Day two of the my time in LA kicked off with a drive down the beaches south of Playa Del Ray with Nick as tour guide, so we headed down the Vista Del Mar and took in Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach which have a feeling of little seaside towns caught up int he sprawl of Los Angeles but still managing to retain something of their own sense of self – along with some more very impressive beach front houses.
The beaches themselves look fantastic and I can imagine for those who like relaxing on the beach there is plenty of room as the sands are so huge, however I’m told on clear and sunny days they still get busy, particularly in these areas.
In the afternoon we headed out towards Hollywood and the hills overlooking the famed area which features Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue to the Griffith Observatory which is perched opposite the famous white letters and affords great views across the whole city as well as a fascinating museum of astronomy.
The observatory itself is a spectacular 1930s building that fits in with much of the classic architecture found around the city. Still featuring a pair of classic observatory style telescopes the complex is now more a tourist attraction than a genuine science facility with the central dome housing a large planetarium.
The show we experienced in the planetarium took us through the history of the universe with a great live commentary as the stars, planets and the stories about our relationship to them swirled in the air above us in spectacular fashion – unfortunately I have to admit that the combination of a warm day, a dark room, a comfortable reclined seat and anti-allergy tablets led to me dozing off a couple of times during the show, but I guess I just have another reason to go back (as if I really needed one).
The rest of the museum featured various displays on the planets as well as some pieces of meteor recovered from the desert areas of Southern California and Nevada with some pieces having been dated as being older than the Earth and continuing the mind-boggling facts that still amaze me no matter how many times I hear them.
Heading down the hill we soon hit the junction of Hollywood and Highlands where the Dolby Theatre and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre mark the iconic centre of the movie industry in the midst of one of the most crass and touristy streets I have ever seen.
The Dolby Theatre itself (and its adjacent shopping mall) is impressive as it echoes the sets built in the 1910s for D.W. Griffith’s epic Intolerance and other Hollywood greats and theatres entrance hall lists all the Best Picture Academy Award winners with space for 50 more years of winners to come.
Grauman’s is even more impressive with its famed Chinese design and courtyard packed with hand and foot prints of stars ranging from Harold Lloyd and Cecil B. De Mille to the cast of the Harry Potter and Twilight movies. Despite the somewhat novelty approach of this seeing the indelible marks left by great movie stars over the years does demonstrate the lasting effect they’ve left on out culture and society, though as it was the likes of Potter and Twilight that seemed to be the most popular prints I wonder how long the old stars will really remain shining.
Before heading down to Melrose Avenue for the Groundlings improv comedy show we stopped off at the Guitar Centre on Sunset which was an amazing yet overwhelming store for a guitar enthusiast with a selection of vintage guitars that was like nothing I’d ever seen, including a 25th Anniversary Gibson Les Paul Custom which falls firmly into my ‘dream guitar’ territory.
Also before The Groundlings we headed for dinner at Roscoe’s, where the speciality was the initially strange-sounding combination of chicken and waffles – well in for a penny in for a pound, as they say, I ordered the Scoe’s, and the mix of sweetness from the waffles and maple syrup worked excellently with the southern fried chicken, even if the whole thing had the distinct air of a heart attack on a plate, but I’d certainly recommend trying it out if you’re near a branch of Roscoe’s.
The Groundlings are a comedy troop who have been performing their brand of improvised comedy since the mid-1970s and have featured comedy stars such as Will Ferrell and Kirsten Wiig having been members. Tonight we got to see The Crazy Uncle Joe Show which, at first, seemed it might be a little too ‘zany’ for my tastes, but once the improvs were rolling it was a great show full of genuine laughs and certainly more hits than misses amongst the ‘on the fly’ skits which linked together to tell surreal stories.
Tonight’s show was packed, and this seems to be a common occurrence, so while I would recommend checking out a show if you are in the city, it seems booking is fairly essential.
After leaving the theatre we stumbled upon a small but perfectly formed comic book store, Melrose Music and Comics, which boasted a fine and broad selection of comics and associated ephemera as well as, on this night at least, an exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable member of staff who was also an Arsenal fan like Nick which I think helped lead to the discount I received, so I guess I found a use for football at last!
A visit to Amoeba Records and a drive down the Sunset Strip rounded off another packed day in Los Angeles that continued to demonstrate how astonishingly huge this city is as I still attempted to get to grips with it geography and gain a sense of it as a place.