Monday, 9 February 2015

L.A; Francis Ford Coppola and the Fried Chicken Dinner.

Craig Writes:
Wednesday 21 January
We arrived at LAX and made our way to The Farmers Daughter, a gorgeous LA modern meets country kitsch boutique hotel in West Hollywood.  It was a couple of hours before we could check in so we left our bags at reception and headed over to the Farmers Markets. 
The very funky Farmers Daughter.
The markets are an L.A institution and have been serving up a smorgasbord of American, Latin American and Asian food since 1934.  Mickey Rooney, Mae West, Elvis Presley and the Shah of Iran are just some of the names that have eaten there.  It was the perfect place for an early lunch.  Afterwards we fossicked around the knick knack stalls before wandering over to have a look at The Grove.
The Grove, a little slice of surreal.
It's a twenty five acre retail and entertainment complex built in 1999 and is so carefully arranged and stage managed you feel like you could be standing on the set of the Truman Show.  Everything was so perfect and pristine and clean, from the manicured gardens playing piped music from the sculptured hedges to the gushing hourly musical water show and the impossibly clean streets.  We laid on the golf green square of lawn that seemed to be the epicenter of it all and people watched before calling it a day.

Thursday 22 January
We had hired a tour guide today, Jasmine, and she was going to show us the sights.  We had her for the entire day after which she would be dropping us and our luggage off at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel in Anaheim.  We went back to the Farmers Markets for breakfast before meeting Jasmine and heading to our first stop, the Griffith Observatory, and a photo op with the Hollywood sign. 
You can just see it if you look hard.
There is some interesting history to this L.A icon. It was originally a promotional sign that read Hollywood Land and was used to sell real estate in the Hollywood Hills area.  It was only supposed to be up for 12 - 18 months. Hearing of its imminent demise a group of influential movie movers and shakers bought the sign, removed the Land portion and the rest as they say is history.   

Griffith Observatory was built with money donated by the man whose name it bears, wealthy mining magnate and real estate developer Griffith J Griffith.  In addition to a bucket load of money he also donated three thousand acres of parkland to the LA County for the enjoyment of the locals.  Unfortunately, today the smog and lights of the city render it practically useless for any serious star gazing but it was a nice thought at the time.  
The illustrious and very generous Mr Griffith did however have a bit of a dark side, to the extent that the city waited until his death before accepting his ample gifts.  It appeared that the public teetotaller Mr Griffiths was in fact a nasty closet drunk.  He once served two years in jail for getting so paralytically drunk he accused his wife of plotting against him with The Pope. He then proceeded to pull a gun and shot her in the eye.  She thankfully survived but not surprisingly the marriage did not.

The white apartment in the middle with the two big windows was Marilyn's.
From Griffith Observatory we made our way to The Roosevelt Hotel, home to Marilyn Monroe for two years when her career first took off and the site of the very first Oscar presentations in 1929. 
It was a famous hangout for many celebrities and it is said that Marilyn and the late Cliff Montgomery still drop in from time to time.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre was just over the road so I had to go see if me and Jack Nicholson were still brothers in palms. We were. 
Fits like a glove.
Jasmine mentioned that we should be on the lookout for a star dedication ceremony. There are twenty five a year so there's a good chance we might get a celebrity sighting.
Lo and behold behind a small wall of reporters and cameras a sidewalk star dedication was being held for the late Ray Dolby, the founder and inventor of Dolby Sound.  Not exactly Matt Damon or Meryl Streep but better than nothing.  But, just when our excitement meter was nudging boring I look into the front row of the seated guests and there sitting waiting to give his dedication speech was none other than the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of Hollywood.  Three Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now, The Great Gatsby, The Way We Were and so much more.  It was the A list sighting I was hoping for.  We waited and listened to his short dedication, took some pictures and then happily moved on.
Hollywood legend, Francis Ford Coppola.

This will be the staircase for the stars come Oscar night.
We grabbed a quick lunch at the Inn and Out Burger joint, yet another Hollywood favourite.  They catered Vanity Fair's post Oscar party last year and were a big hit with all the celebs.  From here Jasmine took us to Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills, a massive big Tudor house built by Edward Doheny for his son in 1928.  It's been public property since The City of Beverly hills bought the estate in 1965 and it pays for itself by being a favourite site for many films and TV shows including the first two Spidermans, The Gilmore Girls and the latest Ninja Turtle effort.

You can't come to L.A without a drive through 90210.  Wide palm lined streets, opulent houses and expensive European cars.  No surprises here, the place is a renowned cliche and it delivers.  

One of the places I was glad to see on the itinerary was the J.P Getty Museum and Gallery.  It is a sprawling complex in the hills of Brentwood and houses one of the most impressive collections of European, drawings, paintings, sculptures and manuscripts in the US.  
This hat rack and umbrella stand was one of my favourites.
Regretfully we were running short on time having spent more time than necessary at both Griffith Observatory and the Greystone house.  We were really rushed through which was a great shame.  There was enough there to keep you absorbed for hours, fourty five minutes was criminally short.  
We endured the same problem at our last stop, Venice Beach.  This place was gritty, edgy and I'm not sure I'd like to be hanging around too long after dark but in daylight hours it was as cool as Vanilla Ice.
A little slice of Venice Beach
There was an MTV hip hopper called Snootie Wild who was shooting a new video in the sand just off the boardwalk, the smell of Mary Jane hung heavy in the air, skateboarders were cutting it up with killer moves in the skate park, loincloth clad black men were...well I'm not sure what he was doing, and a crowd of around a hundred homeless people, some with suitcases, some with cardboard boxes, were congregating on the grassy knoll waiting for the sun to go down so they could claim their piece of grass for the night. But, with our time almost out and a ninety minute drive to Anaheim still in front of us we were again restricted to what we could see within a couple of hundred metres radius and then it was time to hit the road.

Friday 23 January
There is a Santa Claus convention at our hotel.  The Fraternal Order of Real Beard Santas were having their annual convention at the Knot'ts Berry Farm hotel and we were lucky enough to be there. Over one hundred dedicated Santa lookalikes had gathered there on their annual get together to learn how to be a better Santa. You've never seen so many big bellied white haired old fellas dressed in red in one place before.  So much ho hoing, hair tousling and dispensing of good cheer. They just need a snow machine in the lobby and some friendly elfves and it would have been perfect.   
Santas adding a jolly touch to breakfast.
We had booked the first 8.30am shuttle to Disneyland to get in the early queue but we need not have worried.  We walked straight in the front door. It's the start of Disney's off season and certain sections of the park were in shutdown mode for maintenance so crowds were low. 

Disneyland number four. It never gets boring.
If this had been our first Disney we would have been pretty pissed off. Splash Mountain and The Matterhorn were both not running.
We still managed to kill ten hours and consume all manner of theme park calories though.  The giant turkey leg, the bottomless hot fudge sundae, the fried fritters and the Dole pineapple soft serve were all sampled.   
Even with the park in maintenance mode such is the enormity and variety of Disney's attractions that we had no problem finding plenty of rides to amuse ourselves and displays to marvel at. 

Speaking of which I have to mention the mind boggling ASIMO. It is an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility and is Honda's advanced humanoid robot.  It's an amazing piece of technology.  It can walk, run, climb stairs, kick a ball, walk sideways and off course recognize voice commands and talk.  It's an intriguing thought that if this is what the public are allowed to see what the hell do the military have.
Amazing, thrilling and a little chilling what this thing can do.
We watched the parade, made sure we had ticked all the boxes and then bid a fond farewell to Disneyland.  This is our fourth Disneyland and quite likely our last.  Our theme park thrills however were not quite over.  We still had our day at Knott's Berry famous roller coaster park tomorrow.

Saturday 24 January
Knott's Berry Farm has been on my list of roller coaster parks for as long as I can remember so it was pretty disappointing to see that the 'biggy', the giant wooden Ghost Rider, was closed for maintenance.  On top of that the crowds were out in force.  The Silver Bullet was fun, but that was a forty minute wait, and the Xcellerator was as close to being shot out of a cannon as I could imagine but it was an hour long queue for a thirty second ride. 
Whatever goes up...
The boys wanted to do the Boomerang, another hours wait, but after that we all decided that compared to Disneyland Knotts Berry Farm doesn't quiet measure up.  It was time to go. 

You don't mind the wait if you get the front seats.
But not before we had experience one last Knott's Berry tradition,  Mrs Knott's famous fried chicken dinner.
The kitchen here has been dishing up Mrs Knott's famous fried chicken dinners since 1930 and they were delicious, crispy deep fried perfectly spiced skin covering the most succulent juicy flesh, it was outstanding and one the highlights of the Knotts Berry experience.  I'd go back just for the food.  
Mrs Knott's fried chicken will take your taste buds on a helluva ride.
Well that's it.  Tomorrow we fly out to Hong Kong for a one night stop over to try and readjust our body clocks before we land back in Perth.  We've covered a lot of diverse ground in six short weeks and although it's been busy we never really felt rushed.  Once again huge kudos goes to Christina for the many many hours spent finding the best deals, the right places to stay and getting us there and back.  Well done sweetie. xx  
There are no solid plans for another venture just yet but hey, never say never, right!

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