It’s time for me to write you another update…in between writing my CV/resume and getting organised in Australia…
New York to LOS ANGELES – Sunday 13th
The American Airlines flight from New York JFK airport to Los Angeles LAX airport was jam packed full or people (they had free Wi-Fi on board which I meant to take advantage of but didn’t). I was sat next to the window (so I got a good night time view of New York as we took off) next to a really nice girl from LA who lived in Santa Monica, where I was going to be staying. We had a good chat about things to do (and places to avoid!) and I was glad to have her there as we had really bad turbulence and it completely freaked me out so it was nice to have her to chat to! I had thought I was over my fear of flying but obviously not. I can handle a little bit of turbulence but this was quite bad (felt it to me anyway!); the whole plane was shaking around and the air stewards were told to sit down. The pilot was great thought, told us they’d been expecting it (I always find those reassuring updates helpful) and that it would last for 20 minutes (it lasted for 10) but I couldn’t calm myself down (my knees were shaking uncontrollably!) so had to have a Valium (prescribed by the doctor for such purposes) to calm me down. The tablets did their job and I calmed down enough to watch the new Planet of the Apes film and then sleep and I slept…and slept…and slept! We landed in LA at half past midnight so it was straight onto the free shuttle to the Holiday Inn LAX. On the shuttle I got chatting to two Air New Zealand girls who were on their way to the same Holiday Inn to sort out a group of unhappily delayed people who were supposed to have been flying to Auckland that night. I typically ended up in the check in queue behind them, and as they were not very happy bless them I patiently waited there. They were mostly British on their way from London and I understood their frustration but there wasn’t really much they could do about it if their plane was delayed because there was a fault that needed to be fixed. The Holiday Inn staff and Air New Zealand girls were doing their best but it did get a bit messy, especially when people were being asked for their credit cards to check in (I felt for them, as some didn’t really understand what was going on). It took me about 45 minutes to get to the front, and the Holiday Inn kindly gave me a free breakfast voucher to apologise, which they didn’t need to do. My room was so so soooooo nice, one of the nicest hotel rooms I’ve ever been in. I had a huge bed, huge TV, nice clean sheets, free Wi-Fi and loads of complimentary stuff (my whole Holiday Inn LAX stay brilliant, couldn’t recommend it enough). I had a bit of a read and then got to sleep at about 3.30am.
LOS ANGELES – Monday 14th
I woke up at 8.30am (that bed was sooooooooooo comfy), took my time to have a nice shower and get ready then headed down for my free breakfast which was lovely, that $20 voucher went a long way! I headed back to my room and got packed and organised whilst watching the news (it was the Twilight premiere in LA that night, was tempted to head on down there…!), checked out the hotel then spent 1 ½ hotel in the hotel lobby looking for hostels in Fiji again. I really don’t know why I found it so difficult; it’s usually just click and book after a quick check on Trip Adviser. I did end up booking somewhere which I wasn’t sure I was happy with (looked lovely, Celebrity Love Island was filmed there, but it seemed a bit remote) but hey ho it was done!
The hotel concierge ordered a taxi (which ended up being a smart town car with a ‘driver’, I felt quite posh) to take me to my hostel in Santa Monica. We eventually found it, the hostel was nice (although had a no alcohol rule and no bar?!!!) and I found it exciting (for my first hostel experience in over a year!) and I headed straight out (no sign of my roomies!) to have a look around Santa Monica. I took a walk out towards the ocean, the view was really nice; it all looked a bit scrappy but had a nice atmosphere about it and the view out over the Pacific Ocean was great. I took a walk down Santa Monica Pier (which has a theme park on it!!!), lots of live music and a really nice happy light atmosphere; I could have spent a long time on the pier because it had such a nice vibe. I headed down to the beach and swapped cameras with a random Russian guy so we could have photos in the surf and walked under the pier (that FREAKED me out! I wanted to as it reminded me of Baywatch but it was NOT NICE under there!). I walked up to the 3rd
St Promenade which was nice, again a good vibe and there were loads of great shops, no wonder all of the people in LA look so great! I found the Santa Monica Hooters then headed back up Wilshire Avenue (later found out that the San Andreas Fault runs all along Wilshire Avenue) towards the ocean to watch the sunset. There were a few vagrants and random people about but I stuck out for the sunset even thought it was FREEZING cold and then went to a nice Japanese restaurant for a very healthy dinner. I had some vegetable stir fry thing where I had the option to have brown rice (yes BROWN rice! I was very impressed with that as I much prefer brown rice and have never found anywhere in the UK where you can ask for it). It was lovely and super healthy J I headed back to the hostel to warm up where I met a nice German girl called Frederica in my room who was on her way out to meet a girl from New Zealand (Kelly) that she’d met earlier (it turned out Kelly had come into LA on the delayed Air New Zealand flight from the night before, was glad she hadn’t known there was a fault!) so I went with them for something to do. After a quick dinner and a wander around Santa Monica at night we headed back to the hostel and chilled out for a while, but as there wasn’t much to do we headed to bed as we were all pretty tired.
LOS ANGELES and then onto Fiji – Tuesday 15th
I was up early to get all packed up, check out, put my stuff in the hostel lockers and be ready for my 1 day LA city tour (I was flying out to Fiji that night), taking some of the complimentary breakfast with me! Our tour started with a drive around Santa Monica and we had a nice little group on our minibus and a great driver who told us some interesting facts… (so apologies again if they bore you!):
· There are 80 cities (e.g. Santa Monica and Venice Beach) in the county of Los Angeles.
· There are LOADS of people living in Los Angeles county; it’s the second most congested county in the USA (New York is the first) with there being 3 cars for every 2 people.
· According to our guide it costs a lot to part in LA; £13 an hour in Downtown LA with a maximum daily charge of £39. I don’t think that’s that much?! It’s surely on par with Oxford city centre parking?!
· We saw some Santa Monica filming locations; Crocodile Dundee and Freaky Friday were both filmed down the 3rd
St Promenade (some Freaky Friday scenes was filmed in what is now H & M) and Forest Gump and Ocean’s 11 were filmed on the Santa Monica Pier (the lobster restaurant at the entrance was where Brad Pitt and George Clooney had lunch in Ocean’s 11). And most excitingly some of Baywatch was filmed on Santa Monica Beach (the day before I’d got excited seeing the lifeguard huts and jeeps) although some was also filmed on Venice and Malibu beaches.
· Route 66 ended on the Santa Monica Boulevard - there is a plaque at the end commemorating Will Rogers (one of the world’s best known celebrities in the 1920s and 30s) which I’m glad they pointed out because I walked past it the day before without realising (that’s why these tours are helpful, you learn a lot!).
· The Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica pier is the only solar panelled Ferris wheel in the world.
· Santa Monica Pier is a third shorter than it was originally, because a 1929 storm took a third of it off.
· A beachfront house in Santa Monica would cost about $1million; the more expensive cities are Malibu, Beverley Hill and Bel Air with Holmby Hills (where the likes of the Playboy Mansion and Michael Jackson’s house are located) being the most expensive.
We headed out of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway past the apartment building where Anthony Hopkins and Britney Spears apparently live whilst in LA. Our guide told us that Britney lives on the 4th
floor but there is a statue of her on the 3rd
floor balcony to fool the paparazzi…(it’s quite realistic)! We headed into Pacific Palisades for our first glimpse of some famous houses e.g.:
· Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (very beautiful and grand)
· Kevin Costner’s (totally open and on the road, surely can’t be somewhere he actually lives if it’s that open, you could look in the windows)
· The house Ronald & Nancy Reagan lived in before Ronald became President
· A house that has a $13million aquarium inside
· Stephen Spielberg’s house (huge!)
· Sugar Ray Leonard’s house with Sylvester Stallone’s old house next door (where he was living when he made Rocky); apparently they had some conflict between them about over hanging trees
· The last house that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman lived in together.
· Kurt Russell’s old house, where Adam Sandler now lives (looks very accessible?!!) and Kurt Russell’s new house (opposite). Our guide told us how they both react when they see the tourist buses; Adam waves and smiles whilst Kurt goes straight back inside and shuts the gate, I don’t blame him).
We went past the Riviera Country Club where Tiger Woods practices (it’s in beautiful grounds) and then on into Brentwood to see Shirley Temple’s first home (apparently her parents, who lived next door, kept her on drugs?!) and the former home of OJ Simpson (where he was eventually caught and where they found the bloody glove…). I wasn’t really that keen on this part of the tour, it was interesting but I felt very uncomfortable about it. It was almost like going through a drive through zoo… I was most excited to see the house used in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Our guide told us that if filming takes place in some of these nice houses the film company pays $2500 a day and an agreement is put in place with the homeowner (and any future owners through a clause when the house is sold) that no changes can be made to the property…?! We went on into Beverley Hills, where no house is the same and where the water hydrants are silver as opposed to the normal yellow. We went past:
· Marilyn Monroe’s old house
· Where Halle Berry drove away from her hit and run (she had lawyer’s ready at the house when the police arrived)
· Where Kelly Osborne was filmed doing dodgy stuff
And then along Sunset Strip we saw:
· The Viper Rooms (owned by Johnny Depp)
· Cravings (owned by Oprah)
· Mel’s Drive In (famous for something…!)
· Charlie Chaplin’s former house, which on his death he wanted to be turned into a museum but it’s now a girls school
· The JP Getty Museum right up on a hill (apparently worth a visit – there are two, the one on the hill is free)
· The road where the OJ Simpson chase started (our guide told us how each city’s police force takes the chase through its own county, then the next takes over; their priority is just to get them out of their city).
We went past Bel Air (where your number plate is recorded when you go in, and you’re liable to be asked what you’re doing there) and all down Sunset Boulevard past Holmby Hills and the Spelling’s HUGE 123 bedroom house where only Aaron, his wife and his daughter lived (when her Dad died Tori Spelling put the house up for sale for $150million, it was eventually bought this year for $80million by Petra Ecclestone). I learned that the Beverley Hills Hotel is the same as the Hotel California and we went past:
· the Witches House
· the Fox Plaza buildings used in Die Hard
· the two separate men and women’s Saks Fifth Avenue stores, where Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting.
We ended our tour of posh/famous houses on Rodeo Drive. I was pleased that bit of the tour was over and I’m glad we didn’t see any celebrities really as I’d have felt a bit bad. I only took pictures of the odd house and some gates when you couldn’t see the houses behind.
We spent 45 minutes on Rodeo Drive and I enjoyed walking up and down looking at the really expensive shops and the REALLY nice cars; there was a $1.5-$2million Bugatti parked up belonging to a late designer and some other impressive cars. At one end of Rodeo Drive is the hotel used in Pretty Woman and at the other is the ‘big mistake’ store. On our drive into Downtown we went past the:
· police station where the likes of Paris Hilton spend the odd night
· Skybar Hotel owned by Cindy Crawford (where Britney shaved her head)
· House of Blues
· Standard Hotel which is partly owned by Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz
· platinummotorsport.com, where you can rent really nice cars
· Guitar Centre where there are signatures and handprints of famous people
· restaurant Poco Loco where Brad Pitt worked in chicken suit when he first arrived in LA
· Jim Henson company where the Muppet’s started
· famous LA Ink
· Paramount Pictures studios which cover a big amount of space
· Staples Centre where the LA Lakers and other teams play
· Nokia Theatre (with apparently the best sound system in the world) where the previous night’s Twilight Premiere was
· Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is a nice looking building covered in mirrors, although all but one mirror had to be scratched as it was too reflective…!
We saw a few Italian job locations and where the people went to welcome the aliens in Independence Day (one of my favourite films!) and past the Federal Court Building where the OJ Simpson and Conrad Murray trial took place.
We stopped off in Olvera, a Mexican area, the oldest part of LA where the original settlors first lived. I took a nice walk around there, looked around the oldest house which is now a museum and had a sit down in the sunshine. We then out towards downtown Hollywood, starting off on the 101 Freeway which has ‘Mission Bells’ every 1-2 miles (placed there to mark the original El Camino Real, the road from San Diego to Sonoma linking California’s 21 Mission) and then moving onto the Hollywood Boulevard from which I saw my first glimpse of the Hollywood sign which was pretty exciting! We learned some more interesting information on the way down:
· We saw the house that was apparently used in the final scene of Pretty Woman (where Richard Gere comes to get Julia Roberts) although I’m not sure it looked like that…
· The Church used in Sister Act
· There are 2600 stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame; some people have more than 1 if they’ve been given stars for achievements in more than one of the give categories (film camera representing motion pictures, television representing broadcast television, phonograph record representing audio recording or music, radio microphone representing broadcast radio and comedy/tragedy masks representing theatre/live performance) and only one person has all five…Gene Autry
· The El Capitan Theatre (aka the Disney Theatre) is where all Disney films are first premiered.
We spent a good hour and a half there and I spent a happy time wandering around looking at the stars; (The Carpenter’s, John Travolta, Julia Andrews, Olivia Newton-John, Anthony Hopkins, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, the Bee Gees, Britney Spears, Kermit the Frog, Burt Reynolds and one Bill GoOdwin…!) and the hand and footprints outside the Chinese Theatre (Shirley Temple, Warren Beatty, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Chris Walken and JOHN WAYNE) and checking out the Kodak Theatre where they were setting up for that nights West Side Story premiere. I walked up through the Egyptian Theatre and up the escalators for a good view of the Hollywood sign, then back down for a bit of lunch before heading back to the minibus.
We headed from Downtown up to Mulholland Drive for some of the best views of the Hollywood sign. Did you know that…the Hollywood sign was originally put there to promote a housing project called ‘Hollywoodland’ in 1923; it used to be vandalised constantly and in the end the ‘LAND’ deteriorating, eventually being removed with the ‘HOLLYWOOD’ being restored remaining as a because a symbol for Hollywood. We got a good view of the sign, LA and the Hollywood Bowl from Mulholland Drive and saw Will Chamberlain’s old house, which had a sliding roof that meant he could sleep under the stars.
I asked our guide why I hadn’t seen any LAPD cars (like you see loads of NYPD cars in New York) and he said that they are about, but mostly the cop cars are sheriff cars or local city (e.g. Santa Monica) police department cars (why do all the cops in the film have LAPD badges?!). Our last stop was the Universal City Walk which is the entrance to the Universal Studios theme park and has loads and loads of shops! It’s quite an exciting place, all big, brash and full of entertainment. I had a quick walk through and got myself a Ben & Jerry’s (was really a bit too cold for that but I was in LA) and spotted a Miss Me jeans stockist on the way out (I love Miss Me jeans! I’ve only ever found them in New York before, was a good job I came across them on the way our when I didn’t have much time). We then drove back to Santa Monica as the sun went down, listening to Christmas songs (e.g. ‘”Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” random in the sunshine!). The journey was all quite nice, watching people making their way home after the working day, I thought the Freeway roads were in a terrible state though, so bumpy, but they do have car pool lanes (like they do in Canada and Australia, for people car sharing) and I think we need to make more of that sort of thing in the UK. We dropped some people off in Santa Monica then those flying out that night made our way back out to the airport in the minibus. We went through Venice Beach and saw a lovely sunset and the Venice Beach canals (originally Venice Beach was like a Little Italy); it felt very bohemian. I had a nice chat with our driver who told me a bit about his life, and how he was hoping the traffic wasn’t too bad as he had to pick his daughter up, who had full custody of at 7pm; luckily his Mum and Auntie were very helpful if needed.
He dropped me off in plenty of time for my flight (and in plenty of time to get his daughter) and I checked in ready for my Air Pacific flight to Fiji’s Nadi airport. As I went through security I saw my first celebrity of the trip…Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (a British supermodel, Transformers actress…). As I was getting ready to go through security (taking off my belt etc) I saw this glamorous tall slim (not too skinny) blonde girl heading towards me with an airport person. I stared for a few seconds (like you do when you see a famous person and are trying to figure out if you knew them and should be saying hello…) then realised as she smiled at me that she must be famous. I was close enough to read her (what I saw was British) passport if I’d wanted to but I didn’t so I wasn’t really sure who it was. We went through security at the same time and what was I thinking and most jealous of as I was standing next to the ‘World’s Hottest Woman’ (as voted by FHM readers in 2011) and Victoria’s Secret Angel…not her beautiful face, great body, glamour and her money!)…no, I was most jealous when I realised she was heading for the BA flight to London; because right at the minute I wanted to be on it too heading for home, rather than heading further away to Fiji! Anyway, I pulled myself together and wasted some time in the airport (I saw her again as she was heading from the BA lounge to her flight – boys are you jealous or what?! - I’d finally thought I’d figured out who is was, was 99% sure when I later watched Transformers 3 on the plane – she looked a bit different in person - but was only 100% sure when I Googled her the next day from Fiji and saw pictures of her in the airport) before going to the gate ready to board my flight (there isn’t anything to do post security in LAX airport).
As I was waiting for my flight I gradually wound myself up more and more and more about it, I think the flight from New York to LA had scared me, and waiting by the gate there were so many people and it completely panicked me. There was just so many people, seemed too many for one flight. I eventually realised half of them were leaving for an Air Philippines flight to Manila, it got a bit crazy and messy when we were all trying to board at the same time, people were in the wrong queue, nobody knew what was going on and I had a major panic. I didn’t want to get on the flight. I tried ringing Drew, he didn’t answer. I tried Heather, she didn’t answer. I tried ringing Han, she didn’t answer as was at work but did text loads of helpful stuff (thank you Han!) so I then kept manically kept ringing Drew (it was the middle of the night UK time, so not many people were up to help!) until he eventually answered (probably cost me £15 that call) and calmed me down. I was trying hard not to have to take a Valium to calm me down but in the end I had to; I had an 11 hour flight across the Pacific ahead of me. The combination of a tablet, a glass of red wine and some dinner and a bit of my book sent me to sleep for most of the flight (I’m getting good at sleeping on flights!). I did wake up every now and again at some turbulence and felt panicked and tempted to go and ask the air stewards if I could sit with them but I resisted and got through it and before I knew it they were serving breakfast (all the food was lovely!) and I was watching Transformers 3 (which cut off before the end because we were starting our descent). We landed in Fiji in the darkness and were quickly disembarking; I’m ashamed to admit that I took one of my blankets (I’d had to ask for a second as the flight was so cold) off the flight with me as I knew there wouldn’t be any blankets in my hostel (I hate sleeping with just a sheet not matter how hot it is) but I was only borrowing; I planned on returning it in 5 days time when I was back on Air Pacific for my flight to Brisbane.
So…that was LA…short bit sweet. I think that might have been my most boring update ever on account of my obsessive need to document random facts! Next up, the beautiful Fiji!
Lots of love.
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