Travel

Not all dreams come true in LA

IT'S as if America's dreamers rushed west and stopped when they ran out of land.

Los Angeles is many things, but one thing it is not, is judgmental.

It is the only place in the world I have visited so far where the homeless and the rich exist side-by-side.

Where you can go to Santa Monica beach and find the poorest of people sharing a bench with the famous or wealthy.

For me, LA was an eye-opener to what happens when people give up on themselves, the community they live in and their dreams.

Success here, can be spectacular but failure equally so.

Angelenos, (as I found out the people of LA are referred to) are typically from somewhere else, but for one reason or another have decided to call this place home.

There is a lot to see and do in LA from Beverly Hills to Venice Beach, but top of my list was Hollywood Boulevard.

It's the street all dreamers visit. It was exactly what I expected but somehow not what I imagined.

Characters from all your favourite movies lined the streets, tourists (including me) cosied up for a photo with them, all the while being disheartened in their quest for what they were searching for.

This showbiz strip excited me but somehow drained me all at the same time.

But one place where you can have equally the same fun (minus the draining) with a touch of adrenaline is the Santa Monica pier and amusement park.

I didn't go on any of the rides, for some reason Final Destination 3 was playing in my head.

But I got enough amusement by seeing and photographing others enjoying the rides.

Plus I was saving my energy to rent a bike for $21 an hour and cycle along the boardwalk from Santa Monica to Venice Beach.

I was told by a policeman, the night before, to be careful in the area but he said by day Venice Beach and the surrounding area was safe for tourists and locals to wander around. But by night he described it as "not a place for a young woman to go alone".

Venice Beach is straight out of a movie; bikini bottoms, drugs, the smell of bad personal hygiene from the homeless, buskers, budding actors looking to be discovered, muscle men, skateboard riders and works of art.

These are the things that make up the incredible and addictive atmosphere of this world-famous beach.

It is like Santa Monica on steroids. The number of homeless people quadruples and they are not just hanging out there, they have big umbrellas and canvas covers to get away from the sun and to possibly be out of sight from the cameras of photography enthusiasts.

It is strange to see the families eating hotdogs and chips on a grass hill, less than a couple of metres to a group of homeless people. But I guess that is what America is all about. The gap between the classes is somewhat bridged by areas like this.

But the huge police numbers in the area, including undercover cops and police on horseback, kept you constantly aware of just how careful you still needed to be.

Everyone needs to experience this part of the world. Los Angeles is a million different worlds rolled into one and it attracts people from all over the globe, too.

On my way back to my hostel in Santa Monica one evening, I met a nice homeless man who had asked me for money.

I told him I would not give him money, but if it was food he was after I would get him some.

So I went into the hostel, used my last few US bucks for the day and created a feast on a budget.

I went back to where I had met him and found only a bag of rubbish he had been carrying.

I then decided to take the food I had made to where the homeless tend to spend their days, in the park at Santa Monica beach, but I didn't feel comfortable approaching the large groups of homeless people.

I couldn't find any single people to approach as I didn't want to cause a fight, if I took only enough food for one.

So the food ended up in the bin and I sulked all the way home. Homeless man 1: Kristy: 0.

My time in Los Angeles was bitter-sweet.

I would have to say a lot more sweet than bitter, but the latter somehow made it a nice balance.

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Topics:  los angeles travel united states