Sometimes when you reach a destination I think it’s a good thing not having booked a room. Without it you find yourself much more alone and lost and quickly understand that you really have to just speak to people. Often – especially in countries like Mexico – this means you’ll quickly make new friends.
Like I did yesterday when I arrived to Tulum.
I won’t brag about being wild and crazy with no idea about the destination or at least the street I’m walking in. After the birth of the smartphone those things are sorted with a finger click as long as its battery is charged.
Still, I find it very exciting to just arrive in a place and take it from there.
After I had talked to a couple of locals and a lovely French couple on the street about what area of the main road was the best, I walked towards the side they meant was the most central. Walking down the main street I realised Tulum is a little bit like what we refer to as Syden in Norwegian. And Syden to us, predominantly means Spanish or Greek holiday destinations to where Norwegians flock each year for some beach and sun.
On the main street of Tulum – like on the main streets in Syden – you find shops, bars, restaurants, more shops and more bars as far as the eye can see. Though I must say that here many of the places look a lot more stylish than what I’d expect from a main street in Syden. In Tulum plenty of bars and shops already got my attention due to the mix of gorgeous textile products from the most popular Mexican regions like Chiapas and Oaxaca.
As I’ve just spend a week in Chiapas many of the products aren’t that new to me, besides they are pricier here than in for example San Cristobal. However a couple of new products stand out in Tulum though and that’s the coconut lamps. And the hammocks.
While I had my bit of hammocking in Bacalar the last 24 hours, I certainly can’t wait to drink and eat from the many coconuts around. But last night my priority was first to find some green food before sorting out my accommodation situation.
After walking down the main road I picked a tempting Mexican place because I find them to normally be quite good at offering green varieties although they might not have specific veggie plates for you. To my positive surprise the Tripadvisor reviews of the place were very good and so I sat down with a girl at my age that had a table to herself on the sidewalk.
We started chatting and one hour later we had each others’ numbers and an arranged meeting on the beach the following day. My new friend’s name is Daniela, she is originally Mexican, utterly beautiful and smiles a lot and I liked her style at once. She just moved to Tulum from Los Angeles were she has lived almost her whole life and recently married an American. Most of her family lives in DF, and now due to some residency issues in the US she had taken the tough decision to come here to work while her husband is “back home” in LA while they get some permits sorted. She spoke about him with such a beautiful tone that almost I fell in love with him too.
Que bonito el amor..
After dinner I decided to go for the nearest hostel to the restaurant and ended up in a vibrant little street that cuts of the main road called Calle Centauro Sur that holds lots of cool bars and restaurants and a chill local/international vibe. My hostel is called La Cigana and I first paid for only one night as I planned to go and find a place by the beach later, but today when back after biking around I decided today to likely stay here the week. They have bikes to rent and a really nice and chilled staff that helps you out with anything.
Ah, and the below bar chairs are another thing typical for Tulum as far as I’ve understood.
Hammock bar chairs. Amen.
Honestly I can’t remember what I actually imagined about this place before coming here.
I was excited about it yes, as everybody I know that’s been to Mexico told me San Cristobal de las Casas is a must-see. Together with the smaller village San Juan Chamulas, it’s supposed to be one of the Chipas region’s hippie-like and colourful mountainy villages, I was told.
Well. CHECK CHECK CHECK!
Besides, Oventic – where the Zapatistas live in their own demanded autonomy – is a neighbouring village, reachable for specially interested. I’ve indeed been especially interested in the Zapatistas since I first learned about the movement in University. (I´m very into social movements, but that´s another story).
Before arriving to San Cristobal de las Casas, I hadn’t worried about accommodation as Id seen online that the place was full of decent hostels. After three hours of traveling on roads of various standards, away from the weird little place Bacalar, the bus left me and my metall-seat-tired-bum at the station downtown. As I started walking with my overweight backpack towards the center I was quickly moved by the look of the place.
Welcoming me were old, narrow streets full of small cement houses painted in all kinds of bright colors and busy working women on every corner dressed traditionally with cotton blouses tucked inside wide woolen skirts. Already on the first block I walked down I’d seen a blue house with yellow door frames, two neon orange houses with turqoise window sills, a pink house with grass green borders and numerous worn out balconies with ceramic flowerpots and painted chickens on them.
From the look of the people in the streets I felt much closer to the pre-colonial history of this country than in Mexico DF.
A closeness that comes with a price I’d say, because the streets are full of seemingly deprived indigenous people (including kids) working as street vendors. Everywhere I’ve gone till now, most indigenous people (out of whom only the women are dressed traditionally as mentioned above) seem to be selling textile, sculptures, fruits and cigarettes, or polishing shoes. Fortunately Ive spotted some shops and cafes managed by indigenous people as well.
Another blast from the past that visualizes on every corner are the functioning Volkswagen Beetles. They are everywhere, exist in all colors and seem rather popular. I mean, they even serve for driving classes:
I asked a man in my hostel what’s up with all the Beetles.
Oh, el bocho, he said, referring to a beetle in Spanish. It used to be a very popular car when it first came to Mexico. Since then we’ve produced our own Volkswagen cars, therefore we have so many. I think the last bocho was made only ten years ago.
Now that I think of it, one could assume it’s due to the fact that I LOVE old beetles that I love it here already, and for sure it definitely has something to say with my instant good feel in this town. It took me a day to start dreaming of living here for a period with an old beetle to take me around, with a small flat in a pink-painted house whose balcony is perfect for my morning coffee hour and where I can create art in the evenings.
One day maybe. Why not?
Regarding my hostel, El hostal de Paco, it’s perfect. I found it as a result of many coincidences, which of course adds up to my awe for everything here. As it’s located quite far away from the other hostels I had spotted on booking.com I realised upon arrival that my backpack was too heavy for me to get there walking. So I started walking towards a sign saying “we got rooms” on a random street, when a taxi driver stopped next to me and the driver asked if he could help me. After I had mentioned the name and address of El hostal de Paco, he confirmed it was in close distance to the town center and I jumped in.
When driving down the two main streets however, I understood the hostel was further out of the center than a couple of the others Id found, and got a little annoyed with myself never having booked a place before my arrival. Still, I decided to trust the driver and also knew that whatever is called town of San Cristobal de las Casas, is within small distances.
Words can´t explain how happy I am today that I didn´t go for that tiny gut feeling in that taxi! The welcome committee in the El hostal de Paco was beyond imagination and made me realise in a second that I’d chosen the right hostel. I think I have to write a story one day about all the personalities I´ve met here, but for now these features are worth mentioning:
- The owner (Paco) is the perfect chill host with a big C and H. He´s as weird, funny and occasionally annoying as can get , but since I tend to like odd personalities, I think I almost love him. His way of yelling WELCOME HOME! YOU ARE ANDREA RIGHT? WE´VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU!, actually made me feel a bit awkward in the moment I entered the building with my huge backpack on (and admittedly a bit annoyed after the long journey), but after finding my place here Ive realised that that one glimpse of a feeling like WHO THE HECK IS THIS MAN AND WHAT KIND OF A PLACE IS THIS? WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME? only were products of my own realisation of Gosh-Jeanett-you´re-outside-of-your-comfortzone-now-travelingsolo-on-top-of-everything-feeling-a-bit-insecure-about-it-all kinda thing. I even forgot about my potential allergies to the two adopted (former stray) dogs living in the hostel who jumped at me when I arrived, and decided to trust Paco who assured me that they never enter any of the guest rooms. Honestly though, seeing how he treats the dogs was another reason I was convinced this hostel is the best in town! I´ve made it clear right? I feel at home here.
- I’ve been placed (for my self) in an authentic old fashioned 7 people’s dormitory that must be over three meters tall, with the walls painted in sky blue.
- A German retired man with a US citizenship has lived here for 2 years (!) and the first thing he did when I came was to show me his German museum: his room covered with miniature castles and train stations from Germany made out of paper or plastic. Yes, he is another oddy that´s for sure, but I also already love him! The story about his life and reasons to be here is to be continued, but to give you a picture I’ll share this picture I took of him this morning while I had my breakfast in the kitchen. He always starts his day like this:
He sits there, in the middle of the hostel´s patio, which he calls his office, for an hour or so with a book, coffee and beer.
- Then there’s a young, beautiful Australian couple – that’s been traveling in Mexico and Guatemala for a year – renting a room for two months. Due to having adopted a dog (that they had seen in a small cage in a pet shop and felt sorry for) on the way, they’ve now planned to work in Canada for 6 months over winter season in order to save up enough money to get the dog with them overseas back to Australia.
- More stuff worth mentioning about the owner Paco then; he´s extremely friendly with regards to longstay guests and seems much more into having longtime guest as opposed to random tourists just coming for a day or two. It´s as if he´s creating his own little community here where everyone is invited to come and live. Hah! He´s also constantly making jokes about the German man, and never answers seriously to any question about himself or the dogs, which can be a little pain in the ass attitude at times, but as for advice for where to eat and travel and what to visit however, he is the King.
- Last interesting guy around is a Mexican in his late 20s who came for a month to escape some love issues back home. He works on his computer and seems to be going through an interesting phase of life. I already consider him a good friend after having spent several days with him in the village, out on bars, chatting, drinking tequila, laughing and sharing life stories. There you have it: I already have a new person in my life I consider a good friend, only because of this weird little gem of a hostel (and random pick of it).
Today this new friend and I went to the neighbouring Zapatista village together. We´ve talked about sharing an interest in visiting since I came, and finally found a good day to go.
I honestly got some mixed feelings about the whole trip and need to reflect over it, but overall it was super interesting (for us at least…). When I get my head more around it Ill try to write a piece about it.
All in all: VIVA San Cristobal de las Casas!
Now I’m off for some delicious tacos in town. Adios!
Yesterday I told about one of my first encounters with Mexico, – the Mezcal, and that was pretty twisted. Something even more twisted however, happened before that encounter, already on the way from the airport to the two friends that house me in Mexico DF.
Picture a humid, dark night. There are no stars on the sky, it is slightly foggy and there is no fresh breeze in the wind what so ever.
Picture a blond, 1,83 meter tall girl arrive, hungry and tired after a long journey and with a way too heavy backpack on her shoulders. She has no phone that works, but an address of a friend of a friend living in the city. She takes the strict message of the friend of a friend to order an authorized taxi seriously, pays for it and realises she really needs to pee. But the taxi personnel is already calling for her and before she knows it has thrown her bag in the trunk of a white, old car that looks just like any other white, old car.
She gets in to the taxi and off they go into the dark night.
That was how I arrived yesterday.
Shortly after I find myself in the taxi of a young man, that at first glimpse didn’t seem as friendly as I imagined Mexicans would be at all. I try to initiate a conversation with stupid comments about the weather, the hectic traffic and that I’m stunned over being in a city this size. The driver answers in an extremely little interested tone and I start wondering why the hell I didn’t pee on my way out of the airplane instead.
After three minutes the taxi driver that has seen me concentrating on my phone, asks if I’m watching a GPS.
Yes, I say.. Im trying to loc… “In case Ill kidnap you?” he interrupts me and giggles.
Our eyes meet in the mirror.
“Uhm, well yeah”.. I say with a false ironic tone.
Thoughts run trough my head, my need to pee becomes stronger, and calmly I try to finish my initial phrase: “I’m just trying to locate myself in this massive city”…
He laughs out loud, looks at me in the mirror and asks where I’m from. We chit chat a little about his take on Europe (expensive, safe and far away) and soon we’ve become a bit closer.
Fifteen minutes later (me all the time secretly keeping an eye on that GPS) he is answering to all kinds of questions I’ve asked him. He tells me things like where to go for a dance in my neighbourhood, what areas not to visit never ever in the city, how I had to be very careful in general being a woman on my own and more interestingly inside info about how the authorized taxi system works. He tells me that drivers get as little as 12% of the fixed prices set up by the company and that using their own cars!
We agree it isn’t a very good deal at all, and I suggest that maybe other taxi drivers hold the same opinion and that they could go together and demand a salary raise (I know, a very Jeanett-save-the-world-move of me).. He tells me he thinks it would be impossible and admits fearing to loose his job. “After all to be a taxi driver is a quite popular position, and unemployment is high here” he says, and continues: “But luckily, working with tourists brings extra tip money”.
I tell him I agree with that, while at the same time realising I hadn’t withdrew any national money yet. The ride was paid for with credit card at the airport and as it already was midnight and we were approaching my destination, the last thing I wanted right now was to find an ATM…
So I apologize to the driver for my inability to tip him today and smiles to him through the mirror. He replies with a slight exhalation, gives me a smile that looks much more like a grin and says: “I’ll have to kidnap you then,” before stepping on the gas pedal so we accelerate rapidly down the street.
A little disturbed, sudden pictures from the movie Taxi driver came to my mind so I yelled: Dios Mio, que loco eres!! pretending not to sound too worried after all. Shortly after he slows down the car, giggles a little and says: We are here, honey. We are here.
As Ive never been to this place, I look out the windows onto the dark street thinking to myself what the F. was the door number again, is it really true that we are here? but before I know it he has already opened my door. I recognize the street name on the lighting GPS on my phone’s screen and decide to trust him. He puts my backpack at the front door and tells me this is a good neighbourhood, and that he hopes I will enjoy Mexico city.
I intent to pretend like nothing of the craziness Id just lived through had happened and walk over to the doorbell to find the right number to call, not sure whether to expect a knife in my back or a warm hug from the driver. My friend’s friend answer and tells me she’s coming down, and so I turn over and take the driver’s hand, saying: Im sure I will enjoy it here, muchas gracias.
I don’t know if it’s a personal record, but the truth is I’ve been in Mexico for two days and already gone drunk to bed twice. One thing is to blame for that: The Mezcal.
And I speak about good Mezcals. The ones that trustworthy Mexicans recommend are equally good to drink as Tequilas. The first encounter I had with Mezcal while in the country it’s from – Mexico – happened the night I arrived to Mexico DF.
A Norwegian friend of mine put me in contact with a Mexican girl she knows that offered me to stay in her flat for some days. Fortunate as I am with my friends, the welcome committee this Mexican girl put together couldn’t be better for a slightly nervous and emotional (after saying goodbye to everybody in Canada) girl starting the third big solo travel of her life.
Maria and her boyfriend were up waiting for me with big smiles on their faces at 1130pm when I arrived with a taxi from the airport. So was their tiny cat Fer, that welcomed me by running wildly from one living room corner to another, stopping only to look at me from behind the sofa. Considering I’m probably the biggest woman he has ever seen, I don’t blame her.
Maria showed me what was going to be “my room for as long as I needed” where I left my things before the couple insisted we had a beer and a Mezcal. We sat down in the brown sofa next to the wall covered with a full book shelf. I spotted mostly academic content in genres like politics, history, anthropology and human rights.
Part from books, shelfs in the living room was decorated with all kinds of ancient Maya sculptures and some old records. Maria’s boyfriend surprised me with a serious interest in Mezcal and showed me his selection. As if wine tasting, we smelled the different types while he taught me their attributes. Then Maria came back with a plate of chopped apples and three types of chilli powder to eat in between the sipping.
“Remember to only sip the Mezcal. What you guys do in Europe with the Tequila shots is something you’ve invented. … And it’s dangerous!” they told me.
I agreed to that and confirmed I also had some drunken-on-tequila-stories in the bag. I don’t know why foreigners started shotting Tequila or Mezcal, but it may have to do with the taste of the bad variants we use. Because quite frankly, a good Tequila or Mezcal doesn’t give you the chills every time you take a small sip.Besides the fruit-on-the-side trick is very smart. Mexicans are of world class with regard to mixing sweet and spicy, bitter and hot.
“Let’s have a beer and a mezcal” led to at least the triple meanwhile we spent two hours of intense chatting about their study times in the UK (from where the girl knows my friend), kidnapping in Mexico, Human Right issues, Indigenous people, the purpose of my journey, advices for the city and had plenty of quesadillas.
We went to bed and I remember they said that the best about it is apparently that a good one doesn’t give you a hungover…
Now two days later, I can confirm this is a fact that is 50% true.
Because although it’s true I woke up fresh as a cucumber yesterday (and bragged about it all day, which probably resulted in chugging it again on my second night), I woke up looking like this today:
At first it took me a while to memorize were I got that necklace…
Then I remembered it all! An elder gentleman (supposedly a bank director) gave it to me during a karaoke session we both ended up in yesterday night. Randomly I bumped into him, his colleague and another lady that were out for some after office drinks.
I was on my way to a Couchsurfer meeting in a bar when I passed by them and for no specific reason – other than enjoying random encounters – I accepted their loud offer to have a drink with them.
As all things in life: One thing led to the other, and here I’m sitting slightly fringed out with a cup of coffee, yet very happy to be two interesting Mezcal experiences richer.
Some might argue that I’m not being careful enough when I bump into people like this, but trust that I definitely take my precautions. Part of my nature since I was a kid is that I keep running into random people. And I love it. In this last case I could have just left the drunken bank men after a little while in order to make it to the Couch surfing thing, but as I had no commitment there either – other than getting to know people – I somehow felt that the meeting I already had with the loud Mexicans was interesting.
It was especially nice to hear all the stories from the oldest man’s life. He had the saddest looking puppy eyes in the middle of a very wrinkly face, and told me he had survived three marriages. After two kids and ten slightly dramatic years with one lady he went through a hard separation before he fell in love again with a much younger woman. Her dream was to get kids, but apparently she wasn’t fertile so they had to go through a long process of applications and agreements for adoption. When their adopted kids were 4 and 6 the mother got cancer and died within four months, leaving my old friend a single father of two at the age of 55.
He told me that to get through it he had to take one day at the time, and that now looking back, the experience has changed his way of seeing love and life. To the better. Now, twelve years older he is the proud father of four and step-dad of two. With glittering eyes he showed me the pictures of everybody.
Then we talked for another hour before insisted on adopting me. At least being here for me no matter what. He was like: If you ever need something in Mexico, Ill help you out. After all this I see you as a daughter.
True story. Though it might have been the Mezcal that spoke of course..
Anyway, meetings like this is what makes traveling so beautiful and interesting. It forces you to trust people and listen, to see the world with other eyes.. And even more so when you travel alone. Which is what I love about it!
And I say that without recommending that people drink too much Mezcal, of course. For Christ sake, CONSUME RESPONSIBLY guys. Ill tell myself that from now on too, as ever before.
Still fascinates me though… That the below plant can create what it can in people. 😉
Venice beach and its neighborhoods are much more fun than the ones of West Hollywood (which I wrote about a few weeks ago). So, whoever advised us to rather stay in West Hollywood while here is a poop.
Truly, I didn’t get to know more than a fraction of what LA has to offer, so my opinion is probably not worthwhile to take as a travel advice…
However, it’s still my impression that the lifestyle offered in Venice is one of the best in LA. Sure, you got ubercool Silver Lake and some interesting spots further West in LA too, but I find Venice to be so much more real.
I know. It may be a touristy cliche strolling down Venice beach, gawking at the body builders at Muscle beach and getting surprised that the bay watch towers and cars look exactly like in the series.
But I loved every bit of it!
The place itself doesn’t really appeal to the eye in terms of beauty, but its chaotic charm definitely do. The density of street art, skaters, tourists, bikers, restaurants, bars, random (and highly professional) street performances, souvenir & silly-sunglasses shops is nothing but astonishing.
The main attraction in the below picture for instance, is a rather old gentleman who lives by showing people on the street that he can stand on broken glass, with the supportive help of a random person or two holding his hands. Needless to say his engaging American entertainer skills were uncomplainable.
That we understood when realised we’d spend half an hour watching him do the same thing over and over, wooing and awing.
Apparently one key thing to do in Venice is to rent a bike and go as far as we could by the shore. Everybody we know that knows LA told us to do so, and so did numerous bike-for-rent-stands.
To my surprise there were tons of places that rented out tandem bikes, and well… isn’t it just everyone’s dream to bike around on a tandem and live happily ever after?
Passing by smiling families on their day off. A waving hobo at a bench. Two joggers with each their dog in leash.
We pedaled all the way to Santa Monica which is a prettier side of the beach.
Pretty might be relative, but look at these funky houses.
Pedaling all the way is relative too, as the man in front could do that perfectly fine on his own with me on the back. Another reason to love tandem biking!
This was I could shoot pictures of interesting stuff on our way.
Like this mini amusement park – right there on the beach!
And yes! THAT color of the sky is real. It was like this every day of our visit, which obviously makes any Norwegian gal happy.
One of the things I liked the most in LA was the always bright blue sky and surprisingly fresh air – especially in Venice that is – as it reminds me of Cape Town somehow.
Also, the sand is a lot cleaner than Id assume and the water perfect for a quick dip after a long day biking.
One of the tourism academics I admire the most is Anna Pollock, the founder of Conscious travel.
According to their website, Conscious Travel is a movement, a community and a learning program that enables places to attract and welcome guests in a manner that doesn’t cost the earth. They state that tourism is system of three elements: Places, Guests and Hosts. And that as such; It’s all about PEOPLE, thus If people change their values and their perception of how the world works, then everything else changes.
Conscious Travel refers to the Conscious Capitalism Institute for the philosophy of Conscious Capitalism (which has the same features as Responsible Capitalism). It is based on the belief that a more complex form of capitalism is emerging that holds the potential for enhancing corporate performance while simultaneously continuing to advance the quality of life for billions of people, and challenges business leaders to re-think why their organisations exist and to acknowledge their companies’ roles in the interdependent marketplace. Read more here.
I first heard about Anna Pullock (that has 40 years experience working as a strategist, analyst and change agent for travel destinations around the world) through Tourism Concern work as she has engaged with them throughout the decades.
Here you can read her recent article in The Guardian, presenting the six key reasons why the current tourism model is way past its prime and why more of us need to focus on creating alternatives.
I’ll tell you all about our wonderful time in Yosemite national park A S A P – but first Ill take you on a visual journey of the road trip getting there from Fresno.
Starting with a breakfast at a good old American diner.
In places like these (I refer to the more remote, local diners) pancakes are pretty much the only veggie option (if you remember to tell them to skip the bacon).. And they are yummy! Our waiter (also from Mexico) even told us they’re healthy!?
Next on the bucket list before departure was to find a bike for Burning Man, thus we Googled markets in the area, and sure thing; Every weekend there are two separate (flee) markets in little Fresno. We only made it to one of them, which was enough as it was a huge Mexican market with dream bargains. We got ourselves a cowboy hat, zebra scarf, socks and a BIKE.
Walking around on the market was practically impossible due to the heath (35 degrees and no shade to hide in), but when I got to the – in my view surprisingly large – bird sale section I had to stop for some serious purchase considerations.
Why not take some of these poor birds to Yosemite or even Burning Man, and free them free, I thought. After discussing whether they’re better of in these cages hoping for new kind owners, or in the Nevada dessert, we decided to trust the salesmen saying “They are happy birds.”
“So are we” I told myself when we next hit the road for a three hour long journey towards Yosemite National park.
Things we saw on the way:
Oh, America, you little clown.
The last picture is from Nevada, very close to the Black Rock desert where we soon will enter what everybody tells us will change our lives, the Burning Man festival.
Peace & Love
Thanks to the movie industry I’ve got the impression that motel visits are crucial for North Americans searching their freedom and self-realisation. Motels alongside the roads in the U.S are portrayed as old-fashioned, cheap, dirty and full of wackos; simply perfect places to rest in, or to hide away from your enemies.
Perhaps a matter of fantasies rather than realities, however I’ve always wondered what there is not to like? I’ve honestly dreamed about road trips and motels for so long!
And now I’ve already slept in two. Once in Fresno, and once in Reno. Both motel rooms had massive and comfortable beds and we found no bed bugs at all. Which is weird considering how travelers seem to find them all the time (according to the internet). Both places made me sleep like a baby and dream like a mad man. Last night’s dream was particularly beautiful. Crazy, but beautiful.
Thus today, I didn’t only wake up in a motel, but I felt completely rejuvenated and as if I newly had fallen in love with someone. It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts before I remembered where my subconsciousness had taken me the last hour. I can’t stop laughing:
Nicholas Cage and I have been motel lovin’ and road trippin’ like Sailor and Lula (Laura Dern) from the movie Wild at heart. I was a weird merged version of the naive Lula and myself, and Cage was Sailor. When not in our car, we spent most time inside a motel room dancing on top of the bed sheets and snugging between all the smoking. I felt so in love, just like in a dream! And like dreams tend to, the situations and characters blurred together, thus there were moments Cage was my own V, instead of Sailor, and there were moments I portrayed him as the Hollywood celebrity which made me plan how to tell my friends about THE LATEST catch.
When the dream reached its most romantic peak, I woke up.
Thank you Motel for giving me the best night I could ever dream of. I’ll review the shit out of you, and would do so even if you’d had bed bugs.
Departing LA today was fun. We had googled a selection of Walmart stores located North of the city as we needed to stop by one to purchase important camping equipment for our upcoming two nights in the Yosemite National park, followed by a week in the Black desert city. Finally buying stuff at Walmart felt like biting the bullet, yes, but trust me, we tried for days to find second hand equipment on Craigslist first.
We found our store in Van Nuys on our way out of town, and already there we felt so far away from LA the way we’d got to know it. The area seems to be inhabited by a massive group of Latin Americans, yet due its urban history also represents a hot spot for many young professionals. Driving through the area however, most avenues offer sights like densely situated small houses, many of whom have a flag hanging high in the garden. Part from that you’ll see shopping malls, car shops, areas of trailer houses and a bunch of cute little men with their cowboy hats on strolling the streets.
We started to feel like we were in America.
An hour later on our way to Fresno, our 3g stopped working. Soon we had no service at all. So much for T-mobiles’ promises of working anywhere in the US. For another two hours we cruised up highway 5 surrounded by a flat and mostly uninhabited landscape, before it got dark and hundreds of signs of fast food chains and motels were the only lights that illuminated our way.
Though I dislike branding overall, I’ve loved my first US road trip experience in which my old dream of staying in a typical motel now is to be fulfilled.
Here from a gas station close to Fresno. How authentic!
Next to it we spotted a motel and went to check out their vacancy. Nobody was in the reception however, yet a group of truck drivers had thrown a party and welcomed us to join them. Unfortunately due to our tight travel schedule we had to reject their offer.
However, a little later we found the perfect motel downtown in Fresno.
We’re only stopping by here to get some sleep, just like everybody else does in this city – on their way to, or from – Yosemite National Park. I’m so excited to finally be on a road trip, and so excited to be going to Yosemite tomorrow!
Wow, Los Angeles. You are a lot. And you are huge.
Considering your size, I’d say your infrastructure for public transportation is rather poor. Then again, I didn’t try it. Thing is, we just assumed we had to travel by car because that’s what everybody do. And we knew that already. Before going here everybody (especially Europeans) warned us about the need of a car to travel between neighbourhoods, because that’s how everybody travel there.
As always I was thinking “Nah, Ill see it with my own eyes, and it’s probably not that bad, there must be ways” etc. But then I quickly noticed how people-empty the streets are in L.A.
Is it really true that there is no way to not have a car here? With no time to wait for an answer, we rented a car.
And man, driving in LA is hectic! The streets are full of cars, the avenues full of lanes and massive intersections, crossing people, motor bikes, trucks and trailers in addition to endless car horns surrounding you..
The first day I told myself this really isn’t my kind of enjoying a city.
Then I got used to it throughout the week.
With a functioning AC, Google maps on your phone and a great selection of music it’s extraordinary how spending most hours of a day inside of a car in one insanely huge city can turn into a habit.
With our little compact car we crossed the more central parts of the city. From West to East to North and downtown. We drove to the Runyon Canyon park for a run and got familiar with sites like Hollywood, Mullholland Drive, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los feliz, Silver Lake, Downtown…
And Venice beach & Santa Monica. 🙂
Reason I liked Venice beach & Santa Monica so much is due to seeing the last two pictures in reality from a bike seat as opposed to a car seat. The possibilities of biking around or strolling the streets while seeing so much – and most importantly meeting people – is priceless! Although you could say traveling by car in LA is traveling like a local because that’s the way everybody do it, I can’t say I’m a fan.
In fact I wrote about how I met my prejudices in Venice beach yesterday.