I wrote about my North America trip last year when I was still on the road. I edited some of the entries later, adding some reflections and interpretations. But I omitted two stops on my itinerary – a brief visit to New Jersey and three days in New York. The reason for this was that I left immediately after, and I was too busy to keep blogging after I returned to Lithuania. Also, visiting the West Coast was my primary aim, so it was my priority to blog about San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver.
I was lucky to find lovely hosts with the help of my friend V., who also came from Toronto for a visit. The day I arrived was the 4th of July, so both of us, plus my friends J. and B., who were also in NYC, arranged to get together and watch the fireworks. I got a lift from my New Jersey hosts (I’ll blog about the day with them later), and they first took me to Brooklyn Bridge and then to Ground Zero. I had the luck to be taken to NYC’s main touristic objects by car. Let’s take a non-iconic view.
I have to say I didn’t quite make friends with LA, because it was very difficult to navigate without a car, and reading a guide book scared me a lot – there was an extensive list of where not to go alone, where not to go in the dark, and where not to go at all. But fortunately, I did make friends in LA – for which I’m very grateful.
Exploring Hollywood with a new friend [click on the images to enlarge them]
Feeling a bit tense, I wrote to a few people on Couchsurfing and got some responses, but only one person found the time to meet up. I met the CSer twice, and he was very kind to show me various things and drive me around when he had time after work. It was doubly interesting to hear his perspective, since he is one of the young people trying to “make it” in LA: he works as an actor, but to balance his income also does camera work and editing. This gave me an idea of the supply chain at work in the huge city with a lot of talent.
Thanks to my friend Amanda, I was able to see different parts of Seattle in a very short time. One of the most advertised landmarks is the Space Needle, connected to the city center by a monorail. The monorail mostly serves tourists – it runs infrequently, and locals enjoy well-developed (certainly according to American standards) public transportation system, so there is no need to take the monorail (below).
I made a short list of objects that I wanted to see in Vancouver, but when I got there I decided to simply go with the flow. It was easy to meet new people, and I figured the social landscape is just as interesting as the urban. I went to the Sea Wall the first day (my geographer friend explained about various innovative housing ideas from the 70s), then Stanley park and the aquarium on the second. Then a heatwave came. Continue reading →
I’m enjoying my 33rd country visited – Canada. Vancouver is as they say – very liveable, very comfortable, and a real relief after three days in the unwalkable LA. Strangely enough, entering Canada was more difficult than entering the US. I was asked various questions, including how I know my friend I would be staying with. This was in addition to some stress at LA airport, where a registration desk worker almost didn’t want to let me through because according to the system I needed a visa. Fortunately, there is free wifi at LAX, so I could check the website of our MoFA and remember to mention that my passport is biometric, which makes me eligible to visa exemption. She didn’t notice that the passport was biometric. Anyway, it’s done and I’m in Canada.
Having the luck of knowing someone who works in the Silicon Valley, I spent a day in Palo Alto and around. Palo Alto is famous as the site where the famous Stanford prison experiment was conducted. Continue reading →
I was pondering over the choice of transportation between San Francisco and Los Angeles for a while and eventually decided to opt for the bus. I wanted to experience space and distance instead of forming a pointilistic understanding of the West Coast. On the way, I saw various views of rural California, its silky yellow fields and impressive mountain ranges. Most of the agricultural produce in the US comes from California.
I arrived at the Union Station in LA, which is a very impressive, but confusing building.
This horse is a part of the Murphy sculpture garden on UCLA campus. Its author is Deborah Butterfield. Believe it or not, the horse is made out of metal, beautifully made to look like wood. The garden’s patron wanted to create a space to appreciate beauty from the most abstract to the most detailed forms. The garden also includes four plaques featuring a woman’s figure by Matisse, going from detailed to abstract over 20 years of the artist’s career. There is also one work of a Lithuanian artist, Vladas Vildžiūnas, whose “Bird Goddess” is also erected in the Baltic Sea resort Palanga in addition to here in LA. Although Vildžiūnas worked in the USSR, quite a few of his works were exhibited in the US in the 70s.
UCLA seems to be as cool as I expected. I would really like to spend more time here. Here’s more from the UCLA campus:
UCLA campus: bottom right image is the collection of Matisse works [click on the image to enlarge it]
San Francisco is hyper urban, but the main tourist attractions are bisons and sea lions.
The family I was staying with told me a story that pier 39, where sea lions rest, used to be a private pier for boats. Sea lions started assembling there after the great earthquake, and the people who were using the pier were driven away to make space for the endangered creatures of those already decided to assemble there. Now it’s a major tourist spot, particularly for families. Around pier 39, there are many touristic restaurants and various attractions. Continue reading →