Hollywood, Los Angeles, London and Thrapston…

OK so the title was a bit of a headline grabber but it’s true!

So we arrive at our final day of our holiday, although this is not quite strictly true as we will be travelling from tonight through to tomorrow afternoon UK time so actually it officially finishes on Sunday.

I left Tina in bed as she didn’t get a good nights sleep and had a shave & shower. She soon woke up soon after. We went down for breakfast, which had a good selection, although as usual not much for gluten-free-ites. We returned to our rooms with coffee/tee (yes, very American as you don’t see many without a cup of something in their hands) and finished off packing. We are a bit worried out the amount of weight in our cases but once packed they do seem lighter than when we came over, how can that happen as we have the same amount of clothes?

We checked out of the hotel and agreed that we would return to Hollywood, where our road trip started, for one final look around.

We set off down the I5 towards Los Angeles and in particular Hollywood; the traffic was busy, in particular heading north out of the city, Americans on the way to their holiday weekend breaks no doubt.

We headed for the same area that we stayed at on our first night in California and soon found a car park costing $10 for the day. We then walked the short distance to the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood boulevard. We were surprised how busy the place was compared to last time we were there, although I guessed the Memorial weekend had brought more visitors out. We stopped for a Starbucks coffee and then walked around the shops for a while.

Lunch soon beckoned so we ordered two plates of nachos with the full works. Of course we should have realised by now that American portions are enormous and neither of us could finish the plate full of Mexican food. We then browsed a few more shops before finding a seat close to the water fountains where we sat for an hour or so, people watching. I was then asked by a couple of people whether would take their photos, which of course I obliged. What I should have done was to charge a dollar a time as did the lady at the Las Vegas sign last week. Missed opportunity or what…!

We then took a slow walk back to the car and set the sat nav for the Alamo car rental return depot, that’s close to the airport. Thirty minutes later we were unloading the cases and boarding the bus that would transport us to the terminal. Once in, we dropped our bags off before queuing to get through security. The process is really tight now, with all jewellery and anything metal having to be removed, including Tina’s birthday presents and placed in a tray. I wisely removed all my gadgets and unlike at Heathrow, got through without a bag search this time.

As soon as we were clear, we hit the duty free shop, buying the kids some smellies as prezzies and then grabbed a drink from Starbucks. Unfortunately there was no free wifi within the departure lounge so for the next few hours or so we were without Internet. As we had arrived a few hours before the flight we had wait until 8.30pm before boarding.

The flight boarded quickly and we took off shortly before 9.30 local time or 5.30 UK time and were immediately served dinner and drinks. The flight was a bit turbulent; in fact it was probably the bumpiest time I had in a plane and whilst I was OK with it Tina was in tears. After an hour or so it subsided although there were a few more rough areas during the rest of the flight.

As is normal on these type of planes, I find it very difficult to sleep and only managed to grab a few minutes during the nine hours we were airborne. Towards the end of the flight, we were served breakfast although I skipped it as it was not gluten-free.
After circling Heathrow for 15 minutes we finally touched down around 3.15pm about half an hour earlier than scheduled. We queued for Border Control before collecting our cases and going through customs. We then found the transfer bus to our car and soon were on our way around the M25 and M1. At Junction 14, we swapped drivers and Tina drove the remainder of the journey home.

So far so good…

We made it!

So it’s 11pm local time, which means it must be around 7am in the UK which means my body is very confused.

I managed to get a few hours kip when we arrived at the hotel which is a small and cozy place and which doesn’t seem too noisy, despite being in the heart of Hollywood. We were greeted in a friendly manner by David at the check in desk who was surprised at the price of the room we were paying, a full $60 cheaper than current prices. Tip – book your hotel accommodation early through booking.com to get great deals.

The flight over was uneventful, if not very long; in fact that is the longest amount of time I’ve been in a plane. I can see why people upgrade to get more leg room. Virgin Atlantic looked after us well, although I must remember to pack some gluten free snacks next time as they only seem to worry about the main meal and on an eleven hour flight I did get a bit peckish towards the end.

Tina managed to get through the flight OK, not before shedding a few tears at take off and landing. She also was a bit ratty towards the end; quite normal when she doesn’t get much sleep.

US Immigration was as inefficient as usual; it took us about an hour to get through the fingerprint and retina scanning process; roll on when they get systems that automatically scan our biometrics as we transfer through the terminal from the plane. That would be far more effective if not a bit sci-fi.

We did get a chance to see a sniffer dog at work whilst we queued though. He wasn’t looking for drugs…no he was on the hunt for food and homed in on a bloke in front of us. It turned out he had a banana in his rucksack which is not allowed to be brought in from abroad. His customs card was duly marked but the offending fruit was not removed. I suspect he might have been pulled over later in the queue for a full fruit frisk down. (try saying that after a long flight).

Bag pickup was not too painful, our new bright red cases appeared right on time and we soon cleared customs. A short transfer to the car hire place to pick up the ‘standard SUV’, programme the sat nav in and off we went, making quick progress to the hotel.

On the way we saw our first glimpse of the Hollywood sign, confirming the fact we had arrived at the City of Angels. Shame we were too tired to take it all in. Still sightseeing will be left for another day.

So I guess it’s time to try & get some more sleep; body still says it should be waking up but my brain says ‘shut your eyes’.