An account of a whirlwind tour of California and Las Vegas

During our last trip to the U.S., we hired a huge eight-seater SUV Ford Expedition and set off on a 400-mile journey from Sunnyvale to Irvine (40 miles South off Los Angeles). Public transport is limited in California and the entire country is well connected through Highways called ‘Freeways’. To reach Irvine, we have to travel through Freeways 101 and 5. The route goes through Gilroy, Bakersfield etc. When you need a break, head to the rest areas on the freeways. Also, every exit has gas stations, eateries, snack bars and rest rooms that are really neat.

Scenic landscape

As you speed southwards, you notice the scenic beauty of California with its mountains, reservoirs, vineyards, fields lush with vegetables, garlic, onions and fruits such as cherries, apricots, berries, peaches and pears. In fact, Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the world, and hosts an annual Garlic Festival, where several dishes made of garlic, including garlic ice cream are served. If you are fond of buying farm-fresh produce, head to the farms and indulge.

Californian wine is very famous, and every other store has a huge section selling the choicest of wines that were priced at around $7 to $10 a bottle.

Day two was spent at the Disneyland resort, Los Angeles. There are about 30 fun things to do in the park, ranging from roller coasters and adventure rides, 3D/4D shows and interactive shows to parades by Disney characters. And, food courts offering various cuisines are sprinkled all over the place. We called it a day after the grand fireworks display at 9 p.m.

The next morning, we visited Universal Studios, where you can take a studio-tour to see the actual sets, see how special effects are created and how a movie is being made. Several sets of famous yesteryear movies are still there, triggering nostalgic memories. Famous sets include the streets of New York, the Wild West, car crashes, the scene of an earth quake, and also those where films such as Psycho, Jaws, Jurassic Park and King Kong were made.

Marine life

Next on our list was San Diego, near the Mexico border. It has an excellent beach and attractions such as Sea World and Legoland etc. The Sea World Water Park has spectacular exhibits such as whales, sharks, seals, walruses and other marine life. Top draws include adventure rides and dolphin and killer whale shows. You can also feed the seals here. The San Diego beach is very good, but our Marina is way ahead. Where they score is in how they have promoted it. Police patrol the beaches and so it stays clean and free of nuisance.

The next day, we drove through Nevada State on our way to Las Vegas. Gambling is licensed in Nevada, and not in California; so, people travel in large numbers to Vegas. The number of cars that ply on the freeway to Vegas is mind-boggling. In Vegas, and not visit casinos? Impossible. Each casino has a theme and the entire building and offerings highlight this. Each one of these establishments has hundreds of rooms and capacious car parks. In addition to the casinos where one can gamble through slot machines, black jack tables and wheel of fortune, there are night shows, cabarets, and adventure rides. When you play at the casinos, waitresses go round offering free drinks.

The slot machines are captivating and one can easily get hooked to them. We went on till 2 a.m. and managed to win about $120. Way to end a vacation!

C. VENKATESH KUMAR

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