The City of Angels
After our night in Kingman we hunt down a Route 66 sign for some pictures before continuing to head west to the city of angels. I finally get into the driver's seat! We arrive mid afternoon and figure our way into the city's maze of six lane freeways. We find our hostel, Banana Bungalow and settle in. Ryan heads out to find a grocery store, after asking hostel staff for directions. They send him down Vine Street, which runs off Hollywood Boulevard and contains some of the Hollywood stars. Once those stars cease Vine Street becomes quite unsavoury. Quite unsavoury.
First up the next day we hit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, exclaiming over actors, actresses and singers name we recognise. We see the Kodak theatre where the Oscars are held. It seems a strange place to have so much glitz and glamour, as Hollywood Boulevard is actually really dingy, full of run down and cheap fastfood eateries, souvenir stores selling hundreds of mini oscars and retail stores that look like they belong in some hick midwest town in the 90's. And the homeless and crazy people here give those in San Fran a run for their money (or lack of).
We see the Hollywood sign up in the hills and Capitol Records. We see the Chinese Theatre with the handprints, footprints and messages scrawled in cement blocks from famous celebs. Despite no lack of offers for bus tours of the celebrities homes in Beverly Hills from touts on the streets, we decide to pay $5 for a map that details the home addresses of Posh and Becs, Tom and Katie, Brangalina, MJ's house and more and see the houses ourselves with our rental car.
We grab our car from the hostels parking spaces only to discover that the tiniest of chips we got driving in Arizona, has turned into a massive crack some 20cm long running down from the top of our windscreen. We let the hostel know about the damage (there were guys playing soccer and basketball amongst the parked cars last night and we suspect a stray ball may have caused our chip to give way). We make the decision to put our celebrity stalking on hold and head out to LAX airport and exchange the car. Good decision it turned out, as the crack continued spreading on our drive to the airport.
The exchange was pretty painless so with a new car we headed into Beverly Hills where we proceeded to hunt down the gates and driveways of Elton John (his house looks like an apartment building or hotel), Christina Auguelira's house (previously Ozzy Osbornes where the show was shot), Tom and Katies, the house where the Godfather was filmed, the Beckhams, Jen Anniston, MJ's house and the Playgirls Mansion. We also see the street where the Beverly Hillbillies (remember them - Jethro, Jed and Grannie) drove down to arrive into Beverly Hills in the opening of the program.
The following day we have plans to hit the beaches and do sweet F.A. But our plans are somewhat hampered by our car being blocked in by a car that is double parked behind us. Now that in itself is not really a problem, because the hostel allows this double parking, but the double parker must leave their car keys with reception so their car can be moved if necessary. Now this isn't the problem either, as the girls that double parked behind us handed their keys in to the office. The problem is that the office have lost those car keys. The rental company is eventually called but hostel staff are told that they must go to the rental office to collect spare keys and the staff seem unwilling to use a hostel vehicle (they have minivans) or taxi to go get spare keys. So we are at an impasse.
Eventually the car in the next parking bay over from our car leaves and after a million point turn we are able to manoevre our car out. No thanks to the hostel staff who seemed unwilling to get spare keys to replace those they lost/misplaced. Grr.
We head out to Venice Beach, walking the golden sands to Muscle Beach and then strolling the shopfronts fronting the beach. Man there were some funky cats on the beachfront street. LOTS of homeless people, one of the more notable ones was a guy dressed in a full length woman's denim dress, on rollerblades carrying a full sized battery powered pretend electric guitar. It was like those toy guitars you have as a little kid, where maybe three button will play three different tunes. He rollerbladed up and down 'playing' his guitar. Oh and the walk in clinics for self medication by marjuana were pretty out there too. Medicial purposes only. Yea right. We drink Coke out of a glass bottle and it just tastes better.
We head down to Santa Monica which has less of the unsavoury elements of Venice. We explore the attractions of the Santa Monica Pier and then join the throngs on the beach to sun ourselves silly.
Eventually all sunned out we head back to the hostel. We park our car to the side of the garages (not doubled parked) and have a quiet night chatting with our new dormies. Some time around midnight we are woken from our slumber and asked to move our car by the staff member who saw us park there 5 hours earlier.
This Banana Bungalow is turning out to be a bit of a circus! We already can't wait to leave! It's not a patch on our San Fran hostel. No soap in the toilets, no handtowel either. House cleaning seems to consist of emptying the rubbish bins. The kitchenette in each dorm has a fridge, freezer, microwave and oven which is all good you might think. Until you open the cupboards and find that even the basics are not provided. A can opener would be a start! There are no cups for a drink of water from the tap. And don't start me on the breakfasts.
Oh okay. Breakfasts at Banana Bungalow are single handedly killing the planet. Unlike every other hostel we've stayed in to date over the past couple of years, Banana Bungalow does not provide cutlery and ask you to wash it. I guess this is because there is no communal kitchen in which they could keep plates and cereal bowls. So instead at each breakfast is a stack of paper plates, polystyrene cereal bowls, polystyrene cups and plastic utensils. All of which get tossed into the rubbish bin after you'ved dined on cherios (the cereal, not the cocktail sausage) and sweet American white bread with peanut butter and jelly for spreads. If you're lucky sometimes there's tea and coffee.
Today we headed off to Universal Studios which was pretty cool. The 3D King Kong ride on the studio tour was cool and it was lovely to hear Peter Jackson's accent. We must be ready for home! We soaked ourselves on the Jurassic Park ride and then went on my first (yes, just where have I been living!?) rollercoaster ride on the Return of the Mummy ride. We watched a special effects show where I almost burst with pride when they said Weta are the best in the business. I scared myself silly in the House of Horrors and we were impressed by the Waterworld show and laughed ourselves silly watching the Shrek 4D show.
Now we are packed and wondering if we are going to get any sleep tonight before we get up early to return our car to LAX tomorow (there's a keg party and live band at the hostel tonight - its a Wednesday night thing).
In case it wasn't already obvious, we would not stay again at Banana Bungalow and would not recommend it.
It'll be good to get into Quito and settle in with the altitude and culture. What an adventure awaits us!...