House peeping in the Hollywood Hills

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The famous Hollywood sign

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!

Big Bear Lake, California

Big Bear Lake, California

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.

Big Bear Lake, California

This is the lakeside lodge motel we stayed at:

Lakeside lodge at Big Bear, California

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.

Lakeaise lodge at Big Bear Lake

Our room was cozy and woodsy with wood paneling, plenty of timber trim, and a stone fireplace…

our room at a lodge in Big Bear Lake, CA

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.

Sunset and ducks at Big bear Lake

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!”

Mulholland Drive

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:

finding the Hollywood sign

It was a magical moment.

The Hollywood sign

I feel so silly typing this, but I was thrilled to bits.

Up and around the corner there was a public viewing platform – perfect!

Lupe and the kids

At the lookout spot, there were also great views of the rolling Hollywood Hills…

The Hollywood Hills

and downtown LA….

Looking down into LA from Mulholland Drive

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:

Hollywood Hills home

Which prompted us to continue on with our house-peeping journey in the Hollywood Hills…

house 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.

house in the Hollywood Hills

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.

Laurel Hills

[sorry about the bug splatter on the window]

All the residences in that area were 1950’s and ’60’s ranch style homes.

house in Hollywood Hills

But there was also a smattering of Art Deco…

Art Deco in the Hollywood Hills

And some extended, rambling Cape Cods…

rambling rancher in Hollywood Hills

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 - formerly the site of Manson Murder house

Villa Bella….. which now stands on the spot where Sharon Tate’s former house stood.

image from: flickriver.com

image from: flickriver.com

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…

CIelo Drive, Benedict Canyon, CA

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…

10048 Cielo Drive

…but the house number was 10048.

10048 Cielo Drive

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.

image from: www.charliemanson.com

image from: www.charliemanson.com

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:

10048 Cielo Drive 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:

Marilyn Monroe's house at 5th Helena Drive

BUT – I’m only going to give you a sneak peek of the privacy gate at this point in time:

Marilyn Monroe's house gate in cul-de-sac

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…

Cape Cod style house in Brentwood, California

I was surprised at the number of Cap Code style homes in Brentwood.

Cape Cod style house in Brentwood, CA

cute house in Brentwood home

All of the yards were lush and green…

beautiful yards in Brentwood, CA

We saw more than a few hired gardeners out and about the morning we were driving around.

Brentwood, CA home

house in Brentwood, CA

Our final stop in the Los Angeles area was the Pacific ocean at Santa Monica beach…

Santa Monica, CA

We went down to the beach to test the water…

At Santa Monica Beach

Then hung out for a couple of hours on the Santa Monica Pier

On the Santa Monica Pier

Where we came across the famous Bird Man:

The Bird Man of Santa Monica Pier

Yes that is a real live parrot hanging from his bottom lip.

He also let my kids hold his birds:

My kids holding the Bird Man's parrots

It was a great time.

Me and my kids on the Santa Monica Pier

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!