Monday 24 October 2016

Anna Nolan on her family trip to Hollywood and Vegas

Anna and her sister Isobel
Anna and her sister Isobel

I don't want to gloat. I really don't. There's nothing worse than a smug git on holiday sending messages and photos back home.

But this holiday of a lifetime is going tremendously well. And I have turned into that smug git.

I know that the weather is awful back in Dublin, so I won't really go on about the 28 degrees sunshine in Santa Monica. Or the 40 degrees in Las Vegas. But I might just talk about the best part of the holiday - going on a road trip with my mam and my sister.

Now road trips take a little getting used to. On Friday morning when I got the car, I knew that it would take a little getting used to. Driving on the right hand side of the road. Even getting petrol - do I go in to the garage first or stand outside looking like an eejit?

But the obvious mistake was taking a wrong turn. Mam giggled each time I did it, while the American lady in my GPS was a little more polite, just giving me another option.

As Mam sniggered at the third mistake, I turned to her and asked in a calm, direct, sharp voice - "Do you want to drive?" We're not an argumentative family, so this was as bad as it got.

We decided to hit Hollywood on the second morning. The three of us said we would go full out tourist and so we headed to the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. And Marilyn was the one who we all wanted to see.

I didn't know that the Walk of Fame has 2,500 stars and is as long as the distance from top of O'Connell Street to the end of Grafton Street. So we Googled Marilyn and made our way to the Chinese Theatre.

It was a bit Leicester Squarey - everyone with the cameras out. But there was something special seeing the names and hand prints of all the stars from the Golden era of Hollywood. Clarke Gable, Carole Lombard and (as my mother informed me) silent screen goddess Norma Thalmadge.

We hit the road to Vegas two days later and we arrived at the fabulous Venetian Hotel. I was intrigued with the name Norma Thalmadge and myself and Mam looked it up.

Norma was born into a broken family in 1895 in New Jersey. The father left them on Christmas day and her mother took in laundry to keep the family going. Norma began modelling as a teenager and the studios took an interest in her.

She became a star of silent movies. And went on to start her own production company in the early 1900s. Her career began to fade in the late 1920s as the "talkies" were becoming very popular.

It struck me that this woman must have been a strong to have started her own production company in Hollywood at that time. At the age of 62, after three husbands, she died in Las Vegas, having starred in over 250 movies - how incredible.

As my mother and I sat in our Las Vegas hotel room we shared a sweet moment of discovering the story of Norma Thalmadge.

And that's what this trip is all - discovering new things with my mam, and my sister Isobel. I am very, very lucky to be spending this time with them.

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