The beach that stole my heart

Ramblings, Travelling

In all my post’s since I’ve been back I’ve shown you my photo’s but I’ve only touched upon mine and Al’s experiences. There are so many insights and words I would love to say, so while you wait patiently for the next instalment I’m going to hopefully thrill and never bore you with my tales of adventure and travel.

First Stop;

– Venice Beach and Los Angeles –

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I never envisioned myself jetting back off to America but with the determination of Al we had LA as our first destination on our travels, which actually turned out to be my favourite, and Venice Beach was our nesting area.

We stayed at the very friendly and central Venice Beach Cotel Hostel (http://venicebeachcotel.com/), I would highly recommend this hostel to anyone if travelling to LA, as its in the centre of the hussle and bussle of Venice Beach. In LA, and maybe the rest of America, there isn’t a centre like there is in the UK, everything’s sporadically spread about where as Venice Beach Cotel was perfect because if you were strapped for cash one day but still wanted to do something you walked out the front door and there was the beach to your immediate right, you can walk down the beach to Santa Monica or you could go the other way and discover why its called Venice Beach. Plus the people in the Hostel had loads of advice on what you can do nearby or further afield. One of the guys gave us step by step instructions on how to get to Hollywood Stars and we made it there and back safely.

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T(ravel)-Day was October 27th 2011. I was sat on a plane with Al to our first stop – LAX with the focus on Venice Beach. I had seen photos of Venice Beach and heard a million stories but this time I was seeing it for myself, through my eyes and not only that but Santa Monica, Miami, Hollywood, all the places that have been in films, songs, chatter and photo’s. I felt like I was the first discoverer and this was apart of something bigger, I felt privileged.

When we arrived we were jet lagged and entering the entrance door all you can see is stairs, which seem to stretch into eternity but after a couple of days of climbing them they suddenly shrink. The people on reception and actually all around the hostel were friendly fellow travellers who had chosen LA as a stay put place, all travellers have it – mine and Al’s was Australia. The whole hostel was engulfed with people who were friendly and were full of travelling tips and destinations, it was the perfect place to start our travelling existence and to feel apart of something great.

Our first night was blurry, the jet lag was overwhelming, all I can remember is being starving and going to a restaurant in the next street over for fried chicken, corn bread, creamed spinach and creamed potatoes, a meal I have always wanted to try, successfully eating two bites and then sat staring at the food for the next hour trying not to fall off my chair.

The next morning was exciting, I rushed to the window to see the sunrise over Venice Beach and upon looking out the window I saw a sea of homeless people pitched up all over the grassy areas of the beach, some were down the side streets and each and every one of them were stirring from their slumber and starting to pack their stuff away as if they had never been there. I watched the transition of land filled with homeless people to morning joggers and commuters, it was like watching two different mornings.

In the kitchen of the hostel while drinking the morning coffee, I watched the outside streets fill with a wide range of characters and listened to the varying motors that pulled up outside, as the LA sun beemed down. Me and Al couldn’t wait to join the crowd, hear the sounds, smell the smells and be part of Venice Beach and all of its quirky beauty.

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My first step out was a mixture of nerves and excitement, I had never seen anything close to this before, the colours, the graffiti, the excitement, the business, the buildings, everything was out of my comfort blanket of England. I saw coppers with guns, heard police choppers and people walking around smoking weed and no-one batting an eye, I heard so many Harley Davidson’s I eventually got a crook in my kneck from turning my head so many times, the amount of skateboarders, people surfing and paddle boarding, doing graffiti in broad daylight, a gym on the beach, people with aspiring careers haggling you to donate money for their cd, the amount of activity in this place was mind blowing and the amount of cigarettes we gave away was unbelievable.

Me and Al spent our days on the beach filling our senses with the sights, the smells and the colours. It was the perfect place to get lost in, from drinking jugs of sailor jerry’s to people watching, as the eclectic groups of people were so diverse, different degrees of money was prominent in Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is one of those places where you can lose hours and days relaxing on the beach and going for walks to the many exciting places nearby all with a smile, nothing seems to feel like a problem or a rush to do anything. The colours of the landscape and the sunsets are enough to keep you happy, as well as the characters you meet on the streets day and night; each one friendly and unique in their own way. This is what makes Venice Beach addictive and makes me want to go back.

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When you think of Hollywood you think money, so with Hollywood being in LA you naively think all of LA has money but this belief is far from the truth. People with full time jobs go to sleep on the streets and wake up for work, Venice Beach and probably the rest of LA has somehow got a deal with homeless people – You can have the streets at night but when the Sun rises the streets stop being your home. I’d wander the streets at night and see people setting up home, grass areas where people during the day have a picnic or walk their dog become mini campsites for homeless people but whenever I woke up early and looked out my window I saw the same people pack up all their belongings and carry on with their day, the landscape showing no evidence of them ever being there but they’d do it every night and every day.

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In total contrast to roaming homeless was the Halloween street party in West Hollywood, no-one can truly explain how much America loves Halloween, the only way to fully understand is to be experience it for yourself. The costumes weren’t your pound shop, Clinton card costumes these were comicon, Las Vegas type costumes, the immaculate detail and obvious cost was unbelievable and they were there in the thousands, pounding 3 blocks of West Hollywood.

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The whole scene was overwhelming and claustrophobic – there were people, stages and platforms everywhere, to see all of this in new surroundings was something out of my comfort zone, I will admit I spent most of the time hiding behind my viewfinder.

But…

I wouldn’t change any of it and I can’t wait to do it all again!

This time don a costume and be apart of the excitement of an American Halloween Block Party in West Hollywood.

The amount of different characters and even the amount of Gay LA was mind-blowingly brilliant, everyone was walking around with smiles on their faces, adults acting like kids and the drag shows were just wow. It was the embodiment of everyone just being together because of a shared love of Halloween and I never felt a sense of endangerment, as if there was a fight brewing around a corner.

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I couldn’t bring myself to leave LA without visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at least seeing the Hollywood sign even if from afar.

So one day me and Al caught what seemed like a never ending array of buses to get us to the centre of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Just a small tip for LA buses, know where you’re going, as asking for advice or any help seems to piss of both the driver and the people on the bus. I can remember on one of the buses a woman having a massive rant, to the point of rallying a whole bus to annoyance, needless to say very uncomfortable journey.

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Even though we were semi-clueless on what stops to stop at, we did make it to the Hollywood Stars, on leaving the bus we ended up bumping into some of the people who beg and busk in Venice Beach in the epi-centre of the Hollywood Stars.

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In the epi-centre of the Hollywood walk of fame, there was a lot of money being floated about for tourists and their tours or photographs with the stars. It was brilliant to see Marilyn Monroe bump shoulders with modern days stars like Samuel L. Jackson. Being typical crowd phobic me and Al decided to follow the stars, spotting our favourites on the way unable to resist a photograph, one minute we were surrounded by designers and money then next minute we looked up and the designers had turned derelict and the money had disappeared, it still fascinates me to do this day that one simple stretch can take you to the other side of the tracks.

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Even though I could see myself being in LA and living in Venice Beach, the one thing that still baffles me is the fact that Americans can’t seem to pass the day away without spending money, there is heaps to do but whenever you ask them what you can do they always suggest a theme park or something where money is spent.

Plus a ten minute walk is too far, they all seemed to drive everywhere, they have drive-thru banks/cash machines – Venice Beach to Santa Monica is a 15-20 minute walk, same amount of time for me to walk to the bus stop so I could get to college or work every morning, and we got told to catch a bus, a bus route which would take more than 20 minutes plus waiting time, it was absurd to me. Just walk! Me and Al saw so many sights and kept my camera happy because we walked, it was perfect.

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Also in England if someone cuts you up when you’re driving, you hear horns where as in America, well LA, everyone cuts you up, constantly, its chaos.

Hail to the drivers in LA, you are brave souls.

But with all these elements which baffles my British mind, it comes down to one truth,

 I got to see Venice Beach, LA, West Hollywood and Six Flags

I got to experience it all

and I got to live it for 2 weeks.

and because of our positive experience its something I plan to do for a bit longer next time, to truly see America, have myself a true American roadtrip – San Diego, Chicago, Route 66, New Orleans, New York, to name a few, all of it – North to South to East to West and before I ventured on my travels I did not place America anywhere near my top 1000 now its in my top 5.

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America is one of those fascinating places that you think you know because of the amount of TV shows, Films and Music Video’s you get blasted with but they don’t show the real America, they show you the sparkly, made up, fantasy America, a bit like British Films with American Funding, where it’s snowing all the time and it’s a beautiful snow scene not chaos and British men are Hugh Grant.

If you really want to know what America is like, go there and actually look at it, at all the different times of the day and night and talk to people in the cafes, etc because they’re not what you expect plus America still free pours in bars, it’s good to get a southern comfort and lemonade and taste the alcohol.

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