Ala Moana Shopping Centre

If shopping is low on your list of priorities but you still want to venture out then Ala Moana is the one stop you should make, if you’re a shopaholic then it’s a good first stop to gauge prices and what’s available. Even better, it opens early and closes late.

The short of it, the place is huge. A mostly open aired multi-storey arrangement is home to nearly 300 stores so you’ll need a good couple hours even if you are moving at a moderate pace. In list form our picks of the bunch would be:

Animation Addict
– A good place to start if you’re after Hello Kitty, Tokidoki or Angry Birds. They also have a good selection of Domo and the more popular items like Pop! Vinyl collectibles and Marvel merch. While most items are readily available just about everywhere, there were a few gems like a limited edtion Hello Kitty x Wish Come True collab bag. You know its scarce when even the staff at the Sanrio store have never seen one before!

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Magic – An alterntive to Animation Addict quite possibly own by the same mob as the stock was very similar
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Pac Sun – Local surf and skate store. Generous mix of designer and run of the mill wear with a few things on sale.
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Crazy shirts
– A Hawaii staple for tees. Its where you go if you want a souvenir shirt that isn’t from an ABC store. Shirts are good quality with a variety of themes, mostly surf/native based however the bump in price ($15-40) may have you heading back to the markets for a 5 for $20 deal.

Lego store – Doesn’t matter where we are in the world, if there’s a Lego store close by, we’re stopping in! This one had a nice bunch of dioramas built around different themes, the half size R2D2 and very large Star Wars star destroyer in the window were quite impressive. An instant souvenir was the minifig’ and Lego tag “I <3 Hawaii" keyring, shame these weren't available in other cities we've been to. [caption id="attachment_2882" align="alignnone" width="550"]Lego Store Lego Store[/caption]

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And of course you cant go past the American shopping mall staples – Champs, Footlocker, Hot Topic, Lids, Vans, Journeys, local surf/ski store Local Motion and cutesy overload is never too far away with Sanrio which seems to have signed a deal with the whole state as it and its associated local related merchandise is everywhere, they’re even in ABC stores! Just try to hold back a “nawwww” when you see a brown Hello Kitty in a grass skirt, its impossible! @~@

Pit stop time, roll out the pretzels! Unfortunately without a Wetzel‘s in sight we had to settle for Pretzelmaker. Not quite the same but tasty nonetheless (and still a damn sight better than anything on the streets of NYC! Yes, I realise using anything “from the streets of NYC” as a benchmark is a lazy and bias comparison :p)

One of the best things about Ala Moana is, it is central to a lot of other shops and eating spots, even better if you’re on foot, they’re all near each other and all buses lead to “Rome”.

Head out towards Nordstrom and you’ll come across three of Hawaii’s premium streetwear and sneaker boutique stores Kicks Hawaii, Noteworthy and Fitted all within a short distance of each other.

Kicks Hawaii (or KICKS HI – I know, sounds like a chorus line in Can can mode) – Is your one stop shop for sneakers and streetwear, very much in the vein of Kicks Tokyo, Undefeated and Dave’s Quality Meats. Prices are what you’d expect from such places but with limited edition prints and stock that wasn’t available on the website its a worthy tax for the “souvenir for someone who hates souvenirs”. I even spotted an unreleased ACG sneaker behind the counter which looked like a Terra Humara with “Powerlines”. Speaking to the owner it turns out we were both fans of rugged ACG’s but being a sample he quickly rejected my request to buy it :p Not being released for at least another six months didn’t help my case either!

They also regularly come by plenty of Quickstrikes so if you’re in the area for more than a week, it might be worth a return visit. You can keep up to date with their blog here.

Noteworthy – Is quite the illusive store if you’re on the same block as the store. It’s actually on the second level with access up an old flight of stairs behind the shop fronts, which you can only really see if you’re on the other side of the road. These guys are more along the lines of higher end street fashion. If you’ve ever had a penchant for $100 flannies, pants with the bottoms rolled past your ankles or have ever been referred to as a hipster then this is the place for you. Prices were well in the “you’re kiddin’ right?” range but they did have plenty of items heavily reduced on sale to help minimise that instant buyers’ remorse feeling.

Noteworthy

Noteworthy



Fitted
– Very much like Lids but swap the run of the mill colours and teams for limited edition colours and exclusive branded designs along with their in house branding. Staff were very friendly and helpful, they even went to the extent of cracking open new, yet to be released stock a couple months early for me. Easy decision then 😉
Fitted

Fitted

Crooks and Castles is also in the area, a couple doors down from Noteworthy in all of its clinic white glory but very same-same stock. We recommend sticking to online dealers like Karmaloop where this brand is always on sale.

A couple other mentions in the area are Walmart – come on, you’re in the ‘States, its pretty much a tourist attraction even if its just for “The people of Walmart“. It’s also a good stop if you’re after some cheap clothing/beach wear basics.

Morning glory
is just across the road, yep, the one and the same that used to be in almost every shopping centre around Brisbane and the original cutesy Asian toy and knick knack chain. If you’re after plushes or stationary along these lines then it doesn’t disappoint – a huge range of items from little phone trinkets right up to bean bag sized Totoros.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

..And with that, we’ll hit the pause button on this epic day of deep tissue retail therapy and insert a day volcano hunting at the biggest island in Hawaii’s chain of island, aptly called… The Big Island.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

05.08.2013
Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Having Chilli’s Bar and Grill on the ground floor of our hotel was one way to welcome us back to American food culture, tantalisingly delish but instantly regrettable. Luckily there was plenty of walking to be had around our new temporary home to help move along the couple pounds of meat, cheese and grease we had just ingested.

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Waikiki is pretty much the Oahu equivalent of Surfers Paradise, ie. tourist central, but its not all bad! Street botherers and slow moving path blocking groups aside, between the scores of hotels there is a generous speckling of retail shops and eateries. Kuhio Ave is a good place to start with the Waikiki town center, Kings Village shopping center, Royal Hawaiian center. Here you’ll find almost any souvenir you can imagine with the usual excessive over redundancy of content and shops in tourist hot spots but it is still worth a look-through as some stores will stock different designs, colours or styles. The fixed shops make way for open air markets and mobile stalls in surrounding lanes and streets, thankfully very few are pushy with their sales.

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The Royal Hawaiian is where the branded shopping begins with high end names like Fendi, Hermes, Bvlgari and even a Ferrari store but the one we were most interested in was Zumies – the token skate, surf, snow, moto-x store. They actually had quite the range of stock and brands, even a small section of Undefeated along with a bunch of sale items, always a good sign (:
Downstairs, it wouldn’t hurt your taste buds to pop into the Honolulu Cookie Company and try a few samples of their gourmet shortbread cookies.

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Out on the streets you’ll find a couple 88 tees stores – kind of a designer vintage tee store dressed up like a rubbishy clearance store where shirts are in piles on large tables and in pigeon holes. There were some cool designs but prices were quite expensive for what they were (starting around $20). They did however have some other random items like old Hawaiian and American licence plates which were great for a slightly quirky souvenir (:

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Alot of the high end stores made use of their massive store fronts for some intriguing art exhibits.

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Finally, if by some chance you were walking around with your eyes closed, you may not have noticed that there’s quite literally an ABC store on every corner (not be mistaken with the Japanese Footlocker equivalent). Basically your one stop shop for souvenirs, convenience items and last minute life saving.

Next up, we take our best shot contracting mall dementia by running the gauntlet of the major shopping centres on the west coast… all in one day!

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Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

04.05.2013

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It might be a little cliché to honeymoon in Hawaii but can you really argue? Sun, surf, sand (if you go to the right beaches) and still plenty of sight seeing, activities and shopping to more than keep you busy.

I knew very little of “the rich man’s Bali” prior to researching and after viewing google maps and the associated scaled distances I was expecting it to be a lot smaller, however after a rather slow crawl through traffic from the airport to our Waikiki hotel it was instantly recognisable, for good and bad, as just about any other major American city.

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But first, getting there. Like the savvy travellers we are, we held off till we could nab some crazy cheap flights and lo and behold a couple months out, Air Pacific had a sale and we were set. We heard and read a few horror stories about this budget Pacific carrier but didn’t really encounter close to a Tiger Airlines facebook post.

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Of course the trade off for cheap flights is usually an extra stop over, which was in Fiji. Better than a slap in the face yea? Unfortunately it was more like a slow slap in the face, we were scheduled to arrive early evening so the choice in venturing out was limited and with the sun all but gone, it wasn’t even worth a look at the beach outside of the Nadi airport. So with 7 hours to kill we made the most of what the airport had to offer, 2 levels of shops and a food court….cool, now there’s only 6hours 50min left to go. Yep, the place is small, the shops uninspiring and mostly redundant. The food court is based mostly around a carvery style vender which served a variety of meals from classic American to a few Asian dishes. Prices were ok and the quality not too bad. Best thing was they took AU (or USD) currency without a transaction fee but you got your change in Fijian dollars.

Travel Tip: Carry small denominations of AU or USD notes to minimise the amount of unused Fijian currency you’ll have to get exchanged or just keep it for your return stop over.

So to kill the time? We came prepared with a season of Fringe on a netbook, then we just commandeered a table. Later we mixed it up and pulled up some carpet near an unused powerpoint.

Travel Tip: If you get bored from counting the number of Aussie girls with French braids or corn rows and want a bit of piece and quiet, head downstairs to the airline lounges. You can pay a small fee for creature comforts inside or just stretch out on the floor/seats out the front for free.

(not) Christmas Island

(not) Christmas Island

(not) Christmas Island runway

(not) Christmas Island runway

Time marched on with the slumping body language and expressions of center staff till we were finally on our way – but wait, whats this? An extra stop at Christmas Island??? Ok first shock was the previous no mention of a second stop and the second was Christmas Island?? Isn’t that in the opposite direction?? Turns out its part of Kiribati, a tiny little island that’s more lagoons and oases than island – but a perfect place if you want middle-of-no-where picturesque beaches, endless fishing and literally nothing else. The ground crew there reflected the laid back environment, some rode up to the airliner on bicycles, most were either wearing thongs or were barefoot and shirtless. One even took a break from doing nothing by lighting up a cigarette, apparently avgas is so laidback here it couldn’t be bothered exploding :-\

After another hour of sitting around (minus the break where US border patrol entered the plane and searched seats …and the poor guys that fit the stereotypical profile) we were on our way.

On arrival at HNL airport we picked up our hire car from Alamo, despite some negative reviews for this location we had no problems at all and even ended getting to choose a VW Jetta over a Ford Focus. After spending a couple thousand miles in a Focus last time, it was an easy decision to choose the German… and it wasn’t just because it was red 😉 You can get around the island quite sufficiently using public transport and mopeds but nothing beats having the freedom and convenience of a car especially when you have multiple activities planned for a day and a bunch of shopping to go with it.

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Travel Tip: For the best prices on hire cars go to www.DiscountHawaiiCarRental.com – basically a blind selection from dealers of your car category choice, or better. Once your preferences are entered, you’ll get an email from the hire company with pick up details. A little daunting not knowing what you’ll get or from who, but they only deal with the bigger name companies so you should still have some choice depending on your nominated category. If you’re choosing “convertible” you’ll be mostly limited to a Mustang or Sebring … realistically you’ll end up with a Sebring (which is essentially an old Ford Taurus with the roof cut off. Yep, as ugly as it sounds) To give you an idea, a week hire for a “compact”, which going by the Jetta felt more like a mid-size was about $150 for the week, total of $350 with insurance which is always the killer. Still, at $200 less than the cheapest online advertised price, it was an easy decision.

The prepurchase of a $50 ebay gps complete with current US and Europe maps instantly paid for itself as we made a steady crawl towards Waikiki and our hotel for the week, The Outrigger – Ohana West.

Waikiki

Waikiki

There is of course a plethora of hotels to chose from, most going from “more than your flights” to “yikes!” but thankfully this (not so) little gem was significantly less than surrounding places including sister hotel, Ohana East, a mere half block away. Having the deal sweetened with Zuji’s package special made it even better. The only reason we could tell for the difference in price was from the décor. It looked like the last reno in the rooms was during the 80s but other than that nothing to complain about, good service, large room and balcony and a 5min stroll to the beach. There’s also Chili’s Bar and Grill on the ground level and a Denny’s just across the street, both with a wide range of foods and meal deals.

Travel Tip: Parking is a premium almost every where in Waikiki and of course they capitalise on it. There are a few cheaper long term parking spots but all a few blocks away and most not secured. Ohana East offers paid parking at about $20-25 a day with discounts for longer stays, which makes unloading and loading alot easier. The trade off is, the carpark is very limited so they tend to run out of spaces from mid to late afternoon but if you have already paid, you get directed to Ohana West down the road.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Travel Tip: A lot of the beach front hotels have “private” beaches ie. Its easiest accessed through the hotel. For off the street access you’ll want to head straight for Kuhio Beach Park (Waikiki Beach). Possibly one of the busiest beaches in Oahu, it has levies for shelter and corrosion prevention (I read somewhere that they actually import sand from Australia!), though the native sand is rather coarse. Great spot for a quick dip and kid-friendly but if you want to do anything other than a fun splash/cool down then its best you try elsewhere.

Bags dumped and a quick shower, we were ready to hit the streets of Waikiki!

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Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Off to bowls then...

Before we hit the open road to Yosemite National Park, some tips on car hire and getting about LA/California in your box with the steering wheel on the wrong side 😉

“No one walks in LA” is a sentiment you’ve probably heard on many TV shows and movies, its not until you get there and venture passed the tourist spots do you realise how spread out it is and how much a necessity it is to have your own transportation. Our first time in LA we stayed in Santa Monica and only really explored the Hollywood area, so bussing between the two areas was manageable as there’s quite a few services that do that route, but like most cities, finding the right bus and the stops to catch them from can be difficult and time consuming. Fine if you’re only there for a few days but staying any longer its best that you hire a car, not just for convenience but you will also get to see a lot more of the place and have your own personal porter.

LA's notorious freeways

First stop, car rental. There are plenty of places to hire cars from at the airport, but of course the best deals come from pre-booking it online or via your travel agent. We hired through Dollar Rental purely on their cheap prices and even cheaper price found via our travel agent, but be warned, all is not what it seems. Details of hidden charges in my separate review over at Yelp.com (a good source for business reviews in the USA).
We ended up with a less than favourable Ford Focus thanks to space limitations of the other cars available (no other car had a boot big enough to conceal 2 suitcases) but it did the job albeit in its own poor ergonomic and uncomfortable way.

So you got your motor running and are about to get out on the highway, but first some quick tips:

KEEP RIGHT. Start the mantra before you even get in the car each day. It might sound a little silly but anything that can break your years of previous experience will help because once you’re in the thick of it, your first instinct will be to go to the left side of the road, especially when turning left.

Turning right on a red light – Yes, its legal. Basically the red light becomes a give way sign (confirmed with the local boys in blue) This is a little strange to see at first but after breezing down the right hand lane and not having to wait for some of the long light changes you’ll soon wonder how you lived without it and why its not done here!

Turning left at the lights – This is always a little nerve racking, mainly because turning lanes from both directions line up with each other and because the intersections are so big you need to drive to the center to be able to make it across if you don’t have an arrow light. Of course the person travelling in the opposite direction is doing the same except they’re driving a block of flats, so you essentially have more chance of seeing the dark side of the moon than what could be barrelling down in the other lane. Just edge forward and when you see your chance, floor it. If the lights turn red, don’t sweat it, they’re surprisingly patient when it comes to people being stuck in the intersection.

Merging/exiting on the freeway – Sooner or later you will have to get on a freeway. They spaghetti above the city and connect every major area and can be a breeze at the right times.. just be prepared for peak hour. Getting on and off is something else, what you have is a “no man’s land” area of 2, 3 or 4 lanes, unmarked. A lot of on-ramps join to almost immediate off-ramps, good if you’ve taken the wrong turn, bad because there’s on-ers and off-ers trying to share the same space.
This is usually where things get ugly, instead of letting someone exit, an entering car will try to over take the exitee instead of merging behind it and taking its place in a lane. Entering vehicles will also use the smallest of openings to join the freeway, usually as immediate as they can resulting in cutting someone off, rather than using the merging lane to speed match and find an appropriate spot to merge. A tip around this is to watch your right side mirror, if you see someone burning up the merging lane, just as they’re parrellel with the car behind you, speed up just a little bit. This closes the gap in front of you and widens the one behind. They pretty much always take the bait 😉

Parking – Street parking is rare and expensive so use it for “get in get out” stops only, make sure you have plenty of quarters too otherwise you’ll be racking up the fees on your credit card. The other option is parking garages and lots. Unlike Australia this is a very cheap alternative, usually in the range of $3-6 a day, most with no “enter before” or time restrictions. One of the best sites I found for this is http://losangeles.bestparking.com/index.php#1 which displays locations and costs. Some even display real time vacancies. Don’t fret if you haven’t pre-planned where to park, almost all parking lots have a guy in a hi-vis vest with a flag waving you into their lot. Try not to get these guy confused with actual road workers!

GPS – This is a given, though some might prefer a paper map to forgo the cost of hiring one. While the GPS is almost useless in the downtown area thanks to the skyscrapers, it will more than likely save you many times when making direction changes or finding locations on the fly. Depending on who you hire you’re your car through, it can be around $5-15 a day so if you’re driving for a week or more, an option is to buy a cheap one locally from places like Best Buy (There’s one in the Westfield next to the airport). Alternatively you can rent maps for other countries at a discounted price (usage time limited) via your local GPS manufacturer. Or you may be lucky enough to buy an AU one with a promo deal for a free international country map rental like I did 😉

Paper maps – I know… ewww! Thing is they’re not going to lose their signal or try to tell you to go somewhere you don’t want to go or take you in a 2 block loop instead of doing a U-turn. They will also be a godsend when it comes to getting around road works or randomly closed streets instead of continually redirecting you to the same dead end! Also handy when you’re on foot. Google maps is also your friend for detailing specific areas.

Doin' 80 on the freeway, po-lice catch me if you can..

In general LA drivers, while quite bad (possibly due to the complacency and laziness of all those automatics :p) are rather tamed, cars meander all over the road with many near misses but it seems the most they get is a horn toot and a “now would you look at this sonofabich”, possibly due to the less dense laid back lifestyle, possibly a catastrophic coronary brewing under the surface. In saying that, like any where, even if you’re doing 80mph in the left lane there will always be someone tailgating you or trying to over take you, usually in a Prius. Maybe its their cloud of smug giving them little man syndrome? :p Just keep your calm and let them go, you’ll more than likely overtake them at the next back up of traffic or hill 😉

Get used to this view of never ending brake lights

With that in mind, we say farewell to tinsel town and make our way up to Yosemite!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

Greetings!

It was our last day in LA so we thought we’d see it off in style… from the sky!

Orbic Air is a helicopter tour company running out of Van Nuys airport – one of the biggest airports for private aircraft in the states so you may even catch a glimpse of a celeb stumbling out of a fictional “G6″ clutching a bottle of Don P. dregs 😉 There is a wide range of tours to suit any budgets and interests with selected scenic spots like the Getty Museum or LA Live arenas or you can go all out with an “ultimate” tour which covers all the major highlights. There are also dinner packages which include meal vouchers at the luxury restaurants in and around the airport. That said, there was really only one thing we wanted to see and that was what makes LA, LA…. Hollywood!

The process is very straight forward. After arriving, you get to wait in very nice waiting room before a short brief then a golf buggy ride out to the runway. Our pilot was very friendly and explained everything clearly and simply.

Los Angeles - its flat

LA Freeways

LA Valley college

The tour obviously focused mostly on Hollywood however you could easily see the downtown area and further. It begins with a view of some of the many snaking freeways that spaghetti the LA landscape. As the pilot said, if only he could take the helicopter home to avoid that infamous LA traffic! Universal studio city was next which looked like a permanent circus from above if it wasn’t for the War of the Worlds jumbo jet wreck and drive in movie screen sized blue screens.

Universal City

Universal City back lot + War of the Worlds plane crash

Next is the iconic Hollywood sign, you thought it was pretty cool looking up at it from Canyon Lake road? Its nothing compared to looking at it front on from about 50 metres away.

The postcard at the start of this entry was taken @30mm on FF, yep, THAT close!

Hollywood Blvd, downtown LA in the distance

Hollywood walk of fame, Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood and Highland

It was cool to fly over the main tourist spot of Hollywood Blvd and be able to pick buildings that we had visited earlier. Being the focus of the tour, you get a nice slow circle of this area before heading over to Beverly Park (Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Hollywood hills are also covered) where hundreds of the most famous and disgustingly rich celebs are out admiring their gold plated shark tanks or are building a guest house for their guest house or simply tearing down the original house and building a new one – I’d probably do the same if it was previously occupied by one of the Kardashians.

Beverly Park

Beverly Park

Beverly Park

Overall it was an amazing experience (more so if you’ve never flown in a helicopter before) made even better by the very friendly and professional staff. Special thanks to Merlinda for making the booking and admin process a breeze.

If you’re reading this Merlinda, hoping you kept that (modest) tip for yourself! We all know those pilots already get paid too much 😉

Photo tip: if you’re quick on the lens changes, take a long lens to pick off sites on the horizon. Generally I would recommend a wide to mid-range zoom to capture the vastness as well as zooming in on some of the luxury homes, cool movie back lots and landmarks.

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

The stores covered in this section are the ones that are just that little bit further away from the “hot spots” and require a dedicated visit. This is where a car really comes in handy. Not only do you have a mobile porter with REALLY big arms but you also don’t have to worry about timing/finding transport. So of course it would be silly not to take advantage of it.

These will be covered in their respective ball park regions.

-Hollywood-

California Surplus mart

California Surplus Mart – one of the biggest and most comprehensive online stores for work wear (Dickies, Carhartt etc) and army surplus. Unfortunately the retail store does not do it justice, only carrying the “popular” colours and styles. Sizes were sporadic at best and the range sadly lacking. Still the biggest in the central area but not what I expected. Prices are average, if not a little high compared to department stores and the downtown area.

Undefeated LaBrea

Undefeated La Brea – the store from that ep of Entourage at the barren concrete end of La Brea. Not a bad range of stock, definitely the most lush looking out of the three in LA. Friendly and helpful staff, fascinated about how colourful (and durable) Aussie currency is 😉

And Still – clothing store right next door to Undftd. Big range of team apparel and vintage styled sports apparel. Lots of Starter gear. Larger double store with locker room inspired decor.

Off Broadway Shoes

Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse – At the Santa Monica end of Sunset Blvd, OBSW can not be missed, a huge two story warehouse style building with only one level. This one is definitely for the girls with 2/3’s of the massive range falling in to the “girlie” strappy, slippy, boot-y, healy, slutty (!) range of woman’s footwear. They also have a large selection of sneakers for guys and girls but all in the active wear vein from staples like Nike, New Balance, Puma, Asics, but don’t expect anything very “fashionable” for these. The guys also get a big selection of work boots and hiking wear from Caterpillar, Mack, Timberland, Merrell, Northface etc. Even though the “talent” isn’t the best, the prices are more than reasonable with true clearance pricing of discounts on top of discounts. A perfect place to stop when you realise the mistake of wearing Chucks or Shelltoes as travel shoes 😉

Hollywood and Highland

Hollywood and Highland – They were asleep at the wheel when they named this shopping complex, being the cross streets the building sits on but most people would know it as the building with the big elephants on the roof. Planted right in the middle of tourist heaven(or hell to some) it stands grand with its Egyptian theme. Conversely, the shopping center itself is quite small, consisting of the usual combination of high end and regular souvenir stores. There is a Sanrio store but like most, only stocks the Hello Kitty range. On the plus side you can pick up a Hollywood x HK exclusive with the kitty sandwiched in a movie scene marker ^__^

This is also a good viewing spot if there’s a premier (Pirates of the Carribean – On Strange Tides while we were there) at the El Capitan theater across the street. Take some binoculars for some celebrity spotting.
H & H also has a wide range of eateries and restaurants. Our recommendation for a quick and healthy bite is the Mongolian BBQ place tucked in the back corner. Pick your own ingredients and the chef fries it up. Reasonably priced as well.

The Church of Scientology is just down the road too if you’ve sinned and need to say a couple hail Tom Cruise’s.

Church of Scientology

-Beverly Hills-

Niketown Beverly Hills

I know a lot of people would die to shop on Rodeo, but realistically the best most could muster is window shopping and attracting glances that suggest you either just threw up on yourself or “you’re wearing THAT???”. Suffice to say, the majority held very little interest for us other than the Nike flagship store. Being The ‘Hills it had more focus on the active wear side of things (LEFT!! LEFT!!! – re: Spanglish), personally I preferred the Santa Monica store. One of the reasons you’d come here is for the dedicated store tee’s “Nike – Beverly Hills” though you will need a large amount of finger snapping to help pull that one off. Which I no doubt would struggle with and hence respectfully declined the purchase.

-West LA-

Giant Robot 1

Giant Robot 2

Giant Robot 1 and 2 – Yep, there’s two stores with in about 100m of each other. Thankfully the same stuff isn’t rehashed over both stores, #1 has more of the stuff you’d expect from a vinyl collectible store. Blind boxes, collectible figures, cute plushes, anime/Threadless inspired tees and a small selection of related books. #2 has a slightly more grown up feel about it with a large range of books and clothing in a more vintage style rather than cutesy. They also have some house wares like retro patterned travel mugs. Definitely worth a stop in if you’re out Santa Monica way.

Blackmarket LA

Blackmarket LA – No, not the legendary UK DnB DJ, it’s a store in a similar vein to the GR’s and is next door to GR1. A double lot store which has a clothing side with lesson known brands but more than likely rating high on hipsters’ wish lists. They also have a limited range of shoes and accessories. In the second room there’s a wide variety of kitschy knick knacks, Asian style ornaments, a small selection of Kidrobot vinyls and some Lego keyrings and clocks which we didn’t see anywhere else. Prices are a little high on some items, easily notable on the KR merchandise being $1-2 more on top of the usual retail price.

-East LA-

Citadel Outlets

Citadel Outlet Mall – very much in the same vein as Harbour Town on the Gold Coast – a large outdoor mall with outlet stores from major brands. It is also the home to the worlds biggest Nike outlet store with a floor dedicated to each sex (kids stuff is upstairs with the women’s wear). Once you’re off the Santa Ana freeway on Telegraph road its pretty hard to miss the row of giant LED signs topped with Sphinx like statues. Inside, its all your fave stores but in discount form – Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Puma, Journeys, DC Shoe, Converse, Skechers, Vans, Volcom, Under Armor, Quicksilver, Billabong. Prices range from “ok” to “crazy fire sale clear out!” but like any outlet stores its more about being there at the right time when the stock is there…. and in your size!
Also take a moment to visit the rest rooms, strange request but you’ll thank me, easily the most lush ones I’ve seen at any strip mall!

Nike Outlet - Citadel Outlets


-Silverlake-

Undefeated Silverlake

Undefeated Silverlake – This is the largest of the 3 LA stores. Wider range of colours and styles. Clothing is on actual hangers instead of being folded up, much better for customer friendly browsing.

Secret HQ LA

Secret Headquarters – couple doors down is this comic and graphic novel specialist and right next door is Vacation Records – for your rock music on vinyl, you know, those big black plastic round things.

Wacko - Soap Plant

Wacko / Soap plant – This is one of those places that you’re so glad that you made the effort to pop out to. I know it’s a pretty big call but I would have to say it is THE best toy store in LA for variety and quantity when it comes to collectibles. The store is huge compared to your regular niche vinyl toys and collectibles store and swaps snooty arrogance for down to earth friendliness. From the outside the building is eye catching with “hippy” style colours and art work yet rather unassuming along Hollywood Blvd’s other randomly coloured buildings. The company itself has a rich and long history in LA dating back to the 70s (see website).
You might feel a bit uncertain walking in and seeing rows and rows of books but don’t doze off just yet, these are the sort of books that are conversation starters and should adorn everyone’s coffee tables. They’ve got it covered from pop culture and low brow to fine art, to technical and historic books, they even have the Big Book of Breasts…in 3D! You’d seriously need a bigger house to fit in all the Win!
As you make your way to the back there are sections of plush toys and household and stationary items which then blend into movie and TV merch, clothing and then a back area with “the good stuff”. Blind boxes galore, many older series and series you’ve never heard of before like CI Boys work, the only place I saw these in LA. They now join their other buddies from the same series I nabbed in Japan 😉
Plenty of older models or out of run items next to rarities like the So So Def afro man, this and a lot more on top of our big purchases would have found a new home if we weren’t already shipping 3x 10kg boxes back home! The list goes on with wind up toys, vintage style pop culture items and a general assortment of “oh COOL!” knick knacks. My only disappointment is not being about to “have all the cats” ;p

All items are reasonably priced for their value and the staff are friendly and helpful. The website has a few items but doesn’t do it justice.

-Van Nuys-

Big Kid Collectibles

Big Kid Collectibles – Definitely out of the way unless you’re going to the Van Nuys airport, but if you are, its worth a look in, especially if you’re over 45. I know what you’re thinking, its all penny whistles and moon pies, not so, but you’re along the right lines. A vintage lounge complete with clear plastic covering only adds to this.
They boast an extensive range or original and replica vintage items, brand/sporting memorabilia and lollies/candy – how some of these are still being made (or are actually edible) I don’t know! They even have original Dr. Pepper glass bottles!
Preowned items adorn a lot of the cabinets (original Smurf and Winnie the Pooh figures are in there too) along side classic faves like Etcha Sketchs. There is also a clearance table, not quite 1950s prices though 😉
Staff are friendly and only too happy to have a nostalgic yarn.

Up next we close out our epic stay in Lala land by taking sight seeing to a whole new high 😉

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

If you have even a passing interest in cars then this stop should be mandatory on your LA itinerary. A large two level building covers not only the history of motor cars but also an extensive range of modern super cars, hot rods, movie props, motorcycles and even a Hot Wheels toy section!

1921 Model T Ford

The lower level starts of with the forefather of motoring, the Model T Ford and the earliest Cadillacs evolving to the first race car complete with era specific dioramas. Strangely, possibly due to space restrictions, a very Vegas neon lit section displays a 24ct gold coated Delorian and 1994 model Bugatti GT.

Gold plated De Lorean

1994 Bugatti GT

Also speckled through out the displays are era related details, including the evolution of the petrol bowsers/fuel pumps, corner store and workshop garages.

Era replica petrol/gas station

Petrol bowser/Gas pump evolution

Era replica Chevrolet showroom

"Elvis II" and "The Egyptian"

The pinnacle of race engineering, the Indy car 625+hp V8 engine and car, and the future of cars and car designing round off the lower level.

2007 Indy car V8 engine

Car designs of the future

Paintings and photos adorn the escalators to the top floor we’re you’re hit with another vegas style set up this time from the one and only Speed Racer. Shown here in MK5 form it was one of the props used in the live action movie.

Speed Racer MK5

Other show stoppers include, the 90’s Batmobile – looking more like a top fueler up close than a “toy” with is Mickey Thompson slicks and all business cockpit; Green Hornet‘s Chrysler Imperial; THE General Lee from Duke’s of Hazzard complete with “authentic” front end – one of hundreds destroyed in the TV series; Magnum PI‘s Ferrari – warning! Standing too close will cause an unwilling desire for Hawaiian shirts and moustache rides; everbody’s favourite bug, Herbie – in Nascar mode, found in the days when Lindsey wasn’t a complete trashbag, and finally they even have Professor Fate‘s…err… six wheeler “car” from “The Great Race” movie.

90's Batmobile

Dukes of Hazzard - General Lee

After a terrible segue of the history of alternative fuels, hello steam powered cars and the very first hybrid (it seems the smugness was prevalent even back then), the floor opens up to every teenage boys wildest dreams (before the internet). There’s no messing about with the first car being the seminal Bugatti Veyron, then a Maserati MC12 and Mercedes CLK GTR. Germans and Italians go at it like Ford and Holden (only with more style and character) with their dream teams, Porsche 959, Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari F40 and F50 Spider.

Bugatti Veyron

Porsche 959 and Lamborghini Countach

Ferrari F40 and F50 Spider

Grease Lighting” sits by its lonesome, probably in shame for looking so hideous. Unsoiled by the abomination outside, the hot rod section its all chopped, dropped and blown with more custom jobs and glitter paint than a Hollywood A list party.

Grease Lightning

Hot rod - Peterson Museum

Hot rod - Peterson Museum

Hot rod - Peterson Museum

Further along, needless to say the Hot Wheels exhibit was a personal favourite. Easy over a thousand different models on display along with the very first incarnations and processes on design and construction, some of which making its way into the full size productions.

Hot Wheels exhibit

Hot Wheels exhibit

The top level is rounded out with a look at competition drag racing, top fuelers and dragsters and a small exhibit of about 15 motorcycles for those organ donor types.

Drag car simulator

If you didn’t drive, take a quick pop out to the parking garage for a few bonus vehicles. One being some kind of rocket car. Everyone loves rocket cars!

Skeleton Bike

Afterwards, check out the extensive range of merch and a crazy skeleton motorcycle in the gift shop. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, or are craving the classic American diner experience then a stop in to Johnny Rockets is a must. Service is fast and friendly, meals are reasonably priced and thankfully not overly clichéd covered in grease and you get a smiley face in ketchup! Enough to put a smile on any petrolhead’s dial (:

Johnny Rockets LA

Travel tip: Check the opening times! Allow approx. 2 hours for a relaxed look, more if you want to read all the plaques and info snippets. Also keep an eye out for free parking or discounts paired with Johnny Rockets.

Photo tip: Wide angle and high ISO is the way to go. Wide angle lens to fit in full shots of cars, especially if there’s a few people about and high ISO for the usual dimly lit exhibits. Most are manageable but there are some sections that are a bit darker.

Next up we wind down LA by hitting the ‘burbs for one last shop.

Complete Peterson Automotive museum photos here

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

Hollywood sign

Even though you’ve probably already caught many glimpses of the sign from around town (and destroyed in countless movies), there’s nothing quite the same as seeing it up close and personal. There are plenty of places recommended on the net but nothing gets you closer than Canyon Lake road (There is no (legal) physical access beyond this). The road is easy enough to find on a map or via GPS. A slow drive through winding residential roads, you will come across a clearing on your left with plenty of place to park but go a bit further up where the road ends and it becomes a little one way street to get that little bit closer. This is a no parking area so you will have to park elsewhere and walk. Remember this is a residential area so show some respect and don’t go parking in/across driveways, unless of course you “live there”.

Photo tip: If you have a 200mm+ lens handy, you’ll fill the frame with the sign nicely. If not, a wide angle will capture some of those rolling Hollywood hills.

Farmers Market LA

Farmer’s Market

It’s the place where Walt Disney sketched out plans for Disneyland and where James Dean had breakfast before forgetting how to drive, the LA Farmer’s Market.
LA Times has also listed these markets as one of the best places to spot celebrities. While we didn’t catch any in their relaxed habitat, possibly because we were there before noon, by all reports it’s a popular spot for meetings and “alternative” foods (that being not from the 5 basic American food groups of meat, cheese, salt, sugar and grease) and subsequent veritable gold mind for idolisers. Personally if I wanted to see someone that gets paid way more than me for doing way less I’d just look up at the tiers of managers above me :p

If celebrities aren’t on the menu then getting there early is the best way to go. Any time before 11am and its rather quiet. There’s ample covered and uncovered parking, unfortunately validated at only a select few stores (not even the by the big retailers like Nike!) but don’t sweat it, couple hours is only a few bucks.

Outside the actual fresh food section is an open air mall with a cinema and the clothing and “body” shops that would cater to -that- crowd. A Nike store sneaks its way in amongst the designer labels but sticks to the down the line active wear for the tennis instructor you’re trying to impress or the paparazzi you’re trying to fool. A large 2 level Zara store is close by for that last minute wardrobe change before your next “I’ve got a good feeling about this one” audition.

Inside its like your everyday fruit and veg market with fixed fixtures, no fresh food laid out on the ground for us! For those that have been to the fresh food markets in Coorparoo, Brisbane, it is very similar, but in a semi open air location. As with all good markets of this type its covers anything and everything, stuff you’ve never heard of before and stuff you probably wished you didn’t. Especially when it comes to some of the weird meat/fish products. Plenty of eating to be done as well, with countless hot and cold food stalls. Want to lapse back into a diabetic coma? Just take a glimpse at the dinner plate sized stack of pancakes covered in chocolate sauce and icecream and topped with a bacon heart attack, just in case you get cold feet heading into that coma.

Souvenir stores line the outer ring of the market stalls, some with slight variations of style/products but generally the same thing and generally with the extra “locality tax”.

If however you are craving a bit of show biz authenticity you may be lucky enough to catch a live filming of a news clip or entertainment program brief like we did. Mario Lopez (yes the token ethnic kid from Saved by the Bell) was there doing a bit as co-host for entertainment news show Extra. Complete with latex thick make up and Liquid Paper white teeth looking more like the young Jeff Bridges in Tron, he was none the less entertaining and the process (and numerous takes) interesting to watch. If you caught the episode, try and spot me in the crowd throwing up gang signs 😉

Mario Lopez at Farmers Market LA

While we were here, we popped over the road to the Peterson Automotive Museum, that’s next!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

Steel Panther

Are you ready to ROOOCCKKKK??!!!

Some would say they’re kind of a revival band for the spandex, big hair, 80’s cock rock movement, but they’ll probably tell you they’ve been doing it for years, maybe even more!
Steel Panther encompasses all that was so right and at the same time so wrong with the music of the time, they switch between original material and some of the greatest karaoke songs of all time, all the while with their tongue planted firmly in their cheek, a hand on their crotch and the other giving you “The Shocker” (also the title of one of their most infamous songs).

Alevela

Run Devil Run

Shacked up in their one of three weekly haunts, LA’s House of Blues, support on the night was from Alevela, and Run Devil Run, both with a more standard rock fairing. However, there was no mistaking when the SP guys took to the stage through a cloud of hair spray. Over the top lighting, huge tiger print banner, more hair flicking than Romy and Michelle’s prom and more phallic symbols, sexual innuendos and poor taste jokes than an episode of The Footy show. All delivered with unashamed arrogant showmanship and gusto. Dick jokes, bum jokes, sex jokes, jokes about sex with pregnant women, nothing was left untouched, figuratively or physically!

The only real surprise was how much trouble they had getting the girls on stage to get their kit off even though it seemed fine for them from the audience! Modesty, it can strike and the most inopportune time.

Travel tips: Free parking is available at the venue down the side street off Sunset Blvd. There is also plenty of metered parking out the front, however max. is 2 hours. The House of Blues is a multi level venue/restaurant with a footprint deceptively larger than that of the Arena in Brisbane. Three large bars on the concert level with fast and friendly service and drink specials through out the night. ATM also on site.

Complete Steel Panther @ The House of Blues photos here

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Japantown is pretty much an outdoor mall (Japanese Village Plaza) and its surrounding streets. The plaza has a good mix of the stores you’d expect. Sanrio (Hello Kitty), traditional style souvenirs and apparel, authentic cuisines, bakeries and grocery markets. Sneakers are covered with Footland Sports. They stock a good range of current items including colourways and styles that you’d expect from a much larger store. Very few of the items have prices, when asked, they’re all around standard RRP but with a “I give you a special price” post-fix, so there’s a bit of bargaining to had if you’re purchasing a few items. There’s also a sale wall at the back with old season stock.

Sanrio - Japantown LA

Outside the mall the sneaker fun continues with RIF LA, the downtown consignment answer to West Hollywood’s Flightclub. Similar range, though the prices were higher. As with any bricks and mortar store, the benefit would be being able to go in, handle the shoe and try it on rather than taking your chances on ebay and the like.

RIF LA

On the northern side of the plaza is easily one of LA biggest and best anime stores, Anime Jungle (second store on the southern side). Huge selection of Manga, cosplay outfits, Gundam model kits, tees and anime related merch. The store itself isn’t very obvious with “Cure shop” on its front window but its unmistakable once you walk in.

Anime Jungle

A block to the west you have Weller Court, a small mall with a nature strip and Japanese gardens, perfect for taking a rest from all that walking! The last stop is Q Pop, a mid size store with a good selection of vinyl collectibles, clothing and books. It differs from the usual with a more advent guarde approach to the clothing and artworks, a bit more twisted and a little less cute, there’s also a selection of finer arts like paintings and sculptures. They of course still have the cheek squeezing super cute stuff if that’s more to your liking.

Q Pop LA

Q Pop LA

Next up, we ditch the shopping bags and hit up a string of sight seeing and entertainment!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

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