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Thursday, August 12, 2010 : From Tulare to Hollywood

 

No parks today. We leave Tulare to Los Angeles, which, in theory, is a 3-hour highway drive. But, since we are in no hurry, we'll sort of take the long way.

 

We exit Tulare by highway 99 to Bakersfield, a big flat city where we do not stop. A few miles later, we leave the highway to cross southern California.

 

Between Mettler and Maricopa, CA-166, Maricopa Hwy

CA-166, flat and straight

 

From the highway exit to Maricopa, it's absolutely straight, 28 miles without touching the wheel ... sort of ! There is still some water here but, as soon as we leave the irrigated areas, the vegetation is really sparse. We are at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, this very fertile valley that crosses central California for almost 400 miles. We also see a few oil wells.

 

Just after Maricopa, we cross a small moutain range. At its feet lies the terrifying San Andreas fault which, sooner or later, will split the Californian coast from the rest of the continent. Fortunately, for the time being, this major supplier of earthquakes seems very peaceful.

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CA-33, Pine Mountain Summit

Pine Mountain Summit, to the north. Fire traces can be seen at bottom right

 

All this part of southern California is scarred by mountain ranges that separate the San Joaquin valley from the coast. The pass where we took this picture, Pine Mountain Summit, is 5,150 feet high. As we can see, the very dry vegetation is highly fire-prone and more than a few fires happen at the end of the dry season.

 

We have our picnic in this superb landscape. Then we leave the mountain for the Pacific coast, which we reach in Ventura.

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Pacific Coast Highway, Point Mugu

Point Mugu,between Oxnard and Malibu

 

We really have all our time. Rather than taking highway 101, we drive along the coast, crossing Ventura, Oxnard, Malibu and, finally, Santa Monica. Between Oxnard and Malibu, we have a stop at Point Mugu, where we take a few pictures. The more adventurous among us even dip their toes in the chilly water.

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Point Mugu, a seagull

A Point Mugu resident

 

We are on SR-1 (State Road 1), a.k.a. Pacific Coast Highway, that stretches along the Pacific for more than 600 miles, one of the mythical roads in this country. Let's just say that we've got our eyes full of scenic views. But the closer we get to Santa Monica, the thicker traffic becomes. We cross Malibu at no more than 15 mph, and we have plenty of time to snap pictures.

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Malibu, high-tech yacht

No, this is not James Bond's yacht !

 

Malibu is about the same as can be seen in American TV series. We see this very high-tech looking yacht.

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Santa Monica, the beach

Santa Monica beach

 

We have now reached Santa Monica, an upscale suburb of Los Angeles. The beach is about a quarter-mile ... from the ocean to the street ! The cabin in the background is a shark watchtower, just in case.

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Santa Monica, the seafront

Santa Monica, the waterfront has been given back to cyclists and pedestrians

 

Along the beach, the waterfront has been given back to cyclists, joggers, and whatever pedestrians that can be found in Santa Monica. Cars have to stay a little further away.

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Los Angeles, star-spangled banner on the crane

Construction is not yet over, but the flag is already there

 

We leave Santa Monica to go to Hollywood, our actual destination. Traffic is an absolute mess, it's the height of rush hour. We have a lot of time to take pictures, including this one. On a not yet completed construction site, there were at least half a dozen flags. Now, that's what national pride is all about !

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Los Angeles, Hollywood Boulevard, limo

A "short" limo

 

Once we've checked in at our hotel, very conveniently located on Hollywood Boulevard, we go for a stroll in Hollywood. We see this ... how to say ... rather standard-sized limo. We are not really impressed. It's not a stretch (pun intended ...) to imagine that we will see much longer ones later in Vegas.

 

We had come with the firm intention to visit Grauman's Chinese Theater, but it's premiere night, and access has been reserved to stars. Not a problem, we'll come back two days later.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame, Meryl Streep

A glimpse of the Hollywood Walk of Fame

 

We go a fair distance on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the famous starred sidewalk that spans boths sides of Hollywood Boulevard, and now even spills over on Vine Street, a cross street. Fortunately, we did not take pictures of all 2,400 stars. It is so crowded that it is not easy to take a picture without someone else's feet.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame, Steve McQueen

Another one, for parity's sake

 

It takes us a while to find our idols' stars, but, with a little obstination, we finally locate all the ones we were looking for. Bruce Springsteen does not have a star. I compensate with Steve McQueen's.

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Hollywood, Miceli's, Mona Lisa

When Mona Lisa becomes pizza waitress

 

It is getting late. We are looking for a restaurant and, by pure chance and with the unsolicited help of a highly talkative employee, we end up at Miceli's. We will later learn that it's one of the best Italian restaurants in Hollywood. There, we celebrate Alicia's 14th birthday. Happy birthday, sweetie !

 

Then we take a cab get back to the hotel.

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