LOST IN SPACE: Peter Carey and Bridget Edwards pose as astronauts at the Kennedy Space Centre.
LOST IN SPACE: Peter Carey and Bridget Edwards pose as astronauts at the Kennedy Space Centre.

Strong dollar helps blast off

A HOLIDAY doesn’t necessarily begin when the suitcase is loaded into the car, bus, plane or train.

For my partner, Bridget Edwards, and me it starts when the holiday destination is determined.

We have discovered planning the holiday is half the fun of the journey.

After recent holidays to Europe, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South East Asia we settled on the United States as our 2011 holiday destination.

Months before our planned departure date we set about choosing the places we wanted to visit.

Luckily, as time went by, the Australian dollar grew stronger and frugalness gave way to more extravagance.

Ten years ago, I spent a week at Cape Canaveral to cover the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour for the Fraser Coast Chronicle’s sister paper, the Toowoomba Chronicle.

We’d be in the area around the time of Discovery’s penultimate flight, so the place would be buzzing.

A visit to the Kennedy Space Centre went on the list.

As the planning progressed we also included a stopover in Los Angeles with a visit to Universal Studios.

The City of Angels certainly didn’t disappoint.

It was a thrill to see that famous sign of all signs, Hollywood, on the side of the hill.

Apparently it was placed there to sell real estate and originally said Hollywood Land.

Everyone I know who has ever been to LA has been to Universal Studios and I wasn’t going to be the exception.

The back-lot tour was brilliant, but a word of advice – do it as soon as you arrive.

We arrived before the gates opened as we had to collect our tickets which had been purchased though our travel agent. And another piece of advice – buy front-of-line tickets.

They entitled us to stay after the shows and meet the performers; even ask questions.

Some were even happy for us to take photographs with them.

The highlight of the Universal Studios tour, for me, was the Waterworld show based on the Kevin Costner movie of the same name.

The set is the original used to make the movie, and it comes to life several times a day for the action-packed shows.

Shrek 4D is great fun too and so is the Jurassic Park ride.

By the way, if you haven’t experienced 4D yet, you are in for a surprise. Our next stop was Orlando, Florida.

We missed the lift-off of Discovery by just a couple of days.

But a trip to a gantry close to launch pad 36A made it worthwhile.

It’s the pad where the shuttles depart, so it was probably still warm.

We also saw the enormous stages of the Saturn 5 rocket which took man to the moon and the minuscule capsule which brought them back to Earth.

We were even able to touch an actual piece of moon rock.

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