Throughout my time here I have been comforted by the fact that Australia is a real (mostly) place full of sensible (mostly) people and its helped me deal with Americas weirdness. It is beautiful in parts and has so much but its just not home. Theres no feeling quite like flying through air so cold it feels like its cutting your face on powder as soft as butter (or the hot chocolate in the on-mountain restaurant) that the mountains in America can offer but then theres nowhere that has our spirit, our attitude and a lifestyle quite like ours. Ill miss you America (and Ill be back) but I cant wait to get home to you Australia.
Last time I was in Los Angeles I spent a bit of time in Santa Monica and loved the place. I didnt love LA just that part of it (although I must have forgotten the guy who chased us with a shopping trolley, which was weird). The rest of the LA I saw was ghettos and children who should have been at school talking like gangsters (with their 10-year-old girlfriends who were dressed as if they had developed enough to have something to show off).
On this occasion I was lucky enough to see a little more of the city and while its not somewhere I can imagine living (unlike the mountains and DC) it wasnt bad. I should also mention that on this occasion I was with Scott and we didnt have ticket problems like Ty and I did a few years ago (stupid non-Australian airlines).
We spent our first night sleeping off the tiredness from our last evening in Vegas but it was up and off to Universal Studios the next morning. Universal Studios has some pretty good stuff (and Im sure someone with a greater interest in Hollywood and all things stars would appreciate it more than me) including some pretty good new rides and shows. Ill admit the Waterworld show was pretty good and Ill even admit I didnt mind the movie. Naturally we did the studios tour etc and if you take a look at the photos youll get a pretty good idea of the place.
Our second and final day was filled with a tour of the LA area which included the city, the hills, Hollywood, Rodeo Dve, the theatres where the Academy Awards are held, that sort of thing. The tour driver was the departed John Candys twin sister. Dont think Im joking, everything down to the face (it was his with longer lashes) the body and the sense of humor screamed John Candy (it was actually quite freaky)!
A tourist outside the Chinese theatre asked me if I was Angelina Jolie. I blame the sunglasses. Now, while I would love to think I look like Angelina (I think shes the sexiest woman in Hollywood) I dont know how striking the resemblance is. I also hope I dont look like a heavily pregnant woman.
As well as looking at expensive stuff on Rodeo Dve I learned a few interesting LA facts so thought Id share them.
the greater LA area has a population of about 13 000 000 (and thats before the illegal immigrants)
the roads are in horrible condition and cant take any more traffic but its been estimated its going to take 10 years to fix the damage that already exists
to buy an average family-sized home will set you back on average $700 000
if you can buy a home though youre laughing, the home values are jumping by up to 20% a year
with little space for a garden in your average-sized home, its good to know you can rent a small piece of land on which you can grow a garden. The garden land is often far from the home
the guy who played MacGyver (and Im so sorry boys, I know its spelt wrong) was a clown at Sea World in LA before breaking into Hollywood
any building that is newly built or freshened must have an artistic feature (such as a waterfall or statue etc) in front of the building and it must cost about $50 000 to install (part of the lets make California beautiful plan)
there are no native trees in LA (it was once a desert), this means that all their trees have been brought in from around the country and world (with a lot of Australian Eucalypts on show)
there are earth quakes daily in LA but they are usually to minor to feel
there is a street in Beverly Hills where only the houses on one side of the road fall into the zip/postal code 90210, these houses sell for about $2 000 000 more than the ones on the other side
Rodeo Dve (including stores with string quartets playing and Lamborghinis parked almost the entire way along the strip) is Americas most expensive shopping strip with Madison Ave in New York a very close second
The gold stars on the walk of fame cost each celebrity who has their name on there $15 000 to purchase and then a $20 per month cleaning fee (although some have their star cleaned privately to avoid having to pay the $20)
What is so unique in LA is whole celebrity factor. Everyone wants to be one and in the mean time they worship them. Outside the Kodak theatre was a group of about 5 girls who would pretend they had seen someone famous so start screaming and running up to and pawing random people on the street. Then theres the people who hired a limo and dressed up (with sunglasses of course) so they could pretend they were celebrities driving around. I just wonder how much of it would fly in Australia, I hope very little.
Theres not a lot one can write about Las Vegas, well, nothing much that inspires the mind or motivates the soul anyway. Its dry, dusty, expensive and loud!
While we had a really great time looking around and partying in the city of sin the overall experience was a disappointing one. The hotel was unpleasant, they were cold and they charged you for everything, even the things that hotels never charge for and you would never expect them to charge for!
Im looking forward to getting back to the States but Vegas is a place (having been there twice now) Im in no great hurry to go back to. In other words itll take something particular for me to return.
Have put up a few photos from our first night out as a crew in Vegas. Had a good time, went down to Pure at Ceaser's palace then to Studio 54 at the MGM.
Will be many more photos tom come!
Were all currently in the city of sin, grand old Las Vegas. I arrived on the 30th with Travis and Scott arriving yesterday and Dinka arriving today. The crew is currently down at the pool but seeing my wearing swimwear is a human rights violation Im sticking to updating the travel site!
Not too much to report at this stage but will be sure to report all our news before we go. Were going to Vegas super club Pure tonight (DJ AM is their resident DJ and its where you go to be in this city so we had to give it a try) and will be doing a lot of touring of the city so am sure there will be a lot to tell.
Were here until Thursday then Trav will be off to see some family in Phoenix, Dinka will be off to LA to job hunt and set up house and Scott and I will go to LA to look around for a couple of days before heading home. Ill admit, Im soooo looking forward to being back in Oz, Im spending way too much time flying and itll be good to be back in a place called home.
Will write again soon!
With the White House only across the road from my hotel, Im really getting the Washington DC experience, a vibe, the feeling that one really is in the centre of world power. Its a gorgeous city, well, the wealthier parts at least, and is the kind of place I can imagine living in for a short time (with the knowledge that there really is no place as great as Australia).
While the White House is hidden from view (from my hotel room) there is a gorgeous view of the Washington Memorial (the one that looks like a giant phallic symbol telling the rest of world exactly where to go) as well as the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.
By hotel room I mean the second largest suite in the hotel! It seems wrong to be staying all on ones own in such a big place but hey, Im not complaining. I cant take credit for the accommodation though; its my Daddys marvelous skills of accommodation-finding that got me this place. Whats even better is how very convenient the hotel is to everything and the fact it was mentioned on the West Wing.
Washington DC is really many cities. Where Im staying (whats called downtown but is really the political district) is a collection of gorgeous buildings each built to be more impressive than the other. Theres also the poorer areas (like a different country to this area) and the city where all the businesses are (as in not the bureaucracy).
As a former public servant I really have to give it up to this place, it makes us in the noble state of Queensland look quite normal (if those of you who are also bureaucrats can believe it).
So, the things I have seen in clued the original Courthouse, the Mall (a place where all the museums and galleries are), the Museum of Natural History, the Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Art, China Town (they really are the same everywhere), the FBI building, the trees behind which the CIA building hides, the Library of Congress (three buildings full of stuff), a number of buildings that house departments such as Treasury and the Pentagon. I think Ive only seen a very small part of the city though, its just so huge!
Oh, Ive seen the Capitol Building of course (where the houses sit and Senators have their offices etc) which is the same design as all the Capitol building in the US. I also got a personal tour from the Senator for Idahos staff; something that came about due to a connection (gotta love em). The building is amazing, really gorgeous and full of history and power.
Id like to share some wisdom gained by experience, fly into and out of Regan National airport if ever traveling to DC. Regan is a smallish airport and is in the city. The alternatives are Dulles and Baltimore. Baltimore is about an hour and a half away so just dont, and Dulles is about forty minutes away and can be a pain (as well as expensive if one is going into the city). I flew into Regan and out of Dulles so Ive seen both, just trust me on this one.
DC also has an interesting cab system. There are city cabs that dont work on a fare meter but instead have set prices, and then there are the Virginia cabs. Take a city cab from the airport. To do this though you have to be very (note very) specific with the people running the cab rank as they really dont care. Naturally, if youre a guest on Air Force One youll fly straight into Andrews Air force Base and have no worries, but unless thats the case remember the very part.
Another little hint, dont go anywhere at night unless youre taking a cab there. A couple of blocks in the wrong direction and youre in dangerous waters, so be safe.
One thing I loved about DC was the return to normality. People have apartments in the city; the city is the place to be! This was quite a change from Denver and Salt Lake which were all about suburbs!
Just before leaving DC I had dinner at the roof top restaurant in my hotel (the Hotel Washington) and if ever in DC make your way there. The restaurant isnt open in winter (due to snow and extreme cold) but affords an amazing view! The food isnt amazing but isnt bad but its reasonably priced and the view really is amazing!
Luckily I am staying in a suite in one of the Washington DC hot hotels. Im here across the road from the White House and have a wonderful view from my room of the Washington Memorial (the giant phallic statue). I also have a lobby, lounge room, dining room, full size bar, bedroom and two bathrooms; its the largest hotel room Ive ever stayed in!
Although the day got off to a relatively rough start (the airport can be an interesting place) it ended quite nicely with a couple of cocktails and some very good company. Ive also managed to get myself into the hot place to be tomorrow night with a few of the girls I met tonight.
Tomorrow Ill be off to do some real work before taking a look at a couple of the major sites then getting ready for drinks. Ill then spend Saturday at the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the National Art Gallery and some of the other big sights.
Unfortunately the red eye is exactly as I suspected it, a long flight in a noisy plane and I cant sleep! As well as the knowledge that tomorrow is going to be a long day followed by an evening of cocktail functions and a tour of Capital Hill (which I hope will not be ruined by tiredness) I have also got very red eyes. It started this morning and has gotten worse. Its so bad, I look like Im terribly stoned and I cant stand pot! I now understand why they identified me for random extra security screening at the airport, Id want to check out someone with these eyes!
To be honest, Im looking forward to DC but Im a little nervous. I wish Scott was coming with me cause Ive heard it can be pretty dangerous there. Still, Ill be meeting people and will have plenty of time during the daylight hours to check everything out. One thing DC does not lack is things to do; just researching the place is exhausting!
In about half an hour well be landing in Atlanta. Atlanta is in the south on the western side of the country. I believe from there its only an hour or so flight to DC. Once in DC there will hopefully be many cabs available so I can get back to the hotel for a shower then off to work. I imagine there will be and hope to miss the early morning traffic if possible.
Well, Im going to go back to our on-flight movie, The Family Stone. Its ok but not a classic. Night xx
Scott and I are currently in Salt Lake City a place famous for being the Mormon capital of the world. I wont lie, there are a lot of Mormons but its also a pretty cool place to visit.
Were staying with some family friends and are really enjoying being part of their family! Were also learning some great things from them and especially about the Mormon faith. Its close to the rest of the Christian faiths theres just more emphasis on the US. They also have certain things they do and dont do but after having learnt about it those things seem normal and they seem to work well for them.
Salt Lake, like Denver is quite small and very quiet. Imagine a city with no traffic at peak hour! Scott and I visited the city yesterday and took a look around as well as a tour though the Mormon Tabernacle. The Tabernacle and adjoining temples (churches) were amazing, huge, and gorgeous. Youll see the photos but they dont do much to show the full beauty and size.
As well as the city we have been to the worlds largest open copper mine. It certainly is one big hole in the ground. I believe theyre going to mine for another ten years then what happens to the hole is anyones guess.
We traveled up into the mountains behind the city. The city is in a valley with mountain ranges (connected to the Rockies in Colorado) on the East and West sides. We went to a place called Park City, the site of some of the 2002 Winter Games (Olympics) events. We decided when we return were going to give the Nordic jumping (when you go off a ramp and fly through the air for a while) a go. There are some smaller jumps and the public (for a handsome fee) can have a go.
As well as Park City we went to Sundance (a resort operated by Robert Redford and the site of the Sundance film festival). Its quite a nice place, different to Vail and Beaver Creek and with very inferior skiing. Thats not to say Utah doesnt have amazing resorts, it does, but this particular one is more about glamour than skiing. Next to Sundance the Nelsons (the family were staying with) have two cabins. The cabins are so cute and very mountainish. One of the cabins has an amazing view of mountains, cliffs and a waterfall.
Tomorrow Im off to Washington DC. Im catching what they call the Red Eye flight, a flight which goes through the night arriving at the destination in the morning. Seeing DC is about the distance from Sydney to Perth away were going to be flying for a while. The flight will go from Salt Lake to Atlanta then from there to DC. Ill arrive in DC in time for a shower at the hotel then work, so I hope I can get some sleep on the plane.