Los Angeles: The City of Dreams
Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Malibu. Yes, visiting L.A. almost feels like starring in a movie. It’s all those places and names you’ve heard over and over again due to the fame and spread of the Hollywood movie industry. This is where Richard Gere waved at Julia Roberts from his limo in Pretty Woman, where the life guards ran up and down the beach in Baywatch and where you’ll find the houses of Leonardo DiCaprio and Keanu Reeves. It’s a city that’s all about fame and celebrities. It’s about standing out and being seen. Sometimes even with a sign on your back to promote yourself. The goal is to end up with your name on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame so that you can be part of the celebrity family together with Beyoncé, Sinatra, Harrison Ford and Elvis Presley. It’s a city of dreams, big mansions, endless wide stretches of sandy beaches and all the famous brands and shops, like Gucci, Cartier, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton.
On the contrary, it’s a city filled with crazy people, poor people and homeless people. People wandering the streets with a crazy look in their eye and a weird set of clothing, people searching for food in dumpsters, and people begging for coins.
Yes, L.A. is a great mix-match of everything. It’s huge in size and the traffic almost makes you want to kill yourself. Living here means spending half your life waiting in a traffic jam, and even if you decide to go with public transportation, it might take ages before you get to your destination.
But it’s a fun city. A playground offering so much to do and see. Here you can mingle with Donald Duck and Micky Mouse in Disneyland, go behind the scenes in Universal Studios or join the fun at the amusement park at Santa Monica Pier which as well is the end point of the famous Route 66.
Pacific Highway: An Epic Road Trip
When you had enough of L.A. and the Pacific Coast Highway starts calling you, what better way to go around this than to pick up a rental and do your own road trip. Be prepared for the huge size of car and of course, the automatic gears. But after getting familiar with both, you’ll start to enjoy.
The Pacific Coast Highway is an epic road trip. The beauty it entails is undeniable. Sometimes, you won’t be able to go the whole way because of road blocks but it’s definitely worth doing as much of it as possible. The highway provides stunning views of coast, beaches and mountains.
From L.A., Santa Barbara makes for a great first stop on the highway. Here you’ll find beautiful beaches and a lovely little city center which hosts some great restaurants.
With its rough nature and more rustic beach, Pismo makes for another great stop. After that, it’s definitely worth going off the Pacific Coast Highway and do a little detour to the amazing wine district of Paso Robles. An area that does a great job when it comes to Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. And oh yeah, visiting in October was definitely an extra treat because of the autumn colours and big grapes still dangling from the vine stocks.
Monterey is another great stop on the highway. It’s one of those places where you could spend days if not weeks because there’s so much to do and see. Here life is all about the sea. At the seaside, you’ll find divers getting ready to take the plunge, sailors getting their boats ready for the day’s tour, people kayaking and people walking the beach, and you’ll be greeted by the roars from the big amount of sea lions who have settled at the pier.
From Monterey, we went south again to Big Sur to see some more of the Pacific Coast Highway. Parts we had missed because of the road blocks. This ended up being an excellent decision since these parts provided some of the most thrilling landscape on the highway. I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Besides the mentioned stops, there are a thousands of others you can do along the highway (Santa Cruz can definitely be recommended as well). In all, California is surely a state where you’ll never run out of things to do and see. It’s an art deciding on where to go and which places to skip because every place is worth the trouble. Only time (and money) makes up the limit.
Yosemite National Park: A Natural Paradise
One of the hard decision for us was whether to go to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite National Park. In the end, Yosemite won, and I don’t think any of us regret that decision. This national park, and especially the Yosemite Valley, is surely one of those places where nature knows how to silence you.
It’s a wonderland for hikers, climbers and nature lovers. I could have spent days hiking the different trails around the valley but once again time was a limit, making us having to decide on which trail we would spend our precious time doing. The Mist Trail won, offering waterfalls and panorama views of the valley and Half Doom.
During my journey, I have done a lot of hiking and this trail surely lands on my top 3 of the best hiking experiences. It’s not just in parts of the trail you’ll find the beauty, it’s there every second of the 5 hours it takes to hike the trail. If you’re short on time, there’s an excellent form of transportation around the valley that’ll make sure you see as much as possible.
San Francisco: Our Last Stop in California
Our last stop in California became San Francisco where we joined all the other tourists, driving around in a hop on/hop off bus, sailing around Alcatraz and the Golden Bridge, having lunch at the famous Pier 39 with its big amount of sea lions and walking down the winding Lombard Street and all the other cosy streets of San Francisco. At Haight Street, it was like going back in time to the 60s or 70s when the hippies ruled the world.
Las Vegas: Sin City
To be honest, Las Vegas has never been part of my bucket list and I’m pretty sure one visit will be enough during my lifetime but then again, it is probably one of those places that has to be experienced. For us, this little Nevada detour became the last stop on our trip to the States.
Las Vegas is definitely a sin city: A city where more or less everything is allowed: Gambling, smoking, drinking in the streets, girls wearing… well, more or less nothing at all. It’s a place where your hardworking money will be gone in no time. We are talking 6usd for a bottle of water! The rest will be gone in less than 60sec playing the roulette or Black Jack.
If you’re not busy spending all your hardworking money, you’ll most certainly find yourself standing in line waiting for something. It could be a line for checking in at your hotel, a line to get to the pool, a line for getting breakfast and so it goes.
For me, it felt like stepping into the very heart of the consumer society and the 3 days we spent there was surely enough. At the same time, I feel like ending this part by saying something nice about Vegas. Well, if you want to run away and get married, it’s the perfect spot, if you don’t want to see a sky full of stars, you’re safe here (the thousands of city lights will surely prevent it), if you want a place where you can gamble and drink before 11am, this is the place, and if you want to get lost in a labyrinth, this is surely the place to do it (when you first enter a casino it’s seriously hard to find your way out again. One thing that kept showing up in my mind, was Johnny Deep’s face in the movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” when he tries to make his way out of a casino thinking everyone has turned into reptiles).
So that wasn’t really nice said at all, was it? Let me try again… One thing I can surely promise you, is that you’ll never get bored in this city. It’s an entertainment paradise. There are hundreds, if not thousands of shows to choose from. We chose one of the many Cirque du Soleil shows (one thing that really blew our mind, was that there aren’t just one Cirque du Soleil show – there are actually 7 different ones). If you don’t really feel like paying for a show, you can always have fun in mini Paris or mini Venice or watch the free fountain show in front of Bellagio. In Vegas, there is always something to do or watch, that’s for sure.