Goodbye my Santa Monica dream.
I played that same Angus and Julia Stone song as I wrote my final post from New Zealand in September. Little did I know, five months I would actually be saying goodbye to Santa Monica, the last stop on a world tour that started with that farewell post.
As I write from a bumpy bus en route to San Francisco, that same refrain running through my head.
I didn’t plan to visit California, let alone Santa Monica, on this five-month tour. Really, if everything had gone to plan, I would be writing to you now from New Zealand. But as usual with travel, I didn’t end up quite where I expected, nor have I taken the route I intended.
And what did I get in return for this detour?
I fell in love with a destination, yet again.
When Ric was booking his flights to come and meet me in California, he asked me when to book the return flights. The worst possible question for a pair of one-way travelers like us, but one that had to be answered considering the USA’s strict requirements for visitors. I said book it for the day after our road trip would end. He said why not a few days later so we can enjoy the sun. His mom said why not a week?
And with that suggestion from a woman nicknamed “The Oracle”, that’s exactly what we did.
Why not a week?
Money, as usual, was a worry, but all we’ll be doing next is returning to rainy England for the end of winter. Why not soak up the California sunshine, if only for a few days more?
So we had our extra week in California, but where would we spend it? This was a question left unanswered until the night before I was scheduled to drop off my camper van in LA. I had wanted to head to San Diego. Ric just wanted a beach. We were both sick of moving and couldn’t fathom sorting out public transportation to another city the next day, so we settled on a hotel only 20 minutes away from the campground in Malibu, where we spent the last night of our Jucy tour.
It’s weird how at home we both felt in a place we never intended on visiting.
I’ve heard a few stories about people who ended up staying in a place for years, maybe even until their death, after arriving for some random reason, like their car broke down there. If it weren’t for visas and what not, well, this post might have gone something like that.
But for now, our time in Santa Monica was limited to a week and what a week it was. I was meant to work the entire time and Ric meant to catch a tan while lounging next to the Pacific. While we both fulfilled our duties, we also fit in a fair bit of exploring.
We went to a live taping of Conan, which allowed us to walk through Warner Bros. studios. I spent time with one of my very best friends from NJ who brought me as her plus one to the premiere of Burning Love at Paramount Studios. Ric found a local pub in Ye Olde King’s Head, a bar where we watched England defeat Brazil and made friends with a bunch of people from Michigan. We took in the sights at Venice Beach, toured the town’s canals and even tried the fish tacos from I Love You Man at James Beach. We played at Pacific Pier, learned at the Getty Villa and ate our last meal at Cha Cha Chicken.
There is something very special about Los Angeles. I’m not sure if people start to take it for granted after living there a while, or if its lost on people in the Entertainment industry, because they know all the tricks behind the magic, but it’s a spectacular place to be a newby. You never know what’s going to happen in the city or where your day will lead you. Who will you bump into? What opportunity will arise?
It’s such a special place and while a lot of people say the magic of Hollywood was lost after the Golden Age, I don’t think that’s true. It definitely wasn’t lost on me and I don’t believe it’s lost on the millions of people who arrive each year, hoping all their dreams come true.
I didn’t come to LA with a dream, but I’m leaving with one. And while I may have to say goodbye to my Santa Monica dream, I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting it in a few years time.
We stayed at Ocean Park Hotel on 32nd Street. At $65 per night, this was the most affordable place we could find, but a very clean and quiet place to stay, not far from all the action.
LA is definitely a city that requires a car. I took on the public transportation here a few times, and each journey took me one to two hours, plus multiple buses to complete. Rent a car if you can.
If you want to feel a bit of old Hollywood, visit Culver City. It’s a very clean cut area of LA that seems naturally lost in time and oozing with film history. The Culver Studios has been used in several films including Gone with the Wind. Much of the cast of The Wizard of Oz stayed at Culver Hotel during filming.
My food and drink recommendations are as follows: OP Cafe has breakfast specials for $3.99; hearty and delicious, the fish tacos at James Beach are amazing but very expensive $19 for the dish and the best spot we found was Cha Cha Chicken; authentic Caribbean food, plus its BYO, which will save you some money.
Finally, see a live taping while in LA. It’s not only the best, but also the cheapest day out Ric and I had in LA. Tickets are free, but can be competitive. Book ahead for shows like Ellen and Conan. Do more research if you’re not too concerned with what show you see, because there are a million to choose from here and some are crying for audience members to add some laughs in the background.