Wednesday, 29 June 2011

If you like my blog, try this

I'm really flattered by the nice comments people are making about my blog and I hope it's as fun to read as it is to write. The blog has completely reignited my love of writing (not that I didn't like any of the THREE MILLION words I apparently wrote during almost five years at Adfero... yes someone worked it out) and in the process of creating it I have come across friends' blogs and funny little things online I wanted to share. If you have any you'd like to contribute, feel free!

You can follow Complete Ledge on Facebook if you've ever been mildly irritated by sales-type guys

This is a great blog by one of my oldest friends

Here's a new favourite about a cat (I told you cats were a recurring theme...)

This design/home/cooking one is by a dear family friend whose inspirational and beautiful talent astounds me more with every post!

This is my brother-in-law's blog... it's about his tiling business but I'm mentioning it anyway!

I also like this one even though I haven't got any tattoos - it's by my brother-in-law's sister, which makes me and her... um... something related!


Santa Barbara

I took a trip to Santa Barbara because I wanted somewhere to relax and it was also on the way to San Francisco, which would be my one of my last US stops before heading to Australia. Santa Barbara is about three hours by Greyhound from LA, but it feels about 30 hours if you're hung over. Not that I was hung over. I'm just saying you know, hypothetically. If one was to be hung over, a Greyhound isn't the best place to be. In fact, it's one of the worst places you could possibly be. According to someone I know. Not me.

View Larger Map

So, what's it like? Well, it's pretty small (you can walk across it in about 20 mins) with one main street of shops and restaurants, a beautiful beach, a generally laid-back air and gorgeous Spanish-style buildings standing between steep hills and the Pacific. You feel like there is a little more there in the way of historical significance and culture than other places in the US, but that said, I wouldn't go as far as to say it's interesting. Pleasant is a better word. Everything about it is just pleasant.

Check out the slide show for an idea of what Santa Barbara has to offer - and although it looks gloomy on the photos, it was actually a really lovely, sunny day, on which I saw dolphins in the ocean!

A friend and I also visited the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, which is super to look at and explore as it's full of gorgeous colours, textures and shapes. There is restoration work going on at the moment - apologies for that in the photos!

Finally, here are some pictures of a rather unusual vehicle parked at the beach. I've Googled it to see if the uber-hippy owner is well-known or if it's some kind of famous feature... and it looks like his name is Brother One Feather. Basically, he has decorated his VW Camper Van - in which he also lives - with tens of thousands of trinkets, toys, stickers, figurines, murals and general junk (a bit like the TV show Hoarders, but on wheels). But every millimetre of the van is covered. And it's all so... neat and tidy. I don't know how he's done it but it's truly fascinating; you can stare at each section for ages, spotting different sayings, characters and little bits and bobs.




And yes, that is Scooby Doo in the driver's seat.








Tim Burton retrospective @ LACMA

Another day in LA and we decided to head for the new Tim Burton exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to take photos inside, but you can check out this link to find out more about it if you want.

Me at the entrance

Hilarious, touching, informative, inspirational and educational, the retrospective is chock full of drawings, sculptures, memorabilia from certain movies and funny insights from the writer/director. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you can make it.

My favourite piece was a letter from Tim Burton to Johnny Depp about the character of Willy Wonka, but I also loved this poem which came complete with fantastic artwork.




And this one time when a cop pulled us over...

Back in LA we met up with some friends who lived there and went out for a nice dinner in West Hollywood, before driving back to the ACTUAL GHETTO where we were staying.

Here's a little picture as we stopped for emergency snacks on the way home:


During dinner, I opened a fortune cookie to reveal a highly accurate message from the baking gods, albeit two months late...


On the way home, "the driver" (I'm not saying if it was Dave or Hannah) made a dodgy turn into a gas station and the police pulled us over. It went like this:

Cop: Licence and registration please.
(driver gets out of car and stands up)
Driver: Getting my licence out... I can't get to it sat down.
Cop: Get back in the car. (Studies licence. Long pause.) I don't understand. If this is a UK licence, what makes you think you can drive here?
Driver: It's a rental car. We're allowed to drive it.
Cop: Where are the rental papers?
Driver: Hang on. (Pause) We don't actually have them. But we can get them.
Cop: Have you been drinking?
Driver: No, nothing. The other three people in the car have, but I haven't.
Cop: Are you sure about that?
Driver: Sure.
Cop: Wait here. (Walks off and comes back five minutes later). Do you know David Beckham?
Driver: Not personally.
Cop: You're fine to go. But watch those left-hand turns.

Viva Las Vegas?

As it was my friends' holiday, I was happy to go along with whatever they felt like doing. And when a trip to Las Vegas was mooted, I was up for it! When you think of Vegas, what comes to mind? This is what I had in my head prior to visiting:

1. Gambling

2. Excess

3. Neon lights

4. George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven (He's a classic. Always smoking hot regardless of what movie he's in. And classy too. I'm digressing again.)

This is what it actually involves:

1. Gambling

2. Excess

3. People (usually Brits) having emotional meltdowns on the street

4. No George Clooney (we waited outside the Bellagio fountain for him to appear, but no dice)


5. People drinking hard liquor and gambling at 10am

6. Perpetual twilight inside casinos (this was how it looked at 10am)


...casinos which are all essentially the same except for having different themes such as:

New York



Ancient Rome (it looks JUST like the Trafford Centre inside)


7. No clocks anywhere because nobody wants you to realise you've been gambling for too long

8. Legalised prostitution and thus people on every corner handing out flyers saying SEXY WOMEN DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR IN 20 MINUTES

9. Loads of people drinking from big plastic cocktail cups on the street (we weren't on the street but joined in the fun anyway)


10. The following conversation after seeing a big picture of David Copperfield on the wall of the MGM Grand:

Hannah: Is it me or does David Copperfield look younger than ever? How does he do that?
Me: Umm... magic?

It's also a PAIN AND A HALF to get anywhere. We stayed at the Luxor hotel - the one in the shape of a giant pyramid - and right outside our window was a big concrete cat I assume is supposed to be a mock Sphinx (apparently though the real Sphinx is tiny. Like an actual stone cat. Cats are becoming a theme of my trip. First it was the Paula Abdul cat haunting my dreams and now this). We wanted to go out for dinner (we meaning myself, Hannah and Dave, not the cat, forget about the cat) and took a little walk down the Strip. But to cross any of the roads and go from casino to casino, you have to access these huge walkways. So while you might be able to see where you want to go, be prepared for it to take at least ten minutes per casino to get there. We were only three casinos down from Caesar's Palace, but it took a good 35-40 minutes to walk. And I saw a familiar sight on the way back; a tired and emotional couple arguing, JUST LIKE YOU'D SEE IN MANCHESTER AT 2AM ON A FRIDAY (OR 7PM IF YOU'RE IN YATES'S ON PORTLAND STREET). It went like this:

Girl (sat down on pavement, head in hands, shoes off, crying): I just don't get why you are so MEAN TO ME ALL THE TIME!
Boy: I've had it! I've had it with you that's why! I'm sick of this! You're a mess!

Etc, etc, rinse and repeat.

A few pics of our hotel, in which the lifts go diagonally up the pyramid, so every single time you fall over a little bit...



I am way too chicken to gamble any money, but spent a while at the rubbish little 25c machines drinking free booze. The following picture pretty much sums up my evening (Mum if you're reading this the cigarettes aren't mine. I was just holding them for someone).


Suffice to say, because it's in the middle of the desert, it's BOILING. I took great delight sunbathing the next day in temperatures of about 100F.

And the drive to and from Las Vegas? It's long...


...really long...

CIMG0198 pass some seasoned gamblers...


...and some odd advice...


...but it's pretty awesome in that it's just desert for about four hours. There is literally nothing else. Once again the epic size of North America continued to astound me.



Friday, 24 June 2011

San Diego and Laguna Beach

If you can't be arsed reading this instalment of the blog, simply check out this clip for all you need to know about San Diego. And here's a clip about Laguna Beach, in case you want info.

If you're still with me, prepare to be ENTHRALLED.

My friends (still on their holiday) and I drove painfully in the Chrysler down the coast to San Diego, stopping in a cute beach town called Laguna Beach. Gorgeous beaches, gorgeous houses and the only place I've ever been to where, in a Starbucks, Hannah heard a customer asked for her latte to be heated to exactly 180 degrees. On reflection, isn't that like, the temperature of molten lava?

Here's the beautiful beach:



We carried on down the coast, fighting over the music choices in the car en route. Mine were clearly the best but I was temporarily overruled and almost had a massive tantrum.

San Diego is pretty cute. It's quite small, but there is a lot going on in a place called the Gaslamp District; bars, restaurants and a generally laid-back vibe. We stopped for a Happy Hour martini (it was basically pure gin) at the House of Blues and then ate amazing Mexican food, as you can see from the mouth-watering pictures:




We then had a little walk around and grabbed an ice cream before heading back to our hotel for a snooze. Rock and roll or what!?









Stay classy San Diego.

Thanks for stopping by.


Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Westwood

Back in LA I met two friends from home who had come out for a holiday. I'd already walked down the well-trodden Hollywood Boulevard on a previous trip; it's trashy, dirty and yet oddly fascinating for the types of people you see there. They generally fall into three categories: bums, tourists and worn-out "older" types (please note I fall into the second group, not the third) who you suspect moved to Hollywood years ago in the hope of making it and... never did. It is not uncommon to see women with huge sunglasses and plumper-than-average lips with full make-up on at 9am. Nor is it uncommon to see a movie premiere taking place - back in 2007 when I visited with a friend, we got caught up in the hustle and bustle of the crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of celebrities outside the El Capitan Theatre, where the red carpet was laid out and the streets were closed off. We actually ended up seeing Patrick Swayze, who was a) smoking hot in real life and b) still looking as young as he did in Dirty Dancing (sidenote: Point Break is my favourite Patrick Swayze film). This time there was no such drama and I resisted going into the epic record store Amoeba Music, because once you go in, you come out hours later and lots of $$$ lighter.

So, back to meeting my friends. They had rented a car and badly wanted a convertible Mustang. Guess what they actually got.


Yes ladies and gentlemen, I bring you... a Chrysler Sebring. Gutted. From then on, Mustangs haunted us. We saw at least two or three a day but resisted the urge to slash their tyres. It WAS a convertible, but the novelty of this wore off when we went over 20 mph and the wind made my hair twice as big as it is already.

If you have a look at this review, it sums the experience up nicely.

The morning after we met up, we drove to Santa Monica and had a little walk around, taking in the beach, the pier and some yummy lunch. We then had a look around Venice Beach, which is chock full of vendors on the boardwalk selling all kinds of rubbish and advertising for free medical marijuana evaluations (it's legal to smoke it in LA, as long as you have a permit-type-thing saying you need it for health reasons). Suffice to say we didn't partake in either of these exciting retail opportunities and instead saw some amazing skateboarders nearly killing themselves. Venice is one of those places that looks pretty low-rent, but actually it's anything but.

Later on, we drove our other friend (who had recently moved to LA) back to where she was temporarily staying - in a place called Westwood, which is where the University of California at Los Angeles is based. The thing about LA is it's basically impossible to get anywhere without a car. The city sprawls in every direction for miles, and when people say "I'm going to LA" what they actually/probably mean is "I'm going to a certain city within LA which is miles away from downtown and that's not even a place many tourists go". So, once we were in Westwood, we decided to stay there for the night. It's a really nice area and you can walk (shock horror! Nobody walks in LA) to some cool restaurants and bars.



Thursday, 23 June 2011

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is another city I didn't expect to go to and in which I only spent a day and a night. But it's really, really nice and definitely somewhere I'd like to spend more time. I can't put my finger on why, but it just seemed relaxed, diverse, cool, cultured and fun. It's also very beautiful, as it sits right by the water and is spacious yet bustling and exciting. Unfortunately I don't have many pictures but here's a nice one...


And no, I didn't splash out for the following, but I thought it would make a cool photo anyway:


After walking around a bit (unfortunately in the rain), we ate at a great Japanese restaurant in nearby Kitsilano, which is a cute little suburb. The food was AMAZING and possibly some of the best I'd had so far on my trip.

I also noticed a fun trend in North America; outside churches, shops and garages they have messages seemingly created by the owners/people in charge. Some are really nice plays on words, others are puns, others are just sweet. And while I have never been to church on a regular basis, I thought this one was really nice:


After Vancouver I had to catch a plane back to LA from Seattle. I'd found out that the sci-fi museum there had a Battlestar Galactica exhibition - and was gutted to discover there was neither the time or enthusiasm from anyone else to go... DAMN IT!!! THERE WERE REAL VIPERS THERE AND EVERYTHING!!!

Then it was bye-bye Canada *sad face*



Monday, 20 June 2011

Whistler, BC

The ski resort of Whistler is extremely beautiful and I say that having visited in low season. I can only imagine how lovely it is covered in thick snow. Needless to say, I enjoyed a great day and evening there, walking around and admiring the scenery (and the shops). There were still quite a few people about because apparently it's a really popular place for other outdoor sports such as mountain biking. And many of those working there are from other countries, so there is a welcoming, international feel to the place.

We got there via an inexplicably large truck...


While I didn't do any skiing or outdoor-type activities, I ate some great food and chose an ice hockey team to "support" (similarly to how I "support" Miami Heat): Vancouver. This is because I watched a Stanley Cup game on TV that evening. And when I say watched, I mean sat through with a bottle of wine.





On the way from Whistler to Vancouver, I took some pictures at a lake - I can't remember where it was, but it was vast, beautifully spooky and peaceful all at once.





Again, I was amazed at the gorgeous scenery which seems to last for hours on end.