14. Los Angeles, California

Days (not entirely sure – loosing track – not even sure what day of  the week it is!)

We took the coastal highway from San Diego to LA. This made for a slightly longer and more congested journey than shooting up the major highway, which is a little further inland, but we thought it would be interesting to see the coast of southern California. We were amazed at how built up it was. There was consistent development virtually all the way between the two cities – apart from small sections of state parks and a marine training base!

We’d found a little AirBnB cottage in West Hollywood. Great location.

We explored LA by starting at the Griffith Observatory. This stunning building is set high on a hill over looking the city and offers superb views over the landscape and the HOLLYWOOD sign in the (very!) far distance.

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IMG_3293The interior of the observatory was a treat too – jam packed full of wonderful exhibits about space, planets, the sun, telescopes and much more. Well worth a visit – and it’s free!

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DSC_0581We spent the afternoon strolling the “Walk of Fame” and admiring the ‘stars’ in the pavement as well as the footprints at Chinese Theatre. I was pleased to see there are still a number of blank stars waiting in the pavement – where the famous of the future can have their names added – so obviously – once I write my best seller – which will get made into a block buster film – there will be a star for me!

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Of course we could not visit LA without a day at Universal Studios….

IMG_3297Our tickets (just the cheap ones, not the front of line – those were ridiculously expensive) allowed us to enter the park an hour before the official opening time. So for the second time we set the alarm and mangled to arrive at the park for 8 am. Thanks to the size of The Beast we were directed into the premium/oversized parking – which was right by the entrance gate! Harry Potter World opens at 8am, an hour before the rest of Upper Level attractions – so we were able to walk straight onto the ride.

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fullsizeoutput_2142It was an amazing experience. Such clever visual effects. We then headed to the rest of the Upper Lot rides – The Simpsons and The Minions. We were so lucky – we did not have to queue at all – just walked straight onto all of them!

fullsizeoutput_2147Then time for a small (!) snack..

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fullsizeoutput_2144….before we headed down to the Lower Lot (Universal is built on a steep hill – so the park is in two halves – the Upper and Lower sections – linked by 4 sets of long, steep escalators). The Lower Lot opened at 10 and again, incredibly, we walked straight onto The Mummy (which we rode twice) and The Transformers. We queued for around 20 minutes for the Jurassic Park ride – which I have to say was a bit of a lame ride.

Last on the list was the studio tour. I remember my folks bringing me to Universal tour when I was 13 so I was delighted history was being repeated and I was bringing Izzy and JJ. I was keen to see if it had changed!

fullsizeoutput_214aFortunately we have not had to stay in The Bates Motel…yet!

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fullsizeoutput_2173The tour has certainly been updated in the last 35 years – it still has some of the old favourites like Jaws, but it now obviously includes many of the new movie sets and a number of sophisticated audio-visual special effects and experiences…

We finished off the day with the Water World show – lots of crazy stunts – on and off the water! Certainly more exciting than the movie!

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On our last day in LA we enjoyed a bike ride along the Santa Monica Beach bike path and along to Venice Beach with fun and games along the way. Lunch in a beach cafe was great.

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Later on in the afternoon Izzy and I then headed off for a tour to a ‘Hollywood Stars” homes – cruising around Beverly Hills etc spotting the homes of the rich and famous.

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Harrison Ford and Calsilda Flockhart’s home…

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Joey from Friends has a great pad…

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fullsizeoutput_20e9It was great fun to be cruising around and hearing all the celebrity gossip (and I was not navigating for once!!). I do have to say thought there are numerous tours companies – some more reputable than others. We arrived at Hollywood Boulevard and thinking that all the offering were basically the same, jumped on the first available tour. The bus was filthy and the driver was dreadful – impossible to understand and lacking in knowledge and enthusiasm. So I made a fuss and he brought us back to the office. My fellow passengers were equally unhappy and all got off. We were then given a new van and driver – Deno turned out to be great and we had a fun couple of hours. For anyone tempted to do this kind of tour in LA I would say its best to research the companies and book with one that has great reviews.

We had a lot of fun in LA but 3 days was enough. The traffic was ridiculous. The highways were packed whatever time of day you are driving on them.
Ed is now incredibly excited…looks like we are going to be camping for the next 50 days, with just 3 or so days in hotels… Wish us luck!

What Ed says: I had the lowest of expectations for LA and indeed it continues to disappoint! Traffic, Smog, very strange people. Quite frankly Hollywood Boulevard is plain grotty. The parking officials, even on a quiet back street, were officious, rude and “jobs worth”. We stayed in a delightful Air B&B cottage that had off road parking. However, when we were loading the truck to leave I had to pull it forward a little to access the roof box. This meant the front of The Beast was just hanging over the end of the driveway, onto the sidewalk, but just a little. Even though I explained to the parking numbty that it would be like this for 5 minutes at most he would not allow it and said he would give me a ticket immediately. Thankfully were were leaving LA so I thought better of getting into an argument! Roll on Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

Next Destination: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

 

 

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