On our first full day in Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the country, on the 5th of July, we had a free day to explore its famous landmarks and diverse areas. Most of the scholars decided to take the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour and see the city’s iconic landmarks from the top deck. We started from Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, then toured Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica. We went through or passed by some of the most famous streets in Hollywood, such as Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard and Sunset Strip, Melrose Avenue and the Beverly Hills neighborhood. We heard interesting facts about spots that are part of famous movies, about neighborhoods where movie stars live, and restaurants, bars, and stores that celebrities or musicians visit. Such as the members of the rock band Guns n’ Roses, who often frequented one Hollywood supermarket to buy cheap Californian wine, Night Train Express, after which one of their first songs (“Nighttrain”) is titled.
We visited the Santa Monica Pier, a large pier at the foot of Colorado Avenue. With an amusement park, food and clothes stands, restaurants, a great view on the Santa Monica beach, the pier is truly charming. We had lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, an American seafood restaurant chain that is inspired by the movie Forrest Gump. Some of the scholars went to the beach and swam in the Pacific Ocean, fighting their way through very big waves.
After the tour, we came back to downtown LA, the central business district of Los Angeles. Even though it is so different from the places we visited during our tour, its beauty lies in its diversity. It is comprised of different areas such as China Town, Little Tokyo and the Arts District. There are numerous restaurants with food from all over the world. At Grand Central Market one can enjoy street food from different countries: Mexican taco, Chinese beef noodles and even Berliner Currywurst.
On the streets of Downtown, there are, unfortunately, numerous homeless people. The number of homeless people in LA is the largest compared to other cities in the US. According to the Los Angeles Mission, 58,936 people are experiencing homelessness, which is a 12% increase over 2018. Six out of 10 people who are experiencing homelessness are now without housing for the first time; 75% lack permanent shelter and rely on tents, makeshift shelters or their vehicles for accommodation.
This is such a sharp contrast to the wealth, expensive homes and cars of Hollywood. Lost Angeles is a city with very high taxes, unemployment rates and lack of affordable housing. It is a city that can make you extremely rich or extremely poor. The movie stars, migrants from different parts of the globe and people who experience homelessness are trying to find a better life in LA, their American dream. Some have succeeded, but many did not.