Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Our US Trip: Part 4 - Universal Studios.

Monday 6th December

Waffles for breakfast again! And once again, mine turned out perfectly while Ali's was substandard. Ho-ho-ho. It was even sunny outside. So looking forward to a great day

We got off to an earlier start than the day before, I think we were on the road by 9am. Paul had downloaded the instructions from the net, and to me it seemed a roundabout way to get there. A long way north, then east, then south. Struth! All around LA. But we did get there. During the trip, the weather had turned decidely cold, though thankfully it wasn't raining again. So it was out with the jackets again as we exited at Universal Studios. The parking was a lot less organised than Disney I noted.

As we exited the parking lot we were assaulted by LOUD music. There just wasn't any escape from it. We walked down through all the shops towards the entrance — for some reason it reminded me of Fox Studios in Sydney. Hee hee.

At the entrance, Paul and Roz took off to get photo IDs, as they were season ticket holders or something. Ali and I meandered on in, debated whether or not to have a shot taken with the Marilyn look-alike, decided no, looked at the schedule, and wandered down to the Blues Brothers Show, which was starting in a couple of minutes. I SMS's ("texted" for the rest of you) Paul to let him know where we'd be.

The Blues-mobileAs it turned out, it was the "Christmas" Blues Brothers show, so it did nothing but annoy me. OK, Jake and Elwwod were reasonable facsimiles, and the car was pretty cool, but I think they only sung three numbers from the movie. And they slotted in this other little runty character who they said was Curtis's relative or something. I just couldn't get into it at all — I think Ali may have, though. Paul and Roz caught up with us at the end. they were itching to move on.

First up was Animal Planet. Lots of trained animals and I got to pat one of the doggies out the front. Reasonably entertaining. There was one bird that was trained to retrieve money off people in the crowd. I wondered whether it knew the difference between US currency or other currencies, or even Monopoly money. They used the standard comedy/magic show trick — take the money off the audience volunteer and then "disappear" it. "Oh yes here it is in a thousand pieces," <clap,clap,clap> you get the picture.

When that was over it was over to the Shrek 3D movie, which was very cool. Paul and Roz somehow managed to sit in seats that didn't work — they rock and move back and forth at various points in the movie — but ours did, so it was pretty good. And to top it off, when we exited the movie, Shrek and Fiona were just around the corner having photos taken. Fiona looked a little bored, but she kept in character and even asked me if Ali was"my true love." She didn't understand my colloquial reply I don't think, as she gave me a wierd look, one of those, "Oh my, this is a nutcase, I want to get out of here." I wasn't being nutty at all! Paul and Roz got a photo with Dora the Explorer. No, I don't know who these are either, but they were very popular with the Japanese tourists. In fact, in my notes I had it written down as "Travelling Nora" — almost! Shrek and Princess Fiona

Next stop was the "Van Helsing" ride, which was just like a dimly lit maze, and people jumped out at you. They were quite good, and two months later I still have the bruise yellowing from where Ali gripped my arm very, very hard. The scary things on the walls were just, you know, scary things on the walls, but when someone jumps out in front of you unexpectedly, it was very effective.

We checked the schedule and headed down to the start of the backlot tour. Either our schedule was wrong or they changed it, but one lot left just as we were leaving, with plenty of space on board. Perhaps I had my watch still set on Sydney time? Grrrr. Never mind, it was only a fifteen-minute wait for the next one, and by that time the crowds had piled up behind us. So off we go, looking through the streets of the backlot. The guy running the thing looked like an ex-actor, very well preserved in an LA sort of way. He got the poos a number of times during the ride with whoever was pressing the buttons for some of the special effects. Hee hee that was real funny.

The tour was alright, but I should've taken a notebook with me as I snapped about 150 shots of buildings and things, and have little hope of ever remembering what film or TV show it was used in. "This is the drug store from Man Loses His Pants," <snap, snap>, "and the coffee shop from Battleship Popcorn." <snap, snap>. They also had cool things like the street that flooded with rains — Paul got wet on this one, you can see the sequence here, here, here, here and here. (That'll teach you, putting me at the front of the log ride!) And of course we saw the Jaws set, and this set and that set and King Kong and the largest green-screen in the world and a collapsing bridge and a river that parts (hee hee — "We're at the river now would you part the river? Umm we're waiting here for the river to part, would you please part the river? Ummm yes we're still here can you part the river?" — hee hee. Gee he was getting upset). Anyway, about 45 minutes of tour and we were back where we started.

Time for lunch. This time a proper lunch because I wasn't feeling so queezy as yesteday. We stopped at a pizza cafe and had pizza and beer. I must say, pizza in the USA seems so very much different from pizza back home. It was all I could do to get a pizza with something more than just cheese and tomato sauce on it. OK, yes I agree things are starting to come off the rails a bit now with the "two-layers of thin crust enclosing thick cream cheese for a base" stuff that is going on now, but still, does it hurt you to put bit of capsicum on there (or even some bell peppers ;-) )? The beer was a Heineken I think served in a huge plastic cup. Roz declined the lunch due to her illness. A wise decision for her, since we all agreed it was the worst food we'd had so far.

After lunch was the bottom end of the Park: Backdraft, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park, Revenge of the Mummy, Revenge of the Mummy, then back up the top. With the nice weather, the crowds had grown, so we actually had to wait in line to see Backdraft. To tell the truth I wasn't that impressed with Backdraft — maybe I watch too much television? Jurassic Park was alright, but it was a long ride just to go down the big slope at the end, which was the best part. People were purchasing yellow plastic ponchos for the Jurassic Park ride; we still had our Disneyland ponchos with us, put these on and so looked a little out-of-place. And then we walked off the ride and went straight back in to do it again. The Revenge of the Mummy was voted the best ride by the others. I only had one stomach for it however, and because the lines were small, the other three went on it again, then later Paul and Roz went on it yet again. I cruised the gift shops.

WaterworldAfter the long climb back up to the top of the park, we decided to sit in a faux-Mexican bar for a while drinking Margherita's waiting for the Waterworld exhibition to start. When it was getting close, we finished our drinks and headed up there. Paul recommended us to a particular area, ("No keep going, further to the back, further. Further!"), which I was grateful for when I saw the extras start up the show and begin by spraying people within easy reach with water. The show was quite entertaining, and for a lot of the crowd, wet, as they got sprayed with water from the jet skis. This was the largest crowd I'd seen all day, and it was starting to get dark. We had a brief stop off in the gift store to buy souvenirs before heading off — we really had to get going because we had to get from Universal, back to Manhattan Beach and then back into the Staples Centre (<cough, cough> I mean center, sorry) to see the NBA game that Paul had bought tickets for.

The trip home was long and painful. Traffic! Roz was ill and Ali was once again sleeping. Roz decided on the way that she wouldn't go to the game. But regardless, it was a quick turnaround after spending about an hour in the car from Universal to the Hotel. Only twenty-five minutes later we were looking for a parking spot near the Staples Centre.

The NBA. I've always wanted to go see an NBA game. Nothing to do with the fact that I play the game. It just seems a great big enjoyable spectacle. This game was enjoyable. Double-overtime. I didn't even know there was a concept like double-overtime. The LA Clippers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 99 to 93. I must say the food at the Staples Centre was obsolute rubbish. We tried MacDonalds, a "Street" Dog, Nachos with Cheese Dip. The only thing which we enjoyed was the Dos Equus beer — I think this means "Two X's". What happened to the other two? Har-har.

We were in what is affectionately referred to as the "nosebleed section". I think there were about 10 empty rows behind us and then there was the roof. The players were bizarrely out-of-proportion stick figures. But we could see. It was well worth the money to see the game, and both Ali and I enjoyed it. I think Paul enjoyed it too, since he's a basketballer from wayback. The bloke sitting next to us slept through the whole game. He had his kids with him, but all they did was run riot in the place. We naturally barracked for the home team, despite the obvious draw to Charlotte (my eldest daughter's name). In the USA I guess you could say we routed for the team, but it's not an expression I would use. ;-)

Battling through the crowds, we got home around 11:45p. Another late night. Another great day!

No comments: