People travel for various reasons: to learn from other people’s culture, seek pleasure, shop, see family and friends, or just relax. However, in meeting some of these essentials needs, there are places most people dream of visiting because such places are an embodiment of what an ideal city should be.
An ideal city cannot just be a museum piece or just a throw-back to the past, as enjoyable as it might be. The ideal city must be a vital, contemporary city, one that combines history with energy.
We dream of a city that has a combination of history, vital cultural life, is prosperous, endowed with exciting physical features, such as great rivers, bays and harbours, mountain ranges, with at least one season with a gentle and comfortable climate.
We dream of these cities as being well-managed and administered, relatively clean and without congestion, offering mobility, access, the capacity to partake and enjoy in urban life.
In these cities you find education, business, pleasure, tourism, entertainment and history, to mention but a few. One of such few cities across the world that has stood out to provide a combination of these features and even more is the city of Los Angeles (LA).
Los Angeles is a sprawling Southern California city and the centre of the nation’s film and television industry. Near its iconic Hollywood sign, studios such as Paramount Pictures, Universal and Warner Brothers offer behind-the-scene tours. On Hollywood Boulevard, TCL Chinese Theatre displays celebrities’ hand- and footprints, the Walk of Fame honours thousands of luminaries and vendors sell maps to stars’ homes.
So, it was with excitement that I received the invitation to visit the amazing city of Los Angeles. I couldn’t contain my joy as I did a quick check on what to expect and the likely places to visit within almost one week of my stay in LA. I had no doubts that the Christmas was going to be one of the most special for me.
Ethiopian Airline connects Africa to LA
There was a quick meet and greet at the airport. I was glad to meet my colleagues representing other media houses both from Nigeria and Ghana invited by Ethiopian Airlines to experience LA and mark the airline’s first flight from Lome to LA. This is after the carrier had flown from Addis Ababa via Dublin to Los Angeles since 2015. Lome has, therefore, become the only and first to connect nonstop the West Coast of USA with West Africa. It connects to major West Africa cities of Lagos, Abuja, Accra, Dakar, and Abidjan. This, therefore, implies that Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is only one of two airports in the world to service six continents with nonstop flights and the only US West Coast gateway airport with nonstop service to Africa. This new air service is part of ET’s plans to connect more African countries to the United States of America and the rest of the world. Los Angeles, no doubt, is one of the most visited cities across the world. Little wonder why ET is helping make travel experience seamless for passengers who would love to visit the city.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Upon arrival at the beautiful Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX) after about 20 hours on air via Lome, one could find solace just beholding the amenities at the airport. It was obvious to all that a lot has been invested into the airport to make facilitation of passengers easy.
In 2017, LAX handled 84,557,968 passengers, making it the world’s fifth-busiest and the United States’ second-busiest airport following Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As the largest and busiest international airport on the US West Coast, LAX is a major international gateway to the United States, and also serves as a connection point for some passengers travelling internationally.
The airport holds the record for the world’s busiest origin and destination airport, since relative to other airports, many more travellers begin or end their trips in Los Angeles than use it as a connection. It is also the only airport to rank among the top five US airports for both passenger and cargo traffic.
The amenities at the airport should point way to other contemporary international airports across the world. Some of the innovations at the airport include dining and retail options, expanded ticketing area, VIP lounges, automated passport control kiosks, walkway connector, automated screening lanes, biometric e-gates, etc.
After the seamless immigration process, the group of 10 set out for the Hilton Hotel where we lodged all through our stay in LA. You can only imagine how the ride was from the airport. The good roads and lovely buildings around while we drove to the hotel took our attention away from how far or close the airport was to the hotel.
Hilton Los Angeles Airport
Before getting to the hotel check-in counters, expectedly, everyone took out their phones to see if we could get free Wi-Fi after being offline for almost the whole day. I could see smiles beaming on the faces of my colleagues as though they had won a jackpot as phones started to beep with messages from social media platforms and emails.
Located a quarter mile from Los Angeles International Airport with complimentary shuttle, this Hilton property boasts four dining venues including Andiamo, a northern Italian restaurant. Guests enjoy choices of American and Chinese breakfast buffets.
The hotel, which is equipped with numerous rooms, has Wi-Fi (fee applies), feature bright and modern furnishings.
The next day, we were all charged up to commence our tour around LA. We had been told to put on comfortable shoes and jean trousers because we were going to ride bikes. It had been over 15 years since I last rode on a bicycle but I was going to give this a try.
Bicycle tour of Venice with Bikes and Hikes LA
It was indeed an amazing time touring the streets of LA on a bicycle even though I was always behind my colleagues, just to make sure I wasn’t going to hit anyone or vice-versa. So I rode slowly and, thankfully, the smooth roads made the ride quite pleasurable as I cycled graciously and steadily around beautiful streets and historical locations of LA.
One of such locations is Venice. Venice is a beachfront neighbourhood on the Westside of the Californian city of Los Angeles. Venice was founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it merged with Los Angeles. Today, Venice is known for its canals, beaches, and the circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, mystics, artists and vendors.
Since 2010, Bikes and Hikes LA has shown thousands of guests the great city of Los Angeles up close, personal and in an eco-friendly, health-conscious way through guided LA biking and hiking tours.
After an hour and a half ride, lunch was served at Rose Café, an iconic restaurant in the heart of Venice, serving locals and travellers alike since 1979. Now, 36 years later, Chef Jason Neroni has kept the roots of the Rose that the community knows and loves, while introducing his seasonal, globally influenced cuisine. Chef Jason Neroni’s menu focuses on local Southern California cuisine with an international influence from his world travels. The bakery celebrates American classics, as well as some of the original Rose bakery classics re-conceptualized with their innovative techniques.
Comedy & Magic Club
There won’t have been a better way to rest after spending the first long day in LA than what we had that night. It was a memorable comedy show at the Comedy & Magic Club located in Hermosa Beach. The club’s beachside location has long made it a favourite destination for comedians and audience alike. Many of the top comics in the industry have continued to call this their home club. Jay Leno, Arsenio hall, Gabriel Iglesias and others are regular performers.
The comedy resonated with everyone present whether foreign or the local, as laughter filled the entire hall that one wished it could last forever.
The interior of the club serves as a museum housing comedy memorabilia from Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Robin Williams, Ray Romano and more on display. The club is open Tuesday through Sunday and also prides itself on being a fundraising force in the local community.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Arts District & Grammy Museum
The tour around the Walt Disney Concert Hall was phenomenal, especially knowing that people with passion for arts and culture invested so much to make the centre one that would be admired by the world.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall at 111 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, California, is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center and was designed by Frank Gehry. It opened on October 24, 2003. Bounded by Hope Street, Grand Avenue, and 1st and 2nd Streets, it seats 2,265 people and serves, among other purposes, as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The hall is a compromise between an arena seating configuration, like the Berliner Philharmonie by Hans Sharon, and a classical shoebox design, like the Vienna Musikverein or the Boston Symphony Hall.
Lillian Disney made an initial gift of $50 million in 1987 to build a performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney’s devotion to the arts and to the city.
The Arts District tour was led by renowned curator and Los Angeles Arts District expert Cindy Schwarzstein. The two-hour walking tour with Cartwheel Art offered an insider’s look at the history of the neighbourhood as well as the bars, cafes, shops, galleries, breweries and distilleries at the centre of this district’s vibrant core.
To wrap the day up was a tour of the ‘almighty’ GRAMMY Museum. It was as though we were with artists and international musicians you could think of as their pictures and videos around the museum seemed as though they were performing right before us.
The museum pays tribute to music’s rich cultural history. This 21st-century museum explores and celebrates the enduring legacies of all forms of music, the creative process, the art and technology of the recording process, and the history of the premier recognition of excellence in recorded music – the GRAMMY® award. The current exhibit spotlights GRAMMY-nominated artist Katy Perry and how she transformed music and fashion.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Day three seems to be my best in Los Angeles. It was a mixture of adventure, excitement and fear. This mix can only be possible at the Universal Studios Hollywood.
Considered the entertainment capital of LA, Universal Studios Hollywood includes a movie-based theme park and Studio Tour. As a leading global entertainment destination, Universal Studios Hollywood delivers highly themed immersive lands that translate to real-life interpretations of iconic movie and television shows. Recent additions include “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ™”, “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Springfield”, hometown of America’s favourite TV family.
Amid the excitement that came with other activities such as the rides and tours, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter made me shiver. I thought I was strong until I experienced this part of the tour.
With the ride being in the dark with bursts of low light throughout, plus the sudden jolts, stops and slow movement, it’s easy to see why I say it was thrilling! Plus, you add scary dinosaurs, witches, dragons and many others appearing out of darkness and it’s enough to scare a grown adult – seriously, I haven’t seen anything like this!
The adjacent Universal CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex also includes the all-new multi-million dollar, completely redesigned Universal CityWalk Cinema, featuring deluxe recliner seating in screening room quality theatres, and the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert stage.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center
The evening was sure different with a bit of a twist to our activities. It was a basketball evening! The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers are two of the most exciting teams in the NBA, and it is always a treat for fans when the two match up. There were exciting actions on the court, some of the best basketball players in the world, and an energetic crowd: these are the things you can count on when the Mavericks and Clippers go head to head. It was indeed a great time at the arena during Mavericks vs Clippers games.
I loved my popcorn that night as it helped douse my anxiety as to which team would win. Sadly, we had to leave that night before the game ended because some of us were already tired from the day’s long activities. So, we headed back to Hilton, our home of rest.
Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood & Highland Center
As the date of our departure gradually set in, this day was memorable for us all, especially as we came across the home of Hollywood stars. Steps from the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood & Highland Center offered endless shopping, dining and entertainment options, as well as incredible views of the legendary Hollywood Sign from the centre’s bridge.
In addition, starline tours showcased the very best that the City of Angels has to offer. The tour brought many of Los Angeles’ greatest movie locations to life as we passed them in their custom bus while viewing the related movie clips on a very large HDTV such as scenes from Transformers, Iron Man, Blade Runner, The Artist, The Fast & The Furious and Star Trek!
Lunch at Citadel Outlets
The last lunch at Los Angeles already made us miss the city. The VIP experience at Citadel Outlets was second to none. Sitting in a very relaxed state with various brands of drinks to taste from made the afternoon quite enjoyable.
Citadel Outlets is a 700,000-square foot mixed-use commercial property, featuring a hotel, four office buildings, and Los Angeles’ only retail outlet centre. The historical façade was built more than 75 years ago and is located just 10 minutes south of Downtown Los Angeles and 25 minutes north of Anaheim off Interstate 5.
After touring around for a choice meal to have before we say goodbye to Los Angeles, we all settled for a Chinese meal. It was simply the right choice. It was delicious and some of us went for more.
In the evening, we set out for the airport. I personally felt a deep sense of loss as I was almost getting accustomed to the life and food of LA. I have to face the reality that Nigeria is my country with the hope that our country can invest in turning its states into tourist attractions.