First stop - Santa Monica pier. This place has it all - giant wharf, carnival rides, rustic buildings and signage, gorgeous beach and colourful characters all mixed in. I honestly felt a sense of deja vu while we were there; I'm sure Santa Monica pier has been used in countless films before and it was weird to be there.
We wandered along the beach stopping where Muscle Beach used to be located and then over to Venice Beach where the new Muscle Beach is. Make no mistake, old or new, Muscle Beach had its fair share of leathery older men in Speedos pumping iron in the sunshine. It was so cliche and for that I loved it!
After strolling on the beach we booked ourselves in on a VIP tour that would take us around L.A. well into the evening ~ it was the easiest, cheapest, safest and smartest bang for our buck considering the time frame we had to work with.
So what did we see? Well we started with downtown L.A. which included such landmarks as the Staples Centre (where Michael Jackson's funeral was held), the Disney Concert Hall and various office towers used to film Superman 2, the Die Hard movies and True Lies.
Next we took a tour up Mulholland Drive to a lookout point. We had the city of L.A. at our feet including the Hollywood concert bowl. And just over our shoulders was the most iconic sign you can ever hope to see in L.A.....the Hollywood sign! Nothing ever quite prepares you for the first time you get to see it.
Universal Studios was the next stop on our tour and although the theme park was closed, we had ample time to wander around the rest of the grounds and take in a Pinks chili cheese dog (just opened on April 19th by Betty White).
No L.A./Hollywood tour is complete without hitting Sunset Boulevard. We strolled the Walk of Fame, we put our hands in the cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre (my hands fit Betty Grable's), we saw the haunts of Marilyn Monroe, where John Belushi died and George Clooney's restaurant. But we weren't done yet. Next we drove through posh Beverly Hills and got a brief tour of homes where Carey Grant, Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe used to live (apparently stars don't live in Beverly Hills anymore). We finally wrapped things up on classic Rodeo Drive. Everything was closed but we still gazed in the windows of the shops longing for Louis Vuitton, Hermes, DKNY and Chanel.
Finally on Tuesday we had to face the fact that we were returning home. We had left Calgary in chaos with the snowstorm and got lulled into a false sense of complacency in L.A., stocking up on Vitamin D and getting sunburned. Imagine our surprise (or for me lack thereof) to discover yet another snowstorm had just finished blowing through when we arrived back home. Oh well, we had our sunny vacation and even though reality might be a bit colder than we had hoped, it's always nice to come home after adventuring!