A Travellerspoint blog

Day 17

Hollywood and Home

sunny 20 °C

The last day of my journey arrived. My only planned part of today was to fly home tonight, but as the flight was 10:20pm I had a full day to do whatever I pleased. After packing my suitcases properly for the flight home, leaving out a spare change of clothes for the flight, I took off after breakfast and made for Hollywood.

I booked into a 2 hour bus tour of the sights and the movie stars homes, something we didn't do when we're here in 2005. I got to the meeting point an hour before the tour, so just wandered around Hollywood Boulevard with the intention of taking some pics at the more famous sights, like the stars in the pavements, the Graumann theatre (where the movie stars imprint their hands and feet in cement) etc. Well - I have to tell you - I was most disappointed at what Hollywood has turned into. About every 10 steps or so I was accosted by someone trying to sell me a seat on another bus tour. I'm not exaggerating either - in the space of a couple of blocks I must have been asked about 15-20 times, enough for me to get really annoyed. It has become that bad.

If the above wasn't off putting enough - it got worse. I was speechless when I was standing in front of the Graumann Theatre video taping the scenery, nothing in particular. There were dozens of people dressed up as famous movie and superhero characters wandering around. I couldn't believe when a lady dressed as a pirate approached to ask if I wanted to have a photo taken with her. But as she approached me whilst I was video taping, she was talking to me and at the same time had her hand covering the lens of my video camera. Not that I was even bothering to film her, but that was just plain rude to do that. Knowing full well all she wanted was money for having a picture taken with her, I said no and got out of there.

Well it didn't stop there, a few metres down the street and a guy shoves a CD in my hand, saying he's an up and coming rapper and that is his album. He goes on to say he's coming to Australia (which I didn't believe but when he found out I was from Australia he was saying he was coming to play concerts there, sure). Well I said thanks to walk off, but of course he then asked for a donation to help him out. Not just any donation, they start by asking you for $20.

With all the above all happening in the space of about 15 minutes I couldn't wait to get the heck out of there. I cannot believe the Mecca of movie stars and one of the most popular tourist destinations in USA had become such a terrible, money hungry place. It's bad enough that there are homeless people wandering around, sleeping on the footpaths of such a tourist destination - the LA people really need to clean their act up.

I made it back to where the open air bus tour started from, and we took off. First stop was up in the mountains that overlook LA where we got a wide panoramic view of the city and beyond. A few steps around the lookout and we saw the famous Hollywood sign. Our guide also pointed out several famous homes from this spot - eg Jack Nicholson's, Meg Ryan's and Jason Statham's whose place had a great big pool perched over the side of a mountain (check the pic later).

We drove along Sunset Boulevard and were shown several famous places eg establishments owned by famous people or where famous incidents occurred. We headed towards Beverly Hills and down Rodeo Drive hoping to spot a celebrity but to no avail. We then headed around the streets and were shown a whole bunch of houses owned by celebrities.

There were so many, I can't remember them all, but will list those I can remember - Steven Speilberg ($68m place!), Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Michael Jackson (where he died), Dr Phil, Bill Cosby, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore (when they were married), Justin Beiber, Al Pacino, Adam Sandler, Elvis Presley's former house, Laurence Fishburne and many others I can't readily recall.

The bus that took us on the tour was playing up a lot, and was having trouble taking off from standing starts. About 2 blocks before the tour ended the engine started smoking and we all begged the driver to let us off before it blew up. Heading back to my car I decided to have a quick bite and ambeer at Hooters, given I gave up that opportunity the previous day.

To say I couldn't wait to get out of Hollywood was an understatement, it has severely tarnished my liking for it. Something to keep in mind if you ever intend to go there. I drove off and went through Rodeo Drive myself, then headed out to Santa Monica Beach. I figured I'd spend a few hours there as it would be pleasant, and from there it's less than half hour drive to the airport. I found street parking and walked 2 short blocks to the ocean.

I went along the ocean drive then onto the pier that stretches a few hundred metres over the water. There were lots of people walking around, even for a Monday afternoon. After taking pics and buying a couple of souvenirs I headed back to the 3rd Street Mall which is the centre of the tourist area there. The mall was full of places to eat, people busking and made a pleasant change to the money hungry Hollywood. I grabbed a crepe and a coffee but then felt there was nothing left to do, so made the drive to drop off the rental car.

I had returned the car a little earlier than expected, but this gave me plenty of time once I got to the airport. I checked in my suitcases and wandered around the shops. I called up my friends as I had a prepaid SIM card so thought I'd use it up but the battery ran dry pretty quick.

So the time came to leave the USA, it's been a great trip and a great adventure. I don't suspect my blogs have been real exciting given there were lots of days I did nothing but hang out with people. My friends here in Sydney often said to me before I left if I felt unsafe or weird going to meet and spend time with people I didn't know. I'm a shy person normally but I felt that I knew these people like I'd known them for years, so I felt comfortable at meeting them and spending quality time with them. There are lots of great memories for me, and I hope you enjoyed the blogs and the pics, which I will load more of when I get the time. Take care my friends, and if the opportunity arises to take a trip like this, go for it. Life is short and unpredictable so make the most of your chances while you can.

Posted by Ace from Oz 01:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 16

Bubba Gump and the LA Lakers

sunny 20 °C
View Steve's Facebook Friends Odyssey on Ace from Oz's travel map.

The Facebook friends odyssey part of the trip finished yesterday, I had no more people to visit after yesterday. The only item on the agenda that was planned for today was to see the LA Lakers game at 6:30pm. I had a motel booked nearby from where I could bus or walk to the game as the traffic and parking are a problem.

You can guess that again I didn't sleep in when I had the chance, so I left my motel and headed towards Huntington Beach. This place is the self claimed surf capital of USA. Walking around the streets it reminds me a bit of the Gold Coast back home, with heaps of people eating outside on the street, most having a late breakfast and/or inside watching the NFL games that were on, being a Sunday.

I headed onto the pier that stretches a few hundred metres into the ocean. As the pier is so high above the water, I was able to look down at the surfers in the water and watch them catching the waves. It was quite a unique perspective watching them surf from above.

For here I decided to drive a little up the coast to Long Beach. I got to the home of the old cruise ship, the original Queen Mary which is now a tourist attraction. Nearby there was a Carnival cruise ship and thousands of people boarding that. I didn't go onto the Queen Mary as I didn't feel it was worth the entry fee if I had to rush and not see it all. Instead I drove down the road to a complex called The Pike. I was faced here with my biggest dilemma all trip in regards what to have for lunch.

I tossed up between two places - one being Hooters. I know you're thinking why on earth, but I've never been to one, even though there are some in Sydney. The other choice was the Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant. As per the movie Forrest Gump, this place is all decked out according to the movie. We ate at one in San Francisco in 2005, and as we don't have these in Australia, it won me over ahead of Hooters. So I tried the sampler dish which was filling and nice.

I took off for the motel and got there about 3:30pm. I was thirsty so had a soda at the bar downstairs whilst watching the Cowboys v Eagles on TV. Typical - Cowboys played like crap when I went to the game two weeks earlier and instead won this game against the team I sort of follow. I took off for the NBA game a little later, and found a bus within a few minutes for the short trip. What a big complex, they have a whole block with bars, restaurants, the Staples Center where the Lakers play, hotels etc

Interesting to see a mini tent city next door, I heard the security guard say in all the tents where the crazy Twilight fans already camped out as the premier of the next and last movie was tomorrow night. The Staples Center was a hive of activity, and definitely no shortage of food or drink places once inside there. I walked the entire circle just browsing, then had a bite upstairs before getting to my seat.

So my first ever NBA was interesting, for varying reasons. I booked an aisle seat, just so it'd be easier to get in and out, but that only made it worse as I was constantly having to stand to let people in and out, as the rows were narrow they couldn't get out otherwise. It was also annoying as I spent most of the first quarter not being able to see as people were climbing the stairs to get to their seats while the game was on.

The game itself was ok. They played the Sacramento Kings and won easily so there was no excitement atmosphere. Can't remember the final score, something like 103-89. After the game I waited a few minutes for the bus, but then decided I'd walk. It took less than 20 minutes, my only concern was that it might not be a great place to be walking alone, but I survived.

After a late night pollo bowl from El Pollo Loco across the road, I had a Makers Mark n cola at the bar, and it hit me like a rock. I was probably already tired and when I got back to my room I was ready to crash, which I did quite easily.

Posted by Ace from Oz 02:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 15

Laguna Lunch and Skyfall

sunny 18 °C
View Steve's Facebook Friends Odyssey on Ace from Oz's travel map.

Today I was heading northwardstowards Los Angeles. Again had a chance to sleep in but that didn't happen. After checking out of motel I had a few hours to spare before meeting a couple of people at 2pm, so I walked around the outlet shops at Lake Elsinore.

After a couple of small purchases I headed towards the coast, via a scenic road over the mountains. It was a scary drive, on the wrong side of the road driving and some places as you climb the mountain are sheer drops below with no railing - you don't want to lose control on this road. I stopped at several spots on the climb up the mountain to take some pics of the magnificent view below. There were even a couple of houses perched on the side of the mountain, what a great view they have.

I finally saw the ocean which was the first time I'd seen it since I left Sydney two weeks earlier. I drove north along the coast road to meet up with two ladies I know from the Words With Friends Facebook page. We met at a nice Mexican restaurant overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach, a very pretty spot.

I finally got to meet Jasmine, who I've know over a year and been friends with since meeting, also met Jutta who I'd more recently become acquainted with. We sat and chatted for a few hours - it was a very pleasant lunch indeed. We walked down to the beach after lunch to take some pics. As the sun was now setting and was very scenic. Shame the cold wind made it a little unpleasant.

Before we knew it was time to say goodbye. We'd planned this lunch weeks ago and it came and went so quick, but it was a treat to meet them both and share stories.

I drove a little northwards to my motel for the night in a place called Fountain Valley. I checked into my room and as it was only 6:30pm and didn't need dinner after a late lunch I decided to catch a movie. I got the address of a place that has a cinema complex as well as shops and restaurants - a bit like Fox Studios in Sydney. It was a bit of a drive and when I got there parking was at a premium and there was traffic everywhere. Should have guessed - after all it was Saturday night.

I got to the cinemas - 21 screens - and there was a ton of people waiting to buy tickets. But with 7 windows open it only took a few minutes, so I bought a ticket to see the new James Bond movie "Skyfall" that started here yesterday. I was advised the session was almost full so lined up straight away to make sure I got a decent seat, half hour before it started.

The cinema itself was an eye opener - much larger than any I've been to in Sydney. Much wider (therefore the screen was bigger) and longer so it catered for a lot of people. The movie was pretty good, I did find myself falling asleep a little but not because of the movie, it was more because of the all the traveling and reduced sleep I've been getting.

By the time I drove back to the motel it was again after midnight. Back home I don't think I've ever had so many late nights in a row. I guess on holidays you run on adrenaline, I'm sure it will hit me like a ton of bricks when I get back home.

Posted by Ace from Oz 07:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 14

LA and all it's traffic...

sunny
View Steve's Facebook Friends Odyssey on Ace from Oz's travel map.

First job upon waking was to repack bags for the flight to Ontario (not Canada, but a regional airport south of Los Angeles). I was worried about the weight of the suitcases - although I unloaded a lot of gifts to my friends on my travels, I've picked up stuff too, like 5 new pairs of shoes, 2 fleecy hoodies, souvenirs etc.

Met up with Shelly for breakfast, she tried to get her mum to come but she was busy at the gym - despite her age of 72 she goes to the gym 3 times a week. After breakfast we bid our farewells. I had some time to spare so popped into the nearest cinema complex (24 screens no less!), but nothing appealed that was due to start that I could watch in time and not be late for my flight. So instead I headed to the airport.

I returned my rental car and caught the shuttle to the terminal and checked in early. Gave me time to catch up on stuff and boarded to fly to Ontario. Interesting system with this airline, you don't get seat allocations, your boarding pass gives you a Boarding Number so you get on in that order and sit wherever you like. When I boarded I walked down the aisle and thought it funny that nearly every window seat was taken and also every aisle seat - the middle seats were empty. I managed to snare the last window seat, but as the seats are small the guy that sat in the middle had broad shoulders so I spent the next hour leaning over to the window.

The scenery on the one hour flight was quite spectacular, as it differs so greatly from what we see in Australia. I managed to snap some pics as we took off and during the flight. The land was mostly desert and mountains, but they look different to ours in that they were barren and brown, where ours usually are green and have vegetation.

Once we landed, the bags were quick off the plane and so i got the shuttle to the car rental for my 3rd car this trip and with no one in line I was on the road within an hour of landing. One thing very noticeable when I landed was the cool wind whipping around. I had left a warm sunny Phoenix with temps in the high 20s and here it felt like a cool 15 degrees.

What was supposed to be a 50 minutes drive south to Temecula wasn't. As soon as I turned onto the freeway it just stopped moving. I spent the next hour just inching forward, maybe a few hundred metres of speed, but went nowhere fast. Once the snag lifted, I hit the gas and half hour later was in the motel.

Tonight I met up with a family that lives here, I had met and made friends with Cathy Sue Paino on the Facebook page for Words With Friends. When I saw her post I contacted her as her surname (Paino) is actually my mother's maiden name so I was curious if there was any connection.

I met the whole family at the bowling centre, as her husband Jerry was playing league. It was certainly a unique place to make a connection but it was fun. I met their three daughters Shannon, Brianna and Brooke as well as grandson Deagan, and a few of their friends that were there.

We headed back to their place as I had some souvenirs for them, but it ended up an early night as I was back off to my motel by around 9:30pm.
It was great to meet them all, such a loving and caring family.

I grabbed a coffee next door to the motel and chilled out in the room until midnight. This is the first of three straight days where I'm staying in 3 different places so definitely living out of a suitcase now.

Posted by Ace from Oz 08:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 13

Phoenix - The Desert Oasis

sunny 28 °C
View Steve's Facebook Friends Odyssey on Ace from Oz's travel map.

My only full day in Phoenix. We were in this area back in 2005 on our family trip to the West Coast. We were on a bus tour then that stopped nearby for two nights in Scottsdale en route to the Grand Canyon.

It's a very pretty place, a giant city built in the middle of a desert. The streets are all straight - they run north-south and east-west, I barely saw a bend anywhere. The freeways are amazing, up to 5 lanes in each direction so it moves pretty quick. The buildings are mostly a bright, earthy colour (like light brown, orange etc) something like the Mexican or Spanish colour schemes. Tons of places to eat, they seemed everywhere.

My plan was to sleep in after a long day and late night. I stupidly set my alarm for 10am hoping to get a good rest but come 6:30am I was awake and couldn't get any more sleep. This gave me a chance to catch up on a few things and then I headed out to meet Shelly and her best friend Lynn with her husband Roger.

Lynn runs a travel business from home, so naturally they travel a lot. In fact they were both in Sydney last April, they flew in for just one night and then sailed out on the Radiance of the Seas back to Hawaii. They managed to go on 4 cruises this year alone, what a life.

Lunch was Mexican, I ordered a sampler plate so I could try a bit of everything and if you've been reading the blogs I won't have to explain about the size of the lunch I got served. It was a pleasant lunch and we sat there for a few hours shooting the breeze about all sorts of things. It was great to meet them, and with all the travelling they do I'm hoping to see them in Sydney some time soon.

After lunch I followed Shelly to a huge shopping mall, I was amazed at the size and colours of the buildings (see pic posted). We had a frozen yoghurt where you make your own and add whatever toppings you like, and you pay by the weight. I'd only ever seen this type of shop once before, in Noumea on our last cruise. The difference was in Noumea I paid about $9 for one, here it was $5.19 for both.

As Shelly had some babysitting to do (her grandson Hudson), I took off for the Outlet shops in Phoenix. You've heard me mention how cheap most things are here compared to Australia - well when you hit the Outlets, they're cheaper again. With both suitcases pretty full I had to curb my spending, I reckon I could have bought enough stuff to fill another suitcase but then would have trouble and costs to get it home.

I went scouring for shoes, the kids like Vans. In Sydney I'd seen these for $100 a pair. I walked around all the shops once to compare prices, but I found a Vans Outlet shop - bingo! I walked out with two pairs for $43 (helped by the "2nd pair half price" special). Vicky scored 2 pairs of Reeboks that were also reduced.

In the mall they had 2 men sculpting wet sand into a huge display in readiness for Christmas. Check out the pics on the blog, amazing artwork. It was so cool.

Headed back to motel for a little while, I had to go online and Check In for my flight next day to California. I'd never heard of Southwest Airlines until a few months back, but I was able to print off my boarding pass there and then.

I caught up with Shelly again at Applebee's - figured half price drinks and food can't be beat. She managed to entice her sister Tracey to pop in for a quick drink, as it was already late and she had an early start for work. It was a treat just watching the two sisters banter and interact, it made for a fun night out.

So back to the motel, too tired to repack suitcases for tomorrow's flight, I had time to do it in the morning.

Posted by Ace from Oz 08:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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