I loved my time in California, alas it was too short. And I really like both San Francisco and Los Angeles but they are quite different, so I thought I’d do a comparison of the two cities.
They were both sunny and warm, very not British in their approach to weather, but San Fransisco was a little chilly and rainy at times, while LA was the place I got sunburnt as you can just about see in the photo below. You can also see the difference in the topography i.e Frisco is very hilly and LA is pretty flat (apart from the old Hollywood Hills in the background). Also SF has cable cars.
San Francisco / Los Angeles
The bext Japanese food I’ve had was at Etsu in Liverpool. The yasai gyoza and yasai tempura followed by green tea ice cream. I haven’t found gyoza as good anywhere else.
I like sports, and I’m kind of collecting stadiums as I travel the world. In particular Olympic ones, although I haven’t got very many as they’re in unhelpful places around the world that I don’t visit ever. Below are my pictures of the Los Angeles Olympic Stadium from 1932 and 1984. It’s now used for event and concerts I think so it was all locked down during the day when we visited in April 2014. We just got a quick look at the outside, and I poked my camera through the giant iron bars around the entrance, and took some snaps of the statue of naked men outside (see below).
Here are my top tips for visiting Los Angeles:
- Take a studio tour- we chose Paramount, while it doesn’t have the theme park that Universal does it’s also significantly cheaper! The tour was great and the whole experience was really fun. You can also get a nice view of the Hollywood sign.
- Watch out for parking which is hard to get in LA, pay for a parking lot to avoid getting a ticket and be aware of street cleaning which makes certain streets out of bounds at certain times. Also, if you’re driving, try to stay zen on the LA freeway where exiting through 5 lanes of traffic can be slightly tricky! Remember that there’s always another turn off…
- Go veggie! It’s one of the few places in the world where veggie food abounds so embrace your inner (raw) vegan. I recommend Gratitude in North Hollywood, we ate there twice and really liked it, it does get expensive though especially if you add on a couple of their delicious smoothies ($10 each).
- Visit Venice Beach, see the outdoorsy people running, skating, cycling etc and just feel healthier looking at them. Walk along the promenade and pass by the people selling their wares as you head towards Abbott Kinney for the shops.
- Visit Hollywood and the Walk of Fame but don’t expect too much. It’s fun but the hand prints and stars are of people you’ve never heard of or Jennifer Anniston, try not to be too disappointed. The shopping centre next door is quite fancy and gives a good view of the Hollywood sign in the background.
For our second and last full day in LA we had pre-booked a tour of Paramount Studios, it was really close to where we were staying but instead of walking we had to drive because of the street cleaning that was taking place that morning. On our side of the street we weren’t able to leave the car out between 8-10am that morning. Yes the streets looked clean, yes it was very annoying! We had to drive one block and pay to park in the car park!
The day was super hot, and I wore the summery top I had bought in San Francisco that I have not had cause to wear since because I live in England! Actually this was the only day in America that I got sun burnt because the forecast said it was be in the 60’s and it was at least in the 90’s but I had taken the sunblock out of my bag. The tour was really good, it was a mixture of walking and riding in the little car which was fun and it was really cool to see the behind the scenes of a studio lot. Our guide was really chirpy and informative but I feel a lot was lost on me because I am not familiar with any of the Paramount TV programmes.
After the tour we headed into Hollywood to see the walk of fame (the stars carry on for a long time), Mann’s Chinese Theatre and the celebrity hand prints (very few women, and very few people I had heard of), and catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.
Afterwards we raced over to the La Brea Tar Pits to see the models of animals caught in the tar pits, and check out the museum. I was really excited before hand and had been on their website lots before getting there and it was very disappointing. For one thing it is a really small museum, so the $12 entry fee was not the bargain I thought it was. All the stuff in the shop was too expensive (which is an issue I had at all the places we visited pretty much), and the park it was set in was pretty but very small and there really wasn’t much there.
We left LA that evening after a fun two days and headed up the coast for the final stretch of the trip.
We hit LA in mid April and it felt like worlds away from Nevada, although it was still hot it was much less humid, it’s a built up city and not wide open desert, and people eat normal sized portions of food that included vegetables (not something we witnessed too often in Nevada!).
We arrived in the evening and headed to a veggie restaurant I had read about that turned out to be really closed to where we were staying in North Hollywood. The next day we headed out to Santa Monica Pier (we set off at the right time as by the time we left it was crazy busy with people). The Pier has some shops, restaurants, and a little theme park which is fun but we didn’t go into to anything and instead just looked out at the sea. On the beach there was a kite festival and a large anti-Iraq war display by veterans against the war, there was a red cross in the sand for every soldier killed and lots of information on the cost (both in human terms and financial) of the war.
We walked to Venice Beach where all the body builders hang out but there wasn’t really any there instead it seemed like students on Spring Break or families. Along the main street there were shops and people selling things along the side of the path and there was quite a fun (and busy) atmosphere. We headed to Abbot Kinney which was the recommended shopping area (basically a street) where there were some nice upscale clothes and home ware shops. We headed back to the boardwalk to get food at Figtree (I was a little disappointed by it as I had looked it up online and got all excited by the menu that seemed totally different when we were there, maybe it was a different Figtree…).
After that we picked up the car and drove to the Olympic Stadium as I am collecting stadiums! More on that in a future post!