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Hollywood thrills; Sunday Mail writer Lesley finishes her mini-tour of the US West Coast with the best destination of all - the over-the-top city of Los Angeles.

There is just one problem with visiting Los Angeles, California. How on earth do you do squeeze in every exciting thing? The answer, we discovered, is you don't. You make your choices and enjoy the ride. If you miss anything out (and you will), you'll just have to go back again. We can't wait.

The second largest US city (after New York) is a sprawling conurbation made up of individual 'cities' or areas spread over a vast swathe of California, from coast to mountains.

It is mind-bogglingly huge. The larger metropolitan area has a population of around 18million.

It's no exaggeration to say you could drive from Glasgow to Inverness in less time than it takes to get from one end of LA to another if you hit traffic. And you always hit traffic.

You'll not see much of LA if you spend all your time sitting on a 14-lane highway trying to get from the Hollywood Hills to Malibu. There's a reason why the A-listers keep homes in each location. So if you've limited time, it makes sense to choose your base carefully - from beach accommodation like Santa Monica or Redondo, or a hotel near a theme park like Universal or Disneyland.

Do you want to hang out with the ultra-chic set in Beverly Hills or Bel-Air or mix with the hipsters and the hustlers in crowded Hollywood? We agreed with the kids - aged 14, 12 and seven - that LA meant movies, celebrities, live TV shows, the music industry and YouTube stars so chose to stay in Hollywood's central entertainment district, despite hearing scare stories of tourists too afraid to venture out after dark.

We booked into the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, which is right next to Universal Studios Hollywood and its very handy Universal CityWalk, a safe and self-contained district of shops and restaurants connected

to the theme park that can be used without paying to access the park.

A complimentary shuttle bus ran between the hotel and the CityWalk several times an hour. We dined there most nights and enjoyed the entertainment without worrying about getting home before nightfall.

The hotel was the perfect base to discover movieland by day. Top of our list was a nosy around the mansions of the ridiculously rich and famous. We booked online for the StarLine Movie Stars' Home Tour, picking up our tickets o from a booth outside the TCL Chinese Theatre - still known as Grauman's - on Hollywood Boulevard.

This is the heart of showbiz, slap bang in the middle of the Walk of Fame (Donald Trump's star had just been vandalised), across the street from the studios where talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live is filmed. You can get your hands on free tickets to be in the studio audience through various websites if you check in advance. Alternatively, some superfans queue up on the day in the blistering sun.

In comparison, our little tour bus - about a 12-seater - was a welcome relief from the heat, with open sides and a roof canopy as sun shield. Tour guide/driver, Andrew, was an LA native. We started in the Hollywood Hills and drove through breathtaking scenery where stars like Kevin Costner, Gwen Stefani and Nicholas Cage and Sting own multi-million dollar real estate. Snooping on the stars makes for an entertaining afternoon, as well as a chance to learn about the history of the city too.

There was even a stop for pictures with the Hollywood sign as backdrop.

The next day we made the most of the StarLine CitySightseeing tour buses, a hop-on, hop-off service.

There are several routes to choose from but we mainly stuck with the Red Line, a two-hour complete circuit (if you were to stay on the bus) taking in the highlights of Hollywood and Beverly Hills including Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard, the LA Farmers Market and hot dog heaven at Pink's, a landmark since 1939. Every stop was like stepping into a movie set, so familiar are these streets.

On our last day, we braved the traffic and took the yellow line tour from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, to stroll along the golden beach, watch the beautiful people on roller skates or electric scooters, playing volleyball, doing work-outs, just generally having a wonderful time.

You can walk on to Santa Monica Pier and watch the sun go down over the sweeping coastline and wonder why you live in Scotland, not on the glorious Pacific coast of the USA That's one answer we still haven't come up with...

Travel info n To book a Movie Stars' Homes tour or for the doubledecker hop-on hop-off bus tours see: www.starlinetours.com n For more general tourist info see www.visitcalifornia.co.uk n For details on the Hilton hotels in LA, including Hilton Los Angeles/ Universal City, see www.hilton.com n British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines fly direct to LA from Heathrow

CAPTION(S):

STREETS AHEAD Hollywood Boulevard

HEAD FOR THE HILLS Famous sign

STA R GAZING Lesley and son find Rod Stewart's star on Walk of Fame
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 5, 2019
Words:846
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