My travels on the west coast with two very special people
(Las Vegas, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tijuana) - March Blog
I have been pretty much homesick the entire winter. California was rainy, cold and I missed a lot my parents, friends and home country of France. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have and these months of December, January and the beginning of February passed very slowly.
But what’s best to make me feel better than a two weeks trip on the west coast with…(drum roll) MY PARENTS !!! My parents came all the way from France to visit me in California. It was the first time they came here and I was super happy to show them my everyday life since August 2016. I couldn’t be more happy : I was with my parents whom I hadn’t seen for six months, I could finally enjoy their presence, hug them as warmly as I could, laugh with them, and I was going to travel on the west coast for two weeks. I had already visited Las Vegas, and San Francisco but I have been a second time with them because they wanted to see it, and to be honest I loved it, and I would return again and again if I could.
February 16 : I picked them at the airport with my host mom on the 16th of February and it was a surprise, when we saw each other it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever lived. So if you want to be an exchange student but hesitate because you’re scared you’re going to miss your parents too much, go for it! The feeling of seeing them again after a long time separated is worth suffering a little bit and missing them, I’m telling you. After picking them at the airport, we went to a restaurant at Venice Beach with my parents and my host family. This moment was priceless too, I had people that I cared about and that cared about me around me, and gathered together. That was a fabulous moment of exchange, my parents talked to my host parents in English and seemed to really like each other. I was very happy at that moment.
At night my parents, my Brazilian exchange student sister Julia and I slept in a hotel in Venice because we had a flight in the morning for Las Vegas.
February 17 : So we went to the airport early in the morning, around 4am if I remember. The flight wasn’t that long so we arrived early at Vegas. We went to have breakfast. We visited several hotels, and I even dragged my mom into the roller coaster in the hotel New York New York. That was one of the biggest laughter of my life, I laugh so much that I was crying in the roller coaster, the reaction of my mom in the loop was just hilarious.In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant just in front of the fountains of the Bellagio and that was a great moment.
February 18 : In the morning we went 15 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip to go and see my volleyball team. What a coincidence we had a tournament in Vegas, right when I was there. I didn’t play because it was a tournament over a few days and I didn’t want to lose too much time that I could spend with my parents. We visited some hotels then and went to a show in the evening : Michael Jackson One from the Cirque du Soleil. Once again it was a great moment and it was very interesting with Michael Jackson’s musics, and a bunch of dancers and acrobats.
February 19 : On that day we had the helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. I was super excited it was the first time I went in a helicopter, the first time at the Grand Canyon as well as the first time in Arizona. A limousine came to pick us up at the hotel to drive us to the airport. It was also my first time in a limousine. At the airport, we had to register, they weighed us and then we had to wait for our pilot to come for us. I’m not going to lie I was freaking out. It is very impressive but once we got into the airport they it was complete happiness. It was incredibly beautiful and I enjoyed it so much. It was one more thing I got to cross out from my bucket list. We stopped in the Grand Canyon to take pictures and eat a picnic. It is gonna stay in my mind forever.
February 20 : We visited some hotels in the morning, and then went to the sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” to take pictures. We came back home late in the evening and brought Julia, my brazilian sister back home since we planned on traveling more later but only my parents and I.
February 21 : We decided to head over to San Francisco. We drove there this time. On the way we stopped to eat lunch at Avila Beach which was pretty fun. I found an açai bowl which is one of my favorite things on earth, and I also ate garlic bread. And I made my dad try the açai bowl and he liked it so I felt very happy about it. We arrived in San Francisco at night.
February 22 : In the morning we woke up early and went to one of the piers to take the boat to Alcatraz. We were going to visit it. I was very interesting to discover this former prison as it is a very big part of the american history. We had a guide in french thanks to headphones and we could discover the hallways of this very creepy jail. I was enthralled discovering all the anecdotes behind these cells and their prisoners. Later in the day, we visited a little bit San Francisco. We went to the famous Lombard Street, we saw the Painted Ladies (it looks a lot like the settings in the movies), we went to the Pier 39 where we spent a long time admiring the sea lions and laughing very hard with my mom because we stared at them and imagined conversations between them. We drove through the streets of San Francisco and discovered a lot of street art on the walls. It is a big part of San Francisco and it was great to see it. We drove on the Golden Gate Bridge too. And this day we were lucky, it was one of the rare days the bridge wasn’t covered by fog. We could actually see the top of the bridge and it was so colorful with the blue sky and the shiny sun. After that we drove back down. We stopped one night in Monterey. It is a very cute city next to the ocean.
February 23 : We passed through Monterey with the car and stopped at some places to take pictures. It is very cute and with the sun it was even more. We drove through the 17-Mile drive to go down. It is basically a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. We visited the famous golf of Pebble Beach and it was one of my dad’s dreams. We also saw the Lone Cypress that is a famous tree. We also stopped at Carmel-by-the-sea and it was also a very cute place, with small shops. There, my parents got to taste wine in a testing room, and we also went to a cheese shop. We bought cheese, bread and sausage and went on a Cliff to eat lunch in front of the ocean. It was very windy so we ended up eating in the trunk of the car. In the evening, we stopped and spent the night at Santa Barbara.
February 24: We visited a little bit of Santa Barbara in the morning. We went to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and had a fabulous view of the town and the ocean. The building was beautiful, the architecture was in a Spanish colonial style. We also went to the wharf. We came back to my house in the evening to get some more clothes and say hi to my host family. We went to eat at the mall to a restaurant where you order on a tablet. Later, we went to Malibu to admire the sunset. It is one of my favorite activities in California if not my favorite. It is simply wonderful and I really wanted to show that to my parents. We had a magical time and I felt even more connected to my mom during this sunset. My dad didn’t make it in time as he had to park and couldn’t find a spot, but he enjoyed it from far. In the evening, we took an hotel in Santa Monica.
February 25 : We went to visit the campus of UCLA. It was the second time I was going to UCLA but I really like it and I wanted my parents to see it too. It is so cliché of the USA and it reminds me of the american movies I’ve watched. It’s always been a dream for me to attend a big university like UCLA but I realized coming here for my exchange year that staying for college wouldn’t be possible and that I love France too much for that. But the campus is very impressive, there is a lot of sport facilities and nice buildings. There is also a shop with more UCLA products available than you could imagine. The students are hanging out on the campus and interacting with each other. And there are also those famous fraternities and sororities. It is like a dream come true being on that campus. Later in the day, we went to Melrose Avenue which is an avenue in Los Angeles that is known for a lot of street art, nice shops and restaurants. We took pictures in front of the pink wall, photographed by people coming from all around the world. Then we went to The Grove. This is a shopping mall in Los Angeles too where a lot of famous people like to go. There is a lot of shops, a movie theater, a farmers market and even a “La Durée” which is a French bakery that just opened there so I needed to swing by to get macarons and croissants (if I’m not the stereotype of the french girl ahah). Then we went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and we saw some of the stars on the floor, and it was actually the day before the oscars so everything was already set up to host the oscars and the celebrities. In the evening, we went to Malibu to a restaurant called Nobu. This restaurant is a big deal here and everybody loves it. It is basically the restaurant known to be a spot for celebrities. It is an asian/californian restaurant located directly on the beach at Malibu and it is very fancy. That night, we saw Miguel Angel Munoz and Robert De Niro. I was so happy. This was actually one of my favorite days, we did so much!
February 26 : That day, I had a volleyball tournament an hour from Los Angeles and I could have cancelled to spend more time with my parents. But we figured out that my parents hadn’t seen me playing volleyball in months and they used to come at every single one of my games so we decided to go. We woke up very early and left at 6:30am for Irvine in Orange County where my tournament was. That day, we unfortunately lost all of our games and played poorly, it was the first time it happened. My parents were still happy because they got to see me play and discover how big the gyms are here in America. It’s true but I tend to forget as I get used to things, but that gym had 22 courts. In France we generally have 3 at maximum. They also had a huge snack area and it was more like a restaurant. This showed my parents a little bit more of my life here in America and my habits. After the tournament we headed directly to San Diego. We drove a little bit through San Diego and then we went to a place where we could see the city from further, and where we found a cliff to watch the sunset. It was wonderful. San Diego is a really nice city even if we didn’t have that much time there.
February 27 : We went to Mexico in the morning. It was a rainy day so we just went to Tijuana even if we were supposed to go further into Mexico because people told us that Tijuana wasn't a good place to go to. Right after crossing the border, we drove 5 minutes into the city and then decided to come back. The fact that it was raining and that there was a lot of water on the streets made it worse but it was very creepy. It was not a very safe place and we just decided to go back to Los Angeles earlier than what was expected. But it was a fun experience and I can cross Mexico on my list of countries I’ve been to, even if I didn't stay long. We went back to Los Angeles and went in a hotel in Beverly Hills.
February 28 : This was the day we’ve been to Universal Studio. It was one of my parents’ dream to go there and I also really like it. I actually have an annual pass so it was at least the fifth time I was going. I really love this place so much. We went to City Walk which is right next to the park and then we went to the park. My parents loved it so much, especially the Walking Dead attraction because they watch The Walking Dead together and they are addicted to it so they really liked it and we went twice. After that we went to the Hollywood Hills and went to the Griffith Observatory. From this place you have an amazing view of LA and you also see the Hollywood sign. It was the sunset too so it was great. We took some pictures and we were really amazed.
March 1 : In the morning we did something very touristy and it was funny but I am happy we went because it was on my bucket list anyway. My dad didn’t go because he wasn’t interested but my mom and I went to the bus tour of the celebrities’ houses. It was approximately 2 hours in a roofless bus going through the Hollywood hills, Mulholland Drive, Bel Air, Beverly Hills. I don’t know if it’s the truth but it was fun and I had a good time with my mom and that’s what matters. Then we went to Santa Monica and went to the pier. This pier is very famous and there is a lot of tourists, but it is always a good time going there. We ate lunch in a little restaurant on the street in front of the ocean and it was amazing and very fresh. I loved it! In the evening we had a NBA game. It was the LA Clippers against the Houston Rockets. I was for the Clippers but they lost. It was still very fun. It was my second NBA game (I saw the Lakers earlier in the year), it was also my dad’s second game (he saw the Boston Celtics when he was younger) and it was the first game for my mom. It was funny because my dad grabbed one of the shirts they are sending to the public and everybody was fighting him even if the shirt fell on this seat.
March 2 : On that day I had to go back to school because I couldn't miss more than 7 days. I went, and in the meantime my parents went to a breakfast cafe and then to a grocery store. They picked up some groceries because we had planned that they would come to my host family’s house and cook a french dinner on that night. So when I went out of school my parents picked me up and we had lunch. Then we came back home and started cooking because it was food that needed a lot of preparation. The we ate. It was such a great night. It was priceless to see my host family and my real family reunited again. I am happy I got to eat my mom’s cooking, and I’m so happy my host family got to taste a little bit of my french food. It was a great moment and I loved to see that my parents had fun with my host parents.
March 3 : I went to school again that day, and when my parents picked me up we went to Malibu to a beach called Pacific Cove. It’s pretty small and there’s a little beach restaurant. You have to pay to enter the area and if you eat at the restaurant you get part of your money back. We took pretty pictures, ate, and rest a little bit. Then, also in Malibu I was able to show my favorite place to my parents : the Malibu Country Mart. We had an açai bowl there.
March 4: We woke up and went to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) to have breakfast. Then we went to Santa Monica to the famous 3rd Street Promenade. It is a street in Santa Monica with a lot of shops. It’s always a lot of fun. There are people everywhere playing music and a lot of people hanging out. My dad and I tried on virtual reality headsets in the middle of the street. After that, we went to the mall near my house and had diner lot of shops. It’s always a lot of fun. there.
March 5: It was the day my parents were leaving. We went to my house, had breakfast there. My host parents had prepared a breakfast buffet it was delicious. And then came the moment to say goodbye. I was crying so much. It was one of the hardest time of my life. Having to say goodbye twice to my parents was incredibly difficult for me. I lived a paradise with them and when they left I was terribly sad.
Now I have more of an objective point of view on that. I think that my parents coming there gave me way more strength to keep going, and they motivated me to enjoy even more every single moment remaining of my exchange. It was very hard to leave them, but overall that was a great experience that I don't regret. I have been able to show them my favorite places and show them how my life is here in America. I am so glad they had such a great time in California and we will definitely come back. Now I have only 2 months and a half left, and I realized that it’s going to go by so fast, so I’m going to enjoy every moment, and I am way more conscientious of the amazing experience that I’m living and the incredible luck I have spending my exchange with the people I’ve met, and in this place that I love so much, California.