“Awesome!” enthused the waiter as I plumped for coffee. It seems that, against all odds, I'd made the perfect choice of beverage to accompany breakfast. It made me feel so damn good. Welcome to LA.
There really is nowhere like it. It has a street named after L Ron Hubbard and a suburb named after Tarzan. Oh, and they make movies here.
They make films in lots of places, of course, but where else can claim to have been home to Rick’s Bar, Frankenstein’s laboratory, Scarlett’s Tara and the Land of Oz.
Which makes visiting the city an experience like visiting no other. When irate Transylvanian villagers had doused their flaming torches, these are the bars they retired to for a cold beer. Chorines chowed down on well-earned burgers in its diners after a day’s precision drilling on revolving sets. And, once plans to conquer the Universe had been thwarted one more time, these are the modest bungalows back to which the green-skinned aliens plodded.
I’m sure there’s an airport somewhere around here... oh wait, I see it. Welcome to L.A.
To calculate the amount of time we probably spend watching Angelenos earn a crust by playing dress-up inside enormous concrete sheds is sobering. It’s tough to think of a city which has insinuated itself into our consciousness as deeply (and as unnoticed) as Los Angeles.
It’s too easy to confuse LA with Hollywood, though.
After running a movie locations quiz a while ago, UK daily The Independent revealed that the question which tripped up most entrants was “Where was the 1941 Oscar-winner How Green Was My Valley? filmed?”
South Wales – which is where John Ford’s mining drama is set – was the most popular response. The paper gave the correct answer as “Hollywood”.
Well… not quite.
The Welsh mining village was built a long way from Wales, sure, but on the Fox Ranch at Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles and a good 20 miles from Hollywood.
Motor city: West Century Boulevard from the tower of Hilton LAX
But having said that, it is the movie business itself which has potential to open up so much more of the city. Since the early years of the 20th Century, the industry has plundered the city’s varied neighbourhoods to provide cinematic backdrops: suburban homes, rugged coastlines, European castles and scuzzy backstreets.
LA can seem less a single city than an agglomeration of cities: a small state that’s undergone liposuction to remove all its redundant space.
Your itinerary doesn’t have to be limited to the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, wax museums and souvenir shops, with the odd trip to Venice Beach or Disneyland: so buckle up and explore the city.
With JJ Gittes, Tyler Durden, Norma Desmond, Jim Stark, ‘Easy’ Rawlins, Vincent Vega, Dirk Diggler, Michael Myers and The Dude as your tour guides, how can you go wrong?
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Visit Los Angeles
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), 1 World Way, Los Angeles, CA 90045 (tel: 310.646.5252)
Los Angeles is car city, of course, though there's a Metro system, with 200 bus lines and seven rail lines:
- Blue (north-south from Downtown to Long Beach)
- Green (east-west, from Redondo Beach to Norwalk, with a free shuttle to LAX, from Aviation)
- Red (Downtown to Hollywood, Wilshire and on to the San Fernando Valley)
- Purple (Koreatown to Downtown)
- Gold (East Los Angeles to Pasadena, via Downtown)
- Silver (El Monte to Artesia)
- Orange (west-east in the San Fernando Valley, linking Canoga Park and North Hollywood)
You can access online bus and rail route maps