In my pre-Pilates instructor life, I was the assistant to an interior designer in L.A. and got to eat really good lunches that other people paid for. It was totally Hollywood and totally rad. We worked out of a gallery off of La Cienega then moved to La Brea and Melrose, which means nothing to you unless you live in & have to navigate in downtown L.A. traffic. What it meant to me, was that no matter what errand I was running, meeting I was trying to make, or how badly I wanted to take the closest 101 on-ramp to head home to the valley, I had to avoid Hollywood & Highland AT ALL COSTS. Why you ask? One word: TOURISTS.
Yes, that particular intersection is a tourist mecca and creates a traffic death trap. I’ve watched people go absolutely mad as the lights flash green, yellow, red, green, yellow, red, red, RED…while their car goes nowhere. Finally, after a half hour of waiting to move 8 feet you get to make that right turn, only to be stopped by another hoard of TMZ-bus-hoping tourists crossing the street. I admit that I’m totally guilty of hissing the “T” word when stuck by Madame Tussaud’s en route to a concert, but who am I kidding? I AM a tourist. ALL THE TIME. I travel a fair amount throughout the year, and would be completely lying if I said I didn’t go to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Pike Place Market in Seattle, or to eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans like every other picture snapping sightseer. Tourist destinations generally exist for a reason; they’re fun!, historic, and offer something unique unto your surroundings. So what was I missing in my own back yard? I decided to check my too-cool-for-it ‘tude and embrace my inner fanny pack, calling in Kristina to join me as we set out for a touristy night on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
First, like any out of town traveler, we needed a place to crash. Scouting the options, we chose brand spanking new Mama Shelter. With a few locations speckled around Europe, this is the first U.S. venture for the hip French brand. The vibe was super social, quirky, a dash of hipster, and we knew upon arrival we were in for a good time. Designed in monochromatic black and white with eclectic pops of bright colors, there were hand drawn colored chalk art scenes adorning the bar and restaurant ceilings that inspired conversation. Bar top tables were etched in with checker boards, glittered masks hugged the bedroom lamps, and you could take your own in-room photo shoot on the provided apple computer to share with your fellow Shelter patrons. As the room key says: Mama wants to play, and who are we to argue? Here are some of our favorite details during our stay:
1. The very L.A. touch of having screenplays to be inspired by while you try to write your own, waiting in the room. Kristina and I got to read lines from “The Big Lebowski” and “Swingers” in between sightseeing. I’ll let you guess which one of us played “The Dude”.
2. You had us at cottage fries. The tasty treats listed on the menu had us coming back for dinner, bar snacks, and breakfast the next day. We also appreciated that we sat in a different section each time, and really enjoyed our experience and ambiance from booth, to bar, to dining hall.
3. It really is all about the details. From the sassy matchbook covers, to the brightly must-be-used green and purple goblets we sipped our late night wine from, the hotel just begs you to have a good time. We loved that each touch gave you every excuse to take a million L.A. touristy photos, and we definitely did.
After freshening up at the hotel it was time for the main event; The Walk Of Fame! Wait…what is it exactly? Is it all the stars down the sidewalk? Or just the ones in front of the giant theatre? We started walking and I whipped out my iPhone to figure out what this popular landmark really was. Turns out the main Hollywood Walk Of Fame stretches 1.3 miles east to west on Hollywood Blvd, from North Gower St to North La Brea Ave and holds more than 2,500 brass and terrazzo stars. The section of concrete blocks set in the forecourt of the famed movie theatre located on the walk are an attraction all their own.
As we hit the boulevard, the smells of the city swirled up around us (which weren’t pleasant) and we instantly saw the famed stars speckled down the street. Reading names off, looking for ones we recognized, Kristina and I started to become enveloped by the growing crowd of vendors and tourists as we got closer to the TCL Chinese Theater. “Oh look… Minnie!” Kristina turned to say as she casually pointed at a street performer dressed like the lady mouse. “Don’t look at them! Do NOT engage. DO NOT ENGAGE!!!” I warned as I scared the crap out of her and told her the unfortunately true tales of costumed characters choking tourists who didn’t tip them after taking a picture. Not looking for a fight, we veered away from the giant furry head and settled for taking a few pictures of ourselves. “Let me snap a few of you” I say, as she hands me her camera. Barely a few clicks escape my finger and all of a sudden a group jumps in and photo bombs Kristina. Her face was priceless! They posed for a few frames while I shouted my best encouraging sexy photographer lingo and then headed off. But, not before one guy shouted back “That’ll be $5!!!”. Good one sir.
As we came upon the historic theater we joined the mass of people gathered in the courtyard, trying to identify the names and imprints on the ground beneath us. Norma Talmadge is credited with being the first to accidentally step in soft concrete back in the 1920’s as the epic theater was being built, spawning the footprint fad, but that truth remains debatable. I instantly nerded out when I saw the square holding the signatures of the cast of Star Trek, lost all chill, and started taking way too many pictures. What can I say. I seriously love Star Trek. But as we continued to eye the squares, we stumbled upon our favorite find of the walk and theatre combined: Judy Garland’s teeny TINY feet! They are SO SMALL! I mean it, we cannot stress to you how convinced we are she had little baby goat hooves. I did some research later and could only find that she was about 4’11” in height with around a size 5 shoe, which sounds human. Still, I felt like Godzilla slapping my giant 8.5 sized skis down next to her super small prints.
After a few more picture ops, we left the hustle and hit up the other main activity in the area; shopping. Peeking into boutiques, debating on some home goods, and ultimately stocking up on some beauty supplies we steered clear of the souvenirs and started heading back to the comforts of our hotel for a tasty night cap cocktail.
As we crashed down to watch an old Hollywood movie before lights out, I checked our tourist attractions off the list. While we wont’d be searching for stars beneath our feet again anytime soon, we certainly did enjoy our day and learned a little Hollywood history to boot. So naturally, now the questions is, what’s next?? Stay tuned, more tourism (local and far) to come….
xx – Sarah