I took this photo today at the Santa Monica Pier. I rode there and back from Hermosa and it was hot and sunny and blazing. Afterwards I jumped into the sea, and then lay down on the sand and listened to the waves and chatter. This is the last piece of sky that I’ll see in North America, for now.
Five months ago I took off by myself hoping to discover new places. I have. Some of them I’d go back to and stay forever, some I was happy to leave behind, all of them I’m glad to have seen. I know that I’ll have an ongoing relationship with this whole continent and a solo trip wasn’t a bad first date.
There have been plenty of ups and not too many downs. I haven’t been lonely. People everywhere are interesting and interested. The thrill of getting onto a long-distance train armed with only a backpack will, unsurprisingly, never dull for me.
There’s probably much more I could say about it. Meeting people on the road, independence, culture shock, solitude, top ten places to visit in Canada, etc. But the reason I came here again to California, my first love, was to switch all of that off. Just the sea and the sun and, weirdly enough for Los Angeles, the peace.
I’m fine with coming home. See you soon, Sydney.
Los Angeles is a vast, sprawling mess. Palm-tree lined streets clogged with traffic disappear into the hazy distance, and it’s impossible to make sense of where you actually are. Heading straight to Hollywood was a mistake. It was grimy, sleazy and strange, and completely overrun with tourists and people trying to sell things to tourists. After my stay in San Diego I had to return to LA to fly to Mexico and was unenthusiastic. But that was before I went to Hermosa Beach.
I walked out to the end of the pier. The air was clear from smog, the sun was out and the sea and sky were both an impossible blue. Families were fishing along the sides of the pier and some cheery people were walking around. A few scattered surfers braved what I imagined to be very chilly water. With a hired bike I rode along the beach all the way to Redondo, past housing that was a mix of kitsch and splendour. Fellow cyclists smiled and said hello as I went past.
Santa Monica had been buzzing, and the ride to Venice Beach a bit of a journey into the weird, but Hermosa was calm. How this could be part of the same city as messy, exhausting Hollywood, I couldn’t understand. I wanted to lie on the sand and drink up the sunshine all day. I began to understand why half the world wanted to be there. I never wanted to leave.
Before coming to San Diego the only things I knew about it, ridiculously, were from Anchorman. It’s actually a wonderful city will friendly locals who smile at you on the street, clean, wide streets and lots of sunshine.
California actually “began” in San Diego. Tourists can visit the Old Town, which has a lot of original or restored buildings from the Spanish colonial years. The stories of people living and working in the fledgling state were amusing and at times, very sad. Plus the Old Town has a beautiful old hacienda with a garden that was especially lovely under the California sun.
San Diego is an important military city as well. There are numerous military bases, including the large Pacific Fleet navy base which most people know about, and, consequently, a lot of handsome military men.
I trekked out to a gargantuan bunch of malls outside the city and bought a new camera, and then tested it out at the famous San Diego Zoo. The entry price is fairly steep ($48) but it provides a whole day’s worth of entertainment. One of my Lyft drivers (it’s a rideshare app that is big in California) told me that his main motivation for visiting the zoo would be not to see the animals, but to check out the people! He had a point. It was Easter Saturday, so Californians in their thousands were enjoying a day out at the zoo. I took some shots.
And the one I am most proud of, the Sad Tiger.