A Travellerspoint blog

Day 38 - Los Angeles to Brisbane, via Nadi

Top team top travel tip: 1) There are no eating options on the airside of security at LAX B Terminal. The options on the other side aren’t all that much better. 2) Airline tucker is best eaten when asleep.

Managed to make the 5:30 shuttle out to the airport, which gave us plenty of time to get checked in and organised. We were amongst the first to check in, which was good as we’d misread the luggage allowances (well, not so much misread, but mis-assumed). While we were spot on with our 23kg checked bags, we were in a little strife when it came to carry on - only allowed 7 instead of the 10 we’d budgeted on. After a withering Courtney look though, the bloke let us check all of our roll-on bags for free - even though Courtney had a total of 44kg (plus the 6kg she’d sent home in Banff) of gear. Lucky break.

There was basically no line at security, so it didn’t take us long to head through. We had assumed - like most airports - there would be some form of eateries on the airside of security; apparently this was yet another misassumption. After following the signs for ‘restaurants’, and walking one end of the terminal to the other, we discovered that ‘restaurants’ was code for a bagel stand and a bar with premade sangas. We exited the secure area to head upstairs to the food court and some much wider choices. Decided against Macca’s, knowing what it does by the time you reach Miles. Found instead a place that looked half decent, and even checked with the kitchen on times before you sat down to make sure you’d be right. It seemed a really funky place, with luggage racks above the tables too. That is about where the good points ended. Took forever to order, and then another 45 minutes to get our tucker - and even that was after we happened upon the manager who wandered past and asked us how we were going. The tucker came out pretty quick after that, but we suspect that mine had been sitting for a while - the gravy was all congealed and cold, the broccoli decidedly chilled, and the meatloaf lukewarm at best. Perhaps Macca’s might have been a safer option.

Raced downstairs to join the queue for security, along with approximately two other 747’s worth of passengers. We made it back to our gate with about 10 minutes to spare though, so all was good. Ended up being amongst the last to board; so it was a blessing that we didn’t have the roll on bags as they would never have fitted in the overhead lockers - I was flat getting my little backpack up there. The flight itself was fairly uneventful, particularly so because my reading light didn’t work and nor did my inflight entertainment unit, meaning my option was really for sleep.

Perhaps the best story from the flight came with breakfast. The lights were brought up a couple of hours out from Fiji and I put Carley’s tray down to make sure she got her tucker (even if she didn’t want to eat it). Through all of this, she didn’t even bat an eyelid nor look like waking up. When the tucker was put down, one eyelid opened, a hand extended from under the blanket and devoured a muffin, before the eyelid closed again and she went back to sleep. Apparently airline tucker tastes better when you’re asleep.

Landing in Nadi, it was great to be hit with the wave of humidity - a very marked change from the cold of the past five weeks. We did a bit of wandering around and duty free shopping before settling in for a coffee and spotting some familiar faces across the crowd - turns out that a family from Charleville (including a couple of our kids from school) were heading home from Fiji on the same flight. Truly is a small world. The relatively short four hour flight home was even more uneventful and we were home in no time. Through duty free, and passport control, we must have been the last people off our flight as our bags were pretty much the only ones still going around. We breezed through customs as well and then waited around out the front of the airport for our lift - that was the longest part of the entire customs process. Was amazing to watch the parking chaos out the front, but equally beautiful standing in the warm Brisbane air.

The trip has been fantastic, though I’m not sure I’ll be quite so quick to travel with three sheilas again. I think I may have sat out the front of pretty much every shop in North America, or at the very least a large proportion of them. On the flipside though, we saw some beautiful country. Perhaps the most lasting image for me will be the sunset over the snow-covered paddocks as Grant and I ski-doo’d home from ice fishin - just spectacular. It was great to have Christmas with Cal and Grant and to spend some time with Cal also. The Rockies were also spectacular and we will definitely be back to that neck of the woods. In the meantime though, I suppose it is back to reality and back to work.

Until next time…

End captains log.

Posted by the.macks 00:25 Archived in USA Tagged australia fiji los_angeles usa brisbane nadi transit Comments (0)

Day 37 - Cancelled

Captains log: Day 37. Today has been cancelled, partially out of deference to the International Date Line, but mostly for lack of interest. We shall see you on Day 38 - Thursday 17th January.

Posted by the.macks 16:57 Tagged transit editorial Comments (0)

Day 36 - Los Angeles (Hollywood and Beverley Hills)

Top team top travel tip: It would seem that there is a business opportunity for selling tourist opportunities around celebrities - people seem willing to pay for this.

sunny 12 °C

An early start on our last day in the USofA, with breakfast as the buffet opened at 7 before heading out past the airport before 8 towards a car wash that the bloke at the checkin desk had recommended last night. I drove past the entrance the first time, but was able to work a way back around through the busy morning traffic and in for a $6 wash. The highlight was the elephants, giraffes and dolphins that sprayed water over you as you went through - the girls reckon it was worth the $6 just for that!

Followed Shaz one last time to guide us back to the Hertz return depot. They run a pretty slick show there, with a seemingly endless stream of cars pouring through the front gate and being lined up in a massive parking quadrangle. Blokes came along and scanned our barcode on the windscreen, before thanking us and printing a receipt and the deal was done. He was pretty pleased that we hadn’t gotten a ticket when we told him about the expired rego that the valet had pointed out last night. The lovely lady behind the customer service counter inside organised us a taxi and we headed back down to Santa Monica Pier to catch the 9:30 hop-on-hop-off bus.

Had a little bit of a wait, but that gave the girls an opportunity for their second toilet break of the day. I hope travelling with kids doesn’t mean as many toilet breaks as travelling with this lot! On the bus, we opted for the open top on such a gloriously sunny day. Some of the party got a little cool by the time we got to the transfer point to the next route, so we jumped in the inside for the next leg. The first leg took us through Santa Monica and pointed out the many celebrities who had at one stage stayed a night in this hotel, or thought about buying a stamp at that shop. There were some interesting stories, but it was hardly the history or interesting-story fest that similar tours in London and Paris had been. On the upside though, the commentary was delivered over speakers rather than needing to have headphones, and we did get to see some country we would not have otherwise driven through.

The second leg took us up through Hollywood itself and past the various places where different important things had happened in the fashion, shopping and glitterati worlds. We got off at one end of the walk of stars and wandered down Hollywood Blvd towards the Chinese Theatre and the foot/hand prints in the concrete out the front. For such a tourist Mecca, the walk was surprisingly dirty and lowbrow with plenty of people either sleeping in the middle of the footpath, or asking for money, or trying to sell you some trinket or seedy-looking tour. Nevertheless, we made it to the Chinese Theatre and took in some of the many stars who had left their marks indelibly there. Apparently the deal was that Sid - the bloke who owned the theatre - accidentally walked in some wet concrete out the front one day. The foreman was less than impressed and made a comment about the footprints staying there forever if he didn’t fix it immediately. This gave Sid the idea of inviting all of the stars of films premiering at his theatre to leave their mark, and so the tradition was born. Perhaps most interesting of the process was just how small some peoples hands and feet really are - John Wayne, for instance, would be able to fit his entire boot on the ball of mine.

Stop for lunch in the Dolby Theatre next door, which also provided a final shopping opportunity for the girls at some bag shops. We saw the bus waiting, so ran to catch it - only to find it wasn’t leaving for another ten minutes anyway. The trip back out of Hollywood through the Rock Walk and other different architectural places, or motels where different people had first stayed when they came to Hollywood, was again enough to keep you awake but hardly riveting. We swapped back to the original bus route to head back into Santa Monica and heard the story about Santa Monica beach which has been used for decades as a standin for beaches around the world. Apparently one film in the 50s or 60s called for the sun rising over the Atlantic, so the director thought to film the sun setting over the Pacific and then just play the film backwards. This apparently worked brilliantly when they played it, with the sun majestically rising over the beach - and the seagulls flying backwards. Santa Monica apparently also was the original home of the film industry, except the fog and weather at certain times of the year affects the amount of sunlight available for the silent movie film makers to be effective - so one by one, the studios all moved inland. Mostly to Hollywood.

We jumped off the bus back at the Pier and grabbed a taxi to be home a bit after 3:30. Showers are currently in progress and final packing procedures taking place, with the bag scales a much sought after commodity. Having been burnt coming home from Europe, Carls and I have been paranoid and are looking pretty good - the shopping sprees have not been good for the girls though at this stage, and there is some mad redistribution of weights going on. Plan is for a 6pm shuttle out to the airport, ahead of our 9ish flight out.

Posted by the.macks 16:55 Archived in USA Tagged california los_angeles usa hollywood beverley_hills santa_monica Comments (1)

Day 35 - San Diego to Los Angeles

Top team top travel tip: Apparently LA is a big place, and apparently it is important to look at random buildings in Hollywood. Apparently.

sunny 13 °C

We were up around 7ish to pack and be ready for an 8ish breakfast in the hotel’s 24 hour restaurant. For a 24 hour place, they did a fair job of putting tucker together. On the road by about 9ish, with our first leak stop at 10 as we joined the beachside freeway between San Diego and Los Angeles. The two cities are effectively joined on the map, but there is actually a little bit of space between the two and in that couple of miles you have some brilliant views of the Pacific Ocean to your left and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base to your right - would be a terrible place to make a beachhead if you were ever intending to invade California. The girls in the back pretty much slept through the trip as we passed Legoland in Carlsbad to our right and headed on through to the outskirts of LA.

Shaz (our lovely GPS) guided us carefully through the morning traffic, which wasn’t as hectic as I’d been expecting, and towards Anaheim. We took the opportunity to turn her off and just follow our noses through Disney Way and on towards Downtown Disney - a shopping complex at the edge of the Disney theme parks. Spent a bit of time shopping (well, the girls did - I spent some time making friends with the bloke who was emptying the bins and the lady doing market research) before we broke for lunch at the Earl of Sandwich shop. The Lego shop on site is worth a mention though - everything from Lego coasters to awesome Lego models of Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast and a knight slaying a fire breathing dragon all in larger-than-life scale. Was pretty cool.

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Back in the car, we asked Shaz to find our way to Hollywood Blvd. To me, it looked like just another street; but apparently it is important. Originally we’d ended up on the wrong end travelling away from the action, so I used some initiative and navigated a way to do an about face in the traffic. Apparently you need to sit in the middle of the intersection when you are turning though, and not behind the lights line - or feel the wrath of the horn honking bus driver. We eventually made it through though and made some mental markers for where we need to go back to with the hop on hop off bus tomorrow. I also got to drive down Rodeo Drive, which apparently is a big shopping mall. I offered to stop and get the girls a juice at this little juice bar I found as we drove along - apparently Juicy Couture doesn’t sell that kind of juice though.

Next stop was the hotel, where we checked in and ditched the gear from the car. Took an entire trolley, which meant that I had to get a second lift on my own as there wasn’t enough room for all four of us plus the mountain of gear on a trolley. Quickly ditched everything and headed back out in the car towards the Santa Monica pier, via Marina Del Ray and Venice Beach. To get there, we took a few detours along some back streets which showed us just how close people were able to build to the beach - the real estate would have to be worth a mint. Took a bit of a walk along the Venice Pier, which was nice - but in the bitterly cold wind, nobody was volunteering to go for a swim.

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Parked back at the Santa Monica Marketplace, we wandered down the pier to organise hop-on-hop-off tickets for tomorrow. Next stop was the Disney shop to pick up a couple of things we hadn’t been able to get out at Anaheim, while the girls stopped in at Lorna Jane. Not sure why, as the stuff they were buying was imported from Australia and apparently wasn’t any cheaper than it was at home - but shopping is shopping, apparently. Headed up the 3rd St Promenade looking for carryon roller bags for Carley and I with limited success until we doubled around to 4th St and found a Target-like shop which did the trick. We were pretty flush with space before these, but weight was threatening to be an issue - so this has well and truly fixed our issues for us. Another couple of stops on the way back to the car to check out handbags, which saw me making friends with a bloke who reckoned meditation and the way of the Hari Krishna was the go - we agreed to disagree.

I went to dump the gear back in the car while the girls checked out a couple of high end places just for the fun of it, before we ended up waiting for each other on opposite ends of the same landmark. What ever we did before mobiles I’ll never know. We were both in the ‘right’ place, but would never have found each other without the phone call. Headed off to Bubba Gumps on the Pier for tea - we have seen a few of these places around, but this was the first and a fitting place to have tea, we thought. Was a reasonable feed, and one of the best steaks in a fish place I’ve ever seen. Drove home to pack and get organised for the trip home this time tomorrow night.

Posted by the.macks 23:01 Archived in USA Tagged san_diego california los_angeles usa disneyland santa_monica Comments (0)

Day 34 - San Diego Sea World

Top team top travel tip: 1) The sea lions are on the left, and the sea otters are on the otter side. 2) Don’t be shy in patting a dolphin. 3) Never - EVER - sit in the splash zone.

sunny 10 °C

A reasonably leisurely start to our last Sunday morning on tour, with a wander back down 5th Ave to a funky little café I’d found last night. Turns out to be a pretty popular breakfast place with a great array of omelettes and some decent coffee. It was pretty quiet when we walked in, but by the time we left it was packed. Trendsetters, us. By this stage it was getting on towards 9:30 and we decided to heat out to Sea World for a couple of hours, catch the killer whale show at 12 and then head to the park, rather than the other way around. We retrieved the car from the valet and set out.

Arrived at Sea World just as it was opening, so parking was nice and easy. The first place we headed was the Shamu (killer whales - also known as Shamwow by Courto) tanks, where there were two of the killer whales doing laps and talking to the crowd of campers who had spent the night with the penguins last night. Impressive critters, just in sheer size and power. We were heading back to their show at 12, so didn’t spend more than 15 minutes gazing at them and taking in their antics.

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First show stop was the dolphins, where the girls were all able to pat a dolphin as it went past. I was squeezed out by another group of ladies - apparently you just need to be pushy. They are amazing critters though (the dolphins, I mean) with some serious speed through the pool and a cheeky intelligence in following the commands of their trainers. We kept wandering down through the park, past the tidal pool and into one of the many aquariums to take in some fishy sights. There are some seriously amazing critters that live beneath the waterline.

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Next stop was back to the Shamu Stadium, where we arrived over half an hour before show time and waited for the gates to open. With our pick of the stadium for seating, the girls headed straight for the centre of the stadium in front of the raised beach area. The first section of seating is branded the ‘splash zone’, so we headed for the second back row thinking we were probably safe and they just said people got wet as a safety zone. The show started, and the animals came out - they really are impressive fish with serious power. Perhaps the most impressive bit was the way that they would beach themselves to a spot determined by their trainers, with inch precision. As the show wore on, there was some splashing down low that was wetting the first half dozen rows, but a long way from us. I started to relax that we were safe and life was good, and then they started getting their tails into it. There were a few little kids who were chasing them around the fence trying to get as wet as possible and succeeding. Both ends of the stadium got soaked, but still not to our height. And then the last splash of the show, right in front of us. Somehow the girls didn’t get real wet at all; me on the other hand, wore it in a big bad way. The wave came right at us and broke over my head, dooming me to a day of wet and cold misery. Apparently this was hilarious.

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We moved on to the rapids ride which appeared a little more hostile than the one at Dreamworld, with water cannons that random punters can fire at you and big driers just outside the exit to allow people to dry off. Considering how soaked I was, I decided to sit it out; but apparently the girls were jealous of my dripping shirt so were dead keen. We were supposed to be heading to the otter show at 1 (and it was now just after 12:30), so I offered to look after bags and the like. As the ride finished, there were some random hand signals made from the conveyor belt and I got ready to go to the otters. Time passed, and I wondered where the girls had gotten to; next thing I knew, they were coming back up the conveyor belt again. Must have gone around again. Oh well, no worries, still time to make the otters if we hurry. I geared up again, and waited again. Apparently they had been able to go around a third time without even lining up again, which was great for their fun levels but not great for making the otters. Karma was on my side though, as they had moved themselves around in the boat for the third ride and gotten thoroughly drenched.

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Reunited, and with the otter show already started, we headed off through a few other exhibits trying to stay warm and dry out. Eventually we made it to the dolphin show ‘blue horizons’, which included a whole pile of acrobatics and high diving and was seriously spectacular. There was a splash zone here too, which I made it very clear I was avoiding. The show was great, and we were able to warm up a bit in the sun too, which was a bonus. There was also a pet show, with some really well trained dogs and cats and pigs - apparently all rescue animals. They did some great tricks and it was quite amazing to see the cats being trained so well. We finished the day off by finally getting to the otters and seeing them eating. They really are my favourite animals and the girls seemed to enjoy the obvious characters that they all were.

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We headed for home and warm showers. The girls were keen on some shopping, so they headed out while Carley and I took a bit more of a leisurely approach to the whole thing and headed out shortly after. We found them having a long awaited Ghiridelli sundae down 5th Avenue, before redirecting them towards tea (and by default the lunch that we didn’t get around to having today). Found a great Indian place down the road which was amazing (could have just been we were starving) before the girls headed off to finish their shopping and Carley and I decided to share one of the much vaunted Ghiridelli sundaes ourselves. It was alright; just another sundae really though. Home nice and early for a quiet night.

Posted by the.macks 22:58 Archived in USA Tagged san_diego california usa sea_world Comments (1)

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