The Highs and Lows of Los Angeles


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North America » United States » California » Los Angeles
December 21st 2015
Published: December 26th 2015
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R: Next morning we headed on to Santa Monica, the first of the Los Angeles beaches we came to. Santa Monica is a victim of urban sprawl, and while not unpleasant, its fairly urban with a so so beach, and a pier with rides on it which I vaguely remember from last time I was here. Our primary objective here was to visit the two British shops in the continued search for Christmas puddings. success! "Ye Olde Kings Head" had stacks of them, along with crackers, mince pies, brandy butter, not to mention Cadbury products, Tesco cook in sauces, pies, pasties and prawn cocktail crisps. We asked what the guy was going to do with all the left overs after Christmas and he was pretty sure they would find a good home!

We had a bit of an explore and after avoiding the theme park on the pier, we had Huevos Rancheros in a cafe on the main shopping street and watched the last minute Christmas shoppers go about their business while I was wearing shorts, many of them were in coats and scarfs...

From there it was on into Beverly Hills and Hollywood. We started by driving round the streets of movie star homes (following the guided tours, rather than paying for them and trying to guess "Who would live in a house like this?") then trying to get to the Griffith observatory which was high up overlooking the city, but it wasn't to be - all the roads were closed and they were channeling everybody into one car park which meant we saw nothing of the observatory and little of the view.

One of our objectives in LA was to try and get to the Magic Castle. A friend of ours is part of a magic-duo and coincidently they were performing in the members only "Magic Castle" magic club that night, and they had put us on the guest list. One problem - dress code! For gents, this meant blazer and tie, and for ladies - cocktail dresses. Sadly, not many people travel with one of these in their backpack, so we went to the "Ross - dress for less" superstore which is a little like a cross between Primark and TK Maxx. After an hour or so of unsuccessful foraging we decided to abandon our search - apparently people don't go to Ross for Blazers! We went off sightseeing, and being disappointed, we went back to Ross one more time, before finally abandoning our budget shopping spree. There was one jacket - but it looked like it had been used as a Kleenex and desperately needed ironing. Staying in a Hostel, we figured irons might be in short supply. Feeling disappointed, we went to a church in Beverly Hills for a Carol service, then ended up eating in a very nice Italian - our treat for missing the Magic castle. Afterwards, we spend a bit of time in Rodeo drive while the shops were closed (the best time) looking at Christmas lights and an excellent light show on the walls of Rodeo Drive which ran every hour over Christmas.

Next day after a bit of Hollywood Boulevard speed-tourism, we caught up with Rhys and Rob (the magicians) in a cool diner just off Hollywood Boulevard and shared our dislike for some things American - they were pretty tired of the states after a few days and repeated performances. The diner was fun - Cate was feeling like having the healthy option, so ordered a salad - which came in an enormous taco basket!! Anyway, it was great to see them, and they also gave us some great recommendations for the rest of our time in LA - but we spent the rest of the time I traffic, so had very little time to do anything else!

Our Weymouth friends had clubbed together for Cate's 30th and provided us with funds to go to Disneyland and Warner Brothers studio tour, so we did the latter that afternoon. The place was amazing. It's all done in a electric golf cart/buggy and we were on the tour with Jose - who was quite camp, and extremely enthusiastic about TV and film. The rest of our tour group were mainly East Asian in origin and spoke little English. When he asked what films they liked, the head of the group said shreaked "BRUCE LEE!!!". Sadly, Bruce Lee never filmed there, but Jackie Chan had, so they bonded over that instead. Meanwhile he looked to Cate and myself for everything else, while he rattled off the names of numerous American sitcoms we had not heard of, or haven't watched. But the highlight of the tour for Cate was that Friends was filmed here, and plenty of the houses and backlots had been used in Friends including the Geller house, and the (really small) version of Central Park where they play football, which was about 10x20m in size. We also saw some of the sets from ER including the Chicago high line train they built for that, and the Daily Planet of "New Adventures of Superman" fame.

They also filmed the Batman films here, so they had a lot of Batman props, costumes and Batmobiles to look at including the new one from the upcoming Batman v Spider-Man film which was awesome to see - spoilers - it's a combination of Batmobiles and Tumbler. Afterwards you can go to a recreation of Central Perk from friends and have a go at Green screen filming (though the DVD of Cate on a broomstick cost $50 so if you want to see this you'll have to go and see her teach...).

We then spent the next several hours trying to get to Disneyland in the rush hour traffic. (Jackie Chan was in Rush Hour!!! - That was pretty much how our tour went).

C: Tuesday was the much anticipated Disneyland day and I know I'm 30 but I was still very excited and a bit sleepless the night before. We had decided to get up early in time for the park opening at 8am and so we woke up at 7. Now, every day in California so far had had glorious sunshine so it was sod's law that when we looked out the window, it was pouring with rain, booooo! We were undeterred however, togged ourselves up in our waterproofs and headed out. It was a great day, despite the rain, and there were probably marginally less crowds in the park because of it. We managed to do all the main rides though we were soaked after about an hour! The Californians are clearly not used to rain as a couple of rides were off or broke down because of the weather. This was particularly annoying when twice we got to the front of the 'line' (I was looked at very oddly when I asked about the 'queue') only to be stopped from getting on the ride due to rain. I am sure that wouldn't happen in Paris! By lunchtime we were completely soaked and didn't really fancy a soggy burger and chips so we headed just outside the park to Downtown Disney and found a great restaurant for lunch. After lots more rides we watched the fantastic Paint the Night which is the Disney parade all lit up with lights. Unfortunately the weather meant that the fireworks were cancelled but we did get to see Fantasmic, an amazing water show based on Fantasia. They created walls of water and projected Disney film clips onto them accompanied by classical music conducted by Mickey Mouse. The huge steamboat went past with all the Disney characters followed by the pirate ship with a display from Peter Pan and Captain Hook etc. Great fun. The park is open till midnight so we took advantage of the lesser late night queues and went on Space Mountain (Roger's favourite) for a second time. We got home completely knackered but having had enjoyed the magic of the original Disneyland.

R: We took the slow route to San Diego as we were in no particular rush. The road winds through the OC (Orange County) so we dressed smart and headed for the coast. (If we had had a small hand bag dog, then we would have looked even better!). We stopped at Newport Beach
Cate submits to the Sorting HatCate submits to the Sorting HatCate submits to the Sorting Hat

( with her, the most photographed man in Hollywood)
and Balboa Island which are very smart area just south of LA and full of British expats and million dollar homes, nestked between the water and surrounding hillsides. It was gloriously warm again, after our wet day at Disney, and it was really weird seeing all the Santas crawling up the houses and reindeer lights in the garden when it was 20c outside! We tried to stop in Laguna beach - another movie star haunt - but the traffic was so awful we had to go straight through and stop for fast food on the other side, but we did find a spot to sit in the car by a gorgeous beach.

And then it was on to San Diego, and Walmart for all our Christmas shopping needs!


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Warner Bros water towerWarner Bros water tower
Warner Bros water tower

(No loner full, apparently)
Catching up with Rhys and RobCatching up with Rhys and Rob
Catching up with Rhys and Rob

In Mels Drive thru diner, Hollywood
Walt Disneys steam boatWalt Disneys steam boat
Walt Disneys steam boat

During the Fantasmic performance


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