Wednesday 23rd April
After breakfast, a very good American breakfast, we crossed over the road to the Los Angeles metro and fed a very large number of coins into the ticket machines to buy tickets to Universal City. The boys clearly do not share their parents' love of metro systems, but they had to put up with it as we went through the less good areas of the city, through the centre and on to the northern areas of Hollywood on our way to Universal City. From there it was just a short ride up the hill to the studios and themed area. David saw Spider-man almost straight away and watched him while I bought tickets.
The first place we went was the walk-through of The Mummy Returns, which I had found unsettling when I went there in September. David and I were decidedly unhappy about the whole thing, but Viv, Matthew and Christopher couldn't see what we were concerned about. After that, it was on to other things, including the tram ride round the whole studio backlot area. There was a lot of cinematic activity going on, so unfortunately parts of the trip were missed out, but the boys did get to see the collapsing bridge, the parting of the Red Sea, King Kong, the San Francisco subway station and the Psycho house among others. There's lots to say about those, most of which I won't be saying.
After that, we followed the four long escalators down, much further than Bank for Monument, to find the attractions down the hill. First up was of course the Jurassic Park river ride. This is a harmless ride through Jurassic Park, where we see herbivores from the comfort of our boat. What can possibly go wrong?
Other things we saw included a variety of live and cinematic shows. Most memorable was the Waterworld live show. I cannot recommend it for those of you who wish to remain dry during the show. The buckets of waters casually thrown onto the audience while we were waiting for the show to begin were irrelevant once the main show began. Jet skis coming to a halt as they turn with the back towards you are much more effective than buckets. I wish we had chosen an earlier show than 6:30pm. Working backwards, the Spider-man Rocks musical trapeze show was very inspiring in its way.
Backdraft was a show which had scared David half to death when he saw it in 1993 (aged 4) but he took it much more in his stride this time. E.T. has closed! I'm glad I did that in September. Unfortunately, Shrek's ride hasn't opened yet.
After shaved ice and hot dogs, not necessarily at the same time, we went back to the metro and to our hotel, another day of fun and happiness behind us. I would recommend a day at Universal Studios, but it does not have enough entertainment for two days, unlike Disney where you can stay for days if not weeks without getting bored.
Thursday 24th April
The boys wanted to go to San Diego Zoo, but that's much too far for a day trip, especially if there's a 6,000 mile flight ahead of you in the evening. Instead, we went to the Long Island Aquarium of the Pacific, which is a very large proposition altogether. There are a great many live and other exhibits there, depicting and celebrating our planet's largest body of water. We saw most of the things it had to offer, including an opportunity to stroke the sharks at their equivalent of a petting zoo (which later gave us something to put on the agricultural declaration when we returned to New Zealand) and had a good time there before heading back to the city, the hotel to pick up bags and on to the airport.
The flight was even longer, it being in the uphill direction, and it took off at just after 11:30pm. I chose a beef casserole main course, which was much more promising than the turkey thing on offer which Viv and David chose and abandoned.
We watched and enjoyed the first movie, Catch me if you can, which is also relevant to my professional work and slept during the next two. The last film was Two weeks notice, which we watched, though the premise on which it is based is extremely thin.
Our immigration forms were checked by another Mr Halliday, who was very interested to see our name on the forms. After that, a breakfast at the golden arches in the international terminal before we walked to the domestic terminal for our flight to Wellington, where Barry was waiting to take us home in his gleaming taxi.
On arrival home, we welcomed back the cats, or possibly they welcomed us, and I walked down to the local service station to buy milk and bread. Not long after that, I arranged the retrieval of our car, which now doesn't need to have its starter motor hit with a hammer to get it going (well, not every morning…)
The rest of the day was spent quietly, as life slowly returned to normal and we had an early night.