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    Travel Takeaways (a literal bite into the Travel Linkup topic.)

    This month for the travel linkup we’re talking all things take-aways; souvenirs, lessons, that sort of metaphysical meandering. But, I’m going to go a little more literal. Travel Takeaways.

    Rossopomodoro Pizza Florence in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As in actual foods, usually found in cartons, that have been spoilt by visiting their country of origin or somewhere that really surprised us. It’s the gourmet equivalent of meeting your heroes, and once you start travelling you’ll always look back on amazing food that you probably can’t quite recreate genuinely enough. Read more

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    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles (Guest post)

    Having written off LA as a noisy, polluted, boring city, Mr Kiwi and I were won over by my lovely (IRL) friend Emily who convinced us that LA is a brilliant city that needed to be explored. Giving us loads of tips, a shed load of recommendations and a starry eyed appreciation for this tinseltown I also convinced her to make her blog debut with a few of her recommendations…

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles (Guest post)

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    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    My love affair with California began on a 7 day trip back in 2011, after the Mr & I had grown tired of siting by pools in all inclusive resorts, sipping odd-tasting cocktails and wondering how early was too early for the next nap. So, seemingly out of nowhere Los Angeles was plucked from a short list consisting of random US cities we’d seen that one time in that one TV show and half dreamed of visiting one day, only to forget all about it the following week. In an uncharacteristically decisive action from my usually cautious Mr, the flights and hotel where quickly booked and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Scrolling through the holiday photo albums, trying to compile anything less than a one trillion point list of places I adore in and around that little sliver of West Coast USA has taken the best part of the day as my stomach knots into the familiar dull ache of longing that I can only compare to homesickness. I will try to keep this brief, but as I could wax lyrical about the myriad of ways that the Golden State has captured my heart for forever and a day, I’m not making any promises.

    So, should you ever find yourself in or around the Los Angeles area, at a loose end with time to kill and a full tank of gas, here are my top five absolute must-do’s:

    1 – Take a day trip down the Pacific Coast High Way to Ventura
    Inspired by our love of American Pop Punk rockers ’Army of Freshmen’, we couldn’t resist a trip to their gorgeous home town. Just over an hours drive north from Los Angeles, along the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway, the trip would have been worth it for the drive alone. A slow jaunt along stunning beaches, and clifftop views across the ocean – we just couldn’t resist pulling over several times simply stop and stare silently at the astounding scenery. Once we’d made it in to Ventura, our first stop was the highly recommended Spencer MacKenzie’s Fish Bar on E. Thompson Boulevard for lunch. The Mr, craving their famous fish taco’s and me praying there would be chicken on the menu (fish just isn’t my bag!), neither of us where disappointed. Enjoying the delicious food in that glorious Californian sun is one of my favourite memories from that trip.

     

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    After a quick stop at Salzer’s Records (which to me was reminiscent of a Camden Town record shop & well worth a visit if music is your thing), we headed down to Ventura beach & pier where we where lucky enough to watch the most gorgeous sunset I’ve ever seen, the sky turning vibrant shades of orange and pink before our eyes, accompanied by the gentle lapping of the ocean waves and surrounded only by occasional joggers and dog walkers.

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    The day ended with the most delicious burger sliders I have ever eaten at Bombay Bar & Grill on S. California Street. Bombay is locally renowned for it’s live music, and while we weren’t lucky enough to catch any music on our visit, the atmosphere and friendly staff at this quirky, rustic bar make it a firm favourite and top of the list for a repeat visit. 

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    2 – Visit the abandoned zoo in Griffiths Park
    This one was a bit of a surprise hit, after stumbling across the slightly unusual attraction when browsing Pinterest for alternative things to do in LA. Knowing it’s reputation for being an interesting picnic spot, we stopped by our first choice supermakert, Ralphs (so much a favourite that I have a loyalty card attached to my keys), to stock up on tasty treats from the hot counter (and not forgetting a box of sugar cookers, obviously), we headed up to Griffiths Park. Once inside the park, it seemed at first it as though the zoo was incredibly hard to find. On realising we had no idea where the where, we decided to cut our losses and tuck into our feast at the nearest picnic area before we lost daylight, while watching teenage skaters practice their tricks against the empty benches. Before heading back to the car we strolled around one last bend on a whim and found ourselves face to face with the old bear enclosures, possibly the most iconic section of the old zoo.

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    There isn’t a huge amount of the small, poorly constructed zoo left, but what is there is eerie and fascinating enough to make it one of my favourite things about Los Angeles. At a slow pace it only took us around an hour of wondering around to see all there is to see, and the unusual sight of cages clearly designed to house wild animals sat despondent and dilapidated, covered in graffiti and rust, in the slowly setting sun still gives me little chills. 

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    3 – Sons of Anarchy Filming Locations Tour
    This one will of course only interest you if you are a fan of twisted genius Kurt Sutters incredible TV series (and if you’re not, where have you been, under a rock?!). Full credit for this afternoon of sight seeing goes to the clever Mr, who with his internet wizardry manage to find the locations of not only the Teller-Morrow garage/Sons of Anarchy clubhouse and the building used as the exterior for Charming’s police station, but also the gorgeous stretch of road featuring the John Teller memorial wall, which features heavily throughout the series (particularly in the final episode). As such an avid fan of the show, it felt strangely like an honour to stand in front of the faded blue lettering etched onto the rock face. 

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    Ending the trip with a visit to the remarkable mural plastered across the back of a building just off of Melrose Avenue, feeling as though we’d just stepped into the dramatic world of our favourite fictional biker gang for an afternoon was an amazing experience.

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    4 – Grab your favourite take-out and head into the hills for lunch
    As two of our favourite things about California are the views and the food, this is something we did often. Armed with a personal favourite (In N’ Out’s coronary inducing 4×4 burger), we would often take a drive up into the Hollywood Hills, park up in one of the many viewpoint lay bays and sit in the open car boot enjoying the heart-attack-in-a-bun and the views of rolling hills and jutting sky scrapers.

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    There is no shortage of places to stop and take in the sights in the Hollywood Hills, although one of the best (in my humble opinion ) which the Mr & I fondly refer to as ‘our spot’ is along Western Canyon Road, not too far from The Griffiths Observatory. A short drive down a peaceful stretch of road is a small lay-by marked with a wooden fence where we could sit for hours, playing out our favourite music and tucking in to delicious food.

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    Although on short notice, the top floor of the nearest car park works just as well!

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    5 – Attend a TV show taping
    I wasn’t honestly sure what to expect from the experience of attending a show taping of James Cordon’s ’the Late Late Show’ and the Mr was decidedly less enthusiastic than I was, but it was free and surprisingly easy to get tickets via 1iota.com a few weeks ahead of our last trip. So on a slightly grey & chilly afternoon we took the short drive to the CBS Television City in Fairfax, Los Angeles with absolutely no idea what what was in store. After a slightly underwhelming start, lined up on benches in the parking lot waiting patiently to be taken inside, we were finally lead to our seats in the studio. From there on, the evening passed in a blur of laughter. The Late Late Show is a funny & fast paced show with A-Lister guests (Kelly Osbourne & Josh Duhamel!), lead by the charismatic and talented James Corden who steers the show flawlessly and hysterically, with a professionalism that is awe inspiring to watch. I can’t recommend the experience enough, the only challenge is trying to stay awake for 12.37am air time to see if you’ve made it on to the small screen!

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but California is the home from home I didn’t have any choice but to fall head over heals in love with. Taking me on adventures into her neighbour states from road tripping through Nevada to Las Vegas to visiting the jaw dropping Grand Canyon, stumbling across Oatman, an old Western mining town straddling Route 66 in Arizona, stuck in a charming time warp that has to be seen to be believed, to driving through mountain ranges dotted with tiny little camper van towns with rows of tin mailboxes lining the dirt track roads.

    5 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

    Los Angeles itself is so full of individuality and quirk, from the weird and wonderful characters that litter the Hollywood Walk of Fame to the bright graffiti of Venice Beach and the beautiful murals lurking around every street corner. I will never be able to discover every corner and ever secret of this magical place, but it’s going to be a lot of fun trying!


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    Thank you SO much Emily!! You’ve inspired me to revisit already!

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    The City of Angels, guitars, beach sidewalks and Santa Monica Pier

    Los Angeles, the city of angels, thrums with grit, glitz and glamour. Infamous for the celebrities who flock towards the fame-inducing hills (and a magnet for wanna-be actors determined to fill in the hours between waitressing jobs, or so I’m told), we found the streets hummed with music.

    Not the tribal sounds of hand drums, the energy of flamenco guitars or dreamy European accordians on a cobbled lane, but a raw rock sound that tantalized my better half and I along the long, long boulevards. Our 3 days of unexpected stop over in LA was surprisingly full of tune.

    Santa Monica Pier sunset

    We started as all good holidays do, fresh from a jet-lag recovery sleep by wandering along the eastern end of the Sunset Strip lost before turning to our smartphones to fill our grumbling bellies (google 1, guidebook 0). Appetites sated in proper rockstar style, we discovered we were perhaps two blocks from the Guitar Center, an international mecca for the strummety-strum brigade aka Mr Kiwi Heaven.

    Los Angeles brunch The Guitar Center

    (Now, here’s a case in point of differing travel personalities; I had a
    good idea of what I wanted to see and how to get there. He had a secret
    dream of visiting two or three different places and never mentioned it
    until I discovered them in the guidebook and knowing he might be
    interested suggested we visit thus revealing his keenness… why oh why!? I must have said a dozen times ‘what do you want to do?’ “oh, you know, whatever”)

    First you walk over their own walk of fame; the handprints and signatures of music gods imprinted over the entranctrance blocks, it is a fascinating corner of the Sunset strip itself.  A temple to smooth-stringed mistresses, the store is a monolith of 4
    floors+ hung with every kind of guitar you can imagine and try to strategise fitting into your suitcase. As a non-guitar player (though guitars and I had a brief dalliance in my teenage years) it was utterly fascinating. The rock memorabilia, captivated strumming in corners and beautiful instruments were quite something.

    The Guitar Center wall of fame

    Peeling him from this mecca, we popped on a bus out of town and segued beautifully from Iron Maiden sidewalks, to the 90s beach pop of Sheryl Crow. It just makes you want to jump up and dance like a hipster, all cool like.

    Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard…



    For so many of my teenage years I heard so many bands write song
    mentioning Santa Monica. About a half hour drive from Hollywood and
    fifteen minutes from Rodeo Drive, it’s a cool beach community where the
    sun shines and skaters drift along the boardwalks.

    Without a single cloud in the sky, a soft breeze and perfect temperatures of 25°C we meandered through the town to the beachfront pier. Shoes full of sand, we walked the length of Santa Monica pier from one live band tucked in a nook, to the next, listening to them jam. We heard covers of The Beatles, acoustic versions of Led Zeppelin anthems and love songs.

    Santa Monica beach

    Santa Monica beach

    We seized an excuse to try a Bear Claw, an almond pastry under the palm trees…

    Santa Monica beach

     …and a couple of cocktails (my favourite a surprising Strawberry Basil concoction) in a badly serviced hotel bar which we swiftly vacated…

    Santa Monica beach

    …to wander some more along the West Coast shoreline until our appetities reared again, letting ourselves be guided by online reviews to a foodtruck specializing in Korean BBQ.

    Out last item on the agenda for the day was sunset. We wanted to watch the sun sink into the ocean horizon, alas due to the time of year it hid behind a range of hills, but it was beautiful nonetheless. (Another thing on Mr Kiwi’s secret bucket list.)

    LA Day One was sadly complete.

    Santa Monica beach

    See, travel personalities are absolutely a thing. I can’t not research because of a sense of FOMO – what happens if you never return? – whereas my husband will happily just wander into discoveries only to get home and be disappointed at the things we missed.










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    Hotel California, Hollywood, Los Angeles

    On a dark desert highway, cold wind in our hair We zipped and threaded our way through a mismatch of traffic. Fashionably sleek convertibles shared the road with dusty pick-up trucks, people-mover mom-mobiles swapped lanes with small busses.

    The warm smell of colitas rising up through the air and a dusty, piquant smell whispered through the windows of our ride from Los Angeles airport – we simply couldn’t wait to shake off the gross feeling of a 12-hour flight from London.

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles
    Apologies for the slightly hazy camera phone photos, holidaying in America has a strange way of losing my camera…every. single. time.

    Up ahead in the distance, we saw a shimmering light, our heads grew heavy and our sight grew dim – we had to stop for the night. As we got closer into civilization, the neon lights began to get bigger and brighter in the evening sky, advertising everything in dollars, nickels and dimes, before giving way to Hollywood musical theatre boards.

    There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell / And I was thinking to myself, “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell” We tumbled into our LA nest for our short trip, a private Hollywood apartment in the centre of all things tinseltown crazy.

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles

    Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way / There were voices down the corridor /
    I thought I heard them say…
    We dropped our bags, asked the security guy for directions to the nearest 24-hour supermarket and grabbed a sandwich before collapsing into bed. True rock and roll.

    Welcome to the Hotel California / Such a lovely place Our apartment was in the hotel famous for hosting The Eagles and appearing on the inside of their infamous album cover, Mr Kiwi stopping dead in the centre of the foyer to exclaim in excitement (I just nodded with a ‘yes dear, can we do this in the morning please?’ like the killjoy I am) at recognising a place of music history.

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles
    The Eagles – Hotel California album inside cover

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles

    They livin’ it up at the Hotel California / What a nice surprise / Bring your alibis. We knew it was going to be a fascinating 3 days to say the least… later in our stay we even popped into the Beverly Hills Hotel for a cheeky glass of wine & to feast our eyes on the iconic hispanic-style bell tower (also featured on the album cover).

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles

    Mirrors on the ceiling / The pink champagne on ice / And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device” I can confirm pretty strongly that there weren’t any mirrors on the ceiling, but we made it our mission to round up a bottle of pink California champagne to toast our Hollywood stay.

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles
    So angry with losing my camera, honestly!

    And in the master’s chambers / They gathered for the feast / They stab it with their steely knives /
    But they just can’t kill the beast
    Our apartment was a foodie paradise; a himalayan salt block in the kitchen, surprising array of whiskey and a plethora of cookbooks, but we preferred to grab or meals on the hoof, and a couple of drinks on the fire escape overlooking the Hollywood Sign, winking at us in the distance.

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles
    Enlarge to see!

    Last thing I remember, I was running for the door / I had to find the passage back to the place I was before / “Relax, ” said the night man, “We are programmed to receive. / You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!” We spent our days in mischief; lounging with cocktails on Santa Monica
    Boulevard and beach, singing songs inspired by LA streets, spied upon
    movie sets and stars, traversed the Walk of Fame, breakfasted like kings
    and drank beer in the hangouts of rock royalty.

    Hotel California, Hollywood Los Angeles

    Yeah, it was much cooler than we ever expected. Quite grimy in places, way too spread out and little challenging with the lack of public transport, but we overcame it with a little luck, and judicious use of googlemaps.

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