Sunday, April 24, 2016

My Day in LA (... with Eugene!) - Part Two

"Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood, and you will find the real tinsel underneath." -- Oscar Levant

I like to start my posts with a quote, and no quote better describes my version of LA - my version of Hollywood - than the quote above. Before moving to California, I would have argued against liking Los Angeles with the best of them. 

It's dirty. 
It has horrible traffic. 
It's superficial. 
It's scary. 
It's plastic.

The complaints go on and on. And I get it - Los Angeles has to grow on you, and for some it never will. Those who take the time to get to know the city, however, I think will find an endless supply of history, culture, and wonderment. That said, I too have my own love/hate affair with Hollywood itself, so it's always refreshing to have people visit from outside so I can remember and appreciate the parts of it that are unique and special. This post will focus on Hollywood specifically, continuing with our theme of film locations and even a short jaunt to visit some of the studios over the hill in Universal City/Burbank. 

Griffith Observatory
2800 E. Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA

After being awed by the costumery at FIDM, we hopped back in the car to head north towards Griffith Park in search of the observatory. Griffith Observatory has been part of the Los Angeles landscape since 1935, sitting high atop Mount Hollywood that overlooks the city below. The views from the observatory are some of the best around - you can easily see downtown and the Hollywood sign most days, and can even see as far as the ocean when the air is clear. It's a beautiful art-deco marvel, and is home to telescopes, a planetarium, and a Tesla coil! Best of all? Admission is free (although certain special exhibits may require a small fee, but you can enjoy your visit without them). 

In addition to being a well-known landmark and attraction, the Griffith Observatory has also played a role in several films and TV shows (you can see a pretty good list at Wikipedia here). Its most famous appearance is in Rebel Without a Cause,  starring the late James Dean. The above statue of Dean was commissioned originally by Dean himself, although the artist didn't start work on it until the night of his untimely death. Griffith and the locals of the Hollywoodland and Lake Hollywood neighborhoods would like you to think the above location is the best place to view the Hollywood sign, but...

Lake Hollywood Park
3204 Canyon Lake Dr, Hollywood, CA

You knew I could get you a better view than that, right? Haha. Despite not being a huge fame junky, the golden age of Hollywood has always appealed to me and I have always been obsessed with the Hollywood sign. It was during one of my many trips to Los Angeles before moving to California that I finally researched it, and found the answer on another blog! After piquing Eugene's interest at Griffith, I drove him through the winding Hollywood hills to what I like to call the best view of the sign - just below it at Lake Hollywood Park. This is a great spot because you not only get to see the sign up closer and personal, but you also get a great view of Lake Hollywood and the city. I highly recommend it! (Note: I actually got closer to the sign last year by hiking to it - you can read that here. This hike is harder than it looks, and you need to plan for at least 2-3 hours to do it... but the views are one of a kind!)

Warner Brothers Studios
3400 S. Riverside Dr, Burbank, CA

We drove past the lake and over the hills to our next destinations - the studios of the San Fernando Valley. Our first stop (which I failed to get a picture of this time) was the Universal Studios backlot top secret view... located in the hills at 3400 Blair Drive. From this residential road, you can get a sneak peek at the Universal Studios backlot - viewing the War of the Worlds set, Grinch Who Stole Christmas set, and Universal's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter castles. (Another cool spot I learned from Lindsay - you can read her post here, or see my first post about it here).  From there, we made our way to Burbank to check out what we could see from the road of the Warner Brothers and Disney studio lots.

Warner Brothers Studios is easy to stalk from the outside - you can drive along Riverside and see Gate 4, which Ellen DeGeneres uses to access the studio for her show each day. You can see the famed WB Water Tower from multiple locations. And if you're interested, you can get a sneak peek of their backlot from their parking lot on the corner of S Avon St and Warner Blvd. Nearby Gate 5 is a film location too - this is the gate that Carrie Bradshaw used when she went to meet with executives at Warner Brothers in the Sex and the City series. 

Disney is far less accessible, but worth a drive-by. (Use 500 S. Buena Vista St, Burbank, CA to locate the Disney Studios block.) You can easily see the animation studio from Riverside Dr, and view the outside of most of the stages and buildings by driving around the block. My favorite thing is to show people the seven dwarves that hold up one of the main buildings on Alameda Ave - you can view that from the street just southwest of the main gate. Super cute! (Note: When I started this post on Tuesday night, I never in a million years thought I would get to see more of the Disney Studio than what you can view from the street. On Friday, however, that changed and I got to go inside! I will post about that in a future post.) 

Grauman's Chinese Theatre (aka TCL Theaters)
6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA

From Burbank, we popped back over the hills and headed to Hollywood! Hollywood is one of the world's most famous landmarks, and one of the dirtiest. That said, there is a certain charm to it and I'm happy I got to share it with Eugene. Parking in the Hollywood area can be tricky and expensive, so here's a pro-tip: park at the garage located under Hollywood & Highland (read directions here or use the Lowe's hotel address 1755 Highland Ave for your GPS to find it). You get parking here for $2 with validation (covers 2 hours if you do any shopping, or 4 hours if you watch a movie at the famed Chinese theater). 

The Hollywood & Highland intersection is home to many of the most famous Hollywood attractions, including Grauaman's Chinese Theater (pictured above), Dolby Theater (where they hold the Academy Awards every year), Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (home of the first Academy Awards), El Capitan Theater (Disney's premier theater), Jimmy Kimmel's studio, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I won't bore you with histories of each as you can read most of that on an old post of mine here.

Eugene and I had a great time visiting this area. Funny enough, we realized that this visit coincided with our visit to Marilyn's grave earlier in the day - we saw her star on the Walk of Fame, visited her handprints at the Chinese Theater and saw a picture there of the day she did it, and looked for her ghost across the street at the Roosevelt (her former home that she supposedly haunts today). We didn't mean to embark on a Marilyn journey, but it was fun!

Las Palmas Hotel
1738 N. Las Palmas Ave, Hollywood, CA

One of our favorite films is Pretty Woman, and another friend recently showed me where the ending balcony scene was filmed... so I thought it was only fitting that we walk down the street to see the Las Palmas Hotel while we were in Hollywood. Located about 2 blocks east of the Hollywood & Highland Center, and just north of Hollywood Blvd, you will find a tiny, unassuming hotel called Las Palmas. Eagle-eyed fans of Pretty Woman, however, will note that this is not just a hotel - it's the hotel where Vivienne lived in the movie. See the fire escape behind Eugene? That's THE fire escape that Richard Gere climbed to "rescue" Vivienne at the end of the film. Shout out to Shika for helping us find this spot!

Yamashiro Hollywood
1999 N Sycamore, Hollywood, CA

Just up the street from Hollywood & Highland is one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood... Yamashiro Hollywood restaurant. Several friends have told me to visit this restaurant, and it has made it on to some of the "must" lists for Hollywood, but for some reason it had never worked out when I tried to visit. When I read on Curbed:LA that the site was sold and Yamashiro may be booted out, however, I knew I just had to take Eugene there while we still had the chance! The building itself is the former private residence of wealthy brothers. It's also one of the oldest buildings in LA, dating back to 1914. The pagoda pictured above is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, structures in LA - it's over 600 years old, having been relocated here from Japan. The restaurant has a great history write up that you can read here.  Eugene and I were lucky to have a city and sunset view, and enjoyed a meal just as good as the view. The owners published a notice saying that the restaurant will be closing in June, so go while you have the chance!

Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
9635 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA

Eugene and I were very tired after dinner, but we still opted to take the scenic road home to enjoy the sights and sounds of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. While we enjoyed the colorful lights and people we saw in WeHo, we were surprised to find the city of Beverly Hills almost empty. I had mentioned to Eugene that there was a cupcake ATM on our way home, however, so we made sure to stop and grab dessert before we meandered through now quiet Rodeo Drive.  Sprinkles proclaims to be home to the first cupcakery, and they are also home to the first cupcake ATM. The one we visited was the first, but they now boast ten locations (with two more to come!). The cupcakes are more expensive at the ATM then they are in the cupcakery next door, but who can resist using a cupcake ATM? :) And they were delicious! You can find locations near you here.  

Once we had scarfed down our cupcakes, it was time to hit the hay. We had a big hiking day planned for us in the morning, and needed to get some sleep. Thirteen hours of touring Los Angeles can take its toll on you, but we had fun! My next post will tell you all about our hiking adventures, so stay tuned!

Until next time...


My Day in LA (... with Eugene!) - Part One

"I live in New York, and I love New York as well, but I think Los Angeles is a place where, if you have the right person with you, there are all these little worlds that you would never guess by just looking at the exterior of what the city is."
-- Greta Gerwig

Helloooooooo friends! It just occurred to me a few weeks ago how badly I have neglected this little blog of mine. Most of you are my friends, so you probably noticed I updated this blog via Facebook. For those of you who actually subscribed - thanks for sticking around! I will try to be better at updating this thing. I tried for a very brief time to maintain this blog simultaneously with my other blog, but I seemed to favor that one for the last year (and I haven't even been that good about updating that one either). Anyway, I digress... I recently went on a staycation with my friend Eugene (pictured above), and figured I may as well blog about it. I posted most of these pictures on Facebook, but since a lot of my friends asked for addresses and websites for some of the places we went, I figured I could cover the same information in a blog post. There's too much for one post, so here's the first of two!

Since Eugene was only able to sneak away for one weekend, we did our best to make good use of our time. Eugene and I met in Houston, but we now live on opposite coasts. While he has generously visited me twice (first in 2013), I have yet to make it to his neck of the woods. Here's hoping I can swing through when I go to Florida to run the Wine & Dine Half at Walt Disney World in November! What follows is a rundown of a thirteen hour day in Los Angeles - his first day in California. We covered a lot of ground in a short time - I recommend breaking itinerary into a couple of days if you wish to maintain your sanity :)

Breakfast at Urth Caffeé - WeHo
8565 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA

Despite Eugene's late arrival the night before, we were both surprised when we woke up within minutes of each other just after 6:30am. A little jet-lagged and hungry, we decided to head to one of my favorite West Hollywood cafés for breakfast. Specializing in health conscious coffee, Urth Caffeé first opened its doors in 1991 in Manhattan Beach. The WeHo location is my second favorite (second to Pasadena's), but is a great location for people watching. It also happened to be fairly close to our Airbnb cottage, located in nearby Westwood. Eugene chose a tea latté, while I stuck with my usual honey vanilla latté. During breakfast, I mentioned that we weren't far at all from the final resting place of Marilyn Monroe. While we had originally planned to go directly downtown from breakfast, we instead decided to meander our way across town... starting first to pay our respects to Marilyn.

Westwood Village Memorial Park
1218 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Westwood Village Memorial Park (aka Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary) is located randomly behind the high rise buildings on Wilshire Blvd in Westwood. It's the final resting place for many Hollywood legends, including Marilyn Monroe, Rodney Dangerfield, Merv Griffin, Betty Page, Farrah Fawcett, Don Knotts, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Donna Reed, and so forth. It is also the final home for several musicians, authors, and notable businessmen. The best website for locating the graves of the famous/infamous in this cemetery is, but you don't really need to use it. It's pretty quick to cover ground in the tiny graveyard, so you will see a lot of famous names pretty quickly. 

The Spadena House, aka the "Witch's House"
516 Walden Dr, Beverly Hills, CA

We headed to Beverly Hills next since it was the next logical neighborhood. I was eager to show Eugene some of the cool houses I had recently seen on a Dearly Departed Tragical History Tour that I took with another friend. (Note: Dearly Departed tours are easily the best in Los Angeles, albeit a bit on the morbid side. You can read more about their offerings here.) One of our stops here was to see the Spadena House. Commonly referred to as "The Witch's House," the Spadena House was originally built on a silent film studio lot to be used as a set and office space. It was purchased and saved from demolition sometime thereafter, and moved from its original location in Culver City to where it sits today. While it was featured in several silent films, it has also been in a number of other films since its relocation to Beverly Hills. Fans of Clueless should notice it as one of the houses Cher walks by during the movie. Shout out to Lindsay Blake ("THE" movie location expert) for the address of this place. She did a great write-up on it here if you're interested. 

Nightmare on Elm Street houses
1428 and 1419 Genesee Ave, Hollywood, CA

As we continued to meander from west to east, Eugene and I made another stop off the Sunset Strip to check out the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Yes, the houses from the classic horror film are real, although they are located quite a distance away from the midwest here in Hollywood, California. While Los Angeles is known for destroying tearing down old houses to make room for new, the houses from Nightmare look today just as they did in 1984. It's hard to imagine them filming the movie so close to Sunset, but I also imagine that Sunset Blvd was quite different from what it is today. :) While I have to thank both Dearly Departed and Lindsay for telling me about this location, it was Lindsay's blog again that provided the address. She did a very fun writeup about it here. (PS - Lindsay, tell Blaze that people absolutely DO love your blog!)

Pizza for two at Bottega Louie
700 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA

By the time we finished creeping out the neighborhoods of Hollywood, Eugene and I were starving again. It should come as no surprise to my friends that I recommended Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles for lunch - it's not only home to the most beautiful desserts in the world, but it's also within walking distance to my favorite museum (and our next destination). Surprisingly, however, we did not partake in the desserts that day. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs - by the time we had finished our Red Crush cocktails and scarfed down our salad and pizza, we were stuffed! It was so good!

FIDM Museum - 24th Annual Art in Motion Picture Costume Design
919 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA

After we finished lunch, Eugene and I rolled walked two blocks south to visit the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) Museum. While I will visit the FIDM Museum for any exhibit, their Annual Art in Motion Picture Costume Design is always a favorite for me. This year's exhibit featured costumes from 24 of the biggest films of 2015, including all of the Best Costume Design Academy Award Nominees. If you haven't been to the museum before, note that it's a little difficult to find. I always recommend that people find the park on Hope Street (parallel to Grand Ave on the west side), and find the entrance from there. Street parking can be hard to come by, so I always park at one of the lots between Hope and Grand closer to 8th Street. 

Does FIDM look or sound familiar? Good eye! FIDM was also the school that Lauren and her friends attended on The Hills! Lucky girls!

As you can see, we really packed it in! My next post will take you on part two of our ambitious day as we explored more of Hollywood and movie lore! I hope you're enjoying these posts so far, and I hope to write more posts as I have time. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and enjoy your day!

Until next time...