Depart: Sydney AU (SYD) Terminal 1, 22nd Apr 2013 13:50 Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10) Arrive: Los Angeles US (LAX) Terminal 6, 22nd Apr 2013 10:10 Pacific Standard Time (GMT-8) 7,495 miles (13 hours 20 minutes)
That was the plan; what actually happened was the flight was cancelled due to "furloughs of air traffic controllers ... causing massive flight delays and cancellations at Los Angeles International Airport."
I was rerouted via San Francisco on Flight UA 870 at 14:45 slightly later the same day, aboard what felt like a very old Boeing 747, only a single film screen serving everyone in Economy and sat next to a particularly obese couple who despite being very friendly needed the seat arm rest between us raised making what was the longest flight of my entire trip particularly uncomfortable.
On arrival in San Francisco Airport I transferred to flight UA 1625 at 14:06 Pacific Standard Time (GMT-8) eventually arriving in Los Angeles aboard Flight UA 1625 at 15:40 Pacific Standard Time (GMT-8), a delay of 5.5 hours.
Arriving in Los Angeles my first bit of sightseeing was a gentle stroll along the Venice Canals. Venice was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbott Kinney in 1905 with two miles of ocean front just south of Santa Monica and was meant to be based on its namesake in Italy. The pedestrian-only promenade along its beach is famous for its performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors; less visited is the highly desireable canal side residential district behind it.
The Venice Canals in Los Angeles
From the Venice Canals I moved on to Disneyland. A lot has changed since my previous visit to Disneyland more than 10 years ago so a return trip was high up on my bucket list for Southern California this time round. The first really big change is that Disney have opened up a whole new adventure park called Disney California Adventure directly opposite Disneyland itself. Like Disneyland it is divided up into themed districts and we began our day there with a stroll down the main street in Hollywood Land to our first ride - The Twilight Zone Hollywood Tower Hotel. This is a 183 feet (55.8 metre) high accelerated drop in darkness, I'm sure the straps are looser than comfortable to make it a bit more scary!
Strolling down the Hollywood Land Street in Disney California Adventure
The Hollywood Tower Hotel
Reception Desk inside the Hollywood Tower Hotel - Welcome to the Twilight Zone!
Hollywood Tower Hotel plunging elevator pic - I'm 2nd from the left on the back row
Next up was Radiator Springs Race Track in Cars Land next door which was probably my favourite ride in Disney California Adventure. Opened in June 2012 and inspired by the Pixar Cars Films, it consisted of a slot car ride through various scenes from the films before a thrilling race around the track against another car - our car we won!
Posing for a photograph beside 'Lightning McQueen' from the Disney Cars Film
The Radiator Springs Race Track in Cars Land at Disneyland California Adventure
On the Radiator Springs Ride in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
Two cars racing on the track at Radiator Springs in Cars Land
After a brief stop in Pacific Wharf to pose for a picture of me caught in a fish net we moved on to the seaside fairground inspired rides around the lake in Paradise Pier. First up was a ride on Mickey's Fun Wheel, a large Ferris wheel with a choice between 'swinging' and 'non swinging' gondolas! Next we went for a ride on the California Screamin' high speed roller coaster - yes I must admit I screamed!
Me caught in a net of fish in Pacific Wharf
Mickey's Fun Ferris Wheel and California Screamin' Roller Coaster across the bay in Paradise Pier
Do you want a 'Swinging' or 'Non-Swinging' Gondola on the Ferris Wheel?
The view of California Screamin Roller Coaster from the top of Mickey's Fun Ferris Wheel
Riding the California Screamin' Roller Coaster - I'm sat in the front on the left
We then moved on to Grizzly Peak where we took a ride and got soaked whitewater rafting on the Grizzly River Run. Our final stop before moving over to Disneyland proper was Soarin' over California where your chair is raised up in the air and forward in a concave theatre to simulate a hang gliding trip over several of California's landmarks.
Queuing for a soaking whitewater rafting down the river in Grizzly Peak
A raft gets soaked on the Grizzly River Whitewater Rafting Run
Posng in front of the waterfall in Grizzly Peak
We then left Disney California Adventure and moved across the entry plaza and entered Disneyland proper where we began by having our picture taken beside several Disney characters. There was Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Pluto of course but also ended up posing beside a couple of Disney Princesses - Ariel (from the "Mermaid" film) and Snow White as well, which I am not sure was very good for my street cred back home! We then walked up Main Street USA and saw Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse's Statue before passing through Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
Disney Princess posing in front of the Main Street USA Railway Station in Disneyland
Me having my picture taken with Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse's Statue in the plaza in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle
Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland
Having petted the goats in the petting zoo in Critter Country we got on the Indiana Jones Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride in Adventureland. Apparently the Mercedes-Benz truck on the way in was used in the Raiders of the Lost Ark film and on the ride itself we were on a similar truck as it raced around the temple bucking every way it can while things were thrown at or collapsed around us. Next door was the Jungle River Cruise which must be one of the oldest and corniest rides in the park as you sail past various vignettes of jungle action in a small river steamer.
A friendly goat on a barrel in the petting zoo in Critter Country
Truck on the way into the Indiana Jones Adventure in Adventureland
View ashore from the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland - how old is this ride?
We then moved into New Orleans Square and went into the Haunted House and took a ride on the Pirates of the Caribbean. By now it was getting dark and we had time for just one more adrenaline rush by climbing aboard the Splash Mountain log plume before the park closed.
Entering the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square
Inside the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in New Orleans Square
The Splash Mountain log plume plunges down towards the water - I'm the 2nd from the back
The Hollywood Park Race Track was opened in 1938 by the Hollywood Turf Club which included many stars, directors and producers of the film world amongst its shareholders. That year the legendary Seabiscuit (on whom the 2003 film of the same name was based) won the inaugural running of the Hollywood Gold Cup, the track’s signature race. Unfortunately it has been announced that the track will close at the end of 2013 for good so our visit was the last chance to see it before it is built over with condos.
The Turf Club Entrance at the Hollywood Park Race Track
My spectacular first view of the Hollywood Park Race Track
Rows of seat boxes at the Hollywood Park Race Track
The dated elegance of the track was stunning with row upon row of very smart boxes for spectators all the way down to track side although it was pretty empty the day we were there. We were in the Turf Club with excellent views of the course and finishing post along with personal waiter service at our table. Beneath the seats it was also very well kept with the frequent references to the Gold Cup reminding me of the Cheltenham Gold Cup back home.
The Turf Club Terrace at the Hollywood Park Race Track
Studying the Form (and Menu) at our table on the Turf Club Terrace of the Hollywood Park Race Track
Escalator upto the Gold Cup Restaurant at the Hollywood Park Race Track
The track itself was immaculate and like a picture postcard with two pretty lakes and palm trees in the centre. The occasional aircraft flew low overhead as the track is directly under the final 3 miles of the flight path into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Watering the track between races at Hollywood Park
Hollywood Park Race Track with a plane coming into land at LAX overhead
Before each race there was an opportunity to go down to the paddock and view the horses as they warmed up. We were allowed into the centre of the ring so I think they mistook us for owners! Before each race a trumpeter would announce it with a blast of his trumpet and the horses would then be loaded into the starting gate.
Horse being led around the Paddock at Hollywood Park before the 7th Race
Trumpeter uses his trumpet to herald the next race while TV Commentators debate it in their tent in the foreground
Loading the horses into the Starting Gate at Hollywood Park Race Track
Before each race we placed small bets at the betting desk behind the Turf Club Terrace, very different from the rows of bookies with boards quoting their odds I am use to back home. The starting gates would then open and the race get underway with the horses galloping around the track. We actually did quite well, I placed 5 bets and came away with 1 winner and 2 second place!
Horses racing around the Hollywood Park Race Track - One Lap to Go!
Horses racing around the Hollywood Park Race Track - The final dash for the finishing line, it's looking close!
After a successful afternoon at the races we drove into the heart of Hollywood in search of the Hollywood Sign and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On the way we passed the Capitol Records Tower built in 1956 when EMI acquired Capital Records and now a heritage listed building. Where best to see the sign wasn't obvious but after a drive around the narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills and asking a local we got our postcard shot from Beechwood Drive.
The intersection of Sunset and Vine at the heart of Hollywood
The Capital Records Tower in Hollywood
A Police Black-and-White on patrol in Hollywood
The Hollywood Sign from Beechwood Drive
It was then time for a stroll along the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. Started in 1958, it consists of over 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard honouring achievement in the entertainment industry.
Where the Hollywood Walk of Fame began in 1958
Steven Spielberg's Star on Hollywood Boulevard
Sylvester Stalone's Star on Hollywood Boulevard
Bruce Lee's Star on Hollywood Boulevard
Part of the way along the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the famous Chinese Theatre built in 1927. In its forecourt there are concrete blocks which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of famous movie stars from the 1920s up until the present day.
The Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard
The Hollywood Sign viewed through a shopping centre on Hollywood Boulevard