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Trip Report Tourists in our Home Town - a few days in LA

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My sister and I, both LA natives, spent a few days last month doing touristy things in our home town. I live near Seattle now and Sis lives in Boise, but her daughter recently moved to Burbank to try to do some acting; so this seemed like a good opportunity for a visit.

We drove from Boise via Yosemite (Tioga Pass) with overnight stays near Carson City and Fresno. We then spent a night in Ventura, where I worked for many years, and I was able to have a great reunion with my old work pals.

We arrived at our hotel, the Best Western Media Center Plus on Riverside Drive, near Warner Brothers, on a Wednesday afternoon. This hotel was very nice and well-situated for the touring we planned to do. (We do have the advantage of already knowing how to get from place to place in the LA area.) The first evening was spent visiting my niece. Then we went to the Griffith Park Observatory...it was packed but I recommend it for the great views of the city from the hilltop, plus wonderful shows in the Planetarium. Dinner this night was from the deli at the Burbank Von's....too tired to be adventurous.

Thursday morning we met my niece and her friend for a nice breakfast at Care Aroma in Studio City...a very popular place, apparently, with the hipster crowd! Food was good, though, but we forgot we were at a meter and got a very nice $46 parking ticket from the City of L.A.!!! From there we returned to Burbank and took in the Warner Brothers Studio tour...I found this disappointing because many of the streets I recalled (like Main Street, River City from “The Music Man”) were closed for filming, and the old Western set has been torn down. There was a lot of Harry Potter emphasis, and of course many, many plugs for “The Dark Knight Rises”, which opened (with the subsequent tragedy) the day after our visit. WB must have spent a fortune promoting this movie; then entire city was plastered with ads for it.

After great sandwiches at Porto's Bakery in Burbank, we headed for Universal City Walk...spent time in the giant candy store (It'Sugar)and the Dodgers store, where I got a sweatshirt commemorating my favorite baseball team. Weather was uncharacteristically hot and muggy, and this night we had a brief but ferocious rain storm.

On Friday we had breakfast at our hotel and headed for downtown LA. We parked at a $5 lot on Hill Street, and first visited the Bradbury Building. Our mother used to work here and for those who don't know of it; it's an 1893 architectural wonder that is a National Historic Landmark. Filming of such movies as Blade Runner and, more recently, The Artist, has taken place here. Then we ticked off most of the architectural landmarks noted by the L.A. Conservancy...Grand Central Market, Angel's Flight, the Biltmore Hotel, the Central Library, and the newer Disney Symphony Hall, where we were able to view the interior of this spectacular Frank Gehry creation. My Dad's old office building, on 7th near Flower, has been turned into condos. :-( We then drove west on Wilshire to Fairfax, and visited Farmer's Market and The Grove mall, which has an American Girl store which demanded a visit to buy souvenirs for grandchildren. Back along Melrose (past the iconic Paramount gate) and a drive through Griffith Park (past the little train and the pony rides) to get back to Riverside Drive, where we had dinner at the original Toluca Lake Bob's Big Boy. It was a toasty-warm Friday night and the parking lot was filled with antique cars. The food, meanwhile, tasted exactly the same as it did in 1962!

On Saturday we drove out Sunset toward the beach. Our first stop, though, was at Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades, a site I had somehow missed when I lived in LA. The ranch and the tour of Will's ranch house were very interesting...made me want to learn more about Will Rogers, who was such a beloved entertainer in the 1930's, quite a bit before my time!

Next stop was the Santa Monica Pier, which we should have realized would be jammed with people since it was so hot inland. Took pictures on the pier and palisades, then off to the Third Street Promenade for a good Thai lunch at Buddha's Belly, followed by a fun trip to the Lush cosmetics store. It was tough getting back into the city from the beach; traffic was predictably awful and we hopped from boulevard to boulevard making our way east. For this evening, we had made reservations at El Cholo's Mexican restaurant, near downtown on Western Avenue, another nostalgic favorite of ours. Food and margaritas were very good as always!

The next day we were off to visit friends in Orange County (really enjoyed the Sawdust Festival in Laguna), then back to Boise via Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Overall impressions of my hometown: it's even more crowded and congested than it used to be. The general economic downturn shows; roads are bad and litter is everywhere. I won't be going back there to live, if I ever return to California residency, it will be along the Central Coast...Ventura and north. But there's something about metropolitan LA that still appeals to me: it feels like home, and I guess it always will.

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