I'll think of an appropriate title later

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 26, 2005

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Sunday, December 18, 2005

I ended up spending two days somewhere I didn't intend on going and had no great desire to see: Los Angeles. Seeing as there's no train connection between it and Las Vegas, I had to take the Greyhound which was more comfortable than I expected and also had none of the crazies that I'd heard tend to use them. After about five hours of driving through the Mojave desert, I knew I was coming up on LA once the horizon disappeared into a smoggy grey haze.

My hostel was just off Hollywood boulevard, which you would expect to be a nice place, given the address. Not so much - it all feels very much like the area north of Parnell Square in Dublin. The walk of fame runs up and down it, but I wouldn't consider it something worth coming all this way to see it.

Further down the boulevard is Mann's Chinese Theatre, where many premiers are shown (there was one being shown there on my last day, some Jennifer Aniston romcom thingy). I didn't get to see a film in the VIP theatre, but I got to see a film in another screen in the complex - I guess going to see a film is just something that has to be done when in Hollywood. I was slightly disturbed by the sight of an ambulance and police car on a corner not far from my hostel, lights flashing... I guess my instincts about the area were right.

Second day, I decided to be all cheesy and visit a theme park. But I was also feeling lazy, so I just went to the one that was one subway stop away - Universal Studios. The rides in it are very tame - it's more of a family place than somewhere with rides which try to turn you inside-out - but some of the shows on offer were pretty good. It passed most of my last full day in LA day pleasantly enough before moving on.


And so on to my first real contact with the American train network - the trip to Vegas had used a combination of buses and local trains, but here I was going to be travelling long-distance, overnight, like I did in Russia. Only I wouldn't be lying down.

I have an Amtrak rail pass, which gives me unlimited coach-class travel for two weeks. I had terrible visions of having to spend 36 hours in an airplane-type seat, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that coach class basically gives you a recliner. It's no lay-z-boy, but there is some possibility of getting sleep.

The journey began pleasantly enough - I left at about 08:00 and was due to reach San Antonio at 22:30 the following day, spending one night on the train. Sleeping was made easy enough on the first night by the fact that there was no one in the seat beside me, so I could curl up a bit. The time was spent in much the same was as it was in Russia - reading, listening to tunes and talking to the other passengers (this time a phrasebook wasn't needed, of course).

The next morning there was some talk of a delay which occurred during the night at Tuscon, which wasn't a good sign. It wasn't good when we were delayed again on the last day - turned out we were delayed by a total of 6 hours. They showed films in the observation lounge, and the food in the dining car was of a surprisingly high standard, but it all still meant that I was losing my first evening in Texas. I ended up arriving at about 05:00, and promptly collapsed into bed once I got to my hotel.


I only had two things to do in San Antonio: see the Alamo and eat steak. Downtown San Antonio is very walkable, and all the major sights are very close to each other and my hotel. I was surprised to find an Irish flag right by the door in the Alamo shrine - turns out there were a couple of Irish people who fought in it back in the day. It's not at all surprising to see that there easily as many state flags being flown here as stars and stripes - most historical places have some kind of connection to the Republic of Texas.

As for the steak, it's pretty good. I didn't look hard enough to find a truly gigantic steak, but in terms of taste I don't think it matches Mongolian steak.

I only had a one-day stopover here, which was a little disappointing because I think Texas deserves more time that the one measly day I'm having to give it and because now I have to get back onto the train for another over-24-hour train ride.


So, what do I think of these LA and San Antonio? I'm going to reserve judgement on both of them as I clearly didn't spend enough time in either to get any sense of what they're like.
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