Welcome to the first in a series of blogs about our amazing American-dream roadtrip across California and Vegas. This is definitely the favourite holiday I have ever been on, and we jetted off just after we made the big decision to quit our jobs and go long-term travelling so that made it even more exciting as a taster of what is to come!
Warning alert: these blogs are pretty long as we crammed a hell of a lot in!!
So our first stop was to La La Land, Los Angeles itself. We had rented a car and picked this up at the airport (which is an absolute must to get around). After our draining 11 hour flight, we arrived at our Air BnB in West Hollywood late-afternoon and quickly freshened up and headed to a local bar called The Surly Goat – I had a cucumber based beer which was super refreshing and tasted almost healthy! After a few pints we gave in to the jetlag and ordered a pizza to the apartment (Sean didn’t manage to stay awake until it arrived so I was on duty).
The jetlag starts…
I was hit pretty hard with jetlag – each night we were in LA I was awake from about 3 or 4am, but thankfully the apartment had Netflix on the living room big tv so I made my way through the Despicable Me trilogy in advance of our Universal trip! Sheer adrenaline and excitement (and quite a few Starbucks!) got me through each day so I didn’t feel too tired. I’ve since watched a documentary on body clocks and apparently a preventative measure of jetlag is to make sure you get as much sunlight as possible when you land – the bar we went to had no windows so we didn’t do ourselves any favours!
NFL Gameday – LA Rams
On our first full day we went for a healthy breakfast at the Black Bicycle Cafe which I highly recommend, and then made our way down to the LA Memorial Coliseum for the LA Rams vs Arizona Cardinals American football game.
One thing to note about NFL games is that you can’t take a normal handbag into the stadium, all that’s allowed is a clear bag no bigger than 12″ x 6″ x 12″. Within this bag you must ensure you have suncream and a hand fan as there is ZERO shade and it’s super hot in that LA sun!
Now the NFL version of pre-drinking totally puts ours to shame. They call it “tailgating” and it is WORLDS apart from anything you could imagine in England. Hundreds of pickup trucks gather in a field near the stadium each bringing BBQs, drinks, huge sound systems, inflatables, games and a whole load of positive atmosphere. Truth be told I enjoyed this part more than the game as it was just such a feel-good vibe – no hooligans, just everyone there to build excitement before the match. I’d gone all out and bought a Rams t-shirt (now a very reliable pyjama top) and matching hats for us both.
Now there is a deeper meaning to why we support the Rams – their reserve quarterback is called Sean Mannion, and the poor guy doesn’t have the greatest form. Quite often Sean will be tagged in tweets telling him how awful he is at American football and that makes me chuckle. I spent the entire half time scanning the back of everyone we walked past to see if I could trackdown a “14 Mannion” shirt, but no such luck.
The game was everything you could expect and more – an emotional American anthem, a flyover, cheerleaders and v overpriced food & drink. I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the match itself if I’m honest, but it didn’t matter as everyone could join in the chants of “WHOSE HOUSE? RAAAMS HOUSE!!” The game ended 34-0 to the Rams, so a great result and now they are on their way to the Superbowl!
We let the crowds filter out of the stadium before leaving, and then caught the train down to Santa Monica. We wandered up and down the pier – it was super busy and pretty touristy. We put our name down for a table at Bubba Shrimp (with an hour and a half wait time) but then found an amazing Mexican tapas called Blue Plate Taco with a beautiful beach sunset view – much better than the fried chain.
I learnt a big lesson while trying to go for some beers after dinner – don’t leave your ID behind!! We were turned away from a few bars (as I must look under 21 – yay!) before sneaking in to West 4th and Jane for some beers.
Waking up at 3am finally took its toll and I fell asleep in the taxi on the way back to our apartment.
Ok so there is just too much to write about Universal (and this blog post is already huge) so I have done a separate post on Universal with all my top tips of how to get the most out of your trip which you can read here…
Following our day at Universal, we went for a lovely coastal drive to Malibu to watch the sunset. Seafood & wine at Neptune’s Net overlooking the Malibu ocean was just the perfect end to such an exciting day. Once again I was nodding off in the car on the way back to the apartment.
Advantage of jetlag – watching the sunrise
Oh hi I’m awake at 4am again! I snuck into the living room to put Netflix on quietly but got a text from Sean after half an hour asking if I wanted to go and see the sunrise. HELL YES!!
So we threw on some clothes and headed to the Griffith Observatory. There were only a handful of people there, it was super peaceful and such a great way to start the day. I would totally recommend setting your alarm early to see the sun come up over the entire city skyline. The Griffith Observatory is an amazing building too with incredible views if you wanted to visit at a more sociable time. It wasn’t fully open at our ungodly hour, but I understand that it is a great visit with planetarium shows and exhibits inside.
It took a good 20 mins before we turned around and realised that the Hollywood sign was right behind us! Amazing to see that up close too.
Keep an eye on Instagram as I will be posting a time lapse of the sunrise soon which is just gorgeous.
Rodeo Drive baby
After a Starbucks and a shower, we headed to Rodeo Drive to check out the crazy expensive shopping (very much window shopping – I was wearing a £2 top from Primark!)
I Googled a pair of fire shoes that were in the window of Prada – $1,100!!
We spent half an hour wandering round then got fed up of the ridiculous overpricing and headed to a shopping outlet for Sean to pick up an NFL jersey (not “14 Mannion” unfortunately). A healthy lunch was definitely in order, and we found True Food Kitchen where I ordered a quinoa burger that came with sweet potato and salad – just what I needed!
We spent our afternoon cycling around Venice beach and the canals nearby. The original plan was to get motorised scooters, but we had seen a policeman (can’t bring myself to say “a cop”) confiscating them as they weren’t allowed on the sea front.
I’ll be completely honest about Venice beach, which I hadn’t seen when researching myself. Look one way and you have a postcard perfect beautiful beach (the header on my website palm tree picture is from Venice beach), however look the other way and there is a deep homelessness problem – tent after tent on the sand. Seeing this after our morning at Rodeo Drive was really humbling – why is there such ludicrous richness just a few miles away from sheer poverty? I know you get this contrast in countless places, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see. That said, there is definitely a huge sense of community and culture there and I would recommend checking it out.
There is a huge skateboard park and these two young kids (who I assumed were brother and sister no older than 10) absolutely stole the show – they were incredible! Huge crowds gathered to watch them perform tricks effortlessly.
Crazy last night in LA
We had a drive around Beverly Hills to check out the big houses then grabbed a McDonalds on the way back to the apartment (not another quinoa burger funnily enough). The plan was to go out for rooftop cocktails to say goodbye to LA in style. However, we made the fatal mistake of having a lie down then BAM 5 hours sleep later it’s a little too late to go out now isn’t it. We definitely needed that early night though, it finally shook off the jetlag.
Well that’s all for LA, thanks so much for reading this mammoth post!! Next stop – San Diego where you can expect plenty of craft beer, a Japanese peace garden and also a near death experience in a cave (no, not caused by craft beer).