I and my wife finally managed to visit the USA like we wanted to do for quite a while now. This post is a mix of impressions, tips and photos from the trip.
When I go on holiday, I rather enjoy my time than trying to take good photos of the place. I believe that is quite hard to take landscape photographs already and even harder to take them with time constraints at places never seen before. So let’s just enjoy the holiday and take few photos for our “trip down memory lane” photo book. It was also a good way to test the new Huawei P30 pro that I bought for this occasion too.
I started planning the trip on Tripadvisor forum. I don’t use it much, but it was a very good source of information to understand the first steps to take.
I booked my hotels through Hotels.com and Booking.com. I usually steer clear from Airbnb as I find the hosts mostly unreliable and therefore very dangerous to use for such a complicated journey.
We decided to visit in two weeks the following locations: London -> 4 nights in Los Angeles -> 1 night Las Vegas -> 1 night Grand Canyon -> 2 nights Page -> Valley Of Fire -> 1 night Las Vegas -> 2 nights Death Valley -> 1 night Sequoia Park -> 3 nights San Francisco -> London.
Before to leave the UK we also ensured to have the travel insurance and the ESTA done, plus the car (and car insurance) booked. We booked it through Easyrental car/Thrifty that we found very good.
For the flights, I very likely used skyscanner, which ended up taking me to the travelup agency website. I have had a very good experience with them, even when the return flight has been cancelled because of a pilot strike, they handled everything professionally and rebooked a convenient alternative at no extra cost on the same day. Even if the connection seemed very tight, eventually worked out well.
Once arrived in Los Angeles, we got on a company bus to the the car rental place, which was few miles away from the airport. The SUV we got was much bigger than expected (America right?), but turned out to be great for the purpose (that is driving for around 2000 miles). It was a Toyota Forerunner. The company tried to sell us an emergency cover, but we decided to go without it as the extra car insurance we previously bought covered it. 15 days costed around 400 pounds (don’t remember exactly, but was around that amount)
Even if we tried to stick with the most budget venues, the trip ended up costing around 5 grand (including tips 😀 ) . The LA hotel was indeed very cheap, but was also in an unexpected location. Completely not touristic and 100% latino. None of the two facts turned out to be a problem for us. Car is essential in America, so few extra miles didn’t make any difference and the Latino neighbourhood just meant authentic Mexican food and some interesting people to talk with (luckily we are Italians so we can understand a bit of Spanish as only few people were speaking English).
Our very first experience with America after the hotel was, maybe surprisingly or not, Wallmart! I was very curios to visit it and it didn’t disappoint. It was interesting and fun, once.
After that we went to check Long Island Beach
During our visit in the USA it was of fundamental importance to try to taste as much “local” food as possible. I remember some time ago while in Spain when I told to an American that I would have loved to go to USA to taste the pancakes. She didn’t take it well, but turned out I was right instead. American pancakes are not to underestimate, they are much much better than any pancake I ever tasted in the UK. They are fluffly and they melt in the mouth.
However in L.A. we had a lot of Mexican food, so much that we didn’t eat more once left the city. As usual, we used google review or trip advisor (don’t remember) to find the best places, trying to not be deceived by tourists reviews. Didn’t always work out, as once we ended up in this very sketchy place:
Don’t know what happened there, but the entrance was really scary, actually you see the best in these photos, while the interior was huge and characteristic, but that Mexican band was playing just for us. Weeeird.
However the Mexican caffeteria below our hotel was the best:
We couldn’t miss American burgers and the best we had there was surely on Hollywood boulevard, in this place called OG wingz
Since it was our first time in L.A. (at least for pleasure) we went to all the iconic spots: Santa Monica Pier (end of the 66 route), Venice beach (few miles from Santa Monica, unluckily the famous muscle beach gym was closed for renovation), Hollywood boulevard, Beverly Hills, the Farmer market (where we ate the best doughnuts ever had, another thing that has no equal outside America), The Grove (next to the farmer market), downtown, Universal studios, the Science Centre and the Griffith observatory.
We found Venice beach to be really charming, the Farmer Market and the Grove to be entertaining and interesting, the Science Centre with the Endeavour to be a must see. If you are on a budget I would suggest to skip the Universal Studios as in my opinion is not worth the ticket price. It was the second time for me there and both times I found it not worth the price.
I didn’t manage to take any decent photo at all of L.A, but we have good memories of it. Not only the food, but the people we met as well as some particular events happening (like a street war between LGBT people and church people happening at Venice Beach), didn’t disappoint.
Although I don’t have any particular interest in space, the Science Centre was probably the best experience overall, both for interest and feelings. Seeing a space shuttle for real for the first time in my life was indeed moving. The Endeavour is a beautiful piece of history to admire in every single detail.
In the Science Centre there is also a big aquarium. By far not the biggest I have seen, but with just 5 people watching at it it was a very calming and spectacular experience.
I also tried to take a photo of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but it didn’t turn out great, mainly because of the time pressure and me not realising that street light was leaking inside the Irix 14mm.
The Observatory was interesting too (with a lot of activities and learning experiences inside), worth a visit (didn’t expect so)! It is on a top of a hill and it has a great view of the city.
L.A. is mostly flat, except for downtown. L.A. is huge! However it’s mainly because L.A. is made of several towns merged together (for example, Santa Monica is a different town). Expect to drive a lot!