Day 35 – 38 – Los Angeles – Banana Bungalow & Hostel Life

Decided there are more important things than visiting this place again. Very little to do after seeing stuff before. An excellent comedy night, some good American food and a top session of karaoke were the highlights before flying out to Costa Rica!

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Days 13-14 – Los Angeles (Part 3) – Hangover & Planning

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I woke up with a rotten hangover. Unfortunately I did my standard thing of continuing to drink when we got back to the hostel last night. That probably explains the spiderman selfie as well. Hope I remembered to give him a tip! On the brighter side of things I had absolutely nothing to do for the day except to make some plans with Sam for the next couple of weeks. We decided to go for a solid hangover cure lunch at Mels, the local celebrity themed diner.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love big portions but I’d probably draw the line at one plate. When your food is coming on two plates then you know you’re in the States. After my pathetic effort to finish this behemoth of a meal, I boxed up the remaining 75% of food and prepared to collapse into a food coma. First we discussed what we should do next and after checking the prices of car hire in LA we decided to bus to Vegas where rentals are considerably cheaper.

Unfortunately I had arrived at the hostel when the group of people I’d befriended the previous night were going their separate ways. As a result, the hostel was now completely dead and the latest arrivals had yet to come out of their shell. That’s probably my biggest issue with hostel life in that you need to stay somewhere for a decent amount of time in order to bond with people to the extent where you can relax and enjoy yourself. That poses quite a big problem for me as I’m not staying in any one place for a long time until I get to Rio. Then again it allowed me to take the next day to see some more of Hollywood before I headed off for Vegas. Besides it would have been sacrilegious not to catch up with an old friend before I left:

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LA is an incredible place with so much variety in term of both the people and the things you can do. If I were to recommend one thing it would be to head to Venice Beach at the weekend. Once you get past the hustlers and overpriced custom clothing, it’s great to see the locals playing basketball and handball, as well as the atmosphere in general.

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The next day we headed to Las Vegas!

Day 12 – Los Angeles (Part 2) – Universal Studios

After catching up with Matt and Josh we headed for Universal Studios in North Hollywood. Having been to the sister Park in Florida I was expecting something similar: huge roller coasters and live shows with enough explosives to raze a small town. Although the latter was true, there wasn’t a single roller coaster in sight. This Universal Studios is geared much more towards looking at the Studios themselves. The majority of rides take place in simulators with a couple of indoor roller coasters thrown in for good measure. I can only assume that there’s no outdoor roller coasters because it would decimate the view from the top of the hill, as well as they would interfere with filming.

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The simulators were excellent with the exception of Transformers which broke as we were queuing for it and didn’t resume service till right at the end of the day by which point we’d decided to head home. What really impressed me though were the live shows, specifically Waterworld which surpassed all my expectations :

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As I should have expected, they aren’t joking when they label the front few rows as the “Soak Zone”. Several jet ski waves later and I was left attempting to salvage what was left of my rucksack.

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The special effects shows were amazing as well, both educationally speaking and entertainment wise. However, it does diminish the spectacle of films like King Kong when you see how a large portion of the movie was filmed in front of a green screen.

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All in all, I’m glad I went but I wouldn’t go again because I’m more of a roller coaster person, as well as the entrance fee of just under $100 being totally extortionate in my opinion. Six Flags is just down the road and at just $40, is the best value for money in the area considering they have 12 world class roller coasters.

That night we went out in Hollywood and I met Sam who I’d end up travelling with for the next few weeks.

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Day 11 – Los Angeles (Part 1) – Rodeo Drive & Venice Beach

I arrived in Los Angeles late last night and was immediately confronted by the famous traffic congestion that plagues the City. The shuttle bus had stops all over the city so I made myself comfortable. Like New York and Philadelphia, the neighbourhoods change rapidly in LA. One moment you’re heading through the dangerous dwellings of Inglewood surrounding LAX and then you cross into the bright lights of North Hollywood, an area filled with tourists, street performers and gay bars. North Hollywood would also be the location of my accommodation, Hollywood Youth Hostel. I finally settled into my room but it was so late that I decided to just crash out.

The next morning I got up early and set off for Beverly Hills. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with the area that’s home to some of the wealthiest people in the world and I hoped to draw some inspiration to get moving on the entrepreneurial aspect of my life. Unfortunately the most luxurious of houses are set behind high walls and hedges and are almost impossible to see. Thinking about it, when I return in a couple of weeks it may be worth taking one of the tour buses as they know which ones belong to who, and which you can see from the road.

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Next up I took a stroll down Rodeo Drive, the famous strip of designer stores that is a great place to spot celebrities. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of anyone but there must have been some about as the supercars were out in force. The shops are perfectly designed to entice their desired clientele; ceiling to floor windows, security fit for a superclub and personal stylists who wouldn’t look out of place on the catwalk in Paris. They may as well just put a “RICH PEOPLE ONLY” sign in the window. Enough pretentiousness for one day, I headed for Venice Beach.

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If there was ever a metaphor for polar opposites, it would be the comparison between Rodeo Drive and Venice Beach. Having found it impossible to people watch in Beverly Hills because of the tinted windows, I sat down on the bleachers to watch the locals play some basketball. It’s refreshing to know that places like this still exist in an area of , maintained by those who use them.

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There are also various street performers although the quality of some is debatable. Some offer bad advice for a dollar, others offer you the chance to kick them in the crotch for a measly ten bucks. However, the quality of the street dancers is undeniable and I watched the performance for a good hour.

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Despite failing to get the final photo of a guy diving over a line of seven people, it was a great display. Time to head home, I grabbed the bus in rush hour, a devastating error on my part. If I’ve learnt anything in LA so far, it’s that the Subway is king. An hour later I was back at the hostel and ended up meeting a couple of guys, Matt and Josh, who were also from Oxford. After a few games of beer pong they invited me along to Universal Studios the next day which was on my list anyway so I agreed. Unfortunately the night ended sourly when Josh was thrown out the hostel for throwing up in the dorm. That’s hostel life for you!