Thursday, 20 September 2012

A week in San Francisco

A week, yes a whole week, we did a week in L.A. so why not a week in S.F.

We elected to stay out of town again, but this time we knew in advance that we were going to use the Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART).  It's a network of trains that criss crosses the whole of the greater San Francisco Bay area.  We could drive for 40 minutes, hop on the BART and be in town in another hour. Sorted. Now i know that sounds like a long time to travel, but it was no hassle and the trains where pretty comfy.

Day One, We spent the day on the local area, picking up some stuff, doing the odd job round the Rv, nothing interesting.

Day Two, we hopped on to the BART, blasted into town and hit the Wharf, starting at pier 1 and walking up to pier 40 ish, looking at the SeaLions that have taken up residence on Pier 39 for the last 22 years, looking at the Disney Wonder, a cruise ship that is currently in dock.  There is lots going on and lots to see, it's a touch cooler than what we have seen since being here and it's so nice not to be walking about cooking in our t-shirts.  When we got just past Pier 40 something I spotted a cycle hire place, so we did, two bikes, and a route that would take us over the Golden Gate Bridge, and to a ferry port on the far side of the bay and a ferry back to the near side.  The cycle was great, the views were awesome, and it'll go into the memory banks never to be forgotten.

Apparently we are about to cycle over that........

Day Three, A day off, well that was the idea, we ended up driving out to Berkley so I could pick up some spares for my AR Drone, and I'm glad we did, the area was really nice, so much so we stopped for lunch and had a nice walk about.

So this is mine. what you havin?

Day Four, Santa Cruz, or what some might know as Santa Carla, the alternate name was what it was called in the film 'Lost Boys' yes it's another film set.  We walked the beach, walked the pier, had a really nice day.

The parking lot and roller coster from "Lost Boys".

Day Five, Another day off, a proper day off, I've started to get really miffed with driving for hours every day, the stress of driving in town is getting to me.  So today I've refused to drive, or even go out in the car!

Day Six, Alcatraz & a visitor.
Ali here...My turn.

Alcatraz was my idea. It was somewhere i have always wanted to go. Again it has appeared in numerous movies. Plenty of film stars have walked the corridors of this infamous jail and lived to tell the tail. But its a pretty daunting place to be.
The Island was originally set up as a defence post for the bay and its first inmates where deserters and such like. Once the gold rush had died down and the "Defence Post" was no longer needed the military buildings where turned in to the jail we know now.
As you would expect its not a pretty place. Its a jail. its not supposed to be pretty. But its really not a nice place. There was a quote on one of the walls in the visitors shop. It said...

"If you break the rules, you go to prison.
If you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz."

This was a place for the worst offenders of its time, the most troublesome inmates. And it shows. The cells are 5x9x7 concrete boxes with bars on the front. D Block was solitary and although the rooms where actually bigger it was simply because the men where locked in 24/7, only being released once a week for a shower and change of clothes. The last 4 rooms on D Block are "Dark Solitary" and basically are a metal box with a toilet in. The lights where meant to be kept on in these 4 rooms but both guards and inmates alike stated they where never put on....

Now we all have our own opinions about incarceration. And i dont want to get into a debate about the living conditions of inmates. All i will say is, if i was ever jailed at Alcatraz, and lived through it, i dont think i would ever want to break the law again.....

The island is undergoing a lot of renovations. At the moment the iconic water tower at one end of the island is all wrapped up and is being restored. The original wardens house is just a derelict building, and the guards housing where they lived with their families, kids included, are also being restored. There is also a conservation order on parts of the island and its a national park where people volunteer to help the upkeep of the flora and fauna. But none of this really distracted from the reality of what was once a maximum security detention center for some of the most notorious criminals on the planet.

I think i can honestly say iv never been so fascinated and horrified at the same time.....

The walk from the dock.

Oh, and our visitor was the lovely Mr Byatt. Here on a 2 week training course for his new job. Bless him for traveling all that way for a cuppa. Love you Steve. xxx

Thursday, 13 September 2012

LA, Day Five, Lots.....

Day five, Disney Concert Hall, Walk of fame, Chinese theatre.

The Disney Concert Hall has to be one of the, if not the, most spectacular buildings we have ever seen.  Its flowing brushed stainless steel exterior, it's beautiful wooden interior go to make this building spectacular.  It's hidden secret though is an almost sold eight inch thick concrete box that encompasses the main auditorium, giving it the best acoustics in the world.  We were lucky enough to get to see in the main auditorium, which is not normally open to the public.  We took the free audio tour of the building, narrated by John Lithgow (an L.A. native) which gave us so many little insights into the building that you'd not get if you were to just wander about on your own.  We even ate our lunch in the garden that is part of the building, all be it on the second floor.
The main feature of the garden is a large water fountain, in the shape of a rose, made with thousands of bit's of broken Delft pottery, Walt Disney's wife Lilly commissioned the building and this rose was designed by the architect as a tribute to Lilly using her love for cheap Delft as inspiration.  Oddly though when he approached Delft pottery for the cheap "seconds" to use in the fountain they refused and instead supplied the 'expensive stuff', over 300 pieces of 'expensive stuff', which were then broken to make the mosaic fountain.......

The Walk of Fame, those pink stars embedded into the floor for many, many blocks along Hollywood boulevard. We got the metro to Hollywood and Vine to start our walk west towards the Chinese theatre, the stars are every few feet and most are names you'd recognise, with the odd one you don't.  We walked a few blocks to the Chinese theatre stopping to photograph just a few of the stars, the neighbourhood is another place that makes you think cheap and touristy, not the Hollywood you imagine.  The closer we got to the Chinese theatre the more up market things became as you'd imagine.  We gawped for a while at the hand and foot prints at the front of the theatre, at the architecture, the opulence, the crowds... There's now a small mall to the side of the theatre with views of the Hollywood sign, so we had the obligatory photo and walk about the overpriced shops before returning to the metro and back to the car.
Day six, day off (Today)
Doing the things we need to do before moving off tomorrow, catching up on blog posts etc :)

Farewell LA....see ya...wouldn't want to be ya......

The Disney Concert Hall

THE Auditorium, general public not allowed

The Chinese Theatre
The start of the walk of fame

LA,Day Four, Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks.

What can you say, anyone who has ever seen or owned a tv, even for a shortest measure of time, will have seen Vasquez rocks, you may not have known their name but their unique formation will have been imprinted on your minds eye for an eternity.

Receiving their name from a notorious bandit from the late 1800's who used them as a hideout to evade the authorities, they are an awesome sight to behold.  Jutting out of the earth at an obscure angle they give the sourunding area unique feel, transporting you from a daring cliff face in Zorro proclaiming his unity with the people to a far off planets surface where Captain Kirk battles a lizard king.  For geeks like us these images and all the ones in between (bonanza, Bill & Ted, flint stones, Paul) instantaneously flash across our minds when stood staring at the rocks.

For any non-geek out there it was very picturesque.

Packed lunch and AR Drone in hand we ventured up the rocks to find our pitch and bask in it's awesomeness, steeper than it looks we struggled to go up and opted to go around the main piece of jutting rock finding a crevice in the shade on one side to stop and eat some lunch.  Lunch done, AR Drone played with we returned to the car.
Upon witnessing another group of tourists struggling but making it to the top of the rocks we regained our British stiff upper lip and decided we were not to be outdone, leaving all our stuff at the car, bar a bottle of water each, we started our hike up the iconic rock face.  Now we are not hikers or rock climbers by any leap of the imagination and neither of us are sixteen any more but we decided that if we took our time we could tame this beast in true British fashion, slowly but surly we mad it 3/4 of the way up to a sheltered resting place where we took in the awesome views, however this was not enough for one of us, insisting on going higher one of us kept the sheltered spot whilst the other continued to climb, it was hot up there, no cover, just an open rock face and even for and experienced sun worshiper it was too hot.  Giving up the efforts to reach the pinnacle a return was made to the shady nook in the rocks where the heat, exertion, age and general lack of fitness took hold, and resulted in one of us hitting the deck like a sack of spuds.  The other ran to said parties aid and after turning them up the right way, sitting them in the shade and dousing them in cool water I Felt much better ;)
Bugger I gave the game away.

Yes I fainted like a girl.....

Once composure was regained a slow decent and return to the car was made, nursing bruised knees and a bloodied nose, injuries sustained from falling face first onto the rocks (it's not the falling that hurts, it's the sudden stop)  With my ego bruised more than my body, we live to fight on another day, the sun won this one, but there will be others.

NOW you know the rockss we mean!

Look, it's Adam



LA, Day Two, A couple of beaches.

Long Beach and Venice Beach.

Long Beach isn't what it sounds, it's an area as opposed to a single beach, we weren't there for any specific reason other than to say we'd been there.  We stopped at a little boardwalk and had an ice cream, taking some photos of the area and the Queen Mary ship, which has it's resting place here as a tourist attraction.

Venice beach.  What a wonderfully bizarre place, from buskers who couldn't hit a note to guitarists who I could listen to for hours.  I don't think either of us could write sufficiently to explain the diversity of this place needless to say Ali's said she'd live there, yes it's that weird.  The one guy, in our mind the most famous person known to frequent the beach, was there which kinda made Ali's day, he's the rollerblading guitar playing raster from more than one movie, Ali's favourite though being The Assassin where he sings and plays whilst circling the lead actress.  Considering how old that film is he's been there doing his thing for a long time.  We stayed on the beach whilst the sun set, I had taken the AR Drone, so got that out for a bit of a play on the open beach which was cool, I got some good footage and only crashed once....

Day two done, and much better than day one.

Us again


Venus, Venice beach style

The Queen Mary

Long Beach, beach...

L.A. Day One.....ummmmm...

Well, it's the end of our week in L.A. well technically we have been staying in San Jaquito and traveling in to L.A. but either which way, it's the end of our week here and it's been one of highs and lows.
We had a list upon arrival of places we wanted to go and see, things we wanted to go and do, the list was broken down into days and it made for four days out, perfect, two days out, a day in, and another two days out, what a great way to break it down.

Day one, Griffith park, The Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory, Mullholand Drive, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive.  It sounds like alot but if you consider the last 4 are 'drive through' it's not that bad (You don't think I was going to stop on Rodeo Drive now do you?)
Griffith Park, yes we appreciate it's there to service the greater L.A. community but, no, I wouldn't bother, it was whilst here we discovered that you can no longer get to the Hollywood sign, and the closest you can get is an hour and a half trek through the park...  OK we will skip that.
On to the observatory for some education and good views of L.A.  It's a wonderful looking building and our first film location of the day, James Deans Rebel without a Cause and Charlie's Angels Full Throttle amongst others.  The views of L.A. and the area were spectacular, and yes we could see the Hollywood sign, although it comes out quite small on the photo's it was a good view.  Going through the observatory was interesting and took longer than we expected but it was well worth it
The driving tour, this is where or impression of L.A. was cemented and was spoilt forever, the divide between those with and those without, Mullholland drive, one of the most expensive areas to live, at the bottom of the hill there is rubbish all over, boarded up shops etc.  At the top of the hill, it's pristine, multi million dollar houses with big gates, a real case of have and have not, this theme continued to be re-enforced as we drive the rest of the route, taking us from one extreme to the other as we drove from one location to another, all in all this made the lavish areas we'd wanted to see less interesting knowing even more that there was the other end of the spectrum just a few blocks away.  And so ended day one, all in all on a low.

The Griffith Observatory

Thats LA that is

Thats us


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Leaving Las Vegas

Yes, it's been a month and it's come time to leave.  We have both agreed however, a month is too long! Yes even in Las Vegas where there is a million and one things to do, a month is too long.  Also, we are here to see America, not to sit in one place, we won't (don't plan to) be stopping anywhere more than a week from here on in.

Over the last few days we have finished ticking off the list of things to do.

On Friday we met up with one of Ali's friends, Julia, and her soon to be husband, Patrick, She's in the RAF out here, working and he's an actor (he does a good Jack Sparrow).  We had lunch with them and then wandered about the strip, including a stop in margaretaville for an alcoholic drink with far too much alcohol for the middle of the day!  We concluded the day sat in the saloon associated with our RV park having a few beers which was a perfect end to a good day.

On Saturday we did 'The Fremont Street Experience'.  This is essentially in the 'old' las vegas, they have erected what is the worlds largest screen, above your head and running two city blocks!  It's an awesome sight, on the top of every hour they put on a show, there's a video to show it off, words just wouldn't do it justice.  In-between the shows there are street performers, some better than others, and two stages, one at each end near enough, with a live band on each, playing all night.  It was truly and experience and one I'm glad we didn't miss.

Sunday was a relaxing day, we went out to one of the farmers markets which had been recommended, it was a bit of a bust and so not really worth the effort though I did get some really good beef jerky.  We then went to get some grocery shopping from a whole food store we have come to enjoy shopping at, it makes a change from Walmart ( Think M&S v Kwik Save).  They have tables at the front of the shop so you can sit and eat the fresh produce you have just bought, what a great idea, so we ate lunch there.  The rest of the day was mooching round, visited a few more stores for bit's and bobs, nothing all that exciting.

Today, Monday, is get ready to move day, phone home, say hi, all is good, prepare the RV for hitting the road tomorrow, we plan on leaving early, say 8am, it's a 5 or more hour drive and I want to fill up with LPG before we leave Las Vegas.

Well thats it, this is us, leaving Las Vegas.


Far, far too much alcohol for a lunchtime drink

Kenny G's long lost brother (He was actually quite good)