Californian Dream (Part 3: The Big Orange)

“I love your hair colour, Roberta. Oh, the whole family’s gorgeous!” – A loud-mouthed ‘Brooklyner’ compliments us at Universal Studios

The prospect of entering one of the World’s most famous cities with a massive population of 3.9 million was daunting. After negotiating our way through the rush-hour traffic, we arrived in the LA district of Century City, the location of our hotel. The Marriott hotel itself was brilliant. The lobby was stunning, the staff were helpful and they even had valet parking to boot. It was as glamorous as you’d expect. My Dad and Debbie had been less keen on the idea of the city of Angels. They had been more excited by the culturally-rich San Francisco. However, me and my sister were desperate to immerse ourselves in the Big Orange and we opted to take a quick tour around the city in our car.

Modern Family… The Dunphy household on Dunleer Drive, Cheviot Hills

What immediately struck me was the variety that LA possessed; one minute you could be around corporate skyscrapers and the next in a humble, quaint housing estate all housed within the same city. The city also seemed to have a huge gay scene (I don’t mean that there were a lot of obese homosexuals), more-so than San Fran. One street was so packed with gay clubs and shops it should have been renamed Brokeback Boulevard.  Before we’d left for the hotel I had keenly searched for the location of the Modern Family houses, as you probably know I’m a massive fan of the show. I couldn’t believe my luck when one house was located within Century City itself and another in nearby Cheviot Hills. Of course, I forced a detour to both locations and wearing  an ear-to-ear smile got a snap in front of the houses. Unfortunately, my Dad has since lost the camera and I cannot share these photos with you but at least I have the memories. We then went to eat at BJ’s restaurant, a stylish restaurant complete with delicious food. It quickly became a family favourite if not for it’s excellent service but it’s opportunity for innuendo.

City Love… I ♥ Los Angeles

The next day, we were awoken by our sink backing up in the hotel. Black water was oozing from the basin. After a series of complaints to the front and a quick breakfast we hit Santa Monica beach. Following the strenuous task of finding a place to park, we settled on the beach, armed with chicken salad sandwiches from 7-Eleven. We decided to take a stroll down Santa Monica pier, which was plastered with classic sea-sidey pleasures; rollercoasters, candy floss and souvenir shops. However, the best sight on the pier was our first and only celebrity spotting of the trip, Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez. What are the chances? A hotel in the same district as the Modern Family houses and a spotting of one of the cast members on the pier?  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture with him, he was with his family who had formed a turtle formation around him. However, my Dad managed to pap him and told me that he watched me and my sister have our photo taken as if it were some sort of creepy consolation. The rest of the day on the beach mainly involved playing volleyball and reading Alan Carr’s autiobiography whilst skewed on the golden sands. Afterwards, we went for a walk down Venice Beach, I bought an ‘I ♥ LA’ t-shirt, only the second city to receive that honour (after Leicester). That night, we once again frequented BJ’s and for the second night running I had their delicious Mango Chicken Salad, which is odd for me because I usually hate salads.

Hollywood… The famous hillside sign

On Monday, we drove the 5 mile distance to Universal Studios. We arrived just after 9am so as to beat the crowds. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessary seeing as we had front of the line passes. The place is fantastic. They have water spray stations able to cool you in the blistering heat, complimentary Brooklyners leaning out of windows, one of which called my family ‘gorgeous’, a waxwork of Vin Diesel that my sister enjoyed and the cheesiest souvenir shops you could wish for. Naturally, my thrill-seeking Dad and Holly were desperate to get on the rides so they did whilst my pasty skin frazzled in the sun. I used to like rollercoasters but I’ve since been deterred following  a near-death experience at Drayton Manor, but that’s a different story. In fact, I did brave 3 rides during our visit; The Simpsons 3D, Shrek 4D and even the Jurassic Park water ride which is the most exhilarating log flume I’ve ever been on. Other than the dino drop, I was there for the back-lot studio tour. It was incredibly insightful. The tram took you around many iconic sets, props and stages from a simulated earthquake in a subway to a recreation of Jaws in the town of Amityville. Of course, I was most excited to arrive on Wisteria Lane, and it was spectacular, just as pristine as on the box. Within the last three days, I had visited the homes of Modern Family, met Manny Delgado and been to Wisteria Lane. LA was shaping up to be the perfect city.

Bright lights bigger city… Night-time view from Santa Monica pier

Our final day was twinged with a bit of sadness for me. I woke to find my iPod of 18 months unresponsive on the bed-side table and the Apple store staff unable to save her. We grabbed a croissant, I sat sullen remembering the life of my digital pal until I was inadvertently distracting by an upcoming actress discussing scripts with her agents, unfortunately we didn’t catch a name of someone who is sure to be a rising star. We then made the journey to Tinseltown!  Oddly enough there is something quite satisfying about having your picture taken with a celebrity’s name that’s been stencilled on to a path. From Ed O’Neill to Felicity Huffman, I had my snap taken with all my favourite stars. Better yet, I discovered my hands and feet were the exact same size as the great king of pop, Michael Jackson! Okay, I may have jumped the gun there – the best part of the day was an unexpected compliment from an LA local who said ‘that’s a very cool shirt, dude!” referring to the Leicester City shirt I was proudly donning. On the way out of the city, we stopped by Johnny Depp’s house for my sister. His street is a winding street just off a main road, cleverly secluded by high trees. The houses there were fantastic but we were clearly not welcome. The road was a dead-end and there were even bouncers glaring at us from a driveway as we tried to sneak a peek at one of Hollywood’s A-List pads. Further down that road we encountered our first ‘insane’ American, a homeless man seemingly blaming Jennifer Aniston for life’s shortcomings. LA was  fantastic and when I left for San Diego that afternoon, I did so with a heavy heart. Could ‘America’s finest city’ compete with La La Land?

Blame… Jennifer Aniston is the leading cause of homelessness.

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