Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Week 44 - Los Angeles

In all the excitement of America I forgot to tell you about Eric. After going to see him at the compound the original buyer decided that he still wanted our little old Subaru for his son after all. So after offering a major discount Eric was re-homed and repaired by his lovely new owners. I’m going to miss our golden beauty, I just hope that they take good care of him, he needs it after all he has been through.

Anyway, back to business. The bus from San Fransisco to Los Angeles was advertised at taking 7 hours. Now having gotten a good amount of buses in the last year we know to add on an hour or two….in Asia, we thought that they’d be a little more precise here in America, turns out we were wrong. It took almost 9 hours, admittedly there was an accident that held us up for about 30 minutes, but still 9 hours of long straight boring road was torture. Not to mention the space invader with the giant feet that kept sticking his feet in my leg space, and the shouty woman constantly on the phone or eating with her mouth open, I managed 10 minutes of kip before she shouted me awake again…Honestly, i can’t wait for the next journey, not! I’ll be honest though Kyle and I were both surprised when we went by some green fields, and snowy mountains off in the distance, it was nice to see that there is a variety of landscape on offer.

When we finally arrived in LA you could just tell that you were in the home of the rich and famous, or just the wannabe celebs. The cars passing us were of a different breed, and the licence plates reading Beverly Hills elite cruising by, I mean you just keep hoping pal I’m sure with that reg you’ll cruise right in and have your dream house in no time. Once we got off the bus at union station we had to take another 2 buses to our accommodation, and we were thrilled when this took a further hour and 10 minutes, on a crowded bus with our giant backpacks. But we soon arrived at Yaskaras lovely home in South L.A where she lives with her mum and 3 sons, and after a quick bite we were straight to bed ready for the next days adventures.

Only there weren’t any adventures to be had as we woke to storm warnings, warnings that actually came true. It was so wet and windy that streets flooded, sink holes opened, landslides happened, kids were kept off school and just walking 2 minutes to the shop and back meant you looked like you’d just swam ten lengths of an Olympic size swimming pool. I was majorly disappointed to miss our planned trip to Universal, but instead we spent the day catching up with The Walking Dead and eating M&M’s, I suppose it did give us a good rest day to get over the jet lag and horrifically long bus journey. 

It wasn’t all blue skies and sunshine the next morning either, but I was determined to drag my butt to The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter, and everyone can handle a little bit of drizzle, even me. We arrived bright an early at Universal Studios, just in time for the gates opening to be precise (and the perfect time to beat the queues and crowds if you ever plan on going yourself), once we parted with our $240, and declined all the offers of VIP and queue jump,  I practically ran all the way to Hogsmeade. I was actually overwhelmed, I knew it would be good but I didn’t think it would be this good. The path to Hogwarts led us by all your favourite shops, Honeydukes, Zonkos and of course Ollivanders, which was where we joined our first queue to watch the wand choosing ceremony. I stood front and centre and put on my best “young” face once we got in the tiny shop in the hopes of being the muggle selected for a wand….unfortunately, the girl next to me was chosen instead, lucky bitch. It was great to watch though and the actor really played his part well, though I don’t think the young girls parents were too happy when they heard the options for the wand “given” to their daughter. This is America, nothings free right? 

Having sulked in the wand shop for a good 15 minutes, Kyle wouldn’t part with $100 to buy me one nor would he try on dress robes, we finally entered Hogwarts and got ready for the ride. As we were early we quickly made our way through classrooms, and gardens to the great hall, here we were seated in a 4 seater cart and strapped in with bars that came over our heads…hang on, isn’t this ride for children? The ride takes you on a journey of the Harry Potter stories, playing quidditch, fighting dementors, running from dragons and setting free a hippogriff, it’s just a shame that they throw you around like a rag doll to do it. Combining the motions with the fast changing images even Kyle felt sick when we got off 3 minutes later, I had read warnings but I really didn’t think it would be so bad. But it was nothing a butterbeer in the three broomsticks couldn’t fix, I mean if you like a really sugary drink with more sugary cream on top then this is the refreshment for you. Fearing the worst for his diabetes Kyle stuck to lemonade. Observing all the children and many, many adults in their dress robes using the their wands to make things move in the store windows was brilliant, but it was soon time to hop on the Hogwarts Express and jump on the studio tour.

The studio tour was Kyle’s favourite part of the day. A tram leads you round a real working lot, it’s here you get to see sets ranging from a New York street to the set of Desperate Housewives, a Wild West Set…where they were actually filming and the home of Jaws. The tour is very interactive and the girl hosting our bus was brilliant, hats off to her for keeping up her energy throughout the ride, we got to see how they create floods, earthquakes, take a 360 3D tour with King Kong and go on a high speed chase with the Rock and Vin Diesel. What really made the tour for me was our American companions, they really get stuck in and caught up in the moment…even Kyle had a huge smile on his face.

Next stop, Springfield, the home of the Simpsons, passing on a Krusty Burger I settled on a hot dog, it was gross, but the whole park offered very little in options other than your normal fairground affair. It’s a shame we chose to go on a ride straight after eating, I mean more motion pictures and being thrown around was really what I needed, I was left feeling so sick that poor Kyle had to enter the Transformers 3D ride on his own. 

To take a break from all the action we went to watch a couple of shows, Animals of Universal and the Special Effects show. I have mixed feelings about the animals, they all seemed genuinely happy and well cared for, but do they really enjoy loud music and a screaming audience? However, the Special Effects show was great, seeing how things had developed over time, learning about stunts, setting people on fire, fake blood and flying gave a really great insight into how things are done behind the scenes, though part of me was left wondering how I’ll be able to watch a film in the same way again with all this background knowledge.

Our final stop of the day, the Minion ride, and the longest queue of the day, but to be fair by this time it was 3pm and pissing down with the rain so I think a lot of people had ran into anything for shelter. After a 30 minute wait we found ourselves in Gru’s lab waiting to be turned into Minions before yet another whiplash inducing motion ride, which I did really enjoy, but not as much as meeting Gru and a Minion afterwards. Would I recommend Universal? Yes and no, I wouldn't class the rides as rides, you mainly spend your day watching short films and getting thrown around. But for the Studio Tour and the magic of the park it is definitely worth the effort, seeing some of your favourite places brought to life is spectacular and where else can you get a background into film making or be lucky enough to see a show being filmed? Just get there early, and try pick a weekday if you can for lower ticket prices. 

What “vacay” to LA would be complete without a trip to Hollywood? Well any actually. I was personally left a little disappointed by our adventures around Hollywood and along the Walk of Fame. For a “must see” location, it’s pretty dirty and busy with lots of traffic and pedestrians. The stars are really small, and there’s so many it would take you a good 5 hours to see them all. Kyle and I also think that at least a good 30% of the stars are pointless too, and can’t figure out why some people were given them. Still the Chinese and Dolby theatres are impressive, the luxurious golds of the Dolby means it can be seen glistening from far, far down the street, and the Chinese theatre is very reminiscent of the temples which we saw on our visit to China. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the Hollywood sign from the shopping centre, we were going to walk up it, but once again the weather was against us. Whilst in the shopping centre we also caught a show from some Chinese dancers, before quickly running away from the huge crowds descending on the boulevard. 

Despite the bad weather we really wanted to go to Venice Beach, the birth place of The Doors and being total geeks we went looking for Jim Morrisons apartment, his poetry on the famed poets wall and the memorial painting. Kyle made me stand and watch the surfers and the skaters right on the sea front for what felt like hours in the cold, before we had a stroll up and down the boardwalk. It was surprising how busy it was considering the time of year, dog walkers, skaters and joggers covered the path, whilst tourists weaved in and out of the way on both foot and bikes. There were yet more homeless people, this time trying their best to entertain with musical instruments (including a grand piano), or spark debate with controversial cardboard signs. Surf shops, skate stores, weed clinics, design your own tee’s and jewellery stands line the boardwalk all offering discount prices, but forgetting to mention the additional tax line the boardwalk, along with hand made statues and art that charge you for a photograph. The best part of the day was catching a performance by the Calypso Tumblers. A street performance collective of 15 guys who take it in turns to entertain the crowds along the boardwalk, with acrobatic tricks, racist jokes, smooth dance moves and a lot of audience participation, these guys make their money by coming down twice a day everyday and putting on different shows to keep people interested, and judging by the size of the donations that they received, they’re certainly doing a good job. 

We applied for tickets to The Late Late Show without much hope of actually getting a ticket, imagine our delight when we did? Imagine our distress when they send you your e-ticket along with half the Next catalogue work/evening wear section as a recommendation of what to wear? Hello guys, we're living out of a backpack!! To make matters worse the tights I bought to go with my dress turned out to be borrower size, this I didn't discover until after I'd tried to put them on and my arse popped out. Thankfully, we managed to put something together and we looked the more presentable than any other time in the last 10 months. On arrival at CBS we were lined up in the priority queue and given a disclaimer to fill out, I wish I could tell you what it said but I was too excited so I just signed it. Next was wrist band distribution, either one blue or a blue and a black...we got both. On to a security check and another hour or so wait. I was actually buzzing when our row was called for first and we were led up many flights of stairs to the studio. The Late Late Show set is so much smaller than how it looks on TV, but it is as flashy and looks fucking amazing from the front row...guess we didn't look too bad after all.

A chubby English guy psychs up the crowd and gives you your directions for the evening. Laugh, clap, laugh, clap and repeat. Next comes Reggie and the house band who really get you going before the main man himself, James Corden, takes the stage. The shows filmed pretty much as it goes out on TV, we only knew one guest, Luke Wilson, but we got to know two more throughout the show, Trevor Noah and Laverne Cox and caught a cool performance from, Labrinth and Noah Cyrus. It was a great experience that left our throats horse and our hands numb, but definitely the high our LA trip needed.

After the show we headed to the Grove, a totally posh, Beverly Hills style shopping complex with bathrooms bigger than my house. I'm pretty sure that I ate a mint flavoured soap too. (I blame the packaging). For tea we headed to the Farmers Market, which was amazing, so many foods to choose from. We settled for a Louisiana gumbo and fresh lemonade.

Our next journey sees us catch the famous Greyhound to San Diego. It's forecast blue skies and sunshine, I'm praying it sticks coz I'm ready for a day at the beach.


Love Carrie xxx