I spent my term break in the United States and the trip consisted of three days in California, the Labor Day weekend in Arizona and another three days in California. For this post, it’s going to be about my first three days in the United States which I spent in California.
I went to California with a member of my family and we entered through Los Angeles since Philippine Airlines offers direct flights to that destination (and also because we really intended to come to Los Angeles when we planned this trip).
We left the Philippines at nine in the evening of August 31 and we arrived in Los Angeles at around seven in the evening of August 30. The Philippines by the way, is sixteen hours ahead of LA.
Arriving in Los Angeles, we had to go through immigration first. Unlike what I experienced in Guam where the checking of the US visa plus the interview was done by immigration officers, in Los Angeles, all you have to do is to scan your US visa on one of the self-service terminals for the passport checking part.
The only time the immigration officers get involved is when they interview you before leaving the immigration area. This interview lasts for less than five minutes and they ask you basic questions such as where you’ll be staying, which states you will be going to and for how long will you be going to each state (and how long your US trip will be).
From there, we took a shuttle bus to our hotel at The Embassy Suites which is located along LA’s Airport Boulevard.
For the first day of our stay in LA, we went on a tour to Hollywood. For this one, my mother’s former student who now lives in LA toured us around along with her husband.
The day started off with us waiting at the hotel lobby after breakfast and my mother’s former student had already called us up to tell us that she and her husband are on their way to the hotel’s driveway.
We were then greeted by her husband who was the one who drove us around for the Hollywood tour. Now, going on to the tour itself, we started off by driving through Beverly Hills, which by the way is where the homes of the rich and famous are at.
The best part of course, was going to the Hollywood Walk of Fame where we took tons of pictures with the stars on the pavement.
My favorite part of course, was getting to find Celine Dion’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I didn’t even have the slightest idea that she’s got a star there (so much for me being a huge fan of hers!)
While we were looking for our favorite celebrities’ names at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I could not help but notice how my mother and her former student’s husband were discussing on celebrities belonging to their generation (they’re around the same age). Meanwhile, my mother’s former student and I were partly clueless of those celebrities, with our reactions usually being “we’ve heard of that celebrity before”.
After we walked through the entire stretch of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we headed on to the Hollywood Boulevard branch of Popeye’s for lunch.
I had their two piece chicken with biscuit and mashed potatoes and macaroni salad as the sides. Since the serving size in the US is bigger than the biggest serving size you’d encounter in the Philippines, my mother and I had to share the meal, particularly the sides.
My mother had the macaroni salad as her side dish (as the menu item she ordered does not come with a side dish) while I ate my two piece chicken with the biscuit and the mashed potatoes because I was really hungry from walking the entire stretch of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (but not too hungry to be able to consume the two side dishes along with the rest of the meal).
And before we proceed to the next thing we did on that day after lunch, here are some pictures of Hollywood Boulevard that I took (also available on my Photography blog here):
Our next stop was the Hollywood Sign and we had to go through a residential area to get to the spot nearest to it. The residential area we got into is open to the public, by the way.
Our first attempt at finding the nearest spot to the Hollywood Sign had us ending up at the Griffith Observatory but we realized that it was the wrong spot. Then we tried again and got into that residential area this time. That part of the said residential area that we entered in was not yet the nearest spot yet.
So we were not yet contented with having gone there in that residential area. What did we do? We drove further until we got ourselves to another residential area that was much closer to the Hollywood sign. Yes, it’s where those houses just below the Hollywood sign are located at.
Our third and last destination for the day was the Farmer’s Market where I got my first taste of Caramelized Apples after so many years.
The last time I had Caramelized Apples was during my childhood and those Caramelized Apples came from SM Megamall and the Caramelized Apples from LA versus the Caramelized Apples I got to taste as a child, I think the one I got from LA tastes definitely better! The Green Apples used in the Farmer’s Market isn’t so sour to the point that it overshadows the sweetness of the caramel coating.
We also went around the shops located at The Grove (it’s right beside Farmer’s Market) and I even went inside their branch of Barnes & Noble to look for a copy of Common Ground (Justin Trudeau’s biography), unfortunately, I found none but it’s alright though, maybe I can get it some other time as it is apparently rare to come by it these days.
Anyway, I still had a lot of fun because we got to drop by Nordstrom’s branch at The Grove and there were just so many stuff there that I could buy. Except I can’t disregard the fact that we have a luggage limit plus a budget limit and that it was only our first full day in the US and there were still other stores we had not yet checked.
For our second day in Los Angeles, the first thing we did was head out for lunch at the Burger King nearest to our hotel.
The amazing thing about Burger King in the United States is that they have this drink-all-you-can thing which basically works like this: After you order the drink that comes with your meal, you are given a cup and you fill it in with your drink yourself using the in-store drink dispensers.
Actually, that was tested in the Philippine branches of Burger King a few years back but people abused the privilege that is the drink-all-you-can by bringing in their own cups and taking drinks from the dispenser without paying for it. I’m not sure if that has occurred in the US but I don’t think so since the drink-all-you-can thing remains present in their Burger King stores.
After lunch, we went to Four Points hotel to meet up with my mother’s colleagues who invited us to go outlet shopping on that day. Our first destination on the outlet shopping was to the Los Angeles Air Force Base’s Exchange which is the department store serving LA’s air force base.
You can’t just get in there though. In our case, we made it in because the uncle of one of my mother’s colleague was a veteran of the US Air Force so being able to shop in Exchange and bring people to shop with him was one of the privileges that came with his service to the US Air Force.
Since the things sold there are tax free, we were able to buy a lot – from chocolates in bulk to school supplies (yes, I bought majority of my new school supplies for this term from there). It was also there where I bought myself a new lipstick which was Maybeline’s 14-Hour Lipstick (since my previous lipstick easily comes off).
Lastly, I bought myself an external drive with 1TB of storage there because the prices were lower than here in the Philippines (the 1 TB external drives there would cost roughly under 1,500 if converted to pesos, if you bought external drives here in the Philippines, a 1TB one will cost you around 3,000 pesos).
After we went shopping in Exchange, we dropped by Long Beach, in the house of the uncle of my mother’s colleague.
While we waited for the wife of the uncle of my mother’s colleague to arrive, we were served snacks which was a Klondike Bar and Coca-Cola. Though I’ve seen Klondike Bars being sold here in the Philippines, I’ve never tried them due to the fact that the price for one pack (that contains three bars) is a bit expensive.
When the wife of the uncle of my mother’s colleague finally arrived, we continued on with our outlet shopping at a Ross near their area. This time around, I shopped for clothes that I could use as my corporate attire in my OJT this term since I only have two pairs of corporate attire and I’d need more than that for my OJT.
I also snagged a long-sleeved red dress with a golden zipper on the front as well as a black Calvin Klein leather jacket (I’ve been wanting a black leather jacket already, regardless of what brand it is). Last but not the least, I bought myself a suede backpack which I used for our trip to Arizona (and eventually, I’m now using it as my school bag).
After we shopped at Ross, we had dinner at In-N-Out Burger and I was really happy we got the opportunity to eat there. For one thing, Kare (a friend of mine from uni) has been telling me to try their burgers and so I finally did.
I love their burgers because first of all, they are made from fresh ingredients and secondly, the serving is enough for me to consume (unlike the burger from the Burger King whose serving was too much for me). Like the branches of Burger King in the US, In-N-Out also prides in their self-service soft drinks dispensers.
This time though, I got myself iced tea and when I noticed that it tasted bitter, I realized, that’s how iced teas are in the US (had my first experience of that in Guam; except in Guam, there were always sweeteners ready for those who’d rather have their iced teas sweet).
Our third day in Los Angeles was spent at the Universal Studios in Hollywood. Now, I’ve already been to Singapore’s Universal Studios but never in my wildest dreams did I expect that I’d be able to come to the original Universal Studios as well!
We left at around seven in the morning so we could arrive there at nine – an hour before the park’s opening time. We did so because we pre-purchased our tickets which gave us the privilege to enter the park an hour before it opens.
Our first destination was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter where we went to the Olivander’s Wand Shop attraction. In that attraction, they pick random park goers (usually the ones who come to the park dressed up in Hogwarts garb) and try to find them a wand. Such an interactive experience, indeed.
The next thing we did was have our pictures taken around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter then we tried the Butterbeer (per my younger sister’s request). By the way, I really loved the Butterbeer and for those asking if it’s alcoholic, nope, it’s non-alcoholic.
Okay, so quick story related to the Butterbeer: While I was lining up for it, we saw the woman who helps you choose your wand in the Olivander’s Wand Shop attraction and I asked to have a picture with her. She was happy to oblige which was really wonderful. The thing is, the photo is in my mother’s phone so I’ll add it to this post as soon as I get a copy of it.
After going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we went to the Universal Studios Tour and it was really fun. At first, I thought they were just going to take us to replicas of the studios that they’ve used/are currently using – but no, we got to see the actual studios!
Not to mention that some parts of the tour had us in soundstages with 4D effects, making us feel like we’re part of a movie. The movies that we were “placed in” for that part of the tour were the Jurassic Park and the Fast and Furious movies.
Right after that, we had an early lunch since we needed to be back in our hotel at 1pm so that we could make final preparations for our flight to Phoenix, Arizona. Here’s a picture of me with the floor fountains in Universal Studios Hollywood:
When we got back to the hotel to make the last preparations and check out, my mother’s high school batch mate (who is also the father of a classmate of mine from my freshman year in high school) came over to visit us. He gave us boxing gloves that came from Manny Pacquiao’s merchandise line.
Some time after that, we left the hotel for LAX and while waiting for our flight to Phoenix, we ate at a Starbucks. Funny thing is that the water my mother bought me was Fiji Water. Yes, the hipster water that’s hard to come by (in my country at least). I was surprised that it wasn’t hard to come by Fiji Water in the United States.
Then we went to our boarding gate to wait for our flight. The interesting thing is that in LAX’s domestic terminals – when you disembark from a flight going into LA, you do not have to go to a separate area to get to luggage claim.
You use mostly the same hallways that departing passengers use except that the last hallway you get into is for the luggage claim area. In domestic terminals in the Philippines, that is not the case, most of the hallways for arriving passengers is separated from the hallways for the departing passengers.
When I first saw that, I seriously thought people were offloaded from their plane in our boarding gate because their flight got moved/delayed. Turns out, they were from a flight coming into LA and they come out of the boarding gate that we would soon use to enter our flight.