Travel Guide | California

#UKLizi: California, Here We Come

English Girl Meets California.

“Beverley Hills, that’s where I wanna BE!” Yeah, you sing it Weezer. Because this is exactly how I felt after my time in Los Angeles.

Beverly Hills image

Dazed and confused from the Vegas overnight bus (and after a very undignified train station tramp-nap), we stumbled onto the 6am train to to Hollywood Boulevard. And there it was, (literally) across the road: the International Youth Hostel. Our base camp, as it were, for the next few days. We’d read up some reviews (HostelBookers and HostelWorld are great for this)  Hostels offer reasonable prices  and #SICK locations around America and abroad.

One thing I should warn you of is that the majority of hostels don’t allow checking in before noon earliest. This is a total pain after an overnight bus, as you’re left in a sort of dutty limbo. All you want to do is take a shower and a quick catnap, but the most they’ll let you do is dump your bags and sit on the floor somewhere. We got around this by asking where the restrooms were, sneaking in a shower (well, the wet hair was probably a bit of a giveaway) and forcing ourselves to sightsee straight away so we didn’t crash too hard.

Celebrity House Tour image

Celebrity House Tour

So, once considerably cleaner, we headed to iHop on Sunset Boulevard for breakfast (these are dotted all over the states). iHop , it’s like a fast food restaurant – primarily serving breakfast foods (at any time of day) – but you are seated. So the staff were rushing around so fast to keep up with the rapid turnaround, but they were all still incredibly polite and gracious. I would recommend it. You can grab the usual full English stuff, but the options also include colourful omelettes, cinnamon porridge, stacked pancakes or a fresh fruit salad. There’s something for everyone, basically, and it won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Beverley Hills image

Beverley Hills

California image

For our first day, we really bought into the tourist thang, and booked onto a ‘Celeb Homes’ tour. It was surprisingly interesting and is a great way to explore tonnes of the Hollywood area quickly. You see the Hollywood sign, the famed Hollywood High School (attended by the likes of Elvis), the heart of the beautiful Beverley Hills, the Playboy Mansion  (one for the boys) and – the story which I found of most interest – the street corner upon which Brad Pitt found fame. The story goes: Brad was working in a small restaurant and volunteered to dress up as a chicken one day to drum up some custom for the place. He got so into dancing around like a chicken – made such a scene – that he caused a huge traffic jam of entertained onlookers. Lucky for Mr. Pitt, one of the onlookers was a big-time Hollywood film director, who was so impressed he handed over his card and insisted they meet. So, they met, and totally hit it off; one single week later Brad Pitt was cast in Thelma and Louise.

View and image of Hollywood Hills & Downtown L.A.

View of Hollywood Hills & Downtown L.A.

On the actual Boulevard, you really have to just wander and take it all in. Of course, there are all of the Walk of Fame stars beneath your feet, the world-renowned hand prints (outside the Chinese Theatre, in case you wondered) and countless people dressed as larger-than-life movie characters (no tip = no photo, obvi). You’ve got to check out the Hard Rock Café for dinner or a cocktail – you get a free glass with the largest size drink (although you do have to also get it home without it smashing!). Totally made worth it though by our unflappably cheerful waiter: Coco (no, not a clown).

Hard Rock Café, Hollywood Boulevard  image

Hard Rock Café, Hollywood Boulevard

If you get the chance, hop on the 704 to Santa Monica beach for a chilled out day. It’s just so nice there. The bus journey has a TV playing healthy eating adverts seemingly non-stop; nothing like a constant reminder that we shouldn’t have consumed all that junk food and all of those cocktails yesterday…! But yeah, stay until the evening to watch the sunset on the boardwalk and check out the sign marking the end of Route 66 in the dusky light. But watch out for the buses at this time of night, loads of them stop running around 8pm so you might need to re-work your route, plus you’ll get lots of – let’s just say, characters – on buses, particularly as it gets a little later. N.B. If you just so happen to be stranded in Santa Monica late and night and just so happen to be reading this, get the no. 4 bus back and walk the few blocks straight back onto Hollywood Boulevard.

Another low-cost daytime activity is to see a chat show. There are guys on the Boulevard constantly trying to sell you tickets (“JT for $75 dollars, anyone?”) but you can snap up some free tickets if you play your cards right. We got offered free tickets to see The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (no, I hadn’t heard of him either) and figured we had nothing to lose. All you do is turn up at the studios at your allotted time and snaffle the free candy used to ‘hype up’ the crowd. After a couple of entertaining warm-up comedy acts, Mr. Ferguson himself came on – joined by celebrity guests – and we were pleasantly surprised. It was pretty funny and an interesting experience to see how it’s all put together…and just how much encouragement the audience needs to laugh at every single joke. Go for Jimmy Kimmel if you can – it’s filmed right next to the hostel but we just left it too late to try and bag tickets to his show.

Santa Monica beach and image of the beach.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica image at night

Santa Monica

As we headed back, begrudgingly, for our final evening, we were greeted by a gaggle of screaming girls and a helicopter circling the night sky. Suddenly clicking what was going on, we rushed up to the top floor of our hostel and hung ourselves as far out the window as possible. “He was supposed to start two hours ago!” an overexcited girl at our hostel managed to stutter. And then, we caught a glimpse of the back of his (trilby-adorned, of course) head. It was him. The trousersnake.

We shot out of the hostel faster than Mr. Bolt himself, and joined the thousands of onlookers lining every nook and cranny of the Boulevard. I don’t even particularly like Justin Timberlake, but the atmosphere was contagious and I was a hardcore superfan after his concert. Aaah it was so good. Although – granted – we couldn’t really see him (considering we were just outside of the purpose-erected barriers), we could see the entire light show and hear every single dreamy note. It was the perfect way to end our time in Hollywood; I only wish now that I could take back the night (ha, awful, I know).

Image of Hollywood walk of fame.

Home to the rich and famous, The Hills MTV show, seemingly every film set ever used, Elvis’s high school and Brad Pitt’s life-changing street corner, Hollywood really is a unique little bubble. It’s more in your face than you have ever imagined. It seems to be one of those places where something is constantly going on; whether it be a spontaneous JT concert or a load of giant plastic chips being dumped on the Boulevard (and later stolen and sighted at various points on the Subway). But it was Beverley Hills – with its palm tree-lined streets and beautiful, extensive mansions – that really stole my heart. And indeed Weezer, it now really is, exactly where I want to be.

End of Route 66 and image of Santa Monica

End of Route 66, Santa Monica

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.

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