Heading to muscle beach

EVENING Star reader Mavis Bensley, 71, embarked on a round-the-world cruise to realise a lifelong dream. Here's her fifth weekly report on the 108-night adventure aboard the QE2 which has now taken her to Muscle Beach, Los Angeles.

EVENING Star reader Mavis Bensley, 71, embarked on a round-the-world cruise to realise a lifelong dream. Here's her fifth weekly report on the 108-night adventure aboard the QE2 which has now taken her to Muscle Beach, Los Angeles.

LA was interesting.

Everyone had to disembark while the ship was cleaned and sanitised top to bottom. No one was allowed back on board before 5.30pm even new embarking passengers. My extended tour went along Wilshire Avenue and called at the tar pits - babbling, gloopy asphalt pits with natural gas escaping. Many fossils including dinosaur bones have been found here.

We passed the hotel where Pretty Woman was filmed and saw the shop where Julia Roberts was told to leave because she was inappropriately attired. Nearby a “shoot” was being filmed outside Cartier Jewels - presumably for a magazine ad. We continued down Rodeo Drive where you have to make an appointment to shop.


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Later we arrived at Santa Monica Beach with a long pier of shops and restaurants including Bubba Gump Shrimp Shop and a fun fair. The sand was soft, warm and golden. I even ventured to dip my toe in the ocean.

I took a coach trip to Little Venice and Muscle Beach. This is a vibrant fascinating place with many small shops, food, clothes, souvenirs and tattoo parlours. There were a street entertainers including one guy who jumped from the back of a chair on to a pile of broken glass and bottles without apparent injury. I saw another “shoot” - this time the making of a video for an album by “Miss Melody” whoever she is.

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All the fitness apparatus was evident at Muscle Beach, but no hunks in sight. There was a basketball game going on, a 5's court, dog walkers, roller blades, tricycles, bikes, skateboards and joggers. I'm glad I've seen it.

Back on board I chatted to the deputy cruise director called Warren, who runs the daily activities, eg planning events, making sure the appropriate equipment is in place, overseeing the shops, public relations, photography department.

Along with the cruise director he does a TV show each day telling us what is going on. He told me of an argument between two passengers who were observing the rough water in the swimming pool as it sploshed on to the deck. “I think it's sea water,” one said.

“No it's fresh water.”

“Not it's sea water, I tell you, that's why it's so rough!”

Warren introduced me to Suzy, a qualified nursery nurse who showed me the facilities for children. There are not many kids on board at the moment, but they are kept busy at Christmas, Easter and summer holiday times. The play areas house lots of toys, cars, bikes, rocking horses, wendy house, a castle, wet areas for cutting, sticking, chalking, water play. If parents wish to go dancing the children can sleep in cots until midnight.

The staff love the experience of going round the world which more than makes up for the low pay.

I also got to see an area rarely seen by anyone else - the animal area. There are no dogs on board this trip but there is a lamp post for the British dogs and a fire hydrant for the American dogs!

“I left my heart…” I've been humming that song all day!

It is said that if you visit SF once you always come back. “Not me,” I said. “Been there, done that,” but here I am again.

I love this city. There are so many contrasts, the hills, the bay, the gardens, the bustle of China Town, the weather - if you don't like it where you are wait or walk ten minutes and it will totally change. So many things to do it's hard to choose.

You can take a trip to Alcatraz and visualise Edward G Robins as Al Capone, Burt Lancaster as the Bird Man or Clint Eastwood as the only man who escaped.

Or take a cable car up the steep hills and imagine Steve McQueen in a car chase. Visit Castro, a very colourful area home to Beatriks in the 50s, flower-power in the 60s and now a large gay population.

My favourite place is Fisherman's Wharf. Okay it's a tourist trap, but I love it. It's brash, shops/boutiques full of souvenirs, cafes selling anything from fresh fish to clam chowder in a huge sour dough bread loaf with the middle scooped out.

Living statues stand patiently, silently impervious to the weather and onlooker. One was a woman, smartly dressed in pink with a pink poodle which did move a whisker - amazing.

Anyone seen lying on the sidewalk, park or doorway looking like a down-and-out, is doing an important job I was told - “they're listening for earthquakes!”

We sailed away around 10pm under the Golden Gate Bridge which was not lit up, unlike the Oakland Bridge - a bit disappointing.

I was in Hawaii 5-0 (the 5-0 stands for Hawaii being the 50th USA Sate - not a police department).

I visited Pearl Harbour, saw the film, read the dedications and stood on the memorial platform above the sunken battleship Arizona. It was quite moving.

The tour also took in the sights of Honolulu and ended up at the beach at Waikiki, which was crowded - it being a Sunday. There were lots of surfers enjoying the rolling waves. The weather was quite hot 79 degrees Fahrenheit but at the moment big black clouds are rolling in and the wind is getting up.

Next week: Mavis visits Hawaiian island Maui

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