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Venice Beach

Los Angeles to Las Vegas US Tour 2012 – Part 2

Day 1, 2 & 3 – Los Angeles

It was already dark when we landed in LA. My only plan for the night was to collect my bag and get a taxi to drive me to my hotel. Luckily for me, the Hacienda Hotel was about 10 minutes trip. Still, it cost me 20 bucks. After having something small to eat I hopped right into my bed. The hotel itself is a nice three star place to stay, close to the LAX airport and in the vicinity of one of the train routes to Downtown LA. Since I had an extra day on my own I decided to do a bit of a tour around LA. It was a little too hot for my taste, around 35˚C!  A bottle of water was my lifesaver.

Anyway, to get me to Downtown LA I took a train. This train was part of a public transportation scheme, which the locals call ‘Metro’. This system includes commuter trains, tube and busses. Daily Metro pass costs $5, plus $1 for a plastic card (something like a leap card in Dublin). Trains run every 15 to 20 minutes in peak times, busses and tube 10 to 15 minutes.

I must say I didn’t like Downtown LA too much. There was practically nothing worth seeing over there. And it’s probably the reason why it wasn’t part of the official guided LA tour the following day.

What I did like was the Angel’s Flight from Downtown LA to the financial district. Angel’s Flight is a nicely maintained short distance funicular. And I really mean the ‘short distance’ part since it only takes about two minutes—maybe even less—to get you to the upper stop. It costs 75¢ one way, 25¢ if you have the Metro day pass. The place was a real oasis to me. With a water fountain cooling down the air and the shade created by surrounding skyscrapers of the financial district this was a place I stayed in for over an hour.

After this pleasant break I headed over to Santa Monica. It’s a very lively part of LA, with lots of shops and restaurants. And the beach, of course. Did I mention the Santa Monica Pier? If you’re up for a roller coaster ride or a scoop of delicious ice cream, this is the best place to indulge yourself! I didn’t have much time to spend there that day but we stopped there the following day anyway so I didn’t mind.

There was a tour meeting scheduled for 6 o’clock in the evening so I had to head back to my hotel. During this meeting we got to know each other and the tour guide explained how our tour is going to work.

The following morning we all met in the lobby, checked-out and had our bags loaded into a trailer of our van. The van was a 13-seater car with onboard Wi-Fi. It was great choice as it got us closer together and I don’t like classic tour busses where everybody sits so far away from each other that you actually have to shout out loud if you want to talk to someone. We left the trailer in a nearby monitored car park and headed towards our day tour of LA.

Our first stop was the Griffith observatory from which you can easily see the Hollywood sign. We only stayed there for an hour or so. There was so much more to see that we simply couldn’t afford to stay any longer. Hollywood and it’s Walk of fame, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach.

I found Venice Beach much better than Santa Monica Beach. While still offering you a swim in the freezing cold ocean, it also has something extra to it. Muscle Beach, skateboard park, beach volleyball and basketball playgrounds, street performers. It’s truly a great place for just sitting there and watching all those people!

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame was a bit of a disappointment to me. I mean it looks great and with all those performers (we met about half a dozen Michael Jacksons, a few wannabe music stars and plenty more very strange people—including Darth Vader and his squad of storm troopers—trying to ‘sell’ themselves as best they could) and souvenir shops around the place it sure is one of the highlights of the LA tour. But you know, everything looks much better in travel brochures and tourism office spots on YouTube. Well, at least I managed to take a few nice shots from the top floor of the adjacent shopping mall.

Beverly Hills may be well known for the residences of some of the best (or most famous, if you will) actors and actresses but there’s nothing to see there unless you move over to the Rodeo Drive, the fashion place with shops so ‘distinguished’ that in many of them you need to arrange an appointment to be let in! While on the subject of shops, Luis Vuitton’s shop window was pretty much the same undefined-shape’s style as the window in Dublin’s Grafton Street. Probably a company policy to look ‘different’.

Later in the afternoon, after we all enjoyed LA to its maximum, we were on our way to San Diego. My favourite US city so far!