Exploring Los Angeles, San Diego, and orientating myself at UCSD

It’s been just over a week now since I arrived in the USA. I landed in LA on Tuesday 7th, and had five fantastic days in the Los Angeles area. On my first day I took the opportunity to walk down Hollywood Blvd, along the walk of stars, and saw Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with all the hand and foot prints of the stars, such as Gene Kelly and Sean Connery. In order to get a good view of the Hollywood sign, I headed up to Griffith Park and climbed Mt. Hollywood. From the top you can get stunning views of downtown, Beverly Hills and the Valleys.

On arrival I had bought a $22 weekly Metro pass for the buses and Metrorail, which became very useful indeed! On my second day, I took the 704 bus down to Santa Monica, and hired a bike so I could cycle along the beach path. It is 20 miles long, passing through Venice, with all its hip skaters, Marina del Mar, and then along Manhatten beach, Redondo beach and finally Torrance beach. Santa Monica really is the place to be, it’s a great city, particularly as the weather was fantastic. The third day saw me head to the valleys, in order to explore the Pasadena area. The Rose Bowl is as big as you would imagine, and I now have a picture of me standing outside the doc’s house in Back to the Future. It’s generally about 10 degrees warmer in the valleys, so it felt very hot that day. Fortunately there was a very good gelato store in Pasadena Old Town, which was very refreshing. I looked around the main sights in Downtown on the way back, before heading to the Sunset Strip in the evening. The strip is a lot longer than it looks, and by the time I got to the end I had walked nearly 6 miles!

On my final day I caught the bus at around 7am, so I could get to Malibu and back before lunch. I had wanted to see the house used by Dr. Sloan in Diagnosis Murder, being a bit of a fan, and I was overjoyed to find it along the Malibu coast by Zuma beach. In the afternoon I took the blue line down to Long Beach, which is a fantastic city. I went with the intention of walking along the street track used by Indycars, but being another warm day; I got another ice cream and sat looking out over the marina and the Queen Mary.

I decided to take the Surfliner train down to San Diego on Sunday, and it was a good choice. The stations are magnificent buildings, but the main things is you get a wonderful view of the pacific coast most of the way. The scenery is stunning. San Diego is a great city, with its revamped Gaslamp quarter, and the beautiful downtown bay area. It also has Balboa park, and 1800acre park land containing many museums, including a huge model rail museum, which are styled in traditional Mexican architecture.

On the Wednesday we had our orientation in Peterson Hall, on the campus at La Jolla, which is about 8 miles from downtown. They began to call out each country, asking those from that country to stand up and say hello in their own language. It is surprising how many people have ‘hello’ as their greeting. There are a lot of people from East Asia, then Britain, France and Germany, and finally there were one or two from other places to make about 150 in total.

After some introductory talks, we went outside to the sunshine to do some ‘icebreaking’ games. There were introductions, and then we played a game a lot like wink murder, just instead of winking we had to do movements which everyone else copied. The final game was called birdie on a perch, and in pairs you had to move about in the group, and when the OA said ‘find perch’, well, you found your partner. Me and a Bulgarian chap ruled the roost on that one – possibly because we were the only two trying? I think they could have organised that a bit better to be honest. Back in the hall, there were some more talks a small raffle. At lunchtime we headed to the Price Centre, for a Subway. I ate with the 2 Bulgarians, 2 guys from Chile, and some girls from Mexico and Japan. It was Mexican independence day 200th Anniversary yesterday, so they were quite happy and had lollipops of the Mexican flag.

At 1pm we were back in the hall for some info on health insurance. The emphasis then shifted to the I-Centre patio, where there were people from cell phone companies (Verizon, Boost, Sprint and AT&T) and banks (Chase, Union Bank, Citi, Bank of America). I have opened an account with Union bank since everyone was offering the same thing and I decided I liked their people the best. They are from the local branch, so I would be dealing with them if I ever went in and their woman was very friendly. I was at a loss with the cell phone companies; I think I’m going to have to do some more investigations into them. I then got my campus ID card, with the bus sticker to get free bus travel on certain lines in the area, before heading back downtown for something to eat and a good evenings rest! The days keep passing so quickly, it’s not long until moving in time!

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