I left Los Angeles last Thursday morning, sunburned and exhausted. That pub crawl really did me in, and that early wake up to catch that bus to the airport was brutal. But at 75 cents only to reach LAX airport, I couldn't pass it up.
I was aware that temperatures were a bit cooler in the San Francisco area to the Bay and all that. Touched down at San Francisco airport on Thursday a little past noon, and it was a glorious day. The sun was out, and there was a slight breeze blowing. All in all, it looked as though my stay in San Francisco, at least weather-wise, would be a wonderful as in L. A. Unfortunately, that was to be my last sighting of the sun. I was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a T-shirt. When the clouds moved in as my shuttle took me to my hostel near Union Square, temperatures dropped down to about 63 degrees. Don't know how much that amounts to in Celsius, but it was definitely on the chilly side. All of a sudden, I felt as though I had landed in the UK.
The boozing of the night before and the lack of sleep coupled with that dramatic drop in temperatures hit me like an uppercut. That evening I knew I was going to be sick, and by the time I went to bed the cold symptoms were already making themselves known. To my consternation, I spent the last three days with a sore throat, headaches, runny noise, coughing, and a bit of fever yesterday. I haven't been this sick while traveling since I went to Amsterdam in 2004.
What the fuck!?! Isn't this supposed to be California??? It's hotter in Montreal, for crying out loud! Fuck me, people are wearing boots and tuques on the streets, and that's no fashion statement! Of course, since I was coming to California, I didn't bring any warm clothes. Hence, I only have a long-sleeve shirt and a windbreaker with me, which likely didn't help improve my condition.
Being this sick (I got so much stuff coming out of my noise that I borrowed a roll of toilet paper from the hostel to carry around in my backpack -- nothing is more chic than grabbing that roll and blowing what feels like all my bodily fluids in that toilet paper!:-/), I sadly lacked the energy to do everything I wanted to do in San Francisco. Which is too bad, because this could well be the most beautiful city in the USA. After visiting ulgy and dirty Los Angeles, it was great to wander around what appears to be a gorgeous blend of Paris and New York City.
Met three French guys in L. A. who were staying in San Jose for a couple of days before returning home, so we hooked up to visit Alcatraz. At 26$ it's an expensive attraction, for sure, yet it's a cool and interesting visit. The audio tour is just long enough to be informative and entertaining. Pier 39 is a bit of a tourist trap, but everything is well-done. To a certain extent, wandering around the city is one of the best things to do in San Francisco. The area around Union Square is very nice, and walking around Market Street reminded me of my travels to Paris. Understandably, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to witness the Powell Street cable-car turnaround. Weird that for all the technology in the world, a burly black man and a small Asian guy (don't know if it's for show, but it's always an unlikely pair) turn the trolley around by hand on a revolving wooden platform.
Did the Lonely Planet walking tour in my guidebook, which took me across Chinatown, Italian North Beach, up the Greenwich Street Steps to the top of Telegraph Hill (sick as I was, this probably wasn't a great idea), and then on to the top of Russian Hill and Nob Hill. Somehow, temperatures found a way to go down to 61 degrees that day. The skies remained overcast, and the French guys and I didn't see a single ray of sunshine the entire afternoon we spent at Golden Gate Park. Similar to Central Park, it's a neat place to visit. But we figured it must be grand when the sun is out.
They wanted to go out on both Friday and Saturday night, but I elected to sit these ones out, hoping to get better in the process. My condition has indeed improved as I write these lines, but I'm far from feeling good. And since it's going to be suffocating when I land in Las Vegas tommorow afternoon, I'm hoping that taking it easy tonight will help this unit get back to full capacity or close to it. Shared a drink with the guys at the Urban Tavern at the Hilton Hotel, but that's as much action as I've gotten in San Francisco, I'm afraid. . .
Since it was gray and cold and foggy every fucking day since I got here, I kept my visit to the Golden Gate Bridge till the very end. Feeling a bit better, I started my day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art this morning. By the way, can anyone tell me how a urinal placed on a pedestal can be considered art. Then I made my way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It would surely have been wonderful had the sun been out, but it nevertheless was quite an experience to cross what just might be the most popular bridge in the world. The views are not as great as those from the Brooklyn Bridge, but it certainly was a cool afternoon.
Though the weather did everything it could to make me hate San Francisco, I ended up enjoying it immensely. And I will be returning, for sure. Just have to figure out when I have to bring my ass over when it's warm enough to wear shors and flip-flops. How can it feel like the beginning of April when we're a day away from June!?! Being sick prevented me from doing as much as I initially planned to do, so I will definitely come back. There are other parts of California I wish to see, so I guess a return trip to San Francisco will be in order.
Next stop: Las Vegas!;-)
Still, for all the time it takes us to get somewhere, everyone here is happy to stay in Santa Monica. And I would recommend it to anyone planning on coming to Los Angeles. The pier is neat, though nothing to write home about. But you have long stretches of sandy beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Bars and restaurants along the 3rd Street Promenade. And the hostel, the H. I. Los Angeles-Santa Monica is a real bargain at about 34$ a night.
Spent my first afternoon exploring Santa Monica. Then made my way to Venice Beach. You know when you get there immediately. The Oceanfront Promenade becomes dirty, everything feels like an open-air flea market, and you can't really tell who's homeless and who's a resident. Tacky and kitch to an extreme seldom encountered, it nevertheless remains a must see. Just so you can realize how weird everything feels. And Muscle Beach was a major disappointment as well. Feels like a gym that has not changed its inventory since the 70s.
The second day was spent visiting Hollywood. They tell you that the best view for the Hollywood sign is at the end of Beachwood Drive. Don't believe that crap. Continue on to Ledgewood Drive till you reach its end, and then make a left on that street for unencumbered views of the famous sign on the adjacent hill. The Walk of Fame is nothing special, though it does feel kind of cool to be there and soak up the atmosphere. For the first time in my life, I actually caved in and had my picture taken with a pair of Stormtroopers in front of the Chinese Theatre.
The third day was devoted to Downtown Los Angeles. Most people told me to skip it, as it was supposed to suck big time. But I wanted to find out for myself, so I want. . . And realized that they were right on all accounts. Other than Grand Street and the Financial District and the area around Staples Center, L. A.'s downtown is quite lame. Fortunately, the day was saved when I elected to go to Beverly Hills. It's quite fun to walk along Rodeo Drive and the surrounding streets where all the posh shops are situated.
Though it cost a fortune, I went to Disneyland yesterday. Yeah, it was 117$US in total with the shuttle, but let me tell you that it was worth every penny. It sure did bring the kid out of me, and I had a total blast. Too bad the lines are so long that you can't go on all the rides. Yet we did more than enough to enjoy it to a degree that we had eyes as big as any child there!
Spent most of the day at the beach in Malibu today, and I unfortunately have the sunburns to show for it. We played volleyball and made the most of our time there. Sadly, no celebrities were spotted there, nor in Beverly Hills, or anywhere else.
In the end, although Los Angeles was nothing like I thought it would, I still managed to have a great time. I probably won't be coming back, though. But one can never say never, as the old saying goes. So who knows. . . L. A. might yet grow on me.
Flying to San Francisco tomorrow morning, and there's a pub crawl tonight. God I hope I'll get up on time to catch my flight!
What better to put a ray of sunshine into your day than by playing Guns N' Roses best track ever!?!
The funny thing is that growing up I always thought Montreal was the asshole of this world. When I started traveling, to my dismay I discovered that Montreal could well be one of the nicest and coolest places in the world. Thirty countries under my belt, and I can count the cities where I'd rather live on the fingers of one hand. Without using them all. . .
I needed to experience what all those other places had to offer to realize just how great things could be in my neck of the woods. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, sure, but the Paradise City just might be the where you're at right now. . .
The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet.
- DARTH VADER, The Empire Strikes Back
By far, my favorite Star Wars quote ever!