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Brit Invasion

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

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Victorian London @ Universal Studios, Hollywood.

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Death Valley: Badwater Basin

Death Valley: Badwater Basin

Death Valley: Badwater Basin

Eight: Universal, San Diego, Hollywood and Joshua Tree

The last blog was only uploaded this evening because I sort of forgot to publish it! My only excuse is that I was in the midst of mid-terms and my brain was flustered, hence the mistake. Nevertheless, this mistake will be redeemed within the next few minutes.

Two weeks ago, my lovely friend Rhiannon came to visit me in the beautiful Californ-i-a. She landed at John Wayne on Saturday morning so what better way to introduce her to a classic Golden State luncheon than to whisk her off to Five Guys, one of the best fast food places in the west. Well, that was in Tustin so nothing to shout about.

Moving swiftly on. The next morning Rhiannon and I battled fervently with a rental car company for a couple of panic stricken hours until we were finally allowed to hire a lovely blue Nissan Versa for our imminent trip to San Diego. Once the rental problems were overcome we hopped into the battered automobile and made a speedy return to Irvine to pick up our fellow travellers. Once on the road we had the pleasure of listening to an abundance of rap songs praising Indiana University (Rhiannon is studying there for a year), along with other lovely tunes. Once in San Diego we hit up Old Town, a superb ancient town in the middle of the city. I loved Old Town, it had the cheesy American tourist feel but still retained it’s old-style American glamour. We had some lovely Mexican food at the heart of Old Town before venturing back to our hotel for some classic American television cheese and an early night.

The early night was just what we needed after the drive down the day before, because we awoke on Monday morning feeling refreshed and lovely. We set off for the zoo after a classic hotel breakfast (which included some questionable scrambled egg, and a Belgian waffle maker one can only dream about) and boy oh boy is the zoo a marvelous place to visit! We spent the whole day there, the weather was gorgeous, and the animals were enjoying the sights of 5 eager British eyes peering upon their habitats. My favourite animals that day were the monkeys (always the best hosts, at any zoo I’ve visited), the elephants (a fleeting glance before they were taken inside for feeding and bathing), the giraffes and the rhinos. We stopped off at the Sabertooth Grill for a bag of chips and to unearth the fruit we’d stolen from the breakfast buffet and the hotel.

The zoo was by far amazing. BUT two other events made the trip a delight, and caused giggles galore for all five of us who had the pleasure of viewing such things. Firstly, as we sat down to rest by the panda cafe we glanced to our right to see a man, with his coat hood pulled over his head, bent at the waist with his head in the litter bin. IN the litter bin?! Now, we thought he’d lost something frightfully important like a wedding ring or a 50 dollar bill so we kept an eye on him to see if he was successful in his search. About five minutes later he finally released his head from its entrapment, wiped his face and walked back to his family in order to continue eating his lunch. To say it was bizarre is an understatement, it was hysterically funny and incredibly strange. Moreover, no one else in the surrounding vicinity (and there were many people eating their lunch nearby) even batted an eyelash at his odd behaviour. Nevertheless, it improved our day no end. The second amazing experience did not happen at the zoo, unfortunately, rather it happened on the drive home. SO, we’re on the freeway back to Orange County and we take an exit just outside San Diego to use a restroom and refuel on caffeine. We find a small gathering of shops and pull into the carpark. What we didn’t expect to see in the carpark was a duck. A duck, my friends. Sitting on the asphalt, just having a great time. The duck didn’t flinch when the car approach, it didn’t even move when we took pictures and giggled. It just sat there. So after we’ spent a questionably long time praising the duck’s courage we parked up the car and ran into the supermarket to use the toilet. On our walk back to the car the duck was still there, still sat in the same space it was before. As Lucy pointed out the duck was ‘within the lines’ of the allotted parking space so he wasn’t in violation of the highway code. With this realisation made, we continued on our way to Irvine.

After the events of San Diego we took a day to calm ourselves down and resume the daily grind. A day later and we were back causing mayhem, this time in Hollywood. What a beautiful place Hollywood truly is. Our plan initially involved hiking the Hollywood hills to see the Hollywood sign but due to landslides the road was blocked. With this unexpected information we made our way back down the hill and drove to Sunset Blvd. The Hollywood Walk of Fame: wow. It’s magnificent, what a wonderful idea . It is truly spectacular walking on it because it’s just part of the sidewalk, something thousands of people walk over every single day. We saw all of the Beatles’ stars (including the freshly installed Paul McCartney slab), Audrey Hepburn greeted us, as did my favourite Marx Brother Groucho. After our skip down the stars we ventured to find ‘the best record store in California’: Amoeba. And yes it is, folks. It’s lovely, yu can find everything in there: tapes, CDs, records, LPs, DVDs, posters, clothing… you can buy, you can sell, you can browse at your leisure. And browse we did, for hours. It was truly amazing.

Ah, and I nearly forgot to mention the basketball. We managed to score 5 tickets to see the Clippers that night for only $4! We toddled along at 7.30 to watch our new obsession play to his finest. Blake Griffin. Words cannot describe how obsessed with him we all are. None of us could tell you why either, we just are. In a jokey way, but also in a serious way – it’s a British thing. Plans for a shrine dedicated to him are developing in our heads. Seriously.

So that was Rhiannon’s visit to California. After the spectacular day in Hollywood we had a relaxing few days before she went back to Indiana on Sunday.

After that FINALS WEEK was upon us once again so I managed to catch another glimpse of crazy American panic studying. It truly is the best sight ever. Better than the San Diego Zoo monkeys posing for a photo opportunity.

And then Spring Break sprung its way to Irvine. Now, here’s the thing, many presume Spring Break (woohoo) to be some crazy drunken  conglomerate of drug addled teenagers and wild party girls living it up on the shores of Mexico. Well, not us. Not that I’m not a fan of drunken antics, trust me I have enough stories to stretch to eternity. No, all the Spring Break plans were far too expensive for us (the summer roadtrip looooms) so we opted for the chilled I-can-read-whatever-I-like-and-watch-all-the-TV-in-the-world sort of Spring Break. Except, Nikoline and I bombed off to Joshua Tree for two days.

I know I said Death Valley was spectacular, but my gosh California, you do spoil me! Death Valley was a wee longer trek from Irvine than Joshua Tree (an hour and a half from the OC!). With this beautiful rocky desert on our doorstep I’m planning more trips to see it. The difference between Death Valley and Joshua Tree is not incredible but there are obvious positives one can attribute to each. Death Valley holds a far more eerie atmosphere and the history wrought within the vast space echoes around you. And whereas Death Valley is a far more isolated environment with a wider variety of surprises, Joshua Tree is more rocky and the climbing opportunities are immense. Needless to say that for a girl who almost never exercises (not intentionally anyway) my entire body ached from those climbs, spectacular as they were. On the way back from Joshua Tree we stopped off at Desert Springs and went back to the 80s for some natural spa goodness. When I say the eighties I genuinely mean turquoise tiles lining the hot tubs, old women wearing flower swimming caps and jingly pop being played on the radio. It was also a popular place for retirees to talk to one another about being retired. Now that experience was something else, nothing as spectacular as Death Valley or Joshua Tree could beat that amazing facility, ad it only cost $3 to get in! Bargain!

 

Now, it’s late here my little chickens and I must rest. I forgot to write about the beauty of Universal Studios but I promise to talk about it in the next blog. I will also try to be more regular with my posts (depending on how fun I’m been that week i may allot a certain day to writing a post). Until next time…

Seven

Okay, so I finally have time to update this!

If you have seen me over the past few weeks I most probably will not have made much sense, my physical appearance would have been rather disheveled and I would have been snowed under with uni work (sorry, homework). But I’ve still found time to have fun, namely in desert form. Death Valley. Yes, it warrants its own sentence because it is truly delectable.

So, you know I said Venice Beach was magical. Death Valley is even more magical, well maybe they’re equal in volume of magical-ness but they’re different kinds of awesome. If that makes sense. Death Valley… What to say? There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe my experience. Here are a few that only partly sum up the experience: mystical, enchanting, enthralling, captivating, awe-inspiring, barren… I could fill this page with appropriate verbs but I won’t. You must go. Death Valley is the most appropriate phrase that could be attributed to it, because it is truly a barren land full of many delightful crevices, incredible views and incomprehensible stories. It’s no wonder people who live in the desert go crazy, it’s a strange silence that fills such a vast space and I’m not sure I could handle it. Before going we expressed our excitement to a few Americans who were divided on the subject. Some warned us of a terrible disappointment, telling us not to expect much. And others became overwhelmingly excited for our forthcoming adventure. After experiencing it I fall into the latter opinion. I’d go again, and again… and again. It’s just… I can’t write any more on the subject, my brain will wonder and I’ll be rendered a mute schizophrenic if I continue.

Moving on. That was the highlight of the past few weeks, if I’m honest. However, little surprises have come our way. Mostly in the fors of planning ahead. Our Spring Break plans are coming together quite substantially, and our plans for the next two weeks are gathering stallion-like speed.

Last night, however, we went to see the long-overdue Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Now, here’s the thing, this film came out in the UK last summer so I should have seen it by now, but it has only graced American shores for the past two months so I have a semi-excuse. The film is magnificent. It’s a thinker (or a tinker…?). The cast is superb: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong… Basically, the best of the British male acting clan. Being British myself I also spied a few television favourites of mine. Trigger from Only Fools and Horses featured heavily, the scouser skinhead from This Is England also had a part, as well as my favourite character from the TV drama ‘Waterloo Road’: Grantley Budgen, as I know him. Of course, not many people outside of England will know who I’m talking about so I’ll move swiftly on. The film was so articulate and delicate in it’s story telling, I either have to watch it again (with notebook and pen in hand) or read the novel (John le Carre) because I need to know what was going on!

The next two weeks will provide far more exciting adventures for you chickens, so hold your nerve!

Oh, and it got Best British Film award at the BAFTAs. Take that America!

 

Brief interlude

Time has escaped me of late, and I will update you on details of my California adventures soon enough. But for now I want to direct you towards my favourite singer of the moment, he takes me back to the gentle soul sounds of the seventies. His voice envelopes me, and diligence with which he delivers his music is mesmerising. Feast your eyes, and your ears, on Michael Kiwanuka:

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