Back in 2017, when we decided to head back to America again, I suggested another visit to LA. It would be my fourth time and Scott’s (my husband), third, and even though every time we’ve been we’ve said we’ve had more than enough ‘LA’ for a while, the second we get home I long to be back there. The palm trees of Beverly Hills, the energy of Santa Monica, the blue skies and cute little cafes of Instagram. I cannot get enough. And so, we agreed we would land in Vegas, stay one night (we had a flight that didn’t land until around 7:30pm) and then hit the road bright and early the next morning to LA. It would be amazing.
We hired our car through Avis again via BA.
Useful tip folks, tick the little box on the form when you pick your car up agreeing to leave the tank empty and for them to refuel for around $40-50. It’s definitely the easiest option. We made the mistake last year of insisting we would fill the car ourselves before drop-off but the drive back into Vegas that day was so chaotic we didn’t get chance and we’re stung with a hefty refuel charge by Avis.
SIDE NOTE: We have a love/hate relationship with Avis but the convenience of them being BA’s recommended car hire company means that we always relent and hire through them.
We collected our car from the Avis desk at Park MGM (formerly the Monte Carlo) earlier than we had booked it for and were advised we would have to return it earlier than booked if we wanted the keys now, or we could pay a little extra and return it at the booked in time. We decided to just return it earlier because it meant we could hit the road now and get a good start. Yey for jet lag! Another thing to note is that if you only get a ‘regular’ car, the SatNav is around another $22 extra a day. We would have the car for five days so politely declined because this was America, how hard could it be?!
Now let me tell you, using the map on your smartphone is all well and good until you get to central LA and have to make quick decisions. Not hiring a SatNav was a massive fail – or so we thought. It turns out that all you have to do is plug your phone into the USB port under the stereo system and hey presto, everything links up and you have yourself a free SatNav. It’s just a shame we didn’t realise this until one of the final days before leaving LA. So, learn from our mistake people! If your phone works with CarPlay (my phone is an iPhone, Scott’s is a Samsung and both worked) then you could save a fortune if a SatNav isn’t included in your car hire. All it means is you have to pay whatever your service provider charges for your data. For me on O2, this was £4.99 a day so it worked out much cheaper.
The first half of the journey was pretty uneventful. Long stretches of nothing surrounded us until we reached the halfway mark and made a pitstop at Peggy Sue’s Diner.
I’d like to point out here that I love a good themed diner, and Peggy Sue’s was no different. It was everything you’d expect and is deceptively large inside. The service however, does leave a lot to be desired. I’m not a fussy person, but the odd smile from our server wouldn’t have gone amiss – especially when they work on tips and she seemed to beam at every other table. Maybe she just didn’t like our faces?
An hour or so later, we’d filled ourselves up, and hit the road again.
The second half of the journey did not go as smoothly. More cars appeared on the road, more lanes appeared (I mean really, SEVEN LANES?!) the speed of the cars increased and the contents of my stomach were ready to reappear. These were not fun times. The tip of the iceberg came when a man eating his burger behind the wheel nearly wrote us off. Thankfully, at this point, our hotel was a mere five minutes away so all was well in the world.
We stayed at the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel, our second stay there, and would genuinely return again for a third stay. The location is ideal, the décor retro, and it’s right next door to Swingers Diner for food. I will do a full review on the hotel but if you’re heading to LA, definitely check it out.
We didn’t do much after check-in in all honesty. We just dropped our bags, had a quick shower and headed out to The Grove for something to eat. We knew that two of our three full days in LA would be packed so decided to use that evening and the following day as a leisure and shopping day. And a day to hit an Instagram hotspot, Carrera Café on Melrose – obvs. One thing to note though about Carrera Café is that the customised coffee quote can only be done on coffees made with regular milk, not almond milk. So I stole Scott’s coffee for a photo. Gotta do it for the ‘gram, right?
Now, if you’ve been to LA before, you will understand the appreciation of having a hotel within walking distance to a lot of places because if you can, just leave your car parked at your hotel. It’s honestly not worth the hassle and expense a lot of the time in my opinion to take it out, fight through traffic, find a car park/pay for the valet which is more common than you’d expect, and it doesn’t come cheap. So, use those little feet as and when you can.
The exciting times began on our second full day in LA. This was our Venice Beach/Santa Monica day. I was so excited! We had never been to Venice Beach other than the glimpse of the canals on our last visit, so we were both excited to see Muscle Beach, eat at The Butcher’s Daughter, and have a wander down to Santa Monica. However, yet again we were beaten by Venice Beach parking. If we had been driving our own car then we probably wouldn’t have been half as wary about the car parks that we weren’t entirely sure were car parks and when you’re attempting to squint at your phone in an area you don’t know to fathom out where you should be going, it becomes more stressful than it’s worth. After about twenty minutes of loops and curses, we gave up and drove to Santa Monica. Much less stressful. We parked on the roadside, about a fifteen-minute walk from the pier, and were happy as Larry!
I love Santa Monica. Love, love, love. Love. I don’t know what it is that draws me in every time but everything about it feels so zen. Even amongst the crowds on the pier all waiting to take the obligatory Route 66 sign photo, and the hustle and bustle of the fair at the end, it still has an element of calm. One of my favourite things to do is people watch.
So, first things first, we needed coffee. We headed towards Third Street Promenade, grabbed a Starbucks and sat watching the world go by for a while.
As our plans for breakfast at The Butcher’s Daughter had been scuppered, we just had a wander and decided to get lost for a while. Or for as long as our parking would allow. And then, like a beacon of hope on my phone’s map, Sidecar Doughnuts appeared. I was one very happy bunny. Also, these doughnuts were blinking beautiful. So, so delicious. Scott got a maple bacon one and I got a regular vanilla glaze and all I can say is, hand on heart, it was worth the queue. People wait in line, queuing out of the door for very good reason and to date, it’s the best doughnut I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.
After passing a woman strolling around happily with what I’m assuming (*read, hoping*) was a giant pet rat on her shoulder and breathing in the delicious smells of the food trucks, we made our way back to the beach and continued to just potter. Santa Monica beach is a place you could easily spend all day, watching unknown bands playing their tracks, the groups of people taking part in yoga, the most flexible humans I’ve ever seen in real life swing and bend around the bars and frames further down the beach, even the people on roller skates whizzing by, it really is a place to just relax and watch the world go by.
If you’re a fan of the fair too, get back up onto the pier itself and visit the Ferris Wheel. At around $10 each, the views you get of Santa Monica are well worth the fee but be warned, the seats do swing a bit so be prepared if you’re not great with heights.
Another must see is the Santa Monica Pier Carousel. It feels like a step back in time as you enter the large wooden building and are met with the horses going round and around to your typical merry-go-round music. It doesn’t hurt that inside said building is a small ice cream parlour – Soda Jerks. I can highly recommend The Vanderbilt Cup S’mores Sunday.
On the way back to the hotel, we made a lunch stop at Mel’s Diner on Sunset (where we saw Adam Sandler last year!) and I got the turkey sliders I’d been dreaming of since 2016. They did not disappoint. It also warmed my little heart that we actually recognised some of the servers from our last trip which is always a good sign I feel.
That evening was spent at The Grove because you can literally go back every night and do/eat something different. We ate at Umami Burger because I wanted to try the Impossible Burger and it did not let me down!
For those who don’t know, the Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that is supposed to look and taste like a regular burger and it 100% did! I don’t really eat meat but burgers always smell so good so this was a win/win for me and I can’t wait for them to come to the UK. Our server, Jessica, was what every server should be; friendly, bubbly, helpful (take note Peggy Sue!) and we swapped tips as she was coming to the UK in July. I hope she has a wonderful time because throughout the whole trip, she is the one I will remember for a long time to come. I also hope she remembers to visit Fortnum & Mason because the girl loved her tea.
Have you tried the Impossible Burger yet? What did you think?
Our final day was spent at Universal Studios but I’m going to put that in a separate blog post because if you’ve made it to the end of this post then I salute you.
For more of my travel pics you can find me over on the ‘gram at @girl_meets_passport