It's been over a year since my last trip abroad to Hong Kong and this time we decided to fly West to America! I was at school when I last went to the USA with my family and I was keen to go back to where we started that holiday - Los Angeles. I would love to say that it was the glitz and glamor that attracted me back however it was simply cheap flights and accommodation.
The flight over was rough. Only joking - this is a set from War of the World at Universal Studios.
After a good night sleep and recovering from the flight we headed to pick up the car. We didn't know what car to expect and joked about getting something smug such as a Toyota Prius - this is what we were given. I hadn't driven an automatic car before let alone on the other side of the road however it was easy to pick up and begs the question as to why we don't all have automatic cars in the UK!
We headed straight to Hollywood, a 40min drive from LAX along roads twice as wide as what we are used to in the UK.
The Hollywood sign!
The Griffith Observatory is a great museum dedicated to space. I loved how you could weigh yourself on each planet however everything was in Imperial measurements which drove me crazy!
Amazing views over LA - I'm not sure if the haze is the weather or just smog (perhaps smug from all the hybrids).
We headed back into Hollywood to see the Kodak Theater and walk of the stars.
On the second day we decided to visit one of LA's many theme parks, we were too old for Disney so visited Universal Studios.(When I say we are too old for Disney I mean it was a rip off to get in).
The park wasn't too busy so we managed to ride Jurassic Park about five times - I love water rides.
The studio tour took us down Wysteria Lane from Desperate Housewives - was well worth doing.
On the third day we drove to Santa Monica to go shopping.
There is not a great deal to Photograph in Santa Monica - so here is a sign with a red light and a taxi.
We went to see the new Star Trek film whilst here - it was awesome. Its a shame that in the UK people don't scream, cheer and clap to films, makes the whole experience more exciting.
We loved Universal Studios so much that we decided to go back again. Its clear from Universal Studios that everyone in the film industry loves everyone else, the directors love the cast, the cast love the crew who love the props people who love the wardrobe people. I'm glad we spent the second day here but it was enough ass licking for one holiday.
We sat in the 'soak' zone for the water world show thinking we would just get splashed - we were wrong. It was one of the best live shows I had seen.
I lost count how many times we rode Jurassic Park on the second day.
If Universal Studios is for film lovers, Disney for kids then Six Flags is for crazy people who love big rides. Some of the rides such as X2 were insane, fortunately there were plenty of water rides and almost no queues.
Count the Rollercoasters!
Day 6, 7, 8
Last time I came to the US I was too young to drink or gamble (I might have been able to buy a gun however) so we took a trip to Las Vegas. The five hour drive from LA went smoothly, especially with the cruise control set along the straight highways.
We stayed in the same hotel that I did when I came last time - Circus Circus, mainly because the rooms were only £16 per night!
Since I'd been driving so much for the rest of the holiday I'd not had a drink since the plane. You have to be 21 to drink in most parts of the US - it would suck to be a student there!
Only in Vegas would they build the Eiffel Tower!
Vegas is such as great place for photography - and erm gambling!
The lake in front of the Bellagio
The Bellagio hotel/casino.
The water show in front of the Bellagio is quite impressive.
The ninth day consisted of two long flights home.
It was the next day before we landed back in Manchester.
I really enjoyed my stay in America and can't wait to go back again. Really want to visit the East coast or San Francisco.
After the publication of my book last week I've had a number of questions about how I went about getting it published. I'm using a print on demand service - therefore the book is only printed when ordered and no stock is held. This is great for smaller projects such as my Travel Photography book however the print cost per copy is higher as you cannot benefit from economies of scale. There are two major players in the print on demand market, Lulu and Blurb.
Lulu offers a number of print on demand products including books, calendars, photo books and cook books. What Lulu provided over Blurb was a free ISBN number meaning that people could buy your book through shops such as Waterstones, WH Smiths and Amazon.
My problems with Lulu started when trying to upload my book. I had designed it using Apple's Pages application however Lulu did not support PDF's created this way (as far as I'm aware Lulu won't accept any PDF's created through Quartz based applications - even if the PDF is created through Adobe's Acrobat distiller, it is something to do with the way fonts are embedded into the PDF). I ended up uploading a 1.8 gig postscript file rather than a 300mb PDF to be able to print through Lulu.
When the proof arrived the print quality was poor, some parts were my fault for not adding images at a high enough resolution however ultimately it looked like it had been printed through an ink jet printer on the draft settings. Lulu do have another service just for photo book printing however this was a lot more expensive.
I was originally recommended Blurb over Lulu because of the print quality issues however the extra options (such as an ISBN number) provided by Lulu were enough to convince me to try them first. Blurb have created their own book creation software called Book Smart however there was no easy way to import between Apple's Pages and Book Smart so I ended up recreating the book using this software. This was good in many ways as it solved many of the resolution/DPI issues I had with Lulu. Book Smart also handles all of the conversion/uploading when it comes to publishing the book.
Blurb like Lulu allows you to set your own price for selling a book however they offer no free ISBN number and no way to sell your book as an eBook. Annoyingly there is no way to print from Book Smart without Blurbs 'this is a proof copy' message all over the PDF. Therefore for the eBook version I sell on ImAFish I've had to go back to my original copy created in Apple's Pages.
Prices between Lulu and Blurb are very similar, my book costs almost the same between Lulu and Blurb (though the Blurb book is a couple of cm smaller). Both allow for sales in UK Pounds, Euros and US Dollars and ship worldwide.
If you are creating a text heavy book such as a novel then Lulu's extra features such as an ISBN number are a clear winner. If you are creating a portfolio or photography book then Blurb's superior print quality is much better however if you are like me stuck in the middle between creating a photo heavy based book targeted at a wide audience then its a simple decision between quality and audience - I chose quality.
Here are some of my best photos from Paris.
The Eiffel Tower at night.
Boats moving along the river under the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower.
Traffic under the Eiffel Tower.
More traffic under the Eiffel Tower.
The view from the second level of the Eiffel Tower.
The Arc De Triomphe from the Eiffel Tower.
The Arc De Triomphe.
The view from the Arc De Triomphe
The Notre Dame Paris.
A bridge with gold statues.
The Eiffel Tower in the day.
The Notre Dame.
Inside the Panthéon.
AAIB, the specialist insurance brokers, has commissioned Shrewsbury web developers The Web Orchard to create the worlds first online travel insurance site specifically for travel to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Designed for people visiting Iraq or Afghanistan for business or personal reasons, the new website enables travellers to get an instant quotation which exactly matches their needs. The variables that can be chosen from include duration of stay, purpose of visit, the amount of personal accident and medical evacuation cover required.
Managed by AAIB Insurance Brokers, the travel policy is 'A' rated and essential baggage cover is included in the price. Varying levels of cover are available as well as the option to add more specialist types of cover if required.
Peter White, Web Architect at The Web Orchard, said: “We are delighted to have been able to contribute to this first ever travel insurance site for travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. From a technical perspective, the main challenges were to create a web-enabled copy of AAIB’s risk calculation database, and then to offer users the chance to go from quote to payment in one seamless transaction.”
Additional refinements in the site are the ability to receive an email quotation with PDF attachment, and for customers to download a PDF copy of their policy whenever required from anywhere in the world.
William Wakeham, AAIB’s CEO Insurance is delighted with the outcome. “The Web Orchard created a very elegant front end for our quotation database. Now travellers only have to answer eight drop down questions in order to receive an instant travel insurance quote, which is linked to a secure card payment screen if they want to pay for immediate cover. Compared to other more complex insurance quotation sites, the single page quotation form that The Web Orchard provided is incredibly simple to use.”
The Web Orchard have a five year track record of creating sophisticated e-commerce web presences. They are based in Shrewsbury, near Birmingham, in the United Kingdom and work for an international client base.