Note: This was my first ever trip story. It was far from the first trip, but this one did inspire me to write up a summary for the folks who might want to tag along someday.
First of all…it was fantastic as usual. Monday morning at 5am we left Parkersburg for Columbus. From Columbus we endured a nearly 5 hour flight on America West to Los Angeles. Fortunately since the flight was so early we were from LAX to the pier, registered and ready to board the ship by 12:30. The ship turned out to be fine. I was somewhat worried about that because the Holiday is significantly smaller than the ships I had been on previously. After completely stuffing ourselves with cheeseburgers and pizza, we set out to show Kevin the ship. I think overall he was very impressed with the ship and the cruise, though he was slightly under the weather the whole time. The first day Steph and I stayed up till midnight which, considering the time difference, meant a 23 hour day. Did I mention how well you can sleep on a cruise.
Tuesday we awoke off the shore of Catalina Island. What a beautiful place! Steep hills surround the town of Avalon, which is where we stopped. The town is very small and very clean and is full of shops, bars and restaurants, like most any other port. We decided that the best way to cover the place was to rent a golf cart. So with the three of us on a cart, we set out for the hills. We traveled all around the perimeter of Avalon getting some wonderful pictures of the town, the bay and the Holiday. After an hour of buzzing around in the golf cart, we wandered over the town on foot till we gave out and thought it time to find a beer. Sitting in that outdoor café, enjoying the blue sky, 60 something degree temperature, and the company of my wife and one of my best friends was an early highlight of the trip. Then it was back to the ship for another enormous amount of edibles. We set sail again around 4:30 that afternoon. We perched ourselves on the rear deck of the Holiday and enjoyed the sunset and the views of the rest of the island as we sailed away. Evenings on the ship are pretty similar, casino and/or party, dinner, show, late buffet for those still able to eat and bed. Believe it or not, none of us hit a single midnight buffet last week! Long days and abundant food made sure of that.
Wednesday we awoke in Ensenada Mexico. Can’t say it was quite like Tuesday morning. Ensenada is a big city, and since we were at the piers, it was the standard sights of cranes, warehouses and trucks. So this time we had to get on a shuttle bus which took us to downtown. It didn’t take too long walking around the lonely, tourist deprived (we stuck out like sore thumbs), dirty streets of town for us to realize that if we wanted to see anything on this part of the trip we had better do some kind of organized tour. So we caught a $13 tour bus which took us to Estero Beach Resort, La Bufadora and back to the pier. Our guide Juaquin was quite a hoot I thought. He spoke excellent English and told us all about the city, his home, from the perspective of a 23 yr. old student. I thought it particularly touching that he asked for a moment of silence as we passed the Corona plant. Estero beach resort was a quick stop so we basically admired the scenery and stopped for a drink or two. The beach here was nearly all destroyed over the past year by El Nino spawned storms. What used to be beach was now water and very little actual beach remained. I don’t know what that will do for business. Next Stop was La Bufadora, a blow hole/geyser which sprayed water 160 ft in the air about every 7 seconds. Kind of neat in that it was located out on the tip of the Punta Banda peninsula about 20 minutes south of the city. If you look at Ensenada on a map, you can see this huge bay with this peninsula bordering the southern side. Armies of people selling their wares have taken over the path to la Bufadora. So we spent a little time there looking around. Kevin bought some silver items and Steph bought a copy of a $300 Dooney and Bourke purse for $20 which looked remarkably real I thought. All I bought was a couple of fish tacos. Yes fish tacos. Dave Snyder recommended them. You would be surprised, they were delicious, especially with authentic Mexican chili sauce. Mmmmmm. The ~half hour ride back to the pier was fascinating. We were able to see a lot of the real Ensenada, not the tourist areas. We also learned that minimum wage in Mexico is $3 a day. Yep that’s for real. I know that there is a lot wrong with our country, but seeing the poverty in other places makes me very thankful for what I have. Don’t take it for granted, our freedom and our quality of life is something that the majority of the world will never see. I know you don’t feel rich, but believe me compared to a lot of the world, we are all very rich.
Thursday was spent at sea. These are my favorite days on a cruise. Everything is a little more leisurely and you have time to truly appreciate the fact that you are literally floating in the middle if the ocean with no connection to the real world at all. We spent quite a bit of time doing the usual stuff, eating, hanging out on the deck, eating, drinking, playing in the casino, shows and eating. Kevin and I both entered the Ping Pong tournament and as usual we were both first round losers. No surprise there. It was disappointing though, because our opponents were neither weasels (backspinners) nor that good. Either of us could have won but didn’t, oh well at least we had fun. One story Kevin probably doesn’t want me to tell but I will anyway because it was real funny at the time. We had all been playing in the casino doing our own thing when I decided I would go see what Kevin was doing. I found him dumping dollars into a slot machine. He walked away to try another machine and I reached in my pocket for dollar. I won $80 on that single! Man, Kevin wasn’t pleased. I felt bad, but it sure was funny at the time. All in all it was a wonderful cruise. Kevin says he’ll definitely go again, and I know we’ll be back ASAP.
Friday morning it was the usual disembarking stuff. Then we got a cab from the pier to the airport where I began my adventure of driving in LA! While I was scared at first, it didn’t take long to settle down and really enjoy it. The freeways looked to be a round about way of getting to Hollywood, so we opted for a more direct route through the Inglewood and Culver City sections of the city. This proved to be a good choice since it took only about 30 mins. to get to our hotel on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland. We arrived at the hotel around noon and took to the streets. We walked up and down most of Hollywood Blvd for an hour or so and saw nothing much other than the Chinese theatre where all the stars’ handprints and autographs are. That was very interesting. Other than that Hollywood has become quite sleazy. It seemed as though the glitz and glamour of the 40’s and 50’s had decayed into the usual scuzzy shops and t-shirt stores of the 90’s. We had to be in Universal City for the Friends taping by 3:30 so we decided to get something to eat and head back to the hotel. To give you an idea of the quality of the places on Hollywood Blvd. these days, we ate at a Burger King. So then it was off to Warner Brothers. Wow! If you are a child of TV like me, you have to see the studios and other stuff involved with making movies and shows. We arrived at the WB studios at 3:30 and got in line. We were about 75th in line at that time. We continued to stand and wait until about 5 when they finally took us into the studio. You cant imagine the security. Metal detectors and security guards to rival any airport. It was quite a walk from the waiting area to the studio and on the way I saw the Growing Pains house, the Hotel used in Hotel, and the Court House used in the final episode of Seinfeld. At first glance, I knew I recognized the name…Latham Courthouse. I knew it was Latham Mass. too, but I couldn’t think of Seinfeld until the guide told us. Then we were in, where we continued to wait and be entertained by Jim Bently until the shooting finally began about 5:45. Jim Bently was the Magician in the ER episode a couple of weeks ago for those who watch it. I don’t so I just took his word for it. The episode being shot was the Thanksgiving episode in which there were a lot of scene changes and back in time kind of things. So we had to wait quite a bit throughout. Some of the scenes took place in a set of the Gellars house in 1988 which was off to the side so our view was extremely limited (we had to watch monitors). But the laughter in the audience is still ours! Finally, the scene moved to Phoebe and Rachel’s apartment in 1992 for a flashback scene. This was right in front of us and it was awesome! Watching the actors in person and seeing what was being filmed on the monitors. Yes they really so screw up a lot. They finally made the switch from 1992 to current. It was amazing, the work that went into that. Watch the Thanksgiving episode and see if you can see the differences between the 1992 flashback (Joey with a Turkey on his head) and the current scenes. The attention to detail was like nothing I had ever seen. They changed everything from the wall hangings to the oven in about 25 minutes! It was as if an army of workers just came out and took over the place. This took so long that Matthew Perry (Chandler) actually came up to the crowd and chatted with us for quite a while. He answered a hundred questions from the crowd I bet. The guy seemed really similar to Chandler, and seeing as how he is my favorite character on the show, it was great! He and Matt LeBlanc (Joey) seemed pretty cool. I liked them both. Ross on the other hand didn’t seem to even acknowledge the crowd was even there. The girls seemed ok, though they didn’t really interact much either other than to casually watch as the crowed danced to YMCA during a break. We hung around until about 10:30 Friday night. We left because the set was changing to the guys apartment and we knew that would take a while. Someone I was talking to said that the tapings routinely take until 12 or 1 in the morning. When we were escorted out, a crowd of nearly a hundred people were waiting out where we had been at 3:30. I guess they keep the place full and refill whenever someone leaves, so we were at least heroes for the moment.
Saturday arrived and while it was depressing because it was our last full day, it was exciting because we knew we had one day to see as much of LA as we could. Around 8am our friend Dave Snyder came up from San Diego where he has lived since we graduated High School together 10 years ago. It was nice to see him again and I’m sure even more so for Kevin as they had literally grown up together. So anyway we drove two to a car from Hollywood to Santa Monica. Santa Monica is a beautiful little part of LA. The beach was enormous and the Santa Monica Pier is just like I had seen it on TV. We wandered around the beach and pier for a while and then walked through the Third St. area which is closed to traffic and used only by pedestrians. It was a beautiful Saturday morning. From SM we headed to Venice Beach! I have always wanted to see Venice…and yes it is every bit as much of a freak show as it is portrayed on TV and the movies. You name it you see it walking along the beach. People selling everything from their stuff to their advice to there philosophies. It was crazy to say the least. We covered about all of Venice Beach and it was suddenly 1 in the afternoon. We made our way back to Café Santa Monica for lunch where I fell in love with Huevos Rancheros. A tortilla, beans, chili, 2 eggs, potatoes, cheddar cheese, peppers, onions and hot Mexican chili sauce on top of it all! WOW! It was so goooooood! After lunch Dave headed back to San Diego and Kevin, Steph and I headed for Beverly Hills. Tired from the mornings walking, we decided to drive through Beverly Hills. We covered all of the business district I think. Everything is so pretty and clean. Next time I’m in LA I will definitely spend some more time there. From Rodeo Dr. we toured the residential areas. Man. As rich as I described us earlier, this is how poor I felt we were here. Not Mercedes, Beamers and Volvos but Bentleys, Rolls Royce’s, and Ferraris. You name it it was there. And needless to say, the houses were incredible. It was time to head back to the hotel and since I had covered Santa Monica Blvd. thoroughly, we took the long way back way home. Coldwater Canyon and Mullholland Drive was our path. You talk about spectacular! The Hollywood hills and Mullholland provide views of LA like none other. You could see forever up there and it was great. I hope my pictures turn out. After a brief rest stop at the hotel we hit the road again that evening for the last of our tour. We went to Sunset Boulevard and travelled clear into Beverly Hills again. On sunset, I saw the Whisky and the Roxy. Two clubs where now legends began their careers. I have heard about these ever since I have been into music and while they appeared to be dumps the history made them a big highlight of the evening. From there we took Melrose back into West Hollywood and Hollywood. What a trip. We then went on to the Griffith Observatory where a truly magnificent view of Los Angeles can seen. It was incredible. Movies always portray the views from the hills as great, and that they are. From our location, we could see everything, including Dodger Stadium, where Kiss was playing and the Greek Theatre where the Supertones were playing (only one person on this list will know them). Actually we were close enough to hear the sound from that show. I wish I could have seen it. The trip back from the Observatory took over an hour (should’ve been 15 minutes). It turned out that they had Hollywood Blvd closed for a huge Halloween Party. What a mess. At least I got to experience true LA traffic. When we finally made our way to the Hotel, Kevin and I headed for the party. What a frightening sight. I would guess tens of thousands of people. Wall to wall on Hollywood Blvd. As far as the eye could see. And 70 percent of them had those spray cans of string stuff. Kevin and I wandered around about a half hour when we figured we should probably get out of there. And I’m someone who likes disappearing into a crowd! Oh well, we got to experience it at least.
Well, that’s it. Sunday was travel and Monday is me here at my computer again. If you suffer through this I’ll owe you a cookie or something. As Steph says, I’m too windy and if you are familiar with my writings you probably know that to be true. Oh well, at least I got these memories down. Thanks for listening.