Leaving Raratonga one of the smallest international airports in the world, we arrive at Los Angeles one of the largest in the world. It felt like being hit with a hammer, so many people, so many security and customs checks.
We were to hire a car and drive straight out into LA’s busy road system. We came face head-on with the city’s extrovert nature when the car hire shuttle bus driver, decided he would paraphrase the automated information system himself saying, ‘ I usually play an announcement that goes like this, ‘Welcome to the Alamo and National shuttle ya-di-ya-di-ya-da, hold on as the bus might stop ya di ya di ya di ya-da stow bagages safely, ya-di-ya-di-ya-da and so on…’ I suppose it was what we were expecting!
I had pre booked a midsize car, and was pleased I was told to take a choice from a fleet outside. As expected they tried to upgrade us to a flashier car and although it would have been nice to have the Dodge Charger, we have to stick to a budget, so we chose the humble Ford Focus. My first aim was to hit a big electrical
or superstore and get a Satnav. (it was cheaper to buy than rent one) but never saw a store, plenty of eateries, but no PC World or similar. I needn’t of worried armed with a very basic road map from the car rental Alison with some trepidation got me right to Hollywood Boulevard.
Our small hotel in Hollywood was in an amazing location, right behind the Dolby Theatre where they hold the Oscars every year. Although tired from the overnight flight, we dumped our bags to venture onto the boulevard, excitedly to view this famous place we’d heard about and to get a bite to eat. You guessed it over the next few days we would consume the burgers, pizza, waffles, donuts and ribs that Hollywood could offer. Not a good start with another 8 weeks of road trip ahead of us.
They call this La-la land, and on this part of boulevard, you could have had your picture taken with a host of look-e-likey stars. I unfortunately struck a conversation with Mohammed Ali’s Manager Don King, which you guessed it parted us with a few bucks, although we came away with a memorable
photo of the meeting. I would have preferred a picture with Marilyn Monroe or even the Transformers guy!.
Although this street hosts the very glamourous Oscar ceremony in realty the street is very tacky. You have of course the Hollywood walk of fame with the stars of the TV Theatre, Movies, and Radio. We were taken aback that the stars actually pay $30000 dollars to have their star put there. George Clooney refused the invitation but did give the equivalent to charity. He has though, his handprints outside the Chinese Theatre which is next door to the Dolby. Here many celebrities old and new have had their hand (and foot) prints outside this famous building. It now is a multiplex cinema and has a huge IMAX screen. It seemed the right place to see a big Hollywood movie. In the Cinema opposite the premier of Alice through the Looking Glass was being shown and Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter were attending. As we had a prior engagement at the Chinese Theatre they missed us! We did see Matt Lucas and that scary woman from Glee though.
We wanted to cram as much of
Los Angeles in as we could. First we jumped on the subway to Downtown LA and walked from the wonderful 1930’s Union Street Station, passed Olivera Street, the old hub of LA, then the impressive Civic halls and buildings, colourful Pershing Square finally into the financial area. (Still looking for the elusive Satnav) A really impressive shiny building caught our I, we popped into for a quick tour this was the impressive Walt Disney Concert hall. His widow donated 50 million dollars, and requested that it should resemble a cottage with trees, look at the photographs to see if they got the brief right?
We had one day left as we needed to head north, so what better than the tour ‘LA in a Day’ It started at Santa Monica Beach, then to Venice Beach, with its outdoor gym, and mixture of hippies, surfers, performance artistes. Through Beverley Hills and the posh Rodeo Drive, past film studios and up to the Griffiths Observatory and the Hollywood sign. It was a bit quick but gave us a good view of this famous city.
After three days searching we finally found a store that could supply
me a Satnav. A Tom Tom for £70, a snip and headed on to the Santa Monica Boulevard. Then up the Highway One through Malibu, onto the Ventura Highway, to Santa Barbara its great to put a image to the names you’ve heard in songs over the years.
We overnighted at Pismo a pleasant seaside resort before continuing up highway one.
The following morning continuing up the coast hugging Highway One we stopped at Hearst Castle, not a fortification but the home of a very wealthy press magnate who set about building his house in the style of European homes and castle he had seen as a boy, when travelling with his mother. He started building in 1919 and by the time of his death in 1951 he was still adding to it. He was quite a socialite and had many parties and gathering, from the realms of politics and Hollywood. The house is grand and set in thousands of acres on top of a hill. It certainly is lavish he thought nothing of importing Greek, Spanish and Italian antiquities to adorn the building. He even had his own private zoo. Though the zoo
closed years ago there are still Zebras roaming about the land even today.
Onto highway once again, it led us to Big Sur. This is where the Santa Lucia mountains rise from the Pacific. It continues for 90 miles and the road lifts and bends, with several lookouts to stop and admire the view.
As the sun was going down we stopped by Carmel, I was intrigued, Doris Day lives here and Clint Eastwood was once Mayor. The bay was wonderful but the houses although you could see it was wealthy they were very dingy. Disappointed we moved onto Monterey for the night. Apart from being known for amazing seafood, just a few miles offshore, the depth of the ocean increases to 11800ft. The sea is rich in nutrients and attracts many sea creatures here, whales, dolphins, sea lions, and sea otters amongst other creatures.
Although we had looked forward to another boat trip in search of wildlife, I don’t know if it was the 2 days of hard driving or the relatively early start to catch the boat, but neither of us felt up for it. Even though we are
used to boats - on sightseeing tours where the boat wallows about holding position, we always take a seasick tablet -just in case. Unfortunately, many on our fellow boat passengers hadn’t and there were a lot of grey faces! The swell of the deep Pacific was taking its toll. We were unlucky not to see dolphins on our boat trips in New Zealand, no such problems here. A few minutes after leaving harbour a pod of about 200 dolphins encircled the boat, some playing the in the bow wave of the boat. Even a Sea Lion joining in. Also on our trip were the Sea Otters floating about on their backs. That was amazing enough but when we got out to the deep water we saw 3 Humpback whales. Although it was a very successful trip we were glad to get back to terra firma. Thankfully we have a relatively short drive to our next base for the next three nights, San Francisco.
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