Thursday 27 June
Early start today as I leave DC for LA. Grabbed a beef burrito at the airport for breakfast which was very filling and tasty. However, Guzman’s in Northbridge was better.
After a 5 hr trip which included arriving 30 min early, caught a taxi to my hotel. LA is very dated. It looks like it was built in the early 90′s and then not touched. A bit old and dusty. Even drove by an oil field with the pumps still going. Lots of traffic. Fortunately, my hotel is really nice and we’re 1 street away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also met my friends who travelled from Perth.
Feeling hungry so we headed to a burger chain called In & Out which certainly hit the spot.
Close by is the Hollywood Highland Center which is like an open top mini mall. Had a wonder around and stopped by Sweet! – Willy Wonka’s candy store with all things sugar. Not really a candy person but nice store.
Friday 28 June
Disneyland! That’s where we’re headed. Picked up a rental car and followed the GPS for the 1 hr trip there but we stopped off at a diner near the end of our trip for an awesome breakfast at Ruby’s Diner.
Entered into Disneyland and it started off a bit slow but got better as the day wore on. Went on a Finding Nemo submarine which was partially underwater but used video screens to create a story along the journey. Really good.
Went on a Star Wars ride which was in 3D and was visually spectacular along with the rocking platform creating the effects of flying and acceleration. Started feeling like vomiting so shut my eyes and held on tight. Excellent ride but obviously my breakfast hadn’t settled some hours later.
Next, I went on a Peter Pan ride flying above London which was great. Went to Space Mountain which is kind of like a rollercoaster with lighting effects. I was flung around like a rag doll at breakneck speed, sudden large drops and sharp fast turns far worse than my driving. I immediately closed my eyes and held on for dear life while I verbalised silently in my head “MAKE IT STOP, MAKE IT STOP, MAKE IT STOOOOOP!” I just couldn’t wait to get out of the car because I was feeling very pale, heart pounding, and sucking in deep breaths. What an ordeal! Never again! First & last time on a roller-coaster.
I proceeded for more self infliction, still coming to grips, by going on the Indiana Jones ride which the attendant described as bumpy. LIAR! Not as bad as Space Mountain but this also had sharp turns, ascents and sharp descents. The ride halted halfway through for some time before resuming. When we reached the end they offered another round because of the problems. I got out of there as fast as humanly possible. Need a seat. No moving.
OK, other rides weren’t as heart stopping as these but were far more tame. It’s quite hot and a lot of time is spent waiting in queues but there is fast track too that allows you to jump the queues every few hours.
I also watched a marching band perform a few songs with plenty of entertainment apart from the music. Excellent.
My friends got dinner but I wasn’t hungry and I just had churros which was yum despite no chocolate sauce. We hung around for the full parade of Disney characters on their floats which was excellent.
Pretty tired we stayed on till 9:30pm to catch the fireworks which was absolutely spectacular. A long drive back before I walked from my hotel to grab a quick bite. Got pizza by the slice but the 1 slice was bigger than a dinner plate. Huge! Just what I needed. Long day, it’s nearly 1am. Better get some sleep. Excellent day with new experiences – I know not to go on anything that resembles a roller coaster!
Saturday 29 June
Today is a trip to Universal Studios in Hollywood and we went all out and got the VIP experience. Free valet parking, free breakfast buffet (man, should have skipped the average hotel breakfast), free Wi-Fi, our own tour guide Ashley who took us around and we were able to skip the queues.
The first attraction we saw was Waterworld which was fantastic. The front rows got very wet from the jet skis flying about. There was also pyrotechnics, acrobatics, stunts, gun shots, and to top off the show a huge seaplane flew or jumped over the walls landing right in front of us before pulling up just in front of the first row. All performed by stunt people. Brilliant!
First ride was Transformers 3D which wasn’t too jerking but visually spectacular! Flying along at extreme speeds where nothing was an obstacle being chased by megatron was amazing! The end had a large virtual drop which I just managed. Deep breaths.
Next up was Jurassic Park ride where we coasted in tranquil waters being splashed a few times. That was fine till we reached the end and there was a countdown. I knew this couldn’t be good. We plunged 8 stories as I closed my eyes and hung on for dear life! You then hit the water and get drenched to wake you up out of the panic attack you may be experiencing. Deep breaths. Boy that was scary.
I skipped the haunted house where actors, representing monsters from horror films, jumped out at you. Also skipped The Mummy roller coaster type ride, and also The Simpsons motion flinging ride.
We then broke for lunch at Jardin de Paris, a buffet with an impressive spread. Delicious food but some was OK. Loved the beef short ribs, the mash, portobello mushrooms with wild rice, and the massive tender scallops.
Next stop was the Universal Tour where we went behind the scenes to see the magic. Went on the set of Parenthood which is a constructed house with no roof, all inside a warehouse. Any of the walls can be lifted for access to film.
Had a look at the props building – tables, chairs, statues, lamps etc. All from different ages to represent a period drama like Downton Abbey to the 1970′s etc. They can be rented out to different shows and movies.
Went to a town set which is only a facade. There’s no inside to a building and the bricks are hollow. They can shoot a scene and then use computer graphics to create NY or LA or any city. Back To The Future was shot here. Also saw the sets of Psycho, Wysteria Lane of Desperate Housewives, War of the Worlds with a real 747 crash and debris, Jaws with the shark trying to take a bite at us & pyrotechnics as the shark rips the jetty apart holding flammable materials.
We also saw some special effects with sudden rain in a mock city, then a flood of water bearing towards us. Also went on a 3D King Kong experience while still in the bus. Shook around for awhile while King Kong lunged at us and fought with T-rex.
We then headed to a special effects studio where an earthquake was simulated in an underground subway. An oil tanker came sliding down towards us, explosions, turn styles and pavement breaking up, then gushing water streaming towards us. Fantastic.
We then headed to a warehouse where computer special effects can be shot against a green or any other colour screen. The background is then added which can be anything from a Chicago skyline to the ocean.
The tour came to an end and we bid farewell to Ashley who took great care of us. We were free to go on other rides, repeat any of those rides while still skipping the queues, browse the many shops, or grab something to eat.
We headed to Shrek 4D which was a fantastic experience as we went on an adventure with Shriek with numerous things jumping out or flying towards you. Fine water jets and air jets squirted water or air at us as part of the effects.
Next stop was a show featuring the animal actors in movies such as the dog from Marley & Me. Very clever, well trained animals who performed a show demonstrating their skills, directions from their trainer and also actors who were volunteers from the crowd. Excellent show.
We then headed to the special effects show where several audience members were chosen to demonstrate effects. From an arm being sliced with blood spewing out, glass panes painted with a city placed close to the camera to create perspective of someone made to look smaller than what they were, the immediate creation of a background like a jungle and then a monster jumping out to scare the actors. It was amazing!
Long day so we went for dinner to Tony Roma’s. There’s heaps of eateries outside the gates and heaps of people were flocking here for a good night out. There’s also cinemas too.
What a fantastic day, really enjoyed Universal Studios and paying extra for the VIP experience is well worth it. Didn’t spend much time queuing meaning we got on with having lots of fun.
Sunday 30 June
When we were driving to Disneyland, we noticed this really large outlet shopping centre that stood out from the surrounds. It’s impossible to miss because it’s so huge and it’s called Citadel Outlets in a suburb of all things, called City of Commerce! When we were back at our hotel we did a search on Google for this place and located it so we decided to head there for a day of shopping. There’s heaps of outlets and plenty of shops to choose from. I picked up a number of items and really good prices. Had lunch at the food court and popped into Maui Style Hawaiian BBQ.
We then took a drive to Venice Beach and walked along the stalls for several hours. It’s a lovely beach with lovely blue ocean, sailboats, white sand, basketball, tennis, skate park, and beach volleyball games taking place.
Amongst the stalls selling their wares, there’s plenty of tattoo stalls but what most caught the eye were the medical marijuana stalls. Yes, people out the front dispensing marijuana for medical purposes if you qualify. You could smell it in the air every now and then as those people took their “medicine”.
The place draws huge crowds and the people don’t exactly look decent, rather hard core. It’s a real eye opener and an experience but not one I’d like to revisit. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle beach area is also here.
I forgot to mention I was behind the wheel and boy is it absolutely different driving with the wheel on the left and driving on the right. Even went on an 6 lane highway.
We drove back to LA and stopped by this restaurant that caught the eye of my friends. But first we stopped in at Target for supplies for our road trip. Target sells everything including a mini supermarket, fresh food, and alcohol which is far cheaper than Australia. Target is awesome and not like anything in Australia. There’s all kinds of American brands of goods like chocolate which are ridiculously cheap and yet we pay far higher prices for far less quantity.
After stocking up we headed to the restaurant – Hot ‘n’ Juicy. Everything seafood so we ordered clams, crawfish, crab, soft shell crab with Cajun fries, prawns and more clams. The table is covered in plastic, you put on a bib, gloves are optional, no plates or cutlery. The meals are served & cooked in a plastic bag so all the juices and sauce remain. Open it up, help yourself, throw the shells into the bucket, and enjoy. Enjoy we did. Tasty, fresh, succulent seafood and pretty good sauces. With a squeeze of lime or lemon, the clams were delicious. Excellent meal and we were stuffed, yet it only worked out to $27 / head after tips and taxes. Locations in Vegas so we’ll probably make a few visits there.