I had never been to America before, and had never been in any sort of hurry to go. Until an opportunity presented itself. Four months ago, at the end of March, my boyfriend James received a wonderful reward for achievements at work. Two free plane tickets to New York or somewhere similar. My big brother Johnny had married his American sweetheart and moved to California five years before. I had not been able to visit him yet. So, rather than the Big Apple, we headed for the Golden State. To Santa Monica, The City of Angels, California. My first American adventure had begun.
James and I arrived at LAX on a Wednesday evening. Johnny and his wife Bliss eagerly greeted us upon arrival. Shattered after the confusing two-hour wait to get through Passport control, we were elated, relieved, feverish. My brother and his wife greeted us with big smiles, filming our entrance. Out of the airport, and into the night.
The first pit-stop for his pescatarian younger sister? Johnny drove us (in huge grey Dodge Charger Sedan) to California’s famed In N Out Burger. I had the only thing I could order. My first Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Home and straight to bed for an exciting day ahead. We slept well.
We woke up to rain. It never rains in Southern California, man it pours. We left in the car desperately sheltering ourselves on the way out of the apartment door. Later we learnt, this day, the downpour was equivalent to total rainfall in LA for the last 7 years. This didn’t seem like it could possibly be true, but was an interesting thing to hear! Walking around the neighbourhoods of Santa Monica was a truly amazing experience. 100 foot palm trees bending with the direction of the wind, lining the pavements up from the beach toward the suburbs. Blocks and blocks of houses, gardens bursting with colour in. Every house and apartment different, all the interesting architecture. I made James walk and walk and walk to take in the array of beautiful blooms in the neighbourhood. I wanted to capture all the wild flowers growing in front gardens. Multicoloured Poppies like I had never seen before, Ranunculus, Snap Dragon, and of course the gorgeous Bird of Paradise. I was inspired immediately with all the flowers I could see. Next stop on my list was to find a way to the LA Flower Market.
I didn’t have to wait long. Visiting markets is an absolute essential on my holidays. I always love to check out what the locals are up to when I am travelling. It’s important to see how things work day-to-day and get a feel, immersing myself. Being part of their everyday life was a real privilege.
We arrived to the market. Tents lined the sides of the streets filled by homeless men and women in the baking heat. The flower district was 40 minutes from Santa Monica. We’d arrived in our first Latino neighbourhood, flower arrangements adorning the shops and children running around in the stores. It was the biggest collection of flower shops and market traders I had ever seen. Floral heaven.
Accessibility and variety in this market was next to none. Immediately you were made to feel at home and I was instantly taken aback. The traders wore smiles and were happy to help. All the purchases were wrapped in local newspaper and bound together with string. This hit home. Simplicity and great customer service - it made a lasting impression.
The rest of California was beautiful. We drove for hours and hours along the Highway 1. Up to San Francisco, staying in Cabins along the route. But the one abiding memory for me, was the flowers. An international language of beauty. It left me excited to return and pick up flowers when I got back to London.