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Published: November 19th 2009
The USAWhile flying to the US from Fiji we crossed the date line and in effect travelled back in time! We took off on Tuesday night around 10pm and arrived in LA at about 3.00 pm on the same Tuesday. It's a little confusing in itself but couple it with the fact we had just left an island we could walk around in 5 mins and were now in the middle of a major American city, you'll begin to get a sense of how we felt.
Our hostel for the first three nights in LA was located close to Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, and we arrived there just a little shell shocked and jetlagged but with little fuss (We had expected LAX Airport to be a nightmare). We dumped our bags in our dorm room and hit the streets in search of something to eat. A little way down the road we came across LA's famous farmers market and set about finding food and a much needed coffee. Within the hour we had refreshed ourselves, and where ready to explore. The farmers market has been in LA a long time. As the name suggests it was
Wendy & May
once on a dairy farm and the city has simply grown out to meet it, and now surrounds it. These days the market is full of all kinds of small stalls, cafes, fruit and veg shops, delis, bars and much more. We stayed there exploring as long as we could in a vain attempt to fight off the jetlag but before long it was time to head for our beds. Ironically we were in bed by 10pm which was exactly the same time our plane had left Fiji some fourteen hours earlier. Our Tuesday had been about thirty four hours long!
While in LA we were due to meet up with Wendy (May's sister who lives in New York.) However she was not due until Thursday morning so our plan for Wednesday was to shop! Melrose Avenue is one of the best areas in the city for this purpose and we hit the street bright and early, raring to go. It took us the best part of the day to browse the endless number of retro T-shirt shops, boutiques, trainer (sorry - Sneaker) shops, comic book stores and music shops. We stopped only briefly for lunch and to get
a quick haircut and by the time we were finally done it was dark. We finished up with dinner in our hostel then beers and cake in "The cheese cake factory" followed by a movie.
Wearing new shoes and T-shirts, we took a fifteen min walk through West Hollywood on Thursday morning to meet Wendy for breakfast in LA's famous Urth cafe. We ordered food, coffee and fruit smoothies and sat outside in the sun to catch up. We talked to Wend's about our travels and she in turn suggested some things to do in and around LA while we were there. After eating we walked back to Wendy's hotel suit and then headed for the roof top pool where the rest of the day was spent relaxing and chatting. A number of Wendy's work colleges (most of whom we had previously met in London) were in town so later that night we all met up in a bar on Sunset strip for drinks and burgers. It had been decided long before we arrived in LA that while we were there we would stay for a few nights with Wendy in her suite to make it easier for us
to hang out and to save us some money, so Friday morning saw us packing our bags again moving across town and setting up camp with Wend's. It was while moving into our new hotel we came across a celebrity (some of you won't have heard of) who Wendy had mentioned to us stayed there a lot. Whilst wondering the halls we came face to face with Dog the bounty hunter! As those of you who know who he is can imagine - it was quite an intimidating site!(Those of you who have no idea who we're talking about, Google him - you'll get the idea!)
May and I had some time to kill while Wendy was working so we took ourselves off to The Beverly Centre. It is said to be a good place to shop in LA but we found it to be much smaller than we had been lead to believe and to be honest i was no different to any other mall we have seen on our trip. We returned to the pool to find Wend's and spent what was left of the day soaking up the sun before heading out for Mexican. The following
Star Hand 1
day we collected our hire car and the three of us headed west along Sunset Boulevard through Beverly Hills and out to Malibu for lunch. We ate in a beachside diner before hitting the beach for an afternoon in the Californian sun. We passed the time reading, people watching and just messing about. We even made up our own fun game called "Guess that woman’s actual age" No easy task on the beaches of LA! The evening found us back in Hollywood for dinner in a small Sushi restaurant before once again meeting up with some of Wendy's friends for drinks.
Sunday was our last day in LA and with our friend Blair (an actual American person!) as our guide, we set off to do the touristy side of the city. First stop was a drive out to the Hollywood sign for some cheesy photo's of the landmark then back in to town to explore the walk of fame and put our hands in the handprints of the stars at Mann's Chinese theatre. It has to be said that the whole area is much less glamorous than it's made out to be and has a real theme park feel
to it. Our final night in the city was spent with Wendy and friends in an Italian in central Hollywood before returning to the hotel to pack our bags once again.
Highway One - The west coast road
We left early on Monday morning to avoid LA traffic hell. We drove out to Santa Monica on the coast and turned north in the direction of San Francisco. The drive could be done in a day but there were a couple of places along the way we wanted to see so we opted to drive most of the way and stop over night. Once on Highway One we made a brief stop for breakfast before heading on to Santa Barbra. We stopped for a while there to explore the city centre and take in its laid back atmosphere. It feels very much like a city that is fresh out of the box as everything is very clean and tidy, all the people looked smart and even the weather seemed better somehow. Imagine Bath Spa crossed with Disney and you may get the idea!Back on the road after lunch the drive took us along the coast and through some stunning scenery
(some almost as good as New Zealand) and on to Big Sur national park where we had booked a cabin for the night. We arrived at a cliff top restaurant just in time to see the sun set over the ocean. A mere hour and a half drive the next day took us straight into down town San Francisco.
San Francisco City - The final stop.
The first mission in the city was to return the car. The second was to find our Hostel. This turned out easier than we had thought as the two were less than half a block apart. Within an hour of arriving in the city we had returned the car, checked in and were on our way to a nearby Denny’s diner for lunch. Our hostel was located close to Union square which is San Fran's city centre and main shopping area where all the Mall's and department stores are located. So the rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the area. Later that evening and for reasons we still don't fully understand, we found ourselves with free tickets to the premiere of Michael Jackson's "This is it " movie, so off we went
to our local cinema.
On our second morning we hopped on a streetcar and made our way to Pier 33. From here we got a boat out to our first day trip. The 10 min ferry ride took us to a small national park in the middle of the bay. This is not just any old national park however, it is a famous island better known as Alcatraz. The former US fort and more famously, prison is now open to the public. On the island you are free to roam as you please so we took a walk around "The rock" before venturing inside the cell block for a self guided audio tour. The tour is very well put together, with stories of the prison being told by ex officers and convicts alike. It gave an amazing overview of life on Alcatraz from many different perspectives and left you in no doubt that being looked up there was not a good place to be. What must have made things even worse for inmates is the fact that the views of San Fran from the exercise yard are simply breathtaking! Alcatraz took up a large part of our day
but once back on the mainland we took an up hill walk to another of the city’s famous buildings. Cabot Tower stands as a monument to the city’s fire fighters and its open air observation deck offers simply stunning panoramic views of the city. As the sun started to set we made our way to China town where we pottered around the late night bazaars and stopped for dinner before once again heading home.
Thursday morning and we were once again on our way to the piers in the bay area. Our plan for the day was to hire bikes and visit San Fran's most famous landmarks, The Golden Gate Bridge. Starting at the last pier there is a cycle track that leads you along the edge of the bay right down to a fort under the bridge. It then takes you up a hill and onto the Golden Gate. We followed the track, stopping every few hundred meters to take photos before finally riding across the bridge and down to a small town on the opposite side of the bay from where we got the ferry back to the city. Once the bikes were safely returned we
headed to Ghiradelli's chocolate factory where we ordered huge Ice cream Sundays for ourselves. It's important to top up your ice cream reserve after cycling - Fact!
Day four was another day set aside for shopping. Only this time we were shopping for Halloween outfits. Halloween is a much bigger deal in the States than it is in the UK, so a costume was a must. As it turns out and as you'd expect shopping for a costume the day before Halloween was a slight oversight. It took us the whole day to sort out everything we needed and by the time we were done there was nothing left to do but find dinner. With costumes sorted we had most of Saturday free and as this was our last full day in the city we ventured out once more. Fisherman’s Warf was the last place on our list of things to see, so it was here are day began. Fisherman’s Warf is the most tourist aimed area of the city, mostly containing cheap sea food restaurants and tacky gift shops. However, also located there is Pier 39 and it's this we wanted to see. Pier 39 is not a
ARGGGGH and a milkshake
normal pier full of boats and the like; it is a sea lion colony! There are hundreds of them just lying on the pontoons soaking up the sun and they attract hundreds or visitors every day - mark us down as two more! We strolled around what was left of the city we hadn't yet explored for the rest of the day and the time soon came to head back and don our costumes ready for the evening ahead. By the early evening we out at a local 1950's diner, enjoying our last evening meal of the trip in full fancy dress. After dinner we trawled a few bars before dancing into the small hours with Bruce Lee, a giant rasher of bacon and half the cast of Sesame Street! What better way to end our time in San Francisco, The US and indeed our time travelling the globe.
Touchdown at Heathrow terminal five came all too soon. Nothing in the whole world it seems can prepare you for the worst culture shock of all, returning home!
The last year has been monumental with highs, lows, surprises and difficulties that we never imagined before leaving the U.K. (this
May and Andy
blog being one of the hardest!) We were not heading out for a life changing experience and yet i think that we are both broader minded people for the range of experiences that we have been through. It has shown us how small the world really is these days and also how easy it is to explore. Roll on the next world wide adventure!
Thank you for joining us,
May and Andy xxx
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