I will tell our journey to the Los Angeles, where the kitchen of the many movies we’ve watched since our childhood. From the Hollywood sign to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, from Griffith Park to food & beverage, you can find every detail in this article.
We had to wake up early to start the Los Angeles adventure. Because, we were decided to make a road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles as always we do. We had 2 options; one of them was using the fastest I-5 and the other one is Highway I that follow the coast. Highway I takes about 1.5 hours longer than I-5. We decided to use second, Highway 101 that subjected many documentaries, and offers you an amazing Pacific Ocean scene during the trip.
I want to provide some clues about the vehicle selection. Car rental prices mostly fair and an easy option. We preferred Budget. We had followed the advices told us before this trip and chose a bigger vehicle, an SUV. Because this long trip can be a pain with economy class slow cars. On the other side, the price gap between economy class and SUV is very acceptable. Check the web sites of the rental companies and follow the campaigns. For example, we didn’t pay an additional fee to pick up the car in San Francisco and drop off in Los Angeles, for the campaign that we selected. Thus, we had the opportunity to make a trip at the most scenic drive at the pacific coast and we didn’t have to do same 11-hour trip to return. That was a great chance. The security deposit for the vehicle was only $100. (Some know, this price is asked for economy class vehicles in most countries.)
Here comes the trip, firstly, I want to share the route with you. We set off from San Francisco and stopped on various places at the pacific coast (we couldn’t spend much time for these breaks, because our way was too long and we had a little more than just a day for Los Angeles) and finally we met our friend, Günce in Santa Monica and then arrived in Los Angeles. The Google Maps image below shows our route.
We encounter many different things during the trip. Pumpkin farmers, McDonalds restaurants which all staff are immigrants (the main language is Spanish, when we order in English with Turkish accent, they surprised), coasts of the Pacific Ocean and countless other amusing things.
We found a roadhouse which was very sweet. A big cup of coffee was only 1-2 Dollars. But, if you want to ask direction (we learned that almost all drivers getting tired on Highway 1 after driving a while and asking direction), you should leave some tips.
We set off in the morning, but it was almost night when we arrive in Santa Monica. There is a nice pier called Monica Pier at Santa Monica. There are Ferris wheel, food-beverage sellers, bars, in short, it is an entertaining place. If I try to tell about Santa Monica, it’s a place just a little far from Los Angeles, located along the Pacific Ocean and a gateway place for eating, drinking, swimming and shopping.
We met with Günce here and entered a place which has totally Mexican atmosphere. Günce is a friend of us from Istanbul and she is attending a doctoral programme at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. We thank her very much for her hospitality and guidance for 2 days. By the way, if we talk about the place, the main language was Spanish again. We ordered Mexican style cocktails and food because we were starving. After a little chat, we went to the house to have some sleep, before dying of tiredness.
When we wake up the next day, the first surprise of Los Angeles to us is a $78 parking fine. I’m saying just to warn you, all streets have a cleaning day that indicated with signs at the streets. Don’t do like us and, be careful for that sign. If you wake up early and remove your car before the related hour, no problem. But, if your car prevents the job of street sweepers, they will give you a ticket.
We started our tour with the University. Before, we loaded the sandwiches that Gülce prepared for us and started our way to the campus. The campus is very big and because of it is nested within the city (it is similar to the Beyazıt campus of İstanbul University), you can enter or out to campus during walking around in the city. Still, there is a security gate.
The University hosts many foreign students, academicians and staff as the other universities of the United States. So, nobody cares each other or judge their doings. Some try to get the University with his roller skate, some other covered himself with stretch film and aluminum folio and recording themselves to a video.
The main transportation way on the campus is roller skate and scooter. The flags of many countries, including Turkish flag are placed in the campus. I couldn’t have enough time to figure out whether these flags are belonging to all countries or the countries of the international students. Another fact that surprised me is its big library is open to everyone. The homeless people, which we encounter frequently in Los Angeles, can have some rest on a coach in the library. A little bit of pride, because the library of Bilkent University is very huge for me, I liked this library, but not very impressed. Just a beautiful library.
After a campus tour we send Günce to her laboratory and set off to discover the city. There are car parks in every building and in every empty location. I guess the use rate of private car is very high İn United States and they handle this problem by this way. And some car parks located in the city center serve only to employees of a particular company. For example, there are signs like “Only personnel of X Company” on the car parks. This allows employees in the neighborhood to easily find a parking place. I’m writing this because you have to find a general cark park. We entered one of them by mistake and parked as a Citibank employee. Thanks to the warden, he was an empathetic person and be convinced that we’d be back soon (Ok, I admit, just 3-4 hours).The car parks are 15-20 dollars daily. (Do not think about the exchange rate for the Dollar, you can’t focus on the tour)
There is a nice bookstore in the city, I strongly recommend you to visit it. Its name is The Last Bookstore. Both new and used books are sold and the book range is incredibly wide. You can find many expensive reference books (e.g. Barbecue meals in the world) and other quality books with fair prices here. I found a Harry Potter shelf and literally lost myself. I found many compilation books and pictured books that I didn’t know they exist. Anyway, be careful about your budget, because you may spend all your money there!
Then, we found a marketplace in the city like a bazaar where goods are sold and also cooked and served by the restaurants. Its name is Grand Central Market. All the employees working around comes this place at noon. There are some important buildings such as the courthouse, Los Angeles Times, municipal buildings, offices and public buildings are located around this market. I ate second best hamburger of this tour (as you may remember in the previous article). The name of the place is Belcampo Meat Co., if you get a chance to visit Los Angeles, you have to try this place.
While walking to the Grand Central Market, we found the only office in the city by chance that parking tickets can be paid, and we paid our ticket. After walking around for a while, we set off to visit the famous Griffith Park, Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign.
The Griffith observatory is a place both museum and observatory offering a different experience, located on a high hill in the Griffith Park. This is also the place that most of the scenes of the La La Land movie, which we couldn’t stop ourselves humming its songs, is filmed. The road comes here through Beverly Hills, but we didn’t encounter any celebrity. And also we don’t know if we see a celebrity’s house.
If you want to go near the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, you have to walk for 30-40 minutes on a pathway. But, as we learned the sign was temporarily closed for visits. So, it was easier to visit Griffith Observatory and take the photo of the sign from across instead of a go on that difficulty. And if possible, bring a zoom lens with you, and content yourself with that small photo from far away.
Griffith Observatory was a nice experience. There are many sections that you can learn and experience many about Astronomy. For example, my favorite was the opportunity to touch meteorite pieces and to look them with a microscope. Besides, there is a giant model of our galaxy, which shows the distances of the planets and their relative sizes compared to others. It was nice to get that kind of perception.
While visiting the down floor, we’re not aware that we had missed the telescope! If you visit the telescope floor firstly, you can get the chance to look from a real telescope.
After visiting the Griffith Park, we’re almost leaving the park to meet with Günce again to visit the famous Dolby Theatre and Hollywood Walk of Fame. At that time, we learned that the second parking fine was awaiting to surprise us! This time my mistake (!) was, parking to the left line of the hill way to hill direction while all other cars was parked to bottom direction. My parking style was proved that I used the left line of the road before parking. The cost of this mistake was about $50.
We found the Hollywood Boulevard while trying to forget this event. But, there was a Gala night and a part of the street was closed and the parking lots were full. This time, I strongly decided not to have a ticket again and somehow parked in the car park of a hotel, which was only for gala guests. In my first try the warden signified that I couldn’t park there, but, in my second try, I just entered into the parking place after a car in front of me, sorry. I didn’t want to pay any more parking tickets!
It is a sparkling Boulevard. Names, handprints and the stars of the famous celebrities are set into the paving stones on the Walk of Fame. I found the Daniel Radcliffe and Harrison Ford and had my photo taken. Then, I walked into the entrance of the Dolby Theatre and took a deep breath and I had my photo taken there also, and one more at outside and one in…It was one of the most beautiful moment for me. Every year, while watching the night of the Oscar award ceremony, opening my photo and saying “I was here!”
After hanging a while at an Irish Pub on the boulevard, we toured around the streets where luxury shops placed, but just walked, and returned to home. The next day was the return day. Early in the morning we went to the airport, dropped the car and went to the terminal with the ring service of Budget. We bought out tickets from Delta Airlines. Because all airlines, Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic provided almost same price, we randomly chose Delta. But the terminal of Delta is located at the end of the Los Angeles International airport. If you consider the place of the terminal, you should prefer AA or Virgin, because we have lost a lot of time to reach the terminal. The service road of the airport is only one line and the traffic is quite busy because of many private cars and taxi making passenger drop-off or taking in, and time lost with handling all the luggage.
After a little delay, the plane took off, thus our Los Angeles adventure was ended and we set off to the San Francisco, where we spend the last days of our journey. I will write the last days of San Francisco in another article and will tell about Golden Gate Bridge, Japantown and Pier 39. It has been a long article but, I guess I told everting that I want to share, and I have mentioned all the issues to be considered if you visit there. The Los Angeles tour was totally entertaining journey for us, I hope it was fun for you to read also!
Finally, if you have extra days to spend at Highway 1, I want to share these two web pages, for a long and entertaining route, with you.
- 13 Incredible Stops on a Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip (Gap Year)
- Road Trip: California’s Pacific Coast Highway (National Geographic)