Day 2 (September 9, 2012)   L.A.


L.A. map
  After sleeping close to the airport, we guess jet lag will make us be awake very early. We would go to Santa Monica after breakfast.

   A walk around Santa Monica beach and pier and we could finish it on the 3rd Street Promenade, one of the streets with more live in the city.

   Then, we will drive to Hollywood, first at Boulevard, to be on the Hall of fame and the Chinese theater and, depending on the time, we would look for a good place to watch the famous Hollywood sign before getting into Universal Studios, the only studios can be visited on Sunday, and as part of a huge thematic park, where we would lunch:

   At evening, we would leave Universal Studios to go to hotel to get our baggage and deliver the car in the airport.

   Our flight is scheduled to leave at 22:30h, so we would be going to the airport around 20:00h

   Spots marked at map are:

0- Airoport and Travelodge Hotel at LAX
1- Santa Monica and 3rd St. Promenade
2- Universal Studios
3- Hollywood sign
4- Hall of fame, Chinese theater and Kodak theater.

   Expenses, apart from car rental and lunch:

Universal Studios admission fee: 80$


Driving to Santa Monica   I’m a sleepyhead person and that’s why I don’t understand why I’m feeling as I can sleep no more at 3:40 AM if I went to bed after midnight. I’m not the only one, so I’m recruiting awaken people by talking or making some noise in front of the doors of their rooms. All of them have opened the eyes at three something, like me. The last room needs a hit in the door to make the people to go out: they’ve woken up at three something too, but could get some sleep after that.

   We take all the coffees in rooms and then go to breakfast at 7 AM. It’s like rush time and it’s difficult to get a table.

   We’re on route at 8 AM. It is an easy ride to Santa Monica but my last moment straightenings are exasperating the car behind. The Santa Monica Beach Parking is 8$, unique rate for the whole day and at the moment we leave the cars behind we’re walking over the sand, the vast sand surface which is empty, but for some surfers at far. I cannot imagine something that large is going to be full any day.

Santa Monica Beach

   We’re amazed by everything here: birds, seaweeds, palm trees, lifeguards towers – we even wave one lifeguard car passing by -, … everything with the beautiful bottom of the pier.

Lifeguard tower in Santa MonicaLifeguard car in Santa Monica

   We’re walking along the shore to the pier and I can say this water is not that cold as I remembered from my only experience here in 2008. When we reach the pier from this site we find ourselves crossing under it, between the pillars forest. This is a strange, but a charming place, and we spend a while before going out to the other side. We can see a photographer and a pretty model working on a feature where is not going to be based precisely on the clothes, if you know what I mean… There we also find a big group of crosses in the sand, as in a cemetery. It finally is a protest about the war and is signed as "Arlington West".

Under Santa Monica Pier

Arlington WestSanta Monica Pier

   We clean the sand out of our feet before going up to the pier, and keep walking, exploring it, between the stopped attractions. This walk ends by going back to the parking by the Ocean Front this time, passing along the Muscle Beach.

Pedestrian path and bike path to Santa Monica PierMuscle Beach

   We’ve loved this first visit and we’re expecting the best for the rest of the day. Our idea now is combining three highways to reach Hollywood passing along downtown, which are: 10, 110 and 101. L.A. Downtown

   When taking 110 Fwy from 10 we’ve got, at our right, the big green building of Convention Center and we keep paying attention on it as, once it ends, Staples Center appears. So we watch Lakers’ temple and have a closing sight of downtown skyscrapers but, with all the watching, I find myself driving on a wrong lane with no time to get the ones at left, which was the way to follow, so we’re leaving the highway into the downtown expecting to find quickly the way back to it.

   People must pay by their mistakes and we keep driving between skyscrapers getting lost deeper and deeper about highway location. There are no people in the streets, so I manage to ask for the highway twice to two drivers from the car. Looking for Figueroa Street to get 110 Fwy again I get the wrong way, but in an incredibly lucky mistake, as we find the join to 101 Fwy to Hollywood, instead of repeating way through 110. Following me has not to be easy for the car behind and they seem to verify that with their comments through the walkie-talkie we’re using.

   The exit is signed as “Hollywood Boulevard”, which is the name of the street we’re going. We take the Boulevard, which is showing stars on their sidewalk since far away from the area knownBalconies to Hollywood sign as “Walk of fame”. We park both cars even twice on this street, but it is a Pay & Display zone we don’t get to be sure of doing things right, so we finally decide to use the parking in the shopping mall where Kodak Theater – which I just find out has been renamed to Dolby Theater - is sited. This way, we can easily take the elevators to the balcony with views to the Hollywood sign, the famous lookout of this neighborhood, which we could already see from the highway while getting close to here.Hollywood sign

   The group spread over the shops for a while before meeting in the walk itself, over the stars in the floor. We look at them, pass through the people in costumes and rappers selling their CD in the streets, and reach the Chines Theater area. There, we meet a new system in which you’re “forced” to be taken a group picture before going into the area with the celebrity footprints and handprints in the floor.

Chinese theaterCelebrity prints

   It’s hot here and we are only stopped on shadow sides. I get a giant ice cream with a funny name: King Cone.

   After figuring out how this place is used when Oscar’s ceremony, we agree about going now to Universal Studios and spend all our remaining time in there.

   And we reach the studios so fast that we still can hear “How easy this time, doesn’t it?” from the walkie-talkie. WE use the valet parking because it is what we find and end in the place called “Citywalk”, a big recreational area full with restaurants, shops and other entertainment offers. Each of this business does its best for getting your attention: the giant guitar from Hard Rock Café wins. But we’re coming with the restaurant already chosen: the same restaurant than in 2008.

Citywalk in Universal CityCitywalk in Universal City

   That way we reach the Saddle Ranch, along the famous fountain in the Studios entrance with their main symbol: the globe. There we’re served with the big plates and beers I remembered.
Fountine with Universal symbol
   After lunching we’re constantly encouraged to take five beer glasses as a gift, one per beer, it’s time to go into Universal Studios. The glasses will be waiting for us.

   The guy in the ticket box is surprised about we want to pay 80$ for just 4 hours. I’m too, if just we have an alternative…

   Once inside, we go directly to the Studio Tour, where there is a very long row of people. Although we’re told the Spanish tour is the next one, we get into the next available trolley.

    In the tour we can see things like the motelWisteria Lane in Universal Studios and house from "Psycho", the neighborhood from "Desperate Housewives", the square with the c lock tower from "Back to the future" - although changed a little bit for being used in other shootings as for "Ghost whisperer" -, cars from series and movies as "Knight rider" or Magnum's Ferrari, sets and effects from movies like "Shark" or "Fast and the furious" and a bunch of fantastic more things but, at the end of the day, what we talk more about is King Kong experience. We've been got into a dark tunnel where Peter Jackson has asked us to put our 3D glasses on and then the magic has begun: we’ve been able to live how some dinosaurs tried to feed with our bodies and how King Kong has frighten with them to saving us. Awesome!

Clock tower from "Back to the future"Universal Studios set

   Our plan is clear now, there are two attractions we cannot miss: The Simpsons and Transformers. Both are based on living a virtual experience in first person and are amazing. While we are enjoying Transformers experience, all the system gets hung and we find ourselves in the middle of a surrealist situation until we’re driven to the end-start. We could repeat with no extra row, though.

Transformers attractionOptimus Prime en Universal Studios

   We finally go into the 100th anniversary exhibition with objects and clothes from movies and series. We can check in there how quick we’ve reached 18:00h. We must to start our way back to the hotel and forget about was going to be our next attraction: Jurassic Park.

Knight Rider's carThrone from "Gladiator"

Emy for 30 Rock

Book of Death from "The mummy"

   From that point all is one thing before the next: picking up our glasses and then our cars (25$ for valet parking in Universal City!), arrival to the hotel and picking up of baggage, car delivery, transfer to LAX airport and into the plane to travel another quarter of the planet and completing a half of it.

   From the task list above, car delivery shouldn’t be marked as a “no problem” one, though. We instead experienced a bizarre delivery process with things like a man telling if we must pay 84.85$ cash for the fuel tank, as we agreed yesterday, and I pay 85$ it’s still missing one dollar there. We’ve been lucky he has a “smart” guy besides. And we were not allowed of declining the 15 cents of change, instead we should wait some minutes for the guy trip to the cash register to bring our 15 cents, twice: one per car.