California road trip: Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and beach tips

We did not like Los Angeles at all. We found it so exhausting that we didn't even look at most of the "must see" sights and escaped straight to San Diego after two days. Nevertheless there are a few things we can recommend to you.

First of all, why did we find it so awful in LA?? The traffic! Oh my god, that was really the horror. We were constantly stuck in traffic. The city is huge and it takes forever to get anywhere. Just to get out of Los Angeles, we needed 4 hours (for 80 km). It was really incredible. That's why we left the car on our only sightseeing day and took the bus.

We were extremely disappointed by the famous Walk of Fame. It is dirty there, not really nice, full of homeless people and tourists. I really don't think that you have to see it once in your life. The Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars have been held since 2002, looks tiny when you stand right in front of it. But we already know this from the Sydney Opera House, which looks just as tiny in reality.

Getting there: Stop in Santa Barbara

From San Luis Obispo we first drove to Santa Barbara. The city is located about 137 km northwest of Los Angeles and is really super nice. Especially the wide beach is a dream. If you walk along the long jetty at the beach, you can see sea lions in the sea there again. No wonder that the rich live there.

On the way there we drove through the small town of Santa Maria. There is a small Mexican supermarket there, where we actually found exactly the tortilla press (for just 22 US dollars) that we wanted to buy since our Mexico vacation in November 2018. The salesman could hardly believe it when we happily explained to him that we really wanted to lug the heavy thing back to Germany.

In America, there are incredibly many ready-made tortillas in the supermarkets that are made of 100% cornmeal. So of course you don't need to buy a press there. In Germany, however, there are always these "fake tortillas" with 100 unnecessary ingredients. So we are now pressing our own🙂 .

Back to Santa Barbara: We parked for free near the harbor next to a baseball field. From there we walked along the promenade to the downtown area. It's really super clean and reminded me a bit of part of an amusement park – like everything is just a backdrop.

We spent the night for 80 US dollars in the Sandyland Reef Inn, which is about 15 km away. Near the motel there is a small taqueria in a grocery store that is fantastic.

Los Angeles

The next day we went along the coast, past Malibu to Los Angeles. My tip: As a passenger always keep your eyes on the sea. I could see dolphins.

Our first stop in L.A. was the Brentwood County Market. There I ate a super delicious falafel pita and an iced tea (including refill) for 16 US dollars. For Basti we had Chilaquiles (our favorite dish from Mexico). You can park in front of the market for two hours for free and go to the bathroom for free😉 . The small stores themselves are very expensive. There we only did window shopping.

After that we drove to a parking lot at the beach of Santa Monica. There we would have had to pay 14 US dollars (until 8 p.m.), but we were lucky and got a ticket from a nice couple for free.

At the beach there is a small amusement park with rides and stores that is wonderful for a relaxed stroll through. Unfortunately the cold wind kept us from swimming. We liked the downtown of Santa Monica very much.

Towards evening we checked in at the Friendship Inn Motel. It takes forever to drive there! The motel is located south of Hollywood and from our window we could actually see the famous Hollywood sign. Actually, I had planned to go directly to the lettering and go hiking in the Hollywood Hills, but we quickly abandoned this plan. The traffic was just too bad!

Near the motel we can recommend you the snack bar "Angry Chicken". There you get 10 chicken wings, a drink and a salad for 12 US dollars.

L.A.-Super Tour: Downtown, Walk of Fame, Warner Bros. Studio Tour

The next day, after a pretty sad breakfast (I quote from my notes: "Toast, weird packaged cake, cereal and bad coffee"), we headed to Downtown L.A. opened. And by bus. After arriving downtown, we strolled through a small market and ate some delicious corn pancakes with bean sauce.

In the district is also the Walt Disney Music Hall and the Grand Central Market, where there is u.a. fancy PB&J-sandwiches for 8 US dollars (I didn't want to eat them).

After we walked a little bit through Bunker Hill we took the subway to the Walk of Fame. By the way, one ride costs only 1,75 US Dollar.

You already know that we were very disappointed by the Walk of Fame. At least I was able to do a fist bump with Darth Vader and saw Johnny Depp's hand and foot prints.

With the bus we went on to our already in advance booked Warner Bros. Studio Tour. The tour lasts approx. three hours and really worth it.

You will learn interesting things (e.g. was in former times actually on or. shot right next to the actors!), see film sets and props and hold a real Oscar in your hand. If you like, you can have a cupcake and a coffee at the Central Perk Cafe at the end of the day.

But we rather walked to Chipotle and ate two huge burritos there. Maybe you can still remember my enthusiasm for this fast food chain. New York has the place right next to the Empire State Building and I loved the burritos there. But that was before Mexico. Meanwhile, I still think Chipotle's burritos are pretty darn good, but if you've ever been to Mexico, you'll taste the difference…

L.A.-Highlight: Griffith Observatory

We were both very excited about the observatory, from which we had an amazing view of the city. Ride there in the evening (before 9pm), park downstairs for free and then walk up the hill. It is worthwhile!

We were lucky and could even look through several telescopes into the stars. Students stood next to them and explained to everyone what they were looking at. That was really fascinating.

In the building you can see the 12 inch Zeiss telescope and learn a lot about the history of astronomy. It's really beautiful up there and definitely a must-do in Los Angeles.

Bike tour: From Venice Beach to Manhattan Beach

The famous Venice Beach. It probably won't surprise you: We did not find it really special. Too much "see and be seen", too many tourists. We went to the beach with our rental car and paid only 6 US dollars parking fee for the whole day. Afterwards we rented bikes for 25 US dollars per day and bike and rode along the whole boardwalk to Manhattan Beach (ca. 15 km one way).

We liked Manhatten Beach very much. There are many cute stores and small restaurants and it is much more relaxed than in Venice. We had a bite to eat at Uncle Bill's Pancakes. And with super delicious buttermilk pancakes and omelettes. If you are in the mood for bagels, Noah's Bagels is also a good place to eat.

Redondo Beach

When we were hiking in Yosemite National Park, we met a nice man who not only invited us to his place in Redondo Beach, but also raved to us about the little town.

First of all, we can highly recommend a breakfast at the Wildflower Cafe. I had an omelet with spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, avocado and cream cheese and banana walnut pancakes.

You can also get delicious coffee at The Boy and the Bear Coffee Roastery in Redondo Beach.

That's all we can say about Los Angeles. As I said: We made our escape pretty quickly. From L.A. It is actually not far to San Diego. But because the traffic in Los Angeles is simply disgusting, it took us forever to get out of the city. So plan enough time. San Diego is much more relaxed and we really liked it. Read more in the next post.

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