For me, January has always been a month to dread. The holidays are over and nothing but short, dreary days await. It is a month of colds, flu, and being trapped indoors. However, now that we are retired, we have the option of going in search of a warmer place to break up the monotony. This is a tradition I hope to maintain as long as our health allows.
Last year, we went on a cruise, but we wanted something different this year. We have never visited Los Angeles and this seemed a good opportunity. Los Angeles was projected to be approximately twenty-five degrees higher than our home in Alabama for the dates of our trip. We would at least have a few days of warm weather in January.
The weather in L.A. did not disappoint. We were there for five days at the Hilton Doubletree in the Tokyo district. It was often cloudy but only rained one day. Highs were in the lower 70s and lows in the upper 50s. The location was not bad, but L.A. is so spread out that we spent a good bit of Uber time. It is the second largest city in America and offers a large diversity of activities, but they are in a wide geographic area. We had great experiences with Uber. It was very efficient and the drivers were great. For us, it was the way to go.
Warner Brother’s Studio Tour
L.A. is the birthplace of so many of the movies and television shows we have loved over the years and a tour of a studio seemed a logical way to begin. The tour began on the backlots that have appeared in countless scenes in movies and television. Our guide, Tim, explained how “street dressing” changes the look based on the needs of the current process. For example, the street below has appeared in “The Road to Perdition” and in a current movie, “The Showman”.
We visited Stage 16, but internal photos were not allowed. It is one of the the tallest soundstages in the worlds and the tallest in North America. It is approximately 98’ tall inside and has been used in many disaster movies.
The tour also included costumes and props from past films. An entire warehouse was devoted to the actual vehicles from the Batman movies. There were models of superheroes such as Batman and the latest Wonder Woman. There was also a replica of the Central Perk Cafe from “Friends”.
At the Forced Perspective Table, I was able to look like more of a giant than my big guy husband. All just a cool optical illusion.
We really enjoyed the Warner Brother’s tour, located in Burbank. It is relatively close to the Walk of Fame (WOF), so we visited it next.
The Walk of Fame
It was a wild and crazy place with many in costumes. Larger than I had imagined, covering approximately 1.5 miles, it had stars on both sides of the street. It was very touristy and not at all grand. It is my understanding that there are literally thousands of stars on the walk. Many gift shops and restaurants line the walk. We had lunch at Subway, which was very good, except it did not have a restroom.
We spent just a little more time at the WOF and then returned to our hotel. I wanted to check out the Mexican neighborhood of El Pueblo, which was just under a mile from our hotel. We walked there and looked around a bit. They had what looked to be good restaurants, but we were not hungry. There was a park with a gazebo around which was music and dancing.
We were ready for an adult beverage and an appetizer by the time we made it back to the hotel though. At the Justice Tavern, it was happy hour and we relaxed there for an hour or so. As we were a bit jet-lagged, we turned in early.
The Getty Center, located in the Brentwood neighborhood, is an amazing place and totally free to the public. The Getty is managed by the Getty Trust and stems from the efforts of the famous J. Paul Getty. Land and buildings were estimated in 2013 at $3.9 billion (not including the art). Visitors must pay for parking and then ride a tram to the buildings. The concrete and steal architecture is complex and modern and features a beautiful garden that is a work of art.
The garden covers 134 thousand square feet and is the work of artist Robert Irwin with water as a focal point.
As beautiful as the buildings and gardens are, they are no more amazing than the art that is displayed in the museum buildings. There is more high-quality art at the Getty than is typically seen in museums of many large cities. For example, van Gogh’s “Irises”, which had a price tag of $53.9 million in 1987 is there. Works by Pissarro, Cezanne, Degas, Sisley, and Monet are displayed in the museum. Sculptures, drawings, and ancient artifacts are also there, but I am always blown away by impressionist art. Below is one of my favorites from the museum.
We had lunch at the museum restaurant. The view was beautiful and the ambience of the restaurant was elegant. This was our most expensive meal while in L.A. The presentation was lovely, but it did not include very much food.
Santa Monica Pier
Our next destination was the Santa Monica Pier. It is at the end of the once vital Route 66. The day was relatively warm, but overcast. The boardwalk has several restaurants, food stands, artists, and souvenir stands. Pacific Park is located there with a dozen rides, including a 130 ft. Ferris Wheel. The pier was awash with people, despite the weather.
Live music was occurring several places along the pier. One group called Lilac performed 80’s rock music. They are a family of brothers and sisters, some of them children. Different music, but it made me think of the Partridge Family. One young lady, Clara Steegs, who performed on the pier as well, had an Alanis Morissette vibe. I liked her so much, we bought her CD. Lastly, a young man danced very robotically. His flexibility and synchronized movements were amazing. We felt very energized being in this area that was so teaming with creative people.
At the end of the pier, fishermen toss their lines. The fish were not biting that day, but there was one very friendly seal that swam by us several times.
We shared a famous Japadog Kurabota Terimayo—kurobota pork, onions, Teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, and seaweed. It was good, except we did not especially like the seaweed on top. However, the rest of the hot dog was heavenly.
We saw the beach and the Pacific, but not at its most beautiful because of the weather. I would love to go back to the pier. I have the feeling it would be a different experience with each visit based on who is performing.
We were craving coffee and were a little hungry upon leaving the pier. We had a light dinner at Blue Plate Taco, that is very near the pier. It was very good.
I cannot say enough good things about the observatory. For fans of the movie, La La Land, it is well-represented in it and other movies are as well. It is a good place to get a shot of the Hollywood Sign and beautiful views of the surrounding area. We saw a live show in the Planetarium and another live show with real life Big Bang types who demonstrated how to make a comet. Very entertaining!
We ended our day in Chinatown. Unfortunately, it was almost dark when we arrived. We had a delicious dinner at Yang Chow, famous for Slippery Shrimp. They served the best fried rice I have ever had. After dinner, we went in search of a Bruce Lee statue. We found it, but it was quite dark by then. The streets were rather confusing, so it was a scavenger hunt of sorts.
Tour of Los Angeles
It was raining on our last full day in the city. To protect us from the elements, we booked a tour with Guideline Tours, which offers a private group tour in a comfortable Mercedes van. The tour covered some of the places we had already been-Downtown, Griffith Park, and The Walk of Fame, but it also included a few movie stars homes, Beverly Hills, and Rodeo Drive, plus a stop at The Farmer’s Market for lunch.
Our guide, Carlos, was very knowledgeable and well-versed in details and current events of the city. The first stop was back at the Observatory. It was Monday and the observatory was closed, which gave us an opportunity for photos without the crowds.
The stop at the Walk of Fame gave us an opportunity to pick up souvenirs for grandchildren. The tour had a stop at the really cool souvenir shop, La La Land.
The tours of the homes was okay, but the homes we saw were from stars years ago who have passed away. We saw the entrances of some big stars homes, but you were really just seeing a gate. I can understand though, they deserve their privacy. We traveled briefly through Rodeo Drive. It was pretty elegant.
Sadly, we were not aware of seeing anyone remotely famous.
Our tour ended with my favorite part, The Original Farmer’s Market. It began as an oil field, but is now a trendy place with shops and wonderful restaurants. We had Brazilian food at Pampas Grill and it was fabulous! You pay a standard price per pound based on the meat that is chosen and you choose sides from a buffet. Inexpensive and delicious!
It was quite rainy and cold after our tour, so we stayed at the hotel the rest of the day, relaxing and getting ready to travel home the next day.
We visited The Original Pantry for breakfast before our fight home. The pancakes taste just like my homemade and I make great pancakes. They give you an unbelievable amount of food for a very reasonable price. It is an L. A. landmark with 24 hour operations since 1924. The service was great and we loved the restaurant.
This trip was a wonderful break from the cold weather at home. I felt that we had seen most of what we wanted in L.A. so I was not too sad to leave, but I would like to return someday.
So long, La La Land!