And then it was time to go home. A Los Angeles departure via the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, a seemingly endless long flight aboard the comfortable Airbus of Emirates, an overnight stay in the hotel at Dubai International Airport, another long flight down to Cape Town, and being welcomed home by Chantelle and the girls.
Honestly, I have no idea why I put off sorting through and posting all the content from my USA work trip for over two years now, but I think that I was simply overwhelmed by just how much content I had managed to generate over the course of ten short days. This was after all a work trip, but somehow ended up being the most fantastic tourist adventure as well (which I can only thank my two US colleagues Johann and Carl ever so much for).
Anaheim, Disneyland, NACUFS ’16, Angel Stadium, The Queen Mary, Venice Beach, Disney California Adventure Park, San Diego, Sabre Springs, La Jolla, The Torrey Pines Gliderport, Del Mar, Cabrillo National Monument, USS Midway, Embarcadero, Shogun Kobe, Old Town Trolley Tours, Old Town San Diego, Hotel Del Coronado, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo – I mean, what more could one ask for?
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All in all USA #2016 was an absolute personal delight, and I hope that maybe some of all this personal record keeping might just be a spark of travel inspiration for you in the future. Happy travels.
Having just completed our super interesting outing aboard the Queen Mary ocean liner/museum ship (out in Long Beach), Johann and Carl next decided that an impromptu drive out to Venice Beach (before we return to Anaheim) would definitely be a good idea.
Founded in 1905 and established as a seaside resort town, Venice stood as an independent city until 1926, when it and its man-made canals (hence the city’s name) was absorbed into the greater city of Los Angeles.
These days this residential and recreational neighbourhood is known for its bohemian style and sensibilities, long being home to a countless number of artists, poets, and musicians from all walks of life.
Labelled as “a cultural hub known for its eccentricities”, Venice’s biggest tourist attraction (if not Southern California’s number one visitor attraction) is without a doubt Venice Beach, which attracts literally millions of visitors each year.
The actual beach itself is wide, flat, long and covered in soft sand, making it one of those good beaches that people really can enjoy. Other than all the normal beach sports prevalent on its sands, there is also plenty of surfing (and other water sports) to be had in the sea, and a seemingly good lifeguard system in place.
There’s even a long bicycle track that runs parallel to the beach, which, given the number of bicycles cruising up and down on it (not to mention all the bicycle rental spots along the promenade), seems to be a very popular distraction indeed!
But a beach is just a beach, and in reality the real draw of Venice Beach is of course its world famous Venice Beach Boardwalk (sometimes called the “Ocean Front Walk”), a promenade/beach road that stretches for about 2,5 kilometers along the beachfront.
The promenade is vibrant, packed with art murals, buskers, hustlers and little grungy shops of all shapes and form. From clothing stores, marijuana dispensaries, bars, eateries, and curio stops, the Venice Beach Boardwalk is an eccentric mix of people from all races, colours and creeds, trying to simply make a living by selling pretty much anything to anyone.
There is also all the outdoor sports courts to glace over, play areas that include spaces like skateboard parks, paddle ball arenas, and of course all the well known basketball courts from which many a legendary NBA player has been plucked!
That said, honestly, I’m not really the type of person who likes this kind of place (I’m not overly fond of seemingly rundown spots full of hustle and bustle), but it would be a straight out lie to say that I didn’t find the Venice Beach Boardwalk a super interesting and intriguing spot. So many strange (and often eccentric) people to take in, from the hustlers in front of the freakshow attraction, to the preaching gangsters on a podium, to the guy selling insults on the side of the street!
Enjoy the sun on this warm Summer’s day, the three of us slowly ambled down the strip, taking in the sights and sounds, stopping for some frozen yoghurt (and some or other slightly less identifiable snack at a different hole in the wall eatery), before finally turning around once we had hit the famous Muscle Beach section of the boardwalk – which in itself is a very entertaining stop as you get to watch all the musclebound men and women do their strength exercises out in front of all the people walking along the promenade (i.e. showing off), with the guys quite often stepping out of their routine in order to flex a muscle or two while posing for some photo hungry visitor.
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So while I didn’t necessarily LOVE the vibe of the Venice Beach Boardwalk, I did very much like the art and appreciate the experience – after all, who hasn’t seen this famous strip of land on American TV before? :)
The city of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach is certainly a ‘colourful’ area to put it mildly (at least that’s what I thought when I strolled around there earlier this year), but despite its many eccentricities, there is no denying that this cultural hub is a global destination, registering millions of visitors each and every year.
Outside of its popular promenade, multitude of street performers, buskers and hustlers, handball courts, paddle tennis courts, skate dancing plaza, volleyball courts, bike trail and of course interesting businesses on Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach is also home to probably the most famous beachfront gym in the world – Muscle Beach Venice.
The original Muscle Beach that started it all, was established just south of the Santa Monica Pier in 1934 – just 3 km up the beach from where Muscle Beach Venice currently stands, itself having started out when the first Venice Beach “Weight Pen” was installed in 1951 – eight years before the Santa Monica Muscle Beach closed due to administration problems.
While the original Muscle Beach (considered the birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US during the 20th century) was really an area that became popular with gymnasts, wrestlers and local strength athletes (in fact, it was simply known as Santa Monica Beach Playground for the first couple of years, with the ‘muscle’ term only gaining traction come 1940), Muscle Beach Venice established itself almost from the start as the popular home of bodybuilding, thanks in no small part to the opening the first of an eventual nationwide chain of weightlifting gyms by famed pioneer gym chain operator, Vic Tanny.
Muscle Beach did a lot to popularize and legitimize fitness and bodybuilding competitions, and today functions as both a hub for weightlifting and fitness businesses in the area, as well as a popular tourist attraction.
(A lot of famous people/personalities have been regulars there, so you kind of understand the tourist appeal: e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Trejo, Chet Yorton, Dave Draper, Larry Scott, and Crips co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams to name but a few!)
The current facility consists of an open playground with a gated area that encloses weight lifting equipment, with a second area which is a sand box with gymnastic, rope climbing, and acrobatic bars.
And yes – if you are brave or ripped enough, you can in fact buy a day pass and work out with the pros if that’s the kind of thing that you are into…
(Naturally, bodybuilding is a lot of work. There are probably easier ways to get a little in shape – the guys behind dietsinreview.com certainly seem to think so.)
I visited this place in July this year, and honestly, it felt a bit weird seeing these people strutting about, pushing weights, and doing their thing – all for the attention of everyone around them! Seriously, posing for photos with random strangers is as much a part of the workout routine as are the actual weights!
Anyway, here’s the map if you want to place it in the world:
As per usual when you fly with Emirates, the trip gets split into two segments, the first being the 9 hour long flight from Cape Town to their massive home base hub at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from the length of the flight, the first leg went well for me. Loads of in-flight entertainment to pick and choose from on Emirates’ ICE system, food as always was decent enough, and thanks to my strategy of picking aisle seats in order to give me the most leg space with my still not 100% leg, I sat pretty comfortably for the most part.
Happily, I wasn’t completely out of my element once in Dubai International Airport, having learnt a lesson or two from the last time that Ryan and I had found ourselves there.
For starters, I didn’t get lost and successfully navigated my way around the massive complex (Ryan would be amazed), secondly, I didn’t have anything in my luggage that would set off flags during the security check (again, Ryan would be amazed), and most important of all, I was in my designated boarding area with plenty of time to spare!
Of course though, the real test of the journey was now here. That 16 hour long flight from Dubai to Los Angeles.
Yes, the Airbus A380-800 is certainly a comfortable plane to be flying in, but 16 hours? Now there’s a long time to be stuck in a confined space! (Incidentally, this route is currently the longest distance commercial A380 route in operation).
Nevertheless, similar to the first leg, this second half of the trip went pretty smoothly for me as well, and as an added bonus, the fact that we flew over the North Pole region to get there was a pretty cool thing too!
Touchdown. I was in the United States of America.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the first Stars and Stripes flag to make its appearance, and a relatively quick and painless trip through security and customs had me collecting my bag and stepping out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX and into Los Angeles.
Well not really, no.
My SuperShuttle bus arrived right outside the terminal, meaning that I didn’t technically step out into Los Angeles. Still, I got to see the dreary grey concrete that makes up most of Los Angeles from the shuttle’s front seat (I lucked out in getting that), so that counts, right?
(Hint, Los Angeles is not particularly pretty. Large swathes of it is in essence a slab of concrete, which you’ll see as you head out down the highways.)
Nevertheless, I was in full on tourist mode, my mouth wide open as I took in all the sights of the area as our bus whizzed on down towards Anaheim, the real destination for the actual business part of my being here in the first place.
Eventually we turned into South Manchester Avenue in Anaheim (early evening if I remember correctly) where I hopped out the bus, thanked the driver for his wealth of local information, and headed into the Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area , my home base for this first leg of my trip.
(In case you are wondering about the unwieldy name, it’s because we’re in Anaheim which houses both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. In other words, prime hotel estate, and thus multiple Holiday Inn establishments in the area!)
Greeted by a entrance wall decked out in original Disney artwork, I checked in, unpacked my bag, took a quick peek around the hotel and its amenities (nice pool, small gym, cool adjacent sports bar/restaurant called Burger Theory) and then hit the road, eager to properly stretch my legs and take in some American sights before the darkness descended!
So I took a leisurely stroll down Katella Avenue, one of the main roads leading up to Disneyland and also the Anaheim Convention Centre (where the expo was to be held), enjoying the beautifully maintained sidewalks and taking in all the interesting… Americanisms around me.
I turned around at the giant Moreton Bay Fig outside the convention centre, and because at this stage I was still walking around blindly (i.e. I hadn’t yet checked out any maps), headed straight back down the same way that I had come.
For some reason I decided that my first meal in America should be a fast food item, and as things turned out (i.e the restaurant was slap bang at the end of my route), this then would be a burrito from Del Taco – for which I was mercilessly teased for the rest of the trip by Johann and Carl.
Following that, and now eager to sample a selection of commercial beers and snacks in the comfort of my room before turning in for the night, I then hopped into this dodgy little Chinese-run shop (called Satellite Market), which ended up being a place that I would visit more than once whenever my snack supply started running low!
And of course, as expected following that 5 km walkabout after all those hours upon hours of travelling… I slept like a log. #USA2016
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(This is where the hotel is in case you’re interested)
Related Link: Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area
I lucked out a bit this year. Touchwork does a lot of its business in the United States in the University realm, and as such, tends to be quite visible on the relevant expo circuits. Occasionally the boss sends a team member up to join our American team for at least one of these expo appearances a year – basically whenever we get the funding from the DTI to do so.
Now normally this perk falls to our COO and customer liaison Rory Florence, but this year (much to his chagrin) he couldn’t go – which then meant that as the next longest standing member of current Touchwork SA team, I got asked if I wanted to go.
Hell yes, USA here I come! :)
So this all happened in July this year. I left for the USA on the 11th and arrived back in South Africa on the 22nd of July, making for a whirlwind trip of around 10 days.
Of course, technically this was a business trip, but in essence it was only business for about 2 of the days (and even those two days were peppered with touristy things) – the rest were all proper sightseeing days, made all the more enjoyable thanks to my brilliant Touchwork USA hosts Johann Leitner and Carl Mostert, who literally went out of their way to show off their part of the magnificent piece of paradise that is California to this USA (and travel for that matter) newbie!
The expo that we were exhibiting at was NACUFS Idea ’16, the 2016 national conference for NACUFS (National Association of College & University Food Services), held at the the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.
Anaheim, other than being the base of the Mighty Ducks, is of course most famous for being the home of Disneyland, Disney’s landmark first ever theme park that opened way back in 1955! Following that, I would then travel with Johann to his home base of San Diego (home of Comic Con and of the world famous San Diego Zoo!), for a couple of tourist days there, before heading back out the same way I came in – i.e. via Emirates through the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, Los Angeles!
So, not a bad destination for only my second ever trip overseas eh? (The first being of course that amazing trip to Japan that my brother Ryan and I embarked on in 2014. At this rate, Chantelle is just about ready to murder me with jealousy! :P)
Right. I’ve got an amazing 23 or so photo galleries to sort through, post and write about, so plenty of USA 2016 content coming up in the pages of An Exploring South African over the next little while then!