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Hiding Out in Hollywood

After hearing all about Urban Adventures, a tour company hosted by Intrepid Travel, we had to try a tour out for ourselves. Urban Adventures orchestrates small local tours by local guides and aims to share unknown parts of urban areas with travelers. This Hidden Hollywood tour was just a taste of what Urban Adventures has in store. This is our review.

Our Hidden Hollywood Tour, hosted by Urban Adventures started at Tiago Coffee Bar and Kitchen. Joseph, our guide, greeted us warmly and ushered us to a table outside the cafe. He told us to wait with a fellow tourist as he placed our order. The inside of the shop looked warm and inviting while the outdoor seating was cold, splattered with bird excrement and had cigarette smoke in the air. Joseph couldn’t tell us much about where the ingredients come from at the cafe, but he did tell us that it is a favorite cafe among locals. We will have to return to try the coffee and learn more about where they source their ingredients.

Caption: The first round of blood oranges that were offered to us as we strolled through the garden.

After Joseph brought out our drinks, we walked down the street to Wattles Community Farm, where we were greeted by Vladimir Krimsky. Vladimir, a retired former Soviet Union physicist who, according to our guide, worked on the science that obliterated Chernobyl, lead us into the garden. A giant avocado tree with hulking twisting branches loomed over us at the entrance. It was planted in 1913 and is one of the oldest avocado trees in California. As we were lead through the garden, Vladimir handed us ripe fruits from the surrounding trees. We tasted blood oranges, grapefruits and a variety of strange fruits we would never find in a grocery store. Hot peppers and herbs were also on the tasting menu. Wattles Community Farm was established in 1975 and is now managed by a board of directors. Over 300 garden plots are available for community members to rent. Fifty-eight percent of the plot owners are from the former Soviet Union, and everyone lives five miles away or less.

Caption: Surinam Cherries. Sweet and sour at the same time.

A quick look at the Wattles Mansion was enjoyed before we wandered through Hollywood’s neighborhoods on the way to Runyon Canyon. Runyon Canyon was teeming with locals (we didn’t recognize any celebs though). People hiking with friends, walking their dogs, getting their weekend workout in, or just enjoying a small patch of nature in the middle of urban sprawl. The walk up to the park was steep, but it was over within 10 minutes. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and be prepared to sweat.

Caption: The Wattles Mansion a short walk up the hill from the garden.

After leaving the canyon, we took our time walking back through the Hollywood streets toward Hollywood Boulevard. Joseph waved at several neighbors gardening outside their homes. We walked past several celebrity homes and pondered about what life would be like inside them. As we made our way back into the heart of town, we learned about the best places to shop, the best cocktail joints, and Hollywood’s most secret hangouts.

Our last stop was for lunch at what Urban Adventures called LA’s iconic burger joint. When we arrived at this location, we weren’t exactly sure what to think. As we are big fans of investigating and learning about local businesses, we always try to find tours and travel companies that focus on highlighting these kinds of places. When we booked the Hidden Hollywood tour, we were under the impression that all the stops would be local only to Hollywood. The iconic burger joint turned out to be In-N-Out Burger. With over 300 restaurants across California, Arizona and Oregon, In-N-Out is definitely an icon and almost every Californian we have come across has demonstrated a fondness and loyalty to it. However, we were still surprised that it was included in this “Hidden Hollywood” tour. While In-N-Out is a local place to eat, the first one opened at Baldwin park in 1945, it wasn’t the most hyperlocal restaurant choice and it was a surprising representation of Hollywood fair. It isn’t clear why In-N-Out was chosen for this tour; perhaps there really weren’t better burger restaurants within walking distance; perhaps other places were too expensive to work with; perhaps In-N-Out’s redeeming qualities, despite being a large company, as well as its popularity among Californians inspired the tour creator to add it in. In the end, we enjoyed a cheeseburger and grilled cheese with all the fixings.

October 21, 2015

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