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HU Column: The Seduction of Sightseeing: My tale as a tourist for a day

August 11th, 2011 3:08am EDT | By: Jeremy Meyer

LOS ANGELES (HOLLYWOOD UNWRAPPED) -- Bright eyed, strangely ecstatic and armed to the teeth in disposable cameras, disposable income and fanny packs; they cruise along city streets in clusters of 10, 20 or more piled high in open-top buses - all brimming with joy and sporting the very latest in high-end fashion bought from the nearest souvenir shop. Hailing from all walks of life, their distinct presence in town stands only as a testament to the everlasting beauty and wonder that Los Angeles, and especially Hollywood has become in the world. And I had the privilege of becoming one for a day!

Although these Hollywood tour buses are as American as Apple Pie, Big Macs and Hooters, there are some who regard these people with disdain due the traffic problems that arise from each slow-moving bus - none of which the tourists may be well aware of as their eyes are generally fixed on celebrity homes and sidewalks, rather than the impatient traffic scurrying around them.

As an LA native of 13 years, I have never taken a tour until this week when I was given the chance to jump on one of the buses operated by Hollywood Sightseeing Tours. Although the “glitz & glamour” of Hollywood’s sight and sounds were all too common for me as a local, I decided to go on a tour when I thought, “hey for once in my life let me play a tourist for a second and see what these tours were all about and maybe I would learn a few things.” Whether or not I learned much is still up for debate.

So last Tuesday afternoon, my friend Matt and I took a short four-block trip from my place to the Hollywood Sightseeing Tours office to buy our tickets. However, shortly after boarding the bus, it did not take long for our tour guide, Mike, to figure out that we where not from out of town in any way. Our cover was blown only when he asked everyone where they where from and I eagerly replied “Four blocks down the street!” at which point Mike then jokingly claimed Matt and I as his new assistants. Mike’s charm, like his knowledge and apparent love for the job stood out throughout his duties on the tour. Like the other tourists on the bus with us (the real ones), our experience with him at Hollywood Sightseeing Tours impressed me well enough to consider returning to this company for future tours, as I would highly recommend this group to anyone looking for a friendly introduction to Hollywood low in cost but high in customer treatment.

Mike’s candor especially stood out when, as we approached the halfway mark of our tour, he spotted a few children selling lemonade on the corner and asked if anyone wanted some. The tourists agreed in unison, at which point these kids were then treated to a barrage of well over 20 adults vying to purchase their homemade goods. I highly doubt any other tour guide would have considered showing the level of local graciousness and generosity that Mike showed.
As the adventure continued, we visited Beverly Hills, cruising by the store that was used in the Julia Roberts hit “Pretty Woman” and then made our way back to Hollywood for the Kodak Theater, Walk of Fame and a few other small Hollywood landmarks before returning to the tour operator offices. At $39 dollars per person, Mike’s tour gave us a beautiful day filled with celebrity homes, various film and TV show locations as well as refreshing lemonade, compliments of two young children who just happened to be patronized by a bus load of sightseers that day.

Both Matt and I agreed that we could not have found anything better to do for about two hours.

Hollywood Unwrapped by Jeremy Meyer is an opinion column. The opinions expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the columnist and are not necessarily the opinions of this publication or any other outlet that publishes this column.