Friday 24 August

Glyn and I got up at 6am to leave at 7am to go to Disney Land which opened at 8am. Disney essentially is for children but we still had fun, although it was a bit saccharine in places. Many of the rides were impressive but not thrilling. Glyn convinced me to go into the Enchanted Tiki Room which was a bunch of fake tropical birds singing cheesy songs, the only word to describe it (apart from awful) is twee.

As we were there so early, we managed to get the best rides done within two hours. I liked the Star Tours and Space Mountain. Peter Pan was crap. Glyn was chuffed to finally get some gumbo, which was also a huge portion. Regretfully we went to watch Captain EO, having not researched it and realising too late that it was Michael Jackson in 3D.

We finished at around 3pm and went back to our hotel, which it seems isn’t in the best part of LA. It looks to me like somewhere someone would get shot in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Some of the other guests look a bit full time.

JW came to see us, he lives not far away and had finished work at 5pm. He drove us around town and to Santa Monica. We went on the pier where some dull guy was being filmed as he sung a Lionel Ritchie song. He asked us to join in and we said no. On our return on the pier, the same guy put his arm around me and asked that I sing with him. I can’t sing songs I do like, let alone Lionel Ritchie, so I just walked with him, being filmed, asking if I can go now. When he asked my name, I kept thinking, “Don’t tell him my real name”’ so the first fake name that popped into my head was ‘Brian’ and that I was from Malta. Some lady asked me to sign something as apparently the bloke is a “youtube star”. OK….

*I found out later that the YouTube stars are called Rhett and Link: /www.youtube.com/user/RhettandLink

JW then took us to dinner at a great Mexican place and we had a bunch of great food. It was such a good meal and I tried some stuff I’ve not had before, wouldn’t it be great if I could remember what it was called…. Some sort of corn baked in the husks. We were all very full and waddled out of the restaurant back to JW’s car.

JW then drove us to Hollywood and we walked in the footsteps of the stars and compared hand sizes. There were people dressed up as super heroes and famous folk trying to charge tourists to have their photo taken with them. Some were good, some had clearly paid only a few $$ for their costumes.

We then walked to a mall that I remembered from last time I’d been in LA. On the walkway above, I’d taken zoomed in shots of the Hollywood sign on the hillside. We found a lift with a tiny sign on the door that said “authorised personnel only” that we duly ignored and went to the top. As it was dark, we couldn’t see the sign, like not even with a pop up flash! We were having a good laugh but would you believe, some security guards told us the mall was shut and we were sent back into the unauthorised lift with a flea in our ears.

JW then drove us back to our motel. He really did spoil Glyn and myself tonight and we were most grateful.

Saturday 25th August

As Universal Studios didn’t open until 9am, we had a lie in until 7am! We started with the Studio Tour which was good, especially the King Kong 3D part, it was spectacular. We then went on the new Transformers ride which left us gobsmacked. It is an actual ride, a car that moves on a track whilst we watched a 3D movie of Decepticons chasing us as the Transformers tried to protect us. Just amazing.

We then enjoyed the Mummy ride and got totally drenched on Jurassic Park. We stayed in the park until 4.30 having seen most of it. The queues weren’t that bad compared to parks in the UK, especially considering it was a Saturday in summer. With the exception of the Transformers and Simpsons ride, the queues were no longer than 20 mins and like Disney, the rides lasted a lot longer than they do in the UK.

They are fond of getting you wet at Universal. Not only on the water rides where you expect it, but on any ride they randomly spray you. And any 3D film they like to squirt at you, for example if a character sneezes, the audience is squirted.

On the advice of JW we then drove along Beachwood Drive to find the best spot to photograph the Hollywood sign. It’s a hill at the end of an expensive looking residential area and despite the sun beginning to set, I think I got some good photos.

Glyn then drove us to Little Tokyo. At first we got a little lost and were among a lot of hobos, they weren’t threatening in any way, but it is unnerving. When we found a Japanese garden, it was shut, and we were quickly moved on by security just for standing still too long. We then found Little Tokyo and had a very nice Japanese meal.

 

Sunday 26th August

We went to California Adventure Park today, so we got up at bloody 6am again. The first ride was Terror Towers based on the Twilight Zone. It’s a lift of sorts with secured seats where we go up inside and then get a view of outside so we know how high we are. And then we are dropped. This happens a few times and as I do not enjoy vertical drops, this scared me rather a lot!

We then went onto Radiator Springs Racers, based on the film ‘Cars’. The scenery and effects on this were brilliant, but the ride itself was rather tame and not worth doing again. One lady on the ride told us that all residents within a 100 mile radius of the park get free entry. I find this hard to believe as that’s a lot of customers.

Next was the Toy Story ride which was good and then Mickey Mouse’s Ferris Wheel which I found a bit scary in that we were swinging within the wheel. Goofy’s roller coaster was fun but all rides had rather long queues. We didn’t go on the Grizzly Bear River run due to a long queue but did go on the Soarin’ over California ride on which we were suspended over a 3D movie of parts of California on seats that moved in a way to make us feel like we were flying.

California Adventure Park was a bit tame and really for young children and families so we were done by 2.30. Glyn drove us to Venice Beach and we walked the length of it after paying $20 for parking.

Venice Beach is quite interesting, full of posers, hippies, buskers, street performers, artists, idle rich kids and homeless. We saw a guy playing the piano with a cat asleep on the piano. One bloke was walking around with his snake and another was playing guitar as he rollerbooted along the walkway.

Glyn tried a corndog which he described as a hotdog in a sweet deep fried batter. He liked it but wasn’t desperate for another. From a street artist we bought some ornamental painted skulls. Then Glyn saw another artist who drew with brushes and ink. He bought an ink drawing of Darth Vader and the artist added our names to it.

Glyn then drove us to Beverley Hills to look at the stupidly rich areas. Rodeo Drive looked rather dull. Then Glyn spotted a tour bus that advertised that it went to 50 movie stars homes, so he followed that. We weren’t quite sure where we were but the houses were huge and each one different. Some had guard dogs and there was strictly no parking anywhere EVER! They still have a Neighbourhood Watch scheme though! On our way out of Beverley Hills, we stopped for gas and as Glyn went to pay, a guy on a bicycle carrying six carrier bags of empty bottles stopped by every bin to rummage through for more bottles. This is done so that he can sell the empties to recycling – not very lucrative I’m told, but enough to get a fellow drunk for the night.

 

Monday 27th August

Today we went to Six Flags theme park which was 48 miles away. It opened at 10.30, so we were up at 7am because of concern over rush hour traffic. Turns out we were there very early. Six Flags is inland and thus very hot even at 9.30 am. At 10, all the people waiting to get in were subjected to ‘entertainment’- that is an annoying male and female being overly jolly with microphones and playing crap music demanding audience participation. I couldn’t wait for the park to open to get away from them.

The first ride we went on was X2 which is new I believe. I didn’t get a look at this coaster before I got on it and a good job too. It was very high, with a vertical drop near the beginning and the seats rotate. I had my eyes shut most of the way around. Then we got on Viper, a coaster with 7 loops.

The park was very empty today and we managed to walk onto most rides without queuing. I think it may have been the first school day of the term, or maybe Americans generally have more sense than to go to an extreme theme park on a day where the temperature soared to 38 degrees (100 in American). I certainly was struggling at times and kept my sun hat on and drank my body weight in water.

A few of the rides were not unlike ones I’ve experienced in the UK, only longer and a lot taller. There were nice views of the parched California landscape up there. I didn’t like the ride Goliath, the restraints were far from restraining and I was convinced I was going to slip out as the coaster descended at a stupid angle. Towards the end of the ride, it went fast in circles and I thought I was going to black out. This may have been due to lack of water and food at the time, I’d only had a banana for breakfast and it was midday at this point. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a bottle of water sorted me whilst sitting in an aircon area.

There were a couple of wooden coasters that rattled enough to shatter eardrums and shook us like large marbles in a tumble drier. My head almost came off.

Apart from Goliath, the only ride I didn’t enjoy was the Green Lantern. It’s hard to describe but we were thrown all over the place on rotating seats, zig zagging downwards on a tall coaster – check it out on YouTube, I’m sure it will be there.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day but did struggle in that scorching sun, I didn’t want to eat but had to force myself. It’s quite a walk around that park too, with many steep hills to climb in insane heat. We finished off with another go on X2 which scared the hell out of me now that I had watched it and was aware what would happen. I opened one eye a couple of times to see the ground disappear at an alarming rate with red track receding faster than is necessary. The last rides we had were two goes on Apocalypse, a wooden style rattling coaster. One guy got on with his tiny daughter and threw a wobbly when the staff wanted to check if she was tall enough to ride. She was tall enough but I spotted that the kid was wearing high heeled boots! What a nightmare to have to wear those all day just to get on rollercoasters that would be too big to be safe for her to ride safely. I don’t think the staff noticed the heels as she was allowed on the ride and the father snapped, “See, I told you so” at staff just trying to do their jobs.

At 6pm the park closed and we walked to our oven-like car, the day still being incredibly hot. On the way back, we took a detour to Mulholland Drive as my guide book promised great views of LA from this mountain road. We saw the sun set over good views as there are a few scenic stops and also saw other tourists with the same idea. There’s also lots of big fancy houses in this area and people driving too fast in big fancy cars. You know you’re in an uber rich place when you see a sign for a Farmer’s Market with free valet parking! We saw that one guy had up pulled up on the road edge, taken out a camping table and chair, them sat working away with his lap top as the sun set.

It got dark as we twisted and turned down out of the mountains and into Hollywood. We drove through Sunset Boulevard in the dark, back to spend our final night in the crappy Mission Motel. An early night was required because I was battered and because we were getting up at 5am to avoid rush hour traffic and to get to Las Vegas as soon as possible.

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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