Archive for June, 2016
Los Angeles Then and Now for Our Private Tour
Driving into Los Angeles you would never see daytime traffic so sparse as in this frame from a home made film of 1954. Also, the tallest building downtown was City Hall just like so many of our private Los Angeles tour guests remember from the television series Dragnet with Jack Webb. “This is the city, Los Angeles, California …” While traffic is greater now we like to think that our large SUV is much more comfortable than the tall round vehicles of those days. We probably get better mileage too and pollute less. City Hall remains an impressive structure to visit when we tour downtown but there are so many much, much taller skyscrapers today – a real skyline. There is lots of history downtown, too, for our guests to explore with us if they are so inclined. After all, Los Angeles began by a small river near where Union Station is today and walking distance from City Hall.
Our Private Tour Spends as Much Time Outside the Museum as Inside
The drive to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles is wondrous. The Sepulveda Canyon is a dramatic landscape with the heavily trafficked Santa Monica Freeway (the “405” in local parlance) winding up between steep hillsides. After we park there is the wonderful tram ride from the parking facility up to the museum itself. And then – the view. Los Angeles stretches out before us from the sea to the distant San Jacinto Mountains. The white granite buildings all around us create a true sense of a campus, of multiple disciplines at work exhibiting, conserving and restoring artwork from around the world and throughout history. To say it is breathtaking is not enough. Sculpted gardens demonstrate how lush and verdant foliage can be maintained in an area with so little rain and with irrigation a considerable issue for gardeners and landscape artists. And yet walking the paths and admiring the structures is like being in an outdoor art installation. Our Los Angeles private tour guests really love that we are essentially alone to enjoy and understand more of their surroundings. Our guests point out sights in the distance to be identified and described by their guide with a chance perhaps to visit those places when we depart the museum. By all means when you visit Los Angeles do get to the Getty.
Our Private Tour Has Eyes on the Stars at FINDING DORY Premiere
While their tour guide knew exactly what was happening and was mindful of the timing of the private custom tour of Los Angeles he was leading, his guests began to suspect something was going on, something big, as they came into Hollywood. Sure enough, Hollywood Boulevard in front of Disney’s El Capitan Theater was blocked off and carpeted in blue (not red!) for the arrival of the stars of the new animated feature FINDING DORY. This ocean based family adventure is a sequel to the very successful first film, FINDING NEMO. The excitement along the Hollywood Walk of Fame was even higher than usual as the limousines turned onto the famous street to drop off their celebrity passengers. Not a single sea creature among them. We sure hope the kids weren’t disappointed. However, if they return to the landmark El Capitan Theater another time to see the film they will be treated not only to a movie but to a short musical stage production featuring singing sea creatures from the film as well as other familiar Disney characters. With the giant organ rising from the floor and other spectacular stage magic seeing a movie here is a very special treat for youngsters and oldsters alike.
Art Becomes a Topic for Our Private Tour on the Way to the Hollywood Sign
If this particular oft-appearing art installation does anything it slows traffic on this busy Hollywood street and draws eyes away from the Hollywood Sign clearly visible from this point. If we were discussing tales of movie making and the stars then suddenly we are talking about the wealth of public art in Los Angeles. With the mild weather we have year round artists feel encouraged to bring their work outside to be enjoyed by pedestrians and other passersby. Much of the art is permanent but some, like this, appears at the whim of its owner. The drive up Beachwood Canyon to the most important destination for so many of our Los Angeles private tour guests is filled with “arty” points of interest be they sculptures, painted homes, tilework and mosaics, and home and building design. We are more than happy to dawdle on the way up to the sign and direct our guests’ attention to these objects and places. The Hollywood Sign is quite dramatic when we get close and redirecting the attention of our passengers with the art of Hollywood is a wonderful way to create a real surprise when we are suddenly right in front of the great sign.
Our Private Tour Gets an Extra Passenger
We have bugs in Los Angeles. Lots of bugs. After a somewhat wet winter and with gardens looking lush around Beverly Hills it has been a great season for our insect friends. Our desert conditions in general mean different kinds of bug populations than many of our private Los Angeles tour guests are used to. Flying bugs are not as evident. We have some rather large bugs though. And pretty, too. This Say’s Stink Bug stowed away on our trip through Beverly Hills recently and luckily picked a window near the boy on board to do its sightseeing. The young guy was thoroughly intrigued with the large insect. Not so much his sister. His tour guide, not a biology major, however did know it to be a stink bug. We have lots of varieties of those in Southern California. Fortunately, we in the office have all the resources we needed to identify this little guy. Do you ever wonder where Hollywood makeup artists and special effects designers get their ideas?
Favorite Los Angeles Diner Prepares for Bernie Sanders
Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant is an eye-catching sight on our private tour of Los Angeles as we drive along the Miracle Mile just outside of Beverly Hills. This famous stretch of Wilshire Boulevard runs from La Brea to Fairfax passing the tar pits and the actors union (SAG/AFTRA) and the Daily Variety offices among other notable locations. At Fairfax, right on the corner opposite the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a Googie-style diner called Johnie’s. From 1956 until 2000 this was a great place to grab something to eat for anyone living or working in the area. Diner food at its best! After that it was closed for food service but not forgotten. Countless commercials, television shows and films have been staged at this great space on this busy L.A. corner. Those of us who know the place well always recognize it when it pops up in a movie, ad or show. For one recent evening it was dressed up for a Bernie Sanders rally. After the California primary? Who knows. There are those who wish the diner would return to serving up a good burger and a hot cup of coffee. That would make Los Angeles great again.
Comedy Is the Theme of This Private Tour of L.A.
Los Angeles can be considered a comedy capitol. We have wonderful and famous comedy clubs that arose from the nightclub era in the late ’60s and have flourished ever since. Future comedians always make their way to Los Angeles to play these clubs and await their opportunity to be invited onto late night talk shows and other venues as they make their way to stardom. One great club we pass by on the Sunset Strip near Hollywood is the Laugh Factory. Opened by Jamie Masada in 1979 this warm and welcoming venue (right next to Greenblatt’s Deli and Wine Shop) recalls to us that everyone who is anyone in the comedy world has been listed on the marquee. On this particular day we were reminded that Garry Shandling had just passed away and we really appreciated the sentiment. We spoke to our guests of how tight-knit the comedy community is and how much respect they hold for one another. The Laugh Factory is known for its Thanksgiving dinners for comedians, both local and visiting, to ensure the community is well fed and happy when most people are home with their families. Our private custom tour of Los Angeles allows our guests a chance to see the great comedy clubs and then make plans to enjoy the show while they are visiting Southern California.
California Donuts to Get Our Private L.A. Tour Going
Showing off the various ethnic neighborhoods around Hollywood we might find ourselves near Koreatown and Little Bangladesh. Besides the amazing aromas of tantalizing exotic foods wafting into the warm morning air of the city there is… what is that?… oh my, the scent of fresh baked donuts! It is California Donuts #21 (to be exact), a 24/7/365 oasis for baked goods lovers (and coffee). Because we only do private, custom tours of Los Angeles we can stop any time and anywhere. Even with the windows of our luxury SUVs closed the air-conditioning brings those sweet smells into the vehicle and our guests ask if it would be ok to make a quick stop. OK? It is more than OK. Maybe we planned to drive along 3rd Street as we approach Hollywood just to be sure the idea pops into our guests’ heads. We know a lot of places like California Donuts to recommend for quick stops for snacks and longer stops for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We love sharing those special Los Angeles foods and styles with our guests from singing waiters (Miceli’s) to old-time kosher hot dogs (Pink’s) to movie stars at the next table (Polo Lounge). When you come to Los Angeles and want an unforgettable, and tasty, sightseeing adventure be sure to give us a call.
A Tasty Private Tour of the Santa Ynez Valley
From a winery in downtown Los Angeles to numerous fine tasting rooms in nearby Malibu we can also drive, or fly in a luxury helicopter, south to the Temecula wine region or north to the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara. That is a lot of wine tasting choices for our guests to ponder. We find that most often we are planning visits to Malibu and Santa Ynez. We make these tours often enough to specify them on our website. If our guests have a day to spend (or two) we like to suggest a SIDEWAYS tour up north to revisit the wineries of the novel, film and play. Like the Napa Valley, there are too many superb wineries to visit them all (though we like to try) so we plan our visit as we travel based on the inclinations of our guests. We can tell which wines they will most enjoy just by them telling us which wines they like to drink at home. And then we will include some experimentation to keep the trip interesting. From grapes in the fields to aging barrels in the cellars to bottles on the shelf – the entire life cycle of wine – each winery has stories to tell about themselves and about the wine industry in California, in particular this incredible valley in the southern part of the state. The Gainey Vineyard (top photo) is always a fun stop that pleases our wine loving guests. Producing fine California wine for more than 30 years the winery is lively and the tastings divine. We also are likely to stop at the Firestone Vineyards which are so beautiful you want to sip your wine and just look out at the vines all day. But there are more places to visit, more wines to sample and buy, and let’s not forget a good lunch at one of many fantastic restaurants that we know – with wine, of course.
Venice is More than a Beach for Our Private Tour Family
After sightseeing around the highlights of Hollywood and Beverly Hills and with the temperature rising our private Los Angeles tour guests were eager to see the wide beaches, especially Venice Beach. The city is famous for its boardwalk (no longer wooden) and all the fun little stores, snackshops and restaurants as well as its distinctive architecture. We could do an entire custom tour and not leave Venice. Murals and public art, history from the earliest days of Los Angeles, the story of Abbott Kinney and the famous Venice piers and, of course, the canals. Seeing the remaining waterways continues to excite and amaze our guests especially when we describe the full extent of the canals as they were originally constructed. Gondoliers once plied the central lagoon and there were cafés all around. All that was missing to complete the vision of Mr. Kinney was the Doge’s Palace. But this is Southern California and not Italy. Our lifestyle is skateboarding and surfing, sunbathing and sightseeing on the cool Los Angeles coastline.