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Holiday in the USA, December 1998.

I left Sydney, Australia for Los Angeles on Monday, 7th December, 1998, for a family holiday in the United States of America.  This was the first time I had been to the US.

My family hired a car and drove through the states of California, Nevada and Arizona, sight-seeing and visiting tourist attractions.

Here is a brief itinerary:

San Francisco: 7th - 9th Dec.
Las Vegas: 11th - 13th Dec.
Arizona: 13th - 15th Dec.
San Diego: 15th - 17th Dec.
Disneyland, Anaheim: 17th - 20th Dec.
Los Angeles: 20th - 23rd Dec.

We were blessed with fantastic weather.  Everywhere we went, we brought the sunshine with us!  During our stay, many places experienced record high temperatures.  There was a little rain on the 19th December, and by the time we reached Los Angeles on the 20th, winter had definitely settled in.  Then it was quite cold.

Food, of course, is ultra-important.  I think the food in America is more expensive than the food in Australia.  The difference is that there is more variety to choose from, but that applies to everything in America, not just food.  Going to Chinese restaurants in America was certainly an experiece.  Most of the Chinese restaurants do not serve authentic Chinese food, as most Australian Chinese restaurants do; instead, "naturalised" Chinese food is served.  At one restaurant in LA, the service was absolutely shocking!  The waiters and waitresses all stood around chatting, while all the customers had to wait forever for food to eat!  I have never seen anything like it.

Also, American water tastes funny.  Mostly I had to drink bottled water.

Overall, I must say that the trip was.... an experience!  I would love to return to America to visit some of its other states.  But I will always return to Australia.

San Francisco

I must say that the city of San Francisco in California is my favourite city out of all the cities we visited.  The weather was quite cool and it was very windy.

My first impression of the city was that there are a lot of beggars.  I was a bit worried about bag-snatchers and pick-pockets, but nothing happened to us.  On the day of our arrival, though, as we walked along a street in Downtown San Francisco, we saw something very strange.  There was a group of poeple and they were yelling a lot, and some law enforcement officers, and as we walked past, we saw a large volume of blood on the ground.  That was quite scary.

What I love most about the city are the cable cars.  I could spend days just riding them.  I guess with such hilly terrain, cable cars are a very sensible mode of transport.

The places we visited in San Francisco were Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf and a place next to the Golden Gate Bridge from where we took lots of pictures of the bridge.  It was quite spectacular.  Due to our busy schedule, we were unable to visit Golden Gate Park or something like that.

I did visit the City of San Francisco Museum, where there are plenty of interesting things to read about different aspects of the city.  These include the cultural and historical displays as well as stuff about the earthquakes that have affected San Francisco.
 

Las Vegas

Just as San Francisco is my favourite city, Las Vegas is my least favourite.  I did not enjoy myself at all there.  Perhaps it is my own personal dislike of gambling, but I do not wish to ever go there again.

As you arrive in Las Vegas, all the bright lights and spectacular buildings dazzle you.  But a second glance will show that everything is fake.  All the scenes are contrived, gaudy and in very poor taste.  I walked through a couple of the casino-hotel complexes, and all the flashing lights just hurt my eyes.

The good side?  The cost of food is amazingly good.  I think I ate much more than I should have while I stayed in Las Vegas.

But temptation lurks everywhere in this gambling city.  Perhaps it is significant to note that it was in Las Vegas that we stayed in a hotel that does not have a Bible in each room!  Although in Nevada, people under the age of 21 years may not loiter in gaming areas, there is no way of going anywhere or doing anything without entering these areas.  To get to the hotel, the dining rooms, the garage, and even hotel registration, one has to walk past all the noisy, flashing machines.

One evening in Las Vegas, I had finished a magnificent dinner, and was contemplating dessert.  The one item I craved was unavailable: pavlova.  I had to settle for ice-cream, but I declare it is no substitute.  That was the moment I realised no place in the world could compare with Australia!
 

Arizona

Even if San Francisco is my favourite city, California is not my favourite state.  Arizona is.  It is an amazing desert state full of natural beauty.  The landscape is utterly breath-taking.

The people of Arizona are the friendliest that I met on the trip.  When our family stopped for lunch in Kingman, we found ourselves in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere as we'd not experienced anywhere else in the USA.  Admittedly, I only visited three states, but my parents have been to Texas and Chicago and they, too, agree the people of Arizona are very friendly.  I noted that there are "Welcome to Arizona" signs as we drove across the state border, and I did not see any such welcome signs when entering Nevada or California.

How could anyone go to Arizona without seeing the Grand Canyon?  I had planned to watch the sun rise over the canyon, but as though I would wake up early enough!  Of course I slept in!

That did not detract from the morning views, though.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular.  As I stood there, looking out towards the big hole in the ground, I could sense how tiny humans are.  We are such small creatures.  I cannot describe the feelings I experienced, and can only recommend that everyone visits the canyon for himself.

The other great thing I experienced while in Arizona was snow!  I had never seen the stuff before in my life, and the morning of the visit to the Grand Canyon, I had to scrape it off the car.  In the national park, there was a large amount of fresh, clean snow, so of course my brother and I spent time throwing it at each other.  Sometimes, I stepped into really deep snow and it went into my shoes!

Again, due to our terribly busy schedule, we were only able to spend one day at the Grand Canyon.  We drove down to Phoenix, past endless plains covered in cactuses.  They're exactly like those cactuses you see in cartoons and other stylised pictures.  It was incredible.

The morning we left Phoenix there was a desert storm.  It was a spectacular display of power.  The rain just poured down, and lightning flashed all around in a brilliant light show.  The clouds were not content to release all their contents; they had to come all the way down to the ground themselves!  Visibility was low, the roads were slippery and driving was difficult and hazardous.  Since I was not the driver, I was able to just enjoy the whole event.

I love Arizona.  If I couldn't be in Australia, I would definitely choose to be in Arizona.


San Diego

Not really that much to say about San Diego.  From there, we spent some hours in Tijuana, Mexico.  That was quite an experience!  We only went to the tourist area, Revolution Ave, and walked around, bargaining with English-speaking merchants.  There wasn't anything I actually wanted to buy.

We did eat at a Mexican restaurant.  The food was fine, but not really to my taste.  I am glad I tried it.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park was not at all impressive.  I wouldn't remember anything about it except that it is very smelly, but fortunately, I wrote down what I did that day.  The Free Flight Bird Show and the following Hawk Talk were very worthwhile.  They were entertaining and informative.  I also was able to pat some deer.
 

Disneyland

Our family arrived in Anaheim in the middle of the afternoon, and as soon as we had checked into our hotel, we went to Disneyland.  Our hotel was located a short distance from the Timon parking area, from where we could catch the Lion King Tram to the main entrance of the theme park.

I think most my friends would say that I'd enjoy anything childish, so it would be no surprise to them that I had a great time at Disneyland.  I was very excited when I met the Genie from "Aladdin" and Mickey and Minnie and a host of other Disney characters.

My favourite land is Fantasyland.  The "It's a Small World" cruise is the best ride ever!  Mickey's Toontown is fun, too.  It is an absolutely insane place.  I think my brother liked Tomorrowland the most, since it has the most exciting rides.

We had arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we spent most of Friday and Saturday in Disneyland.  We spent a few hours on Sunday there, too, but by that time, we'd been on most the rides, and were totally exhausted.
 

Los Angeles

There isn't much to see in Los Angeles.  I have relatives there, so I spent some time with them.  Otherwise, I mainly went shopping in LA.

We did go to Universal Studios, but there wasn't much to do there, either.  Maybe by that time, we were too tired, since we had come to the end of our trip.  Or maybe it was because the weather had become so cold.  Whatever the reason, Universal Studios did not really excite us.



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