We purchased a 2 days San Francisco City pass which gave us access to a variety of attractions. On day 1, we went to Madame Tussauds-where Jen was in her element posing for daft pictures with the star waxworks; on a wonderful boat trip past the San Francisco skyline and under the Golden gate and Bay bridges; into a submarine USS Pampanito; to the Aquarium of the Bay and Ripley`s" Believe it or not". We also visited the San Francisco dungeons which was a performance with live actors/actresses as you walked through various scenarios. Now last time we went to a dungeon, it was the London dungeons with Leona, Gav`s sister. We were so scared, that we kept running back to the beginning to get away from the live (scary) actors. Eventually, one of them said to us that they would not go near us any more, as long as we would JUST LEAVE!!!! The San Fran dungeons did not disappoint, and we spent a wonderful, scary hour with a small group of other people, being scared witless!
On day 2, we went on a hop on and off city bus to the Museum of modern art (excellent) and to the spectacular museum of science, which included a rainforest, an aquarium and a planetarium.
Our highlight was a visit to Alcatraz. The island offered amazing views of the Golden Gate bridge and downtown San Francisco. We did the audio tour of the former prison, hearing about some of its infamous inmates, attempted escapes and seeing the cells, dining room and exercise yard amongst other things. We then visited Castro and the GLBT museum; and the street art of Balmy alley in the Mission district. On our final day-we went to the Golden Gate bridge and rode the tram up and down the steep hills. We flew back to Vegas and spent Thanksgiving there, enjoying a lovely turkey dinner!
We left Vegas and spent a night camping in the car park of the wonderful Peggy Sue`s diner! The following day, we headed towards LA where we camped for a couple of nights at the Leo Carrillo state park, near Malibu beach. We walked along the beautiful beach, where films such as Grease were filmed.
We drove along the Pacific highway, admiring the wonderful beach and sea views, through Malibu, where we saw the homes of the rich and famous. We spent a couple of hours at the eclectic Venice beach-where street performers and characters abound and also visited Muscle beach, where Arnie used to work out.
One of our final destinations in the USA, was Los Angeles and we spent a week here. We had a great time! We managed to get audience tickets for the live NBC show "The Voice USA", which was filmed in sound studio 12 at Universal studios. We were transported by trolley bus to the studios, where we queued outside before the show. 3 of the contestants were being filmed outside for the show, so our brief was to shout, cheer and generally go bonkers for them. Jen did not need to be asked twice and whooped, hollered, high fived and told each of the 3 contestants that she had travelled all the way from England to watch them perform!! We were also asked to do an interview for NBC about the Voice and why we were here. Jen again did this with gusto-saying she had come to watch the "best show in the Universe" and how much we love the Voice USA! We had a great time at the show-it was a small venue and we were close to the action. The judges were Jennifer Hudson, Miley Cyrus, Adam Levine (Maroon five) and Blake Shelton-and all of them sang live during the show, which we bopped along to!
Our motel was the Hollywood Downtowner Inn on Hollywood Boulevard-it was perfect for us. We got a 7 days TAP transport card and used the metro to take us all over the City. We booked 2 tours through a wonderful agency called the Real Los Angeles tours, run by a great Brlt called Damien. We went on a heart of Hollywood tour, going back in time to when the name first appeared on maps in the late nineteenth century, learning how and why the movie industry moved to this small town in 1910-11, at which time the town itself didn’t even have a bar or movie-theatre of its own. We also saw all the most iconic buildings on the famous Walk of Fame, including the oldest house in Hollywood (where Charlie Chaplin’s kids went to school), the Capitol Records Building, the Egyptian Theatre and the TCL Chinese Theatre, where your Hollywood tour finishes – in the heart of Hollywood. This was also interspersed with information about modern day Hollywood and the Oscars etc. We also did the historic downtown tour, which was equally as good as the first one. We visited the arts district and took a great street art tour-learning about the graffiti art all around the area. We saw some great art and learnt about some of the crews and characters behind the artwork.
We spent a wonderful day at Universal studios, going on all of the rides (some 2 or 3 times!) and meeting some of the characters such as Shrek, Marge and Homer and a transformer! Whilst expensive, it is well worth a visit and we were really impressed with the quality of the rides and the shows. Our favourite was the whole Harry Potter Hogwart`s set, and the amazing Harry Potter and the forbidden journey ride. It was literally breathtaking-using movement and technology-so we felt we were soaring after Harry and Ron Weasley on broomsticks. We went on it 3 times! All of the other rides were excellent too and the studio tour, which took us through lots of famous sets and also used technology to recreate floods, crashes, earthquakes etc. We went to 2 of the shows-the special effects show and waterworld-both were brilliant. The grand finale was a Christmas sound and light show-projected onto the Hogwarts castle. It was spectacular and we watched it twice-as it took our breath away.
Our last day was spent at Griffiths park, overlooking the Hollywood sign and doing laundry!
So it`s time to head to San Diego and over the border into Mexico in a couple of days time. The USA was not in our original plans and I wasn`t so keen to visit after their election result. We are so glad that we did, as the curiosity, kindness, and warm heartedness of the people we have met has been overwhelming. It is also an incredibly diverse and beautiful country and we have loved its wonderful wilderness and countryside, from the beauty of Alaska to the stunning Oregon coastline; from the glorious Mount Rainier national park to the massive redwoods; from the greatest earth on show in Utah to the desert of Death Valley and so much more! We have really enjoyed our workaways at the hostel in Kanab and at the date farm in Death Valley. We have loved it all and spent almost 4 and a half months here. We are likely to return after our time in Central America, as we plan to ship back to England from the US.
So time to brush up on our Spanish again, hasta luego!