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Around and about in L.A.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Alejandro Millán Valencia

The first of the Californian city’s ‘alternative versions’ is Burbank. Located in the San Fernando Valley, it is famous because it was the place of some of the biggest film studios in the early years of the 20th century: Warner, Universal and Disney. So, as you enter the town from Hollywood along Barham Boulevard, the first thing you see is the unmistakable water tank at Warner Studios. Well-known as the home of Bugs Bunny and Super Friends, the studios offer a tour.

The tour is a cinematographic hallucination, where you will find all the Batmobiles, and the costumes that were worn in the Harry Potter saga; in this place, also, other major productions like Inception were filmed. Further notable landmarks include Central Perk, the coffee shop where Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe and Joey from the series Friends used to meet in each episode. And in a corner stands one of the pianos that were used in Casablanca (1942), in that unforgettable scene where Sam (Curt Bois) plays As Time Goes By next to the beautiful Ingrid Bergman.

Another studio that opens its doors to visitors is Universal. Apart from the funfair, which is worth a visit in its own right, the tour includes the visit that makes the whole trip worthwhile: the 360-degree, 3D projection of King Kong. It is the biggest three-dimensional experience in the world.

Anyone with a sense of humor who is passing through Burbank should get a free ticket to sit in the audience and laugh at one of the comedy programs that are filmed there, such as 2 Broke Girls or Mike and
Molly. You can attend The Ellen DeGeneres’ show, go to a therapy session with Dr. Phil, or listen to the promises in The Voice.

There is a food hall at City Walk that is recommended for the whole family. But nearby is a really special place for dinner: Smoke House. Because it is right across to Warner, it has been a favorite haunt of actors, directors, technical staff and producers for decades (several scenes in the movie Argo were shot there, in fact).

Another name, another place: Pasadena. This town, east of Los Angeles, has become famous because of the serie The Big Bang Theory. But there is much more to Pasadena than just a comics store and a Cheesecake Factory. The Old Town is one of the best-preserved in California. It is an ideal spot to go for a stroll on a Saturday afternoon (especially as people get around by car virtually the whole time in L.A.), to sit and read a book, have a coffee, or go to one of its restaurants.

If you happen to be there on New Year’s Day, you will fortunately have no choice but to get caught up in the Rose Parade, which easily bears comparison with Carnival in Rio. Huge floats decked out with millions of flowers parade along the main street. The name comes from the fact that it was originally a large-scale gardening contest. The route ends at one of the most emblematic American football stadiums, The Rose Bowl, which was also the venue for the 1994 football World Cup Final.

While you are in the area, it is also well worth making a detour to Gamble’s House (Gamble was one of the heirs to the Procter & Gamble empire). The mansion is classified as a masterpiece of ‘hand-made’ architecture. In addition to being built from different types of wood, such as oak and maple, it was ahead of its time, because when it was completed, in 1909, it had electric lights and an electronic doorman.

This is why it was chosen as the location for Doc’s house in the classic Back to the Future trilogy. It currently functions as a museum and is open to the public.

But you can go on working your way around Los Angeles and head for the beach, to enjoy the sun, which is never far away in L.A. In Venice, one of many towns that cling to the sea in California, not only will you find wide, sandy beaches or picturesque Venetian-style canals (hence the town’s name), there is also the openair gym, Muscle Beach, where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to train several days a week before he became a movie star and political celebrity. Dumbbells, weights and pulleys are there, just like palm trees in the open air amid the coastal scenery.

• August is the hottest month of the year, when the temperature reaches 30° C to 32° C
• In winter, the temperature can fall to 10°C.
• February is generally the wettest month of the year.

Some facts
Los Angeles County has 840 museums and art galleries, more than anywhere else in the world.

If you happen to be in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, take part in the Rose Parade, which easily bears comparison with Carnival in Rio.

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