My California Road trip

One Summer, my husband Dirk and I went on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I do think you need to do a California Road trip once in your life! And if you do, you have to do it the right way.

Pacific coastline road trip

For a road trip along the pacific coastline of California you have to use highway 1, official name California State Route 1. This route stretches from just below Los Angeles in Orange County, all way up to Mendocino County, just above San Francisco. A road trip from North to South along this highway 1, will give you the best view of the ocean, but at some parts you are very close on the ridge of the beautiful cliffs. If you are not afraid of that, it's nice to start your road trip here. From LA to SF is also very beautiful (but you see the cars in the lane between yourself and the beach), Highway 1 has no alternative routes around Big Sur unfortunately.  So when a big forest fire was threatening the nature around Big Sur when we were there, we had to drive a long detour around Big Sur through the vineyards. So we haven't seen Big Sur, the place everyone wants to visit on a road trip. Although we did not see it, we don't feel like we missed anything because the whole trip was really beautiful.

2016-08 Roadtrip California 1

You can do the whole trip within a day, with 6 hours drive covering about 380+ miles, but I don't recommend it. We did it in 3 days, but I wish I did it in 4 or 5 days, there was so much to do and see!

Car rental

Renting a car in California is not as expensive, even in high season, as in some other places like New York City. If you reserve in time, you get an even better rate. You can only rent from LA at the airport LAX, but you can drop it off in the middle of San Francisco city center. We rented a standard car, but got upgraded to a small SUV. Some people like to drive this route in a typical American Ford Mustang. A convertible is a nice option too!

During our trip, we stopped many times to take pictures of cliffs, mountains, beach and the sea. So make sure you have enough time in your travel plans to take it easy along the way, and enjoy the beautiful views!

We stayed a few nights in LA with our friends Maruja and Ross who were getting married. This was a nice way to connect again with my best friend of 20+ years, her family and our mutual friends. We enjoyed LA and we feel like we explored every neighborhood really well. We loved walking around West-Hollywood, towards Melrose and Beverly Hills believe it or not. Some neighborhoods are really cute to explore, and are easy to walk, even though LA is known as being a city to drive.

wedding Maruja & Ross

Our itinerary of our California road trip:

Day 1:

  • 11am LAX Avis car rental: We rented a car at LAX. This is the only place in LA where you can rent a car to drive up north and leave it at another location. First of, we drove all around LA, the nice neighborhoods, Mulholland drive with the amazing view from the mountains looking down to LA, Beverly Hills, Bell Air, Hollywood.
  •  2 pm: We parked our car, and stopped at Gracias Madre for a delicious vegan brunch.
  • 4pm: We drove up North towards Santa Monica, Malibu. We stopped at a few lookouts for pictures. Onwards on Highway 1 we enjoyed looking at people on the beach having fun, the beach waves rolling onto the beach, and the beautiful mountains on our right.2016-08 Roadtrip California 3
  • 6.30pm: Within 2.5 hours we arrived in Santa Barbara, a little town with many cute restaurants and shops, I loved it here so much! We went to eat dinner at The Savoy Cafe, a cute family owned restaurant with a lot of organic, healthy and gluten-free options.  It was so good!
  • 7.30pm: We stayed at the La Quinta inn, which was 1 minute drive from the restaurant. It was cheap clean and fine, and we could park the car at the hotel. ( I had noticed a comment on Trip Advisor saying that the sound of the fridge in the room turning on and off was keeping a woman awake. Well, I was kept awake by it too, despite the comfortable bed, and nice large room.) We checked in and dropped our luggage in our room.
  • 8.30 pm: we walked from the hotel straight onto the Main Street in Santa Barbara. This is a really fun and alive street in the middle of Santa Barbara, that ends up at the beach and the pier. We walked all the way to the pier I loved how the homeless were creative to get money from people. They built games in the sand, so people could try to throw their coin on a certain target, which would activate something like music playing. This gave the people passing by a challenge too, and many were eager to try it out. The street had many fun little bars and restaurants. The vibe was really good!
  • 10pm bedtime!

Day 2:

  • 8.30 am: breakfast. The hotel had very simple breakfast. People could make their own waffles which looked cute, but we wanted something healthier. We went back to The Savoy Cafe for breakfast, and I ordered the Gluten-free Lemon french Toast, yum!2016-08 Savoy Cafe Glutenfree Toast 1
  • 9.30 am: Shopping! I had seen this cute vintage shop on Main Street, called Renaissance, and I wanted to check it out. There was a couch for Dirk to sit while he waited (sorry Dirk!) But we ended up having a great conversation with the sales person, and another customer.  They had so many amazing pieces. I bought a few (fake) pearl necklaces. Overall a great success! 
  • 12 noon: We stayed a bit too long at the vintage place so we had to rush to check out. And again, we went to Savoy for lunch, before we went on with our trip. I wish this place was close to where I live in NYC!
  • 3pm: Drive to Monterey. We first drove all around Santa Barbara to really get a good idea what this town is all about. Cute Spanish inspired houses with many red roofs, I really liked it! Unfortunately there were many forest fires in the time we were in California, so the highway 1 was closed off for days around Big Sur. We couldn't go there, so we took the detour route through the vineyards.2016-08 Roadtrip California 2
  • Sunset: We arrive at the Intercontinental hotel, which was on the water. our room was nice. Out of our room we could see the small swimming pool. We called it a night and ordered roomservice. We wanted to get a good night sleep.

Day 3:

  • 6.30 am. We were on the 4th floor, but we were woken up by loud noise and shaking of the ground. I thought we were experiencing an earthquake. I did not know what was going on, and it kept going for at least 1.5 hours. We called downstairs what was going on, and they would check. Later on it turned out some guests used the fitness area, which turned out to be on the 2nd floor. They were throwing weights around. The people below us must have heard and felt it much harder than we did. Also, the walls were paper thin, and I could hear the neighbor cough like she was in our room. When at breakfast we saw a seal in the water next to the hotel. The staff heard about our rough night and offered a free fruit plate. The town of Monterey is very much a fishermen's town, and I wish we could explore it more, but we did not have much time. We drove around though. (which is my favorite thing to do anyway).
  • 12.30pm: We had lunch at organic Tillie Gort's cafe, which was o.k. (UPDATE: after 49 years this place has now closed) The menu is very American, with a few organic and healthier options included. I wish we went to the Studio Cafe at Wave Street Studio, which have an organic salad bar. Oh well, next time!
  • 1.30pm: Driving to San Francisco. We could drive part of the highway 1 again, and enjoyed the views. We stopped at a cute coffee place that looked not great from the outside, but had the best gluten-free home-baked brownies! It was a gem, and I can't find the name anywhere on internet, but it was a little place stating "coffee house" on a sign that I believe was yellow.
  • 5.30pm: We arrived in San Francisco! Getting fuel and dropping of the car at Avis, and via Uber brought to our hotel.2016-08 San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge Lonneke Engel 2

We loved this little 3 day trip! We stayed a week in San Francisco and explored it like locals. Please check out my article on my Los Angeles Hotspots, and my Best of San Francisco!

Love, Lonneke

 

 

 

 


Los Angeles Hotspots

Los Angeles (L.A.), the City of Angels, is a city on the West Coast of the United States of America.  I have visited LA many times for work, and this time I took 3 weeks to explore it in-depth on my California Road trip! Although it looks like LA is really spread out, it is in fact an area called Los Angeles County that consists of multiple cities (88!) like Beverly Hills, West-Hollywood and Los Angeles itself.

Day 1: We flew with Delta and arrived in the afternoon in LA. A nice breeze and the Sun hitting my face, I knew this trip was going to be great! We stayed at the famous Sunset Tower Hotel on the famed Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. I have stayed at The Sunset Tower hotel before for work (when it was named the Argyle hotel) and I remember loving it. A long time ago it used to be an apartment building where people like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor used to live. There is so much history in this place, especially from the 40's and 50's, and you can still feel it when you are there. Besides that, it is the first building that was built with reinforced steel, which is nice to know when you are in an area that is known for earthquakes.

We got an upgrade! A corner room with great views of the hills and downtown LA. It had a little sitting area, and a separate bedroom. The bedroom overlooked a big dogrun, which was fun, but also a bit hard as we had just lost our beloved dog Vito. One great thing about this hotel is that they are pet-friendly. So next time we will bring our new dog with us! We stayed here for 2 weeks and felt very much at home. Breakfast is in a really nice setting, but it's not the best breakfast I have every had (I must say). Roomservice is decent though! There is a mini swimming pool, and enough beds to sunbathe. but due to the small area most people decline to go for a swim. It is nice to look at though! Overall, I would definitely come back for the service, the hospitality, the nice ambiance and the good feeling this hotel gives me.

Day 2: I took time to recover from the flight, and we explored the neighborhood a bit. Even though LA is made for driving, the area where the hotel was, was nice to walk around. We could go to Melrose, and walk to Beverly Hills. Along the way we found a Le Pain Quotidien, which is always a safe place to eat when you are on a trip. They have organic bread and salads with organic ingredients. We did our shopping at Trader Joe's in West Hollywood.

Day 3: The main reason for our visit to LA was that my best friend of 23 years - Maruja Retana - got married to her longtime love Ross Palmer! She arranged a multi-day wedding which was so much fun!

On our way to the rehearsal dinner from Sunset Tower Hotel:

Maruja and Ross got married on Santa Monica beach (oh yeah!). A super clean beach with white sand just like you remember from Baywatch. Definitely worth a visit. Afterwards they had rented a nice house in the Hollywood hills with a beautiful view, and the hottest pool I have ever been in. Maruja and Ross hired a pizza chef and he made amazing pizzas fresh for all the guests, and the best gluten- free pizza I have ever had! Of course the dessert was Krispy Creme donuts, as those 2 are obsessed with donuts! (of course my wedding gift included some donut inspired gifts as well)

Day 4: We had brunch at the pool house. All the guests enjoyed the Sun, the pool and we made good food. It was such a nice experience as many of our mutual friends flew over from the Netherlands. It was great to catch up with them!

 

Day 5: Dirk and I met up with Maruja, Ross and the guests who were still left and went on a hike in Griffith Park. We walked all the way up to the Griffith Park Observatory and we bought tickets to see a show in the building. It is part museum and part a Planetarium. First of all, the walk gave us gorgeous views of LA, you can even see the Hollywood Sign (that means it could be crossed of the to-do list), but the show itself was unexpected but very nice! We watched the show that told us more about the Universe.

Day 6: after Dirk and I went to stroll around the neighborhood, with of course a stop at Urth Caffé on Melrose. They have good organic food options, I especially like the tea selections. This time I ordered their huge (decaf) cappuccino!  My advice: All of LA goes here so go there early before it gets busy. Afterwards we visited Beverly Hills, the City Hall and the Hermes store.

Dirk has a membership with a gym with a location in LA, so he went to train there every day. I enjoyed writing and walking around the areas with Dirk. We tried to find places to eat, and asked everybody in LA their favorite restaurant, but everyone we asked had a difficult time answering that question. (If you ask someone in NYC, they come up with a list of restaurants that you can't even try all in 3 weeks time!) We found a few nice places, by googling on "organic and vegan".

Day 7: Of course we walked to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Besides that I thought it was very unimpressive, I considered it a Place of Hell with all the tourist traps and homeless people that we passed along the way.  That is also Los Angeles: You can walk from one nice , clean super rich area, and one block further you see homelessness everywhere.

Day 8: we ordered an Uber and he brought us to Downtown LA. I told Dirk: "I want to go everywhere but not Skid Row!" (an area with many homeless people living on the streets) We were dropped off in a seemingly normal business area of LA, walked by the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry.

Dirk is a photographer in his spare time, and loves to take pictures. He was on the hunt for cool looking buildings like that building. But this seemed more difficult in LA. (I guess we are a bit spoiled living in NYC.) We did see an awesome art instalation at the Museum of Contempory Art, made out of old airplanes:

Downtown LA looks a bit more poor and unclean, with a few hidden gems, like the Grand Central Market,  which is nice to visit when your are downtown LA. One of the food vendors in the Market is named Eggslut, they have all egglicious dishes for sale. (They just opened a location in NYC in the Chefs Club Counter.)

When we looked on a map we noticed that the Art District was not far. We are used to walking as we are from NYC, so we went to walk over there. When we walked one block, we noticed it started smelling like pee. The second block we saw many homeless people, looking at us like we are 2 tourists who are lost. We asked a Police Officer how to get from there to the Art District, and he urged us to wait there at the Police station and order an Uber. Supposedly we had landed on the beginning of Skid Row. The Uber driver took us around Skid Row. Definitely not an area where the 2 of us should walk around. It seems many people have lived like that for a long, long time. I wonder why no one is doing anything about it? It is so sad!

Tip: Even though LA is a place you need a car to get around, getting around in LA without owning a car is easy! On top of that we discovered that Uber/Lyft in LA were very cheap compared to NYC!

The moment we got out of Skid Row we immediately arrived in a super nice area called Downtown Art District. Here apartments are millions of dollars, and again there is an Urth Caffé in a super nice art deco building, and a valet parking for the Urth Cafe visitors. It doesn't seem many people walk over here. They all arrive by car. This area has many nice old industrial buildings that are converted into lofts, just like in NYC. You can also find a few young designer shops around here. This place is definitely upcoming.

We had decided we had seen enough of Downtown LA, and went back to the Sunset Tower Hotel.

Day 9: We decided to move from the Sunset Tower Hotel to the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. This is where all the boats are, and close to Venice Beach and Santa Monica. This way we can explore this area more.

The Ritz Carlton was nice because it had a lovely swimming pool I used every day. But the rooms were noisy, and it was definitely more of a fancy/luxury tourist hotel. I did like the restaurant a lot, for breakfast and dinner. The best part was that it was a nice walk from the hotel, along the Marina, to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is very much hippie and happening.

The vibe there is one of surf dudes and beach babes, most things are around Abbot Kinney Road and on the beach. Like the well-known outdoor Gym "Muscle Beach" . It's famous because of Arnold Schwarzenegger training there back in the day. There are enough vegan restaurants in this area, Like Cafe Gratitude. You can go to the toilet at any of the restrooms on the beach, but plan ahead as on busy days it is busy, and restaurants don't let you use the restroom if you are not eating there.

Day 10: I started the day with a swim, breakfast and off we went! Walking around the area. Maruja and Ross and some other guests who were still in LA joined us for lunch at Seed Kitchen in Venice Beach. it was a really cute vegan, macrobiotic restaurant but unfortunately they closed recently.

From Venice beach we walked to Santa Monica beach over the beach walk way. We walked on to the Santa Monica Pier with the fair, and watched the most beautiful Sunset. We walked into Santa Monica and had dinner at a small Sushi place which was pretty ok. It was such a nice end to our LA trip and say goodbye to the people we spent so much time with the past 2 weeks!

 

Day 11: I enjoyed a last day at the Ritz Carlton. Dirk worked a bit, and I packed our bags. We walked around Venice Beach at night, which was absolutely lovely. Especially the beach, and in alleys located between the cute houses, and the little canals.

The next day was going to be the start of our road trip!

Bye bye LA: It was good to finally really get to know you!

My tip for LA:

  • don't go for the tourist things (unless you go to Disneyland!)
  • It's nice to walk around West Hollywood towards Melrose and Beverly Hills.
  • Stay in Marina Del Rey as it is quiet, and you are close to Venice beach and Santa Monica.
  • Rent a car for a day to drive around, but mostly use Uber or Lyft.
  • There are a few good restaurants, but do some research yourself before you go.

You can read about the roadtrip and visit to San Francisco in my articles:

My California road trip, and My Best of San Francisco!

Love, Lonneke

 

 

 


Los Angeles hotspots: Restaurant Granville

Dear readers, I…am an adventurer (*dramatic voice*). Always have been, always will be. If I don’t explore new places in the world and collect unique experiences on a regular basis, I get extremely grumpy. Recently, I moved to Los Angeles, and wow… do I have a LOT of exploring to do. As a true foodie, the exploring is usually focused around food and / or drinks. Usually I’m pretty health conscious, but I make the occasional exception for something truly awesome (I don’t need to bring up my Nutella addiction right? Please don’t make me go there.)

So while I'm doing some very serious research, I would like to share my best finds with you! Why? Because I love talking about food in a really snobby way, and also it’s a fantastic excuse to visit more restaurants. Oh yeah, and of course it will help you guys find the best spots in town. Some of these are hidden gems, others are tried and true classics that have also gotten my stamp of approval (whatever that’s worth).

Granville Los Angeles
Granville entrance

We begin this little adventure with one of my absolute favs: Granville in Studio City

Granville Los Angeles Atmosphere
I love the ambiance at Granville!

Granville's Atmosphere

Big fan. Granville is the kind of place that exudes an immediate ‘feel good’ vibe as you walk in. Unassuming, but not…boring. Sophisticated, but not swanky. Crowded, but not loud. The kind of place that sets the perfect tone for amazing conversation. And drinking lots of red wine.

Granville's Service

Although I’ve been impressed with the service of most spots in LA (or I guess you could say the US in general), Granville goes the extra mile. The waiting staff make a point of really catering to your deepest, wildest desires (sorry, got slightly carried away there) culinary wishes, and giving you a VIP treatment. Truly adds great value to the overall dining experience!

Owner Jon Weiss and friend and I.

Granville's Quality of food

One word: Omigod. AMAZING. Owner Jon Weiss speaks with great pride when he describes how Granville makes a point of mainly using organic, fresh ingredients. The dishes are classy and simple, in the best possible way. We had a delicious beet salad and some sweet potato fries (apparently one of their staples) as a starter. As a main course, I ordered some grilled salmon with a surprisingly awesome corn salsa on top. Originally, this dish comes with a side of mashed potatoes, but, because I was planning on partying after dinner and didn’t wanna fall asleep mid-dance, they suggested to replace the potatoes with asparagus. Granville, you guys know me better than I know myself (*wipes a little tear away*)

Granville Los Angeles food 2
the Granville beet salad

 

Granville Los Angeles food
My main course

Granville's Best Feature

Listen, I'm not saying you need chocolate to have a good time. Alcohol is also an effective way to enjoy yourself. (...someday I'll develop a better sense of humor, I swear.) ANYWAYS, I wanted to be a good girl and stick to my sugarfree diet, but I totally surrendered. Oh well.

Not only did I fall in love with their home made ice cream trio dessert (which everyone should put very high on their bucket list), I also joked to the waiter about my alarmingly severe Nutella addiction. He responded with: “I can make you a Nutella latte..?” And guess what happened? HE MADE ME A NUTELLA LATTE! (sorry, it was so good I forgot to take a picture)

Granville, y’all. Go check it out, you won’t regret it.

http://www.granvillecafe.com/home

https://www.facebook.com/GranvilleStudioCity

12345 Ventura Boulevard

Studio City, 91604

Love,

Maruja Retana

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