Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My American Adventure Part 3 - Los Angeles (Hollywood & Santa Monica)

The final part of my holiday was Hollywood and Santa Monica. We got a late afternoon flight from Las Vegas back to LAX, to maximise our time in Las Vegas.  The flight set off a little late, only because the short haul flights have to land at a specific time at a busy airport like LAX, so they set off late to arrive exactly on time (if that makes sense) and therefore, the flight was quicker because of this which I'm not complaining about.  We had booked the Supershuttle to get from the airport to our hotel in Hollywood as it takes at least 45 minutes, so a taxi would have been expensive.  I think the cost of the Supershuttle was approx. £11 each (booked in advance).  We had to wait about 30 minutes for the minibus and in the end we were the only passengers and boy did our driver complain to us about that (apparently they only get paid per passenger, rather than per trip).   We arrived at our hotel Loews Hollywood in the heart of Hollywood at about 10pm and check in was quick and easy.
We have stayed at Loews Hollywood before and picked it because of its location and the fact that all the tour buses depart from the area. As we did not have a car, this made things so much easier for us to get around.  We were a little worried that we would not be able to afford this hotel, as for the 6 nights we were staying we were being quoted anywhere from £1100 to £1300.  In the end we got a great deal on priceline.com for just over £800 (we did take a bit of a risk as the hotel wasn’t specified when we booked, but we were fairly sure that it was gonna be the hotel that we wanted, or at least in the same area).  We were so relieved when we got the confirmation email that it was Loews Hollywood.

We just booked a standard room this time (the first stay we had found a great deal on a Hollywood Sign view), but we were thrilled to see that we had a great view of the Hollywood Sign, the Griffiths Observatory and Downtown LA.  The rooms are so nice and spacious, the only slight let down was the bathroom, which was not as spacious and did not have a big walk in shower as the Bellagio did.

As it was so late, we just popped out to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre to have a quick look around and get our bearings for the next day.

We decided to use the Hop on Hop Off bus tour for our first 3 days as it goes to a lot of different places we wanted to visit and it only cost $79 (about £55) each.

Day 1 – Hop on Hop Off Tour
We went on the Hollywood and Beverly Hills bus (Red Route) first. We passed by Chateau Marmont, Sunset Boulevard & The Viper Room to name just a few sights and decided to get off near Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.  It was scorching today so it was quite hard work walking up and down Rodeo Drive, but it was so cool to be on such an iconic street that has appeared in so many film and TV shows.  It was early on Sunday morning, so none of the shops were open sadly, but it was pretty quiet so we took loads of photos.  We also saw the iconic Beverly Wilshire Hotel made famous in the movie Pretty Woman, which was at one end of Rodeo Drive.  If we had gone later in the day I would have definitely gone to The Cheesecake Factory in the next street and also to the Paley Centre which is close by as it had a CSI exhibition (sadly it wasn’t open when we were in the area later in the week). 

After Rodeo Drive we stopped off at The Beverly Centre which is a reasonably high end shopping mall.  We were disappointed to find out that the food court was no longer there which meant that we were starving while we were there.  We did some shopping at Sephora & Bath & Body works which made up for the lack of food.  You can check out my B&BW haul here and my Sephora haul here.

Our next stop was The Grove which is a great outdoor shopping place and also a food market.  Here we found the wonderful Honest Beauty store and picked up a few things (check out my haul here).  I also got my hands on the Lorac Pro Palette at Nordstroms.  I wish that we had spent more time here but it was so hot that we wanted to go back to the hotel to rest.  I would definitely recommend going to The Grove if you ever visit LA.

The rest of the day was spent wandering along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, checking out Sephora and Victoria’s Secret at the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Centre near the hotel and eating a wonderful Ice Cream Sundae at Ghirardelli’s across the road.


Day 2
Today we did the downtown loop (Purple Route) on the Hop On Hop Off bus where we saw places such as MacArthur Park which had a lake that was full of massive beach balls.   
We also went back on the Red Route bus and stopped off at LACMA and the La Brea Tar pits.  These were both well worth the trip, the La Brea Tar Pits are so weird, all that tar constantly bubbling to the surface and details of the animals that got caught in the pits.  I think there was a small earth tremor while we were wandering around the pits, but I can’t be sure as no one else reacted to it at all.  I'm not sure what else it could have been though.
Day 3
Still on the Hop on Hop Off Tour Bus (this time the Yellow Route) we made our way down to the beach at Santa Monica.  Again it was another scorching day and we wandered along the iconic Santa Monica Pier.  We tried to walk along to Venice Beach, but it was so hot we gave up and made our way back to Santa Monica to check out the shops and have a great burger at a place I cannot recall the name of.  After spending half a day in Santa Monica, I believe we had a quick pit stop at the Beverly Centre again and then headed back to Hollywood to spend the evening there.  Unfortunately, there were no film premieres at the time we were there (the previous trip we had seen the Bad Grandpa premiere).
The hop on hop off bus tour is well worth doing as it takes you to a lot of the main tourist attractions and you pass loads of minor attractions as well.

Day 4
The next day we had booked the VIP Tour of Universal Studios.  This was easy to get to on the subway as it’s just a few stops away.  The VIP tour starts with a lovely breakfast buffet, so I would advise you to get there early to fill your boots.  We were then introduced to our tour guide and given a rundown of the schedule.  I think there were about 12 of us with our tour guide and there were loads of other different parties with the other guides.  I’m pretty sure we started off with the backstage tour which literally takes you backstage to where loads of filming takes place (The Mindy Project was one).  We got to go on a soundstage for Eva Longoria's new TV show and we were allowed to go on the actual sets which was great (you don’t get to do this if you are not on the VIP tour).  We were also allowed to get off the minibus to wander around some of the outdoor film sets which are used for general backdrops in loads of tv shows and movies.  Sadly we didn’t see any filming on this particular day.  

We also went through the King Kong 3D ride which is amazing.  The Fast & Furious 3D ride had only just opened so we were excited to do this.  I have to say that the concept was great, but it just wasn’t as good as King Kong.  The images were not as sharp.  I still enjoyed it though.  We then went on The Simpsons, before heading for the VIP lunch.  This is another all you can eat buffet which is amazing quality and there is loads of choice.  You won’t go hungry no matter what your dietary requirements are.  

The afternoon was filled up with all the remaining rides including Transformers,  The Mummy, Jurassic Park and Despicable Me.  We also had great seats to a couple of shows.  One of which was Waterworld which is amazing (even though the film is not so good apparently) and the casts interaction with the audience at the start of the show is very funny.

After Waterworld we were then on our own until the park closed, so we went on The Mummy & Transformers again before calling it a very long day.  We left the park, but not before picking up a Giant Donut from the Simpsons area.
We then browsed City Walk and grabbed a slice of pizza and a fro-yo before heading back to the hotel.
Day 5
We had booked a couple of additional tours, A Movie Location tour and City Tour By Night for today.  The Movie Location tour took us around lots of movie locations (does what it says on the tin). Playing clips of the movies that had been filmed in some of the places we went too.  We did find this covered a lot of older movies that we hadn't seen so although it was an interesting tour I wouldn't do it again.  We did get to go inside the Bradbury Building and Union Station which was interesting.  We also went past the hotel which was featured in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts character lived and Richard Gere climbed up the stairs to reach her at the end of the movie.
The Pretty Woman Building
Finally we went on the City Tour By Night.  This was a great experience as there were only about 5 of us on the tour and we went to places we hadn't had a chance to go to before or at least hasn't seen at night.  The highlight was The Griffiths Observatory. We got the opportunity to wander around for 15 minutes and I loved it here.  It was great to take in the views and see LA by night.  I think this tour lasted 4 hours so we did fit in loads.  We also went to a lookout point to view the Hollywood sign as well.

Day 6 
Gutted this was the last day.  We hung around Hollywood for a while and had a bite to eat where I think I had the worst Subway sandwich ever.  It was just piles of fatty meat.  I took one bite and chucked it away it was so bad.  We then decided to head back to Universal Studios to look around City Walk.  We spent a good 3 hours here checking out the shops and heading back to Yogurtland for a fro-yo.  I really loved this place as you got to put whatever you wanted in your bowl, any flavour of fro-yo and any toppings you wanted.  I thought it would cost a fortune but it was really cheap for the amount I put in. I would definitely recommend this place if you get a chance to visit.  

Once done at City Walk we headed back to the hotel to await the shuttle to take us to LAX.  I must admit we got there in plenty of time for our flight, but a couple of Americans both missed their flights as the company obviously hadn't scheduled their pick up for the right times.  I would recommend booking a shuttle to and from the airport as it saves a lot of money, but make sure they schedule your pick up with plenty of time for you to get to the airport in case there are a number of pick ups after you.

The flight was uneventful as I think I dosed off for a lot of it as I don't remember them coming around with the food (who can eat on a plane at midnight).  

I really enjoyed this holiday.  We fit so much in and could still go back and do loads more.  I would definitely recommend LA as a place to visit.  I know many people hate Hollywood, but it is a great base to visit lots of other places.

Hope you have enjoyed reading about my travels.  Part 1 & 2 are here and here if you want to check them out.


Leighlee


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