Road Trip: Driving Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles

Highway One Road Trip: Los Angeles and Santa Monica

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As previously mentioned, the days in LA were full of doin’ the tourist thang and filling our stomachs with delicious food (whoever said LA wasn’t a culinary experience didn’t eat where we dined!).

Our first morning in LA, after our morning dip in the pool, we re-enacted a scene from The Hills—sense a common theme here? As China so keenly observed, all of my LA knowledge comes from my sad obsession with the show—and brunched at The Grove, giving Helle yet another chance to soak up every bit of sunshine she could (seriously, I think she took all the warmth back to Denmark with her, because ever since she’s left, it’s become increasingly more chilly and Dorothy-in-Kansas windy).

hollywood, california
After walking around the open-air marketplace, we hopped in the car and braved the Hollywood traffic, as we approached Mann’s Chinese Theater and finally got our first proper glimpse of the Hollywood sign. The Walk of Fame itself is like being at an amusement park — we were greeted by Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and an overweight, Hispanic Elvis all within a few short steps. We only stayed long enough to take a few pictures, be interviewed for E! News, and get offered tickets to about a dozen TV shows (hard to pass up, I will admit). Then, it was over the mountain and onto…Universal City!

hollywood, california
We headed to Universal just to take the studio tour. I mean, I grew up in Tennessee, visiting Orlando several times a year until I was a teen, so I know that no Los Angeles park can compete with Florida (and I was right), but the one thing LA’s Universal has that Orlando’s doesn’t is movie sets galore. After navigating our way through the parking lot, tacky shops and junk food stands, we found the entrance and were a little put out to discover that in order to take the tour, we’d have to pay the admission fee to the park. So, since we’d paid for parking already and driven all that way, and it was LA rush hour, which lasts, oh about half of the day, and we couldn’t go elsewhere anyway, we bit our lips and forked over $64 (egads!) EACH, $64 that would have been better spent shopping for sure.


The tour was pretty fun—they take you through the sets of past movies like Bruce Almighty, Psycho, War of the Worlds, through Whoville from The Grinch, and also by Wisteria Lane and soundstages like Desperate Housewives, which was filming at the moment (we had to be extra quiet at this point, something that our Japanese businessmen neighbors were not so good at)—but was the trip worth the high admission price? I’m not exactly sure. After the hour tram tour was over, I dragged Helle across the park Universal’s TWO rides (two?? are you serious?? Universal Orlando has like 20, at least): Jurassic Park and the Mummy. Luckily, our visit was on a weekday and in the period between Spring Breakers and summer vacationers, so we didn’t have to wait in line. After we’d had our rollercoaster thrill, we tried to head to Santa Monica to catch some rays, but it turns out all those little LA traffic rumors? Were not just rumors. It took us a couple hours to reach the coast (with a “brief” detour in which we drove all the way to downtown LA by accident), and by that time, the sun had gone down, and we only had time for a hot dog and cup of coffee and a local dive bar before it was time to go home and shower in preparation for the evening.

universal city, california

Our final night in LA, we went to dinner at trendy Akasha in Culver City with China and Sunberri (seriously, how cool is it that I know people named China and Sunberri? It only makes me wish my mom had gone with her hippie instinct and named me something uber-Californian…”we were going to name you something Earth-y like tree or grass or lake, but then we just settled on Kristin,” she’s told me many a time).

When China told me, “we should try out this new place my friends and I have wanted to check out for ages. It’s very California health food,” I was immediately a bit hesitant. But they had mac and cheese and onion rings on the menu, so seriously, how bad could it be? AWESOME is the answer to that (though don’t try the mac and cheese). Everything, decor included, was organic, and I felt a little out of my element among all the LA scenesters, but cocktails aside (I can’t recall what we drank exactly, but combinations of ginger and carrot juice and vodka and likely wheatgrass or something equally as disarming sounding), the food was delicious (if you ever go, the turkey burgers are a MUST). I was a little iffy about the dessert menu—the chocolate-coconut hemp gelato with chocolate chip cookies and caramelized bananas sounded right up my alley if it weren’t for that operative word HEMP, and as China put it, “it scares me when something can be worn as clothing, smoked and consumed”—but I went against her initial worry and yum, OH MY YUM.

santa monica, california

Friday was spent doing what we do best: laying out. I would actually be confident in saying that a big part of Helle’s and my friendship is based on our obsession with the sun. Our first trip together was in the spring 2006 when we spent several weeks in the south of France and Corsica on assignment. And when I say “on assignment,” I would like to add that this entailed tracking terrorists by morning, sitting by the beach by early afternoon, eating crepes at waterfront cafes by midday. It was quite the difficult existence.

santa monica, california
After dropping Helle off at the Third Street Promenade for one last morning of shopping, while I went in for a meeting at PEOPLE (before which I ate a delicious breakfast at Lazy Daisy Cafe; I really wanted to try Literati Cafe, which Sunberri recommended, but alas, that must wait until next time!), we reconvened in Santa Monica and headed to Venice Beach to catch some rays. The weather was glorious, and I packed all wrong. Before we left five days prior, the Weather Channel told me it wouldn’t get any warmer than high-60s; thus, I packed all miniskirts, leggings, boots and long-sleeved tees. As it turned out, the temp topped out in the 80s, which caused me to buy an all new wardrobe (the shame), like this adorable Anthropologie dress, for which I would sell my kids, you know if I actually had any:

santa monica, california

Our six-hour drive back was via the inland route, a path we were told was nothing more than boring, and one we found to be quite picturesque, breathtaking, atmospheric if I’m employing my Lonely Planet words here.

santa monica, california

  • April 21, 2008

    That dress – sooo cute! I love shopping at Anthropologie but like you can only afford doing it once in a blue moon.

    The red belt on your dress puts it all together – very fab!

  • April 21, 2008
    May Vanderbilt

    I think I might just hang up my hat and officially start living vicariously through you.

    This trip sounds amazing and with a guide like Sunberri, how could you go wrong?!

  • April 21, 2008

    i almost bought that dress at Anthro when i was in NY last month! love love love. dear god, i wish we had anthropologie in canada…

  • April 21, 2008

    Ahem. “And thanks also to Lemon for her excellent recommendations and knowledge, as they were simply unparalleled. Or at least shockingly spot-on, given she’s been to LA all of three times.”

    You’re welcome. :o)

  • April 22, 2008

    i love the dress. i might need to make my own stop at anthropologie soon.

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