2014 US Southwest — Los Angeles, CA


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The famous LA Freeway.

WHEN:  January 26 – January 28, 2014

We started our trip early on Sunday, January 26.   Our first stop was Los Angeles, CA.   Initially we decided to go to LA for an evening to visit my DH’s cousin, Phil.  We decided to add on a couple of more days to see a few sights in the event that we would regret not doing so.  We had dinner all planned until Phil sent my DH an email saying that he had the flu.  Although Phil assured us that he was feeling better, we thought best not to risk fate and opted to keep our visit with Phil to a nice, long phone conversation.  It was the start of our trip as one can not be too careful about infectious illnesses.

Travel time from Santa Clara, CA to Los Angeles:  5 hours and 7 minutes via I-5 N for 345 mi.  Of course, we stopped for lunch along the way.  We also switched driving duties — it is only fair.

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View of the San Luis Reservoir a long Route 152 — lovely but way below proper levels for this time of year for Northern California.

Hotel:  BEST WESTERN PLUS Carriage Inn, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91411-3438.   Lovely hotel!  Considering that it was next to the I-5 freeway, it was fairly quiet.  It wasn’t convenient to any sights, but the price was right and access to the highway allowed a painless escape route out of LA.  Yeah, that mattered.

Activities:   At the risk of sounding like a baby — I hate driving in LA.   So does my DH.   Taking a couple of guided tours of the area sounded very appealing, so that is what we did!   Here are some pictures of our days seeing the sights of LA:

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We booked Starline Tours #2A — Grand Tour of Los Angeles & Movie Stars’ Homes. They were the only tour company around that would pick us up at our hotel.

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We started our tour at the entrance to the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars are held every year.

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Our first view of the Hollywood Sign.  I told my DH that if we took a shot of vodka every time our tour guide said “And there is the Hollywood sign”, one of three things would happen; (1) we would have become the tour’s best entertainment, (2) become a major disruption and be thrown off the bus, or (3) get our own reality show.  What?  It could happen!

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The Chinese Theatre (with all the hand- and footprints in cement) was right down the street.

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We went up and down Sunset Blvd numerous times…

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…Beverly Hills too…

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…and Rodeo Drive…

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…twice (once to see the stores and once more to see the cars parked outside the stores).

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Time to go downtown! I wonder, does anyone ever go to downtown LA … willingly?

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Nah, I don’t think that anyone goes to downtown LA unless you are on a tour. Looks like Chicago.

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OMG — are they shooting a movie?  Is that John Stamos?

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In the heart of downtown LA is El Pueblo and Olvera Street, historical landmarks with lots of shopping opportunities!

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On the way back to the Kodak Theater to catch our second tour, we stop to take a peek at the La Brea Tar Pits.

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Our tour of the stars’ homes started at the top of Mulholland Drive — a road in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains. The road is featured in innumerable movies, songs, and novels. For this tour, my DH and I are crammed into an open-air jeep with six other tourists enduring the cold night air. Our tour guide gave us blankets and turned on the the floor heaters — they didn’t help…

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..still, we had a nice view of LA from here!

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According to the website, during the Movie Stars’ Homes Tour we may see the homes of such stars as Simon Cowell, Katy Perry, Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres, Bruce Willis, and Jennifer Aniston. I am sure we did but mostly we saw high fences, bushes, and trees. I guess I would do anything to keep looky-loos like me from invading my privacy too. Still, I was disappointed because I was cold and didn’t bring a hat and gloves!  And my DH was very quiet — “that can’t be good” I thought.

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The Cloud House — one rich movie star’s attempt to piss-off the rich movie star next door. Still, an interesting home that is worth millions more than it should be worth because of that vindictive rich movie star — whose name  I forget.

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I’m cold and my DH is miserable! Still, you have to see sunset on Sunset Blvd at least once in your life!

On our last day in LA, we opted against going to the expensive, crowded, and possibly over-rated  Universal Studios.  We have both been there before and wanted a new studio experience.    This time, we took a tour of Paramount Studios.   It was fantastic!  Such history – I am a sucker for all the old movies made during the day when movie stars punched timecards just like any other working stiff!   This place felt personal, you know…

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Paramount Studios is a film and television production/distribution studio. It is consistently ranked as one of the largest (top-grossing) film studios in the world.  It was a thrill to be here and walk the same pathways walked by Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, George Clooney…    Need I go on?

Food Memories:  Just for the record, we eat nowhere without first consulting Yelp.   That is just how we roll.

Apricot Tree Inn ( 46290 W Panoche Rd, Firebaugh, CA 93622) — American Diner.  Our first rest stop of our trip.   It was quaint with all lunch boxes of every type and shape in every nook and cranny of the place.   The service was good, the food was good, and the Apricot Muffins were to die for!

veStation (14435 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423) — Vegan, Asian-Fusion.   We were thinking of having something light and the spring rolls here hit the spot.   Parking was problem, we had to park in the strip mall across the street.

Crave Cafe (14504 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403)  — Creperies, Breakfast & Brunch, Coffee & Tea.  Just a short walk from veStation.   We shared the Strawberry Banana Nutella Crepe — it was huge and good!   I had the best Mocha Cafe of my life here!

Farmer’s Market @ the Grove (6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036) — Lunch stop of StarLine tours.   OMG, the food options here are huge!    I had a hot dog.   My DH tried the Brazilian Steak.  Both were excellent!   We dined next to an advertising executive and his wife who told us all about LA — really nice people here!

Ramen Yamadaya (15030 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403) — Japanese.  I could never turn down a good bowl of noodles!   This was a good bowl of noodles!   The broth was porky and the noodles were plentiful!   This was nearby veStation so we knew where to park this time.

California Chicken Cafe (6805 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038) — American.   Our tour of LA gave us a good idea of where things were.   So when we wanted a quick lunch before our tour of Paramount Studios, we had a pretty good idea of where this gem was (the GPS was helpful too).  We came here a bit before the lunch hour crunch and were able to get a seat — we are so smart some times!   We shared half a chicken and a side salad — it was excellent!

Napoli’s Pizza Kitchen (14831 Burbank Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91411) — Pizza.   My DH feels the same way about pizza that I feel about noodles — we gotta have it!   This unpretentious pizza shop does more take-out than eat-in business — we were the only customers in the place!   The pizza was good and the Greek Salad was huge!

Departing Thoughts:  LA needs to be experienced over and over again because it is so large, so diverse, and so surprising!    If you can get beyond the inconvenience of the traffic (it is plentiful and fast) it can be a fun place to hang out for a few days.    A tourist is never allowed to forget that this place is “movie central” and that is what makes LA special in my book!

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