California. LA. Lessons in Astronomy and Fluid Dynamics.

As you might have noticed from the previous posts, we are more into hugging trees and picking rocks on the beach, than running around in the concrete jungles of big cities. That is exactly why we stopped at Griffith Park and Zuma Beach on our short visit to Los Angeles. The metropolitan area of Los Angeles and the dense housing starts way before you can see the Hollywood sign or smell the ocean – about 100 km before downtown. That’s where the cars start adding up and the infamous traffic jams begin, if not earlier. A couple we met in Sequoia NP told how they had hit traffic 92 miles before LA and after two hours they were at milepost 87. We were luckier and got to our destination smoother.

To be honest, we did a bit more than just the park and the beach. For starters, we drove around downtown to get a glimpse of the Guggenheim museum and the Olympic Stadium, Chinatown and the Mexican communities, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Griffith observatory was our first real destination, because we had a hard time finding a tourist information center and the observatory was ranked high on Tripadvisor. When we arrived, we could see why – great views overlooking the city and the famous Hollywood sign in the background, free exhibitions and demonstrations inside the building and nightly star gazing through their big telescope. We did a bit different star gazing that night, though. We chased the constellations on Hollywood Boulevard, taking pictures with the brightest ones.

Line for photographing with Monroe’s star
Hollywood Boulevard
There is hope and good humour in the elections for everyone!

What surprised us a bit was the amount of dark matter surrounding the stars, that became especially visible after the souvenir shops started closing and tourists were enjoying 20 dollar drinks at their hotel bars. Some young, some old, some hopeful,some hopeless – every 100 m somebody had their home on the street. And it’s not just Hollywood, it’s all around the city. A dramatic contrast to the high fashion life being lived on the hills and the suburbs.

Venice Beach

Life is beach. Beaches and surfing is a big part of LA’s image. The Baywatch, The Beach Boys, Malibu – you’ve heard of something, for sure. The hope for sandy beaches, constant waves and warm water had kept us from trying surfing in Oregon or Northern California, but now this was it,everything was right, except for the low water temperature. That didn’t stop us, though. We rented surfboards and wetsuits from Drill Surf Shop and hit the waves at Zuma Beach in Malibu.

Bit scary at first, being the first time for Raili and about third for Rainer, it turned out to be a fabulous experience. With waves just the right size and wetsuits keeping us warm we enjoyed being at the steep end of the learning curve, making process by the minute. As an extra we got to see dolphins and a humpback whale swimming really close to the shore!

Overall the city of angels didn’t impress us too much. The big size makes it hard to grasp, some of the streets don’t feel safe, some feel so safe, that you might get arrested just for driving a car older than 5 years and some streets are so congested that you can’t get anywhere. On the positive side, there are endless possibilities for all interests, the beaches are great and the weather mainly sunny!


Although it may seem that our trip is like Hollywood Walk of Fame – attraction after attraction and star after star, there are days when we take the time to be lazy and do less touristy things.

The longer the drive between our points of interest, the bigger the chance to get off course. On our way from LA to Grand Canyon we drove around in search of an AT&T store to get our internet plan updated. It didn’t help save time, that the line was too long in the first store we found! Then we saw the Sketchers factory store and stopped to check out the deals. Further down the road we spent and hour in an all-you-can-eat restaurant. That’s how the km’s and hours go, but that’s all part of being on a roadtrip!

So is stopping at a Salvation Army donation box in Phoenix, one of the hottest and sunniest cities in US, to give away our winter pants and rubber boots! We didn’t mean to be sarcastic! Honestly!

Then there are the countless times we spend a few hours in Starbucks or McDonalds to charge our stuff and use high-speed internet. It takes a lot of data to upload a video, you know. What else? There’s also laundry, buying groceries and filling the gas tank. The time between the sights actually helps us appreciate the trip a whole lot more.

Even the map of California gave us a hint to move on. Next up – Arizona!


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