Ted and Andreas visit the San Andreas

Trip Start Sep 22, 2012
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10
12
Trip End Oct 21, 2012


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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 1

Today after another wonderful, well deserved sleep in, we packed up our belongings and the car for our departure towards Los Angeles. Before leaving Australia, Ted bought a GPS specifically for the USA off eBay for this part of the holiday. Now we were going to put it to the test as we attempted to navigate our way to Los Angeles without the assistance of a personalized tour guide and driver.

The drive to LA wasn't exactly dotted with stark scenery and amazing roadside attractions. Rather, it was a mishmash of overhead freeways, outlet stores and a large cloud of smog in the distance. Before leaving, I'd researched on the Internet about the location of the houses used for outdoor shots for the TV program "Modern Family". Since you can find almost anything on the 'net, it wasn't difficult to locate the suburban addresses, and since we couldn't check into our next hotel until 3pm, it made perfect sense to visit our friends the Dunphy's and the Pritchett's before going to the hotel.

Thanks to our TomTom, we first found the Dunphy's house which was in a leafy LA suburb, surrounded by similar looking residences. For some reason, it didn't look quite real and I wasn't totally convinced it was the right place. These doubts were quashed when we arrived at Cam and Mitch's house which really stood out from the crowd. I half expected there to be other tragic fans there, similarly looking for these houses but instead, there were just locals mowing lawns and doing yard word. We did however notice a large amount of television cameras and crew equipment in the area, so we assume they were possible in the midst of filming something.

Next of course was Jay and Gloria's house, which is conveniently hidden behind a large fence and plenty of foliage. Only a few streets over was the house belonging to television's Golden Girls, which is NOT located in Miami as the show would have you think. It still looked the same, apart from some extra plants and slight renovating. The only two attractions we missed seeing were the Brady Bunch house and the world's oldest McDonald's, which are located a further distance from Brentwood, where these attractions were located. Next time!

We then drove to Santa Monica to find our hotel, which was located on busy Pico Avenue. As much as we would have loved a hotel right on the beach, these were all out of our budget, but this hotel ended up being a great alternative. The guy working on reception advised us about a bus that departed out front towards the Santa Monica pier as a better alternative to driving down, so we took him up on the idea.

The ride ended up being everything I'd expected from a bus trip in Los Angeles: crowded, smelly, slow, hot and uncomfortable all in one. When we eventually arrived, we walked along the beach towards the pier. To be honest, it wasn't as interesting as I'd expected. Whilst the beach was nice enough, it definitely lacked the charm of San Francisco, the character of Mykonos or the appeal of Sydney. The pier was a bit more interesting though, as there were some street performers doing their thing, and a collection of restaurants. We settled for a Mexican lunch where we could sit, dine and watch the fog roll in. And entertainment wasn't lacking either, as we had both guitar playing Mexicans and drum playing African Americans vying for our attention.

We then walked back to the set of Baywatch to catch a bus back before making plans for dinner. Before leaving Australia, I found out that my cousin Stephanie now lived in Santa Monica so I thought it would be great to meet up. Ashamedly, I hadn't seen Stephanie for about ten years so it was long overdue. Steph now runs several Lorna Jane stores in Santa Monica and the surrounding areas so we arranged to meet at True Foods, located right across from her store.

As it happened, neither Stephanie nor I had aged in ten years. As she is vegetarian, the restaurant catered well to all types, and is probably the healthiest meal I've had so far since visiting the USA. I don't generally do salads, but this one was worth it. After dinner, we looked around her store which catered to a market I knew nothing about, and walked around the Santa Monica waterfront area at night. This part of the town was a lot more appealing, as the shops and restaurant culture were really alive and pumping.

Tomorrow we head to Universal Studios where I haven't been since 1993. Apparently the "E.T." and "Back to the Future" rides are long gone, so I hope it hasn't lost it's appeal.

Day 2

Before we left for this trip, I had to try and justify the cost of the VIP tour of Universal Studios to Ted, as opposed to the regular admission. Well today, I found out whether it was worth the extra money.

Because we were so fearful of peak hour Los Angeles traffic, I'd asked the check in staff at the hotel what they though would be the best way to the park would be. They ended up printing out a map with advice to leave early. Therefore, we rose before 7 and departed not long afterwards to be there before our 9.30 tour started.

Well in typical fashion, we arrived so early even the employees hadn't turned up yet. The so called rush hour was nothing like on a Sydney scale, so we had plenty of time to kill before meeting our guide. We did drive down Hollywood Boulevard on the way to the park, providing us with a further reminder just how overrated all those Hollywood sights really are.

When it was time to meet, we were ushered into the VIP room where we were given a breakfast of pastries, fruit and beverages where we met our guide Lary. It was quite a nice set-up and made us feel important. Our tour ended up starting late due to some stragglers that hadn't turned up on time but we then boarded our special VIP trolley to begin the day.

Our first stop was a bit strange - we saw the building where all the movie deals are made (from the outside) as well as the studios collection of Emmys and Oscars from behind a glass wall. I say strange because we were told we couldn't use any cameras during this part of the tour (because...actually I have no idea why). We ended up leaving this area late too as we had an older gentleman on our tour who needed a bathroom stop every time we disembarked from the trolley car.

From here, we continued to the set of a TV show called "Parenthood" (no, I haven't heard of it either). It was interesting to see how a set was constructed and how much detail goes into making one, although it wasn't really anything new that Ted and I hadn't already seen from being on TV before. Then we saw the backlot set where the clock tower from "Back to the Future" was filmed, now being used for a "Little Rascals" remake. One advantage of this tour was being able to walk around the sets we saw, as opposed to just staying seated on the trolley car. And just to rub it in, we all made sure we waved at the other backlot tour bus every time it drove past.

The next part was very disappointing. On the website that promoted the VIP tour, it showed the tourists being driven down Wisteria Lane from "Desperate Housewives" and walking around the house from "Psycho". Clearly that was a lot of BS because we didn't get to do either. Pissed off. We also visited the props warehouse where they were having a thrift sale - employees could buy old props and movie costumes for a discounted price (not the best ones of course). A lot of the old special effects shows were still there too, including Jaws and Earthquake, but they have since added a King Kong show too.

Before lunch, we were taken to the "Terminator" 3D show. It was good I suppose, but since I haven't seen any of the movies, it was pretty lost on me. One advantage of this VIP pass is that you go straight to the head of the queue and get the premium seating. Time saving, but also slightly embarrassing!

The lunch we were taken to was wonderful. We were seated in a fancy dining room, where there was a buffet lunch complete with unlimited drinks and, best of all, no need to tip! That was worth the admission alone. We were seated with another Australian couple who have visited over 100 countries! And here I was bragging about the meager 54 I've been to. I feel so ashamed.

During lunch, I dropped some food on my clothes but there was no need to be bothered because our next ride was the Jurassic Park experience (similar to Disney's Splash Mountain), where you get soaked from head to toe and stains miraculously wash out. As part of our VIP experience, we were given complimentary ponchos, whilst the poorer people had to get wet instead. We then visited the animal actors show which was fun and cute, although the website advertising the VIP tour claimed we'd get to meet the animal actors, which we didn't. Grrr.

We also saw the Simpsons ride (my favorite), the Transformers ride (another thing lost on me) and the special effects show before our tour ended at 4.30. That was another slight nuisance because the park closed at 6pm, meaning you only had 1.5 hours to do your own thing! The most logical thing to do was go back on the Jurassic Park and Simpsons rides, although Ted was feeling a bit giddy by this stage, so I went solo.

To avoid peak hour we ate dinner at the restaurant area surrounding the park before heading off. Traffic was still pretty crazy but not unbearable. We also checked how our chances looked for our flight the following day. The staff travel website is nothing but complete confusion. To be safe, we bought a ticket with Delta, American Airlines and United, with the hope that one of us will get us to Japan tomorrow!

"In Los Angeles, by the time you're 35, you're older than most of the buildings.” - Delia Ephron
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