San Diego

Trip Start May 08, 2006
Trip End May 06, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, June 9, 2006

My re-introduction to city life was somewhat harrowing. When I rolled into the Amtrak station Downtown I had nowhere to stay, so naturally I went to the information desk and asked the guy where the nearest McDonalds was. A sausage and egg McMuffin will help me think. After tramping through Downtown with both my heavy bags I managed to find the place, but not before I was given an official warning for jay walking. For those of you who don't know, jay walking is when you cross the street where there is no traffic light, or crossing when it is red. I managed to do the latter right in front of a cop on a bike. Apparently it's illegal and can result in a $100 fine, which means that when there is no traffic for miles around and the light is red you're supposed to sit there like a 5 year-old waiting to be told it's ok.

The Americans do love their rules. Everywhere you go there's a sign that says don't do this and don't do that, no standing, no smoking, no skateboards, no dogs. A prime example in Hawaii was the rulesheet on the bus that said (among other things) no spitting, no defacating and no urinating. Luckily I saw it just before I took a shit on the dashboard. Oh what confidence the Americans have in the common sense of their people.

The lovely policeman gave me a warning ticket as a "souvenir" and sent me on my merry way only for me to find out that it was now 10:30 and McDonalds had finished serving breakfast. Bastard. I had a mediocre Quarter Pounder with Cheese and set about finding a place to sleep for the night. Things were looking grim. Both hostels in the Gaslamp District were full and the Ocean Beach hostel kept telling me to phone back later. The other hostels had poor reviews so I just tried Ocean Beach again and again and eventually just asked them to give me a private room, which I shared with a German guy called Yaarl for $27 each per night. Apparently the entire population of Ireland had upped and left their country and arrived at this hostel. The whole place was swarming with th's that sounded like t's and snide comments about the English football team.

After a night watching live Jazz I went back to the hostel and to my surprise found that Geoffrey and Gideon were staying there - two of the guys I met at Yosemite Bug - so we promptly arranged to go to Tijuana the following day. In the morning I was treated to a rather random breakfast of scrambled egg, porridge, toast and pancakes before we met up with 3 English girls and made our way to Mexico.

What a culture shock. Crossing over the Mexican border is like walking into a whole different world. The landscape instantly changes into a mass of poor, run-down houses, cars spewing fumes as if trying to personify pollution, adults and children with puppy dog eyes trying to sell you gum and necklaces, men shouting at you to "get a taxi", "see a strip show", "have a $1 beer". We eventually found a bar complete with a free mechanical bull, $1 Coronas and a selection of Tequilas. I stayed on the bull for 3 minutes, drank about 6 Coronas, downed a couple of Tequilas and then we were ready to leave. There isn't really much to do besides perusing the shops for tacky souvenirs and buying cheap alcohol, other than saying "no" to everyone of course.

The next day I walked around Balboa Park and visited the science museum there which is one of the most visited attractions in San Diego, although hordes of screaming children running to and from every exhibit and pushing every button and knob they could find kind of fogged my ability to see why. The IMAX movie wasn't bad though.

You might be getting the impression that I didn't like San Diego but this couldn't be further from the truth. The city is beautiful, it's clean, it has a great transport system and some great districts. This is not another U.S. city that shuts down after dark. It bustles, night and day, with an energy that you feel very much at home with. It does not alienate you or make you feel claustrophobic, the people are astonishingly friendly and the beaches are lovely. It would have been nice to spend some more time there but LA was beckoning, and I had to heed this monster's call.
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