At night, you can hear the tunes of the bells of Westerkerk, and remark on the clarity and depth of tone of its big bell. It is evocative of Amsterdam’s long history and reminds you that this was once a powerful and wealthy city-state with an empire of its own.
The Disney Centre is a series of large halls used mostly for exhibition space and conferences. When the building first went up, it was highly polished and stories are that some people in some offices in the city were blinded by the reflected light from the Disney Centre at certain times of the day and certain days of the year. There are a few surfaces with the original polish surviving, but they are out of the sun all year.
Our impression of LA is that it’s mostly a slum. On the way from the airport to the city centre, everything you can see is part of a slum; 250,000 homeless roam the streets of the greater city. In one of the wealthiest cities of the world, they still have overhead wires.
A is probably the graffiti capital of the world. This graffic artist was working with a small gang on a wall near Chinatown, close to the Downtown area. You can see the criss-cross of the chain fence through which I took the photo.
The Cathedral of Los Angeles is worth a visit. It’s unique, not overly self-consciously modernist, and does not participate in the gaudy Spanish Catholic traditions of the people who mostly attend it; inside, the building is austere, minimalist, even. There are no gory statues such as you see in Spain and very little ornamentation. It had a beautiful front yard and cafe, with a quirky garden of olive trees and statues of carp, camels and beehives.
This is Los Angeles’ iconic building, City Hall. You can see graphics in header pages and signposts all over the city, using the pyramid shape at the top of the building to show where Downtown was, or to indicate an official communication from the council or the mayor’s office.
From some views, Los Angeles is a city of wealth, super-modern buildings and wonderful promise. This photo is looking across Pershing Square to Downtown, the centre of the city.
The Downtown newspaper said that 90,000 homeless eke a poor living from the miserable streets of Downtown. They are constantly rummaging in rubbish bins and they take the aluminium cans they find there to recycling machines where they get paid in small coin for each can they shove in. This chap was sorting his belongings in Pershing Square, Downtown, where he could hear the waterfall but exposed himself to the close scrutiny of a street security guard.
I have put two really famous names for you right at the beginning of this section – Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills.
The sign itself used to advertise property for sale in Hollywoodland, but the sign fell into disuse and the “land” part of the sign was lost. Our own Alice Cooper became heavily involved in saving the sign and he bought the H and renovated it. The entire sign is now in 40ft high corrugated steel sheets (such as you would use on your roof) and is designated a national monument.
We took a bus tour of Los Angeles because we were only there for two days and LA is a huge, sprawling city that is too spread out to walk around. Part of the bus tour was to Hollywood, so we parked the bus close to Hollywood Bvd and had a quick look around. We saw the Roosevelt Hotel where Marilyn Monroe used to live and was the site of the first Academy Awards in 1911 and we also had a look at the Chinese Theatre. It’s not a theatre at all, it’s a cinema and it’s not Chinese, either, it’s a building that represents what Sid Grauman in 1927 thought a Chinese building should look like. Never mind, it’s pretty spectacular, even a bit over the top. Near it is the Kodak Theatre where the Academy Awards will be held for the next 50 years or so. I thought the whole street was a bit unkempt and down at heel so I asked why; in the 1980s, due to horrible bad management, Hollywood went bankrupt and I think it still is.
There are more than 2000 five-pointed stars like this in the footpath along both sides of Hollywood Bvd, all the way down to Vine St. Remember the Elvis song about a cop breaking his little bottle of Love Potion Number 9? This is where it happened… The locals call this strip the Walk of Fame. I grew up with the Everly Brothers being played on the radio when I was at primary school, so that’s why I captured their star. The symbol of a record player indicates they received their award for music. The Walk honours celebrities who have been nominated by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. They are not necessarily movie stars – Donald Trump is there – but they are all active in the entertainment industry. The person nominated has to pay $15000 towards the costs of the star and its installation, but usually the fee is actually paid by the nominee’s fan club, movie producer, TV network or recording studio.
I looked for the impersonators along Hollywood Bvd and there were plenty of them – a Michael Jackson, a Jimi Hendrix, a Darth Vader, Kiss, and this petulant Fat Elvis.
LA Tour by minibus
The little house in the left middle ground on the canal in Venice, LA, is owned and let by Julia Roberts. The driver said, “The stars are everywhere. If you meet a celebrity, greet them like a normal person, because they are just normal people like you and me, and they will be quite pleased for you to take their photograph and ask for their autograph.” I didn’t get to test his advice, because I didn’t see a celeb anywhere.
The name Los Angeles refers to a whole district, as well as a single city. Within the district there are several large self-contained cities, like Hollywood, and here. This is the Marina Del Ray, of the city of Del Ray. This is the only photograph I had to take from inside the bus. There are thousands of boats here, many on land for seasonal repairs.
This is Venice Beach, the Baywatch set. Of course, there are no red bikini-clad life savers, because the guards already save enough lives without the distraction of pseudo-drowners trying to get some female attention. It seems the life-savers are necessary because the water is surprisingly cold. Those who swim without a wetsuit can suddenly find themselves shivering uncontrollably and therefore unable to swim. In summer, there are up to 600 rescues a week.
There is a 100m strip of Venice beach that for some reason attracts the athletes, or perhaps men who like to show off their naked upper bodies, to people who like to look at that sort of thing. Anyway, this length of sand is called Muscle Beach. Perhaps because it was New Years Eve the place was almost deserted, but the only action I could find apart from the handball and an indolent game of basketball was this chap carefully, slowly and rhythmically practising his kickboxing moves.
The minibus driver insisted on taking us to Farmers Market. I couldn’t tell you where in LA it was, and when we got there I wasn’t too impressed with it. A lot of people mulling over a lot of stuff you wouldn’t take home. We found some nachos and cheese for lunch and strolled along an ex-tramway street. At the end was this nice little spot – The Grove. A hump-backed bridge spanned a pond in the middle of which was this fountain, playing with a musical background. You can see the water shoots suspended in mid-air on one of the more active chords of the piece.
It’s always an adventure to go to Chinatown, even though most of them are like all the others. This one in LA had a vociferous jewellery centre that caught Elaine’s attention as the bamboo sellers jostled with the little food bars. The nice thing about all Chinatowns is that the traffic always has to go slowly and make its way carefully amongst the crowds who mill along the footpaths and casually cross the narrow streets. Both of us admired this magnificent gate to the quarter. It was only a short walk from our hotel in the Downtown area, and in a city where walking is difficult because of the distances, this was really pleasant. It was also the end of the mini-bus tour.