A tourist in LA LA Land

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

The Hollywood Sign from Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles

It wasn’t on the bucket list, but I have now seen Los Angeles.

I don’t really have a bucket list. When I tried to make one, everyone said I didn’t really quite get the concept. “Going to the weddings of my grandchildren” didn’t fit, evidently, since the grandchildren range in age from 2 to 13.

I did come up with one thing – watch Peyton Manning win a Super Bowl – but I wasn’t in the stands for Super Bowls 41 or 50, so that didn’t happen.

Bucket list or not, I decided I wanted to see Los Angeles.

The whole idea was born out of what I called my Seattle Interlude. I was traveling to Seattle to babysit while my son and daughter-in-law went to two out-of-town concerts. The concerts covered a three-week span, and I didn’t want to fly home in the middle. The kids said, “Stay!” and three weeks in Seattle is no hardship, especially in July.

But Brett and Olivia have very busy lives and three weeks with mom in the house just sounded like a little bit of an imposition to me. Plus, they had out-of-town friends coming to visit during that middle week. I decided I would do an “interlude,” use Seattle as my jumping off place, and go somewhere I have never been.

No one I travel with, including my husband, had any desire to go to LA. So I made my plans: Fly to LA from Seattle – a non-stop, fairly short jaunt; spend four days in an upscale hotel where I would feel safe; take the Amtrak train back from LA to Seattle – a two day/night ride and my first time on an Amtrak train.

The train ride is a long saga, so let’s just talk today about LA.

I was a total tourist, which was my intention. The only touristy things I didn’t sign up for were the wax museum and the tour of the stars’ homes. I did see some homes of current and former “stars” on a couple of the “see the sights” tours, but it was happenstance.

I saw the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and learned that Gene Autry has the most – five, one for each field for which a star can be awarded: film, TV, radio, live performance and music. There are 17 fictional characters with stars – from Mickey Mouse to Godzilla. Joanne Woodward got the first star in 1957. Dolly Parton gets one next year.

Winnie the Pooh star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

See, total tourist.

The Hollywood sign, viewed from the Griffith Park Observatory, was first a marketing gimmick to advertise a new subdivision: Hollywoodland. Even at Griffith Park, you need a camera with a good zoom.

The largest house in LA is in Holmby Hills and was built and owned by Aaron Spelling until his death. His wife sold the 56,000 square feet, French chateau mansion for $85 million (down from an asking price of $150) to Petra Stunt, a British heir and daughter of Formula One racer Bernie Ecclestone, in 2011. It is back on the market for $150 million, just in case you need a place of your own on the west coast.

I crammed a lot of LA into my time there: Rodeo Drive (didn’t buy anything and, yes, the shop owners are as rude as the “Pretty Woman” movie depicts.); the Beverly Wilshire, Santa Monica Pier, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the tar pits and the outside of the Dolby Theatre.

Total tourist.

My favorites ended up being one that I expected and one that I did not. The unexpected treat was getting to go to a LA Football Club vs. LA Galaxy soccer game in the new Banc of California stadium.

The one I expected to love and did was the tour of Warner Bros. Studios, where I reveled in the places where they filmed “Friends” and “Big Bang Theory,” stood by the cars and motorcycles from Batman (top speed, 25 miles per hour) and got “sorted” into the Slytherin house by the Harry Potter Sorting Hat.

I’ll not be moving to Los Angeles, even though the weather was great, and I still can’t make it all the way through the “La La Land” movie. But taking on the town as a total tourist was a very enjoyable interlude.


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