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Red-Lights and Road Trips: From the Big Apple to the Hollywood Hills

by Jane McLellan

When I went to America during my first gap year, I spent three weeks travelling around with my mate Kate. We flew into Los Angeles and got a taxi to a hostel that I had pre-booked in Santa Monica. From here we mapped out where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see over the next few weeks. Kate and I fancied doing a road trip and it turned out to be a truly brilliant way to see America. We dipped in and out of California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Our route took us from Los Angeles to some great places including Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park and San Francisco. We then took the famous Pacific Coast Highway Route 1 back to Los Angeles, which runs along the beautiful pacific coast.

I had never driven an automatic car or driven on the right-hand side before, so was a little freaked out, but the friendly hire man gave us some good advice.  It was all a bit daunting at first but I quickly became accustomed to it. I soon loved the freedom of exploring such a vast country on the long open roads stretching endlessly in front of us – the landscapes were incredible!

There were so many amazing places we saw along the way but there’s one place we stopped that is really special to me.  I love New York! I’ve been twice now and have pretty much visited everything I want to see, but for me, it’s the kind of city that’s fun just to be in.  I could never get bored with it, there’s just something about it. I feel comfortable there, like I am at home. I can’t help but smile when I am in the Big Apple!

I remember the first time I walked around Times Square (known as ‘The Crossroads of the World’). I was so excited, and that was the moment when I really felt that I was in the Big Apple. I had seen this legendary square so many times on TV and in the movies, and it was incredible to see it in front of my own eyes. It’s the heart of Broadway and is filled with neon signs, animated advertisements, giant screens and an overwhelming number of flashing lights. Walking around this area is fun but you should also check out its theatres, frequent huge gatherings, TV studios, shops, coffee bars and restaurants. And you’ve got to try the New York cheesecake!

At the end of the road, tired and worn out, we hit the bright lights of L.A.    I had an interesting experience in this city when I tried to find the Hollywood sign in the hills.  I got lost and ended up in the red light district! I don’t understand why when I get lost I have an unfortunate tendency to always end up stumbling into a dodgy red light area – it happens to me all over the world!  Anyway, I didn’t realise that the sign is actually fenced off and it’s impossible to get really close to it. Despite this, you can take a good photograph of the sign from the Hollywood and Highland shopping and dining mall whose gate frames a great view of LA’s most recognisable landmark.

Our road trip really was the ideal way to see the good ole’ U.S of A.  We stopped off in some exciting cities and saw some stunning landscapes from our little car!  The great American road trip is an institution in its own right, which made the actual travelling one of the highlights of the trip!

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