Los Angeles! To me I had taken LA to mean one city, where choices of where to stay were based on recommendations, reviews and scores, and less so on location. There would be a centre where hostels would try and crowd around and promote as distance scores from main attractions. However, upon planning our stop at this expanse of a region, it soon prevailed that Los Angeles has no core, no main area, and is actually an amalgamation of lots of different cities, towns and areas that make up Greater Los Angeles. Deciding where to stay would be based on what we were after.
With no real idea exactly what that would be, we opted to stay at the highly recommended option of a USA Hostel in Hollywood. Was this to be the place of movie stars and chique boutique hotels and shops? Most definitely not – it was something even better. Hollywood turned out to be an electric energy fuelled buzzing area where tourists seem to crowd in as touts shout from streets, beer and food specials fly at you, and costume shops and souvenir stalls line the walkways. Our hostel was located almost in the middle of this, but down a side road that seemed to shelter it from the noise and crowds.
We had 2 days at the hostel before two of Han’s friends, Georgie and Amy, were amazingly making their way out from the UK to meet up with us for a 7 day holiday. Being slightly lackadaisical and welcoming some downtime before they came out, recharging after our Grand Canyon run, we took the time to recoupe and just ‘took our time’ around the area. I took a Beverly Hills tour to see some of the grand mansions of the small suburb (where houses take up whole blocks), we wandered the streets taking the usual tourist photos of the handprints in the cement and the Hollywood stars walkway, and did some beer tasting and hostel chilling.
The next day arrived and Han headed off to meet her friends at the airport (while I wandered and came back 3 beers heavier and $20 lighter). And then they were here – girly giggles ensued, an early night cap at a local bar, before the jet lag caught up with them and we all crashed out in our 6 bed dorm. It was great to see them and you could see Han was beaming and chatting away as a small slice of home was alive and well on our trip with us.
However, the next day was a small relief farewell as I headed off to San Diego by myself whilst the girls loaded up options and organised the next week on the East Coast. The plan was to meet them 4 days later in San Diego at La Jolla beach where we provisionally had an apartment for 3 nights. The use of the words ‘plan’ and ‘organisation’ may be slightly generous to the girls here, but that’s for another time (think turning up at 1am with no keys to an apartment in the snow and no way to get in; think ringing me at 9:55am on the morning of my 10am checkout asking if I could book the apartment we were meant to be staying in…..).
I was not just taking a break to let them have some time together, work was also catching up with my busy backpacking schedule and I needed a week to nose on down and get some coding coded for various jobs that needed completing.
I jumped on a convenient hostel hopper bus to San Diego, and soon found myself at my hostel safe and sound and drinking beers with two Australians who had also used the same bus as I. The night out, duelling pianos bars, clubbing, and hangover the next day may have slowed my progress on the work front down somewhat the first day, but over the next few days in San Diego I managed to get what needed to be done completed, and had a nice time in San Diego.
I was staying in the Gas Lamp district, and the although it was amazingly convenient for some cool bars and even better beers, I also managed to fit in a great run to the amazing Balboa Park and back. This park, situated around 2 miles north of where I was staying, is a 1200 acre area of land that was protected from urbanization in 1868, and contains a host of museums, theatres, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. It was definitely worth the visit and run around.
The days passed, the work got done and I soon found myself on the number 30 bus to La Jolla to sort out the accommodation for the 4 of us at this quiet, cute beach front area. The girls came along later that night after surfing along the coast, we exchanged stories and events from the previous days’ adventures over some food and champagne, before hitting the sack and crashing out, all of us a little tired from the travelling, packing and, in their case, surfing, that had been done.
A couple more really enjoyable days where they surfed, I watched, we all ate, we relaxed and experienced a little of beach bum life, and had a great time together in our little apartment. Too soon however it was home time for them, and the penultimate night in the USA for us. We said our teary goodbyes, we waved each other off, Georgie drove the car back to LA, Amy took Han’s passport and credit cards by mistake to the airport and we headed back to San Diego core for one more night at the hostel.
Wait a minute …… Amy ….. Han’s passport …. credit cards …… driving licence ….. Han with no ID and a plane to catch tomorrow …… things weren’t quite right here. Tears. I believe there were a lot of tears by both girls involved. Han had no idea where her stuff was, our best bet being that we had left it on a platform when we changed trains at one point, also coincidently where the homeless seemed to roam. As Han and I pounded the streets, bus stops and trolley stations we had visited, at one point even looking in the bins, it transpired that Amy was frantically ringing round all the hostels in San Diego, bless her, trying to find out where we were staying to say she had Han’s stuff.
Cue an hour later and we headed back to the hostel with worried hearts and troubled minds.
“Hey, your friend Amy rang, she’s got all your stuff and is at the airport for the next hour before she has to go through to her gate, when she’ll leave it at Lost and Found”, said the amazingly relief-talking hostel receptionist.
“Taxi” we hailed outside the hostel quicker than you read that last sentence, and in 10 minutes Han was reunited with her passport, handbag, credit cards, driving licence and cash, and Amy got the send off she deserved at the airport as two of her friends waved her off through departures.
We were still ok, we could still head to our next destination of Cancun, and we were ready to experience the wonderful cultures, colours and sounds of Central America.
California as a whole had been immense. We had seen so many sites, done so many things, completed some amazing challenges, and visited such a diverse range of geology, fauna, altitudes, weather systems and vistas, that it makes you wonder what the other 49 states can throw at you. We had loved it; sure there were some downs, some slogs, some sitting-arounds, some hard times and some sad sites, there always will be, but these are not only part of the experience and trip, they also showcase the good, the wonderfuls, the superlative adjectives that I’ve used throughout this blog and the damn awesomeness of backpacking.
Bring on Mexico – can’t wait!