Having left San Francisco, my newfound travel companions and I headed down the iconic Pacific Coastal Highway down to Los Angeles. On the way there, we stopped to take in the sunset at the coastal town of Pescadero where we met a local girl at the beach. Full of good views, but hungry for good food we asked the girl for recommendations for places to eat and she gladly gave us some tips. We headed into town where we enjoyed fish tacos at a gas station (they were incredible, and I don’t even like fish!), followed by some Irish coffees and a slice of olallieberry pie at a tavern. Pescadero was a multi-sensory sensation, but I wasn’t about to give up the quest for Hollywood for this beautiful little town.
Our journey to LA continued, with a number of pit stops during which we had to exit through the front windows of the car due to the surfboard tied to the roof with rope. Despite the Dukes of Hazard style method of getting in and out of the car, we did get to LA and our first stop was Venice Beach. Venice was a place I was familiar with mainly through skate videos and Netflix series Flaked, and boy did it live up to every cliche I expected. A farmer’s market, cruiser bikes, skateboards, beautiful coastal views and blazing sunshine – it’s difficult not to fall in love with Venice Beach. Now it was time to head over and meet up with one of my new companions’ friends in Huntington Beach.
The mind-blowing thing about Los Angeles for anyone that hasn’t been there is the sheer scale of the place. The journey down from Venice to Huntington was quite a bit longer than a journey from High Green to Meersbrook, but by god was it worth it. LA is a series of cities rather than a city in itself, but certainly down the coast, they are all as beautiful as each other. Huntington Beach, again, didn’t fail to fulfil the stereotypes I had expected from it. With a booming pier and plenty of people out surfing, complete with a lovely rooftop bar and the biggest chicken burger I’ve ever eaten in my life – again I was straight in love with Huntington Beach. The third and final stop of my beach city tour of LA was Newport Beach. Although I didn’t get a chance to explore Newport all that much, it was simply where we stayed for a couple of nights, I certainly did enjoy the sun and sitting in a jacuzzi with a couple of beers – I mean it would be very difficult not to enjoy that.
Having explored the lovely beach cities of LA, it was time for me to part from my companions and head into Hollywood on the metro where I was greeted by a tweaker who offered me some angel dust while telling me that I was the chosen one. Only in Hollyweird! When I got off of the metro, I was greeted by the neon lights of Hollywood Boulevard. It was much different than the beach cities, but the glitz and glamour certainly seemed to be here by nightfall. By the next morning, I realised that this is actually just a bit of a mask, with the streets lined with tents and homeless people. I’d spoken to a number of people at the hostel, all of which had their individual dreams – from being a makeup artist to just wanting to meet Ryan Gosling, Hollywood is a place where dreamers come to try. However, having spoken to some of the homeless people around too – Hollywood seems like the place where their dreams come to die too.
To see what natural beauty the place had to offer, I decided I would take a walk up through Runyon Canyon Park, only my walk was a little different to most people’s. One wrong turn meant I didn’t walk through the park at all, but rather through the hills and past houses that provided me with enough to prove that not everyone’s dreams die in Hollywood – some people obviously succeed to live in these Bojack Horseman-style houses, with infinity pools overlooking the hills. Not too shabby of a way to head up to the Hollywood Bowl overlook, and to take in the vast stretch of road that is Mulholland Drive. Walkers on these streets are obviously infrequent, and led to a number of bus tours stopping and point me out as if I was some sort of celebrity – naturally, I greeted them with a gracious smile and wave, but by god, I wasn’t going to sign anything. The view from the top was well worth the monumental ascent and certainly provided a different view to that at the bottom.
Hollywood Boulevard is interesting, a place buzzing with people fascinated by the celebrity culture walking alongside those who themselves are trying to become a celebrity. At a comedy show, one of the acts pointed out that Hollywood itself isn’t what you’d see in the movies but is actually just a place full of studio lots and people chancing it and ultimately failing. For somewhere apparently so void of hope, there is plenty of evidence of people being successful – especially on the walk of fame, there is a star for everyone from Pitbull to Bill Cunningham. Even if it these people don’t quite succeed, they certainly seem to be having a good time trying. In fact, I even joined them for a moment in living out my own cliche. I sought refuge from the business in a coffee shop, took out my notepad and laptop and wrote for a while. Was there a guarantee that I would succeed in what I’m trying to do? Absolutely not. But was I enjoying the ride? I certainly was.
It’s safe to say that there’s an awful lot going on in LA. It’s a sprawling place that is full of opportunity both to succeed and to fail. There are extreme examples of both, from the homeless to the hills. It is a place that is absolutely 100% what you make of it, in Los Angeles you are still the master of your own destiny. It can be awful or it can be amazing, but ultimately it’s a place where anything is possible. You’re just going to have to work for it.
On my last day in LA, I made my way across town to LAX on the bus. I smiled looking out of the window thinking fondly of all the people I’d met and the various districts I’d seen. Then I experienced one of the rarest things of all: I felt the rain in Los Angeles. When this happens, the only thing to do is get to your next destination. For me, that place was Austin.