Monday, 18 April 2011

Highlights of our final two weeks in Los Angeles...

So we have finally come to the end of our leg in LA. Time has gone so fast, yet has felt so slow! It doesn't feel like a holiday anymore, it feels like this is our lives now. Travelling around, making homes in other peoples houses and enjoying the company of strangers!
Here are some of the highlights of our last two weeks in LA....

Runyon Canyon
We spent a day hiking up Runyon Canyon which is behind Hollywood Blvd. It's much less of a Canyon, and more like two big hills with a valley in the middle! It's a hot spot for dog walkers and celebrities so we went celeb watching! We managed to see Maggie Gyllenhaal and a Disney Channel star! We probably saw more celebs than we thought, but we just didn't know who they were!
The views from Runyon were beautiful though!
 We sat at the peak and watched the sunset...
It was a beautiful walk and very good exercise! We had to walk down in the dark though, and George convinced me to take a short cut. In the pitch darkness. Down a steep and rocky hill. I was not impressed! But we didn't die so it's all good!

Venice and Santa Monica Beach
We took a couple trips to Venice and Santa Monica beach with our new friend Ryan 'McLovin' Houchin last week. It's a really vibrant place and lots of fun to walk through! People dress up in weird and wacky costumes, just because they can! Street vendors selling african inspired art and indian silk dresses, it's an odd sight to see along the beach where Bay Watch was filmed!
I got a henna tattoo of a feather on my arm because I'm thinking of getting a real tattoo of a feather, but wanted to check how it looked first before committing. Annoyingly, the henna man did it too far up my arm, so it looked a bit silly! But I haggled with him about the price, and got it for $8 rather than $12, so I was happy!
George was desperate to buy a new skateboard in America, and there wasn't a better place than Venice Beach to get one! Venice is considered to be one of the biggest areas for skateboarding, and George found a really nice little shop to get his board from!

The image on the deck is by a local artist and it is an image of Venice Beach skate park, but with added graffiti (as it is now illegal to graffiti on the park). It's a really cool design and a good memory of the trip!  Too bad it is now all scuffed up from all the tricks he's being pulling!

Here are some photos from Santa Monica and Venice:
 George and Ryan
 Sunset over Santa Monica beach
 George doing what he does best! Flips!
 Venice Beachwalk
A Venice canal. 

Theme Parks
We were lucky enough to go to THREE theme parks in LA! First, we went to Universal Studios. That was quite fun, but it was just 4-D cinemas rather than roller coasters. But We did see a very cool King Kong 360 3-D ride which was basically a 360 degree screen that went above you and all around you, and you watched King Kong battle T-Rex in 3-D. It was quite fun, but nothing compared to...

SIX FLAGS! We went to Six Flags Magic Mountain with our friend Paul and his girlfriend Melanie last Sunday. Some of those rides made me feel sick! Like a ride called X2 which had lots of loop-the-loops and drops and stuff, but the worst part was, your seat rotated round too! So we didn't know where on earth we were! I hated it! But we went on some much better rides which were fast but not sickening! We also got a caricature drawn of us both! It's hilarious:

But the best theme park was by far..... DISNEYLAND CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE!! And the best part was, we got in for free!! Our friend Luci Romburg is a stunt woman and she plays Peter Pan in a stage show in Disneyland. She is also allowed to invite three friends to the park with her when she starts her shift. So we went to Disneyland at 4pm and stayed until midnight! It was amazing! We saved over $100 on park entrance alone! I wanted to stay for longer, but we had a really good six hours. Our friend Ryan came with us and it was just great! I have now been to Disneyworld in Florida, Disneyland Paris AND Disneyland California! I wonder if there are any more in the world I can visit....? 

Rodeo Drive and The Grove
The last big thing we did that week was Rodeo Drive. It was nice to see how the rich in Beverly Hills live! We had a really nice lunch in a little cafe and then went to a famous cupcake shop called Sprinkles and bought 4 cupcakes for a whooping $14!! but they were delicious!
 Rodeo Drive
 Sprinkles Cupcakes!

We enjoyed walking down Rodeo and recognising shops and areas from films. We then went to a place called The Grove which is a big shopping mall and I bought a lovely new dress and we spent a lot of time reading books in Barnes & Nobles! We also bought a cookbook which has lots of healthy recipes in. It was a really nice day!

Next post...... SAN FRANCISCO!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

First week of LA

A lot has happened in our first week in LA, I'm not too sure where to start!
We arrived at the house in North Hills at around 10pm and we were exhausted after a 5 hour flight and 3 hour time change. We are staying with a group of freerunners called Team Tempest who George met at various freerunning competitions. The team has 11 members but we're staying with three of them, Paul 'Diddy' Darnell, Victor 'Showtime' Lopez and David 'OJ' (I can't remember his last name!). Here is a photo of Paul and Victor with George and our friend Albert (who calls himself Spyder):
L-R: Spyder, Paul, George, Victor

They are all around 25-30 years old and are really nice guys! They sort of keep themselves to themselves which is nice, as it doesn't feel like me and George have to try really hard to be friendly with them. But they're very kind in giving us lifts to places and enjoy hanging out with us when they're not busy being stunt men or freerunning!
David is currently Andrew Garfield's stunt double for the new Spiderman film coming out later this year/next year and Paul is stunt doubling the new Superman movie which is in production. We asked if we could go on set with them one day, but because they are both big budget Hollywood films, the sets are very tightly closed. They are giving me a really good insight into the film industry though, and helping George understand being a stunt man, if he ever wanted to pursue that as a career one day. 

Anyway, the night of our arrival was very eventful! We managed to pull the fridge door clean off and spent a good half hour trying to re-attach it while trying not to wake Paul and David from their sleep! 
The next day though, we were invited to have a look at the new freerunning academy Team Tempest have built which was about to be opened on the weekend. It is an amazing facility! Very similar to a gymnastics gym with sprung floor and a trampoline which is attached to a foam pit, but very different as it has lots of walls and platforms which you can run and jump between:

Each section is inspired by urban areas that are commonly used by freerunners and EVERYTHING is usable! There is not one surface which is out of bounds and their are no rules! If you want to jump from one wall to the next, it is up to you to decide if it is safe enough to do so. The highest platforms are marked with red tape and are for experienced freerunners and gymnasts only, and you must sign a liability waver before you use the gym. Parents must accompany under 18s and the team are always on hand to help you out. It is a brilliant facility which is fun for everyone and is not specifically for gymnasts and freerunners, but a place for adults and kids alike to play, have fun and get fit! I wish we had something as fun as this in every city! 

The next day was Wednesday and we decided to go to Hollywood and explore the sights! We are relying heavily on public transport, so we sussed out our options and gave it a go. The LA public transport system is cheap and works pretty well for us. The bus from the house in North Hills to North Hollywood Metro station takes about 45 minutes, whereas driving there takes 15 minutes so thats a bit of a nightmare. But it's helping me to practice patience!! The metro from North Hollywood Station to Hollywood Blvd is really easy as its only two stops. And there isn't a ticket reading system like there is in Paris or London so it's really easy to get away with not paying for tickets! And us being backpackers and all, we thought we might give that a go occasionally! 
Hollywood is a much smaller place than I imagined! on Hollywood Blvd, there is Grueman's Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame and...... that's it. Everything else is tacky gift shops and places to eat. We were shocked at how run down the place looked and how little there was! But what we did see was great!

 Chinese Theatre
 Alfred Hitchcock's star
 Spielberg's hand and foot prints. It'll be mine one day!
 Helen Mirren's hand and foot prints. Still wet as they'd only been done a few days ago!

We then took a trolly tour of the Hollywood area which was great fun! We went to the Hollywood Bowl (our tour guide did a rubbish impression of a Liverpool accent when telling us the Beatles played here):

 We went up into the neighborhood and got as close to the Hollywood sign as possible:

 And we took a whistle stop tour of the local production companies such as Warner Bros and:
Paramount Pictures!
It was a fun day! We ended it with a phosphate drink at the Disney Soda Bar!

The next day, I was desperate to see Sunset Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd to celeb watch, so we decided to get the metro to Hollywood Blvd and just walk! little did we know, that Sunset Blvd is almost 3 miles long and there is nothing on it. Not a sausage! There are plenty of places to eat and bars and clubs, but because we went on a Thursday afternoon, it was pretty much dead! But instead of heading back, we kept walking and walking down the Sunset Strip and found ourselves at an intersection onto Santa Monica Blvd. We walked down and found ourselves a post office! So we posted our Hawaii postcards because we hadn't found a post office before! Then it started to get to dinner time so we walked onto Melrose Drive and found what we thought was a cute little diner and had a burger and a salad. But, it turned out that this little diner (which looked a lot like the one in Pulp Fiction) was full of the weirdest people in Hollywood! Old ladies with blood red fake nails as long as talons, fat, greasy men who smelt of B.O and worse, and I had a very surreal experience with an old lady in the toilet which I will not go into detail with as it is horrible. Lets just say, she didn't close the cubical door...........
After that awful experience and all the walking we had done but to no real prevail, we felt really down and very very tired. We Just walked back to Hollywood Blvd and got the train and bus home. It's safe to say, we will never go out again without a proper plan for the day! Oh, and we did see ONE celebrity going into a restaurant but I can't for the life of me remember her name or what film I've seen her in! So that was rubbish!

Friday, we had a chill out day and didn't get out of our pyjamas until 4pm! but we needed that! 

Saturday was the Grand Opening of the Tempest Freerunning Academy!
The day was great, George was asked to perform with the Tempest guys, showing off the facilities and his freerunning skills. A lot of the freerunning community knew of George and he was asked to sign a few t-shirts which was surreal for me to see! Very proud of him! I took lots of photos of the event and here are some of the best:

 Members of Team Tempest
 The crowd getting ready for the teams performance
 The gym filling up with fans and freerunners!
 Me and the gym from the Press stand!
 The press on the press stand
 A special area for beginners is called Mario Land and is based on the Nintendo video game. This is me popping out of a pipe!
George on the press stand!
 Grand Opening balloons
The outside of the gym

That evening we had a bit of a party with some of Tempest's friends. It was nice to meet people and chat and drink cheap beer! 
That sunday we chilled!

The next week is much more eventful. New post to come!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Hello everyone!

Sorry we are so behind on this blog! We've been keeping ourselves so busy and have hardly had any downtime. We're in Los Angeles now and it's absolutely amazing! But we'll talk about that in another post because we still need to fill you in on what we did in our last week in Hawaii!

So! Back in Waikiki we were much better placed to actually do things. We contacted our good friend Jules Fox and met up for a hike through the jungle to the beautiful Maunawili falls, where you could climb up above the waterfall and jump into the deep splash pool! We had so much fun there with Jules and his family.

Afterwards we all went back to their house and made delicious homemade cinnamon rolls! mmmmm!

The next day we visited Pearl Harbour and met up with a freerunning friend of ours called Joe, who is in the US Navy. He got us in for free and showed us around, thanks Joe! Unfortunately we couldn't go out to see the Arizona Memorial due to high winds, but we still had a very interesting time looking around the USS Bowfin, a submarine that fought in the pacific during WW2. We felt immersed in the history of the place and were humbled by the clearly very difficult conditions that the Navy have to work in.

The next day, we took a trip out to Hanuama Bay which is this beautiful bay on the west coast of Hawaii. I think it's protected by some marine society or something? But I know that it is a protected coral reef. It was amazing! 

 We brought our snorkels and swam around with the beautiful fishes! I (Esme) found it a bight scary swimming next to such sharp coral and I proceeded to freak out on a couple of occasions when George insisted we walked over the reef because it was quicker than swimming around it.....
But the highlight of the day for me, was seeing a giant sea turtle up close! here is a rubbish picture for you: (the turtle is on the right)

It was a beautiful moment until a Japanese tourist swam on top of me to get a photo and pushed me into the coral! So I pushed him back and hoped I blurred his photo. Karma and all that.

I can't remember what we did that evening, I think we just chilled because we sun bathed on the beach for a good couple of hours and I feel asleep which was a weird experience..... not a great fan of sleeping outside, feel very vulnerable! 
here are some funny photos for your amusement....

One thing that we had both really wanted to do ever since we started researching Hawaii was kayak out to uninhabited islands in Kailua Bay. So the next day we went and did it! We hired a tandem kayak  from a cool little surf shop in Kailua and took it down to a river nearby to practice our paddling. It was a little precarious clambering into this thin little kayak at first but we soon got going and found that we were actually pretty good at it! Esme sat at the front navigating and setting the rhythm of the paddling. Once we felt confident in our paddling abilities we took our little kayak to the beach and launched into the sea. This was quite a challenge due to fairly big waves coming into shore and we probably looked very silly wobbling about in front of the locals, but eventually we were out into the deep blue pacific! We paddled out to a great little island called Flat Island which had a seabird sanctuary on it. Mooring the kayak, we had a little wander around and looked back at magnificent views of the mainland.

On the way back to shore, we managed to capsize and Esme got all grotchity (as she does) because our cameras and wallets were in a dry bag in the kayak and we worried they'd be ruined. But it was fiiiiiine!
That evening, we got a call from our old friends Ernesto and Fred who were having a meal at their house and had invited us along. AT their house, every friday is Hawaiian Friday when Fred makes his traditional Hawaiian food. Ernesto had just come back from seeing some family in Texas and was all in the mood to make mexican food. So we decided to contribute to the feast by making a traditional British dessert! We racked our brains for British desserts..... brownies? no, American.... spotted dick? no, we don't know if they'd understand the concept (as we dont) what about jam rolly polly?! How do we make it!? We decided to settle on this:

TRIFLE!!! It was so good! They had NONE of the ingredients we'd typically use, like custard, jelly and sponge fingers. But they had plenty of whipped cream and sprinkley toppings! So we completely improvised. We used Jello pots with fruit in as the jelly base, crushed choc chip muffins for the sponge, and vanilla pudding for custard! We called it the American Trifle. Which is apparently a lot like parfait. Ernesto made incredible guacamole with his secret ingredient..... milk!  Fred made Kalua Pig, poi and raw salmon salad with brown rice. Kalua Pig is a very boiled, quite tasteless salty pork which is boiled with poi leaves which give it a very tea-like taste. Poi is a plant and Fred used the base of the plant to create a sort of brown/grey paste which is a startchy substitute to potatoes. The whole dish was very strange tasting and we didn't really like it! In true mexican fashion, Ernesto wasn't satisfied unless we had a beer in our hand a food on our plate, so it was hard for us to say we didn't want any more! It was strange for us to see meat and fish on the same plate too. Felt weird in my mouth and on my taste buds! But it was a good experience and a lot of fun to hang out with them again. Their girlfriends came over too so we had a little triple date going on and it was nice for me to speak to some girls!!  

The day after THAT was Saturday and George went cliff diving and skim boarding with Jules and his family while I stayed in Waikiki and shopped and slept. It was nice to have some time apart! We met up in the evening and had a meal at the Cheesecake Factory which makes delicious cheesecakes and we had a menu of about 25 to choose from! We settled on sharing the cookie dough cheesecake which was a biscuit base, cheesecakey middle with lumps of cookie dough baked in and a chocolate topping. Very sickly and filling but sooooo good! 

Here is George skim boarding:

So, then it suddenly turned to Sunday and we got very emotional about leaving Hawaii! Our time there was very mixed, and we realised we weren't going to miss the place so much as the people we'd met. We spent the day in Ala Moana with Ozzi and the Hawaiian Freerunners which was fun. We just chilled and George ran around with them. That evening, we met up with Jules and his family again and we hiked up Mount Tantalus (something we'd wanted to do, but didn't get around to doing until now) and watched the sunset! The hike wasn't very hard, and once we got up to the top, we got a magnificent view of Waikiki!

 the radio tower in the right hand corner was were Jules and George climbed to get the amazing photo above. I was gutted because I was wearing jeans and flip flops so wasn't prepared to climb the barbed wire fence! I got some nice views from my little platform behind the bamboo forest:

We later went back to Jules for pizza and watched a bit of the American remake of Let The Right One In. Big disappointment if you've seen the original Swedish version and were blown away by it, like I was. It was a really nice end to such an incredible time in Hawaii. We will never forget it, I'm sure!

On the monday, we just packed and got ready to leave for the airport. We had breakfast at a cafe and bought pancakes and smoothies. But when we got the bill, the smoothies came to over $6 each and we weren't prepared to pay some much for blended fruit and milk, so I got the courage to tell the waitress we were not happy with the price of the smoothies. She went and spoke to her manager, and we expected the manager to come over and talk to us, or to knock a couple of dollars off the price, but the waitress came back and too the smoothies completely off the bill! We were so happy! And I was so proud that I got the courage to complain. Being a polite British girl makes you very nervous! And I need to realise that, especially in America, the costumer is always right! Ernesto and Fred were kind enough to give us a ride to the airport that afternoon and it was nice to say a final goodbye to them before we left. 

The plane ride to LA was easy and smooth. We are here now and have another weeks worth of adventures to update you on!
Here's a little teaser as to what to expect next......