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The Travel Map - May 2008

Venice Beach
Venice Beach


If you fancy doing some serious chilling out and people watching Venice Beach and Santa Monica LA are the best places to be.
Venice Beach located in Venice Los Angeles only thirty minutes from downtown LA, is a beautiful white sand beach, which is groomed daily. It was exciting to visit this beach, which has been made famous as a backdrop to many TV shows and movies.

As I walked along the beach, I thought it was just as you see in the movies with scantily clad rollerbladers and cyclists whizzing past. Everywhere you look there are street performers and entertainers as well as a number of actor wannabes, parading up and down hoping to catch the eye of a producer and be offered a role in their next movie. On my walk, I passed the famous muscle beach and stopped a while to watch the toned tanned beautiful people working out in what looks like a cage.
When you have had enough of the beach, you can stroll along the boardwalk and browse in the souvenir shops or stop at one of the many bars or cafes for a bite to eat. If you are interested in what your future holds try visiting one of the many palm or tarot readers.
Once you are over the whole beach thing then why not jump on a bus or roller blade up to Santa Monica and check out the pier and Pacific Park, a huge amusement park with free admission.
If shopping is your thing, (and clothes shopping is always on my agenda when visiting the US, as they are so much cheaper and better), pay a visit to Santa Monica’s third street promenade. The pedestrian only type mall that has all the big names such as Gap, Nike, and Urban Outfitters (to name a few). There are also a number of bars, cafes, and nightclubs where you can view the enchanting street performers. When we were there, we also stopped to watch some filming.

Venice Beach and Santa Monica must be several of the best people watching spots in LA.
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LA Story - Part One Hollywood

May 26th 2008 05:55
I had stopped off in LA many times to change planes when travelling between London and Auckland but never really left the airport. Therefore, when my American friend decided to go to LA to see her brother and offered to show me around I decided to add a three-day stopover into my itinerary. I had been to all the amusement parks such as Disneyland etc in Orlando, so I thought a couple of days in LA would be enough to see the sights and visit my favourite shops.
First stop Hollywood, and of course the famous Hollywood sign. Did you know that the Hollywood sign used to read Hollywoodland and was originally for a housing development? The ‘land’ part was removed in 1945. Unfortunately, you cannot actually go up and sit on the sign as you see them do in the movies, but there are some good locations around the city from which to view or take pictures of it. I went to the Hollywood and Highland Centre on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue as it is supposed to have one of the best views. Even then, the sign is still miles away, and surrounded by a grey haze of pollution, but they have a telescope in the centre, and for a quarter (25 cents) you can get a closer look and even photograph the sign through it. See my artwork below.

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood sign taken through a telescope




The Hollywood and Highland Centre is a five-story shopping mall with a number of trendy shops and restaurants including some of the hottest nightclubs in LA. After photographing the sign, we came out of the centre and took a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to view the famous bronze stars on the pavement. In 1960, 2500 unnamed bronze stars were placed along the thoroughfare, since then 2300 have had names added to them so for any of you budding actors there are still 200 stars available.

Adjoining the centre is the Kodak theatre, which is the home to the academy awards. I was there in February a few days before the Academy Awards so was unable to look inside the theatre, but at other times there are guided tours available, which I have been told, are good.
Right next-door is one of the most famous theatres in the world. Graumans Chinese Theatre with its stunning architecture has been the venue for many movie previews since it was built over 70 years ago.

Graumans Chinese Theatre
Graumans Chinese Theatre - Hollywood


In front of the theatre are the celebrities feet and handprints. I spent some time comparing my hands with those of well-known actors and I was surprised at how small Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks hands actually are.

Bruce Willis Hand prints


Tom Hanks hand prints


Hollywood is definitely worth a visit if you are ever stopping over in LA.
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I remember a few years ago in London seeing Nigel Havers, (who has starred in a lot of British TV) Roger Lloyd Pack (Only Fools and Horses and the Vicar of Dibley) and the guy that played the detective Vandervault (I can’t remember his name) performing in the play, ‘Art’ in London’s West End. It was so exciting to see three well-known actors performing live and me just three rows away from them.

Unfortunately for many Aussies and Kiwis the exchange rate is not our favour and going to a West End show can be an expensive business. Well don’t despair there are ways for you to some great West End Shows at heavily discounted rates.

One obvious one would be to take your student ID card or senior’s card and you get a discount, but for those of us that the boozy days of university are a distant memory but we still have a long way to go before we are drawing our pension there are still options open to us.

A visit to the Official Society of London Theatre’s ticket booth in Leicester Square on the day of the performance is one of the best ways to get discounted tickets, sometimes you can get up to 50% off the normal price. Unfortunately, if the show you wish to see is new or very popular they may not have any tickets available. The ticket booth is open Monday to Saturday 10am – 7pm and Sunday 12-3pm.

Another option to consider is going on preview night, which is usually a few days before opening night. This is the night actors fine-tune their performances in the West End Theatre, and the tickets can be significantly cheaper. To check out what is available go to www.whatsonstage.com.

The National Theatre on London’s South Bank also has standby tickets available up to two hours before a show.
Check out www.britinfo.net and www.theatremonkey.com for more cheap ticket options.
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Amsterdam is a city with two faces, a night face and a day face. By day you can visit some of Europe’s finest museums such as the Van Gogh and Rembrandt as well as the famous Anne Frank’s house. It is also the home to the Heineken Brewery. At night, the city’s famous Red Light District comes to life with the tourists coming to see the scantily clad women in the shop windows and take in a live sex show.

Amsterdam is built around 165 canals so one of the best ways to get an overview of the city is on a canal cruise. A one-hour cruise will give you an overview showing you some of the most interesting sights, while telling you the story of the city and its beautiful architecture


[ Click here to read more ]
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Bangkok - City of Temples

May 6th 2008 01:29
I arrived in Bangkok late on a February afternoon with one of my friends. We cleared customs and went outside to catch a taxi to our hotel. I am not sure whether it is because we were two females travelling on our own or whether the taxi drivers just try it on with all tourists but the first thing he said was “Sorry that hotel has burnt down let me take you to another one”. “Er no thanks take us to the hotel we booked please’. We finally convinced him to take us to our hotel.

Our hotel had a roof garden so we went up there on our first night to get an overview of the city, and it looked amazing. We could see the bright flashing lights of the city spread miles in front of us. We could hear the tooting horns and see the red taillights of the cars bumper to bumper on the busy streets below


[ Click here to read more ]
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