(Click on the pictures to make them bigger.)
In the immortal words of Alex K on his own blog post about his trip to LA - "I won't go into too much detail, only as much as time permits." (I think he forgot that on blog posts, you do have a certain amount of creative licence...) So this is Tina, writing on Brendan's comp. As much as time permits (i.e. before bed-time.)
So. LA, Disneyland and Hollywood. Monique (a friend from NZ, who's been working in Alaska for two months and is now en-route to the UK via Holland) was staying with us for a week to help get over her horrible Alaskan experience, and kill time while she waited for her flight out. We decided on the spur of the moment to make a trip down to LA. The plan was to drive down early Saturday morning, spend half a day in Hollywood, and go to Disneyland the next day.
Driving down the coast, we decided, was the most scenic route, even though it would take an additional 2.5 hours. Driving back late on Sunday night, we would take the 5-hour, boring inland route. Brendan's Dad Wal had recommended Big Sur so we were really keen to see it.
The only flaw in this plan, was the fog. We drove down along the number 1 highway along the coast, through the Big Sur national park and almost all the way down without really seeing anything of the supposedly gorgeous scenery - it was too foggy. We were extremely disappointed.
This is at the start of Big Sur - peoples' private homes overlooking an incredible bay. On the right, there was a swimming pool cut into the hillside.
We made a bathroom stop at Hearst Castle - the home of famous newspaper tycoon Hearst and
the inspiration for Citizen Kane, widely agreed by most film critics (and this film student) one of the greatest movies of all time. You can only go into the building at the base of the hill - tourists are carted up the large hill some miles away by bus. Unfortunately, where you could normally see the castle, and I was hoping to show Monique at least a little bit of it, you could only see fog.
Big Sur would have also been impressive, if we'd managed to actually see anything! We did make one stop - we saw a glimpse of an amazing drop down the rugged cliffs to the ocean.
What we did see the one time we stopped, in Big Sur. Look how far down the sea is!
The most annoying thing, though for this part of the trip, was a certain motorist. The trip took far longer, at least an hour, because of this (-suppresses urge to use harsh names-) man. This guy drove a jeep with the boot loaded to the maximum - he most certainly had only his side mirrors. The road was narrow, winding and one-laned each way, with "No passing" lines in the middle. On the left was a cliff not unlike the Rimutaka hills; on the other, a steep drop down in the mist. Every so often, the road would narrow even more with the signs of a slip. So there was no chance of passing. And it was far too dangerous.
Look! There he is! Look how far we have to go still!
The road speed limit said, 30 mph. Which was probably the most appropriate. This man went 20 mph, and he braked - braked! - heavily on each and every corner so he was going 10 mph. Despite numerous passing lanes, one maybe every 200 metres, he never pulled into any such lane or even probably looked behind him using those mirrors for the entire 75 miles that we were on that stretch of road. It was extraordinarily frustrating, made worse by the fact that we didn't have a horn. (It needs to be fixed; after this, it will be.) Otherwise we would have tooted when he slowed down on every single corner! So we drove for 75 miles behind this extremely inconsiderate person at a pace far far below an appropriate speed, with about 6 cars behind us. On an otherwise deserted stretch of winding road.
Behind us, a nice black Ferarri (Brendan says it was; I don't know cars so you can look at the pic and judge for yourself) passed round all the other cars until it was just behind us. We could hear the driver honking his horn heaps, but the car in front never wavered. It was like the tortoise in the story, except that the reason the tortoise won the race was that he never let the hare pass. Brendan (who was driving) and I spent 75 miles muttering angrily - poor Monique. Finally the road straightened out and we and the Ferrari passed before the roaed again, leaving about now 10 wretched cars behind this driver. As Brendan pointed out, it wouldn't have been so bad if we were able to enjoy the view! (remember to click on the picture to see the car)So eventually we arrived in Hollywood, and spent a while wandering around Hollywood Blvd being touristy. Which was lots of fun. Although it was not nearly as grimy as I expected from Alex's description, it was certainly pretty tacky and filled with tattoo parlours, of all things. I doubt any stars go there unless they have to for Oscar nights. I never realised that the stars went all along the street, not just at certain places, and that they charged each star or their estate / fans to put one in.The view on either side of the street...
Monique and a man with parrots.. note the Paris Hilton lookalike in the background you have to give them tips to take pictures with you - oops! We totally didn't realise for a while... and we had no money. Next to the Kodak Theatre - if you squint real hard, you can see the Hollywood sign right between the bottom bridge bit and the first flight of stairs...
Then we took a tour bus round all the Hollywood houses. This was well worth it, since we had no idea and wouldn't have known any of it. I enjoyed the celeb-stalking, and I think I saw a few people. (Also, they wave cos they want it to be a nice photo!) We went all along Mulholland Drive, through Bel Air and Beverley Hills, and along Sunset and Rodeo "Ro-day-o" Drives. My particular favourite house happens to be the new one that Elton John is building - it's shaped like a grand piano!
We stayed at a youth hostel in Fullerton, just 6 miles from Disneyland. It was set in a park at the end of a golf-course, and well hidden from the road. It felt a bit like being in the country, but we were in the middle of LA!! Brendan and I stayed up til about 3am talking to some guys from Canada and America, in true student-hostel style.
The next day we drove down to Disneyland, and parked our car in the mammoth car parks. Our parking level was named Daisy (2nd floor). Everyone had to wait for a little train-like series of golf carts to take us to the main park.
A big factor in Disneyland is that everything takes a lot of time waiting in lines.
Indiana Jones - Monique's favourite ride.
Brendan put his bag down in the front pocket of one of the rides, to keep it safe. He heard a chink but thought nothing of it until later. Until he opened his bag. Inside, a large can of drink had been broken by his keys, and the bag was waterproof. Everything was floating inside - video camera, cellphone, keys . Brendan tipped his bag upside down and tipped out the energy drink. He took out his cellphone, and washed it under a tap. It didn't work. The camera, luckily, did. The automatic lock/ unlock fobs on Brendan's keys, however, were both on continuously. This wasn't a pain until we tried to go back and have our midday nap in the car. Because the on signal was on continuously, the car refused to lock, clicking on and off with the lights flashing and the car not wanting to start as it usually does with our mysterious locking system. It made so much noise we couldn't sleep for ages.
The rides were fantastic. My favourite was the Pirates of the Carribean - automated mechanical people singing songs and doing various things. Brendan's favourite was the spaceship one, where you shot round and round on very tight turns to flashing lights. The Finding Nemo submarine ride was new, so we didn't get to go on that - the wait time went from 2 hours to 3 to "unknown". We decided not to waste too much time on waiting. The Fast Passes were also good - if you booked one with your ticket, you could come back in an hour or so and do the ride then. The only bad ride was a sort of Dodgem, where you had little go carts that only went one speed, "slow" around a track where you were stuck on a rail underneath so you couldn't actually race or even go near the other person. Very boring. Apart from that one, I really enjoyed the rides. Now we have to go back, to California World right next door.
I took anti-nausea pills, which were wonderful - motion-sickness ruined some of my trip to Rainbow's End a few years ago with Brendan! So I wasn't keen to repeat the experience. At one point, I felt myself feeling sick, and then the pills kicked in. I think I'll use them a lot from now on.
Eating vegetarian and healthy was a bit of a problem - you couldn't take your own food inside the park, but they had almost no vege options. And the high-end restaurant we looked at, considered macaroni cheese "vegetarian". For $20 even before tax and tip. Yuck. Macaroni and cheese is disgusting, especially the American version. It has no redeeming qualities of taste or nutrients at all - simply macaroni, and what passes for cheese here. (More like orange cheese sauce. Anyway...)
But the highlight of the whole thing had to be the fireworks. When you see the image of the castle on Disney films, with the fireworks behind, that's literally how it is! Amazing fireworks, with "shooting stars" and a flying "Tinkerbell" - it takes away all the cynicism you have.
The 5-hour drive home was disgusting. Brendan drove most of the way, since I couldn't sleep when it was my nap, and hence almost drove off the road for the hour I did drive. Brendan slapped my bare leg, hard, and I woke up. And pulled to the side of the the freeway. Immediately. We got home at 4am, glad to collapse into bed.