California Dreaming – LA memories

Lovely diner

Lovely diner

We checked in but thought we would never leave

We checked in but thought we would never leave

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Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

Her Madge

Her Madge

Breakfast at the diner

Breakfast at the diner

Cheesy Picture

The dark side

The dark side

A Hollywood Star

A Hollywood Star

Eat, Drink, Sleep and a Cup of Kindness on Hollywood Boulevard

IMG_2874Hollywood Boulevard is not all fancy theatres, red carpets and stars. Much of it is pretty run down and has a lot of adult shops and a lot more homeless peopleIMG_2737

Going through my notes that I made on my travels (not as many as I wished that I had) I stumbled across the account of a time I spent in a cafe on Hollywood Boulevard. My husband was having his hair cut in The Fade Inn Barbershop so I went for tea at Sabor y Cultura while he got himself groomed. I was the only person using pen and paper, and the oldest one there by at least 20 years. It was the music that made me feel that this was the place for me. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head; Love Potion Number 9; Under the Boardwalk; You Were Made for Me; Downtown and McArthur Park. I could have stayed there all day.IMG_3127

Customers were mostly 30 something white and male and unlike most of the other people we met in LA did not appear to be resting actors. One guy was meticulously sticking pictures on to small cubes, others mostly seemed to be freelancers using the cafe as their office. They may have escaped corporate life, yet, as there were very few communal tables, had exchanged a cubicle for a table of one’s own in a cafe with free wifi.

As an older woman I was invisible to them so it was easy to people watch and make up lives for them. Indeed a place I could write a novel.

There was art for sale, laptop leads trailing across the floor, a hum of creativity. Lots of herbal tea and coffee. The notice board carried ads for charity walks and live music events. It may have been full of 20 and 30 something geeks, but these guys were just like the people I hung out with in the 70’s. Just a lot more geeky. With tech.

I liked it there, the 70’s was my era, and, if you are ever on Hollywood Boulevard step away from the bright lights, head towards Hollywood and Western and stop off at Sabor y Cultura and support this indie. Fortunately this place has not changed since I was there, unlike the best diner we went to in LA (see below).

Along this stretch there were a few good Thai restaurants, and further up past Hollywood and Western you are in Thai town, 5 minutes south you are in Little Mexico. The food at all of these was incredibly cheap and very good, lots of motels around her, some seedier than others, yet I never felt unsafe. IMG_3130

On our first day there we were so scared of LA we thought getting to Starbucks for a nasty tea and muffin without being mugged was a bonus. After 5 days we were living like locals eating bacon and eggs and pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast at Angels Restaurant. Family run, excellent food and as many coffee refills as you can take.

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Having just looked this establishment up it seems that Angels is no more. It is now known as 54Twenty and linked to the Dixie Hollywood Hotel next door.

While they have retained the 70’s diner look (it looks as if everything is brand new) it has fancy food on fancy plates and no doubt the photograph of the fountain used in Friends has gone too. IMG_2883Such a shame. The area was having a clean up when we were there but this is not progress in my opinion and makes me quite sad. Change isn’t always for the better and I cannot believe how much this has upset me.IMG_3013

This is where the real people live and work on minimum wage, not 10 minutes walk away from the fake glitz and glamour of the Chinese Theatre where wannabes dress up as Darth Vadar and charge punters to have photos taken with them (we got this one free). Real people like Bon and Brian who worked at Coral Sands Motel, who sent most of their wages home to family they had left behind in the Philippines.  They were so kind to us when we had our own Hotel California moment. We could check out, but due to the grounding of the Qantas fleet, we could never leave.

Hotel workers strike

The Coral Sands Motel, was opposite a clinic where addicts queued each morning and next to a shopping mall with Starbucks and a supermarket.  It was undergoing renovation when we were there in October 2011, yet they seem to have kept the mirrors at bed level. Can’t think why!

What seemed to be a disaster at the time became an opportunity thanks to these guys. Brian drove to the airport so we could return the hire car and get a lift back to the motel with him. The manager gave us a phone for our room, at no extra charge, so we could call Qantas 24/7 to see when we could fly to New Zealand . They all suggested places to visit which we had not covered in our original whistlestop sightseeing LA tour.

We travelled on the clean, safe and unstaffed Metro, got to see Union Station and explored Little Tokyo. And the icing on the cake being in town for the West Hollywood Carnaval. We got to Santa Monica Boulevard by public bus (only poor people use the bus) yet that night as the streets were closed, carnaval goers took the bus too. I was sat next to Marilyn Monroe and opposite 3 witches. I may even have seen Elvis. We had many interesting experiences in California but this was definitely the most memorable.

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I will never forget their kindness and understanding. There are kind people all over the world. Even in LA.

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And it wouldn’t be Hollywood without a cheesy picture.

Have you been to LA? Did you visit Angels and hate the idea that it has now been ‘made over’? What is the best American diner you have been to?

Happy Hollywood Halloween

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West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval

Welcome to the Hotel California

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We are actually in the Coral Sands Motel just off Hollywood and Western. Been here longer than planned due to a little issue with QANTAS.

We have checked out twice, but as the song Hotel California goes, you can never leave.

I booked this motel because it was cheap and got reasonable ratings on Trip Advisor. I suspect that it once rented rooms by the hour, based on strategically placed mirrors and information issued about charging for additional guests but the clientele now are travellers, couples, friends, of all ages, from all over the world. We have a jacuzzi and a pool. It’s clean and comfortable.

We booked for 3 nights, will be here for 6 nights in total. We could have moved to a better motel as QANTAS will pick up expenses for the additional nights. We have stayed because every member of staff have been so caring and helpful. Bon, who checked us in on the first night, a Filipino who has been in LA of 18 years, is so lovely and kind. Brian offered to drive to the airport to meet Phil who had to return the hire car on the 29th. He has even suggested places to visit on our extended stay. Griffith Observatory

He gave me tissues and water when it all got too much. Checked the status of the QANTAS dispute, provided details of a taxi firm, all beyond the call of duty.

To sum up our experience here, we have had Five Star treatment form a two star motel. It’s a bit tatty, the walk to the main part of Hollywood Boulevard isn’t brilliant, but now we are used to the area, have realised that the metro is clean, safe and cheap, we have a great supermarket on our doorstep, a Starbucks, loads of very cheap Thai restaurants, but best of all great diner across the street. More on that and other great breakfasts in America, to come!

I really would rather be in my camper in NZ right now, however now I know I’m on a flight there soon, I’m going to make to most of the extended stay in the USA, by checking out what is supposed to be the most spectacular Halloween parade in West Hollywood. Watch this space.