me and my friend M had two nights in Vegas then a hire car (Christina Corolla we called her haha) to take us across Southern California... here, friends, is the tale of this most excellent roadtrip!!!
VEGAS is one of those places you just have to see for yourself... I had some idea of it from movies and hearsay etc but I was still taken by surprise by my first experience of the sin city in the desert... first of all it's startling to see a Pyramid from the landing strip... most times when you fly someplace you're an hour away from the sights, but across the afternoon sizzle there she was! we shared a cab with plane buddy Bill who dropped us off at VDara Hotel and wouldn't take any money - how lovely! The cabby told us it was a big rave weekend in Vegas which explained the hundreds of space cadet youths at our hotel haha luckily Big Electric Daisy or whatever its called was sold out so we couldn't party dusk til dawn (truth is it was NOT that kind of holiday!). VDara is a great hotel and spa in the middle of the famous Vegas strip, it is unusual in that it has no gambling - me likey! enjoyed a cold beer by the pool and then went for a look around our neighbourhood... Lots of begging types in superhero and cartoon costumes posing for pics with tourists and then asking for dollars... Lots of begging on the street types too.. I guess they don't show that in the movies! VERY BIG! Lots of walking around in 40 degree heat made me a tired girl so I was glad of a large cola and veggie burger for my dinner - but little did I know it would be the first of many such meals (holiday belly anyone?!) as veggie options in tourist land is minimals :'( Took a trip to The Mob Museum while we had some tourist time, pretty scary bunch! Bumped into Liverpool peeps on the bus! Saw The Beatles Cirque Du Soleil show Love at The Mirage, pretty cool and a MASSIVE margarita made me happy! haha took a stroll through The Bellagio and had a view of their impressive fountains from our hotel room... the hotel concierge Mary was a star, she helped us out getting around and then gave us a great last minute hotel room app which helped lots for the rest of our trip as we hadn't booked any other stays... on reflection I didn't really LOVE Vegas, I thought it was interesting, super lovely weather, a bit too much concrete and crazy... maybe I need to see a different side to it, a local's Vegas, or maybe I'm more of a Palm Springs kinda gal...
PALM SPRINGS a few people asked why we were going - that it was boring nothing to see town... but in fact our expectations were of a small desert hideout and we got what we wanted & more! pretty tired after a 5 hour drive from Vegas (via the cutest 50s roadside diner Peggy Sue's - recommended!) we arrived at Hotel Zoso after a recommend that came (one person removed, but still) from one Barry Manilow! A very brutalist concrete design from the outside but tres cute inside and the loveliest pool & hot tub action - those bubbles were just what the doctor ordered after that drive! I must mention it was my first drive in the US or indeed abroad - wrong side of the road does test your lane positioning and concentration but the classic rock radio got me thru... 'You Can Go Your Own Way' by Fleetwood Mac will forever mean Route 15 to California now! haha We got into PS pretty late but we went out & found dinner in a little Italian place opposite from the giant Marilyn Monroe statue across the street! There is no apparent reason for the MM but fabulous she is... We asked the waiter if there was anyplace open late for a beer on a Tuesday night and he sent us to gay-ville, it all looked pretty quiet so we were about to call it a night when karaoke at Street Bar caught my ear and that was it - SOLD! to the lady who likes to have a warble... These Boots / Nancy Sinatra thanks for asking ;) In said bar we met a few locals and also couple of lovely chaps holidaying from Birmingham, England! It's a small world... they told us we MUST do the cable car before we left for San Diego the next day... which is what we did - wow! Not great with heights me so I sat in the middle of the car as we rode up the mountain, but wow! what a view up there, and such thin air! crazy... beautiful... another recommend! I also papped my first fabulous California beard for the blog - thanks Sam!
I think I'd defo go back to Palms for a sunshiney Christmas break...
SAN DIEGO after acclimatising to the desert heat we were FREEZING when we got to SD - just 23 degrees and on the coast! booo! had to wear a jumper! haha we were glad to have a day off from driving, out hotel was very central and SD very walkable so we took advantage... Found a great little bar in the Gas Lamp District on 4th called The Lincoln Room... nice people, nice music, nice beer #winning :) Next day we took in some art & later took a ferry to Coronado and saw the hotel where they filmed Some Like It Hot - gawgus! I also managed to get another great beard for the beard blog and some seriously indecent 'Dorothy' shoes for my birthday! On the way to LA we popped into La Jolla to see another gallery and M tried to park the car on a lamppost #crunch eek! tbf the curb was very high... #ahem
LA is HUGE! I don't know why I expected anything in America not to be huge but there you go... we stayed right in the centre of Hollywood at the Hotel Roosevelt... We didn't know the history of the hotel but it was built in 1927 and apparently Marilyn Monroe and all the big Hollywood names stayed there, it's very old school glamourous, very easy on the eye!
First thing we did was go get something to eat - just a takeout across the street but we eyed up all the stars on the sidewalk, most you've never even heard of but a few favourites, including one Nancy Sinatra right outside the hotel! A couple of friends of mine live in LA so we were less left to our own devices than usual but I think given the size of the place this was for the best! We went to a few local bars with my pal PJ - a piano bar on Selma, St Felix and The Beauty Bar around the corner from there... pretty cool, tho it wasn't a late night after driving all day... Next day I got sent a really cool tourist map by none other than my favourite artist Todd White! He knew I was new to LA and gave us the best places to see including Melrose Ave and invited us to see his gallery way up in the sticks...
First thing first tho, we got breakfast bagels and tea from the coffee shop next to the hotel and went for a little mid morning pool side chillaxing :)) This Is The Life. Boy oh boy, the sun was shining hot, I had a dip in the glamourous pool.. I coulda stayed all day right there. But we had to go see Santa Monica! haha Which I loved!!! Very nice, tho the parking is a beast!!! We got stung (even after being warned by our plane pal Bill about LA parking nightmares! damn!) when we stopped to look in a cool looking junk shop, we didn't understand the signs/ meter and got busted about 3 minutes before we got back in the car - we stopped for about 15! omg! let this be a lesson to you! So when we cruised down to SM we knew we better get the parking right or it would be an expensive day out! We got a space right outside Hooters! #winning haha M wanted to go eat there and I was asking the universe for a car to our right to pull out and leave us a space... and it did just that! AMAZING! thankyou universe!! Had a stroll around, made my obligatory overseas trip to H&M even tho I've kind of fallen in love with American Apparel (it's ok H&M I can't really afford AA anyway haha) got some groovy sunnies and a purse... shopped out we went back the hotel to get ready for a big night out at the LA Roller Derby! Wow! those girls are MEAN! haha as if mean girls on roller skates wasn't enough fun, we bumped into the LA Beard contingent! I was much saddened to hear that the weekend after we left would be host to the LA Beard Championships!!! But at least I got to see some fantastic beards prepped for the big event ;) Sunday we had to check out & hit the road again, so we went for a stroll down on Venice Beach (a little more like Blackpool that I'd anticipated! And not in a good way haha) and then onto Todd White's private LA gallery an hour out of town... we NEARLY came unstuck not having a satnav on this little excursion but somehow we got there and back to the highway without too many u-turns... The gallery was awesome, filled with White work and Todd and his family (it was Father's Day and he still took time out to show us the gallery - what a sweetheart!!!) were so welcoming and made a fuss over my WHITE tattoo :)) He gave me a copy of his coffee table book which is FABULOUS!!! and gave me some other merch in appreciation of my lifetime commitment to his work #amazing
So then we hit the road again and he made us promise to go see Hearst Castle and Carmel on our trip north...
ROUTE 1 and BIG SUR (or Just Don't Mention Oxnard!!!) We had a list of places we wanted to see and lot of space to fill inbetween which we figured would fill itself.. and boy! Didn't it just! We knew we wanted to stick to the coast road Route 1 going north and come back south on the quicker Highway 101, but somehow we got a little confused because our maps were a little fuzzy on the detail.. haha #hindsight is a wonderful thing ;) So after a 2 hour detour round Oxnard... (seriously, NEVER go there, it's like the Bermuda Triangle or something! Patience tested to the MAX! haha) we got to San Louis Obispa around 10pm Sunday night and booked into The infamous Madonna Inn, taking a horsey themed room! ACTUAL bonkers is this place, the lady on the desk was borderline rude - but I guess the night shift sucks... each room has a theme and there are like 200 rooms... anyhoo after we checked into our room complete with carousel horse light fitting (!) we took to the cafe for a very late but very much needed bite to eat... and that is when we met Rob and Bob... Oh my goodness what fabulous fortune for us all :) Turns out our dinner neighbours had been up the coast on a wine tasting session, driving home to Malibu they were having some food... Remember it's still Father's Day and Rob is with dad Bob having some together time... Rob was very sweet, very chatty, Bob was more interested in the food, but at some point he perked up and was quite the smoothie, telling me that when I got to wearing those new birthday shoes to forget wearing anything else! haha And by the way, the Madonna Inn cafe is open to non-residents so please do pop in if you're passing by - the food was great and this place invented kitsch! wow, that was some decor! Fancypants is not the word! haha
In the morning we grabbed a little poolside time and then hit the cafe for a huge brekkie before our BIG day of driving...
Many people by this time had told us that heading north on 1 we really ought to see Hearst Castle at San Simeon, so off we went! We had no idea what to expect but my goodness what a sight! This guy Hearst was a big deal in the 30s in Hollywood and owned a load of newspapers and radio stations, a Murdoch type character I suppose... He built his own version of a European Villa way up on the hillside at San Simeon where the climate was tres fabulous and it is quite the most ridic OTT holiday home you'll ever see! haha Wall to wall with ancient antiques, the highlights were the private cinema and the outdoor pool - I asked one of the stewards if they EVER got used because what a waste of such a beautiful pool with people just looking at it and he said generous benefactors of the national park would get invited to use it sometimes or the Hearst family occasionally... but I reckon its a shame...
On the road again we went thru Big Sur and the surrounding coastal scene - JAW DROPPING views, I'm a sucker for a good coast scene and since it was my leg as passenger I got to gawp out the window and drool at the gorgeous colours, textures and delightful sights on offer while my poor pal grappled with hairpin turns and angry locals stuck behind forced to do the speed limit! haha
We reached Carmel about dinner time and asked a local cable guy where we could get some cheap eats, he directed us to Bruno's Deli where we found takeaway pizza and ate it down on the beach... we could see why Americans would rave about Carmel, (Clint Eastwood was once mayor! haha) because it was very quaint, low rise and pretty unlike a lot of newer towns I guess, but we felt it was unfriendly and stuck up... the beach was a little chilly but pretty and we enjoyed our pit stop before heading back to the highway with Santa Barbara our destination!
SANTA BARBARA this leg was the longest drive and I undertook it with many confectionery supplies at my reach! Notwithstanding tiredness and a couple of close calls with the US traffic police* it was alright, after dark in the countryside was a little hairy in places when the mist settled at eye-level but nothing this girl couldn't handle! The classic rock on the local dial was our friend and when that failed we chatted about life the universe and everything (relationships #obvs, we're chicks remember! haha) I think it took us from 7pm in Carmel to Santa B just before Midnight (like a quarter to!) and I did give up the wheel in the last hour due to sheer exhaustion and grumpiness haha (I could NEVER see an In & Out Burger until we PASSED the exit darnit!). The hotel was interesting. Not such a great stay as we'd been used to, but we were so tired it didn't matter too much and the gal on the desk was the loveliest lady who told us of her stays with a friend in Blackburn if my memory serves me correctly! We gave ourselves a much deserved lie-in the next day and then drove into town with some shopping advice from the very friendly desk staff and a use of their 'business centre' (aka a computer, printer & fax (!) in a small room haha) to print directions to our next destination, Ventura.
What a lovely lovely place Santa Barbara is! We had very low expectations, people gave us such a dim view of it, why go there, nothing to see.. in fact there was a cute shopping area, a lovely pier/ marina area with #standard palm trees along the beach - whats not to love? They forget we don't have that shizzle in the UK, that this is in fact what we expect from our California trip! The 'burbs suited us fine! haha A trip to the Betty Page Store later and we hit the road again, this time a delightful single hour in the car :)) #thankgoodness
VENTURA we hit this very small beach town to meet up with another stateside friend of mine, else we would not have thought to stop there... but very glad we did! Another little trip into old school America, high street filled with shops bars and thrift stores (thankfully all closed but we'll get to why thankfully in a moment! ha). We had gathered lots of momentos from our trip thus far and hometime was looming. How to fit said trophies into such small luggage allowance was beginning to look like quite the task... (THANKS Virgin Atlantic and I DON'T think! ha) so we set ourselves time to take it on... and boy did we need it! We emptied everything out on the beds and got to it #ruthless style! haha about 2 hours later we had very very bulging cases and needed a beer! haha We wandered into town and dropped into Star Lounge. Later we learned this was the only 'dive bar' in town. Suits us really haha. We loved it! We drank beer, ate popcorn for dinner and played pool, chatting with the locals who were curious about the accents and abused the jukebox with Beatles and Madonna! #quality We skidaddled when one punter started a little gay-bashing (not cool brother) plus we were getting tipsy and had to meet my friend! One bump-into-in-a-lift later, all caught up with my guitar playing pal R, we ditched Ventura for the bigcity once more!
LA so imagine being in my shoes (and they're always fabulous darling haha)... I've been on the road for 9 days and taken in so many places I'm not sure what day it is or where I am exactly! haha We arrived back in the city of angels on Wednesday and hit Universal Studios. Now I'm no theme park fan but I am a movie fan and I was led to believe you see the backstage area, and I guess you do and I guess it was kinda fun going on the tour in the buggy with the 'shock' bits... but I was undewhelmed, and given it's so pricey I couldn't recommend it.. my pal however LOVED it! We waited over an hour for an admittedly awesome Transformers 3D rollercoaster but dudes! Sort that system out, it just sucks! After we were worn out by the heat queues and excitement we went to see another local pal of mine, an ex-pat who lives and works in LA. His digs are near to the infamous Chateau Marmont Hotel and has fancy neighbours like Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz which was interesting but mostly we were glad of a sit down and cuppa on his lovely balcony with a view across LA... we'd found a hotel over near Wilshire so we checked in and then met my other LA pal for one final beer in Cali. She took us to The Village Idiot on Melrose, nice place, very proper pub for US standards ;)
For our last day in town we met up with my actor friend for lunch in the Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills - tres cool! Recommend this for hanging out and having a nice healthy feed! After a LOT of on-the-road food this was needed! Then we headed to the airport - grappling with local advice on how to avoid the main freeway to LAX (gotta love the local info re traffic jams!)...
1300 MILES LATER... Exhausted but happy we sat at LAX waiting for our flight home, we will be back California, don't know when don't know how, but one day!
In hindsight another week woulda been perfect but who has that kinda holiday allocation/ cash! haha Probably THE BEST holiday of my entire life. Just so much fun. So many laughs. So many experiences. And all with a great mate. Who only laughed at my grumpy tired persona once! #friendforlife
*both of these are hilarious in retrospect but at the time horrifying haha first time on the 101 Southbound we saw lots of 'patrol by radar' signs and the limit was a tedious 60mph so I got all outta control and drove 65/70mph for a very short period of time - thing is my friends back home who had done similar trips had ALL been done for speeding so I was wary despite always being the slowest on the road... Zipping along we see a patrol chopper up above lights flashing and I got that panic jolt in the stomach and slowed right down haha 'oh no, we got busted' I thought... nope it was some wagon with a cop car up ahead #phew !!!
how my co-pilot chuckled at my ashen face regain colour haha later she would pay for such schadenfreude ! when we arrived in SB we were on a dark side street looking for the entrance to the hotel (and it's late, I'm painting a kinder picture than I might haha) when a car comes at us from the right. Now we have right of way but for some reason M decides to slam on the brakes incase this car is about to run into her. It's a cop car hahaha in between gaffaws I'm saying 'just drive we have right of way' so then we're crawling - cos the hotel is literally a few hundred yards away - with this cop car behind thinking 'tsk, more no-clue tourists' and us thinking, 'that's it, we're for it now!' haha oh how we laughed. at least i think we did... it's fuzzy... ;)