10.09.2013 - 12.09.2013 29 °C
Last stop in America before our flight to Peru was chosen for a quiet time of relaxation and preparation, and a final soak up of the Orange County sun. As we rang the chiming doorbell on the huge detached house in suburban HB, two set of outstretched arms awaited us, "here are our weary travellers!" cooed Debbie; "We're extremely excited to have you here" added Robert. Oh boy, Americana overload!
We were shown to the guest room, and as soon as we were left alone Michael's face was stricken. "The wifi password is 'GodIsGood', there's weird stuff everywhere. They're going to make us join a cult, we need to leave." They were fine really, but did want to share a candlelit dinner that first night on their long dining table ~ we politely declined choosing to head down to the famous Huntington Beach Pier and grab tacos and a beer. It had been a long day driving from Vegas and now this super surreal accommodation reminded us of an American teen flick, perfectly groomed front lawns, wide driveways lined with monster trucks and flash cars, and flapping Stars and Stripes flags the only noise after dark on the picture perfect streets.
Huntington Beach was pretty quiet actually as the kids were back to school, and summer season was on its way out, although it barely ever rains or gets cold here. We had the beach to ourselves the next day, bar a few surfers and Michael made good use of the boogie board Debbie had lent him, and we planned what we needed to take to South America the next morning, both excited and very nervous at the prospect of this huge continent we were about to travel across.
It was September 11th on our last day and we caught a very moving ceremony on the beach which still 12 years on bought the locals to tears and the HB fire department rang bells and fired shots to remember the fallen officers. A sombre experience for our last evening in America after 27 days, speeches were about reflection and fresh thoughts of sadness for the victims of the attack were washed by the mayors words of a united the community.
After an evening walk along HB pier and a final marvel at the sunset surfers dotted along the therapeutic ocean, we chose Sandys beachside location for our last supper and it didn't disappoint. With a tray of local beers to sample, we got convinced to try the cornbread in a skillet (I'd always wondered what cornbread is, but its basically a sweet bread-cake in a shallow frying pan) and some amazing fresh tuna fish and veggie treats. The restaurant was the sunset spot and as the huge glowing pink sun went down (somehow different to all the other sunsets we'd seen) we realised how easy our trip had been in America, essentially a super-fun extra long holiday exploring all the different towns, culinary treats, local offerings and delights. Quite a luxury to spend a month of our travels this way, and were very thankful to all the wonderful people and things that we've encountered.
We've actually loved the US of A, and it was very good to us. Our only qualm was not making it to New Orleans and the Deep South, but we will save that for another trip.
Some musings about America, from two Brits.
Mere observations, not critical in any way.
No one walks anywhere. We were frequently told it was too far to walk, or given an, "are you crazy you wanna walk there" face when it was actually quite close
Free refills of soft drinks, everywhere, even normal restaurants, cool, no rationing that coca cola
Cake-like bread? Sandwiches are meant to be savoury!
Free pouring spirits at bars. What! Ok can we do this
Giant portion sizes. We often could have shared one meal. And had leftovers.
Restaurant we saw in LV, if you weigh over 350lbs you eat free. Also served a burger called quadruple bypass, and a heart attack grill, that shit cray.
Big fake GM fruit, who needs need giant apples and plums pumped with hormones
You can get a hot dog, anywhere
People walking on streets have a drink. It's like a law, if you're walking somewhere, buy a massive iced coffee
Grape flavoured stuff smells orrible
Cans of beer are very big, but didn't see anyone drinking them ever, called a tall-e
Funny attitude to alcohol, you're not allowed to drink in public. But if its in a brown paper bag that's ok. Everyone knows what's in the bag.
Lite beers only for Americans, Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors lite. Looking forward to a proper creamy Timothy Taylor in a proper pub - oh aye.
Enthusiasm, bags of it, makes a lot of stuff funner than UK. Also makes people abit creepy
Most Americans we've met since, hate Americans
Drive through ATM, ultimate lazy, but in hindsight quite useful
Guns, kind of weird to think that the people's houses we stayed at probably had guns lurking
Big big family monster cars, that tower off the road, how do they get out?
Nicer communities, effort, events for locals
Patriotic, flags, flags everywhere
Shit toilet flushes, ok sorry that is a criticism
Speaking of toilets, public loos had gaps round door, like door is not big enough to fill the frame. People can see you!
So much dated signage was like stepping in a time warp, MacDonalds reminiscent of childhood, posters, stations, decor like a 70s set up, and not in an intentional way
Tax not being added until the til. Why not just include on price tag so you can figure out how much you're spending
No chip and pin, Michael tested out some funny signatures and no one batted an eye lid, often no signature either, wha?
Good service, but only for tip really. Waiters sound scripted y'all.
Being told how much to tip = weird, think it should reflect their service and your personal experience. Plus if bad at maths trying to work out a forced tip of 12.5% while an angry old man is trying to hurry you out of his cab on the spot is confusing
You have to tip $1 / 20% for every drink you buy at a bar, even though no table service or any service apart from pouring your drink!
Feeling like Tony Soprano with wads of cash = win
God bless this crazy country.
And now onto the Southern Land....