Madame Tussaud’s London

I had a voucher for Madame Tussaud’s so I was told to go to a fast track window to exchange the voucher for a real ticket. Madame Tussaud’s really dropped the ball here. They had one person working the counter and she got stuck on a couple of customers, taking ages to process them. There should have been someone else working to do the exchanges for customers without problematic situations. I’d already queued a very long time twice at the Eye and when it took almost 15 minutes for them to process two customers and then a further 10 minutes to let my group into the museum, it was a bit demoralising. I was tired by this point and starting to regret not waiting to go another day. But we were finally let in and the wait was worth it!

I’m not going to share photos of everything I saw, just my favourites and those that turned out well. The first statue I saw was of Morgan Freeman.


Handsome George. He looks a little less lifelike than other statues, though. His eyes are wrong.


Aaaaaaah. The most gorgeous man in entertainment.


Look at those cheekbones! Those eyes! That Cupid’s Bow!


Okay, I’m a tad obsessed. 😀


Sir Sean Connery.


Sir Patrick Stewart. He looked really lifelike!


Colin Firth.


John Wayne.


Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (that reminds me I need to catch up on the Hunger Games).


Marilyn Monroe. Men (and I use the term loosely) tried to get a look up her skirt when it would blow up.


Dame Judi Dench as M.


Daniel Craig, my favourite Bond.


Bruce Willis. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator was next to him, but I could not get a shot as he was too popular.


Steven Spielberg was the most lifelike. Very eerie!



Alfred Hitchcock.


Henry VIII.


Princess Diana also looked very lifelike.


The process for making the statues is very intimate and Madame Tussaud’s has managed three sittings with the Queen over the years!


Three different statues of the Queen.


Queen Victoria.


The Royal family. I could not get a better picture as it was SUPER busy. I imagine they’ll be adding Prince George and Princess Charlotte at some point.


Vincent Van Gogh.


Stephen Hawking.


Albert Einstein was also very lifelike!


Charles Dickens.


Pablo Picasso.


The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.


Martin Luther King Jr.




A very young looking President Obama.


John F. Kennedy (doesn’t really look like him…) and Benazir Bhutto.


Desmond Tutu.


Part of Madame Tussaud’s birth certificate.


The other half.


Madame Tussaud.


It was interesting to learn here how far back these wax likenesses were made, right to the 18th century! Some of Madame Tussaud’s methods are still in use today!


There was information about how the statues are made. The measurements sound very invasive and speak to how respected Madame Tussaud’s is for people to pose for statues.

Next came a fun ride through London’s history in a black cab. No photos allowed for this. The evolution of the city was striking. I really enjoyed this.


The last bit was a treat, dedicated to the Marvel superhero movies. Here’s Hawkeye.




Wolverine, the first Canadian I saw in the whole museum… *wry grin*


Captain America.


The last bit was a 4D movie of Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, Captain America, and a woman I didn’t recognise saving Buckingham Palace. It was a lot of fun, especially since I like those movies!

There was a Star Wars thing after for an additional £3, but I wasn’t interested in that at all.

I really enjoyed Madame Tussaud’s, but it was incredibly rushed and busy. It would have been more fun to go with someone so we could take pictures of each other with the statues (which you can touch!). A really kind man offered to take a picture of me with Benedict Cumberbatch. Kind of a shame my coat almost matched the background!


I was peckish when I got out of Madame Tussaud’s, so I went around the corner to see if the sushi place I’d scouted yesterday was still open. Nope. It was getting late on a Sunday night… I turned around to go to the Tube station, figuring that I could just stop at Tesco Express and grab something to nuke at home, when a man thrust a flier into my hands for the new Holmes Grill (so new I can’t find anything on it online). It’s a Lebanese place! It’s at 220 Baker Street, not quite in front of 221. £4 got me the best falafel sandwich I’ve had in far, far too long. It was sooooooooo good. If I ever need to move to London and can afford to do so, I’m moving to the 200 Block of Baker Street since it hosts all my favourite cuisines. 😀

I was tuckered out by that point, so I jumped back on the Tube and headed home. It’s now 11PM and I’m not even sleepy! I’m not in a rush to get up tomorrow, though, since I don’t want to get on the Tube until past 9:30 (cheaper) and the British Museum doesn’t open till 10:00 anyway. I’ll very likely brunch at Speedy’s restaurant and won’t do anything else all day.

It’s been a very full, but lovely and unhurried, first day in London. I am really loving this city. With it being the least expensive place to fly to from Canada, I suspect I will very likely be back. Funny how I never had any desire to come here and now I’m already planning future trips!

Thursday through Saturday

Oookay. It’s as if I’ve lived a million lifetimes since my last post.



Day started at the Hollywood Museum, outside of which I apparently ran straight into Drew Barrymore. At any rate, that was the consensus among the group who happened to see a strikingly familiar looking woman…. Inside, there were three floors of amazing movie props and memorabilia, ranging from Gone With the Wind and Stargate costumes to items from Marilyn Monroe’s home. The museum is housed in the Max Factor building and I saw the ‘green room’ where he found Lucille Ball’s perfect shade of red. I highly recommend this museum to movie buffs.

Then I took a two block walking tour of Hollywood, which was really interesting because we got to go into two places where tourists can’t go alone. The first was a ‘speak easy’, which was a secret drinking room from the prohibition era. The second was the Egyptian theatre, usually only accessible if you have tickets to see a movie there. It has a beautiful ceiling!

Finally, I had a semi-private (group of four) tour of the Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars are hosted every year. This alone made my trip to Hollywood worth it. So, we were wandering around backstage for a minute when the guide said: “Get your speeches ready!” and pointed through some curtains. Next thing I knew, I was on the very spot where the winners give their speeches! Once the awe dropped a little, I gazed out over the familiar theatre and realised just how beautiful it is. I quickly ran through my list of favourite actors who have been busy lately and came up with one name. “Do you know where George Clooney sat last year?” I asked the guide. He grinned and said: “You got one I do know. Right there–” he added, pointing to a seat. “That’s where George Clooney was sitting when he got his Oscar for ‘Syriana’.” As a JOKE I said to him: “Can I go sit in George Clooney’s seat?” and the guide said YES!!!! So, I went down to the first row of seats and perched myself on the edge of the seat, but was told to make myself comfy for a bit and admire George’s view, which I did. 🙂 When we finally moved on, the guide whispered to me: “Go look at a couple of years worth of Oscar footage–Leonardo Dicaprio sat in that seat this year for ‘The Departed’ and Clint Eastwood sat there two years ago for ‘Million Dollar Baby.’ I bet you’ll be watching the telecast next year to see who’s in YOUR seat!” Is that cool or what?! LOL

I’d then had more than my fill of LA and decided that a studio tour or visit of the Griffith Observatory would require more energy than I was willing to put in, so I decided to take off for San Diego so I could visit Tijuana Friday morning.

The drive to San Diego was long because of traffic in both LA and San Diego, but tolerable, and I arrived around 6 at my motel a mere ten minutes from the Mexican border.


Woke up early and took off for the border. Parked, then walked to Mexico (not something I ever thought I’d write!). There are NO border checks whatsoever! I wandered around Tijuana for a couple of hours, picking up a purse and some place mats and visiting the wax museum (surprisingly good), but I got my fill pretty quickly. The city was hot, dirty, and stinky and the cat calls and pleas to come look at junk were getting harder and harder to ignore. But what fun! I got to barter in Spanish (apparently, I paid a reasonable price for my purse considering its low quality), and met a shop keeper who gave me tips on how to not get taken and how to get around Tijuana. He said I had no obligation to buy from his shop, even after I’d picked out the place mats, but I insisted, considering a) how much time he’d spent talking to me and b) how unique and inexpensive the place mats were. He was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the street. I also visited a Mexican supermarket, which had most of the same products as in the US/Canada and a surprisingly good level of hygiene.

The guide books make a big deal about easy it is to get to Tijuana, but there is no mention about how hard and long it is to get back! I stood in line under the harsh Mexican sun (please roll your eyes at that) for almost two hours before I finally got to a border control officer who seemed confused by my Canadian passport and the fact that I was alone:
Him: When did you cross over into Mexico?
Me: This morning.
Him: And you’re alone?
Me: Yes.
Him: What did you buy in Mexico?
Me: A purse and place mats.
Him: *stares at my passport for a minute* Do you live in Mexico?
Me (thinking WTF?!): No…
Him: And. You. Went. To. Mexico. ALONE?
Me: Yes.
Him: Ooookay. Have a nice day.
Geeze, I was going to a very touristy place, not some dark back alley….

The rest of Friday sucked donkeys and doesn’t merit much mention except that it really, really, really, really, really, really, really sucked donkeys to spend seven hours in stop and go traffic from the Mexican border through San Diego and Orange counties and realise that at the rate you’re going, you’ll be lucky to get to San Francisco in a week.

Let me pause here to say that signage for the coast highway is really bad and I wound up on a Navy base. Twice. The first time, the soldier was very friendly, telling me to go to the lights and do a u-turn. Which I did, to find him frowning and waving me over. He didn’t like that I didn’t have a licence plate. That was so not fun, even though my car was legally registered. The US government is SCARY!!! I know I’ll laugh about this. Someday. Maybe The second ‘u-ey’ on a naval base was fine…ish.

At any rate, I had to give up my plans for driving up the coast and wound up taking the five, which is inland, and which added I don’t know how many miles to my trip but saved me perhaps an hour of stop and go traffic through LA, not that that’s saying much since I got a couple of hours of stop and go traffic beyond LA. Let’s just say that I was very tired, very angry, very frustrated, and very exhausted by the time it was dark and I was passing Bakersfield with still a hard five hours to San Francisco when I had hoped to have only an easy two hours left. So, I capitulated and did the smart thing, pulling into a motel that was surprisingly cheap and very nice. The only part of that trip worth remembering was my most memorable Esbat ever, driving down a lonely California highway with the full moon in my rear view mirror.

Let me pause here to say that California is a lot like Ontario, with concentrated urban centres that have very little between them, at least when you go through the centre of the state. It can become frighteningly desolate, especially when you’re going through the mountains and it’s getting dark and you haven’t seen a motel for many miles. I’m glad I had the smarts to stop when I did see one, instead of pushing on a bit longer.

I took off at seven this morning and made it to Neil’s for twelve. I dropped off my luggage then went downtown to return the car, came back here for food and entertainment, then went down to the Wharf just to smell and see the sea one last time.

Thus ends what I think has been the most amazing journey of my life, one that took me out of my comfort and familiar zone completely.

I’ll have lots of time in the next few weeks to put up more pictures for those interested.

If all goes according to scheduling, I will be taxiing in for a landing in Ottawa in precisely 25 hours.

Sunday through Wednesday

It is as though I have lived a thousand lifetimes since my last post.

I have pictures through to Monday night. Tuesday night, I discovered that my camera was malfunctioning and I lost all of my Tuesday pics. *sobs* This is why I stopped traveling with a camera and will never again travel with one.

So, here is a very short recap of the last four days.


I waved goodbye to the Pacific Ocean, left my heart in San Francisco, drove across the whole width of California through the Sierra Nevadas and the Mojave desert to a glittering oasis dedicated to grown-up hedonism.

(Gee, not something I ever thought I’d write….)

I have a ton of pics and .avi files of this trek, but this ancient IE browser won’t let me upload pics to Blogger, so they’ll have to wait. Sorry! 🙂

I was staying at the Gold Coast, conveniently located on Flamingo just past the I-15 off ramp, so I got into Vegas very easily. The hotel is fantastic–not too big (compared to other Vegas hotels), very clean, very friendly, and very well located with a free shuttle to the Strip (5 minute drive).


I was picked up bright and early at my hotel and was driven down the Strip to McCarran airport in… a black stretch limo. I kid you not. My first view of the Las Vegas Strip was from the back seat of a limo. You have to do that once in your life!

At McCarran, we were quickly loaded (crammed) into an itsy bitsy helicopter.

The flight to our landing site in the Grand Canyon was something I cannot describe in words. We saw Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam and the Colorado River and beautifully planned communities and the site of filming of the end of ‘Thelma and Louise’…. Even though I felt very queasy, the 45 minute flight was the stuff of dreams.

The Grand Canyon is something grander than pictures and film can convey. It is an archaeological layer cake with a river running at the bottom, a place where rusty red is cut only by pure blue sky. I actually have two pictures of me there.

Our tour included a small breakfast, which included champagne. I imbibed, even though it was only about 9:30. I mean, how many times in your life will you get to drink champagne at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?!

The flight back was just as spectacular and finished off with a flyover of the Strip. Again, something that needs to be experienced!

The limo was waiting at McCarran to whisk me back to my hotel, where I arrived at 11! I had done a full day’s excitement in just three hours and I was beat! Still, I took off for the Strip using the shuttle.

There, I explored the south Strip and crossed a few things off my Vegas to-do list,like visit the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, King Tut’s tomb at the Luxor (SO worth it!!!!!), and stroll through Excalibur and New York, New York. It was HOT but not a sticky hot. With plenty of water, I came to discover that arid hot is extremely tolerable. That said, I wonder how anyone living in that sort of climate can be obese. I lose my appetite until I’ve been back in air conditioning for several hours!

Let me pause here to add that I was only planning to stay two nights in Vegas, but I was so tired when I arrived on Sunday that I decided to extend my stay by one night.

I’m so glad I did.

I absolutely LOVED Vegas. It wasn’t until I let myself succumb to its excesses that I realised that I’ve been very cold for a very long time. Sin City warmed up a place deep inside me that I’d forgotten even existed.

(Of course, palm tree lined pools with cute Latino cabana boys in tight red shorts and white tank tops showing off their rippling muscles as they adjust your lawn chair probably added to this feeling….).

I headed back to the hotel pretty early since I was famished and had a free buffet dinner coupon for there. I was planning to turn in early after a delightful swim, but realised that, hey, I was in Vegas! When else would I get to see the Strip at night?!

So, I did something completely out of character and went back to the Strip for a couple of hours, visiting Bally’s and Paris and Caesar’s Palace and watching the fountains dance at the Bellagio.

When I did finally return to the hotel for the night, it was LATE. I prevailed myself of a free cocktail as a nightcap, went up to my room, and just about passed out. Talk about a full day!


Warning: MAJOR geekiness ahead. Really. This will probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about me.

First, the slightly non-geeky part.

I spent the early part of the morning at Circus Circus where I played at the arcade and won some useful and not so useful stuff like a Vegas mug and a lollipop. Then, it was off to the Hilton to use up a ticket I’d blessedly gotten for a half-price to attend… The Star Trek Experience.

(this is your final warning about the geekiness ahead)

I spent about five hours doing the whole Star Trek schtick there and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time doing something silly with just about no redeeming value at all.

I got growled at by a Klingon, was accosted by a Ferengi who liked my head scarf, ate Moogie’s pasta and Changeling cheesecake at Quark’s bar and restaurant with an Andorian sitting next to me, was almost assimilated by the Borg, rode down the Strip in an Enterprise shuttle (now THAT has to be experienced!) with Klingons firing full phasers at us until we were rescued by the Enterprise, sat in the Captain’s chair on a perfect replica of the TNG era Enterprise bridge, saw more original props and costumes from the movies and shows than I could have ever dreamt, and fondled the very torpedo that was used in the movies and was touched by the likes of Leonard Nimoy and Deforest Kelley. FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

I spent the rest of the day exploring as many more casinos as I had the energy for, including the Wynn, the Venetian (Mme Tussaud’s Wax Museum, where I HAD a picture of myself with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, *sobs*), the Mirage (dolphin habitat and the Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden with beautiful white tigers, lions, and panthers), and the Treasure Island.

One loses most sense of time in Las Vegas. Things open late in the morning, but once they’re open, they are until very late and there are no clocks anywhere. Imagine my shock when it was going on eight when I finally decided that I should hike back to the Wynn where I’d left my car and I hadn’t even had dinner yet!

I got in, had a small dinner (still full from the delicious offerings at Quark’s, which was surprising value, incidently, serving quality food at reasonable prices), prevailed myself of a free sorbet scoop, gambled a bit (a dollar can go a LONG way in Vegas!), got another free margarita, and then went back to my room to look at the day’s pictures….

Which brings me to today, WEDNESDAY:

I didn’t waste much time this morning and was back on the I-15 for by 10:30. Except for a stretch of construction at Victorville my drive to my current location was very easy.

I am currently in Hollywood. On Sunset Boulevard, to be more exact.

As soon as the LA skyline came into view for the first time, I found myself thinking: “Raven, what the FUCK are you doing here?”

LA scares the crap out of me. I didn’t even want to get off the interstate until my exit even though I badly needed gas in case I wound up in a bad part of town (have any of you seen ‘Judgement Night’ or ‘Grand Canyon’?).

I found my hotel very easily and it’s perfectly fine, to my surprise. I booked in a huge hurry yesterday from the Wynn, picking the cheapest thing I could find on Orbitz that had a decent rating and it’s very good, with a freshly renovated bathroom and free wi-fi. For 71$ (including tax) I was pretty nervous about what I’d find!

At any rate, I have no intention of staying more than another day in this city. The only way to get around is by car and I’m not comfortable driving here. I saw two of my CityPass attractions tonight and will do the last two tomorrow morning, then I’m leaving.

The first thing I did tonight was hike down to quintessential Hollywood, that is the Grauman Chinese Theatre and Kodak Theatre area. I saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all the stars on the sidewalk, and let me say that like with everything else in Hollywood, it’s pretty pathetic, very worn and unkempt. At the Chinese theatre, I oggled some handprints in cement (including Mr. Gregory Peck’s) and signed up for my two hour tour of the movie star homes. This alone was the reason I bought the CityPass tour booklet.

The two hour tour was absolutely fabulous and took us through Hollywood and Beverly Hills. We went up into the Hollywood Hills and saw some star mansions like Penny Marshall’s, Brad Pitt’s old place (now Sean and Robin Wright Penn’s), Harrison Ford’s (!!!), Rebecca DeMornay’s, Charlize Theron’s, and Ben Stiller’s. We then headed up Mullholland Drive to a little observatory place to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and the whole of LA down below. Breathtaking view!

The most memorable places I then saw in Beverly Hills were the Osbourne residence, the Lopez-Anthony home (very cozy, by McMansion standards), the Cruise-Holmes service gate, and Ringo Starr’s home… where someone was arriving in a very fancy car. Anyone know if Ringo Starr is home these days?! LOL We also saw Rodeo Drive from where it starts as a residential street with ‘starter homes’ (going for, oh, 6 million or so) to the famous shopping strip.

In Hollywood per se, we saw the place where Lindsay Lohan had her DUI (oookay), the Viper Room, Sunset Plaza, the temple where Elizabeth Taylor married one of her husbands, and more.

What I took away from this tour is that stars are insane to live here. The Hollywood Hills area has nice homes, yes, but they’re on narrow poorly maintained roads and many have no driveways. Kevin Smith now owns the house Ben Affleck shared with Jennifer Lopez and his Escalade was parked on the street. Same thing at Rebecca DeMornay’s where we almost clipped her Lexus. Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd are not even remotely glamourous, but rather dirty streets reeking of urine with dilapidated shop fronts. I have to say that it’s exactly what I was expecting, unfortunately enough. Beverly Hills, though, was post card perfect.

After the tour, I went to the Hollywood Wax museum which was okay, but nothing compared to Mme. Tussaud’s (where you were actually encouraged to touch the figures). I found that the figures weren’t particularly life like, but the horror gallery was much better than at Tussaud’s (for one thing, no one jumped out at me!). My CityPass gave me 5$ off admission to the Guiness World Records Museum, so I went in. Like the Wax Museum, it is very tired, dirty, and its exhibits need to be updated.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a walking tour of Hollywood, then visiting the Kodak theatre and possibly the Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor building. Then, if I can find it, I’ll go stroll around the Griffith Park Observatory (giving in to my MacGyver geekiness here), then I’m heading for San Diego. I’ll be spending the night there, visiting Mexico Friday morning, then heading back towards San Francisco via highway one, stopping somewhere past LA to sleep so I can have an easy drive to SF on Saturday.

I never thought I’d ever say this on vacation, but I actually think I’m ready to go home. I’ve done so much this past week that it feels I’ve been gone a lot longer than I have.