Carnet de voyage

California & Utah

13 étapes
2 commentaires
Two weeks on the West Coast!
Du 6 au 20 juillet 2019
15 jours
Partager ce carnet de voyage
6
juil

You may just have barely finished to read my European trip that I already bother you with a new one. Busy summer! 😉 After Boston and New York in 2013, after Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, Houston and Austin in 2017... It is now time to discover the West Coast! California and Utah, here I come! 😀

Flight duration from Shanghai (China) to San Francisco (California): 11h30.

Time difference between Shanghai and SF: 15 hours.

So, basically, I leave Shanghai at noon and land in SF at 9am... on the same day! Are you confused? Okay, so, when it will be noon in France, it will be 6pm in China, and 3am in California! 😉

Bon voyage! 

San Francisco (SF) is a popular tourist destination, known for its cool summers, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks - such as the Golden Gate Bridge. It is nowadays the highest rated American city on world liveability rankings.

I spent the whole flight watching movies (Book Club and Dumbo) and series (the whole first season of Absentia). I very quickly went through the customs, in spite of my Iranian visa, and took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to Oakland (in the East Bay region of SF Bay Area), to meet Marc - my Couchsurfing host! 😀 After a coffee and chat, Marc took me for a nice car ride around Oakland and Alameda island.

Oakland 

Around 2pm, despite my great desire to go to bed, I took the BART back to SF and decided to explore a bit... I got off at the Embarcadero station (North East of the city) and walked around the financial district.

Financial district 

I had a look at the map and decided to head to the famous City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. I could have spent the day there to be honest! 😀 Wandering in the quiet shop, reading the comments, opening the Jack Kerouac (famous author of On the Road) books, and enjoying the atmosphere of the place. PS: @Supervico, I booked a travel book about Bali! 😉

A literary meeting place since 1953, City Lights is a landmark bookstore, internationally known for its expert selection of books and for its commitment to free intellectual inquiry.

City Lights 

I noticed on my map that I was fairly close to the famous Lombard Street. Do you trust me when I tell you I had trouble climbing it up with my sleepy body and mind after a long flight and jet lag... 😉

Lombard Street is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns, claimed to be the "crookedest street in the world". It receives two million visitors per year!

Lombard Street 

Sorry, dear readers, if you got used to more text/information and better pictures, but I still feel kind of tired. Hopefully things will get better later on! After Lombard Street, I walked toward a bus stop and got back to Oakland with the Bart. Note I walked 7 kilometres in spite of being dead! Not too bad! 😉 My host Marc prepared us delicious homemade hamburgers for dinner. I then slept from 8pm to 6am (again, not too bad despite a 15-hour time difference). Did you read my article on how to fight jet lag yet? 😀

Dinner - time difference - earthquake 

Come back soon for more stories! 😀

7
juil

Second day in the San Francisco Bay Area! In the morning, I went to a farmer's market in Oakland with Marc. People were very friendly, and also very aware of the planet: everyone was bringing their own bags and buying organic food. China has sooo much to learn... 😥 Talking about planet, California seems to be doing great in recycling - rubbish, but also clothes and other goods, with a lot of second-hand shops.

Let's hit the city of SF! First stop: the Palace of Fine Arts. I did not go inside (you may already know that I do not like art ^^), but the building looked nice to me. It is indeed a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, to present some works of art.

Palace of Fine Arts 

But my main goal for the afternoon was the well-know Golden Gate Bridge...

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World. It is "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed bridge in the world". The bridge opened in 1937, to connect SF city and Marin County.

The bridge is located 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) from the Palace, however, getting there felt like it took forever... The wind was absolutely freezing. By the way, did I tell you yet, it's been only 16 degrees these days?!

View on the Golden Gate Bridge 

Mom, can you believe that I did not even put my feet in the water! It was way too cold out there.

Slowly slowly getting closer 

Wait! The Warming Hut? This is what I need! Let's go! 😀 I quickly discovered that the so-called Warming Hut was a little café and souvenir shop. Perfect. I had a delicious (warming) panini, a (warming) coffee, and I even bought a new jumper - to warm me up, you got it. With written "San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge"!

Less fog, more sun, and getting closer! Yay!

I was kind of disappointed when I got to the bottom because 1) it was freezing, 2) there was a parking lot and a fence, and 3) that is when I noticed that I was in a cul-de-sac and had to walk back to get out...

The closest we can get (from this side) 

I then found another way to go uphill, with a different point of view on the bridge! More pics!😉

More pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge 

Way too cold to cross the bridge. Also, it is 2 kilometres long and I cannot more. I caught a bus to reach Chinatown - not that I miss China!!! but my friend Daniel recommended it to me! 😉

Chinatown, San Francisco, is the oldest in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia (OMG, I cannot get rid of the Chinese or what!?). It covers 24 square blocks.

Chinatown 

I did not stay there very long, but I went to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, a little boutique full of tourists where you can buy fortune cookies and even write your own messages in them. Quite fun.

Fortune cookie factory

It is time to head back to the BART, Marc and Sophia (another Couchsurfer) are waiting for me for dinner! 😀 I took a few shots while walking to the station (walked 8 kilometres in total today).

Around Union Square 

Ended the day watching Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie, a very interesting documentary about a friend of Marc, an activist for peace, best known for his hippie appearance.

8
juil

It is 9pm on Monday 8th in California when I am reading this post, so 6am on Tuesday 9th in France and already noon in China. So weird! 😀 Today was, sadly, my last day in San Francisco. Three days are definitely too short, but I will come back to that later on and talk to you about my day first.

If you go to Walgreens (a pharmacy store), you can buy a day ticket for $15 which gives you unlimited rides in San Francisco city for buses ($3 single) and cables cars ($7 single).

After packing my stuff in Oakland (and forgetting my brand new towel there 😥), I took the BART to SF and then a bus to the Painted Ladies, 6 well-known Victorian houses located near Adamo Square.

The Painted Ladies 

From there, I started to walk to Haight-Ashbury district, but quickly got lazy and got on a bus (for free)! 😉

On the way to the Haight 

Haight-Ashbury, or The Haight, is known for being the origin of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s. Hippies created their own communities, listened to psychedelic music, embraced the sexual revolution, and many used drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and psilocybin mushrooms.

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when 100,000 hippies met at The Haight. Although hippies also gathered in many other places in the U.S., Canada and Europe, San Francisco was at that time the most publicised location.

The Haight 

I really liked this district. I had a good lunch at the Hippie Thai restaurant, recommended by TripAdvisor. As my plate was way too big for me (enough for 3 people probably), I asked a take-away box, stole a pair of chopsticks, and gave that to a guy in the street. There are indeed loads of homeless people in SF, but that is a story for later... Time to take a bus back downtown, and queue an hour in the wind to catch a cable car! 😉

The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last manually operated cable car system. There used to be 23 lines back in 1873; only 3 remain. The majority of their passengers are tourists!

Cable car 

And so I went to the Cable Car Museum! 😉 It is a small museum explaining the creation and history of the cable car, and how it works. I got bored quickly there, maybe because of the lack of interaction (a lot of text)... Can be interesting though... I read some good things about it online. Worth checking if around.

Cable Car Museum 

Olala, I promised you some stories, but it is already 10pm and I gotta get up early tomorrow, to catch my bus to Los Angeles! So you will have to come back for more! 😀 You can subscribe to my article at the top.

I am spending the night at the Adelaide Hostel, located in downtown SF (Marc was happy to host me longer in Oakland but I thought it would be better to catch my bus tomorrow). It offers free breakfast, high speed internet, free dinners on Mondays (lucky me! 😀), and other cool facilities. I paid $50 (taxes included) for my bed in a 6-bed female dorm. This is pretty expensive for a dorm, compared to prices in London for instance, but still one of the cheapest in SF...

9
juil

I promised you a few stories in the previous posts. Well, I have now some free time ahead, as I booked a Flixbus ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles for $14, and the journey lasts 8 hours! 😉 Firstly, I would like to emphasise the kindness and generosity of people here. For example, on my first day, I was missing 20 cents for my BART ticket (I only had $10 or $20 notes). Well, the lady working at the station gave me a coin. This would never happen in France! Another example? At a bus station, I put a few papers in a bin. A man who was waiting next to me told me "thank you". Then, I sneezed, and a woman told me "bless you". What else? Cashiers asking "how are you" and wishing a happy day. And even the travellers are nice. Funnily enough, in a bus, I started chatting with three French women (a mother and her daughters), and they happened to know a tiny village located 20 kms from mine! 😀 Such a small world! Oh, also, a vendor was giving away free moisturising cream samples in the street. He asked me where I came from, and when I answered France, he said: "gratuit crème de le jour"! So cute. The Chinese have so much to learn...

Kipling once said "San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave". I tend to agree that the atmosphere in the Bay Area is pretty amazing. There is something special here. However, I also found a few other downsides... There is indeed a massive number of homeless people, in every corner of the city. I have never seen that many in my whole life. And the city smells a mix between weed and piss...

Bucket List for my next SF visit 😀

- Discover Alcatraz Island (note tickets shall be bought in advance)

- Visit Mission District and Dolores Park

- Rent a bike and cross the Golden Gate Bridge

- Visit the Walt Disney Family Museum

- Wander around Fisherman's Wharf

- Chill in the Golden Gate Park

- Visit The Castro (gay district)

- Have a look at Macondray lane (Tales in the City)

- Talk to the sea lions on Pier 9

- Enjoy the view from the Twin Peaks

- Go for a hike in the national parks

- Catch up with Marc

...

Long story short: one shall spend (at least) a full week in San Francisco! 😀 I will come back!

• • •
On the road between SF and LA 

Los Angeles, or L.A., is the second most populous city of the United States (after New York). It is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic university, and for Hollywood of course! Home of the American film industry, including several of its historic studios.

We reached Union Station at 5pm, under a warm blue sky. Instead of taking the metro to reach my hostel, I decided to walk around for some time (not too much though as I was carrying my backpack).

Union Station 

From there, I walked to Little Tokyo, an ethnically Japanese American district in downtown LA.

Little Tokyo 

Not far from Little Tokyo can be found the City Hall. The only reason I wanted to see this building in real life was because I saw it many times watching 9-1-1 TV show! 😉Tu reconnais maman ?

Around the city hall 

As for San Francisco, there seem to be hundreds of homeless people in Los Angeles... You can see them wandering with a stolen trolley, or sleeping on the pavement, or in the parks... 😥 I kept on walking and discovered a really nice shop: The Last Bookstore. Loads of choices, nice decoration, and comfy sofas! 😀

The Last Bookstore 

It is now time to take the metro to my hostel. I discover an area where everyone speaks Spanish! 😀

West Lake 

I am spending two nights at the Widblue Hostel. I paid $28 per night, taxes included.

It is now 9pm when I finish this post, I think I will read a bit and go to sleep. A lot to explore tomorrow! 😀

10
juil

For my only day in LA, I decided to do all the clichés! 😉 However, it has been a bit of a rush day because 1) I woke up at 9.30am, 2) I chatted with a French dude at my hostel until 11am, and 3) LA is a massive city and public transportation (here I mean buses) take forever to get anywhere. My first stop was Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a mile long stretch of boho-beach chic boutiques, art galleries, salons, in Southern Venice.

Abbot Kinney 

I walked all along the boulevard and reached Venice Beach, where I stopped in a diner for a cheeseburger (cliché). Venice has been labeled "cultural hub known for its eccentricities" due to its artists, performers, and fortune-tellers. It receives millions of visitors per year. To be honest, I did not really understand why. There is nothing special there... I went for a (quick) swim (cold wind, cold water, a lot of waves).

Venice beach 

I walked along the promenade and along the beach, feet in the water, and jumped on a bus to Santa Monica. Once again, I really did not get why it was such a popular destination... The only reason I wanted to go there was to see the end of the famous Route 66, going all the way from Chicago to LA! 😀 But even the "end of the trail" sign was disappointed, it was not the real historic sign... 😥

Santa Monica 

I walked again to catch another bus to Beverly Hills. Note I walked 11 kilometres that day, in spite of having a bus day ticket and having the feeling of spending my whole day in buses! Beverly Hills is home to many celebrities, luxury hotels, and to the Rodeo Drive shopping district (Champs-Elysées like). I did not see any stars - or maybe I did, but did not notice! 😉 There live, among others: Elton John, Jennifer Aniston, Lionel Richie, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, John Legend, Christina Aguilera, Calvin Klein... Money money.

Beverly Hills 

Next stop? Yet another cliché! Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame... Well, really, nothing special. Lots of tourists, lots of bullshit "museums", and lots of souvenir shops. The only thing that made me happy was to see the Hollywood sign when I walked away from the crowd towards the metro station! 😀

Hollywood 

It is 7pm when I reach the metro, to then take the DASH shuttle (50 cents) to Griffith Observatory, to catch the sunset on LA. Note: do not expect to have a good view on the Hollywood sign from there, and go to Hollywood Lake Park instead! I did not have enough time anymore as it would take me a 30-minute hike. The observatory was crowded, but still pretty quiet, and offered a nice way to end the day.

Griffith Observatory 

Another hour of bus to get back to my hostel, quick shower and bedtime, because I have to wake up early! Funny anecdote: on my way back, I got off a first bus to catch a connection and, crossing the road, I met the French guy from my hostel, who offered me to go to Griffith Observatory. I mean, what are the odds??? Los Angeles covers 470 square miles, or 1200 square kilometres! 😀 So, LA, not my favourite, one day enough.

11
juil

I booked a Flixbus ticket from Los Angeles to San Diego for only $5. The journey lasts 3 hours (better than the previous one 😉), but departure is at 7am... Way too early for me! 😥

San Diego is located at the South of California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border.

It is now 9pm, I actually survived the day despite my waking up at 6am! 😀 My first stop at San Diego was for a coffee and a croissant in terrace. I then dropped off my backpack at my hostel. My first impressions of San Diego? A good mix between San Francisco (for the vibes) and Los Angeles (for the weather)! 😀

Hillcrest 

I then bought a bus pass (unlimited 3 days for $12, plus $2 for the card), and headed towards Mission Beach. It was around 1pm when I got there, and I found a cheap Mexican restaurant with many Spanish speakers in the queue, the sign of good food! 😉 I stopped by for a good (but huge) burrito. I then went for a (little) swim (little because cold wind and cold water) and (little) sunbathing (little because strong sun).

Mission Beach 

Having a look at the map, I noticed I was fairly close (distances in America are another thing... when I say "fairly close", I mean 8 kilometres) from La Jolla, so I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. I first walked along Mission, and then caught a bus. If you wonder how I find the directions, the answer is easy! I look for cafés or Starbucks or Mackie or other similar chain, stay outside and use their free Wi-Fi access! 😉

Along Mission 

La Jolla (the Jewel City), within San Diego City, is home to many educational institutions and a variety of businesses in the areas of lodging, dining, shopping, software, finance, real estate, bioengineering, medical practice and scientific research. It occupies 11 kilometres along the Pacific Ocean coastline - I did not walk all the way but maybe half of it! 😉 In total, I walked 8.5 kilometres today.

La Jolla 

What is very interesting when we reach La Jolla Cove is the number of seals and sea lions lying there! No need to go to the zoo! 😉 Note: it smells really, really bad in the area. I was happy to have my scarf...

La Jolla Cove 

I walked a bit through La Jolla Village before catching another couple of buses towards my hostel. I headed there around 7pm, right on time for the free delicious dinner! 😀 I met a few nice people already.

I am spending 2 nights at the Colive Balboa Park Hostel. I paid $35 per night. This hostel is THE top hostel of San Diego, with free breakfast, free dinner, cool staff, comfy beds... 😀

12
juil

Hey guys, did I tell you that I am staying in the best hostel ever? 😀 Very nice people (both staff and clients), big living room with comfy sofas, a pool table, guitars, piano, books, and board games, free breakfast, free homemade dinner, good location... I love it! I even met a French guy who has been staying here for... wait for it... 3 years! 😀 Yes, they do offer long-term accommodation as well, which I find great.

ITH Zoo Hostel Colive Balboa 

I took the bus towards Balboa Park, but stopped on the way when I saw Goodwill charity shop... I wanted to buy everything! 😀 But I am supposed to travel light lol! So I (only) bought 5 vests, for about $20. They are now in the washing machine of the hostel with my dirty underwear and socks... 😉 So, Balboa Park! A 490-ha urban cultural park in the centre of San Diego. It includes gardens, museums, theatres, and the famous San Diego Zoo. It felt a bit like Spain to be honest! I really enjoyed the atmosphere there.

Balboa Park 

By the way, I treated myself with a "personalised" henna tattoo... 😀

Balboa Park 

After enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the park for some time, I jumped on another bus to the Gaslamp Quarter. It is a historic/touristic district with a lot of nice restaurants, cafés, and shops. I walked all along the Fifth avenue (for the record, I walked another 9 kilometres today 😉), wandering in the shops.

Gaslamp district 

I then walked along Martin Luther King promenade, all the way to the Seaport Village, a nice little waterfront shopping area adjacent to San Diego bay. I did not have lunch today but I bought the most expensive ice cream ever ($8 - did not see the price before). Oops! I will have free dinner tonight! 😉

Seaport Village 

Around 5pm, I decided to go back to Balboa Park for Food Truck Friday, a food festival with live music and other entertainment. It was way more busy than earlier in the day!

Balboa Park 

By the way, this weekend is the Pride LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer) in San Diego, and it is happening right in my district! All the bars and shops already have their decoration ready. I will try to have a look at the parade tomorrow morning, before heading to the airport for my next stop: Salt Lake City, Utah.

Pride 
• • •

Thirteen reasons why I shall move to San Diego, California:

  • Weather is awesome all year long (sunny and warm but not hot)
  • People are nice and friendly and welcoming
  • To learn how to surf
  • To practise Spanish (there are lots of Spanish speakers)
  • There is an airport (so I can travel around the continent)
  • It's close to Mexico
  • There are some tourists but not too many
  • Nature and hiking in California
  • Not too many Chinese
  • To co-live at ITH Colive Balboa
  • Good Mexican, Japanese, Thai, and Italian restaurants
  • There are many Québecois
  • Sea, sex and sun 😉

I started to have a look at the universities here, there are quite a lot. The best ones are, I think, University of California - San Diego, and University of San Diego. Let's see if they are looking for a lecturer! 😀

13
juil

Did you know that the reason for this trip was NOT to discover California, but to go to a scientific conference in Salt Lake City? 😉 Too bad... It is now noon here, and I am at San Diego airport, waiting for my flight. I still had the chance to have a look at the Pride parade this morning, as it was happening in my hostel district: Hillcrest! Hillcrest is indeed a vibrant uptown neighbourhood where stands SD LGBTQ central hub.

San Diego Pride 

I had planned to take the bus with my unlimited card to the airport, but there were lots of detours (and a lot of traffic) due to the parade, so I got a bit scared to miss my flight and booked a Uber (using free Wi-Fi in front of a café lol). I paid $12 for the ride, which is not too bad, compared to some airport shuttles in Europe! 😉 My driver was a very nice Californian lady wearing rainbows. We chatted all the way.

Flying from San Diego to Salt Lake City takes a tad less than 2 hours. However, Utah is located in another time zone than California; I thus need to add an hour to my watch/phone/laptop. Wait, I don't have a watch! To make a long story short, I will now have "only" 8 hours of difference with readers in France! 😀

Salt Lake City is the capital of the state of Utah. The city was named like that due to its proximity to the Great Salt Lake! 😉 It is famous for the Mormons, a religious group.

14
juil

Happy Bastille Day French fellows! 😉 No travel stories for a few days because of the conference. Maybe a few pictures or a few updates... only if you are wise! No more beaches here but some mountains. Interestingly, we can see snow at the top, even though it is pretty hot down there (34 ressentis 42) ! I had a fat breakfast this morning (yaaay) and then went for a little digestive walk around Fort Douglas.

Around Fort Douglas and University of Utah 

Conference starts in an hour, I should go grab some lunch now!

15
juil

Red Butte Garden is Utah’s Botanical Garden, and part of the University of Utah. It has themed gardens, a children's garden, waterfall, pond, and almost 5 miles of natural area hiking trails. “Four Seasons, A Million Reasons” to visit for floral shows, outdoor concerts, camps and classes! 😉 Sorry for the "poor" pictures, I took them with my smartphone as I did not take my camera with me for the evening walk...

Red Butte Garden 
17
juil

I was supposed to go for a hike yesterday evening, but I ended up in a restaurant for some food and some drinks with 4 of my fellow conference people! 😉 We came back to the hotel past midnight, it was hard to wake up this morning... MIPS conference finished at noon. I checked out of the University Guest House, went for a nice lunch with two Canadians, and took a Uber to my future hostel. It is probably the weirdest hostel I have been to in my life: everyone is old (above 60 years old), everyone is American (except me), and everyone is obese (except me). And there is an unlimited amount of brownie and pies. The hostel is located a mile away from Downtown Salt Lake City, which I explored a bit (I walked 8 kms) this afternoon.

Top left: little joke from our dinner place (big nipple), top right: nice view from lunch place, bottom: the Avenues 

I told you before that Salt Lake was the city of Mormons. Well, I got to see that today, with Temple Square... a 4 ha complex owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That big joke.

Temple Square 

I then walked all around downtown, but there is nothing to see / to do, except shopping or eating...

Downtown 

I am spending my last 2 nights at the Avenues Hostel, I paid $38 per night (breakfast inc.).

Little game: I am (more or less) hidden in two pictures in this post. Could you spot me? 😀

18
juil

When one thinks about Utah, what comes to mind is: National Parks. My initial plan was indeed to go to Zion, or Bryce Canyon, or even Arches (see here for more information). However, I quickly discovered that there were 1) no public transportation, and 2) no "day trips" to these parks. Then, my idea was to rent a car. But renting a car is fun when you are with friends (I did it for instance in Canada, or on the Canary Islands), but not really when alone. So I gave up with my initial ideas, and ended up booking two smaller trips with Tours of Utah: Copper Mine Tour ($53 taxes included) for the morning, and Great Salt Lake Tour ($44 taxes included) for the afternoon. I would have never done that few months ago, but I was a (cheap) student! 😉

Getting closer to the mine 

The Bingham Canyon Mine, commonly known as Kennecott Copper Mine, is an open-pit mining operation extracting a large copper deposit, at the southwest of Salt Lake City. It is the largest man-made excavation in the world. The mine has been in production since 1906.

Utah Copper Mine 

Did you see how massive the trucks are? With me next to the wheel, and next to the "small" white trucks.

The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere. It is also the largest remnant of Lake Bonneville, a prehistoric lake which used to cover Western Utah. The lake is home to millions of native birds, brine shrimp, shorebirds, and waterfowl.

The Great Salt Lake 

Yes, I went for a swim! I was literally the only one in the water. Among billions of disgusting brine shrimps and flies, as you can actually see on the pictures. Yes, the little black things are sadly not noise.........

19
juil

It is time to go back to work... I am first flying on Friday morning (local time) from Salt Lake to San Francisco, and I then have a connexion to Shanghai. I will land in Shanghai on Saturday evening (local time). Not much to conclude on this trip here, as I have already wrote my opinions in the previous posts... 😉

I am getting lazy with blogging, I might take a break, or stop. It takes time, and motivation, and I write bullshit, and I am not even sure whether some people read my bullshit. I lasted 2 years, not that bad!