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Monthly Archives: June 2014

USA, Day 12: Living with John Krasinski

Holy Moses is Phoenix hot!

Arriving at half six in the morning, the unreliability of both Greyhound buses and my increasingly useless Nexus 5, left me unsure of a heading. With only one address in Phoenix know to me, I decided to head there and recuperate. At Matt’s Big Breakfast.

I’ve been doing well for food over the past couple of days, and Matt’s Big Breakfast was no exception. Choosing a special of eggs, scrambled with sausage and spinach, and served with a side of hash browns and sourdough bread, I ate heartily as my phone charged.

With a bit of juice regained, I made my way to the local metro station, where my phone promptly died again. Figuring that Camelback street was as good a place as any to find a hostel called Camelbackpackers, I made my way there.

Imploring the assistance of some locals, I was informed that no one knew where it was, but all suggested I walk further down Camelback street.

I would later discover I was not even bear my destination. But I made it there eventually. So that’s unimportant.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around, or heading out in search of food and milkshakes with my new housemates, one of whom, as you may have guessed, looks somewhat like John Krasinki, star of The (U.S.) Office. I found it particularly amusing when the waitress at the milkshake counter kept on asking if I wanted a big banana. Childish, I know, but I managed to keep my amusement hidden.

Later, the day really kicked off. After failing at Trivial Pursuit for a while, I joined three of the other guests for a hike up Camelback mountain.

With the sun slowly going down, the view proved spectacular, and I finally got a chance to take pictures of Phoenix at night that I had been kicking myself for missing for the past week and a half.

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The trek up was tiring at times, but the walk down even more so. Determined to Snapchat my friends, I potted around on top of the mountain looking for signal and the perfect picture whilst the others began there descent.

Eventually, I would reunite with them, a host of my pictures documenting my little adventure.

Returning to the hostel, I snacked on a cereal bar, and conversed with another new guest, before joining the others outside for beer and a game of Cards Against Humanity.

I’ve been waiting to play that game for ages. It was hilarious.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Travelling

 

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USA, Day 11: My Opinion of L.A.

So for the majority of my time in Los Angeles, I’ve had a rather low opinion of it. Sure, there have been good parts, like Olivera street, but mostly, I was a bit disappointed, and my expectations weren’t even that high in the first place.

But like San Francisco, I didn’t have my best day in the city until I made a basic plan, and went wandering from there.

In my opinion, bus tours are a fun way to see the sights, but you don’t really get a feel for a city until you walk its streets and weave between the locals.

So, not to intent on wasting much more of my time in Hollywood, I set off back to Downtown L.A. to find a restaurant one of my University friends had tweeted me about.

Considering her response, I imagine that she didn’t actually expect me to go hunting for this place, but was pleased that I did, as was I.

It’s called ChocoChicken, and it gave me one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. Going for the basic combo meal, I ordered some chocolate covered fried chicken breast, with a sides of ‘duck fat’ fries (sprinkled with chocolate) and coleslaw.
But it was the condiments that really made the meal. The fries were served with a small pot of chocolate ketchup, which honest to God, was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Or was, until I moved onto the chicken, and the pot of chilli-honey that came with it.
Both tasted gorgeous, and I tried to scoop up ever last drop. Stupidly, I didn’t ask if there’s somewhere you can buy their product, because honestly, they were out of this world!

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Deciding to continue my trend of scouting around for good food, I returned to Chinatown, and headed for the Phoenix Bakery. Asking for ‘whatever they were most famous for’ (besides their birthday cakes), I was suggested the strawberry cream cake.

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(www.instagram.com/semoungabio)

The cream was soft, the strawberries were juicy, and overall, it also found its place in the top ten things I’ve ever out in my mouth.

After this, my plans were pretty much at their end. So I thought I’d explore the area a little more, focusing on the districts I hadn’t yet seen.

The first was Little Tokyo, which for the most part, was a little disappointing. There wasn’t much there, unless you went into the Japanese Village, and even then, you’re in and out in about a minute if you’re not looking for food.

After that, I decided to walk down Broadway, and stumbled upon the Grand Central Market, which was amazing! All the hustle and bustle of a city crammed into a building, with all different types of food wafting delicious smells from every angle. But again, the appeal was slightly lost on me, as I had already eaten.

Finally, I arrived in the Fashion District, and looked around quickly for a T-Shirt to take home to my sister. Finding nothing, and not wanting to loiter, I returned to the apartment in Hollywood, left my handprints on Thom’s ‘guest’ curtain, and said my goodbyes, and was gifted with a delightful Carrot Cake Cookie.

So yeah; I feel like in my last day I truly experienced Los Angeles, and it changed my mind about it. Its not as grimy once you leave the outskirts, and remains interesting provided you stay out of the central financial district. I wouldn’t mind going back, but there are definitely other places on my ‘To-Go’ list that take precedence.

With my phone slowly failing me, I began the overnight trip on to Phoenix!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Travelling

 

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USA, Day 10: An ‘Irish Hooters’

Before I left Britain, one of my friends stressed that I go to Hooters. Put off by the idea, I replied that I wasn’t going to travel thousands of miles to go to Hooters by myself. Yesterday, it turned out, I did the next best thing.

Although the surprises of Day 9 led to a fun day, I’ve found so far that the days where you have a plan of some sort usually turn out to be more successful. Yesterday was one of those days.

Leaving the house about eleven, I set off to the Autry centre. There were problems to the start, like buses not showing up, and making me subsequently miss others, or the fact that I didn’t realise the Autry centre was opposite a Zoo, which held my attention long enough for me to miss my stop. I then had to backtrack, walking for about half and hour, as my patience lessened. But I got there eventually, and it proved worth the woes.

For those of you who do not know, I study ‘American Studies’ at the University of Leicester. American history, literature, film, politics, and bits of social studies.
With my final year coming up I decided that I would write my dissertation on ‘The Western Hero, and how his actions have informed stereotypes of masculinity in Contemporary Cinema’.
Basically, cowboys.
And to do this, I applied for a travel grant, which left me with £600 from my university, which was just about enough to pay for my flights.

So yesterday, basically, was the start of my research.

After wandering through an exhibit on the history of Route 66, I headed for the ‘Cowboy’ exhibit. I felt like I child again, darting between cases, examining the dress code, weaponry and lifestyle of the western character. All the while trying to decide what sort of hat I will buy in Arizona.

For the most part, the exhibition, whilst interesting, was not directly informative to what I was looking for, but I enjoyed myself none the less, and did learn some interesting facts. Here are three of them:
• Although guns were carried by many westerners, many historians claim that the west may not have actually been as violent as most believe.
• Americans were especially partial to the ‘singing cowboy’, because he encompassed all the facets of the American hero, but also share his feelings and emotions.
• A world in Minecraft is approximately 39867 miles long.

After chatting with a waiter about London and Lord of the Rings, I enjoyed a lemonade and headed back to Hollywood.

After a brief pitstop, I headed back to Long Beach, where I met with the aforementioned Mr. Carter from the reception on Sunday.

Over the course of the night, that stern image that I had applied to him proved to be false, as I found he was much more easygoing that he had me believe.

Initially setting out to show me how american culture adapts parts of the countries it draws from, he took me to the Tilted Kilt, which he explained as having been founded by someone who used to work at hooters, and all the waitresses wore kilts. Going in, I also found that not only did they have to wear kilts, but also tight unbuttoned shirts that revealed everything. So yeah, basically, an ‘Irish Hooters’.

Trusting that Dean wouldn’t have bought a minor to their establishment, I was served a leffe; one of my favourite beers, and a Scottish Cheese Steak’ with fries and conversation from our waitress.

Someone Dean was familiar with, she seemed like a lovely girl, training to be a nurse, and dreaming to travelling to exotic places where she could marry a guy like Dwayne Johnson. It was also a nice change, because although so far many women have admitted they love my accent, the majority if then have been at least 15 years older than me. At least.

After the Kilt, Dean took me to another one of his hangout spots, where I met and enjoyed a beer with his friends. I was also introduced to some rather drink ladies, with whom he was also acquainted with. One, in particular, although flattering, was more handsy than I cared for.

Urgh, this post probably makes me sound like a right prude.
I swear that’s not the case.

After that, we quickly popped into Denny’s to wish someone a happy birthday. I feel like someone coughed something abusive at me. But I can’t be sure. Ignoring him, I turned my attention to a larger guy, who was laughing and instructing me to ‘take out’ a similarly tall man across the room, and then become an L.A. Laker.

However, I’m pretty sure you don’t break into basketball by getting your arse kicked, so I just laughed it off.

All in all, it was a fun day, and reaffirmed my point that although Hollywood may be a shithole, some parts of L.A. aren’t bad.

Still, I can’t say its been my favourite part of the trip so far. So I’m happy to be moving on this evening.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2014 in Travelling

 

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USA, Day 9: The Toothpaste Technique

The Hollywood lifestyles been keeping me busy. Guess I’ll have to type out a double bill. So read on, and other topics will emerge. But first, this is like my confession.

It’s kind of grimy, but I had a spot. A big one. One of those ones that just forms a lump on your face, but doesn’t have a head to pop. You’re always aware of it, but can’t do anything about it. It’s disgusting. Like a miniature cyst.

I’ve since learnt a solution. Before you go to sleep, spread toothpaste over it. Two nights should weaken it enough to clear most of the pus out, and apply some sort of product.

This was my problem of the day.

Anyway, spot gone, me and Kristina once again met with her son Alessandro. Together, the three of us went out for breakfast.

I always enjoy American breakfast, because it’s similar to the proper English breakfast, but at the same time, so different. Pancakes instead of beans. Syrup over everything. And with bacon and eggs on top. What more could you want?

My instant response to that question would be hash browns. But that leads me on to one of my next subjects; lunch.
With no plans for the day, and having moved on from Long Beach to Hollywood, I took it upon myself to find ‘Waffles’.

Once there, I treated myself to ‘The Original’ double down sandwich. Fried chicken, salad and cheese between two bacon waffles. It was a strange meal, and although I did enjoy it, I feel like some tastes went together better than others. Still, if you’re ever knocking about on Sunset Boulevard, give it a try.
After a brief stroll along Hollywood Boulevard, which I had already explored a few days previous, I retreated to the apartment and started talking with the guy who was putting me up for a few nights. With me having not specified that it was ‘The Western Hero’ that I was studying, he suggested we check out the ‘Psychiatry: An Industry of Death’ museum, a couple of blocks down the road.

It was really interesting, especially so for me because Benjamin Rush was a big focus of the first half of the museum, and I had previously learnt about him in my ‘History of Alcohol’ module in Leicester.

Although Thom was forced to leave on account of another patron of his being locked out, I continued to explore the museum, which went on to explain how psychiatry played a part in the rise of the Nazis, Terrorism, and the deaths of countless children. It was extremely morbid.

On the way back, Thom pointed out the Done Theatre, which we decided to check out after learning that they were showing Age of Extinction a day early, but weren’t advertising it. So later, we would find ourselves in a rather bare screening. But not until after some burgers and booze!

Showing me the grill on the balcony next to the gym, all included in his apartments price, he made our own burgers, rather unsuccessfully, and shared a bottle of wine. As we finished the bottle, he informed me that he was going to go buy some more alcohol. Due to the atmosphere we had created, I assumed it would be beer or some sort of wine. Instead, he returned with a bottle of Bacardi, which we also shared.

If was this that lead me to believe back in Britain I drink a lot more than he usually would, because as I managed to retain my composure, he descended rather quickly into drunkenness.

The next morning, he would claim that due to the size of his hangover, he must have drank a lot more than me. At one point he even made the claim that he’d drank the whole bottle of rum by himself. He hadn’t

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As for the film, it was better than I had expected. Not amazing. It’s a Michael Bay Transformers movie, after all. But better than Revenge of the Fallen, which is all that I look for in a Transformers movie. The story was a little lacking at times, but the action and effects made up for it. The new characters proved just as entertaining as the old, and overall, it was an interesting film experience.

Although, truth be told, they had won me over as soon as they had Bumblebee quote The Big Lebowski, John Goodman and Ken Watanabe voicing autobots, and Galvatron as a villain.

Plus, Alia Shawkat was standing next to me when we booked the tickets. First celebrity sighting.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2014 in Film & TV, Travelling

 

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USA, Day 8: I’m Not Really a Beach Person

“What do you want to do today?” Kristina asked me.

I had absolutely no idea. I had flashbacks to my dreary Saturday in San Francisco, as I realised that without anything in mind to do, a day in Los Angeles could turn out to be equally miserable.

Fortunately, Kristina was prepared for this eventuality. As I asked for my options, she laid out a day plan, that would show me the various cultures of L.A county.

We started off in China Town. Los Angeles China Town is very different to its San Franciscan sister. For a start, the friendship gate is far more impressive in L.A.
Unfortunately, from there onwards, it turns into an area that looks about the same as the rest of the city, the only difference being the people and the signs in other languages. Further in, there is a small part of town with actual Chinese architecture, but the only parts of it worth seeing are the Bruce Lee statue, and the lucky fountain, with pots to collect peoples change. This is all a shame, because the China Town seems to slowly be dying, and until a lot of effort is put into reinvigorating it, I can only see that trend continuing. This was especially disappointing for me, because China Town is usually a part of the city I will visit wherever I am (even though, as I said, they are all much of a muchness). It also meant that I wasn’t able to get many pictures for my Instagram (instagram.com/semoungabio; gon’ keep flogging it until my followers go up).

There are a couple of hidden gems though. Throughout my time in Long Beach, my host would give me miniature history lessons, often infused with her families own experiences. In China Town, she told me, there was a bakery that draws people from miles around due to the sublime nature of their cakes. Further down is a Chinese restaurant, that she claims that her family had been coming to for generations. When I return to L.A. I aim to try out both of these places.

Next, we took a little detour from China to Mexico, as I was taken to Olivera street, somewhere that was clearly much closer to Kristina’s heart. Although many of the vendors sold the same sort of thing, the smells and atmosphere of the lane were something I am very glad I experienced, and something I imagine many tourists would miss out on if they weren’t ordered to go there. The people were friendly, and the prices were good, and so I was able to leave the area having purchased three souvenirs (one was from China Town) for my mother, one of my friends, and something similar for myself. Truth be told, I’m not actually sure if they read this, so I’ll have to leave out the details for now.

But trouble was brewing. Having booked all my Greyhound rides and hostels for Arizona onwards, I found the place I intended to stay in Hollywood was booked out just before I went to secure my space.

Fortunately, Rod, the Canadian I met on the bus, had showed me an app for finding cheap BnB’s anywhere. A good companion for a traveller. I found the perfect place, and attempted to apply, but when forced to verify my ID, there were problems. Taking a quick detour home to sort things out, we then ventured out to try an In-N-Out burger. Recommended to me by pretty much everyone. And rightly so. It was a tasty burger. Although Byron’s Burgers, from the U.K. will probably always remain my favourite.

We then went on to the beach. Now, as the title says, I’m not much of a beach person. I get there and I never know what to do. Even worse, Kristina offered to watch my stuff whilst I went in the water, which highlighted to me that I liked the beach even less when forced to enjoy it alone. So I declined, and instead we sat and watched the surfers.
I’m glad we went; you can’t really go to California and not go to the beach. Its just jeans are not the perfect attire for the beach, and actually having nothing to do on the beach just strengthened my usual feelings about not wanting to be there.
Usually, I’ll just sunbathe. I’m all about getting my tan on. Some of my friends find it a little boring. But then I think they’re also jealous that one of the only black ones of them manages to tan better than everyone else.

But this wasn’t a particularly big issue here. I realised I had never actually seen surfers apart from TV before, and you may have noticed, but the girls on the beach in the O.C. are pretty hot. Plus I found a new favourite clothing store.
So this trip to the beach remained a partial exception to the rule.

After a quick detour to the comic store, which may have been a bit of a mistake. I watched a few episodes of Wilfred, before being introduced to Kristina’s sons. We had a few beers, and talked about various things. They were both nice guys, and it was a nice end to my time in Long Beach.

In which I also just realised I forgot to give Carter a call. Shit.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Travelling

 

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USA, Day 7: Fallen Angels

Almost missed a day!

So I got to Los Angeles.
I said Downtown was grimy.
I realised that what I thought was Downtown wasn’t actually Downtown.

My new host, Kristina, offered to show me around L.A., acting as a sort of motherly figure as I arrived in this new city. On my first day in the supposed ‘City of Angels’, I was taken to the business district of Downtown L.A., and had a brief glimpse of the Hollywood Boulevard.

Although the Business district was nice (as are all business districts), I couldn’t help but find the city as a whole a bit lacklustre. In all honesty, as previously mentioned, Los Angeles was the part I was least excited for, but I still expected the city to surprise me. Such was not the case.

From then on, my day would focus on failing to find accommodation for the oncoming nights. It was irritating.

Luckily, this and other issues would be resolved, as I had a far more enjoyable day on Day 8, as will be detailed on tomorrows post, which will be far less of a jib than this one.

Still, I got to fist bump Spider-Man. How many people can say that, eh?
(Everyone who’s been to Hollywood or Universal? Don’t answer.)

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Travelling

 

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USA, Day 6: Road Trip!

Okay, not really.

The truth is, yesterday revolved around me catching buses. And catching buses does not a road trip make.

Making sure I was up and about my nine a.m., I was driven the the Greyhound centre in Oakland by Max, and we said our goodbyes; my Bay Area Adventure was truly over.

Getting my ticket, and finding a seat, I came to the saddening realisation that coach terminals are just as scummy no matter what country you’re in. It was depressing, but made everything seem a bit more like home.

The wait seemed long and tedious, but paid off when I got onto the his and took my seat next to a man called Rodney. My first impression of him was that he reminded me of my friends brother, but Canadian, and as such we got on really well. It made a seven hour trip much more bearable, and it was nice to talk to someone who wasn’t from England, but understood all of our colloquialisms. The only hiccup, was that as soon as I started thinking of him as my friends brother, I completely forgot his name. Luckily, I would later spot it on his laptop, and he would admit to forgetting my name, making him seem like the bad guy. Hoorah!

Later, Rodney would show me pictures of his time in the Philippines, where he works as a missionary, and after I told him about my plans to travel to Hong Kong, he assured me I would have a place to stay if I ever was in his part of Asia.

Later, after we parted ways, I found myself talking to an Irish man, who couldn’t have been too much older than myself. He revealed to me that his cousins owned a lot of land and hotels in Ireland, and stressed how great a place called Carton House was; a hotel just outside Dublin. Although I didn’t get a number or address from him, he told me the hotels website, and gave me his name, inviting me to contact him if I, my friends, or my girlfriend (I wish), wanted to come and stay in Ireland. Pleased with my two new contacts, I turned my attention to Los Angeles, where we had recently arrived.

When originally planning my journey, Los Angeles was the part I cared about the least. Nothing against L.A., its just that I never thought it would suit my personality. Now I’m here, I can see why I had my reservations about L.A., as so far, pretty grimey.

I’ll have to report back when I’ve explored some more.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Travelling

 

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