California Dreamin’

On 14 August 2015, it was our 5th wedding anniversary, so we decided to go back to where it all started: Los Angeles (yes we are a bit cheesy 😉 ). Since you don’t just pop over for the weekend, we decided to make it our main summer holiday, although it was wedged in between two England trips for weddings of friends who also decided to tie the knot 🙂

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Of course we dressed up for the wedding!

First of all, AirBnB is awesome. We got to stay in Venice, within walking distance of the beach, and at the first apartment we stayed at also had some bikes to our disposal. Since we got there on a Friday, Abbot Kinney’s First Fridays helped us stay awake 🙂

On Saturday, I was on a mission. As I had really enjoyed the surfboard I surfed in Portugal, I wanted to get a similar board myself. We went to a bunch of surf shops in Hermosa and Manhattan beach, but the boards there were all quite generic. Online I had found JK Surfboards, and they were selling the boards from a place called “The Swim Guy”, in Redondo beach. The place is not a surf shop, but it sells all the accessories and more for swimming. Luckily they still had a lovely blue soul carver and a leash in stock, so I was super stoked. Without Paul knowing, I had also snuck a wetsuit and towel in the car, so we could go straight to the beach. Luckily he could laugh about it and was happy to find some nice coffee while I tried out my new toy in the gentle Manhattan Beach waves 😉

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The rest of the week was a lot of relaxing for me during the day (Paul met up with a colleague a couple of days, since he’s not an academic anymore he has fewer holidays than I do). So I usually surfed in the morning and read a book and we got to hang around our favourite breakfast and lunch places and the beach of course. We also went to see Sheryl Crow and the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, to which we brought a picnic, as you do. The concert was great, even the short power outage couldn’t kill the party 🙂

On August 14, we started our little roadtrip. We first went to San Diego (with a little stop on the way in Laguna Beach). Paul had booked us this fabulous hotel with a rooftop pool. I <3 rooftop pools. Especially when they come with watermelon inflatables 🙂

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We had dinner at a Vietnamese place where we could sit outside, not very fancy, but very tasty. The next day we popped up to the rooftop and a bunch of photographers and stylists were preparing for a photoshoot there. It was a very hip place 🙂

After breakfast, we took a ferry to Coronado for the day. It’s a beach town with a fancy hotel. It was blazing hot, but I persuaded Paul to walk with me from the ferry harbour to the main hotel. We found some nice shops (also a really cool bookshop!) on the way, and enjoyed the beautiful beach in front of the Del Coronado hotel. Although I’m happy we weren’t staying there, resorts are just not my thing. In the evening, we went to the old town, for Mexican food with some of Paul’s colleagues, which was super fun, much better than the tacky old town in Albuquerque 😉

The next day, we first went for a surf together at La Jolla. We found a parking spot right by the beach, and we were there just before the tide messed up the waves, which was pretty awesome. After lunch it was time to go into the desert! We had initially wanted to go to Joshua tree, but it was simply too hot so we ‘only’ went to Palm Springs. Driving there is spectacular, the vistas are amazing and at some points on the way it’s just completely quiet. Probably because it’s so ridiculously hot, even crickets and birds take siestas.

Palm Springs is really wonderful. Paul had again found a super awesome hotel, called the Saguaro. All the rooms are built around the center courtyard which has a big pool. Of course I went for an evening swim, and the funky thing is that if you close your eyes you’d still think it’s daytime as it’s that hot. In town, a lot of the restaurants and shops have little water sprinkling systems to cool you down while you’re walking.  In the morning we took a yoga lesson, ate at a local diner which wasn’t that amazing and drove off again, this time to Santa Barbara (yes it was a proper roadtrip).

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In Santa Barbara, we stayed at an AirBnB again, this one was near Shoreline park, so we could go out for nice evening walks there (OK, I once miscalculated and our walk was a bit longer than intended). We also surfed some great waves at Leadbetter Beach.

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Besides hanging out in the super relaxed Santa Barbara city centre (with a great farmer’s market), we also took a day trip to Solvang and wine country. Solvang is a bizarre Danish-like village in the middle of nowhere, fun but not for too long. Then we went to Los Olivos which is very cute. I bought a nice book (about Glamping 😉 ) and we tasted (and bought) some wine.

On the way back to LA, we first stopped at Rincon, which is a famous surf spot, but it was flat as a pancake when we were there. We also had lunch in Malibu, but sadly the nice bookstore that used to be there was gone. Malibu is still great for people watching though 😉

We then spent another week in LA, hanging out with friends, going to awesome restaurants, having pizza with my old roommate, playing tennis, visiting the Getty etc. All the good stuff. One day we did a proper sightseeing tour. We first went to downtown LA to see the Bradbury building which we had heard about on the 99% invisible podcast. We then traipsed around downtown some more, visit the Last Bookstore and found some more fancy coffee places. We also couldn’t leave without going to the Standard Hotel and going for a dip in the rooftop pool 🙂

We then pulled out our Raymond Chandler map of Los Angeles. We went up to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses: Ennis House. Unfortunately it’s not open to the public, and it’s currently being renovated, but it was quite fun to drive around the Los Feliz area and gawk at the villas. On Sunset Blvd., we stopped at Musso & Frank Grill, which supposedly still looks like it did way back when. It was great to have a cocktail there, listen to the bartender and have a chat with the old couple sitting next to us at the bar who come there regularly :).

On our last day, a friend also took us out surfing on a quiet beach in Malibu. The kind where you need to crawl through some fences to get to. But we shared it with only a seal and later one SUP’er. A great way to end a great holiday!

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Roadtrippin’ in Florida

Paul grew up in Florida, and we’ve visited Pensacola a bunch of times now over the Christmas holidays, but I had never seen much more of Florida. Until now. And it’s huge, so I’ve only seen a small bit of it, but it was pretty awesome 🙂

After Christmas, we first drove to St. Petersburg (yes there is a St. Petersburg in Florida). It’s like a 7 hour drive, and that doesn’t even get you all the way to the other side of the state. But that’s fine. The main reason we went there is that it has the largest collection of Dalís outside Spain, but it turned out to be a really nice town. The centre is very walkable and they try to keep out the big chains, so there are lots of nice little boutiques and coffee places, which gives it such a different vibe from seeing the same chains again. So we had a nice dinner after we arrived, outside (because it’s Florida and the weather is nice 😉 ) and in the morning we found a nice tea & coffee place where we had breakfast before we went to the Dalí museum.

The museum is really epic. It’s a beautiful building and it has some amazing pieces. The temporary exhibition was Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso, bringing together two fabulous Spanish painters. Afterwards, we found a nice organic supermarket where we assembled a big salad, ate outside again (I could get used to that) and hopped into the car to go to Cocoa Beach, a little surf town on the Atlantic where we booked a cute AirBnB just steps away from the beach.

Cocoa Beach is an interesting place as it’s basically a long road with some houses on the sides wedged between a the Banana river and the Atlantic. We rented some boards and got to surf lots together (it was too small for the locals, but not for us). We had one of the best surf sessions ever on 30 December: it was just us, super mellow waves (a few party waves), the weather changed a bit, we had some sun, we had some rain, which also brought a rainbow, and we also saw some dolphins! So cool! Afterwards we refueled in town with some great food after which we decided to go to the Kennedy Space Center to see some space shuttles. It was pretty good, although I thought it was a bit nationalist which was unnecessary. Also, Paul and I would have liked a bit more in-depth information than what was on the little info boxes near the displays.

On the last day of the year, we went surfing again, super different from the day before, but still good to be out without gloves and boots and all that. We had a nice relaxed day around Cocoa Beach, and in the evening we took a little trip to Cape Canaveral, apparently that’s where it’s at. There were a few bars, some of which had people in them. We ended up at a fairly OK bar which had laid out a beach and had a redneck rapper name Bubba Sparxxx on the program. Never knew that such a thing existed, but the cocktails were decent and we got to dance 🙂

On 1 January, I first had a nice little New Year’s surf after which we drove to Orlando. We first shopped at an outlet mall, after which we went to have dinner at some friends. They have a smoker. I love pulled pork, it’s even better when it’s homemade!  We also went to Disney World, to the Magic Kingdom! Thankfully our friends knew the way and booked us a few fast passes so we didn’t have to wait too long at some of the rides. I was a bit surprised that it was so similar to Disneyland Paris, so I kind of felt that I had already seen it. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, I just didn’t expect it.

When we got back to Pensacola, we still had a few more days to enjoy the Florida sunshine before we headed back to cold and dark Amsterdam (although the winters have been pretty mild the past two years so it wasn’t too bad).