Arriving at Los Angeles international airport can be daunting experience. It is huge, but poorly organized. The volunteers on the information desk barely know the city and are more interested in giving newly arrived tourist promotion brochures of businesses than providing information.
Step outside you are faced with an unending stream of shuttle buses multi person vehicles and cars. The notion go public transportation seems to have by-passed planners.
If you drive to Los Angeles you will probably not realise that you have arrived in city. The city stretches for over almost 50 km north to south and is composed of a string of towns held together by an Interstate highway that can barely handle the overwhelming traffic.
It is better to rent a car, if you happen to be a driver with steel nerves!
Los Angelinos drive differently. They are aggressive, belligerent and seem to think hat heavier vehicles have more rights.
The drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco is spectacular, but entry into Los Angeles county can be best described as a let down.
A city of 12 million inhabitants, it is built entirely of human activity, almost devoid history, monuments or architecturally interesting buildings. In short, Los Angeles is still trying to invent itself.
Downtown Los Angeles boasts, tall, old, unkempt buildings, potholes galore. A lot of jewellery stores cheek by jowl with seedy discount stores and a few eateries.
Just a few minutes walk brings you to the Union Square with the impressive Fairmont Hotel on one side and the subway station underneath.
During summer months any city-approved band is allowed to play for teh benefit of passers by.
Los Angeles seems to be a city invented for drives and sightseeing is most comfortable by car or minibus. A guide who knows the city and its history is an absolute must, if you want to understand how it functions, and how it evolved.
Most tours will take you to the suburb with the homes of most of the stars of Hollywood and point out the ownership as though that means something to the average tourist who may even be unfamiliar with movies or simply not interested.
The homes are huge, impressive and well maintained. Some “walled” homes belong to the most reclusive.
Then you will be shown the Hollywood walk of fame. Spend time on the Sunset Boulevard studded with seedy looking nightclubs, diners and impressive buildings like the Biltmore Hotel.
Of course everyone must visit the Rodeo Drive where the glitterati goes to shop. All the world famous brand names have stores on this shopping street starting with Gucci, Baccarat, Boda Crystal. Lalique, Dolce e Gabbana. Calvin Klein, Hilfiger are only a few. The street starts getting crowded after 11 a. m. anybody who is anybody in Los Angeles would not be caught dead shopping there before 11.
Having dutifully visited Rodeo Drive you must go and visit the Framers Central Market, which is just a market and little to do with real farmers. The stands are permanent; the stores offer anything and everything.” Farmers” buy and sell produce.
You can have lunch here, but also wait until you hit Sunset Strip, which remains a youthful stretch of restaurants and nightclubs. Stoned teenagers and Eurotrash flaneurs squander their inheritance at the Sunset Strip. Standard Hotel’s lunch counter beckons with passable quality, but huge portions. The Cajun Bistro nearby offers somewhat better service and food.
Beverly Hills Hotel’s bars offers fine cocktails.
Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Los Angeles. Summers can be excessively hot and winters chilly and rainy.
Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood Pacific Palisades are the most opulent neighbourhoods. Should you drive a car, take the time to drive to Whittier Boulevard, deep in the Mexican barrio of East Los Angeles for a fish taco at Tacos Baja Ensenada. You will not regret your decision. The environment here is more “organic” and natural than anywhere in this city full of artifice.
It seems Los Angelinos cook very little or not at all. Restaurants featuring the cuisines of more than hundred countries and fusions in-between offer their specialties. They are well worth trying in an attempt to understand Los Angeles philosophy and approach to life in general.
Movie studio parks are on the itinerary of all tours, rest assured, you will be entering well-managed theme parks designed solely to make money from unsuspecting tourists.
Restaurants are prohibitively expensive and everything looks staged. Ditto Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags!
Have an early dinner and visit the Getty Museum at dusk. Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation.
You can ignore the art collection; the Travertine Building and Gardens are much more interesting and the sunset the best you will ever see!