Universal Studios, LA

Last weekend we went to see Universal Studios in LA. For those who decide to go there, too, there are coupons floating around, so try to get and use them. I guess the crisis has touched the theme park, too. We were there on Sunday and there were almost no lines, the crowds were thin, and we were able to get into our favorite rides twice. So here it is – entrance to Universal Studios:

It was a cold and cloudy day, so my two sweaters and a jacket were very helpful.

Parking by Universal City is $12 for a day. It was a pleasant walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the park – via an open fun-mall, as I would call it. The cashiers at the gate tried to take this pleasure away from us by offering more expensive parking tickets.

Once we entered – we were engulfed by everything about current movies or TV shows. This is the first scene we are used seeing in the Tonight Show where Jay Leno asks his famous “very hard” questions.

Then you meet the well known characters who are very enthusiastic in getting a picture with you :-)…

Then there are shows. Different kinds. First we saw the Shrek. After standing in a preparation hall for long minutes and watching something very boring on several TVs decorated with some funny bodies, you enter a movie theater where the seats during the show move. And they also spay water onto your face when Shrek or his donkey sneezes to make it more real. You watch it through those special glasses which creates 3D views. I guess for Shrek fans it is really fun. Me – I never got it. Maybe because I haven’t spent my childhood in the Us, so I can’t catch some jokes.

We took the excursion around Universal Studios next and here is what we saw from the hill – instead of sunny California – a cloudy LA! The excursion was very good, we were driving around the real movie sets, pavilions, even the producer offices where, as the driver said, they are making several million dollars a day! We got the feeling of how the movie scenes are created. How fake they are but they look so real in movies:

Like this plane wreck scene, it looked so devastated. The houses around damaged, the plane parts scattered. The train took us to a Mexican town with a flash flood, to several deadly empty European towns, to some braking bridge, a shark jumping from a lake, to a metro station where the earthquake happened and everything started falling apart, waters flowing onto us, fires exploding…We were even taken to Wisteria lane where Desperate Housewives live! With lots of fake wisterias and very beautiful real flowers planted in front of houses. It was fun and worth visiting.

The Simpsons Ride was the closest after we finished excursion, so we waited for some half hour to get into it. Of all the rides the line was the longest to Simpsons. And it definitely was the best ride – it was the simulator. We were as if in a roller coaster, then swam, then flew, then turned over and over and even got sprayed by little Marge’s sneeze. Lots of exciting physical sensations.

Then we ran to see the Water World show:

It is described on the program as a tidal wave of explosive action and it was!

People on the front rows got wet! Lucky those who didn’t because the weather was exactly not for that kind of fun. The waters in that pool were very blue, the actors played with great energy and enthusiasm and courage, lots of splashing around, riding water motorcycles and jumping, running, etc. As one of my friends used to call such things – they are meant for those who understand…

So this next show was exactly for me -Universal’s Animal Actors. Here is one of them. The others were cute also. They did things their trainers wanted and they were wonderful! We watched this show twice :-)…

Getting to the lower part of the park for more attractions looked like this:

Strange very tall Egyptians were wondering there:

So we did the Mummy forwards and backwards thrill ride, it was thrilling, in the dark. Then watched how special effects and pyrotechnic effects in the movies are created. It was amusing. There was also a museum of movie memorabilia. And a water ride Jurassic Park: among some grazing peaceful dinos and falling down cars…the thrill part was at the end when the boat started approaching a waterfall as if we were to dive under it. Luckily it ran out of water in time and we could pass it peacefully before the boat ran down a pretty steep hill and splashed into the pond down there -it was exciting but not as bad wet wise as the employees of the Park were scaring us.

We ended our visit with a visit to the House of Horrors – oh boy, it was scary! Especially passing by those three hanging bodies which you had to push to get through, yak… I lost my voice from screaming… Without the voice I went to the Terminator 3D and that was a slight mistake – it was also for those, who understand…Lots of shooting, noise, flashlights.

And then it got dark and cold and we ended our day watching TV with those little bundles of love:

The end.

We are soon leaving for New Zealand, so follow us and see NZ through our eyes if you please.

Our Central California Coast Itinerary

I will write this for those who need an idea of how long it takes to drive from L.A. to San Francisco mostly on the coastal Rt. 1 and see something interesting on the way. We started in L.A. day 1st. and visited Simi Valley during lunch time, then reached Santa Barbara, spent some time there and came to Solvang around 4 pm CA time. I remember that because at 5pm they close all the little stores in Solvang, but they keep the wine tasting places open till 6pm, so we had a chance to taste some 9 sorts of wine. The next morning we spent a couple of hours in Morro Bay, then stopped in Cambria and reached Hearst Castle around 2 pm. Each excursion there takes about 2 h. So after watching the big screen movie they show in the visitor’s center we rushed out to drive as much as we could in the daylight. The sun was setting down pretty fast, remember – it was mid December…So by the time we reached Big Sur – it was totally dark. Ant it is not advisable to come to Big Sur in the dark – hard to find a place to stay. On day 3 we spent some morning time hiking in the State Park by Big Sur, then had lunch on one of the Piers in Monterey, had no time for the Aquarium…Drove to Santa Cruz and walked a little in its Downtown, the Pier and by the time we finally found the Mystery Spot in the redwood forest by SAnta Cruz, it was getting dark. We reached the Lodge on the North side of SC in complete darkness. Good that the lodge had a sauna and a jacuzzi tub, it helped to relax after this hectic trip. On day 4 we enjoyed some morning sunny time on the rocks by the ocean on the northern part of SC and then drove towards San Francisco with short stops. We reached Golden Gate Park around lunch time and had some of our food in the beautiful settings of the park on a table by the lake. After looking around the park we reached the Chinatown area and found a parking there around 4:30 pm. So we hade some daylight still. The next morning it took us several hours to investigate the Piers and Ghirardelli Square and then the Golden Gate bridge area. After driving north and turning East towards the wine country we reached Napa Valley in twilight. On day 5 we drove a lot, in the fog at first and then in the sun until we reached Yosemite NP, spent there a couple of hours and reached Bakersfield for supper and night.

San Francisco, day 2

The next morning we drove through the Crookedest street, through the Russian Hill down to Fisherman’s Wharf and stopped at Ghirardelli Square. it was Sunday ant there were plenty of spaces available to park the car for it was not a late morning. Later those spaces disappeared. There were historic ships on that pier, the views were beautiful, no rain, lots of Chinese jewelers selling their creations for good prices by the cable car stop, what else can one wish for. Yes, and SF has skyscrapers, I guess built in special way so that they’d not be knocked by the first strong earthquake…


You can see Alcatraz in the distance. It is on an island, maybe that is why no one has escaped this prison, ever.


Golden Gate bridge from different locations:



After we passed Golden Gate bridge, which was quite an impressive drive, we came to Sausalito on the other side and had lunch in a nice restaurant sitting outside in front of thousands of “parked” yachts:


Then we drove winding roads towards the ocean again and here is what we saw:



And yes, I like plants. No matter how little time I have at the moment – I can’t go indifferently by them…


San Francisco, day 1


We reached San Francisco around lunch time and found ourselves directly in Golden Gate Park, the largest man made park in the world! It is 3 mi long and .5 mi wide and has plenty of parking places as well as big trees, ponds, lawns, flowers and also the de Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens and The Conservatory of Flowers. They are all worth visiting. The Nature museum is being restored and is coming soon. It can be seen in the picture in front of de Young museum behind the big square. Here is the very modern de Young museum with its observation hall and the views from it:





On the right side looking from de Young there is the Japanese Tea Garden. It is small, old, very well taken care of and has several Japanese pagodas inside.They charge entrance fee. And while there you can also taste teas and participate in a tea ceremony.


The Botanical Gardens at Srybing Arboretum are like the extension of the park , except that they have little names under each tree. The trees are tall, beautiful, some are peculiar, never seen before. There are a lot of squirrels under one of them, they are making a show there while running around guests and asking for a treat. But only under one tree…There were not too many flowers in December. Actually, here is the only area we found densely blooming and this only purple flower smiling at us from high up in the green growth.




Then we drove to Downtown SF and after several rounds around Chinatown, for joy for joy! we found a parking spot on Vallejo st. by Grand ave. Here on the corner we found a cozy Thai restaurant to be really tasty! And we went around in Chinatown but it was getting dark. Here is the last view that day – taken from our parking space:


Santa Cruz

We didn’t too much in Santa Cruz so I thought maybe I shouldn’t even mention it. But then I felt it was the best seashore I saw during the trip. It was warm (while it was almost freezing during the night just a few blocks from the ocean) and it was peaceful, no wind, just the sending its rays to the sparkling waves which were beating their rhythm under me and spraying me with the salty water. The perfect place to do Tai-ji! I guess there and not so many places or moments in life that you can enjoy and feel the forces of nature so close to you and at the same time – so calming and peaceful!



When you turn you head from the sea – the houses that line the shore are also well worth to stand where they stand. Some of them have amazingly big aloe veras in front colored in orange by cool winter.


All those views are in the North side of Santa Cruz. it also has a State Park there:


But before that the previous evening we drove to the Mystery Spot somewhere by Santa Cruz in the redwood forests. I write somewhere because every santacruzan I asked about its whereabouts mentioned the name of the street or road but have never been there before. It was tricky to find it because there are two roads by the same name Branciforte, going almost parallel, the only difference is that one is road and the other one is drive… And of course – the first time we took the wrong one which lead us to a beautiful golf course. After the inquiry there we found the Spot!


There is no use of describing of what is already extensively described about the Spot in the internet. One of good descriptions: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/CACRUspot.html

Just one little fact – once I got from the car in the parking there, which was still not considered the Spot, just “by” the Spot, I already felt rather weird, my lower back in pain, I could hardly climb the hill to the shack…In the shack I was very dizzy and had to hold onto the rails not to extend my length through the whole floor. After we left in some 2 hours the back pain disappeared. No comment…