America wasn’t high on my list of places to see. In actual fact, I’m not sure it was really even on my list. I’m generally a lot more interested in places that have e very different culture than I am used to. Funnily enough though, after Alexa returned home to California, America very quickly shot to the top of my travel list.
Apart from my 3 week excursion to the East Coast, most of my time in the United States was spent in California. From the moment I landed, I was actually confronted with how different America is from New Zealand. You might even say I was experiencing culture shock to a certain extent. To start with I would have to say that, like New York, LA is just like you see on TV. Wide streets, low sunsets, expensive cars, and valet parking. I however did not catch any celebrities on the street. The plus-tax-plus-tip culture is strange and annoying, and you have to do your own table service in cafes (remind me why I’m tipping?). I was also surprised by how often Americans were not able to understand words that I would say, or be confused by words I was using; words like “serviette” and “take-away” (“napkin” and “to-go”).
I’ll be honest, after my first visit to LA I left feeling pretty lousy about the place. I think a lot of it was my mindset going in. I was expecting not to like it. Everybody (inside and outside of America) bags it, and I think I had already resigned myself to the fact that I was going to this place I automatically didn’t like. I visited Hollywood Boulevard (people actually like this stuff?) and went to Tommy Burger (again, really?), and was annoyed by the fact that you have to drive (don’t even attempt public transport) for 40 minutes to get basically anywhere.
Fast forward through Thanksgiving – yum! Jump over the East Coast and I’m back again before and after Christmas. This time around, I cleared the slate, giving LA a fresh chance to capture my eye. And capture it I think it did. I got used to driving around, to standing outside restaurants for an hour, to free right turns on red lights. Here are a few things that I now really appreciate about LA, and am keen to go back and enjoy.
All you can eat BBQ for $15-$30 (depending on how many options you want). If you go with a few people you can get through a lot, and it’s all delicious. You sit at a table with a communal grill, cooking and eating.
Boba (Bubble Tea)
Not normally my thing, but I’m super into it. It’s sweet green tea, with ice and milk, and tapioca pearls (sort of a chewy gelatinous thing) and the bottom. Apparently a lot of people don’t like it because they are weirded out by having lollies in their drink. Thanks for the new found sugar addiction, America.
This isn’t LA specific, but deserves a mention. Alexa once told me that the things she missed most from America were Amazon Prime and Trader Joe’s, and I get it now (on both parts). It’s hard to explain why a grocery store (supermarket) can be so good, so I won’t try.
Everyone in America uses Yelp, an app for your phone which allows people to review restaurants and cafes (imagine TripAdvisor on steroids). As such, when picking a place to eat or hang out, Yelp takes us to all different parts of the city. A lot of the neighborhoods are very different, which makes visiting different ones quite fun. It reminds me a bit of Melbourne in this manor. (I wonder if anyone will yell at me for comparing LA to Melbourne.)
We spent Christmas in San Jose (an hour from San Francisco). I had PRK eye surgery (I dare you to youtube it) and subsequently slept through Christmas. I could actually hardly open my eyes for about 4 days. Big shout out to Alexa’s mom Tina for all the amazing Japanese foods that she cooked for us while we were there. Those of you who get my Snapchats must have been proper jealous.
After Christmas we spent a few days in San Francisco (apparently it’s bad form to say ‘San Fran’), where we walked the streets (read: hiked the hills) and loitered in hipster cafes serving flat whites. We also went to Cirque du Soleil. It was my first time and even though my eyes weren’t the best, it was such an amazing show. Definitely a must-see. I thought San Francisco was a super cool city, with a really nice feel to it. It also has one of the best Chinatowns I’ve been to.
Driving back down to LA was also wonderful. We took the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara. The Pacific Coast Highway is a stretch of road on the edge of cliffs, with many spots to pull over and take in the wonderful views. We were lucky enough to have perfect weather the entire trip down. We drank the best milkshake I’ve ever had (chocolate, peanut butter, and banana) at a vegan-hipster diner in Santa Cruz, and ate Acai (ah-sah-ee) bowls in Santa Barbara.
Back in LA I tried my hand at Crossfit (I placed second overall in the session, so I’m basically a monster), drank fancy coffee (what we would call regular coffee in New Zealand) and stocked up on dates with Alexa before the next round of LDR. I ate a lot of food in America, and basically everything has sugar in it. One of the things I really liked was the sheer variety of options. Wherever we were, there always seemed to be any type of food that we wanted to eat. I managed to gain a few pounds, and definitely left with a sugar addiction. Despite it being winter, the coldest it ever got was about 10 degrees; most of the time the temperature was between 15 and 20 degrees, with only one day of rain while I was there. Some winter, huh.
I’m writing this from a cute little cafe in The Khaosan, Bangkok, waiting to take a train up to Chiang Mai. My life is pretty spectacular. I think I’d be jealous if I read my blog.