Arriving in Las Vegas after spending the entire day in the desert of Death Valley is quite the contrast. You reach a hill and all of sudden a million lights appear in the horizon – especially at night! Obviously, campgrounds of Las Vegas would only accept actual RV’s, not our home made van house. So we found a very cheap hostel north of Las Vegas Boulevard called Sin City – how fitting. Being night time, we had to jump into fancier clothes and head to the casino! We walked to the Stratosphere, the closest casino. After watching tourists jumping from the top of the tower in a harness, Steph decided it wasn’t appealing enough for him: “it’s too slow! I want to bungee jump!” So we went for a walk around the casino but we were not convinced by the atmosphere and the interior decor.
We walked to the Circus Circus to find a fun setting to spend our very first gambling money! We started at the electronic Black Jack to actually learn how to play. $1 bids and a virtual dealer lady on a big screen- what will it be in 50 years? Being in front of a computer wasn’t ideal so we joined a roulette table! Now this game is pure luck, but it’s quite fun when there is a good crowd. We spent $100 in total, the amount we had authorized ourselves for the night. Once we had lost everything, the people around the table being lots of fun, we added another $20 and ended up winning $100 back! Not bad for some good times in the casino for 3 hours and free drinks – and STRONG ones for that matter (they sure know how to keep people gambling.)
The following day, we woke up with waffles for breakfast at the hostel, a great place to meet people from around the world on their own little adventure and chat about travel experiences. In the afternoon, we drove to a ghost town – which we will talk about in the next post. As soon as night fell, we were back in Las Vegas to visit the more famous part of the Strip, where the Ocean’s Eleven famous casinos are situated. We parked at the Bellagio to watch the renowned fountain light show in front of the hotel. Splashes of water dancing in synchrony to Elton John’s “My Song” is definitely must-see! We then visited the inside of the Bellagio, the Caesar Palace, the Paris, the New York New York, etc. It wasn’t exactly the same vibe as the night before. In the Bellagio’s of the world it’s fancy outfit, fancy gambling. Bids are made with $100 chips as opposed to the night before’s ridiculous $1 chips.
Being a Friday night, we got to experience the craziness of the street, the rushing of limos around us and girls wearing “bachelorette party” outfits. We explored the many floors of the M&M’s store and ended up designing our own “U.S. by us” blue, red and white M&M’s.
We knew we had to finish the night beautifully and we decided to do so with the one and only New York New York roller coaster. Well it was indeed f***ing insane!!! One of the coolest we’ve done with steep accelerations and squeaky noises that will freak you out. All of that outside with flashes of lights from the casinos and stores of the street.
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.