Sean Mc on Skynet

San Francisco

Well, we got a bus from LA to SanFrancisco so not much I can say about looking out a bus window for 6 hours, even less to say when it's dark for half of the time. We got to San Francisco 2 days before thanksgiving so at least we had time to figure where places where before they closed for the biggest holiday of the year.

Day 1, it rained and rained and rained, and rained somemore. It didn't make the city very appealing but nonetheless we persevered and took a quick look through Chinatown and went down to Pier39 and fishermans wharf. By time we got to Fishermans Wharf we were so wet that we didn't really feel much like looking around the place so we just went for tea and cake to cheer ourselves up. Before lunch we made enquiries about the tour to Alcatraz and booked ourselves onto the trip for 9:30am on Saturday morning, hoping that the weather would improve. At least we'd done one important thing for the day, because after lunch we just for a bus home and hung around the hostel for most of the even where it was warm and dry.

posted by SeanMc @ 3:32 PM, ,

Warners Bros Studio Tour







Being in the movie making capital of the world we could pass up the chance of doing a studio tour. We chose the Warner Bros studio. Warner Bros have been synonymous with the movie industry since it first started in Hollywood and still churns out lots of movies, tv series and even cartoons. This is where ER is shot, Friends was made and even The Perfect Storm with George Clooney.

What surprised me about the tour was how much of the same set(s) we see in so many shows and movies but they're totally redecorated so you wouldn't even recognise them. For example, scenes from Spiderman were shot on the same street as The Last Samurai, both of which are just around the corner from the ambulance bay for ER which is a few metres from Central Park in friends.

Amongst the props we got to see were the flying car from the Harry Potter films, the Batmobile and a whole load of costumes from the Harry Potter films but we weren't allowed take pictures of them.

We got to see the set for the series two and a half men starring Charlie Sheen, but no pictures allowed. What struck me about this set was how small it is compared to what you expect from seeing the show.

It was a tour I expected to be good but nowhere near as good or as full of surprises as it was. I did learn never to believe ANYTHING you see on the big screen, the day was as magical as anything Disneyland could throw at you.

posted by SeanMc @ 3:31 PM, ,

Los Angeles and Hollywood



We had 3 days to spend in Los Angeles to see as many celebrities as we could. We arrived in the late afternoon and were pretty tired from the long flight but we tried to fight it.

Our hostel was just off the famous Hollywood Boulevard so was ideally located. The area has an infectious energy and is constantly buzzing with excitement. On the famous street there's the Hollywood walk of fame, where there's paving stones dedicated to the stars. The plaques are for 5 different categories, honouring peoples contribution to film, radio, television, stage or the music industry. With over 1800 plaques it's not surprising that there were a few people I'd never heard of, but Chuck Norris was there so the rest don't matter.

Also to see in LA is the old mexican/Spanish quarters which strangely enough is called the Pueblo Nuevo because it was relcoated when the main bus and train station was built. Maybe it was because it was Sunday but there was a carnival atmosphere around here with lots of families out for the day and plenty of Mexican music and dance. Other areas we visited were Little Tokyo and the obligatory Chinatown, bothn of which we could have done without. Although we did get a huge feed for next to nothing in Little Tokyo.

One of our main reasons for going into the city centre was to find out how we could get to San Francisco in a few days time, that proved unbelievablly difficult to do so we came home again without any further answers. Back to the hustle and bustle of Hollywood (sounds great doesn't it!)

posted by SeanMc @ 3:31 PM, ,

Flying to the USA



We'd spent a little over a month in Australia and in that time we'd seen as much as we possibly could and caught up with as many of our friends as we could but it was time to move on. We had a long haul flight to get from Sydney to Los Angeles via a stopover in Nadi(Fiji).

We had previously heard horror stories about checking for USA bound flights at Sydney so we made certain to be at the airport in plenty of time. The stories must be all lies because we were checked in in under 20minutes, so much for it taking several hours.

We still had Los Angeles Airport ahead of us or LAX as it's known. LAX has a reputation for being an absolute nightmare to get through, and that doesn't even include having to get through USA customs and immigration whose personnel have a reputation also. Again we were settling in for the long haul and much to our surprise we had our bags collected and were waiting for our transport in under 45minutes, must be our lucky day. The only hard part was when the man from Immigration asked us where we would be spending thanksgiving, we just replied "when is it?" He got a laugh out of it.

posted by SeanMc @ 3:30 PM, ,

Last Days in Sydney



Back in Sydney we still had a few places to see amongst them were Bondi Beach. Bondi is well known in both Irish and Kiwi circles and the biggest destination for anyone who moves to Sydney. It's so well known in Irish circles that it's been dubbed County Bondi. I'm sure the Kiwi's would refer to it as a region on the island off the coast of NZ :) So what did we think of Bondi? I was surprised how small the beach was, from what I'd seen and heard I had expected the beach to be much larger. The large crowd and the huge number of surfers didn't surprise me in the least though. We didn't hang around too long but were glad that we were now able to say "we came, we saw and we ran anyway". After Bondi we got a bus into town and from there we got the ferry out to Manly Beach.


I'd heard previously how this beach was much quieter and the place where the locals went. It's a totally different beach, several times larger with less crowds or at least a lower density of crowds, the surf wasn't as clean but that's just down to the weather. Another plus for Manly is the bakery just across the road from the ferry terminal; they make excellent chocolate éclairs! Aside from being a nice area the ferry trip out to Manly offers great views of the cityscape, harbour bridge and Opera House from the water.

Our last full day in Sydney and it was going to be a busy one, not to mention having to pack all our stuff. We were going to Darling harbour, 2 reasons; we hadn't been there yet and we had arranged to meet some relations of Clare's. There's not really a lot to see at Darling harbour but it is the kind of place you could sit down and drink coffee all day long and just watch the world go by. I thought it would make an ideal location for a canoepolo pitch, if the water was a bit cleaner. We ended up spending most of the day in Darling harbour and afterwards headed back to the rocks for food and drinks.


Last week we didn't get a chance to properly see the night markets so we made a plan to arrive earlier this week and have a proper look around. The night markets are full of stalls displaying various cottage industry handicrafts. Some great stuff there but much of it was a little pricey. I got the feeling that people put the price up because of the name attached to the markets. Afterwards we continued to enjoy the pubs in the area and caught up with our Kiwi friends Dave and Nic again, this was great because when we left NZ we didn't know when we'd see them again.

posted by SeanMc @ 3:29 PM, ,

Blue Mountains

We were all set to get away from Sydney for a few days and it had been suggested that we go out to the Blue Mountains for a few days hillwalking. We were able to purchase a Blue Mountains explorer pass which included the train to get there and back, unlimited use of the trains whilst there and unlimited use of the hop-on-hop-off explorer bus.
The day we arrived we didn’t really plan on doing much walking, just a short walk to the end of Katoomba village to see what was around and to get our bearings, 4½ hours later we arrived home. We had gone to see one of the mountain lookouts at the end of the village then figured on walking the short distance along the clifftop to where the cable car was running from, still feeling energetic we continued from here. Next we went down to the valley floor, this was our mistake for the day because when you go down you usually have to go back up at some stage. In this case there were 1233 steps back up! This time we were super hungry when we arrived home.
Day 2 in the Blue Mountains and we were going to choose a shorter walking route. We got the train from Kotoomba to Blackheath to start our walk. We started our walk from the train station and went to one of the information service centres in the park, from there we did a loop away from the centre and finishing back near the train station, 3½ hours walking in total, and no steps today so much easier than yesterday.
Day 3, our last day and using the train again. We headed in the opposite direction from Kotoomba today, down to the town of Wentworth falls. We mainly followed the Sir Isaac Newton trail and had intended following trails to bring us back to Kotoomba but unfortunately a number of the trails were closed from maintenance so we ended up back-tracking along the same route and getting the train back to Kotoomba, where our bags were in the hostel. The walk still took us 3¼ hours to complete.

posted by SeanMc @ 9:58 PM, ,

Sydney



Sydney, one of the best known cities in the world, but what's to see when you're hanging around for a few days?
Our first day we had to hand back the rental car so once that was taken care of we got the train into the city centre to have a look around. First on our list were the Sydney harbour bridge and the Sydney Opera House. What surprised me about the opera house was that it wasn't white but a bit off white, this colour difference isn't noticeable in any photo's of it. After seeing the two big sights we walked further along the waterfront to the botanic gardens where you can go out to a headland and get a view of the harbour bridge and the opera house at the same time, a perfect postcard.

The Olympic games were held in Sydney in 2000 and the stadium is still in use as a sports stadium. They now run tours of the stadium. There's not a whole pile to say about the tour but the highlight was that they still have the actual podium on which all the athletes stood to receive their medals. They allow people to stand on it and take photo's, naturally I got a gold medal that day. The stadium is now used to host cricket, soccer and rugby league games and is host to the bulldogs rugby league team. Also near to the stadium is the Olympic aquatic and hockey stadium. The athletics track from the Olympics was taken up after the games had finished and was re-laid in a purpose built stadium a few hundred metres away.

Today was another Olympic day, this time it was time for the whitewater stadium in Penrith. This is an artificial river where the water is pumped by some large pumps and the various features on the 'river' are created by a number of removeable obstacles. The course is a grade 3 section of water and is rafted almost continuously by various groups. For us though we were interested in paddling it. At the centre you can hire all the equipment you need, boat, paddles, buoyancy aid, etc. If only all rivers had the same facilities, when you'd paddled the course all you had to do was paddle onto a conveyer belt and it brought you back up to the top and you could paddle again it was great. For me the only downside to the day was getting stuck under a raft and swimming, to make things worse the raft guide was Shane from DCUCC whom I already knew from at home. I'd heard a number of people complain about Penrith in the past but in my opinion it is a great facility for anyone who wants to learn to paddle or to improve their paddling. It has everything, a flatwater lake to learn the basics and then some gentle moving water at the bottom of the course and on the course there's drops, waves and eddy's, what more could you ask for? A great days paddling and we were tired and hungry after it, but we weren't too tired to go drinking.

posted by SeanMc @ 9:42 PM, ,


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