A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Los Angeles

sunny 31 °C

I drove to Los Angeles with a few stops along the way as it’s a long-ass drive!
It didn’t help that a lorry had overturned so I had to sit in a long line of traffic for a while.
Roads in the US are so long and everything is so much further apart than you realise!

I eventually got to my hostel in L.A. around 5:30/6pm and went to meet Steve from the hostel in New Orleans for a drink on Hollywood Boulevard before he left for his flight back to Australia.
I walked along the Walk of Fame then headed back to my hostel for an early night.

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  • RIP Robin Williams *

Apparently my early night was a little too early as I was awake at 4am and bored, so I got up as quietly as possible (not the easiest thing to do when you’re on the top bunk in a room of 6…!) and drove up to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sun rise.

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It is truly amazing what you can see when you’re awake 4 in the morning in Los Angeles. I saw something being filmed, a movie or TV programme, in a gas station, I got to see the beauty of Griffith Park from the observatory and the pure, silent, unpolluted view of Los Angeles as all her lights twinkled in the early morning darkness.

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I saw a guy propose to his girlfriend, she clearly had no idea it was happening, and as the sun rose over the nearby mountains, the mysticism of Los Angeles faded away in the astounding beauty and power of the morning glow.

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I particularly enjoyed an old Chinese man, ignoring the sunrise and staring, full-bodied at the moon as her light begin to diminish. There was something traumatic about the whole thing. It was almost as if he was contemplating his own life and how much or little time he might have before his own light fades…

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I took lots of pictures of the sun rising over the hills and after the initial beam of sunlight had hit the high rises and the city was bathed in the morning light, I got back in the car to get away from the hordes of people that had suddenly arrived and drove to Venice beach to enjoy some sea air and a casual walk on the beach and over the little bridges along the canals.

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I only got a short amount of time for parking so I had to cut my walk short and made my way back to the hostel to catch up on my missed sleep before driving to Newport to go whale watching.
Now, in order to get to the port to get on the boat to go whale watching, I had to drive to Balboa Island: the weirdest place I’ve ever seen. It was almost like none of it was real. Like the Truman Show meets Pleasantville, but so much more expensive. People were doing water sports and lounging on their private boats whilst I sat in my car on a 3 car ferry to get across the water to the dock, just like the car ferry in Jaws! So weird.

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The boat trip was pleasant enough, I saw a whale, from a distance and some dolphins, yet it wasn’t as enchanting as I’d hoped for, but pleasant enough. I got back onto the 3 car ferry, being the first car is the scariest thing of all as you stare bewildered at the minimal chain supposedly preventing you from diving engine first into the water, drove back to my hostel and had another relatively early night.
The next day I went to Universal Studios and I have to say, as good as it is, it’s ridiculously overpriced for what’s on offer and you have to pay for parking,
even after the extortionate entry prices! $16 for basic, general parking!
I packed some food and a big bottle of water as I wasn’t paying their prices for food and drink but luckily everything else was included in the exorbitant ticket price!
Plus, on the rides in the lower lot, they have a single rider entrance so if you’re travelling alone like I was or you don’t mind getting separated from your group/friends then you basically walk to the front of the queue to fill up empty seats on the rides. I walked straight past the 30 minutes wait like for the Jurassic Park Water ride and literally stepped straight on! Winner!

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Jurassic Park and the Transformers ride (also with a single rider line) were by far the best, and the Waterworld show was great but the Mummy ride was a cheap, poor-man’s ghost house. It was boring and a total waste of time. The only thrill was the accelerated start, it was downhill from there, both figuratively and literally.

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The Studio Tour was pretty interesting and definitely worth doing, but the queue was crazy long after 11am, so my advice would be to do that first. The Shrek 4D experience was pretty good too!

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All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the day but it is an expensive outing, especially for families without a well-stocked picnic basket and an inability to say no to the excessive souvenir shops and tack sellers!

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Now it sounds like I had a horrible time, which just isn’t the case, at one point some street cleaners started performing the most incredible dance routine, I just don’t understand why places with such high footfall need to be so expensive! Grinds my gears!

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I went for a walk down Fairfax Avenue after parking my car in the hostel’s minimal underground parking so as to not lose the space! I got falafel and hummus for dinner and some sushi for the following day and then chilled out.
The next day I did a Hollywood tour, they took you to famous people’s houses, not that you could see anything, but it was relatively informative and fun, if somewhat pricey for the gift of looking to famous people’s very high gates and fences.

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I then drove to the La Brea Tar Pits to see some fossils before going back to the hostel for a late lunch of sushi; some writing and a little TV before free BBQ and drinks in the Tiki Lounge!

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The next day I packed up and checked out of the Banana Bungalows and went to meet the girls for breakfast I had eggs benedict and it was crazy delicious! We went to the Blu Jam Café and clearly made an excellent choice as there was a queue down the street about 10 minutes after we arrived.

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After that, I said goodbye to the girls for the last time and began my drive to Yosemite.

Posted by Lady Mantle 19:36 Archived in USA Tagged sunrise expensive universal_studios walk_of_fame rodeo_drive sushi whale_watching l.a. solo_traveller la_brea_tar_pits hollywood_boulevard griffith_park_observatory balboa_island single_rider fortune_cookie it's_so_fluffy jurassic_park_ride waterworld_show Comments (0)

The Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas

And the joys of renting a car in a foreign country!

sunny 34 °C

My flight from New Orleans to Atlanta didn't take very long, but after the 3 hour flight to Phoenix and the 4 hour drive to Flagstaff, I was knackered!
I picked up my rental car at Phoenix airport - sounds simple enough but I'd had to cancel a previous rental agreement because the US Customs decided that my international drivers permit was not important enough to actually deliver and even now, after 6 months, it still hasn't been delivered! But my friends in NOLA advised me that rental companies barely ask for it, so I took the risk by booking with another company that wasn't asking for an IDP and I was away!

Now in Britain, we drive on the right side of the car. In China and in America, on the left side. Now I've driven a car in China, but having sat in taxis and friends cars, I was familiar with the right hand drive, automatic gear box stuff, plus Michelle had been kind enough to let me drive a little in New York so I was confident that I wasn't going to die!

Oh my god, how I had missed driving! Being on the wrong side of the car meant nothing, I was driving again and I had forgotten just how much I enjoy driving! Then I realised just how long roads in America are and just how far away everything is and well, my newly rekindled love of driving soon died out! So as soon as I reached Flagstaff, I checked into an over-priced and totally not worth the money or my time motel, but salvaged the experience by having the scrummiest Greek food at Alpha and Omega on Route 66 for dinner before having an early night, ready for the Grand Canyon in the morning and the big old drive to Vegas!

I got up around 6 am, showered, had a little breakfast, checked out of my room and head out towards the Grand Canyon.
The roads in the US are so long and wide and seemingly never-ending!
I eventually got to the Grand Canyon, paid my $25 car fee and parked up near the visitors centre.
I followed signs towards Mathers Point and was subconsciously picturing what I was about to see.
I was wrong.
My mind could not produce the sheer magnitude and vastness of the chasm before me.
I was literally speechless, I don't even think a 'wow' uttered forth from my parted lips, more of a squeak peeped out.
It is truly an incredible sight to behold. I felt so insignificant against that backdrop, and oddly serene.
There's something comforting and calming about looking at the Grand Canyon that even I have difficulty describing.

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I walked along the trail for a while before getting on a free shuttle bus that takes you to other points along the rim, all equally stunning.
I nice Korean lady offered to take a picture of me on my phone standing precariously close to the edge but feeling unafraid of the abyss below me.

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I felt nothing bad could happen at the Grand Canyon, with so much beauty surrounding me.
I stayed and walked around for about an hour and a half, then in true me-as-a-tourist fashion, got in my car and drove away as hordes of cars desperately tried to find parking spaces.
My advice to anyone visiting the Grand Canyon would be to arrive early, that way you will be blessed as I was with minimal people and maximum parking options!

~ ~ ~

I began driving to Vegas and it wasn’t until I saw a sign for it that I realised the Hoover Dam was on route, so I stopped there for 20 minutes ($10 for the privilege to park!), took a few snaps and then left as there were no more tours that day.

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I think one man was hoping to recreate the dam at home, at least I can only imagine as such given the number of photos he was taking of roughly the same area!
By the time I reached Vegas I was almost out of gas and had been driving on and off for about 8 hours!
Things are not as close as they look on maps!
I found my hotel and had a much needed early night.

The next day I didn’t really do much; I went to a 50’s Diner for pancakes at 1pm and then chilled out in my room watching T.V. I obviously needed the sleep because another early night later and it was Tuesday!

I’d booked tickets for Cirque du Soleil on livingsocial.com - a great website for discounted tickets and needed to collect them from the box office at Treasure Island so I got in the car and made my way down the strip.

Vegas is like Disneyland on crack.

For adults.

With hookers.

It’s bright and gaudy and you forget that you’re in the middle of the desert until you acknowledge how thirsty you are!
I parked (for free!) in the Treasure Island carpark, got my ticket, and then went for a walk.

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It is hot in the desert!

I went into Paris to get the monorail and was accosted by various people trying to sell me above and beyond expensive skin care products before eventually finding the monorail.

They’re very sneaky in Vegas, putting the thing you need miles away through a vast array of things you might want in shiny glass cabinets and brightly dressed window displays….!
I resisted temptation however, paid for my $5 one-ride monorail ticket and went back to Treasure Island.

I went back to my hotel for a 2 hour nap then headed out again to watch Cirque du Soleil.

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It was INCREDIBLE!
Everyone should go and see at least one of their many shows.
I was totally blown away. The physical endurance and ability those performers had is nothing like I’ve ever seen before; simply breath-taking.
I was going to walk around for a bit after the show, but the streets were heaving and I wasn’t in the mood for hen and stag do drunkenness so I headed back to my hotel!

The next day I went to Denny’s for brunch then did some laundry, called my bank who had once again blocked my bank card and the chilled out in my room.

Vegas as a solo traveller is a little boring but I suppose it’s what you make of it.
Meeting friends tomorrow so hopefully my opinion of Vegas will be improved…

I went for a late breakfast before going to the airport to pick up the girls and dropped them off at the Paris Hotel and Casino, gave them some time to wind down and get settled then met them in their hotel room to decide what to do.
We went casino hopping and had quite a bit of luck!

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We saw the fountain show at the Bellagio and walked up the strip for a while, admiring all the varying types of people and groups before admitting defeat and needing sleep so I said bye to the girls at the MGM Grand and went back to my hotel, ready for the next league of my journey!

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Posted by Lady Mantle 20:57 Archived in USA Tagged desert las_vegas bellagio rental_car pancakes treasure_island winning gambling monorail route_66 cirque_du_soleil the_strip the_grand_canyon the_hoover_dam paris_casino mgm_grand mystere fountain_show caeser's_palace the_hangover right_hand_drive left_hand_drive alpha_and_omega mathers_point stunning_views wonder_of_the_world transformers denny's livingsocial.com disneyland_on_crack hookers gaudy skin_care Comments (0)

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