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Round the World 2007 USA

Santa Monica to Monterey

I was up too early this morning: breakfast hadn’t started. Gave me more than enough time to get my stuff downstairs. Had breakfast and checked out by 8am, then walked three blocks to the bus stop, and waited for the #10 bus to take me to Union Station to get my train.

It was a fairly uneventful journey, but it did get me thinking. I didn’t venture into Hollywood or downtown LA, partly because I didn’t really have time and partly because I was kinda scared. But now I’m not sure why: London and New York are both bigger, and they don’t scare me, and I think it’s about the same size as Sydney, which didn’t scare me. So I probably would’ve coped fine. But I didn’t have much time, and I’m not that bothered about missing it.

Union Station is very grand though. They might not do much rail travel over here compared to flights and cars, but they do it well. The train left LA at 10.15an, and I was lulled into a sleep almost straight away. I woke up before we reached Santa Barbara, which was the only vaguely interesting part of the trip. That was a very pretty stretch of coastline. The rest of the scenery seemed arid. I spent the journey reading (onto Da Vinci Code now), sleeping, and wandering back and forth to the dining/sightseeing carriage.

We reached Salinas at 6.40pm and got the bus to Monterey from there. The driver very kindly dropped me off outside the hostel. After a quick walk down to the drugstore for a new toothbrush, I spent the rest of the evening on the internet and planning tomorrow.

So Santa Monica looks good. It’s all tree-lined avenues, brightly painted attractive buildings, a gorgeous beach and fabulous weather. But, unfortunately it is still a city. There is a lot of noisy traffic, and loads of homeless people. I’m struggling to find hospitality staff who are earning the tips they so desperately need: not too friendly. And like I said, the pier reminds me of Blackpool.

The stereotypes are all there too. Girls really do rollerblade along the promenade (recreation trail over here) in their bikinis, and girls wander around the shops with their bags draped over one arm, and chatting on their “cell phone”. And all the people exercising for fun in the heat, sweat pouring off them…

Round the World 2007 USA

Santa Monica

Had breakfast and went on the internet trying to arrange the next part of my trip. I had to phone the hostel in Monterey, and managed to get the last bed for Sunday and Monday nights.

Headed down to the beach around 10am. It’s a very wide beach: it took at least five minutes to get near the ocean! I stayed there until around noon, then walked along the beach to Venice. Once there I walked along the Ocean Front walk, which is lined with stalls selling artwork, jewellery, henna tattoos, clothes, and all sorts. There were also a few psychics and tarot card readers, a few street performers, and the Venice Freak Show, which was something to with animals and they had a snake at the door, so I stayed away!

There were a few interesting things there, but I wasn’t looking to buy. It probably was the first and will be the only time I see a guy sat on the bonnet of a yellow Porsche with a snake around his shoulders though.

Anyway…Then I wandered back to Santa Monica, did a bit of shopping, and bought some food. There were lots of street performers along Third Street Promenade too, mostly singers. I went back to the hostel, read, went on the internet, ate, showered, packed. And then went to bed.

Round the World 2007 USA

Arriving in the USA

We arrived in LA at 10.45am, but it took ages to get through customs, so it was about noon when I got out of the airport. All the airport traffic and the lack of signs was kinda scary, but I was pointed in the direction of the shuttles, and got one to Santa Monica. It still took until 1.30pm to get there!

I’ve only been here a few hours and I’ve already been blessed by God for donating money to help disadvantaged kids, and seen a woman walking down the street animatedly talking to herself.

I had to wait until 2pm to check in, then I showered and headed out. I walked through Palisades Park, which has a view of the ocean, and along Third Street Promenade, which seems to be the shopping hub. Then I walked down Santa Monica Pier where there is a fairground and a few shops. It had a bit of a Blackpool-if-it-was-sunny feel to it.

Then I decided I was a little bored and in need of a haircut, so found a place which could do it straight away. After that I bought a couple of magazines, went for a smoothie, then went to the cinema to see Bourne Ultimatum. Which was rather good, but I felt myself nodding off due to jet lag.

I walked back to the hostel, spent a bit of time on the internet, and then went to bed. Here endeth my first day in the USA.