Sunday, January 28, 2018

Travel through Los Angeles to see Hollywood and Grammys

I was in Miami when a friend of mine wrote to alert me of the annual Grammy awards. And as soon as I read it, without even knowing if I could attend, I ran to a computer to reserve my place. With the fortune of already being in the US on those days, I was able to confirm my attendance to get to Los Angeles. We got up without hurry and called a taxi to get us to the airport.


Day 1: Finally we are going to Los Angeles

We checked our bags and went to have breakfast quietly, bought some food and drink to go. Finally, with more than an hour late, we embarked on the flight that would take us to Los Angeles. After five hours of travel, lunch, snack, dinner, trying to see films each one worse than the previous one, and chatting with the neighbors, we finally landed at 18.30 at the LAX Airport.

From the air I started to get excited with the views. I could not believe it, I had been waiting for more than a year and finally we were in Los Angeles! Five days before the ceremony there was already the Grammys atmosphere at the Los Angeles airport. When there are events of this caliber like Emmys, Oscars, SAGs, Grammys all week there are private parties and concerts.

It took us about an hour to pass the check and collect our bags and we went straight to get one of the shuttel that has a frequency of about fifteen minutes. Shortly after we were in the rental office ready to pick up our car. The issue of picking up the rental car was something that worried me a little. I had read lots of comments that referred to the somewhat aggressive sales techniques that the commercials seemed to have quite frequently.

As we already expected, the sales person informed us that the car we had booked was not available. He accompanied us to the parking lot to show us all the vehicles we could choose from with our reservation but none of them convinced us. So we decided to return to the office to give us a budget to reserve a car of a higher category. But we did not give up, we told him it was a very special trip for us, and finally we got him to lower the price and hire the car with the lowest mileage among all the convertible that were currently in the parking lot.

About 20 minutes later we arrived at our hotel in Santa Monica. We had three nights booked. The first impression of the hotel was very good. We found a spacious room with a small kitchen, located on the ground floor and with entrance from a private patio.

Between the arrival delay time of the flight, the time we lost in changing the car reservation, the time it took to get to Santa Monica from the airport and the check-in at the hotel we were quite late. When we prepared the trip we thought about dedicating this evening to walk around Santa Monica Pier but we almost did not have time. So we decided to go out and buy some food to take to the room in a hot dog stand side of the hotel and rest after the trip. In a few hours we would finally be walking the streets of Los Angeles!

Day 2: Hollywood, Venice and Santa Monica

We got up at 7 in the morning as new. We had some intrigue to know how we would be affected by the jet lag. But the truth is that we slept all night without any problems and we get up full of energy. We had breakfast in the hotel in a small breakfast room with only four tables. We never had to wait more than five minutes, apart from the fact that it was also possible to pick up breakfast to take it to the room.

At 8 o'clock in the morning, we were on our way to our first visit of the day. We were going to see the Hollywood sign! According to the GPS we had about 35 minutes to get there, but the road became eternal. We found works on the highway and we were diverted by another road. This coupled with the traffic at that time of the morning forced us to spend more than an hour and a half of travel. We did not start the day very well.

The address we put on the GPS was Canyon Lake Drive. We take the photos right from the park, with the sign in the background. From what I have read, if you continue up the road there are more viewpoints, but we were satisfied with the views we had from there, which really are very good. With the time we had already lost we could not take much longer in the area.

The next visit of the day was, of course, the Walk of Fame, and the old Kodak Theater (now Dolby Theater). In fifteen minutes we arrived at the Hollywood & Highland Center, a shopping center where we parked the car. It has a direct exit to the Dolby Theater.

We spent more than an hour practically walking the entire Walk of Fame, down Hollywood Boulevard all the way to the junction with Vine Street. Here I insisted on finding Audrey Hepburn. We spent a lot of time looking for stars on the floor. As we did not want to waste a lot of time we bought some food and had lunch while looking for more stars. I had a list of some and it saved us a lot of time not having to go looking for them specifically.

To finish in the area we still needed to see another of the icon of Hollywood, the Chinese Theater.

I liked Hollywood a lot. I had read such bad comments about how dirty and decadent the area was and maybe that's why I was so pleasantly surprised. We returned to the parking lot of the mall and went to Carroll Avenue. The street is full of beautiful houses, with well-kept gardens. We did not stay long and went to our next stop, Olvera Street, or what is the same, the historic town of Los Angeles.

Olvera Street is a pretty picturesque neighborhood that stretches along a street where a Mexican market is there. If you have time you can visit the oldest house in Los Angeles (Avila Adobe). We did not go. If you like Mexican food this is a good place to eat in some of the many restaurants along this street or to shop in the different shops and market stalls that are there. In fact, we regret having gone and not having been able to take more time in Santa Monica, that we liked!

But before finishing the day in Santa Monica we still had to pay a visit. We were going to see Venice and its channels. We parked on the street without any problems and took a walk through the channels while it was late afternoon. When we finally arrived in Santa Monica it was already night. The fact that it was shortly after six in the afternoon did not help us much to take advantage of the days.

Santa Monica was for me had the best of Los Angeles. What we had left of the afternoon we decided to walk along the pier and see the amusement park and all the references to Route 66 in the area. And to end the day we go for dinner and drinks! The restaurant is great. We enjoyed what was left at night and took some souvenirs.

When we were leaving for the hotel we were clear that we would have to go back to the beach. We had not been able to see the booths of the guards, nor the beach in daylight. The next day we would have to get up earlier than expected.

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Day 3: Universal Studios, Warner and Lakers

When we prepared the trip we had the doubt of which park to visit, Universal or the Warner. We have always loved the Friends series. I do not remember the times I will have seen each of the seasons and yet I never get tired. But on the other hand, I had read so much about the Universal Studio tour that I did not want to miss it either.

I have to admit that we do not especially like amusement parks and we had no special interest in spending a full day at Universal Studios as most people do. So we finally decided to visit the two, and spend the time we were at Universal mainly at the Studio tour.

But before we went to Universal we still had something to do. We go back to Santa Monica to see what we had left pending the night before. We parked again in the Pier parking lot but this time for free. I think they did not charge us anything because it was too early.

We took a walk on the beach, and took a few pictures in the light of day. The truth is that for a moment we wanted to stay there the rest of the day lying in the sun, but we still had a lot to do. When we finished seeing Santa Monica (for the second time) we went to Universal. We did not have very clear timetables of the Studio tour because they seem to vary according to the time of year.

When we arrive we are given information with the schedules of all the passes of the Studio Tour and the rest of the shows. Even though we had the idea of ​going on the tour at 10:30 am, when we arrived we realized that there were none. So we took advantage of the free time and walk around the park and take pictures with all the characters we found. We would also have liked to see the Waterworld show, but the first session was just after the Studio tour so we also missed it.

We loved the Studio tour, and only for this is worth visiting Universal. Although we do not like the attractions as we sure enjoy spending a morning in the park. The tour lasts one hour and 45 minutes and is like a movie. The best place to sit is the left side of the train that is from where we have the best views and we can take the best pictures.

We loved seeing the sets and sets of series like "Desperate Housewives", the simulations and special effects, as well as the surprises that we find along the way like seeing a flood in real time or feeling an earthquake while we are in a metro station.

When we left we were left with the desire to go to see the Waterworld show but as I said the schedules did not coincide. So we decided to go to eat at the restaurant set in the Flintstones where we ate some hamburgers and a salad to recover strength for what we had during the day.

Shortly after two o'clock we went to the Warner studios, which is quite close to Universal. Before starting the visit, they give us a video that lasts about twenty minutes about the history. The video is in English. In the screening room we were about 15 people but our surprise came when we picked up the guides to start the tour. We were going to have a completely customized tour for us two alone. Our guide, asked us at all times what we were most interested in visiting to spend as much time as possible.

The visit was great, but the best thing was to be at the Central Perk for more than half an hour and to be able to take a thousand photos in each of the corners of the set. They allow us to be there as long as we were, so we left very happy there. We managed to find ourselves a place and eat some pretty good pizzas at a reasonable price, including drinks.

We continue walking among skyscrapers until our next stop at the Microsoft Theater. It is located in the square of the same name, where the Grammy awards of music are given. And around it has some slabs with the names of the winners of each year in the different prizes, best song, best album etc. Once inside, they gave us the bad news that we could not record or photograph being backstage.

But in the lobby, I could record the guide telling us how the delivery ceremony is basically a long 3.5-hour concert with 30 performances and a parade of artists. It is worth noting that he was not any guide, but was one of the producers of the show.

We spent almost an hour touring backstage and the most interesting thing was to see dozens of platforms with all the instruments of each band or singer that were going to be presented. They told us that the staging of each artist is mounted on 10-20 platforms (with wheels) that they then take and take off the stage in record time.

It was a perfect day and we still had the best. We see a game of Lakers vs Clippers at the Staples Center! In the vicinity of Staples there are lots of parking and we had no problem leaving the car. We had to enter the stadium with the Reflex if we wanted to take pictures. The compact camera was already out of battery because in the morning in Universal we decided to use that because I knew there was a risk of it getting wet.

So when we got into the access control of the Staples and after a quarter of an hour waiting, the security told us they will not allow us to go with that type of cameras to the stadium and that we had to leave it if we wanted to access it. We decided to try again in another access control and this time we found a friendlier watchman who let us pass without problems.

I really would never have imagined that I could have such a good time in an NBA game. The atmosphere in the stadium is a show in itself, with the music, the cameras, and the people. We had a great time even though the Lakers lost. It was one of the best moments of the trip and one of the most remembered since we returned!

But we still had things to see in Los Angeles. We could not leave the city without visiting one of its best known neighborhoods: Beverly Hills. I dine tonight at a typical American restaurant in which at night the dinners are accompanied by a country show. When we arrived I realized that the place was just as I had imagined it. People dined at their tables while a group of cowboys played country music on the stage at the back of the venue.

For dinner, we had two options as the main course, salmon or chicken. At my table, we preferred the salmon and we also liked the garnishes of broccolini and mini-potatoes. And we ended up with the southern strawberry cake. The dessert was not very important, as after enjoying the whole afternoon, we did not care much.

I loved the place! After dinner we went back to the hotel. The town looked beautiful but it was very cold (and it was very windy). Tomorrow we have an appointment with the Route 66, on the way to the Grand Canyon.

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