The Great American Journey: Part 2 ~ West Coast

During my trip to the East Coast, I was advised by everyone to wait with bated breath till I reach America’s West Coast coz’ that’s where all the fun and madness begins. Indeed. Here’s an account of our terrific all girls trip!

San Francisco

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SF is where I landed first, all excited and upbeat despite a 22 hour journey from India. Had heard and seen so much of it from friends, pictures and of course movies! Not the city that will disappoint you in any way with its vibe, culture, scenic wonder and so much more. 

Exploring Neighbourhood and the Oakland Bay Bridge: 

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First night was all about exploring the neighbourhood dotted with several bars and pubs and climbing up those uphill roads unique to SF.

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As we walked we reached a deck that had a stunning view of the Oakland Bay Bridge. There was chill in the air and spending sometime there chatting about life and more was so good and relaxing.

The Cruise: 

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Next morning we took the cruise to soak in the beautiful city from its waters and here it was what I’d been waiting to see for so many years…the massive ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ up close and personal! 

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Such a beautiful sight of hills and water and the city! The perfect weather added to the charm.

Pedaling Across the Golden Gate Bridge:

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This ride will remain a ride of the lifetime. An 8 mile distance starting from the bay side pier where you a rent a bicycle from, through the hustle and bustle of the streets and main roads, onto an ascending hilly stretch, pedal…pedal…pedal…pose…pedal…pose some more and then finally you’re crossing the mouth of the larger than life and overwhelming Golden Gate Bridge.

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We stopped by every now and then to catch our breath and of course the beauty we witnessed around us. The bride hanging over the water amid hills and the city. Pretty will be a small word for it.

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When you’ve crossed the bridge, your ride isn’t over yet coz you pedal…pedal…pedal…pose…pedal…pose and pedal some more up and down the winding roads until you reach Sausalito! Ah such loveliness. A quaint little storybook town.

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Wait for the ferry to arrive, load your bicycle and off you go to where you came from unless you’re late and the bicycle rental stall is shut and you’ve t pedal pedal pedal and pedal to drop it off to their main shop.

What’s promised in this ride for sure are the best views of the Golden Gate from every nook and corner, height and angle! What we realised about our embarrassingly low fitness levels after those unbearable sore legs is a different story 😉

Napa Valley:

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The valley is a couple of hours drive away from SF. When you enter Napa you’ll start picturing yourself getting married here in a fairy like gown in one of the charming vineyards out here. How dreamy would that be. Well yes, each vineyard you step afoot, you’ll be amazed by the splendour around you put together with such tender love.

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There are a variety of tours that you can opt for at Napa. We of course went for some wine tasting and foot stomping too!

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Beware, the wines can get you heady! 😉

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Lake Tahoe: 

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We drove up the Sierra Nevada mountain range to reach Lake Tahoe and as we went further up, the roads were covered with snow (in October).

The large azure blue lake looked magnificent from the top. So blue tucked between the hills in pure greenery it was difficult to put my eyes off despite the cold. One can also spend sometime at the shore.

The little town around is a pretty place to unwind and relax and grab a meal too.

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Night Out:

San Francisco is a happy buzzing city with plenty of clubs and bars for a night to spend dancing and drinking till the wee hours. After a delightful Asian dinner, we went to Ruby  Sky which had some great music and jazzy lights to get you topsy turvy high.

Hop On Hop Off  Tour Bus:

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This is by far I think the best way to go about sight seeing any city. It gives you the time and space to soak in the pleasures that a city has to offer for as much time as you want.

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We took on of these buses and covered just about everything we missed in what you’d call something like a crash course. From China Town, to the Coit Tower to the Pier and of course spotting their historic trams and lots more.

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Las Vegas

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If you happen to visit the sin city make sure you stay on ‘The Strip’ as that’s where all the action is! While we couldn’t manage The Bellagio, the MGM or those plush fancy hotels on our budget, we did manage a budget one called The Travelodge right in the centre of the strip.

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Even if you aren’t lodged at on the big hotels, do stroll around into these to try your luck at gambling and gaze at their utter splendour and luxury. The whole jazz, shine and bling on the streets and replicas of the 7 wonders was electrifying!

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Also if the stretch limo isn’t just a usual thing for you should you happen to be born in a millionaire family, do take a ride!

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Apart from gambling one of Vegas’ main attractions are their live shows on several themes and even celebrity ones. There’s something for everyone! They’re grand and they’re entertaining!

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Do not miss the Bellagio fountain which dances on music outside the Bellagio hotel.

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Grand Canyon

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We hopped on to our rented car and drove down from Vegas to the Grand Canyon. That we got lost on the way in the barren lands of Nevada for a few hours is another story… turned out fun none the less! But then we finally reached and here it was. Grand indeed. Its humongous, barren and frightful terrain reminded me of the gruesome tale from the true story of 127 Hours.

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If you’ve got extra bucks in hand do take the helicopter ride for an arial view of the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon.

Los Angeles

LA is a beautiful city. I took a fond liking to it. Those streets lined with tall palm trees gave such a character to it. We put ourselves up at Hi Hostel in Santa Monica and proceeded to look around the city.

Hollywood Walk of Fame: 

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Being in the city of Hollywood, first up on the list was the Hollywood Walk of Fame where you’ll have a good time spotting all your favourite stars.

Celebrity Home Spotting & Hollywood Sign:

And then we hopped on to one of the open caravan rides which promised to give us a tour of ‘Beverly Hills’, the residence of the high and mighty, Celebrity Home Spotting and yes a view of the iconic Hollywood Sign on the mountain.

This one was a lot of fun more so with our super enthu tour guide who had cracked some smart jokes as he took us through various landmarks and homes of Hollywood’s rich and famous. High up the Hollywood sign though at a far distance was exciting to see.

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Universal Studios:

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This was by far the most entertaining day of my life. Universal Studios was hands down the best place i’ve ever been to. Just so mind-blowing to another level. The 3D effect rides we took themed on blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Revenge of the Mummy and specially Harry Potter were exhilarating and stunning! It was all just so real that I felt I was part of their world transported straight to Hogwarts among the characters. In fact they had recreated a mini Hogwarts.

 

The wait might be a little longer than you’d want but trust me it’ll all be totally worth it. Just so great and awesome! Love it!

 

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Griffith Observatory:

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It is considered among the top planetariums in the world and for good reason I realised. Perched atop Mount Hollywood, it looks no less than a palace. It is a world in itself of what lies beyond what we see and understand. One gets a straight deep dive into the workings of the universe. They have several interesting models and demonstrations of things about space and galaxies that we’ve always been curious about for example you can check what your weight would be on each of planet. They even have debris and meteors on display that have fallen from space on earth over the many centuries. And the view from Griffith is splendid!

View from the Griffith Observatory

The best was one of the shows that we attended called ‘Centered Around The Universe’. We sat among the audience in a dark room and within moments the brilliant narrator actually took us on a real journey into the middle of the vast intriguing universe where we’re nothing but just a tiny invisible speck, how it all began, the theories and many questions that still arise. It left me with profound thoughts of what really must be above the space. If we exist, there must be others too somewhere. After all there must be so much more than we humans know of. A spectacular show that moved me from within.

The Hostel:

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I must mention the experience and recommend staying in a hostel. You could opt to live in a dorm or choose a private room. We did both. The thing about hostels is that you get to meet a lot of travelers from around the world, interact and have a great time together. Among the many activities that these hostels offer, we went for the bar hopping one which was quite a lot of fun singing and dancing and making merry from one bar to another with a group of multi country travelers. Its the local guides who lead you so you know you’re heading to the best places in town with some great deals too!

The Beach:

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When in Santa Monica, do spare sometime away from the Los Angeles buzz to enjoy the sea and may be try one of the nice restaurants by shore.

Santa Barbara

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The name conjures up in my mind visuals of a hip high school Hollywood flick based in a pretty little town. Well pretty it was. To spend some time in a small place in the big USA away from its bustling big cities was so refreshing. Just an hour and a half drive from LA. And oh the drive itself was one straight from a big budget movie’s foreign locale. What a view. Mountain on one side and ocean on the other. Yoohoo!

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I keep gushing over how gorgeous Santa Barbara was. It really really was. Right after checking in, we went out for a stroll and it all just seemed like a toy story. Such warm vibes, cutely decorated eateries and pathways, an old world charm where everything was beautiful and delicately taken care of. A Mediterranean style town that reminds of its Spanish Colonial heritage

Stearns Wharf:

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Walk down to the end of Stearns Wharf and you’ll see the Santa Ynez mountains as the backdrop to the ocean. So stunning it was that we sat there until it was too cold to bear.

The Tour Bus:

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As usual we hopped on to the tour bus and went about from one place to another that included the grand ‘Old Mission Church’,

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and another favourite of mine the ‘County Courthouse’ with a clock tower where you could climb (they had a lift too) and enjoy the sprawling unhindered view of the city.

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Also do marvel at the art works, interior aesthetics and architecture inside the Courthouse.

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State Street:

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To quench hunger and shopping pangs, State Street is your answer where you’ll find plenty of amazing variety of cafes and restaurants and interesting shops to pick up clothes, pieces of decor and what not.

Walk Along The Shore:

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When in Santa Barbara, let time stand still for a while as you walk along the ‘Shoreline Park’ and the ‘Waterfront’. Serene, calm and oh so pleasing to the eye. Think nothing, just be. Such a splendid little place. It was for real!

Follow me on instagram @geetanjaliprasad

Published by Geetanjali Prasad

For a decade or so, I worked as a television news reporter, producer and anchor and dabbled in genres like entertainment, business, real estate, sports and travel for different television channels. Currently since the last five years, I am taking care of the subject of climate change and green buildings by visual storytelling through digital platforms for an American organisation. I have started this blog purely for love of writing and pursuit of extraordinary stories (as the name suggests) by looking for people who have done immensely inspiring work or overcame situations that demanded exceptional grit and determination. I want to document and share these stories with the world in the hope that it motivates more people including me to be just a little kinder to everything and everyone (including animals & environment) around us, a bit more fearless to fight for what is right and the endurance to achieve what we envision.

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