California, the American Far West… if there’s a region which is part of our imagination, this is the one. This is the land of Hollywood – the studios, the gigantic cinema industry, the stars, the Oscars, the dreams… We’ve all seen countless movies and TV shows filmed here, and easily remember the ones that left their mark some way (or at least, that almost everyone has seen): starting on old westerns, to E.T., Jaws, Back to the Future, or TV shows like Baywatch… this is an endless list, and all of you will certainly add a new name to it!
We’ve been dreaming of visiting American Far West – California of course, but other states too – for a long time (this was definitely on our wish list). We waited until the kids could endure a long haul flight, and last summer we finally took the decision to go, and there we went! It was a memorable trip, driving around for two weeks and having the time of our lives. The itinerary went through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and back to California, we had a great time! We will share this trip with you over the next posts, we hope you’ll enjoy reading about it!
First Stop: Los Angeles
This was a mandatory stop, because the most convenient flights all arrived here. We didn’t have high expectations (we have to admit). We had read a lot about the city, it seemed huge and somewhat uninteresting. Maybe because we didn’t expect much, it came out as a nice surprise, and we enjoyed it quite a lot. It is huge indeed, with no well-defined center, and where public transports or walking are not a good idea – you’ll have to rent a car, definitely! There are no nice little streets where you stroll around choosing the restaurant where you’re going to have dinner… here you have to know where you’re going, if it’s a well-known place make a reservation, take your car and go…
We had two great days, starting by Santa Monica, walking by the sea around Venice, we felt like in the Baywatch set… everything is there, and you almost expect to see David Hasselhoff running your way at any time (ok guys, some would probably prefer to see Pamela Anderson 🙂 ). The all area is very nice, with lots of people doing all sorts of sports – this is where Muscle Beach is… there is an enormous concern about fitness, after all, all those who dream of becoming actors can be discovered at any moment and become a Hollywood star… the beaches are great and it felt real good to relax after the long flights and some airport episodes (this time our son left a piece of luggage before the last customs control, meaning we couldn’t go back to get it… aftour a few stressful hours we managed to get it back and it ended well, we thought we wouldn’t so it wasn’t too bad…).
The end of the mythic 66 Route and Santa Monica’s pier are a must stop and must take a picture spot. We also drove to Malibu, still feeling as if we were a part of a Hollywood movie or TV show. The landscape is dry in tones of ochre, which contrast with the blue from the ocean. It is sunny and there are lots of palm trees, and everything makes us feel good and relaxed. After a good swim and a picnic on the beach, we really feel we got it right, and we’ll have great holidays here 🙂
A stroll around Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills is a must. You dream more than you shop (at least this was our case, but we saw many actual shoppers around), and you also have to go to the Walk of Fame, in Hollywood. We didn’t particularly enjoy it, it felt a bit decadent. There are many homeless around (there are many misfortunates amidst the wealth and opulence), and many have mental problems (they stopped having a place to be treated in mental institutions, and have no right to any assistance, so they just hang around). Although this is a must go, we couldn’t help but wonder about the city’s social imbalances and inequalities.
Outside this area, the city spreads in residential neighbourhoods with houses and mansions: we can’t see the richer ones, they are very well protected with high fences. It’s nice to drvie around, these neighbourhoods feel nice and peaceful. Don’t miss a drive to Mulholland Drive, where the views of the city are spectacular (and where you’ll get a sense of its extension), and of course, a picture near the Hollywood sign.
On the next day we had great fun at Universal Studios. No visit to LA would be complete without a cinema studio tour – there are several opened to the public, Universal are the best known probably because it is also a theme park. You’ll find all kinds of rides (we loved them), and there is a visit to the cinema studio sets. We saw some used in blockbuster movies such as Jaws, King Kong or Back to The Future, or the streets where Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise drove like crazy in Knight and Day… we also had the chance to see haw some special effects are made, and this tour made the studio visit a winner. We went on a Sunday so there was no shooting going on, but on business days there’s the chance of seeing actors at work and participate as a figurant if they happen to be needed while you’re passing…. It was a great day, we definitely recommend the visit.
Finally, before leaving the city of angels to continue our road trip, we made a stop at California Science Center to see Endeavour Space Shuttle – the real one, in exhibit since it stopped his missions in space. It is huge and really impressive, there are pictures of it being pulled through LA streets to get to the museum, now that wasn’t easy! Awesome!!! 🙂
We hope you enjoyed this description of our days in LA. There is much more to see and do, but we didn’t have the time, we had to move to our next stop, Las Vegas!
Let us know if you need help to organize your dream vacations, we’ll be very glad to help.