Travel: Surfers paradise

Our travel destinations always surprised me. It was strange how we managed to create the route considering we had not really planned any of the trip. We didn’t really discuss what route we would take or where we would stay, it sort of just happened the way it did – very disorganised travellers.

The next stop on our marvellous American tour was San Diego. It was approximately two hours drive from LA and we were all very excited to go and see another place. We arrived quite late so didn’t really get to see much of our new destination until the following morning.

The following day was very relaxed. We drove to Ocean Beach and spent the day enjoying the sun, sand and waves. I lay on the sand reading a book and watching the surfers surf the big waves.

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The waves were very powerful and knocked me off my feet on a number of occasions. I envied the regulars gliding above the rolling white horses on their surf boards as we all got wiped out by the relentless herd.

Later in the evening we watched the sunset over Ocean beach pier and saw a seal hovering in the water waiting for the fishermen to throw him some fish. Queue cheesy line…I felt blessed to be able to experience such lovely surroundings.

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For dinner, we found a lively New Zealand bar named Raglan Public House where we ate mini sliders (also known as mini burgers) in the midst of laughing at Josh’s sunburnt face. It was so burnt he had to buy an emergency stock of moisturiser and a bag of ice which he face planted every few seconds.

With an aching stomach from laughing at Josh’s face we returned to our hotel and fell asleep.

The following day we ventured out in the Sin Wagon to another beach called La Jolla Cove. It is pronounced holla, incase you ever ask for directions and nobody knows where you mean.

I think there must have been a surfing competition or event taking place because there were lots of stalls and no parking whatsoever. We drove around for a while before finding a spot a few streets away from the beach. We didn’t stay very long at the main beach because the reason we had decided to check out this particular one was because we were told it contained lots of seals. With no seals in sight we decided to ‘wing it’, yet again and go and find them elsewhere.

Further along the coast, what we believe to still be La Jolla Cove, we managed to find what we came looking for. Sat on a rock, bold as brass, was the biggest, wettest with whiskers the size of my arm, seal you could ever imagine. We turned a corner and saw loads of them swimming in the sea trying to dodge the divers who were brave enough to try swim next to them.

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It was pretty incredible how close the divers could get without being harmed by these slimy creatures.

Once we had, had enough of the seals we left the beach and went to get ready for our final night in San Diego.

We dressed up a little and went in search of some cheap alcohol filled slush puppies. We found the bar that was famous for slushies but it was empty so we decided to go and grab some food and see if it livened up a little later. We ended up in a restaurant called Henry’s bar and I enjoyed a nice pizza with a side of mash potatoe. I was craving normal food and the mash was as close as I could get.

Later in the evening we found another bar and ended up dancing until the early hours before returning to the hotel to sleep.

That concluded our trip to San Diego, next stop VEGAS!

Travel: The delights of Hollywood

When someone first lands in LA I guess you would expect them to recall how amazing there first night was. Spent in the Hollywood hills spying on celebrities and drinking cocktails until the sun came up.

This is what I would expect to hear from someone else’s traveling adventure. For us the story goes a little differently.

Before anyone judges us, may I just remind everyone that we had just spent the night on a very ‘comfy’ airport floor and flown across America the following morning.

We spent our first evening finding a laundrette to do our washing. Well equipped with washing detergent, bought from a dodgey looking vending machine, we soon managed to get the cleaning of clothes underway.

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A man casually strolled passed us and asked if we would like some drugs but we politely refused and continued the mundane task of watching our clothes dance, swirl and splash around.

The clothes did not smell as fresh as I would have liked but I guess that is what is to be expected from a life as a traveler.

As luck would have it a Dominos sat next to the laundrette so we decided to grab a pizza and head towards a beach.

Siobhan, combined with Josh’s sudden breaking, nearly lost our pizza to the floor of the car.

I found LA dominos highly displeasing. Everything just seems to contain so much salt and little of anything else.

Soon after we finished eating we decided to head back to our hotel room and I was quickly sent into a salt and jet lagged sleep coma.

As disappointing as this tale of our first night in LA may seem, the logical side of it is, it enabled us to have clean clothes for the rest of our trip.

I nearly forgot to mention, we now have a car named Sin Wagon.

When we landed, we caught a shuttle bus to the Thrifty garage to pick up our hire car. As we queued up waiting to see what our vehicle for the next month was going to be, I was praying for a red swanky car worthy of the Sin Wagon title but unfortunately we got given a black one. Sin Wagon was still a justifiable name even though it was black.

Josh was given the task of being the first to drive but before he could even begin, we had to figure out how to move the seat back so Josh’s long legs could fit in. Who could have guessed that seats these days are electric?!

Once we got on the road Josh was doing great considering he had only ever driven a car during his driving lessons and that was on UK roads.

It was such a relief knowing we could pack up the car with all our luggage as and when we wanted, ready to head to another destination.

The following day we decided to head to Venice beach, having heard a lot of good things about the place. It is supposed to imitate the real Venice but when we got there I did not see any little alleys filled with water, no boats gliding along any rivers and no Italian restaurants for that matter.

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What I did see was a number of tramps picking rubbish out of bins, an outdoor gym with a few men posing near the weight machines and a beach, which could have been great if the mist wasn’t surrounding us. Needless to say, we were all slightly disappointed by Venice beach. The best thing about the place was a group of guys who put on a dance performance and I was pretty sure I had seen them in New York a month or so ago, so even they did not originate from this place.

I am sure the place may look and feel very different if the sun had been shining because surely all the hype cannot be about nothing.

The following day we decided to head into Hollywood. We walked through a lively market and headed towards the Walk of Fame. It was much bigger than I had imagined, lining a number of streets. In New York I felt like you had to walk with your head up so that you could see all the architecture, whereas in Hollywood I found myself constantly walking with my head down, so as not to miss some famous persons name planted in a star shape on the floor. You could spot the locals because they flippantly wondered the streets without their eyes glued to the ground. It almost felt as though the locals were annoyed at the tourists for being excited about a ‘sidewalk’.

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We saw the Chinese theatre which is famous for the concrete blocks that are set in front of the entrance, bearing nearly 200 signatures, foot and hand prints of famous people. Most of the stars have written short messages to a man named Sid and at the time I had no idea who Sid was. It turns out, after reading a little history about the place, that Sid Grauman was a showman who created the Chinese Theatre back in January 1926. I was very excited to be touching the concrete where famous people had previously placed there hands.

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We also went on a tour of the Hollywood hills and saw many things:

The church that Sister Act was filmed in.

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Rodeo Drive which was very glamourous.

The shop that Julia Roberts was rejected from in Pretty Woman.

Viper Room where River Phoenix died

The hotel that Marilyn Monroe had an affair with JFK in and the place she stayed in when she first started out.

Where Jennifer Anniston worked before she was famous.

Where Brad Pitt worked as a sign holder in a chicken suit before he was famous.

The first cinema in LA known as the Egyption cinema.

Dolbly Theatre where they hold the Oscars.

Michael Jackson’s, Bruno Mars’ and Madonna’s house along with the Playboy Mansion and Tom Cruises chimney.

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It was all very exciting and you didn’t really know which way to turn your head first. Warning: The drive is not a straight and simple drive and may cause travel sickness! As we were parked outside the Playboy Mansion I did think I was going to vomit – what a story that would have made.

That evening we headed to a BestWestern hotel and stayed one night in luxury.

The next day I went to Warner Brothers Studios whilst Siobhan and Josh went to Universal.

Warner Brothers was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I loved learning about everything that goes on behind the scenes and seeing parts of the set that had been filmed in Friends and other programmes that I had watched. It was definitely worth the $60 I paid to go on the VIP Tour.

Whilst I was there, The Big Bang Theory cast were rehearsing in one stage, and Pretty Little Liars were filming in another. I walked along the street that was used in Gilmore Girls and is currently used in Pretty Little Liars and Heart of Dixie. I also got to wonder around the school that is featured Pretty Little Liars and saw all the girls bedrooms. It is crazy how small the spaces are in real life in comparison to how big they look on TV. I also got to sit on the sofa that was used in the filming of Friends!!

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I think I had a permanent smile planted on my face as we went round and it definitely made me want to work behind the scenes on a show one day.

Later in the afternoon we met up with the others and Josh drove us closer to the Hollywood sign. We managed to get to some great touristy pictures before we left LA for San Diego.

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Travel: Cold feet, hundreds of bodies and a place at camp…

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The summer of a life time is slowly creeping up on me.

A few months ago I attended the London, Camp America Recruitment fair in the hope to be placed at a camp I had chosen. A few days prier to the event I searched through all the camps that were attending online to see which ones appealed to me the most. With my heart set on Camp Westmount I got on the train to Reading to meet my friend, Siobhan, who was also hoping to get placed.

The alarm was set for 7am and when it went off on the morning of the big day I couldn’t believe I had even had an hours sleep let alone 8. Begrudgingly I rolled out of bed and got dressed, wrapped cold pizza in tinfoil and left the house. The cold, winters walk to the station woke us both up and we boarded the 9am train to London Paddington.

Arriving in London to be greeted by the hustle and bustle of early morning travellers we headed for the underground to join the monotonous clan. Luckily once we took to the surface the sun was poking its head between clouds but this did not deter the cold effecting us.

As we approached the building, that was playing host to the Camp America fair, queues were already forming. At this point it was 10am and there must have already been 200 young adults chatting and shivering in line. Donning a green #iamCA sticker we joined the back of the line and was handed a large booklet filled with information.

With frozen fingers I sifted through the booklet and circled, for the second time, the camps that looked most appealing. In discussion with Siobhan we each changed our minds on wanting to go to Camp Westmount. Siobhan liked the idea of spending her summer in California whilst I liked the sound of Surprise Lake Camp (SLC). The destination of the camp wasn’t my priority because I new, if I got placed, then I would travel America afterwards. It just so happened that the camp I found most tempting was in New York. What drew me towards SLC was the short right up that described what they were all about. The paragraph sounded friendly and fun which is what won it over for me.

It must have taken us a good hour and a half to come to our final decision about the top 5 camps we would look to get placed at. We both figured that we had best decide on a few favourites because the likely hood you will get placed at any is ambiguous. Once we had sorted this out it was a matter of waiting for the doors to open at 12am.

Without anything to occupy us the impending feeling of frozen toes and red noses came to the forefront of our minds. I don’t think my toes have ever been as cold as they were that morning. In the end I walked down the street to get a cup of tea and as much as I love tea, I didn’t want to drink it because it was keeping my hands warm.

At 12am the que surged forward and the nervous really started to kick in. As we slowly crawled further towards the entrance I realised how hard it was to walk. The frozen toes were truly getting to me and getting a place was ever more paramount.

After what felt like an eternity we finally entered the realm of warmth. We were ushered up a flight of stairs and motioned to sit on chairs facing a big screen. The man spoke and I half listened and half revelled in the fact I could feel my body defrosting. After watching a short video we were left to fight to the deaths to try and get placed at a camp.

I spotted the SLC stall as I was walking down the stairs towards the main room that held all the other stalls. Once I reached the bottom I wished Siobhan good luck and headed towards slot 61 where SLC was based. I smiled at the camp representative and asked if I could collect some leaflets. Reading through them clarified for me that this was the camp I wanted to spend my summer at.

Avri, the camp representative introduced himself to me and I returned the pleasantries. He carried on talking to another girl and it looked like the interview was going well for her. This made me more determined to try and have mine go the same way. After he had finished he invited me to sit on the hot seat and he began asking me interview style questions. I answered them with honesty and enthusiasm. I tried to demonstrate parts of my personality as I was advised on the introduction video. After answering all the questions my heart quickened as I watched Avri write down a few notes. He then turned to me with a smile and said he would like to offer me a place. With a sigh of relief and a shake of his hand I already felt like part of the team.

What I felt was so lovely about Avri himself was that he didn’t sit behind the table like every other camp representative did. He sat opposite me whilst he asked me the questions making me feel more at ease. The fact that he chose to sit on the same side as the people he was interviewing says to me that he is presenting himself as an equal.  After speaking to him for more than a minute I felt comfortable in his presence.

Once the forms were signed and I had bid Avri farewell, I made my way towards the que to have my photograph taken and to pay my deposit. Standing in the line I nervously rang Siobhan to ask if she had also been placed. Luckily she had so we both were able to leave with smiles on our face.

The entire day consisted of lots of queing and many excited people drifting from stall to stall. It was definitely an experience I wouldn’t want to relive in a hurry but it was all worth the nearly frost bitten toes and cold pizza for lunch. I am one step closer to being able to wake up in New York City.