Travel // LA City Guide {California Part One}

January 23, 2019

Hello from California! We're almost two weeks into this dream trip and it's going SO quickly. I think, after some of your messages on Instagram, that I'm going to write a post about our itinerary and how we planned this road trip - although this one is slightly different to ones we've done out in Cali in the past as we felt like we'd done all of the touristy spots before. So this time just wanted more of a true Californian, almost living, experience and to base ourselves in a few places for a longer period of time to just soak them up properly rather than rushing from attraction to attraction or trying to see it all. We LOVE California so much and it seemed like the perfect spot to escape Winter for a few weeks and soak up some much needed vitamin D, use our airmiles easily and for maximum gain {again, more on that in a separate post} and it also had something to do with my husband's love for NFL and the Superbowl out here! Anyway, for today I'd love to share a guide to our first week which was spent in LA. 

I'll share our full travelogue below with a million photos, if you'd like to see. But in short;

// Where to Stay;
We based ourselves in Venice for our 6 nights in LA. We flew into San Diego, partly because LAX is just SO crazy and San Diego is a total breeze for getting through security/picking up a car without queues as we'd learned on previous trips, but it does mean driving for 2 hours when you've just landed. Which we didn't mind, the roads are super easy out here but had we flown into LAX, it's literally right next door to Venice. We chose Venice as wanted to be near the beach during our time in LA, there were great airbnb choices and it's a nice neighbourhood to walk around in the mornings/evenings, calm and close to Santa Monica giving us easy access to the city and coastal spots like Malibu. We'd 100% stay in this area again, it was just the coolest place. The streets were beautiful and the housing amazing - almost Australian? Great food spots around here too. We stayed in this airbnb and it was one of the best we've ever stayed in {for £25 off  your first Airbnb visit anywhere around the world you can sign up using this link}. 

Around Venice;
// E A T - Superba Food & Bread, the best cakes/pastries/breakfast to eat in or go
- Gjelina, everyone went mad for this place and for good reason, it was at the end of our street and we had to stop ourselves going more than once. Delicious pizza, salads and breakfast. Take away counter next door to the cosy restaurant.
- Gjusta is the sister version of Gjelina, more like a bakery/deli with great breakfast options.
- Salt & Straw ice cream - A MUST on Abbot Kinney although expect to queue out the door at busy times. Portland based ice cream shop that everyone's going mad for in LA. We actually loved the vegan flavours as much as the regular, I think we went over 3 times!
- Gjusta - sister to Gjelina, amazing deli.
- Felix Italian - make reservations for this popular, vibey Italian restaurant. We didn't actually have a spare night to eat here in the end but the pasta looked incredible. 
- Cafe Gratitude was recommended but we didn't get to try this.
- The Butcher's Daughter - We loved this place in NYC and were excited to see this gorgeous branch in LA but we ran out of meals to go there. Definitely recommend though.
- Make sure you take a trip into Erewhon supermarket, it's just another world. I was obsessed. Like Wholefoods but on steroids and for the elite.
- Technically in Santa Monica but Blue Plate Tacos are not to be missed. LOVED this place and it's overlooking the ocean.

// T O  D O - Walk/shop/eat on Abbott Kinney. GQ named this as America's coolest block and it's not hard to see why. Just the most on trend place ever. Everything from beautiful stationery shops to MedMen {the apple store of Cannabis, google it!} to Aesop to dreamy lifestyle stores to the original Toms shop to a million eating places. Just the best street. We loved being in this area with this at the centre.
- Watch the sunset at Venice Beach {although the vibe is quite different here with sadly lots of homeless. We never felt unsafe but just be aware I guess}. Incredible sunsets though and those classic Cali beach scenes with the lifeguard huts.
- Walk around the Venice canals. Did you ever see the film Valentine's Day? Reminded me of that. Gorgeous little area with houses right on the canals, created by Abbott Kinney.
- Cycle the boardwalk to Santa Monica. Their farmers market on a Wednesday and at weekends is known to be one of the best in LA and there are so many restaurants and shops around here. Plus the famous pier with the end of Route 66. 
- Just wander the streets and look at all the cool architecture around this area. We especially liked the walking only streets. 
- Don't miss the General Store, opposite Superba Bread, and Burro as two favourite lifestyle stores.

// LA itself; aside from my husband getting the Expo line train from Santa Monica into LA for a Rams NFL game, we drove everytime into LA from Venice. The traffic wasn't nearly as bad as we expected/had heard {I think it helped we were up early with jetlag so drove in early most days or mid morning so avoided the late afternoon/evening rush hours} but we even found free parking everytime too. It really is a car dominated city. Uber is super cheap out there though and we used Pool rides a couple of times around LA or Venice/Santa Monica when we'd walked our socks off.

// E A T - Milk Bar, our favourite dessert place from NYC has just opened up here! On the trendy Melrose Avenue. Their cereal milk softserve is a must, along with the cornflake cookie. Others are obsessed with crack pie/birthday cake truffles. You won't regret it.
- Jon & Vinny's - Book in advance or phone up/order online to go like we did. Insane pizza but the rest of the menu looked amazing too and this place has a cult like following among those in the know.
- Pizzeria Mozza - We watched a Netflix show about Nancy Silverton's LA pizza dough so had to try it. It was good, but not our favourite. But again this place is really well known.
- Urth Cafe
- We actually cooked in a lot in Venice so don't have tonnes of restaurant recommendations but the city is FULL of restaurants with everything you could imagine.

// T O  D O - 
LA is split into lots of different neighbourhoods. It's actually a huge city. I felt a little overwhelmed when trying to plan it all but as usual, once you're there and get your bearings and realise that it all overlaps, it's easy to get between everything, especially when driving. We'd also heard really bad things from everyone about not liking LA/feeling unsafe. I think it's really dependent on where you go and what you do. We skipped the touristy areas like Hollywood itself which unfortunately are where there can be muggings/homeless around, and never felt at all unsafe and genuinely loved all the beautiful areas we visited.
- Griffith Observatory, for famous views across the city a la La La Land.
- The Getty Centre, again dreamy views and an art gallery. There's both the centre and villa.
- Mulholland Drive, drive this famous road that winds down into LA over the hills for the best views right across the city. Scenic view spots that you can pull into.
- See the Hollywood Sign. There's a great, close view from the Lake Hollywood Dog Park and for the classic palm tree street view, head to Windsor Boulevard between 4th and 5th. Insane houses around here.
- Wander Melrose Avenue for shopping along with some cool Insta famous walls, like that Paul Smith pink wall.
- Shop at The Grove. LA's famous, and lovely outdoor mall. 
- Next door is the Farmer's Market which has lots of food stalls. We've been here on previous trips so didn't visit this time.
- Wander around Larchmont village. An adorable neighbourhood right in the city but feels like a village. We went on a Sunday for the Farmer's Market and love the vibe around here.
- Drive through Beverly Hills and Bel Air. It has to be done.
- We loved Soho House West Hollywood for the views, food and cool video booth. You're almost guaranteed to see some pretty famous people here too, although I can't name names!
- DTLA {downtown LA} is home to The Broad, LA's coolest contemporary art gallery. It's free entry but you need to reserve tickets in advance, up to a month in advance, or queue in the stand by line like we did about 30 mins before it opens. We managed to see the Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Exhibit here too, by registering our name on the list as soon as we got in, which was incredible. A must visit.
- Downtown LA itself is really cool too and there's Grand Central Market across the street from the Broad which is worth visiting.
- The neighbourhoods of Silver Lake and Echo Park are really hip/up and coming. Some cool shops and restaurants around here around Sunset Boulevard. I loved the stationery shops and the look of the brunch spots. We walked through here and through Echo Park {with cool views of DTLA through the palm trees and across the lake} on our way to The Broad and then uber-ed back.
- There are so many typical Hollywood touristy bits to do too like take a Studio Tour or visit Universal or see the Hollywood Oscars Theatre/the hands in the floor but we've done this on previous trips and wanted a more classic, non touristy LA experience this time.
- If we hadn't had so much rain, we would have gone to Pasadena for the Huntington Botanical Gardens
- And if we'd have had more room in our cases, I would have loved to have visited the famous Rose Bowl flea market! 
- Go for a hike. SO LA. Either around Runyon Canyon or Griffith Park. although again, it was too rainy whilst we were there for this.

// M A L I B U - 
E A T : Malibu Farm, both their cafe and restaurant are on the pier and are all organic. It's such a beautiful setting right on the water, the cafe is more relaxed and opened all day including breakfast whereas the restaurant is more for weekends or lunch/dinner in the week. Both were HIGH on our list until we ran out of time and discovered we could get into Little Beach House Malibu instead so chose that over them in the end but they came highly recommended.
- Nobu Malibu. With the stars, rightttt on the beach. 
- Duke's Malibu, we love Duke's and have visited in Southern California and Hawaii before. Didn't get a chance to eat at this one but it looked gorgeous.
- Neptune's Net came highly recommended for seafood and a relaxed setting.

T O  D O : 
- El Matador State Beach
- Lechuza Beach Malibu
- Zuma Beach in Malibu
- Malibu Country Mart. Gorgeous outdoor shopping centre with a mix of shops.
- The classic Surfrider beach which has the pier and if you walk to the left of the pier {looking at the ocean} for a mile or so, you'll reach incredible houses built over the ocean. You can see them as long as you stick to the shoreline. 

So we arrived into San Diego, after flying first class }something we would never pay for but thanks to Airmiles and my husband's tricks, it made for the best flight ever!!} and picked up a rental car before driving 2 hours north to Venice. We were exhausted by this point, with the long flight and time difference but it was all of course, so worth it. 

Jet lag on the West Coast means that we're always awake around 4am! Luckily the supermarkets open really early here, 5am even on a Sunday! So we stocked up on breakfast supplies before it got light and we could explore.

Frozen wholewheat waffles are always an American favourite of ours. Why don't they sell them in England yet?! 

It was actually raining on our first morning in LA, we got SO unlucky with the rain storms. It's rare that they have one day of rain, yet we had a week of 5 different storms! It wasn't raining all the time, and it was still warm, coming from England we're of course used to rain but the Angelenos said they'd never experienced anything like this before! We still made the most of it, getting out whilst it was dry and cosying up in the Airbnb with great on demand catch up {we binge watched Season 3 of This is Us!}. It also made me rest up, which after a scary hospital scare, more on that later, was in hindsight needed. 

We explored the neighbourhood, walking the pretty Venice canals {above} and famous Abbott Kinney. 

Ben had booked an NFL game for that first Saturday afternoon, the Rams were playing at home in a play-off game, so we went for lunch in Santa Monica before he got the Expo line into the city and I uber-ed back to Venice for the afternoon. By this time, the sun had come out and this is what we had been dreaming of with those Californian blue skies!

Blue Plate Tacos was our first lunch spot and boy those fish tacos were delicious! Sat looking over the ocean. 

Baby bump or Taco bump?! It's been fun seeing it start to grow during this trip. 

Cue a million palm tree, blue sky photos! A theme of this whole trip as it turns out.

Santa Monica Pier is pretty touristy but there are good shops around the 'city' and the beach and boardwalk area is gorgeous. Classic Cali with those lifeguard huts too.

Back in Venice, I wandered the shops I had wanted to visit, the kind that my husband wouldn't really appreciate, and he had a great time at the football. I picked up dinner from Wholefoods and took the bump to watch the sunset on the beach. 

A couple more photos of the Airbnb.

Our street. Palm tree heaven.

SO many beautiful streets to wander in Venice, and there was just so much colour and greenery compared to the desolate England we'd left at home. Lemons growing on trees, bright pink bougainvillea, palms and banana leafs everywhere. 

Fab shops too. I wanted to buy everything! Especially the baby bits.

Scenes from around Abbott Kinney above.

The sunsets at Venice Beach draw big crowds every evening. I don't think you can beat a West Coast sunset.

The queue at Salt & Straw was worth it! We went back three times that week, it was dangerous having it literally at the bottom of the street we were staying on.

The next day, Sunday, looked to be one of the best weather wise so we made the most of it and drove early into the city to tick off some of the sights we wanted to see.

Driving into LA at sunrise <3.

I say that we skipped most of the tourist bits, but the Hollywood sign was still pretty magical to me. With the city being so quiet on a Sunday morning, we drove around all the best spots {listed above} to catch the best glimpses of it. So iconic. 

Insane houses too, just like you'd see in a movie/tv series.

That morning was one I'll remember for a long, long time I hope. Such a buzz seeing it and the city that I've seen on TV so much/across so many social media accounts that I follow. We were really here!

The view over the Hollywood Bowl from Mulholland Drive.

Next, we parked up and walked to Melrose Avenue for the morning, passing tropical like streets on the way. It was the first time we'd felt properly warm sunshine, and been under those blue skies, in months so I think I said to Ben about 30 times 'isn't this just the best' as we were walking there. Nothing beats warm sunshine.

How is this January? These Angelenos are so lucky.

An Insta-wall tour of LA...

This Paul Smith wall normally has security and a man making sure you don't use SLR cameras for shoots! I guess they get a lot of visitors. Being a Sunday morning, again, there was no queue but I think it's in high demand. Ha, this Insta generation - of course which I'm a part of! But it is funny when you think about it.

With the bright pink backdrop against my outfit, I figured it would be a good time to take a first proper bump photo! Hello little bump...

Starving from being up so early and walking so much already, we knew exactly where to go for lunch. Our first In-n-Out burger of the trip, a West Coast favourite. Side note - during our first ever trip to California, I think in 2008?, I saw In n Out as we were driving and used to think it was a poor copy of McDonalds using the same colours. BUT then I heard more about it and it's the place where even the A-listers go after the Oscars for example, it's just the burger place in California. Of course, once we tried it, we were hooked and have loved it ever since. I just think of all the times I missed out before I discovered it! You should look up the secret menu before visiting, we've realised that the 3 x 3 cheeseburger makes for the best ratio. And Ben always orders their animal fries.

Raising this baby on Cheeseburgers... SO DAMN GOOD. 

I'd been dying to visit Milk Bar ever since we discovered it in NYC a couple of years back, so I was so happy to discover one had opened in LA a few months earlier. If you haven't tried the Cereal Milk Soft Serve then you HAVE to!

Loved the LA location with the cool food truck too.

The irony!

We drove over to Larchmont Village, a spot that had been recommended to us by a friend of a friend Rebecca who used to live here. It's like a village within central LA, you can see the Hollywood sign on the hills from here, and we loved the vibe. As it was Sunday, the farmer's market was on and the high street {I guess they don't call them high streets out here!} had such a lovely buzz and cool shops. I definitely recommend a stop off here if you're in the city, there's another Salt & Straw here and some good looking coffee shops. Again, wandering or driving some of the streets with dream houses around here is worthwhile if you're property geeks like we are.

Classic Cali. I'm saying that a lot right now but these berries and the farmer's market have always been one of my favourite, and symbolic, things about visiting this state.

Such a treat in Winter to see all of these, mostly locally grown, berries and flowers.

Back in Venice, there are these scooters left on all the street corners, it's the new Uber trend {some are by Uber} for cheap rides around town! You see people whizzing down the streets on them. We didn't actually try them, as fun as they looked, as the roads were pretty bumpy and I didn't think it would be that sensible with a baby to protect!

Rao's pasta sauce. An American must buy for us when in the States. And having the Airbnb meant we could cook in which we love, especially when the supermarkets are so fab and with so much to choose from that you don't get at home. We've always liked Trader Joe's but realllly discovered on this trip just how amazing their food is, even the frozen stuff, so enjoyed having evenings in cooking dinner and watching good American TV!

Walking to the beach at sunset, is ALWAYS a good idea. <3

There were a couple of balmy evenings, before the rain came, where we loved just seeing the buzzy streets and walking out for sunsets/ice cream. That kinda holiday living. 

We still love to get our steps each day, so would walk around the neighbourhood each morning. One morning stopping off at Gjusta for a breakfast treat.

On a rainy day, we drove out to Target, probably our favourite shop to visit in America. I'd never noticed the huge amount of Valentine's decor and candy they have before, so up my street.

Only in America would you find 3 whole aisles dedicated to Valentine's specific candy.

Another morning, we drove into the city and parked around Silverlake {a neighbourhood I'd heard lots about so wanted to explore} and we realised it was the perfect spot to walk downtown through Echo Park to visit the Broad. Again, not a classic blue sky LA day but we managed to beat the rain that morning which felt like such an achievement with the crazy forecasts!

We got in line at the Broad before it opened, {with a PBJ sandwich like a school trip, haha I've been so hungry in this second trimester} and loved this art museum and DTLA area.

My husband and I used to have a membership to the Tate Modern when we lived in London, and used to go to art galleries a lot, it's something we rarely make time for these days so always feels kind of like a special date when we're away somewhere like this together. In fact, that was a huge part of what I've loved most on this trip so far, just having so much free time together, even if it was raining or whatever, I guess especially as I know that from the summer it's all going to change so we're making the most of this time just us 2 <3.

I only really like modern art galleries and this housed an impressive collection. Our favourite though was the Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Exhibit which we were so pleased to get a time slot for.

The idea is that you stand on a platform surrounded by mirrors and lights, which then create this magical lightshow that you can basically see into 'infinity' the way that it all moves in the mirrors around you. So cleverly done. You just get a 45 second slot in it but it's incredible.

On the way back to the car {with an Uber} we stopped at Magpie's Softserve in Silverlake, yummm.

And discovered some beautiful stationery shops, my favourite! - The Social Type was card heaven.

The next morning, Wednesday, we walked 3 miles each way up to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, one way along the beach, and the other along the road with the cool shops and restaurants en route. We'd heard it was the best farmer's market in the city and it didn't disappoint, giving so much inspiration for allotment growing next season.

My first spot of Spring ranunculus this season, a huge favourite of mine.

In hindsight, it was a really long walk and I came home feeling really achy from it - which then happened to be the day in which I had the pregnancy scare and bleeding when we got back. It was so hard knowing what to do, I messaged friends of friends who lived in the city as to where we should go for medical advice. But it seemed to settle down so we decided to drive into LA for pizza as planned, and see how it went.

We'd heard so much about both Pizzeria Mozza and Jon & Vinny's that we couldn't decide which pizza to try. In the end, we got take out from both to compare! It was a really rainy day so it was a pretty fun pizza pilgrimage drive into the city for something to do.

Jon & Vinny's won for us both, hands down. And I wish I could go back there to eat in the full restaurant! Milk Bar was just along the street so we went back to try one of their cookies this time, the famous cornflake cookie - which was probably one of the best I'll EVER eat and I've dreamt of it - and found the recipe online since. 

And then, a quick stop into Soho House West Hollywood to see what this house was like. It was incredible and there was a fun photo booth. But I was still feeling pretty anxious so we decided to get back. I then realised that being Rhesus Negative, with any slight bleed, I'd need to go to a hospital to get an injection of Anti D so that's how we spent our afternoon and evening! In the UCLA Santa Monica emergency room, having tests and scans and being told that I have placenta previa, hence the bleeding, and being given a shot of Anti D. The hospital care was amazing, and it was the best scan to date, I was just so relieved that they were ok and just kicking around in there. It was a scary time and then we got told that the bill would be 3600 dollars... luckily covered by our insurance but it really makes you realise just how incredible the NHS is and the fact that we have that free service back home.

I spent the next day resting up, on doctor's orders, with a short walk to Superba bakery for a mid-morning snack {the chocolate chip peanut butter banana bread was incredible if you're wondering} and it was the rainiest day of them all so made good sense to stay in before getting ready to maximise on the sunshine the next day.

The storms were gone, the sunshine was back, and the holiday felt like it could really begin after that stressful hospital visit! 

We spent our last day in Malibu before driving down the coast to our next destination in the OC. I thought about adding all the Malibu photos into this but realise it's probably way too long already and I have no idea if you've even made it this far. So will put them into a separate post.

Despite the rain, we LOVED LA so much more than I even imagined we would. And the whole time we spent around Venice we kept saying how we can't wait to come back here in a couple of winter's time with a toddler. We got unlucky with the rain but still felt so lucky to be out here, it's just the coolest place I've ever visited and I already can't wait to return.

Part two coming up next with Malibu then Part Three with San Clemente! {which won't be as long as this don't worry!}

Hope that's helped if you're planning a LA trip anytime soon. And if you've been before, did I miss anything you think should be added in? Please comment below with any other recommendations!

R <3 xx 

You Might Also Like


@rvk_loves on Instagram