Sunday, January 24, 2010

USA trip Part 4 of 4 - Los Angeles, CA

We arrived in LA at around 8 pm on the 28th. My friend, Raj, came to pick us up from the airport, and we went to have dinner at Veggie Grill, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that was pretty good. Then, Raj drove us to his parents' house in Rancho Palos Verdes, ~ 30 mins outside downtown LA, on a nice hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We were tired from our trip, so we just had a brief chat with Raj's parents and sister before crashing for the night.

The next day, we decided to go to Disneyland! Raj had to work, so he took us to get a rental car, for the two days we were going to be in LA, before going to work. We got our rental car, a massive Ford Edge SUV, and got on our way to Anaheim. It took us about 45 mins to get to the Disneyland exit off I-5 but another hour to get from the freeway exit to the parking lot! The crowd of cars trying to get into Disneyland was just absolutely crazy, mainly because it was the holiday season! After a mindnumbingly slow crawl to our parking lot, we got on a shuttle bus to take us to the entrance of Disneyland. There, we had to wait in another line for ~ 20 mins to get our tickets. Then, we were in!

Disneyland Park was sold out for the day, so we had to first go to the California Adventure Park and could only go to Disneyland Park after 7 pm that night. Fortunately, spending time at the Adventure Park was not difficult because the lines for each of the rides was ~ 1 hour!!! Truly a test of patience. We managed to do a few rides like the virtual reality Soarin' over California, the Mickey swinging Gondola and Rushin' River whitewater rafting. It was even a 30 min wait to get food at a little Asian place inside the park! Absolute madness, really! However, despite the frustration of the massive crowds, we really had a fantastic time on the rides. Every one of them was thoroughly enjoyable, my favorite being the rafting ride! I got very wet on that ride, and used this excuse to buy a Disneyland sweatshirt as memorabilia.

Then, once it passed 7 pm, we decided to give up waiting another hour in line for the Hollywood House of Terror and chose to enter Disneyland Park, if only for a couple of hours. Right as we entered Disneyland Park, we realized the crowds at this Park were even more than the one at the Adventure Park! We walked around Main Street for a bit, absorbing all the madness around, and enjoying the colourful lighting that was still up in the spirit of Christmas. We walked through the home of Tarzan which was one of the rare, fairly sparsely packed parts of the park. We considered a few other rides like the Indiana Jones one and the Pirates of the Caribbean one but were put off by the massive waiting times (all in excess of 60 mins!) at these rides. Instead, given that it was already approaching 9 pm and we had about an hour's drive home, we chose to ride the famous Disneyland train around the whole park to get a quick snapshot of the whole park. We rode the train around the park back to the Main St station and decided to make our way out of the park, and caught the shuttle bus back to the parking lot. We grabbed some quick dinner at Subway before driving back home, and went to bed after a thoroughly entertaining but tiring day of sightseeing!

The following day, we went to Universal Studios. We left a bit earlier in the morning compared to the previous day, had a full breakfast at Denny's and began our drive to Universal Studios. At the start of the drive, I realized that I had forgotten my regular glasses at home so I'd have to wear my sunglasses the whole day (and night!). On top of that, it was an overcast day with intermittent showers, so there was really no need for the sunglasses! Oh well...

The drive to Universal Studios was only ~ 30 mins, and there was no real line for parking either. The poor weather might have discouraged some tourists from visiting the Studios that day, but not us! We got our tickets quickly from an automated machine and made our way inside. Based on Raj's advice, we decided to do the Studio Tram tour first up because we were told this was the highlight of the whole area. True to form, there was a good 30 min wait for the tram tour but it most definitely was worth it! The 45 minute tour took us through various outdoor sets used for movies like King Kong, Angels & Demons and Pirates of the Caribbean and TV shows like Desperate Housewives. There were super cool demonstrations from Fast & the Furious, Jaws and other random special effects. There's the one from Fast & Furious at the end of this post!

Afterwards, we went through the various rides on offer at the Studios - The Mummy Returns (a roller-coaster), Jurassic Park (a water ride), Terminator 3D (a 3-D show), Shrek (a 4-D show) among the various rides we enjoyed! The lines, thankfully, were all very manageable this time around so that allowed us to do many more rides than the day before. Finally, we went to a superb water-based special effects show called Waterworld, which involved stuntmen from several TV shows and movies, before heading back home in the evening. We rested for a while, freshened up and then went out with Raj for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Frascati. The food was terrific, and it was nostalgic to chat with Raj about our undergraduate days at Florida Tech. That was it for the 30th of Dec.

On New Year's Eve, we wanted to see Hollywood and Santa Monica beach, if possible, before boarding our return flight to Melbourne at 8 pm. So, we had a quick breakfast at home, and left with Raj in two cars to return our rental car. Unfortunately, Raj had some work to do that day as well so we went with him to his office first. There, we dropped him off and took his car to go to Hollywood while he got his work done. We took a little longer than expected to get to Hollywood because we got a little bit lost with our directions on the 110 freeway. Once we reached Hollywood Blvd, we parked the car at the start of the Walk of Fame stretch and started walking. Contrary to my expectations, the start of the Walk of Fame stretch was very see I was expecting the whizz-bang opulence of Hollywood everywhere! However, the neighbourhood clearly got more and more posh as we walked along the street, pausing whenever we saw a star on the pavement we recognized. We passed the Capitol Records tower and the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition en route, both interesting landmarks for completely different reasons.

Then, we reached Kodak Theatre, the home of the Oscars, at the heart of Hollywood. It was quite cool to see the board listing all the Oscar-winning movies by year, and we particularly enjoyed seeing Slumdog Millionaire on there for 2009. Then, we moved on to Sid Grauman's Chinese Theater, in front of which there were lots of artists masquerading as various celebrities and popular movie characters. The Wife took a photo with Spiderman and I took one with MJ! We also took pictures of the hand and footprints of various celebrities in front of the theater. Next, we went inside Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, and took a whole series of pictures with the life-size wax statues of our favorite stars, the highlights being our pictures with President Obama and Brangelina!

By the end of our tour of the wax museum, we were famished so we had some delicious pizza at California Pizza Kitchen in the Kodak Theater complex. By that time, it was already 3 pm so we decided to head back to Raj's office to pick him up and see what we could do next. On our way back, we got stuck in some rather heavy traffic on the freeway so it took us nearly an hour to get back to Raj's office on the north side of town. Since we had to be at the airport by around 5 pm, Raj advised that we should head straight there to avoid getting stuck in rush hour LA traffic. We were a little disappointed to miss out on seeing the beach but it was certainly better to be at the airport early than to have the tension of being late due to traffic.

So, Raj drove us to the airport and we reached there just after 5 pm, and said our thanks and goodbye to Raj. We then met with a cousin of the Wife, who came to LAX airport to meet us along with her in-laws. We spent a few minutes casually chatting with them, after we had checked our bags in. Just like on Christmas day, the crowd at the airport on New Year's Eve was absolutely ridiculous. Clearly, there are hordes of people like us willing to fly on popular holidays to get good deals on airfares! :-) So, we bid farewell from the Wife's cousin and co. and got in line for the security check. Almost an hour later, we made it through to our gate where we waited to board our VAustralia flight back to Melbourne via Sydney. The US trip was over! It was a truly memorable experience and I have just been able to relive the whole trip by means of writing these blog posts.

You can find the complete set of LA pictures here.


Super Babe said...

Ahhh, at last I know what the deal was with the sun glasses! LOL!

melbournemangai said...

My favourite rides were "The Mummy Returns (a roller-coaster)" and "Shrek (a 4-D show)". I was wondering what 4D meant but the special effects like sprinkling water on our face at times, our seats shaking-moving according to the movie effects constituted them! That was real fun..:)