California is cool, I could totally live here. We've been here now quite some time and still enjoying it very much. It's mostly sunny, warm and has a cool atmosphere. California is also very socially responsible and you can find so many cool fair trade cafes, shops and so on. A lot of organic products available and specialized stores. People are quite conscious of their impact on the environment and world. You can have a very cool lifestyle here.
We checked out Beverly Hills and saw all the big mansions. I have to admit - Beverly Hills is very beautiful and has pretty landscaping. Real estate prices are astronomical of course, but it is a statement to live there. The way the city and houses looked there would be Dubai's wet dream. A lot of houses have tall stone walls around them, so you can't really see most of it - but thats understandable. We also went to Rodeo Drive (probably one of the most famous high-end shopping districts in the world), bought a lot of stuff and dined in a spectacular Italian restaurant with Bruce Willis and Brittany Murphy.
LA is so damned spread out (I mean the greater LA) that even though we spent there 4 days, we couldn't see that much. So we prioritized and spent most our time in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and a bit of downtown. Traffic is quite crazy and people drive recklessly on the city highways. I prayed a lot while driving those.
On the picture above you can see the view from the hills of Hollywood to the city of LA. The camera didn't capture it well, but it is so possible to have an amazing view. One side of LA is on the hills (you might have heard of the forest fire there recently) and the rich people live there to enjoy the view.
We did quite a few typical tourist things and went to Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars. I am not quite sure what I was expecting, but actually Hollywood Boulevard is just a street with shops, cafes, residential buildings.. and its not even a fancy street. So it was kind of cool that this normal street has those stars and people walk by without paying any attention (except for the tourists).
We spent a day in Malibu which is a posh small city just next to LA (you can still see LA across the bay). We hung out on the beach and drove into the mountains there to camp. I can understand how living there can be fun with all the spectacular views and small mountains.
Even though our map said we could camp up on the hills in Malibu, the signs there said we could not and we had to drive into a public park and pay 25$ in order to camp with a bunch of other people in a organized park. Some of these state parks look so lame and you have no privacy there, I wonder why anyone goes there in the first place.
The next day we went back to Hollywood to the Universal Studios to see how the movies are being made and to have some fun. Universal Studios is mostly a movie theme park with roller coasters and movie characters, but you can also take a 45-min tour in the area where they actually shoot the movies and even learn a few new things about the movie world.
Next stop was in Santa Barbara to see the soap opera people. Most of our time was actually spent next to Santa Barbaba where Sarah's sister Lily was in the organizing team of a hippy green music festival. It was definitely a worldview expanding experience. First of all I had never seen thousands of hippies all together and at first the event seemed like a freak show to me because of all the unorthodox clothing they wore. Everything there was socially resposible, beer cups were made out of corn, energy came from solar panels and so on. People were painting, playing music, there were green living workshops and lots of cool stuff.
Our next great destination was San Francisco and we drove on the famous highway 1, which goes along the coast of the Pacific and has amazing views. There were many places where you could see seals on the coast... really cool. There was also a whale watching point, but we didn't see any at the time.
The coast views were quite breathtaking. We camped 2 nights in the wilderness on our way, once we went quite some ways into the inland and the second time we noticed a trail going into the forest while driving. We stopped the car, packed our stuff and wandered into the forest. It happened to be a redwood grove (redwood is kind of a mix between a fir and a pine, one of the tallest trees in the world) and it was amazing. There was even a waterfall. We saw deer walking by our camp fire and in the night we heard many additional animal sounds. I have seen so many wild animals here its not even funny. Rabbits and squirrels are like everywhere.
The further we went from LA, the colder the weather got. Same with the ocean - it was so cold that after having out feet in the water for 3 minutes they went numb from the cold.
San Francisco - so far the coolest city we've visited. Arriving to San Francisco was also a re-union for me with a long lost pal. We were hosted by Tony, who was in the MC of AIESEC in Estonia long time ago. We hadn't seen each other for 4 years. Every night was full of cool and interesting conversations. San Francisco is extremely hilly - you can see how the road goes in the picture above. And its like that everywhere!
San Francisco has a working public transportation system with buses and cool trams. My favorite feature was the cute houses of San Francisco. I felt so much like in Europe. And the city was very tight and close together like European cities which I liked.
We hung out in Chinatown, downtown and many famous and cool parks. The city is just full of parks and has the largest man-made park in the world as well. It is also very liberal, very socially resposible. I was offered to buy weed 2 times, one of the sellers gave us their business card even. San Francisco has a large Asian community and a lot of Asian restaurants which we enjoyed. Some of our best food here we ate at Eritrean and Carribean restaurants. That much variety in food is something I like a lot.
This is the view to San Franciso over the bay (after crossing the Golden Gate bridge).
Golden Gate bridge was cool, we took a lot of pictures like real tourists, but... the aura surrounding it was greater than the bridge itself. I guess its like that most of the time, I have felt so many times before when visiting something that people speak a lot about (Taj Mahal, Burj Al Arab etc).
We both enjoyed San Francisco a lot, maybe I did a bit more as it was not so warm :) Mark Twain had once said that "the coldest time I've ever experienced was the summer in San Francisco" :)
Currently we are in a small town called Stockton, east from SF to visit Sarah's brother-in-law's brother's (Blake) family. Blake is a winemaker and we have already learned so much about wines and wine industry, its quite fascinating. In an hour or so we're off to see his winery and to taste some:)
After that we'll be going outdoors again and spending quite some time in the Yosemite park, see the Sequioa National Forest and then - Las Vegas.