6 Week America Road Trip in 3 Minutes!

The world of travel may be different as we know it, but to satisfy those blues check out my America road trip recap on my YouTube channel!

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Make sure you read the below posts too:

The California Travel Diaries | Welcome to San Francisco

30 Lessons I Learned As a Brit in America

A New York Minute | Day 38 – 44

California Travel Diaries | Palm Springs

In a town not so far away from Los Angeles, there is a place that exudes relaxation. Looking for a couple night’s romantic getaway? Look no further…from hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas, Palm Springs is the place to rid you from all of your worries.

The Basics

When: July 2018
Where: Palm Springs
What : San Jacindo Mountains, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, Indian Canyons, Villagefest every Thursday evening,  Moorton Botanical Garden, Palm Desert, Joshua Tree, Coachella Valley for hiking, biking and horseback riding trails or the festival in the Spring!

Thursday 12th July – Day 32

I had an ‘A-ha’ moment when we began driving through Palm Springs. Aesthetically somewhere along the line, this is how I imagined Los Angeles to look like in my head. No traffic, palm tree after palm tree with the San Jacinto Mountains complimenting this already beautiful backdrop. Palm Springs also encompasses the magic of added Hollywood star dust sprinkled throughout the streets on the homes that once belong to the likes of Sinatra, Bob Hope and even Elvis. However in 108 Degrees Farenheit, one thing was for sure, we were definitely in the desert. I was really excited for a change of scenery and although Palm Springs is known for it’s spas, our budget friendly pockets swapped this luxury for a hot tub and pool in our next Airbnb.

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A snap captured on my iPhone driving in the car through Palm Springs

Our next host was an eccentric guy who proudly displayed his Christmas tree (in July), as well as a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. Chatty and welcoming, we learned that he was a chef to the stars, who kindly gave us a long list of recommendations of places to eat during out short stay. It seemed our luck had changed as soon as we left LA as it was restaurant week in Palm Springs. This is a clever incentive to persuade customers to venture outdoors into the heat, aided by some excellent deals; perfect timing for our short visit. For dinner we ate at Ac3 Restaurant and Bar where we had 3 courses for only $90 between two including wine.

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Ac3 Restaurant and Bar

We were keen to also experience Villagefest, the weekly Downtown Farmer’s Market having enjoyed it so much in SLO. However after driving around for a while we were unable to find it, so settled on a quick trip to Vons for some wine and sweet treats instead.

Tip: Villagefest is located here: P: 760-320-3781 – Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA, 92262

When we got back from our meal, we were about to crack open the wine when our host tapped on the door, “Room service!”. Feeling somewhat confused for a moment, I cautiously opened the door and there he stood with home baked cookies for us, “Something to satisfy that sweet craving before bed”, he said with a smile. It seemed our host already knew us all too well and the Universe was repaying us. Although this also sounds like it could be the start to a thriller movie, it was very thoughtful and the chocolate cookies he baked for us were delicious; we could see why the guy was a chef to the stars! Although it was still humid outside, we wanted to make the most of the novelty of the hot tub on a Summer’s night, so decanted our wine into some tumblers and sipped it in the hot tub under the stars. I could have definitely got used to weekend breaks like this.

Friday 13th July – Day 33
Our host who at this point you can already tell had a quirky side, was keen to point out a similarly quirky feature – the outdoor shower. He stated that although it was a space to cool off/shower before heading into the pool and hot tub outside, we could use it as our regular shower if we wanted. Of course we still had access to the indoor bathroom, but there was something quite freeing about the option of showering outside, particularly as most of the houses in Palm Springs are bungalows, so there was the comfort knowing there would be no peering eyes. That morning I embraced mother nature before having a quick morning dip in the pool.

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Cacti, Palm Springs

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Palm Springs, July 2018

For brunch we visited a good old fashioned American Diner – Elmers. This was one of the second times we experienced the huge portion sizes that the States is famous for and we were so very grateful for every mouth and plateful! Although it was 42 Degrees Celsius at this point, I needed an excuse to walk off the huge amount of food we had consumed, so took a small stroll (mostly drive) to Downtown Palm Canyon Drive. This is known for it’s string of vintage boutique shops and there are some great finds particularly at “The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five”. Here I am 18 months later, still kicking myself that I didn’t buy the perfect pair of vintage Levi shorts that fitted me so well!  Later that day we went for a drive around the cool streets of Palm Springs and found some Insta-famous spots such as The Pink Door.

During our visit we also wanted to go to the Moorten Botanical Garden but to our dismay it was closed. Instead we drove to the Ace Hotel for a swim and enjoyed a couple of frozen cocktails. These weren’t half bad priced either, as we paid about 50 dollars (including tip) for 4 drinks. During this trip, I could see why Palm Springs is so appealing to escape to. With it’s laid back attitude, Palm Springs is the perfect reset for a day or two.

Later on that evening we had one of the best meals we had out of our whole Californian road trip at another Restaurant Week showcaser… Spencer’s. If you fancy something a bit more elegant with some piano music but comfortable informality this is the place to go! Spencer’s is also dog friendly, very romantic and has won many awards, such as Best Wine List, Best Chef, Best Sunday Brunch and even Best Gluten Free. This meal was an absolute steal of a deal during Restaurant Week!

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Saturday 14th July – Day 34
The following morning we planned to experience the Aerial Tramway, but the 44 degree heat in combination with my potential freakout from the heights, we ultimately gave it a miss. Therefore we enjoyed one last chilled swim in the pool before making the 2 hour drive to our last Californian stop… San Diego!

If you liked this blog post remember to subscribe and check out the below:

The California Travel Diaries | Los Angeles (Part 1)

California Travel Diairies | Los Angeles (Part 2)

California Travel Diaries | Exploring Orange County

California Travel Diaries | A Whistle-Stop Tour of LA (Again)

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California Travel Diaries | A Whistle-Stop Tour of LA (Again)

The 101 was soon becoming our best friend as my boyfriend and I were once again on the highway driving back to LA. When initially planning this trip, I assumed that I would love Los Angeles and would want to spend day after day at it’s golden beaches, exploring the famous city on this road trip. I’ll be honest with you, something about the city just wasn’t doing it for me. The traffic was horrendous on a daily basis, parking was expensive and difficult to find and everything just took so much planning. We were also getting increasingly more concerned how the rest of our holiday rentals were going to turn out. Our Airbnbs had been value for money, sure! But moving from place to place with suitcases whilst not feeling completely at home, was to say the least, tiring.

Saturday 7th July – Day 27

When we arrived to our new Airbnb, we were pleasantly surprised. Pulling into La Fayette Square, we were temporarily away from the stress of the city whilst still being only a 15 minute drive away from everything. At first we were hesitant as our host had not been answering our call to let us in, but whilst we waited for her response, we were shown fantastic hospitality from one of her neighbour’s who invited us over to their front porch for a La Croix to cool down from the drive. Soon after, the warm welcome was immediately replicated by our apologetic host who was dogsitting for her daughter. She gave us a tour of the house and we were impressed by her beautiful garden that overlooked the Hollywood sign (although now covered by overgrown trees). This Airbnb was a house that most definitely felt like a home. It was complete with a swimming pool, an outdoor bar, a large backyard, our own bathroom and balcony. As we unpacked our bags in our room, we expressed a sigh of relief and wished we had been staying here all along! Determined to change our perception of LA we decided to drive around and find some dinner. After 40 minutes of crawling and circling around for parking, we found Father’s Office, a restaurant renowned for their burgers. However as we took a seat at the restaurant, we were put off by the pretentious service so decided to keep on looking. Nearby there was also a great looking pasta place, but at this point our appetites and patience had diminished. So we decided to buy some soup from Ralph’s instead to enjoy alongside some Netflix in our new humble abode. On this occasion of LA vs Natalia, it was one – nil to LA.

Sunday 8th July – Day 28

The next morning we woke up to a lovely breakfast prepared by our host. Fresh coffee, fruit, pastry, a yogurt and orange juice – she really went the extra mile for hospitality and we looked forward to breakfast every single morning from there on out! Today was the day we explored West Hollywood and finally went to Melrose Avenue. To my absolute delight Glossier was based there! All my girlish dreams came true as I was surrounded by beautiful pink and dermatological friendly make-up. Music to my ears, as after my skincare reaction, I was not taking any chances! I happily walked away with some Glossier swag and a few gifts for my myself and friends.

 

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Glossier Canyon, Melrose Avenue

Although still sweltering hot outside, we continued to window shop and stumbled across Lisa Vanderpump’s Sur bar. Being a fellow Brit I used this as a great excuse to visit the bar. Although the drinks were nice, we were disappointed by the rude service that made us feel unwelcome, meaning we didn’t stay very long at all. Had we just been unlucky or is this what LA is like? Keen to not think badly of our Lisa, I took a second chance on her and walked down to her second bar – Pump. Luckily my faith was restored! Decorated to the nine’s with pink and red roses I suitably had some rosé. Perhaps, our luck had turned… or so I thought. It was only around 5:30PM on Sunday and as I walked back to the car with my boyfriend – my designated driver – when a drunk girl tried to start an argument with him. Ignoring the lass, we continued walking on to our car only to be bemused at it’s disappearance. As we stood there scratching our heads, the valet parking hosts proceeded to tell us ever so casually, that our car had actually been towed some 15 minutes earlier. Fuming at LA and it’s unclear parking signs, I made several frustrating calls to try and locate where exactly it had been towed to. Some 20 minutes later I received the address of where we had to go to pick up the car and ordered an Uber. We took a 10 minute journey costing us $9, to then only pay a further $208 to retrieve our car. It’s safe to say,  that was the most expensive 45 minutes of nothing in my life. It was 2-0 to LA.

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To save the day, my boyfriend ordered a pizza to cheer us up. After freshening up with a shower, doing some laundry and eating some comfort pizza, I felt a lot better. We finished off the day sat on the balcony talking and laughing at our unluckiness, whilst watching the sunset over the Hollywood hills.

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Melrose Avenue

Monday 9th July – Day 29
The next day, we used our last attraction of the LA Go City card to visit the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour. This is the perfect day for any movie geek where you can explore the sets of Desperate Housewives, Gilmore Girls and Friends to name a few! Complete with merchandise and props from Harry Potter such as trying on the Sorting Hat, and seeing the famous cars from Marvel & DC films, the day was really interactive. We also took a tour around The Ellen DeGeneres set, The Big Bang Theory Lot, Will & Grace and LA LA Land – it’s very worth the money! For dinner we decided to avoid any further LA parking fiascos, so ordered some Mexican food from Door Dash.

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Tuesday 10th July – Day 30
The next couple of days we decided to take some R & R. Our host was cooking Taco’s and invited us to have dinner with them. We stayed up talking on the decking with them over a couple of glasses of wine. Perhaps it was the fact that they were from Chicago that their warm demeanor shone, but this simple act of kindness made such a difference to our trip and we even got a Christmas card from them that year!

Wednesday 11th July – Day 31
Wednesday was our last day with our lovely host family. The heatwave was still going strong, so my boyfriend and I enjoyed a day lounging around the pool reading. We couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of finding parking and wanted to make the most of the lovely house we were staying in, for fear of what we may be dealt next! Therefore we gladly took advantage of ordering in again and decided we would sample how the Californian’s cook their curries. That night we ate outside under the fairy lights, and enjoyed the peacefulness before packing up our suitcases, ready for our next stop.

Los Angeles, you were hit and miss, but the day you are able to upheaval your traffic and parking situation, I may just revisit!

If you liked this blog post remember to subscribe and check out the below:

The California Travel Diaries | Los Angeles (Part 1)

California Travel Diairies | Los Angeles (Part 2)

California Travel Diaries | Exploring Orange County

Dublin | Travel Vlog!

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The California Travel Diaries | Los Angeles (Part 1)

“Driving down the 101, California here we come!” is what I sang, i.e. yelled, at the top of my lungs, feeling like I was on my way to meet Summer and Seth, as we drove down the famous highway. I had spent years dreaming of a Californian sunset backdrop decorated with palm trees and I was determined to get as much as I possibly could out of my visit to Los Angeles as possible. I had read somewhere on a travel blog that if you want to really experience a city, you should stay in a few different areas upon your visit there. So in June 2018, I booked my stay in LA to encompass just that; from Culver City, Beverley Hills, Downtown LA, Manhattan Beach & Orange County, the palm tree life was mine.
We had only got to scratch the surface in Santa Barbara, but we had planned 2.5 weeks worth to explore Los Angeles to the max. We split our visit to LA into 3 parts:
  • Santa Monica, Malibu, Hollywood
  • Beverley Hills, Melrose, West Hollywood, Universal City
  • Orange County
The Basics
When? Late June – early July 2018
Where? During our first leg of LA we explored Santa Monica, Malibu, Rodeo Drive and Universal City
Accommodation? Airbnb in Culver City – surrounded by several famous music studios like Sony
Food? Drink? Craftsman, Chez Jay, Jimmy’s Tavern
To do? Beaches, Surfing, Santa Monica Pier, Universal City
Day 1 in Los Angeles (oh what a day it was!)

On day 16 of our trip we arrived in Culver City, a neighbouring town to Santa Monica. Our Airbnb host greeted us along with her 2 deceivingly friendly German Shepherd mix breed dogs, along with her mischievous cat, Oscar.  We dropped off our bags and were given a quick tour of our new home of the next few days, including being shown how to unlock the sometimes stiff door. The weather had been pretty mild up until this point, so we were excited to go out to Santa Monica Beach to finally enjoy some sun. Our host kindly offered us some complimentary beach towels and a Coke to cool us down in the heat, which we sipped in delight. Californian friendliness had been serving us well. After moving from place to place, we really appreciated the simple pleasure of kicking back on Santa Monica beach for a few hours. As we sunbathed, swam and splashed each other in the sea like kids who had discovered the water for the first time, we could finally relate to this meaning of “Californian lifestyle”.

Later that afternoon, we had a right giggle as some fellow nearby sunbathers mistook me to be Yamlin. A name I hadn’t personally heard of before, but Yamlin’s loved one had dedicated a proposal message to them in the sky, written on a banner pulled by a small plane.  Soon after their excitement (and our own humour) passed, my boyfriend and I gave into the local tourist trap bars and had a drink at Ma’Kai. Although a mediocre bar, it did boast fairly scenic views of the ocean and for us, that was enough. Next we discovered Craftsman, which I would highly recommend! Here we enjoyed some Happy Hour drinks and Tater Tots that were tasty, cheap and cheerful – a budget traveller’s dream!

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Me in Santa Monica, June 2018

Upon returning to our Airbnb, we heard the dogs barking, signalling our arrival. “They are guard dogs after all, it’s perfectly normal” my boyfriend assured me with a kind nod. I used to be petrified of dogs up until a few years ago, a fear I had mostly conquered, but the harsh and loud bark on these dogs made my heart skip a beat. Our kind hosts calmed them down and once the dogs saw us and were reminded that we were friends, they soon retreated back to their shy personalities. After showering the sand out of my hair, we decided to make the most of our first night in Los Angeles. Lost on where to go for dinner and with the time getting rather late, we succumbed to trying our first American McDonald’s. Opting for convenience, we bought it from the nearest Maccy D’s we could find. Unfortunately the hype of trying the chain in the States, didn’t live up to the name. It also certainly did not come close to the In ‘n’ Out Burger we had experienced in San Francisco!

Nonetheless, the quick bite to eat did the trick. Next we bought a round of beers at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, a nearby casual and cozy bar. Here we got to chatting with a guy from San Diego and the barmaid whom recommended Chez Jay to us, – a supposed must see in LA where you may also bump into someone famous. We took on the suggestion and decided to go there next, only to be met with a relatively hostile ‘welcome’, a shabby chic/rustic (dirty) floor covered in peanuts and rude service. Just as we were about to leave, our new friends from the bar walked in and the night turned around. Sharing more drinks, good conversation and feeling very merry – before we knew it, it was suddenly closing time. We had a jolly chat to our Uber driver on the way home and in all the fun after a few beers in, we had completely forgotten about the “sometimes stiff” door lock we had been shown to use earlier that day. Not being able to open the door quick enough, the dogs sensed our hesitancy and their barking got louder, causing us to actually fear when we would eventually have to set foot inside the house. I began imagining a replay of that scene in “The Father of the Bride’ where the rottweilers show Steve Martin who is boss. What was the Dog Whisperer’s trick I thought to myself?! Moments later, although at 3am in the dark it felt like a lifetime, the hosts quite literally jumped to our rescue, appeasing their dogs in the process. We soon sobered up very quickly as we met the wife’s husband for the first time; whom very angrily and embarrassingly opened the door to us in his underwear. Now stone cold sober, I quietly tucked myself in to bed. My boyfriend and I dared not make any more noise, nor say another word to each other, instead clearly sharing the same thought, “This was Day 1. How on earth would we survive Day 2?”

If you enjoyed this snippet of my Californian Travel Diaries, you should read:

The California Travel Diaries: Welcome to San Francisco

The California Travel Diaries: Sonoma and Napa

The California Travel Diaries: Yosemite

The California Travel Diaries: Monterey to Big Sur

The California Travel Diaries: SLO

The California Travel Diaries: Solvang to Santa Barbara

The California Travel Diaries|San Francisco, Day 1

Welcome back to The California Travel Diaries: San Francisco! This was the first stop on my Californian Summer Road Trip that I went on in June 2018. I had so much to tell you about in my previous post that I decided to split it up for fear of you going cross-eyed from reading too much. So check out my first post to understand the basics of how I planned this stop and continue reading below for my itinerary!

Day 1

We arrived around 1pm in San Francisco and luckily checked into the air b-n-b early to drop off our bags and begin exploring! We were itching to go and discover San Francisco and decided to start off nearby to where we were staying. We were based very near to Golden Gate Park which is full of museums and trails. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to dive into this as we were only in San Fran for a limited amount of time. I can’t personally recommend anything specific there but I have heard it’s a lot of fun! Instead we decided to take a short wander along the edge of the park leading us to Ocean Beach Fire Pits. Prior to this trip my experience of beach life included the English seaside, where you eat fish and chips and wander along pebble beaches braving only to dip your toes in. You would be mad to strip down and go for a swim (prior to the crazy England Summer heatwave!) Or I’ve experienced beach days in the likes of Cyprus and Spain where your pale British self spends all year waiting for a week’s worth of Vitamin D. On this type of holiday you make memories on jet-skis, crazy watersports and fight for sunloungers at the hotel pool at 6am. If you are lucky you will get a tan at these beaches rather than a typical English sunburn at Brighton Beach (even though I love myself a bit of Brighton!)

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Me by Ocean Beach Fire Pits – June 2018

When we arrived at our first Californian beach a highlight reel of The OC played through my head…cliché I know. But before me suddenly “beach life” had a whole new meaning to my past experiences. It was a practically empty beach apart from a few fit runners and Californians walking by the ocean as the tide came in. To see a beach as beautiful as this one that also appeared so untouched was a sure change to what I knew. No tacky tourist shops and no McDonald’s in sight – it was simply serene… even if it was only a cool 18 degrees celsius. As I stood on the beach gazing upon the crashing waves, the cool breeze blew through my hair; so much so that I had to tie it up! Seeing a quiet but beautiful neighbourhood located only a stones throwaway to the beach suggested that the dream of having a good job and a nice place to live and good (albeit breezy) weather really can be a reality all at once. Back home in the U.K. despite many seaside towns having a relaxed but exciting charm about them, they tend to be a bit grittier in relation to the rest of the country. Job prospects are also often limited unless you are willing to travel and commute throughout the week to the big smoke that is London. This appears to be the very opposite for the affluent towns that surround the beaches in the Golden State. It was the first of many occasions on my trip I stated “I think we are moving here”. This first trip to the beach was also one of my happiest memories in California.

After a few excited squeals and celebratory jumps that we were in fact in California, we walked to Seals Rock. This is as exactly as it sounds- there are literally a bunch of seals chilling happily on a huge rock. This was such a novelty and something which we then found out was quite common to witness throughout California. I honestly never considered seals or sea lions as American creatures but more Australian for some reason. I think it’s because it felt like I was watching the live rendition of that scene in Finding Nemo where the seals are pushing each other off the rocks (and yes they do try to do that!) The Seal Rocks are also located by Camera Obscura, which you can pay to go into but I was happy enough just to take a photo of the (comically large) camera that dates back to 1946 and continue exploring.

Seal Rocks in the distance

Another shot of Seals Rock in the San Franciscan Sun- Those little black blobs are the infamous seals!

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The Camera Obscura in Lands End, San Francisco

We then continued to walk along onto Lands End and followed the Eagle Trail. As we were talking and walking along the trail, already expressing our love for the city amongst more runners (Californian’s do love their fitness) and dog walkers, all of a sudden there she was. Arising from the tall trees and winding trails, the hills beautifully framed The Golden Gate Bridge. This moment was another highlight throughout my whole trip as we did not intend to go and seek out “seeing” the Golden Gate Bridge until Day 2. We were stunned as it was an exceptionally clear afternoon and out of nowhere we got to see the iconic landmark of this city. There is something quite special about accidently stumbling upon such a renowned Californian landscape. It was also a bonus as we didn’t have to battle any crowds to get a decent shot either!

As we hiked along the trail the only downside was that we didn’t realise that despite the cool temperature of around 18-21 degrees Celsius, when mixed with the blowing winds, you can actually get wind burn! At this early stage of our travels we didn’t put on any SPF which resulted in burnt foreheads. It’s safe to say that I now look at my new cap that pays homage to the city in a whole new way.

Lands End

The view from Lands End on the Eagle Trail

After our days hiking and exploring this small area of San Francisco, our hungry tummy’s were keen to finally try some long awaited Mexican food. We found a local restaurant rated decently on Yelp (the American answer to TripAdvisor) called Tommy’s Mexican on 5929 Geary Blvd. We enjoyed a pitcher of margarita and two combo meals (we couldn’t decide). Here we also met a fellow Brit and his Californian friend who gave us our first taste (excuse the pun) of American friendliness. Overall we enjoyed a delicious dinner with the spiciest salsa I have ever tasted, but it was our most expensive meal throughout the whole trip. Nonetheless we were prepared that the prices would be higher here and that whole pitcher of margarita probably had something to do with it (woops)…

I also recommend that if you are in the area to stop at Simple Pleasures Café on 3434 Balboa St. It is a cute hipster café/bar where you can equally enjoy a nice beer or chai latte. It has a family vibe to it with photos of the local community proudly displayed and the service is very friendly. You can also bring along a book to read or your laptop to work on and you definitely won’t be out of place. For a large city like San Francisco, it’s nice to see that small run businesses like this are still doing well!

At the end of our first day in San Francisco I think it’s safe to say that love at first sight really does exist.

Thanks for reading!

Natalia x

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Life Update: I’m Going Travelling

The Californian Diaries: Welcome to San Francisco

The California Travel Diares: San Francisco, Day 2

The California Travel Diaries: San Francisco, Day 3

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