Los Angeles: Land of Make Believe

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The LA Farmer's Market, where the stars shop.
The LA Farmer's Market, where the stars shop.

Sun, fun, spectacular beaches? Check. A sense of insecurity? Check!

Maybe it’s just me, but bronzed-body perfection and silicone enhancements make me shrink into my oversized sweater, but nevertheless, LA is every film fan’s dream.

Over the last century, huge blockbuster films have been made at Universal Studios, and celebrities are rife, leading to celeb home tours. Now, it’s just my opinion, but sitting on a bus, driving past celebs’ houses strikes me as a little odd. You won’t see them putting the rubbish out. So personally, I’d avoid that. My preference would be to hit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and take in the famous, sparking names. Not everyone can say they’ve seen that.

Flights leave the UK regularly, but unfortunately it’s long-haul, at around 11½ hours. I’ve found a great way to beat stress and tiredness is pre-booking extras. I recently stayed at one of the Gatwick hotels with parking included, at a fantastic rate. The money saved will be needed when you land. If you’re like me, you’ll find that booking your Gatwick hotels and parking, is a great excuse to hit Duty Free – guilt-free!

LA enjoys sunny and dry conditions all year. I’d avoid summer months, not only is the city busy but you’ll also find accommodation is much more expensive.

So what to do in La-La land?

It would be rude not to do a bit of celeb-spotting. The best places are Beverly Hills and Bel Air, but I’d suggest you remember your credit card! It would be my luck not to spot any real-life celebs, so a visit to the Hollywood Wax Museum will guarantee at least a pretend photo opportunity!

If there’s one thing you must see, it’s the Hollywood sign. Where you view this is immaterial really, it’s set on Mount Lee. Don’t think about getting too close – you’ll find the LA police there before you know it!

I don’t think a trip would be complete without hitting Venice Beach. This is rollerblading, silicone, muscle utopia. It’s certainly worth seeing, but personally I’d go a little further to Santa Monica, where it’s cleaner, with a lovely promenade – perfect for people-watching.

There’s so much to do, it’s hard for me to narrow it down, but one of the main pulls is Universal Studios’ tours. If this sounds too glitzy, then maybe Museum of Contemporary Art or the Natural History Museum are for you.

I expected LA’s nightlife to be uber-glam, and on closer inspection, I wasn’t wrong. Restaurants, bars and exclusive night-clubs are in, and you should experience at least one. There’s also plenty of chilled-out bars with live music. One thing I would remember – tipping. It’s customary to tip around 15-20% – not included in the bill.

LA is what you expect – glamorous, fashionable, fake in some ways, magical in others, but I guarantee it will be an experience no matter what. I always like to save a few pounds wherever necessary, so look into airport extras, such as Stansted Airport Parking, with a handy shuttle to the terminal, which I found really convenient.

Overall, LA is like fairy dust – not really real, but quite special.  Find a list of free things to do in LA on GoNOMAD.com!