Hollywood And All That Jazz

I didn’t have much time to spare (just two days – and I fly back to Manila on the eve of the 2nd day) and I don’t drive, so the smartest way was to book a hotel which was smack in the middle of the city, and sign me up for some tours.
After poring over countless travel forums, I booked a room at the Elan Hotel via my reliable online savior, Agoda.com. A boutique hotel, each room had a king-sized bed, a balcony (which wasn’t much, as mine opened up into an empty parking lot), and a well-appointed bathroom. Buffet breakfast and a cheese buffet also came with the deal.

Yep, that’s my brand new yellow Legacy Coach duffle bag – I’ve been looking for a nice yellow leather bag, and since it’s a difficult color to maintain, I also didn’t want one that would break the bank (in case I would have to buy a new one after a couple months’ use. This bag fits my need perfectly.

They also have  a pretty nice bathroom with its own tub and environment friendly supplies. Too bad I didn’t get to try the inviting tub – I was too tired to try it and preferred sleep.

Eco-friendly toiletries
Anyway, on my first full day, I signed up for the 4.5-hr day tour of LA Sightseeing, which to me, was a real steal at just $59 (taxes included). I mean, they picked me up at my hotel, I got to ride comfortably in an airconditioned bus (heck, who wants to ride those open-top buses when the temperature was crazy at 31 C in LA???), and I got a really nice (not to mention, good-looking) tour guide. 
Our tour bus

First stop: Santa Monica beach. 
Okay, let me pretend to be your tour guide. This little beach is actually the playground of the rich neighborhood of Santa Monica – a quiet little county where stars can hide in plain sight. We didn’t get to go down into the beach itself and dip our feet into the water since it would have taken a fifteen-minute walk to get there and we only had ten minutes allotted for this tour, so we just contented ourselves with inhaling the sea breeze and taking in the marvelous view. But honestly? I’d prefer our own beaches here in the PI.

Up next is a little sneak peek into celebrity homes. There were no stop overs so I only have a handful of shots which are not even half-way decent – hey, it’s not exactly a walk in the park to take photos inside a moving bus!

Jim Carrey
Jackie Chan’s phoenix-inspired gate
Judy Garland’s former home – whimsical, isn’t it?
The Hilton family home – one of my favorites; classy and homey at the same time (at least the facade)
The chapel where Liz Taylor married several of her husbands
At the end of our celebrity homes’ tour was Rodeo Drive, dubbed as the most expensive street because of all the luxury brands centrally located here. Well, I would have loved to shop but I already exhausted my shopping budget in Florida and my luggage was crammed full by then. 😦

The yellow Bugatti of designer Bijan Pakzad, parked outside his clothing store, House of Bijan. Dubbed as the world’s most expensive store, shopping is by-appointment only.
Okay, so with (window) shopping out of the way, let’s go on with our tour, shall we? Next on our list was Hollywood Boulevard. I was actually expecting a lot more from this stop, like tree-lined avenues leading to the Chinese and Kodak theaters, but turns out, the boulevard was just a small avenue filled with traffic and forgettable shops.

The Dolby Theatre (formerly Kodak), where the annual Academy Awards takes place. During the show, the entire road is turned into a red carpet for stars to sashay in their formal gowns and suits but in regular days, it’s just like any other average street – smoke-filled, traffic, and crawling with pedestrians (mostly tourists).
Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where most movie premieres are shown
I didn’t get to walk closer to the hand and foot prints in front of the Chinese theater, since they were rolling out the red carpet for an event later that night. Boo!

After that, we went to Mulholland to get a nice view of the Hollywood sign… which was minuscule at best. We were probably miles from it and it was so tiny! We did get sweeping views of the city, despite the heat (the temperature was crazy the two days I was there – 31 C during the day and 14 C at night).
Our last stop for the tour was Universal Studios. Actually, I think some parts of the tour weren’t included in the package I paid for, but since I was the only one who availed of the cheapest tour, it was probably impractical to drive me back to my hotel than to let me stay on with the rest of the tour group (we filled the entire tour bus). 🙂
Okay, two theme parks in one visit is quite the quota for me so I just took pictures outside. But I made a mental note to myself to check out the studios next time.
There’s something about this photo that I find charming. I dunno. Haha.
Kat Von D’s tattoo parlor – you need to wait two years to get an appointment with her, unless, well, unless you’re someone famous.
On my last day in LA, I did something I never thought I’d get to do: ride a private plane. It was crazy, exciting, scary and not to mention expensive but it was all so worth it to be able to experience the thrill and the view from the top was just gorgeous. It wasn’t easy getting shots from the plane though: the wind was so strong (I only let the lens protrude from a small opening but I could feel the wind snatching it from my hands).
Yes, the Hollywood sign, finally. Too bad I didn’t have powerful zoom lens.
Santa Monica Beach
Malibu Beach – which was just a few miles from Santa Monica (or to be more precise, I think they’re actually connected)
The Getty Museum which sits on top of a hill.
I was the only passenger! The pilot was nice enough to let me “fly” and navigate the plane through a valley.

Oh, and one other crazy thing I got to do? I got to watch a taping of Extra’s The Voice special at the Grove. 
The giant Christmas tree at The Grove.

 Yep – I got to see Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine in person. And I was just five meters away! As a tiny bonus, The Voice Hosts Christina Millian, Carson Daly, and of course, Extra Host Mario Lopez were also there.

To make the deal even sweeter? I got two Team Blake shirts for free. You know, those giveaways they throw out during the show? Well, I was wearing my lucky dress and as luck would have it, two shirts dropped on my hands, without me even exerting any effort. 😀

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