June – one of my favourite months of the year… Nothing to do with it being my birthday at all! 🙂 It’s more to do with the sun being out and of course the time when I get to hop on a plane once again…!
Destination: Los Angeles, San Diego in California
Date of Travel: 10th June 2015
Flight Time: 11 Hours with Virgin Atlantic Airways
Duration: Two weeks! Language: American! ( Lol – English) Currency: U.S Dollar Departing: London Heathrow Weather: Warm / Hot – However no one told me about June Gloom ( Occasional Overcast!) Visa Needed: Yes, Well some countries are under the Visa Waiver Program and will need to acquire an ESTA. This is the official site to get one of these: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ – This is valid for two years and is $14. Although I’ve been to the United States on a number of occasions, this is the first time visiting the West Coast, so on the 10th June it was time to jet off again. Our Journey to Heathrow was courtesy of Addison Lee. Our Driver, Nas was very accommodating and got us there in no time at all. Arrived at Terminal Three and headed over to Virgin’s dedicated Zone A and checked in straight away with no queue whatsoever. After picking up that all important travel money from Travelex ( MoneyCorp no longer operate in Terminal 3) we went straight through to security and then conveniently stopped at The Seafood Bar. I picked the Tsarina ( blini with salmon and caviar) with a bottle of their Caviar Rose Champagne. ( I mean it’s LA you have to start in style! ) Then off to Gate 21 to jump on the 15:45 VS023 LAX bound and Seat 15K. We were Handsomely fed throughout the flight… And very well looked after by the staff who were all equally lovely. The menu on the flight is actually the brainchild of Londoner chef, Lorraine Pascal. Starters: Chicken in Satay Sauce Main: Seafood Linguine Dessert: Brioche and Butter Pudding Then there was a mini tub of Haagen Dasz to indulge in whilst watching Colin Firth in Kingsman We visited the bar a couple of times for my normal tipple of grey goose and lemonade ( not that much of a fan of R.Whites though) and was given some Tyrell crisps and a myriad of sweets and fruit! Three Barrels brandy though Virgin? Where’s the good ole’ Hennessey. anymore? Of course – Afternoon Tea – Obviously! In my defence this was an 11 hour flight so all that fuel was of course needed…! We Landed at LAX on – time at 19;15 and had to pick up the hire car. On arrival to the terminal I arrived in, i have to say it was far from any expectations I had. It wasn’t very LA – like at all! I was a tad disappointed, I expected Glitz! As always in the U.S, At Immigration, they take a pic and all your finger prints which really does slow down the process, but unavoidable so be patient! Finally out to pick up the hire car with Dollar and guess what?! we had to get on a shuttle bus to get it. When we finally got there, there was yet another queue. We picked our vehicle deciding on a Nissan Mini-van to house the six of us and our luggage. Crucial Tip!: Hire a Sat Nav! It was invaluable! Don’t shortchange yourself on it. We then started the 40 minute drive over to West Hollywood where we had hired a house with Airbnb.com ( A platform for people in a number of countries to hire out their accommodation for vacation rentals) in the Melrose Ave area. Thoughts on the house: Great Location! I think the owners were slightly inaccurate on their description of the quality of the house. If they had a better clue – this house could be amazing but there was a catalogue of errors! But I won’t let that put me off Air bnb just yet, I’d probably think twice about hiring a house from those people in particular perhaps but boy did we feel cool like a local in WeHo! The next day we found our local Target 5 mins away, did a HUGE shop and then stopped off at, Fatburger, our first fast food experience of the holiday. Later on that day we got straight in to our itinerary and drove to Hollywood Blvd, visiting the TCL Chinese Theatre, the piano stairs and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although you must visit here, after you’ve seen 20 stars you’re pretty much starred out! You’ll meet some interesting characters on the way and the chances are the next up and coming rapper will try and sell you his CD or a tour operator one of those bus tours showcasing celeb houses! There are also some shops and restaurants to the right of the Chinese theatre. Hollywood Boulevard reminds me a lot of Times Square and Leicester Square all at once… We then drove over to the lovely Marina Del Rey to visit our friends apartment which is an up and coming area by the Marina which is picturesque. Yes this lovely place even has it’s own website, so check out what to do here: Marina Del Rey The next day we drove down to Venice Beach with its collection of strange and quirky! After this, we drove over to Santa Monica Beach but spent the afternoon having lunch at The Huntley in their penthouse restaurant. Stunning surroundings with a killer view even in the restroom! Lovely visual elevator too. Info here: Huntley Penthouse Restaurant . On the way back home we took the scenic route down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, which is home to some of the most exclusive brands in the world. It really is worth a visit: Rodeo Drive Directory On return to our house we decided to explore our local area of Fairfax and Melrose Ave and found loads of little boutiques and some other well known brands. Stopping in New Era and Adidas shop on this occasion. Melrose is a very long road with SO much to offer, so check out this site to plan your trip. Melrose Avenue In the evening we took our first U.S. Uber to Lucky Strike LA in Hollywood for some drinks, chicken and waffles and bowling! Cool place with a great vibe with a performance from live bands most nights. The drinks selection is pretty huge too and the venue shuts at 1 or 2am each night. More info here: Lucky Strike Hollywood On Saturday 13th, my LA family who live in the suburb of Monrovia at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains ( 40 mins from Hollywood) which looks like Wisteria Lane! hosted a garden party for me, which was lovely! On the way we stopped off at Natraliart Jamaican Market and Restaurant on Washington Blvd near Crenshaw, to pick up some West Indian cuisine from this Jamaican take out – which was very good! www.natraliartfoods.com It’s also the First time I indulged in some traditional American food like collard greens and candied yams at the BBQ! Huge thank you to my family for this day! On Sunday 14th – I turned the tender age of 33! ( Yes tender!) we whisked over to Whisky Red’s which is a brunch with unlimited champagne / Mimosa in Marina Del Rey alongside the marina which was gorgeous! Food was good and selection plentiful. The brunch is until 4pm on Sunday’s and you can arrive anytime from 9am. I would advise you to book in advance as it’s a very popular spot, especially if you want to be seated on the waterfront patio. Info here: Whisky Red’s On the way home, despite coming from a brunch, we had to stop at the infamous In N out burger! Bloody amazing! If you are in LA you have to try this burger contingent. They only operate on the West Coast and in Texas. Info here: In n Out Crucial Tip: There is a secret menu! It will not be listed when you walk in, but if you ask for it they will of course grant your request. Try the animal fries! Here’s some other stuff Secret Menu – You can thank me later! Later that evening, we grabbed an SUV Uber to Greystone Manor in Hollywood – one of their best and most exclusive nightspots where there is always a singer or rapper performing. I was advised to spend my birthday night here, as Greystone Sundays are what it’s all about, so we reserved a table in advance. Music Policy: Hiphop n R&B. I’d advise you to reserve a table in advance which have minimum bar spends as it gets very busy. The music was good – staff were great! From bouncers to the servers. Chasers for the drinks – not so good! 7up / Sprite Etc tasted like a cheap brand – which I presuming it may have been. The artist in residence that night was O.T Genesis ( for you cool folk) or as the guy said to me “The coco man is here tonight!” We arrived around 11pm which is “Early” by their standards – which is shocking as all LA clubs close at 2am! ( Yes something I certainly couldn’t get my head around) We ordered another Uber SUV to get home and as our driver saw we’d just come out of a club took great pleasure in turning his SUV into a disco for us! Greatly received! Monday 15th: We headed Over to Universal Studios Hollywood. One of the most famous film studios in the world which showcases some of the best things it has brought to both TV and film. Some are in the form of rides, others are stage shows and then probably my favourite thing: The Studio Tour – Which is a must! We also visited Waterworld which was very entertaining – starring a cast from a plethora of shows / films. Beware of the Soak Zones is my only warning to you! Universal isn’t a cheap day out and i do advise you buy tickets online beforehand as you’ll save yourself a few dollars. We showed up on the day and the tickets were $90 each. Info here: Universal Studios We stayed local in Melrose for dinner and tried Lala’s Argentine grill. You must try the Chimmichuro Sauce, that comes with the bread. Info on Menu here: LaLa’s Tuesday 16th June we did the two hour drive over to Cabazon just before Palm Springs to sample Desert Hills Premium Outlet Village with its 180 stores, though be warned, it is in the middle of the desert so expect some scorching heat! If you’ve come to grab yourself some bargains this is probably the best place to do it. With stores such as Converse, Gucci and Sunglasses Hut to give you an idea of the vast array of stuff on offer, you are likely to spend most of the day here. For a full list of the stores on – site see: Desert Hills That night we went over to BOA Steakhouse in Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. ( They also have a branch on Santa Monica Blvd). This place came highly recommended by lots of people. Great ambience, Amazing staff ( Thank you Scott & For the birthday treats) and amazing food! Again I’d advise you book in advance See their menu here: BOA – Once again thanks to Uber for transporting us. We then headed to the Hotel Roosvelt at Tropicana for their pool party which was great. More info about the famous roosvelt hotel found here: Hotel Roosvelt Wed 17th, We headed into Beverly Hills for a fitting ( we were also here for a wedding) and then onto IHOP for a late breakfast. If you like pancakes, it’s a must visit with locations all over the place. I indulged of course but also tried the Avocado and Turkey bennie which I enjoyed. These were white choc pancakes! Amazing. Menu here: IHOP We then drove over to Macy’s, downtown Santa Monica and went and explored third street promenade. A really nice place to come and check out which I highly recommend. Downtown Santa Monica It was here I was convinced to make a purchase with Mac cosmetics and Apple for an Apple Watch! Credit to their staff – they know their stuff! That night we had Persian take out which I thoroughly enjoyed! Thurs 17th: We stopped at the Dash store on Melrose and then drove up to Griffith Observatory Park which is not far. I’d advise you put on your trainers ( sneakers) for this one, as where you park there maybe a slight uphill walk to get to the Park. From here you’ll see some stunning views of LA and of course that world famous hollywood sign. There are a few hikes people can do to get a little closer to the sign, so do your research here. The observatory park is also a museum with free entry and plenty of free parking. More info here: Griffith Park Friday 19th I think may have been my only day of nothing but also to start packing as we were departing LA for San Diego the next day. Saturday 20th we departed our house / villa and did the long drive over to San Diego which took us three hours with traffic. ( time this journey well people – another one of our party took 5 1/2 hours!) We were staying in the Hard Rock Hotel on 5th Street which is right in the centre of the Gaslamp Quarter. San Diego is a completely different vibe to LA with a lively night vibe. To plan your San Diego stay, check out this site: San Diego and for rates for the hotel: Hard Rock SD Hotel was amazing and lively and with an Ode to music which is right up our street being a musical /DJ Family. The connections in the room allowed you to plug HDMI / Ipod / Iphone everything. Our All Access Passes gave us free wi – fi and the opportunity to hire an electra bike, one of 20 Fender guitars ( complete with headphones and an amplifier ), free coffee in the morning and a DJ Traktor Kontrol Z1 controller! When concierge ask you what music you like when you check in, and you walk into that selection – you know it’s going to be a good stay. The wedding was being held here at 6pm that night so we unpacked and got ready and headed down to their conference rooms. “Love is friendship set to music” is their tagline. Beautiful ceremony and wedding! Great place to have a wedding with a team that enabled things to go smoothly – and that comes from someone who’s in Event Management and has experienced a few weddings in her time… Congrats to the new couple! Love them… ! Now Hard Rock has a club downstairs – Bar 207 and also a pool party at Float on Saturdays during the day. Sunday 21st: we headed to the W Hotel and their summer solstice roof top pool party from 1pm -6pm. Staff were great and We headed back to the Hard Rock to our rooms and for a catch up with the new married couple in their suite which had some stunning views at sunset. Monday 22nd: Pool Day at Float in our hotel, followed by Nobu which is located on the ground floor. Delicious meal! and then over to the Omni hotel for drinks to cement our final night. Tuesday 23rd: Check Out and drive back to LAX – took 2 hours. This part of the airport was muchhh better than the one we arrived in. We indulged in Custom Built Burgers which was amazing. That cemented our two weeks in California! Didn’t realise how much we crammed in until this synopsis but it’s a long way to go so you have to make the most of it, so I do advise having a rough itinerary before you go. West Hollywood was a brilliant place to stay as I feel like most things to do only took us ten minutes to drive to. My tips to remember ( Also some lingo assists if you aren’t American specifically)
- Chips will get you crisps on your plate – make sure you say fries
- Lemonade will get you the natural type not the fizzy stuff you want, make sure you say 7up or sprite
- Take Away is Take out!
- Toilets are Restrooms
- LA isn’t full of healthy eateries – but there are some amazing places to eat, you just have to do your research as they’re dotted around. Check out this instagram page for some tips: Los Angeles Eateries
- Get a Sat Nav – Some things are a drive away and although the US is very efficient by being in a grid – it’ll make your lives much easier!
- Remember when using UK Credit Cards you are charged non – sterling transaction fees!
- Live on wi – fi if you’re on 02! Every other network has a bundle – T – mobile/ EE has a 7 Day one, 3 has an unlimited one and Vodafone has a £5 a day one – so perhaps invest in a pay as you go before leaving.
- Almost everywhere had wi-fi! Except for the airport and everyone was forthcoming with their wi – fi details so don’t be embarrassed to ask for it.
- There is parking almost everywhere. Even if you visit a restaurant, the chances are they have a Valet tent around the front – So Ask!