California Love

Before Spring Break I mentioned my fellow exchange student, Maria from Russia, would be spending her holiday in California! She returned one day after me, after a whirlwind experience in The Golden State. We caught up and she told me everything about her solo adventures and has kindly shared her amazing photos with me, and of course what would a student’s study abroad holiday be like without travel issues?

Where did you visit in California over Spring Break?

I visited 4 big cities in 10 days (Philly, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco), which was really stressful and exhausting.

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Why was it stressful, did you have any travel issues?

The first travel issue was the delay of my flight from Philly to San Francisco. On the morning of my departure it started snowing in Philly so my flight was delayed cause of the anti-icing of the plane which took more than 1 hour. So my plane landed in San Francisco almost at the exact moment my next plane to San Diego departed. I was sent to the customer service to know where they rescheduled me. There were about 30 people in front of me in the customer service line, so I went to check the alternative flights by myself. It appeared that the next flight to SD was in 9 hours, and with all those 30 people in a line I thought I would have to stay in San Francisco airport till tomorrow…

So I had to improvise and checked other alternative flights, there was a flight to LA departing in 10 minutes, so I decided to take my chances and ran to the gate of the LA plane.

I was at the gate at that exact moment when the lady was announcing that boarding has ended. I pulled out all my persuasion skills to make her allow me on the plane, almost crying in front of her and said I could not stay here till tomorrow. She appeared to be nice and let me in. So now I had to find a way to get to SD from LA. Fortunately there were flights to SD every couple of hours. So I arrived to SD 5 hours later than I originally planned but at least it was the same day.

This was very stressful, and if it happened 4 years ago it would probably totally freak me out but now I’m an experienced traveler and think of it as something to laugh about.

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Where did you stay in California?

Since I try to travel cheap, I stay in hostels instead of hotels. Hostels are not the best place to stay but they are really great money savers. Moreover, you can meet other travellers and lots of interesting people too. I was lucky though in San Diego and LA, cause I was the only one in the room. The hostel in LA was just amazing, just for $30 per night; it looked more like a really fancy hotel in the middle of LA downtown. Breakfast was also included in the price.

What was your favourite part of California?

The favorite place out of all was of course Hollywood. When I exited the subway, I realized I was on the famous walk of fame with over 2000 stars. So I started my walk on the Hollywood Boulevard with my head down, trying to see the names I knew. However, I did not recognize most of the names, but that made me even more excited to find any stars I did know and made me so happy when I did, such as Johnny Depp, Walt Disney, Jackie Chan, Britney Spears, and even my childhood’s favorite Woody Woodpecker!!

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Did you see any famous celebrities walking around town?

I didn’t see any celebrities, but I saw a red carpet event in the TCL Chinese Theater. I couldn’t get close because of the security, but I was still excited, I may have seen some celebrities top of their heads.

What tours did you go on?

While in Hollywood I took one bus tour to the Hollywood sign and celebrities houses. However, it appeared to be not as cool as I expected it to be. You cannot get close to the sign, so they just take you to the hill where you can see it and let you take a picture, but it is still pretty far. And for the celebrities’ houses, you cannot really see them as they are covered with trees and huge fences. Of course I didn’t expect to see Bred Pitt cooking diner in his kitchen, but I didn’t even see the houses, all I have is pictures of fences and gates and mailboxes…

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Do you think you could live the Californian lifestyle?

Visiting Cali I realized that it is not the best place to live. It looks nice in the pictures and movies, but nobody shows the dark side. Cali is nice in the rich places such as Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. The downtown parts of Cali cities are full of poverty and homeless people and I was scared to walk alone in the heart of LA. It may be different for other people, but as for me, I’ll enjoy Cali by simply traveling there.

You can view more of Maria’s photos by following her @mariailnitskaya on Instagram!

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