I am back with the part 2 of my Californian adventures.
After a good night sleep, we head up for breakfast. It is going to be a long day, so I stuff myself (omelets, potatoes, bacon, toast, yogurt...)... the typical American style breakfast. It is almost midday when we leave. First stop: Santa Monica, a well-off city by the sea, thriving with stores and galleries. It’s Saturday and everybody's out. We don't stay long and head towards Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey. As we are driving through Venice Beach, the Doors are on the radio. How uncanny... it was Jim Morrisson's hometown.
Marina Del Rey is a yacht man paradise... There are boats, boats and boats again everywhere. From the tiny boat to the big sailboat. Don't have one? No problems, you can buy on the spot. I am wondering to who the big boats are and dreaming of having mine... Captain Mélissa doesn't sound bad and in my head, I'm already sailing through the Pacific. But it is time to see one of the most famous place in Los Angeles, a place associated with priceless indulgence, Fame, Glamour and some teenage TV-show: Beverly Hills.
As we are driving to business-minded Wilshire Boulevard, I can already notice a difference: carefully planned garden, large sidewalks... and all of a sudden, here is the Beverly Hills post-signs. My first steps into one of L.A.'s legend, It is all here: the luxury hotels, the sky-high palm trees, the designers stores... we decide to go park the car and take a walk on Rodeo Drive. I must admit, I am excited... Rodeo Drive is just as expected: full of stores where you won't see any price on the window's item (first of all, it is tasteless, second of all the price could be scary, third of all, people who shop here never ask for the price). And here I am in front of the Versace boutique, admiring the clothes, taking a glimpse of the lucky ones inside. Then I realized... I'm in a different world and feeling a bit uneasy... As we walk down the street, I notice there seems to be only 2 brands of cars in Beverly Hills: BMW or Mercedes (sometimes, the monotony is broken by a Porsche or another sport's car). But I am a bit hungry, so we stop for coffee and a croissant and see people passing by, very distracting. A group Asian ladies who seem in a hurry, are transporting a bunch of orchids, lots of people on their cell-phones, tourists in shorts and local with shopping bags. As the afternoon passes, it is time we drive around some more.
The palm tree-lined Sunset Boulevard is extending before us, on both sides, houses so beautiful it is hard not to gasp. That’s until we reach Bel Air, where my jaw literally drops with houses that look like castles and neighborhoods under special watch.
Bel Air is right next to UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), one of the most famous in the country. The Campus looks great and it HUGE! And the gardens, carefully planned with a variety of trees and flowers. In the building, a physical therapy seminar is going on and I even hear some French spoken here! Aaaahhh... being a student again. But we decide to go back to Bel Air and see some more of the houses.
I didn't buy a "Stars' Map" (how silly) but I'm starting to regret it as I wonder who lives in these humble abodes. As we see all those beauties, I feel more and more detached. No, I'm not envious. My ideal lies somewhere else. I'm thinking of that money that could have a better use... It is now getting dark and we decide to go to Hollywood. On the way, I noticed a thrift shop where they sell studios surpluses. I have to go! Second-hands clothes shops are always mines for discovery. This one is huge, I feel like a kid in a candy store. I end up with a pullover, a shirt and, a long time wish-listed item: a poncho and this one is BIG. I won't be cold during these freezing Chicago winter. And in the distance, the lights of Hollywood are shining bright.
Hollywood Boulevard is a real circus where you can find, not far from the Oscar venues, S & M shops and Mc Donalds. One of my first stars (you know, the "worthy celebrities" have their name imbedded in a star on the sidewalk) is Orson Wells, who is remembered here as a man of radio (after all, he created a panic with his version of "War of The Worlds"). Maybe he has another star for his movie career? It is hard not to look at your feet and check out the name on the stars, which prevents you to see what's going around you. Of course, Hollywood is dedicated to movies so, you I decide to check out the Kodak theatre, which is now he official venue for the Oscars and enraged some actors because the theatre is smaller than the previous one which means, less invitations to the party. The Chinese Theatre is one of the most moving stop. In front of the Theatre, prints of foot and hands of actors and directors. Audrey Hepburn had small feet and was wearing stilettos those days. Jack Nicholson on the opposite... The biggest feet I saw being Denzel Washington's. Further away, Donald Duck left his palms as a mark. Mel Gibson wishes us peace and George Lucas signed along with 6po and R2D2. All of this would be great if there was not that "commercialization" of the area. It is a bit pathetic. And as we are going back to the car, the Hollywood lights fading away, I can only summarize the day as this: yes, the magic is here, I got caught for a moment, mesmerized in part by LA's own "legends". Scratch and little, and you'll find nothing.
To be continued...