Emerging from the crowded LAX airport, I wondered how my Uber driver would ever find me amidst the thick line of buses and cars pulled close to the sidewalk. However, the driver seemed skilled at such things, and somehow picked me out of the crowd based on my description “wearing all black, with a backpack.” (By the way, that’ll most likely be my regular outfit description for the next four months).
From the airport, I headed to Santa Monica, and spent time wandering around the Promenade with an old friend of mine, a California native. The area reminded me of Lincoln Road in Miami – picturesque, lushly green, great for people watching, and lined with shops that ranged from quaint to high-end.
From there, I headed to my Airbnb at check-in time, which was located right downtown. I was delighted at the airy, sunny room overlooking the city skyline.
After coffee and dinner with another friend, I headed back to my Airbnb. It was a clear night, and I still had to wait for my sister Blair to arrive, so I headed up to the best part of the apartment – the rooftop pool. Though it was too cold for swimming at a breezy 50 degrees fahrenheit (10 degrees celsius), it was absolutely beautiful up there. I spent quite awhile gazing out across the city, taking in the glowing lights and the crisp night air.
It was the perfect end to my first day in Los Angeles.
The next day, Blair and I got up early and got coffee together. From there, we parted ways, as she was in L.A. for a beauty convention and I was there just for exploring.
First, I wandered through the downtown area, which was rather quiet, as it was about 7 a.m. on a Saturday.
After a few hours of that, I decided to request an Uber and head to the typical Hollywood Boulevard scene – just to say that I had been there.
I walked quite a lot of the Hollywood Walk of Fame – at first determined to peruse every star – but soon realized that walking with my head down for so long wasn’t how I wanted to spend my visit. The stars go on, and on… For much longer than I had anticipated.
And so, I walked up and down the boulevard, taking in a completely different scene than the serene downtown one. Here, there was noise and crowds and people everywhere. Every few feet, extremely pushy salespeople would shove flyers at you, loudly exclaiming that you needed to go on their tours. “It’s the last seat left!” many of them shrieked. At first I would smile and politely decline. By the end of my visit, I would stomp past them, resolutely letting them know that I would not be bullied into taking the flyers that they were pushing into my face.
In front of the Chinese Theater, there were throngs of people. I wanted to find the place that the Harry Potter stars had done their footprints and handprints, but soon decided that it wasn’t worth the pushing and crowding.
Many people dressed quite convincingly as iconic movie characters were milling about on the fringes of the crowds. Though I knew better than to stop and show any interest in them, something that I noticed and thought hilarious was that all of them were holding conversations – in character – with completely unrelated characters. For example, Jack Sparrow was having an argument with Ironman, over which would win a fight.
I decided on a bit of a whim to go into Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I had never been inside one, and it seemed an amusing activity. Standing in line, I began to reconsider. Was it worth the $20 ticket? Couldn’t I spend that on something much more worthwhile in Europe? But then they were calling for the next person in line – me – and I ended up with a ticket in hand.
Surprisingly, the museum was fairly empty. In many, or even most, of the rooms, I was the only (real) person there.
A few minutes in, I was very glad that I had decided to come in. It was much more fun than I was expecting! The wax figures were incredibly lifelike, so much so that I felt a bit strange going up so close to them and staring into their expressive eyes.
In one room, a wax figure was positioned against a wall. I walked up closer, wondering which star he was supposed to be – he didn’t look familiar at all. Then he looked up at me, and I turned away, startled. That’s how lifelike the figures were – you started mistaking them for real people, and vice versa!
After the wax museum fun was over, I came out feeling happy, and loving all of the photos that I had gotten.
Not so happily, though, was the fact that all three of my camera batteries were dead, and I was supposed to go hiking to the Hollywood Sign in an hour.
I quickly found a coffee shop and charged 1.5 batteries, before I was picked up by my cousin Molly. We had quite a time trying to find our way to Griffith Park, and then wrestling our way into what was apparently the last parallel parking spot in the area.
Thankfully, Molly was familiar with the park and the trails, and had a general idea of which way to go. Without her, I probably wouldn’t have found the sign. In fact, there were even signs stating “No Access to Hollywood Sign,” when that was actually the way that we were supposed to go.
We started the hike, and pretty soon had reached a fairly high altitude. I was amazed by how beautiful everything was. Since childhood trail walking doesn’t count, this was the first hike I had ever really been on. Also, coming from Miami, mountains are certainly still a novelty.
I couldn’t take in enough of the foreign-looking landscape, the sharp drops below (guard rails were sparing), the rolling mountains, and the hazy views of the city in the distance.
After about an hour, we finally reached the top. The Hollywood Sign was right there! I hadn’t known exactly what to expect, and was surprised at how close we were. Standing at the top, looking down at the back of the iconic sign, I felt exhausted, but in a thrilling sort of way. And right then, I fell in love with hiking, and decided that this would be the first of many.
After the Hollywood Sign, Molly and Blair and I headed out to Venice Beach. I was at first very disappointed that by the time we had fought our way through the traffic and found a place to park, the sun had long since gone down, and it was quite dark outside.
However, walking out over the pier, I found that the floodlights and my amazing camera still allowed me to take some great photos. Though we couldn’t see it, the camera picked up the last colors of the sunset.
Having grown up on the east coast, I had never seen the Pacific Ocean. I was impressed by the large waves, and how loud they were.
After that, Blair and I were both beyond tired. We got back to our Airbnb and collapsed into bed, asleep in minutes.
Unfortunately, the next day – our final day in the city – was cold, incredibly windy, and raining. Even for Blair, who is more acclimated to the cold than I am, didn’t even want to think about venturing outside. We looked for museums in vain, as most were closed on Sundays.
As a result, I caught up on editing Youtube videos and writing this blog post, and Blair and I (of course) had coffee, and spent our last few hours together before we parted ways for the next few months.
I flew out of LAX later that night, jetting off on a one-hour flight north to San Francisco.
Watch my L.A. vlog on Youtube!
see more photos here – https://www.facebook.com/travellight21/posts/1222897037725971