Archive for the ‘Los Angeles’ Category

Day 81 – 13 July – The End… what a holiday it’s been

July 28, 2010 11am in 2010 trip,Los Angeles,Travel | Comments (1)

So, here I am, 81 days later, where has all the time gone. Seems like just yesterday I was complaining about the volcanic ash disruption back in April, and being scared out of my mind as I flew into Costa Rica. I’m happy and sad about going back to work – happy that I have a job to go back to, sad that my holiday can’t continue. I thought that by this time I would be super excited about going back to work. If I claimed that were true, I’d be lying.

Hannah and I drove our rental car to the airport to check-in early, because I wanted to get a window seat (read yesterday’s entry if you haven’t already). My flight was at 7:30pm and we got to the airport at about lunchtime.

Sadly, the check-in lady couldn’t get me a window seat, but she was able to get me an aisle seat in the very first row of Economy class, which meant that I had extra legroom but without the disturbance of being by the toilets or galley. I was pretty happy with that. The check-in lady was very sympathetic to my situation and tried to find out why my flight had been cancelled from before, but she wasn’t able to find out anything. She said something about “one of your original flights was changed and you went two days later”, but that wasn’t true.

Then we went and checked Hannah in for her 9:30pm flight with a different airline (the volcanic ash disruption from April meant we couldn’t fly together without paying LOTS of money). Wow, Continental Airlines have a MUCH easier and friendlier check-in process than American Airlines.

So now we had quite a few hours to kill until our flight and we still had our rental car. We went for a drive around some of LA’s beaches. We saw Manhattan Beach which looked like a very beautiful place, it had a main road that ran parallel and near to the beach, but it was up a hill from the beach, and each side street went directly downhill to the water with lots of nice houses on either side.

Then we saw a big hill in the distance, and we drove up there to see what the view was like. It was beautiful. And the houses were massive and looked VERY expensive.

Nice view

All this driving used up a lot of time, and so we drove back to the airport, returned the rental car and sat in LAX airport for a few hours. When it came time for our flight, I said goodbye to Hannah (we departed from different terminals) and we went our separate ways. It was a bit sad, because even though we’d see each other again in a few days, we both had such a great time in America and it was very sad to leave it.

LAX waiting area

My flight back to London was nice, it was direct (unlike Hannah’s which stopped in Newark). The lady sitting next to me in the window seat looked like a Swedish supermodel, and she acted like it too, she had no idea how to work any of the video equipment or in-flight entertainment and I had to show her how to do everything. She said “I’m used to flying British Airways, this is such a step down for me”. It was funny.

So that’s the end of my 3 month (well, 81 day) trip to South America, the USA and New Zealand. I hope I get the chance to do something like this again one day. But it cost a lot of money. Seeing my bank balance when I got back to London was depressing. But then I thought again how lucky I was to be going straight back into a job.

I think a lot about the people I met on my trip, and wonder where they are now. It was actually quite hard because I made some really good friends, but then you have to leave them again almost as quick as you made them as you move on to other destinations. But I still feel like my life is a lot richer for the experience.

The end

Day 80 – 12 July – Knott’s Berry Farm… and my flight’s cancelled – PANIC!

July 27, 2010 2pm in 2010 trip,Los Angeles,Travel | Comments (0)

At 1am on the morning of 12 July, I went online to double check my flight time for the next day. I logged onto the American Airlines website, and to my horror, my itinerary had the word CANCELLED next to it.

Of course, I immediately went into panic mode. My flight was in just over 36 hours, and I had been kicked off it for some reason. Very rude, I thought, since I had had no notification at all via email, or phone, or nothing that my itinerary had been cancelled.

So, I had to make an extremely expensive call to American Airlines’ premium-rate London-based 0844 number – I knew this was going to be very expensive to call from the USA, but I had no choice. The guy on the phone was not able to tell me why my itinerary was cancelled, but thankfully there was space on the flight for me to be put back on. Normally I wouldn’t have minded spending a bit longer in LA, but I started my own company a few weeks back and needed to be back in London to sign the paperwork and do some boring admin stuff.

However, there were only three seats left on the plane, and they were all in the middle of groups of five seats. I’d lost the very excellent window seat that I’d booked three months prior. The guy on the phone said that if I checked in early, the check-in agent might be able to give me one of the few window seats that were in the exit rows, that they were not allowed to give out on the phone. Oh well, at least I had a seat I guess. Despite this, I will be writing one hell of a complaint letter when I’m back in London to get compensation, or at least, to get back whatever the horrendous cost of the phone call will be.

So after lying in bed for a while at 1:30am, not being able to sleep, I eventually did get a few hours’ sleep, and we woke up at 8:30 because we were going to Knott’s Berry Farm today. For those that don’t know, it’s a theme park with scarier rides than Disneyland. We decided to go after seeing on the internet that you could get $20 off if you went to any Southern California Subway store, making the day only USD$34.99, very cheap we thought, compared to Disneylands USD$90-something.

We went off to the nearest Subway in Garden Grove (via sat-nav) and after waiting in line for 5 minutes they said they’d never heard of any discount scheme to Knott’s Berry Farm. What a surprise, we thought. Just because we were suckers for punishment, we thought we’d try another Subway about 1 mile away. To our surprise, the guy behind the counter there handed us a big stack of discount vouchers. Hooray! So we bought Subway off him. He was very cool, shame the egg and cheese in the sub tasted like plastic. Not to worry, we felt like our Subway was almost free since we got $20 off each to the theme park.

When we got to the theme park, we noticed everything was a bit less refined than Disneyland. The queueing was a bit more chaotic (although the queues were MUCH shorter), they didn’t seem to mind if one person went by themselves on a four-person ride, there were no waiting times posted, and everything was just a little more “falling apart”. But we had an excellent time, and Hannah and I both said that it was overall much better value for money than Disneyland. And we couldn’t believe how short the lines were! I’m sure we didn’t wait longer than 10 minutes for anything, and sometimes you could get off one ride, go straight back into the line and get straight back on!

Hannah not looking forward to this ride Hannah getting her fortune

Hannah wouldn’t go on the Supreme Scream – the equivalent of the Giant Drop in Dreamworld, where you go up a very tall pole, sit up there for 10 seconds or so and then freefall back to the ground. Hannah said she would do it if it was the same size as the one at Rainbow’s End or Thorpe Park, turns out though that it was quite a bit higher. If you’re interested (I know I was) – here’s how far you drop on each ride.

Thorpe Park’s Detonator (England) – 30 metres
Rainbow’s End’s Fearfall (New Zealand) – 54 metres
Knott’s Berry Farm’s Supreme Scream (California) – 77 metres
Dreamworld’s Giant Drop (Australia) – 119 metres (apparently the tallest ride in the world)

The Supreme Scream was scary because although not as high as the Giant Drop, the surrounding landscape was completely flat and you could see for miles and miles (despite all LA’s pollution). The line for this ride was never more than 3 or 4 minutes.

Supreme scream

I didn’t know that Knott’s Berry Farm was “Peanuts-based”, and had Snoopy and Charlie Brown as well as all the other Peanuts characters there. I thought that was awesome. While we were there we saw a presentation called “Snoopy On Ice” which was people dressed up as the characters doing ice-skating, as well as other professional ice-skaters.

Snoopy on Ice Ghost Rider

The scariest ride was the “Ghost Rider” (in the photo above), which was the oldest roller coaster in the world (I think it was the first roller coaster in the world). The reason it was the scariest was that it was made of wood and everything was held together by masses of wooden beams. It was scary because we could not believe that the carriages stayed on the tracks. I even bought the photo taken by the camera along the ride. We look terrified. I hope that I can find a scanner so I can put the photo on here.

EDIT: I must have made all that up, looking on wikipedia shows me that the GhostRider opened in 1998. Eek. They must have built it all rickety on purpose.

After a great day out, it was back to Econolodge, and time for the last sleep of my holiday before flying back to London.

Days 71-74 – 6 July – Four days in LA

July 25, 2010 6pm in 2010 trip,Los Angeles,Travel | Comments (0)

Ok, sorry this one took a long time to put up! But there was a lot of stuff to do when I got back from my trip.

The photos here aren’t all the photos I took – I took so many! But you can see heaps more photos here on facebook.

Sat 3 Jul
Woke up early in the morning and drove to get my washing, although the woman didn’t have it, she said something about the boss taking it to another laundry place to wash and she’d have it here by 7pm. Quite why the boss needed to take my washing elsewhere when there must have been at least 50 washers where we were was a bit confusing. Hopefully I see all my washing again.

We decided to walk past every single star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We didn’t quite know how long it would take so we set out at about 3pm. I knew Michael Jackson had a star, of course, and his wasn’t hard to pick – it was the one with heaps of people all trying to take a photo.

And also, I knew Judge Judy had a star too. She didn’t have anyone around her, but I was not leaving until I got a photo by her star!!

While we were walking we took a brochure for a tour of Hollywood by this open-top 15 seater van. The lady trying to get us to sign up offered it to us for $25 each down from $40, but we said “we’ll think about it” and walked away, knowing very well that we would do it either tomorrow or the day after because it was something we wanted to do.

We also drove to the Griffith Observatory for a view out of LA, but all we saw was how polluted LA actually is, and we couldn’t see much!

Sun 4 Jul

Today was Independence Day, it seems to be one of the more important of the American days off. We didn’t have a lot of plans today, we did a few things that didn’t require a lot of effort.

First, I looked up “Top 12 things to do for free in Los Angeles”. The first few things in the list we’d already done: The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with the celebrity handprints, the Hollywood Sign and The Griffith Observatory. Another thing on the list was Venice Beach which we’d already planned to do today, but something else on the list was a Mexican Market in central LA, so we thought “why not”. It sold lots of touristy type things like t-shirts and stuff like that, one thing Hannah and I both would have liked to buy was a ukelele that they write your name on.

For lunch we had mexican food in the place in the market that was the best combination of “cheap” and “not likely to give us food poisoning”. I was a bit scared of mexican food from when I went to a mexican restaurant in LA in 2006 and didn’t like anything they gave me, but I thought since I’d been to Costa Rica and had lots of rice and beans there that I would be okay. As I remembered, they served me with three different kinds of mushy beans with cheese, two of which were okay, the other had this really strong sauce of some kind on it. But I had a side of rice so that helped me eat it all.

Another thing we did was drive through the centre of LA, and it was quite deserted. As I knew from last time, there were some tall buildings. Here’s the tallest:

We went to Venice Beach on the west coast of LA and lay in the sun for a bit. As usual, I got quite red, but not so red that it hurt a lot. Hopefully it doesn’t peel. We overheard some people say there were fireworks in the evening on the beach, but because we were parked in a 2 hour parking spot and because these fireworks were still four hours away, we went for a random drive around and back to the hotel, and then drove back again.

Little did we know that the whole of LA seemed to be there, so parking was a nightmare – we had to park a 20 minute walk away from the beach. Then, we learned (by following everyone else) that the fireworks were actually 40 minutes down the beach from where we parked. So, when the fireworks were over, we had an hour’s walk back to our car. But they were worth seeing. The man in front of us kept yelling “America! Heh heh heh, heh heh heh” in a Beavis and Butthead voice, and then at one point he dropped his beer. It was worth going all the way there just for that.

Mon 5 Jul

Today I’d originally planned to take us to Disneyland, but then I realised that it was Independence Day holiday because July 4 fell on a Sunday. So we left Disneyland for tomorrow and did the tour by open top van that we heard about on Saturday. This time they offered it to us for $20 each, which was even better!

We saw a few famous sites. Here’s Ringo Starr’s house, and the house Michael Jackson was in when he died:

Ringo Starr's front gate House that MJ died in

Here’s Julia Roberts’ house, and the view she has:

Here’s one of the most expensive areas that I’ve ever seen anywhere – Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Every house was just so massive and as the tour driver said, you could just smell the money. And here’s the house from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

After the tour, we drove down to Anaheim which was about 45 minutes away from Hollywood, and checked into the Good Nite Inn in Buena Park, which was pretty good for the price.

Tue 6 Jul

Disneyland today!

At Disneyland, I personally was disappointed by the lack of thrill rides. Disneyland is divided into two parts, the traditional Disneyland that opened in the 50′s, and Disney’s California Adventure which opened in 2001. The latter was supposed to have more rides than Disneyland itself, so we went there first. There were some rides that were not bad, like the Tower of Terror which was an elevator that went speeding up and down through a haunted house, and “California Screamin’”, a roller coaster which offered some thrills.

We went on Mickey Mouse’s Ferris Wheel, which was kind of fun because the carriages swung back and forth, but then something happened and we were stuck on it for 10 minutes, and when we did get back down, they disabled the ride and sent everyone from the queue packing. They apologised for the delay but didn’t say what happened.

Although we arrived at 10am, and before we knew it it was 4.30pm, and we wanted to see Disneyland itself before dark. So we went across the path to Disneyland, and took the train that runs around the perimeter of the park. It looked like a fun place, clearly aimed at children, until at one of the train stops this child got on which was screaming so hard that after 5 minutes next to it on the train my eardrum was actually in pain, so we got off at the next stop to escape the noise.

In Disneyland we queued 70 minutes for the Space Mountain ride, which was a reasonably tame roller coaster but because it was in the dark it was a bit of fun. Everywhere you went had stroller parking, which was always full. In fact, by the time 7pm came around, the queues seemed longer than ever and the number of people in the park (considering it was a weekday) was astonishing. So we had a quick look around Disneyland and then went back to the car.

When we originally parked in the morning, they told us to write down where we parked. I thought “pfft, I don’t need to write down where I parked my car, I can remember just fine”. Thank god I did actually write down where I parked, because I would have never found the car again otherwise. It would have been lost in the unlimited time and space that is the Disneyland car park system – which cost $14 to park in, just for the record!

Day 70 – 2 July – Los Angeles and Hollywood!

July 6, 2010 7am in 2010 trip,Los Angeles,Travel | Comments (0)

My LAN flight was supposed to leave at 5 minutes past midnight, but just before this time they told us that there was a technical problem with their plane and they’re unloading everyone’s bags and putting everybody on a new plane, which meant we’d be leaving an hour late. Not a problem, I’ve got 12 hours to kill in LA until Hannah arrives.

The LAN flight wasn’t particularly interesting because like usual I slept all the way, only waking up for meals. It wasn’t hard this time since we departed at 1am. I had an exit row which was a surprise because I hadn’t requested it – maybe after scaring me the check-in guy thought he should be nice to me. The old withering Japanese lady sitting next to me had to be moved because she couldn’t speak English or Spanish which meant she’d be no use in an emergency, but because she didn’t speak either of these languages she had a hard time understanding why she was being moved.

At customs in LA they were polite but strict as usual and this time they made me get all my bags checked in the customs. That didn’t surprise that me that much because I’d come in from Peru. They checked through two of my bags but didn’t bother checking through the others. They asked me if I had any Coca leaves (the leaves that we were chewing on to help combat the altitude sickness in Peru) and luckily I had not accidentally left any in my luggage.

I picked up my rental car, and drove out to Hollywood to check into the room for me and my sister the first three nights – Super 8 in “Hollywood Area”. It was nice enough, but because it was Independence Day Long Weekend in USA it wasn’t terribly cheap. It wasn’t too far from Hollywood itself, but some of the people in the area seemed a bit dodgy and strange. Although, after taking a drive through Hollywood itself, I noticed that a higher percentage of people than usual there are very strange indeed!

I was a bit early to check in, so I went and dropped off all my wet clothes from Machu Picchu to a laundry, and was told I could pick them up tomorrow for $14USD. A bit more expensive than the $2-$3 I would have paid in Lima for the same thing! I filled a bit more time in by going to the supermarket and then checked in to the hotel once they had a room cleaned. Then, I just hung around in the room until Hannah arrived.

Hannah flew in from London on Continental Airlines at around 7pm that night, I met her at the airport and drove her back to Hollywood. That night we went for a walk around the area and found dinner. We saw a few of the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars, but there was nobody we knew – we hoped that’s because we were at the very edge of the walk, and the more famous people were nearer the middle near all the landmarks. Anyway, we were going to find this out tomorrow.

I checked my emails and found out that Ian had had a very bad flight – apparently his and Richard’s flight had been diverted to a different airport in Buenos Aires, and they weren’t told about it, so when Ian looked for his taxi transfer it was nowhere to be found. When he asked the airline for help, he was told that the airline can’t do anything for them. So he asked if his baggage would still be checked all the way to Auckland like they were told, and he was told that they don’t check bags all the way through. Sounds like a bit of a nightmare – I don’t know what happened after that except that both he and Richard did get home with their bags, thankfully.