“L’Invitation au Voyage” – Let’s talk about LOS ANGELES.

How to better begin my new column if not talking about one of the most fascinating and magical cities in the whole world?

As you all probably know, Los Angeles is the ultimate symbol of the American dream, a timeless myth, the one and only LaLaLand; as a constant in everyone’s bucket list, L.A. has always been one of my biggest dream too since I was a child, so when I took that plane at the end of July I was literally on cloud nine. From the very moment in which I arrived at LAX, I started breathing the magical Californian atmosphere presented in the American movies, also noticing that the typical stereotypes painted are mainly true: a huge and multicultural metropolis full of different people from all over the world mixed to the standard Californians, those fancy people always concerned about their bodies and healthy lifestyle, living their lives easily in their cool cars.

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Arrivals area at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), July 2016.

But Los Angeles is much more than this. What surprised me above all is the other side of the coin, made of poverty and social differences: in fact at the foot of the huge skyscrapers in the rich area of Downtown LA you can easily find dozens of the over 40.000 clochards who live in the city, making poverty one of the biggest issues of the urban area.

Apart from this, another element that completely astonished me was the heterogeneity of L.A, consisting of many different areas (actually stand-alone municipalities) which make this huge metropolis a bundle of different cultures and stories. For example, who knew that the original name of Los Angeles was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Río Porciuncula? (Pretty long, uh?) This because the city was founded by a group of 45 mexican settlers in the 1781 and the main features of the Pueblo are still today kept in a small historic district, also known as Olvera Street, where groups of its original mexican inhabitants still live.

But now let’s talk about LA highlights, with its most beautiful areas and corners.

Downtown LA:

In LA, Downtown is the administrative and geographical center of the metropolis.
However, Los Angeles is so large that the Downtown is often considered like a city district, as Hollywood or Venice, even though it is the seat of the city government, of the county and of the highest skyscrapers in the region. Downtown Los Angeles is the “heart and soul” of the city as it is Manhattan for New York City.
The area is characterized by many of the major artistic institutions and sports facilities, as well as high skyscrapers and very important multinational companies. Downtown was the first place, apart from the airport, that I visited in Los Angeles and, for having never been to the US before, I may say that I lived this experience in the most amazing way ever. Actually there’s a pretty funny story behind it. My family and friends with whom I travelled with decided to rent a van in order to arrive to Downtown, which was not so near to our hotel; but when the hotel valet informed us that our car was waiting outside, I could have never imagined that for “car” he intended a HUGE and cool limousine. The funny thing was that we also got apologies for not having the van that we asked for (all of them were taken) and that we paid the limousine at the same (and low!) price agreed before. In short words, I started my American dream in the most cool way ever, going round the skyscrapers on a fucking  limousine.

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Overview of Downtown LA during the day, July 2016.
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First impressions of Downtown LA, July 2016.

Hollywood and Beverly Hills:

When I finally arrived in Hollywood and later in Beverly Hills on the following day, I could say that my biggest dream had finally come true: I was walking on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, visiting the locations of so many movies I had seen since I was I child and I couldn’t truly believe it. Unfortunately, in particular in the case of Hollywood, my expectations were a little too high: no movie stars, glamour and things like that, but a lot (really a lot) of tourists like me blocking the way and making my morning a little too messy. Apart from that, the only thought of walking on the same street crossed by my idols made that day the best EVER, making me feel so lucky and blessed. Later in Beverly Hills the situation was (luckily) more calm, so I could enjoy more those moments, walking on Rodeo Drive, passing through the palms of Sunset Boulevard and admiring the luxurious houses of celebrities and movie stars.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame, July 2016.
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View of the Hollywood Sign, July 2016
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Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, July 2016.
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Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, July 2016.

Venice Beach and Santa Monica:

Two words: West Coast. Another myth, another dream.

These amazing locations, differently from Hollywood and Beverly Hills, meet completely my expectations, even surprising me more than I thought. The two areas, located on the coast, perfectly embody every single expectation or stereotype you could have about California life: palms, huge beaches, the peace of the ocean, cool Californians, skaters, surfers, music and fun. In a few words, definitely the best places to live in. Despite these common elements, the two locations differ a lot from each other: while Venice Beach is the typical cool Californian beach, full of young fancy people, easy lifestyle and music, Santa Monica is more peaceful and different in the whole atmosphere, with its iconic Pier, luxurious houses and tidy surroundings.

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How life in Venice Beach is. July 2016.
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Overall view of Venice Beach, July 2016.
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Another skater in Venice, July 2016.
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Santa Monica Pier, July 2016.

FullSizeRender (11).jpgView of the Pacific Ocean from Santa Monica Pier, July 2016.

Universal Studios:

In the end you can’t definitely go to Los Angeles without visiting Hollywood’s Universal Studios: this film studio and theme park, located in the Universal City county island, is one of the most magical places existing, in which you can have the possibility of visiting the sets of the most famous movies and enjoying yourself by becoming the protagonist of your favourite films, thanks to the many theme attractions in the park. Needless to say, according to the fact that I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan, my favourite part of the park was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a whole area of the Studios completely dedicated to J.K. Rowling’s saga. There you can admire a perfect reconstruction of Diagon Alley, of the Hogwarts Castle, drink a delicious butterbeer and try some magic through interactive activities, attractions and simulations. Definitely MAGICAL.

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Universal Studios sign and logo, August 2016.
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Overview of the main street in Universal Studios, August 2016.
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Universal Studios’ Hogwarts Castle, August 2016.

After having written this long (LONG) review, I hope I’ve been helpful for your future trip to Los Angeles and I really wish to see you soon.

Meanwhile, Have a Safe Journey!
Federica

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