LA - Rock Stars, Movie Stars and Us

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
Trip End Apr 21, 2004

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, January 25, 2004

Following another long-haul flight, we gratefully touched down at LAX and once through the rigmarole of bureaucracy, we made our way to the Qantas desk to try and re-route one our flights that would save us time, if not money. Unfortunately, after wasting three-quarters of an hour, we were unable to change our tickets, despite initially being told we could! I'll have to get in touch with Bridge The World about that!

Next came some terribly naive travelling, with us grabbing a yellow cab for a 5 minute (and 2 mile) journey to our hotel, which cost us $20! When we arrived we noticed the pool of hotel shuttle buses, with signs displaying their free airport pick-up and drops into various parts of the city.

Bizarrely having 'gone back in time', we experienced 21st January all over again, but it appeared to us as if we had merely flown through the night and arrived the following morning. We wandered around the vicinity of the hotel, searching for a lunch venue, but disgracefully had to settle for KFC/Taco Bell as we could find no alternative. We made it back just in time to catch the shuttle-bus to Santa Monica and walked down the famous boulevard in time to enjoy the spectacle of the orange-tinted sky as the sun set over the Pacific.

After a swift pint in a British pub (it was the nearest), we strolled across the road to 'The Gate of India' for a curry. It was the hottest meal either of us had had in a long time and we were both eternally grateful for the jugs of ice cold water and chilled beers that we were plied with. I must say that we will definitely be avoiding the Beef Bumbhurna and Chicken Splattapan for a while!

The following day was somewhat of a washout in that we rushed around all day and didn't really manage to achieve anything. Intending to pick up some anti-malaria pills from a pharmacy (for Central America) we discovered we had to make an appointment with a doctor first. We duly went to the nearest surgery, but found that you could only make appointments over the phone and just had to ring through with a desired time at which to meet the doctor.

With Andrea carrying out that task, I caught all manner of buses and trains to Union Station, 'Downtown' to try and arrange our tickets for passage into Mexico. We had planned to take the Amtrak to El Paso, where we hoped to cross the Rio Grande and the border, but found that we would have to wait another day and travel overnight (plus pay almost $100 each!). We couldn't afford the time or money, so I made my way back, disappointed, from a fruitless journey.

Having previously decided we would watch the sunset in Santa Monica - this time with a bottle of wine, I was conscious of the time and thought it would be best to head straight there. I travelled by train for a couple of stops, before catching a bus to the top of Santa Monica Boulevard. From there I assumed I would have a brief journey to the area we were at the night before. It took over an hour and a half to traverse the length of what I discovered was a very long street!

Finally managing to call Andrea and allay her fears as to where I had got to, and to arrange to meet, I relaxed and headed back to the British pub from before (I had to choose a familiar place to us both, of course!). After an overly long rush-hour bus ride for her, Andrea and I eventually met, way after dark and the sunset we had hoped to enjoy. We salvaged the day with a lovely Italian meal on the corner of 3rd Street Promenade and returned to the hotel.

Up bright and early the next day, we boarded a VIP bus for a tour of the city, followed by the remainder of the afternoon at Universal Studios. Our first stop was at Venice Beach, where we briefly watched some kind of teen movie/series being filmed on the basketball courts. We walked on down to the beach proper and marvelled at the quite spectacular crashing of waves over some rocks a short distance off-shore. Almost unfortunately, it seemed, we didn't come across any of the usual 'crazies' that frequent the area - we were informed that it was probably too early for them!

From Venice, we travelled through Santa Monica, and up into Beverly Hills and a drive-by of famous homes (shooting pictures only, of course). We apparently viewed houses once belonging to George Harrison, Elvis, Gregory Peck, Burt Reynolds; the LA mansions of Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger, etc, etc. Naturally, we didn't see any of these stars. We then drove along Rodeo Drive, but did not stop - we were not bothered by this, as neither of us has money enough for Rodeo Drive prices!

We did soon stop at Farmers' Market and a beautifully landscaped complex, complete with all-singing, all-dancing fountain! We had plenty of time to enjoy a coveted Mocchacino in the sun, watching the impressive water feature entertain the crowds.

Back on board the bus, we wound our way through the heavy metropolitan traffic to Hollywood, and the Walk of Fame/Chinese Theatre. Our driver informed us that this would be where we had our best view of the Hollywood sign (during this trip) and so we quickly made our way up through the building to a look-out point...

...Where we were just as quickly denied access as there was filming due to begin below. The guard said we could return in 10 minutes, so we wandered back to the crowd watching the event down on the stage. It was fortunate we did so, because it turned out that it was Sheryl Crow performing 'Favourite Mistake' as part of a tv show to be screened that evening. When she had finished, she even came right past where we had moved to, but we didn't notice as we were too busy taking pictures of the Hollywood sign. C'est la vie.

We arrived at Universal Studios by mid-afternoon and knew we had to rush to try and fit as much in as possible. We first took a studio tour, that although interesting, ate heavily into the remainder of our time, limiting us in our choice of attractions. On the 'Back To The Future' ride I was extremely glad I had not had any lunch, as my stomach suddenly flipped during one of the initial 'drops' (it made no difference that it was simply a simulator - my brain and stomach just couldn't cope). It became my main goal to survive the experience without any projectile incidents, which I am happy to say I did, although Andrea did comment on my extremely pale complexion (it was very realistic, I assure you!).

The rest of the afternoon was a blur of events as we raced from one attraction to another across the large complex. We got thoroughly soaked on the 'Jurassic Park' ride, but missed out on 'Backdraft'. 'Shrek', we both agreed was fantastic - the technology nowadays is amazing. The 'Waterworld' show was good, but not as good as the 'Police Academy' one in Australia. With only a short time before the park shut and a clash of times, Andrea went to the 'Spider-man' show, whilst I went in to the 'Terminator' experience. It was a very hectic afternoon, but we both had a lot of fun!

Once we had been safely deposited back at our hotel, we were desperately hungry, and made straight for the nearby steakhouse. We made the fatal mistake of ordering a couple of starters and received a HUGE portion of onion rings - by HUGE, I mean the waiter delivered us a block of onion rings, easily the size of three house-bricks! Needless to say, at least half of it remained untouched! We eventually chugged our way through our main course and were shoe-horned out of our seats before wobbling back to the hotel for a much needed sleep.

Dan and Andrea
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