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Saturday 21 Sep 2013
Los Angeles, USA

And so it begins again...

It feels very strange to be heading off again on another great adventure.  The first part of my trip was just so incredible – so full of breathtaking sights, perfect moments and chance encounters – that a part of me is scared to go away again and believe that I can be so lucky a second time.  What if it all goes wrong?  What if I don’t meet such brilliant people this time?  What if it is just not as good?  But there’s another part of me – a much bigger part, I hasten to add – which simply can’t wait.  I’ve been looking forward to things on this trip for years.  Doing the classic American Road Trip through the National Parks and along the Pacific Coast Highway has been on my fantasy holiday hit list for as long as I can remember.  Throw in Hallowe’en in San Francisco and it gets even better. Oh, and did I mention going to the Galapagos Islands at New Year!? Exactly.  So what can I really be worried about? Let’s go!


After a nice farewell drink with my family at the pub across the road, I finally got everything into my new rucksack.  Mum drove me down to my friend Verity’s – a former colleague and good friend who is mad enough to join me for a few weeks of this epic journey. We made it to Heathrow in plenty of time without so much as a whiff of a snowflake to be seen in the sunny London sky – such a change from January’s departure. I was thoroughly disappointed to discover the Absolut Cocktail bar in Duty Free is now a whisky bar, so no free pre-flight cocktails for us, but we did nab some Yo Sushi for the flight.


Despite some confusion with the online check in process, Virgin did indeed have a booking for me and I was provided with a Gluten Free meal (both of which appeared to be in doubt 24 hours earlier). I worked through three films before trying to get some sleep but didn’t manage more than a couple of hours’ doze.  We landed at 7.15pm (3.15am UK time) and it took us another two hours to get through LAX but it was at least a fairly straightforward process. They even let me keep the GF wraps that I'd brought with me.  We finally reached the Alamo desk around 9.30pm and got to choose our own car from a line of various models.  We went for a shiny cherry red Corolla as we’ve both driven one in the past, although neither of ours had a steering wheel on the left!  Thankfully, the Sat Nav we’d brought with us kicked in straight away and guided us successfully through the LA traffic to the heart of Hollywood.  This was a big relief as the directions we'd printed just in case turned out to be hopeless.  Verity drove brilliantly, especially given the unfamiliarity of the car, the roads and the fact we’d been up for almost 24 hours by then! 



Our hostel was right on the Walk of Fame opposite the Dolby Theatre, home to the Oscars, and the infamous Grumman’s Chinese Theatre.  It couldn’t have been more central.  We had our car valet parked at Mme Tussaud’s – another new experience for both of us – and walked through the crowds of tourists and celebrity impersonators, while trying to read the names on all the pink stars set in the pavement.  It was brilliant!


The hostel itself wasn’t much to write home about, definitely ranking on the lower end of the scale for cleanliness, but it was worth it for the location.  Our room faced away from Hollywood Boulevard so it was surprisingly quiet, which wasn’t a bad thing given how tired we were by then.  The bunk bed was so rickety that we put the top mattress on the floor instead, but it was comfortable and I was asleep very quickly.  Some time later, I was gradually awoken to the sound of a helicopter.  It eventually dawned on me that I wasn’t dreaming about celebrity arrivals at the Oscars, but there was in fact a real helicopter flying around.  When I peeked out of the window I realized it was actually a police helicopter with a very powerful searchlight and there were seven police cars in the parking lot below our window.  Whatever the drama had been, it was now over and the police were milling about talking to a few pedestrians, but it was a reminder that we were definitely in America (I’m not sure I have ever seen seven police cars in one place in the UK). 

Welcome to Hollywood!


Mileage: 15


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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #1 America

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Here I go again! After the incredible experiences of my first Big World Adventure, I'm off again for part two, starting with a classic American Road Trip through California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona...

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