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Entries about solo traveller

Los Angeles

sunny 31 °C

I drove to Los Angeles with a few stops along the way as it’s a long-ass drive!
It didn’t help that a lorry had overturned so I had to sit in a long line of traffic for a while.
Roads in the US are so long and everything is so much further apart than you realise!

I eventually got to my hostel in L.A. around 5:30/6pm and went to meet Steve from the hostel in New Orleans for a drink on Hollywood Boulevard before he left for his flight back to Australia.
I walked along the Walk of Fame then headed back to my hostel for an early night.

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  • RIP Robin Williams *

Apparently my early night was a little too early as I was awake at 4am and bored, so I got up as quietly as possible (not the easiest thing to do when you’re on the top bunk in a room of 6…!) and drove up to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sun rise.

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It is truly amazing what you can see when you’re awake 4 in the morning in Los Angeles. I saw something being filmed, a movie or TV programme, in a gas station, I got to see the beauty of Griffith Park from the observatory and the pure, silent, unpolluted view of Los Angeles as all her lights twinkled in the early morning darkness.

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I saw a guy propose to his girlfriend, she clearly had no idea it was happening, and as the sun rose over the nearby mountains, the mysticism of Los Angeles faded away in the astounding beauty and power of the morning glow.

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I particularly enjoyed an old Chinese man, ignoring the sunrise and staring, full-bodied at the moon as her light begin to diminish. There was something traumatic about the whole thing. It was almost as if he was contemplating his own life and how much or little time he might have before his own light fades…

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I took lots of pictures of the sun rising over the hills and after the initial beam of sunlight had hit the high rises and the city was bathed in the morning light, I got back in the car to get away from the hordes of people that had suddenly arrived and drove to Venice beach to enjoy some sea air and a casual walk on the beach and over the little bridges along the canals.

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I only got a short amount of time for parking so I had to cut my walk short and made my way back to the hostel to catch up on my missed sleep before driving to Newport to go whale watching.
Now, in order to get to the port to get on the boat to go whale watching, I had to drive to Balboa Island: the weirdest place I’ve ever seen. It was almost like none of it was real. Like the Truman Show meets Pleasantville, but so much more expensive. People were doing water sports and lounging on their private boats whilst I sat in my car on a 3 car ferry to get across the water to the dock, just like the car ferry in Jaws! So weird.

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The boat trip was pleasant enough, I saw a whale, from a distance and some dolphins, yet it wasn’t as enchanting as I’d hoped for, but pleasant enough. I got back onto the 3 car ferry, being the first car is the scariest thing of all as you stare bewildered at the minimal chain supposedly preventing you from diving engine first into the water, drove back to my hostel and had another relatively early night.
The next day I went to Universal Studios and I have to say, as good as it is, it’s ridiculously overpriced for what’s on offer and you have to pay for parking,
even after the extortionate entry prices! $16 for basic, general parking!
I packed some food and a big bottle of water as I wasn’t paying their prices for food and drink but luckily everything else was included in the exorbitant ticket price!
Plus, on the rides in the lower lot, they have a single rider entrance so if you’re travelling alone like I was or you don’t mind getting separated from your group/friends then you basically walk to the front of the queue to fill up empty seats on the rides. I walked straight past the 30 minutes wait like for the Jurassic Park Water ride and literally stepped straight on! Winner!

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Jurassic Park and the Transformers ride (also with a single rider line) were by far the best, and the Waterworld show was great but the Mummy ride was a cheap, poor-man’s ghost house. It was boring and a total waste of time. The only thrill was the accelerated start, it was downhill from there, both figuratively and literally.

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The Studio Tour was pretty interesting and definitely worth doing, but the queue was crazy long after 11am, so my advice would be to do that first. The Shrek 4D experience was pretty good too!

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All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the day but it is an expensive outing, especially for families without a well-stocked picnic basket and an inability to say no to the excessive souvenir shops and tack sellers!

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Now it sounds like I had a horrible time, which just isn’t the case, at one point some street cleaners started performing the most incredible dance routine, I just don’t understand why places with such high footfall need to be so expensive! Grinds my gears!

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I went for a walk down Fairfax Avenue after parking my car in the hostel’s minimal underground parking so as to not lose the space! I got falafel and hummus for dinner and some sushi for the following day and then chilled out.
The next day I did a Hollywood tour, they took you to famous people’s houses, not that you could see anything, but it was relatively informative and fun, if somewhat pricey for the gift of looking to famous people’s very high gates and fences.

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I then drove to the La Brea Tar Pits to see some fossils before going back to the hostel for a late lunch of sushi; some writing and a little TV before free BBQ and drinks in the Tiki Lounge!

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The next day I packed up and checked out of the Banana Bungalows and went to meet the girls for breakfast I had eggs benedict and it was crazy delicious! We went to the Blu Jam Café and clearly made an excellent choice as there was a queue down the street about 10 minutes after we arrived.

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After that, I said goodbye to the girls for the last time and began my drive to Yosemite.

Posted by Lady Mantle 19:36 Archived in USA Tagged sunrise expensive universal_studios walk_of_fame rodeo_drive sushi whale_watching l.a. solo_traveller la_brea_tar_pits hollywood_boulevard griffith_park_observatory balboa_island single_rider fortune_cookie it's_so_fluffy jurassic_park_ride waterworld_show Comments (0)

New Orleans

And Jacksonville, NC

sunny 40 °C

I arrived in Jacksonville, NC and waited for my friend to pick me up from the tiniest airport I’ve ever been to!
When the plane touched down on the tarmac, and everyone started to leave the plane, I hadn’t even realised that we were not connected to the airport (you know how there is usually a tube-walkway thing from the plane door to the airport?).
I stepped off the plane and watched as everyone who knew what they were doing just began walking across the tarmac to the terminal building that looked no bigger than a large community centre.
I wasn’t really sure what the protocol was, so without any personnel that I could see to guide me, I followed suit and walked to the terminal building.
It looked almost like an office building inside; one floor, one bathroom, and at the end of the building, there was a single, maybe 10ft conveyer belt slowly bringing in the luggage.
After successfully collecting my baggage, I went outside (only a few feet away from the conveyer belt!) and waited for my friend who eventually arrived looking fashionable as usual and off we went.

To go from New York to Jacksonville, NC was quite a change in not only pace but environment as well.
I was surrounded by green and big open fields, just what I needed after a busy 2 weeks in NYC.

My friend took me for Carolina BBQ and hush puppies which is basically shredded chicken, vinegar and coleslaw in a bun and deep-fried corn cake things.
Anyway, it was yummy!
It rained for the next 2 days so we basically just ate tasty food and I bought some much needed additions to my wardrobe…!
The hotel I stayed in (Extended Stay America) was actually really good and the staff were great, would definitely recommend.

My flight to New Orleans wasn’t until 12:45 so I checked out at 11 and my friend took me to the airport. Standard security, standard flights, although at one point, I felt like Sandra Bullock in the Proposal when she goes to Sitka in the tiny plane - it felt like I was in a glider, not a real plane at all! I had to change at Charlotte and luckily the next plane was bigger!

~ New Orleans ~

My hostel was in the Garden District, about 15 blocks west of the French Quarter, and full of beautiful, typically southern country homes.

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To be completely honest, the hostel (the Atlas House) didn’t look massively fancy from the outside, but the inside was lovely and clean and the staff were really welcoming. I stayed in a 6-bed dorm which was spacious and even had a little balcony off the back.
Very cute, and cool too thanks to the giant fan and air conditioning!

I didn’t arrive in New Orleans until the evening so after making my bed and organising my things, I made the 30-45 minute walk to the French Quarter for dinner.

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After sweating off about 40lbs(!) I started talking to a guy on Bourbon Street who suggested that I got a Po-Boy… I was intrigued so went up some stairs to a little restaurant and ordered a Shrimp Po-Boy and an iced tea.

Best. Shrimp. Ever.

I was presented with a toasted sandwich stuffed with lots of fat shrimp, lettuce and tomato, some fries and my own little pot of lemon mayonnaise – perfection!
I thought it would be strange eating alone, but I actually sort of enjoyed the quiet reflection time… and people watching, naturally.

Bourbon Street really is bar central and if your trip to New Orleans doesn’t require a street of neon signs and drunken gargoyles staggering around, it’s probably not somewhere you want to be at night…!

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I walked up and down different streets, but the French Quarter is basically a massive grid and after a while I felt like a pawn in a game of chess!
Eventually I got to Jackson Square and saw all the horse-drawn buggies and Café du Monde – home of the beignets!

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One of my missions for New Orleans was to enjoy the French pastry-doughnut that is the beignet and as good luck would have it, I stumbled upon the most famous place to get them from!
3 beignets for $2.25 and a kilogram of powdered sugar later and I scuttled to a dark corner to avoid onlookers observing my ritualistic devouring of those powdered treats only to discover that my chosen scoffing-place was generally use as a beignets eating area, given the copious amounts of powdered sugar dusting all over the floor..!
YUM!

For some reason, I couldn’t sleep (probably all that sugar!) so I was chatting to my students for a while before eventually admitting defeat around 2am.
I then woke up at 8am for no reason at all, so decided to head to Lafayette Cemetery to take some photos.
It was so peaceful and beautiful.

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A little light rain meant a quick lunch stop was necessary and then I went back to the hostel for a nap!
I woke up around 5pm and headed to the French Quarter again, had scrummy Creole Rabbit at Oliviers then walked around the French Quarter, stopping at Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo to satiate my mystique ways!

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To continue the theme, I sat with a lady near Jackson Square who did a tarot reading for me.
She told me I’m going through a solitary phase and doing more things for myself than constantly doing things to help others, she said all of my cards point to education, knowledge and wisdom and that I’d be an excellent teacher…
I’m taking that as a high five from the universe.
She also said that there would be a change this time next year that would see me venturing out on my own again which coincides with my new job next school year.
She was lovely and very down to earth, we had a great chat and I really enjoyed listening to her.
When in New Orleans!

I took the advice of my lonely planet guide and did my own walking tour of the French Quarter – before my tour could begin however, I stopped to appreciate the musical stylings of a jazz band who had set up in Jackson Square.

Whilst listening to their amazing music, I got chatting to a local guy which was nice – you forget what it’s like to talk to other people when you travel alone.
I like my own company but even so, the occasional conversation is welcomed.
I grabbed a quick bite before heading out into the 80% humidity and began my walk around the French Quarter.
Some of the buildings are really quite exquisite and I half expected people in 1920’s outfits to be exiting through the double doors under the looming balconies above.
Alas, this never came to pass but there was a cute trio of acapella singers in matching suits, complete with bow ties and wicker hats.
Very dapper!

I ended up in an old pharmacy with bottles and potions for everyday ailments and an interesting birthing suite, needless to say, I’m glad for the feats of modern medicine!

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I had a relatively early night, not for sleep, but for relaxing at the hostel.
I just chilled out in the courtyard with a cute Canadian-French couple for a while then watched a movie with one of the guys who worked in the hostel (Freddie).
Some girls from the UK moved into my dorm and we got chatting and decided to go for a drink just up the road.
I left them to get some food as I was starving but only managed a salad and a quarter Philly cheesesteak sandwich which found a new home in the fridge.
I also bought a homeless guy a shrimp sandwich and a bottle of water before heading back to the hostel;
everybody deserves food.

I booked a haunted tour with Witches Brews Tours for Wednesday evening so I knew I didn’t want to do a lot of walking during the day.
I got on a bus near the hostel to Canal St then hopped on the tram up to St Louis Cemetery No. 1 to visit Marie Laveau!

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I met a lovely guy in Cambodia in January this year who told me to look him up in New Orleans so when I stumbled across his gallery, it seemed fated for us to meet up.
We had a good chat and arranged dinner and drinks for the following evening as I was walking with the spirits that evening!

So after chilling out with my little hostel family, I jumped on a bus into the French Quarter and arrived early enough to grab a quick bowl of gumbo at an Oyster bar on Royal Street where upon I informed my waiter/bar tender that I’d never had an oyster before when one ceremoniously appeared before me with crackers and hot sauce.
Now, I’d sat at the bar (as advised by my friends for travelling solo!) so I was surrounded by other people, all somewhat more accustomed to oyster-eating and yet upon receiving instructions on how to eat my (free) oyster and doing so successfully, I received a round of applause from my bar constituents!
I wish every ‘first’ in my life was applauded!

After my oyster experience (which far outdid my first gumbo experience!) I walked across the street to meet with my tour group for the Voodoo, Witches, Vampires and Ghosts tour around the French Quarter.
It was really interesting and definitely worth doing, even if I was sweating buckets by the end of it.
Even between 8 – 10pm it is crazy humid.

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Even got to see the Delphine LaLaurie house...!

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Our guide was great, the right amount of funny and knowledgeable - a definite must for anyone visiting New Orleans and wanting a more in depth lesson on the darker history.

When I got back to the hostel, everyone was outside having drinks for Inci’s leaving do (a girl who worked at the hostel) so I joined the festivities including flip-cup and charades until I thought it best to go to bed, given that I had to be up at 8am the following day.

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I really loved my stay at the Atlas House hostel and would 100% recommend it to anyone who wants a real family of travellers and the guys who run the hostel are the best, great to just chill and talk to about anything.

The following morning, I was up and ready to go around 8.30am, went to buy cheap (for the USA) cigarettes and waited at the hostel for my tour bus to arrive.
Around a 30 minutes drive later, we arrived at the Louisiana Swamps and climbed aboard our airboats for the next 2 hours.
Today was alligator day :D

The journey out to ‘gator territory was relatively slow until we hit open water and then our ‘captain’ cranked up the speed and I instantly understood why they’re called airboats – we barely touched the water!

We quickly got to the renowned Bayou and within seconds of turning off the motor, 3 or 4 crocs began sashaying towards the boat.
Thankfully, they weren’t people-eaters!
This happened pretty much every time we stopped, and our driver enticed them to the boat so we could get a closer look, and we even got to hold a baby gator!

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I was the only person on the boat without noise-cancelling headphones so by the time I got back to the hostel, my ears were so sensitive I could hear my eyes blinking!

I had a nap and then went into town to meet Kirt (from Cambodia) and his lovely friend Gabriel for dinner and drinks which was an absolute blast!
I do love good company for dinner!
A theme which continued the following day with lunch and dinner with the girls from the hostel with a quick tour in between.

We went to listen to some live music on Frenchman Street and Andy and Dave from the hostel met us at the Spotted Cat Music Club.

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My flight to Phoenix was at 5am the next day so I went back to the hostel at 9pm but got chatting to Freddie and then had to organise my life so I didn’t sleep until 11pm anyway!

Ah, New Orleans - you complete me.

Posted by Lady Mantle 20:04 Archived in USA Tagged food jazz ghost new_orleans jacksonville alligators shrimp witches bayou galleries oysters voodoo swamps garden_district french_quarter solo_traveller vampires beignets cafe_du_monde jackson_square po_boys marie_laveau delphine_lalaurie atlas_house_hostel lafayette_cemetery st_louis_cemetery Comments (0)

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