Amtrak across the USA

Los Angeles Travel Blog

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Outside our hostel at Venice Beach

We arrive in Miami from Jamaica and enroute to Los Angeles. During the flight we sit next to a lovely North American woman called Suzanne and swap stories of our plans. At the end of the trip we swap phone numbers and Suzanne asks us to contact her to arrange to meet up later.

Our hostel is on Venice Beach and is up a flight of stairs, again. As it is late afternoon we head on to the esplamade to walk and watch the sunset. It feels a little Jamaican as the sidewalk stalls are selling everything reggae and Jamaican. The air is crisp and we begin to notice the weird and wonderful on show. Skateboarders, rollerbladers, cyclists, dog walkers, fitness fanatics, hawkers, families and us are all out taking their exercise. There are a few boarders on the ocean looking for a wave.

Santa Monica pier
We return to the hostel and book some tours for the next few days.

Our first is the very next day and it is a 3 day trip to Los Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We book a day tour of LA and Hollywood for the day after we return and arrange to meet with Suzanne in the evening. We shuffle our hostel bookings around and pack a day pack each and repack the suitcases and put them into the hostel storage for the next two nights.

 Early next morning we wait down stairs for the tour pickup and after a phone call the driver who hasn't got us on his list returns and collects us. We have a mini bus and there are 7 passengers. A quick stop at the tour office in the city to pay our fee, a dash to MacDonalds to buy breakfast (tortillas with scrambled eggs and bits of sausage meat, hash browns and orange juice) and we are on our way out of town.

Suzanne and I, a trully lovely woman and friend
Dave the driver points out places of interest and we head steadily upwards through the smog to leave the city sprawl behind. Travel along a 10 lane highway and watch the transport trawling the lanes. Wallgreen seems to be really big with many, many trucks trundling along. We later find that it is a type of chemist chain that has a heap of supermarket lines as well. In the distance we see mountains with a sprinkle of snow on them and still we keep climbing. Slowly the landscape changes and flattens out and becomes more desert like. Joshua trees dot the plains. There are an incredible number of gigantic motorhomes seemingly exclusively driven by grey nomads on the roads, many of them have a small 4WD like a Toyota Rav4 attatched to the back on a fixed towing bar.
the beach at Santa Monica from the pier
We ponder if these people own a house somewhere too or is this their home?

 As we near Las Vegas the traffic becomes huge and Dave explains that the area experiences a population influx of about 4,000 per month! It is about 4 pm and Dave drives us down the strip pointing out the casinos. They cover huge acres and he warns us that when walking the distances are deceptive. We are booked into a small motel Super 8,and we have two queen sized beds in our room. Next day we are to join another tour to go out to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, meanwhile we have the rest of the evening to ourselves.

Andrew and I set out to see as much as we can on foot. The distances defeat my sorry feet and we look for a simple coffee shop. Not an easy mission but we confidently head into a casino and eventually find a bar that makes a coffee, expensive though. Dave had explained that when you are gambling the drinks are free as the casinos hope that you will merrily spend more money while the alcohol flows.It is really difficult to find a way out of the casino but we eventually escape on to the streets. We have put $1 through the poker machine just to say that we tried it.We are beginning to get frustrated with the advertised prices for things. Nothing includes the State tax so the price is never what you see. In Australia it is illegal to advertise a price that doesn't include tax.  We note that the billboards are advertising "Thunder from Downunder" and yes, the Chippendales from Australia are in Las Vegas to tease the ladies.

We head to the front of Bellagio and wait for the water fountain show that happens every 15 minutes. The man made lake is huge and eventually, to the sounds of Faith Hill's "This Kiss" a fantastic show errupts. Fancy elevators lead you off the footpaths and moving pavements take you into casinos ( of course). Dave had told us of the small casino next door to the motel called Ellis Island. He called it the locals casino and had the best value meals and beer in town. Told us if we wanted to try it to ask for the steak special $4.95 and to try the $1 beer as they had their own brewery. All 7 of us turned up and shared a table and all had the steak, soup or salad special. The waitress tried to encourage us to have the sweets but the meal defeated all of us and we headed to bed for an excruciatingly early rise the next day. 5.30am! Say no more.

octravelguy says:
Thank you so much for your great report. I'm glad to hear that you had a good time in the USA and met some nice people. I've always wanted to travel around the country by train and it sounds like you enjoyed it. can't wait to read the rest!
Posted on: Mar 08, 2006
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Outside our hostel at Venice Beach
Outside our hostel at Venice Beach
Santa Monica pier
Santa Monica pier
Suzanne and I, a trully lovely wom…
Suzanne and I, a trully lovely wo…
the beach at Santa Monica from the…
the beach at Santa Monica from th…