More Than A Postcard:
When deciding on a place to write about for my first entry, I thought it might be interesting to build on Jax’s story and also write about Los Angeles as a way to show how similar and different a trip to the same place could be. Every person and every moment are unique, and so, even if you go back to the same place more than once, it’s always going to be a new experience. And that’s what I truly love about traveling; there’s always something new to discover, cultures to explore, and people to meet.
Taking Advantage of the City
Having been in love with movies, TV shows, and the world of acting for as long as I can remember, you’d think I would have made it to Los Angeles a lot sooner. Instead, I was in my mid-20s and visiting for work. It was a very different experience than what would be if I were traveling on my own. For one, I’m used to living in hostels when I travel. This time I was living in the famous, and infamous, Beverly Hilton. Staying there, I spent far more time walking around and eating in Beverly Hills than I might otherwise. Yet, I made sure to be a traveler and take advantage of being in this city, of which I had long dreamed.
I’ll fully admit, in the limited time I had for myself, I definitely played the tourist. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I went to the places one might expect in LA but they held meaning for me. They were places I’ve always wanted to go.
Golden Globes, the Missed Opportunity
I arrived in Los Angeles on a Monday afternoon. I had been disappointed because I was originally expected to arrive the day before. Being the middle of January, that meant award season. The Golden Globes were happening that Sunday and not only that, they were taking place in my hotel. I was more than a little bummed that I missed the opportunity to be a groupie for the night but it was cool to see them taking down the red carpet and clearing out the ballroom where the event was held.
Aside from venturing around the city to find some great places to eat with my co-workers, ending up at a variety of restaurants that reflected the diverse cultures of the city, I only had a couple of days for sight-seeing. But that doesn’t mean work wasn’t exciting. I got to go to the E! Headquarters and the Beverly Wilshire (pretty iconic for a Pretty Woman fan). It was in the midst of my work that I had my one celebrity sighting: Ryan Seacrest. In fact, it was more than a sighting. I actually got to meet him while preparing for an event; he was kind and even took a few moments to chat with me. (He’s shorter in person!)
When I was able to take a break during the day, I had three main priorities: Santa Monica Pier, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the Hollywood sign. Oh, and I wanted to eat at In-n-Out. I was told I could get the best burgers and fries ever there. Like Jax, I was unimpressed.
Adventure in Santa Monica
I had some of Wednesday off, and so a coworker and I ventured out to Santa Monica. We had a late breakfast on the patio of The Georgian Hotel where I was struck, not for the first time nor the last, by the architecture of many of the buildings in this city. The remnants of old Hollywood that were all around me. As a kid who grew up watching old movies, it was pretty cool to think about all the greats that maybe once stood in that same spot.
We walked around Santa Monica, taking in the gorgeous weather and beautiful views. Even in the middle of January, it felt like a perfect spring day. People were out and about, taking their lunch outside, working out, biking, rollerblading, doing anything and everything outside. It seemed one thing the people of LA had mastered was appreciating the outdoors. I think it contributed to how laid back and unrushed everyone also seemed to be.
I remember being excited to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time and to check that off one of my bucket lists: to make it to every ocean. (Two more to go!) We walked along the path until we finally made it to the pier. I don’t remember how long we spent there or really what I did. But I remember it was calming, out on the pier, with the ocean surrounding me. A perfect place for reflection.
We didn’t have a lot of time. Everything I did for me while in Los Angeles was only a sampling of the city but energizing nonetheless.
Making Our Way to Hollywood
On Friday, I also had a short window of time to be a tourist. Luckily, two of my co-workers were on board, and we made our way into Hollywood, taking in the city and the neighborhoods along the way.
We had one mission: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. For me, this was always a dream destination. To see the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and roam about the handprints of legends such as Paul Newman and Natalie Wood, among dozens of others, meant everything for that girl who had grown up idolizing their performances.
This was, of course, one of those places overrun with crowds and tourists and people dressed up as characters trying to get you to pay for a picture with them. I didn’t mind this time because I was exactly where I wanted to be. I spent some time doing what everyone does and placing my hands in the hands of celebrities, seeing how well I matched up. It was cheesy, maybe, but I didn’t care.
Not far from the Chinese Theatre is what was then known as the Kodak Theatre. It’s not much to look at but when you think about the fact that the Academy Awards are held there every year, it becomes a lot more interesting. If it hasn’t been apparent, in addition to movies and TV shows, I have always loved award shows. I have watched them for as long as I can remember every single year. And I’m sure on occasion, as a kid, I even practiced giving my own acceptance speech. So, seeing where that happens was another dream come true.
And just around the corner, through the restaurants and shops of an outdoor mall, is probably one of the most iconic signs in the world. Up on the hill, overlooking the city, the sign reminds everyone that they are, in fact, in Hollywood. The sign itself has an interesting history. The short version is that it was originally erected in 1923 and read “HOLLYWOODLAND” and would even light up. The “LAND” was eventually removed when repaired in the 1940s. And over the years since, it completely deteriorated into an extremely dilapidated state until a public campaign in the late 1970s led to nine donors (some famous) paying for one letter each. Though just a sign, it’s hard to imagine the city without this historic landmark. And hard to imagine visiting without at least one sighting.
But our short window was coming to a close, and it meant my time as a tourist was as well. I knew going in I couldn’t see everything. I set some priorities, kept sight of my scheduled, and found a way to make it all work. It wasn’t a lot of time for exploring but it is a good example of how to turn your work trips into an unforgettable experience.
Los Angeles is truly a melting pot of so many cultures and people, and it’s the better for it. Aside from the gorgeous weather, laid back atmosphere, and old-Hollywood relics, it’s a city bursting with people who are trying to find their way. Like the man in Pretty Woman says, “Everyone who comes to Hollywood has a dream.” You can feel it. And as someone with her own dreams, it was inspiring. One day, I’ll make it back there. Maybe for good.