Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California

Acting like typical ticky-tacky tourists, we set out to explore both the Hollywood and Beverly Hills areas today. Our first stop took us to the Kodak Theater which is in the heart of the Hollywood Boulevard attractions. This theater might sound familiar for it's the home of the Academy Awards. The outside looked nothing like the glam and glitz that see during the red carpet TV coverage shown before the actual Academy Awards. That's the magic of Hollywood. It will be interesting to watch the Academy Awards next time to compare to what we saw. Right in front of the Kodak Theater is the Hollywood Walk of Fame which extends many blocks on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and some side streets. The Walk of Fame is where over 2000 entertainers are honored with a sidewalk-embedded star. We enjoyed walking many blocks finding our favorite celebrities' stars.

Adjacent to the Kodak Theater is one the must-sees of this famous area and that's Grauman's Chinese Theatre. In the entry area of this 1927 pagoda-styled theater are the famous hand and footprints of celebrities in the cement. Here you will find hand and footprints from old Hollywood stars like Clark Gabe and Shirley Temple to the stars of today like Will Smith and John Travolta. The biggest surprise was to see how small John Wayne's feet and hands actually were indicating that he wasn't as large in stature as Hollywood made him out to be. Don't miss this stop so you can make your own discoveries.

Next, we really went all out as tourists and took a Hollywood Sightseeing van tour. The company we chose was ehollywoodtours.com which provided a two hour guided tour ($20 per person - be sure to get this price - everything was negotiable on Hollywood Blvd!!) of the famous streets like the Sunset Strip, Melrose Ave and Rodeo Drive, as well as the viewing of dozens of celebrities homes including the Playboy Mansion, Jay Leno, George Clooney, the newest couple in town - the Beckhams, and many more. Along the way the tour guide pointed out clubs where people got their start, as well as where celebrities were arrested, frequented, or died. Remember when Hugh Grant was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, well you'll see that corner and many other famous celebrity haunts too. Our guide was also constantly looking for paparazzi (signalling a celebrity was in the area) and watching the many very expensive cars that passed by so that we could get a glimpse at a celebrity. Unfortunately, we didn't have any celeb-sightings on our tour but understand it's very common. If you have an interest in seeing someone famous or want to see astonishing homes, then definitely take this tour, for it was ticky-tacky-tourist fun!

The restaurant where we ate - Clafoutis on Sunset Boulevard. This was in a nice location (parking in the rear for free, so don't pay to park.) and the food was quite good - unfortunately the same cannot be said for the waitress - let's just say arrogant, which is a shame, since she works for tips. Keep your eyes open around here as well, as celebrities frequent the restaurants on the Sunset Strip.

Time for tips:
1. Parking on Hollywood Boulevard - there are a few city-run parking garages, and if you purchase something in the area, be sure to get your ticket validated for a few bucks off the parking rate.

2. In front of the Kodak Theater there is a visitors booth - ask for "the elephant card" - this is a free card that offers discounts at the stores in the area. They also can give you discount coupons for tours, such as Kodak Theatre tours. Don't be shy - just ask what they've got - it seemed as whatever we asked, they offered some money savings.

3. You can get a free map of the Hollywood Walk of Fame from the Chamber of Commerce on Hollywood Boulevard - go to the second floor.

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