I’ve seen apples used in fruit salads, with cheese and as part of a chocolate fondue. Call me naive but doing the Walk of Fame in Hollywood is the first time I’ve seen them used to smoke crack. My first impression of Los Angeles wasn’t quite what I was expected. Alongside the glitz and glamour, although I use these words tentatively, there are a lot of lives in shopping trollies, cardboard messages and even more crack apples. Although it makes for a good photography project, I was surprised how run down the area felt.

We were staying in an apartment just three blocks from Hollywood Boulevard with a our new mate called Keith. You could see the Hollywood Hills from his balcony and his profile states that he is an actor, singer, dancer and comedian. I get the impression that there’s a lot of those round here. The location was ideal for the main reason we were here, Social Media Week. I put on my work hat and attended a few of the talks along the main Hollywood strip. It was interesting to see how a part of my job is done across the pond by the top dogs and exciting to do business in such a big city. I wrote up some blog posts about the talks here and here.

We made an attempt to try some Hollywood bars and soak up the LA atmosphere but after a $12 margarita we decided it wasn’t really for us and drove down to Santa Monica Pier. It was the handful of tacky fun we needed and in true tourist fashion we head to Bubba Gump and quoted Forrest Gump all the way home.

        

Griffith Park is a chance to escape one zoo to another. This one, however, is full of screaming children and nose-picking chimps. Okay maybe it’s not that different. Unfortunately the hot weather was keeping the animals in the shade so it wasn’t the greatest setting for a game of I-Spy. Instead we played ‘spot the tackiest tourist t-shirt’, the winner was a neon green ‘Jesus is rad’ fashion disaster. Up the hill is the Griffith Observatory and there’s a lot more to see from the top. There’s an incredible view of the city that disappears off into the horizon and you can’t see from one end of town to the other.

        

Everyone likes to talk about the traffic in Los Angeles but we were really in for a treat with ‘Carmaggedon’ (this is one of my favourite new American words, only second to the description of the bacon shortage as the ‘aporkalypse’). Four hours and a Five Guys later, we made it to San Diego.

South California has a different vibe. The sun’s brighter, the sea’s warmer and everything feels even newer. One thing I’ve noticed is the road names. Back home the history of them usually dates back to old figures or landmarks, here there’s a Legoland Drive, McDonald’s Road and lots of Auto Parkways lined with, funnily enough, car dealership after car dealership.

Down south we were staying with Victor and Janine and their cute little boys. They took us out to drink margaritas bigger than my head and burritos to match before heading to the Ball Park. It was great to see the Giants playing again but, this time, away from home. The Petco Park venue is fantastic, there’s a backdrop of the city and you can watch the planes coming in to land across the skyline. If you choose the right spot you can look across the border to Mexico. San Diego feels space age, although that could have been the tequila talking, and you can see why it’s a chosen spot for Comic-Con.

        

Now, we’ve done beaches in the Bay Area but down south is something completely different. The sea is like bath water and the sun just will not stop shining. We went to Carlsbad Beach with the family and spent the whole day soaking up the rays, or in Mark’s case getting frazzled to a crisp. We tried our hand at boogie boarding but the waves and the kids put us to shame.

          

The rest of our time in San Diego was ‘decompression time’ as they call it over here. We ate fish tacos at Oceanside Pier, went drinking at the James Bond-esque Stone Brewery and explored Balboa Park. The perfect way to end our 1500 mile trip. The same could not be said, however, for the journey back up I-5. Flat plains that disappear off into the horizon, cattle farms that could turn you veggie and a whole lot of nothing else. Not quite the romantic drive off into the sunset we envisaged. Against the odds, we survived and pulling into the Bay Area again felt like coming home.

Location: Los Angeles, Carlsbad, San Diego
Hours spent in Carmaggedon: 4
Miles of cattle spotted: 3×3

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