A nation as huge and varied as the USA offers a wide array of cuisine, but if you're looking for the quintessential main meal, to eat with an Apple Pie chaser, you can look no further than the Hamburger.
If Camden was on the beach in the late '90's it would be Venice Beach now. Legalisation of marijuana has made the substance ubiquitous along the beachfront, the smell is almost overpowering and no doubt helps generate a roaring trade at the various snack shops along the promenade.
Playa Vista is a newly constructed town near to Santa Monica and loosely centred around the hanger where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose. Part of the Silicone Beach area, it is home to wealthy young professionals and retirees.
As much artists space as it is museum, the Hammer Museum, is not huge like the Getty, but is in central Westwood. Colourful hair, vibrant glasses and a boho hippy vibe are given off by the visitors. workshops, interactive pieces and musical performances are run regularly.
The Getty Museum is huge, sprawling on the top of a hill, covering a number of modern looking buildings that could have stepped out of any utopian sci-fi show.
DTLA is full of fantastic architecture, from soaring skyscrapers to bas relief buildings. The most memorable is of course Gehry's, the chrome matching his work in Dusseldorf but the Broad has a mesmerising flowing outer facia, and the interior of the Bradbury building brings tourists from around the world.
On a hill facing the Hollywood sign and at the summit of the Firebreak Trail sits the Griffith Observatory. Constructed in 1933 and opened to the public two years later the observatory has a number of exhibits like the Foucault pendulum in the lobby and the camera obscura giving views of downtown.
One of the most enjoyable ways up to the Observatory is to park at the bottom and hike up the trail. The shortest route is about a mile, with other trails taking you on longer routes, mostly to the Hollywood sign.
Already a huge museum space, the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA) is extending significantly over the next few years with the impressive globe already part finished and the other winding sinuous shaped building in the planning stages.
The LA Farmers Market, and the land on which it sits, has been owned by the Gilmore Family since the late 1800s and continues to be owned and operated by the Family, now in its sixth-generation.
Famous, and famously strange, in central Los Angeles stands the La Brea Tar Pits. A series of dirty pools of asphalt in the ground, bubbling up and smelling unpleasant as they have for over 50,000 years.
Visiting family in Los Angeles, we spent the day with friends on Zuma Beach in Malibu. Surprisingly quiet considering it was a sunny weekend thanks to Coachella being on, we were lucky enough to see Dolphins out in the ocean.
I spent an evening in Dallas thanks to delays in taking off from Costa Rica, leading to a ten hour wait in Heathrow, before turning around in Gothenburg and flying to Riga.
We then headed 10k north to Punta Uva a lovely white sand beach to relax a bit.
It had rained all night, so the start of the surfing lesson was pushed back a half hour due to the weather. When we got there we were loaned a rash guard (long sleeved t-shirt) given a lot of instructions on safely and then split into small groups, each with an instructor and taken out into the surf.
We then reached the Bribri village and did the chocolate and medicinal herbs tour. We were shown various plants used for natural lipsticks, glue, mosquito solution and other things. Highlighting just how practical indigenous people have been with their environment. Nothing is wasted because waste cannot be afforded.
Once we were changed and had snorkels on, we took a small, somewhat overloaded, boat out to ‘the point’ to swim around the coral reefs. The water was very shallow, most of us got a scrape or two from the rocks but visibility was excellent and we saw some great fish, the highlight being a manta ray.
We then had a 3 hour drive to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, where we checked into rooms with mosquito netting on the beds before all meeting at an open bar space with wood tables by the small pool.
We were not expecting much from the lodge as it was in the middle of the jungle; we were told there was no fresh drinkable water, limited bar, meals made by the guides and generally had our expectations set low. However it was incredible...
The alarm at 4:30am signalled the start of one of the main adventure elements of the trip. We would white water raft down the river to a lodge in the middle of the jungles of Costa Rica. We would then spend some time hiking and doing various other activities on the second day and then do some grade 3 and 4 rapids on the final day.
This was a longer transfer down some rough roads but we arrived at an old farmstead and stables. We were quickly geared up and paired with on horses. Mine was a mare called Tarzan.
The mountain bike tour started when we had disembarked from the boat.We started with a tough uphill journey, which was hard work and showed I do not cycle nearly enough. It was about 20k all on gravel roads.
“The experience was adrenaline fuelled, by the end we were all twitching with nervous energy.”
We climbed aboard a flat bottomed boat and sailed along the lake toward La Fortuna and the volcano. The lake is dammed at one end and used as a hydroelectric plant which provide 50% of Cost Rica’s power.
It was a short low ride to 100% adventure, home of Central America’s longest zip line, or at least so the tag line to the venue said.
After we’d finished the walk, and had a beer, we moved on to the night walk/ Starting few miles out of town, a smallish hut marks the beginning of the night walk. Assigned a guide we follow a trail into the forest after a brief induction to what would occur.
Walking across the eight bridges of the cloud forest was a bit of a disappointment from what we were expecting. Advertised as a solid two hour walk we were done in 55 minutes; including time to take photos, and I take a lot of photos. To be fair to the guide, we were the ‘active adventure’ group and so would take a walk like this more briskly.
After refreshments, it was direct to Montverde, through some incredible terrain, Costa Rica is stunningly verdant and even at higher altitudes there are tall trees and lush grass. The town of Monteverde itself is quite small but well served by shops and restaurants aimed at tourists.
Sunday was an early start though easy to manage as we had all had and early night the night before. Breakfast was very local, and something we all later found out we’d need to get very used to, Gallo Pinto, Costa Rican Rice & Beans, a stable of breakfast and several other meals. Once we were full of rice and beans it was then on to the bus for the 4.5h drive to Montverde.
The flight Miami to Costa Rica had some lovely views as we traveled south, although we were nearly redirected to Liberia due to bad weather which would have been a bad start to the trip. They made it down on the second attempt; to the wild cheering and applause of the Americans who get very excited by ‘airplanes’.
I recently had to go to New York for work. It was something of a flying visit.
After Breakfast, we drove to Sacramento, still on Highway One, looking for somewhere to stop so that we could book our hotels for the rest of the trip. We passed three star bucks on the left before we finally came across one on the right we could use. We stopped for a drink and booked the last two hotels in San Francisco.
First thing in the morning we took a walk round town, we had no luck really finding anything exciting other than seeing a giant redneck truck. For some reason there were a large number of police officers wandering around Sonoma and so we decided to head off to Yosemite.
We arrived in Sonoma and checked into the hotel, which was really nice. Old for America, having been built in the eighteen hundreds. It had a rooftop pool that we used after dark and ancient style lift, with brass grates and everything.
From San Francisco we headed directly to Napa valley, stopping at a famous Greasy Spoon Café in Napa, I had a Napa beef sandwich with fried onions. It was huge!! Fantastic, but absolutely monstrous portion size.
We pulled into San Francisco at about quarter to five. A nice place, but smack bang in the middle of the Tenderloin, which isn't the best area. Unless you like prostitutes! Then its a great area!
Jumping back on the Highway One, we zoomed into Santa Cruz and checked in to a Knights Inn. Seems like a nice place and we've got a decent sized room right by the broad walk, but it was cheap, but maybe too cheap....
We started on the bit of the PCH called Big Sur, which is some of the most impressive coastline and windy windy roads!
It is very impressive, he was a newspaper magnate and was worth an absolute fortune...
Next stop on the drive was Santa Barbara, downtown. We parked in the main area by the pier and had lunch at a faux English fish and chips pub at the end of the pier.
Out of Santa Monica and through Malibu was beautiful, it was a really nice way to start the drive. I was driving that morning, and about twelve, we went to pull off the main highway to try and drive along a bridge to a private island we saw, unfortunately it was a proper private island and we were thwarted by the large iron gates!!
That evening we walked into town for dinner and it was completely dead, every restaurant we went past was basically empty, the bars were lifeless. The only excitement we found was that we did have a kid shout out of his car window
We started off by going Venice beach
We headed into downtown LA, to the oldest building in the town and the first firehouse. Was pretty cool. Then onwards to Hollywood had a giant slice of pizza!
We arrived, dumped our stuff and headed into Santa Monica; to the pier, beach and shopping district.
Sunday morning, we decided to go and see the zoo, which is pretty good; not amazing like Singapore zoo, but decent. I got some nice shots of the animals, but the bars often ruin the image.
Most of the buildings were from prohibition era and got ignored by the city and its residents afterwards as it became a bad area with a lot of bootlegging. Eventually it started to pick up and now is the cool restaurant area.