Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Welcome to Southern California. L.A. Los Angeles, the city of dreams. A place where the stars shine as bright as the West-coast sun. The home of angelenos and the world centre of business, culture, media, fashion, technology, and the "Entertainment Capital of the World". From the palm tree lined streets to some of the most beautiful beaches around this is really one of the best getaways. Want to swim, shop or see the sights? This great, unforgettable place has it all. Now lets check it out.

As soon as you touchdown in LAX (whose large letter entrance really initials the innovative place) in the day one of the things that takes your eye-if your looking out the window and not away with the fairies-is the Hollywood sign in the far distance. One of the city, countries and worlds most iconic landmarks, this district is definitely worth a visit as you surreally get closer to the famous streets and stars...but not yet. Just wait.

First-as you step off the plane-you have to get acclimatised to this place with a Mediterranean climate. From the hotter then July weather to the breathtaking scenery, this city of angels really is heaven sent. You have to hit the beach first-off because what else is better to do in your shades and shorts? In the soul of California and the heart of Los Angeles is the vast Venice Beach full of character, sand and beautiful sunshine. This is the place where they filmed 'Baywatch' and the location for a great tan and Los Angeles experience. From great courts to play sports-whether your game is tennis or basketball (the Venice Beach playgrounds are legendary)-to a muscle beach that isn't for the faint physiqued, Venice Beach is almost like a different world.

The bold boardwalk is even full of life from stalls to shops to magnificent murals. You can get everything from rock band T-shirts to your palm read and between shops if you look up you may be greeted by late legend of The Doors and L.A. son Jim Morrison amongst others painted on the side of the buildings, giving this place a Miami esque art deco feel. There are more beaches available in this city sand canvassing the Los Angeles map, from the magnificent area of Malibu to the picturesque Paradise Cove and an old favourite down in Newport with a beach tha'ts always fresh and never out of reach. Still nothing tops Venice...apart from the namesake city in Italy. Rollerblade, cycle or walk down the boardwalk and you'll be greeted with so much character and personal charm.

Then walk a little further and you'll find yourself in the sweet, memorable Santa Monica. A place dedicated to by many written songs and worn T-shirts around the world-it's that popular-even for people who've never been. You can see why to, with the famous pier-littered with old school amusements and the iconic 'Welcome To Santa Monica' sign, that's where Forrest Gump finished his epic run. Santa Monica is also home to many great restaurants, shops, cinemas, boutiques and beautiful people. There are even hedge sculptures and water fountains shaped like Dinosaurs in this perfectly peculiar plaza that is anything but prehistoric. Everything and everybody's here, from the best designers to the great self-owned business', making for a perfect day out or place for a cuppa for the English, as there is even a British themed store full of English tea, delicacies and all the British trimmings. Plus with the recently renovated Santa Monica place, you needn't shop anywhere else than this perfect place.

Unless you'd rather take a trip downtown. Los Angeles recently improved downtown area is a great destination, just be smart about what you do and where you go after hours. Shopping on the other hand (full of bags) you can do 'till you drop. From the Macy's mall to all sorts of shops, places, coffee houses (the Starbucks near the STAPLES Centre with great outside seating is a favourite), fast food joints and restaurants you'd be hard-pressed to find nothing to do here. Looking toward the STAPLES Centre this place is your home for some of America's greatest sporting events from the cool as ice, Los Angeles King's hockey team to the new Blake Griffin dunk show that is Los Angeles Clippers basketball. Still for your best basketball and sports experience you have to check out the team that plays in purple and gold as the STAPLES Centre really is Kobe Bryant and the Lakers house. These former champs really are the biggest draw in downtown Los Angeles and the NBA period, bringing in all sorts of Hollywood celebrities with everyone from Leonardo Dicaprio to courtside mainstay Jack Nicholson cheering the side on.

Or if basketball isn't your sport of choice how does baseball pitch you? Where taking a drive to the beautiful, legendary Dodger stadium would rank amongst some of the best experiences in this city. Still back at STAPLES, there's lots of impressive things to be seen from the illuminating building to the bronze statues of sporting legends Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn (of the Lakers), Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya. Or the three tiered Hotel Figueroa (also a remarkable place to stay) nearby and it's ever changing with the times design. Also across the way is the newly designed Nokia theatre and L.A. Live building, which really brings this illuminating downtown area to life after hours. Here makes for a great venue for gigs, cinemas and bar and restaurants, making for the best before or after game activities(s). As does the 'Team L.A.' or new Niketown stores that offer some great sporting memorabilia for your momentous occasion.

Plus with beautiful, big, art, architectural buildings bookending everything, and sensational skyscrapers rising above it all, downtown really makes for a grand day out. Make sure you make an effort to see the innovative Disney Concert Hall up the road, one of the best steel, structured sculptures you'll ever see. Make sure you try and catch a classic performance there too. These futuristic buildings really take you further at nightfall, combined with the hot, clear air to make this cities skyline look more like something out of 'Blade Runner'. The Michael Mann movie 'Collateral' captures the shimmer and shine of downtown Los Angeles futuristic beauty at night. It's no wonder this place is used for so many movies.

Speaking of which, it's time to take that trip to Hollywood, from it's soul to the bowl. From walking past everyone from Spiderman to Marylin Monroe, to walking across the star lined streets of the Hollywood 'Walk Of Fame', this is the place to see everything from John Wayne's hand prints to Johnny Depp's star, floor sign. If you want to get even closer to the stars then maybe it would be a good idea to try and win some tickets for the hilarious Jimmy Kimmel television show, that rivals Conan, Leno or Fallon in New York. Hollywood boulevard is also the place to check out the magnificent Grauman's Chinese Theatre (and if your lucky a star-studded premiere) or to take a snap of the cool Kodak Theatre. The place where winners and losers are made at the Oscar's. Mid-February would also be the time to go if you'd rather catch a glimpse of George Clooney and Brad Pitt as opposed to just seeing their names engraved on the floor. If you want to get you full stalker on however then why not take a star map or guided tour to the Hollywood Hills and check out how some of the towns best stars are living, door to door as you take a trip round some of the most famous streets and homes in this city. Just remember, these are people too. Do not disturb. Or how about taking that guided tour to some places even mre famous then some stars? Like the sensational Sunset Boulevard or the magnificent Mulholland Drive.

Still if you don't want to reach the heights of the Hollywood hills then why not scale some other hills? Beverly Hills is famous for more than 90210, Eddie Murphy's comic cop and a Weezer song. It's also famous for being a great area and a cool place to pass through. Nearby you'll also find Rodeo Drive. An affluent place where you could snap up a camera phone picture of a passing celebrity or a not so bargain buy. This is actually the place to shop, if your bank account won't drop. These grand, great streets are full of expensive boutiques and designer shops. It's a place designed for the wealthy-even the bums won't except anything less than ten dollars-still it's an experience you can't afford to lose out on. Plus there is something for everyone.

There's more then this though, from beautiful areas like La Cienga (home of a famous Ryan Adams song) to La Brea and those infamous prehistoric filled tar pits. Or how about a walk in the park. From the evocative Echo Park to the famous MacArthur Park. Take a drive or a tour and there's plenty more to see like the classic, cool Capitol Building, which is a place where many hit records have been cut. Or how about where everything goes down in the timeless City Hall. Still if it is movies that really move you then you could spend a day in Universal Studios where you can visit some sensational sets (who would know that the crashed plane from 'War Of The Worlds' would be just round the corner from 'Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane, they'll have to be careful when they film there) and ride some radical rides like the Jurassic Park or The Mummy themed ones.

Now that's a hell of a lot of things to see in this city right? Well this place really is vast and one of the best ways to truly see everything is by looking out for the Griffith Observatory, a landmark that makes for an awe-inspiring, epic perspective of this awesome place. The drive up to the observatory is nice to as you pass the incredible, iconic Hollywood Bowl (a great concert venue, where everyone from The Doors to Ben Harper have played and filmed a live show) that is only rivalled by the hip Hollywood House Of Blues or the legendary Greek Theatre. Like the bowl, the observatory is a white stone, old-fashioned, but innovative building that evokes elements of Greek stylings. Nothing comes close except the old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, look hard enough and you may see it from here. Still the observatory makes for your best view of the entire city (downtown even looks tiny, the views that grand) or the Hollywood sign (if you turn around) so don't forget to bring your cameras. Griffith also is high up in some of the most beautiful hills in Hollywood and also has some perfect surroundings. There's even a nice tribute to James Dean. The bust of his profile cementing his iconic work in the legendary 'Rebel Without A Cause' movie that had a vital scene filmed here.

You think that's it for Los Angeles' sites? Then take a trip to some other destinations here that highlight this holiday before you vacate this vacation. Why not take a car, put the top down and drive round this town with some cool Los Angeles radio station playing the songs that will serve as instant nostalgia as you cruise around a city rich with character and culture on every street corner, just watch how you go. From Wilshire Boulevard and the development of it's Grand Tower to Bel-Air if you want to try and find the Fresh Prince. Or the perfect Pacific Palisades, great Getty Centre and the wonderful works of art that are the Watts Towers are more things you must cross off the list.

Then after all this your going to want to refuel so how about some dinner? There's all sorts of great, recommended places like Cicada on 617 South Olive Street, The Pacific Dining Car on 1310 West 6Th Street, or many more, memorable places you'll be able to seek out. Then after some chow how mixing it up with the locals or your friends in one of the many great bars or night-clubs this city has to offer? From Johnny Depp's 'The Viper Room' on Sunset (just don't expect him to be pulling pints), all the way to Seven Grand on West 7Th Street (515 to be exact). Then you got to find somewhere to stay and from the best hotels (the Marriott serving your downtown needs and the 'Hotel Erwin' getting you a little closer to the Pacific) to hostels (there's a great 'Hostelling International' in Santa Monica that doesn't feel so rigidly official and a friendly one called the Hostel California which may not be a hotel or have anything to do with the famous Eagles song, but it still makes for a great little place to stay).

Now you've got all that out the way, coupled with your rest and recuperation (your going to need it) you best believe there's even more things to see and people to meet in one of the biggest and most populated cities in the world. Plus the perfectly beautiful Pacific Coast will take you to some sensational, surrounding cities (Orange County, San Francisco and Diego) and on the drive of your life. So make sure you get yourself out there. With a cold Winter coming for most places (except L.A.), now the time to take a trip you won't ever forget. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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