Last minute Grand Canyon

After a long time humming and harring about what to do for my birthday, I finally booked an adventure.

You see, ever since I spent my 25th birthday straddling the equator in Ecuador, I have vowed to go away and do something exciting for my birthday. I used to expect others to make my birthday special for me, but after adopting this new philosophy I found that the only person my birthday is special for is me, and that it’s up to me to drive the celebrations.

So my birthdays have involved parasailing on the Gold Coast in Australia, kiteboarding in the Philippines, cycling around Rottnest Island in Western Australia, climbing the Sydney Harbour bridge, visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia and swinging in a hammock in Puerto Escondido in Mexico. Sometimes these trips have been alone, and some have been with friends or family, but they all involved me taking responsibility for enjoying myself on my birthday without the need for birthday wishes or gifts.

I had been looking at stacks of Grand Canyon rafting tour websites, trying to find the best deal and best adventure. I would have loved to do a week-long trip but my travel budget couldn’t quite extend that far, so I settled on a shorter 3 day trip. I was worried that I wasn’t going to find one that would have availability over my birthday in a week and a half’s time because these trips are usually booked way in advance, but the first company I called, Arizona River Runners, had an opening and they were super nice on the phone.

So now I’m booked on a tour that includes a flight to the canyon rim, a ranch stay, a helicopter flight to the canyon floor, a whitewater rafting and camping trip and a jet boat across Lake Mead. I’m pretty darn excited.

In the studio backlot

Central Perk set
Kicking back on the Friends couch.

Movie Lass and I travelled around the Warner Bros studios in an oversized golf cart today on our VIP Studio Tour. I was very excited to do something really touristy, as none of my adventures so far seem to have ticked the “you are totally a tourist” box.

We started off in the back lot, seeing all the facades that they make to be any old street in New York or Chicago or other place. Different places were pointed out as locations from scenes in movies like The Mask and Spiderman, and also Central Perk from Friends, which definitely holds a soft spot for Warner Bros as their most successful TV series.

Passing some craft services set up, I took photos of the picnic chairs and tables and the cakes on display, ostensibly to inspire my next stint at craft services on a shoot.

Then we saw a scene of The Event being filmed, it was a driving scene, so we saw the car being towed by a truck with all the lights and cameras rigged to it. That was pretty cool, although I have no idea what this TV show is.

A stop at the costume museum was fascinating as we saw costumes worn by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, by the cast of Inception and The Town as well as some older films and little props and pieces from the sets. I liked seeing Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb’s totem from Inception, the spinning top. Upstairs was a whole floor dedicated to Harry Potter and the most exciting bit, getting to sit on a stool and have the Sorting Hat put you in your house. I was delighted when it didn’t even hesitate to put me in Gryffindor! I think I would be good friends with Hermione and I would tease Ron mercilessly.

We checked out some soundstages, massive warehouses with rigging all in the roof and soundproofed walls. We were told how the pirate ship from the Goonies was built in Stage 16, as was the ship in Poseidon and that the first dream sequence of Inception had been built in there.

At the art department section we dodged trucks bringing back props to the warehouse and got to have our photo taken in Central Perk, preserved solely for the tourists on these tours.

I also went slightly shaky and excited as we got to tour the studio set for The Mentalist, one of my favourite tv shows. Whilst they were filming on location, we got to have a look around the headquarters and see Patrick’s leather couch in person. I loved that.

All up it was great to look through the studios and get a bit of an insight, but after having been on a film set myself, it would have been good to hear more about the filmmaking process rather than just bits of trivia which were interesting, but not particularly useful.

Travels in 2010

 Somewhat (un)inspired by watching The Tourist yesterday I want to celebrate a year of travels to places new and exciting, old and inviting. (I know, it’s a very weak link I’m making between the film The Tourist and travelling, but I’m making it anyway.
Recoleta in Buenos Aires
Admiring the dead at Recoleta Cemetery
in Buenos Aires

I saw the new year, 2010, arrive in Rotorua, New Zealand, amid the stinky geo-thermal gases and with a somewhat chilly and of course jaw-dropping fireworks display on the lakeshore.

A big 6 week trip in April and May with my mother took me to Argentina to visit Emily and Pablo, Peru to marvel at Machu Picchu for a second time, Mexico to eat grasshoppers and visit ruins, Guatemala to see a Mayan Shaman and a quick stop in LA to meet my email penfriend of 4 years, the man who puts the A in LA.

On the domestic front, I’ve also managed to visit some thus far unexplored corners of Australia and revisit some favourites:

  • Two weeks traversing the Kimberley from Broome to Darwin on a magnificent and indescribably beautiful camping tour
  • Bunbury and Margaret River to see my friend Travieso who I met at Iguazu Falls 6 years ago
  • Darwin to do some serious dancefloor carving
  • Three trips to Sydney for a conference and shopping,  a flight to Buenos Aires, some xoxo, and to see some German buddies from my Kimberley tour along with a good friend from school
  • Gold Coast to visit my little bro and do big sisterly things like buy him kitchen utensils and shoes
    Machu Picchu
    Thumbs up for making it up to Machu Picchu
  •  Melbourne goodness knows how many times to see friends, shop, go to parties, watch Mary Poppins the musical, go to exhibitions, meet my fellow LA adventurers and soak up that gorgeous city vibe
  • Adelaide to see my friends, go to a baby shower and meet the new baby
  • Falls Creek to ski with a friend, visit her family and catch up with other friends in Wodonga
Eating chapulines, grasshoppers, in Oaxaca, Mexico

So it’s been a pretty travelsome year. Especially when I list it all down like that. It’s a wonder I had any weekends at home!

New places always thrill me. I can’t wait to move to LA where I will no doubt get an overload of new experiences, places and people.

That said, the alternative to moving to LA was a year (or more) of travel. That’s a pretty big ‘sacrifice’ to make, but I’m confident I’m going to have one hell of a 2011, even if it isn’t living out of  a backpack but rather out of a backpack, rolling duffel and suitcase with a brand new suite of Apple gadgets in my possession.

Even though the big travel adventure is but a former plan, can I please, please, puh-lease share with you my travel wishlist for 2011… I promise you can share yours via comments on this post!

  • America, duh. Like, all over you know. I totally want to see it all.
  • Europe –  has remained elusive of my travel map thus far and if I REALLY have to select just a few places it would be Spain para hablar espanol (to speak Spanish), France and Germany to visit friends in each of those countries. I’d also like to add the Greek Islands, Italy, Russia and Croatia but that would just be greedy.
    Manning Gorge
    My wicked backflip into Manning Gorge
    in the Kimberley
  • Shanghai – to visit my old housemate who’s also making a big overseas move in 2011. But only if she sends her driver to pick me up from the airport with a sign that says “Chickety China the Chinese chicken wants a little cameo” and is in the shape of a love heart with pink feathers on it.
  • Australia – to visit the doctor and assure the family that I haven’t gained an American accent.
  • Mexico – to cross the border to TJ and go to Cabo darhling. Though I think the Copper Canyon, San Miguel de Allende and a return visit to Taxco are more my scene.
  • Canada – Vancouver anyone?
  • Colombia – simply because if I didn’t have it on my list I would be LYING. Desperada, that’s what I am to get there. Hmmm, maybe I need to think up a good doco, TV show or film we can film on loco location in Colombia…