Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A small bite of the Apple

Despite the holiday in the USA costing quite a bit, I still managed to save some money to treat myself further and join the cult of Steve Jobs.  Yes, I have purchased a MacBook!

I waited until the machine had been upgraded by Apple and then purchased it through my employer's staff website where we get discounts from a number of companies.  It arrived this morning in a nice brown UPS van.

I am a Mac virgin, but everyone I know that owns one loves the usability and stability.  I appreciate that I could have gone down the Dell route and saved myself lots of money, but the MacBook is cool and perfect for working on photographs, recording podcasts and so much more.  One advantage is that I can sit downstairs using the Mac with Pete and at least have some social interaction, rather than being in separate rooms of the house communicating with muffled shouts.

So I will take the next few days getting used to this powerful little machine and wont bore you with such things again.  Well, if I get an iPhone I might!

In other news, it's been hot in the UK and today was rather humid.  This afternoon I saw a client in a town not too far away.  They are the sort of company I like to visit - small company, but highly professional and really friendly people.  One of the staff, Rob is a really funny (and cute) guy and was wearing shorts and t-shirt when I turned up in suit and tie!

Today is the first day in weeks that we've not had a football game to watch on TV.  I miss the men in shorts already.  Seriously, the Spain v Portugal game last night was great entertainment, even if Torres was off form.

Don't forget 5 on the fifth - this weekend is the perfect time to take some pictures and share them with the world on Monday... the 5th.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Coming soon to a camera near you

The next five on the fifth is a few days away.  As usual, everyone is welcome to take part. You can either take 5 random pictures of anything that happens to you on Monday 5th of July (or the days leading up to it) or perhaps go for my suggested theme - this month there are 2 suggestions:

"This past weekend" or "I don't like Mondays".

I hope that you can take part.  Tell your family, colleagues, friends and next door's dog.

You can join the
5 on the fifth Facebook page

Monday, 28 June 2010

England fails

So England are out of the world cup at the hands of Germany again. It's been a disappointing campaign with lackluster team performances and a number of individuals failing badly as well.

Yesterday, Germany were certainly the better team in the game. 
However, the whole world saw the ball cross the line and Lampard's goal should have been given.  Although we could have been 3 or 4 goals down at that point, the psychological effect on Germany of us pulling 2 goals back so quickly to level the game could well have changed the match.

I know that referees and their linesmen make mistakes, but the main aim of football is to score a goal and when a team is cheated from that objective by "the system", you have to question why technology is so hated by FIFA. Overall, football works as a game and we don't need lots of reasons to stop the flow by checking TV screens, but goal line technology has been proved to work and in this case might have seen a different result.  Did anyone else note that the BBC had turned down the volume of the crowd due to cries of "the referee's a wanker"?

The goal that never was for Crystal Palace at the beginning of last season was even more obvious and had a hugely negative effect on on-loan striker Freddy Sears and the team for many matches.

As I say, Germany had been playing better before and after we were cheated out of a goal and we will never know what the final result will have been.  I would much prefer to be beaten by a better team, rather than the ineptitude of a referee and his staff.

To brighten our day (except for you straight guys), here are some nice pictures of Torres that I've been drooling over lately...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

England expects

It's been a sort-of-busy-work-week, mainly picking up at stupid o'clock on Wednesday morning when I got a flight to Edinburgh.  Dan (my colleague) and myself were in our Head Office by 8.30am and spent most of the day meeting people and not working too hard, but looking as if we were quite successfully in fact.

At 2.30pm we walked to George Street in the heart of the city and found a pub to watch England versus Slovenia.  To our surprise, the place was packed and it was a very big pub.  There seemed to be a few English people there, but it was mainly Scots.  I was pleased to see that most were supporting the auld enemy - something I had not expected (though not the group standing behind me who were clearly anti-English).   It was a fantastic atmosphere and the beer flowed.  We followed that with a fine meal, courtesy of our employer.

Next day was a team meeting, which was one of the better ones.  The Easyjet flight was delayed and then the barriers at the car park at Luton were not working.  So I got home late and had to be up early on Friday.

Despite being exhausted last night, Pete and I joined his brother and girlfriend and best mate to go to Newmarket for an evening race meet.  I had one winner and a couple of close calls.  The weather was perfect and the sunset impressive.  The main reason for the evening (for the others anyway), was to watch Spandau Ballet.  I always found them to be rather "wet", but the performance was professional enough.  I wont be rushing out to buy their greatest hits however.

And this weekend has to be a restful one, though I have to say... "bring on the Germans!"

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Vuvuzela and Haggis

Tomorrow I am off to Edinburgh for a couple of days with work.  My manager has mentioned that he will overlook anyone skiving off to watch the England game, which is at 3pm in the afternoon.  After the last awful awful game, it has to get better... hasn't it?

It will be interesting supporting England in a pub in the Scottish capital (as we will be in a pub at 3pm).  Edinburgh is a cool place and I dont expect any problems.  Hey it's not Glasgow is it?!?

I'm not going to write lots about football, but I hope the English players can pull this one out of the bag as I am getting a bit fed up with my Scottish colleagues having negative opinions.  Even the well worn "you've got to be in it to win it" is even failing to shut them up.  There have now been some great games (none featuring England of course) after a dull start.

Didn't Torres look great in the game last night?  :-)   And Spain had a little fella on the pitch called Jesús Navas who has the most amazing eyes.

The weather over the last couple of days has been beautiful and yesterday morning at about 8am, the birds in the garden were chirping like crazy - as if singing and chirping was about to be banned by the bird police.  Did they all know it was the shortest night of the year?   My oldest brother spent the night at the Coldrum Stones in Kent.  He's just an aging hippy at heart.  I personally find this ancient burial mound to be a bit spooky, but I'm sure it was great to see the sunrise on such a lovely morn'.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sexy footballers part 1

This is obviously an important ongoing blog project... sexy guys playing in the world cup.  Of course I had  a picture of Fernando Torres in there, but will save that for another day instead!

Robin Van Persie
Roque Santa Cruz
David Villa
Iker Casillas

Friday, 18 June 2010


It's been a strange old week.  I have felt exhausted most of the time and ready for bed as soon as work finishes. And sleep don't come easy either.  I cant blame it on the holiday and jet lag as that was nearly a week ago.  Who knows what's going on in my brain, though Pete is also struggling to sleep and function properly

For the record, today (June the 18th) is our anniversary.  11 years ago we met on a works night out and then sat on the terrace in the crappy flat Pete shared in London, chatting until the sun came up.  I will skip the details of what happened when the sun came up

It's been a dull week overall and the entertainment value in the football World Cup is mixed. This is often the case in the group stages as no teams wants to lose. England play tonight and I pray for some quality attacking play.  I told you my brain wasn't working properly

Still looking for pictures of cute footballers in the World Cup - more to follow.  On the football theme, it looks like Crystal Palace are saved and a new manager has been installed with ex-Scotland manager George Burley joining us.  Good times ahead!!!! Brain still not engaging.

A couple of weird things from yesterday when I was out seeing clients:

- A big fat man on a rusty 1970's
Chopper bike struggling to ride along the pavement near Ascot.

- A sign pointing to "Historic Egham".  Two words you don't expect to see together.
- Listening to NPR music and the presenter said he didn't like Fleetwood Mac.  What a narrow minded blinkered prat.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

June Movie Update

Here are the films that Pete and I have received from and watched on TV and DVD (and on a plane) over the past month or so, in reverse order, with my ratings out of ten from my movie list on IMDB.

Shrek Forever After 7
Cant compete with the first two films, but it's still clever and funny.

A Single Man 7
Perhaps seeing this on a plane didn't do it justice.

I Love You Phillip Morris 7
I thought it was funny, but I think that the story is interesting enough to be made into a drama instead.

Un prophète 8
Violent and has a complicated story - but a great film all the same.

Me and Orson Welles 7
Zac Efron is a better actor than he gets credit for (and he's gorgeous of course).  He needs to make more "proper" films like this.

The Informant! 6

Humpday 1
Was this crap made up as they went along?

Greek Pete 1
Awful documentary about a gay rent boy in London, complete with friends who think life is all about scrounging benefits, taking drugs and acting like idiots.

Fantastic Mr. Fox 7
Better than the reviews gave it credit for.  A fun film all round.

Fauteuils d'orchestre 7
A surprising French film that was witty throughout.

Before Sunrise 6

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 6

The Men Who Stare at Goats 6
Couldn't decide whether it was funny or up it's own...

Mr. Right 5
Gay film that had a few too many camp (annoying) stereotypes for my liking.

Hannibal Rising 6

Sunday, 13 June 2010


And so the holiday comes to an end and I am dreading going back to work.  I am sure that my inbox is full of goodies to bring me down to earth with a crash.  I need to sort out quite few ongoing things this week which is tough with zero motivation, I need to arrange an appointment to take my manager with me so he can "see me in action" (I hate those meetings) and I have to plan the next team meeting and have few ideas so far.

Post holiday blues suck.

On the blog this week I intend to post a list of the movies I've seen lately and perhaps find pictures of sexy footballers at the World Cup just for the fun of it.  I'll not comment on the England v USA game until England have played again.

Oh no, here comes Monday...

Friday, 11 June 2010

40th: Day Seventeen - The journey home

So the holiday is coming to an end and shortly we will be making our way to Las Vegas airport. We have done so much (as you have possibly read) and I cant say it's been cheap. Being a good financial type person, I've actually been saving for this for 2 years, a little each month. I like the little pots that Intelligent Finance let you fill with money online.

Anyway, the experience of 17 days in the USA has been extraordinary. So I intend following up the holiday with some thoughts on this vast and surprising country. Watch this space.

A couple of closing thoughts on the holiday however:

Gambling:  I have not mentioned the gambling too much, but we've done some obviously.  I was tempted to enter one of the poker competitions that are everywhere, but felt that I wasnt experienced enough with the game.  Most tables had a $30 buy in, but in the Wynn, the amount changed daily and were as high as $2700 (a random sum it seemed to me). The more private "high stakes" areas had limits that were not shared with us common people.

Tattoos: I did a rough tally that two-thirds of American guys under 30 in Los Angeles and Las Vegas have tattoos on show. I don't mean little ones like mine, I mean BIG impressive ones. It must be a right of  passage along with losing your virginity, to get a tattoo.

Drinking: We have seen now trouble due to drinking on this holiday and that's a bit surprising in Las Vegas as you can find $1 drinks everywhere.  The only drunks we have seen were British.  What a surprise.

Smoking: In California, smoking is frowned upon, in Las Vegas, you can still smoke indoors which seemed strange after a few years of smoking ban at home.

World Cup: To my surprise, adverts for the World Cup are everywhere and there is plenty of opportunity in the casinos to bet on it, so I hope that the USA enjoys the event.

Food: They don't do small portions.

See you all in the UK, but to end with, a silly picture...

40th: Day Sixteen - Love in Las Vegas

We failed with the gay night out last night. We spent too much time eating, drinking and a bit gambling. We got to the club around midnight (and it took a while to walk there in the heat) and it looked pretty empty. We were unsure whether to risk the $20 entrance to find it empty, so we went to a bar and carried on drinking $1 frozen Margaritas. They are great drinks, but do have a habit of removing the feeling from my legs.

We started the day by the pool listening to 3 rich girls doing Paris Hilton impersonations without realising. They were so dim saying such things as "let's go smoke, it'll be.. oh like such fun" and "The suite in the Trump is so cool, it's like soooo big". One of them called someone up and asked for $7,500 and it didn't sound like they were after a loan.

Anyway... we found a cinema today and watched the latest Shrek and then more casino's, shops etc. We checked out the latest Lions at the MGM Grand and saw a very fat Elvis singing Karaoke.  I'll will blog about the gambling another day, but the casinos are vast and the amosphere is electric, especially in the early hours.

We had bought tickets for the Cirque Du Soleil "Love" show which uses remixed Beatles songs as the theme. Although it cost a small fortune, it was a sellout and we got into the purpose build theatre around 9.50pm ready for the show. And what a show it is! It's a mixture of circus, effects, gymnastics, ballet and a lot of showmanship.  There were so many great parts including trampolining over a red phone box (you had to be there) and some amazing moves by a topless guy with a stunningly beautiful body.

When we got back to the hotel, we were in the lift with guys going to the the 64th floor - the top floor where there are 4 massive penthouses.  Had we had more time, I'm sure that we could have got an invite to a party!

Tomorrow we will start on our way home.  We've done so much and it seems like months ago that we landed in San Francisco.  I have lots of thoughts on the USA, it's way of life and interesting people - I will blog about it all over the coming weeks. Watch this space

Thursday, 10 June 2010

40th: Day Fifteen - Las Vegas

An early blog posting today as we will not be back in the room until well into tomorrow if Pete has his way.

We spent the morning lazing by the pool (and eyeing up the poolboys again) and then went to the newest of the resort hotels which is blandly called City Centre.  It's a collection of massive hotels, casinos and shops aimed at the big spenders.  Every shop that I cant afford to walk into is there already or due to open soon.  Although the site is only half finished, it's looking good.  Just a shame that they didn't give it the inspiring name that it deserves.

I had to come back to the room for a sleep this afternoon.  I think that the heat has finally got to me and I needed a siesta.  That's far better than saying I needed to nap.

Tonight we are going gay.  I've already mentioned in previous blogs that Pete and I hardly ever go out to a gay bar, but tonight we are going to a huge club called Krave that says that's it's a gay club that is "straight friendly" but does feature a porn night with stars attending.  There are few gay bars or clubs in Las Vegas, I assume it's because gay guys are looking for the same things in this camp city as the rest of the pack. We decided to avoid some of the seedier places downtown, though the underwear only club looked interesting.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

40th: Day Fourteen - Downtown Las Vegas

The Legends show last night reminded me of the cruise shows we saw last year. It was OK, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you get keen price.  The guitarist was particularly good (and cute) and the Aretha Franklin impersonator had a very powerful voice.

This morning we lazed by the pool for a while and I went to the gym for a short workout, but it was too warm for such things. So we sat and drank smoothies watching the extremely cute pool boys. We then made our way to Downtown Las Vegas - the old Vegas that we all know from films.

It's a couple of miles from the modern "strip" and in the daylight, it looks a little sad.  The main road is Fremont Street and is about 4 blocks long and features the Golden Nugget and other casinos that were the place to be in the 1950's and 1960's.  The hotels and casinos now look like they need a really good makeover.  However, to invigorate the area, they have covered the whole street with an LCD screen that can be used for amazing animations.

After a few $1 drinks (which is a fine way to sell beer and cocktails) we got a bus to the outlet mall.  A couple of hours later we returned to Fremont Street to see the regular light show.  It was truly fantastic to see and hear.  I would recommend that everyone who visits Las Vegas makes a special trip to Fremont Street in the evening.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

40th: Day Thirteen - Las Vegas

It's been another oppressively hot day in Las Vegas.  We decided to explore the casinos and shopping centres today.  The strip is about 2 miles long and we went from hotel to hotel for hours and hours.  There is so much to see.

I was very impressed with both New York New York and the MGM Grand.  New York New York is a massive hotel built to look like the city skyline, complete with Empire State building and statue of liberty.  It also has a roller coaster going round the buildings.  MGM is just huge and has lions brought in each day from a ranch (lions on rotation that is).  Whereas some of the casinos look a little like English seaside amusement halls but on a much larger scale, these 2 look classy.

The pyramid at the Luxor is impressive, but not too practical I think.  We walked to the end of the strip but it was far too hot to go looking for the old "welcome to Las Vegas" sign.

Tonight we are seeing show - it's the "Legends" show featuring music by famous artists.  Looks fine to me, I will let you know what I think.  We had considered seeing the Beatles Love show, but it's not running for a few nights.  The shows are not cheap here, I assume that big profits are being made from the shows.

The desert still seems like a crazy place to build a resort. Tomorrow we intend going to old Las Vegas with the iconic images of the tall waving cowboy etc.  I am trying to talk Pete into getting a small tattoo, but he keeps pretending not to hear me.

Monday, 7 June 2010

40th: Day Twelve - The road to Las Vegas

We left early while it was cooler (80 degrees is cool these days) on the 220 mile trip from Williams to Las Vegas.  The road was pretty clear across the desert.  We had a good breakfast and made the Hoover Dam by about 1pm. 

Ever since I saw a docu-drama on the building of the Hoover dam, it has fascinated me.  So to see this huge structure in real life was a treat.  It wasn't exactly as I expected, sitting in a narrow valley with lots of electric pylons and supporting buildings and structures all around.  But it was still fantastic to see this damn fine dam.

The road across the dam will soon be supplemented by a new bridge, but at present is 15 mph one lane each way, so the traffic jams can be horrendous.  We walked across the dam some incredible heat and I am sure I have never felt me uncomfortable in my life due to the sun and the hot air I was breathing.  I know one of my brothers would have been crying as he suffers from a fear of heights.  It's a massive massive piece of concrete.

We then made it to the Trump International in Las Vegas.  This 64 story gold hotel is pure luxury at the end of the strip.  It lacks a casino and lots of bars and restaurants, so is not your typical Las Vegas hotel.  The room on the 58th floor is pretty huge and I particularly like the TV in the bathroom mirror, but we wont be renting a $400 cabana at the pool tomorrow.  We had a walk down the strip (as we had to drop off the Mustang) but the temperature was 117 degrees and it made moving around a sweaty ordeal.  The aircon in the casinos, shopping centres and hotels is welcome.

Pete won $60 for a $1 bet on a poker machine so is happy and this happiness was completed by finding a Cher shop in Caesars Palace.  Anyone who may have wondered if Pete was gay would have had it confirmed at this point.

I just took this night time shot from our bedroom window on the highest floor I have ever been on.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

40th: Day Eleven - The Grand Canyon

Both Pete and I slept badly, so we decided to leave the hotel in Williams at 7am to get to the Grand Canyon national park.  We left the tree lines roads behind us quite quickly and the landscape became very flat just a few miles out of town.  However, the thick forests returned as we entered the national park around 8am.

There are buses available to take visitors along the south rim of the canyon but we decided to rent bikes as the hills were "gentle inclines".  We soon found that was a slight exaggeration in the literature.  In addition, the altitude of around 7000 feet and thin air made the hills very difficult and the growing heat (it reached around 95 today) didn't help.  As I type this, I was just listening to the weather forecast at 10.20pm and it's still 75 degrees here and 100 degrees somewhere else in the state!

However, it was worth all of the pain.  There are no words that can really describe seeing the Grand Canyon and saying that it's big doesn't come close to the awe of seeing it.  We spent a good few hours just looking and using such description sentences as "wow".  You can just about see the Colorado river a mile below and the rapids.  One strange thing we saw were the Rooks that were climbing high in the sky and then closing their wings and diving into the canyon.  Base jumping for birds!

Tonight we had a steak meal and I stroked a real wolf that is a pet of a guy who walks up and down Main Street in Williams.  We drove up the mountain for a few minutes to see the stars in all their glory without any light interruption where we saw a group of Elks and a Skunk.

Tomorrow we start the final driving leg of 220 miles to the Hoover Dam and then Las Vegas!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

40th: Day Ten - Williams

The sunset over the Colorado river last night in Needles was impressive. Needles has very little see, but we did have a great meal at a local restaurant. I think that everything came with beans.

This morning, I began the day with a swim in the pool and then we started on the journey to Williams across the border in Arizona. The 179 mile journey continued across the desert and we went mile after mile without seeing a single building or sign of life (it was still very hot).  After about 50 miles for some reason, a few signs promoted land for sale. Now let me get this right, there is no water for plants or people, no power or telephone and it can reach 120 degrees in the summer - why would I want to buy a few acres?

On route we saw a couple of small tornadoes which were impressive. We passed one town called Kingman that was quite large with some factories and quarries, in the middle of the desert. A strange place to live I'm sure.

We stopped in a small town called Seligman and had lunch in the fantastically named Roadkill cafe.  I had no roadkill for my lunch, but did have the largest lemonade ever served.

Without quite realising, we had been driving up hill for dozens of miles and very slowly the terrain changed from burned desert to forest as we exceed 5000 feet.  We rode into Williams on Route 66 and reached a height of over 7000 feet just as we got here. Williams is a lovely little town with a touristy feel based around the old west. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. There is a restored train line from Williams to Grand Canyon village, but the price was crazy, so tomorrow I will be driving the 70 miles to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We drove up the mountain a little but couldn't get to the ski resort, but you can see forests for miles and the air is very clear, despite the temperature still exceeding 80 degrees.

This evening, we walked into the main town from the hotel (about 1.5 miles) and had a huge meal. The amount of food that is piled on plates is obscene. On the way back, we could see the stars so clearly. At home, the light pollution is so bad, you see a few stars, but here it's the full blanker, if not the duvet.

Five on the fifth #12

Welcome to 5 on the fifth, a monthly posting that benefits from audience participation. You take 5 photographs on the 5th of the month (or the days leading up to the 5th) - post a comment here with your name, location and link to the site containing your photos and I will update the blog entry with your information. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog, so that your visitors get to see the other contributions. You can take 5 random pictures or follow my suggested theme - this month it is: Looking Up.

You can join the 5 on the fifth Facebook page here.

My own pictures are below the links of those who kindly contributed:

Howard, USA
New Leaf, USA

Friday, 4 June 2010

40th: Day Nine - The road to Needles

Started the journey of 280 miles around 9am but decided not to go up to Griffith Observatory due to the mist in Los Angeles. So we set out on our way and stopped after an hour at the Ontario Mills outlet centre as planned. This shopping centre is absolutely massive. we had intended spending an hour there and ended up staying 3 and a half hours!

Pete was looking for clothes and I was looking for a few bits too. We were only partially successful. It seems that the Abacrombie and Fitch clothes are designed for thin lanky teenagers, so we both struggled. Got a few things in Timberland (many bargains!), Hollister and Gap. It's strange, but the Banana Republic outlet clothes were awful and I think my Dad would have liked it.

The road to Needles turned to the mountainous Mojave desert quick quickly. It got hotter and hotter and temperature soon hit the late 90's. Despite that, we could still see snow on the mountains. After a refueling stop in Barstow, we set out across the desert and apart from a few houses at the start, we saw no human life for about 50 miles until we reached Ludlow. This used to be a tiny vibrant place serving Route 66 (see picture), but when the new highway was built alongside, the town was killed and only 23 people now live there. We had a drink and some cake at the diner (the other 2 businesses were a motel and gas station).

We arrived in Needles at 6.06pm and the temperature was 105 degrees which is 40.5 Celsius. Remember it's the 3rd of June, so this place must be frying in higher summer. As I type, I've just had the first swim of the holiday. When we booked in, the receptionist asked "two queens?". She meant the beds of course.

Will explore this run down town for a while tonight. The town grew up around the Colorado river, the only water for dozens of miles and the railroad of course.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

40th: Day Eight - Los Angeles

It's been a long exhausting day (again), this time travelling around Los Angeles. We started the day with breakfast at the hotel next to a film unit right next to us. It looked like a comedy programme to me.

We took the metro to Downtown L.A. and had a look around the area that went from interesting to worrying. There were dozens of homeless people along Broadway and it didn't feel safe at all. To be honest, Downtown was a dump!

We got a bus to Santa Monica which took over an hour, despite clear roads. It shows how big the city is. By the way, we saw a massive advert for Dr Who along the road to Santa Monica. We walked from the pier along to Venice beach. It's been a really hot day and it was great to see Venice beach which is pretty cool. Saw another film crew, this time filming a dog barking - I have no idea why. Main Street in Santa Monica is worth a visit too.

Universal Studios had been busy overnight to advertise the King Kong ride that is due to open next month by putting huge footprints across the beach at Santa Monica!

After a spot of lunch and a beer, we got another bus to Beverley Hills and walked up Rodeo Drive. It's just a little exclusive - one shop even had "by appointment only" on the door.

Another bus ride and we got off for a beer in a gay bar on Santa Monica Boulevard. We don't even go to gay bars in London, so this was unusual, but lots of fun.

We ended the day with dinner on Sunset Boulevard.

A few closing comments... the "better" areas of the city are great, but I don't feel safe in general. There are so many people who obviously have mental problems and for the richest country in the world to have so many homeless people is worrying. I thought London was bad, but L.A. is far worse and the begging has been pretty aggressive at times. However, in general the people we've met have been really friendly and helpful, despite thinking we were from Australia!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

40th: Day Seven - Universal and Sunset

Last night we had a quick Mexican meal and then went to a comedy night in the basement of the hotel. The evening was to feature some top professional comedians and they were very very funny in the main. The problem was that the bar had about 7 people in it! So Pete and I were "picked on" as the English guys throughout. A great evening.

Today we went to Universal Studios theme park and the rides are as good as we had expected, especially The Simpsons ride that was motion and animation in one - and made me feel a bit sick. The theme park is built on top of a hill and includes a tour of the actual functioning studios down at the bottom of the hill. Pete was very excited to see the set of Desperate Housewives. The park was great fun and we managed to go on every ride at least once and see a few shows. The view from the top across the valley made up for the rough location of the hotel. Perhaps this city is worth exploring yet.

This evening we got a bus to Sunset Boulevard and we saw the film premier of something probably awful starring Ashton Kucher. We only saw Tom Selleck and Macy Gray arrive.

We walked along Sunset for a while and had a beer in a cool bar before having some dinner. We were served by a cliche - an actress from Manchester, working as a waitress hoping to make it big in Hollywood.

It's really strange, but America seems to be full of people who look rough and walk along the streets talking to themselves and I am not talking about mobile phones. What's this mental problem all about?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

40th: Day Six - The road to L.A.

We started the very hot day by driving across some stunningly beautiful valleys with hills and mountains surrounding us. We had a break in a small town called Los Olivos that had lots of winery offices and shops. It wasn't until we looked it up in the guidebook, that we realised that Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch was just outside of town.

We then went to a vineyard and Pete tasted 7 very expensive wines. On leaving to head cross country toward Santa Barbara, the car lost power up the steep hills and a warning light came on. The car had only 400 miles on the clock! So I nursed it to Santa Barbara airport where there was a Hertz office. The staff there were great and they asked few questions before offering me a Toyota. I really didn't want a Toyota and the assistant noticed that we should have a convertible and so he gave us the only one he had - a gold Mustang! OK, it has some bling, but it makes a fantastic throaty roar when you accelerate.

We eventually made it to the hotel in Los Angeles. Despite being tagged as close to Universal Studios and it being quite nice, it's actually in a really awful looking area. First views of this huge city were not great, but we all know from TV that the city has a lot to offer and not everywhere looks and feels rough.

We have made a quick trip to Hollywood Boulevard, which was not as interesting as I thought it would be. But tomorrow we have a day at the theme park!