Los Angeles, the city of Angels, is an incredibly diverse space that defies a single definition, but when you consider it spans over a thousand square miles that's not particularly surprising.

This sheer sense of scale is the thing that will hit you as you clear the mountains and receive your first glimpse of LA - this is America at its most exuberantly big. The city fills a vast basin between the high land and the ocean, and stretches north and south as far as the eye can see, and that's from the air. Once you're on the ground you might as well forget about getting your bearings. Los Angeles is a dizzying maze of high rise buildings, wide boulevards and freeways - all pulsating with humanity.

The entire city is like one of its movie sets made real - from the skyscrapers of downtown to the green hills of Hollywood. And it is populated by people living movie lives - from the spectacularly well-heeled to the immensely downtrodden.

Head for Santa Monica or Melrose and you'll find everyone has a pitch or a line to throw you. They're an actor, singer, screenwriter, or director with a movie that "Spielberg is looking at right now". The amazing thing is that everyone you talk to in this way actually believes it, and after a while you do too. It's infectious. If New York is the gateway to the American Dream then Los Angeles is the inner sanctum of the TV nation. NY can catapult you to high office, or put you at the helm of a multi-national corporation; Los Angeles appeals to the base heart, it can make you famous.

And that is the key to this kaleidoscopic city. There is no fun here in having wealth, talent or looks unless everybody knows about it. That is why everyone has their patter, that's why the boardwalk at Venice is permanently teeming with performance artists and that's why people drive with the top down, even on the freeway. The people of Los Angeles don't need the neon of Vegas to light up the city; they are their own brightest stars. This is what makes it the most vibrant and changeable place on earth, a modern wheel of fortune with 14 million people knowing that their number will be the next one up.

But, as well as the home of opportunity, this is the city of lost ambition. You will see the contrasting fortunes as you move through the city, LA has a consumer culture like nowhere else and the beautiful people and the cash always move on. Even this has its own allure, adding a frisson of danger and instigating an endless spirit of dynamism and devil-may-care that never leaves you no matter how long you stay.

Venice Beach
Getty Museum
Grauman's Chinese Theater
Hollywood And The Boulevard Of The Stars
Film Studios Tours
Star Tours
Rancho La Brea Tar Pits
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Museum of Tolerance
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