Next morning, after missing the free pancake breakfastand colliding with a girl wearing only a sheet in the hallway, I track down Belinda. Her mate isn't catching the shuttle anymore. Unfortunately for him he got beat up in the Viper Room last night and was now sporting a bruised eye and ego. The Viper Room's the venue owned by Johnny Depp and made notorious when River Phoenix died there from an overdose back on Halloween 1993. Fortunately for me there is now a vacant spot on the shuttle.
The shuttle drops us off on a sunny Saturday morning in Santa Monica. Its beach has the widest strip of sand I've ever seen on a beach - lined with storybook houses and dotted with Baywatch lifesavers and their towers. We decided to hit the swanky shops first, the beach later and headed for the third street promenade - allegedly where all the stars shop. All the big US brands were represented - Abercrombie, American Outfitters, Gap, Victoria's Secret. Our budgets were limited, but I did pick up a dress for this year's Melbourne Cup and we ended up strolling the promenade, checking out the Farmer's market and grabbing some lunch from a cafe.
Next we hit the beach! Santa Monica Beach is famed for its pier featuring a massive carousel, not dissimilar to Brighton Beach in the UK. However, the beach here is the real deal, the weather is genuinely hot and lifeguards in their red shorts, strut along the beach with their lifebuoys on the ready. We walk the Ocean Path, and are overtaken by too-tanned rollerbladers in skimpy bikinis, ageing iron men and cyclists, down to Venice Beach. What a wild and wacky place - certainly more bohemian, than high class Santa Monica - we stroll along soaking up the atmosphere. Venice Beach is exactly what I pictured. Guys shoot hoops on the famous basketball courts, ice-creams and hotdogs are sold on every corner, colourful murals provide a vibrant backdrop to the street performers and psychics.
Back in Hollywood - the dancer Alicia is still packing her suitcase and recommends a good place for dinner in Hollywood Boulevard. Belinda and I follow the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and treat ourselves to a massive dinner. The night ends in the hostel bar where me, a Canadian Hooters girl and group of Aussie and Irish blokes put away a few beers (yep Alison - seems I lost that bet) and strut out a fabulous karaoke/dancing performance for the amused barmen.
Sunday is my last day in LA - the last day of my trip. I'm embarrassed to admit that I succumbed to one of those horrific star-chasing tours of the Hollywood Hills. Driving in a mini van, with tinted windows we zipped up and down side streets eying off celeb mansions and hangouts. I knew I'd got completely carried away when we had a chance sighting of JT and Cameron Diaz driving into their driveway in a 4WD and I started screaming hysterically at the driver to move forward so I could get a better picture ... I know, I know I'm a complete loser! Perhaps not as bad as the row of paparazzi camped outside Katie and Tom's place to catch a first glimpse of their supposedly mutant baby!
So this was it, the end of my brilliant trip. Hard to believe that five months had flown past so quickly - I'd seen so much, met so many amazing people, there were so many highlights.... I considered not coming home; changing my flight, missing the flight altogether - but reality kicked in and I decided it was time to go. A fifteen hour flight in cattle class was ahead of me. Paul Theroux was bang on when he wrote - 'travel is glamorous only in retrospect'
Los Angeles/California II - USA