Hey folks, looks like there have been some changes in our team structure, even though there is only two of us!
As we had already arrived in LA and our plan was to stay on the West Coast until the end of October, it meant we had a good 10days left to enjoy the hot Californian sun. As a matter of fact, the coast between LA and SanDiego is just a 120 miles long surf spot! I mean, there are so many surf spots, it makes it hard to pick. But following advice from locals as well as the tides, I went with the flow. I’m writing my first blog post and I’m already only talking about surf…
When we first started the road trip we didn’t talk about how much of a surf trip it would be at the same time. That’s why, Maeva being a lot less into surfing, she decided to spend some of my surfing hours on something else. This past year, while she became an adult by signing her first work contracts as a marketing strategist she didn’t spend enough time on one of her passions: drawing! Having some free time like now, as well as the free mindset of a person on vacation, it’s a really good opportunity for her to focus on something she loves. So, between good sleeps in the car and barbecues on the beach, she has been spending a lot of hours in coffee shops drawing like crazy, why not?!
That’s why I’m writing a tiny post about Manhattan Beach (MB), which is technically part of LA and should be part of the previous post, but it’s also a significant change in our everyday vacation life. The shift started here, after a long surf session at the MB jetty, just south of Segundo Beach.
By the way, I forgot to mention, I went to the jetty following the advice from a guy working at Nikau Kai Waterman. I went to this shop three times , and chatted with 3 different people, just as nice and helpful as each other. I got some good spots/beaches to go to on my way down south as well as free fins to test out. I was more than happy with that!
The only thing hard for me to accept is that I’m gonna have a lot less pictures of me surfing… oh boy!
This city is pretty much a gigantic hub of urban areas and industries. Just arriving on one of the 10 lanes of the highway and 2 minutes of traffic gives an idea of how busy LA is. We were lucky to join Mala at her house, after she kindly offered to host us during our stay here. We arrived at her very nice apartment (boy did it change from our home in the car!) and the three of us headed out for a visit of Santa Monica. Mala showed us the very hipster Abbott Kinney street with its spacious and beautifully designed shops and coffee places. Loved the vibe in this street, as well as the long hair, piercings and round glasses of the people walking around! We then headed to the beach for a stroll towards the Santa Monica Pier. On our way we got impressed by the guys making loops on the rings of the open air gym. Steph was game and proved that the paddling sessions from surfing were well worth it! It was crazy warm so we indulged in some frozen yogurt at Yogurtland – we had never tried this one and we were not disappointed! We were like kids in Disneyland trying all the different flavours and topping our yogurts with caramel, candy, almonds and strawberries!
Afterwards, it was time for a well deserved break back at the apartment before heading out again to join Mala’s super nice friends for tacos at a Mexican Restaurant and a movie at their place. We got some delicious tacos and though they got a few orders wrong (when I ask for “no cilantro” it also means don’t put the green sauce that has cilantro on my taco), it was excellent! Back at their place, we sipped some wine and enjoyed sour keys while watching the indie movie “Frank”. Love watching movies that are a little weird, unique and far-fetched and this was one of them! And with Michael Fassbender as Frank, well you simply can’t go wrong. We then enjoyed a night in the first REAL bed of the trip, it was quite something – thanks again Steve for letting us stay in your room you have no idea how happy it made us!
On the Sunday, we figured it would be better to leave touristy things for the week and we headed to Runyon Canyon for a very hot hike. The sun was so strong as we climbed above the Hollywood hills to find a panoramic view of LA at the top. We get it, it’s the equivalent of the gym for people here! They all come in Nike’s, mini shorts and ponytails to jog or walk to the top while calculating their speed and calories lost. Well, let’s just say around noon was probably the best time for that in this crazy heat. There really is only summer in California. We then took a drive on the iconic Mulholland Drive and opted out of a walk on the Walk of Fame of Hollywood since both of us had already been there. Instead, we headed to Venice Beach! Why? Because one cannot be in LA without checking out people dancing to hip hop on skates! Where else do you get to see that? We cruised around on our longboards and also stopped at the skatepark to watch some skills. Venice was fun for the music and the dancers, but in all honesty it was so crowded that we were happy to sneak out of the busyness to go back to the apartment. In the evening, Steve and his girlfriend came over for dinner. Steph, aka the Chef, cooked some absolutely delicious traditional French crepes for all of us, savoury and sweet – YUM.
The next day, we were ready for a day full of adventures at Universal Studios, the ONE thing that we HAD to do in LA. It was a crazy fun day as we ran from one ride to the other, catching shows in between. Our favourites?
– Ride: Transformers! By far the coolest, as it combines roller coaster, real setting and 3D – you really feel like you’re fighting robots in there. The Mummy was awesome sensations-wise but way too short. And well, we have to mention Jurassic Park – because it really freaked us (me) out. Hey, there was a tyrannosaur guys, okay?!
– The Sets: We obviously took the world famous studio tour in the open air bus to discover the world of movie sets. And we know why this is a must-do. We got to watch a water disaster, say hi to Jaws’s shark, be in an earthquake in the subway, encounter King Kong in the wilderness, drive through the incredible set from War of the Worlds and look at movie iconic cars.
– Shows: The visual effects show was fun to watch for insights on the how-to secrets of some scenes, with a touch of humour. But we finished our day with the Waterworld performance, which basically replays a scene of the movie. Backflips, jet ski freestyle, fights, jumps, fire… Mindblowing! Steph now wants to change jobs and play one of the guys in that show for a living.
– And: back in Santa Cruz, I asked Steph to win a Minion for me and he didn’t succeed; so obviously I put him to the challenge again! He had to shoot basketballs in a net and if he scored twice, he could pick a Minion. Aaaaand….. HE WON!!! Needless to say, I was a little kid with my new toy! We are now road tripping with a minion.
As you might be able to tell, we spent the entire day in Universal Studios. So right after, as we hadn’t eaten anything, we rushed to Taco Bell – typical.
In the evening, it was our last night with Mala and she had a friend over. So Steph put together another delicious meal of pasta, cream and shallots. YUM.
It was time to continue going further South and say goodbye to Mala. Thanks again Mala for your hospitality, we are so grateful!
We first headed to Beverly Hills because I wanted to see some crazy huge houses. Well that was a stupid idea, they all had immense fences, we only managed to spot a few from afar and the intriguing spots had way too much security. No, we didn’t see Jennifer Lawrence. *Sigh*. To make up for it, we had coffee at a lovely TOMS shop/coffeeplace in Abbott Kinney to enjoy their super chill outdoor patio. And we figured we could leave LA on that mocha coffee note and return to the beach life down the coast.
Ever heard of Baywatch? Alerte à Malibu for the Frenchies? Thought so.
When we reached Malibu, we spotted the famous Zuma beach and the lifeguard houses, ready to jump right into atmosphere from the show. We looked for Pamela Anderson but she was nowhere to be seen, much to our disappointment. Steph was not pleased. “Where are all the girls in the red swimsuits?!”
We went for a long walk towards Paradise Cove, which was our only option to avoid a $40 parking at the beach. ($40 parking and $20 walk-in, wtf?!) As we were walking on the shore, we gazed at the giant beach houses that populate the coast wondering who they could belong to and what kind of interiors they had. Most of them were empty, probably just another vacation home… We did like the ones on stilts though!
After watching an adventurous dog jump in the waves, we went to visit the Getty Villa, a museum with an architecture inspired from an Antique Greek Villa at Herculaneum with gardens, spacious rooms and lots of indoor patios. We revisited the famous sculptures of Greek gods and other pieces of art from that era. Only shame was that due to the drought, all the water features of the villa had been turned off. Fountains and pools don’t look quite the same when they’re empty!
Of course, one cannot be in Malibu without testing the water and its gentle waves! They were small but allowed for very long rides. There was good longboard surfing on the right side of the pier of Surfrider beach at sunset and sunrise. A good way to get the day started is to chill on a board in the sun right? Being on our boards in the water allowed us to people watch and notice the “body culture” of the city. Lots of muscles all around us, made me feel like I should work out more. And yes it totally reminded us of Britney’s “you want a hot body? you better work bitch!”
Malibu was also the place for a lot of firsts!
– First Uno fights: we bought a set of Uno cards back in Santa Barbara and have returned to our childhood selves. Whenever we have some time, for example when lunch is heating by the side of the road, we’ll go for a little Uno game. It usually ends with the person who lost throwing his/her cards at the person who won. #nevergrowup
– First camping refusal: we had decided to be fancy and go to a campground. Unfortunately when we got to the Malibu Beach RV park, we were refused entry because:
a) we don’t have a commercial RV so we can’t have an RV site
b) we don’t have a tent so we can’t get a tent site
Well that sucks.
Luckily we got the last spot at the Leo Carrillo State Park a few miles North..
– First Tacobell: and one more fast food name was crossed off the list! Steph had actually never tried Tacobell before so it was even more exciting. I had, and as Anna knows, it’s Crunchwrap for the win! Let’s just say this isn’t going to be the last Tacobell of the trip.
We finally made our way to sunny Santa Barbara. Sunny may be an understatement, it honestly felt as if we had stepped right back into the heat of August days. We stayed in this small beach town for a couple of days, just enough to combine some surf sessions close to Isla Vista Point, chilling and longboarding along the beach. Steph has been working hard at perfecting those barrels as you can see!
Also, Steph has been teaching me some longboard moves in order for me to stay more or less stable, and there has been some improvement! You will see the proof below. It does help that the board I got is totally beautiful with its wooden material and totally badass with a shark at the back! As the guys from the skate shop said, “If that’s the one you like, then that’s the one you should get.”
Although we missed Livia in town, she gave us tons of tips for places to sleep and cool hikes to go for. We followed her advice and slept in our van at the Rose Gardens at the Mission every night – perfect spot! We also went for a hike to Saddle Rock, but probably didn’t pick the right time. It was the middle of the afternoon and burning hot. The view was absolutely worth it though! We almost ran down the trail to jump into the car and rush to the ocean. It was our first swim without our wetsuits and it never felt more like summer! And of course, when we reached the sea, two dolphins were casually passing by a few meters away from the shore.
Now, if you like dolphins, I would suggest moving to SB. I mean yes, we saw some in Santa Cruz, but the Santa Barbara dolphins are way more fun. Why you ask? Well because they’re freestylers! They’ll come and tease the surfers by jumping around and offering an amazing little show. Steph will be practising his left turn and two dolphins will throw a backflip in the background, no big deal. Oh you want proof? Look below my friends. I’m SO thrilled that early one morning I got to capture Steph on his board and a dolphin jumping a few meters away. It was hard to coordinate both models.
Other than that, we visited the cute little downtown with its beautifully designed courthouse and the main street, State Street. Following Peter’s advice, we also treated ourselves to some tacos and guacamole at La Super Rica Taqueria, a cute turquoise Mexican restaurant – definitely worth stopping by!
Thanks again for the great SB tips Livia!!
PS: I should also point out that Steph developed a new addiction during the couple of days spent in SB: the Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino. It was just so warm that we had to share a Venti one every afternoon you know! First it was the Oreo Blizzard at DQ, now it’s the Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks.. what will be next?
This is just a tiny post, but about one of the coolest things we stopped to do on the coast in San Luis Obispo.
The DRIVE-IN!! An giant outdoor screen, parking spots, a radio station and an old school pop corn bar: the American dream.
We opted for the double feature of the night along with the large popcorn (with a free refill). The movies were not the ones we would have gone for normally, but we can’t really choose when it’s just one screen. So we devoured our popcorn comfortably sitting in our little van and watched “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, the typical feel good family Disney movie. That would explain all the kids around us! The second movie was the animated film “Boxtrolls” and was actually a very pleasant surprise: a 3D stop motion fantasy movie with one of a kind art direction and sweet characters. For movie addicts like us, finally being able to enjoy some movies in such a cool setting was so enjoyable!
Back on our favourite road, we continued to head south in the direction of Santa Barbara. But on our way, we found a giant colony of sleeping seals on a beach. A quick explanation informed us that september-november is “resting” season and as you can see they sure seemed tired! Steph was disappointed that it wasn’t fighting season (yes there is such a thing) but Fight Club seals version may not be the best show to watch.
We then found our way to Morro Bay, a.. surf spot! What else? The size of the waves were a little intimidating but not for certain people. Ahem. So with our amazing setup we cooked juicy burgers and then Steph went to fight against the water elements, once again.
We continued our drive down Highway 1, one of the most beautiful and scenic road we’ve ever taken. We discovered the two colours of Big Sur on the way: orange and turquoise. And just like every night for the past two weeks, we caught another incredible sunset on the Pacific cliffs. We may get used to this.
As night time was approaching, we started looking for a campground and the only two in the area were completely full, so we followed other travellers’s advice and went up a dirt road to find several cars and tents doing the same thing. Improvised camping is the best kind of camping! Definitely another amazing spot to stay at, as we caught the last colours before dusk over the ocean and were offered a spectacular starlit sky letting us perceive the milky way.
In the morning, we went to check out the waves on potential surf spots, and although the swell was big, no one was in the water so we kept driving!
If you feel like escaping the craziness and the business of the city, a good way to do it is to drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Not so far yet so different. Santa Cruz brought us back to the life of chill and sun that is so unique to California. Our stop in SF did bring some upgrades though: I got blonder, Steph got a brand new backpack (first in like 7 years, so yes it’s a pretty big step.)
We spent the first few days chilling around town, discovering the surfer vibe that makes this spot so famous. A drive along the water through a few residential areas gives a pretty good idea of the Santa Cruz lifestyle: long hair, blonde hair, boards, all kinds of boards, bikes, longboards, pick up vans, wetsuits, nose rings… You get the picture. As Steph was still recovering from his little foot injury, we spent the first two days longboarding and watching the locals catch some waves on two famous spots: Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point. We strolled through the streets and treated ourselves – of course – to some delicious home made ice cream from Penny Icecreamery. Having caught the longboard bug, I completely fell in love with a wooden longboard in a Santa Cruz skate shop and just couldn’t resist. So we spent a couple hours in longboard sessions with Steph teaching me some moves. We’ll be showing you when it’s not too embarrassing.
One of the most amazing things about Santa Cruz is that it felt like an open air aquarium. Just stand and watch the surfers for a little bit and you will spot a whale jumping in the background, dolphins chasing each other, sea otters getting cozy with the paddle boarders, seals taking a swim, pelicans flying in a perfect line above the water… The first day we thought we were lucky to see all these animals. The second day we thought we were realllllllly lucky. The third we realized that this was life here: wilderness, hippiness and salt water. Luckily, we never spotted any dangerous looking fin. Although Steph did get startled more than once when shapes and fins emerged out of the water a few meters away from him as he was paddling on his surfboard.
As we stayed in Santa Cruz for a little while, we picked a cheap and old campground called Bobs Pine Grove Campground – which was great! It was quite empty due to the season, but that didn’t prevent us from meeting fellow travellers. Our campsite neighbour Daniel invited us to share some bacon and tortillas around a few beers with another traveler, a guy from New York just hitchhiking around California. We also met a really interesting man in his 60’s touring the U.S. with his two dogs in quite the setup: an electrical bike, a little shack for the dogs, a tent… And ‘touring the U.S.’ is a bit of an understatement. Because he’s been travelling for 2.5 years and has been in 32 states (!!!) How’s that for a road trip?!
A fun activity was also the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of California’s oldest amusement parks (founded in 1907!) We picked the thriller rides and did them all in row. The highlight? Definitely the signature ride of the park: the Giant Dipper, a historic wooden roller coaster that has become a landmark for the city. And if you’re used to the super high tech recent roller coasters, the sensations on this very old school structure as well as the noises it makes in the twists and turns are quite something!
But let’s talk about surf again. Surf is such a fascinating sport and for so many different reasons. The challenge, the force of nature, the visual appeal, to thrill of catching a wave… We headed for the surf museum to get a glimpse of the surf origins in this iconic spot. It’s a tiny house that walks us through old newspaper articles and photographs of surfers and their evolution over the past years. One of them was a gentleman called Jack O’Neill, founder of the world famous O’Neill brand and inventor of the wetsuit.
We finished off our stay with a huge ten foot swell on a Sunday. Such an impressive sequence of waves took the stage at Steamer Lane and hundreds of surfers jumped in the water to test them out. Steph was one of them, while I stayed on the safer side, camera in hand. It was quite the show to witness, with lots of experienced and fearless surfers. Though the locals tended to be a little on edge (“Get out of my way! Mine! Mine! Mine! F*** off, it’s my wave!), we were reminded again why surf is so compelling.
A must do when visiting SF is to take a break from the city and head to the colourful houseboats of Sausalito. We took a walk on the docks through the quirky and uniquely shaped homes on the water, picturing life in such a cool setting. Here’s a selection of our favourite floating homes! Which one is your favourite?
We left the long stretches of highway down the coast and its isolated beaches to find the city of the flower power. We reached it from the North on a Friday afternoon, taking the Golden Gate Bridge, like one should. #hellyeah. And I was driving!! (Anyone who knows my driving skills knows how impressive that is.) Steph didn’t leave me behind the wheel for too long though, we’ll say. Anyways, our first stop was obviously the viewpoint right after the bridge to get a sunny touristy shot in front of the world famous landmark. As we were watching the view, some people whispered to us “Hey, there are naked people down there, check it out!” Oh yes, there sure were some naked people on the beach down below. Well we did arrive during the heat wave.Welcome to Hippie town!
We had a bit of time, so we headed to the crowded Pier 39 for a bit of long boarding along the port, Alcatraz watching and possibly some ice cream… We then drove to Lombard Street to test Steph’s piloting skills in the famous downhill zig zag street. Ea-sy.
Later, we headed towards Berkeley, taking the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, which gave us a pretty intense city reality check. Here’s a few numbers to get some perspective: 7810m/25623ft long, 2 decks of 5 lanes each, 17.5m/57.5ft large… Guinness World Records say it’s the widest bridge in the world and we believe it! Heavy traffic on such a monster of a bridge is a pretty insane experience. Especially when you’re not 100% where you’re headed. Thank God for Google Maps!
We were headed to Berkeley to join Duke – also known as Nico, a friend from France who lives there – who had kindly offered us to stay at his place. After a stop in a random coffee shop in a very Hastings-like street of Berkeley, we joined him and his coworkers at his CEO’s house up on a hill. As soon as we entered the house, we were like “WOW!”: a minimalist house with an incredible view of the city and its night lights. We enjoyed fun drinks and great conversation with the whole team of Five.com, a startup working on a unique conversation app. Every member had just been freshly named cofounder so it was definitely the right night to discover a bit of their tech startup world! Kyle also introduced us to a song that would be stuck in our heads for the next 3 days: “About a week ago, week ago…” Thanks for that! After a couple of beers, we also learned that we were going to sleep in the living room at Duke’s place next to a snake. In a vivarium. But an ACTUAL snake. I honestly thought it was a joke at first. But when we reached his super cool house, Duke gave us a quick tour and introduced us to his roommates (human and reptile), and it proved to be very real…
The following day was true Californian fun with a barbecue, a big surf session in Pacifica, a skateboard session and then some beers in the extremely very hot tub in Duke’s garden. Told you it was a super cool house! All of this with Duke, his roommate Ben and two of his coworkers: Kyle and Nils. Quite the boys crowd hey! Though the day activities were lots of fun, sipping some coronas in a 104 Farenheit jacuzzi was VERY enjoyable. And VERY warm. Let’s just say we were off to bed very quickly after that!
Sunday called for some actual visiting of the city, so we did it ALL:
– Fisherman’s Wharf
– Yet another view of the Golden Gate
– Walking down Lombard street
– Strolling through Chinatown and running into a dragon
– Stopping at Chipotle for lunch: yes we have a list of fast food places to hit, this one has been crossed off the list. And it’s burrito was definitely approved!
– Niketown, because why not
– Taking the cable car: that was realllllly cool. Best way to go up and down the cutest streets of SF is perched on the side of the wagon!
– Walking up and down the street, then up and down, and then up and down.
– Walk along the entire Embarcadero. Yes, that’s a lot of walking.
We even got to catch up with Hedi, Steph’s old classmate from Hetic, over some drinks downtown to chat about the startup community, work in North America, West Coast habits and life. He too is working on a soon to be released app with his team, confirming that SF is the ultimate tech startup hub.
The next days were a lot more chill as we failed getting the morning tickets for Alcatraz two days in a row (the only ones you can get without a reservation weeks in advance.) I guess we didn’t earn it as much as the people who were standing in line at 5am. Who are you people?! But it left us with lots of time to find the very best view of the Golden Gate Bridge in a sea of fog all the way up the hill on the North Side, find the cutest houses of the city on Alamo Square, picnic at the Golden Gate Park, watch the view from Twin Peaks and hang out with Duke and his roommates Ben, Paul and Alex over hot dogs and beers to share road trip stories.
Every time we hit a new city, we can’t help but wonder if that would be a place we’d like to live in. We thought about it more than once in the fog city that unites architectural beauty, cultural diversity, West Coast freedom, tech and startup communities, outdoor activities and vibrant city life. Though very busy (yes the hours stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge kind of traumatized us) and Vancouver-like (enough with the vegan yogis already!), SF is just so very unique in its character. So maybe..?
Duke, thanks again so much for inviting us in your lively home, we had a blast during our stay! Rock out the surf and the app-creating! Peace.
“I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing in the streets, for I know that the streets of San Francisco are Free.” – Luisa Tetrazzini