Friday, October 30, 2009

Back in Real Life

Well I got back last Friday, and went back to work on Monday.

I can 't believe how slow time drags at work and yet seems to pass so fast otherwise. Back a week already! Time on holiday seems to pass at a normal rate, I like that.

I have started posting parts of my trip. I wrote most of them while in the US, but didn't post at the time. Posts are backdated close enough to the time they occurred. Should get most of it up over the weekend.

As for a lack of photos. Yes I acknowledge that, just so many of them to go through. I will do something about that soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sun, Fun and Priceless Treasures in LA

Wednesday, my last day. I set my sights on the Getty Museum. Checking out of the hotel and putting my bags in storage I took the bus north along Sepulveda to Westwood where I stopped for breakfast/lunch before taking another bus to the Getty.

This time I was there to see the art. I managed to see the paintings and the Irving Penn, Small trades photography exhibition. The paintings were mostly from medieval and reneisance with a few examples from the later artists impresionist like Van Gough (Irises no less) and Degas. J Paul Getty seemed to dislike modern art. The photography exhibition just made me smile for some reason. just plain portraits of working class people who do crappy jobs. But mostly they appeared very proud. I recommend a visit to the Getty to see the photographs alone.

Having taken in some art I made my way back down to the bus stop and when the bus came back to Westwood. Here I had an argument with a man on the street who "didn't want any money" but said that by talking to me he could "help people". My stance was that I didn't have the time, really, I didn't. It ended up with him telling me it is no wonder I spend my Saturday nights alone. Thanks buddy. Eventually after stopping at an ATM to extract some final US dollars I was on a bus heading towards Santa Monica.

The idea behind going to Santa Monica was that it seemed a logical location to find a store selling Paul Frank stuff. I was looking for a birthday present for someone, a T shirt I had seen in San Francisco. Do you think I could find a shop selling Paul Frank? No. I ended up conceding defeat after finding the local shopping mall was under renovation.

I had an interesting dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express. The same Wolfgang Puck who I seem to recall opened a restaurant at crown in Melbourne that closed down not long after opening. The food was actually pretty good, although it is hard to go wrong with Spag Bol. The Caesar Salad was a bit weird though, no fetta. My last meal was washed down with a Heineken, my safety beer in the US. Sitting on the outdoor balcony above the street was quite pleasant, but I needed to make tracks.

An hour bus ride back to my hotel at LAX followed. It was interesting note at one of several car yards that used Mercedes are quite plentiful and cheap. You could get a 2003 C class for $12000. Back at the hotel I made a phone call home and then collected my luggage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Southward Bound

So on Tuesday I flew back to LA. I took the ever reliable Canada Line to Vancouver Airport (or YVR it's code and the name everyone calls it by) and found the Alaska airlines check in.

The thing with flying from Canada to the US is that you pass US immigration while still on the ground in Canada. In fact flights to the US get their own segregated area of the terminal. So after going through Canadian security and border control I was ushered to US immigration. This is where it all seemed to go wrong.

The US border security officer took my finger prints and photo then stamped my passport before deciding that there was actually something wrong with my fingerprints. "Just go through those doors there and they will help you" he said. Well they did, but not before I began to think I was an illegal alien or something. After waiting 10-15 minutes with some shifty looking people I was called up to the desk, a few questions asked, everything stamped and I was allowed to enter the US. I asked why I didn't need to submit my finger prints again, but didn't get a clear answer. I'm not one to complain.

As I had allowed time for stuffing around with customs, I still had nearly 2 hours until my flight. at 1pm. I decided to grab an early lunch and make use of the free WiFi. Still having some Canadian money in my wallet I raided the vending machines for some water and a packet of chips as well. All remaining Canadian penny's (and there were a lot of them) were thrown into a charity collection near the gate.

I was dismayed to see that the aircraft, to be used on my flight, a Boeing 737 400 similar to this one. How embarrassing. Walking down the aisle it became apparent that this aircraft had seen better days. Worn carpet and upholstery were the order of the day. It got worse when I went to sit down in my seat and the whole row moved like it wasn't bolted to the floor properly. Luckily however the flight was empty, so I had that row to myself. Alaska Airlines is very basic service wise, although at least you get a free drink. There is also no IFE so I had to make do with Good Game vodcasts on my iPod between just staring out the window at the scenery.

The flight was very uneventful. We took off out to sea and turned south, hitting land near Seattle and then taking the inland route across Washington, Oregon and California. I saw the snow capped volcano summits of Mount Ranier and Mount Shasta (we went straight over St Helens!), Lake Tahoe which also already had snow on the ski slopes surrounding the lake, and the snow capped Sierra Nevada stretching off majestically to the south east. We landed at LAX on schedule.

After collecting luggage and taking a shuttle (they love their shuttles, there is a shuttle for everything) I arrived at my hotel, the Radisson LAX, the closest hotel to the airport. I would have had a good view of the runways had the windows not been so dirty.

For the second time on my trip I took a fantastic hot bath. Both times the bathtubs were too small, but it had the right effect. I really think the Romans were on to something. Refreshed, I watched TV for a few hours.

That night I got the bus to a near by shopping mall, Westfield Culver City. I drooled over the prices of electrical goods in Best Buy, things are so cheap, coupled with a high Australian dollar meant I could have bought lots of stuff if I had the will to carry it home. Which brings me to the reason I was there, to buy a small bag to put some of my purchases in. While not heavy, mostly clothing for myself and family, they really bulked up my bag which looked like it would burst. I found a suitable bag in Target.

Back at the hotel I caught up with Jay Leno for one last time.

Out and About in Vancouver eh?

Well it is the last night of my short 3 night stay in Vancouver.

It is beautiful here. The city is really gearing up for the Winter Olympics The squirrels in Stanley Park are really cute, especially the black ones. And the air is really fresh.

The bad thing about this place is there is very little choice in food. For example I went to Chinatown last night thinking I would be able to find a goodChinese meal. Given I had read something somewhere about it being the 3rd largest chinatown in North America, I thought I would have a good chance. There are no Chinese restaurants in the Vancouver Chinatown. well I saw one, but it was "east-west fusion" and seemed expensive for what it was. Then I took a turn down a street thinking China town was more than one street. Wrong.

So I walked back to the city and ended up having two slices of really bad pizza. As long as you like pizza or burritos you are set. I don't want to see another hamburger or french fry for a long time. Oh and the Pizza gave me bad indigestion through the night.

Yesterday I took the "sea bus" ferry over to North Vancouver and to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The bridge is a 400 foot long and is 200 feet over the river at the bottom of the canyon. There is also a forest walk canopy walk which was quite cool. It was good, but way overpriced. I also considered taking the gondola up Grouse Mountain (1400 meters high) , but I really didn't want to pay the $39 to get up there.

This morning I took a bit of a ride on the Skytrain and Canada Line light rail lines. Think Dockland's Light Railway and that's pretty much what it is like. The services are very frequent on both, about every 2-3 minutes. The Skytrain, which is over 20 years old has 3-4 car trains, while the brand new Canada line, built for the Olympics to link the city to the airport has 2 car trains. The Vancouver translink fare system is a zone system like Melbourne, although tickets seem to be valid for odd periods of 1.5 hours. A 1 zone ticket is $2.50 and will get you most places you need to go as a visitor. To cross to North Vancouver, either by bus or Seabus you need a 2 zone ticket. From what I have seen, there is no ticket checking at all, and there are no fare gates at stations.

In the afternoon I visited Stanley Park which is a huge park just to the west of the CBD, totally free. I walked through the park from the bus terminal (actually a trolley Bus, after 3 cities in a row with trolley buses I'm now a big fan) and around the water on the edge. I only did about a 4 km walk, but the whole shore line goes for miles around the park. I also visited the aquarium, which is in the park. They had marine mammals such Dolphins, Beluga Whales and Otters. They also had local fish, and an array of tropical fish. I have come to the conclusion that animals should be free in the wild, the Beluga Whales especially looked very bored.

Tommorrow I'm starting my journey home, flying to LA. I will be back in Australia by the end of the week.

And if you are wondering, I do have some drafts almost ready to go from earlier in my trip.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Further North to Canada

On Saturday I took the train from Seattle, Washington, USA to Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. ( see previous post) While it was overcast and raining, it was a very scenic trip up the coast. Along the way we passed mud flats, swollen rivers, rocky shorelines, industry and suburbs.

The train itself was very comfortable and quite smooth. It was about a 3 hour journey, although we were a bit late because we had to slow down because there was water on the track (Did I mention it was raining).

In Vancouver you arrive into a caged platform and you pass Canadian Customs when you go into the station building. Luckily the train was lightly loaded and we did not have to line up for long. As usual there was a sniffer dog inspecting the line, although the dog was more interested in biting the toy the handler had for it.

After clearing customs it was a matter of finding the Skytrain station and getting to the hotel.

Seattle - Boeing

The main thing I wanted to do in Seattle was visit the Boeing factory at Everett about 30 miles north of Seattle. I found a tour ran by Gray Line, which was quite good. It was just the five of us, 2 middle age american couples, me and the very talkative driver in a small van. Although it was expensive, entry to the tour is only $15, but the tour cost about $50 all up, a nice little profit there.

The factory tour was fantastic. You drive out in a bus from the visitor's center across the airfield to the production building. There everyone get's out, goes dowin into a tunnel and then an elevator up to an observation deck.

Imagine a building big enough to fit a Boeing 747. Now imagine standing on the observation deck looking down on 5 747's in various states of construction, then looking up and seeing the ceiling far above. And this is just one of several production lines in the plant, the largest building by volume in the world. At the Everett factory they also produce the 767, 777 and the new 787, basically all the twin aisle Boeing's. From memory the building is 1km long and 500m wide.

The 747's we saw were the first examples of the 747-8 which is replacing the 747-400, which is now over 20 years old. The -8 has many improvements to aerodynamics and new engines borrowed from the 787. It is also stretched in length compared to the -400.

We also got to see the 777 and 787 production lines. I'm sure you've all read about the delays of the 787 in the paper. The guide was adamant that it would fly by the end of the year. We'll see... Of the 777, the ones that we saw under construction were going to Emirates (2) and Fed Ex (1). Emirates is the largest customer for the 777, the ones we could see were the 61st and 62nd for the airline.

As with all good tours, this tour ended at the gift shop. Being a plane geek, I was tempted to buy a model, but the bus driver was hurrying me up. I ended up being content with a t shirt and playing cards. The drive back to Seattle was slow, due to bumper to bumper rush hour traffic.


Well it lived up to it's reputation, it rained most of the time. (As soon as I started writing this Frasier started on the TV!) It was also cold, but in a refreshing way. I can imagine winter is very cold here.

Yes there are Starbuck's everywhere. The original Starbucks is at the Pike Place market. It doesn't really look like a Starbucks that the world knows, just a small coffee shop. Pike Place market is where they throw the fish around, I missed that part, but the seafood did look very fresh.

...There are actually other coffee shops everywhere too.

Being the home of Boeing there is a lot of aviation related things to do. On the first day I visited the Museum of flight at Boeing Field about a 20 minute bus ride south of the city. If you are at all interested in aviation I highly reccommend the museum. There is also the Boeing Factory tour which I did the following day, also reccomended and detailed in another post.

Seattle actually has an interesting history, basically the whole reason for the founding of the city was to make easy money from timber. This latter expanded to ripping off miners on their way to the Klondike. This was revealed to me on the underground tour I did of the "old city". Basically the city burnt down one day and they decided for various reasons to build one level higher. not the least of which was the fact that anyone who flushed the toilet at high tide often found themselves with a geyser in their outhouse. The raising of the streets led to a labyrinth of tunnels under the sidewalks of the old part of the city. It is a really interesting part of the city's history.

In Seattle I also went up the Space Needle and rode the monorail. Both of which are leftovers from the World's Fair of 1962. The theme of the World's Fair that year was the 21st century.

Other than that there wasn't a lot to do in Seattle. The area I stayed in, Belltown, was quite cool though. There were lots of small cafes, restaurants and bars. I ate a a diner/bar called Hurricanes one night, and I've got to say the burger and fires were quite tasty. I also ate at a Thai restaurant which was quite good too.

Public transport in Seattle is very good too. The city buses are frequent. They have both trolley buses and conventional buses. Some of the conventional buses use alternative fuels and/or are hybrid electric powered. There is also the new light rail linking downtown to the airport, and there is a short streetcar line, which goes to Lake Union. Fares are a flat fare of $2.50 for 2 hours.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Onward and Upward, North I Came and Went

So I never made it to Alcatraz, it was pouring with rain that day. I just stuck to the city, did some souvenir shopping and had one last ride on both the F Line and cable car.

On Wednesday the 14th I said goodbye to San Francisco and hello to Seattle. I flew a dirty old United airlines 757 like this one. It was cloudy the whole way so I couldn't see much. The flight was standard for the us. You get a drink, everything else you pay for. This aircraft didn't have fancy personal TV's so it was back to screens over the aisle. Once again I was watching 2 and a half men on an aeroplane, just like Qantas.

One interesting feature of the audio system on United Airlines is channel 9, which is tuned to air traffic control. I listened at take off and landing, which as I said, was interesting. We were warned of turbulence on approach to Seattle, but this wasn't related over the PA until the last moments before we hit it.

The landing was quite exciting, with not quite as much turbulence as we were lead to believe, but judging by the swerving on touchdown, quite a strong cross wind. On leaving the aircraft I couldn't help but notice the mismatched seat cushions throughout the cabin. It just looks odd.

On the ground in Seattle we arrived at a remote terminal meaning we had to go down a set of escalators to a train station and take a sort of rubber tired train. Eventually the luggage appeared and my bag was once again one of the first off, happens nearly every time.

Now it was a matter of finding my way to the city of Seattle. After a wrong turn I eventually found a bus. It was a normal bus but went express on the freeway most of the way. Cost was only $2.50. As of December the Seattle light rail will link to the airport, right now it stops one stop short, there is a shuttle, but I didn't want to mess around.

When the bus reached down town Seattle it went through the transit tunnel, which is shared by both buses and the light rail line. I got off at the station nearest my hotel and walked the remaining 4 blocks. Easy.

Compared to my last few hotels this one seemed like luxury. It even had a bath in the bathroom, which I was very quick to make use of. I haven't had a bath for years.

That night I went wandering around the city, most stores were closed. Eventually I decided on small Thai restaurant for dinner.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still in San Francisco

So I'm still in San Francisco and have one day to go before heading to Seattle.

So far I've pretty much exhausted most things that I wanted to do except that I still haven't been to Alcatraz. On the first two days I didn't venture very far, I just stayed around the central city or Fisherman's wharf, Rode the F line and cable cars, as well as having a look at the Ferry Building which is now a market of sorts. I also visited the F line museum and the Cable Car Museum, which also happens to be the car barn and winding house for the cables.

On Friday I ventured down to the Monterey Aquarium about 3 hours drive south of San Francisco. I was on a bus tour so I didn't really have enough time to see it properly, but I got to have a good look at the main exhibits, which were the Sea Otters and the Kelp Forrest.

The actual tour was pretty interesting too. The driver knew all kinds of little factoids of information, particularly the natural and human history of the area. The coast was quite spectacular, a bit like the Surf coast and Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I got so interested in the history of California that I bought a book on it tonight.

Monterey itself is quite historic, originally being settled by the Spanish hundereds of years ago. It was also home to author John Steinbeck, who set many of his novels in the area. We also visited Pebble Beach golf course and saw some very expensive real estate, including one of Clint Eastwood's former houses. The final stop on the tour was the town of Carmel, which is a very exclusive and beautiful town. Clint Eastwood was mayor for a while a few years back.

Saturday was a bit of a rest day, and moving day from hotel to hostel. I couldn't book all the nights at the one place so I decided to spend some time at a hotel and the rest at the hostel. The hotel was really good. It was cheap and the rooms were tiny, but it was more than adequate and very well located. So if you come to San Francisco I would recommend the Mosser Hotel if you are on a buidget. There is nothing wrong with the hostel either except needing to flash a bit of paper at reception every time you walk in for "security reasons". You could flash any old bit of paper. The other upside is free wifi which seems standard in hostels over here. In both hotels I've stayed at, it has been pay for use. The private room I am in is also about twice the size of the one I was in at the Mosser.

Yesterday I got the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge and then walked across. I picked a good day for two reasons. The first being it was overcast, which meant no fog, which was a big plus for visibilty, the second reason being that the Blue Angels put their airshow on when I was going across, so they were flying all around the bridge almost the whole time. The bridge is pretty long, 4200 feet or so on the main span I think I read.

When I got to the other side I stopped at the lookout overlooking the bay and the bridge for a while before continuing down the side of the road (with no footpath) to the town of Sausalito. While the walk was bit hair raising walking beside a windy road with cars only a foot away and no footpath it was probably worth it. Sausalito is a town that literally clings to the hillside in order to get the best view of the bay (reminds me of Sydney in a way). One house I saw even had it's own funicular to get from the garage at street level to the house high up on the Hill. Sausalito is very exlusive, the main street is line with expensive cars and boutiques. From here it was a short 20 minute ferry ride back across the bay to fisherman's wharf.

Today I decided to seek out Lombard Street, "the worlds windiest street". That is the street that zig zags down the hill. It turns out that the Powell-Hyde cable car line drops you off right at the top. I really like riding the cable car on the footboard, lots of fun. It just wouldn't happen in Australia, mind you the maximum speed is only 9mph.

After that I walked some of the way to Coit Tower before luckily coming across a bus that would take me there. Public tranport is fantastic in San Francisco. Coit Tower was bequethed to the city by the well known, rich, tomboy Lillie Hitchcock Coit when she died. Inside are murals painted by out of work artists during the great depression depicting every day Californian life. The views from the tower ($5 to go up plus tip to the elevator driver).

Leaving Coit tower I made my way to Fisherman's wharf and after walking around a bit I decided to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. What a disappointment. while it was interesting to finally find out what type of fish all the pelicans, seals, cormorants and fisherman I had seen catching, the overall display looked a bit run down. They had a touch pool where you could pat a Leopard Shark as well as some small skates and rays. The collection of other animals was a bit random though, as they also had tree frogs, Chinchillas (yes Chinchillas) Tarantulas, Tortoises, and what caught my attention, a "Blue Tongue Skink". I really felt for my Aussie mate, the poor thing looked very bored in its small enclosure. They also had the african Hedgehog, which according to the sign also inhabits New Zealand as well as the continents of Africa and Asia.

So that's what I've been doing so far. Maybe tomorrow I will visit Alcatraz.

Great American Chocolate Taste Off

So once again here we are in the City by the Bay, the town that Dirty Harry once got lucky in (or something like that), San Francisco, for the Great American Chocolate taste off.

Actually I thought it would be interesting to compare American chocolate to something I am familiar with. This is all based on my assumption that American chocolate is mostly sugar with less cocoa. Let's see if my assumption is correct. So I have 3 bars of chocolate to try.

From Left to Right: English Cadbury Dairy Milk, American Cadbury Dairy Milk
and Hershey's Milk Chocolate

Contender Number 1: Cadbury Dairy Milk

This is the original made in Bournville Birmingham England, that I found in a candy store at Fisherman's Wharf the other day. I've already had a bit and it is very good, like how I remember Dairy Milk tasting before they started playing with it a few years ago.

Ingredients as listed: Milk, Sugar, Cocoa, Cocoa Butter, Vegetable Oil, Emulsifiers (Ammonium phosphatides, Polyglycerol, polyricinoleate, Vanilla.

Appearance, Smell etc...: Typical Cadbury Dairy Milk, bits start flaking off as soon as you break it. Smells of cocoa.

Contender Number 2: Cadbury Dairy Milk, manufactured in the USA.

Manufactured under licence by the Hershey Company in Hershey PA it comes in the original foil pack with paper label wrapped around, it even carries the royal seal and the words "By appointment to H.M the Queen..."


Appearance, Smell etc...: Looks and smells just the same as the English variety.

Contender Number 3: Hershey's Milk Chocolate

As far as I know this is the default chocolate for the US I could be wrong though, as Ghiradelli Chocolate is everywhere in San Francisco. (I bought some Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa dark chocolate the other day and it is pretty good. See not at bottom)


Appearance, Smell etc...: Darker in colour than both Cadbury's, but smell's not too sweet. Reminds me of Easter egg chocolate a bit.

And now for the moment of truth. I have clensed my palate with a good swig of the Sierra Nevada's finest natural alpine spring water, and will do so between tastings.

The Taste Test

English Cadbury Dairy Milk:

Makes a nice snap when you bite through the piece, the creamy texture fill's your mouth and you get that first burst of cocoa. Leaves a nice milky cocoa aftertaste.

American Cadbury Dairy Milk:

Starts well with that nice snap sound on the first bite, but then you hit the granular texture and sickly sweet taste. The after taste is sugary.

Hershey's Milk Chocolate:

The snap is barely noticable, the texture is sticky and a bit mushy. The taste is too strong and very sweet. The aftertaste is unpleasant. I didn't even finish the piece I bit into.

The Verdict:

English Cadbury by a mile. I don't know if I was just confirming my subconscious prejudices, but the American chocolate was awful. I was surprised that even the Cadbury made by Hershey's was not closer to the English version. I should get some English Cadbury when I get home and compare it to the Australian made version. The Hershey was just too sickly sweet, just all wrong wrong wrong. There is very little chocolate there. Looking at the ingredients it is clear that there is something wrong when you see that "artificial flavor" is listed. Also telling is that the first ingredient on both USA made bars is sugar, assuming ingredients are listed by percentage.

I think I will bin the American ones and continue to nibble the English Cadbury.

Ghirardelli Chocolate

As I said, the Ghirardelli Chocolate I had was very good dark chocolate. It is made right here in San Francisco, which probably accounts for its popularity here. It seems to be made to a higher standard than Hershey's. If you come here I recommend buying this over other American chocolate.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Still There

Hi all, greetings from the city by the bay. San Francisco. I've been here for four days now and I've got to say I like it. SF reminds me of Melbourne, a lot. First thing I saw when I emerged into the street after taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train from the airport were tram tracks and wires, then I realised I was standing next to a Westfield shopping centre. Market Street could easily pass for Bourke Street or Collins Street. It was uncanny.

This city is really cool. Both figuratively and literally. Firstly the people have a certain laidback attitude (that's cali for you), but they dress really well. There is definite arts scene a lot like Melbourne too.

Secondly the other reason the city is cool is beacause it is. The weather here is really deceptive.It turns out the first couple of days I was here it was unseasonably warm. A quote sticks in the back of my mind, I'm not sure who said it, someone like Charles Dicken's, Mark Twain etc said something along the lines of "The coldest winter I have ever endured was a summer in San Francisco". Even though it is October, into the "Fall", I highly agree.

The reason it is so cold as I have found out is that the water current off the coast comes straight from Alaska, this is also the reason it is so foggy here at any time of year. Warm air on land heats up and rises, which in turn suck in cold moist air from the sea, when it gets near land it fogs up. I've only seen the whole Golden Gate Bridge really well once. Then it got foggy.

In SF this week it is fleet week, which is an anual event when the navy is welcomed into town. I've been watching the US Navy practicing for this weekends air displays over the past few days. only today the display was canceled due to fog.

That's about it for now gotta go find some dinner. It's about 830 on Saturday evening.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

USA I'm there

Just a note to say I'm here in LA and all is going well.

More detailed posts coming...


Well I've been in LA since Wednesday morning (at time of writting it is about midnight Friday). The flight was long, about 13 hours, but was made just that bit more comfortable by the diverse range of TV shows and movies on the in flight entertainment. The aircraft was an Airbus A380 ( VH-OQB Sir Hudson Fysh). I actually quite enjoyed the flight except towards the end when it became unbearable.

On arrival in LA we passed customs easily and collected our luggage. We then managed to find a shuttle bus to take us to our hostel in Hollywood.

We walked up hollywood boulevard to Hollywood and Highland were the main tourist atractions are, with a German guy we met at the hostel named with Moritz (don't know how to spell his name). We ended up spending most of our time with him and for one day with an English guy named Gavin.

In the afternoon we got the metro and a bus to the NBC studios in Burbank for a filming of the Jay Leno show. That was really interesting as my only other experience with live TV was a taping of Spicks and Specks a few years ago. the main difference being the number of times the audience was counted before entering the studio (at least 10 times) and the very tight security, including a walk through metal detector and wand.

The show itself was great, the main guest on the show was Steve Carell from "The 40 Year old Virgin", "Evan Almighty", "Get Smart" and the US version of "The Office". He also completed a lap of Leno's race track out the back of the studio in an electric car. He managed to secure second place behind Cameron Diaz.

After the taping we got the bus and train back to Hollywood and i basically crashed after being awake for 30 hours straight.

Day 2

we arranged to go to Universal Studio's with Moritz and Gavin (the English guy). Again it was a short ride on the metro to Universal City and then ou get a shuttle "tram" up the hill. It was better than I remembered, although a number orides have been replaced since I last went in 1994. Most interestingly the Back to the Future Ride has been replaced by the Simposon's ride, only you still clearly ride in a Delorean. ET was gone and replaced by the Mummy rollercoaster, and one "new" ride was the Jurrasic Park ride. Overall it was pretty good. We also did the backlot tour, the backdraft experience, and the special effects tour. We saved the best to last which was the Waterworld show, lots of Jetski action with lots of explosions. One hint I have is to not sit in the green seats if you don't want to get wet.

Day 3

We said goodbye to Gavin who was leaving for San Francisco, and then we got the bus from Hollywood to the Getty Centre. That Getty Centre is amazing, a great collection of art and some fascinating architecture. We then got the bus via Westwood to Santa Monica. Mike and Moritz went for a swim. We walked on the pier and up the beach before heading back to 4th street for dinner. Out of all the places we visited in LA Westwood and Santa Monica probably had the best