A Travellerspoint blog

Day 8

Sightseeing in Los Angeles, Hollywood and Santa Monica

overcast 19 °C
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Again I will skip to the end. Well we made it home in one piece and it was a crappy day of sightseeing and very disappointing given that we were celebrating my mothers birthday.

Last time we were here we did a great day tour around LA, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Hollywood. That tour no longer operates and has been replaced by both of the big companies with a double decker bus hop on, hop off itinerary. We used Starline Tours for this trip and had a 24hr pass for the hop on, hop off. Long Beach to visit the Queen Mary is no longer serviced, but is covered in a totally separate tour altogether. The locations of Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Downtown LA are called the red, yellow and purple lines respectfully. Each line is advertised online as taking 2 hours to circumnavigate.

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We arrived in LA and started the tour on Hollywood Boulevard. The plan for the day was to cover two zones. The red of Hollywood and the yellow line down to Santa Monica. Lunch on the pier and enjoying the pacific beach views was something we were looking forward to. We left on the red line at after 10 am and reached Santa Monica after Noon.

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After lunch on the historic pier we missed the 2pm bus by a few minutes so we waited for the next which was due 30 minutes later. This is when everything went pear shaped.

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The bus came 10 minutes late and we arrived at the change point of the yellow and red bus lines at 3.30pm. As these route run in an anti-clockwise direction, we still had more than half of the red line to travel to reach the start point where our transfer bus to Anaheim was expecting us and due to depart for home at 5pm. Holy crap we were in strife. At the changeover point we spoke to the company representative. This all takes place on a sidewalk of a backstreet behind the Beverly Hills City Council Building. It's the middle of no where!

Thankfully the staff of Starline were tremendously helpful and went out of their way to ensure weren't left behind. Our transfer driver met up with us at Farmers Market so we were on the right bus to get home. I was very relieved and felt a generous tip to our driver was in order. As we didn't get to do any shopping, coming up with the tip wasn't a problem. Along with us was one other Aussie Family who had the same plans as us and came unstuck time wise. Our biggest disappointment was we didn't get to do any sightseeing other than 5 minutes along the Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theater. While Paul and I had seen it before, Mum and the boys hadn't. We were really peeved off!

After talking to the other Aussie Family we concluded that we had 7 hours to travel the distance what is advertised as 4 hours. The actuality is it is more like 5½ hours of travel. The map and details that Starline provide, say that you should not attempt to cover more than 2 sectors per day. Well I advise you do one. If you are staying outside of LA, definitely only one. Even if you sat on the buses and never got off, we would never have made it to the start point in time (doing the yellow and red lines together). The hopping on and off and changing buses is a time waster that works against you especially when you don't get to start until after 10pm and need to be on the shuttle back home again by 5pm.

The rushing, the being scared of being stuck in LA with no way of getting back (we have since heard that it would cost @$200 to get a taxi back to Anaheim) ruined the day. It sucked. I want a sit down and drive me around tour that says you got 5 minutes to look around before we move to the next sight. No time wasting and no waiting for a late bus or missing a bus that came early. This new system only works for those staying in LA.

What I saw I enjoyed and what I missed seeing just makes me peeved. Looking forward to a more structured day tomorrow and a stroll around Universal Studio's.

Posted by petty1912 22:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 7

Disney California Adventure

sunny 21 °C
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I will just skip right to the end....we just had the most fabulous day! It was a really fun day.

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Today we spent a whole 9 hours wandering the streets of Disney's California Adventure. While it was a long day, we got to go on heaps of rides and the queues and crowds were a lot less congested to that of the neighbouring Disneyland. In all, it was a lot more of a enjoyable and comfortable experience.

Like Disneyland, California Adventure is made up of 8 different theme sectors. The newest and by far the most popular is Cars Land. Cars, as those movies made famous by the Disney Pixar company.

We arrived arrived 9.30am which is 30 minutes after the gates had opened a headed straight to the Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land. Straight away, we knew we were in trouble. The queue for the Fast Pass to this ride was already over 200 metres long (it started at Buena Vista Street) and the pass would allow you to ride from 1.15 - 2.15pm. We kept walking, thinking it can't be that bad, surely. When we arrived at the ride itself the queue wait was 90 minutes. So we turned around and decided to have a walk around Cars Land instead. About an hour later Paul decided to go and get a Fast Pass for the ride which by then was valid for 5.10 - 6.10pm. Now that's popular!

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Cars Land was packed, but not chaotic like Disneyland. People were enjoying the views, but moving around each other with out any hassles . There is so much to see that it is sensory overload. My boys, didn't know where to start and then it was a case of we could just stay in this section for the whole day. Thankfully, we strolled on.

We went on most of rides on Paradise Pier the notable exception being the California Screamin' roller coaster. The boys were too scared, so we passed it up. We caught a couple of shows as we were walking around, but generally we had a great amble around and found as the queues were on average only 5 - 10 minutes long we took the opportunity to jump on a ride.

So what was the stand out? Cars Land! Most definitely. It feels like you've been picked up and transported into this make believe world. The section is relatively new, only opening in June this year. It is easily the biggest thing in the two parks and is an amazing place to wander. We walked the streets in the morning, but at night with all the neon type lighting it is magical. So make sure you visit it at night! I love the Soarin' Over California ride, but I have to say that the new Radiator Springs Racers are a worthy winner in the best ride in the park.

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After a very long day we walked back home talking about the sights we saw and what we will go back to do again. We have a 4 day pass and have only used up 2 days, so we have plenty of time up our sleeves. Tomorrow we head to Los Angeles to do some sightseeing. The weatherman says there is a 40% chance of rain and cool winds, so it could be interesting. We've made no plans on what we will see, we figured that we will just wing it and see what the day brings. I hope it is just not too much rain.

Posted by petty1912 22:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 6

Disneyland

sunny 22 °C
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Today is the day that the boys have been waiting for the last nine months. We ventured to where the Walt Disney vision first started, the original Disneyland. As we are staying directly across the road form the park, the high walls, interesting lights and rooftops of all the different buildings have been teasing us since we arrived. There are flags, buses with photo's covering them, rubbish bins with pictures etc, advertising the park. All this sucks you in, that you can't help but be swept up in the the hype and excitement.

As you enter the grounds this continues. Signs everywhere!

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Then the lines start. First it is security bag checks, then it's ticketing. Finally it is for every ride. These lines start with as little as a 20 minute wait and can go as high as a hour long or more wait. For those short of patience you can go to a Fast Pass machine, put in your park ticket and it gives you a ticket with a time window in the future (say 10.30am - 11.30am) for you to take the ride. You simply enter through a separate entry and go to the head of the queue. After waiting for a few rides, your patience can wear thin, especially if you are a child. We will use that more in the next few days.

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Disneyland is a truly wonderful place. People of all ages can't help embrace the inner child that is aroused when you walk under the famous sign reminding you of where you are about to enter.

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Last time we were here was in September, 2001. We pretty much had the park to ourselves compared to today's crowd. It was hard work walking around and especially hard given that every second person was either pushing a stroller or in a mobility scooter. Strollers ended up being the bane of me today as while stroller bays are provided, some people just park anywhere they like usually rendering available seating inaccessible and unusable. Being on your feet dodging people can be hard work. But, it's a family draw card, so you take the bad with the good. That said, those 1.5m wide twin prams should be banned!

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We took quite a few rides. They came in all types and level of adventure. The big thumbs up for today goes to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Sam screamed from start to finish, while the rest of us laughed ourselves silly. I thoroughly enjoyed the submarine voyage to find Nemo and the Jedi Training Academy at Tomorrowland is very special. I finally got to ride in the famous "tea cups" with my Mum and it felt very nostalgic. They were under maintenance when we were here last, so I was pretty happy with that.

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The park consists of 8 different lands or sections. Each with a theme and signature ride or event. Each with their own dining experience or cuisines and shops for gifts and souvenirs. We took the Disneyland Railroad at the front gate when we first arrived to orientate ourselves and get a sneak view of where the boys wanted to head to first. This worked for us well, but we should have used it more to move between the different areas when the crowds got thick.

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If you want to see the big parade at 4pm, my advice is to pick a spot at 3pm and wait. We walked and walked for ages and ended up giving up and leaving when it started as there was no vantage point to view it. Again the strollers, etc made it impossible to see and move. So plan ahead or have a really good short and sharp exit strategy. That's good advice that we will follow next time.

It was a fabulous day in all. Hoping our legs get plenty of rest tonight as tomorrow we are heading next door the the Disney California Adventure.

Posted by petty1912 21:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 5

San Diego to Anaheim

sunny 21 °C
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We are all hopping on a mini bus (American version of mini that is) and heading north to Anaheim this morning.

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It is about a two hour drive, depending on the traffic. After a last and late bagel breakfast at Hazelwood's Deli we packed up and waited for our 11am pick-up. We shared the trip with six other people which was very uneventful and as we were more refreshed for this leg, we got to enjoy the scenery and not nod off to sleep every ten minutes. How to describe the surrounds? Well it's desert like. Sandy looking hills with, long grass and not alot of trees. Of course it is built up for the majority of the drive, but there are sections where the road hugs the coastline and others where there is not much of anything at all. Not counting the 8 lane freeway that is. The most interesting feature would most probably be Camp Pendleton.

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So for all you HBO buffs, we were driving down the Interstate-5 and as we near the base, a sign tells us we are on Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Memorial Highway. For those of you who haven't seen the HBO mini series The Pacific, you need to read up on John Basilone. Anyway, I missed taking a photo of the sign although I did see it and it's patriotic bunting decorating it as we were speeding by.

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Camp Pendelton is huge! We drove for about 25 minutes at freeway speed before we came to what I think was the northern boundary. For that drive there was always some building, tower, village or even war games going on. There were amphibious activities on a grand scale out on the beach and in the ocean. My favourite sight was a sign by the side of the road that read "this area is patrolled by air patrol". Yep, big ones with huge guns!

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Anyway, it was nice to see the marines out training and getting combat ready. Facilities like these are whole communities, where families live on base. It did seem to me to be a different world.

Not long after that we made Orange County, then Anaheim where we will be based for the next seven days. We are staying at a family friendly hotel called the Howard Johnson Anaheim that is a 8 minute walk from the front gate to Disneyland. It isn't 5 star or particularly flash, but it seems nice (7 out of 10 for now).

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After doing some chores, we went and stocked up on essentials and had dinner at Macca's for the first time on this trip. Consensus was the food tasted the same (though I thought mine tasted better) and Beedo thought her huge $1.20 milkshake was a ripper. Food and groceries here in the US is cheaper in general. A coffee under $3. My Twining's English Breakfast teabags at home cost over $5, where as here I paid $2.24. Guess it is all relative to the wages earned compared to ours. Anyway we had a rather boring day, but given what lies ahead, we needed it. Can't wait for tomorrow. Sam and Pat are very excited. Hoping their little feet hold out!

Posted by petty1912 07:59 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 4

Downtown San Diego and the USS Midway

semi-overcast 18 °C
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After walking almost constantly for two days, the boys needed a rest. So we figured we would take a day off to look around the waterfront and downtown which are all in walking distance. Last time we visited, Paul and I walked each day down to Seaport Village. It's a little shopping village with very interesting shops and restaurants. It takes about 15 minutes to walk there from our hotel. The waterfront walk takes you past the cruise boat terminal, the bay cruise boats and the USS Midway museum and other naval memorials. It is an interesting walk so it can take a little longer. The shops and restaurants here are different from the rest of town and therefore worth the look. My mother likes collecting interesting hats, so she was in her element at the village hat shop. I went looking for lighthouse Christmas tree ornaments but ended up with a couple of sailing boat ones instead.

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We spent a couple of hours here before walking through the Gas Lamp Quarter. This historical neighbourhood in the downtown area contains 94 historical buildings, mostly built in the Victorian Era. Being a Saturday morning I expected it to be quite busy, but is quiet with most the residents enjoying a morning walk or a coffee at the local.

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We were making our way to Horton Plaza (Westfield) to do some more shopping. Sam's jeans are falling down from weight loss, so we need to find him a belt as a short term solution. This plaza has 4 to 5 levels of shopping, dining and cinemas. We had a quick walk around and grabbed some lunch before the 20 minute walk back down to the waterfront and the USS Midway.

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From our hotel room you can see the bridge island of the USS Midway. It is huge at almost 300 metres long. I won't go into technical detail of the ship as I will embarrass myself, suffice to say, she is a beauty. Being a naval town and one with plenty of naval history (hometown and birthplace of naval aviation, place where first military parachute jump took place, etc) there are a lot of serving and veterans of the marines and navy in town. The USS Midway Museum has a huge number of veterans working/volunteering, ensuring that your visit is a memorable one. There are former commanding officers giving talks on daily operations and interesting stories of times past.

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We spent just over three hours here, which was simply not enough. You need a whole day. There are dozens of different aircraft and thousands of nooks and crannies to explore. Even if you aren't a naval or aviation buff, there would be something here to amaze you. I loved the opportunity to walk her decks and learn a little of her history and of life amongst her crew. It was a fabulous few hours and equally as entertaining as our visits to the zoo and Sea world.

Tomorrow we farewell San Diego and make our trek north to Anahiem. Looking forward to seven days of Anahiem and Los Angeles associated mayhem and fun. I have been hearing that the in-room internet hasn't always been working at our next hotel, so we may be intermittently offline for a while. Rest assured we'll be back.

Posted by petty1912 08:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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