On our last morning in San Francisco, Lynne, Karen, Cath, Neil, Kathy and I headed downtown at 7.50am with all our luggage to meet our bus tour to Monterey and Carmel. Our bus left San Francisco city and headed south through the outer suburbs. There were suburbs that were very high density full of run-down 3-storey buildings up and down the hills. The further we got out of the city, the neighbourhoods became less crowded and the houses larger and better spaced. It was not long before we were in the countryside going past artichokes and strawberry fields. At lunchtime we stopped in Monterey, a lovely little village on the coast. Many decades ago it was a base for canning sardines, and the old cannery building has been converted into a shopping mall. I have never seen so many t-shirt shops in such a small area, even the Gold Coast! We had a quick lunch then on the bus again to visit Pebble Beach Golf Course. Wow! Some of the mansions in this area are magnificant, and the golf course complex is ridiculously elite. Membership is $250,000 per year and there is not just a pro shop, there are jewellry, adult and kids clothing shops, a hotel, a real estate agent, Wells Fargo bank and a market. There was a property in the real estate agent's window on sale for over $18 million and the jewellry was out of this world, and so was the price. Our next stop was Carmel (Clint Eastwood country) which is another quaint village with lots of (expensive) boutique shops. It is a very pretty spot and there are some truly lovely homes in the area. We then headed back to The Bay Park Hotel in Monterey for the night.
The next morning we boarded a taxi-bus for our trip to nearby Salinas Railway Station, where we caught the train for our almost 10-hour journey to Los Angeles. The Amtrak train seats are very comfortable. They are nice and wide, lean back further than airline seats and have footrests that rise to seat level. There was an observation car, a dining car and a snack bar area with dining tables. All areas have a great view of the countryside, and we went through many different landscapes. The Salinas area is known as the Salad Bowl of America and we passed lots of huge fields of lettuce and other leaf crops, broccoli, cauliflower and grapes. We passed lots of tiny farm towns, oil wells, sunset over the sea, snow high on the mountains, a couple of men's gaols, and lots of other things. We finally arrived safely at Union Station, Los Angeles at 9pm and made our way by taxi to our Hollywooid home to meet up with the girls. The house is great and has the most wonderful view over Hollywood and Los Angeles, especially at night.
The next morning we all set out early to take a Metro train to get to Grauman's Chinese Restaurant where we were to join our 9am tour of movie stars' homes. Our guide, Mick, drove us around and informed us about the lives and deaths of the television, music and movie stars while showing us what he could of their homes. After the tour, there was time for a quick lunch before we departed on our tour of the Warner Brothers Studios. This time our tour guide was Joshua, and he drove us around movie and television lots and explained how they were constructed and what shows or movies they were used in. We visited the huge workshop where they construct the sets, and got to visit the set of 'The Mentalist' (we were very disappointed that Simon Baker was not there!). We also got to see the 'Friends' set - it is surprising how small it is. Our next stop was the Warner Brothers Museum. We enjoyed seeing costumes from old Doris Day and Bett Davis movies and more modern movies like 'The Matrix' and 'The Dark Knight'. There was a whole floor dedicated to Harry Potter which was fun, and we all got to sit under the 'Sorting Hat' (I got into Gryffindor by the way). We also got to see movie vehicles such as the Batman car, the Austin Powers' Shaguar, Clint Eastwood's Grand Torino and the Harry Potter flying car. After the tour, we spent another hour or two shopping and exploring Hollywood Boulevarde, before buying some meat and salad for a BBQ dinner back at our mansion.
The next morning Karen, Kathy and the young ones went to The Grove to shop and to see Chloe Kardashian. Neil, Cath and I travelled downtown again to tour the Kodak Theatre, and Lynne was unwell, so stayed home to rest. Our visit to the Kodak Theatre, the home of the Oscars, was good. We got to go into the VIP area, where there was a real Oscar on display. In the foyer, there was a table duplicating this year's post-Oscars Governer's Ball set up. This year's Governor's Ball theme was the 1930s, and the table setting was superbly elaborate. There were also pictures of past Governor's Ball ballroom arrangements, which were equally as impressive, and our guide said that nothing from the ballroom was re-used from one year to the next. They even put in false ceilings, walls and floors each year to suit their chosen theme. We're getting used to the fact that nothing is real in Hollywood! We also got to go into the theatre to see where everyone sits, i.e., stars, directors, producers, money people and members of the Academy. We got to see where the winners go after their time on stage. Immediately after receiving the award, the winner is instructed to sign a contract to say that will never sell their Oscar, and they are committed to meet the press immediately. I might even watch next year's Oscars to see how much of the surroundings I recognise.
As unlikely as it seems, Hollywood was hosting the Da Vinci Exhibition inside the Kodak Theatre building. It was a fascinating exhibition, which displayed working, small scale models of many of his inventions. For example, I did not know he invented the bicycle. There were also copies is his art, with explanations about the subjects, the history, the style, the materials and when they were painted. His body of work was amazing.
We then headed home for some rest and to prepare our roast pork for our final dinner in Hollywood - it was delicious.
I can't say I loved Los Angeles or Hollywood. Hollywood is a brash place where you have to negotiate your way around spruikers and con people on the crowded streets. People here have less manners than San Francisco, and the streets are not as clean. I know I'm showing my age, but I think this place is more exciting to the younger crowd. Hollywood seemed to me to be more show than substance, and there was an air of desperation about the place. Nevertheless, I am glad to have seen it, and I'm glad I got to stay in a Hollywood mansion.