Posts Tagged‘los angeles’

Goodbye, Dearest America.

The last day of any holiday is always filled with a wide gamut of emotions. We woke up naturally a good 3 hours before we needed to check out and spent that time lazily packing our bags for the day ahead. Our flight wasn’t until 10pm that night so we would have a good 10 hours before the time we had to leave the hotel and the time we had to catch the plane back home. Whilst we still had tickets to the San Diego Zoo I wasn’t too keen to drive the 2 hours there to see it, nor was I too confident that the drive back would be less than 2 hours. Instead we decided to spend the day shopping in downtown Los Angeles for gifts and generally lazing about before the 14 hour flight home.

After checking out and grabbing our car from the valet we headed towards a mall I had managed to find through Yelp. It was a traditional American outlet mall with everything being outdoors and the only indoor area being the food court on one of the upper levels. We spent many hours perusing through the various shops, picking up gifts for our family members that we hadn’t yet accounted for. Time was passing slowly and after what seemed like forever we collapsed in Barnes and Noble for some coffee and free wifi. It was only 4pm around that time meaning that going to San Diego was out of the question so we decided to hit up a movie to pass the last few hours before we’d charge over to LAX.

Arriving at one of the local theatres we discovered that the movie we had decided to see, Skyline which had been endlessly hyped during our entire trip, wasn’t available at this cinema. Undeterred we decided that we’d check the others to see if they were showing it. Strangely none of the theatres near us were showing it meaning we’d have to choose something else. Not really enticed by any of the options we went for Due Date since it was a comedy, figuring some light hearted fun would be the ticket. We bought our tickets but the show wasn’t on for another 45 mins, so we went into the attached mall.

Just as we entered the mall we spotted a puppy store (yes just puppies) and like any young couple we decided to go and ogle those cute little things. Really it wasn’t unlike any other pet store apart from the fact they had 3 “play rooms” set up at the back where you could pick a puppy and then take it there to play with it. I saw 2 families in separate rooms falling for this ploy, knowing full well that they’d be hard pressed to leave without their children’s new found playmate. Afterwards we spotted a Disney store and went in to grab a couple things that Rebecca wanted to get but hadn’t had the chance to last time we were there. We made our way back to the cinema which had the smallest rooms I’ve ever been in. It was really nice though as all the seats were comfy leather couches and the front most rows were giant futons you could lie back on.

After the movie was done we started the drive back to the rental car place to return our ride of the past week. I always remember these kinds of trips distinctly as that’s usually when it starts to sink in that the holiday is really coming to a close and all the memories start to flood in. I remembered so many things: the blazing Florida sun on my skin, the roar of the Corvette, the bitter cold kiss of Montreal, the sleepless city of New York and the child like wonder I rediscovered in Los Angeles’ theme parks. All of this was running through my head as we dropped off the car and took the shuttle to LAX where we checked in for our flight home.

The flight home went by much quicker than the flight there with the working entertainment system making sure many of those hours passed with ease. As we landed in Australia I felt those mixed feelings that any traveller has when they return home. Relief at the familiarity yet a sense of mourning that the trip is over, not wanting to let go of it. The feelings continued all the way back home and stayed with me until I fell asleep that night.

And now here I sit 3 days later recalling those experiences and the emotions come flooding back as if I was just boarding the plane back in Los Angeles. They will not soon be forgotten as the month Rebecca and I spent in the Unite States of America was more than just a holiday to us, it was our first true escape from our everyday lives that either of us have had. Sure we’ve both travelled before but never independently for this amount of time and because of that our perspective has changed radically. Time will tell if these feelings stay with us, but I feel this is tantamount to what happened to me almost 12 months ago which resulted in The Plan. One thing is for certain though, my heart now yearns for more experiences like these and my determination to make them happen has never been stronger.

I Don’t Think This is For Me.

The strategic gap in the curtains I had left the night before had worked well and I was awake several hours earlier than I usually was, despite the fact I had been up to midnight watching a new series on Discovery (Brewmasters, check it out if you’re into beer). Still I rolled back over and went back to sleep as Rebecca had been struggling to get to sleep all night, wrestling with what seemed to be an infection of some kind. Three hours later I got us both out of bed and ready for the day ahead, one that would take us over a hundred miles south of where we were.

After the fun I had had at both Disneyland and Universal Studios I was keen to hit up yet another amusement park. This time around it would be Legoland which was about an hour and a half drive from the hotel, hence the reason for wanting to get out early. Still we managed to get out shortly after 10am so we arrived with plenty of daylight to spare. The park itself was no where near the scale of Disneyland or Universal studios but it still had a parking lot to rival the others. We found ourselves a spot and headed on in and that’s where I started to notice that things weren’t as they were at the other parks. Mostly it was average age of the other punters, most of them were below 10.

Legoland it seems is mostly aimed at the younger generation with the rides, attractions and live shows all geared towards them. There are of course some things for us oldies to enjoy like Miniland (where there’s Lego replicas of cities) but for the most part unless you’re a youngster or accompanying one you won’t be missing anything by not visiting this place. We wandered around the whole park in about 2 hours not really finding anything that really tickled our fancy and the swag to be had here could be found at any place you could get Lego anyway. Disappointed we decided that since we’d already made the majority of the trip to San Diego we’d go the last 30 miles and knock off another attraction, Seaworld.

We got there with a few hours before it closed and there were still a few shows on before it was going to close. We started wandering around, checking out the various animal enclosures. The various aquariums they had were pretty interesting with a wide variety of sea creatures that I hadn’t seen all in one place before. After an hour or so of seeing some of the sights we went to the dolphin live show which also had 2 whales and a host of birds. It was a pretty well done show and whilst I’ve seen all these animals before I can’t remember seeing any of them perform. Almost immediately afterwards it was time for the final show of the day with the famous Shamu the killer whale. Again the feats they’d managed to train these creatures to do on command was quite amazing and the show went for almost half an hour. Afterwards we did a quick run around of some of the other exhibits we missed, including the penguin enclosure that had a smell I won’t soon forget.

After being ejected from the park we decided that since we were 2 hours away from home we might as well find some grub here before hitting the road. I found a local place in one of the coast side hotels that had good reviews so we hit it up. The had an amazing beer selection so I ordered myself up a Belgian Triple, a slightly wheaty beer that had a really good taste to it. I also found out that “cheese steak” was code for a subway style sandwich rather than a steak with cheese on it. The food was however quite good and we left there fat and happy, ready to tackle the road home.

We have 2 full days ahead of us before we take the 14 hour plane ride home and at least one of them will be partly spent back at Disneyland for one last time, cleaning up the last few attractions we missed. It’s been an amazing month over here in the USA and with the end so close I’m starting to get all nostalgic for the good times I’ve had over here. Still as they say all good things must come to an end and soon it will be time for me to reintegrate back into society, however much I may dread that.

Yeah, I Needed This.

10 hours of walking around Disneyland yesterday had not been without its consequences with my entire lower body rebelling against me, not wanting to be moved from the warm comfort of the bed I was lying in. It didn’t matter though as I really wasn’t planning on doing too much today, I mean I had been doing enough over the past month with only a couple days spent kicking back so I was willing to let my body win this round. Still just going through the morning ritual got us thinking about doing at least something today, even if it was a more subdued encounter.

We’d driven past the Hollywood sign on our way to Universal Studios so we thought we might as well go ahead and check out Hollywood Boulevard while we’re here. Shocked at the fact that it’s actually a street we just dialled it in to the GPS and drove over there. We followed it for a little while and whilst it wasn’t like the other neighbourhoods we’ve been lost in it was distinctly not what I had remembered from all the videos and pictures I had seen on the place. Pulling over we found that whilst we were in fact on the right road we were travelling in completely the wrong direction. Spinning ourselves around we got into an area that started to look more familiar and we found a place to park just near to the main street and we got out to have a look around.

We walked up and down the Walk of Fame noting all the celebrities along the way. We then came face to face with the hard sellers for the first time since landing in LA and boy were there a lot of them. Thankfully most of them were grouped around Grauman’s Chinese Theatre so once we were out of that area most of them left us alone, except for one intrepid fellow who was “just providing information”. It was around lunch time so we found ourselves a nice little burger joint called 25 Degrees that also had a great beer menu. I ordered up a smoked porter and one of their burgers with a side of sweet potato fries. It’s definitely one of the better burgers I’ve had whilst over here, although it’s still hard to beat a Brod Burger.

Afterwards we decided to try and head up to the Hollywood sign for some pictures. The GPS had a route up there and it quickly took us into the hilly heights surrounding Hollywood but it became quickly obvious that these roads weren’t really friendly to high traffic, or any for that matter. Most of them were extremely narrow and half of that space was usually taken up by parked cars on either side. It was so bad I couldn’t tell if some roads were actually one way or just too narrow. We spent a good 15 minutes winding our way up only to have the GPS keep sending us in circles so we decided that it wasn’t worth it, especially considering that there’s a good hour or so walk up to the sign afterwards (I’ve seen a couple videos of people doing it).

Defeated we made our way back to the hotel and spent the next couple hours lying on the bed watching bad TV. I got restless and went down to the gym for a workout before coming back down and flopping on the bed, the hours flying by before we  realised it was almost 8pm and we hadn’t had any dinner. I convinced Rebecca to go and find me something to eat whilst I wallowed around on the bed and she returned with some tasty sandwiches not too long later.

Tomorrow we’ll be making the drive down to San Diego for Legoland and possibly hitting up some of the attractions we bought into with the CityPass. It’s a bit of a drive so this day of rest will be well used to get us up nice and early so we can make the most of being down there. We’ll probably spend our last few days here being a little more active than we were today, but we definitely needed this break before doing so.

Disneyland: Take 2.

Here in Los Angeles there’s technically 2 sides to Disneyland: the Park and the California Adventure. Our last trip over there had us just go through the California Adventure mostly because we just followed the crowd and didn’t pay any attention to what was going over the other side of the main entrance. Since we had a 3 day pass to the park we decided that we should make the most of it and visit the other park. With that in mind we made our way over there when the clouds that had ben threatening us all of yesterday opened up and began dumping a torrent of rain on us. We continued on hoping that it would let up by the time we got there.

We arrived and the rain hadn’t let up. The problem here was that the car park isn’t right next to the park, you need to take a tram to get to it. There’s no covered walkway to the tram stop nor any cover when you get there so we’d be in for a good 5 minutes of soaking before we got under cover. Not keen to repeat the performance of the last time we were here we decided to drive back out and get some wet weather gear. Not a minute after getting in the car did the rain stop and the skies clear clearing the way for us to get in. You would’ve thought that the wet weather would’ve put most people off coming to the park but the place was packed, even more than it was when we went there previously. I’d say that this was because it was the weekend, but I really didn’t think that it would’ve been that popular. I can be the king of underestimation sometimes.

One of the exhibits I wanted to see was Tomorrowland as I’d seen that they a Honda ASIMO robot there. We headed over there first but before we could see ASIMO we had to go through the modern version of the house of tomorrow. In essence it was a giant advertisement for Microsoft, HP and I think CBUS for their home automation stuff. It was basically a small house that was rigged up with touchpads in every room to control the lights, sound system and anything else that might be in the room. The other parts of it were just massive rooms filled with XBox 360s and some other games further cementing the fact that this was just a paid for advertisement rather than an actual exhibit. Thankfully we managed to arrive about 10 minutes before ASIMO was scheduled to be on so we headed up there.

The show itself was basically just a scripted encounter between an actor and the ASIMO robot but it was awesome to see one of the actual robots up close and personal. They showed all its normal manoeuvres: walking up and down stairs, recognising people’s faces and kicking a soccer ball. I had no idea how long they had had this particular ASIMO so I wondered if it was one of the ones that was able to run but with the show almost to a close (and them saying its top speed was less than the run speed I knew about) I figured this one couldn’t do it. To my surprise this one could and they showed it running across the stage, leaving an ear to ear grin on my face that didn’t go away for a while. Satisfied we left the Tomorrowland exhibit and started making our way around the rest of Disneyland Park.

We spent many hours walking around the park, going on various rides and looking at the various attractions. Rebecca was especially keen to revisit some of the rides she had ridden as a youngster when she was last here almost 15 years ago and those were the first on our list. Time went exceptionally quick and before long the sun had dipped below the horizon, putting a chill on the wind that was blowing. This also meant that it was time for the Christmas Fantasy parade so we headed over the main road to catch it. The whole event lasted well over half an hour and was quite a spectacle. It amazes me that they did one of these every single day.

When the parade was over we headed back over to the California Adventure to catch the elecTRONica exhibit we’d missed last time we were here. It only begins after 6pm and I had wondered why, I mean pretty much everything else in this park was open all day. Walking through the entrance though I saw why, this thing put other light shows I had seen to shame.

The whole place was bathed in blue light and projectors shot images of TRON up onto every available surface. Further down there was also a DJ pillar covered in even more lights and supposedly played host a live DJ. All the while music that wouldn’t have been out of place at any rave I’ve been too cranked all around us with even a few punters busting out some of their moves. There was an old style arcade at the back with original cabinets of all your old favourites: Galaga, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders just to name a few. Just outside of the arcade is the End of Line club which is basically an open air bar decked out to look like it was straight out of TRON. The whole area was something to behold and I’ve got a couple videos of it that I’ll upload later as static pictures really don’t do it justice.

After wandering around there for a while we headed back out to catch the World of Colour light show. The entire place was packed with people and as we wandered around it become clear that Disneyland counted this as a ride and since we had showed up just before it was about to start we weren’t allowed in to it. However they’d roped off a big area of it that functioned as the walkway so we just slowly ambled our way around the entire show area so we could catch the show. The show itself is quite spectacular being a choreographed show of fountains with lights in the base and large projectors throwing images onto large sprays of mist. Once that was over we headed back to the car for the drive home.

On the way back we decided to grab a late dinner and couldn’t go past the In and Out Burger that we’d past several times on the highway over to Disneyland. We ordered ourselves up a couple burgers to take back to the hotel. The burgers themselves were pretty good although I’m not too sure if they’re up to the hype I had heard about them. Still the fact they managed to make a tasty burger that didn’t feel like a massive pit in my stomach after eating it should speak for itself, so I guess they win in that area especially when you consider their price.

I think tomorrow will be spent not doing a heck of a lot as our legs and feet are starting to rebel against us with all the walking and standing we’ve been doing over the past 3 days. We might make our way to Hollywood Blvd and take a leisurely stroll through it but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t venture past the front door of our hotel room. We’ve still got another day at Disneyland to go as well as a jaunt down to Legoland planned but I don’t think we’ll be bothering with either of them just yet, I don’t think our bodies would appreciate that.

Unexpected Joy.

Ah finally, a day where waking up was as natural as walking. I rolled over and checked the time, 8:00am a new record for this wearied traveller. I put my arm over my loved one and found her awake too which set off our normal morning ritual of getting ready for the day ahead. We had informally set aside this day to make our respective returns to Disneyland but hadn’t looked into it much past that. Figuring we could work out the details over breakfast we set about finding somewhere to get something to eat. Since this was our first full day here we assumed that finding something would be as easy as it was in NYC. Unfortunately it wasn’t and we wandered for a good 15 minutes before finding anything, making our future plans include finding somewhere good to go and making that our regular joint.

Just like in NYC southern California has its own version of CityPass which I picked up on when looking for cheap Disneyland tickets. Since it had been such good value before we decided to get them again even thought we didn’t think that we’d need 3 days at Disneyland (although we welcomed it). After battling through the dregs of the morning rush traffic we found ourselves outside those hallowed gates, now a multi-story parking lot capable of holding thousands of cars. We parked and then caught the tram into Disneyland proper and began our revisiting of childhood and teenage memories.

I’ll be honest, I was mostly doing this for Rebecca and was happy to go along with it as long as she enjoyed herself. That all changed almost the second I saw the massive TRON Legacy stage that was smack bang in the middle of the walkway. I had forgotten that Disney was behind the whole TRON thing, not to mention a whole lot of other cool things like their Tomorrowland Exhibits which house the Honda ASIMO robot. We spent a good 4 hours touring the various shows and riding the California Screamer rollercoaster. Towards the end of the day Rebecca wanted to ride on of those rapids rides which, while I’m not adversed to usually, didn’t particularly want to ride on since I’d be wearing wet jeans until we could get back to the hotel. Still I thought I’d go along with it and you can pretty much guess the outcome, I got completely soaked. Since we had booked tickets for Medieval Times I didn’t want to spend the next 5 hours in wet pants so we headed back to the hotel, and that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

Now I had been in some pretty heavy traffic back when I was driving around in Miami, but it was all pretty comparable to say Sydney or Melbourne during their more busy times. Still we figured that leaving at 4:30PM we’d have enough time to get to the hotel and back to Medieval times before it started at 7:00PM. It took us about 2 hours to get to the hotel which was only 28 miles from Disneyland. Thankfully the trip back was a little better but it still took us almost an hour to drive back making us late for our tournament. Still we were assured we’d get in as long as we had our tickets so we persevered.

Once we got in we grabbed our seats, right up in the front row. I had found a good set of coupons that gave us the best package you could get for less than the cost of the regular tickets and boy was it worth it. Even on a Thursday night the place was packed to the rafters and the crowd was roaring as we walked in. The entire show is really something to behold with skilled equestrians, falconers and enough choreographed fights to give me a thrill I wouldn’t soon forget. I had had reservations about it when I had first heard about it but after experiencing it for myself I was totally hooked, cheering for our champion and booing all others. If anyone has a chance to catch one of these shows I highly recommend you do, it’s 2 hours that you’ll be sure to enjoy, especially if you’re a fantasy nut like myself. Thankfully the drive home was much smoother than the previous trips, getting us back to the hotel in record time.

Tomorrow we’ve got some errands to take care of (like getting our clothes washed) but we’re hoping to hit up Universal Studios in Hollywood. After today’s experience at Disneyland I must say I’m now looking forward to visiting the other theme parks as well as spending another 2 days at Disneyland, as the tickets we bought allow us to. Hopefully too my server will be up soon so I can post these for you guys because I know how desperate you are to hear about my last week over here đŸ˜‰

Welcome to the Smog.

I was awake long before the alarm went off, an annoying trait I picked up many years ago when I was tinkering with my body clock. It always seems that whenever I set an alarm I’ll be awake at least 10~20 minutes before hand but should I try to wake without an alarm I’ll more than likely oversleep. Still I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be and 30 minutes later I was ready to go and spending the last few moments in our hotel room watching the morning news whilst Rebecca got ready. We left the hotel 30 minutes later and caught a cab to JFK airport where we spent the next hour or so tracking down some breakfast before boarding our flight.

JFK to LA is one of the longest flights in the states and it was set to be about 5 hours to get to our destination. Thankfully this flight had Wifi and in a fit of forethought I had bought a monthly pass to the Delta in-flight system for only $7 more than the daily pass, granting me the ability to catch up on my tweets and Facebook posts. I didn’t use it much more than that though I was far too engrossed in the last 150 pages of Judas Unchained to care about much else, practically gulping down those last chapters without coming up for air. Knowing that I had 5 hours to kill and more than enough time to finish that book I had brought the sequel, Judas Unchained, along with me and started tucking into that immediately. I got about 100 pages into it before the call came on for us to land in LA. Our 5 hour flight had only lost us 3 hours putting the local time smack bang on midday.

After grabbing our luggage we made our way to the airport shuttle area to catch a bus to the hire car place. I had spent a lazy hour or so looking over the cars available the night before and settled on a Dodge Charger. Realistically it would be far too big for us, more suited to a small family, but I wanted something that would provide us a deal of comfort over some of the longer drives we were planning and the econoboxes weren’t really going to cut it. Arriving there we were told they were out of Chargers and the only one they had resembled a battered old Ford Falcon. A “mid sized” SUV was available for a similar price so we went ahead with that and got to pick our car. I picked a Jeep Grand Cherokee and got us on our way to the hotel with gusto.

After the initial excitement of seeing the city I realised that what I thought was clouds on the horizon was actually the thick blanket of smog. As we got closer it only got worse with the haze giving most of the buildings a particularly eery glow. Even in NYC the pollution wasn’t this bad as when we looked back at Manhattan from Liberty Island we could clearly see everything. From a similar distance in LA we were struggling to see the more distant buildings. Needless to say, I didn’t feel much like looking around town.

The hotel itself is in downtown LA, a fact I had failed to notice when booking it. Usually this wouldn’t be much of a concern but I knew this meant they’d be charging like a wounded bull for their parking. Indeed they were to the tune of $35 a night, as much as the car had cost to hire per day. Still the valets were nice and it meant we didn’t have to worry about parking but after the amount we paid for the hotel getting hit for extras feels a bit rich. I had the same feeling when I hooked up my laptop in the room only to be shown an sign-in page for internet access for $13 a day. I’d stayed in a $70/night hotel that gave me the fastest Internet connection I’ve had in the entire US for free so this was just the icing on the shit sandwich. Undeterred I started poking around to see if they were doing ARP poisoning like the DoubleTree was in NYC and found that they weren’t. 10 minutes of trying various MAC addresses later had me up and running with an Internet connection without having to shell out for something that I don’t believe should be a paid extra in a 4 star hotel.

We wanted to pick up some hotel room supplies so I tracked down the closet Walmart and punched the co-ordinates. About 10 minutes later we were passing through a pretty run down section of downtown LA. We past the supposed location twice and noticed that what was supposed to be a Walmart looked like a run down strip mall. Figuring that it was either a planned site (or more likely, one that was closed down) I found another and promptly got stuck in pre-rush hour traffic, seeing a 10 mile journey take almost 45 minutes. We got there though and secured out wants before heading back to the hotel for a workout before dinner. We hit a local pizza place that served amazing pizzas, leaving us both too full to finish and taking a box home to polish off later.

We’re hoping to hit up Disney World tomorrow as it’s something that Rebecca has really been looking forward to. After visiting Disney Land in Tokyo almost a decade ago and hating it (but then again I was an angsty little bastard) I’m keen to see if I’ll have a similar reaction the second time around. Plus it will hopefully get us away from the dreadful smog that seems to be unrelenting around here, making staying in the city very undesirable.