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" California - summer 2001 (24.5 - 24.6);

a travel report



My journey to California begins one May day when the sky is still dark and I'm already way too excited to be sleepy or to mind about the fact that it's still not even 5 o'clock in the morning! At this time of the day, the bus ride to Milan Malpensa airport takes less than one and a half hour and a couple of hours after getting there I'd be already sitting on a British Airways plane, heading to London, from where I'm catching my intercontinental connection to San Diego, Ca. This has been a LONG expected trip and I still can hardly believe I'm really going there at last!
But before finally getting to California an endless travel awaits…It's my first intercontinental flight and it will take me about 14 hours, during which I try to keep my mind away from certain thoughts (the most recurrent of them being "how's it going to feel to meet again?") by reading Anne Rice's "Lasher", watching a couple of movies ("The gift" with Keanu Reeves and Hillary Swank - a pretty good thriller - and "Chocolat" - as good as the first time I saw it!), trying to eat some of the worst plastic meals ever (I'm still wondering how it is possible that I got vegan meals after having ordered vegeterian ones! And don't say "what's the big difference?"!) and watching out from the window. The window part was probably the most exciting one, especially because I got to see Greenland, a place I definitely would love to visit one day.
The last couple of hours pass by pretty quickly, though, and after a quite exciting landing in San Diego airport, which is located just in the middle of the city (basically the plane has to land right between skyscrapers, hills and the ocean!!), it's just a mix of emotions I can not really describe! I will only say that meeting Logan again was just as great as I had imagined!! :o) And everything here feels strange and yet familiar (after having seen everything on tv), but for sure it is a different world! The weather is not as sunny as I had expected, though. During the first four days it is actually pretty cloudy and it even rains once - where is Sunny Kalifornia?? As to the jet lag, I'm not as tired as I thought I would be; it's more like having a lot of stress above your body. So much excitement, so many expectations and worries…
The day after I'm feeling like I have been drugged or something (!!) (I have a 9 hour time difference to get adjusted to), but nevertheless we at least get to go to the cinema for the premier of "Pearl Harbour". It's good and very well made, but also very American and patriotic. And I have a bit of a hard time with such a glorious vision of the war…! But going to the movies here in the States was a totally impressive experience and I wonder if I'm going to be able to go to the cinema in Italy again now!!


26.6 We are still taking it easy, waiting for me to get totally adjusted, and we just take our first short trip out of town - kind of funny, when you think I haven't really seen much of San Diego at all, yet! Anyways, we drive to Dana Point, a small but beautiful town about an hour north of S.D., where Logan lived for several years. I'm also meeting his friend Layne and we are having lunch at Pizza Stuft, where they both used to work a long time ago. It's cool to finally entering Logan's life and starting to see all these places and meet all the people I have been told so much about! After lunch, we go sightseeing a little bit and I'm finally getting to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time! Wow! And just to make it perfect we even get to see dolphins swimming only a few meters away! :o) Dana Point is a lovely place; it's just too bad that the weather is still cloudy.


27/28.5 I'm finally visiting San Diego now, or at least some parts of it! We have driven to Hotel Del Coronado, a huge white and red Victorian hotel built in the 1870's and situated right on the beach and on the strand also known as Coronado island (despite the fact that it is connected to the "main land"). After walking around a little bit, we drive to La Jolla, the rich area of the city, which is absolutely beautiful and with a wonderful coast!! Everything and every place here seems almost unreal & fake, but in a good sense: everything is very nice, clean and well-kept. There are even squirrels and sea-lions on the beach here - talk about amazing!
Then it's time to sea Sea Port Village - very nice and picturesque!- and having dinner at the really peculiar Gas Lamp District.
The weather is finally getting better and this place IS beautiful, despite all the stereotypes, the common places and the prejudices.


29.5 Disneyland today! We get up at 6am and drive for about 1&half hour to Downtown Disneyland, where Logan's cousin Lori works and where she is waiting for us. She is pretty loud, but funny and absolutely very kind to get us into the park for a cheaper prize and getting us discounts for souvenirs!
Disneyland is like I had imagined and still very different: in a way, it's smaller than I thought, but spending a whole day there is pretty exhausting. We rode almost everything and most of the rides were a lot of fun, and this is said by someone who doesn't really like roller coasters and is not crazy about fun fair stuff in general! Disneyland is like a huge, never-ending, very detailed illusion and everything is so clean and nicely kept! Since it's a week day, there are not millions of people, which is obviously very good: I hate crowds and waiting in lines for hours wouldn't have been fun! Instead it was a really cool day and the first really sunny one. We are both exhausted by the time we get back to San Diego, around 10:30pm, but it was definitely worth it!


30.5 After Disneyland, we both agree on taking it easy today and we just go to Torrey Pines national forest and down to the beach there. I guess California has finally decided to show itself in all its beauty: the air is clean, the sun shines, the sky is blue and it all is pretty much like a postcard! We spend a couple nice hours just walking on the beach, talking and collecting shells - talk about stereotypes, I know! ;o)
31.5 Shopping, movies at home (I'm going to enjoy Logan's dvd system quite a lot during my time here!) and some more relax in order to get ready for our road trip, starting tomorrow…


1/3.6 So today our road trip begins: we are heading north, mostly along the coast and towards San Francisco. And SF is actually the last place I know for sure we are going to touch during this trip. The second half of it is going to be a surprise for me! I think I have some ideas about it, but it's anyway kind of cool that he wants it to be a surprise for me!
The first place on our route is Los Angeles, but only some very special parts of it, namely Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Venice Beach, which is pretty much all I really want to see in this HUGE city. The first impression of LA is quite impressive and not only because of its size. I'm still not really used to how things look here (the architecture and just the way cities are built here is obviously totally different from what I'm familiar with or have ever seen in my trips in Europe) and the skyline leaves me pretty speechless.
We drive to Hollywood (yep, I did see the famous writing on the famous hill!), but I must say it's not as nice as I expected: it looks pretty let down, dirty and far too tourist-like. But I get to see the stars' foot and hand prints in front of the famous Chines Theatre (now decorated with a big "Shreck" poster which takes away a bit of its beauty and fame!), walk the walk of fame, take pics etc…We also eat a quick lunch in Sunset Blvd, right in front of the Viper's Room (Johnny Depp's night club in front of which River Phoenix died some years ago) and a few steps from the Whiskey A Go Go…To all of you who probably don't know what I'm talking about: the Whiskey is one of the main nightclubs here and has seen many bands on its stage -just let me name Europe and Logan's old band Disembodied to make you understand why I wanted to check this club out! ;o) In the meanwhile the Viper's has some kind of sound check going on and you would just wait for some famous rock star to pass by…But nothing happens! After this quick visit to LA rock scene, we drive to BH: I can not deny it IS beautiful, but it's all about huge villas and no people and it feels very fake. We also drive to Rodeo Dr., which is exactly like on tv. I wish we could take a walk here, too, but we don't have enough time and parking here is not a small problem. Besides, Rodeo Dr. is full of Italian and French shops only, so I guess I can be satisfied with a just a drive through this expensive, famous street.
After getting quite lost in LA crazy traffic, we finally get to Venice Beach and take a short walk there. The clouds take away a bit of its atmosphere, but nevermind… It's basically just one crazy street full of crazy people and crazy shops anyway!
After driving by Santa Monica and Malibu, by evening we finally make it to Thousand Oaks (about half an hour north of LA), where we are staying with Logan's brother Casey (whom I had already met in Sweden about 2 years earlier) and their friend Reid, in R.'s really big, beautiful, typically American house on three floors and with a swimming pool! We are here basically only to visit them, so I'm not expecting much action during the next three days….Mostly we spend our time there watching movies, chatting, staying up late & sleeping in and doing a bit of shopping, but I also get to visit the local theatre where Reid works. And since I'm quite into theatre stuff, that's pretty interesting to me! Oh yeah, we also go to the cinema once again, to see "Shreck": I wasn't particularly interested in seeing this, but I must admit it's much better than I expected! Not only it is well-made and funny, but it's also far away from any given ending! But I won't spoil it for you, of course!


4/5.6 We are leaving Thousand Oaks today and heading up to San Luis Obispo via Santa Barbara. Casey and Reid have been really nice and much fun to be with, but I'm glad we are going now: I want to see places and do things now again after taking it easy for a few days!
So, we are stopping at Santa Barbara first, where we get lunch and then take a walk around, go to see the old Spanish Mission and some other Spanish -time sights like the old Court House, a big white building with a lovely park all around it. Another couple of hours of driving and we are in SLO, L.'s old college town. We are staying here only for two days, at L.'s old room mate Chris' ( a wierd but nice guy!), and we get to combine both some sightseeing and some fun time out with Logan's old friends from college and the band.
One of the most beautiful places I get to see here in Slo is Montana de Oro, a national park a few miles from the town which has a beautiful forest of eucalyptus trees and a great shore. We take a walk down to one of the small beaches there and it's just so beautiful: I could sit and watch the waves for hours! But after a while we must go back to the town, get some lunch, see yet another Spanish mission (!) and some other places out of Logan's college life. We also have plans for going out tonight and, among others, I get to meet L.'s old bass player Paul, an interesting, very peculiar person… who told me he wants to move to Italy and become a buddha! :o) I must add here that he has got a degree in psychology, so I'm no talking about some mad man,…or?! ;o)


6.6 (Swedish National day!) We have now left San Luis Obispo and we are driving along the coast towards Monterey, where we are going to spend the night. The drive along the coast is totally amazing: it's a wonderful sunny day and the legendary Big Sur certainly has its reasons to be that legendary - it's definitely one of the most beautiful places I have seen during the trip so far and the view you get from the road is breathtaking!!
Once in Monterey, we find a place to stay (Days Inn. And if you want all the details, we get the most flower-decorated room I have ever seen! Man, it was cheesy! But of course we could not hope for some gothic, black and violet room, which would have better suited our own tastes!! ;o) ) and then we go visit the local aquarium. Sea otters there are absolutely cute and the whole place is very interesting. After our fish-visit, we go fish eating, which sounds very bad and mean but it's actually very good. ;o) It's Forrest Gump- inspired shrimp restaurant ("Bubba Gump") and it has both some really tasty food and a nice view over the ocean. Cool!
Monterey is very pretty, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see all of its beauty…


7.6 A beautiful morning in Monterey today. We take the 17 Mile drive, a wonderful scenic route through the woods (with many deers and squirrels) and by the coast. We stop several times during our drive and get to see the Lonely Cypress, some ghost trees (old cypresses now dead which salt and wind have made really white, which makes them look like ghosts; they are very spooky!), a seal swimming in the ocean and some of the most beautiful shoreline I have ever seen!
On our way north, we stop in Carmel, another lovely village by the coast, where "Sweden by the Sea" is located, a shop selling typical Swedish goods we just could not avoid visiting! ;o) And then we drive up again, to San Jose, where we are going to visit the huge, spooky, really interesting, supposingly haunted Winchester Mystery Mansion. This is a really beautiful and big Victorian house built by the Winchester widow (he is the gun guy!) in the end of the 1800: the story says that she believed she had to build this house for the spirits, so that they would be satisfied and would leave her alone (which they never did!). So she kept carpenters working there 24 hours a day for 18 years, believing she would die the day they stopped building the house. Because of this neverending building, the mansion has some really WIERD stuff, like stairs to the ceiling, doors opening to nowhere, thousands of windows etc…etc.., all in very particular patterns decided by this lady, who was pretty superstitious, one could say! But then again she did die right after they stopped working at the house…Ops! We spend several hours there, taking a guided tour of the house (our guide has no problem whatsoever telling us that he and his colleagues have seen ghosts there very often…!) and walking in the big gardens later on, but then it's time for driving some more: San Francisco is only about one hour away now! I'm really excited by the thought of finally visiting this city and I guess I started to like it as soon as I saw the first Victorian houses (I love them!) and the first hills! Then, of course, the Golden Gate at sunset (someone planned it perfectly, eh?! :o) )leaves me speechless!!!!! It's just totally amazing, and so is San Francisco skyline!!!!! We stop at the end of the bridge and walk back for almost half way: it's very windy and cold, but the view you get from there is just wonderful and the bridge is so-ooooooo cool!! The sun goes down shortly after our walk, so we get into the car again on our way to Sonoma, where Tony, another of Logan's friends, lives and where we are going to stay for a couple of days. Tony actually lives with two roommates ( a guy and a girl) and they are all pretty nice: we spend the night chatting and in the end, although exhausted, I'm also really happy with all the cool things I have seen today.


8.6 It's San Francisco time today and I'm really looking forward to visiting the city!! We get there right after breakfast (it's about one hour of driving from where we are staying) and the city immediately gives me the impression of being extremely beautiful and clean - with such a strong wind blowing pretty much all the time, no smog can stay over this city! First of all, we get to Fisherman's Wharf, where we park the car and walk around for a little while. This is probably one of the most touristic areas of the city, but it's nevertheless very nice and of course I couldn't not see the Pier 39 with all the famous sealions lying in the sun and making sealion noises! We had planned to go to Alcatraz, but unfortunately all the regular cruises are already sold out. Yet, we get to go to the island anyway, even if with some expensive tickets.. But hey, you must take the chance when you have it, right?! The visit to this prison is very interesting and touching (although Logan does not agree with me about this latter adjective) and it also gives you a much more truthful and objective view of what the prison was like. Basically, just forget all you have seen in movies because most of what they showed and told you is not true! Alcatraz island is extremely windy and cold, but has a wonderful view of the city, so we get to take come good pictures from there.
Back in the city, we take a pretty tough walk (you just can not imagine how strenous it is to climb SF hills!) to Lombard Street (I'm glad I don't have to drive here and especially down this street!) and from there we catch a trolley: a ride on one of these green things is far less glamorous than what it looks like on tv, since you are pushed in together with several other tourists and these trolley go FAST! But still it was fun to try it! We get to Chinatown, which is totally impressive: suddenly there is no western sign anymore and it really feels like being in China! And the food there is GOOD!
After lunch, we go for some more walking through beautiful SF (we also get to the City Lights, where the beat generation was born) and then it's time to go back to Sonoma, not without driving over the Bridge once again, though! I have seen much here, there's a lot more I'd like to see, but for a first taste of San Francisco I'm very satisfied! And I'd like to come back here some day.


9.6 We are still staying at Tony's (who is by the way very nice and talktative), but there is no SF in our plans for today. We take a ride through Santa Rosa wine county instead and even spend some time at one really cool beach: the ocean is really wild and crazy here, (and ice cold!) and the waves are very high and impressive. You get such a powerful feeling from this kind of nature, it's amazing!
Apart from this, we go eat sushi, too - a lot of really good sushi in one very nice, typical Japanese restaurant, to be precise! Slurp! ;o) And tomorrow it will be time for some more driving…


10.6 We are leaving by 9 O'clock today towards an unknown (to me!) destination! Not too much later, though, I realize we are actually going to Yosemite National Park, which I kind of guessed and I'm very happy about! The drive to the park is pretty long, but by 3pm we get to the hotel where we are staying, Tenaya Lodge, right at the entrance of the park. And I am very impressed by now: this place is big, but still very cosy and nice, situated right in the middle of the forest and with a lovely atmosphere. So this was his surprise gift for me….What can I say?! :o) happy, happy…:o))))
Anyways, after checking in and changing our clothes, we drive to the Valley (Yosemite central part, basically, where most of the facilities and the only shop are located). The view over the mountains, the canyon and Bridalveil Waterfall we get from the road is totally amazing and Yosemite is just wonderful. Despite the fact that I'm quite used to high, powerful-looking mountains (the Alps!), the nature here leaves me speechless, mostly thanks to its great difference from anything I may have ever seen before…Before sunset, we have time to take a couple of easy, short walks which I enjoy very much: we thus get to see the B. waterfall from right below and the famous Mirror Lake - yes, the name says it all! But tomorrow a much tougher type of hike will be expecting me…


11.6 There is no way I can describe the natural beauties I have seen today, so I'm just going to sum it up very briefly: we took a strenous, 8 mile (over 12km's) long hike to Vernon Falls - via Mist trail - and to Nevada falls, which took us about 6 hours. I have never particularly enjoyed hiking and I hadn't done anything like this in ages (at least 9 years!), but I am so truly happy we did it: I have seen things and places which are absolutely wonderful, for sure some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen in my life. And as we climbed up the mountains and the waterfalls, nature was simply calling us…By the time we get back to the lodge, my whole body hurts, but I have just had a fantastic day and I'm also quite proud of myself for managing doing something like that (and really, really grateful to "someone" for taking me here! :o) ).


12.6 Sadly enough, the time has now come to leave this beautiful park and reach the last stop on our road trip. We have decided to go to Las Vegas ("Vegas, baby, Vegas! Veeegaaas!!!" Seen "Swingers"?!)), which is something I did not expect at all and I am very curious about. But Vegas is FAR and the trip there, most of which through the Mojave desert, is really *hot* (at least 40°C/100°F). But finally I'm getting to see the desert, too, and even the famous Joshua trees: very interesting-looking trees, indeed, half way between a real tree and a cactus, with beautiful white flowers. And of course we are listening to U2's "TheJoshua tree" cd while driving there! ;o) ! Yet, seven hours of driving through an almost never-changing, hot landscape gets close to kill me and by the time we reach the City of Entertainment my eyes hurt and I'm honestly very tired. But most of all, I'm very excited about being here: no matter how much you have heard about it or how many pictures you have seen, Vegas is overwhelming and leaves you speechless! Finding a place where to spend the night is harder than we thought, though: because of some kind of rodeo currently going on, Vegas is full and most of the hotels are already sold out. After almost an hour of tries and thanks to a very kind & helpful front desk lady at the New York New York hotel, we finally get a room at the Excalibur Hotel, right on Las Vegas Blvd = The Strip. This hotel, a huge, white castle furnished in King Arthur's style, is apparently not among the newest and most popular ones, but for me it's just incredible anyway!! And the whole Vegas-visit is like a step into a new, unreal, magic world: I am really amazed by how detailed all the reconstructions of the world's most famous places and monuments are, by the size of the casinos, by the lack of clocks and time notion, by the subtle psychology this place is ruled by….and of course by the heat and the burning wind here! We spend about 3 hours walking down the strip, entering some of the many casinos and actually even winning some money (about 30$)!! :o)
This night has been a celebration of our vacation together, one of the greatest in my life!


13/17.6 It's time to go back to San Diego today. The trip home will take us "only" six hours, so it's not too bad at all. Travelling has been absolutely great and a whole lot of fun, but I'm pretty tired now and I don't mind some lazy days, before Logan has to go back to work on Monday. So we threat ourselves with Chinese food, pizza and some movies and don't really do all that much for a couple of days. I also get to meet Logan's mom, with whom we have dinner in Dana Point one night, and one more of his friends (Mike), for a lunch and a movie together.
Then, on Sunday, we go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. I'm usually not too keen on zoos, but I must admit this one is really nice and well-kept. Besides, most of the animals here are endangered, so I obviously have to see the good side of keeping them here and trying to save them from extinction. And in fact many of them have babies here! Among the animals I just have to name, there are polar and black bears, koalas, gorillas, panda bears…:o). It's been another great day!

18/23.6 My last week here... Logan is back at work now and so I have quite some time to spend by myself…Time I'm killing by watching movies, reading, writing and visiting the few stores in the area where he lives. I also get to talk on the phone with one of my yahoo-group fellows, Sharon, which was very nice. It's just too bad we couldn't make our schedules to work and meet, but maybe another time we will!
The time me and Logan actually get to spend together this week is dedicated to having dinners at some nice restaurants, going to the movies once again (we saw "Atlantis", one of the best Disney movies in a long time!) and doing a little bit more shopping. On Thursday and Friday he gets to come back home quite early, which I'm obviously very glad about. And to underline the fact that we are NOT romantic people at all, on my last night there we go back to Torrey Pines beach to see the sunset…! ;o) Anything happened between this moment and Saturday afternoon, when I have to catch my plane back, is to be left to my own memories, only…
California is a very beautiful and special place, where the people are (usually) very nice and kind and the atmosphere is generally very relaxed and laid -back, but things still work really well. Forget most of what you have seen on tv: it's way better in reality!!! :o)

 


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