Saturday, January 15, 2011

St. Peter's Square and the Basilica

A lot of the art and religious treasures in Rome are actually in a different country, namely The Vatican, which is a city state inside Rome and is the center of the Catholic faith. I would be difficult to ignore the Vatican, but I was a bit afraid of waiting in queues for several hours.

Nevertheless, we took a tram from the Ungheria Square close to our hotel, straight to Vatican City. This westward journey did not take too long, and we stepped off very close to Vatican. We walked a short distance and reached the world-famous St. Peter Square (Piazza St. Pietro).

Since this was the day before Christmas Eve, there were a lot of preparations going on in the Square, getting ready for the Pope's Christmas sermon to be delivered on the 25th. Giant screens were being set up for the benefit of the expected crowds. There was a big Christmas tree with ornaments in the middle of the square.

Detail from St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Square with Christmas Tree

St. Peter's Square and the Basilica
 The square is really an architectural and historical marvel. The walkway going up to the Basilica is a collection of many columns and as such the area reflects a unique historical atmosphere in Rome. We went to the Basilica and found out that there was not too much of a crowd, which was pretty unusual.
Inside the Basilica
Bernini's Baldaquin at a distance
There are too many artworks and statues inside the Basilica, so it was difficult to see all that. However, I found the central area with Bernini's baldaquin and the dome of the basilica (designed by none less than Michelangelo), along with some of the paintings inside the basilica the most interesting of these. (Later on I found out that the Dome of the Basilica was designed by Michelangelo himself and he started to work on it when he was in his 70's, but could not complete it since he died soon).

We came out of the Basilica and now decided to go to the Vatican Grottoes. These are the tombs of previous Popes  and can be visited with a quick and quiet walk (you get warned frequently about keeping quiet and not taking pictures).

After this walk we had finished our visit to the Basilica and wanted to rest a bit and have a quick lunch before attempting to go to the Vatican Museums close by. The problem was that you had to walk some distance to reach any restaurants around St. Peter's Square. The other problem was that the restaurants were almost twice as expensive as equivalent ones away from the area.

We accepted the offer of an insistent waiter and had a quick and expensive lunch before walking back to Vatican.
List of all Popes

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Shopping in Rome and some Roman Culinary tastes

Since we had to replace all of the clothing we had lost with our bags, we went for another shopping spree, this time around the Via Cola de Rienzo. This street has the major department stores like Coin, but also the smaller boutiques.

For the night we decided to have dinner at a fancy restaurant and selected Les Etoiles, which is situated at the top of Hotel Atalante. The hotel also had a roof terrace but of course this was not available in the cold of December.
Restaurant Les Etoiles
Restaurant staff seemed to be hesitant to take us in when we rang the bell, asking if we had a reservation. Then they took us in. The restaurant was basically deserted, but in about an hour a large group came in for dinner. Although the menu seemed to have gourmet features, we did not find it too impressive. The food was just average, the presentation was not at all aesthetic for such a chic restaurant. The price was not exorbitant, but we did not have a very positive experience with the atmosphere and the taste of the dishes.

The day ended with more walking and taking a taxi to our hotel. Maybe the best part of this trip to Rome was that we did a lot of walking, which can only be good (except when it rained heavily the following days).

Our bags were still not delivered. Phone calls to the Lufthansa agent in Rome were not answered and we accumulated a lot of negative feelings for Lufthansa in general.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Italian Fashion and Forced Shopping

Italy has always been touted as one of the centers of fashion. Although Milano is the place for many of the Italian textile brands, Rome has its shares of fashion shops that would make the enthusiastic shopper happy.  Rome does not have too many "malls" in the American sense, but long shopping streets with independent boutiques and also brand names.

Two of the large department stores in Rome (and also much of Italy) are Coin and La Rinascente. Having to replace our missing belongings we decided to try our hands at Coin. We found the one at Piazzale Appio 7, which you can reach via the San Giovanni metro stop. Coin has most of the well-known brand names and the prices are not exactly cheap. We got some essentials but did not spend too much time on this typical department store with the brands.

We had some marvelous Italian calzone in a small cafe on Via Veio, but it was a bit annoying that we could not ask for anything else, since we've been told that they're closing at 15:30.

Tasty Italian calzone with cheese
We've been told to go to the Castel Romano Outlet centre just outside the city to have designer brands at half price, but we did not have time to do that.

We came back to the centre of the city, getting out at the Piazza de Spagna metro stop and seeing the famous Spanish steps. After a long stroll through the shopping street Via del Corso we had visited many of the smaller shops and bought some essentials. Tired after this active day, we went back to the hotel.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A somewhat short Roman day

Our arrival to Rome was eventful and ended with a very late midnight dinner after a long day of travel. Thus we required some rest the next day and as such started the day quite late. The first thing to do was to get to a more central location in Rome and have a lunch.

Hotel delle Muse has a bus stop very close to it. We found out that it is not possible to get bus tickets from the driver and as such had to go and buy tickets from a newspaper booth nearby. One ticket gives you a 75-minute window to use it. You have to stamp it on the bus so that it is valid. These can be used on trams, buses and the metro. However, it is a good idea to buy a weekly card (biglietto integrale settimanale, which costs 16 euros) or one of the other cards if you are staying longer. Bus 360 is the only one passing close to the hotel and can get you to Rome's central train station, Stazione Termini, in around 20 minutes on a normal day.

Once we reached Termini, we started to look for a restaurant or pastiscerria (pastry shop) to have a simple lunch. However, the area around the Termini station did not appeal to us, with lots of salesmen and an atmosphere of danger, so we decided to walk away from the station. Walking down the Via Cavour, we found a small restaurant (Panificio Pasticceria Roscioni) and had a quick lunch/early supper.
Panificio Pasticceria Roscioni

Colonna Traiana
Right afterward we discovered on foot some of the interesting architectural wonders of Rome, although it was dark by now. Colonna Traiana was the centerpiece of a new dig that was uncovering more Roman artefacts, but this was a cordoned area.

I was impressed by the Altare della Patria, or the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. It has a magnificent architecture and the lighting at night is just superb.

Altare della Patria
We don't normally eat at McDonald's but a quick stop at the McDonald's at Piazza di Spagna revealed a fast-food restaurant that had an interesting and modern designer setup.
McDonald's at Piazza di Spagna

It was not a very fruitful day, but it was still possible to see some of the areas.

At the end of the day we still did not have any of our bags, so it was time to do some shopping the next day....

Buongiorno Roma

Rome was one of the top destinations I had in mind when I was planning a short vacation for the Christmas break. Although I had been to Rome once in 2009, it was a very busy business trip and I had only a few hours which was certainly not good enough to see anything in the city. Booking mid-November (using once again my favorite booking site,, I could not know what the weather would be like, but my expectation for that season was a mild winter with around 10 degrees and some rain.

How mistaken could I be! Just before we left for Rome from Amsterdam via Munich, Europe plunged into a severe winter, snow crippling transportation everywhere. In the two days before our flight, maybe 60% of all flights from Amsterdam was cancelled. Germany was hit especially bad. When our Lufthansa flight left Amsterdam and arrived in Munich more than an hour late, our fate was sealed.

When we landed in Munich our flight time had already passed, so we went to the Lufthansa Service Centre and found a queue which went far outside the normal service area. Everyone with delayed and cancelled flights were trying to rebook. Lufthansa did not do a very good job of managing the situation, so people were just walking in the area without necessarily taking their place in the queue. After a while Lufthansa officials limited the chaos by securing the area with barriers, but it was just too crowded. After 3.5 hours of waiting in line, we were re-booked to another flight to leave in half an hour.

Although it was a tight fit, I thought we would make it and maybe also our bags, since the Lufthansa official "transferred" our bags to the new flights on the computer.

After a short flight - which was delayed even from the new schedule - we were in Rome, but of course our bags did not turn up. By the time I registered the 4 bags as missing - one per person - found a taxi and arrived at the Hotel Delle Muse it was almost midnight - around 12 hours after we left home - and we had no bags. Since there was not much to do at that time of night and also we were hungry after so many hours of waiting at the airport (and with the terrible tiny sandwiches provided by Lufthansa during the flight to Rome) we went out to find a place to eat. In any other country this might have been a challenge, however in Italy restaurants can be open till late.

The hotel is in the north of the city in a quiet residential area, a bit far from the popular tourist destinations. Close by is the Piazza Ungheria where we found Taverna Rossini and noticed with joy that it was open until 2 a.m.

The menu was OK, and we had pizza. The trip back to the hotel on foot helped digest this late-night dinner. OK, this was not the best welcome a city had offered me, but there was hope that it would get better.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Guildford: The County town of Surrey

We visited the town of Guildford to participate in an Open Day at the University of Surrey. Before my son decided to go to the University, I had not really heard much about Guildford, let alone the county of Surrey.

Although we took a cab from Heathrow, it is possible to reach it via train, but you would have to take the underground to Waterloo station before taking the train to Guildford. I booked a cab from Guildford, thus reducing the taxi fare to 45 pounds, rather than the 65-70 pounds you may have to pay if you got a cab at Heathrow when you arrive.

We had a chance to go through the town the evening we arrived. We stayed at the Mandolay Hotel which wasn't great but was OK. It is an old building, but has wireless Internet and is close the town centre.

The town has a main shopping street with a lot of posh stores, and looks quite lively, since everyone was out and there were lots of parties going on even though it was a weeknight. It also has lots of good restaurants with different cuisines, which is an indication of a good social life in town. We took the easy way out and dined at a T.G.I. Friday's. The town seemed quite safe to us.

The university is only a few kilometers out of the city center, and has very good bus connection. There are a few bus stops within the campus. The accommodation buildings are usually close to the central campus (Stag Hill) but there is a new development nearby in the Manor Park campus which will accommodate several thousand students. All undergraduates are guaranteed a student room (same with all international students) and there is a variety of accommodation possibilities both in and out of the campus.

The university is well-known in the area of satellite research and has a Space Centre. It has established a commercial company to launch small satellites into space and has been quite successful. It is in general notorious for research but also has a few departments that produce much-required practical talent for the industry.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Los Angeles Highlights

Here are some good and bad highlights and some facts found during the Los Angeles visit.

The Good

  • Lots of space. Freeways have 5-7 lanes. Plenty of roads to choose from.
  • Variety of food and cuisine to choose from. A welcome change from the Netherlands.
  • Shopping malls open 7 days. Some restaurants (e.g. Denny's) open 24 hours.
  • Free WiFi pretty much everywhere. Big contrast with Europe, where you have to check whether WiFi exists, let alone free, even when you stay at a major hotel chain.
  • We were always treated with a lot of excitement when we told people we came from Europe. For some reason Americans are fascinated with the idea of Europe, even when they haven't ever been there. (Immigrant nation?)
  • Pretty good weather. It was between 16-24 degrees, which is quite good for end March-early April (although not as good as in Florida)
  • Cheap. Nowadays with the euro more than 1.58 to the dollar, it is cheap. It is usually cheaper anyway because of the higher competition.

The Bad

  • Freeways and secondary roads are blocked most of the time, even in non-rush hour periods.
  • Nobody seems to follow the speed limits. I was always the slowest, regardless of which road I was on.
  • Lots of fast food and opportunity to consume lots of fatty food.
  • Parking fees. I don't know how much I paid for parking fees, but it must be around 15$ per day. One thing to be kept in mind is that most parking lots have agreements with the restaurants or similar places close to them, and you can get a much cheaper rate if you "validate" your parking ticket (basically buy a coffee or something simple, and you get the lower rate. I got an example where I paid 1$ instead of 8$ after validation)
  • Local newspapers (in this case the Long Beach Press-Telegram) are pretty boring. Better get one for a big city (in this case Los Angeles Times, which was not as good as some of the better papers like The Washington Post).

The Ugly

  • America is a land of contradictions. People standing roadside at intersections, asking for money or food.
  • Area around department stores like WalMarts seem to be pretty unsafe.


  • The Los Angeles area has lots of Hispanic Americans, as well as a large community of Asian Americans. Spanish is heard a lot. Some shops have second signs in Spanish, but it seems there is no official policy yet.

Los Angeles Travelogue -Day 15-April 5-The Trip Back Home

The two weeks of holiday passed too quickly for our taste. We probably saw only a percentage of things to see in the Los Angeles area, whereas we covered most of the stuff in Long Beach, except maybe attending the Toyota Grand Prix, which was to be held two weeks after we left.

I had to spend some time at the Fox Rental counter in the Los Angels airport area, since they did not refund the full fare they asked on the way in, although the booking company had said I should pay only the basic fare. Finally the manager came in and reassured me that they would reimburse me and send me e-mail about it.

The trip back was easier, since it took shorter to go East. Our Continental flight from Los Angeles to Houston was on time and uneventful. However, a surprise was awaiting me in Houston. My passport was checked twice in Los Angeles, without any problems. When I gave my passport in Houston, the person checking it suddenly noticed that the cover was ripped. This must have happened in between Los Angeles and Houston, and could have happened because I put it in my handbag, which was fully packed.

The airline employee said she could not allow me to travel with this passport. I told her that the passport had been checked twice in Los Angeles and there was no problem with it, but she was not convinced. She said security regulations were very clear (and the alert level in the U.S. was Orange, somewhere in the middle of the scale) I showed her my Dutch residence permit and tried to reason with her while time was passing.

Finally she decided to call Amsterdam and ask for guidance, since I was going there. She came back and said she found somebody to answer the phone (it was like 1 a.m. there, so I'm not sure who they talked to) and they had given me an exception this time and I could travel, but I should renew my passport as soon as possible. Thanking her, I gladly boarded the plane. Since there is no embassy in Houston, I don't know what I would have done. The nearest embassy was in New York and I probably would not have been able to travel there due to the problem of my passport. Anyway, this major problem was solved easier than I thought and we were back on track.

The trip to Amsterdam was truly uneventful, except for the lack of decent movies on Continental's system. This time, unlike the trip to the U.S., the interactive mode worked and I could try some of my skills on the slow computer games in the console. I watched the movie P.S. I Love You, which was O.K. but not exceptional. I also watched a couple of episodes of House, which was far more interesting.

Amsterdam was waiting for us with a 10 degree colder weather, but at least we were back home and ready for the next trip!

Los Angeles Travelogue-Day 14-April 4-Del Amo Fashion Center-Long Beach

The day before our return trip, we wanted to go shopping for one last time. After searching from the Internet, we found the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance to be a good choice. The mall was relatively close, around 17 miles from our hotel.

They claim to be the biggest completely indoor mall in North America. I am not sure whether that is correct, but this is certainly one big indoor mall. It expands horizontally, but all stores are connected to each other. In general malls end with one of the big department store in their peripherals. Here it is a bit misleading, since you think you reach the end , but then you discover that you could pass from the North Mall to the South Mall by passing through one of these department stores, so you have to be careful and not miss it.

It is a combination of luxury stores and more regular shopping opportunities, so it could server everyone's interests.

There is only one big Food Court and a few small ones which really consist of one or two choices. If you go to the wrong Food Court, you could be disappointed, and the signs do not really give you any clue, since they refer to any size as the Food Court.

There is also an outdoor promenade which has some brand name shops and a large movie complex. All in all, a good combination of stores.

We went back to Long Beach to pass some more time at GameWorks and then had another short dinner at Islands, to go back to the hotel and pack or bags for the return trip.

Los Angeles Travelogue-Day 13-April 3-Universal Studios-Take 2

Since we had not really had enough time to visit all the attractions in Universal Studios, we had to go back.

We started our second day in the studios with a visit to Universal Citywalk, which we had basically ignored the first time.

Once especially interesting place in Citywalk is the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood. It is a distinctive building, with a huge guitar installed at the front. Inside you can see guitars from famous personalities.

We first went to the Waterworld show. This is basically a live stunt show that takes place in the world of the movie Waterworld, starring Kevin Costner.

The show involved water skis, a lot of high jumps into the water, explosions, even an aircraft flying into the water. The stunts were exceptionally good, and a part of the audience (the ones sitting in the appropriately marked "wet seats") got really wet. The fight scenes were heavily choreographed and not interesting, but otherwise it was very impressive. The stunt men had wireless microphones so that the dialogs could be heard very clearly.

Next we went to a real special effects show, which utilized the techniques used in the movie Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell. We went through three different studios, with increasing special effects, which were very realistic. The last studio was the most interesting, where conditions such as depicted in the film were created, with a lot of bang, fire and heat. They also threw in a bit of scare by dropping the surface down and creating the impression of a real fire.

We continued to see special effects by going on the Special Effects Stages. This show uses volunteers from the audience and is very entertaining. They show how to use the blue screen technique (actually green) to place actors onto a scene, they used animated characters, did some scary stunts, recorded sound for a set of short movie pieces and showed how the result looked like, so this gave us a lot fo idea about how movies are actually made. The show was very much improvised, and the hosts were very quick-witted, that made the whole thing very enjoyable.

Finally we went to the highly acclaimed show The Revenge of the Mummy. This is a very fast (and very quick) ride which takes place in the universe of the movie The Mummy. It involves some scary initiation by Imothep, but is so fast that you do not have time to get scared or even see what you might be scared of. Involving some backwards movement, this was the fastest and most nauseating ride I have ever been on. As mentioned above, it is only a fast ride and would have had the same effect if it had something other than The Mummy as well.

In the end we saw most of the attractions and finished our theme park tour in this trip.

Los Angeles Travelogue-Day 12-April 2-Long Beach Aquarium

We started the day with a late lunch at Parker's Lighthouse in the Shoreline Village. It is one of the nice series of restaurants at the waterfront. It is a 3-story building with a magnificent view of the bay, the Queen Mary on the opposite shore and even as far as San Pedro nearby. We sat on he second floor, but the third floor is probably the best.

The menu was rich. The place has live jazz certain evenings, when it could be even more interesting.

We visited the Long Beach Aquarium, which is claimed to be the one of the largest aquariums in the United States. It has both an indoor and an outdoor part, and lots of very interesting sea life forms that are specific to the Pacific Ocean.

The indoor area has three separate galleries, the Southern California Gallery, the Northern Pacific Gallery and the Tropical Pacific Gallery.

The outdoor pools had a variety of stingrays, some really huge. Aquarium employees allow children to "pet" the fish, being very careful to use only two fingers. One of the caretakers explained to me that rays are not really dangerous unless you step on them while they are lying at the bottom of the sea or the pool. The sting seems to be a defensive weapon only.

There were also a couple of smallish sharks. What I couldn't figure out was how the sharks and all the other fish stayed in the same tank/pool and still survived. I couldn't get a very definitive answer. The outdoor pools also had a collection of seals and walruses. It was also interesting to see these sea creatures from the observation windows in the lower floor.

There was also a 3-D show displaying creatures of the deep ocean, but we did not have too much time, so we skipped it.

All in all it is an impressive place, but I still thought it was not as rich and interesting as the New England Aquarium.

We ended the day with another California Pizza Kitchen dinner.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Los Angeles Travelogue-Day 11-April 1-Disneyland California

It would be unthinkable that a visit to Los Angeles does not include a visit to Disneyland, the original Theme Park.

Although we had spent around 4 days in Disney parks in Florida in 2000, we wanted to see the original Disney park. This was a bit tricky, since our children had grown now and Disney might not be very appealing.

Disneyland is close to Anaheim, so this time we went East, rather than going north towards Los Angeles. The quickest route was to take 710 North and switch to 605 East, but this would result in about 26 miles, so we took the shortest route and stayed off the freeway, taking about 20 miles to go there.

Unlike Universal Studios, Disney did not have any multi-day or multi-park discounts, so we had to pay full fare for everybody. You can select the regular Disney Park or the Disney's California Adventure to go, but you have to select while buying the ticket.

Avoiding all the photo opportunities with Disney characters, we first went into Futureland, and on to the Star Tours. This is basically a simulator that uses the Star Wars theme. The auditorium consists of moving seats and includes a large screen that you basically jump into, literally. The ride is a bit nauseating, but it is a short ride anyway.

When we came out of the ride, we saw the youngsters preparing for the Jedi Knight Academy. Suitable for ages 4-12, this training consists of the youngsters donning Jedi robes and training with a couple of very impressive Jedi Knights (very capable actors). It even involves an appearance by Darth Vader. Even watching the show was entertaining.

We then went on the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride. This is a very fast ride that goes through a mountain (representing Matterhorn in Switzerland) and puts people into two-person toboggans similar to the ones used for winter sports. Although very short, it gives you a feeling that must be similar to the real toboggan athletes. Not for the meek of heart....

The next show was a kind of exhibition that is looking into new inventions and innovations, thus the name Innoventions. There are virtual sports, a lot of XBox games, interactive displays, but most of the exhibits were closed, so we could probably see half.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is a slow of ride using the world of Pixar's Toy Story. Everyone is given a blaster and asked to blast enemies. The drive is very slow, but it is not clear how to increase your score, more suitable for young children.

Jungle Cruise is a boat tour in a pseudo-jungle, where you meet a lot of fake animals and funny situations. Very boring...

Haunted Mansion is a slow ride through a dark atmosphere with a lot of holographic ghosts. Some of the scary moments were spoiled by youngsters who basically repeated loudly what the presenter was saying, since they had already been there and had memorized the supposedly scary statements.

Downtown Disney is similar to the Universal Citywalk, with a lot of shops, but unlike the Universal version, it has lots of Disney-related stuff, so less interesting, whereas Universal is very Hollywood and hip....

So, in total Disneyland had many more attractions (most of which we have not seen) but these are simpler and in general targeting a younger audience.

The day ended with dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Los Angeles Travelogue-Day 10-March 31-Shopping at Los Cerritos

After a long day at Hollywood Boulevard, this was meant to be another day to rest. So, we took the easy way out and went to a nearby shopping mall. (Yes, even after more than a week in the Los Angeles area, we found things to buy)

The Los Cerritos Center is a mall somewhat in between the Lakewood Center (an average mall) and the chic South Plaza Mall that we had visited in this trip. It had lots of good stores and an upbeat atmosphere.

After another day of shopping, we went back to Long Beach and enjoyed the marina on Shoreline Drive. The area looks like a construction site, mostly because they are getting ready for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. This is an annual race which takes place on the Shoreline Drive and seems to attract a lot of attention. However, they have to take a lot of precautions and thus they close off lots of roads, put a lot of emphasis on protection and this starts way before the Grand Prix dates, which for this year is 17-20 April.

The day ended with a dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen.

Los Angeles Travelogue-Day 9-March 30-Hollywood Dreams

Hollywood Dreams

Hollywood is the heart of the world's cinema industry. It is where the giant American cinema studios produce and present their latest dream worlds, and where the Oscars are presented with all their glamor every year. It is the writing on the mountain, possibly one of the best-known icons of the world.

But I had no idea what Hollywood looked like before this visit to Los Angeles. We had actually got a glimpse of it on the I-101 highway to Los Angeles, in the form of road signs, but that was it.

We decided to go and walk around in Hollywood Boulevard and see everything to see about the actors and actresses.

This meant another trip on 710 North from Long Beach. However, there were very few trucks now on the highway, this being Sunday, so this made the trip slightly easier. I say slightly, since the I-101 was still pretty packed.

Some city guides I read recommended that we go to the Hollywood and Highland Center in the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. This is a very posh shopping/entertainment center, with very good parking facilities underneath, so it was a good choice. Since it is on Hollywood Boulevard, you can just get out and see the landmarks of Hollywood quite easily. It also has a few viewing balconies from which you can see, for example, the Hollywood Sign.

Since we were quite hungry after a long drive, we looked around and found a California Pizza Kitchen restaurant. This is a chain we saw in a couple of places around Long Beach and Los Angeles. They have pretty good food and open until quite late. The service is also usually quite good.

Once we were sufficiently full (so that we could embark on our quest) we went out to Hollywood Boulevard.

The Celebrity Stars

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is actually a sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard (running on both sides of the road) that goes on for about 3.5 miles, and has around 2000 stars dedicated to actors, actresses, directors, and other members of the film industry, as well as to some fictional characters important enough for Hollywood.

We walked on both sides of the Boulevard and saw most of the stars. I did not know at least half of the names, some of which are obscure contributors to the film industry, known by insiders but may not mean anything to the general public.

Images in Wax

While we were walking to see the stars, we noticed an interesting place on the Boulevard. This was the Hollywood Wax Museum. It was interesting to compare this with Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. We had seen Madame Tussaud's in Amsterdam and in London.

Although this museum probably had more Hollywood celebrities, the quality of the wax figures was not so good. The displays were supported with elaborate sets from various movies, but the figures just... did not look like the originals, to say the least.

Guinness World of Records Museum

Since we bought a combined ticket, we also could see the other attraction right across the street, namely the Holywood Guinness World of Records Museum. This "museum" is a kind of tribute to the Guinness Book of World Records and has many interactive displays asking Guinness trivia questions and exhibits of world records. Mildly interesting, if you want to see videos of some of the record achivements.
Virgin Megastore

There was also a Virgin Megastore branch on Hollywood Boulevard. This was a medium size branch with a lot of CDs, DVDs, and also MP3 accessories and other game-related stuff. It was surprising to see that they had CDs about major world cities, around a certain theme.

I also noticed that Scientology had a strong presence in Hollywood. They had several locations, including a permanent museum depicting "Psychiatry: Industry of Death" and a Ron L. Hubbard Gallery. Remembering Tom Cruise's rant against psychiatry a few years ago, this is not surprising. This is also confirmed by the Church of Scientology and their Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

After walking along the Boulevard for a long period of time, we decided to go back and took the long drive over I-101 and I-710 back to our Long Beach hotel.