Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Our 1st wedding anniversary USA road trip, Part 4 - Los Angeles

Sarah and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary on the 4th July 2014. To mark one year since the most amazing day of our lives, and before we start our next journey that will make us parents, we wanted to have a big adventure together. We decided to explore somewhere we have always wanted to see - the west coast of the United States of America. Our route took us from Las Vegas-Yosemite-San Francisco-Monterey-Cambria-Los Angeles-San Diego. The next four of our posts will be the diary that we wrote as we were travelling. Before we flew, my Dad gave me a piece of advice; he told me to write myself a diary every night of what we had seen and where we had been that day, as there was no way we would remember it all at the end. He did this on a similar trip in his twenties, when he spent some time travelling around India, and proudly showed me his little pocketbook diary. We took his advice and it became something that we did together everyday. However, we want to transfer it to our blog as a permanent record of what became our best trip ever (honeymoon always excluded!)

Tuesday 8th July 2014
Today we left Carmel and began our drive to Los Angeles - and what an unexpectedly beautiful drive it was. Although we had lots of welcome sunny interludes from the fog in San Francisco, Monterey, and Carmel, we were happy to see the fog rolling down the hills becoming less frequent, giving way to lots of hot sunshine and beautiful blue skies. We really enjoyed this drive - through vast mountains, through strawberry fields and along cliff tops with shimmering blue ocean beneath us.

We also stopped off at a few view points, including the very beautiful Lake Cachuma, where an eagle flew over our car.

The drive changed as we closer to Los Angeles, and we were driving on large 6 lane freeways. Despite many people saying how scary this kind of driving was, Lauren certainly didn't think so, and found it easy, and even enjoyable. 

 The traffic got busier as we got closer to Los Angeles, but as we drove through Bel Air, and got to our hotel in Beverley Hills, we were too busy looking at the palm trees and beautiful houses to mind!

Our hotel in Beverley Hills was one of our favourite ever hotels. We arrived to orchid scented cool towels and a friendly welcome in a beautiful glass reception hall. We were unexpectedly upgraded to a suite which was beautiful - a large bedroom, lounge area, gorgeous bathroom, and a pretty balcony. 

We even had free yoga classes! The hotel was luxurious but very zen and calming, and the kind of place where we think 'yep, we could live here quite happily!' That evening we went out for dinner in Beverly Hills to a veggie cafe we had found online, thinking it would be a cheap easy meal for our first night in L.A after our long drive. The drive to the cafe was muuuuch slower than we thought thanks to famous L.A traffic as we queued down sunset boulevard, we realised if the sat nav says 20mins you need to triple it - but we actually really enjoyed it! We got a great night-time lit up view of the sunset strip and all its famous bars and clubs  - most entertaining traffic jam ever!

Arriving at the cafe, Veggie Grill,  it was actually part of a chain in a very sweet fairy light lit outdoor food court of a shopping mall. The food was amazing. Actually amazing. it was interesting to see all ages, genders, and types of people at a vegetarian cafe, but with food so gorgeous it was unsurprising. 

Veggie Grill, please come to England, we would single handedly keep you in business!
We went back to our hotel pretty certain that we had fallen in love with Los Angeles, and discovered that the staff had been and left strawberries, champagne, and an anniversary card in our room. So we decided to make use of our loungers and balcony, and have champagne and strawberries under the stars, and were joined by a group of tiny hummingbirds!

Wednesday 9th July 2014
This morning we had breakfast at our hotel, delicious pancakes we ate outside in the sunshine.
We had tickets booked for a sightseeing bus tour around Los Angeles - we have done similar tours in Malta where Laurens parents live, and really enjoyed them, so were looking forward to today. We drove to Hollywood and got a better, daylight look at the Sunset strip. As a rock music fan this was great! We saw famous rock clubs such as Whiskey A Go Go (they invented go go dancers!), Viper Room (previously owned by Johnny Depp) and celeb hang out Chateau Marmont, where Robert Pattinson had been seen a few hours before apparently!

 Arriving in Hollywood, we of course walked along Hollywood Boulevard, taking a few pictures of the walk of fame along the way. We also visited the Chinese Theatre, home to famous hand and food prints! 

Although fun, I disliked the crowds and commercialism of this area, so after taking a few photos, we found our bus! Sat on the top deck, with our headphones in, we really enjoyed the audio tour that accompanied the bus drive, learning about famous landmarks but also fun facts like seeing the chicken shop Brad Pitt used to work at! You are free to get off and board the buses whenever you like, so our first stop we chose to leave was Santa Monica Boulevard. As it was hot we visited Millions Of Milkshakes  - claiming to be the most famous milkshake bar in the world, and a favourite of the Kardashians and Katy Perry. And now us! It was delicious!

We then walked around West Hollywood - also home to the gay area. Coming from Birmingham, where the gay area is a few sad looking, mainly closed tacky bars and a couple of dodgy 'saunas', the effort West Hollywood makes was amazing! Rainbow flags, rainbow filled shops, rainbow covered bars, even a rainbow covered American Apparel store, not forgetting the rainbow street crossings, and the 'gayest store on earth'. L.A, we couldn't love you more right now!

Back on the bus, our next stop we chose to disembark the bus was a short walk from Rodeo Drive. Somewhere I wanted to see as I'm a big Pretty Woman fan! Because of this, we made sure to go and see the Beverly Wilshire - the hotel where the movie was shot - surreal but fun! 

We had fun wandering down Rodeo Drive looking at the beautiful stores - before we disembarked the bus, the driver has pointed out a shop that was invitation only, and the most expensive store in the world. The owner had his car parked outside - a $1.5million Bugati (he has three more identical ones, amongst other things!) Our final departure from the bus was Los Angeles farmers market - our favourite stall was the Bakery For Dogs! 

After dinner at Taco Bell (we were excited to learn this is one US fast food chain that has made it over to the UK!) it was time to go back to our beloved hotel room for a very chilled out night together.

Thursday 10th July 2014
This morning my wife very kindly drove to Starbucks and bought us breakfast in bed! By now we were big fans of their yummy pastries and cinnamon dolce lattes.
Our plans for the morning were shopping, shopping and more shopping! We made our way to the Beverley Centre in Beverley Hills, first stop being something we love but cannot get in the UK, Bath & Body Works! We love candles and bath products so had lots of fun sniffing everything and filling up a basket! We then went to Victoria's Secret, which we do have in the UK, and even imminently in Birmingham, but its so expensive there! We bought lots of underwear, lounge pants, pyjamas, tshirts (including one that said 'Los Angeles', I love it!), and got a bag, two travel cups, and two of Pink's trademark dogs free. After a purchase of some new Converse, we were all shopped out, and headed for lunch. Not a very 'on holiday' activity but we'd had such a tourist packed day yesterday, and we felt very much at home in Los Angeles, and were happy going shopping, going to Starbucks, and for a casual dinner the way we would at home. 

That afternoon, we drove to Griffiths Park, which has amazing views over L.A. We even saw a coyote as we arrived! We walked through the park up to Griffith Observatory, a beautiful building which houses a planetarium. 

We enjoyed walking around the science exhibits, including a live view of the sun. We ventured up to the roof balconies to take in the amazing views over Los Angeles, and the Hollywood sign. We had timed our visit to coincide with sunset - and what a sight it was! The sun set beautifully behind the hollywood hills, and cast a beautiful golden glow accross the city we already loved so much! After watching the sun descend we enjoyed once more a beautiful drive accross the city back to our gorgeous hotel. 

Friday 11th July 2014
This morning we had bought vegan cookies to have for breakfast, so decided to eat them by the pool at our hotel with some coffee, and spend the morning sunbathing. We were so sad to leaving Los Angeles - our favourite place on our road trip so far, it almost felt like home,  rather than a holiday.
As we left Beverley Hills we drove around the amazing houses, some owned by celebrities, and Mulholland Drive. It's so gorgeous! It must be noted that we saw a tiny part of an enormous place - we really only tipped the iceburg in terms of what LA has to offer, but honestly, we fell in love. And it means now we have a reason to come back here - although we will definitely be staying for much longer next time! 

But it was time for our next drive. Before we left Los Angeles, we took a small detour; as a teenager, I was a huuuuge Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan. I know, I was am a complete geek. But after remembering the high school used as Buffy's 'Sunnydale High' was a school in Los Angeles, we decided to find it - and we did! It was deserted due to summer holidays, so I took lots of photos - it felt so strange being somewhere I had seen so often on TV as a teenager.

 I would love to go back in time and show my 15 year old self this moment - 'life does get better, and in 15yrs you'll be stood outside Sunnydale High in L.A with the woman you've been in love with for ten years and married to for one year!' Dumb to everyone else but special to me! My clever wife also found the house used as Buffy's house too - apologies to anyone who was inside for photographing their house! It was fun to personalise our trip with things like this though!Thank you to my wife for indulging me in this ridiculousness :)

And then, it really was time to get going to our next stop of San Diego. Los Angeles, it was love at first sight and we fell in love a little more every day! We were a little wary of L.A before we arrived - one of my friends loved it so much she spent her honeymoon there, one absolutely hated it and regretted ever visiting. But we loved everything about it - the weather, the relaxed, fun atmosphere, the understated luxury, the food, the people, the dogs (!), the scenery…can we move here please?! 


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