Hello, how are you? Have you ever been on a “big holiday”? One that’s stayed with you long after it’s passed, with regular reminders and smiles about the time you had away? Our trip to California in April 2015 was most definitely that, yet we returned and moved house within a few weeks of returning… with the house move and logistics of being home owners taking over our lives. It feels like the house move stole California’s thunder; we didn’t have time to stop, remember, put photos in albums, bore our friends with stories or time to frame prints we picked up. I’m definitely not complaining – we were incredibly fortunate to be able to do both things in quick succession – but in today’s post I want to take a moment out to remember a few days of our trip. The time we spent in LA. I’ve talked a bit about our time in San Francisco, Yosemite and Carmel/Monterey Bay already, so do have a read of those posts too. I’ve still got a few more stories to tell… but these are most definitely just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve broken it down into where we stayed, what we did, where we ate and our overall impression. If you’re due to go to LA soon, or planning a trip, I’d be happy to answer any questions this post might not cover so do email me. I love talking about California and would be only too happy to help.
Where we stayed
We were incredibly lucky to have a relative in LA, Stu’s uncle, who we stayed with. It was a welcome break from hotels and felt like a little piece of home; he cooked us a BBQ, we used his washing machine and sat on his sofa one night drinking wine and watching Frasier. When you’re away from home it’s things like that you don’t even realise you miss and, as our time in LA was smack bang in the middle of our road trip, I’d like to think it helped re-charge our batteries. Stu’s uncle lives near the Balboa Pier, which is south of the city, near Newport Beach.
Where we ate
- Dinner: The Albright, Santa Monica Pier. Driving from San Simeon, Santa Monica and a bit of Venice beach was our first stop. The Albright is just on the pier, looked empty yet served the best lobster rolls with fries. It didn’t feel like too much of a tourist trap and oh man, the food was delicious!
- Lunch: Ruby’s Diner, Balboa Pier. After a morning of bike riding through the neighbourhood and along the beach, a good old burger and milkshake was just what we all needed. This was a real highlight of our stay; the location was just gorgeous.
- Lunch: McDonald’s, Hollywood Boulevard. For shame, I know. Kind of felt like we needed to have one McDonalds meal and Hollywood a good spot for it. Pretty horrifying to see someone put extra sugar in a large coke, eeek.
- Dinner: Live Basil Pizza, Downton LA. You know that feeling when you know you’ve eaten badly for too long and your body craves something healthy? That. So at Live Basil Pizza we stopped and had a salad and felt a million times better for it.
What we did
Of course there are millions of things to do in LA, and so much more we know we could’ve done, but we knew with this holiday it was a quick stop at each location and that we’d make the best of the time we had. Being with family allowed us to also take some time out and enjoy home comforts and quality time together. We also managed to do the following…
- Explored Santa Monica. Our first stop in LA after a long day of travelling and we walked along the beach and walked the pier. We both said we’d have liked more time there; it seemed like a pretty chilled part of the city and a place I could see us going back to one day. We parked there for $12 and, while it is a little touristy, didn’t feel too bad. Plus it was about 5/6pm we were there, so the sun was beginning to go down after a hot day.
- Rode bikes along Newport Beach. Stu’s uncle is a keen cyclist and we had great fun riding around the local area and along the beach. It gave us a great feel for the area and there was something so happy about riding a bike in the sunshine in a beautiful location, even if we did get a little sun burnt – oops!
- Drove up to Griffith Observatory. We knew we had to see the Hollywood sign and had heard a lot of good things about the Griffith Observatory. Once we were parked we opted to skip the usual “take a photo from this point” option and walked further up into the hills, which gave us a chance to see the sign closer, yes, but more so we got a great view out over the whole of Los Angeles.
- Walked Hollywood Boulevard. I’ve got to say this was probably our least favourite part of our stay. It was exceptionally hot and we’d gone from the nice stroll around the Griffith Observatory to the incredibly busy, loud, hot and touristy part where it seemed the whole world and his wife was. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool to see the Hollywood walk of fame and it’s where I bought a couple of souvenirs, but that was it. It’s a place we’ve ticked off the list and will probably never return to.
- Watched the LA Lakers play the Sacramento Kings at the Staples Center. On the flip side I’m so pleased we did this. It was at the end of a long day in the city and the perfect way to get a feel for “real” American life. Before we left for California I’d been browsing my Lonely Planet book and it suggested watching a sport, so after a bit of a hunt I found one of the last basketball games of the season was being played at the Staples Centre in downtown LA. Perfect. We bought a big drink and a pretzel and loved every minute of the experience. The atmosphere was incredible and I fondly remember the brass band playing and how much interaction there was with the audience – nothing like what we’d get in the UK.
- Walked along Crystal Cove beach. Oh man, one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, Crystal Cove feels like a little hidden part of LA that the tourists don’t know about. It’s probably so far from being the case, but it’s the feeling it gave us. So beautiful, please go there if you ever get a chance.
LA was a mixed bag for us; on the one hand we absolutely loved spending time with family, riding bikes, walking, seeing Crystal Cove beach and going to our first basketball game. On the other hand, Hollywood really wasn’t for us. But we had to see it, no regrets at all, but it cemented in our minds that we’re not really into the super touristy areas and would rather see where the locals hang out – kind of like we did when we were in San Francisco. What made our stay in LA special was having time with family and being on the outskirts of the city – it gave us that bit of quiet and normality, a launch pad to then go and see the bigger things.
Other places we visited on our road trip
If you fancy a look, here’s the map of where we visited on our trip. Before we went to California I also created a Pinterest board, with lots of ideas of places to visit – so be sure to check that out.
Thanks for reading and letting me take a trip down memory lane, I hope you’ve enjoyed the post as much as I did reading it. Here’s to the start of a good week!