Saturday, 23 February 2019

Backpacking Part Five - The Pimp Palaces of LA, Tattoos, Going Blonde, Vegas and San Fransisco

My very dear Readers, we find ourselves at the end of our adventure. This is our last stop off. We so hope you have enjoyed living vicariously, or perhaps, precariously, through your Hapless Blogger’s adventures…

Here we board the plane again from Tahiti (definitely on the list to return to and I do regret not doing it justice), and head for LAX. This is most certainly the case now, but even then it was definitely the case, you must have somewhere booked to stay. They were very scary at the airport back then, so I can only imagine what they would be like now.

In fact, someone told us this in the queue for passport control! I distinctly remember flinging open the Lonely Planet and just writing down the name of the first youth hostel listed…this, dear Readers, was my error…However at the time it was necessary.

Off we went in an old taxi to said youth hostel located in the Venice Beach district (they were meant to pick us up from the airport but never turned up…alarm bells rang but I chose to ignore them)…LA was intriguing…I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest, and Readers, once more, I fell in love. The weather was fab, not boiling, more sort of nice, English Summer’s day with a tinge of sea mist in the air…it might have been the pollution, but let’s not think about that. On reaching said youth hostel, at the back of Venice Beach, I can, Readers, only describe it as a former pimp palace…There aren’t any other words applicable. Think red, shag pile carpets, Jacuzzis with no water in that didn’t work and a lot of people kind of hanging about. Not my scene. But to go back to the theme of this entire Blog, it’s about “Travel Trends”, and this is a facet of the travel trend of backpacking: one youth hostel can vary wildly from another. Some will be your scene, and some just won’t.

Now, remember, we had inhabited virtually uninhabited islands for many months now, where the pace of life is slow, and you spend your life kind of pottering. Now, having been thrown into LA, it was all rather exciting…and full of bikini shops! Hurrah! So on our first night at the Pimp Palace, we went to a nice looking bar on Venice Beach and got horrendously drunk. I mean horrendously. I don’t know about you, Readers, but your Idiotic Blogger has no tolerance for Tequila which has a large presence in the cocktail, Margarita… We drank with the locals who all thought our accents were so cute…

It took me the whole of the next day to stop throwing up. Thankfully there were plenty of MacDonalds around to frequent their loos… And we changed youth hostels to an interesting Art Deco affair in West Hollywood. West Hollywood, Readers, is code for “the dodgy end of Hollywood”. But I was determined to walk on the stars and all that malarkey. It’s all a bit dodgy, but that didn’t bother me, and I had a lovely time walking around. LA is very big, and everyone drives everywhere. The buses are a bit ropey, and you have to be careful where you go with them, even more so nowadays I would assume. We didn’t hire a car this time and this idiot decided she wanted to walk.

Having given up and taken the bus, we got to Beverly Hills. With hindsight, you’re best off to take one the billions of tours on offer. In a coach. With air conditioning. And a guide to tell you where you are and what you’re supposed to be looking at. I did not. And got very sore feet. Beverly Hills is fab, and exactly how you’d imagine it to be. Rodeo Drive also… bit like New Bond Street with palm trees. At the bottom is the Beverly Wilshire. Here’s a tip for you. By this time, your Helpless Blogger was desperate for the loo. The Beverly Wilshire clearly has loos. Never be put off or think you aren’t good enough to go into a place (see Princess and the posh resort on the Isle of Mana), so in I swanned, all backpacker boho (or so I thought, but the fact remains, Readers, that I retained some sort of Princess semblance for the whole time). Excellent loos, I might add, and out again.

Head to Santa Monica. The pier is great fun and the whole place has a laid back, beachy vibe. Gorgeous beach of course. Very big Spanish influence and definitely a place I could live.

We then moved to the Bevonshire Lodge Motel. I found it and it’s still in existence and it hasn’t changed! I can’t remember how I found it, but it was everything you’ve ever wanted in a very classic American motel. Interestingly, I didn’t have a car… but that didn’t matter. The rooms look pretty dated now, but to us, after extremely basic living for quite a long time, they were luxurious. Fluffy towels, a fridge in the room, and a nice bathroom with working facilities were wonderful. It even had one of those funny motel pools…It just so happened that it is in an amazing location! By a park and a block away from The Grove which hadn’t long opened. It’s a kind of open-air shopping centre with restaurants and back then, unbeknownst to yours truly, the place to see and be seen. At the time “The Simple Life” starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie was out and popular and The Grove is where they hung out…they were very sweet and it baffles me to this day why Americans continue to find our accents “cute”?! Honestly it was a recurring theme. I took it upon myself to dress a bit like them, all short skirts and pastel colours and then, guess what, dear Readers, your Hopeless Blogger decided to GET A TATTOO AND GO BLONDE…

I am a naturally very dark haired person, but having lost so much weight (a perk of travelling) I decided, as home time was creeping ever closer, to go home blonde with a tattoo… My companion wishing to have nothing to do with it (remember the topless toe incident in Rarotonga, do we see a pattern here?!) off I walked to Melrose. Fab area. I took myself to the same tattoo parlour where Britney had her fairy done (yup, must be good) and presented myself. Picture the scene. It was, erm, a few years ago, and it was very popular to have a tattoo on one’s lower back. So I had the guy design one especially for me, squatted over a stool, focused on the big Hollywood sign that I could see out of the window, and thought of England… I would love to make you laugh and tell you what a disaster it was, but it wasn’t, it was a beautiful tattoo and I am still proud of it to this day, and a great reminder of that moment in time. To get a bit philosophical for a minute, my lovely Readers, isn’t that what travelling’s all about? I didn’t take a photo, but I will remember that view, that parlour, and the moment in time forever. The very best memories come from travelling.

Back in the room, and we can agree that thankfully the tattoo was a success. The hair, on the other hand, dear Readers, wasn’t. Very dark people shouldn’t go blonde. I’ll just leave it there.

In Melrose was a branch of the Flight Centre, and it was here that we booked a very cheap little tour. LAX to Las Vegas, to San Francisco and back to LAX. If you book last minute over there OMG you can get Vegas hotels soooooo cheaply. We booked The Aladdin, which is now The Planet Hollywood for next to nothing. Off we went, with my companion keen to go and me, not having the slightest interest in gambling, not so keen. Readers, if you ever get a chance to go to Vegas you must absolutely go. It was brilliant. Much posher and less seedy than I had assumed. Everything back then was so cheap, but even now it’s good value.

The Aladdin was Arabian themed as you can imagine. The room was off the scale out of this world. Indoors, you are kept in this kind of perpetual twilight…it’s like it always feels like aperitif time…And you never have to go outside…You literally move from one casino complex to the next and there’s so much to do, I never even gambled. It’s basically a playground for adults: casinos if you want them, but shops galore, themed everything, and billions of bars and restaurants. Night clubs if you want, but really posh ones, not seedy ones. Of course, there is the seedy side, but you need to look for it.

Casinos of note were definitely the Paris, the Venetian and the Bellagio…the fountain show in front of the Bellagio is a sight to see. I won’t go on, but just go there. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough money to do the Grand Canyon tour, so it’s been added to my list. A bit of advanced planning wouldn’t have hurt me, but try telling me that at the time…So FYI make sure you budget, when you’re on such a long trip, for such opportunities.

Off to San Francisco we went – absolutely freezing compared to Vegas where it was so hot your eyeballs nearly pop out. Just an aside about tipping. In the UK, we are usually a bit sparing when it comes to tipping, as it’s only expected when you eat out, and even then, like 10% or so is acceptable. I soon learnt that in America, tipping for EVERYTHING is commonplace. However, when this is your last stop, and you are a backpacker on a budget, this can get you into their bad books. I had a rather heated argument with a bar tender in San Francisco, as he asked me for a tip for serving me a beer, whilst sat at the bar…I mean, pardon moi?! Thankfully, probably to get rid of me, he did give me a good tip (pardon the pun) of having a drink in the San Francisco Hilton. It’s a skyscraper with its bar on the top floor, and if you go there at sunset, you get the most wonderful, panoramic view of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Alcatraz, everything. Definitely go there!

Readers, at the risk of boring you, I also fell in love with San Francisco. What a city. Everything was even better than I expected. The Golden Gate Bridge was beautiful, and fascinating. Go to the museum. Little Italy really was little Italy.Little France, Chinatown, they were all just fabulous. Walk down to Pier 39 and eat clam chowder out of a sourdough loaf. Oooooh Readers it’s all just wonderful. Plus, weirdly, my ego was boosted as people kept asking if I was famous…I still, to this day, have no idea why!! I must have been impossible to live with, though!

We took the tour to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m not going to lie, on a lovely, sunny day, Alcatraz looks a little like a holiday camp, until you get up close. Then you are firmly put in your place.

If you’re feeling fit, walk up Nob Hill and back down the wiggly road…or take the tram. We walked, and by the time I got back I couldn’t feel my legs, they were just blobs of jelly! But it’s great fun.

Back to LA and back to our famous motel where I mooched for a bit longer, visiting various markets and areas of LA, until, dear Readers, it was time to come home.

I hope you’ve enjoyed backpacking with me. I’ve told you all my secrets...So whatever age you are, whatever period of your life you’re at, go. Not necessarily backpacking per se if that’s not your bag, but travelling. It changes you for the better, and gives you the very best memories you’ll ever have.

Thank you for coming with me!

Love from your Hapless Blogger.


1 comment:

  1. This is brilliant and so funny. Reminds me of my youth. Keep it up, Hapless Blogger!