20 February 2015

Travel: California Dreamin'

What a week! Look where I have been!

If you follow my Instagram feed you will be very aware that I have spent the last few days soaking up the sun in the crazy faraway land that is Los Angeles.  This wasn't a planed trip and I would like to make one thing clear: I am definitely not one for being spontaneous, dropping my life and running away half way around the world and especially going all that way for a mere 3 days.  I hate spontaneity, I love routine and knowing what my days have in store, but when this opportunity arose I just couldn't think of a reason not to say YES PLEASE! When I looked out the window and saw frozen cars and icy roads, the thought of 3 days in 30 degree heat was too much of a temptation to pass up.

So I packed my bag and took off with my sister in tow.
The flight out was brilliant.  I'm not a fan of flying - erm, who is? and especially on a long 10-11 hour flight. I was completely dreading this part of the holiday. We got to the airport early, had lots of time to do a bit of duty free shopping and grab something to eat.  I am one of those really anal people that arrive 3 hours early 'just in case' there is gridlock traffic, or there is a big queue at security, or I get lost trying to find the correct gate number (Heathrow T5 I am talking to you!).  We, of course, experienced none of these things-result! Things got even better when we were lucky enough to be upgraded to Club World. All my dreads about the long flight were put to rest as I snuggled into my very thick cosy blanket and flat 6ft bed. The hours fly past (no pun intended) when you actually get uninterrupted sleep on a long haul flight.  Before I knew it we had touched down at LAX.

Day 1 - Hollywood, Beverly Hills & Santa Monica
We had planned our time in LA down to the last minute as we had only 3 full days to see as much as possible. After little to no sleep, we started our first day early, booked an uber car to Hollywood and pretended we were aspiring actresses/singers trying to make it big in LA. 
We decided the best way to fit as much in as possible, get from A to B and hear all the celeb stories on the way was to catch the hop on, hop off tour bus. 

 We started in Hollywood. To be brutally honest, Hollywood is a bit of a crap hole. The streets are dirty, the people are weird and there isn't a lot to see. We saw the hand and foot prints outside the Chinese Theatre, strolled along the Walk of Fame and took photo's of the Hollywood sign.

Hollywood-done in 20 minutes. We could have got a taxi to take us much closer to the sign but seeing as we wanted to fit in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica Pier we decided to hop on the open top tour bus.


 I didn't take many photos of Beverly Hills or Santa Monica pier. We rushed through a bit, took photos of the Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive signs, and one of Santa Monica beach. Oh, and the Chanel shop, because, well, wishful thinking. All a bit boring really, unless you spend more time there enjoying the shops and the beach.  We were also on a bit of a tight budget so didn't spend a lot.

Day 2 - Catalina Island
It was an early start on our second day, we were up with the sun to catch a ferry to take us across to Catalina Island. To be honest, I had never heard of Catalina Island before this trip so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the day. 

As we sailed out of Long Beach Harbour we were lucky enough to get a good view of the Queen Mary.  If we had longer on this trip we would have done a tour of this spectacular ship.  There is so much history on board and you can even do a night time haunted tour! Spooky.

The cold windy ferry journey took just over an hour to get to Catalina Island but it was so worth it. We slowly approached the crystal clear waters as the sun was shining and the birds were chirping.  This island felt like a whole world apart from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Our first thoughts were that we had somehow been whisked away to a remote Greek island, it was beautiful.

Cue endless photos of our views around the island:



 One thing that really stood out to me was the use of beautiful Mediterranean tiles all over the island.
These colours really added to the European vibe emanating around us.  They used the same colour palette in their super cute road signs too.  This place really felt like a different continent.


 Another thing I absolutely fell in love with was the architecture.  Really typical American toy village style housing added to the quaint island feeling. It actually reminded me of that town in 'The Truman Show'.


Once we had stepped off the ferry and taken as many shots of our new environment as we possibly could we immediately headed to a shore side restaurant to sample their locally caught fish.
Tummys full we searched for the best and cheapest place to hire some golf buggies.  Yes, you heard me, golf buggies.  There are no cars on this island and this is the primary way to travel. Stupidly, we put my sister in front of the wheel and headed off on our little route around the island using a very roughly drawn map given to us by the guys at the golf buggy hut.  With my awful navigational skills and my sister's bad driving I am surprised we didn't get lost or career off the edge of the very steep (and unprotected) cliff edges.  Needless to say, we made it and it was definitely worth it as the views were amazing.


 We had to catch the 3.30pm ferry back to Long Beach so we didn't get to spend the whole day on the island which was a shame.  If I were to do it again I think I would book a little hotel and spend the night, I would have loved to see the sunset and harbour lit up in the evening.

We did however, get to enjoy the sunset back in Long Beach harbour as we ate a quick light dinner.

Day 3 - Belmont Shore & Naples
Our last day, boo hoo! This was a short day as we had to rush off to the airport at 6.30pm.  We grabbed a couple of bicycles and cycled off along the beach to Belmont Shore.  This ended up being my favourite day of the trip.  The sun was shining and it was a whopping 30 degrees! It was so nice to cycle along the coast with the wind in our hair and just generally being out in the sun.

When we reached Belmont Shore we had a little look around the shops but it was too hot and there was no breeze so we jumped back onto our bikes and headed to Naples.  Naples is lovely, definitely somewhere I would gladly live.  Lots of very cute houses along canals it was truly beautiful.


 All in all, a pretty amazing little trip!  Yes, we only had 3 days and yes, we were on a budget but we saw everything we wanted to see, do everything we wanted to do and eat everything we wanted to eat!  Just proves that somewhere like LA is doable on a budget. 

Out of everything, the one thing I really enjoyed from the trip was the people.  The people of California are renowned for being very laid back, happy chaps and this was definitely confirmed to us on our stay.  Everywhere you go, strangers will smile, say hello and you may even be lucky to hear a life story or two.  The customer service is great as well, and that's because they rely heavily on tips out there but it's a concept maybe we should adopt in the UK.  Returning to London Heathrow was a major shock to the system.  I was used to amazing, happy, smiley people and I was welcomed home to moody, grumpy stares from other passengers and absolutely no manners or customer service from any of the airport staff.

Back to reality ey!



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