After having our fix of Middle and Southern America, it was time for a taste of the glitzy, glamourous and Botox-laden West Coast. We got things started with a 3 day stay in Los Angeles. We based ourselves in picturesque Santa Monica, which is very much reminiscent of the LA that one sees in the movies - people rollerblading and working out along the beaches, glamourous shops and flashy cars. We spent our first day walking around the streets of Santa Monica and soaking up the surprisingly warm weather - we'd come a long way from the -7 degree days in Kansas City!
One of the highlights of Santa Monica is the famous pier. This isn't just some wooden-planks-and-old-guys-fishing type of pier. It's an entertainment district unto itself with roller-coasters, restaurants and novelty shops. The pier is also the final part of America's famous Route 66 Highway. We certainly got a kick out of comparing this part of Route 66 with the parts down which we had driven in Missouri. It was worlds apart. We finished off our pier visit with a meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp - the restaurant chain that was inspired by the legendary Forest Gump movie.
Day 2 was spent being big kids and running around Universal Studios. In addition to housing dozens of movie studios, the Universal Studios lot also contains a theme park complete with roller coasters, themed villages and all sorts of parades and live shows. We got our thrill ride fix by riding The Mummy, Jurassic Park, Transformers and the Minions rollercoasters multiple times over. We also boarded the internal bus for a tour of famous studio lots and sets such as the set of Jaws, the Bates Motel from Psycho, and the houses of Wisteria Lane.
Our final day in LA was spent riding the hop-on-hop-off bus. We got off the bus to explore the famous Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Unbeknownst to many tourists, the Walk of Fame is actually located in a rather slummy area of Hollywood. It made for an interesting contrast to observe the legendary names on the pavement and then encounter the urine scented clientele walking above those famous names. In addition to the local riff raff, the streets were filled with nerds who were camping out in the hopes of catching their favourite stars later that evening during the premier of The Hobbit. Needless to say, we weren't sticking around here all day!
We re-boarded the hop-on-hop-off bus and paid a visit to the famous Sunset Strip - home of legendary venues like the Whisky a Go Go and the Starwood, which witnessed the birth of the 1980s Hair Metal scene and some of my favourite bands: Van Halen, Motley Crue, Warrant, Winger and WASP. From the Strip we made our way to Beverly Hills and the iconic Rodeo Drive - home to the world's most high end retail stores. There were no 50% off bins in these stores! And even if there were, you'd still be forking out a few thousand quid for a handkerchief!
After surviving the shenanigans of Los Angeles, we were back to the car rental place to get behind the wheel of another Dodge Charger. This time we would be hitting the I-15 and heading to Sin City.
Next stop: Las Vegas