The first time I ever came to the USA was in 2006, when I was on my way to summer camp in North Carolina. Because I was coming from New Zealand, I moved across the country in the opposite way from its first settlers, making my way from the West Coast to the East, and skipping the wild wild west altogether.
I spent hardly any time at all on the West Coast back then - a mere day and a half in LA to rest and recuperate, before facing multiple plane rides to get to my temporary new home. I was tired, jet-lagged, and slightly headachy, but I was also in the US for the first time ever. There was no way I wasn't going to explore.
A couple of other girls, who were also stopping in LA only briefly before heading to their camps, came with me to Santa Monica, where we spent the day exploring, eating, and shopping. It was a perfect day, warm with a light breeze, and we were all giddy to be on our way to our next adventures. We did everything we wanted to, became best friends for the day, and then said goodbye that evening, never to see or talk to each other ever again*.
Since that day, I've always kind of assumed that I was so fond of Santa Monica just because it was such a pleasant introduction to America. I figured I was remembering it through rose-tinted glasses, and it couldn't possibly be all that fantastic.
It's not. But it's close.
H1 and I spent an afternoon in Santa Monica exploring**, eating, and shopping. We went down to the pier, and wandered the streets around 3rd Street Promenade. It was a blissful few hours.
Santa Monica is nearly enough to convince me that living in LA could be bearable. It's not enough reason to go to LA, but if you're there anyway, spend a day down there. Try to do it with someone you'll never talk to*** again on your way to a new life adventure, for the full Santa Monica effect. You'll like it.
*A world before Facebook...it seems like a strange time now.
**A little less than previously, as we had both been there before.
***Now that Facebook is a thing, this probably isn't viable.