The drive started out so calm until we merged into beach territory coming in to Zuma Beach area. That place was manic! Temperatures were uncharacteristically high and it was a Saturday so the roads were heavily packed. You can understand why, this beach is a primary spot for surfing, chilling and people watching. It was also used regularly to film Baywatch! Free parking on the street meant people were swerving across several lanes into a parallel park space with minimal space for manoeuvre, and this road parking was literally next to a 65mph lane of moving traffic!
We found a parking lot with 2025 spaces for the beach. At $10 a spot this place can earn over $20000 a day....even for those with a 10 minute visit!! So, being the cheapskates we are, we headed down in to Malibu. Being a bit quieter there, we went for the road parking in between beachside mansions. RIDICULOUS! We went for a walk along the famous beach (the LA beach with the houses flowing straight onto the beach),
which is a famous celeb spot - we so wanted to see someone famous, but everyone had sunnies on and anyone could have been a celeb. People were even looking at us like we were famous so hey we prob saw loads without realising!
After a quick walk in the freezing tide we drove on to Santa Monica. Traffic was on another level here, and what we thought would be a relatively easy navigating experience was made 100 times worse due to the fact that the main road into town had been cornered off and diversions were all over the shop! We found a friendly parking steward who laughed and said this was the only day in the year this road is closed due to the big arts festival Glow, with 250,000 people in attendance on the beach. His exact words were "this is the busiest night on the Santa Monica calender"...smashing news!! He said it was at least $50 tp park near the beach and that traffic would be a nightmare. So we got our first taste of LA highways trying to find our hotel - madness! But with my amazing (and sometimes jammy) map reading skills we were there in no time. That evening we took a stroll past some cool LA houses. Cool neighbourhood and with houses of all different styles and pristine lawns this was awesome. We were in search of a recommendation, but forgot to take a map so wandering some more we came up to a lot of noise and thought uh oh we've hit a dodgy part of LA and we're gonna get shot! Instead we found the place we were looking for - The Counter!
With "build your own burger from scratch", from different types of patties to different toppings, veg, sauces, and sides and unlike countless other restaurants these came in a manageable style, totally organic and hormone free. I was quiet so Tim knew I was impressed, I don't usually shut up for very long so trust me it was yum! The place was packed with locals, groups, workmates and young buddies. What a great atmosphere and the friendliest staff around. With the best key lime pie ever for take away, we headed back feeling happy to have had a great time in Santa Monica.
If you can't tell by now we LOVE our food. Not just an love it's like we're a bit obsessed so apologies if this blog is turning into a food journal! We honestly can't help it!
Our first proper morning in LA was spent driving to Beverly Hills. Just east of Beverly Hills we decided we might try a little hike to a great view over the city at a place called Runyon Canyon.
Attempting to find this when we didn't have a proper map was near impossible, but through some friendly locals and mistaken, but fortunate turns, we ended up there! It was at least 42 degrees and full of fitness fanatics. People were walking up a huge hill to get here, and then running in the park!! All i can say is that for us that was never going to happen. As we're used to an average 28 degrees being HOT this was literally roasting. The most running I did was to the next shady spot under a tree. Apparently this park is famous for spotting LA celebs walking their dogs or jogging, and although everybody looked very Beverly Hills, we didnt recognise anybody - probably all US celebs! Once at the top, views were amazing over the whole of LA, but the Midday sun was too much to handle, and that was the shortest hike we've ever done!
Next we parked up on the side of one of Beverly Hills famous palm lined avenues.The houses/palaces here were RIDICULOUS. Really huge, gated, gardens totally manicured and unlike anything we've ever seen. We spent about 2 minutes on the obligatory Rodeo drive, which was full of shops where the air con filtered out into the street - but that was about the only highlight for us - whoops!
On our way back to the car we passed by a demonstration by the Tea Party movement, and were encouraged to stick around but we're not too familiar with politics here, so we went towards the homes of the LA stars.
This set up is mad - you can go on tours where they show you around famous people's homes - hundreds of mansions located in one kind of clu-de-sac. Or you can pay $25 to get a map which shows you where everyone lives. We decided against either which was prob a good thing. On driving through all you see are huge gates, and not a lot else. Plus if that were us we'd be pretty annoyed with people peering in all day (even though I'm sure they're used to it) so on we drove to Northridge which is in northern LA up in the hills overlooking the city. I'd arranged to stay with my Grandad's good friend - he and my Nan grew up with when living in Burma - Teresa, and her son Eric.
Eric had given us directions and he sounded very friendly on the phone, but as we had only spoken once before, Tim and I felt a little nervous about going to stay, where it was, and whether we would even get on. We had only just got to LA and were still feeling very wary of certain areas, and had some apprehensive expectations (mainly due to Tim's teenage years of listening to gangster rap, telling the stories of drive by shootings and bouncing gangster cars!) Needless to say we couldn't have been more wrong. Located in the Valley Northridge is a very chilled place, compared to everything we had seen of LA so far.... it was great!! Also much hotter than downtown!!! - the temperatures were immense!!! This coupled with the fact that we had just driven down the 405 highway, which was like nothing we had ever seen meant we were totally overwhelmed. People driving across 5 lanes of traffic no-one with any concept of keeping distance or slowing down... it was so stressful! Eric would later tell us that this is officially the WORST highways in the whole of the USA. Good to know, but we conquered it!!
Pulling up to Teresa and Eric's house we were still a little nervous, and so sweaty and gross!
We joked about cooling down in the pool they might have in the garden. Eric opened the door with a big smile, and we instantly lost any nervousness we had. We then met the lovely Teresa who showed us around, and told us to make ourselves at home. 'No standing on ceremony here people' ... and I was reminded of our families at home. 'first things first' she said in their lovely air conditioned home, 'feel free to go outside and cool down in the pool'. She wasn't joking, we couldn't believe it!!! They have a lovely home and were so welcoming - we felt really comfortable and Teresa is very cheeky so was so easy to get on with. Later we got to meet another of Teresa's sons, Alan, who dropped in on a visit from Bermuda with his fiance Veronica. Tim jumped in the pool, and stayed there until we went out for dinner.
The next morning Eric kindly agreed to drive us around LA to wherever we wanted to go. The weather was unbearably hot so we decided just to do the Cathedral of our lady of the Angels and Hollywood. Eric was a great tour guide, and told us all about the background and history. The cathedral was opened in 2002 after the earthquake in 1994 which destroyed the original Vibiana cathedral in LA. It is the most modern church building I've ever seen, and has very simple elements that hold a story.
From the tapestries from Belgium, to the plain marble altar and bronzed crucifix...the Cathedral is very unique. The altar is accessible and many people come up the crucifix statue to pray by or venerate the cross. You can see the wear on the statue's feet compared to the rest of its form from where people have touched that statue over the years. It's architecture is so impressive it attracts many visitors for that alone. We managed to catch a short weekday mass where the priest asked us to pray for the people of LA as the temperatures were soaring to 45 degrees that day.
Local headlines the next day claimed that this was the hottest ever day on record for LA!!!!!! ...
and so strange as their summer has now passed and temperatures should be in the mid 20's at this time of year. We were amazed that we were in LA on the hottest day since records began!!....we witnessed a slice of history - great, but wow, it was hot!
A quick detour to City hall and the Walt Disney concert hall, and Eric then drove us to the Hollywood hall of fame with all the stars on the street and handprints in concrete at Grauman's chinese theatre forecourt.
From there we took a trip to view the Hollywood sign, and then back to the pool.
Some crossed wires from the morning - Teresa thought that I was cooking a thai curry but I didn't have all the ingredients so we compromised and made a Teresa/Louisa shrimp curry!!! We had some of Teresa's pork vindaloo, some corn on the cob, and green chilli mince patties and sat down to our home cooked meal. It was wonderful and felt just like home! We both couldn't believe we had only just met these fabulous people, and felt like we had known them for a long time already. They definitely made our trip to LA a great experience and gave us some great memories. Thanks guys!
Leaving Santa Barbara earlyish, we took a leisurely coastal drive to LA via Malibu.