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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The final Chapter: Monterrey

I know this is a little late in coming as I have long since left Monterrey and have had enough time to spend a weekend at home, have three birthdays and play 2 intence sets of international badmington (I think I could have Pricsilla's number at this manly game). But folling the old maxim of "better late than never" I thought I should start the final edition of the blog before I stray into the realm of another: "nothing is more fatuiging than the eternal hanging on of an uncompled task".

If you can remember, and it is a struggle for me, and I was there, We had left the costal town of Tampico and had made our way to Monterrey in Nueva Leon. There is a Monterrey in Texas and while sometimes it is hard to tell you are still in Mexico (all the super sized flags had been taken down because of the Hurricane) and the city is one of the most americanised in all of Mexico we were infact still in the most sothern country in North America.

The mexican version of Monterrey is hot, very hot. It was a very cool summer so the thermerstats only just touched 40 at the hottest part of the day. I feel if the cradle of mankind had been Nueva Leon I think we may have invented the electric hand-held fan before the wheel. I was spending my last 11 days in Lau's house in the trendy suberb of Monterrey called San Pedro Garza Garcia or San Pedro or Garza Garcia, or any combination of those 4 words, for short. Monterrey is set in (translation) the Vally of the Seat so called because one of the peaks looks like a seat, which it does, once you learn that the spanish for seat and saddle are the same word. In this case they clearly meant saddle because if it did look like a seat, in the english sence of the word, then it wasn't a seat I would want to sit on. San Pedro was set in one of the tree covered mountain sides in the shadows of the vally of the M, so named because it looks like an M, though I thought it looked like a W. Here Spanish does have a difference between M and W so this is just a question of point of view, though there is no difference between B and V sounds. With all these points of confusion it is no wonder they kicked the spanish out.

Inspite of these issues San Pedro is simply a beautiful place. The houses on high, surrounded by trees look like the homes of Bond Super villans and the view from the balcony of Lau's own home made would have been a far better present to a Dictator with delusions of grandure than the Eagles Nest. In the early years of colonialisation Monterrey, because of the distances if nothing else, was cut off from the south and thus had to develope itself at its own speed. Looking at it now it seems that speed may have been faster but it didn't come easy. It required nothing less than hard work and dedication. Monterrey was a town of fire and industry, the old steel mill still dominates the sky line. The wealth Monterrey enjoys now was bourn out of hard work and physical labour of the past and is warn on the faces and in the caracter of it's people today.

Lau's father was one of those people. He had worked hard and was now enjoying the fruits of his labour in retirement. He had on display one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Everyone has a DVD collection, some have a collection numbering around 1000 DVD's but how many people numbered their DVD's and listed them in document form? All men wish they had the time and the willpower to complete such a task. You almost certainly need more of the latter than the former to do it but Lau's father had both, Nearer to the gods no mortal may approach.

Monterrey is a town of pragmatism with little given away to tourists. It's recreational activities are there for the people who live there to do and enjoy. The old steel mill has been turned into a museum which we saw and is a popular stop for many, glorifying the forfathers of the city. There is a beaufitul plaza for the locals to enjoy and walk around, which was very pleasent, inspite of the soaring temperatures.

Monterrey has many natural beauties as well. One which we visited was a series of caves dug deep into the mountain. Earth processes take a long time, and what they from can be simply mindbollging!!! Some rock formations inculded the faces of mice, entire coke bottles, seals, toombs, pipe organs and the enevitable face of Jesus. There were many other nautral wonders around but most of them were closed because of Hurricane Alex which had blown through about a month before I arrived in Mexico. While much had been destroyed or blown away but the hurricanes power the city was recovering with impressive speed, I think inkeeping with the caracter of the place and of it's people. When I looked at the town I thought of a heavy weight champ, priviously unblemished by the blows of his opponents that is knocked to the canvas by a savage and chance attack and then rises to his feet still as pristine as before. There is a certain grit about monterrey which will not allow it to be defeated even by the elements.

I was treated to many local customsand treditions whilst I was in Monterrey: Such as a luchtime BBQ which finished at about the same time we would start eating dinner in England. A mexican birthday which envolves the breaking of a Pinyata as well as cake, songs and candels. And a live viewing of Pinewood studio's perenial classic Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. It is to the credit of the artists behind the movie and to the good tast of Mexican people everywhere that this, almost forgotten, piece of British cinema is a landmark family tradition throughout the land, at least I think it is. It certainly was close to the hearts of every memeber of the Lozano family, and that seems to account for over half the population of Mexico.

Alas, from here on, there is no more to follow. My voyage in, around and through Mexico has already come to an end. Mexico is a far to complex place to sum up. All I will say is the Mexico you so often hear about in the news or that forms the 'but' of so many zenaphobic American jokes is not the country I saw. What it is known for, or may be known for, by people who haven't been there isn't how I known it. I will remeber the hospitality I recieved everywhere I went, the sunning natural and human contrasts, Lucha Libre and a strong sence of national herratage and a culture that the people are striving to protect.

While I did have a sence that the country is closing in on a more and more uncertain path, with difficult battles ahead, these are all battles that the good people of Mexico have within them to win, as what they are fighting for is far stronger than what they are fighting against. Any country that as you leave you whish that is where you were travelling to, must be a mighty fine place.

Over and out, many thanks,

Chris. (James rocks!)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Mexico City had been a tremendously interesting place full of fascinating avenues of versatility. But we had a lot more of Mexico to see so Tuesday morning was our queue to pack our bags and head north. We also had to say goodbye to Priscilla who had to return back to LA. We, Lau Pao and myself, were heading to Pao's home in Tampico which was a mammoth 10 hour bus journey north to the Gulf Cost.

The size that it is makes Mexico a challenging country to navigate as vast distances are required to travel from one landmark city to another. Part of the fun of the place is that people like to travel these vast distances by bus which, for anyone who has had the horror of using a replacement bus service in london, may seem barbaric!!! But I have to point out that these are no ordinary busses. The comfortable, air-conditioned cabin with its reclining chairs and Toilet facilities, which would impress a Frenchman if found beside an autoroute in the Dordogne, are as nicer place as any to spend 10 consecutive hours in the same place. And fortunately the road to Tampico provided us with a splendid view.

Unfortunately the view of the tropical mountain pass was obstructed by a rather large Mexican and my bodies uncanny ability to find itself fatigued when in a moving vehicle. But from what I could make out it looked like it would have been a nice place too stop off and have a gander at. But spontaneous idolness is not a part of the job description for a Mexican bus driver who sees the journey as a race between himself and the estimated time of arrival. This was good news for us as we arrived in Tampico after around 9 hours and 3 minutes of travel.

Pao's sister Melissa picked us up from the bus stop and took us to Pao home. It was far hotter than in Mexico City (thank god) but the moistness in the air and the cooling sea breeze made it quite comfortable. The evening's sun was setting fast so we quickly decided to make our way to Pao's families country club (they were members, they didn't own it). It was an idillic place as far away from Lucha Libre as it is possible to be. Behind the infinity pool there was a golf course, behind which there was a beautiful estuary behind which there was the orange setting sun. Even the oil refineries in the distance we a thing of beauty in the abstract. This was a place where you could make the most out of doing nothing.

We were in Tampico until saturday so we had time to go to the beach, the pool and repeat. on wednesday we went to the beach which had waves twice the size of the ones in Santa Monica and currents that, if they were a man trying it on with a lady would have been coming on a little to strong. They sucked you in and pulled you left from right and then the waves chucked you forwards. This time I had the foresight to not wear my sunglasses in the ocean so there was no damage done.

Pao's family has a beach house so close that it is practically on the beach which has its own shared pool if the sea isn't tranquil enough for you (which was true in our case). We had the sea food smorgasbords to end all smorgasbords for lunch. I didn't know there were so many different ways to eat crabs!!! It was simply delicious.

In the evening we went to see Grown Ups in the local cinema. The Mexican cinematic experience is thwarted by a slight lack of common sense which doesn't at all ruin what ever it is you are seeing but it does leave a cynical westerner like me wondering why they don't do things our way. When you buy a ticket in the uk one of the things you get with the ticket is a seat number so that you know where to sit. Unfortunately this uncomplicated piece of information was left out of the Mexican version of "Running a Cinema for Dummies" so all you get it the ticket, as for finding a seat you are left to your own devices. If you want to get a good seat then it seems you have to show up at the cinema before you've even had the idea that you want to see a film so that you are towards the front of the line which forms outside the doors for the screen of the film of your future choice. Alas we were not so forward thinking and were therefore right at the front, of the cinema. Fortunately Adam Sandler's latest comedy piece was not ruined by the distorted picture which happens when you sit so close.

There is one other addition to the Mexican cinematic experience, though I am told this isn't a regular occurrence. Before the film a mock star wars beginning started and Lau told me that the rolling Yellow font was a request to turn of mobile phones etc, so I paid no attention to it. Then, towards the end, suddenly all the women in the audiences stared shout "no!!!!!' "no!!!!!!!!" this needed no translation, something was up. Then the cries were of "propuesta!!!" "propuesta!!!" this did need a translation, Lau said it was a marriage proposal, for Olga, on their one year anniversary, or so the scrolling yellow font said, apparently. Well I was reliable informed that she said "si" so it was a nice start to the film about middle-aged men struggling through the mundane rapidity of Family life, I wonder if they stayed until the end? At least it wasn't Kramer Vs Kramer.

More to follow,


Monday, 2 August 2010

Lucha Libre

One of the few things that I knew I wanted to see whilst I was in Mexico was Lucha Libre. This is Mexico's answer to WWE wrestling and is a very popular sport amongst the Mexican people. Lucha (Wrestling) Libre (free) was a regional phenomenon in Mexico un till Salvador Lutteroth founded the Mexican Wrestling Enterprise in 1933 which gave the sport a foothold on an national scale for the first time. The wearing of Masks and tight crotch hugging lycra shorts was popularised by Luchador El Santo (the Saint) in 1942 who kept his identity disguised throughout his career, a move which proved popular with the fans, contemporary and future wrestlers and presumably his mother. El Santo's career spanned an impressive 5 decades and he become a folk hero of the people of Mexico. Here endeth the lesson.

One of Lau's various contacts in Mexico city (a blood relation, in fact most of Lau contacts in Mexico in general are related to her) managed to get us some free tickets so we had front row seats to the show. One of the differences between Lucha and US wrestlers is the agility and speed. The Luchadors would perform acrobatic manoeuvres off the ropes, on the ropes, through the ropes and, if things went wrong, in the ropes. Not all the men or women (the latter having about as much sex appeal as a road accident) were graced with fine athletic physiques however. Indeed the fighters who were on early looked as though when they got up in the mornings, looked at their bodies in the mirror, and after honest self assessment decided that what they should develop first was a sense of humour.

With some of the confrontations a sense of humour was required from the audience as well. They loved to pitch short stubby men against giants who puff out their chests and absorb blows without taking a backward step or without even trying to block the punches (backhands to the chest). The look of shock on the stubby one's face when his backhand to the chest of the giant across from him caused the giant no harm whatsoever brought a smile to you face. It was even more funny when the ladies where in the ring as a backhand to the chest became a boob slap!!

They were all masters of playing to the crowd and getting the audience involved. As you got into the evenings entertainment you couldn't help be enthralled by what you were seeing. Its not that it looks real, in fact I don't think it is supposed to look real. You are asked to imagine how much it looks like it must hurt even if it doesn't really. It is rather like going to the theatre. If you watch movies of stage shows then they are very often mediocre at best. But if you go and see one live in the theatre then they are inthralling. Lucha Libre is exactly the same. It may not look like much to television but get up close and personal the the actors on the stage and you are glued to their every move.

In the theatre however you don't a chance to scream the worst profanities possible at the player on the stage. Lucha Libre encourages this kind of behaviour which makes it all the more fun. Some of the words being shouted in spanish were so vile they didn't even carry an english translation. Imagine a word so bad you can't translate it!!! So Prichilla and I could only imagine what they Mexican audience (including Lau and Pao by the end) were shouting at the corrupt referee who had awarded the last bout to the villains of the piece and in doing so stole victory away from the rightful winner El Mistico (This one shouldn't need a translation).

We all agreed that it was tremendous fun and anyone travelling through Mexico simply has to go and see the Luchadors in action. Don't let what you see on TV or in a Jack Black movie form the basis of your opinion. Go and see it for yourself with an open mind and you will have an amazing time!!!

more to follow,


Friday, 30 July 2010

Mexico City

Mexico City is a difficult place to sum up. A place of such great size, diversity and complexity requires a great deal of detail to explain and also a great deal of time adequately explore it. In all we were there for 6 days which was enough time to see a great deal but not enough time to scratch the surface of what the city had to offer.

It 1st thing that struck me about Mexico City was its size, and I had just come from LA. The airport terminal was ginormous, and that was the small one Lau told me. The highways that connect the various corners of the city have a second tire of road network which stand 25 meters above those on ground level. These look like something out of a science fiction novel but it is an example of contrast rather than of similarity. The majority of the roads are like capillaries with all kinds of small streets branching in all directions. It is a complicated inner city to navigate, and thats for the Taxi drivers, most of whom had to ask for directions for where they were going. At night they are empty but during the day, above all when the rain floods in, the roads are themselves are flooded by a sea of Taxis, SUV's 4bye4s, VW beetles which are very popular, and all kinds of automobiles. Along the roads you see high rising skyscrapers standing next to small ramshackle huts where the street venders sell their wares for the kind of money that in England you would think twice about picking it up off the floor if you dropped it. Contrast, contrast contrast, but it is this that makes Mexico City interesting.

We started my going to the Mexico City Museum of fine arts which, thanks to Priscilla's curse of scaffolding, has it beautiful exterior obstructed by the iron construction. Mexican art very often takes the form of large murals which tell romantic stories or Mexican revolutionary history. There were half a dozen of such murals which had the ability to compel you to stair at them for hours. Mexican artists love to tell stories of their history through these murals and, moving from left to right, a 100 year story can be dramatically demonstrated in a 10 by 5 meter space. We had a lot of things to see and much less that a 100 years to see them so swiftly we moved onto our next port of call The Excavaciones Del templo Mayor. This was a detailed account of the establishment of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan home to the Aztecs until the arrival of the Conquistadores and Hernán Cortés in 1518. On the 18th of July 1325, probably a Tuesday, Wondering Aztecs ordered by the Gods to search for their kingdom which would be marked by an Eagle on a Cactus eating a snake happened a pone and Eagle on a cactus with a snake in its mouth. Before you think the Aztecs were a lucky bunch to find the exact obscurity they were looking for the cactus was on an Island in the middle of a lake.

193 years later Cortés raised the city to the ground but must of liked the location as he built the new city of Mexico on top of the old one on top of the lake. When Jesus preached the Parable of building the house on the rock he probably felt that man didn't need to be told that building the house on water was a bit of a no no. It does seem self evident, lucid that water is, that city construction on top of a lake is a recipe for disaster but I think this a reflection on the ambitious nature of the Aztecs and then of the Spanish rather than on their respective stupidity. Nevertheless we were told one day the water will rise up from the ground and the city will be engulfed and there is nothing that can be done about it, maybe this was what the Mayas were on about?

With an overwhelming sense of foreboding as water gushed around us (it was raining but I couldn't help but wonder) we went for lunch. There we were serenaded by the Mexican version of a weeding singer who crooned and swooned his way through an hour and a half of material, while we ate and tried desperately not to catch his eye.

The evening had a personal ambition in store for us. But it is so important that is deserves its own post.

More to follow.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Teotihuacan, Queretaro and Guanajuato

So, it's official, we have arrived. We are here safe and sound and already managed to get through so much stuff.

While we have spent some time in Mexico City I haven't been able to get my head round the place yet and there is still so much more to see so I will start by telling you about the Towns and sites we have seen other than the Capital.

The first place we went to on Monday was Teotihuacán, the site of some ancient Pyramids which date from the 6th century CE. After traversing the Mexico city by metro we caught a bus to take us out of the City and to the Pyramids. A feature of Mexican buses of a certain age and style is that they are fitted with an engine from a World war One airplane, this was such a bus and every time he accelerated it sounded like a squadron of biplanes was swooping over head. The Driver had fixed the biggest Jesus on the cross icon in all of christendom to the inside of his windshield. While an icon of that size must provide a great deal of protection I felt the obstruction to his view it provided was of greater significance.

We were greeted by the terrifying sound of wild jaguars roaring! these turned out to be venders selling a object which blown into with enough force produced the fearsome cry of the wild cat (I hoped it didn't also function as a mating call for the real thing). The site was in fact an ancient town with (imagination required) a long street running across with a small(ish) Pyramid at one end an a large one at the other. The entrance was a wide, gravelled street with small boutiques selling all kinds of memorabilia on either side. We all noticed while climbing the Larger Pyramid how thin the air was as it only took a few vertical steps for us to be out of breath. Lau told us on the way up about a game the dead civilisation of the Teotihuacános would play where the winner would gain the ultimate prize of being a human sacrifice to whichever god needed pleasing at the time. While to modern civilisations it may seem an odd prize Lay assured us that it was all a part of the sacrificial culture which existed.... no wonder they all died out.

We too had a dice with death when we went to find something to eat. outside of the main site there was street where all the restaurents for the tourists were. It really needed a sign reading "Enter at your own peril!!" We went in for food but it was us that was fead to the wolves!!! We had barley set foot on the street and we were suddenly surrounded by a gaggle of screaming Mexicans all trying to convince us that theres was the best restaurant in town... given the town was a 1400 year old ruin this didn't seem much. it's funny how "please come and sample our delicious Tacos" in a foreign language can sound like war cry. We almost turned back but ended up hurrying to a restaurant more for sanctuary than for food. I'm glad the encouragement we received to pick a restaurant wasn't so discouraging that we turned around because the food was simply excellent, this has been a recurring theme.

The rickety old bus of the journey there was replaced with a rickety new bus for the journey back. Buses are the main form of public transport within Mexico and we would be taking them to get to the places we were going the next day: Queretaro.

To be continued,


Queretaro is typical of the Towns of its region in that they are colonial in nature and climb up the side of mountains which rise high into the sky. Both of these things make towns in the region, also called Queretaro, exceedingly beautiful. what makes colonial towns colonial in Mexico is a unique mixture of bright colours and old, original architecture. Not a single house wasn't washed with red, yellow, blue, orange, pink or green (not all on the same house though). The building facades are uncomplicated but this simplicity only adds to their beauty. The sensory orgy is amplified by the ecstatically pleasing nature of multi-coloured houses piled on top of each other as the town climbs up the mountain side.

Our guide for the day was Juan, a serious looking man who gave me the impression that he could relax in a bath without necessarily filling it with water and If he hasn't taken part in an olympic walking race he has missed a trick. He set a ferocious pace but this was probably a good thing as there was an awful lot to see. We scaled the mountain side at record setting pace, Temsing and Hillary would have been trailing in our wake, zigzagging our way up the slope like an alpine road. Pena De Bernal, the peak which stands the tallest over the city, rises steadily and then abruptly so we could only get so close to it. I think Juan was keen to get to the top but I had left my crampons at home so we only went as far as our lungs could take us. Other sights of the town included various churches, an aqueduct and a huge monument to Benito Juárez who was Mexico's father of secularism. juárez, in person, was no taller than 1m 37: short even by the standards of 1900s Mexico. (I've decided I am too tall for Mexico: my head sticks out over the top of cubicals in Public toilets). However it seems that the commissioner of the statue had a gross misjudgement of scale (it may have been Juárez) as it stands 10 meters tall though, perhaps more accurately, the statue is standing on top of a box.

After a few moments of photo taking we said by to Juárez and soon after to Juan and jumped back on the bus for Guanajuato where we would spend the next 2 days.

The drive into Guanajuato was spectacular. The town is much larger and the valley is much steeper so everything that was true of Queretaro was equally true of Guanajuato only more pronounced. As we made our way through the valley houses would appear in rows on the summits as the Zulus did in the famous film at Rourke's Drift (no spear throwing though). Our hotel was neatly nestled into a smaller sub-valley which gave it a certain peace and tranquility. On Wednesday (we arrived Tuesday evening) we were given a grand tour of the town which took us to all the sights of Guanajuato. The tour was given in Spanish but Pao and Lau acted as excellent translators for us.

The 1st stop was to an old silver mine that was only in use for training up budding Mexican mining proteges. While there is a lot mining in the region most of the skilled labour comes over from Canada so the facility was paramount in teaching the important skills to natives of the region. There was a single shaft which descended about 100 feet into the mountain side. The lower levels had been consumed by flooding and at the far end there was a deep well that descended into the water and darkness which, if you looked down, made your head spin and your stomach turn.

After the mine we ascended up the the valley and stopped at a church. At the time of its construction Guanajuato already had a Cathedral and as Mexican tradition states that a town can only have one cathedral the commissioner of the church, whose name I can't remember, had to leave it incomplete with one steeple missing. Still its orange exterior and lavishly decorated interior made it very pleasing on the eye.

Less pleasing was our next stop, the home of the inquisition in Mexico which was far from a Montey Python sketch. I guess what we are meant to not expect by "no-one expects the spanish inquisition" is the gruesomeness. the instruments of brutal torture demonstrated all to clearly mankind's capacity to inflict needless pain on itself. All the tools of medieval barbarism designed to bring the suffer within an inch of death, and then the rest of the way, by inflicting the most amount pain possible were displayed and described by guides dress, presumably to add even more atmosphere, as monks none of whom were Michael Palin, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry jones or eric Idle.

Our next encounter was of a less traumatising kind. 100 yards down the road was a Mexican Sweet shop. Having spent almost a week in Mexico the one universal truth about the place is that the culinary delights they serve up are simply exquisite, without exception. However life has taught me that there are no such things as universal truths and Mexican food is no exception, if you follow. mexican sweets are the one thing that I can't abide. mainly because they are not sweet in taste. Priscilla on the other hand loved them and she almost bought the whole store out!!! I sampled as much as I could stomach but found nothing of my liking.

We then made our way to the statue of Pípila who was a hero of the Mexican war of independence. While the view of the statue was impressive if you turned your back to it, no disrespect intended, you got a magnificent view of the entire town. En mass, the town looks like little milti-coloured blocks of lego piled on top of each other. From the hill side you could see all the principal landmarks of the city. The Cathedral, the University, the indoor market which many mistake for a church but I thought looked like a victorian train station. Inside it looked even more so, its roof a carbon copy (made out of iron and steel) of Paddington train station. We stopped off at the "Callejon de Beso" or "Alley of the kiss" where people like to get photos of themselves embracing loved ones. I didn't get any kisses but did embrace a low door frame with a bump on the head. With a bruised cranium the last stop on what was a whistle stop tour of the city was the theatre. nothing was playing but we did get a tour of the insides and a brief history lesson with the usual excellent Lau/Pao translations.

We would spend the next day in Guanajuato, ambling around taking in the atmosphere of the place. I fear that if I go into too much detail I will never catch up so I will leave Guanajuato for now and move on, in the next reasonably exciting instalment, to Mexico City.
More to follow.


Saturday, 17 July 2010

On the Boardwalk

If god had brought onto the people of egypt before the curses, before the blood, before the frogs, lice and flies, before the death of livestock, the bringing of boils, hail, locust and darkness, and finally the death of the 1st borns of Egypt, if before all that he had brought unto the people of Egypt the hangover of biblical proportions that we were engulfed with yesterday morning then this biblical story would have been a lot shorter!! we got started a lot later than intended. Priscilla's state as a living being was riding blindfold on a unicycle around the edge of the pit of doom, a slight destabilising moment would send her into the abyss.

So I went with Allen and Rachelle to Santa Monica, where they were visiting friends and I had a date with the Pacific. I had never seen it before and it has always been a dream of mine to stand in front of the worlds largest body of water and then to plunge myself into it. Allan and Rachelle dropped me off by the 3rd street promenade: a pedestrianised street which runs parallel to the coast about half a mile inland. I would inspect it later but right now I had a mission to complete. The Beach at Santa Monica is sheltered by a cliff face which stands around 30 feet tall. It was on the edge of this that I 1st the ocean. The beach was about 150 yards wide and ran along the cost line as far as the eye could see. Most of the beach was empty apart from a thin line of people who had set themselves up right on the sea's edge. I made my way down, flipped off my flip-flops and, stepping onto the sand immediately regretted walking barefooted. The sand was roasting hot, like fire. I made it 25 yards before I had to put my flip-flops back on again. I limped my way to the seas edge, set myself up and headed straight into the ocean. the sea was cool, which on a hot day brought some welcome relieve. the sea floor rose sharply which brought large waves crashing down on the people paddling in it. I took in a breath of the marvellous air looked to my right to sea small planes flying low carrying banners behind them in the sky. I looked to my left to see the Pier stretch out into the Ocean like so many I have seen back home. I then look to the sea and saw, slightly to me left, the biggest tampon, about a foot long, floating in the waves. I was not going to let this harm the idillic image of the Pacific I had built up in my mind, I was there and I was going to enjoy it. swimming in the waves I was enveloped by a particularly large one and when I rose to the serfice I did so without my sunglasses: My gift to the Pacific... my nicer than the one left by some unfortunate lady.
The Pier at Santa Monica was very simmilar to those you find in England, lots of tacky rides and tacky stores. The one eye opening difference were the suped up/ kitted out bikes... thats bycicles. They had tall harly davidson handlebars with hundreds of mirrors attached to them (see photo).
Our intended trip to the Cinema in the Cemitary was cancelled due to reasons byond our control (the hangover from hell). SO we spent teh night chilling and thinking about the next step, Mexico.
I'm a tad behind at this stage as I don't have as much time to write as I did in LA. So these should hopefully come every 2 days or so.
Mexican details to follow,

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Date: 17/07/2010
Time: 08:54 PT
Location: Hollywood
Population: 123,436
Taco Bells: 5
Weather: 101F: 38C
TV show: Channel 1007, KABCHD: Rookie Blue: Signals Crossed, Andy has her undercover skills tested then she is brought into help with a citywide sting operation; Andy and Dov attempt to impress Sergeant Boyko, but they leave an informant's life in danger and it's up to Andy to save her.
Word of the day (English): Palladian: Pertaining to wisdom, knowledge or study.

It's 9:50 PM and I am Professor Henry Higgins with Rachelle as Islisa Doolittle. The TV phenomenon that is Glee has sweepted the American nation as it has in the UK. The up shot is that it is perfectly acceptable for four adults to belt out show tunes at the tops of their voices, what was not so acceptable were the voices themselves, the males especially. I am getting a little ahead of myself, the day was not spent sitting in the garden singing songs from Les Miserables: that would come later.

At 1 on the dot we headed out towards the Getty Center (see Photo) which is just off the route 405 which, from the Getty Center, you can see dissecting Los Angeles right down the middle. The 405 is the Californian equivalent of the M25 and is a continuous traffic jam!! The Getty is Priscilla's favourite place in the state of California and I can certainly see why. The building sits on top of one side of a narrow valley, at the bottom of which lies the 405 and on top on the other side lies Beverly Hills and below Hollywood. you ride a tram from the car park to the Museum weaving its way up one side from the valley floor to the summit. To be honest the view is the main selling point of the museum which contained art, but not as we know it. From the balcony on the far side you can gaze on an unobstructed (apart from the smog, which is actually a rather large obstruction) panoramic view which stretches from the Pacific on the right to the snow topped San Fernando Mountains on the left.

More of Dimmock's famous water fetchers were on show, the count was 5. Is this a sign of an American obsession?!? Up high on the Valley, the sun beats down ferociously so we lasted about an hour up there and then descended back down the Valley to make our way to Hollywood.

All that I knew of Hollywood was the sign, one of the images that immediately comes to mind when thinking of California. I suppose when a town is upstaged by it's sign it aught to be an indication that the town may not be up to much, but I was still excited to go down Hollywood boulevard. But I have never been so underwhelmed in my life. Hollywood seems to be a place where all the girls are looking for husbands and all the husbands are looking for girls. how the girls seem to go about looking for husbands is to dress as prostitutes, which explains the fact that every other shop, rather than being Starbucks, is a trashy clothing boutique. I could see why photos of Hollywood are of the sign and not the place. So we got out of there as fast as possible, after 2 games of bowling (I lost both again. I'm sure there is a room in Priscilla's home in Boston full of Bowling trophies that she hasn't told me about). The drive up to the sign was a majestic wive through Beverly Hills. judging by the houses I think the kids must ask santa what he wants for christmas. You can drive up to the top of a Valley just below the Sign, a vantage point which gives you a perfect view of the sign and of the Valley floor below (here the smog was a blessing as you couldn't pick out Hollywood Boulevard).

We finally headed home for a BBQ accompanied by alcohol which lead to raucous singing (details will follow). today seems to have been about seeing things for the wrong reasons. We went to a museum to see the view and to Hollywood to see the sign. Tomorrow we're heading for Santa Monica and the Pacific cost and then a film at a cemetery in the evening, normal stuff here then.

more to follow,