4. Los Angeles
So Air New Zealand pulled out some interesting meals for us. Our first snack/dinner was a warm tomato and pineapple roll. That's it. Nothing else in the roll, just tomato and pineapple. Weird. What sort of crazy food combinations do they eat in New Zealand? Breakfast was polenta with vegetable stir fry, which I admit was one of the best meals I have ever eaten on a plane but definitely not something I would ever consider "breakfast".
LA was more of a stopover on route to Mexico than anything else, but I was excited to be a tourist in this city for a few days. That excitement was not present on day one, after limited sleep and possibly a slight hangover from South Sea Island in Fiji. To confuse my brain even more, we were living the 7th of February for the second time this year: once in Fiji and now again in the USA, due to time zone changes. Sleep was definitely priority one.
We had booked an apartment on Air BnB, so from Union Station we caught a taxi using the address we had written down. We drove down an abandoned-looking street, lined with warehouses and screaming "shady - leave immediately". The taxi driver was reluctant to drop us off there but we assured him it was the right area. We couldn't find the front door or a doorbell and ended up circling the block before finding another person who could help us. They pointed us in the right direction and we were led deep inside one of the warehouses. What we found inside was nothing short of amazing: a huge loft-style apartment, open-plan, artwork and graffiti lining the walls, a rooftop area with city views and a massive skateboard ramp in the living room! We had definitely found the coolest place in all of LA to stay. After absorbing the awesomeness of the place, we went straight to bed and slept for the second time that day/date.
Picked a winner with Air BnB.
Five days in LA was definitely enough time to get our tourist caps on. A quick rundown of our adventures (in order):
Olvera Street (because we needed to try some Mexican food before traveling around Mexico for a month)
Pasadena (beautiful neighbourhood)
The Norton Simon museum (love love love Monet)
Walk of Fame (once is enough. Souvenir shop anyone?)
Chinese Theatre (is it bad I hadn't heard of most of the names?)
Sunset Strip (we saw more liquor stores than bars)
Chinatown (more chili options on the table than I could count = so happy)
Grand Central market (foodie heaven)
Getty Center, including the cute little tram up the hill (Monet!)
Grove farmers market (foodie heaven number 2)
LACMA (really got my Impressionists fix here in LA)
Little Tokyo (best hand rolls ever)
Plus a bar in every little subsection of the city. Even the pharmacies sell alcohol here.
Street Art: Give Peace a Chance.
Jesus rocking the Walk of Fame.
I have no idea what this is.
Little Tokyo. Danny's on the left, mine on the right.
Disneyland was at the top of my visit list while in LA. I had been to Disneyland Paris and loved it (well, most of it - queues were horrendous; I was ready to punch Mickey in the face by the end) but in my mind nothing was going to beat the original. Unfortunately I didn't plan the public transport very well. I had worked out which buses to catch but the bus gods were against me that day. The first bus stopped halfway to where I thought I was going. The driver actually pulled into the depot before realising I was still on the bus. He promptly kicked me off and told me to walk back to the main road. I found another bus going in the right direction, which took me to a train that led to another bus. Three hours later, I made it to Disneyland. I had hoped to arrive early to beat some of the queues but it wasn't to be. I picked up my map, noted all the "thrill" rides and made my way as quickly as I could between them. Hands down, Space Mountain was my absolute favourite. I would have gone on it a dozen times if I didn't have to wait 30 minutes each time. Once I had checked off all the rides and eaten my Mickey-shaped pretzel, it was time to face the evil public transport system to return to downtown LA (it only took two hours to get back).
Disneyland: where dreams comes true.
LA was more grimy and gritty than I thought it would be. I was expecting streets of gold, everything to be rich and expensive-looking, but we barely saw that at all (maybe because we avoided Rodeo Drive like the plague). Homeless people outnumbered "movie stars" on Hollywood Boulevard. Often we were the only white people on buses. Traffic was terrible. The feel of the city could change completely just by crossing the street. For these reasons the city was actually interesting, although it's a shame such a huge class and economic divide exists. Overall, I liked the city much more than I thought I would.