Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Californian Dreams: Planning Adventures In The Golden State

I love England, I'm proud to be British and there is so much about me that is very, very European. However, my favourite place in the world is actually on another continent. My favourite place in the world is California. (Venice, Los Angeles, if we're being specific.) I know I mention how much I loved my time living in L.A. in practically every other post, so I hope you'll keep with me for an entire post dedicated to the Golden State. If it makes you feel any better, there is a bit of Orange County, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco in here too!
When the guys at Visit California got in touch asking me to write about my Californian dream for their 'Dream Big' campaign, if money was no object I knew it would be the perfect collaboration. Yes there are the blue skies and the beaches; really miss the Friday's when I used to head down to one of my favourite cafes on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Local 1205 to grab a baguette and a cold pressed juice (served in a mason jar, of course!) to lunch on as I walked along the beach towards Santa Monica Pier. 
But actually, if you add it up I've only lived in London for 5 more months of my life than I have in Los Angeles. I identify as a UCLA Bruin (Go Bruins!) just as much as I identify as a Londoner. You're just as likely to hear me bitching about the rush hour traffic on Westwood Boulevard as about delays on the Central Line. I'm perfectly happy where I am at the moment, but I think about moving back to Los Angeles at least once a month. So if the sky was the limit, not so much financially but in the terms of getting the sort of visa that would allow me to live in California? This is what would be on my bucket list, and they're all things that I want to work on completing each time I head back across the pond to my happy place. 
My first ever destination in California, indeed America was San Francisco, a city I've only spent two brief days in, and I really need to make the effort to get to know better. So, what is on my San Fran bucket list?

  • I need to go to Tartine. For brunch, baked goods and everything in between. 
  • However, the one restaurant in San Fran I would really kill to dine at is Chez Panisse. Who wouldn't? I'd even agree to work in a professional kitchen if it was there.
  • I never really managed to get enough pictures of the bendy streets the last time I was there, so getting back up there for some more photos is a must. 
  • A visit to Google's San Francisco campus would be a dream.  
  • I want to find a new place to get a fish and slaw sandwich by the waterfront, because I was gutted to hear that Sally's Famous Fishwich had closed up for good. 
  • I want to photograph the Palace Of Fine Arts during the golden hour.

5 The reason that first Bay Area trip when I was 18 was so brief, is it was actually en-route too and from a school skiing trip in Lake Tahoe. The lake was beautiful, and I'm glad that aside from my first day spent in San Francisco, my first real taste of California was actually of 'California', not the (totally awesome, however) version you get in the big cities. I knew on that trip that while I am happy in England, California is where at least 25% of me belongs. I don't know why, I could just feel it, and the evening I got back I looked up where in California the university I'd be able to go on exchange from where I'd been accepted to study the following September in London. UCLA was always the plan, and I'm thankful every day that it worked out. 

While we're up state, something I've wanted to do in California since I turned 21. I want to visit wine country. Napa is the obvious choice, and I can't wait to one day go, but I want to add Sonoma to that list too. This is on top of bar hopping around L.A. into all of the places I was not allowed into when I was living there. I want to look out over vineyards while really learning about the production, because I've only had a few tasters in how wine is made from French and Spanish companies, but going somewhere where English is the first language and where I can ask tonnes of questions would be just paradise. 
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Memorial Day weekend my West Coast BFF Nicole and I took a road trip down to the coast to Newport Beach, Orange County. It may have been a flying visit for brunch at a Newport institution, Haute Cakes Caffe, an afternoon on the beach and a trip to Dry Bar at the amazing Fashion Island shopping mall, but I fell a little in love. The O.C. is so beautiful, and in some ways so much more relaxed than L.A. I don't really have a wish list so much, but I'd love to just go back to explore. If anyone has any recommendations for Orange County..!
So, finally, back to my wish list for my beloved Los Angeles. I think I'll just include a few of my highlights here, as to be perfectly honest I could fill notebooks full of things I still have to do in my second city. Most of these are food related (are they not ever, with me?) - there is so much in the city I have yet to consume! 

  • Lunch at Farmshop, Brentwood Country Mart (above). A feature on the deli was one of the first features I shot when I moved to Los Angeles, but I really want a proper meal there.
  • Pizza from Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. I went there for my 20th birthday lunch (below), but I have not tried one of their famous pies yet. 
  • I want to eat California Rolls in California. I hated sushi until my last morning in L.A.
  • I also want to fill up on avocados, basically one of Los Angeles' favourite foods, which I also did not like until my final days there. And I want to go back to Trader Joe's to buy them. 
  • A long, proper brunch at my favourite brunch spot in the world, The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney. I dream about the banana bread, bacon stuffed waffles and Petite Mary cocktails. 
  • Mexican food. There are so many tacos I did not eat in L.A., or SoCal in general. The picture below is my favourite place to sit and have tacos for lunch in Santa Monica, Blue Plate Taco.
  • I need to eat at Trois Mec, Ludo Lefebvre's joint. It is my one biggest restaurant regret leaving the city, ever since the afternoon I was lucky enough to watch him cook in Beverly Hills. 
  • Also at the top of my 'to eat' list are A.O.C, Superba, Laurel Hardware and Son Of A Gun.

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  • For non-food related activities (what!), I would like to spend a proper day at the Getty Villa in Malibu. I went there for a class trip for a few hours, and the replica Roman villa up on the hill is such a beautiful and idilic spot, which I want the chance to explore more. 
  • Speaking of Paul Getty, I never went to the Getty Museum up by Brentwood. Needs must.
  • Another class trip (Art History this time, not Classics) was to look at some cartoons in the archives at The Huntington Botanical Gardens. All I got to do was walk through these stunning gardens, not explore them at all so I want to go back on my next trip to L.A. for sure.
  • I also want to shoot some pictures of the stunning UCLA campus for you all, because I've realised that aside from a few Instagrams, you've never seen my Alma Mater. 
  • So many swimwear editorials have been shot at Paradise Cove in Malibu, that I want to go!

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And finally, I want to replicate my last meal in my old neighbourhood of Westwood again many, many times. California's own In-N-Out burger. Secret Menu Mustard Fried Hamburger Patty, no onions every single time.
I do plan to head back to California, hopefully next year at the latest, but honestly past me talking about my time in L.A. all the time, you can see so much of California in my cooking. But while I can't really give much advice on most of the state past where I personally enjoyed, I always enjoy answering your questions, emails and Tweets when you ask me where you should go on your holiday to Los Angeles. Honestly, it is not a burden to ask, so if you're planning a trip to L.A. any time soon I'll be happy to help you with how to get around, what neighbourhoods to choose and where to eat. Also, if I can't help, I'm sure the Visit California team on Twitter (@VisitCA) would also be happy to offer their advice and suggestions.  


  1. Do you really want to visit Google's San Francisco offices (three floors in an office building) rather than their head office and main campus in Mountain View, 35 miles away from San Francisco?

  2. I do actually mean Mountain View, but as I'm not writing for an American audience, most people see it as in San Fran. A bit like If Burbank is Los Angeles or not.

  3. Aww, the feels of this post <3 I think LA is one of those places that you either love or hate - unfortunately, I fall in the latter. But I think it's because I never had the chance to venture out of East LA/Hollywood area. Bookmarking this post for future LA visits! Hopefully, I'd get to love it like you do! :)

    I only spent 3 days in San Francisco, and fell in love with it <3

    xo Romzs from

  4. Do try L.A. again, I'm not a East/ Hollywood fan myself, actually. My favourite places start in West Hollywood and stretches down through Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, Brentwood, Mid-City, Santa Monica to Venice!

  5. Ooh this makes me want to go back to CA SOOO much! Especially like you said since turning 21 - there's a whole new experience awaiting haha. If you do make it back to Orange County, try and stop by Dana Point - it's a gorgeous little town just down from Laguna and right on the harbour is Coffee Importers, with tons of outside seating and some of the best bagels I've ever eaten. I love it so much I made a return trip to DP three years after the first just to go there...


  6. I went to San Fran and LA on holiday a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I could definitely imagine myself living in SF!

  7. Go! And yes, I'll be happy to help x

  8. Thanks for the tip, that sounds great!

  9. Forget seeing the 'real' L.A. - you need to head back for the In-N-Out!

  10. Tell me about it. It is genuinely the biggest regret of my whole year away!!

  11. Hi Rachel. Gosh, I totally relate to this feeling so had to comment! I was born in LA and lived there for about 8 years in between hopping back and forward over the pond. My childhood memories are filled with days on the beach, ice cream cakes and sunny bbqs; they always make me smile. It's been 5 years since I last visited but I am constantly daydreaming about 'when I go back.' I'm planning on dusting off my US passport and visiting for an extended holiday next year, to lay the land for hopefully moving in a couple of years. No doubt I'll scour your website for some great restaurant recommendations! Lovely post, thank you x

  12. Oh, I'm so jealous that you've got that American passport, I'd like the option to be able to decide if I wanted to live full time in Los Angeles or not, but for me I don't even think about it as it is not really a serious option for me at the moment.

    I always thought kids in L.A. must have had all the fun with the beaches and the weather all year around, I'm kinda jealous! (Of that as well!!) xx

  13. Hi, I loved this post..This time 2 years ago my boyfriend and I where in California on the ultimate road trip. We had the best time and still dream of moving sigh. Gjelina is the best especially the butterscotch pot oh and In n Out burger animal style fries :-). Also i learned about the wonder that is the frozen margarita! The most amazing place we stayed was the Ace Hotel in Palm springs. Pool party's in the desert whats not to like. One day we'll be back x

  14. Oh, I really want to go stay at the Ace Hotel. And yes, the Butterscotch Pot at Gjelina. They actually stuck a candle in the top of it for me and it was my 20th birthday cake!

  15. I have been missing the beach life more and more lately, but moving back to France scares me a bit. I just don't want to lose my English! I am starting to think California might be for me. Roomies? ; )

    - Elodie x

  16. If we could get the visas, for sure!