Take a peek at the houses of Hollywood legends, walk in the footsteps of the stars, shop in the world's most exclusive boutiques and get a kiss from Homer Simpson. It can only be glamorous Los Angeles
I've seen Patrick Swayze's house. And Britney Spears’ house. And Hugh Hefner’s playboy mansion, come to mention it. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually been invited inside any of these palatial homes, but instead hopped on one of the guided bus tours that take LA visitors around the Beverly Hills homes of the Hollywood elite.
It did feel touristy at first, but you can’t help but enjoy yourself and marvel at the sheer decadence of it all.
The same bus also took us to Rodeo Drive, where I happily indulged in a bit of window shopping. I did venture into Jimmy Choos with great anticipation, but as nothing had prices on (as you would expect) and I wasn’t about to start asking.
Fellow Pretty Woman fans were as excited as me when we spotted the hotel where she and Richard Gere stayed and THAT shop where she was famously refused service.
In what was starting to feel like a very surreal day indeed, we continued to Hollywood and the Walk of Fame. The star-filled pavements were much longer than I expected. I trundled up and down for ages, taking photo after photo of the various stars, but I still didn’t get to them all.
This is also home to the legendary Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the most famous movie theatre in the world, and, outside, the famous footprints, handprints and autographs of stars immortalised in cement.
The next day was dedicated to Universal Studios. You don’t need kids to justify a trip here – we had an absolute ball. While I posed with Dracula for photos, hubby wandered off with Marilyn Monroe before bumping into Shrek and the legend that is Spongebob Squarepants. On a tour of the studios, we spotted the Scooby Do van, Jaws (himself), the original Psycho Bates Motel and even got a glimpse of the set of Desperate Housewives.
The place is filled with famous characters and cartoons wandering around and we quickly reverted back to childhood when we spotted the Simpson family and rushed to shake hands with them – I even got a kiss from Homer!
For a few extra dollars, you can get some cool queue-jumping passes, which are well worth it if you’re there in peak season.
Next stop was Venice Beach, the second most popular California tourist destination after Disneyland, and just a short walk away from our hotel, the lovely Marina del rey Marriott.
We walked along the famous bohemian boardwalk, with its eclectic mix of stalls, wannabe musicians, restaurants and cafes to Santa Monica Boulevard, while the many rollerbladers and cyclists went flying past (there’s no age limit on rollerblading by the way. I saw a suntanned chap on skates who must have been at least 80).
Lunch was on Santa Monica Pier at Bubba Gump, the restaurant named after Forrest Gump’s shrimping company. There's also a shop full of Forrest merchandise and I couldn't resist the obligatory 'Run Forrest Run' fridge magnet.
There’s plenty to do in the evenings in Los Angeles, but because our days were so packed we didn’t venture further than the hotel bar. Called Glow, it's a contemporary open-air lounge featuring fire pits, mini waterfalls and radiating amber-hued lamps. It is a wonderful escape from the frenetic pace of the city.
On the last day we donned our cultural caps for a visit to the Getty Center, a museum housing one of the world’s most spectacular collections of art, photography and sculptures. Admission is free and among the works on display is the Irises by Vincent van Gogh and Monet’s Haystacks. It would be easy to spend an entire day here.
After four action-packed days, it was time to wave California goodbye and fly back to a rather chilly UK. With its sun-soaked Pacific coastline, Los Angeles is the perfect holiday destination for its beaches alone. But with all of its other attractions thrown into the mix, you’ll probably need another holiday when you get back.