California Dreaming (10)

Well today has been a real eye opener. I’ve seen some things I never expected to see. I also was surprised by some of the most famous Los Angeles sights, unfortunately not always in a good way.

Los Angeles sight seeing

Today we took a tour of the city with Surf City Tours who are based in Santa Monica. I have to say that the service that they provided was excellent. Our guide Garrett was excellent, both in his knowledge and his manner. The tour was on a small open sided covered bus with only six of us, so felt very personal. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to visit the city.

Our first part of the tour was around the areas where the stars live and fiming locations, with our guide pointing out various houses along the way and giving various funny stories.

Our first stop was The Grove and Farmers Market, which is a very pretty area, with a lovely garden area, high street shops and then the Farmers Market, which housed food of every description.

We then moved on to the Hollywood sign. Now this was the first surprise, that you can’t actually get anywhere near it. Maybe that was quite naive of me. However we went to a great viewing point, where you could see the city in all its glory and also take photos with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Our next stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now again I  may have been a bit naive but I expected this to be a very glamorous area, as you see it on the TV. It was actually (no offence) quite dirty, very busy and at the side of a main road. It’s also crowded with people trying to sell you cd’s, beggars and people dressed up wanting you to pay them to take a photo. The best part was seeing the hand and footprints outside the Chinese theatre. The whole thing was very interesting, but not at all what I expected.

On the other hand, our next stop lived up to expectations, Rodeo Drive. Very exclusive shops, fancy cars, very clean and well kept. We walked down the street, but didn’t go in any of the shops or make any purchases.

Santa Monica Pier

After the tour we walked along the pier at Santa Monica. This was the kind of thing that you expect of a pier and we even had a ride on the Ferris wheel, well because you just have to.

Venice Beach/Muscle Beach

We had read the guide books and knew that this would be a “diverse” place, but nothing could have prepared us for this. There were craft stalls, which were genuinely pretty, but these were interspersed with bizarre characters, selling odd bits or simply asking for your money.

It felt as if you needed to hold on to your bag/wallet/camera at all times. I expected bohemian or even gothic, but this was something else. Many of the people appeared to be homeless, have mental health issues, drugs/alcohol problems or all of them.

Muscle Beach was a fenced in area housing an outside gym. There were no bronzed gods, no roller skating beach babes and no feeling of health and outdoor life.

We walked back to the car as quickly as possible. I’ve worked in some scary places in my time, but this beat them all hands down.

I know that tourists will continue to visit, just as we did, but if I could give any advice to anyone travelling I would say give it a miss. That’s the only place I would say this about in the whole of our travels here in California.


California Dreaming (9)

We’ve had a great day today at Universal Studios in Los Angeles today. We arrived as the park opened and left as it was closing (we like to get our money’s worth, after all we’re Yorkshire folk)

First stop Hogwarts

As we had tickets that allowed us into the park an hour early, when only The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is open, that gave us a chance to have a look around and ride on the Forbidden Journey. This was so much fun and we had a great laugh.

We then went on the Studio Tour, which is a 45 minute visit around the lots where filming has taken place for some many films in the past. We also got to see some of the sets and special effects.

Next was a ride on the Simpsons and a visit to the stunt show Waterworld.  Again both were really impressive

Bravery in the Walking Dead

Although I am the only one in our group who watches The Walking Dead, I persuaded everyone else to go with me. I had scared myself half to death before I even got in there!

Basically you walk through a building which has been taken over by the dead. Much of it is animated, but there are also live actors who jump out at you or reach to grab you as you go past.

Needless to say I gripped my husband’s hand and screamed my head off all the way round. Our friends were behind, but the funniest thing was when I turned round, a total stranger who had gone in on her own was clinging on to them for dear life!

By the time we came our we were all a little hoarse and slightly hysterical.

Rides and characters galore

The rest of the afternoon was spent travelling on the other rides, including Despicable Me, The Mummy, Transformers and Jurassic Park. It would be hard to say which was my favourite as I enjoyed them all.

Around the park we also met a number of characters, which all added to the fun of the day.  We also visited the special effects show.

All in all we had a great day. We didn’t reallly have to queue for anything and we got to do and see everything that we wanted to.

At the end for the day we drove back to the hotel, showered and then went down for pizza, sitting outside by one of the fire pits. A perfect end to a perfect day

California Dreaming (8)

Yesterday we had a slightly lazier day in Santa Barbara. In the morning we went for a walk into town, called for some breakfast and then climbed to the top of the Courthouse Tower to look at the amazing view over the city. The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool in the glorious sunshine. I’m the one in the shade reading as I burn too quickly sitting out in the sun. However it was lovely to be out in the warm sunshine, having an occasional dip in the pool.

In the evening we something to eat and then a walk on the pier. We then had a coffee sitting on the balcony before another good nights sleep.

A long day’s drive

Today we set off on the long drive South towards Los Angeles. Some of it was really pretty, especially Paradise Cove where we stopped off for brunch at the beach restaurant. Because it was Sunday and such a hot day the coast road was extremely busy and we struggled to find anywhere else to park on the beaches on the way, so we continued our journey and will hopefully get chance to drive back and see some of the things we have missed.

I definitely underestimated just how big Los Angeles is and how much of a drive there would be to the places that we want to visit, compared to the drives that we have already done. A lot of the outskirts of Los Angeles away from the beaches is very industrial, so not very scenic.

We are staying at the Regency Hyatt at Huntington Beach which is a huge hotel, situated just across from the beach. The rooms are beautiful and luckily we are staying for three nights.

We’ve got a busy couple if days ahead, so it’s out for tea and then an early night as we have to be up early tomorrow to travel to Universal Studios. Can’t wait!