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: Final week at camp and the beginning of my American journey.

The last week of camp was tough as I had lots of things to edit and finish up. The slideshow needed to be completed as did the calendar and ODs twice in a row was not pretty. I felt mentally and bodily exhausted from late nights and early breakfasts and yet I still had fun.

I spent most of the final week in the office driving Steve insane with my sudden outbursts of frustration at the computer. I think he will miss it really!

Walking back and forth from Teenside to Mainside suddenly didn’t seem as annoying because I new I wouldn’t be doing it for much longer. I guess I was making the most of hearing the goats and looking out for turtles in the lake.

I have truly enjoyed the experience and I will never forget all the amazing things camp has taught me. It felt like everyday I was facing a new challenge, doing something I never thought I would or simply laughing until tears dribbled down my face.

Yes, the days are long and you sometimes feel like you don’t have a minute to yourself. The food isn’t amazing and you are lucky to go back to your bunk to find no spiders making new homes on your walls, but the friends you make and the place you wake up to every morning definitely makes up for any negative points.

As the bus pulled away and I slowly watched the lake and my friends disappear behind a tree, it was a very bitter sweet moment. Bitter because I was leaving behind friends I may never see again and sweet because I was going to meet friends from home in NYC to explore America.

When I got off the coach on 8th Av and started to drag my luggage along the busy streets and up and down subway stairs, I immediately wanted to arrive at the hostel and see my friends.

When I finally made it, amazed that I managed to find the place with no map, I was relieved to find that the hostel was very clean and newly refurbished. I was then extremely happy to see Josh and Siobhan who were all ready to leave for something to eat.

With no time to relax I quickly changed and we headed towards the Rockerfella. At the top, the views of NY are incredible. I looked over the busy city and couldn’t quite believe where I was standing. The lights of all the surrounding buildings glistened and the sound of the traffic hummed below us.

We chose to go up the Rockerfella as opposed to the iconic Empire Estate Building because we had heard that you could see more of NY at the top. It certainly did not disappoint and I am glad I was able to view such a lively city from above.

We then headed to a roof top bar in Brooklyn. One that Josh and Siobhan had been taken to by a local a few days ago. It was sort of hidden away above a hotel in the middle of a part of Brooklyn that you wouldn’t expect a swanky bar to exist.

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The following day Siobhan, John and I went to explore Central Park. We rented bikes and Siobhan and I thought it would be funny to rent a tandem and it was. We had a blast trying to manoeuvre ourselves around the park without knowing anyone else of their bikes. There were near misses but we survived.

Central park is beautiful in the sunshine, the ducks swim in the ponds and we found a few turtles along the way.

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In the evening we got the subway to the Yankees stadium to watch a game. I am no baseball follower so I had no real understanding of the rules but just the atmosphere and the view of the pitch itself was great. We walked into the staidum all wide eyed and excited which I think is what attracted attention to us.

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A man approached us and asked if we would like to be ungraded to VIP, we politely declined by saying we couldn’t afford it. He quickly mentioned it was free and he would like to offer it us if we simply smile and look happy when a presenter hands over the tickets. Quickly getting excited we agreed to appear on the big screen to accept the VIP tickets. With beaming faces we stood and accepted the tickets, on camera, in the comfort of the air condition VIP area with prime views of the pitch. The whole evening was a whirlwind of excitement, buttery popcorn and cheers from the supportive Yankee fans. What an amazing way to experience an American baseball game.

 

Comment: Bantham beach in the sunshine

Today has been a beautiful day and I have had the luxury of spending it on Bantham beach. It has been so warm and sunny, I am so glad I got to take a road trip with one of my closest friends before I leave for America.IMG-20130531-WA0001 IMG-20130531-WA0002

The beach is about an hours drive away from where I live and was well worth travelling the extra mile to enjoy (almost) white sand, in comparison to our red sand. I should not really complain because there are some lovely beaches just down the road from where I live, it just makes a change to go and explore somewhere new.IMG_7739 IMG_7741 IMG-20130531-WA0000

I took my camera and I was able to take some lovely photographs of children learning to surf, donkey rides, blue skies and white sand.IMG_7730 IMG_7734

It cost £5 to park in the car park for the whole day. There were toilets available and a food truck, which you could buy ice creams and snacks from. Before we arrived in Bantham my friend and I had stopped off at a local bakery, The Crusty Loaf, to buy chicken with stuffing baps. These rolls are huge, nearly as big as my head and are always fresh and yummy. IMG_7722 IMG_7723 IMG_7728

As soon as we arrived, we found a spot on the beach and tucked into our food. After applying sun cream we began to relax and enjoy the sun, listening to two women talk about their kids. It is so strange listening to other peoples conversations because it makes you realise how different everyones lives are to yours. The two women happened to be talking about how their children like to wonder around naked. I do not have children but I cannot ever imagine expressing to a fellow mother how my child likes to be naked, so weird.IMG_7712 IMG_7717

The women were packing their possessions away and as they picked up their towel we got sprayed with sand. Sand and just applied suncream do not mix which was highly unfortunate as we then had to sit for the rest of the day with sandy stomaches – fun!

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Despite being covered in sand, I did enjoy the day because it had been such a long time since I had been able to relax in the sun.

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On the way home we blasted our songs and sang along with the windows down with our shades on. It all sounds very cliche but I don’t think I care!

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