Day 15 – IMAX & aquarium – Monday 30th June

Íde writing here…

Sydney aquarium

Sydney aquarium

I’ve been eyeing the aquarium since we arrived. I think aquariums can be a bit ‘hit and miss’ depending on whether the concentration is on the business element or the educations end of the spectrum. This looked to me like it would be educational and so I tagged it as one of the things I wanted to see.

On the way to the Aquarium we stop off to have a look at the IMAX Cinema. Boasting the world’s largest cinema screen, up to eight storeys high, it is ten times larger than a traditional cinema screen. It was showing a number of 3D movies. Wildlife Africa 3D was the next movie on, so we decided to go see that, just to see the screen. The screen is impressive, but the film isn’t up to much.

Onwards to the Aquarium. It is very well laid out and gives a great opportunity for the non-swimmer in the group (i.e. ME!) to see sharks, sting-ray and the coral reef up close without having to get wet.

After the Aquarium we start looking around for somewhere to eat. I remember a Greek restaurant we passed on our first day in Sydney, but none of us remember where it was. While we are strolling back towards the hotel, we find the Greek restaurant called Medusa. The food was delicious and this was probably the best meal we had in Sydney.

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Day 14 – Yet another shopping day – Sunday 29th June

We had been told that the best market in Sydney was the Paddy Markets, which run from Thursday to Sunday in Market City. Knowing this was the last chance we would have to get there (it being Sunday and we are leaving on Thursday) the girls and I head off at about 11am, arranging to meet Pádraig for lunch at 1.30pm. I reckoned 2 and a half hours would be plenty of time – WRONG!. The market is an eclectic mix of clothes, electrical goods, food, souvenirs etc. Some stalls have set prices and will not budge on that others will haggle on price. Aisling got the best bargain of the day – hair extensions that match her hair exactly (very difficult with our hair colouring). The price started at $50AUS, she got them for $20.

We meet Pádraig in Chinatown at 1.30pm and although there are Chinese restaurants everywhere, we head to McDonalds for a quick bite because we know there is still more shopping to be done at the markets.  We have only made our way through a couple of aisles in the first 2.5 hours and it closes at 6pm so we go back at about 3pm stroll around for another hour before we decide to take some time to look at the factory outlets upstairs in Market City. We give up on that after about 30 minutes and head back down to get some last minute bargains in the market.  We are still buying stuff while the stallholders are packing up.

Sydney Bridge Climb according to Aisling

This next contribution is by guest correspondent Aisling. If you want to see her extraordinary lotus position walk from last year in Fuerteventura, simply click below…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj46OI3POpc

Ok.. so emm.. yeh.. Heya =] lol

I dno why I have to do this considering it’s my dad’s blog. Lol

We did loads today though… My mam, sister and I got up early to go shopping to get me new shoes cos all I had was dolly shoes and heels which aren’t very suitable for the bridge climb I was gonna be doing a few hours later.. But of course when you actually want to go shopping and aren’t being told “well come back some other time” all the shops disappear. Lol.. I think we took a wrong turn or something cause it took us ages to find a shop… but when we eventually did (yeah… we only went into one shop) i got Blue keds which i actually like =]. I didn’t really get a proper chance to look around the shop cause my mam was worried we wouldn’t get back on time for the climb. So she bought them for me and we went back to the hotel got my dad and got a taxi to the bridge climb place.

Aisidebooboo, PdeB & TheBla about to ascend the Sydney Coathanger

Aisidebooboo, PdeB & TheBla about to ascend the Sydney Coathanger

We all had to introduce ourselves and such and then we got into out uber sexy outfits for the climb lol. We weren’t allowed have anything loose on us and were sent through metal detectors and met up with our instructor guy Vic. He was a ledge. And liked my shoes 😛 they matched the streaks on our outfits. Lol. And he complimented my and Blá’s sunnies (which were attached to our outfits along with loadsa stuff that Vic helped us put on lol).

I was expecting to be really nervous beforehand but i actually wasn’t. We started off on the lower part of the bridge (which was still very high lol) where we could wave at people haha.. Oh and there were literally thousands of stairs involved in this. The part where my dad and I got a little nervous was at a part of the bridge that people don’t normally go on but we had to because part of the bridge was being repainted but we were literally being held up by a few wires… it was all shaky and very see through.. we could see what would happen if we fell. Yeah so we were on that for like five minutes and then we went up loadsa ladders and came up between lanes 6 and 7 on the Sydney Harbour Bridge..!! that was mad.. Blá was scared at that point though… me and my dad were joking around saying it was like Fairview bridge where I hung around when I was young waiting for a double decker bus to go by and shake the old rusty bridge lol.. I suppose it was kinda like that only ten million times higher lol.

All along the way Vic was telling us loadsa stories like how they found a trolley of empty beer cans at the top of the bridge haha.. Or all the famous people that have done the bridge climb.. or the 100 years young lady who had done the climb and when she finished announced that now all she needed was a toy boy lol.. Bacially it was all just amazing.. and my dad was happy to hear he had burned 2 pints of beer during that walk lol.

Some cross dressing fools who thought this would be funny.

Some cross dressing fools who thought this would be funny.

Then we went and grabbed a taxi and met up with my mam at Star City, got a quick dinner and went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Best show of all time. It was just. Woow. Except there was this woman in front of us whose son was sitting upfront with his friends and whenever any actor came near them she shouted “watch out James..!” and of course at the interval went over and fixed his shirt. That added amusement for us but poor james..! lol .. I had my lil stupid moment at it too where i turned and was about to say to her “wouldn’t you hate to go see this with your parents..?” baha. Also. All gay guys are hot. End of Lol..

My dad pointed out that the bands lead guitarist looked like Blaithín’s boyfriend so I think we should all encourage him to wear spandex and a corset with loadsa straps too yeh..? After that we went to play pool and my waving at randomers backfired when they went up to their room and changed (into the same shirts :P) and came into the bar we were in. Lol but we weren’t with them for long cause my mam thought they were gamblers.. lol

Day 12 & 13

Íde here still writing while the others are scuba diving on the reef…

Day 12 – Friday 27th June

As an educator, I tried to tell them that Cpt. Cook's Endevour was not a pirate ship. But then I confessed that he did actally steal a whole continent.

As an educator, I tried to tell them that Cpt. Cook's Endevour was not a pirate ship. But then I confessed that he did actally steal a whole continent.

So, after a good night’s sleep we head down for a walk around Darling Harbour. We have to make our way to Star City Coach Terminal to book our first Diamond Pass tour. This is at the very end of the Harbour which is a good stroll away, but also gives us a good idea of some places we might be interested in seeing more of another day. Grayline tours are closed by the time we get to it, but the brochures are available outside and that has a 24hour booking phone number. We strolled around Star City which is a major complex housing a casino, hotel, top class restaurant (way above our budget) and theatre. The Phantom of the Opera and the Rocky Horror show are on at the moment. The girls are interested in seeing both, but if they have to make a choice it would be the Rocky Horror Show. We then wander back to the hotel and book in for the Sydney Highlights tour for tomorrow.

Day 13 – Saturday 28th June

Daughter & Mother @ Sydey Opera House

Daughter & Mother @ Sydey Opera House

We have a bit of a lie in before wandering down to the Aquarium Pier for the afternoon tour. The tour starts with a buffet lunch on board the Majestic cruise ship. Great selection of food and unless you are a very fussy eater you won’t go hungry. There is a recorded commentary on the boat explaining all the sites we are seeing, which includes sailing under Sydney Harbour bridge – where you can wave at all the little people who have climbed to the top. Padraig and the girls plan to do this climb later in the week.

The boat stops off at Circular Quay to take some commuter passengers back to Darling Harbour. We stay on board and disembark at Darling Harbour for the bus trip to Arabanoo Lookout and the coast drive to Manly Beach. This drive has spectacular views which accounts for the high price of property in the area. Think Sydney Parade in Dun Laoghaire and you’ll get the idea. The commentary on the bus is done by the bus driver, so is much more personal and easy to listen to than the recorded one on the boat. We stop at Manly Beach for 45 mins. It is impressive, but I think we have been a little spoiled with the beaches in LA and Hawaii and so we don’t stay by the beach for long. Instead we walk through the Arts and Crafts markets and wander back to the bus.

The tour was great overall, because it gives a good overview of Sydney from land and sea. 

Sydney Pink Light hassle

This is still Íde writing as that hubbie of mine is still scuba  diving…

de Burca clan at the Sydney Olympics sculpture

On arrival in Sydney we are again prepared for the customs controls.  What Padraig didn’t say about the apple incident in LA airport, is that I was the one who completed the custom declaration form so I would have been the one fined if they had decided to take it further. So this time I got everyone to complete their own form. 

Now anyone interested in watching “Border Patrol” will know that the Aussies take their customs clearance very seriously.  You are required to declare food (including apples), all medicines (prescription and non prescription), as well as any wooden items. The form advises, ‘if in doubt – declare’.

I had hard boiled sweets (always carry them on flights to stop ears popping).  Blaithín has purchased a small wooden key ring and I am carrying a chemist in my suitcase (antihistamine tablets and cream, antiseptic cream, headache tablets, travel sickness tablets.  We also have more serious steroid cream (for Blaithín’s foot problem). I take no chances and so declare all of it.  I help Blaithín fill in her form (again, declaring the key ring and medicine) and I leave Pádraig to complete his own and Aisling’s, both of which have no declaration. The customs officials aren’t nearly as stroppy as they appear on TV, they are actually very helpful and friendly.  They query what exactly I am declaring and assure me that there is no problem with any of the items.  We still have to go through the declaration channel where they have to x-ray the goods.  Pádraig and Aisling come with us so that we can stay together.  Luckily, just as we are getting to the security screening Aisling realised that the handle of her hair brush is made of wood.  There is a bit of confusion when both Aisling and Bláithín put their hand bags (both green) through at the same time.  The security guard advises his colleague there is a wooden item in the green bag.  We couldn’t figure out whether they were querying the key ring in Blaithín’s bag or the hairbrush in Aisling’s bag. We are advised that they have already cleared Bláithín’s key ring because I had informed them that it was there.  I hadn’t realised that they had listened that intently to the details I had given them.  However, the hairbrush is cleared for travel.

Then we get to Pádraig.  Now, remember he is just tagging along to keep us company.  His bag is queried. He is asked about a wooden mask he has in his bag.  WHAT!! I’m ready to kill him. All the lectures, all the hassle in LA – has he learned nothing??

Blaithín tries to help, by explaining that the only wood we have is her key ring and the hairbrush.  I can see the security official getting annoyed.  “We know about those already” “we are querying the mask in this case”.  I quietly advise Bláithín to leave the discussion to Pádraig and the guard.  Pádraig tells the guard he does not have a wooden mask.  I know he doesn’t, but I’m really curious as to what wooden item he has that he has forgotten about. The guard lightly checks the bag.  She checks with her colleague “are you sure it’s this case”? Reply “yes, that case, I can see a mask”. Pádraig again says he doesn’t have a wooden mask and that he does not think he has any wood in the case. Luckily for him, he is right (not just because of customs but because I would have killed him later). The security officer must have seen our confusion because she asks him if he has any wet clothing in the bag. When he replies yes he has, she immediately closes the case, explaining that wet towels show up on screen as organic matter and can sometimes be mistaken for wooden masks.  I find this very amusing because I realise that what has shown up is his swimming trucks and towel which probably has Hawaiian sand all over it. It is far more likely to have insects in among it than a key ring purchased in the souvenir shop.

Pádraig & Aisling in Douglas Habour

Pádraig & Aisling in Darling Habour

Anyway, we get through with little enough time lost and head for the taxi rank to get us to the Quality Cambridge Hotel.  As I said earlier, this is the only accommodation that I left with the travel agents to book.  We are checked into 2 hotel rooms on the second floor. The small rooms open to the hotel pool enclosed by a glass roof for extra echo effect.  Think of the noise levels inside any swimming pool and imagine sleeping next to it.  I’m not pleased about this.  I am a very light sleeper and I know that I won’t be getting any lie in if there is anyone using the pool in the mornings.  I am just speculating on this when a major rumpus starts up outside.

What sounded like an army of kids, but turned out to be only 3 or 4 where raving about how cool it was that they had a pool.  I decide to take action and go to reception to ask if there are any rooms away from the pool area available.  While waiting to discuss the situation, I realise the full extent of the problem. A group of about 50 teenagers have been booked in for a youth conference: y’know – World Youth Day, Catholic Church an’ all that.  Some of them have rooms right next to mine. The youth leader is querying why they have 2 beds less than they should in some of the rooms.  Now, having worked as a youth leader I fully understand what is going down here.  Gangs of kids, away from home, enjoying their freedom.  But now I’m not a youth leader, I’m on holiday and want to enjoy my stay which will hopefully include some sleep.

I am advised that this is the accommodation booked by my travel agent and if I have a complaint I should take it up with them.  I can have an upgrade to a premium room on the upper floors at a cost of $40 AUS per room per night. I asked how much notice was necessary to cancel my booking and am again advised that I would have to cancel through the travel agency. Most website bookings will allow a cancellation with 24 hour notice so you could leave after one night.  At this point they offer to reduce the cost of the premium rooms to $20 per room per night.  I told them I’d think about this and went back to the room to talk to Pádraig about it.  I was only back in the room about 2 minutes before the kids outside made the decision for me. My route back to reception is blocked by the hotel manager and the youth leader as they haul a table through the hallway (to make room for the extra beds needed in the room).  The youth leader apologises for delaying me, but I was happy.  I realise that the hotel manager is going to see the pillow fight I have just passed on my way and I am aware that they need at least 2 more beds. They can have ours!!

I wait at reception until the hotel manager returns from furniture removal journeys.  I point out that now that she has seen the situation around the pool area she couldn’t possible be asking guests to sleep there. She agrees and offers a complementary upgrade.  For information the rooms aren’t much different.  They are slightly bigger and have LCD TV, but only the noise aspect of the economy rooms maker it worth the extra costs.  On giving us a free upgrade she changed our full breakfast which was included in the price we paid for the Economy room to a continental breakfast.  We are not big breakfast eaters, so I didn’t take issue with it, but it was a bit sly.  Full breakfast costs $18.75 AUS, around $11 per person so if the 4 of us had bought full breakfasts it would be the same price as the upgrades.

The other issue with this hotel involves the price of Internet access.  It is available at 3 computers in the lobby, but at a cost of $5.00 AUS for 30 minutes.  We ask about wireless internet and are informed that it is available in the lobby.  But it turns out that it costs the same as using their computers.  MAD.

Bottom line? I will not be recommending this hotel to anyone.

Day 8 – Waikiki

Íde writing this as the others are off scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef…

 

 

The next stop was The Waikiki Resort Hotel on Oahu Island, Hawaii.  We had 2 superior hotel rooms here just around the corner from the beach and main Waikiki strip.   It was booked through www.hotels.com.  To be honest I can’t remember now why I booked superior rooms instead of standard (difference of $10 US per room per night).  I know I was put off the mini-economy rooms by reports on tripadvisor, but don’t know what the differences between the standard and superior rooms are.  The rooms were fine, nothing special and the décor could do with an upgrade.  The swimming pool is small but wasn’t busy any time we used it, so it didn’t matter.  The hotels.com site states that the rooms have wireless access for a fee – Our rooms didn’t.  That said, they did have free internet access at 3 computers in the lobby. 

 

The weather was a relief after the heat of LA.  While the temperature was only a little lower than LA the sea breezes make it seem cooler and make high temperatures bearable.   The beach is lovely and I had great fun watching all the surfers.  The waves are high, but not as impressive as I remember from Hawaii 5-0.  Yes, I know, I’m showing my age now.

 

We didn’t really do much in Hawaii, so can’t really say much about the place itself.  I can say that it was a lovely short break between the USA and Australian legs of the trip.  However, if we go there again we will give it more time and go to a few different islands.    

Day 7 – Let’s go 5-0 – Saturday, 21 June 2008

Off to Hawai’i today so it was up early to finish packing, get breakfast and so on. We allowed loads of time to get to LAX & check in even though it is a domestic flight. This would be by far the longest flight we’ve ever taken – six hours or so and we will still be within the USA.

 

So the taxi was ordered & came on time and who was it only the same guy who had taken s to the Hollywood Bowl less than a week ago. We loaded the luggage & then the driver noticed he had a flat tyre. Out with all of us & it took nearly half-an-hour before the replacement taxi arrived (both of these drivers, and many of the others, were Russian – there seems to e a lot of these in LA). Off we set – straight into the heaviest traffic we had come across in LA – and this was a Saturday. Anyway, we got to LAX a little frazzled but in time for our flight.

 

Bláithín wanted to post a postcard home only to discover that all stamp machines & post-boxes had been removed from LAX after 9/11. So we amused ourselves with the usual airport sandwich & coffee rip-off. On the plane there was loads of leg-room for 3 of us as we were in the escape hatch aisle, but Aisling was sitting behind us on her own. No problem to her.

 

I had the laptop & the movies were nowhere near as good as the BA flight over the Atlantic, so I finally got to write some of this blog. Yayy!!

 

Bláithin & Aisling on Waikiki beachWe landed in Honolulu – somehow I expected to be garlanded with flowers & leis by hula dancing honeys when I landed – sadly this was not to be. Our taxi driver to the Waikiki Resort Hotel was very interesting: he was a Major in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnamese war and was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese for 17 years after they took over. He immigrated to Hawai’i as soon as he got out and this Major is now a Hawai’i taxi driver. He showed us a lot of the attractions in Waikiki on the way.

 

The hotel itself is mostly aimed at Koreans and quite a lot of Honolulu & Waikiki is dominated by Asian influences. We went out for a wander and a (Chinese) meal and loved our first impressions. It reminded me of the liveliness of many European beach resorts – except everything is in English (along with Korean, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and of course just a little Hawaiian). Swimming etc. tomorrow.

 

 

(Title – Hawai’i is the 50th of the USA’s 50 states and of course references the 70s TV cop show. Next year is Hawai’i’s 50th anniversary as a state of the USA.)

Day 6 – Universal Studios

It was $64 a head into Universal Studios but we had a $8 each discount as someone picked up a voucher somewhere along the line. The day was hot yet again & that meant I particularly enjoyed the Jurassic Park ride which finished with a run down a waterfall and a big splash. Another ride of note was Terminator 2 in 3D – great sci-fi fun. The “Blues Bothers” had seen better days, though & could have phoned in their performance.

 

 

 

 

 

The tour around the studio sets was interesting as well. Wisteria Lane is so small in real life. The different movie cars were great & we saw the remainder of the New York set which burnt down a few months ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Note Krustyland Hotel, the Springfield sign (a la HOLLYWOOD), the giant donut, the condemned coaster, Duff beer, the Death Drop plus various Springfield & Krustyland landmarks.But the new Simpsons Ride – now that was special. It was just like being inside a cartoon – the visuals, motion, sound & even smell all combined for the best simulator ride I’ve been on in my life. If the wait was shorter I would have done it again and again, just as we did a few years ago in Universal Studios Paris on the “Rock n Roller Coaster”.

 

We had dinner in Karl Strauss on the Universal Street – good beer (Íde & I tried the sampler) & big helpings and, this was new, boneless chicken wings with a tannngggyyy sauce.

 

When we got back to Webster8, I discovered I’d lost my mobile phone. There was no response when rang the phone & I knew I’d had it in Karl Strauss so it was either there or in the taxi. I phoned the restaurant – no luck. As we’re leaving LA tomorrow morning, it looks like I’m incommunicado for the foreseeable future. I let some people at home know via e-mail. I’d booked laptop time with the girls to catch up with this blog but I was in no humour so it didn’t happen … again 

Day 5 – Lazy 2

Rodeo Drive - where the fools shop

We had intended to go to Universal Studios today but we had gotten so much sun yesterday we put that off ‘til tomorrow & had a second lazy day. Aisling & I went on a tour of the stars pads in Beverley Hills etc. (cheesy but enjoyable) & paid a visit to Rodeo Drive, the super expensive “designer” street Richard Gere used to seduce Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” (what people see in this artificial alter to consumerism is beyond me). The world being as small as it currently is, the couple in front of us on the tour was from Cork.

 

When we’d finished, we decided to try out “Pink’s” on La Brea & Melrose for lunch. We’d seen really long queues outside this hot dog stall & were curious as we’d never heard of it & it looked so … I’m trying not to say grotty here … small. We woke up a cabbie (I mean literally) and the taxi was only around the first corner when our Pink\'s hot dog stand - yum!Hollywood experience was supplemented again – the taxi was stopped by an LAPD motorbike cop (CHIPs anyone?) for running a stop sign. Of course the Russian taxi driver was rude to the cop & got a ticket for his trouble. Pink’s on the other hand was an LA revelation – good plain food (chilli dog … mmmm!) at a great price in what looks like a sitting room with hundreds of celebrity snaps on the wall attached to a kitchen. We were lucky & the queue was short but it would be well worth a wait.

 

Íde & Bláithín enjoyed themselves in the apartment making a Greek Salad for themselves & then headed out to the nearby clothes exchange for yet more shopping.

Day 4 – de Burca 4 on the Sunset Strip

Bláithn & Aisling in Santa Monica's dragonThis morning we picked up a Toyota Corolla from Hertz on La Brea. We’re always a little nervous when first driving a car on the other side of the road but the American tendency for automatics made it easier in this case. We picked up the kids & as we were leaving, we met Francie. When we told her our plans she immediately offered sun hats for the girls – how generous.

We drove along Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific. We passed through loads of famous places such as Beverley Hills, Bel Air, Palisades & also past clubs such as “Whiskey a Go Go” and the “Viper Room”. There were great views and it was a fun drive. After a while we reached the Pacific – this was the first time for any of us to see it.

The plan was that we would visit the Getty Villa, with its ancient artworks. However it was closed (as our guidebook said it would be if we’d bothered to consult it) so it was time for Plan B – swimming and in some cases mere paddling. Great fun for all except me as I was clever enough to forget to bring togs. The added bonus was that a sea lion popped up just 20m out – fascinating.

Bláith�n, Pádraig & Aisling on Santa Monica pierWe then drove south on the coast to Santa Monica, with its lovely wooden pier with amusements including a big wheel. We had great food in a bar next to Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach workout area and agreed that it was way too hot for cycling or anything strenuous like that.

South again to Venice Beach – the one with the “real” Muscle Beach, with all the guys showing off their bulging biceps. There’s a real bohemian air to the place – we all loved it. I managed to buy togs & joined the girls for a fantastic Pacific swim, fighting the strong surf and loving it.

With a little effort we found & walked along some of Venice, California’s “famous” canals. While they were nice, they by no means approach the grandeur of the canals of Venice, Italy. We eventually found Venice Boulevard & made our way home.

Day 3 – Lazy 1

The last few days had really taken it out of us so we decided to take advantage of the beautiful apartment and have a pretty lazy day. Not much to report, so. I went for a wander around the area including Melrose Avenue, west of La Brea. Íde did some research on hiring a car & on getting to Universal Studios.

Later we just got a Chinese take away and relaxed in the cabana. We watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, one of Jim Carrey’s best movies.

Ahh!! The batteries are recharged. Tomorrow, we drive…

Day 2 – Fashion & the City

Off we went to “Downtown LA” today. The “plan”, such as it was, meant that the girls would all go to the Fashion District & I would hit a gallery. Well, it worked for them but not for me. I had a good wander around a lot of lower downtown & have to admit to not being too impressed. The girls got lots of clothes but were not all that keen on the fashion District itself.

Before going home, we decided to go to “Little Tokyo”, LA’s Japanese district. For a rest on the way, we popped into Little Tokyo’s public library, which was vey impressive & relaxing. Little Tokyo itself was a lot littler than I expected from LA, which styles itself “Asia’s westernmost city”. We had a great Japanese meal and headed home quite exhausted.

Day 1 – Almost perfect

Ide, Blaithin & Aisling at Grauman\'s Chinese Theatre, HollywoodWhat a day!

It’s Fathers’ Day & I was awoken by my kids jumping on me in bed & “gently informing” me that breakfast was ready. Íde & the girls had prepared a great brekkie. Rashers, sossies, mushrooms, the works! Yum!

It was off for a walk to Hollywood Boulevard then, but it was so very hot? We got there after a couple of stops for iced cream etc. There it was the “Walk of Fame” with all the stars in the pavement and a taste of hope in the air. We made our way to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with all the hand & footprints outside as well as the wannabes who earn a crust by posing as Spiderman, Barney, etc. for tips from the photographing masses. We were approached a couple of times for various trips & tours including one persistent guy flogging a bus tour of the stars’ homes in Beverley Hills. Usual price $40 each he wanted “to go home after selling the last four seats” and could let us in for $20 each. After haggling didn’t work I refused to purchase … and then the tone changed. Mr. Friendly now said I was stupid. The Hollywood experience was becoming more complete: I had been insulted on the street by a tout.

Aisling’s main ambition was just to see the “Hollywood” sign – we found it but unfoThe Kids meeting their favourite Hollywood starsrtunately, in reality, it is much, much smaller looking (i.e. further away) from Hollywood Boulevard than we had guessed. In addition I’m having problems with my camera so we have to rely on Bláithín for photos for the moment.

After more souvenir shops and sight-seeing, we were getting a bit tired. In we went to the “Pig n Whistle” for a drink. There was some music from the local college in the back room so we joined in the session. It was a mixture of a sing song, karaoke, live performance & a “come all ya”. We all joined in but Bláithín even gave a couple of solo songs to rapturous applause (of course). Fine food, good beer & a fun atmosphere, how good.

A bit more sight-seeing (Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood & Vine etc.) & back to the apartment for a break. Our apartment neighbours were out back &, talking to them, I discovered that the Playboy Jazz festival was on in the Hollywood bowl tonight. I pushed someone off the laptop and went online to check the details. Aarrgghh!! I was too late – it had been on since 2pm. But the neighbours said it would be on late & there were always seats in the bleachers.

We took a chance & hopped a taxi to the Bowl. We got there just in time to see Herbie Hancock and Bill Cosby introduced some other acts before exhaustion & hunger won. After some Thai food on Sunset Boulevard, it was home for us.

(I spent a lot of today remembering my own Dad. Paddy Burke was a fantastic father to my 3 brothers, my sister & I. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis!)

 

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Íde here again, writing while the others are diving…

First stop was the Webster8 apartments in LA.  This was booked directly with the owner Francie Crowley – www.webster8.com However, I first read about it on http://www.holiday-velvet.com/who_are_we . Very good website except that you can’t just put in your travel dates to see what is available.  You usually have to write to the owners of the property you are interested in booking and they email back regarding availability. 

 

This property was a real find. It was perfect for what we were looking for. It had all the comforts of home and was top class standard.  It is difficult to describe this apartment because it is completely different from the typical 2 bed apartment that holiday makers would be used too.  The guests in the other apartment were there on a long term let and the accommodation is much more suited to that.  The fully equipped kitchen included about five complete sets of fine china (serving dishes and all).  The only very minor complaint I could find with the place was that none of this fine china could be used in the microwave.  I found 2 glass serving plates that would be microwave proof.  Everything else was too delicate.  Unlike most holiday apartments, any non-perishable goods left by previous guests are not thrown out, but are left for the use of the next guests.  This meant that the day Blaithín and I stayed in and made a Greek Salad we had a choice of about 3 different types of Balsamic Vinegars and numerous dried herbs and spices to add to the mix.  We used it to make a beautiful dressing for the salad.

 

Overall, fantastic accommodation in a nice location and excellent value for money.

 

The weather in LA was so hot even the locals were complaining.  There were power cuts in some areas because of over usage of the air conditioning system. 

Day 0 – 14 June 2008 – Queuing for a touring

First of all, I have to admit that I’m actually writing this on Day 7, on the plane from LA to Honolulu. My access to my laptop has been severely curtailed of late … more about that later.

Anyway Saturday started in Dublin with us all getting up early. We drove to Santry & got a taxi to the airport from there. Not expecting any hassle on the first leg its only a hop to London after all. Wrong!! this was about 5.30 a.m. flights were all crowding out a single area. Now Ive studied queuing theory (Management Science, DCU) so I know that in theory a single queue for many desks (like most banks) is more efficient than many queues for the same number of desks (like most supermarkets), but this was bonkers made worse again because of the unearthly (for me at least) hour. Another queue for Security, of course. Anyway we struggled through & got onto Aer Lingus EI154 which got us to Heathrow in an hour and a half or so. 

This was the bit we were dreading the infamous Heathrow Terminal 5. We had 3 hours 15 minutes to get to our flight to LA. We were in Terminal 1 & it was in Terminal 5. Íde had read that you should allow3 hours to transfer, so this actually looked a bit tight. But we just followed the signs, got on a shuttle train, re-checked in, went through Heathrow Security and still had almost two hours to kill. It was so efficient and then the waiting area near the gates was well serviced, quiet, airy & more like a modern shopping entre than the third circle of Hell we had been expecting.… excellent.

It just got better on the plane with each seat having its own entertainment centre. So everyone could look at whatever they wanted… excellent.A $50 taxi fare later & we were at our apartment for the next week: the Webster8 www.webster8.com in South Hollywood. Only one problem – there was nobody there to let us in and no answer on the intercom. Luckily BA was so good – did I mention that – that I still had a full charge in the laptop. A “quick” boot-up later & we had the security code we were in. About five minutes later of course, the owner, Francie arrived.

Francie showed us around her beautiful 2 bedroom apartment and the shared cabana at the back with its large screen, surround sound TV system. Everything looked great.

This brings me back to the “problem” I mentioned earlier – why can’t I access my laptop? Well it turns out that Wi-Fi Internet access was also included: this meant that despite the 8 hour time difference Bláithín & Aisling just “had to” keep in contact with all their friends back in Ireland (and further afield – Aisling even found one of her friends from our time in Brussels via the Internet in Shanghai) using MSN Messenger, Bebo, e-mail etc. Íde also needed it to research something or book something … well you get the picture.’s and hit the comfie beds. Jet-lag claimed us all.

(Title – tribute to RTE Radio 1’s excellent show with Paddy O’Gorman)

Go raibh maith agat!

Oh! A special “Thank you very much” has to go out to Glen & Máire who will be looking after our house, handling alarm emergencies etc. while we are away. With neighbours like these , who needs friends?

Both Glen & Máire used to be in our ciorcal comhrá in Gaffney’s in Fairview. I remember one night where Máire made us all green with envy describing her first class trip to Oz. Maybe it’s time to start that up again – September perhaps?

First post

The de Burca girls in SloveniaDia daoibh go léir! With this blog I’m going to try to keep an occasional journal of our travels beginning with our around-the-world trip in 2008.

Well! This is it. We’re off on our travels tomorrow. Early morning flight to London Heathrow, where we transfer to the infamous Terminal 5. The odd thing is that it will take us longer to get from one end of Heathrow to the other than it will to fly from Dublin to London.

From there we fly to LA. Long flight so I expect us all to be tiiiirrred – especially Aisling, who just finished her Junior Cert today.

I’ll try to write a bit more there.

Slán!

 

————

Íde here, writing on July 8 – Well, Padraig and the girls are off scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and I offered to try and update some of the blog while they were out.

I’m going to concentrate more on the background planning.  Back in January, I started researching ideas for a family holiday.  We were both aware that this would probably be the last year that Blaithín would be coming on holiday with us.  We realised that our mortgage would be finished in February, we would be 20 years married in August and that we had taken full advantage of the SSIA scheme so we had a few bob to play around with.  It started out as a holiday to Australia.  But when I started doing the research, I realised that for an extra couple of hundred Euros we could get a “round the world” ticket.  Once I had figured out the cost of the flights, I went to a few travel agents to see if there was a better deal available.  There wasn’t, but because I was in the middle of my Diploma studies and because I had never been to Australia, I decided to go to a travel agent to get them to do up a package for flights accommodation and tours.  BIG MISTAKE!   I soon realised that almost everything I was being offered within the package was easily bookable online at much better rates.  Some of the differences were really shocking.  Some only differed by €40 and considering the overall price it could be seen as penny pinching, but as I explained to the Travel Agent €40 per person is actual €160 for a family of four.  The Agent was willing to match the price on some of the things, but in some cases, couldn’t match it.  Most of the problems were with the hotel prices.  The Travel Agent is charging per person, where most websites will charge per room.  In almost all cases, we are being charged full adult rate for both Aisling and Blaithín. I wanted to have 2 bed apartments in most cases, but found that the Travel Agent veered more towards getting us 2 hotel rooms. I also found that in a number of cases the star rating being given in the brochure were higher than the same hotel would be given online. Between this and a major situation that arose regarding plans to fly to Darwin it ended up that the only arrangement I made with the Travel Agent was for the flights (for which I had already done all the research) and our accommodation in Sydney (more on that later!)

As soon as I finished my Diploma I worked in earnest at getting the best hotel and tours deals for the trip.  www.tripadvisor.com is the best place to start looking for hotels.  Once you find a hotel you might want to book, you can check the reviews for that hotel and do a price check through tripadvisor of a number of different sites – hotels.com, bookings.com, expedia etc.   

The tours are a bit more difficult to organise mainly because you have to book specific dates and when you are doing this amount of travelling you really can’t say months in advance whether you will be fit to climb Sydney Bridge on a specific date and at a specific time.  To get around this problem we bought 4 diamond passes with Grayline tours.  APT tours offer the same tours, but are dearer (at least for the tours we were interested in doing).  The tours work out slightly cheaper by pre purchasing the passes (they must be purchased before arrival in Australia).  You just need to tell them where and when you will use your first tour (you don’t have to say which tour you are doing until you are reserving a place on a tour (24 hours notice).  I booked the first one for our 3rd day in Sydney and on arrival in Sydney we decided to book the City Tour (see details for Sydney day 3).

So following all the planning and weighed down with paper work we set off on the big adventure on 14th June.