Los Angeles (June 7- 10)
We arrived in Los Angeles a day later than planned, because our flight from Orlando was delayed and we decided to catch an early morning flight instead. We took an Uber to our Airbnb.
We rented a private suite on the top of the house. It was a pretty 1928 house in a quiet neighborhood and although we had to park on the street, it was an excellent choice.
Later that morning our car was delivered by the owner. We used Turo for the first time, a kind of Airbnb for cars. Although it was only a small car and the registration had expired when he delivered it, it worked out very well.
In the afternoon, we went back to Venice Beach, where we had stayed some years earlier. Venice Beach is now a little run down and many of the shops were closed. It's also become something of a homeless camp, with people living in tents on the beach.
Kristine taking a break
We didn't stay long and headed back to our Airbnb for a quiet night.
Next day, we drove to the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum, which opened in 2021 and one of our main reasons for coming to LA.
As you would expect, the museum was packed with all kinds of iconic pieces from famous movies such as:
Judy Garland's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz"
The two costumes, one sepia and one blue used for the the transition from B&W to Color in the Wizard of Oz
The only surviving "Rosebud" sled from "Citizen Kane". It's owned by Steven Spielberg
An original "ET"
And old friends "Wallace and Gromit"
A wonderful old three strip Technicolor camera
And LOTS of Oscars from various famous films from the very beginning of the movie business.
We found the museum fascinating and spent a full day there. In future years, there will probably be even more to see and do. It was well worth the trip.
Next day, we took the Paramount Studios tour.
We did the Universal Studios Tour years ago and The Warner Brothers Tour last time we were in LA, but this was different again. This time, we went in small groups of six, on a golf cart, with our own tour guide, which made it seem more personal. The studios were busy, with lots of construction and setting up going on, although we didn't see any actual film crews at work. Pity !
In front of the iconic Studio Entrance, seen in so many movies, such as "Sunset Boulevard" (below)
The tour included the backlot area, which has various areas themed to different cities and eras.
Even the interiors of the "buildings", which are really only facades, are sometimes used as small sound stages.
In the afternoon, after the tour, we drove up to Griffith Park. The Observatory was closed, but the building is impressive and we did get to see a rather hazy "Hollywood" sign in the distance.
The Griffith Observatory
We even got see James Dean, he famously filmed here in the 1950's, but sadly only a memorial bust.
That evening, we dined at The Musso and Frank Grill a popular Hollywood Steak House. The restaurant which opened in 1919 looks like a set from "The Godfather". It's very dark and all the booths are separated from each other, so completely private. It's easy to imagine many deals, legal and not so legal, being made here. In reality, it's darker than the photo shows and actually quiet small.
Expensive but excellent food and service and an experience not to be missed.
Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks (June 11-15)
Next day, we drove up to Yosemite National Park. We spent the first night at The Wawona Hotel, a traditional Victorian hotel which opened in 1876. Additional rooms were added in 1916, so now there are 104 guest rooms. It can't have changed much since then.
The front of the hotel
Our "lodge" behind the main building. We had a "posh" room with a private bathroom. About half the rooms share bathrooms.
The dining room, where we ate dinner, breakfast and lunch.
Although it was a bit old fashioned, that actually added to it's charm. Some of the employees looked as though they had been there for decades, but they were all very nice.
It was rather a long drive into Yosemite valley, as we discovered that afternoon, but the hotel itself was a real pleasure.
Next day, we drove into Yosemite Valley (again) for what we had planned to be a three night stay. Because we knew our room wouldn't be ready, we drove straight to the While Wolf Campground, where we planned to hike to a lake we had seen last time we stayed in Yosemite. To our disappointment, not only was the campground closed, but the road leading to it was also closed. Fortunately, we remembered there was another way to the lake, so we drove on and found the trailhead to the lake.
To get to the lake, we had to first go uphill and then downhill on a dirt trail. The uphill part was quite steep, but the lake was worth the effort and just as pretty as we remembered it.
It was a very pleasant and very quiet spot to rest before we started our return walk, although our new made trail friends were better equipped than we were.
On our way back to the car, we spotted Bambi, the only real wildlife we saw during our time in Yosemite.
After our hike, we drove along the Tioga road, high above the valley. The views were awesome.
Half Dome from the back
Tioga Lake from the road
And from the lake edge
People actually do swim in the lake, but not for long. It's VERY cold ! Needless to say we didn't try.
Roadside waterfalls make for a nice photo opportunity and a chance to stretch your legs.
We headed back to Yosemite Valley and checked into our room. Although the day was warm, our room was STIFLING hot and had no air-conditioning. We opened the doors and windows but the room didn't really get cool until midnight. As the room was costing us $316 a night, we were a little disappointed. We also found that the main restaurant was sold out, so we had to make do with sandwiches. Not a great start !
Of course, driving into and out of the valley, the views are always fantastic. It makes everything else seem trivial.
On our second day, we had thought about climbing Half Dome, but we didn't get a permit in the lottery and we would probably have failed anyway. However, we did START the trail which leads to Half Dome. Just getting parked was a problem, but once that problem had been solved, we started up. The trail was very steep and we had to keep stopping to catch our breath. We made it as far as the Vernal Falls Bridge and started up the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls but the trail was very wet and steep, so after about 60 steps and turned back.
Nevada Falls from the Vernal Falls bridge
Nevada Falls from the Mist Trail - as far as we could go.
Once we walked back down the trail, we spent some time in Yosemite Village before returning to our room at the Lodge. Another quiet evening!
We decided next day to cut short our stay in Yosemite as we felt we had done everything we wanted to do. We checked out and walked to the Yosemite Falls which are right next to the hotel.
We stopped at the Wawona Hotel for lunch on our way out of the park and then found a quiet trail down to a river.
It would have been a nice spot for a swim, but we didn't come prepared, so we had to settle for a paddle in the very cold water.
We spent that night in Fresno, which was a convenient stop along the way. Although there's not a lot to do in Fresno, the next morning we did visit the Forrestier Underground Gardens, created by a Sicilian immigrant named Baldassare Forestier, who in the early 1900's decided that he could grow oranges and other crops under the ground, to keep the plans sheltered from the extreme heat of summer. Not only did he build a garden, but he also lived underground as well!
An underground orange tree. The top pokes through to the surface.
One of his two underground guest rooms
A tunnel for cars to drive into the underground area. It was never used.
The hand tools he used to dig all the tunnels. what remains is just a fraction of what he created, but most of the tunnels were lost after his death in 1946.
From Fresno, we drove to Sequoia National Park, which we have never visited before.
The park has been badly damaged by fire and there were burned trees everywhere, but happily no fires while we were there.
Our first excursion was along the road leading to Kings Canyon National Park. The first part of the road ran along the top of a ridge, looking down into the valley.
Then the road drops down into the canyon, so you are looking up at the valley walls.
This is our little rental car. It's small, but it handled these steep, hilly roads very well.
The river running along the bottom of the valley is very pretty and quite impressive when there are waterfalls.
We stayed at the Wuksachi Lodge that night, but it wasn't very scenic. We did enjoy a good pizza and a bottle of wine in the restaurant though.
Next day, as we left the park, we stopped to admire the giant Sequoia trees for which the park is named.
One of the fallen trees is hollow.
Very strange to walk THROUGH a tree ! They say the cavalry would stable horses inside the tree.
And the biggest tree in the National Park, the General Sherman - in fact the worlds largest tree !
The General Sherman
After leaving Sequoia National Park, we drove to LA, where we stayed at an airport hotel, before catching our early morning flight to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.