It had always been one of my dreams to visit the city of angels so that winter break of 2010-2011, I made up my mind to go there. During a volunteer day at a family’s house with autistic kids, I met a girl who just happened to live in Hawthorne and she was more than willing to host me for the whole winter break.
Until now, what I miss most, strangely, is how I fell asleep on the bus looking out the windows into the rain, at the scattered blurred lights of LA downtown at twilight, then woke up again to find a completely different view of dimmer Broadway outside with a suburban atmosphere and palm trees.
My whole first week in LA it was pouring rain, but I just picked up the umbrella and set out to discover the city. First of all was Hollywood because of course, that’s where everyone has to visit. Walk of fame, Sunset boulevard, Kodak theater, Chinese Grauman theater, Madame Tussaud museum, all are within walking distance of each other.
After all the books and articles praising the glamor of Hollywood, this deeply disappointed me. There were no celebrities, no gorgeous lights, no exciting life. Maybe because it was a rainy day, gloomy and depressing. Or maybe Hollywood is actually not the place where celebrities hang out.
Of course I had to take a photo with these lights. I didn’t know it was a thing back then. I just toured the whole LACMA (which was, again, disappointing, because that’s not really my type of art) and when I went out, these lights caught my eyes. Only years later, after watching No strings attached where the characters played by Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher had a date at these lights and after I was subscribed to a bunch of travel blogs did I know this spot was a landmark, a symbol, a point of interest in LA.
Beverly Hills – I expected to see mansions after mansions of movie stars’, but instead just pretty little houses, lines of palm trees, and impressive cars. If I had walked by, say, James Franco’s house, I wouldn’t have known, because who would have told me?
Beverly Hills was obviously prettier than Hollywood, the sunlight definitely helped. But seriously, Rodeo Drive is way more glamorous than Sunset Boulevard.
This photo was taken from Beachwood Drive, which according to my google search, was the best place in town to take a photo of the renowned Hollywood sign without getting arrested. Having seen all the probably photoshoped pictures of celebrities posing with the sign, I thought it would be easy to get a beautiful, enviable photo just like that. As deceiving as any Hollywood movie, getting a photo with the sign was extremely challenging. I walked for hours, tried almost a hundred times, and this is the best result. I don’t even want to show the one with me in it.
Griffith observatory. I was a little fascinated by astrology, this place was simply pretty, perched on top of a hill overlooking at the iconic laid-out grids of LA. What can I say? I was just overthrilled.
I didn’t expect to see this laid out in front of me. I went to Griffith for the pure interest in astrology, but as the night set in, and this familiar, beautiful lit-up grids emerged, I felt like an astrologist discovering a new planet all by accident, like someone ordering french fries with an accidental curly fry, like a kid looking for flowers but accidentally found a dry butterfly. Accidental discovery was the best feeling.
Another thing about LA is its numerous beaches. It seemed like no matter where you lived, you only needed 5 minutes to drive to the nearest beach. My friend drove me to Malibu, because that was where they filmed Hannah Montana (yep, Miley Cyrus was still adorable at that time). I didn’t care much for the movie, I just wanted to go to a beach. and there I was, sunshine, blue ocean in the middle of December. It felt like my life in Pennsylvania never existed. Every time at a beach, I felt lively, innocent, free and happy like a kid.
I would never forget the Getty Villa and Getty Center, each had its own unique style and attraction. If Getty Villa fulfilled my dream of admiring Mediterranean architecture, Getty Center had the maze that I thought was phenomenally cool.
If the movie industry had not created an overly glamorous picture of Hollywood and LA, I wouldn’t have felt so let down. But in all fairness and objectiveness, LA is obviously, definitely an amazing place, interesting (yeah, I didn’t even talk about Christmas, the fashion district shopping, and its actual Hawthorne street races), multiracial (I didn’t hear much English on the streets, my friend took me to Little Saigon in Santa Ana for a whole day and every day I had a different ethnic food), beautiful (duh, just look at this post), perfectly weathered (of course, there was a week of rain, but it was better than a week of snow), and educational (museums, buddies). Years after those 2 weeks, as I reflected back on the trip, the sound LA only brought sweet memories and good feelings.