After our wonderful visit with the 29s, and since we were on Wilshire Blvd., I thought we should visit the LaBrea Tar Pits. I don't know why but the concept of the place has fascinated me since I was a kid. The idea of an open pit, connecting with the centre of the earth (well, sort of), left open in the middle of the downtown of a large American city, just had to be experienced. Plus, it was featured in the fairly recent movie "Volcano", so we pootled up the street and smelled it before we saw it. Was that true, or was it our imagination? We found parking around the back and drove up to the booth to get our ticket. The booth guy said we had to leave nine dollars in cash and then, when we left, he would give us back the excess. We said, "we're only going in for 30 minutes!" but he said, "that's the way it works." We rooted around and only found a five and three singles. I said, "We're Canadian! We wouldn't lie to you." He smiled and shrugged and took our $8 and let us in.
We found parking in the shade and walked into the green space, with the museum on our left. We headed toward a fenced area near Wilshire and saw the life sized statues of mammoths and knew we were in the right place. I don't seem to recall that it smelled like tar when we were close to it, and in fact, it is not actually "tar" that fills the pits, but asphalt but it didn't smell strongly of road paving either. While we stared at the surface of the pond, we saw bubbles come up on a regular basis. It's an eerie feeling to think that it is the earth itself that is alive under these ponds.
When we got to the other side of the pond, I actually got choked up when I saw the sculptures of the mammoth family, with the mother mammoth struggling vainly in the pond and the baby watching helplessly from the shore.
After only a little while, we decided to hit the road again and availed ourselves of the public washrooms, as they wouldn't let us use the ones in the museum without paying to get in. I didn't need to see the whole museum. I am fan of museums but we had limited time and it had to be used judiciously. We went back to the car and as we drove out, I said the the booth guy, "See! We were only 30 minutes!". We were actually about 45 minutes but we got back $5 of our $8, so I didn't tell a lie.
We headed over to Hollywood Blvd next, to see the Walk of Fame. It was just as portrayed in any number of tourist articles and movies. Peter spotted Superman walking by and told me to go over so he could get my picture taken. Just as I was protesting I didn't want to, Superman came over for the picture. He said he worked for tips (of course) and when Peter stuck his hand in his pocket, he was unprepared to only find 4 quarters in there. I said, "Never mind!" and felt embarrassed but Superman posed anyway. I don't know why we didn't have any cash on us to speak of unless it was because we were paying for all this parking (we had to park underground at the Walk of Fame) but if you are reading this, Superman, sorry about it dude. Especially because you don't have pockets.
From there, we checked our now indispensable Lonely Planet Guide and it listed three different studio tours. The most expensive was Warner Brothers but the guide said it was the most fun so we went there. Even though we didn't have tickets in advance, it was no trouble to fit us into the next tour of about a dozen people, as there are tours leaving every 20 minutes. We started with a brief movie of what shows are made at WB (movies and tv shows) and then we got on the electric trolley and headed out onto the lot(s). We weren't allowed to have our cameras with us as we were driven around the lots but once or twice, we stopped and were allowed to take a few pix.
We had a very enthusiastic guide - it was his first summer doing this and he said it was the best job in the world. We saw outside sets where they were filming a new tv series with Christian Slater (the crew had just disappeared inside a building to film a scene so we didn't see anyone famous). We also saw some museums where they had an entire floor of the Harry Potter costumes. The lower floor had costumes from lots of other movies, including Casablanca, and there was Sam's piano. I was amazed to see that this little upright piano was almost half-sized. It didn't have a full 88 keys and it almost looked like a kid's piano. Coincidentally, "Casablanca" was on tv when we got home and I was amazed all over again to see that it really was a dinky little piano!
They also had a museum of some of the cars used in films, like the Batman cars, The Dukes of Hazzard Charger, Clint Eastwood's own Grand Torino (on loan), and the Nerd Herd car from the tv show "Chuck". We got to see the set where they film the tv show "The Big Bang Theory" and heard about what it was like to be a studio audience, even though we didn't get to be one.
Most shows are on hiatus in the summer, especially in August but they were filming a few things. They were just starting to dress the town square where many movies and tv shows had been filmed, for the new series "Eastwick" starring Paul Gross, who I pointed out to the tour guide was Canadian, eh.
And when the tv series “Friends” was over, they packed up all the props from the sets and put them away until they recreated the set from the Central Perk cafe scenes for an interview they were doing. When they were about to pack it all away again, apparently Jay Leno persuaded them to leave it set up and now it is on the tour.
It really was a fun tour. We bought some souvenirs and then asked the gal at the checkout where we could go to get a good view of the Hollywood sign up on the hill and she pulled out a photocopied piece of paper that had driving directions on it, for just such a request. Guess we weren't the first ones to ask. So we drove up into a suburb and got a pretty good look at the sign from a distance. The photos don't look that sharp because it was a bit foggy.
We packed a lot into this one day because we planned to hit the road the next.