In case you are wondering what happened to Day 8, it was actually yesterday despite my blog heading saying Day 7. I managed to repeat Day 7 twice and we never even crossed the date line! Today we decided to go to Universal Studios the home of movie making. Even though we are staying in Beverly Hills which is right next to Hollywood, it still took us 35 minutes in a cab to get to Universal Studios. You have to go up and over a mountain (or large hill) which pretty much reminded us of the drive from Constantia to Hout Bay actually. We decided to have breakfast at Universal and rather get there for the opening at 9am. That turned out to be a very good decision and we also managed to time it very well in that by the time we had purchased our tickets it was 8:57am and 3 minutes later they opened the park. Everyone who was waiting made a dash for the Studio Tour and we joined the throng of people doing that too. As we were early on we managed to get onto the 3rd tram ride of the morning and we only waited around 10 minutes for it. Later when we left (at around 1:30pm), the line was so long for the tour that it would have taken at least an hour to get on.
The Studio Tour is a 45 minute ride on a tram and they take you around the back lot and Studios. The studios are really just big warehouses which they kit out for whatever production they are making. The back lot is quite interesting as you see facades of buildings and nothing behind them at all. You realise very quickly that what you see in movies is really not real at all and is just an illusion. That is really what Hollywood is all about – an illusion. The tour also takes you through a few special effects including a brand new ride which only opened yesterday – King Kong in 4D fighting dinosaurs. The first time we went through it didn’t work and so we went around and tried a second time and then it worked. The result was that I still have the nail marks in my leg from where Helen gripped it when the dinosaurs came right up to the tram and we could smell it’s stinky breathe. Chloe (who was sitting on the other side of me) eventually closed her eyes and gave up watching.
They also showed us how they make rain the movies including a flash flood, took us past Jaws swimming in the sea and then into an underground tunnel that was a subway set where an earthquake hit us. When the sparks started to reply and the door of the electrical box ripped open Michael almost climbed on Stephen’s lap and whatever nail marks weren’t made from the King Kong visit, Helen completed when the subway train derailed in front of us and started to crash directly toward the Tram. The whole ride was entertaining. We even got to see Wisteria Lane – it is from a show that I don’t watch but I bet some of you do and probably won’t admit it! We didn’t get to see anyone important or impressive though. The only annoying thing was that the family behind us had brought their 1 or 1.5 year old son on the ride and he was crying hysterically after the first King Kong bit and never let up as each time a scary thing happened (which were interspersed by about 5 minutes each time) he just lost it again. Parents like that should be banned from (a) theme parks and (b) being parents as they were simply traumatising the kid.
After the ride we got our long-awaited breakfast and then headed back to see the Shrek 4D. The theatre seats move, when Donkey sneezes you get wet etc. We also saw the special effects show during which they show you how special effects make the movies. It was probably the most entertaining of all the things we saw. As you walk between the various rides and shows there are people performing mini-shows all the time and we saw Zorro sword fighting and Marilyn Monroe singing (or doing a cabaret actually). A number of cartoon/kids characters are also walking around and so we got to see Bart, Homer & Marge Simpson (they were bigger than I imagined them to be) and my personal favourite – Sponge Bob Square Pants. After visiting the lower lot (via a series of escalators which are the longest I have ever seen), the crowds have multiplied to such an extent that we felt it was time to flee the crowds. On the way back up and out, Helen said, ‘Give me a game park any time’!
We spent a quiet afternoon in the hotel reading but not after watching Ghana throw away the World Cup with their missed penalty in extra time. They really did throw it away. Tomorrow is the big Germany v Argentina game and I am definitely getting up at 7am to watch that! This evening we walked down to the local mall. It is the first ever mall that I have seen with a valet parking service – but then I shouldn’t be surprised this is Beverly Hills 90210. A lot of the shops have sales (another sign of the recession I guess) and Helen and I both managed to buy some clothes. We again killed another few minutes in the Apple store playing with the Ipad and latest Iphone. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in the mall and the food was excellent – probably the best we have had so far this holiday. Helen and I even shared a half bottle of wine though at the price I could have bought a case back home. The only disappointment (besides the wine price) was the one waitron who was wearing those ridiculously short shorts when she had “thunder thighs” (Helen’s words not mine).
The rest of this evening will be spent reading. I now have a Nook (which is an e-book reader like the Amazon Kindle but only better – Helen has a Kindle). It really is a great invention as it is much easier to travel with it rather than multiple books. I wonder about the future of printed books with these devices.
My closing observation for today – if you want to make money in LA/Beverly Hills/Hollywood you better own a Beauty Salon, Tanning Parlour, Laser treatment centre etc. Every 3rd shop (no I am not exaggerating) is one of those. In a place meant to be filled with beautiful people it seems a lot of people need to be made to look beautiful. I have never seen so many of these Salons per square mile anywhere else in the world. It is so ridiculous that today at the mall in the walkway there was a teeth whitening service being offered. Sit down for 20 minutes with everyone watching you while you bite onto a mouthpiece and your teeth are whiter than when you arrived at the mall. Why on earth would someone do this in public (and there were 4 chairs available!)?
Yours from the Land of what you see if probably not real.
P, H, M, C, S