About me...

Novice sewer, novice surfer, novice traveller...

Monday, 4 July 2011


Thank you to Aimee for pointing out that I haven't blogged for a while.  Oh my God, it's been weeks actually.  I feel like I've seriously let down my eight followers.

Well, where to start?  I left you all I guess about half way through my stay in downtown San Diego.  I spent the rest of my time there hanging out with Leisa from Melbourne and Eddy and Wout from Holland.  We had such a great time together, I feel like I truly made a friend in Leisa.  I was supposed to stay in San Diego for a couple of days longer than she was but she convinced me and the boys to come with her to LA where she was meeting a friend from Melbourne before they were to head off to South America.  It was easy to say yes to that even though I'd spent time in LA already, it just seemed too soon to be saying goodbye.

In LA I met Leisa's friend Sang and we spent a couple of days eating and drinking pretty much, the best things to do with friends, and difficult things to do on your own.  Leisa and I also achieved what is possibly the pinnacle of tourist-boganism...we got rats tails.  Now I don't think purveyors of these fine adornments would appreciate that terminology but let me explain what it is and I challenge anyone to come up with a better name.  So what is actually known as a hair wrap is a small section of your hair usually at the base of the neck, slightly to one side, with different colours of embroidery thread wrapped and knotted around so it's stripy/patterned with a couple of beads on the end.

After turning down my new friends invitation to join them in Columbia (I almost said yes until the subject of yellow fever/malaria.diphtheria came up - I haven't had any shots or tablets) I was on my way up the coast again.

My next stop was Santa Barbara.  What a gorgeous town, what a shithole hostel.  Santa Barbara is a bit of a posh sort of town, but also a college town, so it's a fantastic mix of great shopping, great restaurants, cool bars and the beach.  All of the buildings down town are in the Spanish Colonial style from when the town was first settled.  I think every new building since then has been built to match.  The style white or cream rendered (I guess...?) with red roof tiles in the shape of an arc, you see it a lot in California and it is right at home, here it's on a large scale.  It really adds to the towns charm and difference because it's so homogeneous the big chain stores, although they're there, don't stand out as much, making the area itself less homogeneous when compared to everywhere else.  You need to walk right past the McDonald's to realise it's there.

Now let me tell you about the hostel.  I'm sure there a millions of hostel-horror-stories far more horrific than this (in fact I've heard one that is far worse) but this is my blog.  It's the only hostel in town, in a town of many many hotels, but no cheap hotels.  To begin with, when I started my trip I was paying $22-$25 a night for a bed, but now it's more like $28 - $30 (summer is here and college has finished, makes sense) this joint was $42 a night!!!  To sleep in a room with 12 beds (6 bunks) crammed into it.  When I was given my sheets they were more than a little bit damp, and I was looked on with much disdain when I requested another set.  The staff we generally surly and had just got jobs there for the summer so had no advice on how to spend your time in Santa Barbara.  The internet was only available in the common room which was closed most of the day.  I woke up at 2am and everyone was in bed but the light was on.  The shared women's bathroom was really old and poorly maintained (clean enough though)  with shower curtains across the toilet stalls instead of doors.  I hated it.

So I thought if was going to be paying too much for shit accommodation, I might as well be paying way to much for good accommodation and booked myself in to a hotel on the waterfront for the rest of my stay.

Oh the joy of a double bed that's been properly made and a bench for all your toiletries, and a TV, and a pool, and a hot tub.  Yes, hotels are the way to go.  Actually, I really like a lot of what you get from hostels which you don't from hotels, namely the social side of it and the use of a kitchen, but it sure is nice to break up the sleepless night and lack of privacy once in a while.

After Santa Barbara I was onward to San Luis Obispo, another college town, with the bars and the restaurants and the shops.  I only spent a couple of nights here but it was a great town.  Here and Santa Barbara are the sorts of places I could see myself living.  It's really safe here, only a small town and about 15minutes drive inland from the closest beach.  This hostel was also shut trough the day, but I was assured that if I arrived before 4pm I could just leave my case on the front porch and that'd be fine, if I was really worried I could leave them at the back door.  I actually got there quite late in the evening so only spent a day and a half there.  I went on a big hike up a mountain and explored the town.

The next place on my agenda was Monterey.  Let me tell you, the Greyhound buses and Amtrak Surfliner train are pretty good at getting you along the coast until you want to go further than Santa Barbara by bus or San Luis Obispo by train.  Once you get this far it becomes a real fuck around.  The easiest way was to go by train to Salinas and then get a connecting bus to Monterey, which doesn't sound hard until you realise it's a 2-2 & 1/2 hour drive that is going to take you 4 hours, and there's only one train a day and it's not until 4pm, which means you'll arrive in Monterey, nowhere near the hostel, just shy of 8pm.

Luckily for me I had met two men when I was in San Diego one night who were celebrating a good business trip at a bar where I was celebrating a $4 margarita.  These lovely men, Richard and Barry, were kind enough to but me a couple of beers and a lovely sushi dinner (they were very concerned for my travelling alone, both have kids in their twenties) and Richard gave me his email and phone number to get in touch with him when I got to Monterey.  When he heard of my transport woes he offered to pick me up from the train station in Salinas (20 minute drive, 55 minute bus ride) and he took me out to dinner at a gorgeous restaurant he owns in Carmel with his daughter and her boyfriend.

Monterey was nice but there was only so much to do there, I was coming down with a cold and trying to keep it at bay with panadol, vitamins and lots of water.  All I had energy for on the first day was exploring Cannery Row, nothing like the book now, all the building are still there but it's all super cheesy touristy crap now, but with pictures of Steinbeck everywhere. I had met a couple of young girls from England in San Luis Obispo and they showed up at the hostel on my second night.  We went on a whale watching trip together and saw heaps of humpback whales, some German girls we'd spoken to in San Luis Obispo had also seen a blue whale and a killer whale.  I was really cool, they were everywhere around us feeding on krill and sometimes jumping right out of the water.  It was bitterly cold though, so many people were wearing jackets and hoodies with Monterey printed or embroidered on them, like they'd bought them the day before.  The best thing I saw in Monterey was the aquarium.  It made me feel guilty for not having been to the Melbourne one.  It was mainly a show case of local marine life (with some more exotic stuff in a separate section)  The most amazing part was a 2 storey tank of a kelp forest (just like in Monterey Bay)  I can't actually put in to words how well done the display was, all the exhibits came from just outside the aquarium.  They have sea otters, such fun creatures (I actually saw some playing in the wild just off the beach).  There were seals all around in Monterey also.

I wanted to make my next stop Santa Cruz, everyone has said it's worth seeing.  Unfortunately I left it too late to get accommodation (now summer's here I have to be more organised).  I think it's only about an hour away from San Francisco so I might rent a care and spend a day there.

It was another pain in the arse to get from Monterey to San Francisco, in the end one of the English girls found a bus that takes you from Monterey to the SF airport (like the Gull for Geelong people).  was much cheaper that the train or Greyhound at $45 and went only via the San Jose airport, so much quicker.  And it went hourly.  Then it was a quick BART ride (light rail) downtown.

I have been in San Francisco for a couple of days but I think I will leave the telling for my next post/.  Tomorrow I'm off on a 4 night camping trip to Yosemite and I want to wash my hair in the morning, so I must to bed.

Monday, 13 June 2011

More San Diego and a little bit of Mexico

Unfortunately I lost a big chunk of that last post when the internet disconnected me.

I've been doing heaps in San Diego.  Last you all heard I was staying in Ocean Beach.  I really loved it there, it's kind of like a cross between a suburb of San Diego and a small independent town.  It hasn't bean built up like a lot of coastal land at home.  The houses are very small and simple, with even alot of quite run down places right on the beach.  There's a Starbucks there and a Subway but they are the only chain type stores, apparently when Starbucks moved in there was a bit of outcry in the community because they really take pride in the small business "Mom and Pop" thing they've got going.

There are heaps of hippie type characters and surfers and skateboarders and also a lot of people who are homeless (teens in particular) and sleep on the beach and hang out there all day (they all hang out together though and don't hassle anyone for money like everywhere else I've been.  The downside to this ultra-laid back attitude is it quite a sleepy town and it feels a bit unmotivated, the staff at the hostel were certainly that way.  They all just worked for 3 hours a day to get their bed for the night and then hung about being stoned and unfriendly.  I kept commenting to people that this would be such a great town to live in because it's so relaxed yet so close to downtown, you could work in the city and come home to what feels like another world.  People agreed with me but I got the feeling that it's not a full time job town.

After a week in OB I felt like I had seen enough, I'd taken the bus Downtown a couple of times and I could see there was a great bar and restaurant culture but the last bus to OB is at 6:40pm, ridiculously early.

I'm now staying right in the heart of Downtown's Gaslamp District.  It's a very cool part of town, like I said, lots of funky bars and nightclubs and restaurants with seating on the foot path.  There are some good shops to see too (no bookshops, just a shell of a Borders).

One day last week I went to the San Diego Zoo.  Apparently it's supposed to be one of the best Zoo's in the world.  I was told that I wouldn't be able to see it all in one day but after reviewing the map in the line for the bus tour I was pretty sure I could give it a crack.

The only Zoo I can compare it to is Melbourne because that's the only other one I know.  It was a bit bigger, not as big as I had imagined though, I guess we've got a decent sized zoo at home.  It was built on quite hilly ground, which I didn't mined because I've been walking around heaps and also it's a good way to get a bit of exercise.  It would be really hard it you had kids with little legs or a stroller or a wheelchair, or even if you were particularly unfit.  They do have buses that take you from one part of the zoo to another but that seems a bit pointless to me, you'd miss all the animals on the way.

The best difference is how close you seem to be to the animals, they have decent sized enclosures but I guess they're shaped so there's always a good vantage point.  I love the zoo so much so I was excited to see so many different animals up close.  The worst difference is that apart from a few exhibits like in the reptile house, they haven't really got information displayed about each animal.  They have if it's endangered and where it's from but I didn't really feel like I was learning much about the animals I was looking at.  Mostly it was very familiar in feel and style and layout to Melbourne Zoo.

There are about a million koalas at San Diego Zoo, I think that might be the official animal of the zoo.  People were crowding all around to see them.  They are a seriously boring animal compared to others at the zoo, they were all asleep with there faces buried in a tree trunk.  They just look like a furry grey growth on a tree.

I also spent a day at Sea World last week.  I wasn't planning on going because I didn't think I would get much out of it alone, but a lovely girl, Corey, staying in my dorm at the hostel  said she was keen to go too.

Sea World was really fun.  I know it's probably not all that PC but I love performing sea animals.  We saw the dolphin show and the sea lion show and the killer whale show.  We got drenched to the bone in the last one, we sat in the "soak zone" , we had for the dolphin show too and hadn't got wet at all.  This time we may as well have jumped into the pool with the whale.  He started off by spitting water on us (yes, whale spit) and then splashing us about 40times.

I've spent a couple of days wandering around Downtown, it's a great area for wandering.  Yesterday I wanted to check out Old Town, which is a part of San Diego which is set up like the original San Diego.  A lot of it is a state Park and all the shops are like little museums selling ye olde time wares.  I guess a bit like Sovereign Hill but without an entry fee.  The rest of the town follows the theme too.  It was much bigger than I had expected and I hadn't really allowed enough time for a proper look around.  I had to get back to the Hostel for a trip to Mexico so I think I'll go back another day.

The trip to Tijuana happens every Saturday afternoon at this hostel.  I though it would be more shopping and exploring but really it was all about drinking.

We had to assemble at 3:30pm but it took nearly an hour of them taking everyones $17 and checking everyone's passport.  San Diego is really close to the border, it's only about 20 minutes if you want to drive.  We took the trolley (that's a tram) but there were track works going on and we had to change to a bus at one point and then get on another trolley a bit later on.  It must've taken us an hour to get to the border.

To get into Tijuana you just have to go through what is essentially a turnstile.  There's no official or passport checking.  We had 10 minutes for "shopping" at a couple of souvenir/liquor stores (you can bring back 1 bottle of tequila or a carton of cigarettes).  I bought a fridge magnet.  There were lots of little kids trying to sell us lollies and other bits of crap, they were only about five years old but they had rotten teeth and grotty clothes, it was a bit depressing really.

This part of Mexico is pretty much there to serve arrogant tourists and Americans who want cheap booze and I guess to say they've been in Mexico (which is about all I got out of it).  We went to a bar and drank coronas (exotic) and all got a free shot of tequila but it was so watered down.

Then we went to another bar/nightclub/restaurant/tattoo parlour/strip club(that's right, all in one) where there was more coronas and shit tequila and shit frozen "mango" margaritas.  I also had the worst Mexican food I've had so far on my trip.  It was seriously a rank joint, it was all pretty rank.  It's incredible to think that you cross a made up line in the sand and enter into poverty from (although clearly in recession) one of the most affluent nations in the world.

Having said all that I did have a pretty fun night.  I met two people from Melbourne and I'd already been hanging out with this girl from Denmark who I'd met (obviously we met heaps of other people from the hostel too, but I spent most of my time with these guys).  The guy from Melbourne has already moved on today but the girl, Leisa is here until Thursday.  She is just the kind of gal I like to hang out with, she has a similar sense of humour to me and we have been getting along famously.

Today we went on a harbour cruise which was largely a tour of all the massive naval ships down there.  The tour was pretty dull but it was lovely to be out on the water for a couple of hours.  We even saw some sea lions hanging out on a barge.

Then we had lunch in a seafood restaurant on the water and after that wandered around little Italy.  It's been a good cruisey sort of day but somehow we're both pretty tired.  There's a movie night on tonight at the hostel which is great because I think that's all I want to do.

Until next time....

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

OH Crap, I lost half of that post, will try to fill it in later

San Diego

My Greyhound bus was late getting me to San Diego (I really dislike Greyhound, they lost another guys luggage on the bus I was on).  I finally got to my hostel at abou 6:30 on Friday evening.  It's weird how sitting on buses doing nothing all day makes you tired.

I only had one other girl in my dorm, her name is Corey and we went for a walk together right away.  I actually needed a pharmacy and she knew where there was one.  Then we took a nice long walk along the beach.

The Hostel we are at has beer pong every weeknight I think, we didn't have any beer but we hung out and at some cake (it was someones birthday).  I met 3 Australian guys from Melbourne and they were being really loud and obnoxious and had very broad accents considering they were from Beaumaris (putting them on a bit I think).

The next day I went for a surf in a part of San Diego called La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya).  I went with a guy I'd met the night before from Brisbane and a German girl.  They were kind of  Short board snobs but I had the last laugh because the surf was small and I Was able to catch more waves on the board I hired.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Some of the good stuff

Hey guys,

I am having a totally boring time in Palm Spring hoping to hear from Greyhound about my luggage.  I wrote the following to the family about a week ago.  It's a bit more of and insight as to what my trip has been like...

"I have had a fantastic day today.  I went for a hike for about two and a half hours in Runyon Canyon (that doesn't include the 45 minutes walk each way from my hostel).  It was really tough in parts but very rewarding.  From the top, well actually from about half way up initially I could see the Hollywood sign and another hill in the distance.  Unfortunately there is so much haze in LA the photos of views and anything in the distance don't seem to come out.  It might be different when I get them on the computer but on the camera screen I could hardly make out the sign at all.  The views over the city were incredible, as were the views into the canyon and at the surrounding slopes.

"I had bought my lunch from this awesome supermarket (but mostly food so not really a proper supermarket) called Wholefoods.  They have a good ratio of organic and local fruit and veg.  Most of the canned goods etc are either organic or "health conscious" so low fat or sodium or sugar.  Then they have this amazing salad bar, with a huge array of pre-made salads, and salad ingredients, and things like frittata, and chicken wings and antipasto and soup and a million other things it seems.  So you can get a container of salad to take home for a few people for dinner or you can make a little mixed box and assemble your own meal.  I had 2 kinds of tabouleh, a wild rice salad with craisins and pecans, a pasta salad with chopped fresh tomato and capers, some tuna, some grated carrot, some chopped cos lettuce, some corn and some hummus.  It was a delicious little sample box and just what I need after my big hike, I also had and apple and a nectarine.  I sat in a green little park at the bottom of the trail, champion lunch.

"After I walked back to my hostel I had a shower and washed my hair and headed out again.  I caught the buss to the LA farmers market which I think was a farmers market in the 70s or something but now it's mostly little eateries and some touristy shops.  The farmers market is near a shopping centre I think called the Grove which is quite trendy.  It's sort of like fake little streets on a big block that are all nicely paved and planned and there's music playing and people shopping.  It was also quite touristy but worth a look.

"By this stage it was about 4-4:30 and I headed down to the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).  It's supposed to be the best modern art museum in the country.  I saw a couple of interesting exhibitions there but one particularly good one.  It was a celebration of 50 years of acquisitions so it was like the best moat impressive and most important pieces that the museum has.  There were quite a few Picasso's and Andy Warhol's.

"That museum is next to the La Brea tar pits.  I was really into seeing these tar pits in the middle of a city.  They have pulled so many ice age fossils from the pits and one of them still is excavated, dad would've loved it.  You guys should read about it on Wikipedia, it's so interesting.  It's amazing to see the methane still bubbling away, did I mention IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY!!!  The museum for the tar pits was shut by the time I get there at about 7pm so I might have to squeeze another visit in.

"Yesterday I hung out with 3 girls I've met at the hostel.  We caught the bus to Santa Monica to lounge on the beach for a while and then we walked to Venice beach.  I hadn't got around to seeing Venice beach while I was in that part of town so I was keen to go along.  I really liked it, very bohemian with heaps of hippie type stalls and shops and heaps of rastas.  There were allot of shops selling medical marijuana: my favourite one was next to the beachside botox shop, I took a photo of these two because it was like something from another planet.  We also walked around the Venice canals, there were quite lovely.  The town was built on marshland and these fake canals were constructed as a sort of theme for the city which was then called "Venice of America" or something like that.  It was a beatnik town but when prohibition came in it killed the feel of the city, eventually the canals were all filled in and paved because the beatniks and tourists weren't coming anymore.  Then about 20 years ago they restored 3 miles of the canals and now you can walk along them, envying all the pretty houses that back onto them and their little boats they float around to their neighbours on.

"It was quite a big couple of days really - shitloads of walking.  Tomorrow I'm going on the tour of movie stars homes and must see LA sights, kodak theatre etc.

"Missing you heaps and wish you were with me!"

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


I'm so bad a blogging!  Sorry guys for the lack of updates.  I'm in Palm Springs and I thought I'd get here and fill you in on my week in LA (Internet was excruciatingly slow at my last hostel).  I can't really seem to get that done though. I think I'd need to be prompted by pictures but I can't get them onto my computer.  There's a massive obstacle preventing that, I don't have the lead from the camera.

Actually I barely have anything with me now.  Yesterday I was to travel from Hollywood to Palm Springs by greyhound bus.  I needed to transfer buses at LA station but no one told me.  The guy who sold me the ticket on Sunday didn't tell me, neither did the guy I checked in with at Hollywood and neither did the guys who checked my ticket again when the bus was leaving LA (on the way to San Diego).

So I ended up in San Diego but my luggage was taken off the bus probably at LA.  No one knows if my bag was put on another bus and sent to Palm Springs or if it stayed at LA.  If it was put on the bus I was supposed to be on it wouldn't have been taken off the bus at Palm Springs because there's no station there, just a stop (the closest station is 21 miles from here) so It might have gone back to LA or somewhere else.

I'd had a pretty light sleep the night before so I was actually asleep for much of my bus ride, I remember waking up and seeing the ocean out the window and thinking it was odd because I was going inland, but I figured it was a thorough route.  I was pretty freaked out when I got to San Diego, the first person I spoke to was really short with me and unsympathetic but then I spoke to someone else who was a bit more useful, tried to make some calls me but didn't really get anywhere, it was a public holiday and the stations all shut at 3pm.

I needed to get on a bus to Palm Springs, it was the last one.  I had to transfer and wait at a closed station for an hour and it was well after 9 before I actually got here.  I'm staying in a hotel rather than a hostel here.  I wanted to come here to do some hiking and check out the surrounding parks and scenery, like Joshua Tree.  I'm glad to have my own space at the moment. I have air conditioning and there's a pool.

Today I had to go out to stock up on essentials.  My insurance covers delayed luggage so I could get a few things like new underwear and toiletries.  I also got myself and unessential bikini and six pack of beer. It took me ages to get all this stuff sorted travelling around the town by bus.  This afternoon I'll try to find something to do tomorrow I can do wearing thongs, have a swim and a beer or two.  At this stage there's nothing else I can do about getting my luggage back.

I feel very helpless and alone.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Santa Monica

I spent my first four days in California in Santa Monica.  It's a cross between a beach side town and a suburb of Los Angeles.  I wanted to start here so I wasn't overwhelmed by the more central parts of LA when I first arrived and possibly would be jet lagged.

Let me tell you, I was jet lagged.  I left Melbourne at about 11am on Thursday and then arrived 15 hours later but it was 8am local time (I slept for half an hour on the plane).  When I got to my hotel my room wasn't ready so I checked in my luggage, had something to eat at a neighbouring cafe and went for a wander to find the beach.

It actually took about 40 minutes to get to the beach on foot.  I went for a walk on Main Street and bought myself some new runners and did a bit of exploring on this shopping strip.  Main street has a really diverse range of businesses on it, from chain stores to quirky boutiques to cafes and restaurants.

Then I sat on the beach and read my book for a while.  I started nodding off so I thought I batter keep walking.  I could see the famous pier and amusement park in the distance and started to walk in that direction but by then I'd been awake for well over 24hours and realised I was actually exhausted.

The walk back to my hotel was mostly up hill and it seemed to take me hours.  When I got there I lay on the bed and fell asleep for a couple of hours.  I woke up at about 6pm and had a shower and thought about getting something to eat but in the end went back to bed and slept all night and then all the next day until about 6pm again.  I couldn't believe I'd slept that long.

I went out to grab a bite to eat and a wander until it started to get dark.  Back at my hotel I was feeling a bit lonely and regretting choosing a hotel to start with.  I went to bed and and slept all through the night (you'd think I would have had enough).

So there aren't any photos from this slow start to my trip.  I picked up my act a bit after this so look forward to some typically touristy photos from Santa Monica in my next post.