22 Oct 2013

The 'Real' Southern California with Teenagers

For as long as l can remember l have dreamt of going to America!  California was always at the absolute top of my list as the one place l had to visit before l die, it has always sounded so amazingly glamorous and surrounded by all things super shiny.  So l guess with a 30 something year build up it never really stood a chance at living up to my crazy expectations?

Enter ‘l told you so’s’.  Many a well meaning friend tried to warn me before we left, that California really is something else, but it was not what l was imagining, not even close.

None the less Los Angeles and California in general was amazing in a completely different way.  What we found was definitely a genuine lack of glamour (minus Rodeo Drive.. of course) but a whole lot of fabulous culture and a state with a rhythmic heart beat that you feel where ever you go.

Our Californian experience was nothing short of awe inspiring, eye opening and a memory that will stay with us forever, so here it is in a nutshell :

Accommodation :
1. We stayed at the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood, Los Angeles (5 nights).  This extremely well priced boutique hotel was certainly like a scene straight out of the old TV show Melrose Place.  It is a little hotel that really is not much to look at, is not at all glamorous but rest assured it is not the location, the amenities or the luxury that holds the charm for this hotel, it is the first class service, by extremely well picked staff, that is truly amazing.  You would be forgiven for thinking you had just come to Hollywood to stay with friends, it is truly that friendly, which is nice when you just stepped off the plane in a foreign country.
2. In Anaheim we stayed at Disney Grand California Hotel (4 nights).  Yes it was handy as it was basically inside Disney California, but as far as ‘bang for your buck’ goes it was crazy expensive.  Next time l would stay at one of the other cheaper, just as close, Disney hotels.  Sadly this hotel was also not ‘themed’ as l expected, the only ‘Disney’ in our room was a faded Bambi shower curtain, no Mickey to be seen.
3. We had a couple of spare days before Las Vegas so we decided on Santa Monica.  We stayed at Lowes Santa Monica Beach (2 nights).  This hotel was stylish, well located and as beach lovers it was everything we hoped for.  It’s not cheap but well worth the splurge for a couple of gorgeous seaside days.

Things we ticked off our To Do List, both from my perspective and the all important teens :
1. Indoor Sky Diving – Yep you heard it here, an absolute must do!  I am completely terrified of heights so this is a close to flying as l’m ever going to get and let me tell you, it was awesome and we all loved every single second of it.  What a hoot and a real once in a lifetime experience that costs a fraction of real sky diving, but with the same exhilarating feeling (Adam has done both and can attest to this).  You can find them here : iFly Hollywood.
2Universal Studios – From sun up till sun down we were immersed in all things action packed and movie-like.  We were thrilled, we were delighted, we spent an obscene amount of money (go the Front of Line tickets for sure!) and we all left feeling completely trashed but very happy.  P.S. Don’t forget the actual Studio Tour (we nearly did, eeekkk) it was a highlight of the day and bought us up close and personal to Jaws, King Kong and Desperate Housewives, ahhhmazing!  P.P.S l made the troops stop at Zen Zone on the way out after dragging me around all day and l got a $20 well deserved water massage, now you’re talking!  
3The Grove and Farmers Market – now everyone is not going to like this but... just another expensive outdoor shopping mall that seems specifically designed to have tourists parting with hard earned cash, yep you read it here!  Yes it’s nice, yes it’s clean, but I’m sure this is not the place to go if you are looking for some serious shopping and USA bargains.  In saying that we didn’t really bother too much with the Farmers Market side of things, what do l need with fresh produce, hey l’m on vacation, l’m not cooking. 
4. Shopping – I think we went hunting for bargains at every mall in Southern California.  Then we found Citadel Outlets, this place was well worth the trip and l wish we had found it first!
5. Hollywood Boulevard, Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – exactly what you would expect.  Great to see, but once in your life is enough. 
6. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure – armed with our 3 day park hopper tickets we Disneyed ourselves senseless.  The kids went on every single ride, without exception and l spent the majority of the time lined up in the longest lines known to mankind.  Lucky for me though lining up for the longest time gave me the unique opportunity to chat with many native Americans about their sheer love of all things Disney and gave me an insight into the ‘religion’ that is Disneyland, very interesting but that’s a whole new article.  There is no denying Disneyland is something to behold and as far as theme parks go, it is certainly the pinnacle of theme park awesomeness..even if you have to line up for hours   
7. Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu – The Venice Beach Esplanade is a ‘theme park’ in itself, totally unique and like nothing else you’ve seen.  At times in fact absolutely hilarious, with the unusual townsfolk, medicinal marijuana shops and everything else in between.   Santa Monica and Malibu are beautiful seaside suburbs with some good shopping, lovely beaches and great food.  This is a side of LA that we all loved and would probably have like to stay longer in...next time! 

Our 11 days in Southern California were hectic, eye opening, awe inspiring and literally amazing, just not in the way that l had originally imagined, which is great because l love to be surprised, and surprised l was!

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