The USA - West Coast
"First Stop - Los Angeles"
It was Wednesday 6th March 2002. A year and a half of hard-slog saving and meticulous planning had finally come to an end, and a journey that, so far, had been beyond our wildest dreams, was starting to feel oh-so more realistic with our touchdown at Los Angeles' LAX airport. The overcast, drab day we had left behind - along with our family and friends - in the UK was, in an instant, replaced by the sunny and beautifully warmer skies of California. So this was it. This was what had kept me going through those particularly crap days at work, what had made me say no when I'd normally be gagging to go out every Friday night, what had made it so easy to say goodbye to friends and family for; this was what I was born to do - I could feel it in my bones.
Being our first stop on a two year round the world trip, we didn't really know what to expect from LA. Our first few hours on arrival had been a disaster. Firstly, we (for some insane reason !) rushed into getting a cab from the airport when we realised our Hostel van had no-showed. Secondly, he took us to the site of where the old Banana Bungalow Hostel used to be and then told us that he didn't know where the new one was !! He duly thanked us for his troubles, dropped us outside some random motel and charged us $56 !!
We had some lessons to learn if we were going to last two years backpacking around the world and they were lessons that needed to be learned fast !!
"Hollywood Hostel Spawns Hell's Own Kitchen !!"
We hadn't wanted to hang in LA for too long, we were itching to make our way up the coast to San Fran. As it was we ended up spending five days in sunny Los Angeles and it wasn't all that bad really.
We booked ourselves into the Hollywood International Hostel right on Hollywood Boulevard (there was a star in the pavement outside its very door !!) but, although the location may have been amazing, the facilities inside certainly weren't. The rooms themselves weren't too bad I suppose, very bare but at least clean, but the sorry excuse for a 'kitchen' in this place was an absolute farce !! The kitchen was about 3 feet wide by 5 feet deep and was absolutely disgusting. Food lay everywhere, a stench hung in the air and there were no utensils or plates to be found anywhere. If they were trying to encourage us to go out and taste the delights of eating out in LA it certainly worked, that was the first and last time I stepped into that kitchen !!
After our quick lesson in learning that not everything is about the quality of its location, we began to delve deeper into the throbbing veins of this City of Angels and see what else was out there.
"Hollywood smog and Venice beach jogs."
Hollywood Boulevard was starting to feel very much like a new home after a few days. We'd done the compulsory sites across the road, Mann's Chinese Theatre, The Kodak Theatre and gawped at all the stars in the pavement as we walked along - although I was quite shocked to learn that I didn't actually know most of the names !!
We even had a regular breakfast haunt, Shelly Cafe, further up the Boulevard where they made a kicking omelette !!
The next few days were spent taking in the sights. Window shopping and a beer on Rodeo Drive, Universal Studios, Venice Beach and even downtown LA - although that was a particularly rough neighbourhood.
By this point we'd been joined by two friends from the UK, Chris and Ben, and between us all we hired a Chrysler Voyager to make the drive up the coast to our next stop: San Francisco.