Escape from LA

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We walked a little way along Melrose with our bags and it was nice and fresh for a change. After a great day yesterday we both feel pretty chirpy and a little bit more Christmassy. We jumped on a bus at the corner of Melrose and Vine and squeezed our way past the locals using the bus who couldn't have heard me say "Excuse me" as they did not budge a bit when we struggled past with our heavy bags. It must be something with our accent because I am sure I repeated the “Excuse me” several times. Either that or they are all selfish dead beats. I'm being positive though, so I'm siding with the epidemic of deaf people in the Hollywood area.

We got off at Hollywood and walked along some more of the Walk of Fame. I will repeat how unexciting this strip of road is. It is badly done, badly kept and completely underwhelming. In Hong Kong, the Avenue of Stars is somewhat special with all the hand prints in the ground and everything and the area is quite a nice area. Hollywood just seems a little bit uncared for. We didn’t hang around. Instead we continued our walk to USA hostels Hollywood to await our shuttle to San Francisco. We carefully avoided a conversation with a crazie and sat on our bags waiting. He was going on about how he was having a bad day after breaking his belt and not being able to get a smoke anywhere (go and buy one then you cheapo!) and then he started talking to himself about how he was going to sue his doctor. Crazies.

After getting out of LA, the land becomes a neverending flatness in all directions with cattle ranches, plantations and very little else. The road just continues straight on into the horizon and I am so very glad we decided against driving this route. Not the most thrilling. Two points of note for the initial part of the journey were a great twist in my Alex Cross novel, Cat and Mouse which actually got me to drop my jaw in shock and then the American gentleman in front of me actually turned and asked my permission for him to move his chair back. I was more shocked by this then the twist in my book. Impeccable manners.

The shuttle stopped at a Burger King for refreshments and Kate and I discussed whether or not we would be allowed to eat on the bus (everywhere we have been has seriously frowned upon smelly foods on buses). Who were we kidding, this is America – the place is run on fast food. Everyone got a burger king (including us of course) including the driver who appeared to have a family pack and everyone felt at ease stinking the bus out.

Another thing which I am sure we will return to is the concept of tipping. It’s something the Americans clearly need to advise the rest of the world on, as the rest of the world is doing something wrong. In places such as China, Australia or Fiji we have always tipped based on 'good’ or even adequate service, post event. In fact there have been places we have been where the people we have tipped have actually been pleased to have received a bonus to their salary. They are clearly all as misguided as me also under the impression that a tip was provided for good service. Firstly in America, everything refers to a certain expected percentage for a tip, a rather ghastly 18% (random I know). When ordering a pizza, we were able to provide a tip prior to the service being provided – this was also the case when booking our airport shuttle. The epitome so far of tipping has been the shuttle from LA to San Fran. On our ticket it says “It would be welcome if everyone on the service would provide a $1 gratuity to the driver for good service”. That seems perfectly acceptable I guess.

But, When the driver as part of his rules and regulations of the journey explains that “My boss told me I had to collect a dollar from each of you when we change driver” and then stands at the door with palm out when we have to exit for food it seems to go beyond the rules of ‘gratuity’ and becomes more like a fare or begging. He collected the money in an efficient way, in  a way that seemed he was entitled to it. It just seems rude. Why the hell should you be entitled to a service charge or a tip or a gratuity just for doing your job?

We checked into the USA Hostel in San Francisco which appears to be one of the best hostels we will/have stayed in. We have a TV, a fridge, a microwave and an en suite. The place feels friendly and Christmassy and apparently there are pancakes for breakfast – time will tell. We popped across the road for snacks (I don’t think we have ever eaten as badly as we have for the past 3 nights) and in our mini shopping spree we bought s box of cookies, Pringles and 3 ridiculously sized cans of Budweiser. I get the feeling we’ll like San Francisco – it immediately feels less harsh than LA and looks more interesting.
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