It was a bit hard leaving San Diego, as it is normally for us when leaving a place that we had been to for a week. It was even harder for Julie as she had not seen her parents for a few months and in an instant they were gone again. Knowing that we would be seeing them in a few short weeks was comforting though. We had to put that in the back of our minds though, we had a new adventure in front of us. Today we would be venturing back north to explore Los Angeles for the next 5 days. As we had not been living out of Bubbles the first step of business would be to stop at a gas station and grocery store. Once we were gassed up and our little fridge was full of food we hit the road north taking I-5 to LA and to our campground in Pomona.
We awoke the next morning with the sound of small biplanes taking off and landing over us. We hadn’t noticed the previous day but the campground was located directly next to a small airport where apparently a lot of small vintage aircraft were kept and used. It was pretty neat to see every morning while waking up. First on the agenda today was to hop in an Uber and head over to Hertz to get our rental car. We figured having a rental would be a bit easier to navigate the city (and a bit more fun too). We were a bit late arriving to Hertz and because of this the agent had a few questions for me when we arrived. He said “Well you’re a few hours late so I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like”? I responded with bad news first. “Well I did have a 2016 Ford Mustang lined up for you but it was given away already.” I responded, so what’s the good news” “I was able to get a 2017 Chevy Camaro convertible”. Jackpot for us. It had been years since I had been in a Camaro and Julie had never been in one. The agent showed us how to take the top down and we were off. It was a pretty sweet feeling cruising down the LA freeway towards Hollywood with the top down, in a super fast car with the sun on our faces.
We were headed that morning to Hollywood Boulevard to check out the walk of fame. I had warned Julie that this was probably the most touristy thing that we could possibly do while in LA and it was sort of like being in Times Square in New York City. She reminded me that we were tourists. Fair point, so off we went. We found parking and soon enough were walking down Hollywood Boulevard. We weaved our way in and out of the crowds, stopping for a moment in front of the Kodak Theatre all the while dodging people dressed up as Spider Man and the Incredible Hulk. We then found our way into a mall and worked our way up to the top floor where we found ourselves alone and with a great view of the street. It was pretty neat being up there seeing downtown LA on one side, mountains on the other side and the mass of people below us.
At this point I received a call from my buddy Josh who lived in LA and wondered if we had eaten lunch yet. I had met Josh all the way back in 2005 in London. We were both on a study abroad semester and had been paired up randomly to live together. We had stayed friends all these years although hadn’t seen each other in the last 10 years. We were pretty hungry so both said yes to lunch. Josh picked us up in a matter of minutes and we were off. It was great to see him again and it was as if no time had passed at all (even though it had been a decade). Josh took us to one of his favorite brunch spots, a little French restaurant called “Little Next Door”. We caught up while chowing down on some delicious French food. As we had no specific plans for the day except to explore the Hollywood area Josh took it upon himself to show us around to some of his favorite spots. First up was the LA Farmers Market and the Grove Mall. The Farmers Market is a food, locals and tourist destination as its open 7 days a week selling and preparing food from all over the world. It was pretty neat to see. After that we booked a time at the IMAX Virtual Reality Game Center directly across the street. This is one of only six locations worldwide. We played a game where we were eagles playing capture the flag. You wore a helmet and controlled the eagles’ direction by moving your head from side to side. We also had controllers, which controlled speed and an ability to shoot down our opponent. All in all it was really neat.
From there Josh dropped us back at Hollywood Boulevard where we wandered around for the next few hours. We then returned to our car, drove over to Josh’s neighborhood where we switched cars and went out to Josh’s favorite sushi spot in Beverly Hills. If you ever have a chance to go eat at Sasabune please do. The sushi there was out of this world. From there we drove around Beverly Hills a bit more going down world famous Rodeo Drive and stopping at the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM (yes there is actually a cupcake ATM!). Josh then dropped us back at our car and we made our way back to our campground in Pomona. What an awesome day it was.
The next day we woke up, packed an overnight bag and we were off. We were going to spend the day and night in Santa Monica. As it was on the other end of LA we were going to spend the night in a hotel tonight. We started our day early as it was football Sunday and we had to see our hometown Bills play. While at a Bills bar in San Francisco weeks prior we had met Kiki and her boyfriend who live in LA and had told us that there were multiple Bills bars in LA but the biggest and best was in Santa Monica. Of course we do not turn down suggestions of where to go, so off we went. We arrived roughly an hour early and were a bit disappointed as it was not as packed as we thought it was going to be. We were told that it was because the game was on national TV. We still had a good time though even though the Bills lost to New England. (The Bills always lose to New England so this didn’t dampen our spirits). Toward the end of the game Julie’s former coworker Rob joined us and afterwards we walked a few blocks for some delicious Mexican food at Casa Escobar. (Thanks for the meal Rob!)
From there Julie and I checked into our hotel and walked to the famous Santa Monica pier. We strolled along the pier reaching the end just before sunset. The end of the pier was pretty crazy as there was stadium style seating for people to watch the sunset. After the sun dipped below the ocean the crowd clapped and we headed back wandering around Santa Monica. We weren’t too hungry but didn’t want to go back to the hotel either so we decided to go see the movie Ladybird. We both enjoyed it as it was about a girl in her last year of high school in 2002 and her relationship with her mother. It was set in Sacramento and as we had just been there a few weeks prior thought it was cool to see a lot of the places that we had been to in the movie. After the movie we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.
The next day was going to be another fun day in LA. Today we were going to explore the beach communities. We hopped in the Camaro in Santa Monica and started to head south. The hotel we stayed at did not offer breakfast so that was priority 1 for the day. Luckily the next town south of Santa Monica, Venice Beach had plenty of options. We found a great diner style restaurant right on the beach where we chowed down before exploring Venice Beach and the Venice Canals. After a little research I found out that the Venice neighborhood had gotten its start at the turn of the century when Abbot Kinney wanted to turn the area into “Venice of America”. Canals were dug and houses built along them. Unfortunately for him this only lasted for 20 years then the city of LA annexed Venice and decided streets, not canals were needed. There is however a small section of canals that remains and is a lot of fun to walk around and see the homes along them.
From Venice we continued south past Marina Del Rey, the LA International Airport, stopping at Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes. Palos Verdes was an amazing section of the city. It’s a little difficult to get to, as it’s located on a bluff that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. It has stately homes and amazing views. We had a great time driving around the neighborhood. From Palos Verdes we drove the hour and a half back to Pomona, made dinner and called it a night.
The next day, our last in LA was set to be as fun as the last. It was Disneyland day for us. Being from the east coast we had been to Disney World in Orlando many times but Disneyland, the original, was foreign to us. So of course we had to see it. It was a short ride to Anaheim from Pomona and soon enough we had parked and were on the shuttle to the parks. We had chosen to go to The California Adventure Park instead of the actual Disneyland Park as we had heard from a few that no adult beverages were sold in Disneyland Park. As we do not have kids going to the California Adventure Park seemed more age appropriate anyway. We were pretty surprised when we arrived as it was a Tuesday and the place was jam packed. We couldn’t believe it. Nonetheless we had come to see it so we bought our tickets and headed in.
The first thing we noticed was how small the park actually was. Compared to most of them that we had been to in Orlando this was tiny. We walked around the park making a loop in roughly 3 hours. We weren’t sure what to do then so we found the fanciest spot we could and sat down for a cocktail and some appetizers. It was pretty neat sitting in a room filled with 1950 and 1960’s era Disney pictures. We enjoyed our time at Disney and were glad we went but thought that we probably did not need to go back again. From Anaheim we drove cross town in rush hour (and saw a car on fire, it was crazy) and met Josh for our last dinner. For this dinner we went to Genwa, a Korean BBQ restaurant. If you are not familiar with Korean BBQ this is how it works. You sit at a table with a small grill built inside. You then order your meat and your sides. Then you are given what seemed to be 20 small appetizers in little bowls. Then your meat is brought to you. In some restaurants you cook it yourself however in this one the waiter cooked for us. It was a really cool experience and amazing food again. Thanks for all the good food recommendations Josh!
We had a blast, seeing, experiencing and eating everything that Los Angeles had to offer. Our time in California was almost coming to a close but we had one more destination to visit before heading back east for the holidays.
Up Next…..We head to the Desert! Palm Springs, CA