Wednesday, 23 October 2013

American Adventure Part 1

We've done so much in the past few days that it's hard to believe that less than a week ago I was still in Ho Chi Minh city. We left on Thursday morning, with a stop off in Tokyo and then straight through to LA. It was so weird flying across the Pacific, as it meant we basically had two Thursdays- we left Tokyo at 3pm and arrived in LA at 10am.
We'd joked that we needed to be on our best behaviour when we got to border control, but still we hoped there wouldn't be any trouble. Of course there was trouble. We hadn't got an outward flight yet, so the officer (after being a little rude and condescending) wouldn't let us through, instead telling us to 'step back around the booth and take a seat at the far end of the room.' There we waited for over an hour with other unfortunate people being questioned on their motives for wanting to reach US soil (mainly Spanish speaking). Not that I think anyone has more of a right than anyone else to enter a certain country or to be treated like a human being, but it did make me laugh that we were in that position. Because there's not a single fibre of my being attracted to the prospect of becoming an illegal immigrant working for two dollars an hour. If I wanted to live in America I would get a job and a visa. Duh.
Finally I was called up by yet another power-trippy dude. He was even ruder, his grammar was bad, and he got very annoyed when I tried (calmly and reasonably) to explain that if we could just get internet access then we could book a ticket and be on our way. For some reason this pissed him off and he got all angry. I had to keep my head down and try my hardest not to swear. As I pointed out to him, I didn't appreciate being treated like a criminal. As you can imagine, this comment like all the others that came before it were not well received. Luckily Lee kept his cool and managed to play the game of 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir,' while the officer insulted me and interrogated him on pretty much every aspect of our lives. It struck me that border control officers are much like bouncers- unintelligent losers who have unearned power that they force you to submit to. Of course if you annoy a bouncer you can just go to another club...
Anyway, eventually he decided to let us through with a 'warning'. I really think he was going to do that all along but wanted to make sure we were well and truly put in our place beforehand.
A little shaken up, we went to find the car hire place, stopping at an ATM. We were surprised to find an old friend (Gabe) staring up at us from an advert on the screen! Dressed in army gear, holding a child on his shoulders, an advert for supporting war veterans. Welcome to the USA. Thanks Gabe!
The lady who rented us the car didn't quite understand what 'I have no clue how to drive this automatic car, please help me,' really meant. As a result I ended up driving for a long time on the freeway in 1st gear- 'surely the revs aren't supposed to be dangerously close to the red?' and stalling due to pressing both pedals at the same time. Also the first time we stopped I couldn't start the car again for ages.
Despite all the car related terror, I was still able to thoroughly enjoy the spectacular view on the way into Los Angeles. Tall buildings with mountains behind and the Hollywood sign in the distance. Wow.
After a night at the motel (in 'Little Armenia'- take from that what you will) we went on a road trip through the Hollywood hills round to Malibu. We got a little lost on a couple of occasions and I was beeped at a few times (mainly due to accidental driving on the wrong side of the road) but all in all it was an amazing day. With all of the places we've been to in the last few years, we've never had the freedom of being able to go exactly where we want and see exactly what we want to do. Everything was beautiful and we were both amazed at our first view of the Pacific Ocean, with not a single island or boat in sight.

View from the Hollywood Hills
Beverley Hills
Our Future House (either one will do)
That evening we ambled along the Walk of Fame. We saw some famous stars, but felt a 'has been' vibe to the whole place, partly due to the many bong shops and empty old theatres. We went to Hard Rock CafĂ© and then to a 4D performance of Nightmare Before Christmas. It was great, with things lighting up at the sides and instructions on the screen to encourage audience participation, but unfortunately we were so tired we both fell asleep for the majority of it.

On Saturday we drove to Long Beach to a rather scary motel in 'Little Cambodia.' It was too early to check in so we went off to find the beach, ending up staying out for hours. The beach certainly lives up to its name and stretches as far as the eye can see, from a habour and docks to the pier and beyond. The area boasts being one of the most cycle friendly cities in California. A cycle/foot path spanned the length of the beach and we had fun watching people of all shapes and sizes jogging, walking dogs, cycling and rollerblading. We saw bikes with three wheels, tandems and even a penny farthing. Plenty of people were also riding bikes where you sit next to each other, with seats behind. We got talking to the man at the hire stall and he offered us a rather old version for less than half the price. The brakes didn't work but this was overshadowed completely by the loud squeezy horn (which Lee honked at everyone along the way). We cycled around the harbor in the sun and afterwards went for cocktails at Tequila Jacks, where there is a whole page of the menu devoted to the signature spirit. After a few drinks we got talking to an ex marine who laughed out loud when we told him we were staying on Anaheim and Cherry Street, informing us that we would get robbed if we walked home, 'especially with the accent.' Encouraged by those words and not at all freaked out we took a taxi home, stopping only for a pizza menu before barricading our door from the outside world and the half naked boys flexing their muscles on the balcony above.

Long Beach
Lee gets to drive
Big cocktails!
The Harbour
We survived the night and in the morning drove off to San Diego, making stop offs at the surfy Huntington beach and the touristy Laguna beach along the way.
Our San Diego hotel is in 'Little Italy' and therefore it was destined that we would go to an Italian restaurant on the first night. The food was beautiful and was accompanied by live jazz.
Yesterday we went on a drive to Coronado and Imperial State Beach, driving and driving until the road ran out and then attempting to get to the border of Mexico on foot. Alas we didn't make it, as it turned out we were further away from it than we thought. But we did have an exceptional view of the beach to the right and a 'nature reserve' to the left (blatantly put there to provide a buffer between the USA and Mexico) with constant low flying helicopters overhead from the local army base.

Lifeguard Lee
'Walking to Mexico'
Pacific sunset
And that's about it for now. I'll be back soon with more tales and pictures!

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