California (1 December 1998 - 14 December 1998)

Los Angeles

I arrived in LA on Monday evening, staying in the Hollywood district at the Student Inn International Hostel, a small, basic, but friendly place on Hollywood Boulevard, very central for the studios and Sunset Strip. The following day I went to Universal Studios, which is supposed to have the best studio tour. It was unteresting to around the studions and onto a couple of sets ("Backdraft" & "Earthquake"). Unfortunately it rained for a lot of the day, just like being back home in the UK! It didn't matter too much though since some of the rides at the studios were rather wet. I especially liked the "Back to the Future" simulation, and the Jurassic Park ride.

In the evening a group of us went down to Dublin's an "Irish" bar on Sunset.

Next day I took it more easily, and just strolled along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.

San Francisco

On 4 Dec it was time to go on the move again and I took the Greyhound to San Francisco which took up most of the day.  It was rather a boring trip up Interstate Highway 5, except as the bus came across from Oakland there was a fantastic view of the San Francisco skyline at night. We arrived at the Transbay Terminal and I booked myself in to the YHA hostel in Union Square for one night.  This is more impersonal than the last hostel, having 240 beds.  Woke at 8:00 am to the news that we had had a magnitude 4.1 eathqauke during the night, and I'd slept through it! In the morning I went on an informative (and free) walk round the center of the city, orgnaised by the YHA. I checked myself out of the YHA and into the Globetrotters Inn (corner of Mason and Ellis), this is a much more informal place, and very friendly.  From what I have seen of San Francisco so far it seems a much nicer city than LA.  In the evening I went to the cable car museum.

Next day I took a boat across to Alcatraz Island, and then toured the old prison, its difficult to imagine what it would have been like behind the bars there. The following day (Sunday) I took a bus to Fishermans Wharf, and then walked west along the southshore of the bay, past Fort Mason, and then across the Golden Gate Bridge. I got worn out just looking at all the joggers running past!

After all my walking yesterday, it was time to take it more leisurely. I caught a bus and did a little walking to reach Mount Davidson, a peak on the south side of the city. This vantage point had been recommended to me my someone in the hostel in Hollywood. Although the views were good they probably would have been better from Twin Peaks, which is slightly closer.

I really like this city, its much more human in scale than LA, and the architecture much closer to that back home. The public transport system is also really good.

I awoke on Tuesday to find the whole city was suffering from a power cut. I was surprised to see how much was affected in a large modern city like San Francisco. The transport system was affected, and many shops and banks sent their staff home. The power was gradually restored throughout the day. It did have some advantages though, the buses were free once they were working again, and the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park also had free admission. Spent a few hours walking around the park, and then went to the Academy. Whilst overall I liked the place it was a pity to see some of the birds and fish in cages.

Soon its time to leave San Francisco. Wish I could stay longer, but I want to make it to Hawaii in time for Christmas. I'm going to miss the friends I made in the hostel, I will be sorry to leave them, never to see them again. I guess taht will be the pattern of my life for the next few months - making friends, then leaving them. The 9th December, my last day here, I once agin went to Fishermans Wharf, then took a bus to Telegraph Hill, and went up the Coit Tower, from which there were some very good views of the city.

Los Angeles

I took the overnight Greyhound to Los Angeles, at least I saved on one nights accommodation costs. I arrived in downtown LA at 6:20 am, and took a bus to Venice beach. As I was arriving at the hostel I had planned to stay in, a couple of Kiwis were checking out, they warned me off this hostel, so I took the bus to Santa Monica and checked in to the Hostel International. Again, like the HI in San Francisco, it is large and less personal than I would have liked, but it does have good rooms and a massive kitchen.

I spend the rest of the day casually strolling around, down to Santa Monica pier, and along Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards. The weather is much better, just as I had hoped California would be.

On the 11th I took the bus and metro to Long Beach, although its only 20 miles away the journey took 2 hours! Went to see the Queen Mary, which was interesting, and I spent about 3.5 hours on board, before looking around a little of Long Beach itself.

I spend a couple of days walking and cycling along the beach front at Santa Monica. It seems that half of LA own rollerblades and use them at the weekend. Then its time to do a little shopping. The size of LA is such that getting around by bus is a time consuming business, and even a simple shopping trip can take all day. It would be good to drive, but I do not feel that my first experience of driving in the US (on the wrong side of the road for me) should be in LA.

On my last day I take a bus to Beverly Hills, the shops are amazing, and so are some of the houses on Rodeo Drive. Although they are larger and more grand than the other houses I have seen so far in the US they are not particularly grand compared with some houses in the UK, and I am particularly struck by the small size of the gardens.

Now its off to Hawaii. I am surprisingly sad to leave California. Prior to my visit I had never had a desire to visit the US, and certainly had not expected to like California. However once here, a part of me wanted to stay for longer, only the fact that I wanted to be in Hawaii for Christmas prompted me to move on.