USA Pt VII: Cost Summary

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We had three days in Los Angeles and spent a total of 760 USD (or 477.02 SGD each).

Cost breakdown

Visa
Cost/person: 14 USD or 17.54 SGD

Singaporeans are eligible for the US visa-waiver programme but we were required to apply for ESTA (14 USD). We applied for ours a month before departure and were approved immediately.

Accommodation
Average cost/person/day: 51.20 USD or 64.16 SGD

Like in Japan, accommodation was our single biggest expenditure. My friend K got me a really good rate (92 USD/night) at Holiday Inn Express West Los Angeles with breakfast included.

Transport
Average cost/person/day: 29.56 USD or 37.05 SGD

Our transport for our time in LA was a Toyota Yaris from Hertz. Rental was 116.80 USD for three days and gas was 31.10 USD. The remainder (27.50 USD) were spent on parking.

Food
Average cost/person/day: 13.81 USD or 17.30 SGD

Breakfast was provided at our accommodation so we only had to spend on lunches and dinners. There were a few meals which we skipped because we weren’t hungry. My friend K also gave us a treat when we met, further lowering our food cost. The most expensive meal was at True Food where we spent around 25 USD each.

Activity
Average cost/person/day: 24.16 USD or 90.83 SGD

Warner Brothers VIP Tour (58.50 USD each) and the baseball game between LA Angels and KC Royals (14 USD each) were the only attractions/activities that we had to pay. Most of the places that we went to had no admission fee (Hollywood, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Santa Monica).

Communication
T-mobile SIM card with three days’ worth of data cost us 20.90 USD.

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Peru Pt I: DL 151 ATL – LIM

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Boeing 767-300ER (N-153DL)

Flight: Delta Airlines DL 151
Depart: Atlanta (ATL) – 17:34
Arrive: Lima (LIM) – 23:20
Duration: 6h16m
Distance: 3195 miles (5142 km)
Aircraft: Boeing B767-300ER
Registration: N-153DL
Seat: 34A

Although my both flights on Delta was on the same aircraft type (Boeing 767-300), the ER-version for the second flight seemed to be much nicer. The seats were different and complimentary earphones were provided.

Even Patrick agreed

The screen resolution seemed sharper too.

Duty-free

I was surprised that the crew came around to distribute sleeping masks.

Amenity kit

Seat pocket content

It wasn’t hard to tell that ATL is a Delta hub.

Delta everywhere

Not that you have much of a choice if you’re based in ATL

AF – DL’s SkyTeam partner

Nice ad

Before take-off, the crew made an announcement in both English and Spanish about a team of volunteers were going to rural Peru to install water filters. There was a round of polite applause at the end of each version.

Took off

Visibility was quite good over Georgia and Florida and I snapped quite a few pictures of the ground.

Turnpike

Wonder what town it was

Spotted an airport

Close-up

Crop circle?

Flight map

Flight details

About half an hour into the flight, the crew started its first service. Peruvian immigration/customs forms were distributed followed by snacks and drinks.

Welcome to Peru

Salted peanuts and orange juice

I also started to check out the IFE which was complimentary for passengers on international flights.

Movies

I was honestly impressed with the amount of movies options offered by Delta. I would end up watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty first.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Meanwhile we were leaving mainland US.

Flying over Key West

Byebye USA

It took our plane only 15 minutes to reach Cuban coast.

Cuba!

It was also where we hit turbulence.

Taken before Cuba disappeared under the clouds

The turbulence wasn’t really serious though and it cleared up after we passed Cuba. The crew would start serving the meals soon after.

The crew who was serving our meals noticed my Liverpool jersey and started chatting with us. She turned out to be a Liverpool fan too and she lamented how close we were to the title the previous season. After knowing that we were from Singapore, she told us that her kid was in Malaysia/Singapore for some cultural exchange program and he loved it there.

My pasta

Ying’s rice

The meal wasn’t as good as the service though. I finished my main course but left the dessert untouched. Ying’s choice of rice was better in my memory.

By the end of the dinner service, there was a lovely sunset outside my window.

Sunset

There was time for one more movie and I chose to watch a Mandarin one: American Dreams in China. It was honestly better than I thought it would be although I was sure that critics would pan it as too nationalistic. The irony of watching it on an US carrier wasn’t lost on me.

Cabin shot

It caught me by surprise when the crew distributed a snack pack around 45 minutes before landing. Totally unexpected as I thought that there was only one meal service on the flight.

Cookies, bun and banana

Despite the flight being above my expectations, economy class was still economy class though and six and a half hours wasn’t a short time to spend in a Y seat. I was glad when I saw this on the flight map.

Almost there

Landed at LIM

We would have plenty of time to connect to our flight to Cusco.

USA Pt XI: DL 80 LAX – ATL

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Hertz shuttle to LAX

We were out of the hotel by 4.30am for 7.45am flight to ATL. We had quite a bit to do; first we would need to fill our rental car up before returning it to Hertz. Then we had to rely on the shuttle to get us from Hertz to the airport. Thankfully everything went smoothly and we were on our way to LAX shortly after 5am.

There was only one other passenger beside us and the shuttle driver checked with us which terminal we were heading to. We reached LAX T5 around 10 minutes after departing Hertz and there was already a long queue for baggage drop.

Early start for these people too

We wanted to join the queue but a staff informed us that we would need to use the terminals to self check-in first.

Originally our LAX-ATL segment was supposed to be operated by DL 2155 but there were several schedule changes and we found ourselves ultimately on DL 80 instead. Our departure time was pushed back 15 minutes from 7.30am to 7.45am. I didn’t like it that Delta didn’t proactively informed the passengers in advance and I only found out after logging on to the website to check the flight timings.

Wait a moment

After getting our boarding passes we joined the queue and then proceeded to check our bags. There was no mention of our (non-existent) onward tickets out of Peru.

Went out after checking in to take a picture of the control tower

There was confusion before the security check; some non-English-speaking elderly Asians (Vietnamese I think) couldn’t understand that their carry-on bags were over-sized and the security staff refused to let them through.

We didn’t stay on to see the issue being resolved as we were directed to security counters in another area. To get there, we had to take the escalator down to the Arrivals followed by a 5 minute-walk through some corridor. Thankfully the security check was painless (beside having to take off shoes) and soon we were at the gates.

LAX T5

LAX T5

There were quite a few dining options in the terminal but we didn’t partake in any.

TV’s showing Monaco GP

Since we had no lounge access, we settled down near our gate and waited for boarding to commence.

Waiting area

Gate for DL 80

N-128DL

My boarding passes

As usual I got restless and decided to go around taking pictures of the planes. There weren’t much variety though.

UA A320 (N-478UA)

SkyWest CRJ operating as Delta Connection

We ended up in the last boarding group and I got to observe the boarding procedure. The gate agent would say to every passenger “Good morning. How are you doing?” without any emotion and usually the passenger would reply something along the line of “I’m fine thanks”. More of a formality than anything else.

Flight: Delta Airlines DL 80
Depart: Los Angeles (LAX) – 07:45
Arrive: Atlanta (ATL) – 15:01
Duration: 4h16m
Distance: 1944 miles (3129 km)
Aircraft: Boeing B767-300
Registration: N-128DL
Seat: 30G

767 should be the smallest wide-body aircraft that I had been on and the overhead cabins were noticeably smaller.

Cabin shot

A pleasant surprise to have personal screen at every seat.

Coca Cola ad

There were lots of stuff in the seat pocket too.

Seat pocket content

The BOB menu wasn’t very inspiring.

Delta EATS

Delta EATS

View from my window:-

Deltas

Americans

Uniteds

The cargo planes

Taking off through the clouds

The IFE was fired up after the plane reached cruising altitude. The touch-screen wasn’t very sensitive though.

Impressed with the language options

Domestic economy passengers had to pay for the movies and TV shows.

Charges

So we made do with the flight map.

Somewhere over Arizona

Flight details

Desert beneath us

The crew came around to offer snacks and drinks. I went with the mini pretzels.

Snack

While Ying slept, I discovered that there was wifi on-board and one could connect it for free for a limited time. Pretty cool to be connected from 10,000 feet in the air.

After my free time was up, I flipped through the in-flight magazine.

Sky

Delta’s fleet

Delta’s domestic network

I also went to nap midway through the flight and only woke up when the crew came around for the second round of snacks and drinks.

I chose biscuit this time

Delta-branded Biscoff

By the time I finished my snack, we were around 40 minutes away from ATL.

Southern US

We landed on a cloudy Atlanta’s afternoon.

ATL is DL-central

Taxi-ing

Our plane was docked at Concourse A and our connecting flight to LIM would leave from Concourse E. We would need the Plane Train to get us there.

ATL Concourse A

On the Plane Train

Concourse E

US doesn’t have any exit control and we only needed to proceed our gate. There were quite a few dining options and we decided to have lunch at American Chinese chain Panda Express.

Panda Express

We noticed that the chef was an African-American and wondered how good its Chinese food would be.

Fried rice and noodles with long beans and chicken (7.27 USD)

The food turned out to be pretty good and the portion given was enough for the two of us. Satisfied from the meal, we made our way to the gate where our flight to LIM would depart from.

Gate E4

USA Pt X: Driving in LA

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Rush hour in LA

Driving in LA is a bitch.

If I do 90 km/h on Singapore’s expressways, I found myself on the extreme right lane. If I did 60 mph in LA, I was on the extreme right lane too.

Except that it was the slowest lane.

The drivers in LA are aggressive and I observed that abrupt lane-changing is the norm. And there was the rush hour traffic jam.

Painful crawl

Still crawling

Outside the expressways weren’t any better. The roads were hilly and full of traffic lights, making traveling along them slow and tiring.

Enjoying the drive. NOT!

Didn’t have any run-in with the law except that a Policeman on motorcycle motioned me to wind down my window in Santa Monica. Apparently I didn’t stop at the crossing (I swore that I didn’t notice any) but he let me off with a warning. Guess that he was used to seeing clueless Asians driving around there.

And there was parking. It was either difficult to find affordable roadside parking or expensive to park in private carparks.

The good thing was that petrol (or gas) was cheap. We paid 4.11 USD per gallon which was equivalent to around 1.40 SGD per litre. Petrol of a comparable grade retailed at 2.20 SGD per litre in Singapore. And apparently California is one of the states with high petrol price. I was sure that many Americans would get a shock if they know how much the rest of the world are paying for their petrol.

In all, I covered around 200 miles over three days, a distance that I didn’t expect. That’s 320km and I didn’t know how I managed that. We probably spent several hours in the car each day and generally it was a stressful driving experience.

I would take an efficient public transportation system over having a car any day.

USA Pt IX: In-N-Out Burger

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In-N-Out Burger, near UCLA

On the first day of our arrival, we were wondering where to have dinner. Then I was reminded of this year’s April Fool’s joke: In-N-Out Burger was opening a franchise in Singapore!

There must be something about In-N-Out burgers. So we fired up Google and found that the nearest outlet was near UCLA, only 15 minutes’ drive away.

It wasn’t too difficult to find the location but it was for a parking lot. Took us almost half an hour to find an empty slot and since we had no coins I had to use my credit card to pay.

Ying’s mesmerized

While there wasn’t much of a queue to order, there were many customers waiting for their food near the counter. We spent some time figuring what we would like to have.

Quality you can taste

Ying chose hamburger while I opted for Cheesburger. We also got French fries and a drink to share. We would need to wait for around 10 minutes for the food to be ready.

Our meal for 8.77 USD

Large sign at sitting area

So was it worth the hype?

Oh yeah

The beef patty was thick and juicy, the buns were soft and fluffy and the vegetables tasted fresh to me. That was a winner burger.

There were also assurances on the wrapping papers which reminded us that the beef used was fresh and never frozen and the bun were made without preservatives. I would take their words for that.

If only we have fast food like this in Singapore…

USA Pt VIII: Angels v Royals

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@Angels Stadium, Anaheim

Both Ying and I hoped to catch a professional sport game when we were in United States and the greater LA area has quite a few professional sports teams across different sports.

Basketball was the top choice but both Lakers and Clippers were out of the playoffs by the time of our visit. None of the fixtures in the NHL playoff between LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks took place on those dates as well and even the MLS schedules of LA Galaxy and Chivas USA weren’t kind to us.

So baseball it was for us. LA Dodgers and LA Angels of Anaheim were the two teams in the region and only Angels was playing at home that weekend. Easy choice then. We bought the cheapest tickets available online for the Saturday 4.15pm match against Kansas City Royals. We paid 27.95 USD for two, quite a bargain for a professional sport game.

After our visit to Walt Disney Concert Hall, we made the 45-minute drive to Anaheim. My friend K had arranged to meet us for lunch before the game and we spent some time catching up at the Lazy Dog Cafe at Orange.

The Lazy Dog Cafe

I was quite surprised that the drive from our lunch place to Angels Stadium took less than ten minutes. On-site parking was available for 10 USD.

Ushers directing fans to the parking

Since we were still early, we went around the stadium taking pictures.

Big A

Patrick the Angel

Entrance

One of the two giant caps

It was great to see a big crowd at a live sporting event and most were families with kids. It appeared that all were having fun.

Getting tickets last minute

Checking out the merchandise

A ball perhaps?

Another Anaheim institution was present at the ballpark as well. A photographer was on-site to take photos for the fans.

Mickey (and friends)

With Mickey the baseball player

Diehard fans could purchase a piece of the stadium for themselves too.

Bricks bought by fans

We made our way to our seats around 20 minutes before the game started. Passed several food options along the way.

Smoke Ring BBQ anyone?

The Grand Stand

Stadium starting to fill up

The atmosphere was not bad, even from Section V507, Row K, Seats 17 and 18.

Play started

We were reminded from time to time that there would be a showing of The Lego Movie after the match.

Everything’s awesome

Things weren’t going too well for the Angels; they wee two down in the 3rd inning (if I got my terms right).

KC fielding

Uh oh

Despite trailing behind, the fans still tried to have fun.

Fans love to be caught on camera

In between the innings, there would be activities that kept the audience entertained. One of which involved a boy who needed to ‘steal’ the base within the stipulated time. He made it!

Boy who stole the base

The home team managed to come back with four runs in the 4th and 5th inning to take a 4-3 lead and there were even pyrotechnics after a home run was struck.

HOME RUN

The vendors would come around to sell snacks and drinks.

Giant pretzel for sale

Angels’ back-up pitchers warming up

Royals got another run in the 7th inning to tie the game at 4-4, much to the home fans’ disappointment.

Tied at 4-4

Then the traditional baseball anthem was played and the crowd sang along.

Take me out to the ball game

It was quite cool that most people knew the words to the song.

End of the song

Some happened during the 8th inning…

Who is he?

It could only be…

Rally Monkey!

Apparently when the chips were down for the Angels, Rally Monkey would come out to lend his support.

There were three videos which he starred in; all of which were entertaining. Top marks to the creators; sadly we missed out on the Lego one.

Shrek-themed

Gangnam Style – so 2012 but still funny

However, despite Rally Monkey’s best efforts, Angels couldn’t produce the moment of magic to win the game and the game went into the 13 innings.

Stadium’s lit up

Start of 13th

Although we had wanted to stay on to catch the start of The Lego Movie, the cold winds and the long drive ahead to LA made us reconsider and we decided to leave before the match ended. On our way out, we passed through the lower level and took some photos there.

Better view at a lower level

Sadly, Royals were the ones who broke the deadlock.

Royals 5 Angels 4

The visitors would go on to win 6-4, capping a rather disappointing Saturday for the hosts.

Goodbye Angels Stadium

Did we understand the game? Not really. Did it impede our enjoyment? Not at all! It was great going to a live sport event with a good crowd. There were many activities going on to keep the spectators engaged so kudos to the organizers.

However, if I were to nitpick, the noise generated by the 30-odd thousand crowd wasn’t terribly impressive. The screen would display “Make some noise” to get the fans going and there was little singing beside “Take me out to the ball game”. Quite different from football (soccer) matches where there was usually more singing from the fans.

Nevertheless we were still glad that we attended the match. The value was tough to beat and we hope that we will be able to catch another professional sports game the next time we are back in US.

USA Pt VII: Walt Disney Concert Hall (& environs)

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Walt Disney Concert Hall

Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall is on Ying’s list of places-to-visit since she learned about it during her previous life as an architecture student. Getting there wasn’t difficult; it was a smooth 30 minute drive on a cloudy Saturday morning.

We parked our car several blocks away at a private carpark close to the Pershing Square metro station. On hindsight we could have parked our car at the roadside parking nearer to the concert hall.

Per entry rate of 7 USD

The walk to the concert hall probably took us 20 minutes or so as we often stopped to take snapshots of interesting buildings along the way.

(Rumored to be haunted) Millennium Blitmore

Interesting artwork on the building exterior

Artwork along S Grand Ave

Took me some time to figure out what’s ‘Ped Xing’

When we reached the concert hall, we spent another twenty minutes taking photographs of its distinct architecture.

Home of LA Phil

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Done with the pictures outside, we went inside the building. Unlike cool metallic exterior, the inside of the building has a warm feeling from the use of wood and its color scheme.

Pillars at the entrance

We easily located the counter where we could loan out the audio tour devices and got one each in exchange for my photo ID. Apparently there was an option for a (free?) guided tour but we decided that we would prefer to explore at our own pace.

Audio tour counter

Tour-mate

The tour took us from the ground floor to the upper level and then out to the garden before returning to where we started. Many people connected to the project were interviewed and I learned something or two about the inspiration behind the building.

Natural light coming in

Donors’ Wall

Frank Gehry

Garden

Names of donors etched on the ground

Noticed the crane with the flag

Sculpture

The iconic exterior

It took us around an hour to finish with the audio tour and we took a slightly different route (via MOCA) back to our car.

Nice sign

Sculpture outside MOCA

We also passed by Angel’s Flight, the landmark funicular railway in LA.

Angel’s Flight Railway station

Short track

Commemorative plaque

Sadly its operation was suspended and there was imminent plan to restart it.

We also got to see democracy in action near where we parked.

No idea what the protest was about…

USA Pt VI: Santa Monica

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Santa Monica Beach

After we were done with Hollywood Boulevard, we drove down Sunset Boulevard then Santa Monica Boulevard towards Santa Monica Beach.

Apparently we were on the historic US Route 66, immortalized

Route 66

We also passed through Beverly Hills, home of many celebrities.

Beverley Hills

Mormon church

The drive took us around 40 minutes and it took us some time to locate the parking entrance near Santa Monica Place. Both of us were dying to visit the bathrooms after the drive and we used one of the hotels’ bathrooms en-route to Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica

The first building that greeted us on the pier was Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, inspired by the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.

Of Forrest Gump’s fame

Beside the restaurant, there was also a shop with all the Forrest Gump merchandise. Americans really know how to make money.

Shop

Both of us also couldn’t resist doing our Forrest Gump imitation.

Forrest Gump 1

Forrest Gump 2

It seemed that weekend started earlier for many people as the place was pretty crowded.

I suspect that it might have something to do with Santa Monica Pier being the end of the trail.

End or start of Route 66 (depends how you look at it)

The main attraction of the pier is the amusement park called Pacific Park. It was always nice to visit a happy place.

Pacific Park

Although we didn’t do any rides, it was still interesting looking at the young and the young-at-heart having fun.

Ride tickets

There were several options – one could either purchase the individual tickets for each ride (4 or 6 USD) or opt for the unlimited ride option (Child – 16.95 USD, Adult – 24.95 USD).

Ferris wheel in the horizon

Roller coaster track right over us

There were the games booths as well although not all were manned (unless there was enough interest). It seemed that Pacific Park faced manpower crunch as well.

Irresistible toys for the kids

Bananas in Pajamas

Waiting for the game to start

The first person who got the minion to the top (by aiming the water gun at the water hydrant below) would get the prize and we actually stayed behind to see who won. It was nail-biting end-to-end stuff; the girls celebrated as if they won the World Cup when they thought they came in first. It was not to be; the winner turned out to be the boy at far end and we definitely sympathized with the girls who went through the roller-coaster of emotions in a just a few seconds.

Despite not in the appropriate attire, we decided to go down to the beach as well.

Santa Monica Pier from the beach

Patrick was really excited to see the Pacific.

Yay

His enthusiasm was infectious

By then both of us were pretty hungry and True Food Kitchen at Santa Monica Place had turned up in Ying’s research. At the end of the meal, both of us weren’t disappointed.

True Food Kitchenat Santa Monica Place

What shall we eat?

Both of us loved the edamame dumpling starter (10 USD) that the server recommended.

Edamame dumplings

Our mains were pretty good as well.

Sea bass street tacos (16 USD)

Shaved turkey pita (13 USD)

The portions were quite big (for us) and we really enjoyed the meal. Wouldn’t mind revisiting it if we are in US again.

USA Pt V: In Search of Hollywood

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H O L L Y W O O D

What’s a visit to Los Angeles without taking photos of the Hollywood sign?

Built in the 1920s, it is easily the symbol of in the greater LA area. There are several ways to view the sign; we hoped to see it up-close from behind via Hollyridge Trail.

After our less-than-VIP experience at Warner Brothers Studio, we decided to head to the start of Hollyridge Trail. While it wasn’t too far from Burbank, we had to use the small and windy residential roads to get there.

Heading into the hill

Despite a few wrong turns, we managed to reach our intended destination. However, to our disappointment, there was a sign at the end of North Beechwood Drive indicating that the trail was closed. Had to fall back to Plan B: a good view point of the sign.

After consulting our friend Google, we found out that a good place to view the sign was at Lake Hollywood Park. It wasn’t too far according to the map but the road was narrow and winding and vehicles were parked by the side. Some parts were so narrow that I doubted that I would be able to maneuver through them if I wasn’t driving a Toyota Yaris.

The instructions given on the website was pretty good and we found the viewpoint without much trouble.

Lake Hollywood Park

Many people walking their dogs on a Friday morning

Not surprisingly, many tourists also had the same idea as us.

Like-minded tourists

Selfie

Closer

The view of Los Angeles from there wasn’t bad as well.

Los Angeles in the background; Hollywood Reservoir in the foreground

Smoking prohibited

After getting the necessary photographs, we were back on our way, this time to another LA landmark: Hollywood Boulevard. We were lucky to find a parking lot just a block away from all the action.

Hollywood Boulevard

We had to decline many offers to join the tours who would be starting “in a few minutes”.

Chinese Theater

I didn’t quite get the ad

Hollywood Boulevard’s sidewalk doubled up as Hollywood Walk of Fame. We definitely recognized more than a few names.

Hollywood Hall of Fame

Javier Bardem – couldn’t forget his performance in No Country for Old Men

Disneyland is honored too

Patrick’s excited to find Tom

Patrick gets his own star

Like any good tourist attractions, there are many souvenir shops on Hollywood Boulevard. Ying found something which described herself perfectly.

Girlfriend of the Year

Feeling a little peckish, we decided to pop into Ghirardelli. Each customer who walked into the shop was given a Ghiradelli Square as free sample.

Ghirardelli

Ghirardelli dining area

We got a sundae (USD 5.72) to share between the two of us. Service was pretty good with the staff pro-actively offering cups of water to customers

Sundae – too sweet

After our dessert, we crossed over to the side of the boulevard where the Chinese Theater is.

Luckily the doors didn’t open

There was definitely more action there; almost every character of note could be found to take photos with for a fee.

Marilyn Monroe

Jack Sparrows

Transformer

Bane and Batman

It was quite obvious that I was a first-time tourist and I fall for one of the hustlers’ trick. Many guys were offering their music CDs for free to passers-by and I naively took one from one of them. He was friendly at first and asked for my name. He then signed the CD and asked for ten bucks. I returned it to him with a smile and luckily he wasn’t persistent. Note to self: never accept things from strangers!

Outside the Chinese Theater there are handprints, footprints or autographs of Hollywood celebrities. However, I didn’t know most of them.

In honor of GI Joe

Finally someone I knew

After around 45 minutes there, both of us agreed that we should get out. Hollywood Boulevard felt like one big tourist circus and the touting and hustling were getting annoying. I was glad that I visited Hollywood Boulevard but honestly I would probably not visit it again.