Getting here was a journey and a half. I left site Saturday morning, but my flight was not until Sunday night. It was good to have this quiet time in Accra to finish work, catch some sleep and finalise some details for the trip. Packing and preparing for a break and the airport routine is very much a matter of going through the motions for me now. Having stayed in at site for an extra few days meant that I had done almost 7 weeks and I was mentally broken to the point that I found it hard to get excited. I just wanted to snap my fingers and be in my destination
. But I must say the trip was quite ok. I got a free upgrade to 'Economy Plus' on the 11.5 hr United flight to Washington DC from Accra...only fools pay the $100 for an extra 5 inches of leg room, so I think they just redistributed the cabin and a lucky few got this extra 5 inches for free. Even better, the woman who was sitting next to me moved to another vacant seat so I had 2 seats to myself to spread out and try varying positions of comfort to try and get some sleep. Landing in DC at 530am is very quiet and easy to pass thru, although the airport was a bit confusing to navigate to the domestic terminal. This being my 2nd
trip to the USA meant that I didn’t have that interest and fascination that someone has on a first trip, but it was still just a pure relief to be in a developed country where hygiene, running water, and courtesy are the norm. The 5 hr flight to LA was fully booked aside from the seat next to me!! Bonus! I booked a cheap flight to Long Beach which is nearly an hour taxi trip to Hollywood that cost me $100 including tip. Nuts, but still cheaper than booking a flight that landed at LAX and the drive was good to see a bit more of the city. Long Beach is like Mandurah to Perth.
By this stage, I am running on adrenalin and I had booked a bus tour at 330pm that afternoon, so there was no thought of falling in a heap in a hotel room. My hotel was on Sunset Blvd in central Hollywood just down from the main strip of Hollywood Blvd
. For $90/night the hotel was fantastic, free breakfast too. My first stop was grabbing some fine American cuisine for lunch – a fatty hamburger, chips and Dr Pepper soda - and eating it out front Hollywood High School with the homeless people and dero’s where I really felt like I was fitting into the American culture. As I had been lead to believe from others who have travelled here, Hollywood may be called Tinseltown, but it is run down and feral. But I’m glad I stayed here because I was interested mainly in the tourist stuff in this area and everything was walking distance for me.
The TMZ bus tour I did on day 1 was a great snap-shot of the area and a whirlwind of gossip, celebrity hang-outs and a lot of laughs. I really felt like I was hitting the ground running and glad I did it first up. I met up with Jon and Fi that night (my friends who are visiting LA for a conference and the reason I came over) for a drive up to the city observatory and lookout followed by a fun dinner on the Sunset Strip – complete with bucking bronco (we wisely watched and did not participate).
Day 2 was a pre-organised trip to Warner Bros Studios. They cram a lot into these 2 hr tours so it was a bit rushed at times, but a good snap shot of the film industry and to see sets from Friends, Mentalist, Big Bang Theory and many other TV shows and movies
. Everything is so small to what it looks on TV and all the bricks are fake. Fortunately, Jon hired a car so we cruised around a bit and did some shopping in a ritzy district where people almost snigger at you when u look at a price tag, followed by the biggest shoe store I have ever seen where almost everything was on sale. Jon and Fi dropped me back at my hotel and then headed to Long Beach to check in where the conference is. By this point, the “hit the ground running” attitude was catching up with me, but I powered through for a solo dinner at the Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe where I had a drink to celebrate the birth of my cousin’s 2nd
LA overall feels similar to any big Australian city and the main precincts are out in the suburbs and not around the CBD/downtown. The temperature is barely cracking into the 20’s and that is too cold for me. Everyone raves about LA weather, but I’m not feeling it. I’m almost tempted to put my gloves on. This bothers me cause the remainder of my trip sees me in places where it will be much colder than here. Hmmm.
In my teens, I had a Nintendo 64 car racing game where during one of the races you pass through Los Angeles and catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and a sultry sounding girl says "ooooh Hollywood". And so it was that my first glimpse of the Hollywood sign from the taxi replicated that Nintendo game and I smiled to myself at the thought that I had made it in...I mean...to Hollywood.