We had a fun time getting lost in the Hollywood Hills on the southern California portion of out our recent Epic Road Trip. It was a little bit mesmerizing for a country/Colorado/Canada girl like me… okay, I was totally starstruck!
BUT FIRST, before we descended into the dizzying monstrosity that is Los Angeles, we took a slight detour to Big Bear Lake. On a whim, I said “let’s go check it out and stay there the night to avoid the LA traffic for another day”. So we veered off the freeway and climbed up, up, up over 6000 feet above sea level in a very short amount of time into the San Bernardino Mountains . It was like ascending on an airplane. We went from balmy, seaside weather to alpine terrain in a matter of 45 minutes!
It was well worth the detour – Big Bear Lake and surrounds are stunning! It reminded us a lot of Colorado so we felt like we were “at home” that one night out in California.
This is the lakeside lodge motel we stayed at:
Prices were very reasonable at the end of March because it is the end of ski season for Big Bear, but not yet the summer tourist season.
Our room was cozy and woodsy with wood paneling, plenty of timber trim, and a stone fireplace…
It was the complete opposite of where we stayed the previous night (27th floor of a Vegas highrise hotel!)
I can see why fugitive Christopher Dorner fled to Big Bear to make his last stand… it is just breathtakingly beautiful up there.
Shockingly, Big Bear Lake is less than 2 hours outside of downtown LA. (Maybe 3 if traffic is bad on the freeways.)
The next day we made the descent down into the Los Angeles basin and navigated the freeways until we got into the vicinity of Hollywood.
We took a couple of wrong turns/missed exits and thought we were lost until we just happened to come upon Mulholland Drive. From my house-peeping experience I recognized immediately that this was THE street where we would find some of the most expensive and impressive homes in the world. So I screeched: “Turn here!” My kids whined about mommy wanting to look at houses again, but they quieted down when I said “This is where all the movie starts live!”
As we were driving up Mulholland Drive, I just about burst my spleen when I realized that we were overlooking the one and only Hollywood sign:
It was a magical moment.
I feel so silly typing this, but I was thrilled to bits.
Up and around the corner there was a public viewing platform – perfect!
At the lookout spot, there were also great views of the rolling Hollywood Hills…
and downtown LA….
It would have been picture perfect – if it wasn’t for the smoggy haze.
We were also delighted to peek down onto some rich persons’ house with an infinity edge pool:
Which prompted us to continue on with our house-peeping journey in the Hollywood Hills…
It was actually very difficult to get a clear image of any of the homes because the roads in that hilly region are really twisty-turny. Not to mention the obscenely expensive cars whipping aggressively around blind corners.
But I managed to snap a few pictures as we whizzed by trying to keep up with the local traffic in our clunky Honda Pilot.
The great thing about the Hollywood Hills is that many of the homes there are vintage 20th Century designs, rather than cookie-cutter new construction. A good example of this is the Laurel Hills neighborhood.
All the residences in that area were 1950’s and ’60’s ranch style homes.
But there was also a smattering of Art Deco…
And some extended, rambling Cape Cods…
At some point I realized we were close to Benedict Canyon Road and off of that was Cielo Drive where the infamous Manson Murders took place.
We drove up Benedict Canyon Road…. and there it was…..
Villa Bella….. which now stands on the spot where Sharon Tate’s former house stood.
I didn’t think we would actually be able to see it, but there it was. I giddily directed Lupe to get onto Cielo Drive so we could try to find the driveway for 10050 Cielo Drive…
Sharon’s Tate’s house (at 10050 Cielo Drive) was torn down in 1993 and a large Mediterranean style villa named Villa Bella was built in its place. To attempt to distance the property from the gruesome Manson murders, the new owners also had the land parcel’s address changed to 10066. The entryway is purposely obscured and it is very difficult to find “the gate”. We did find a gate that we thought was the former 10050 gate…
…but the house number was 10048.
Which was also a neat find because it is the gate for the “Twin House” – a smaller copy of Sharon Tate’s house built in the 1940’s by the same architect in the same style.
The house at 10048 has been extensively remodeled in a Mediterranean style, and like Villa Bella, is almost unrecognizable from its original 1940’s design.
I also noticed that 10048 was currently for sale:
You can check out the Cielo Drive “twin house” listing (and photos!) here.
My kids had enough of being cooped up in a car at this point and were about to explode into delirious tantrums so we had to head out to Santa Monica Avenue to find a hotel for the night.
The following day I had one more famous house to drive by… Marilyn Monroe’s former home in Brentwood, California. We found the small, narrow cul-de-sac on 5th Helena Drive:
BUT – I’m only going to give you a sneak peek of the privacy gate at this point in time:
I am in the process of writing a post about the house where Marilyn Monroe died so I will share the rest of my photos with you when that post goes live.
There were many other cute homes in Brentwood, which seemed to be a lower end Hollywood suburb with smaller lots and more modest houses…
I was surprised at the number of Cap Code style homes in Brentwood.
All of the yards were lush and green…
We saw more than a few hired gardeners out and about the morning we were driving around.
Our final stop in the Los Angeles area was the Pacific ocean at Santa Monica beach…
We went down to the beach to test the water…
Then hung out for a couple of hours on the Santa Monica Pier…
Where we came across the famous Bird Man:
Yes that is a real live parrot hanging from his bottom lip.
He also let my kids hold his birds:
It was a great time.
There’s nothing like a warm ocean breeze on a sunny SoCal day… especially when it is snowing back home (in Canada AND in Colorado!)
That’s all for now.
My next post will be the final post of The Epic Road Trip – touring around in Santa Barbara wine country!