From the tops of the Hollywood Hills, LA

“Like so much in LA, if you look around enough, you see straight past all the uniformity to the wonder of it all.” ~Moby

Who knew one could hill hop Hollywood’s infamous backdrop? All the way from Lake Hollywood Drive to the Hollywood sign, you’ve got a 360 degree view over Los Angeles’s urban sprawl. The only body of water seen from this vantage point is the Reservoir. For the Pacific, you need to cruise further West.

If you’re keen to travel the trail, it is called Cahuenga Peak; added to Griffith Park as public land with help of donations by City of LA, Tiffany&Co, Foundation Aileen Getty, Hugh M. Hefner, State of California, Steven Spielberg, Lucasfilm Foundation, amongst many others.

Inspired by the words of LA resident Moby, here are some pictures taken from those hilltops.

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Griffith Observatory, left, and LA downtown, right.

Griffith Observatory, left, and LA downtown, right

Reservoir, to the right

Reservoir, to the right

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Overlooking the Valley and Universal Studios

Overlooking the Valley and Universal Studios

Looking towards the Hollywood Sign

Looking towards the Hollywood Sign – taken with SmartPhone

Here’s a better look at that Hollywood Sign:

http://marinachetner.com/2013/03/17/10-tips-for-the-second-time-la-tourist-calif/

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New Year’s Eve Snaps ~ Hollywood Hills, LA, CA

We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Transitioning from day # 366 of 2012, a new year has suddenly dawned, and with it the connotations of renewal, goal-making, and setting intentions. Nursing a New Year’s Day hangover, or not, I revel in the idea of a ‘fresh start.’ As cliche as that reads, I actually did find the time to stop, think, and write down what I’d like to achieve in the New Year. So far, all boxes have been checked for Day 1…

Here’s to 365 days of blogging: reading, photographing, and scribing our musings. Wishing you, dear readers, a wonderful 2013. Here’s to living our lives in the best ways we know how.

About the images below: Except for the first one, all were taken on NYE 2012 at the Japanese inspired Yamashiro Restaurant. Perched on one of the ‘Hollywood Hills’, it was home to the Four Hundred Club in the ’20s; actor/director Frank Elliott purchased the space so that Hollywood’s film industry could dine and schmooze without being bothered. Today it is a restaurant, wedding destination, and filming location. Truly a good spot for a drink and some sushi – maybe for some photo opps too.

When in California, drink California champagne - "Korbel".

When in California, drink California champagne – “Korbel”

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Lychee Sake

Lychee Sake

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support + love = my husband

support + love = my husband

Me next to the fat buddha.

Me

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Set Your Sights on Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA

If you happened to be on Hollywood Boulevard yesterday, along with hundreds of other spectators you may have spotted a starry eyed Scarlett Johannson standing outside the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. This is where her Walk of Fame plaque joins the 2,369 others planted along both sides of a thoroughfare fringed with kitschy souvenir stores, the awards hosting Kodak Theatre, a Madame Tussauds museum, and the legendary Roosevelt Hotel – said to be haunted with the spirit of Marilyn Monroe.

Whilst this block of the boulevard, wedged between North Sycamore and Highland Avenue, feels like Hollywood’s nucleus; the area within the district’s circumference is also worthy of exploration. Further down the Boulevard, you’ll come across old-school stores and iconic architecture; Hollywood Hills is a fitting backdrop – its hiking trails treat you to panoramic vistas of Los Angeles City from all angles. You may even come face to face with a landmark you had only ever seen from a distance or know from the movies…

Here are some other options to consider on your next trip to Hollywood.

WALKING TOUR: Hollywoodland

A hike through the Hollywood Hills is a perfect introduction to the terrain that makes up LA. Leave the urban zone behind, arm yourself with Charles Fleming’s L.A. Walks: Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood sign directions, and get set to explore a beautiful neighbourhood that showcases the appeal of living in the hills.

Hollywoodland was a housing development established in 1923; it was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most attractive residential sections of the City of Los Angeles”. You’ll feel a bit of a Mediterranean Riviera vibe in this part of LA; that’s exactly how the plan for this section of the Hollywood Hills was envisaged.

You’ll pass a Norman chateau, once home to Hollywoodland real estate developer L. Milton Wolf; recently it was purchased and remodeled by musicmind, Moby. Enroute is Madonna’s former home: the 1926-built Mediterranean villa, Castillo del Lago, is a beautiful mansion with stand-out appeal.

Beyond the thick of the Spanish broom plant and bountiful cacti rests the Lake Hollywood Reservoir – designed by William Mulholland, it was first filled in 1925 and supplied a growing city with water.

The walk isn’t a tough one, unless there’s a need to pick up the pace for any looming rain-busting clouds that may be hovering above. Tall eucalyptus trees, flourishing bougainvillea, and palm trees make up the landscape upon ascent to Mulholland Drive. From here, up-close views of the Hollywood Sign are frequent.

A bit of history: Originally reading ‘Hollywoodland’ in 1923, the sign was planned to be an 18-month advertisement. Still standing in 1949, community support saved it from its fate; refurbished, its name was shortened to ‘Hollywood’. A second restoration took place in 1978, but this was more labour intensive as it meant an overhaul.

The new sign, made of corrugated metal on steel poles driven into the hillside in the exact same spot as the old sign, was completed on October 30th, 1978. The new sign is 5 feet shorter than the original, to help it maintain stability against wind and other elements. Funding for the new sign came from the Hollywood Sign Trust, which was established for the occasion. www.laist.com

Celebrities pledged their support at a donation of $27,000 per letter; Hugh Hefner paid for the letter ‘Y’, whilst Alice Cooper donated to the last letter ‘O’, in memory of Groucho Marx.

Take some photos of the varied architecture as you walk downhill, to your starting point.

ARCHITECTURAL DRIVING TOUR: Hollywood Hills

Modern architects Richard Neutra and John Lautner, along with photographer Julius Shulman, left their mark on Hollywood’s real estate world. If you’re a fan of Modern architecture, a drive to see some of these architectural constructs is well worth it.

Of note is John Lautner’s Chemosphere House:

“The sleek, octagonal house… is considered a masterpiece of California Modernism and is beloved by cultists of midcentury design,” wrote the LA Times in its 2005 article, Eight Sides to this Story. “It’s hard not to see the house, which sits on a 29-foot-high, 5-foot-wide concrete column over a long-considered-unbuildable Hollywood Hills site, as a hovering flying saucer or a prototype for the 23rd century architecture of The Jetsons.”

Do you agree?

Here, on Torreyson Drive, you may be in the midst of nature, but you can also see sweeping views of the other side of LA: the San Fernando Valley.

NB: Other homes to see in the area include the former home of Julis Shulman, the Neutra designed Josef Kun House, and Lautner’s Harpel House.

DID SOMEONE SCREAM ICE CREAM?

Mashti Malone’s serves up the creamiest rosewater saffron ice cream with pistachios… ever. Rosewater to the Middle East is what vanilla is to the US. Make sure to order 2 scoops of this fragrant cream tinged with yellow from the saffron.

What’s with the store name and clovers on its sign? Apparently, the business is owned by two brothers from Iran – one who is named Mashti. Unable to replace the entire sign of the ice cream parlor after they’d purchased it, then called Mugsy Malone’s, they simply replaced the first name only.

The brothers do happen to have a sister-in-law by the name of Malone, who lives in Cape Cod and is married to their older brother, Iraj. When Mashti bought the store, he told her they bought it for her, which made her laugh. http://www.mashtimalone.com

You’ll find the neon lit, bare-bones store at the corner of Sunset and La Brea.

MUSIC ICONS

From samba to soul, electronic to experimental, reggae to rock, Amoeba is the world’s largest independent music store and stocks it all. As you flip through stacks of CDs and DVDs over two floors, you might be lucky enough to catch one of their live in-store music performances. A mainstay on Sunset Boulevard for over a decade now, it’s easy to lose track of time in this warehouse that spans an entire city block, especially if you’re a hard-core collector of music or movies.

Seek out the Capitol Records Building, on the corner of Vine and Hollywood Blvd. The world’s first circular building, it took two years to complete. Artists who have recorded here include Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, and the Beach Boys. In the year it opened, 1956, Frank Sinatra inaugurated one of its studios by recording the instrumental album, Tone Poems of Color. The tip of the spire at night blinks out the words ‘Hollywood’ in Morse code, and you’ll find the Walk of Fame stars of John Lennon and Garth Brooks outside the building.

SEE A SPECTACULAR, GRAB A LATE NIGHT SNACK… throw in a glass of champagne too

Catch the year-round sensation, IRIS A Journey Through the World of Cinema™ at Kodak Theatre. A delightful mix of theatre and film presented in the signature Cirque du Soleil style, this is a must-see. Note: Home of the Academy Awards, the show bows out of the theatre to make way for the Oscars once a year.

The film noir aspect of the spectacular injects a bit of art and a whole lot of play into a vibrant showcase consisting of colourful costumes, eccentric makeup, bouffant hairstyles, and acrobatics performed with effortless precision. This is a whirlwind 360 degree theatre experience: the animated orchestra plays in the balconies; aerial acts evoke ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as they swing from ropes high above; dancers glide across the stage below; audio visual projections intersperse with moving images, and lots of fun and laughs are achieved through good-natured audience participation.

Inspired by the aerial acts, you may float out of the theatre feeling a little high from all the electric energy. Go on, cartwheel all the way down Hollywood Boulevard if you so desire.

Across the road, the flashing red neon of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is hard to resist for a night cap… maybe even a late night snack (the exertion of the IRIS show will wear you out).

The Public Kitchen and Bar serves food until about 11pm on weekends; chilled oysters splashed with lime go down so well with a glass of bubbly. Be prepared for the crab cake to rock your world. A triangular package, it is crispy on the outside, and generously filled on the inside. Delectable.

The leather banquettes are a match for the restaurant’s subdued vibe; in between bites of charred octopus and hamachi enjoyed from the spacious seating that looks onto the hotel’s lobby, you’ll be impressed with how well a lively Saturday night LA crowd packs it in. That said, nothing can take away from the old-Hollywood grandeur of the hotel’s open space; high ceilings, Spanish colonial architectural details, magnificent chandeliers, a fountain in the centre – you’ll be transported to another world.

FACT: It was in this hotel that the first ever Academy Awards was held in 1929. Old Hollywood patrons included Clark Gable and Carole Lombard; representative of New Hollywood, Paris Hilton and Price have partied here.

For some outdoor-action, grab a cocktail by the pool at the Tropicana Bar. Chill out as long as you want for you’ll be spending the entire night dreaming up ways on how to pave your own way to stardom.

A Passion for Travel

Recently I was asked to write down why I am interested in travel photography…

Well, I love the way I feel when I travel.

Malibu Pier, CA

I remember wishing to be a travel agent when I grew-up, and I fulfilled that ‘dream’ at STA Travel, only to realise that I’d rather be the one doing the traveling. I got into the media industry to fund my addiction; ultimately, it propelled me to embark on a working stint overseas.

Park Avenue, NY

What interests me most about travel is anthropology; there’s nothing more inspiring than immersing yourself in another culture and being able to “walk in another person’s shoes,” to quote Anthony Bourdain.

Walking towards the Hollywood Sign; downtown LA in the background. As seen from the Hollywood Hills, CA

To me, documenting travel means that writing and photography go hand-in-hand; placing images alongside words better tells the story. I’m interested in showing the reality of a place or space – using words and images to stimulate a response, a feeling. Whether I choose to shoot street photography or architectural compositions, that depends on the nature of the story.

The Binoculars Building, by Frank Gehry - Venice Beach, LA

To know I may have inspired, educated, or motivated someone through moments captured with my words or through my lens makes me happy.

And that was my answer. What would you have said?

Street Art - Silver Lake, LA

A Setting Star, Observed – Griffith Park, Los Angeles,CA

I have yet to see a sad sunset.

Sunsets are magical and awe-inspiring. Each paints horizontal brushstrokes of fire across a transitional sky that changes from ocean blue to pink to gold, and ultimately, star-speckled black.

Watching the sun set from an elevation of over 1,000-feet high, on a 36–degree viewing platform, imprinted a series of memorable moments on my mind.

Here is that progression, seen from one of California’s most loved landmarks, Griffith Observatory. Enjoy!

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Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, LA.

Griffith Observatory.

A solar entrance.

LA sprawl.

The Astronomers Monument, on the right, pays homage to six of the greatest astronomers, including Galileo and Newton.

A hiking trail runs through it.

Greek Revival architecture.

In transit.

My devoted fellow traveler.

Telescope shadow.

Framed.

Wild flora.

Colonel Griffith J. Griffith funded this landmark. Architect John C. Austin based the design on the preliminary sketches of Russell W. Porter in the early 1900s.

Coming full circle.

A kiss from the sun.

Cosmic inspiration.

One giant telescope…

… ideal for spotting planets.

A site in Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean.

The horizon, aglow.

A line of fire.

Glittery L.A.

An illuminated downtown.

Paparazzi.

Exit.