US road trip

Published: July 29th 2011
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DAY 12-13
Los Angeles
After a two hours drive from Mojave I made LA on Saturday. It was supposed to take me less than that but the traffic getting into LA is crazy. It’s like an amalgamate of motorways and exits and roads, and if it wasn’t for the tomtom I really would have struggle to find the place. Anyway, for my 2 days in LA I chose to stay in a private apartment using airbnb. basically allows people to rent their house or a room in their place. They put a price and you basically rely on the reviews of people who have stayed there before. It’s not necessarily cheaper than a hotel or a motel but it allows you to interact with the host and sometimes to stay in a real neighbourhood where hotels and motels are not normally based. I decided to stay in a “posh high rise building apartment” in downtown LA for $70 a night. As Joyce, the host, couldn’t make it until 3pm I decided to go to Venice Beach in the morning. I got there and struggled to find a space to park my car. There were several car parks but they charged $20 for the day and I thought it was too much as I was only planning to stay for a couple of hours. Finally I found one, just a couple of blocks further out, that only charged $10 so I parked and went to the promenade. Wow, it was so cool. Lots of people walking, cycling, strolling through. All sorts of people, lots of weird people, families, body builders etc etc made Venice beach a great place to just walk around people watching. There were also lots of street parades, shops and concerts. I really liked it and wished I could have spent longer there but I had to drive to downtown to meet my host and leave my stuff in the apartment. I met Joyce, who is a nice girl from Cameroon and a model. She showed me the room and gave me a few tips and I made my way to Chinatown. It took me about 20 minutes walk through downtown which was a bit boring because there was nothing apart from tall office buildings which were, obviously, closed on a Saturday. LA’s Chinatown was quite disappointing. It might be one of the largest in the country but it lacks the charm of other Chinatowns such as San Francisco’s or New York’s. I then walked to “El pueblo de los Angeles” which is a recreation of the old Mexican city of Los Angeles. I found it quite interesting albeit a bit artificial. Ate a churro, strolled through the different street shops and made my way to Little Tokyo.

Little Tokyo was quite cool, bigger than SF’s one and with many sushi restaurants. However, it was a kebab restaurant which caught my eye and after a bit of walking around I decided to check it out. Can’t remember the name but it was very cool. They make different types of kebabs but you can choose the ingredients, whether you want them on a wrap or a sandwich and the sauces that you want. And they serve them on a plate. So it’s slightly “posher” than a take away kebab and it certainly tasted better. As in any US restaurant, you get free refill if you get a soft drink and they were also doing happy hour for alcohol. The place was packed with all sorts of people. After eating my kebab I found out that there were some kind of street party a few hundred yards from little Tokyo so went to check it out. It was an artist street party, with live band, street stalls, art showrooms etc. The place was packed and it was good to spend an hour walking around the different stalls and listening to the band. It was around 8pm and I was quite tired already so tried to flag a car back to my place. Well, it is almost impossible to flag a can in LA. Joyce told me after that you got to ring them in advance as they are really hard to flag on the streets. So I walked and although my sense of orientation is normally quite good, I kinda of got a bit lost and ended in a quite shabby place of town. After walking for around 25 minutes, I finally got to the nicest part of downtown and finally found my way back to the apartment. Got in and sit down with Joyce and her flatmate Bhuma to watch a bit of tv and we had a lengthy conversation about stuff and so. I then went to bed as I had a packed day prepared for Sunday. I got up about 9 and walked 3 minutes to the Marriott where I could take the tourist bus which would take me to Hollywood. As I was a bit early I went to Starbucks to have a hot chocolate and a croissant. I really haven’t been having breakfast everyday, sometimes having an early lunch, others not eating until dinner time, other days having 3 meals a day, so it felt good to have a proper hot chocolate for breakfast.

I pay $35 for a 24 hours pass and boarded the bus which took me to Hollywood. Once in Hollywood I did all the typical sights, Hall of fame, Chinese theatre where you can see the celebrities signatures and hands on , the Kodak theatre where the Oscar’s ceremony is held every year, the Hollywood sign, etc etc. It was very packed with tourists so I decided to board the bus to Beverly Hills. The cool thing about the bus is that there is a guided commentary and as you drive by restaurants, hotels or bars, you get to know which artists stayed there or own that place or were arrested in that bar or whatever. We finally got to Beverly Hills and decided to hop off for a walk in Rodeo drive and Beverly drive. It’s actually quite nice, very posh, lots of nice cars and nice people and definitely worth visiting. Then I decided to go for lunch at a restaurant in Beverly drive called the Cheesecake factory . Its very very popular and I found out why. Good menu, lots of options, brunch on Sundays, huge portions and very reasonable price. So that’s a must-do for anyone visiting Beverly Hills. I had a morning quesadilla, which is basically a massive quesadilla filled with scrambled egg with veg and cheese. Delicious and just a reasonable $13.

I then decided to board the bus on a different route that took me to Venice Beach again but I just stayed on the bus, chilling, listening to the commentary and enjoying the views. After 2 hours on the bus I finally returned to Hollywood where I did a bit more of walking before returning to the apartment for an early night. Joyce recommended a few places to go for a drink but I really didn’t fancy going out. I think the nearly 2 weeks of travelling have taken the toll so after a bit of socialising I went to bed to try to have a good rest and to put an end to my LA adventure.

I liked LA but not as much as I’ve liked other places. Everything is too spread out and it’s not really a walk able city such as San Francisco. Hollywood is cool but very touristy. I really liked Venice beach, it makes an excellent day trip and Beverly Hills has to be visited but a couple of hours is more than enough.

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