Sunday, February 12, 2012

Taste of America Tour Western Leg - Los Angeles

John Hughes nailed it in his 1988 classic, She's Having a Baby, when he wrote these lines for one shallow character: 

"I can stand L.A....  I won't puke if I'm in L.A."

Being not the greatest city in America, it won't make you want to throw up.  Comforting thought, right?  But silly as it seems, movie lines constantly sprang to my mind during our travels around the nation's second largest city... And a I didn't get nauseous once.

We arrived at LAX and checked into our nearby hotel.  We chose the Embassy Suites again for its family friendly size rooms and its budget friendly bonuses of free breakfast and cocktails.  Unfortunately, we learned too late that a hotel near the airport is a horrible location for Los Angeles and its attractions' sprawl.  We were near nothing, but quickly learned Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus route to get around the nearby beaches.

We spent our first evening at the Santa Monica pier completing our Forrest Gump trek across America effortlessly having been on the Beaufort bridge where he began his journey just two days prior.  We emersed ourselves into the local culture by having Mexican food for dinner while enjoying the sunset over the Pacific Ocean... Beautiful.

The next day we took a $90 cab ride to Hollywood and Grauman's Chinese Theatre to begin our sightseeing.  (Yes, this blew our budget for the day.)  

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell minus the  cleavage...
After checking out the hand and foot prints and Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, we purchased a family pass for $100 for five 24 hour Hop On, Hop Off tickets from Starline Tours.  We were set for the day.  

Rock On!

We hopped off at Guitar Center's Famed Rock Walk and viewed hand prints and memorabilia of many rock legends like Van Halen, Motorhead, Kiss, and LA's legendary Wrecking Crew, etc.  It was great for nostalgia, but not much else to see.  We didn't bother going into Guitar Center because we didn't want to check our bags.  Obviously, we were not about to buy a guitar and lug it around West Hollywood.

After hopping back on the next double decker bus, we passed many famed rock spots like the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and the Troubadour.  I found it much more interesting to see the locales where Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth rocked the crowds and John Lennon got thrown out for heckling than seeing their handprints, but that's just me. We also cruised by The Viper Room and Chateau Marmont where Hollywood elite succumbed to their excesses in the cases of River Phoenix and John Belushi.  I thought the saddest thing about going by both of these places was that everyday, every twenty minutes, there is a tourist bus going by with a prerecorded tape mentioning that this is where these two talented people tragically lost their lives. Pretty depressing, actually... having lost a brother to drugs I can relate to the ultimate waste these deaths were.  Maybe to point it out, over and over, on a tour bus will save someone else.  Who knows?

Next, we traveled to the most decadent street in America: Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills.  Yes, I was living high and tacky on my double decker tour bus, but I think in all our travels so far I have never seen a place that exhibited such a wide chasm between the Haves and the Have Nots.  We had no interest in hopping off on this street.  Again, I thought of a scene from a movie.  Remember in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts, the street walker "Cinderella", shopped for a dress for the "Ball" with Richard Gere and no one would wait on her because she didn't look like she could afford anything?  Picture my family and me, without the Hollywood writing and make up,  shopping on Rodeo Drive... Not the same fairy tale ending, right?

New Tee and Three at the La Brea Tar Pit
The hop off that was more our speed was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Here, we looked at art with the ulterior motive of finding a t-shirt for Emma because she was burning up in her turtle neck sweater on the 80 degree day.  After viewing many fine pieces of modern art, we located a budget-friendly $5 clearance Egyptian T perfect for her.  We also sampled the delicious street food scene in LA from the many food trucks parked around the museum.  Our favorites were the korean BBQ and duck fat fries... yes, we walked to our next stop on the tour.
Duck Fat Fries and Korean BBQ... EXCELLENT!

The Boys at The Grove
After experiencing the petroleum smell of the La Brea Tar Pits, we headed on foot to the Grove and Farmer's Market of LA.  This incredibly beautiful mall area had every shop or restaurant your heart could desire.  I had to pull my daughters, kicking and screaming, out of the American Girl Store.  We have two more flights and no more room in our carry on luggage.

Sushi en Suite, Anyone?

Our tour ended back in Santa Monica where I headed for dinner groceries and vino at Whole Foods while Greg and the kids headed to our temporary home via the Big Blue Bus.  

We had witnessed the diversity of the City of Angels on our tour, but the Number 3 bus gave us front row seats to the daily movie of the lives of its residents.  Maybe not Oscar worthy, but what a great show!

In the category for Best Good Samaritan:
And the Oscar goes to... the lady on the bus who let me use her cell phone
to call Greg when mine died.
In the category for Best Restart on Life:
And the Oscar goes to... the Vietnam Veteran who lives at the VA Hospital
and attends Santa Monica College to work on his counseling degree.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump's famous line, 

Life is like riding a crosstown bus, you never know who you're gonna meet.


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