We stayed in the Los Angeles area for the following two nights. We had booked a room in Reseda, California which is just north of Hollywood. It was a good location for the attractions we wanted to take in and the prices were significantly less in this area. It was safe, the rooms were clean and the price included a simple continental breakfast.
Day 15: Hollywood Tours
I had pre-booked two Hollywood tours with our “Go Cards” prior to our trip. We wanted to do a third, but they didn’t take advanced reservations. We got up early and headed for the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour. It was excellent! All of us enjoyed it. The tour was very informative and although we didn’t have any actual “star” encounters, we thought it was really cool to see some of the props/sets from our favourite shows and movies. There was lots of memorabilia set up for both Batman and Harry Potter, as well as various other shows and movies. We got to see the various Batmobiles used in the movies. The kids got to go on the set of one of the shows they like to watch and we had a family photo taken on the “Friends” set. We sat on the couch in Central Perk in the exact same spot where the cast used to sit and listen to Phoebe sing “Smelly Cat!” So fun!
When we were reminiscing about the trip, Tim and the kids agreed my acting debut in “Gravity” was their favourite memory. At Warner Studios, part of the behind the scenes tour demonstrates how a movie is pulled together from costume design to filming. Near the end, you have an opportunity to get filmed in front of a green screen using props from either Batman, Harry Potter or Gravity. We all went our separate ways and although I wasn’t too keen, I didn’t want to be a party pooper. I chose the “Gravity” scene mostly because I thought it looked easy and there was no line. Once in costume, I quickly realized two things. First, how the space helmet accentuated my overly small head and second how difficulty it is to act when nothing is really happening around you. (It’s all pretend when you are using a green screen.) You can watch yourself on the screen as they are filming the short clip and even though my “director/coach” was talking me through and telling me how to react, by my own confession, it was the sorriest case of acting you’ve ever seen. When everyone finished, we headed to the viewing area where you could purchase the videos/photos of your experience. I told my family how bad mine was, but everyone said the same thing. It wasn’t until my video played that we all almost died in hysterics. I was soooooo bad! In the words of my husband….”Well, let’s just say you’re no Sandra Bullock.” We had lots of fun and my acting expressions/moves became the brunt of many jokes for the remained of the trip. It was super funny! In all honesty, we later regretted not buying my video just because it was so hilariously bad. Fortunately, I think the visual of that awkward “Gravity” scene is forever ingrained in our memories.
After the Warner Bros. tour, we left Burbank and headed to Hollywood Boulevard. I had booked a “Behind the Scenes” walking tour through Red Line tours. It was a one hour walking tour and despite the record high temperature of 103 degrees, it was excellent. Through the tour, we learned about the history of Hollywood with stops at the Egyptian Theatre (where the “Hollywood” phenomenon all began with the first ever movie premiers), the Chinese Theatre (with the hand/foot prints of the stars) and the Dolby Theatre which is home to the Oscars. Did you know the Dolby Theatre is actually located in a shopping mall ~ who would have guessed? Of course, it was also interesting to see our favourite stars on the Walk of Fame and learn some of the history and interesting facts about them. Did you know that anyone can nominate a star, but the nominations are put through a selection process and the stars that are picked are approached to see if they actually want one. Many popular stars have actually declined and do not have stars such as Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood, Julia Roberts and George Clooney. They decline for different reasons and although I’m sure money isn’t one of them, it does cost the stars $30,000 to have a star placed on the Walk of Fame.
We had planned to take a “Hollywood Homes of the Stars” tour, but it was hot and we decided we’d much rather head to Santa Monica Pier for the evening. We had to have our tickets scanned before the 5:30 cut-off, so we headed over, got our wrist bands for the Pier midway and then headed south to explore Venice Beach. Venice Beach is really something to see. It is a totally different experience than Santa Monica Pier where there is more of an upscale feel. Venice Beach is hard to describe. The beach is beautiful and the boardwalk is lined with little kiosks and it has kind of an artsy vibe. People wander in and out of the t-shirt, skateboard and jewelry shops along the walk. There are also many people set-up along the beach selling their own handmade wares, henna tattoos and various knickknacks. Street performers and buskers are in abundance….some talented, but many not. You never quite know what to expect. We were captivated by one street performer, who despite his foul language, was hilarious and attracted quite a crowd. His “talent” was stepping on and lying down on broken glass. It wasn’t really the act of bravery that captivated his audience, but rather the hilarious delivery leading up to the actual performance. We also were witness to one of Los Angeles “Snapchat” highlights for the day. Police had cordoned off an area around a bicycle on which a swarm of wasps had made themselves at home over the course of the day. So weird! We loved Venice Beach and all the people we encountered.
After a few hours at Venice Beach, we headed back the few miles north to Santa Monica and enjoyed a full evening of fun on the Pier. The Pier is always really “rockin”’” with the midway rides and the various street performers lining the pier. The wrist bands are around $28 for adults, so again, it was nice to have this included with our “Go Cards”.
After several days of being on the go, we packed up the van, checked out of the hotel and decided to only do one attraction on our final day. We all felt a bit done. We headed back to Hollywood and did the Tour of the Homes of the Stars (by LA City Tours) that we skipped the day before. I had just done a similar tour in February with another company (Starline Tours) and must say I found this one to be much better. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and we had way better views of the homes. The tour in February had a very fast talking guide who was hard to follow and the tour mostly consisted of driving by and seeing the hedges that hid the homes. Many of the homes are well protected and hidden, as you’d expect, but surprisingly the tour with LA City Tours seemed much better. We got great views of several homes and upscale communities that we didn’t even pass through on the previous tour. We wanted to take the open top van, but with temperatures soaring, we opted for the 3 hour tour in the air conditioned van. It was comfortable and enjoyable.
Following the tour, we began our journey north. Although we still had a week to go, we had not booked any accommodations for the last leg of the trip. We weren’t sure what time we would get away from LA and didn’t want to rush our drive up the coast to San Francisco. Tim and I had done the Pacific Coast drive many years ago and we really wanted the time to enjoy it without being stuck to a schedule. The trouble with this is that you risk the possibility of paying more for lodging than you would if you were pre-booked. We only drove as far north as Camarillo, California and then decided to shop for a few hours at the outlet mall before settling at a hotel for the night. Again, the shopping wasn’t great, sales were marginal at best and with the poor exchange rate, it just didn’t make sense to do much shopping.