Day 1. Our first full day was a busy one! We didn't really set out with much of a plan and just let the day unfold in front of us. After breakfast, some brioche we purchased at Ralph's the night before, we got in the car and headed in the direction of Beverly Hills for some property porn spotting.
We ended up in Holmby Hills and Bel Air after a brief trip down Sunset Bl. being overtaken by several very expensive cars all exceeding the speed limit considerably! After driving past several miles of hedges and hundreds of labourers working on the houses' gardens (which were all immaculate) we ended up on Mullholland Drive. This only stuck out to me because of a lyric in a Blink-182 song but it provided some good views north over San Fernando.
Immediately what struck me being above the city, as it did from the plane yesterday, was the smog. Thick and heavy hanging over the city. Yuck. Our foray down Mullholland continued for an hour or so.
We stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the Hollywood Bowl and as we did so a 'stars tour wagon' pulled in and announced "take the 63 steps to your left for a birds eye view of the Hollywood sign". We would have surely missed that vantage point without this, so thank you tour bus! As we pulled in the lot was empty but ten minutes later it was heaving with bus after bus pulling in, must be a lucrative business these star tours. Not for me though, thanks.
This hill is so famous that when we turned the corner of Mullholland where you can see only the radio mast but no sign we both recognised it! Weird but it goes to show how much of culture comes from here, streamed into our eyeballs year upon year. It spoke to the general feeling of surreality that being here has engendered - it's like being in a TV set, a big one! Everything around us, road signs, people, cars, views, etc. is all foreign yet oddly familiar too.
Photoshop has a tool called 'dehaze' which has removed some of the smog from the City in this next shot. But if you consider that means visibility is less than ten miles, it's quite shocking really. I attempted to ask a gent from a tour bus with a camera to take a pic of Cat and I but he was a bit shakey and seemed rather uncomfortable with the whole event and the picture sucked.
We stopped for a coffee in Glendale. I had a caramel frap and Cat a minty chocolate affair which tasted like liquid after eight, yum! By now it was about 11am and we decided to head downtown for some Mexican food. After trying, and failing, to use a train (it was over a half an hour wait and cost $12 for a one stop return) we drove around under the skyscrapers for a bit, soaking in the city and ended up paying $11 for a few hours parking - it seemed to be the going rate and was still cheaper than the train! No wonder everyone drives everywhere all of the time. We did spot a tram system later in the day which looked quite new though, so maybe things will change one day.
We ate some completely delicious tacos for lunch. Like most transactions here it cost around $20. Afterwards we hopped in an Uber across town to Little Tokyo to go and have a look at the Japanese American National Museum. Thank goodness we took a cab as between Downtown and the Japenese quarter was about a mile long road full of a quite astonishing amount of homeless people. They were congregated around a mission and help centre but in some cases there were stretches pavement some 50m at a time where you couldn't see any ground for the shelters and belongings scattering it. I would not have felt, nor do I think have been, safe walking down that street. Before I came, people told me that the inequality was stark - I guess I know now what they meant.
Little Tokyo looked like a good lunch spot but nothing to really write home about. Same with the Japenese Museum - it was OK but not really worth the $10 each entry. We hopped back into another Uber and on the way discussed traffic violation fines. This particular driver was once fined $330 for doing 85 in a 65 on the freeway. Ouch!
Ticking off another 'brand bucket list item' we went into the nearby 7-11 and both bought a 99c Big Gulp. I had a pomegranate thing which was OK, an over sugary version of Ribena I thought.
Now it was nearly 3.30pm and about two miles down the road was the California Science Centre where the Space Shuttle lives. Absolute highlight of the day for me this, been looking forward to seeing it for months. After a drive along the freeway with a second deck above us (we later discovered this was the express lane), we pulled in the expo. park to be greeted with a $12 parking fee so we drove round the barrier and straight out again looking for a side street. But, alas, we took a wrong turn and ended up on the University of Southern California campus. I was about the pull a U-turn and noticed a multi-storey. I made a bee-line and it was completely free! We parked up and a ten minute walk later we were at the science centre, result! (Incidentally this is where we saw the trams).
Entrance to the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibition hall was $2 each, more than reasonable in my view. This was just the coolest thing. The sense of insignifance you feel standing next to something this large, the thoughts that it's been into space (numerous times!) and everything else. Who doesn't love the idea of a reusable spaceship!!!
Individually serialised heat-shield tiles. Cool.
Massive engines. Cool.
Space shuttle being delivered. Cool.
Receipt for one space shuttle, itemised. Cool!
Only remaining External Fuel Tank on Earth? Cool!
We were ushered out of the museum at 5pm when it closed and decided to tick off another brand on our list, Walmart. I suppose we should stop being surprised that everything is super sized here but this bag of M&Ms just seemed plain ridiculous.
Walmart was fun. An insight into the culture if nothing else. It was dinner time so we headed to Venice Beach near our flat. We just missed sunset but it did provide a lovely atmosphere as the day turned to night. Those colours of a SoCal sunset, gorgeous.
We had dinner at Hinano's while watching some American sports ball on the screens through the bar. The floor was covered in sawdust, we never worked out why. Our burgers were tasty and were bizarrely served with bags of crisps instead of fries. Is that a thing here?
After another long, long day we headed back to the flat and fell into bed ready to do it all again tomorrow.