The West

From Grand Canyon we drove west through the Jerome mountains. Since we found no accomodation we had to drive South to Phoenix. Phoenix was awfully hot and without air conditioning I had to have water literally poured on my head while driving to keep me conscious on our way to San Diego. Los Angeles with all its Hollywood glamor was our next stop. Then we drove by the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, Nevada.

San Diego was a shock since we landed in the hostel in a room with a drug addict. On the shore people gathered around huge fires, played their guitars, talked. I admired the variety of races and people overall. You could see just about every “creation” there. At 11:10 p.m. we left the hostel after we saw the guy we were sharing the room with, with no idea where we’d spend the night. Moreover it was a holiday so many hotels were booked out. At midnight we were acommodated in a Days Inn close to downtown. Lucky…

Sea World, San DiegoThe next day we slept in Hostelling International Hostel close to the Gas Lamp District which is THE part of town to be for the nightlife. We loved the Sea World (takes really the whole day). Although you can feel that this HAS been transformed into a tourist attraction it still is very pretty and impressive. Even touching a dolphin was a life-time first and maybe the only, too. It’s a must when you’re there.

Balboa Park is San Diego’s biggest park featuring old-style buildings, museums, and an IMAX theatre. We had lots of fun in it.

In the evening you can get a beautiful view of the old Coronado hotel on the Coronado island connected to San Diego by a large bridge. From there you can also get a nice view of San Diego’s skyline. Coronado is almost entirely a tourist place with prices for accomodation higher than in the city.

Los Angeles is huge for someone from Europe. It’s about the same distance to move from the most southern to the most northern point of Slovakia, country I’m from, as it is to pass this wide spread city with its 6500 miles of streets and 40,000 intersections. Take a ride through downtown after business hours, and you might not think of stopping, not to mention taking a walk. After 4.30 p.m. the downtown streets with expensively clad businessmen/women virtually instantly transform into dirty streets full of trash and groups of poor or homeless people. Perhaps the most rewarding for the eyes will be a ride in Bell Air, visit to the shopping center in Beverly Hills or a walk on the most expensive street in the States–the Rodeo Drive. It’s also a good idea to visit the beaches like Santa Barbara or Santa Monica where you might catch a glimpse of any of the numerous world-famous stars.

And that’s exactly what Hollywood is famous for. Don’t expect much of the Walk of Fame though. Hollywood is not what it used to be years ago. The stars and the industry has moved to other quarters of the town, leaving Hollywood behind purely for tourists as a historical reliquia. Many small shops sell “signed” photos of the stars from the area, the pavement is dirty, colorless–everything looks old, cheap, artificial. If you want to photograph the Hollywood sign, check out the Let’s Go guide for precise location, and don’t stop there, but take a ride under the hills. There are some interesting houses there. Sunset Blvd. connects the area with richer quarters with houses of famous stars. Don’t count on seeing one though, unless you have guide from LA. When talking about stars and the film industry be assured this is the place to be though. I’d recommend visiting the Paramount Studios (where you definitely can catch sight of big stars). Universal Studios is meant more for tourists than matter-of-fact information. And if you feel like taking part in a show, don’t hesitate to get the tickets for NBC’s Tonight Show. You have to get up early for that, but it’s actually free!

Las Vegas is often referred to as city of lights, therefore you don’t really want to walk its famous Strip in the day. During the day I’d recommend driving to Lake Mead and taking a bath. After dark the life begins in Las Vegas. City of nearly 900,000 draws three times that many tourists every month. The show is worth seeing, whether you like it or not. Gaming, glitter, trouble-free irresponsibility in unimaginably expensive and rich structures trying to resemble many famous places in the world like the Venice, New York skyline with its Statue of Liberty, Paris’ Eifel Tower, Disney Land and more.. M&M World and the largest Coke bottle in the world (actually a building) can also be found on the strip. Worth visiting? Well, at least the Coke bottle definitely not!

Denver is the capital of Colorado, a modern city with a well organized tourist navigation system and a rebuilt downtown where I’d advise every visitor to go. The hub of downtown is the 16th St. Mall. The busses drive for free there, and it’s a walking distance from a nearby hostel. Take a look at the State Capitol Bldg. boasting a 24-karat-gold-covered dome. U.S. Mint at 320 W. Colfax Ave. issues the majority of coins minted in the U.S. and provies free tours. Just make sure you come early enough to get into the group. It’s a good idea to call first.

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