The rambling metropolis of LOS ANGELES
sprawls across the thousand square miles of a great desert basin,
knitted together by an intricate network of congested freeways between
the ocean and the snowcapped mountains. Its colorful melange of
shopping malls, palm trees and swimming pools is both mildly surreal
and startlingly familiar, thanks to the celluloid self-image that
it has spread all over the world.
The first-time visitor may well find Los Angeles thrilling and
threatening in equal proportions; it's a place that picks you up
and sweeps you along whether you want it to or not. While it has
its fine-art museums, California cuisine and a few old-fashioned
urban plazas, what people really come here for is to experience
the city that has come to epitomize the American Dream the fantasy
worlds of Disneyland and Hollywood, as well as the gilded opulence
of Beverly Hills and Malibu.
If you want to explore and enjoy California to the full, you'll
need journey by car. A city such as Los Angeles couldn't exist
without the automobile, and in any case to drive down the
coastal freeways invites irresistible mental images of Beach
Boys-style cruising. Car rental in California is among the
cheapest in the country and the savings made by easy access
to campgrounds and chain motels or modest hotels can easily
offset the initial cost.