Sunday, 17 August 2014

Any way but LA

My passport is primed and my bag is zipped.

Later this week I head to the US and I'm looking forward to exploring more of the country.

And if I'm really honest, I'm particularly looking forward to not travelling through Los Angeles.

I haven't disliked many places I've been to on my travels, but there's something about LA that has left me cold on the two occasions I've been there.

So much so that in planning this trip, I did extensive research on how I could avoid LA altogether - no mean feat given most flights from Australia go directly there.   That's why I've ended up travelling with Air New Zealand to San Francisco via Auckland.

Like most visitors, my first taste of LA began at the unfriendly and unpleasant LAX airport.   It's a place where both staff and travellers seem perpetually angry,  you seem to gravitate from one security screening queue to another, and where having a three-hour connection time might still be cutting it fine.

However, I appreciate that cities are more than their airports so I was willing to put that aside and keep an open mind to discover the delights of LA.

My first mistake was using the public transport - both rail and bus.   At the time this seemed like the logical option to explore the dense LA sprawl, but as I was to find out it involves encounters with snarky bus drivers and crazed commuters casually hurling abuse at each other.  

LA Union Station
It wasn't long after stepping on board my first train into town during broad daylight that I started to feel decidedly unsafe.  I've wandered the streets of Cairo at midnight, trained through Russia, and journeyed through Turkey, India and Morocco, but I realised it was probably here on this suburban LA train that I would meet my end.

Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA

Arriving in Downtown LA did little to calm my nerves.   It was a midday on a weekday and there were plenty of people around, but everyone seemed so hostile.

The mood shifted from angry to desperation when I arrived at Hollywood Boulevard.

The Walk of Fame and Chinese Theatre were there to greet me, along with a bunch of terrible impersonators pressuring passersby for a tip and people trying to sell bus tours of movie stars' homes (well, of movie stars' high fences and thick hedges anyway).  While the Hollywood sign might have been in the distance, I felt as though I had encountered more movie glitz and glamour in the frozen vegetable aisle of my local supermarket.

Having given up all hope of finding anything attractive about LA, I headed to Santa Monica.  In comparison to the rest of LA, this place is a small slice like heaven.   With a nice beach and pedestrian-friendly streets, this little enclave feels like somewhere you might want to actually spend some time.

Now I'm willing to admit that maybe I've completely missed all the amazing things LA has to offer.   But for now, I'm happy to do without and avoid the place completely.

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