San Francisco and Los Angeles – do’s and don’t s

A final wrap up post with the very last photos of San Francisco.

No further comment needed, this is indeed a very cute dog!

I had plans to both visit cinemas in LA and San Francisco, but the weather has been so marvelous that I better liked to be outside. I also found the cinemas in LA a bit too touristy. The Elwood cinema in Berkeley however looked so wonderful that I simply had to check it out.

And on my very last morning I had the choice between trying to get on a cable car or saying goodbye to the seals. Well that was not a hard choice, who needs cable cars!

Here are a couple more photos.

Things I liked in LA:

  • Santa Monica: both the beach and the 3rd Street promenade for shopping.
  • Renting a bike and cycling the Los Angeles beach bike path
  • Hollywood boulevard (for a short time)
  • Very friendly people all around

Things I did not like so much about LA:

  • the distances between the different parts of the city, LA is huge. If you don’t have a car, prepare to spent a lot of time on public transport. (I have to say that taking a bus was cheap, $1.25 for a bus ride, no matter how long! And downtown at the subway stations you could buy a day travel card for $5).
  • the lack of a centre (like in Santa Monica)
  • it is pretty hot in LA. Which is OK if you want to lie flat on the beach all the time. If you want to see things around in the city it can be a struggle in the heat.

Things I liked in San Francisco:

  • The whale watching trip. I hoped to see one whale, but ended up seeing 64. An unforgettable experience, which I recommend you to do if you are in the area. I went with them.
  • The bike the bridge bike ride. It is totally cool to cycle of the Golden Gate Bridge, the view is amazing and on the other side of the bridge you can visit Sausalito which is a very nice and cosy town. I rented my bike here.
  • Take ride on one of the beautiful vintage streetcars. Also – get yourself a Muni passport, so you can travel around cheaply on all forms of transport (including cable cars – if you manage to get on them!).
  • Have an ice cream at Ghirardelli or at the Cold Stone creamery
  • The seals, the beach, I even liked the fog!

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like in San Francisco.

And if you have the patience I can highly recommend you the train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco on the Coast Starlight. The price for a seat (which lots of legroom) to SF was $52 and the views along the coast were fantastic. If you have more time you can continue to Seattle on this train.

It’s back in London now, where the weather is still perfect and where I had a lovely bicycle ride into work. And I am not complaining, in about 53 days I am off to New York to see a thing or two. Like, on stage. Phew, I like the poster! Let it rain!

Los Angeles day 3

I spent my last day in Los Angeles preparing for my train trip tomorrow. I visited Los Angeles Union station to pick up my Amtrak ticket. Union Station must be one of the most beautiful stations I have ever seen, it is really classic and in beautiful art deco style.

I hope all goes well and that I make it on the train in time tomorrow, the Coast
Starlight train leaves at 10am (and there is only one of these trains a day) and will deliver me in San Francisco about 11 hours later.

There are some photos (not too interesting, as I haven’t done that much new today but expect Union station and Santa Monica beach) on either Picasa here or if you’d rather have them on Facebook, here they are.

Did I like LA? Well yes and no. I love the beaches, and I quite liked Santa Monica, which I have returned to every afternoon. I think Venice Beach is a bit trashy and messy but generally the beaches are fantastic, and on a lot of places they are very empty. The weather has been fantastic too which was great. It was fun to see Hollywood boulevard, but I am not too big a fan of Downtown LA. Maybe I haven’t found the right streets, but it seemed without atmosphere.

I will miss my afternoons in Santa Monica (I have been a real tourist and even bought a Santa Monica zip hoody sweater, I know, I’ll control myself better next time), but I am sure that San Francisco will have beaches too. I can’t wait to see what things look like over there.

Los Angeles Day 2

If you are ever in Los Angeles and the weather is nice, you have to rent a bicycle and cycle a part of the (very flat and car free) coastal cycle path. It is such a thrill to cycle on a path away from traffic and going straight through the beach sand. Very recommended!

I have not much more to add than that I had another great day in LA (sun + sea + beach – how could it not be a great day!) and here are the photos (more text in the captions)

Los Angeles – day 2

Oh and I had dinner (outside) at Tito’s Tacos. It’s on the opposite side of my hotel, and I spotted a queue there every evening, so I decided to give it a go. It’s a very authentic Mexican place, and lesson learned – if there is a long queue of local people – it is good!

Los Angeles Day 1

Here are the photos: Los Angeles Day 1)

Ten things I did in Los Angeles on day 1:

  • I had a great pancake breakfast in the Metro Cafe. This lovely cafe is only 50m from my hotel and has the exact right cafe atmosphere.
  • I ran into a huge film shoot in downtown LA. A complete street was blocked, they had incredibly huge cranes, and there were 4 huge catering trucks standing there to make food for cast and crew. This is LA film making in a nutshell. And this is where film making money is. They warned us for fake bullet shootings.
  • I had a lovely veggie flatbread pizza on Hollywood Boulevard. Thought it would be insanely expensive, but $8.40 for pizza and drink is cheap for a Londoner.
  • I also saw the famous Walk of Fame stood on Kevin, Jack and Ingrid. It is very touristy but I actually quite liked it.
  • I noticed you can get any Oscar you want as long as you pay.
  • I drove on the LA subway and discovered the coolest subway station ever.
  • I realised how big LA is. And with BIG. Things are very far apart, if you don’t have a car expect to spent time on public transport. Public transport in LA is looked down on, you would never see a business man on the bus in LA, unlike London where public transport is used by all kinds of people.
  • I also drove on the longest public transport bus in the US. They are not bendy busses but just very long, and the good thing is – they are airconditioned. And they take bikes, on a frame on front of the bus.
  • And the thing that made the day unforgettable: I saw three dolphins! They were playing around in Santa Monica bay. They were a bit away so I didn’t catch them on photo, but I have good hopes I will see more of them when going on my whale watching trip in San Francisco.

(Note: the photos are as they are, no post processing – I don’t have time for it!)

Am off for breakfast now, today’s activity – cycling!

USA Holiday preparation

There are only seven days until my departure to the USA, so a good time today to do any last minute holiday shopping on Amazon.

I ordered the following neccesary items:

  • SanDisk 4GB SDHC Secure Digital Card. Something tells me that I am going to take a lot of photos, and with both an 8MP and a 10MP camera, the file size of the photos will be large. I don’t want to take the risk of running out of cards, so I ordered another 4GB. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Lowepro Apex 20AW Digital Camera Pouch – Arctic Blue. A small more protective pouch for my Panasonic DMC-TZ4 pocket camera. Somehow I managed to get this for Β£7.49 from Amazon including postage, but it doesn’t show up for that price anymore now. I guess I was lucky!
  • A cute luggage tag and a lock. Yes ok they have hearts on them. But I liked them, and they will make my suitcase even more recognizable when it arrives at LAX airport.
  • Noise Cancelling Foldable Headphones
    It is going to be a long flight from London to LA, estimated flying time is 11 hrs 5 min, distance: 8758 km / 5442 miles. Wow!

    I have done a long flight like this before, from Beijing to London so I kind of know what to expect, but it is a long time. Good thing that BA has entertainment on demand in their aircrafts. And just to be able to hear the movies properly or listening to the onboard radio, and to keep some of the airplane noise out of my ears – noise cancelling headphones seemed handy.

    BA has taken The Boat That Rocked from their schedule again though, which is hugely disappoiinting. But they do show a Bill film: Notes on a Scandal, and they show other favourites like The Proposal. And there are actually some films on the list that I haven’t seen: The Knowing and The Hangover for example. I think time will fly. Literally.

  • The Boat That Rocked [DVD] [2009]. Yes what can I say, if BA doesn’t want to show it, I have to buy the DVD. For the extra material alone. Please, please let there be more material showing Bill Nighy dancing on Rolling Stones music.

I will now make a map of the locations of my hotels, and the things I would like to see. And write a long list of things I want to do, and plot them on the map too.

I bought two guides: Los Angeles (DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide) for LA, and San Francisco and Northern California (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide).

So I am already having a lot of fun finding out what to do and see in both places.

Of course I am also keeping a close eye on the wild fires in the California, and especially Los Angeles but it looks like things are getting under control. Which is good for the people who live there, but also for me as a visitor.

If there is anything I absolutely should not forget to bring with me, let me know!