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Old 20 Sep 23, 09:51 AM  
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Travelling From Coast To Coast August 2023: Day 2 - Brush Canyon Trail, Warner Bros and Smoke House

Day 2: Tuesday 8th August 2023

*Disclaimer*: My reports are always long and very detailed because I write them journal style with all the details for me to look back on. This one is extremely loooong. Today we visited Warner Bros Studios Hollywood and I’ve included some information from the tour so there will be spoilers here. Anyone not wanting to read any detail about the tour may want to skip today’s report, or at least the afternoon part .

From memory I think I woke up about 4.15 am which was less than four hours after I’d gone to bed so I tried to get back to sleep for a bit. That wasn’t really happening so I went on Instagram and then got up about 5 am.

The AirBnb had a nice rainfall shower so it was nice to get all refreshed after yesterday’s long travel day. Mat got up once I was out of the bathroom and then I woke the girls. They were pretty tired but got moving fairly easily. Freya had some cereal that we must have bought the night before and one of her Trader Joe brookies and declared it one of the best things she’d ever eaten. Mat ate one of the leftover pistachio cake bars from the BA meal and I had a few grapes.

Seren was moaning that she didn’t want to go hiking and insisting that we should go without her and pick her up after. I told her that wasn’t happening as we wouldn’t have time to come back this way for her (not that I was going to give into that anyway.) She was really dragging her feet which was wonderful news as we wanted to be out early to beat the heat and the crowds.

It was all a bit stressful and she was really moaning and not playing ball, but eventually she was ready and had eaten a bowl of cereal. My original plan was that we would leave the house at 6.30 am and we ended up leaving about 15 minutes late so not too bad given the stroppy teenager incident.

We headed out, locking the door and then the gate behind us. We hopped in the car and I plugged the Brush Canyon Trailhead car park address into google maps. Our estimated arrival time was 7 am as it wasn’t far and there wasn’t really any traffic. That had been my estimated arrival time when I’d planned out the day with our earlier planned departure time (I guess google maps had overestimated the traffic) so we were doing okay even with the setback of Seren being a little monkey.

The residential streets around the AirBnb were so nice and Seren and I were picking out houses we would want to live in. There was a real mix of styles but most of them were absolutely gorgeous and had lovely porches (we’re suckers for American porches.) I was imagining how amazing it would be to live here.

Our route took us onto the 101 which wasn’t too busy and therefore stressful this morning and then into the quieter part of Hollywood just south of the Hills which google maps calls ‘Hollywood Dell’. We caught our first glimpse of the Hollywood Sign on the horizon hidden behind some buildings so it just said ‘Ho.’ It was still enough to bring tears to my eyes. I faffed around trying to take a photo with Mat’s phone but completely missed it. The google doc with the plans and addresses, the actual google maps sat nav and the music on spotify were all on my phone. I had data in the US and Mat didn’t so although he said we could try using his phone on my hotspot for the google maps directions, I thought it would just be easier to use mine as the signal would be better and also he has a tiny SE or something so trying to see the directions from the cup holder beside him (our phone directions spot of choice as we had no bracket or anything) was just easier on my bigger XR. This meant that any photos I wanted to take while we were driving along needed to be taken on his phone but annoyingly he had it on driving mode so it would take a few moments to faff about with that and by then the moment would have passed. After about a week he finally remembered to turn off driving mode so I could take pictures quicker and easier as we were driving.

We headed onto Canyon Drive and I drooled over all the beautiful houses on the run up to the Brush Canyon Trailhead parking lot. I had put 2927 Canyon Drive into google maps and that worked perfectly but I’ve seen other street numbers used. As we got towards the end of the road, we saw cars parked along the street which is allowed but as it was still early it wasn’t too busy. There are two car parks for the trail, the first one is on the right and I believe it’s a little bigger than the second one but closer to the Bronson Caves if you’re doing that. The second one on the left is closer to the trailhead and where we were aiming for. It was quite cosy in the second car park but there were a few spaces so we parked up.

We had decided against visiting the Bronson Caves (the Bat Cave from the original TV show) as a) we were on a time schedule and b) I’d seen a youtube video a few weeks before, I think it was Adam The Woo, that showed the cave shut off with a metal barricade due to safety concerns about falling rocks. I think they’ve been closed for quite a while actually, having done some googling.

Despite the slightly stressful start with Seren we were all in good spirits as we set off at the bottom of the trail. There were a few other people also heading off but at this time of the morning it was all local dog walkers, hikers and joggers. The sun was already out and from memory I would guess the temperature was in the low 20s at this point.

The girls had been worried about snakes, mountain lions and coyotes in Griffith Park so we were reassuring them that we’d be fine (hopefully) despite the sign and also joking around, pretending we had seen something in the bushes etc as we started the walk.

The scenery was absolutely stunning and what hit me the most was the beautiful smell. Griffith Park has this gorgeous sweet chaparral smell that I’ve not smelled anywhere else but it’s really strong and just lovely. I was breathing it in deep. I’ve tried to find out what the exact plant smell is but can’t seem to pin it down other than possibly some form of sage scrub; maybe California sagebrush which is apparently often called ‘Cowboy cologne’ along with maybe some other plants and the lovely trail dust.

Speaking of trail dust, man is it dusty along the path. Seren and I both had lovely pristine white Nikes on. Mine were brand new and hers were newly washed. After this hike they were brown and looked like we’d had them on for years.

The trail started climbing quite quickly and I told the others that I’d read that the first part was the steepest which turned out to be true to a point. Within ten minutes Seren was moaning and had fallen behind, threatening to go back to the car. I told Mat to just keep going and she’d catch up but he took pity on her and waited for her so we were walking two and two for most of the first section. Here is Seren falling way behind:

I had expected it to be hazy over Los Angeles and this was the case. I’ve heard you’re really only going to get a really decent clear view if it’s rained the day before which it hadn’t as LA were having a bit of a heatwave and it hadn’t rained in a while.

After about half an hour we came to a bench (there really weren’t many along the trail) so decided to stop there and apply sunscreen as it was definitely heating up.

About ten minutes later we came to a signpost and went left towards the Hollywood Sign. I had written out the trail in the plans and watched a few videos of people hiking the path so I was familiar with the route and so far so good. It’s pretty straightforward so I didn’t need to refer back to my google doc or anything as we were walking.

At this point Seren had perked up a bit although it was hot and we were still very much going uphill. She and Freya walked together for a bit and chatted. When she’s chatting she’s distracted from the fact she’s having to walk so this was going well. After another ten minutes or so we stopped to take some more photos of the beautiful scenery.

A guy also walking the trail was passing and we said hello to each other and he offered to take a photo of all of us which we thought was very kind of him.

He asked where we were from and this was pretty much the conversation whenever anyone in LA asked us where we were from which was quite often as the people were so friendly.

‘Where are you from?’
‘Yeah, whereabouts?’
‘About 40 miles north of London’
‘I used to live in ____ / have friends in ____ / have visited ___. What’s the name of the place you live?’
‘Milton Keynes’
*blank expression* (which explains why we always choose to not to be specific.)

This guy was living in Surrey and was back home in LA visiting family and enjoying his early morning hike in Griffith Park. Why can’t that be my life? This early on in the trip I was already completely in love with the city. He asked us how we were liking LA which was also a common thing for locals to ask us. I’m not sure whether they’re proud of their city or trying to find out why on earth we’d chosen to visit for two weeks. It’s a beautiful city with amazing culture and a lot of problems, which to be honest are of course less visible as a tourist than they are for people trying to pay their bills in one of the most expensive cities in the country. We told him we were loving it so far. We thanked him and he sped off on his hike, taking a different trail at the next fork / signpost we were heading towards. He was therefore not heading in the direction of the sign (why would he as a native to be fair?)

At this sign we were heading towards Tyrolian Tank and could see the tanks up ahead so had an idea of our destination.

We saw some rabbits that were really camouflaged and therefore you can barely see them in this photo. But the girls were happy that the wildlife we did see was bunnies and not the aforementioned snakes / mountain lions / coyotes.

The girls and I watching the rabbits:

We could see the Hollywood Sign by this point and I was absolutely loving life. Seren was just getting on with it and still chatting to Freya. I had a moment where I told myself to take all of it in and I just felt so grateful and happy to be there.

We reached the last sign before The Sign (again I was prepared for this). Going left takes you to Tyrolian Tank which is an excellent viewpoint from under the Hollywood Sign. Going right goes up to the back of the sign. We knew we were going to do both but made the decision to go left first. I think I figured that if we left the view from the front until after going up to the sign, it might be busier as more people arrive which would affect being able to get good photos.

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Old 20 Sep 23, 09:53 AM  
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It was about a ten minute pretty gentle walk round to the viewpoint.

We took some photos right here and then went up the path a tiny bit further (just a minute or two more) which is where the best view is.

There was a young couple up there also taking photos but it was still nice and quiet. Unfortunately we didn’t get any great photos here as Seren has developed a habit of closing her eyes in photos which helpfully started this trip, and Freya just looks grumpy. It’s always been quite a funny thing in our family that I say ‘photo!’ (which I do a lot on holiday) and the girls moan for five seconds and roll their eyes and then just bring a proper happy smile and humour me. Freya seems to have lost her ability to fake it a bit now though which is unfortunate.

We then walked back down to the signpost, ready to take the other path which would take us to the back of the Hollywood Sign. Downtown was being a bit shy but still looking beautiful in my eyes.

So we started on the other path and it was clear straight away that this path was steeper than the one to Tyrolian Tank which didn’t go down all that well with the girls. In their defence, we had been walking for about 90 minutes by this point and it was getting hotter. What I had kind of glossed over because I just didn’t realise is that whereas the path to Tyrolian Tank was 0.4 miles from the signpost, the path to Mount Lee Summit (back of the sign) was 0.9 miles. We were going from here to brunch so I tried motivating them by saying, ‘Once we’ve done this, it’s all downhill and then we can go and get some nice breakfast and drinks.’ (Sidenote: we had bought four bottles of water in Trader Joe’s the night before so that we could stay hydrated during the hike. By this point I had finished mine and everyone else had barely touched theirs which is fairly indicative of us as a family. Freya always moans about the taste of bottled water in the US. So poor Mat was carrying I think all three other bottles in his rucksack by this point and I was worrying about Freya getting heat stroke which has happened to her a few times before. Not ideal.)

Seren’s ADHD and anxiety around her nut allergy means she will always study a menu before we go to a restaurant, so once I’d mentioned food she got on that, which distracted her pretty well from the tough, hot uphill hike. She and Freya fell behind a little bit because they are clearly less fit than us. Mat and I were saying as we went around every bend, ‘Where is the flipping top?!’ as this path did seem to go on forever. We passed a guy jogging backwards down the path which was…interesting. Mat said to him as we passed ‘That looks like hard work!’ and the girls cringed at Embarrassing Dad.

On the way up we were looking at the San Fernando Valley to our right. I worked out that we could see Forest Lawn cemetery beneath us which we were planning to visit later on today or the following day. I’m not sure that Mat believed me that that’s what we were looking at, but when we did visit, it was apparent that I was correct. I had done so much research for this trip over the year or so building up to it that definitely helped with being able to work out what things were and I often would have a fun fact for everyone about what sight we were seeing.

About 15 minutes after setting off on the Mount Lee Summit path we finally came to the back of the sign. What became apparent quite quickly is that you can’t really see a lot of the sign from there.

The girls were still lagging behind a bit and I took the opportunity to climb a little further up the bank to the top viewing area to see if I could see a bit more. I immediately regretted that as, even though there was a well-trodden path and lots of people clearly do that every day, I’m not great with going up and down banks. Actually, going up was okay. And there was a very slightly better view up there of Los Angeles below, but it wasn’t a better view of the sign. My legs went a bit weak from being up so high. So I took a couple of photos and then decided to go straight back down. By that point, the others were all by the fence so I could see them.

I started walking down but the bank was quite steep and slippy and I had visions of falling all the way down it so I asked Mat to come a little way up and help me down. I made it down successfully and then managed to get Freya to pose for a grumpy photo by the fence.

I think going up there behind the sign was definitely a bit of an anti-climax because we could see very little of the sign and it’s quite hard work getting up there. I’ve watched a few youtube videos of travel vloggers going up there and it seemed like their view of the sign was a lot better than what I saw. I’ve put that down to them going up the bank and then standing on the bench that you can see in my photo. And also the fact that I’m 5’4” and I expect they have a good at least six inches on me plus were probably raising their cameras in the air. But there was no way I was going to stand on that bench as I was too scared.

I’m also glad we did Tyrolian Tank first as I think if we’d done Mount Lee Summit first with it being longer, steeper and more anti-climactic, we would have struggled to encourage the girls to take the second path after with them being more tired and fed up and pretty unimpressed with the view.

We started heading back down and Freya was complaining about feeling dizzy and weak and sick from the heat and the walking. So I pulled out a parenting trick I haven’t done for probably seven years or so. I remembered that we’d popped a couple of the Trader Joe’s lollipops the cashier had kindly given the girls the previous night into the rucksack this morning ‘just in case’. The girls immediately perked up and stopped moaning once they got their lollipops which I thought was amusing as it felt like they were five again. Seren was still talking about the menu for the restaurant we were heading to and trying to decide which flavour iced latte to get. We were all very much ready for a nice breakfast.

On the way down that last steep part of the trail to the summit, we passed a guy cycling up it. The girls cringed again as Mat said to him ‘You can do it!’ which I’m sure he already knew as he probably did it regularly, but fun to make the girls embarrassed again anyway.

When we got back to the Tyrolian Tank or Mount Lee Summit signpost, a family was just approaching it from the trail beneath. As we were walking towards them, I immediately identified them as British. Is anyone else like us and can immediately just tell when another family is British? They were looking in both directions and trying to work out which way to go. As we got to them, I said, ‘That way is the front of the sign, this way is behind the sign’ and I think I also said that the front is the better view. They took the Tyrolian Tank path if I recall correctly.

I feel like the Mount Lee Summit is something we’re pleased we did but if we were to go back to this part of Griffith Park (which we will for sure as it was a massive highlight of the trip), I would just go to Tyrolian Tank as the view is better and it’s a lot less strenuous. I think Mount Lee Summit is a one-and-done; something I’m glad we did as it’s bucket list for me but I don’t need to repeat it. Although maybe I would on a cooler day and with my revised expectations of how much of the sign you can actually see.

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Old 20 Sep 23, 10:01 AM  
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I think it took about 45 minutes to walk all the way back down. On the way down, we were very aware that there were a lot more people coming up than there had been when we’d set off several hours before. I definitely think it’s worth doing as early as possible, especially in the height of summer and if you don’t like people, like me lol.

A young lady hiking up on her own said ‘I love your dress’ to me as she passed us and ‘I love your outfit’ to Freya as she passed the girls who were a few metres behind us. I love when people compliment strangers and it made us feel good although I think Mat and Seren were a bit offended that they didn’t receive a compliment too.

Back at the car, there were definitely a few more cars in the car park as well as parked along the road than there had been at 7 am. We had been clever enough to park in a shaded space so the car wasn’t too hot. Seren quickly and discreetly changed in the car into less of a hiking outfit which she’d brought with her. She and I also both changed out of our now brown trainers and into some cleaner shoes that we were happier wearing in restaurants and for the rest of the day’s activities.

As I’ve said a few times, I was in charge of planning this trip (as always) and with it being a new place to us, I had been apprehensive about how things were going to work out but as I got in the car I felt happy that our first activity had gone really well. I think before the trip when I’d said ‘Oh we’re going to hike to the Hollywood Sign’ it didn’t really feel real as it seemed like such a big thing to me, so the fact that we’d achieved it made me satisfied and even more excited for the rest of the trip. What’s the saying about counting your chickens? That was about to be proven correct here as the wheels would come off a little with our next plan.

Today was definitely one of the most ambitious days in the plan as I’d packed in a lot. This was because today was the day that made the most sense to do the things I had scheduled for this day. And not only were we planning a lot for today, two things were reservations that were booked for specific times, so I felt a bit of pressure in terms of having to rush around. And I obviously had the ‘Traffic in LA is awful’ thing in my head that I’d read everywhere and I was expecting it to slow us down. In reality we very rarely found ourselves in bad traffic during our two weeks of driving around Los Angeles.

We set off back along Canyon Drive, having popped Beachwood Cafe into google maps on my phone. We were once again ‘wow’ing and ‘aah’ing at the lovely houses as we headed to our destination. I had done some switching around of restaurants to place Beachwood Cafe after this morning’s hike as it was the closest breakfast restaurant in the plans to where we’d be setting off from. It made sense to go there later in the trip when we would be staying in the area, but in the end I’d decided it made even more sense to go there today as it was only a ten minute drive from door to door, and as I said we had quite ambitious plans today. The other restaurants I’d originally considered for today were further into Hollywood and with potential traffic could add another 20 minutes or so onto the journey time which we didn’t really have time for today.

We were in high spirits as we headed towards Beachwood Cafe. The LA playlist was doing its thing and this morning we finally got ‘Party In The USA’ which we should have cued up the day before for ‘Hopped off the plane at LAX’. Oh well, better late than never. We also got this spectacular view as we drove towards Beachwood Canyon. I scrabbled around to take a photo on Mat’s phone, not realising that we would end up driving along here quite a few times during the trip. Obviously I took the same photos pretty much every time we passed.

So Beachwood Cafe had come up in my planning when I had booked our AirBnb in Beachwood Canyon that we’d be checking into later on in the trip and had been looking for nearby restaurants. It was highly rated on google maps and had plenty of vegan options for breakfast so I knew it was going to be a thing for us. What I had found out from google maps is that Beachwood Cafe is mentioned in a Harry Styles song as he’s a customer. We’re not fans of his so hadn’t been aware of this. It did lead us to always call the place ‘Harry Styles Cafe’ though. I was also aware from google reviews that the place had become popular with fans wanting to visit the place mentioned in the song. But it was Monday morning, and they’d only started opening on Mondays within the past few months after the pandemic. So Mondays must be quiet, right?

We spotted the cafe up ahead and were very quickly aware of two things: 1) there were a lot of cars parked on the streets around it and b) there were at least ten people standing on the sidewalk outside the restaurant waiting. Beachwood Cafe is not a place that accepts bookings so these people clearly had checked in and were waiting for tables to open up. There is a small parking lot that the restaurant shares with the next door grocery store and a couple of other small businesses, and that was most definitely full. We turned around to look for some street parking close to the cafe. A couple of hundred metres away we found a small stretch that only had one car parked in it. The sign beside this section seemed okay so Mat pulled over and we got out of the car. As we were getting out, a maintenance worker who was doing some work right where we were standing said we couldn’t park there and pointed at, I think, a different No Parking sign. It was very kind of him to help us avoid a potential fine or getting towed. It turned out it was street cleaning time so we had to move. He directed us to another stretch of street parking directly opposite where there was one available space. As we were getting back in the car, I managed to tread in dog poo in my new Birkenstocks. Perfect.

We turned the car around and Mat spent ages trying to reverse park into the new space. When we thought he had aced it, the construction worker came over to tell us we had to park the car the other way around. We had forgotten about the weird American rule of parked vehicles needing to face the same direction as the traffic. By this point Mat was getting stressed as he’s not great at reverse parking, especially on the other side of the road and from the other side of the car. I think he understandably lost quite a bit of confidence in driving in Los Angeles at that point whereas he’d felt he’d been doing fine until then. So he went to turn around and try getting into the space from the other direction. The street was quite busy which wasn’t helpful with turning around and trying to park. As he pulled into the space there was a noise that sounded like he had scraped the car behind. So now we’re behind schedule, possibly facing quite the wait for a table, I have dog poo on my shoe, we’re struggling to park and now it seems like he’s just hit another car which is going to be a real issue. He pulled up and we checked the car and the other car and there was not even the tiniest of marks on either. We then realised we’d gone over a wobbly metal drain in the road instead of scraping the car. Phew.

However, he still wasn’t parked close enough to the kerb for us to be parked here and he couldn’t deal with spending any longer trying to get into the space. At this point, we decided to give up on Beachwood Cafe for today as it was clearly not meant to be and time was not on our side. I scanned my google doc for an easy alternative restaurant that wasn’t too far away and came up with Breakfast Republic where we had been due to eat the following week. I decided we’d just do a little switcheroo and come back to Harry Styles Cafe next week.

It took about 15 minutes to drive to Breakfast Republic which was on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. I liked this area too; it felt like classic Hollywood architecture wise.

Mat was stressing about the parking but I told him there was an underground parking garage next to the restaurant that customers could park in which placated him. We parked up and walked round to the restaurant entrance. I didn’t get a decent photo of the outside of the restaurant. This one is from their website:

I was at the back of our family as we headed in the door and a rude European couple who were approaching the door from the other side cut ahead of me and then cut into the conversation Seren and Mat were having with the hostess. They didn’t speak very much English so it took a minute to sort them out. Honestly it’s no wonder ‘tourists’ get a bad reputation. We seem to encounter so many rude, entitled and clueless tourists when we’re away.

It was quite busy inside and as I said, Mat and Seren were talking to the hostess who was a really sweet enthusiastic girl who had immediately commented on Seren’s Lost Boys t-shirt. She was asking us what we were doing while we were in LA as she seated us. She was just lovely and said we had to come back at the end of our trip to tell her about it all, which we didn’t manage to do.

We were brought tap water in these cute rooster jars.

The view from my seat:

I ordered a lychee mimosa because why not? Mat got his standard double espresso and also grapefruit juice.

Seren ordered the harvest omelet which was vegan eggs, asparagus, avocado, spinach, onion, jalapeno and vegan sausage with sourdough toast.

Mat ordered the Jammin’ Bennie which was blackberry-jalapeno jam, vegan sausage, vegan eggs and vegan hollandaise with house potatoes.

I went for the veggie and pesto frittata which was a vegan omelet with garlic, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, sweet and sour tomato jam and pesto, with herb grilled sourdough and house potatoes.

And Freya chose simply two sunny side up eggs on sourdough toast.

I was really impressed with the menu here and the amount of interesting vegan options. However my dish tasted really bland. I added some tabasco to it but it still didn’t have much flavour. Everyone else absolutely loved their food so it’s possible I just made a bad menu choice which to be honest I seem to do quite often.

Halfway through the meal I ordered a second mimosa, this time just with orange juice but by the time we were all done with our food it hadn’t arrived. As the lovely hostess cleared the plates away we mentioned it and she apologised and went off to find out what had happened. Whoever I’d ordered it with hadn’t actually put it through but the hostess said if I still wanted it they would do it on the house. I’m not one to turn down a free drink so the others would just have to sit and wait and watch me drink it before we could leave. Ha.

The restrooms here were two separate large all gender accessible restrooms and when you locked the door behind you a voice came over the speaker in the restroom with a recorded comment, something like ‘Looking good!’, and then it played a song very loudly. Each of the two restrooms’ comment and song was different and as Seren was the first of us to try out a restroom, when she came back to the table she reported that she had jumped out of her skin and didn’t know what was going on. What was slightly odd was that there was a side door from the street that led directly to the restrooms and they were through a corridor from the restaurant. So basically anyone could enter the restrooms from the street without the staff being aware. Fair enough, but pretty much everywhere else we went in Los Angeles, the bathrooms were highly protected from anyone being able to walk in off the street, usually with a code. We even saw that in a hotel lobby in Hollywood. I’d read enough on Reddit before we came away about restaurant restrooms being used to take drugs etc so I was surprised these were so easily accessible. To be fair, the area around Breakfast Republic was very nice and we certainly didn’t see anything untoward around there, plus the restaurant and parking garage was part of a swanky new apartment building which we saw quite a lot in LA. And it’s very possible the really loud music that plays when you lock yourself in the restroom is designed to be a deterrent for anyone who wants to hang out in there, in the same way I’ve heard some 7/11s in Los Angeles play loud classical music to keep undesirable characters from hanging around.

The meal came to $85.16 and we left a 20% tip because the hostess / server lady was so lovely. Looking at the receipt now I can see they added a 4% surcharge which is quite a hot topic at the moment in LA as some restaurants are adding an automatic service charge or ‘healthcare’ charge to pay their staff healthcare. It’s not gone down very well with many customers who feel restaurants should be paying their staff healthcare costs themselves and not asking their customers to do so. It’s all a bit controversial. We didn’t come across these added service charges as much as I expected us to. Restaurants are really expensive in Los Angeles as they are everywhere at the moment but at least paying over $100 every time we sat down for a meal prepared us for Disneyland and Disney World prices later in the trip. We very rarely ate more than two restaurant meals in a day, sometimes only one, but on this holiday food and drink was definitely where we spent our money (after accommodation and park tickets were already paid)…plus fuel, LA gas prices are no joke.

Breakfast Republic validates parking in the garage but when we got down to the payment machine, there was still a parking charge to pay. Mat popped back into the restaurant and they confirmed they only validated one hour’s charge. We’d been there about ten minutes over an hour which was a bit annoying as we still had to pay $8. Actually add parking charges to the list of high cost things we had to pay in Los Angeles. Sometimes we were parking in multiple garages a day and it definitely all added up. I understand why a lot of Angelenos will hunt for free residential street parking when they go places even if it means a bit of a walk.

It was about 12 pm when we were finally ready to set off from Breakfast Republic. When we were supposed to go to Harry Styles Cafe, the original plan had been to go from there to Mount Sinai Memorial Park (the cemetery we’d seen from Mount Lee earlier) to visit a couple of memorable final resting places which I’ll detail when we finally get there in tomorrow’s report. However we definitely didn’t have time to go there now but we still had a bit of time before our tour time at Warner Bros Studios. I had a quick look at my trusty google doc and decided the best place for us to go now was Amoeba Music which went down very well with everyone. I’ve said it before but music is our number one love as a family and that’s an understatement. We all need music as much as we need water. So visiting an iconic record store like Amoeba very much appealed to us all.

I popped the address into google maps and we set off. It took a little less than 20 minutes to get there. Again I reassured Mat that Amoeba has a parking garage attached as the store is part of the new El Centro apartment complex. We parked up and headed out onto Hollywood Boulevard. This part of the boulevard is about a 20 minute walk from the Chinese Theater, a block from Vine Street. There are quite a few new buildings in this immediate area and it felt nice and new and clean.

It was just a few steps from the parking garage exit to the door of Amoeba but I stopped everyone else as we approached the entrance as I knew exactly what I was looking for right outside the store and I found it immediately.

I very excitedly snapped a few pictures of my boys’ star and we went inside.

Amoeba is massive and we were all immediately like kids in a sweetshop.

We kind of scattered as we all had different priorities. Mat reminded us all that we couldn’t really buy anything as we didn’t have any space in the luggage as per his usual official statement anytime we go into any shop on holiday. Funnily enough he was the first one to find some things he wanted to buy. He got two fairly difficult to come by CDs. The issue at Amoeba is that once you’ve paid, there are exit gates to the foyer and they hand you your stuff over those gates so basically once you’ve paid you’re outside the sales floor. Mat didn’t mind as he had a good old chat with the guy on the security desk about his history in the music industry while the girls and I continued browsing.

Seren decided to buy two magazines; one about The Beatles and one about Mickey Mouse. Which pretty much sums her up. Freya got an Eminem CD and an Eminem t-shirt. The store was definitely heavy on merchandise such as music books, t-shirts, Funkos and stickers, although there were of course CDs and vinyl albums etc. But I guess it’s 2023 and this store is in a tourist area so they’re catering to the tourists with all the merch as well as local music lovers who might be here for vinyl or CDs.

I found a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt I liked which I kind of regret not buying and then checked the CDs. Obviously no point looking in the vinyl section with no way to get it home in one piece but I wanted to see if there were any rare RHCP bootlegs or interesting editions. I had also told myself I had to check for signed copies of one of their 2022 albums which were only released to US record stores. As this was my first visit to a record store in the States since then I would have been annoyed with myself if I hadn’t checked although I knew the chances of one just sitting in a major record store in their home city 16 months after release were pretty much non-existent and I was correct.

Instead I decided to buy pretty much the only RHCP thing I could find beside the t-shirt that I didn’t already own which was a sticker. And despite Amoeba having a huge sticker section divided up into artists like CDs and vinyl, they only had one RHCP sticker.

Taylor Swift was in town that week which you couldn’t really escape as it seemed every other person out and about was wearing an Eras tour t-shirt. It also meant stores like this had little Taylor Swift displays.

I decided to get all of the Taylor Swift stickers they had plus this air freshener. I was pretty proud of myself for being the member of the family who spent the least and had the smallest purchases. I was pretty much sticking to the rules of not buying anything (at this point anyway.)

Everyone else had already checked out at the tills and they were all the other side of the entrance barrier so realising we needed to get a bit of a move on, I went to complete my purchase. The Taylor Swift stickers were on a display card so a member of staff had to get the actual stickers from behind the till for me. This woman was a really cool rock chick and when she picked up the card she went ‘Taylor Swift…yay!’ I guess everyone’s a Swiftie nowadays.

Here are my beautiful stickers on my laptop:

And my air freshener:

As we were walking the few steps back along Hollywood Boulevard to the garage, we came across a couple of Hollywood Boulevard Security guys who were in almost police-like uniforms telling a homeless lady who was standing against the building outside Amoeba smoking weed that she couldn’t smoke there and trying to move her along. I think there’s definitely an endeavour to smarten up Hollywood Boulevard, and as I said up here it actually felt nice and peaceful and clean.

Amoeba Music validates parking in the El Centro garage for an hour so I’m going to assume Mat did that. We got back in the car and set off for Warner Bros Studios. On the way we passed another La La Land location; the mural Mia walks past in La La Land when she’s walking home after her car’s been towed. It’s on Argyll Avenue under the Hollywood Freeway (the 101.)

It only took about 15 minutes to get there. There were a few different Warner Bros entrances so we had to check we were heading into the right one that was definitely for the Studios Tour (my google maps can be a bit naughty). We were all good and headed into the correct parking structure. Maybe instead of using lyrics from my favourite band, I should have called this trip report ‘Our tour of Los Angeles Parking Garages’ as this was garage number three today. Parking at the studio tour was $15.

We hopped aboard the elevator and headed down to the ground floor for the tour entrance. It was about 1.15 pm and our tour was booked for 1.30 pm but the tickets said to arrive 30 minutes before our tour time which we had failed to do. It turns out that tour times are very loose in reality so we didn’t need to stress about being late.

I showed our tickets and we went through security. As we were ‘late’ (sort of) we abandoned plans to restroom before checking in but when we approached the proper tour entrance we heard the staff member say to the people in front who were booked at the same time as us that they should restroom first before heading through to the tour. It was all a lot more relaxed than I thought it was going to be and it wasn’t that they had booked X number of people onto tour carts at exactly 1.30 pm and if you missed it, tough luck. So we went off to restroom first. When we came back and checked in properly, the staff member said we could look at the exhibits inside the first room which is called the Storytelling Showcase and then go to the desk at the end when we were ready for the tour and staff there would set us up. We were still under a bit of time pressure as I had a restaurant booked immediately after the 3 - 3.5 hours they tell you to allow for the tour so we headed straight to the desk and I can't tell you what these exhibits were. Seren took this photo at some point and I think that may have been in this room but equally it could have been in Stage 48. Either way, pretty cool original concept artwork.

We went to the desk at the back of the room and they directed us to the next room where staff were counting people into different numbered lines. There were quite a lot of people in the room already so I was a little concerned how long it would actually take to get on a tour from here. But once all five or six numbered pens were filled up, staff took us through to a theatre and every numbered line became one row in the theatre.

We joked that maybe it was the same as the Warner Bros Tour in Watford and we were going to head out of here into The Great Hall. We all sat there for ten minutes or so and I was getting a bit impatient. Eventually a staff member came in and introduced the video presentation which featured lots of movie stars and really helped us get in the mood for what we were about to experience. Once the video was over, some tour guides entered the room. They introduced themselves one by one as they each took a row of us out to a cart.

Our tour guide was Jake and he was fab. We loaded onto the cart which seats three people per a row so Mat went in front of us to be Billy No Mates. Jake spotted Seren’s Lost Boys t-shirt and said we were going to see a set from that movie which of course we already knew but it was nice of him to acknowledge it. About four staff members noticed her shirt and commented on it while we were here, along the lines of ‘Make sure your guide shows you The Lost Boys set’ and one after our tour checked that it had been pointed out to us which was great.

Our first stop was the jungle set and as we were waiting for one of the other carts that had set off ahead of us to move on a bit, Jake did an introductory speech and asked what movies / tv shows we were interested in seeing today. Seren immediately called out ‘Gilmore Girls!’ I had told her in advance that the Gilmore Girls sets don’t always get pointed out and can be missed off the tour completely if guests don’t mention the show, but I hadn’t expected her to loudly ask for it right at the start of the tour before anyone else had even opened their mouths. Good for her being a girl who knows what she wants.

Our minds were pretty much blown straight away listening to Jake tell us about the jungle set and how versatile the space and cabin / barn buildings are. We were very impressed that it had been used in Jurassic Park and the wonderful The Muppets movie (the Jason Segel one). It's pretty amazing that the lagoon holds 270,000 gallons of water and that the set was built way back in 1956.

From the jungle we drove past some Warner Bros staff office buildings on our way to our next location.

We drove past this house which I think Jake said is a working office for Warner Bros staff but can be used as a set.

These office buildings have been used as hospitals in medical drama shows (which I don’t watch so not sure which ones…possibly Chicago Hope from memory.)

We pulled into the square which is apparently called Midwest Street and immediately Seren and I were open mouthed being in this iconic location.

Universal does have the more iconic square I think but we were really excited to be here where Gilmore Girls was set. And where La La Land which is one of my all-time favourite films. Also one of the musical numbers from The Muppets was filmed here. I’m also pretty sure the little row of buildings here was also used in later seasons of The Middle which is a favourite of ours as I think I remember being able to line up the buildings and the grass opposite with Stars Hollow when we were watching it. However right now, none of these buildings are dressed to be stores or cafes or anything like that.

We spied the church straight away. The actual church from The Lost Boys. Jake told us we would be getting out of the cart here and as we got out he pointed out the church ‘from Lost Boys.’

We parked up and Jake said we were getting off the cart here. There were a few other tour groups around the area including one around the gazebo from Gilmore Girls. Jake began to talk about what had been filmed in this location and mentioned, not for the first time, that the lot was super quiet right now because of the WGA / SAG-AFTRA strikes. I guess it was a bit of an elephant in the room situation. He kind of had to explain why nothing was being shot here at the moment. Actually that’s not true, there was a music video being filmed today and we saw a couple of trucks related to it. Jake said he couldn’t tell us who the artist was but that we’d find out in about a year’s time. A whole year? I’m sure music videos are not usually filmed that far out but I guess there was a reason for it. Maybe it was Queen Taylor, who as I said was definitely in town.

Jake showed us Lane from Gilmore Girls’ house and told us it was also the house used as Monica and Ross’ parents house in Friends for the prom video episode among others. How exciting.

Jake took us inside this house as it is a property that is used for internal filming too. He explained to us how filming in a location like this works and I found it fascinating. Obviously the property didn’t have an upstairs as it would be too difficult to film up there with all the equipment and stuff. The house did have some stairs that led to nowhere and Jake confirmed that as you might expect, they will film a character going up the stairs then cut and continue filming in a downstairs location.

He showed us all the rigging for lighting etc which was above us as the property didn’t have proper ceilings. There were some kitchen fixtures but not much else and just a concrete floor. He said that a production company will come in and just do exactly what they need to do for the setting they’re creating so the kitchen cabinet fronts, door handles, wall colour get changed all the time.

One of the most interesting things Jake told us was about the filming process. He said that once all the lighting and everything is all set up, it gets extremely hot in these buildings. Therefore they have to have really loud air conditioning set up which they literally switch off just before they start rolling otherwise the actors would get too hot and sweaty. He said the actual amount of filming time during a long day of filming is actually quite low. He gave a scenario of a scene between two actors close up sitting at a table. He said they will set up the cameras and lighting to film one of the actors and film the scene focusing on that character. They will then set it all up again facing the other actor. And then again to get a longer shot of them both. So that two minute scene would be filmed three times back to back from three different angles and the actual amount of camera rolling time in that would be minimal. Which I guess is completely logical but I’ve never thought it all the way through that when you see a short scene in a TV show all the different camera angles are different takes and it’s cut together. Fascinating.

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Old 20 Sep 23, 10:05 AM  
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We went back outside, I think through a different door, and Jake then introduced us to Lorelai and Rory’s house from Gilmore Girls:

The back of this building is actually Sookie’s house in Gilmore Girls, so they were using the same building as two different houses when it was actually the front and back of the same property:

This house was used as Kate’s house in Gremlins and also Frank Jr’s house in Friends:

We got back on the cart and carried on on our journey through the backlot.

Luke’s Diner / Williams Hardware from Gilmore Girls:

We passed the exterior set for Abbott Elementary featuring a photo of a school corridor in the doorway. Is this just for tour guests as they’re not currently filming or do the professional cameras actually make that look realistic?

Jake took us to Stage 25 which is The Big Bang Theory stage and we were able to go inside to see how a TV show production stage is set up.

This soundstage is currently set up for filming Bob Hearts Abishola (me neither.) We weren’t allowed to film in here but basically the sets were all located along a corridor on both sides of the stage. He showed us all the main sets and where the audience would sit if it was filmed with a live audience as Friends and TBBT were. The audience space was actually really tiny. The audience sit across from the ‘main’ sets so in Friends that would be Monica’s apartment and Central Perk I guess and then the lesser used / rotated sets are further along and when the actors are filming there, the action would be shown to the audience on a screen so they could see it easier.

It felt a lot smaller, darker and claustrophobic in there than I thought it would. Going to see Friends being filmed was my ultimate dream when the show was on and I’d seen footage of filming which made the audience section seem like proper theatre seating. I couldn’t picture this space looking as good as that but I guess because Bob Hearts Abishola doesn’t film in front of an audience and it was currently dark and full of equipment, it wasn’t easy to imagine it with an audience.

What I haven’t mentioned until this point is that in our group of, I think, 11 of us we had an extremely annoying young couple. Every time Jake said ‘Any questions?’ which was pretty often during the tour, one of them, usually the guy, would ask a really dumb question usually along the lines of repeating back exactly what Jake had just told us. So for example in the Bob Hearts Abishola space after Jake told us ‘This section is where the audience would sit if this was a show with a live audience, blah blah blah…any questions?’ The guy would say ‘So this is where the live audience would sit?’ It became very annoying very quickly and it was clear that everyone else in the group was fed up with them from the sighing and eye-rolling. They were clearly the main characters in their tour and didn’t care that it was slowing everything down, disrupting what Jake was trying to tell us and meant there wasn’t time for others to ask sensible questions. Jake handled it really well, remaining polite but getting increasingly curt and abrupt in his responses.

Also annoyingly, they had a terrible sense of personal space and would come and stand right on top of other people when we stopped to look at something and to listen to Jake. And when we were in the Bob Hearts Abishola soundstage, Jake had told us clearly at the entrance that we had to remain inside the white lines on a central walkway the entire time we were in there so as not to get too close to the precious and valuable sets, props and equipment. When we stopped in front of a couple of the sets for Jake to explain some things, they were stepping forward over the line and getting too close to things and he had to tell them a few times to stay behind the white line and they still didn’t stop. Completely disrespectful and to be honest by that point we were looking forward to this part of the tour ending so we could get away from them.

We passed the Friends fountain and Jake told us there would be an opportunity to visit that during the self guided part of the tour.

Gutted I missed getting a photo of the Friends Stage (stage 24) but I did get this one of stage 23 which is just the same, right? Actually Stage 23 was the one they used for filming reshoots at the end of the Barbie filming process. Most of the film was shot at Warner Bros in the UK (and obviously also on location in Los Angeles) but Jake told us they filmed a few extra bits here and how awesome it was for him to be on the lot while they were filming. Also filmed at stage 23: The West Wing and er…Wild Wild West starring Will Smith.

The Barbie water tower:

I just rewatched Barbie a couple of days ago and realised that the introduction with the water tower is an aerial view of the studios with the water tower. You can see the backlot and soundstages. I got emotional seeing that on my TV….damn you post-holiday blues.

Jake told us that this part of the tour was now over and drove us to another building, Stage 48, for the start of the self-guided part of the tour. Our time with Jake had been pretty much an hour and we had all really enjoyed it. We lucked out with a really good guide who was clearly passionate about his job and the industry.

Just inside Stage 48 was the Central Perk cafe. Not the actual Central Perk from Friends, but a replica where guests could buy refreshments. Having been to Friends Fest in the UK a couple of times this wasn’t as exciting as if we’d never been to a Central Perk before. More of an issue was how busy it was in there and how long the line was. We were all really thirsty and really wanted to buy some water. I noticed there was a sign pointing to an ‘Express Line’ for grab and go items and checked with the staff member standing nearby to check we could use that completely empty line for buying water. He confirmed that was fine so that is what we did. I felt really bad skipping past all the people in line for coffees and hot food but we were just following the rules. The girls and I each got a can of still water and Mat got a San Pellegrino sparkling water. Looking at the receipt I’m amazed that they were $2.85 each for the still and $2.25 for the sparkling especially as a few weeks later we actually saw premium water (like Smart Water but a different brand) in Islands of Adventure for $6 per regular sized bottle.

We stood and gulped our drinks and Seren of course used the restroom. To the right of the cafe was a Friends store and seating for the cafe, and to the left was some exhibits. We went left and after a few costumes including one worn by Austin Butler in Elvis…

..we immediately came to the Friends Central Perk sofa photo opportunity. There was a short line ahead of us of maybe eight or ten groups but it moved pretty quickly. Warner Bros did take photos you could buy but they also happily took photos on people’s phones for them. It was all very efficient and the girls and I are big Friends fans so it was exciting to sit there.

We then saw The Big Bang Theory sets but didn’t queue up for the photo op in Sheldon’s apartment. The girls have never seen TBBT and Mat and I weren’t bothered about doing that one.

There were also some Casablanca costumes in this building:

That was pretty much it for the exhibits here so we went into the Friends shop area and had a look at the original costumes they had on display there which was cool. We found it really interesting that Matthew Perry seems to be quite a lot taller than Matt Le Blanc as that’s not something we’ve ever noticed when watching Friends a million times.

The seating for the cafe was really cute too:

I hadn’t realised we had to take another golf cart to another location for the last part of the tour. We headed outside and they loaded us onto the next cart. This was another occasion when staff wanted to make sure Seren had seen The Lost Boys church because of her shirt which was very sweet.

This cart took us and the other guests onboard to the Friends Fountain and on the way we passed the coffee shop from La La Land which I immediately recognised. I’m so glad I managed to snap a photo of it as we sped by as this was one of the main things I wanted to see at Warner Bros.

It was optional for guests to get off here for the photo op but everyone on our cart did so. We only had to wait a couple of minutes to get our photo taken at the fountain, and again it was all very efficient like the Central Perk photos.

Once guests have taken advantage of the Friends fountain photo op, the idea is that Warner Bros then pop them on another cart to take them to the next building. I’m not sure if this is always the case or if we were just unlucky but this afternoon there was quite a backlog of people waiting to leave the location. Very few carts were coming to the fountain, and those that did unfortunately contained mainly guests who didn’t want to get off here, meaning very few people could board these carts and get on their way. We waited probably about ten minutes to be able to get on a cart to the final destination. In the end a staff member radioed to get some extra carts, explaining that things were backed up. While we were in the line there, a guy and his teenage daughters went over to the staff members and explained that they hadn’t been shown the Gilmore Girls locations and wanted to. A staff member radioed and got someone on a cart over to take them which I’ve heard on other occasions is a thing they do. It’s great that they will accommodate people to try and ensure they get to see everything they want to see.

When there was a cart that had space for us, we were taken to the final location on the tour. This was the DC Super Heroes and Villains exhibit and Harry Potter exhibit. None of us are superheroes fans so this was kind of a quick walkthrough for us. It was cool to see some of these costumes to be fair.

Heath Ledger’s Joker costume:

Ben Affleck’s Batman costume:

Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume and Michael Keaton’s Batman costume:

We also very quickly skimmed the Game of Thrones section because we don’t have any interest in that although like the DC stuff, it’s cool that they have all of these iconic costumes and props on display. Into the Harry Potter section. They didn’t have much on display as so much of it is in the Harry Potter exhibition at Warner Bros UK but they did have an original Marauder’s Map:

And these:

We didn’t stop for any of the things we’ve done at Warner Bros Studios in the UK like flying on a broomstick, wand training etc. The girls did want to do the Sorting Hat which was quite cool. Although the staff member asks guests which house they think they are before they sit down and seems to go along with that a lot of the time. Watching them press the button on their ipad to generate the decision kind of spoilt the magic a little as they certainly weren’t discreet about it. Seren told the staff member that she was a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw and she got Hufflepuff. Freya told them she was a Griffyndor and that is the house she was assigned.

We then went into the greenhouse area to pull out potted Mandrakes which was fun.

The girls went and did the cupboard under the stairs photo opportunity too:

We skipped the holding a fake Oscar photo opportunity because meh and had a very quick look in the shop. Seren was tempted by some of the Gilmore Girls merch and Freya liked some Gilmore Girls pyjamas but in the end we escaped the shop without spending a single dollar so that seemed like a win.

Freya was complaining of being hungry and said she wanted some ‘proper food’ so we decided to stop at the Starbucks in the Warner Bros lobby before leaving as we had an hour until our reservation at Smoke House. We’d actually completed the tour in two and a half hours so quicker than the expected tour time of 3 - 3.5 hours but we really did gloss over a lot of the self guided stuff as the IPs included generally weren’t for us and we were much more interested in the backlot part of the tour.

Starbucks was dead by this point as the last tours of the day set off at 3.30 pm so as it was now almost 4 pm, there was just a slow trickle of people finishing up that were heading back out into the lobby. Freya had a look at the food available and decided on a mozzarella and tomato panini. Seren got an iced latte as she is addicted and Mat got a double espresso as ditto. I just got a bottle of water. The total was $24.35.

As expected Freya just picked at the panini as she doesn’t like tomatoes. Once everyone was finished we headed back up to the car and set off for our final stop of the day which I was extremely excited about.

It was only about a five minute drive to Smoke House which pretty much sits just outside Warner Bros. Mat was extremely excited that Smoke House parking is reasonably priced ($8) valet parking only and we were asked to pretty much dump the car outside the front door and go inside. No parking stress here.

We were about 45 minutes early for our 5 pm booking which was no problem when we checked in. I had requested a table in the lounge / bar rather than the main dining room and that was also no problem. I had really hesitated on booking coming here as it is a steak house with very few vegan options and the food reviews seem to have gone downhill over the last year or two but I also really, really wanted to come here. The reason for that is because it’s the location used as Lipton’s in La La Land, where Sebastian works playing the piano and where Mia comes in to listen to him playing. The scene was filmed in the lounge / bar hence the reason for me requesting a table in that room specifically. On their website it says they have Happy Hour from 3 - 5 pm in the bar only, but no one ever mentioned that to us and our bill certainly did not reflect any sort of Happy Hour pricing.

So anyway, I had got around my not much we could eat vs. wanting to visit quandary by deciding to book a lounge / bar table in the off time between lunch and dinner. The idea was that it would be quiet and we would feel less pressure to order ‘proper meals’ which we weren’t able to do with what was available. So we would visit primarily for drinks and maybe get a couple of sides or Freya could eat here if she was hungry as I knew they had a vegetarian pasta.

The host took us through the entrance to the lounge / bar and as I walked in my eyes filled with tears. I felt so lucky to be standing here where one of my favourite movies of all time was filmed. I experienced this multiple times during the trip when we visited places that were really special to me and I never took it for granted. It was just truly amazing to be able to see these places and that was definitely a part of why I fell in love so hard with this beautiful, iconic city.

The Smoke House has been open since 1946 and being so close to the major studios, it’s had its fair share of famous customers over the years including Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Gary Marshall, Brad Pitt and the Friends cast. George Clooney was a regular when ER was being filmed and even named his production company Smokehouse productions after the restaurant. The restaurant has been used in other shows and movies as well as you’d expect with being so close to the studios (Universal is also really close by, as is Disney.) The Office also filmed here which we were all very impressed by as we love that show. On the walls are photos of famous diners, including the cast of The Office and individual photos of most of the Friends cast. The girls and I had our usual ‘Courtney Cox is stunning’ conversation as we do whenever we see her while looking at the photos above our table.

We were seated in the very corner booth. There were about four other parties in there who mostly seemed like locals…perhaps they were there for the elusive Happy Hour. Christian was our server and he was friendly and professional. We explained our dietary restrictions to him and ordered some drinks. Originally the plan had been to try and drive back to the AirBnb and get an Uber back here so Mat could enjoy a couple of cocktails. However he had reassured me he wasn’t bothered about being able to drink here and it was just easier to drive on the way back from Warner Bros. So he and Freya ordered Diet Cokes and I picked a Bramble from the cocktail menu (gin, Chambord, lemon juice and Simple Syrup.) Seren just stuck with tap water.

My cocktail was good. It was tasty and also nice and strong without being too sweet. Food wise, Freya went for the pasta primavera, Seren got a baked potato and shared some shoestring fries with Freya, Mat just ordered a fruit cup and I chose steak fries. As I said we hadn’t planned for this to be a proper meal, but we were all pretty peckish when we got here as breakfast seemed a long time ago by this point. The food was surprisingly good actually. I really enjoyed my fries and everyone else enjoyed what they had. Freya says the pasta was one of the best meals she had on the trip.

The food photos in here were terrible as it was so dark:

Steak fries:

Fruit cup:

Pasta primavera:

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Old 20 Sep 23, 10:06 AM  
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Baked potato (no photo of the thin cut fries for some reason) :

I had a second cocktail, the Purple Potion, which was gin, pineapple juice, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice. Again, a really tasty and strong cocktail that wasn’t too sweet. I was amazed that I had managed to pick two really good cocktails as I often end up with something too sweet or watery. I think that speaks to the quality of the cocktail menu and bartenders here.

This was one of those meals where we were all in really high spirits, just chatting and laughing throughout and I have really fond memories of it.


The only slightly off thing was that a photographer came round and took photos of us for us to buy which we could have done without. She was a super sweet, European lady and to be fair when she came back with the photos they were so good we actually bought one. Proper tourist behaviour. It was about $16.50. But we don’t have many photos of the four of us all together that aren’t selfies and we’ll get this one framed and hang it on the wall.

We were all done about 5.30 pm. The total was $97.02 plus a tip of about $14 which is expensive for one entree, four sides, two sodas and two cocktails but as I’ve said before, all restaurants here are flipping expensive and the cocktails were $14 and $17 so that was definitely a factor.

We took a couple of photos in the lobby area and then went outside to collect our car from the valet which was super quick as it still wasn’t very busy at Smoke House.

We needed to get some water and a few bits so searched Google Maps for a CVS. The one it took us to on North Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood was definitely not the closest even though it appeared to be on the search, but it was fine and we were not under any further time pressure today anyway. I think it took about 15 minutes to get there.

We bought water including small bottles to take with us to Universal Studios the following day, sunscreen, some sriracha flavoured almonds in case we found ourselves peckish in the evenings during the trip, contact lens solution and after sun lotion. It is a necessity for me to buy the Banana Boat after sun lotion at the start of every trip. I absolutely love that stuff and as it’s a massive bottle I always bring the rest home and use it until it runs out in an effort to save the mini tan my pale skin gets for as long as possible. The girls also picked up some make-up as they can’t go into a shop that sells make-up without buying some.

We left CVS about 6.15 pm, drove back to the AirBnb, passing (well almost passing) the Capitol Records building on the way…

…and the girls immediately got changed to go in the pool. I went outside and sat on the deck as it was a lovely evening. They were loving messing about in the pool and I was really pleased they were getting to use it, since as I’ve said before this AirBnb was expensive because of the private pool.

The pool hours are until 8 pm so the girls got out about ten minutes before that and we went back inside to find Mat had fallen asleep on the bed, bless him. The girls took turns to have showers and then planned to chill on their phones for a bit in bed but they were both exhausted and went to sleep after a few minutes.

The original plan had been to get some food delivered tonight but after the Smoke House, none of us needed anything else to eat so we didn’t bother. I had another shower and Mat and I also had a pretty early night as the following day would be another early start.
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Old 20 Sep 23, 08:13 PM  
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Such a great report. Your excitement really is so evident 😊
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Old 20 Sep 23, 08:40 PM  
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Great report, thanks for doing this. I found it interesting that you mentioned about visiting the Mount Sinai Memorial Park. When we visit LA our “hobby” is visiting the graveyards and visiting the famous memorials. On our next visit, in 3 weeks, I am going to visit my 3rd cousins final resting place, in Orange County, after discovering them via my DNA test on Ancestry. Looking forward to the next instalment.

Las Vegas - October 2023 (6th West Coast Trip)
New York - February 2019 - My 50th Birthday Trip (1st Visit)
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Old 20 Sep 23, 09:45 PM  
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Wow brilliant day, loved the photos of the Gilmore Girls set.
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Old 21 Sep 23, 01:33 AM  
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Oh wow! Dd and I have now added a hike to the Hollywood sign and a Warner Bros studio tour to our L.A. list. Thank you.
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Old 29 Sep 23, 10:28 PM  
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What a fantastic day Michelle! That hike is definitely going on my list of ‘must do’s’ and your time at the Warner Bros Studios brought back fantastic memories of our time there. It was one of my biggest highlights of the whole 3 weeks we had in Cali as I’m such a huge Gilmore Girls and Friends fan! Like you I had to pinch myself that I was walking and standing in the exact same spots as some of my favourite actors
Can you believe I have never watched La La Land , don’t judge . I will rectify that immediately and report back once I have . It must have been amazing to be sat in the same restaurant where part of it was filmed!
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