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    City of smiling faces: Los Angeles

    When I thought what could be the title of my Los Angeles review, naturally “City of Angels” came to my mind. The city was named after the Spanish word “angels”. But for me, the best expression defining Los Angeles is the “city of smiling faces”.

    I was lucky enough to see New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles more than once. Despite the 14-hour direct flight from Istanbul, other cities could not claim my passion for Los Angeles. The reason why people are so tranquil and happy in Los Angeles, where you see many smiling faces, could be that spectacular coast line.

    You already know that music is my muse while writing. The album I chose as a background for this piece is the one I bought from Los Angeles and it starts with a song about the city: Hotel California by the Eagles. I hit the play button and now I am ready to write.

    When you land at Los Angeles Airport, hosting lots of direct flights from many countries, be ready to wait for an hour or so in the passport queue, in which people from different nationalities come together. Based on my experience, I can say that the passport control at the airport varies from minimum 45 minutes to maximum two hours depending on the flight schedule. That’s why you’d better wear a pair of comfortable shoes for the passport control part after your flight.

    Being in the seismic belt, and one of the oil-producing cities, Los Angeles sometimes experiences ground shakings, and therefore is a horizontally expanded city. The “downtown” concept is a bit different from other cities in the States; apart from some high buildings, there are no skyscrapers, and there is more than one city center. Therefore, it is not possible to stay in a downtown hotel and explore Los Angeles by public transport, which I found limited. I prefer to rent a car and I recommend it to you too, in terms of transportation.

    Now I’d like to share what I recommend seeing in Los Angeles during a short trip, so you can explore the city in an organized way. If you are planning to stay a few more days, other stops could be added to these ones.

    Hollywood Boulevard and Its Precinct

    Hollywood Boulevard

    This Boulevard, a center of attraction for numerous local and foreign people, hosts many interesting places, restaurants and theatres including the Chinese Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, and Kodak Theatre where each year Academy award ceremonies are held. On the sidewalk in front of the Chinese Theatre, you can see the hand and footprints of some celebrities but the Walk of Fame certainly gets the biggest attraction on this boulevard.

    Walk of Fame

    This street, located between Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street has more than 2400 celebrity names. These celebrity names, engraved on the stars placed on the sidewalk, become immortalized. The first star of the Walk of Fame, opened in 1958, was given to the actress Joanna Woodward in 1960.

    Stars get chosen from five different categories: Film-cinema, television, music, radio and theatre. Each category has its unique emblem. Wandering around, you can see some stars which fall outside these categories, which have been awarded to individuals who have performed exceptional accomplishments. A good example of this is the stars given to the three astronauts who completed the moon operation with Apollo 11.

    Up to now, only one famous person got two stars in two different categories;  the world-famous Michael Jackson. Charlie Chaplin also has two different stars in the same category. Gene Autry made history with his five stars from each category. The only exception placed on this sidewalk belongs to Mohammed Ali. The famous boxer said his name, same with the prophet Mohammed, couldn’t be stepped on and the organization firm agreed. So his name got hung on the wall of Kodak Theatre instead of the Walk of Fame. It is the only star hung on the wall.

    Sunset Strip

    The most popular 1.5 km part of the Sunset Boulevard. Here you see lots of restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs. When the sun goes down, gigantic billboards and a racket of lights will gladly welcome you.

    Hollywood Sign

    One of the principal symbols of Hollywood, this sign was erected in 1923. You can see it from the tall buildings on the Hollywood Boulevard and get to it after a 20 min. road trip to Mont Lee.

    Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive

    Beverly Hills

    This is where you see the biggest and the most expensive houses of the world and daydream looking at them in awe. Cruising slowly by car among these wonderful houses and estates, you will adore this unique ambiance full of clean streets and gorgeous plant cover. But before falling into deep dreams I’d like to warn you that the average value of property is 2.2 million in Beverly Hills.

    Rodeo Drive

    Walking on Rodeo Drive, where many luxuries stores are located, even just the cars of shoppers will make you feel the richness. If your budget is not big enough to shop from these stores, you may as well wander in them for the sake of their glamour and set off to your next destination.

    Santa Monica Pier and Its Precinct

    Third Street Promenade

    This is the most crowded and popular part of Santa Monica. This 1.5-2 km long street hosts stores, restaurants, bars and a shopping center called Santa Monica Place at its end, and is alive every hour of the day. You can see street artists with their remarkable shows like in any other famous street. You can watch the crowd around while sipping your delicious coffee at the coffee shops located in the center of the street. If you walk for 10 minutes towards the coast, you reach the Santa Monica Pier.

    Santa Monica Pier

    On the wood ground of this nostalgic pier, famous chain restaurants like Bubba Gump, clubs and famous funfairs, which you’d remember from numerous movies, will welcome you. I recommend that you get on the Ferris wheel and see the view from above, and get on the roller coaster to have fun. In one of my Los Angeles trips I came across a circus tent in the big parking lot of the pier. It is quite possible to encounter various surprising events throughout the year. Apart from them, you can witness a sublime view during sunset and wander around the pier by rented bike.

    This much-loved pier is also the endpoint of Route 66. Starting from Chicago and covering the States from east to west, Route 66 is a 3940 km long highway, known as the “main street of the USA”; it was removed from the USA highway system in 1985.

    Venice Beach

    It is a must-see coastline if you happen to visit Los Angeles. The Californian scenes from many movies have been taken here. I can say that this coastline is the funniest and most colorful of all where girls skate, street artists perform their shows, and even beggars try to collect money with their creative tricks. What gave its name to the coast is the physical structure of the settlement more than the coast line itself. Once a separate city from Los Angeles, Venice was added to Los Angeles in 1926. The region got its name “Venice” due to the little canals and bridges between the houses. Try to visit the place at your lunch or dinner time and observe the environment from your table on the coast line. And also you can have a walk on the gold colored beach, or enjoy it with your bike.

    If I tried to write about all the beauties of Los Angeles, I would present you with a 5 or 6 piece series because in terms of entertainment, shopping and culture travel, Los Angeles is a rich city, where everyone from all ages and interests may find something, and it never bores its visitors. You can explore lots of beautiful coasts within the borders of the city, visit exhibitions and museums such as LACMA which I haven’t mentioned in this writing, and pass hours full of fun in Hollywood Universal Studios and Disneyland if you’re traveling with your family.

    I request that you see this piece as a beginning and I am concluding it with some practical notes:

    • If you rent a car and park it in a lot with parking meters, try to return to your car before the time is up. There is a special unit checking these parking meters and giving fines!
    • Parking lot fees are generally expensive in the States, but you can use the parking lots of the shopping malls around free of charge.
    • Especially towards evening there is heavy traffic on the link roads, so try to avoid them during rush hour.
    • If possible, spare two days for Universal Studios. Buy your ticket via the internet and save yourself from long lines. Same advice for Disneyland too!
    • There are very few options for shopping at moderate prices, therefore spend your money spared for shopping in the outlet stores. Camarillo outlets, 1.5 hour away from the city, offer reasonable prices for various brands but as it is a bit far from the city, you may need to spare one day. The boutiques near Hollywood Boulevard sell low-cost products, so I don’t recommend you purchase anything apart from some little souvenirs in this region. 

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