Posted by: TomA | 14 May 2007

Days 15 & 16: Los Angeles

First thing to notice about LA is the smog. Hills and skyscrapers in the not so distant future just disappear into this thick, grey smog. Unpleasant. Second thing is the sheer volume of traffic and the sheer size of the city, which makes getting anywhere a huge pain.

We stopped at Laguna Beach (above) at Becky’s request to see the real Orange County. Gruesome is all I can describe it as. It was everything we’d imagined/feared: especially the number of tiny, pampered dogs covered in bows, ribbons and expensive sparkly things. The people weren’t much better… An ice-cream and a quick walk amongst the vain was all we needed, before the lengthy walk back to the car.

Newport Beach was just one, sprawling retail estate with a beach, while Venice Beach (above and below), supposedly the freak show of LA, felt wholesome and fun, far less creepy than expected. In fact, it felt more like a tacky seaside town in the UK than LA (apart from the busy basketball courts – very LA…). Good fun though.

You can, below, just about make out the hills in the (not very) distance, through the smoggy air that fills LA.

Our hostel is gruesome. We’ve been lucky in staying in some really nice places, but this is fear. It used to be a retirement home until all the old dears pegged it, it closed, and without any sort of refurbishment became a hostel. They have gone as far as taping over the panic buttons but little further… Institutional, cold and weird.

Parking is a pain here and seriously expensive. It’s cost us $50 already; we’ve been here less than 24 hours. You’re not allowed to walk anywhere, and if you have the cheek to think you can park in the “general” car park and walk to another store, you’ll pay through the teeth for it.

Hollywood is also creepy. The Walk of Fame is full of people pushing tours to see the celebrities [old] homes in Beverly Hills, further down it descends into sleaze. The Hollywood sign is just visible through the smog.

We popped in to see the Scientologists, who have a big presence here. L. Ron Hubbard is bloody everywhere – his name is on every gallery, museum and chapel it seems. We looked at their little exhibition space, avoided being brainwashed, and were slightly disappointed by the tameness of what they had on show. Tom Cruise was on a permanent video loop (sadly not live) and nowhere to be seen was there talk of Xenu, aliens or atomic warfare. Why you’d pay £100,000 to find out the secrets when you could Google it or watch the BBC documentary the other night, I’m not sure…

LA. Can’t really see what’d draw you here to live. Beverly Hills is a whole different world, one we just drove past, with, as you’d expect, grossly over the top and luxourious houses; even then, you’ve got to put up with driving through the rest of the place and the smog.

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