’s public transport systems consisting of buses and the subway.

We came out of our hostel and turned left, within a few hundred feet we were on Hollywood’s ‘Walk of Fame’! The hostel was in prime location, however the weather looked ominous! The subway was only a 10 minute walk and after we’d worked out what tickets we needed, this nice old guy helped us through the machines as we struggled to work out the ‘TAP’ system. We were surprised how quiet the subway was, it might of been because it was a Sunday, but we didn’t see one member of staff the whole time. So we jumped onto the train with our new 5 minute friend who gave us some helpful hints about LA and told us where he’d been in the world. He’d been everywhere! He even accompanied us to our stop and pointed us in the direction of the Greyhound station. You rarely get this kindness from a stranger when in the UK. We marched on down to North Hollywood, admiring various places we could eat, to then arrive at our destination to find it was closed!

We decided to head to the main station in Downtown LA. A much longer subway journey taking us into an area that Lonely Planet told us we shouldn’t go to after dark. we didn’t have much choice! We arrived in the financial district and had to walk down from there but then the storm arrived, so we hid in a few shop coves. After recharging with a smoothie, we flagged a yellow cab, it was about 2 miles to the Greyhound station and we were soaked (well at least we thought we were).  LA is renowned for having 320 days of sunshine, so to get a storm bringing cold, heavy rain and winds was pretty rare…but hey, we’re British!

We arrived at the greyhound station and it was not what we expected. It wad rundown and there was not a traveller in sight, These were replaced by a lot of homeless people living outside. We quickly grabbed our 30 day discovery passes and headed back to the metro to find some food and where the end of the walk of fame was!

This time the subway didn’t have a nice guy helping us out, instead it was more of a ‘keep your head down’ type atmosphere with beggers walking up and down asking for money. One lady in particular was wanting money only from women aged between 17-35 and surprisingly she was actually picky with who she accepted it from…weirdly she didn’t ask us – tourists would have been the easy option! We also signed a random petition, god knows what for, but we had a nice chat with this local LA dude. He had tunnels, so Tom liked him.

We then resumed the ‘Walk of Fame’, it’s a little bit like camden on one side with loads of heavy metal/bong shops but then you hit the more classic Hollywood. We saw the Kodak theatre where the oscars are held, The Hard Rock Cafe, Chinese theatre and loads of movie history.

We didn’t really appreciate this area until the next day, as right now it was hammering it down! After eating a huge burrito with home made nachos, we braced ourselves for the walk back to our hostel. This is when we experienced the heaviest rain of our lives! We ran for it, part of the road was flooded so we had to wade through and surrender to the rain. Our toms were ruined. Our run home was encouraged by randoms shouting crazed abuse…this happens quite frequently, they are all pretty harmless – if not completely mental. After drying out for a few hours, we took comfort in eating free pizza supplied by our very kind hostel. Free breakfast, free dinner, free phones, free WiFi and lots of table tennis made this a great first hostel experience.

Day two in LA

The next day we woke up bright and early to go on our pre-booked tour. This would show us the real LA with a guide that grew up Pasedena, he too once lived on the streets and therefore was able to offer a humble opinion of the illusion of Hollywood. We had no idea just how vast LA really was. We started out in Hollywood then on down to the culturally diverse Venice Beach. We were pretty excited to see this place as it was where one of my favourite movies, Lords of Dogtown was set. Tom couldn’t wait to do a ‘VB’ for the Southsea / Hereford boys. We only had 45 minutes here, which was definitely not enough, it would have been great to have surfed and roller bladed down the promenade. Next time for sure!

We continued up into the hills, where got pretty close to the Hollywood sign and an awesome view of the city we just left behind.We then swooned through the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills seeing several stars houses, such as Charlize Theron, David Beckham (his roof – haha), Jennifer Aniston, Vinny Jones and Steve Tyler, to name just a few. We hit the streets of Melrose Avenue, Rodeo Drive and Sunset Boulevard. Although lush to walk around, we wouldn’t have been able to afford a pair of socks from those sorts of shops – let alone a handbag.

We had an awesome day and got to use the DSLR all day. LA has so much to offer, so many different cultures rolled into one place. On day one we were thinking that maybe LA isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. On reflection, we barley scratched the surface. We are excited to return before we fly out to Hawaii. Although this time we will hopefully stay near outside of main LA and closer to the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice.

We’re currently on the Greyhound on our way to Santa Barbara. We’re really excited as the scenery has already changed to ocean and mountains!

Love to all, Fi and Tom x

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