Saturday, July 10, 2010

Los Angeles - July 2010


Liz and I celebrating 4th of July
Finding a host in LA was difficult since I chose to go during the 4th of July long weekend. Most people I wrote to were either busy or out of town. I also learned something new about CSers in LA that didn’t exist in other cities. There were many single, male hosts who only hosted females. What’s up with that? Kind of creepy if you ask me.

Anyway, I learned that the key to finding a host in LA is to expand your search geographically to include the sprawling suburbs. I finally got an offer to host from a very nice girl named Liz who lived with her brother and parents in Burbank. I found it awesome that her family was warm to the idea of couchsurfing.

Liz and her family were absolutely amazing hosts and their hospitality was extraordinary. She picked me up at LAX and drove me all the way back to their house in Burbank – about 45 min each way. Liz designated her house as wheelchair accessible, but there were actually two steps to get in. She told me already through email so I was prepared. Since I’m a strong and mobile guy, I was able to get out onto the steps and pull my chair up and then hop back in my chair. Once inside, the house was mainly flat except to get to the TV room, but I didn’t need to watch TV while I was on vacation.

The guest house in the back yard
The original sleeping arrangement was to setup a mattress in the living room. However, they actually have a guest house in the backyard they normally rent out. As luck would have it, the tenant moved out only a few days before I arrived. So they told me I could stay in the guest house! I had my own room, kitchen, and bathroom! It turned out to be my most luxurious couchsurf yet. As for meals, I had home-cooked meals with the family everyday. Even on the day when I was out with my own friends, Liz called and told me they would save some dinner for me when I got back.

Liz’s Dad was fun to talk to, especially since he loved Canada. We talked about finance, politics, and Canadian things like hockey. I was very fortunate to have them as hosts and they were a very sweet family indeed.


I found LA to be one of the most accessible cities I have visited. It is true when they say you really need a car in LA because everything is spread out and the public transportation system is not good. I can’t say anything about public transit because I was driven around everywhere, but pretty much every place I went to was very accessible and I didn’t have any problems.


LA Zoo
I told Liz that I liked zoos and so she suggested going to the LA Zoo on my first day. Since I’m writing this 8 months after my visit, I can’t remember if I got a discount. It won’t hurt to ask. The zoo is massive and I don’t think I saw everything. It was also very hot that day so I didn’t want to see everything under the beating sun. There were a few steep hills, but everything is paved so I didn’t have any trouble. 

Getty Villa in Malibu
The next day I joined Liz and her friends at the Getty Villa in Malibu. This place is not only one of the nicest art museums I have ever seen, it’s also a model of accessibility. And it’s FREE to boot! They don’t even ask you for a donation! However, you have to pay $15 for parking. Since it’s built on a hill, I thought the wheelchair access would be bad with lots of stairs, but I could tell they built the museum with accessibility in mind. I didn’t have to go on a wild goose chase to find ramps. They were built right along side the steps, out of the same material – which was usually marble. Elevators where no problem, and there was designated seating in the theatre.

Jade and I in front of Van Gogh mural
We then went for lunch on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. After that I met up with Jade who couchsurfed with me the summer before in Vancouver. We walked along the famous boardwalk in Venice Beach. Medical marijuana is legal here and there was no shortage of people wanting to sell you ‘prescriptions’. There were plenty of merchants selling various items of clothing, artwork, and even something called cactus jelly. 

Norm Macdonald
One of my goals while visiting LA was to spot a celebrity and to my delight while walking along Santa Monica Beach I spotted Norm Macdonald who is also Canadian. He was a fixture on Saturday Night Live back in the 90s. Jade and I finished the day off wondering around the Santa Monica Pier and ate some sweet potato fries.

Michael Jackson's star
The next day I met up with Anne who was my very first couchsurfer a year earlier in Vancouver. She took me to the Griffith Observatory which is also another free museum. From there you get the closest views of the Hollywood sign. After that we headed to the Hollywood and Highland centre which is really just a mall, but what I really wanted to see there was the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mann’s Chinese Theatre. Anne and I had to be very aggressive to get a photo taken in front of Michael Jackson’s star.

Bob's Big Boy with Matt
The next day I had lunch with Matt Getze at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. Matt has a website about disability travel that I stumbled upon one day while researching accessible travel. Matt and I have much in common: we both are wheelchair users, we both had polio as children, and we both love to travel - solo. Since Matt lives in LA, I wanted to try and meet him to talk about traveling in a wheelchair. It was very inspiring to meet Matt and hear his stories. Check out his site:

This day also happened to be the 4th of July and Liz and her family took me to a concert at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank. We watched bands play, ate fried chicken and watched fireworks. Boy, did I every feel American!

Burnadette, Sabrina, and sister
dropping me off at LAX.
 For the last afternoon of my trip, I went to meet Burnadette and her couchsurfer Sabrina. I was supposed to surf with Burnadette for a couple of days, but I ended staying with Liz the whole time. She took me to eat the best fish tacos in LA and then to Manhattan Beach before dropping me off at the airport. 

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