Sunday, 31 May 2009

Vancouver - First Weekend

So arriving in Vancouver was sooooo relaxing after the crap departure we had from LAX. The easiest part surprisingly was security, give me this any day over dealing with United airlines. This was the most frustrating and long experience I have ever had at an airport, mix this with not enough staff, people running late for flights and stress and you get Chaos. Anyway so you wait ages for a lady (only nice person here) to talk you through the system which prints off your bag tags, then you wait another 10mins for someone to come and tag your bag, at this point he tells you they are too heavy saying each needed to be 50Lbs contradictory to the several times you had checked with the travel agent that it could be a combined weight. So after repacking to get within the weights we stood in the cue again that was 3 times as long now, finally got our bags tagged but then had to wait 15mins for a different person to check your passport, then you could precede to security. Moral of the story, don't fly with United airlines they are rubbish.

Once getting through the friendly, smiling security that welcomed you with a good attempt of Kia ora, it felt like we were in a different place, the people over this side were so relaxed, friendly and helpful it was amazing. We sat down with half an hour before boarding and had a well earned coffee (semi real coffee also). You would not believe how good this felt after an early 4.30am start and extremely stressful check in.

We managed to get the exit seats in our small jet plane which was awesome as we had extra leg room. We had to read the safety booklet and verbally say that yes we could do all of the things the safety booklet wanted from us in an emergency, weird had never had to do this before. Turns out we didn't have to use it thankfully. We were very lucky with the weather this day, the view from the plane and into Vancouver was beautiful on this clear, sunny day. I didn't get to quite see it all as I slept for some of it, luckily Cam was there.

Arriving at Vancouver airport we had to head to the immigration area to collect our visas, we were at the front of the line and only 2 of 3 people here, according to the one other person behind us, this is very rare. What a change from LAX the people here were very friendly and joking around. Only one hick up, the officer couldn't find one of my papers on the system, wasn't quite sure why she wouldn't look for 6ordan, pretty close to my surname I thought, it appeared they had spelt my name wrong. So after collecting our visas we headed to collect our luggage, this appeared to be an easy step as our luggage was the only stuff going around on the conveyor belt very unusual. Outside we were meet by Bob who had arranged our apartment and took us there. We were given a few groceries and shown around the apartment, before being left to ourselves. Today we had a short walk around the area, checked out our apartment and caught up on a few emails as we were too tired for anything else.

View from our apartment to the East.

Our second day in Vancouver was a 12km walk around Vancouver city and surrounding areas. First we headed along False Creek toward the East side of the city. I still can't believe how many parks and grassed areas there are in this city, it just looks beautiful everywhere you go. Well especially the weather we have had the past 2 days, sunny both days and about 25-30 degrees. Anyway we headed along False Creek, across the Cambie Street bridge and toward BC and GM place. BC place is home to the BC Lions, Vancouver's Football team and GM place is home to the Canucks, Vancouver's Ice Hockey team. Also good places to find as these are where most of the concerts are held. I can't believe how much will power I have had, from now to August there are about 6 concerts I would see, including: ACDC, Greenday, Aerosmith, Blink 182 with supporting guests All American Rejects and Coldplay. Lucky we don't have enough money to buy all of these.

After this we walked through town to find Robson Street one of Vancouver's famous shopping streets. Unfortunately we managed to find one of the most dodgy areas of Vancouver on our way, it was amazing how you could be walking along in a nice area and then cross a road be on the same street and there were people crowded round in alleyways doing who knows what and weird people talking to themselves and asking for money, I wanted to get out of there and quick. So we made it to Robson street walked down here just window shopping of course, till we start work and have money to spend, on our way to Stanley Park. Stanley Park park is just a short walk from downtown and is 1000 acres of walkways, picnic spots, sports parks, cafes and forest areas. From Stanley park on your way round you have views to the city centre, across to North and West Vancouver, out across the harbour, and across to the west of Vancouver. We only walked a short way around here today as it was, hot and we had been walking for a while. We headed back along the waterfront to Canada Place, where the convention centre is and where cruise ships dock. After this we headed home via bus this time, to finally sit down and relax.

Friday, 29 May 2009

LA Holiday - Disneyland

So we had 3 mammoth days (Tues 26th, Thurs 28th and Fri 29th May) at Disneyland and California Park which were awesome. California Park is the newest addition to The Walt Disney Company, it opened in 2001, right across from Disneyland. I would recommend for any one going to these parks that you should have at least 3 days here, with only 2 of us I think this was a perfect amount of time. I would imagine if you had more people that you would need more time here. So our first day on the Tuesday was completely at Disneyland. It was a long 13 hour day. Just a hint to anyone planning on going to Disneyland make sure you utilise the fast pass that they have for certain rides, it is FREE, and helps you to get to rides quicker. Wish we had know this for the first day. There is only one catch you can only have one fast pass at a time.

Anyway back to the fun of Disneyland!! First stop was Tomorrow land for an inside roller coaster adventure and Shooting Z's (literally) at the Buzz light year ride, this was really cool the first interactive ride I have been on and worth it. You sit in the ride and shoot at the Z's with your gun to earn points, shame I couldn't beat Cam no matter how hard I tried, silly boys always better at those sort of things. Also at the end they had a computer that you could send your picture they took of you with your game faces on, to your email (really cool). We didn't even know it had been taken.

The teacups were one of the must do's as Cam hadn't been here before and surprisingly I enjoyed them. All I remember from last time was that they were slow and hard to move. So with my expectations low we boarded the teacups, perhaps last time was preparing me for this time. Turns out this time they seemed easier to turn and not so slow after all, don't know how fast everyone else was going as we could hardly see them as we spun furiously around. Maybe it was the energy Cam had gained from all the cotton candy.

These twirling adventures called for some slower rides, so we decided to have a trip on the story book boat and the famous "its a small world after all" ride. This was actually really well done, it has recently been refurbished and now features a small touch of Kiwi in it, which was really exciting. I think we ended up going on pretty much every ride this first day in Disneyland, we thought we would go hard one day in each park and then relax on our final day which was lucky as this day happened to be the busiest day of all.

Wednesday evening we decided to relax again for the day as the bus to Medieval times picked us up at 4.50pm and kind of ruined any plans to go to a theme park. We did a little shopping, 2 pairs of sketchers later (second pair half price, who could resist) we headed home before heading out for our dinner and show at Medieval Times. It was a tough choice between this show and a pirate show but due to recommendations we went with this one. It was good but I would say I have seen better. The meal however was awesome, no utensils necessary and half a chicken later there was a mess everywhere. The show was well done with jousting and other medieval games and stunts, except our silly knight didn't follow through with our expectations and fell to another component.

Thursday began as a magic morning at Disneyland. A magic morning means you get to enter the park, with other people of course, an hour before the park opens. We decided to go here first today, then switch over to California Park at 10am when it opened for the day. Turns out we picked the best day to do this as it was very quiet for Disneyland standards, we waited for one particular ride for 40mins, other than this 20 mins was the longest we ever waited, it was awesome.

Just a few fun photos:

California park is quite different to Disneyland I thought, has similar shows and the same happy feeling about it but its just different. The themes and rides are different. I get the feeling this is aimed more toward older children and adults. I found the rides were more generic and less Disney, but I still liked them. Plus they produced more adrenalin than Disneyland rides. I had 2 favourite rides here including the Hollywood Tower Hotel and the Toy story rides. Both very different to what I have experienced before and I think this was the reason I like them the most. The Hollywood Tower is awesome, however if you don't like elevators that work properly then I don't recommend this ride. The toy story is another interactive ride where you wear 3D glasses and play 5 different games along the way also very cool. This was the ride with the longest wait time, well worth it though.

Tonight we watched the Disney parade. This sort of fun entertainment really is what makes this place "the happiest place on earth". You get to sing and dance in the streets and get to see all your favourite Disney characters, my kind of party. I don't think anyone could stand here and watch this and not feel happy. Today we also got to meet Mickey it really was a magic day.

For our final day in Disneyland and Los Angeles we just cruised around, going on a few things we hadn't done, going on rides we enjoyed again and taking more photos. We had lunch at a restaurant that we had to book the day before, turns out it was very popular. It is in the dark with candle light only, it also happens to be the scene for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So your sitting there eating while people are drifting past in boats on a ride. Such a good idea. Finally tonight we set aside for seeing the fireworks display, we had seen it several times on the balcony of our hotel, but tonight we got to actually witnessed the storyline of the fireworks. They were very well done. Disneyland opened till 12am this night however we left about 10/10.30ish as we had to get up at 4.30 am for our flight to Vancouver.

All in all this was a tiring, busy, fun and exciting holiday. Just how it should be on holiday I guess, getting the best out of the time you have there.

Monday, 25 May 2009

LA Holiday - Universal Studios

Today was another early morning and long day ahead at Universal Studios. We finally got to do our first rides today after being so close to so many rides for 3 days woohoo!! Now we thought it was going to be extremely busy today being a public holiday, however it appears people did not want to spend this day at an amusement facility. Turns out this was perfect as I don't think we would have fit everything in if it was busier. In comparison to when I was here last the queues were tiny. The longest I think we waited here was approx 20mins. We started off taking the traditional tourist shot, but of course we had to get NZ in there somewhere, turns out we managed this twice in one photo.

I recommend visiting the man who is standing next to the sign which says "how to plan your day". This is very helpful as he tells you where you are best to start and where to go from there. First on the agenda was the studio tour where you jump in a cart and get taken around the back lots of universal. Here they show you where certain shows and movies are filmed and give some insight into how effects are done for movies. The scene for war of the worlds was amazing, so much work goes into just one small section of a movie.

A few Simpson's, Jurassic park and mummy moments later I got to meet Matt Damon, the highlight of my tour, however he didn't really response to questions and just seemed to stand there looking worried all the time. Perhaps he has something against New Zealanders?

Next Cam got to star in a movie, never thought this would happen, I feel he did quite well for a first timer, hes a natural, think there could be something in this for him.

Anyway enough about us. Now Universal studios really knows about making things interesting. You never even get board waiting in lines, there are Simpson episodes on TV, scary dark corridors to walk down on your way to the mummy ride, with air that squirts out etc and they really know how to do a motion master, you actually loose your stomach when going up and over, like on a roller coaster. This really is movie watches/lovers heaven.

Our last stop before heading home for the day was the Universal city walk, this is similar to Downtown Disney but in a smaller scale. It has lots of restaurants/cafes and shops. After a quick walk down here we were due back on the bus for our trip back. Once back it was a few drinks before heading off to bed, eagerly awaiting our first day at Disneyland the following day.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

LA Holiday - Hollywood Tour/Santa Monica

Today was our LA Hollywood Tour/Trip to Santa Monica. For these tours they have a new system from when I was last there, you get picked up from outside your hotel, get taken to a depot where you exchange your ticket for a bus pass and/or event ticket. Then you board your particular bus for the day. Turns out this system works really when your the first bus here which was good for us this day, but doesn't work so well, as we found out the next day when your bus is one of the last to arrive, not really sure why this stop was necessary to be honest. Any who, our bus driver this day was quite a character which was good as we had to listen to him for the whole day. First of all after picking up 2 people which were forgotten, we headed past the Hollywood sign to Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard (This was the host for the Oscars 1944-46). Here we stopped and walked along the Hollywood walk of fame looking for our favourite actors, unfortunately we only found their footprints, hand prints and stars with their names on them.

After this we headed down Hollywood Boulevard to take a photo of the famous Hollywood sign. The sign formerly known as Hollywood land, was initially an outdoor ad campaign for a suburban housing development called "hollywoodland". It was last lit up for the new millennium. See for more information, this is quite informative. Along Hollywood boulevard there are lot of people dressed up as characters such as, Jack Sparrow, Spiderman, Darth Vader just to name a few. A helpful hint give to us by our driver, try and take random photos of them without them knowing otherwise you'll have to give them money. However you don't always get the best shots.

After this we headed to Beverley hills via sunset strip ending up at rodeo drive. Sunset strip is mostly known for its trademark array of colourful billboards however has become a hangout for rock stars, movie stars and entertainers. We did not however happen to see any, but with the cars we saw around I'm sure they were there somewhere. We then headed down a street which has the boarders of Beverley hills on one side and West Hollywood on the other side, you can clearly see the difference in this photo. The houses on the West Hollywood side are the most expensive in Hollywood only because they look directly over to Beverley Hills. Beverley Hills even has its own coloured fire hydrants and police station it is perfect.
Next stop was Rodeo drive, man this street looks flash, according to the bus driver the clothing doesn't have any pricing on it and if you have to ask how much it is then you can't afford it. Only the rich shop here of course. Last stop before Santa Monica was the farmers market just another cheap, busy place to shop. They did have this awesome hot sauces shop here and I just had to take this photo. I could have spent ages here looking at these funny labels.

Our final stop on this trip was Santa Monica. Now we think we have a beautiful beach at the mount, well it is, but not like this one. Same beautiful white sand but about twice the size. It has a nice, huge, pier with a small amusement park on it, unfortunately it was a long weekend in LA for Memorial day. The ques were huge for the rides and we didn't get to go on them. The beach also has a huge grassed area where people play games, exercise and just hang out. Unfortunately I didn't get many photos here, well only got one as my camera ran out of battery, but I suggest if you are in LA you visit Santa Monica, and preferably not on a public holiday.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

LA Holdiay - Downtown Disney

Today we had a relaxing day touring around the Anaheim and Buena Park areas. We had all our other tours planned and booked. First we headed to Buena Park via the public bus system. We had to get off at one street and catch the next bus to Buena Park. I felt a little uneasy here, the neighbourhood and people seemed fine, but all I keep thinking of were the movies where someone pulls over beats you up, steels all your stuff and then drives off. Turns out it was fine. It surprises me how many Spanish speaking people/communities there are in LA. We walked around the area for a while, visiting a farmers market, knotts berry farm, and around the Buena Park area. After this we headed back to the hotel for a swim in the pool, a few drinks and then a visit to Downtown Disney.

Downtown Disney is in between the 2 parks, Disneyland and California Park, it is a street full of shops, restaurants, bars, lights, people and street entertainment. We stopped for a drink in the outside bar, where I believe there have been sightings of Elvis. Then headed to Naples for dinner where we got balloon animal hats which were awesome.

After dinner we sat around and watched a few of the many buskers that were out and did a bit of window shopping. Then we headed back for a few more drinks at the hotel and to watch the fireworks from Disneyland on the balcony of the hotel. Who knew there was actually a story to the fireworks which 6 days later we found out. So the random fireworks shooting here, there and everywhere and the long pauses in between, were actually planned. Who knew fireworks could be so sad :(

Friday, 22 May 2009

La Holiday - Arrival

Today we arrived in LA for our 8 day holiday. We arrived just before lunch time and begun to re-live our Friday, surprisingly it wasn't that hot in LA. We caught the shuttle back to our hotel the room wasn't quite ready therefore we decided to have lunch. The beginning of our amerian sized fatty meals. Turns out our hotel is right accross from Disneyland ("The happiest place on earth"). After a short walk throught Downtown disney (a street open to public with all sorts of restaurants, bars, stores and street performances), we were ready for bed after our long flight and with jet lag kicking in.

View from our apartment accross to disneyland and the pool.