LA was the third and final leg of our trip, following San Francisco (read the first post here) and then Palm Springs and Coachella (read the second post here). After watching embarrassing amounts of 90210 and Angel, I kinda couldn’t wait to go – though I knew I would prefer San Francisco. We stayed in a lovely AirBnB in Santa Monica, and spent our time exploring the vast place that Los Angeles is.
HOW WE GOT THERE:
Our Coachella camping buddies gave us a ride from Coachella to Santa Monica in the Coachella Mobile as part of our exchange!
HOW WE GOT AROUND:
Our legs – Our most useful asset but also not good enough for how big LA is.
UBER – I now love Uber! It was so cheap that it wasn’t worth getting public transport when you could just get an Uber there faster, especially with the Pool feature. Journeys across the city cost about $15 using that service. The cheapest trip, possibly a ten minute drive with four of us in the car cost about $4.
Cruisers – Along the beach from Santa Monica down to Venice, this cost us about $30
Car – Our AirBnB host drove us from Santa Monica up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu to Santa Barbara and back – the journey took about an hour and a half one way.
WHERE WE STAYED: 12 STREET AIRBNB
We stayed with a lovely lady called Jamie who has a spare room in her apartment. It was about a fifteen minute walk from the beach which was amazing and the vibe of the house was very relaxed. The room was perfect for just the two of us and we could use the kitchen, bathroom and living room as needed. Jamie was the best part of the AirBnB though, she was so friendly and nice and very kindly offered to drive us along the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara. Something we wouldn’t have been able to do with just our legs and Uber. I couldn’t recommend this Airbnb room enough, if you want to visit Santa Monica, certainly check it out.
DAY ELEVEN: ARRIVAL AT OUR AIRBNB AND DINNER ON THE PIER
Dinner was Italian deliciousness from Ristorante Al Mare on Santa Monica pier.
Once we arrived at our lovely Airbnb with Jamie we followed her instructions to get in… All of us so relieved to see another real toilet after Coachella and our two hour drive. Jamie was there anyway and gave us a very friendly greeting before heading out. Mikee and I took turns to have a very welcome shower (camping for four days in the dessert + sweaty tent = gross) and then decided to head out and explore. You could feel the temperature difference so much from the desert to being by the ocean, we were a lot cooler there. We walked fifteen minutes down Wilshire Boulevard and arrived at Ocean Avenue. Cue Yellowcard and being 14 again. We walked along the promenade, crossed the PCH to the beach and walked in the sand toward the pier while the sun was moving into setting position.
We were’t sure what to do so figured food would be a great option as we love it so much. So we settled for somewhere that had a happy hour and fantastic views from the top of the pier. We had a pizza roll for starters (I’ll be having one of those again), followed by brilliant pasta dishes and then a dessert that consisted of seven different ways you could have chocolate (Antonia would be so jealous). So much chocolate. All while watching to sun set behind the mountains on the coast… It got a little chilly but we explored Santa Monica pier and played some games in the arcade. Mario Cart being the clear winner of fun times. We won like 84 tickets which earned us two sweets which I feel is winning at life… We then found Zoltar! Remember the machine from Big? He gave us our fortunes and answered our wishes, apparently I know a lot of people in armed forces?… We then decided to head back to our room and catch some z’s, not sure if our age would change anymore than eight hours by the morning…
DAY TWELVE: SILVERLAKE EXPLORING – ELLIOT SMITH MEMORIAL, RECORD SHOPS AND AWESOME FOOD
Breakfast – we wandered over to Vons the closest supermarket and got ourselves some food.
Lunch – Tea from Proof Bakery followed by more tea from Dinosaur Coffee.
Dinner – Deliciousness from The Black Cat in Silverlake
Drinks – Malo for delicious Mexican cocktails
Once we woke up and had a quick wash we decided it would be wise to get some food for the next few days and headed over to Von’s. It was nice in there but I preferred Ralph’s in Palm Springs out of the supermarkets we visited. We decided to order some sandwiches from the deli counter and the lady who served us was the saddest person in the universe. She spread the butter with misery on her face, got the bread all wrong and unenthusiastically gave us our food. I really wish I could have done something to cheer her up but not knowing the problem would make my efforts a little futile.
We had our sad sandwiches for breakfast, followed by pretty delicious cake and then decided to go and explore Silverlake on the other side of LA. Checking google maps to plan public transport we discovered it would take two hours. TWO HOURS! So we decided to try and Uber it. It took 40mins maximum, with a lady driving us who reminded me of a mum, and cost us $30 which seemed entirely reasonable – because two hours. I wanted to visit Silverlake because I’d found a guide on DesignLoveFest which looked pretty fun. Plus I wanted to see the Elliot Smith memorial wall as I’d bought Figure 8 when I was about sixteen after seeing this beautiful little animation, and Autumn De Wilde who shot the cover is one of my favourite photographers.
We got dropped off at Proof Bakery and decided to get some tea because we were pretty full from our sad sandwiches. We then had no idea where to go, so walked forever, crossed the Los Angeles River and walked to the Elliot Smith memorial. I think we walked for about an hour, discovering a pretty cool shop called Wacko in the middle of a very long street.
One of the distinct differences I can say between Los Angeles and London is how people have used the space. Everything in LA seems pretty spaced out, if you want to go from one thing to another it seems likely that you’ll have to go pretty far to get there, whereas here in London everything is crammed together. I could probably walk an hour through the areas where people live in London and come across hundreds of pubs, shops and establishments.
We got to the memorial, I took some goofy photos outside and then we went into Dinosaur Coffee next door and got some more hot beverages. I had a lovely cup of golden needle tea which was very tasty. After we continued exploring, as per the guide we noticed one of the recommended places Malo, was next door… we carried on down the road finding more cute shops and ended up in record shop after witnessing a cyclist slip off his bike in the middle of traffic. Kudos to him, he didn’t get run over, just got up and cycled off.
The record store was called Vacation and we chatted to the owner for what felt like an hour or so. He really loved music and it was nice to talk to someone who really cares about it. He showed us some of his new discoveries, and we were soon tempted to buy a vinyl but weren’t sure how to return with it in the suitcase. Once we left we walked down the road to discover the following: chickens, a piano, white painted palm trees, surf shops (can I surf please?) and an awesome comic book shop right out of ghost world. We were feeling a little hungry by this time so decided to head to one of the recommended places to eat. When we had been in the record shop the owner had looked at our list and backed up the Black Cat.
The place was so elegant and beautiful when we got inside. It was dimly lit and we grabbed a table for two. The waitress was super friendly and recommended some drinks. I ended up getting some wine that was pretty delicious and I ordered the burrata starter plate… It came with green beans which were really zingy and crunchy onions. All the flavours fit together perfectly and it was the most delicious thing I have eaten in months. I’m salivating as I write this. Mikee got the fried chicken which was also tasty but I was so happy with my cheese and green beans I didn’t regret my decision. We had a couple of cocktails and then decided to visit Malo as we were close to there still – they gave us some nachos and we got some margaritas before ordering another Uber home, using the pool option which cost us $15. Our driver was super friendly and we pooled with a guy who had just picked up some records and a tape from Amoeba music. So all round a very musical day.
DAY THIRTEEN: GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY, HOLLYWOOD HIKE AND DRINKS
Breakfast Bagels, scrambled egg and avocado – nom who doesn’t love avocado for breakfast!?
Late lunch was had at In’n’Out, we wanted to try this from having heard rave reviews.
Dinner was Mac n Cheese from Beer Belly along with drinks.
More Drinks at The Den
Our second full day in LA we decided to go and do something a little touristy and go on a hike to the hollywood sign. Let me warn you it’s terribly signposted. The only thing we saw giving us directions to it was probably 50feet away from it… when it was clearly in vision *facepalm*.
We got our Uber to the Griffith Observatory. Today our Uber drivers were middle eastern men who had been prisoners of war. Our pool person was a girl who was a bag of nerves going to the hospital… Once we reached the Observatory we wandered around and decided to go to the planetarium. (Can I just say how cool a day festival in a planetarium would be! With the stars moving above your head slowly and changing perspective.) We then found the hiking trail and followed what we thought was the correct path, it turned out to be a pain in the ass. Literally.
To break it down: We saw stunning views, we walked around the hills, we found a water tower and the path ended… We tried to make our own way over but I ended up sliding down the hill, brusing my butt and grazing my armpit (of all places). So we went back on ourselves with me feeling a little shaken up that I could have slid all the down the really steep hill… we were really hungry so gave up, found the sign pointing to the sign but decided to try and get to a road. Google maps pointed out a road that was close by… But our path ended next to the road with steep slopes on either side, ‘No trespassing’ to the left, and then steep, sandy, dusty, grassy slope to the other side. We opted for steep and dusty not wanting to get shot… and so ensued twenty minutes of sliding down this hill on my bottom, ripping my tights, getting sand and seeds from the grass in my underwear and shoes. Uncomfy. If you go for a hike to the Hollywood sign – learn from our mistakes, plan it and don’t wear tights. Looking back it was hilarious, at the time having seeds in my underwear and a grazed armpit was just uncomfortable.
As we were starving we decided to find an In’N’Out burger as we’ve heard good things and wanted to see for ourselves, the verdict: good burger! Animal style fries aren’t too great though. Luckily I had packed leggings and other shoes in Mikee’s bag so I got changed out of my ripped, sandy, seedy tights and we were off on our way again. We were meeting our Coachella buddies for a night out so decided to walk to the place we were meeting. It took us an hour and a half to walk there while coming to the revelation that dates come from palm trees. Stupidly because we’d been to the date garden in palm springs and I clearly didn’t learn anything there other than date milkshake is yummy.
We met Sarah and Kyle in Beer Belly which had been recommended by their airbnb host. I had wine and the others had beer which sounded pretty delicious. Me and Mikee ordered mac and cheese which was very tasty but so rich I could only eat a quarter of it – lucky Mikee. We then decided to try to go out, stopping at their apartment before trying to find somewhere on the Sunset Strip… We found a funny little bar where people were doing karaoke and then discovered that everywhere in LA closes at 2am. Literally no where stays open later than that even at the weekends. All of us a little disappointed, agreed to meet on Friday and start earlier to make the most of the 2am curfew.
DAY FOURTEEN: SANTA MONICA EXPLORING AND CYCLING TO VENICE BEACH
Same old same old breakfast
Lunch picnic on the beach
For dinner we Pad Thai and Pad Crystal from Bangkok West Thai with delicious wine
Today we decided to explore the area in which we were staying and discovered Santa Monica is lovely! We really wanted to hire bikes and cycle down to the beach so this became our plan. We wandered 3rd Street promenade, looking in the lovely shops, marvelling at the dinosaur jasmine water fountains… I found Madewell, spotted my new backpack and we then went to get some bikes and cycled down to Venice.
Once we hit the pier we hired cruisers from Sea Mist rentals and went on our way. It took about thirty mins of cycling to get to Venice. Very quick. Quicker than I was expecting, but we decided to chill out on the beach and eat lunch while some lady had her photos taken wearing a bikini right next to our spot. Mikee decided to dig a hole in the sand and made it about three feet deep which is a pretty deep hole… I wanted to do something with all the wet sand. So I decided to write ‘I love you’ in the sand and take a polaroid of it – getting creative. We cycled back, stopping briefly to look at the shops in Venice which were mostly full of tourist tat and devices you could use to get off your face. So we just cycled back and dropped off our bikes. We were a little hungry so decided to go get some dinner, Mikee found a thai place online and so we were off on our way.
Oddly we bumped into our camping neighbours on our way – four british girls (I wander if I’ll ever see them here in London?!) and then stopped in a British Pub because Mikee was curious… It was stuck in a time warp for sure. Once we reached the thai place I felt severely inappropriately dressed because it was quite fancy and I was wearing a hoodie with a backpack that I’ve had since I was 13. They let us eat there though and the food was really rather good.
Once we got back Jamie was sitting in the living room and we hadn’t really seen her since we arrived so we had a nice conversation with her. She works on films and tv and her last job was on Marco Polo on Netflix which was pretty cool. She told us she had had an interview with Paramount and was waiting to hear back. We talked about the local area and she told us the pacific coast highway is really nice. We told her we couldn’t drive and she said that she’d be free the next day and offered to drive us along which was incredibly sweet of her. So we went to sleep dreaming about road trips.
DAY FIFTEEN: SANTA BARBARA, DRINKS AND PIZZA DANCES
Chai lattes and cinnamon rolls from Starbucks as road trip snacks
Wine from Oreana in Santa Barbara followed by pizza from the Lucky Penny
Drinks from The Independence and more shenanigans at The Craftsman
More pizza from Joe’s Pizza
This day was one of the best days. We woke up fairly early and we ready to go out with Jamie for the day. She took us in her little car along the PCH and showed us a couple of beaches in Malibu. She took us to Point Dume, which had a stunning view of the coastline back to Santa Monica and Venice, where we also saw a very skinny, tired looking seal…Mikee tried to be a hero and call the animal rescue people but it swam off as we decided to leave.
She also took us to Matador Beach which had massive rocks coming out of the sand. We explored and found some funny looking blue jellyfish along the beach and then went back to the car. We then continued up until we got to Santa Barbara. The drive was very pretty indeed.
As soon as we got out of the car in Santa Barbara, Jamie got a call telling her she’d been offered the job at paramount so we decided to go and find a wine bar (not hard) and celebrate! We ended up at Oreana Winebar and got a rose… which was delicious again. Going to say I like proper Californian wine. In the toilet they had a chart explaining all the different types of wine you can get and the different grapes etc, it looked like a periodic table. We then went to get some food from a little place called Lucky Penny, which was actually covered in coins. Some pretty delicious pizza made its way into our mouths and we sat next to a very opinionated but nice old man who reminded me of my grandad. He had a little dog under the table which helped. We chatted with him and then set off on our way back. Santa Barbara was lovely, and given the opportunity I would go back. I really need to learn how to drive. When we got back to Santa Monica we went to meet Sarah and Kyle again at a bar called the Independence which we’d found the day before. We sat at the bar and ordered cocktails, and the mixologist behind the bar was very skilled and fun to chat to. The cocktails were all great, with very versatile flavours. All of them seemed to be both sweet and savoury. My favourite one was the Campanula Sour which had a ring of red bell pepper in it.
After a few hours we went to another bar that was playing very loud dance music. I was quite merry by that point and couldn’t finish the drink I bought from there. It was a nice bar but way too loud so we decided to go somewhere else. We wandered to a place that was more low-fi with a local rock band playing and took some funny photos in their fake Photo Booth.
Once we left we decided to find food (again) and we found pizza. Delicious delicious pizza. It was massive and cheap and great. We ordered a whole one and walked down to near the beach to consume it. Mikee wanted more pizza than he got, and he danced around (with Kyle) like a champ trying to persuade us to get more pizza because he loved it so much. I haven’t laughed so much in ages.
We said our goodbyes to them afterwards, glad to have met these lovely people and a little sad it might be a while before we haphazardly come across them again. Hooray for Facebook.
DAY SIXTEEN: 3RD STREET PROMENADE, SLEEPING AND LATE NIGHT BEACH VISITS
Delicious delicious breakfast from Huckleberry
Lunch gelato from Cafe Bellagio and delicious pressed juice from Wholefoods
We attempted dinner from Rustic Canyon but succeeded in epic proportions at El Cholo
This day we decided to treat ourselves to a nice breakfast and go to a place which had a massive queue. Usually we wouldn’t queue for food no matter how much we love it but this place looked really nice. They had a sign on the wall which said ‘Every woman should own a blow torch’ which I agree with and would now like to find one – any recommendations?
The breakfast we had was really great, I had a fried egg and bacon sandwich which came with a garden, and Mikee had a Croque Madame which was pretty darn tasty – need to make this at home. We walked to 3rd Street promenade and looked in the shops before heading back into Madewell where I deliberated buying the backpack and a purse. I decided to treat myself and got both. Tempted by everything else in the shop too, please please please can they open up a store over here? All of the clothes are beautiful and I could waste a lot of money in there. When I went to pay I looked at my purse at the time and realised that I did desperately need to do this – it was falling apart and looking very sorry for itself. We got some ice cream and realised we were pretty tired after our fun night out so went back to the apartment and had a nap.
Our nap lasted until 9pm… We wanted to go and get some dinner for our last night in Santa Monica and so went to a restaurant called Rustic Canyon which looked lovely but all the prices were very expensive and we couldn’t see anything we’d want to eat on the menu. So we had some wine and then promptly made our way to a fun looking Mexican place down the road. We ordered two platters and stuffed ourselves, unable to finish the food. So so happy we’d ended up there. I love chimmichangas. A night time stroll on the beach followed before heading back to get a good nights sleep before setting off the following day.
DAY SEVENTEEN: AMAZING SUSHI AND SO LONG AMERICA
Brunch was Sushi from Sugarfish Sushi bar – soon good.
We grabbed vegan donuts plus awesome juice from Wholefoods.
Dinner was questionable on the plane.
Our last day, we had some time to kill before going to catch our plane at 7pm. We woke up a little late, got ready, packed up and decided to go get some sushi for brunch. We had been in California for over two weeks and not had any Californian sushi, so today was our day. We read about Sugarfish and decided to give it a go and wow, the quality was out of this world and we would definitely recommend going there.
We went back to the beach as the sun had come out – for most of the trip it had been a bit cloudy so we weren’t going to give up the chance to go and sit in the sun on a sandy beach because it’s going to be a while. Mikee skimmed stones, we people watched and relaxed, feeling disappointed to be leaving – the time had gone in a blur.
We picked up some snacks on the way back, and got some flowers for Jaimie, and ordered our Uber for 3:30pm – the guy couldn’t find us because the app wasn’t working properly and he got a little grumpy with us so the drive to the airport was slightly awkward. Probably the only bad Uber experience of the trip. We went through airport security and timed it pretty well, getting there in good time to not have to wait too long but early enough to be on time.
HOW WE GOT BACK:
Red Eye flight from LA to Gatwick Airport flying on Norwegian Airlines.
Trains from Gatwick to East Croydon, New Cross Gate and then Surrey Quays.
The flight was long, the take off out of LAX was beautiful. You flight right over Santa Monica and Venice out to sea and then turn back around. We were flying as the sun set and I watched the mountains cast shadows over each other as we flew home. We didn’t have any seats infront of us which was ideal as being a tall person it’s awesome to stretch out when you’re still for so many hours on small seats. It was cold and grey in London, so as soon as we got home we we went to bed, happy to be back in our own little flat.
It’s taken me forever to post this, mostly because I don’t want to think of the trip as over I guess, plus being busy on epic proportions. I find California a really stunning and inspiring place and I have just fallen in love with it when I’ve been. The nature, the friendly people, the warm weather, the span of ocean that compared to the English Channel seems so incredibly vast – there is no France on the other side, just 5000 miles of ocean till you hit Japan… I really loved that although a lot of people live there and that you have these massive cities, the nature around still feels quite wild, uncontrollable and rugid. There is no doubt in my mind as to if I’ll ever go back, but for now it is nice being home. Time to start planning again though, the travel bug has bitten hard.