This has been a while coming but finally I have managed to stitch together all the footage from the dashboard camera we took with us to the US (you can read more about the £20 camera here).
Every day that we were in the car we took a short bit of footage to give an idea of what the local scenery was like that day. I have now edited that down into the short video below. I think that this gives a good idea of the huge differences in landscape we experienced over the three weeks we were in the States. In fact, as you will see, there can be great differences even within the space of a few hours. Enjoy!
And so we reach the end of the road leaving San Diego this morning to head back to Los Angeles where we started almost three weeks ago.
We had intended to spend today out on a boat in the San Diego bay whale and dolphin watching but we didn’t seem to be able to find a boat to take us out so we elected to go shopping instead 😉
We know from previous visits to the States that there are a number of shopping villages dotted around called Premium Outlets that have a variety of shops and so we headed to one of these half way to LA. As they are outlets they are selling brands (such Gap, Polo RL, Tommy Hilfiger etc) at good discounts. So I was able to purchase yet another pair of Converse at 50% off bringing them under the £20 mark. Not as cheap as it would have been pre-Brexit vote but still good.
We also lunched at the outlet having a slice of pizza which would have easily fed a family of four for a week. This was accompanied by what can only be described as a bucket full of Sierra Mist (a poor excuse for a Sprite). Everything in the States is supersized and nowhere is that more obvious than in the food portions. It will be good to get back to the UK where we can control our intake a bit better.
Finally we made our way back to LA. One thing that we have relied on while we have been here is Google Maps navigation to get us from one place to another. It has been scarily accurate in showing where holdups and congestion are likely to be, although to be fair we have encountered very little of that.
In LA we took one final walk along Hollywood Boulevard as far as the Chinese Theatre and enjoyed once again the delights of Ghirardelli. As you enter the shop you are always offered a free chocolate square and Helen has calculated that over the course of the three weeks we have consumed 14 of these things. I am now thoroughly sick of spiced pumpkin though which is everywhere thanks to it being Halloween soon.
Tomorrow there is only time to pack up and fly home.
The common view is that America isn’t geared up for walking and that you have to drive to get around. Yesterday Helen and I walked about 12 miles so it is certainly possible to get around on foot – it’s just that the Americans choose not to. The woman that owns the B&B we are staying in thought that we were mad for walking back from the Griffiths Observatory yesterday. She may have been right though given the temperature – an air conditioned car would have been more pleasant.
I mention the walking as today we had booked to go on movie studio backlot tour and had specially chosen to do the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour as we could walk to it. This took us through some “interesting” areas of Hollywood that aren’t covered in the the guide books!
The tour itself was two hours spent mostly being ferried around on the back of a golf cart, which was a relief after all the walking we have done over the last 24 hours. You are taken round in groups of seven accompanied by, if ours is anything to go by, a very knowledgeable guide.
What you see and what you are allowed to take pictures of is very much dictated by the number of shows that are being recorded on any given day. It just so happened that there was lots going on today which, ironically, meant that we were able to take less photos – no plot spoilers allowed here. That said we were treated to a good mixture of both the history of the studio (the first in Hollywood and that created the word “movie star”) and a look at the sets to two shows.
The two sound stage sets we were shown couldn’t have been more different. One was the interior of a house used in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie. It was amazing. On the inside you wouldn’t have know that you weren’t in an upmarket California home. While on the outside it was basically untreated wood. The other was the set for a TV chat show called The Doctors which, apparently, people go on to discuss their ailments. So far so normal. However, in one corner of the set was an area where they – “carry out minor operations live on TV”! Only in America.
We were also shown a car park that doubles as a pool taking a day to fill. This is where Moses parted the waters in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. A feat that was achieved long before the invention of CGI and apparently took three months of editing to achieve.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our trip around Paramount and then went off and celebrated with a thick shake at the Ghirardelli chocolate shop!
Despite fearing that my body might insist on keeping me on UK time I actually slept pretty well last night. I was able to sleep through until 7am with only a couple of periods awake. The bed itself was typically American – big and very high off the ground, poor Helen needed a step ladder to reach it!
We set off and started our walk along Hollywood Boulevard, which is only a couple of minutes from the place we are staying. For all the glamour shown in the movies Hollywood is a dump and Hollywood Boulevard itself is incredibly tacky. That said it is great fun.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame, the iconic stars celebrating the famous from music, TV and film, is much, much longer than I had expected. It was good to walk along seeing how many we could recognise. I found my favourite though…
At Hollywood and Highland was a shopping centre which also had views across to the Hollywood sign so we stopped there for a look and a picture. However, what was more fascinating was the huge arch and elephants atop massive columns that surrounded a central area and fountain. Bonkers. Just a few yards further up the road was the famous Chinese Theatre and hand prints outside in the concrete.
What wasn’t so great about Hollywood Boulevard were the hawkers regularly dotted along the street pushing bus tours of the area. They were similar to those we encountered in Cambridge but much more aggressive and rude.
After lunch we took a cab up the steep and windy road to the Griffith Observatory which we had seen recently in the film La La Land. In the film Ryan Gosling drives Emma Stone up there and two of them spend a magical time dancing around the exhibits. It was just the same for Helen and I only without the dancing and with several thousand other people also there.
With the temperature nudging 30 Helen decided that it would be a swell(tering) idea to walk back down to bottom. To be fair it wasn’t very far but it was hot and so it was a relief when we finally made it back to base camp!
We’re off again and this time it’s a big one – the west coast of America. This is a trip that we had planned to take to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Given that this year was our 27th anniversary you can see we slipped a little. Over the next three weeks we will be visiting LA, San Francisco, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Diego and more. See the map below for the full route – all 1,624 miles of it.
I’m writing this from our B&B in Hollywood and we have been on the go now for just over 22 hours. In that time we have managed to fit in four meals starting with breakfast in Heathrow and ending with dinner just off the Hollywood Boulevard. As an aside I made a rookie error at dinner when I ordered chips to go with my sandwich and, of course, got crisps. I now know why the Americans don’t call them crisps as that would be a misnomer.
Unsurprisingly I’m beginning to flag a bit now. Despite this it is almost guaranteed that my body clock will ensure I am wide awake at 07:00 BST – just two hours from now.
Saying that we are in Hollywood makes it all sound very glamorous when, in fact, this area of town is pretty run down and there are what seem to be a large number of people sleeping rough. It will be interesting to see what it is like in the more touristy areas tomorrow as our big adventure properly begins.