Los Angeles on the Doorstep: Painting the Town Red (+ Famous Places)

On Saturday morning, I was the first one rolling out of bed - when the alarm got off at 7.15 am - which is technically kind of late for me these days. (Some of you might shake their heads in astonishment now.)

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My three other roomies for the night were still pretty sleepy and so I occupied the tiny bathroom (definitely not the most modern one, let me tell you) for a mere 10 minutes before the rest of the crew had no other choice but eventually get up and embrace the day, one after another. I felt wide awake, though, excited to see more of LA

Around 8.30 am, we were finally all ready to go get breakfast. I don’t know what we expected but it was rather ‘grab and go’ style. In a little room around the corner we got coffee, juice, cookies and bananas as well as donuts. The latter were good, I have to admit. So, here we go, donuts for breakfast. Not what I usually have (porridge - oatmeal, what they call it here - all the way) but I did enjoy the mouthful of dough, sugar and yummy frosting. A naughty weekend. I told you so. I was bouncing around everyone feeling as if I was the only one that really got a goodnight sleep (I did, as Carsten and Lotte told me afterwards…my earplugs are magical).

Now, as for ouraccommodation, we stayed at the  Hollywood Budget Inn on Sunset Blvd. We read reviews before we booked a room and those weren’t very promising. Eager to take the risk (and not being able to resist the price), we made our reservation. Well, the location, a couple blocks from the Walk of Fame, was definitely a thumb up. 

When we arrived the night before, however, we were confronted with a rather ran down place, sheets that didn’t smell that clean, filthy floors and a teeny tiny bathroom. Yet, towels and bath products were available - a plus. Well, we didn’t want to make this a spa weekend, did we? Thus, we only needed a place to sleep (without bedbugs, of course). 

The bottom line is that you get what you pay for. We had a spacious room, we all fit in, had hot water and even a fridge. We spent the two days painting the town red anyway, so that was alright for just two nights. $150 on Sunset Blvd., which is a good starting point? I believe some of you must have seen worse hotels. (And so we slept with the towels over our pillows…)

Paramount Studios

After our morning dose of caffeine - C. was the one who doesn’t drink it, so he actually had a hard time waking up ;-) - we all hopped in the car, the sun was out, and made our way over to the Paramount Studios. Lieke was eager to go and so were we after she suggested it. It was $50 per person but we figured this would be a ‘need to do it once’ thing. So we were all in. 

Before out lovely tour guide - born and raised in LA with the whitest of teeth - met us, we strolled around, read a little about the Paramount history and were getting into the filmmaking mood. 

We even got to keep our passes. Well, I mean, I paid $50 bucks for it. Right?

This is the mask from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that Brad Pitt wore. It looks so real, don’t you think? Amazing what they can do nowadays. 

And here’s one of my favorite actors: Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. What a great movie. 

We were surrounded by film music and costumes and honestly, I couldn’t wait for the tour to start. It might be a very touristy thing to do, but who cares?

And then we were off. 

We - this was 8 people in total, so it was a intimate atmosphere - jumped on a golf cart. We all introduces ourselves and made a first stop at the original entrance. 

Photo time. Naturally!

Moving on.

Our guide (shame on me, forgot her name) gave us an insight about productions, film settings and so on and so forth. 

We also went to the theatre where screenings are held and even the public can sometimes come watch movies and then fill out an evaluation form, so directors know what they have to change, last minute, to make it more appealing and thus successful. (Note: The chairs are so comfy!)

The site is very big and almost a whole world in itself, with dry cleaners, hair dressers, a warehouse for props and with furniture to choose from. 

This is where the ‘stars’ chill in-between takes. 

We also stopped at this famous bench from Forrest Gump

This is the water tank. They don’t really use it anymore because of the drought in California, however, it is used to fake ocean scenes and takes about a whole day to fill up. SO much water! Put some bubbles in and you have the perfect setting. That simple. 

We then arrived in New York, Soho. What a remarkable resemblance. 

We also escaped to Chicago. 

All those settings are technically empty from the inside. Directors can rent those sets and then put in whatever they need for the shoot. 

And then, all of a sudden, we spotted the Hollywood sign. As if this would be normal. You know, just casually strolling around Paramount Studios and suddenly having this view. NO biggy. Hello, Hollywood!

You see it on TV, in movies, talk about it. And yet, when you find yourself confronted with it, it seems kind of normal. Is it just me? Weird. 

After everyone, excitedly, got their cameras out and happily snapped away, we made a pit stop at the props warehouse. 

All the fun things that were used in specific movies. 

One thing scared the shit out of me, when I was wandering around: a coffin with a real looking dead person in it. Heck! This got my blood pumping for a couple minutes. 

After two hours, the show came to an end. Been there, done that - this, we could now tick off the list but I am glad we did the tour. 

We had lunch at Astroburger (tell me about fast food, I was SO off my routine, but I was also SO guilt-free :-D ), mainly also because they have a vegetarian menu - good for Lotte. 

We messed around with our fries and burgers and hopped back in the car to…see dead people!? (This sounds bad.)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Yes, a cemetery can indeed be an attraction. I didn’t know this until…then. It seems a bit macabre, but people actually sleep and chill there!!!

I assume it’s not that appropriate to post pictures with tombstones in it, so I tried to capture other things. Like the litte chap above. 

It is actually a pretty place. Yet, the feeling that this is a graveyard we walked on made me feel being a wee bit unethical. 

Anyway, it’s commercialized as many other things in Los Angeles and the U.S. at large. Whether that’s a good or bad thing one can debate about. It was interesting to see this one, though. 

Mulholland Drive

This is one of the scenic drives with many stops and lookouts along the way, which sure make for good picture spots. 

We drove through the Hollywood Hills with the most spectacular views. 

What wasn’t that spectacular was my stomach, which was causing trouble because of the windy road. Will this ever stop? Anyway, I somehow survived. 

Can I buy this house, incl. the pool? DAMN! This is something. 

We stopped for a mini shoot. 

Eventually, we reached Griffith Park, where we parked the car and embarked on an unexpected hike up a steep hill. 

Griffith Observatory

Here comes my favorite part of the day. Hiking up was quite exhausting, but the views unbeatable (we took a really weird way, literally away from the beaten path).

And there it was, the famous Hollywood sign. Each letter is about four storeys tall. Doesn’t look like it, huh? People should see it from far away. I don’t even know why it’s so famous, it’s just letters and metal and metal plates and whatnot. But that’s what it is: popular, attracting thousands and thousands of people, an LA landmark. 

What amazed me the most was the sunset. (I know, I have quite a bit of a thing for those.)

LA was tinted in golden light. 

The Griffith Observatory was buzzing that evening. It was mild and everyone wanted to have a pice of the sunset, eagerly trying to capture it. 

Not too bad of a view. I understand why this is hyped as the place to beat dusk. It’s super romantic if you ask me - minus all the people around but oh well. 

I could have stood there forever and dreamed my life away. This was something magical. It’s an indescribable feeling I had, of freedom, happiness, thirst for adventure when standing on top of the Observatory…

…watching the cotton candy skies above and the mega city at out feet. 

LA is massive. About 18 million people? I think this might be about it. 

One last look, showing off…

…and then the sun was gone. 

Meanwhile, we were reaching for the stars. 

We walked all the way back down in the dark. America is definitely car nation, as I like to call it, and so we were technically the only ones hiking down. This time, we took the easier - but also longer - way down and were on the road for a good 30 minutes or so. But who minds a bit of walking? ‘Active’ is the key word, folks. 

Being quite hungry and continuing the naughty weekend, we had high-class dinner at Pizza Hut.

Stuffed, we went back to the hotel room before deciding to go for a night stroll. 

Walk of Fame

It was only until that evening when we realized this famous site was just around the corner. 

And so we grabbed our bags one last time that day to hit the Walk of Fame. 

Hooters. Naturally. Is everyone still going crazy about this? It was the first time I actually saw one in real life. There’s a first time for everything. 

And then the lowriders. You serious? I definitely had to grin when seeing those guys rolling up and down the street all night long, the volume high. They showed off!

Hi there, Mickey!

Ode to Vodka. I had no idea this would be appropriate, but apparently, the Walk of Fame is good friends with him. Who knew?

Walking the Walk of Fame is one of the things to do in LA. However, it’s definitely less glamorous than expected. Sure, there’s a lot of interesting people to watch, many bars and things to see, including street artists. Yet, I somehow imagined it to be … differently. It’s just a street, an entertaining one.  

Most epic Californian governor one could say. 

There we go - most likely one of the most famous stars on the Walk of Fame.

We found ourselves a bar and had a drink - perfect to finish off this adventurous day. 

We all had an incredible time with loads of sunshine and new impressions. California, I do like you a lot. Cannot wait to see more of you. And there still is so much to see in the city of angels in particular. 

However,  I have to say that I am biased towards San Diego (lucky me). 

TELL ME: Have you been to LA before? What did you see and how did you find it?