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Published: August 20th 2009
LA ink IRL!
We were on La Brea and I suddenly recognised something - why do I recognise a tattoo shop here? Oh! That's why!
Saturday, March 7
We got our rental car at Pershing square, and decided to leave our friends Loki, M and A to venture north. As usual, it was yours truly who had to drive in the city traffic, but with a map reader, that wasn't a big problem. We actually began by visiting LA Ink again, this time to buy Kat von D's own book, only signed by herself and not by the other TV show artists, but still. Of course neither of them were at the place, either, we assumed that they nowadays only work there on occasion, and never on weekends.
Before leaving LA, it was time for some grave spotting. This time to see Bela Lugosi (and, as it turned out, also Rita Hayworth, who is buried at the same place) at the Grotto part of Holy Cross Cemetary. A beautiful place for a final rest, indeed. Then we wanted to pay our respects to Errol Flynn, the sword master of black and white films, but when we came to Forest Lawn, the information lady told us that the place for his grave was "private information". Even more amusing (I guess is the word) was that also
Cows: probably mad
Unfortunately, I didn't get a very good photo of the incredibly terrible place these cows lived at, but you just add some imagination.
the resting place for Walt DIsney was "private information". So we went around for a bit, but couldn't find neither of them, of course. At least here the graveyards were neatly made up in lines, with all stones in the same direction, as opposed to the New England cemeteries we visited last time a couple of years ago: Car week almost over
So eventually we went north, towards the 99 to Fresno. We managed to get hold of the RoomSaver catalogue, that saved us a lot of trouble last time, and so we found a good place to spend the night in Fresno at the Welcome Inn.
Sunday, March 8
Today, we headed for Sequoia country: Yosemite National Park. We started with the Mariposa Grove, and parked the car just beside the trail, that was completely covered in snow! The weather was perfect, absolutely wonderful, and warm, so it was a special feeling to be walking around in enormous amounts of snow. The giant sequoias were truly impressive, as you can see from the pictures, but when we got to something like the grove itself, we were even more impressed by the amounts of snow. Normally, you wouldn't have to
Holy Cross 1
"Beloved father" â“ well, that's not really how the world sees him, I guess, but it's good to know.
bend down or crouch to get leaflets or read information signs, but at this place, we had to. I'm not sure I've seen that much snow ever, considering it was old snow, and compacted together by several people walking on it. I mean, the snow that fell in November 1995 in Gothenburg was impressive, but it went away comparatively quickly.
So we had a small lunch of oranges and peanut butter sandwiches at the "Monarch", a tree that had fallen some 300 years ago. The thing with the sequoias is that they only die by falling over, and even then it takes them an incredible amount of time to moulder away. Refreshed by the walk, we went further, and into the mountains to reach the central Yosemite Village. The ride through the mountains was astounding, with mountains, a few waterfalls (there are more of those later in spring), forests and, well, simply nature. Modern day digital cameras are a blessing on these occasions, you can easily flash away hundreds of pictures, and then just erase the ones that turn out bad. We stopped to see the Bridal veil fall and then continued on the long (well, maybe not, just
Holy Cross 2
I didn't know ms Hayworth was buried here as well, but such a fascinating woman (so-called sex symbol married to five men, including an Arabian prince!?) must get her respects as well.
slow) and winding road.
Unfortunately, we came to Yosemite Village just a bit too late, since most things in there close at five on a Sunday, so if you're planning a visit there, make sure you're there either on a weekday or before 5 p.m.. We went through the empty (and hence) depressing Indian Village (yes, they seem to use the term Indian here, not Native American as much as in the north-east!), and even though it was empty and deserted (I don't know what it would have been like either before 5 p.m. or in the summer), I did get a special feeling when entering a sort of wigwam there, since I was so devoted to reading about Indi... sorry, Native Americans when I was a kid.
When we saw that the Ahwahnee hotel there had a soup at a price suitable even for us, we decided to stay for dinner. I would have loved to get a rabbit totem statue from the gift shop as well, but 899 dollar was a bit on the tough side, even for a well made rabbit totem. I got a few locally made soap bars instead. But as we sat
This is a tree. Sorry, a Tree.
down and enjoyed the very delicious soup, we more or less decided to go back when we're having our 20th anniversary, since my beloved will turn 50 the same year. Then we could stay at the hotel for a week or so, and just get bikes and good walking shoes and really enjoy what the place has to offer. Yosemite was impressive, and we got a John Muir book to read aloud in remembrance of it until we get back.
The RoomSaver told us to go to Merced and the Vagabond Inn for the night, which was a good idea, even if we then went a bit south instead of simply west.
Monday, March 9
San Francisco loomed large in our minds, but on the way there, we saw things that put the city in the shadow for a while. Somewhere along the road (still not sure where, but a smaller road between here, there and anywhere) we could see cattle farming like we'd never seen it before. Enormous amounts of cattle in overcrowded corrals (I'm not completely sure of the term here), walking around in mud. I was sooo happy that I don't eat meat
A picture that might as well be photoshopped â“ but it isn't. We had this wonderful weather.
at that time, I felt sick even before I (stupid, stupid) went out of the car to get a photo. Wow. That smell. It's not even a smell, it's reek, stench, fetor, you name it. Absolutely horrendous. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a good picture of it, but you probably get the idea anyway. Later, as we drove closer to San Francisco, we were discussing a conspiracy about the fact that there were no more cattle farms like that along the freeways and highways, but I later found out that there is no such conspiracy, since there is a farm like that along the 5 as well.
Since we came from the east, we started with Berkeley, basically to see the campus and the area in general. It was a really nice area to stroll in, at least Telegraph avenue, that leads up to campus. We went to the dangerously big record store Rasputin's, and came out with thinner wallets. Then the plan was to see the "People's park", but it was so depressing that we decided to forget that we ever saw it. If Wikipedia is right, however, we were at the wrong place
. We had planned to
Waterfalls. Hills. Sun. Snow.
go to a cheese factory in Berkeley as well, but they closed early on Mondays, so we didn't get the chance to get inside.
We had heard that the traffic in San Francisco was horrifying, but entering the city we kept on wondering where the terrible traffic was, because we couldn't see it! We got a motel in the city centre, close to Russian Hill and not at all far from Fisherman's Wharf, for a very decent price, thanks to our catalogue (no, I'm not paid to write that, I'm just so happy about it!), with free parking, so for two days we could just leave the car and use public transport. San Francisco has three means of public transport in the centre: buses, street cars (spårvagnar in Swedish) and cable cars (we saw something that looked like a subway station as well, but I'm not sure what kind of trains they used there). The latter are actually driven by cables, to be able to go uphill, where the streetcars would get problems. The cable cars are also a sort of old time relic, but they work really well and are fun to use. There are also a lot
This might be the "Bridal veil" fall, but I'm not sure, there were a few falls to look at!
of bicycles in San Francisco, in spite of the steep hills, but we didn't rent any (this time). In general, we noted that people here weren't as obese as in the north-east, and in San Francisco, we saw several bikers (on bicycles, that is) and joggers, in the city centre. At a sort of "alternative" grocery store, they even gave discounts to people with a public transport pass, so I guess there are several reasons to use one's legs.
This first day, we took a bus west to see the famous Golden Gate bridge. There were walking paths and very easy access to the bridge, which was surprising to me. It's an American Landmark, so I guess it ought to have been obvious, but I've never seen people get on the bridge in the movies :-)
We could see Alcatraz from there as well, so we didn't bother to take the expensive tour to that island.
Then we went back, and in the evening we had dinner at an Italian restaurant where the waiter told us that we could enjoy the tap water in San Francisco (well, what he said was "the water is good", but that meant
ALmost the same picture as on the Wikipedia article, only this is taken in March, and without deer.
that we actually enjoyed it!), so that was a nice surprise! The SF water reserve is filled with water from the Yosemite, so that's where all that snow goes when it melts.
After dinner, we realized that if we wanted to try San Franciscan clubbing, we had to go that evening. Unfortunately (?) we missed the "Gothic Swing" dance club, including an hour's lesson, they have every other week, so we had to go to a more ordinary club to get some dancing. The bus took us south in the city, to the Death Guild club
at the DNA Lounge (I don't get what's "lounge" about it, but hey, that's me). After a short while, we realised the DJ:s were probably our age or even older, since they played a lot of music we both liked AND recognized! The club had two dance floors, several bars, a food stand (!) and even a couple of salesmen, one selling records and one selling jewellery, which was interesting! The club turned out to be great fun, both because they played a lot of good music of different kinds (everything from "Sweet Dreams" by Eurythmics to tunes from Björk and Revolting Cocks... apart from
Yosemite high up
Yes, we are high up. I remember seeing the sign "4,000 feet", btu I'm not sure if we saw 5,000 feet.
the more obvious Sisters and NIN ones. We also noted that there weren't as many poseurs on the dance floors as in LA, and at least here, there were several people who were a lot older than 25, mixed with the usual youngsters. All in all a very good night out, even though we went home early, as usual...
Tuesday, March 10
Today, it was time to see the rest of the city's more famous places. We started by street car from the port, going towards Market street and Castro district. We got off at the corner of Castro and Hoe, and had a very good lunch at the nice Bagdad Café there. When we read on the receipt that the owner was happy to give his (her?) employees health insurance according to the upcoming California law this-and-this-number, we added a few extra cents for tips. Good places deserve support.
Castro district wasn't as big as we somehow had expected, but at least we went into the legendary book shop A different light and we could read about Harvey Milk at his own plaza.
Then we went to Haight, towards the famous corner of Haight and Ashbury
Mariposa walk in the snow
Ok, 2 miles. In the snow. If that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. Redwoods, here we come!
streets. This area met our expectations better, even though I was surprised to see so many cannabis shops around - but then I don't know much about California laws on drugs. We went into the Bound together bookstore, and were met by a clerk who spoke a bit Norwegian! For some reason, he'd spent three years in Trondheim, working at a bookstore there, so he'd learned a bit, and enough to ask us if we were Swedish when he heard us talk. It felt a bit weird to speak Norwegian/Scandinavian in the middle of Haight-Ashbury, but I guess that just added to the feeling of liberty and "do what you like", at least for a linguist like me.
After a cup of white chocolate and "hot pudding" respectively (of which we can't really recommend either, the pudding was advertised as a sort of very thick (like Spanish) hot chocolate, but it was really more like pudding, so don't order it unless you really want to), we went to the Golden Gate park. It had a lot of people there, but we didn't feel completely comfortable with an expensive camera hanging on one shoulder, so we left the big fields
Three friends in the snow
We brought all these friends along on this trip. They were very fascinated by the amount of snow.
Fr.l.t.r: Bamse, Jack & Joplin.
rather quickly and went into the more narrow paths to hide the camera in the backpack, and to smell the flowers, of course. Later, we were also told that people parking close to the park had at first been happy about such a good parking spot, and then realized why: their window was smashed. So hide your belongings well before entering the park and don't park there.
After this nature experience, we wanted to see Watchmen in the cinema. Since the US, at least in the bigger cities, is full of free wifi networks, we could easily find out when it was screened. We chose AMC theatres on Van Ness, which was a very beautiful building and foyer, but the inside was as boring as any other multiplex. The movie was good, though, really made you think. I was never able to read through the comic book, can't remember why, but probably because I tried reading it at bedtime, and then I always fall asleep. My beloved told me it was very close to the book (for a change), and it was really good, but I guess you have to "buy" the concept of superheroes before seeing it.
Signs on the ground
We soon realized why all signs were down on the ground, so we had to kneel to read them ...
So our visit to Saint Franciscus' city was very good, albeit short. But we added "flying in to SF and staying a few days" to our 20 year anniversary Yosemite plan, so we'll probably be back.
Wednesday, March 11
Today, it was time for more trees. When planning this trip, at first we we sorry that the redwood forests were all north of San Francisco, because that meant we wouldn't be able to see them, but then we found the Big Basin (or rather, I wasn't really involved in the finding, I guess, I was just cheering)! It's located just south of the city, following roads nr 9 and 236. Once again, we were on serpentine forest roads, and if I didn't drive, I had to ride with an open window and take pictures all the time, so I preferred driving.
When we came down to the Big Basin
itself, we were lucky enough to come just when a school class left, so we could take the easy Redwood Loop trail
almost by ourselves. This short trail is the Very Easy™ one, even accessible to wheelchairs. Here are some of the largest trees in this part, so we took this one
The Monarch of Mariposa
It's definitely fasconating to realise that this tree FELL around when king Gustav III got shot at his own Masquerade in Sweden.
first, and were once again amazed, this time by the "Mother" and "Father" of the Forest, some 329 feet tall and almost 18 feet in diameter. Then we went to a couple of other trails, and they were not as easy, but quite accessible if you're sort of normally fit and don't have a leg or back handicap. The redwood trees are another form of sequoia, and at the small museum we realized that we'd now seen the two forms of sequioa there are in this part of the world! Now we only have to go to China to see the third one. There were supposed to be mountain lions (a.k.a. pumas) as well as racoons and other animals here, but we didn't manage to see any. A few birds was all. But the trees were funny and interesting, that they can actually withstand even fires and continue living, even with holes burnt right through!
This night, we decided to spend in Santa Cruz, once again because of the RoomSaver. In the summer, this place is probably completely packed, but at this time of the year, it was really nice. We could get down to the Boardwalk, which here
San Fran's hills
San Francisco is truly a hilly city. Still, its the city in teh US where I've seen the most people on bikes! I don't want to know how much I'd spend on breaks if I lived there.
is a proper funfair, except of course closed when we got there. But it was fascinating just to walk around in a deserted Luna Park, and then I could finally get both my feet dipped into the Pacific! Last time, I simply didn't have time, because we were already late, but now there was nothing stopping me except the cold. Freezing water. But I did it! I've now dipped my feet, or at least toes, into the Red Sea, Dead Sea and the Pacific Ocean, apart from the good old Atlantic and the North Sea, and of course the Baltic, this summer.
Thursday, March 12
Today was John Steinbeck Day. We began by going to the John Steinbeck National Center in Salinas, which was a very good museum in many aspects: I got to know more about Steinbeck (I'm so bad at reading fiction that I doubt I've ever read anything by him, only seen a couple of movies), there were plenty of thing for children, and my beloved got to know stuff he didn't know as well! The only devastating thing there was that they'd used an accent (there´s) instead of an apostrophe (there's) on one of
Wind mills galore
The US is the third country in the world (last time I checked) regarding number of windmills per capita. I guess most of them are here, on the road to San Francisco.
the t-shirts in the gift shop. It looked dreadful (to me), but I didn't tell them, since I didn't know how to say it in a polite way...
Then, of course, we had to do some grave spotting and went to the Garden of Memories. They didn't have a flower shop there, and we hadn't thought of flowers in advance, so we put a pine cone (I'm not sure of what pine species) on his grave instead. They had incredibly large cones there.
Salinas didn't seem to have any nice place to eat, though, so we decided to go further towards Monterey. Unfortunately, we didn't stop in Castroville - the artichoke center of the world(!!), since we had passed it before I made my mind up about it... Deep fried artichoke, I wonder what that's like. I got to see artichoke plants for the first time, though, and they look good! I might try to grow them in our garden, but I guess they won't be as tall and good looking as the ones here. Eventually, I had a pasta in Monterey instead, and when saying I didn't eat meat to the waitress, she suggested a "plain Marinara"
Three friends at the Golden Gate
Since Jack had seen the 1990's tv series "Kindred", he had to see the Golden Gate bridge as well. This is how big it is, comapred to these three.
sauce instead, which sounded a bit fishy to me, but I then learned that "Marinara" is just an ordinary tomato and garlic sauce here. I guess the sailors were tired of sea food when they came to town.
In Monterey, we got the same feeling as in Santa Cruz: in summer, this place would probably be hardly bearable. Now, it was perfectly decent. We went to the visitor's center to pick up a walking trail guide to the historical parts of the city, but since colonial Mexican architecture isn't really our favourite, we were a bit disappointed. I was in a bad mood and didn't want to stay there over night, but after the final argument "OK, I'll buy you either a whale safari or dinner if we stay" I conceded defeat. So we went to the very good deal of about 30 dollars for a room outside of town, got a very nice room, but probably cheap because of the small TV, the lack of a microwave oven and the loose flushing handle, and then returned to the city for the rest of the walking tour and dinner, but no whales, since they (have you read this before?)
Chinese lamp post
The Chinatown of SF is the oldest in the US, and they had at least a few nice lamp posts.
The Wharf of Monterey is also packed with food establishments, and they even have barkers outside every place to lure you in. We went to the place where a girl stood handing out samples of clam chowder and admitting she'd never tasted it, since she was allergic to sea food... The food was good, albeit not wonderful. I tasted my second glass of Californian wine (I had the first one in S.F.), and my conclusion is that they're good for talking, but not always for eating - but I guess neither waiter was a true sommelier.
The rest of the evening was spent packing, since this was the final night together in California.
Friday, March 13
We got up very early to be able to get all the way down to LA, since we wanted to take the route 1 through the Big Sur and also visit Solvang. On the way, we picked up a couple hithchiking, Megan and Logan (I wondered if they got a lot of jokes about their names being so similar, but they said they didn't), that were very happy to get a ride all the way down to LA. They
Tram at the pier
San Francisco really has it all (except from dark chocolate with chili): trams, a port, and then a nice market beside the piers, but we missed it.
were funny, and could explain thing to us, like when there is a sign saying "School! Max speed 25 miles/hour when children are present", there actually have to be children visible for the rule to be active. Since you're usually supposed to go slowly in school areas during certain hours in Sweden (Europe?), no matter if there are children present or not, we weren't sure. So down the 1 we went, and it was a truly spectacular ride. The Pacific to the right and high mountains to the left, and there might have been condors that we saw, even though they looked more like buzzards, size-wise. We waved at Hearst Castle from a distance, and kept on going towards Solvang. This village is a sort of fake Danish village just northwest of LA, with (fake?) half-timbered houses and places like Frederick's Court, Atterdag Road and Copenhagen Drive. And they have a Little Mermaid on the main street. It was absolutely worth the visit, although we didn't take the time to visit any of the museums - the visitor's center lady couldn't really sell them to us with sales arguments like "you'll learn all about Denmark", especially not since my beloved
Castro street, SF
It's definitely a historical place, this street. Not that long, and not that interesting shops apart from the bookstore, but still.
has spent tremendous amounts of hours in the Copenhagen City and Royal archives. But I'm sure the museums are worth a visit if you have more time. We just settled for a Danish pastry and a look at the protestant church, and a general walk through the village. There was a guy in a red "pixie cap" (tomteluva) that drove a cart with two sturdy horses, but we didn't take that ride either. For a Swede, it looked rather ridiculous with a guy in a red Santa cap on a bright sunny day of 76 degrees F (around 24 Celsius).
And we did right in leaving Solvang at 2 in the afternoon, because after being welcomed back to LA by the immense traffic jam, eventually we parked the car at a quarter to six two blocks away from where we were having dinner at six sharp. The Mapquest trip planner had told us "2.5 hours" from Solvang to 108 W 2nd street, but including a stop for caffeine and restrooms in Thousand Oaks, it obviously took almost 4 hours. The LA traffic is worth an entire blog on its own, but I won't write that here. The city is
Is it fake hair?...
... no, it's a redwood tree bark!
so large, and there are so many cars, that it just takes you half a day to go from one side to the other, if you ride daytime, and especially rush hour, like we had to do.
At six, we had a dinner appointment with friends M&A again (Loki not allowed in restaurant, for some reason), and we'd decided to go to Edison, the old electricity plant, in Downtown. It was a fascinating place, as we had seen on their web site, but we were surprised to see that the dress code mentioned on the web site wasn't as strict as it seemed in writing. It was impossible to take pictures in there, since it's very dark with only small and shady lights everywhere, but it's more than well worth a visit, if not only to get something to drink. The place is enormous, with a spiral staircase leading down to the bars and sitting areas. It's a bit like a cross-over between a British Gentleman's club and a renovated factory, and they show black-and-white movies on the walls. There are also so many different decorations around the place that you don't need a drink or even company to
This tree doesn't mind being burned, it just keeps on living. Amazing.
be entertained. The food was good and not too expensive, and they had some kind of charity going on that evening, so 25% of what we paid for all food and drinks was given to the "Midnight mission".
At eight, I had to drive my darling to LAX airport, and then I went to see my other friend in LA. Since I only had my Swedish cell phone/mobile, I didn't want to call or text if I could avoid it, but I hadn't been near a wifi network all day, so I didn't even know if she was home. It felt like the old days, before being reachable all the time, and that was kind of good. I found her house (I'd at least gotten directions to go there the day before, and it was easy to find), but then the door bell didn't work. Luckily, another tenant came to my rescue, but otherwise I guess I would have had to go to a bar close by (which didn't sound like a good option: there were mostly strip bars) to call or something. It was an unusual feeling, not being able to reach your friend. But I came in,
A new home?
Why not just settle down in one of these?
and got to meet Mouse, who seemed to accept me as a guest for the night rather quickly.
We (not Mouse, though) decided to go out for something to drink, and when we got into the car of my friend A's roommate T, I got proof that music media (it used to be cassettes, but obviously it goes also for cd's) that age to long in a car turn into Best of Queen. T confirmed this, so I really got an aha experience. I thought it was only an expression, but it's true. T & A could also enlighten me about a question that I'd discussed with M and my beloved the week before: when did "doggy bag" turn into "box"? (For those of you who don't know: Americans never ask for a doggy bag in a restaurant these days. They ask for a box, to take the left-overs home.) It happened obviously, according to them, around the late 1980's, although the finer establishments of course didn't use the term even then.
After visiting Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica, we went to the pier and ended up playing Skee ball. I think I got better at
Hm, I wonder what metal (music)-loving giant made this tree statue? :-)
it after a while, when I realized I didn't have to throw the ball so hard to hit the right holes. Together, we won some 160 coupons which were traded into a box of Tinkerbell crayons (that T&A generously gave to my nieces, but only if I'd send a picture of the girls paining a wall with them. I have to find a way to arrange that.) and a couple of black, plastic spider rings, that turned out to be excellent Mouse toys.
So I spent my last LA night on a comfy couch in West Hollywood, and got to talk to A at least a bit before heading for the rental car office (and of course I got lost without my excellent map reader!) and getting a ride with M to Union Station and the FlyAway bus to the airport.
It has been a very fascinating trip, better than I expected, since I guess I didn't really expect much - or rather, didn't know what to expect.
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