LA has been a great "stop over" on the way to Fiji. It's been a jam packed few days with plenty of walking and totally worth it.
After a long 11 hour flight, with little sleep the night before (around 2hrs) and lack of sleep on the plane I was exhausted, but having arrived at 1pm LA time I needed to stay up! After a long bus ride we reached the hostel in Santa Monica, checked in and relaxed. By 8pm (2am UK time) I crashed and burned!
Still adjusting to the time difference, I was awake bright and early, after broken sleep, due to people I was sharing with leaving in the early hours. We made our way to Hollywood Boulevard, by bus, to see the Hollywood walk of Fame, the Chinese theatre and generally to see what the fuss is all about. Then we took a open top bus tour to see the Hollywood sign and the Hollywood area, as well as Beverley Hills and the famous Rodeo Drive. Then it was onto Universal Studios, north of Hollywood. By the time we arrived it was 4pm, and the park closed at 6pm, so we decided not to go in, but walked around the shops and restaurants outside. After a long day of walking miles my feet were killing me (bad idea to wear brand new sandals when walking that far). So, back to Santa Monica for food...
Best quote of the trip so far, whilst waiting to order...
Dan :"Have you ever tried Buffalo"
Dan replied "Yeah you know, like Buffalo wings and Buffalo chicken burger" (at this point I was in disbelief and thought he'd realise his obvious mistake, but no)
Me: "Errr Dan, have you ever seen a Buffalo with wings?" (realisation sets in)
Dan: "Oh yeah..."
Day 2 we took up the opportunity of a tour to Venice Breach, provided by the hostel. Our guide, Jean-Michel, who has lived in Santa Monica all of his life, took us to Venice Beach by bus. When we arrived he warned us in Venice beach, anything goes. He wasn't kidding! All along the beach front there were endless stalls, some selling handcrafted goods, some playing instruments, artists, one guy even had a board "Ask for advice - $1, small chats - free" and a roller blading guitarist selling T-shirts. Definitely not like anywhere I've been before. We took a walk to see Muscle beach, made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, for body building in the 1980s, a body building gym outside!! We strolled to the canals of Venice, a town we learnt, named and modelled after the city Venice, Italy. It was a great day out, finished off by sunbathing on the huge beach, watching the local surfers.
After the success of the previous day, we decided to take up the opportunity to go on another tour through the hostel, this time to downtown LA. We were taken round by Jean-Michel again, a guy we learnt, who volunteers to do the tours in his spare time. We walked through downtown and saw new and old buildings, visited a rooftop bar (although we didn't stay long, as we would have been charged $20 just for being there), visited a food market and looked at LA's "historical" buildings. As LA is so young in terms of settlements "historical" buildings are only about 100 years old (not much older than my own house!).
Following the tour, Jean-Michel kindly invited is along to a tailgate he was going to. The game was between UCLA and Nebraska, although we didn't go to the game the tailgate in itself was more than enough excitement. It's just an excuse for people to eat and drink before an American football game, out of the back of trucks, hence the name tailgate. We took a walk round, had a few beers and spoke to some UCLA fans, most were amused that it was our first tailgate and we were assured that you couldn't get a more American experience. Honestly, it was refreshing to see fans of two teams get on so well, no fights like back home, even when the majority of them had been drinking all day before the game. A great afternoon and another long day with lots of walking, but totally worth it!
Our final day in LA was much more relaxed. Having been once, we decided to go back to Venice beach and take in the sights one last time, more interesting stalls an lots of people, skateboarders, surfers, tourists and locals. It was a relaxing way to round off a busy few days.
Without fail, LA has been a great short stop, there wasn't a single day I didn't meet someone nice or indeed a bit crazy. There are many colourful characters in LA, without a doubt, and a great way to start off my long trip.