Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hollywood, Los Angeles - Part 1 - Photo Time

As promised, here are some photos from our first day in Hollywood. Nothing too exciting at this stage, however today's photos are a lot more interesting (promise!)

Remember, you can click on each photo for a close up!

Mr. Incredible and Elmo outside the Chinese Theatre

First up are Mr. Incredible and Elmo. Mr. Incredible seems to be grabbing either his crotch or money belt. I assume it is the latter.

ood Sign

Here we have the ubiquitous Hollywood sign. Can be easily seen from the 3rd floor of the mall (which is really the fourth floor as Americans call the ground floor the first floor. Strange Americans.)

Smoggy L.A.

You can really see the smog sitting over the city. While you can see a sort of haze in the Hollywood sign photo, in this you realise it's not just the heat! While the smog doesn't smell too bad (if at all), it does make you think about the impact we have on our environment. I also wonder what it is like in the middle of summer - probably not too nice.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hollywood, Los Angeles - Part 1

Well, we are finally here. The airport side of things went very smoothly, even if I was carrying a kilo of premium manuka New Zealand honey and 4 packets of Tim Tams (for Barry in SF) - Obama really needs to move on the free trade Tim Tam agreement and quickly.

First thoughts - this place is frickin huge! LA loves the car - one third of the city is road/freeway. And they all drive on the right side of the road which takes the brain a few days to adjust to (especially when crossing).

The journey from the airport to our hotel in Hollywood took 45 minutes via shuttle van and was one of many contrasts. As we travelled through the Hispanic area, the first thing I really noticed was how dirty it all seemed, with rubbish strewn about. There were people everywhere and hawkers trying to sell water and ice blocks to people waiting at traffic lights.

Once we got closer to Hollywood, you immediately notice how the rubbish seems to magically disappear and everything looks that much tidier.

We made it to our hotel, checked in the luggage and headed off to the mall for a looksie. We are staying a five minute walk from the Kodak theatre (where the Academy Awards are held) and the mall is all glitz, little class.

What we saw:

  • Plenty of people dressed up like the Incredibles, The Hulk, Elmo, Big Bird, Captain Jack Sparrow, Kung Fu Panda etc - all great for photo opportunities if you give them a dollar
  • A buy two cigars get one free voucher in a subway type sandwich bar
  • Amazing shoes and clothes in the shop windows (Lizzy, you'd be in heaven)
  • Not everyone here is supersized...
  • Some really good jalapeno poppers - these are jalapeno peppers, stuffed with cheese and deep fried...mmm, very yummy although I can feel my arteries stiffening already
  • The Hollywood walk of fame with all the stars - I nearly slipped on Britney
  • Hollywood sign up on the hill
  • A store with a Madonna merchandise shrine (Jamas, your turn to be in heaven!)
We're about to head out the door to check out the farmers market and do the hop on/hop off tour around Hollywood - photos to follow later today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hill Street Blues...

So, the last 10 days have been both very busy and incredibly stressful. As I mentioned in my last post, I found out 14 days before our US departure that my UK ancestry visa had been delayed. Unfortunately the reasons given in the email I received were incredibly vague. Actually, there weren't any reasons given - just, 'your visa has failed the first review'. I was left wondering - is there a second/third/fourth review or is this it? Is my trip over before it has even begun?

On Monday last week I got my butt down to the visa office on Hill street to find out why it had failed...and of course they couldn't tell me.

I headed home suitably disheartened and on the way received a call with the reason - it appears one of the documents I supplied lacked certain information and could I please bring more documentation.

The next day I returned with more documentation and was told that wasn't enough. I was advised to request even more documentation from NZ Births, Deaths and Marriages and duly did so. This arrived on Friday (one week until departure) but when it arrived, I knew that it wouldn't help. In a fit of panic, I called the visa office and asked if there was any other documentation that would help and, yes, there was one further piece of documentation that might just do the trick. I ordered this via BDM at midday on Friday and unbelievably it arrived on Saturday afternoon (I had been told there could be up to an eight day wait)!

Moment of truth came early Monday morning - I handed in the further documentation and waited...of course, they couldn't tell me anything. Two hours later I got the call - YES! ~ they would be able to issue my UK ancestry visa AND do it before my departure on Friday. I got my final confirmation call this afternoon and was told I can pick up my passport and visa as of tomorrow. I'll be there at 9am!

A huge thank you to NZ Births, Deaths and Marriages - you are all truly amazing! :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Post!

Well, we are still here in Wellington, very engrossed in the process of putting those last few things into storage and saying goodbye to friends and family.

Lots of catching up with people before we go. We went bowling at the Lanes last night and it was Sha's first ever bowling experience - while a little shaky to start with, she quickly got the hang of it. My performance could have been a lot better, although it was only the third time I've ever bowled.

I am still having issues with my visa, and hope to have these resolved very shortly. If not, I might be back in January next year while I sort things out. It could be an expensive learning experience. Oh well, nothing quite like a bit of stress prior to travelling
- it wouldn't be an OE without it! Only 9 days - or in Santa terms, 8 more sleeps - to go before we leave.