A Travellerspoint blog

Bye USA and blogger followers

rain 10 °C

Last day in LA, Rob went to his last car museum and found it rather disappointing, no surprises there. Because I had been woken up so early got girls up too, they had a sleep in day before so no sympathy. Had it on good authority there was a cheap department store walking distance from hotel so we were on a mission one last shop. Well one last girls shop and then Rob came back so explained we really needed to get just a couple more things was sure there was one last bargain in USA to be had. Time was running out so jumped in taxi to nearest mall and just as well we did we clearly needed more extra baggage to take home. Note to Mila rest of the family has done lots of whinging about how much NAN bought for you, remember the practice drill...nan, nan, nan, nan xxxoooo.
Got back to hotel and had enough time to walk to grocery store called Ralphs to stock up on lollies..... to share of course. Have enough for whole of the Hills area and possibly Mt Waverley. Shuttle bus arrived and it was off to LAX, thank goodness no more LA freeways and crazy drivers. Fun half an hour redistributing luggage with OCD man (chloes words not mine) making sure all bags under 23kg, he did it and didn't even use his cane. Got through USA security no prob, very long runway time the plane taxied for 40 mins. Long uncomfortable flight, too hot and Eliza next to me, only way she would stop moaning is if I let her put her legs up on mine so she could sleep, the price you pay.
Arrived NZ on time one last frisk for me and drug test, Rob no issue, long flights don't agree with me I obviously look like a drugged terrorist. have to board our final flight soon and free 30 mins wi fi about to run out. Thanks for all the comments, has given us lots of laughs, have loved blogging it has made us feel close to home every step of the way. Love D and hangers on xox

Posted by Darlene Elder 12:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (6)

Childhood dream fulfilled:)

sunny 30 °C

Yesterday was our epic journey to San Diego Seaworld, we were meant to do it from Anaheim but just couldnt fit it in so waited till we were as far away as possible. It took us three hours to get there and we made it with only minutes to spare before Shamus show began. Pushed girls out of the car and said run as fast as you can and get us seats. Of course there were security checks and lady in front of me took ages getting through because she had an annual pass and that requires scanning your fingerprint and machine wouldn't recognize it. So selfish, she can clearly go anytime she wants but this was my one and only chance. Ready to scream when finally they let her through......forgot to mention ditched Rob at bag check because he owed me BIG time. Got to the stadium which is huge and realized hadn't thought through how I would find the girls, fortunately Eliza spotted me amongst the thousands of others filing in (must have been the steam coming from my ears). It was so worth it, Killer Whales are just superb it was so good to see them close up. Interestingly enough the trainers didn't get in the water with them probably due to recent misadventures. The show was amazing, there were 4, they are so clever so you watch them with a mixture of awe but also sadness that they are in captivity. We then went and watched at the underwater viewing area where we also saw a mother and calf swimming and playing together. Really lovely but very frustrating for our girls trying to get photo as everytime they came close to them they would roll onto their backs so you couldnt see their faces. Eliza felt this was deliberate....mums are so smart, dont worry Rob made the show in time too. Then we were off at a jog to see all the other attractions as we only had 4 hours before pick up. Haven't been for a very long time so probably shouldn't compare but it made our Seaworld look very basic. Eliza got to see her beloved otters who were all sleeping in the water, arms linked together like she had explained they do. There was a very cute little otter (small claw footed Asian variety) in one of the shows which got lots of laughs. We all fell in love with the beluga and pilot whales as well. No time for rides but figured out why I was so brave on other rides, my ability to cope with fear has developed as a result of near death experiences in taxis, shuttles, private cars etc. Even Rob can't believe how they drive over here and we all know how scary he is behind the wheel.
Rob up early ready for trip to another car museum and because h wasn't sure how long he would be offered to stay behind to finalize packing and do checkout because that's the kind of wife I am. Didn't figure on the fact he would wake me up to have breakfast with him before he left, can't win.
Now at LAX, survived final freeway experience, big day shopping today. One blog to go:( Dx

Posted by Darlene Elder 21:42 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Never get into a car with strangers?

sunny 32 °C

Actually did this blog yesterday on my phone and thought I had published it but it has disappeared:(. Ok let's see if I can remember yesterday is a long time ago. Headed off on another car adventure with Rob while girls got to spend day at hotel lounging around the pool. At least we got to use one of the hotel pools on this trip haven't been able to fit swimming into our busy schedule. Rob and I left with an address and no idea how to get there but decided someone at railway station would help us. Silly weren't we fancy thinking actual staff would be present. Decided to get a daily pass from ticket machine because we had no idea what any of the other options meant and decided to get off at an important sounding station. Got off at Union station, beautiful old very large building. Approached the first staff member I could see and she told me which line we needed to get to Pomona and our daily pass was not valid as we needed to travel on something like our VLine, so $37 later we had our tickets and a one and a half hour wait till the next train. Plenty of quality time for an animated discussion about the lack of research that had gone into this trip...yet again. Arrived at station to discover that train we would travel on was double decker so that provided a sort of positive. Heaps of security on the station and moving through carriages during ride. Sat opposite an old lady who was crazy, we think she was from Cuba, could only understand every 3rd or 4th word so Rob pretended to be engrossed in the passing scenery while I think she told me her life story laughing loudly every now and then when she found her story amusing. Another nice lady sitting close by attempted to help me out by making conversation with me saying she was from Alaska and was coming home to visit her mum after 6 years but there was no stopping this fruit loop. To sum it up nice lady and man sitting behind the crazy lady both laughing at my predicament. Nice lady got giggles so badly quickly made excuse that she needed to move closer to door before getting off at Pomona also. Finally got off the train nice lady still laughing as we walked along the station, pointed out where phones were and told us number for taxis. Station in middle of nowhere, no shade, phone doesn't work...sound familiar. Then nice lady calls out to us "mama says you can ride with us". Now I know what I would say to my girls if they dared get into car with strangers but this was the one exception to the rule, personal safety not as important as emotional wellbeing. Nice lady introduced us to her mum as "have no idea what their names are but they are from Australia and she reminds me of my best friend Aggie, you have the same smile". Nice, and car ride was very enjoyable lovely chat and Vivien Lee (mum) very sensible driver like myself so didn't need seatbelt anyway. She gave me a big hug when her daughter introduced me as no name. They insisted on taking us right to door of So Cal Speed Shop even though it was out of their way. Got to shop too early for workshop tour but because Rob had bought his body weight in t'shirts they took us on our own tour. Rob very happy and when he also actually got to meet Jimmy Shine and have his photo taken with him his life was complete. Very nice people in Pomona. Next stop National Hot Rod Association Museum, 2 hrs and 2 Tshirts later back in taxi to station, just missed the train but only had to wait an hour. Now more than 4 hours had passed since getting off at Pomona station, the trains all have several carriages so what are the chances we would bump into the nutty lady again, she was meant to be going through to San Bernadino several stations further on. You guessed it step into carriage and there she is, the man with cane took all the steps into upper compartment in a single bound while she rummaged through her bag not seeing us flee.... phew. Arrived back at hotel at 7.30 pm having left at 9am. Girls very keen to go to Santa Monica Pier, arrived at sunset, lovely spot with thousands of people. Got photos just as they were in The OC TV series except they had Eliza and Beth in them and of course obligatory ride on world famous ferris wheel, Rob and I stayed on ground with coffee trying to stay awake. Taxi trip home took forever, LA traffic is beyond belief, don't know how people deal with it every day. They appear to have more than enough freeways, they are layer upon layer, up to 6 lanes wide, weaving in and out of each other but are often at a standstill, which we discovered, even when its 11pm at night. Will tell you about today tomorrow, very important outing......Shamu:) Dx

Posted by Darlene Elder 23:04 Archived in USA Comments (2)

A trail of terrible photos.

sunny 34 °C

Since arriving in USA have lost count of the number of photos taken of us at various tourist locations it seems there is always a very fake looking backdrop and a photographer waiting at the entrance to each location or in the case of rides every one of them has a hidden camera ready to capture the scariest moment of the ride. Today at Universal Studios was no different and I am the first one to admit I looked especially hideous in the Jurassic Park ride as we plummeted straight down an 80 foot waterfall. Remember that song "I left my heart in San Francisco" change heart for brain because I have lost my mind, I have no idea why I have been on so many scary rides since coming to LA. I stopped going on rides in my 20s! There is this stupid voice in my head saying 'you have come all this way just do it" but now I am really regretting the disgusting photos that are scattered all over America.
Today's scariest ride was The Tomb of the Mummy, I was sure it was advertised as a virtual roller coaster but my family very kindly waited to tell me otherwise as the staff put us in our carriages because I definitely do not do roller coasters. It was terrifying, at one point I am sure I stopped breathing. The highlight was the Studio Tour where you drive around all of the sound stages and lots where they have cities from all around the world built that they modify as required. As part of this we went into a building and experienced Kong in 3D fighting with dinosaurs and then they turned on our tram appearing to damage it quite badly, it's amazing what they do with special effects. I was very excited to see a scene from Psycho as I am big Hitchcock fan, acted out as they have the Bates Motel permanently set up on one of the backlots and as we approached Norman Bates (very good look alike) gets out of original car, enters the motel and then reappears few minutes later carrying a body wrapped up in blood stained sheets and puts it in trunk (that is American for boot). He then looks up and suddenly notices all the tourists watching him, pulls out the knife and runs straight at Beth, we were in last carriage and Beth as usual had grabbed the best seat....karma! He was very creepy and girls kept turning around to see if he was following us and then as we turned to go up over a hill to a new area I looked back and there he was standing with knife in hand watching us having walked some distance from the motel and I alerted girls to the fact he was still there. Can't wait to make them watch it when we get home. We also had a close encounter with Jaws, saw Wisteria Lane and drove through a recent set from Bones. Had another perfect opportunity to embarrass girls when we watched Blues Brothers Show, lots of audience participation required much to their horror...... Let me see you shake your tail feather oooohhhhh twisting here we go loop de loop....
All in all another exhausting day as a tourist in USA Dx

Posted by Darlene Elder 19:29 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Wine in Chemists

sunny 31 °C

We left the happiest place on earth and came to the place where dreams come true. Have quickly discovered that LA is a very spread out. Everywhere else we have been has been fairly compact and you can pretty much walk to most of the attractions or jump on public transport but not so easy here, you really need a car, but after experiencing the freeway system as a passenger the thought of driving it is not a dream we want to come true. So we are going to have to rely on taxis and tour companies, not very economical but practical, was going to say safer but can't possibly mention taxis and the "s' word in the same sentence.
Our hotel is just minutes from Universal Studios and we can get a shuttle bus so that's handy, but everything else we hoped to do is long way away so could be challenging, expect some family arguments in next few blogs, we don't cope very well when we don't know exactly how to get somewhere and everyone somehow has a different interpretation of the map.
Today we took a tour in an interesting vehicle, it was like Robs work van with the roof cut off it and seats installed with vinyl canopy to provide shade. Very comfy way to travel actually and we were only people on it but soon noticed many others on the roads once we got going. We visited, Beverley Hills, Bel Air, Fairfax and Hollywood. Yes we saw the Hollywood sign, went down Rodeo drive which is very pretty, have decided that Americans are very good at planting beautiful floral displays in all of their major cities/attractions and there is no expense is spared in the plants they use. The movie star homes we saw were so numerous it is difficult to remember them all but will give it a go: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Hefner Playboy mansion, JLo, Michael Douglas/ Katherine Zeta Jones, Michael Jackson (rental that he died in), Peter Falk, Lana Turner, Elvis's LA mansion, Tom Cruise, Jack Lemmon, Will Smith, Hilton family, Robbie Williams, Nicholas Cage etc etc. Sadly many of the old homes are being pulled down and replaced with new modern mansions, apparently no one is taking measures to protect the old Hollywood architecture which I love. It was vey sad when the guide pointed out an empty block and said that is where Frank Sinatra's house used to be. Most of the houses you can barely see anything apart from the driveway and gardens but others are quite open. The streets are all narrow and windy with heaps of trees, really beautiful areas. There are security vehicles everywhere and apparently when paparazzi are stalking someone there may also be hot food vans set up so they can eat and harass at the same time...not that we can talk trying to peer over their fences. We also saw where a number of scenes from movies were made like the car race in Grease! Who would have thought a concrete 'drain' would be so photo worthy, the water running down the middle of it is actually the LA river.
We stopped in Fairfax at a shopping area with a farmers market, we have seen these markets across the states and while at home they tend to run just on a weekend over here they are open 7 days a week. They are a bit like a small Vic market with lots of eating areas and food stalls. Fruit and veg is so cheap over here particularly organic. Then it was off to Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Movie star handprints at Chinese theatre, saw where Oscars are held and did it all with a million other people. Handprints were bit disappointing in that they look a bit like what people do when laying concrete in their own backyard, get a stick and write your name in it, apply hands and feet, not as professionally presented as I had thought but didn't take away from thrill of walking where people like Carey Grant, Paul Newman, Natalie Wood, Kim Novak etc had been. It is difficult to find particular names as they are all randomly placed, old with new etc so you need alot of time to look and we had half an hour. The stars on the footpaths go for blocks so girls could be seen frantically running up and down each side of the road trying to get as many photos as they could.
Tour took 4 hours and gave us a good overview of these famous areas,you could do it yourself, there are maps available for you to drive around and look at celebrity houses yourself but imagine the arguments then.
This evening we walked to group of shops near hotel as we had noticed a chemist and Rob needed some cough mixture. He was a bit nervous about purchasing anything because over here whenever they advertise any medicines on the TV they recite all of the possible side affects and a long list of who shouldn't take a particular one, presumably to avoid litigation, but I assured him it is exactly the same as what we have at home we just dont like to dwell on the negatives when choosing medication. In other words just take the bloody medicine and stop coughing! Or payback for the frozen wine...... Imagine my delight when I noticed at the end of the aisle there was a very large array of wines.......... finally proof of it's medicinal benefits and even better no warnings attached Dx

Posted by Darlene Elder 22:24 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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