23 Nov 2016

How to pay when dining in America

So in New Zealand when you dine at a restaurant you pay at the counter just before you leave. The prices on the menu is what you pay and you do not tip.
I have worked as a waitress in Auckland and when I found money at the table I was clearing up, I was confused; what do I do with these coins?? Tipping is very unusual here but it is customary in America.

Because no one gave me a step by step instruction on what to do after dining in America (which I even Googled while I was still at the restaurant) here it is...
In America after you're done with your meal at a restaurant, the waiter will bring you your bill (or "check", they call it) in a black folder or tray and they will leave. If you have finished your meal and you haven't been given the check, flag down your waiter and ask for it. If you're with other people, usually the check is given to the person who asked for it.
Look at the receipt and you will find an extra amount added on, which is tax. In California where I was, the tax is 9%.
If you're paying by card, put your card in the folder (sticking out so it is visible) and leave the folder on the edge of the table where the waiter will take it.
After they take it, they will bring it back with your card and a receipt to sign.
Sign the receipt and take your card.
If you're paying with cash, put your cash in the folder. They will return with your change.
Multiply the tax amount by 2 (general rule; depends on how good your waiter/ food was) and leave that as cash in the folder on the table.
Or if you're tipping with your card, there will be a blank line on the receipt subtotal for you to write your tip amount. Add it up, write the total you're paying with your card and sign the receipt.
Close the folder and you're done paying! They don't check your signature with your card or anything. This also goes for retail purchases as well. So you can leave as soon as you've signed.


Meal $20
Tax 9% $1.80
Subtotal $21.80
Tip (18%) $3.60
Total $25.40

You thought your meal was $20? Add tax, add tip... $25.40

This is why I preferred to eat at a foodcourt. You pay upfront and no awkwardness trying to catch the waiter's attention and waiting for them to put your payment through. And you don't have to have cash, because you don't need to tip.
I now know why people say "pick up the check". Cause you literally pick up the check when it arrives at your table!

It may seem so straightforward but I didn't know that they don't check your signature, so I wasn't sure what to do afterwards. Which spurred me to write this... You're welcome!



How I spent my birthday in LA

I turned 24 in October. When I planned my 3 weeks holiday to California, I knew I wanted to spend my birthday in LA. I could think of nothing better than to spend the day exploring in a foreign country by myself!

After a church service in DTLA, I went to see a Sunday matinee orchestra performance at the WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL!!
Do you recognise the building? You've probably seen in it a few movies, I saw it in Get Smart.
It was designed by the architect Frank Gehry, whom I studied in high school graphics, so I really wanted to see his works in person. The construction was funded by Walt Disney's wife after his death, hence the name. It is now used as the home of LA Philharmonic Orchestra, and on my birthday I saw them perform Ravel and Stravinsky.
It was a magnificent concert!
Honestly, I only went there to witness the supposedly amazing sound acoustics (apparently the quality is excellent no matter where you sit in the theatre) and for the architecture. I didn't even know Ravel's or Stravinsky's music. But WOW! I've never been to a classical concert before, but I want to see some more!!

I got a terrace seat, so I got a view of the very expressive conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado. I also saw that most of the audience had white hair hahaha. Though I think next time I would get a standard view cause I want to see the violinists play.
Two hours later it finished and I had planned to go to The Broad art gallery next to it but they weren't letting any more people in. It is free entry and you can reserve tickets in advance (at the time, it was booked til the next month) or you can join the loooong queue for 'first in first served' entry. The security guard wouldn't even allow me to visit the gift shop without a ticket, so that was very disappointing.

Nevertheless, I had leftover lunch for dinner (as you can see I don't use food to treat myself haha) and then headed over to the Griffith Observatory armed with my tripod. They have free shuttle from Vermont/ Sunset station on the weekends, so turns out I chose a good day to go. Unfortunately due to traffic jam, I missed sunset photos by 15 minutes, but I did see it from the bus. It was more superb than the sunset from the Skyspace in downtown! It turned the sky to a gradient of phthalo blue and vermillion.

When the sun disappeared, I turned trigger happy and managed to set up my tripod among the tourists on the deck. I spent an hour taking photos before heading inside briefly. The best photos of the Hollywood sign can be taken from here! It would look great in the daytime.

That's how I started my 24th year (technically 25th) and I'm so glad and thankful for the day.



6 Nov 2016

Hollywood Walk of Fame; my experience

I'm going to tell you about the real-life situation of the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard. The things that the tourism brochures don't show.
Also known as the "boulevard of broken dreams", some movie stars, music artists, even fictional characters are immortalised in the form of a pink star that line both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
Over 5 kilometres long, most of the ones that people want to see/ know or recent celebrities are outside Hollywood & Highland and the other end; at Hollywood & Vine.
Between these two intersections... Well... You don't want to take your family there.

If I were mayor of Los Angeles, I would not want tourists to see my city like this.
The streets are dirty. The stars are black with footprints, dust and cigarette scars. The shops are run down dollar stores or adult stores. The people are sitting on the footpaths, wearing their only clothes, carrying everything they own in trolleys.

This is not rare in LA, it was just a surprise to see this when I expected to see the streets bustling with tourists and buskers.
And it was like that infront of Hollywood & Highland, the mall. There were people dressed as celebrities, superheroes, Disney princesses, Donald Trump (although I knew better than to approach them for a photo unless I had a $10 bill).
So if you do the Walk of Fame, use a map online and figure out where the stars you want to see are. Take a bus from one end to the other. Be careful of people trying to take your cash.

In saying that, I did get a lot of photos with some of the major celebrities' stars. I'll list the movies that I enjoyed them in too.
Tom Hanks; um everything! Catch Me if You Can, Forest Gump, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close...
Meryl Streep; The Devil Wears Prada.
The best view of the Hollywood sign (unless you want to go on a hunt like I did in my vlog below) is at Hollywood & Highland (photo above) where all those tourists are, between the pillars.

Or above, at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Ivar Ave.
James Franco; Spiderman, 127 Hours... (His brother Dave Franco tho)
Audrey Hepburn; Breakfast at Tiffany's. (Now that there's Tiffany & Co in Auckland, I can recreate the scene.)
Kate Winslet; everything! Titanic, The Dressmaker, Finding Neverland
Jennifer Aniston; Friends.
Ellen Degeneres; The Ellen Show
Mark Wahlberg; not a fan of his character in The Departed, but the ending made up for it.
Jim Parsons; The Big Bang Theory
Claire Danes; alongside Leo in Romeo & Juliet <3 <3 <3
Kaley Cuoco; The Big Bang Theory
Sandra Bullock; everything! Miss Congeniality, The Proposal...
The Olsen twins; in the 90s, I wanted to be a twin because of these two.
Britney Spears; she is so relevant. I want to see her performance in Vegas.
Peter Jackson; Tintin
Ryan Seacrest; the only person who had to remain neutral in American Idol
Daniel Radcliffe; I took this for all my HP friends
Matt Damon; The Departed, Saving Private Ryan
Harrison Ford; took this for my mum.
Julie Andrews; The Sound of Music, The Princess Diaries. She is queen
Robert Zemeckis; Back to the Future
Elton John; took this for my mum too.
Hugh Jackman; here you go mum.
And this one 
Michael J Fox; Back to the Future.
There were blank stars here and there. I wonder how many people are wishing to see their name on it.
I walked 5 km only to find out Leonardo DiCaprio and Taylor Swift don't have stars...?!