Friday, 25 January 2013

The Expected Journey Part 4: Los Angeles and Disneyland

So timing is everything in life, and being the hyper-organised people that we are, C2 and I pulled into Culver City for dinner and then found the carpark at LAX's Terminal 2 exactly 30 minutes ahead of our 16-year old niece's arrival.  We collected her and carried on a further 45 minutes to our hotel in Anaheim at the gates of Disneyland.

Again, being manically organised, we had purchased a North American GPS whilst in Canada and a darn good thing because ANYONE who can figure their way around the maze of Los Angeles freeways without one deserves a medal.  I think we changed freeways six times between LAX in Westchester County and Anaheim in Orange County.

A couple of Star Wars geeks imitating Wookies, Yoda and R2D2

The next six days were spent in a blur of being tourists and trying to find the balance between entertaining a 9-year old boy and a 16-year old girl.   Our first day at Disneyland was unfortunately the last day of the school holiday which translated into fierce queues at some rides but we managed with good humour and good shoes.  I hear the Star Wars simulator was awesome, however,  I only witnessed 10 seconds of it before I had to scrunch my eyes closed and grip the handles for fear of vomiting over everyone.  Good thing C2 has an iron stomach.

C2 and J had a ball on Space Mountain and other roller coasters before I (and even The Niece's rolling nausea) finally convinced them to queue up for "It's a Small World".  Funnily enough, that queue only took 3 minutes.  They all rolled their eyes but indulged me nonetheless.  We watched the evening fireworks from the balcony of our rooms, much to J's delight. 

Next up was Venice Beach which was fascinating for its insight into California counter culture and also for its unassuming realness.  Lots of interesting "smells" too.  After a walk on the broad beach and an amazing lunch at an organic cafe on the Venice boardwalk, we headed to nearby Santa Monica beach and pier, also known as the end of Route 66.  The pier was fairly touristy but very pretty once the sun set.

Venice Beach

The ferris wheel on Santa Monica pier

Santa Monica pier at sunset

Santa Monica pier at night.  Muscle Beach in the foreground
 On day 3, we headed into Los Angeles and Universal Studios.  This was a highlight for us.  Universal Studios is part theme park, part genuine movie/tv lot, and part kitsch at its best.  We headed straight to the brand new super simulator Transformers 3D ride.  I hear it was awesome, but had to close my eyes and grip the handles about 10 seconds into it for fear of vomiting over everyone again.  C2 and J went back three times in a row until the queues built up.  The Niece and I just waved at them wanly.  Same deal with the Simpsons simulator which J claims was the best.

From no flood to flood!

The back lot tour was great fun as we toured sets from War of the Worlds, Psycho, Jaws, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Mummy, and Desperate Housewives.  As I worship at the altar of Peter Jackson, the 360 3D tour through some of the King Kong set narrated by him was my personal highlight.  The somewhat dated but still impressive WaterWorld live production left J speechless while the Jurassic Park ride and 84-foot water drop left him gasping with laughter.  The haunted house, on the other hand, populated with actual people doubling as mummies and ghosts, left him slightly traumatised.


Psycho's Norman Bates...he chased our tour too!

War of the Worlds plane crash scene - scary!

A mummy from the haunted house, not sure J was sure he was pretend

With the hunky main character, Marriner; he even looks like Kevin Costner!

The following day, we headed back into L.A. for the requisite walk to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theatre, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Only thing I can comment about this part of Hollywood is that the box is ticked.  It is seriously seedy!  From here, we drove up into the Hollywood Hills and did an hour's trek.  This was another highlight.  Away from the madding crowds, we really enjoyed seeing the city stretched out below us, with the Pacific Ocean and the beaches of Malibu twinkling in the distance.  Late in the afternoon, we drove into Beverley Hills and Rodeo Drive.  Comments?  Well...tick.

Our final day had us back at Disneyland where we did EVERYTHING on the California Adventure Park side.  Multiple rides on the California Screamin' roller coaster (well honestly them not me...that vomiting thing again), the Cars high speed ride through Radiator Springs (awesome), the amazing Soarin' Over California simulator (didn't have to scrunch my eyes though might have still gripped the handles), and the remarkable live Aladdin show with the funniest genie this side of Robin Williams were all memorable.  C2 and The Niece finally gave up around 6:00 and headed back to the hotel.  J and I indulged our love of flumes by ending our day back at the Enchanted Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  Perfect way to end a near-perfect family day.

Thing 1 and Thing 2

The next day, we took The Niece back to the airport.  We killed our day at a large outlet mall where we sourced a few things that are cost prohibitive in Australia.  We headed back to the airport but thanks to some closed freeway ramps got lost and found ourselves in Compton.  Let me quote Wikipedia here  "The city of Compton as well as southern Los Angeles County in general is notorious for its heavy concentration of gangs and gang violence, such as the Bloods, the Crips, and Sureños, which all originated in the Los Angeles area."  Sigh...well that made for an interesting end to our time in L.A.

Los Angeles is a very very big city and we did a lot of driving in it.  Still, I'm not sure we touched on the neighbourhoods that really make it a great place to live and work.  Now that we've done the touristy things, next time, I'll call upon some friends to help us see the real place.  For anyone visiting Los Angeles and Anaheim, it might be good to divide the trip so that you're not commuting between them and dealing with the distances and the intense traffic.

We had a fantastic time in California and can't wait to explore more.  Next time...more Carmel, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Elizabeth...


Elizabeth said...

While I'm glad that you saw the requisite sights that help to make Los Angeles famous, the next time you come, I must show you what truly makes it a fantastic city and one of the greatest in the world! Your photos are almost psychedelic (one needs sunglasses to view them!).

Jen said...

Ok, you've exhausted me. I don't know how you guys did it all!

Laura Wright said...

Love, love, love Thing 1 and Thing 2! But anyone who stands in a "queue" as opposed to a "line" has been away from home too long. ;-)