We started our first day in LA with an American breakfast at Mel’s Diner in Hollywood – famous as being the location for much of American Graffiti starring Ron Howard, amongst others (although I believe most of that footage was actually shot in a studio, not the diner itself). My breakfast included French Toast which I’ve never had before – it was lurveleeey! Rach and Lauren had ‘a stack’ (pancakes). Not very healthy I know but when in Rome and all that.
We spent the rest of the morning taking in some of the sights of Hollywood. We had a walk up and down the Walk of Fame looking at the celebrity stars. We went to the Foyer of Mann’s Chinese Theatre to look at the hand and footprints of the likes of Gregory Peck, Tom Hanks, etc. We also went in the Hollywood Wax Museum and Guinness Book of World Records. The Hollywood Wax Museum was basically a second-rate Madam Tussauds, and the Guinness Book of World Records was a poor relation to the one that used to be housed in the Trocodero in Piccadilly Circus in London. A bit of a let down really.
The Walk of Fame was full of ‘look-alikes’, some better than others, along with people trying to sell you tours and hip-hop artists trying to get you to listen to the CD they’ve created in the hope that they’ll be discovered.
Hollywood has supposedly been cleaned up in recent years but it still seemed quite dirty and tacky to me. The same can be said of LA in general. I don’t think I once saw any street cleaners the whole time we were in LA.
In the afternoon we went on a couple of guided bus tours, taking in the ‘homes of the rich and famous’ as well as some other sites such as Hollywood Bowl and some of the film studios. Again this was all a bit of a letdown really. Most of the tour around Beverly Hills and Bel Air involved looking at large gates and trying to peer through trees to see a corner of a roof of a Hollywood star’s home. As for the Hollywood Bowl, ok I appreciate that it’s the largest naturally configured concert venue in America but it’s not half the size of Milton Keynes Bowl even, and it’s still only a stage and rows of seats. I can’t image wanting to go on a tour of Sheffield Hallam Arena so I’m not really sure why Hollywood Bowl is a tourist attraction.
We also drove around some of the movie studios. Well actually we drove past the front door of buildings that used to be famous as being the home of movie studios. Most of the big movie studios are actually no longer in Hollywood, they’ve moved down to the San Fernando Valley.
Why did we feel that we were always getting ripped off?
Another thing that got on our goat was the obsession with tipping. I appreciate that many in the service industry get paid pittance so work off tips but it has got ridiculous in LA. For instance on the tour bus not only was there a big sign saying tips are appreciated (after already paying more than it’s worth for a crap tour), there was even a guide to how much we should tip. $10 for an OK tour, $20 for ‘will come again’, etc. I didn’t see anything saying we could get our money back if we thought the whole tour was overrated!
I must have spent a fortune on tips. For instance you’re supposed to tip the porter $1 per bag. We had 7 cases. It’s not like he had to individually carry them all up to our hotel room. I even helped him put them on the trolley. They’re not subtle in their quest for tips either. They went as far as standing in front of us with their hand out before they left the room.
The one that had me flabbergasted was on Santa Monica Pier. There was a street entertainer that was doing some kind of balancing act. We started watching as he did his piece and then before he would continue he made it known to everyone that he expected his tip in advance. He stood their and even pointed people out who where standing in the audience and yet hadn’t tipped, saying ‘if you want to watch show you must tip’. I think he was Korean. Can you imagine that in Covent Garden – the street entertainers asking for money before they did their show? I thought sod him and started to walk away but Rach reined me back because Lauren wanted to watch the show. So I begrudgingly put a dollar in his bucket. His show was crap, I’m sure anyone could have done that after just half an hour practice. I should have put my hand in the bucket and reclaimed my dollar!
Anyway I digress. At the end of the first day we were absolutely exhausted so had an early night.