Santa Monica & Los Angeles


LA is a joke of a city.  Approaching it I expected to see a nice view coming in from the hills, however we were greeted by smog and traffic.  The drivers are erratic and aggressive, the traffic jams are enormous and there are virtually no useful road signs telling you where to go.  With the help of Google Maps, we managed to navigate ourselves to the Hollywood sign view point and when we finally arrived, the car park had just 8 spaces, as well as some minibuses parked so that people couldn't get in or out of the place so it took a while before we could actually get out and see it. 

The journey here was without incident, Aaron didn't even turn into a weighing station for lorries by mistake like he had done previously!


In addition to visiting the Hollywood sign, we also paid a visit to Hollywood Boulevard, where the starry “Walk of Fame” is. I have to confess I had never heard of many of these people deemed famous enough to have their name permanently engraved in the ground, although I did recognise most. The biggest crowd was around Michael Jackson's star, with people somehow thinking they can best commiserate his death by having a photo taken of them with his star. Americans can be weird at times.

Friday, we took a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood which was actually really good. The rides there were great – you got soaked on the Jurassic Park log flume ride, and The Simpsons “ride” is the most realistic motion simulator I've ever been on. The main attractions were the shows, though, with two shows (Terminator and Shrek) with amazing 3-D effects via those ridiculous polarising glasses you have to wear, and two live action shows (Waterworld and Creature from the Black Lagoon) which were also great. Plus, I got my photo taken with Homer Simpson, although about ten minutes prior I managed to spill BBQ sauce down my T-shirt and shorts! Typical!

A quick note about driving in America. Most of the time it's fine, and you get used to driving on the right pretty quickly. However, it takes a while to get used to the fact that over here you can overtake on either side, which on five- or six-lane freeways can get quite interesting. You therefore get most cars driving at the speed limit in some random lane of their choosing, with a few idiots powering through switching lanes erratically and often without warning. The other frustration is that the signage is useless. Often you have no idea which of the huge number of lanes you're supposed to be in until the very last minute, by which time it is too late to try and dart across six lanes to get into the right one. Sometimes even the signs when they do arrive aren't clear and you end up driving into a truck weighing station instead of joining the motorway!

Almost at the end of our holiday. We're heading back to San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway, which affords us some great views of the Pacific and the various beaches along the way. Staying in San Simeon tonight, and for tomorrow we have booked in to the very first hotel we stayed in for our last night in America. It's almost as if we planned to go full-circle!