Monday, February 09, 2009

Los Angeles

First Monday of September is observed as Labor Day in US. This long weekend gave us a opportunity to visit the Entertainment Capital of America, Los Angeles, California. Well known for Hollywood, its artists and beautiful beaches along the west coast of America. Our travel plan was simple, reach LA by evening of 29th August, next day visit Universal Studios, LA city tour on Sunday and return to Houston by 1st September. We used a travel website to book our flights, hotel and rental car to get a good deal. And deal is what we got, for 830 bucks per head we got flight tickets, 3 nights stay in Shearaton Gateway and a rental car for 3 days.

Universal Studios is one of the biggest and the oldest movie productions houses in Hollywood. Its located some 30 miles from the Los Angeles airport along the Hollywood Freeway. The Studio opens for general public at 9 in the morning and is open till 9 in the evening, so we reached the studio by around 8.30. We had a red carpet welcome to the studio.

First stop in the studio was the House of Horrors. This is a collection of all the characters, costumes and some live characters from all of Universal's classic horrors movies. Its a dark maze to be navigated and screemed. One of the live character came to catch hold of me, and I said a "Hi" and tried to shake hands, after this failed attempt the artist went back to the his hiding place, making everybody in the vicinity burst into laughter. Felt bad for being a spoilsport later. Continuing further, we went to meet Shrek on his way to rescue his princess from Lord Farquaad's men. In the movie the characters come out of the screen and onto your lap! Its a 4-D presentation, the 4th dimension being the physical effects, were the seats rock, when the character is riding a horse or water is sprayed when the someone spits or throws-up! One princess Fiona was rescued we went to take the 45 minutes guide tour of the whole studio. This tour takes us in the live sets and previously used sets to depict how a movie is shot.

This location is used to shot many flooding sequences in Hollywood movies. Most of the King Kong movie's sea shots were shot in this small pond!

War of the Worlds' famous airplane crash scene was shot in this location. Steven Spielberg, brought an actual Boeing 777 and dismantled it to create this set at a cost of 2 Millions US Dollars!

After the tour we headed to meet the Animal stars of Hollywood. Animals have always had a great part in Hollywood movies. Next we went to get some "Travel Books" and also to meet Anna Scott. But to much to our despair, the book store was closed!

It was noon already, pacifying the bandicoots in the tummy became a priority than searching the Dinosaurs at the Jurassic Park ride! Next it was time to fight "The Mummy". Pyrotechnics has always played a huge part in Hollywood movies, Backdraft is one such movie which uses pyrotechnics to a great extent. The set used to shoot the climax sequence is preserved for public viewing with a live performance. SFX or Special Effects is another great technique used extensively by Hollywood movies. We visited the SFX lab to get a first hand experience of this technique. It was closing time by the time we were done seeing everything. Quick stop at the Souvenir store and we were on our way back to the hotel.

We began our second day early, we had the pickup for Los Angeles City tour at 8am. First stop on the tour was Hollywood Bowl. A Amphitheater with a seating capacity of 17000 plus!

Next we took a walk on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I managed to capture Donald Duck's Star next to Mickey Mouse's leg!

Grauman's Chinese theatre, home to many movie premieres is also located on Hollywood walk of fame. Next to the Chinese theatre is the Kodak Theatre, Oscar awards are present here. This is The Sunset Boulevard, a famous road with many landmark locations which gave Hollywood many of its artist from its numerous comedy clubs, music lounges.

From Los Angeles city we entered the city of...

Beverly Hills is the home to the stars of the Hollywood, home to Million dollar houses! Universal studios is located just outside the city limits of Beverly Hills. No wonder people want to be in Beverly Hills.

After going around the Beverly Hills downtown we returned to downtown Los Angeles to visit one of the oldest house called the Avila Adobe

We had lunch at the Farmers Market, a famous meeting place in Los Angeles. "When Walt Disney was preparing his early designs for a place called Disneyland, he did some of his work while dining on Farmers Market patios. Elements of the Market’s unique design are incorporated into his original drawings." Next we saw La Brea Tar Pits, where tar seeps from the ground to form a pool.

Along with Tar, Methane is also liberated in the surrounding areas, hence all the houses in this area have methane monitors, and if the methane reaches a certain level, "drastic actions" are taken to avert a disaster. Someone lighting a smoke better be careful in this area! Next the tour took us back into Beverly Hills to show the houses of Hollywood actors, we ended up seeing only the compounds of famous actors and actresses!