When we were booking the trip, or rather, when Craig was booking it, (I am geographically useless…) we had decided it was imperative to almost do California ‘backwards’, starting in the North, i.e. San Francisco, and driving downwards towards Los Angeles. According to the travel books we’d previously purchased, driving down the Pacific Highway is only worth it if you’re driving on the right hand side, otherwise, allegedly, you can’t see the sea. So ensued a rather painful journey towards San Luis Obispo, which should have taken around five hours, but with a stop and enough traffic to put the M25 at half five on a Friday night to shame, it took almost nine. In hindsight I feel bad for sleeping through most of it, but I was awake for the important parts, i.e. the Pacific Highway, and was reminded of various film locations as we drove, most notably, Austin Powers 2. (Remember when he’s in the car with Felicity cruising through the ‘English’ countryside?)
After two brief days on the road stopping at San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara (and being disappointed at not seeing Katy Perry) we were on our way to Anaheim, Los Angeles, for the final leg of our trip. The Super 8 motel in which we were going to spend our next 8 days was, being totally fair, not the most pleasant, if not for the ants nest and frequent visit from cockroaches, then at least the frequent reminders that failing to display a parking permit would result in our car being towed.
Still, who needs a nice hotel when you have the Cheesecake Factory and Disneyland on your doorstep?! Any plans to keep trim while I was away were definitely gone by this time folks. But alas, being one stone of cheesecake heavier wasn’t going to stop us from having a good time, so we bought a two day ticket (and winced at the ‘reduced’ price of $168) for Disneyland and California Adventure, two adjacent parks.
In hindsight, a one day ticket for both parks would have probably been enough, given the relative quietness of the month of September. Still, as a seasoned theme park gal who’s used to seeing ‘Nemesis Inferno: 240 min queuing time’ signs, a 10 minute queue for Space Mountain was quite meagre by comparison. Hence we started our theme park tour in Disneyland, and, being the theme park geek I am, I rushed Craig into the entrance at a little after 10am to make sure we got on the good rides first. Had I known that the queue for Space Mountain would inevitably be legging it through ropes and barriers, I wouldn’t have been quite so pushy, but like I say, I’m used to spending hours waiting in Thorpe Park.
Space Mountain wasn’t quite as overwhelming as I had recalled it being in Paris; for one, it didn’t have the ‘launch’ as its sister park does, however, when we went on it a second time round later on in the day, we had the good fortune of being in the front seats, and this made it, for some reason, a hundred times more awesome. We also unleashed our inner child by going on Buzz Lightyear: Space Invaders three times in a row, as, being a ride which involved scoring points by shooting laser beams, my competitive streak made me determined to beat Craig! But alas, I am a crappy shot.
One strange half hour of my life was taken up by the Captain EO 3D movie- basically, it was like some extended Michael Jackson video featuring aliens defeating other aliens, with some cheesy 80s music thrown in. All I could think throughout the whole viewing was, ‘what the hell is Michael Jackson doing there?!’ Still, an experience, I guess! Other highlights of Disneyland included a runaway train, which made for a pretty lengthy rollercoaster experience and definitely warranted three consecutive goes, and ‘Splash Mountain’, which was a mix of a log flume and some freaky acid-trip inspired take on the Disneyland Paris ‘Around the World’ ride. My only recommendation for that would be, don’t go on it while you’re high. It’s mind-blowing enough without narcotics!
The next day we used our ticket for California Adventure, which, the reliable staff in IHOP told us was far more suitable for adults. In retrospect I’m not sure if I believe them; there seemed an equal balance of kiddies and adult rides between both parks. Still, highlights included the ‘Soarin’ over California’ ride, which, I must admit, I was reluctant to go on, as I saw it as nothing more than a crappy 3D video (and I’d seen enough weird stuff in the form of Michael Jackson the day before…) and was keen to get on the ‘good’ rides before the queues started piling up. Of course, thirty minutes later, Craig had me eating my words- he’d been on it before and told me it was awesome, and alas, he was right. We were in the front row of a dangling row of seats which were suspended into the air and taken on a motion simulator adventure through California, from Yosemite to the Golden Gate Bridge and right back through to the park. It was pretty epic, and gave us a chance to view the waterfalls of Yosemite up close, something we could only do from what seemed a million miles away at the actual park itself.
Next up, rather foolishly, was a water ride- akin to Rumba Rapids at Thorpe Park, we were tossed about here there and everywhere through white water, all with the helpful commentary of some crazy granddad and his family. Probably not the best idea to get so soaked so early on in the day, but you live and learn.
We soon learned that the ride we had been waiting for, California Screamin’, was shut- in fact, we saw the poor buggers at the top of the lift slope stuck dead, complete with park crew going up to rescue them. Scary stuff. Still, we carried on to the Hollywood Tower of Terror, which Craig had warned me about previously, and I imagined it to be like the theme park ride at the beginning of House on the Haunted Hill, just one straight drop. It turned out in fact (spoiler alert) to indeed be a mock-elevator, but not just one Detonator-esque drop, but several peaks and freefalls, making for the perfect photo moment.
Later on in the day after queuing for an eternity for a ride akin to the Buzz Lightyear game, the California Screamin’ ride had been reopened, and we rode it twice, waiting slightly longer the second time round to go on the front seats. It was quite possibly the longest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on- I think only the Pepsi Big One at Blackpool comes close- only this one came complete with a vertical loop and a launched lift hill. I realise I sound like a complete rollercoaster geek at this point, but having had a sister who worked at Thorpe Park for years and being a recovering Rollercoaster Tycoon addict, you sort of get to learn the lingo.
The next day we hit the beach, more specifically, ‘Seal Beach.’ Parking was a nightmare but clearly we had caught the eye of a very friendly Chinese man, who not only gave us his space right next to the sand, but also his all day ticket. Result? I think so. While Craig soaked up the sun and earned himself a very tasty splodge of pink sunburn across his midriff, I decided to take on the Pacific waves, although I should point out, not in a cool surfer fashion, but more so a should-have-bought-a-better-fitting-bikini, fall-on-my-arse type fashion. As a girl who’s used to the timid waves of Brighton or Scarborough, the cruel mistress that is the Pacific was certainly a change of scenery, and I found myself being knocked quite literally arse-about-face, 360, not knowing if I’d swallowed my pants or lost them in the watery abyss. With some trepidation Craig eventually tried the waters too, edging in slowly at first, but it wasn’t long until he was swept off his feet by the raging waves of the Pacific, being equally catapulted toward shore and swept back in again before he could pick the sand out of his arse crack! Still, all good fun, and two hours and four tonnes of sand lingering in our swimwear later, it was time to head home.
Although we were strictly in the LA area, we weren’t in the la-la land of Los Angeles, and so we decided to spend our next day in Hollywood, to see if we couldn’t get a cheeky glimpse of Cheryl Cole filming a new music video or Hugh Grant having a particularly pleasurable five minutes in the back of a car. Alas, we saw no celebrities, but it didn’t stop us from taking a fair few photos of the stars’ names along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was disheartened to learn the Meat Loaf does not yet have a star, and yet Big Bird from Sesame Street does. No justice eh? We also sampled the sights of the stars’ cement engravings outside Graumann’s Chinese theatre, paying particular attention to the biggies such as Arnie, the Harry Potter Cast and Michael Jackson. We finished off our day with a casual walk round the Hollywood museum, admiring the Marilyn Monroe exhibit and quivering at the sight of the Silence of the Lambs set, amongst other Hollywood treasures.
For our penultimate day in LA we had originally planned to go to San Diego, but the temptation of Universal Studios combined with the impending rainstorms in San Diego caused us to change our minds, and hence we bought tickets for the former instead. Of the three theme parks we’d been to, I can safely say without a doubt that Universal was the best. Where else can you find a place that combines my favourite movies with epic rides? There was a whole show dedicated solely to the Blues Brothers, one of my all time favourites, and I even got a photo with the Bluesmobile! Aaaaah! (Geek.) I also cacked my pants on The Mummy: The Ride, as I was riding it with memories of being absolutely traumatised as an eleven year old watching it, whereas Craig loved every second and made us go on it twice!
Transformers: 3D was also particularly marvellous; I don’t think not having seen the film affected the enjoyment of the ride- I genuinely felt like I was being chased after by robots and the special effects, including a wave of heat as the 3D monsters spat fire at us, only added to the heart-stopping experience. I couldn’t help thinking of the elderly when I got off the ride, and convinced myself, if it gave me palpitations, it would surely kill anyone over the age of 60.
Jurassic Park: The Ride was a pretty amazing water ride, one which we decided would be amusing to go on twice (it was early on in the day; we had time to dry off) and I felt pretty similar to the main female role in the first film as she takes off her specs and admires the Brachiosaurus for the first time. Talking of classic films, the Terminator 3D show was a particular treat, for all its annoying attempts to bring the film into the 21st century, it was refreshing to see cameos from Arnie and Linda Hamilton, so I could only conclude that it must have been a very old ride, or at least old footage.
We finished the day with a tour of Universal Studios, which was pretty impressive, although I couldn’t help thinking throughout, wouldn’t it have just been easier to film on location? Still, the tour included a 3D clip of King Kong fighting with a T Rex, an attack from Jaws and a trip down Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, so who am I to argue? Other highlights included the Bates motel from Psycho, and the film sets of Apollo 13 and The Mummy, all complemented by a very cheery, if not a little camp, tour guide.
We rounded up our stay in LA with one last trip to the Cheesecake Factory, before having to get up at 5:30 the next morning to go and drop off the rental car prior to returning to New York to catch our flight home a couple of days later. Said flight, by the way, is one that I am currently on- I shan’t be uploading this until I am on English soil! Exciting stuff.
Anyway, that’s not quite the last of our adventures- tune in next time for details on a real NFL game and the fire that plagued our hotel on our last night in the States. For now, I’m signing off, as the plane has just encountered turbulence. Wish us luck!