Recap

I’ve had a couple of weeks now to look back at this trip and draw a final conclusion. I have really enjoyed both parts of the trip. Visiting Katie was fun and discovering Dallas on my own/with a local was a great experience.

The second part of the trip was way more touristy with my friends and we saw a lot of stuff, had long car rides across beautiful scenery. If I were to take this trip again I would do it over the course of three weeks, not two, and spend some more days in various parks to take more hikes, take shorter drives, and probably spend a day or two in Portland as well.

But we did it. We were on the road for 2181.7 miles and about 56.5 hours. And I would definitely do it again. What should I say? I just love road trips. Next thing I would like to do is either driving across Canada or from Boston to LA.

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The part that felt most touristy for me was LA though, which was mainly my fault I guess. As I have mentioned before, we used a pass to go to various attractions. The pass cost $200 for three days and, even though we managed to get our money’s worth, the stuff we did most was “Ok, what else can we do that’s included in our passes?” instead of exploring other things in the city. As a result of this we did some stuff that we wouldn’t have done just because “we already paid for it”, like Madame Tussauds.

I was afraid that this would happen but getting these passes was ultimately my idea, so I have no one to blame for this except myself.

We also did some touristy things in Seattle and San Francisco of course, but it felt a lot heavier in LA.

I’m fairly happy that I got to try some “exotic” stuff that you’d not get usually, calf fries, oysters, or frog legs for example. To me, personally, exploring new, great food, is about as important as the sightseeing itself. Therefore, I’m also happy to have discovered Fatburger (which ruined every other burger for me!). Unfortunately, there are some things that I didn’t get to try/do. I would’ve loved to get some crawfish, some authentic Chinese food in Chinatown, or some more Mexican food.

Another thing this trip has shown me is how much I actually enjoy going for walks and it really set something off in me. The other day for example I went to get ice cream and after I got it I didn’t really feel like just walking back home again (the ice cream place is about 5 minutes away from my home), so I just went for a spontaneous hour-long walk. I really hope that I will be able to retain this passion.

I am already looking forward, and planning, my next trip to the US which will very likely take me to the Midwest. The start and end points are not yet fixed though.

Day 26, May 29th/30th: Time to Say Goodbye

 

Our very last day, not only in the City of Angels, but also in the US. Our parking spot was free now, so we immediately picked up our car and put it back there since our hosts said it was ok to leave the car there till the afternoon, as long as the apartment was clear. So we put all our bags in it and headed off towards Sunset Blvd.

And on Sunset Blvd we were once again met by the not so nice side of tourism in LA. The (sometimes) assholes trying to sell you bus tours to the home of the stars! We walked past one of these fine human beings, politely, but firmly, declining his offer to sell us tickets by saying “no thank you”, and kept walking on, which led to a barrage of questions, which we ignored not to be pulled into a sales conversation, which lead to him heckling us.

I mean, I get it. You have a shitty dead-end job, trying to get by, by selling poor little tourists tours to houses of people who hate you for driving thousands of tourists past your house every day. But then again, you probably aren’t the first one trying to sell a certain person a tour and you probably won’t be the last one so, you should at least expect that sometimes people will tell you to fuck off, which we didn’t. We just ignored him after declining his very intriguing offer of a highly professional salesman, in sweatpants.

We walked for a good two hours till we hit a public market, where we sat down to eat. The problem here was though, there was way too much to choose from. I probably ran all over the place for a good 20 minutes before I finally settled for Cajun. I wanted to try the crawfish, but they were out so I decided to go for the frog legs instead, another dish that I never had before, with a side of jambalaya, collard greens, and cornbread.

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The food was good, the frog legs were interesting but ultimately, they are very much like chicken in a sense that they don’t have much of a taste of their own but they’ll pretty much taste like whatever you season them with. Nonetheless, I would order them again.

We went back to the Airbnb and picked up our car to try our luck at the Griffith Observatory one more time. There was way less traffic this time but we didn’t think we could get any parking because there were a lot of people up there already. Right when we were at the top though the parked car right in front of us took off so we snagged that one. Great success!

From the observatory, which is closed on Mondays, you have a great look across the city and a got shot at the Hollywood sign, even though it’s still kind of far away. I would totally recommend the observatory over the US Bank Tower though. If you don’t want to drive up there you can also hike up, or take the bus.

From the observatory, we drove to the airport, where our ways parted after a few hours since Tim and Sebastian flew back home with Lufthansa while I was booked on a British Airways flight with an A380, which I was looking forward for.

Before boarding the plane, I went to get a Pizza at 800° Pizza, a small, local pizza chain mentioned by CGP Grey on the Hello Internet podcast and, he did not lie. The pizza was awesome. You order your pizza and then you can actually watch them make it for you, stretching out the dough, putting the sauce and your toppings on and then the pizza goes into a nice little wood-fired oven where it is cooked to perfection. This, was probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my whole life.

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Flying home on an A380 was pretty great too and I would also recommend flying British Airways. The service was great (two bottles of wine for dinner free of charge? Sign me up please!) and so was the entertainment. I dozed off pretty quickly though, slipping in and out of my slumber occasionally.

My connecting flight was in Heathrow, which worked out smoothly, and I was back in Germany at about 11 pm on the 30th.

Day 25, May 28th: The Worst

 

JULY 19

Our last full day in the US and I can easily say, this was the worst day of the trip but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

As I have mentioned before, I quite enjoy having buffet breakfasts and we decided to go for it while we were still here. Since there is no Golden Corral in the area we went to a Home Town Buffet. Let me get this straight first. I do understand that these are fairly cheap places and you are not to expect quality there but Home Town Buffet…

The variety was worse than GC, the food was worse, and it was even more expensive. Probably the first and last time I’ve ever been there.

Afterwards we went to a Walmart real quick and Tim said he’d stay in the car. I kept the key in my pocket when we walked away and locked the car, he had the window down for some fresh air. Since it was still too hot he decided to open the door. Unfortunately, the car at this point decided to set off the alarm. My cell was still muted due to it being quite early so I did not receive any notifications about texts etc. Great start to a day, isn’t it? Well, hang in there. It gets even better!

This was the last day we wanted to use our Go Los Angeles Card so we originally thought about going to Downtown straight away. We changed our plans to going to Madame Tussauds first though, since it was close to the subway station and also included in our passes. When we arrived there however, we were told that our passes had expired even though we only used them on two days, not three.

We called the customer service and found out that the USS Iowa seemingly has a problem with their system, booking the wrong dates on these cards. They issued new one-day passes and we went to get some coffee while we waited.

Madame Tussauds itself is, well, I don’t know. The tickets are usually about $30 bucks and in my opinion, not really worth it. I can see that it takes a lot of time and expertise to create these wax figures and they look really good. But $30 for something that you’ll do in under two hours seems a bit excessive to me.

We went to the subway and rode downtown where we took a quick peek at the Bradbury Building. It’s famous for the architecture inside of the building, featured in films like Bladerunner, 500 Days of Summer, or one of the Twix commercials as the factory for either of the two sides (can’t remember which one). The outside is pretty ordinary though.

Before going to the US Bank Tower we grabbed a quick coffee at Blue Bottle. The concept is pretty cool, the coffee beans are ground fresh for every cup of coffee and you can actually see them brewing it with a filter and hot water, the coffee itself didn’t taste that great (to me at least).

Next up was the US Bank Tower with their fairly new observation deck. We walked over there and it seems to me like downtown LA, like downtown Dallas, is pretty much dead. Maybe we were in the wrong part of downtown but there was basically nothing but office buildings and a couple of places to get food.

Once we were up on the observation deck the look over LA was pretty disappointing I have to admit. LA doesn’t have a lot of skyscrapers really that make for an interesting look as in New York for example. LA is just pretty spread out, big mass of concrete but nothing too spectacular. The hills and the Hollywood sign in the other hand are a bit too far away to actually make something out there.

We hopped back on the subway and drove out to Santa Monica to grab one of these Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tours that would lead us to Beverly Hills, also included in our pass, after we snapped a quick picture of the sign that determines the end of Route 66. The ride was very scenic only I didn’t have my headphones with me, I didn’t want to grab any on the bus (I also didn’t realize we could do this when we got on), and they didn’t put the English audio on speakers so… I was kind of ok with not hearing anything but the fact that we had to wait about 30-40 minutes for the bus made for a pretty bad experience, too.

When we arrived in Beverly Hills we took a quick look around, walked down Rodeo Drive and the street that clearly was the place where the first heist in GTA V happened before heading back to our Airbnb.

Next on our list was going up to the Griffith Observatory. It was about 6 pm and we thought yeah, we can clearly make it up there before dawn and take some pictures with and without sunlight. Oh, how wrong we were…

We read the day after that Sunday evenings are the most popular evenings to go up there which meant, for us, being stuck in a traffic jam up the hill for about 2-3 hours without being able to find a parking spot.

On our way down we decided to grab a bite to eat so we went to the closest Fatburger. Fatburger isn’t called Fatburger because their burgers are greasier than others but they want the fat to be more understood as great and it can mainly be found in California.

And the burgers were above awesome. Honestly, this is probably the burger that beats 5 Guys and, as you all sure know, 5 Guys is pretty awesome already. The burger they put on the grill was just basically a ball of meat, flattened on the grill and cooked to perfection. It’s hard to say but this burger probably ruined all other burgers for me.

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So we thought we’d at least end the day on a high but when we got back to our Airbnb, some dipshit was parked in our assigned spot… Our hosts were really nice and helpful and they ended up reimbursing us for public parking but all in all, this day was just the worst…

Day 24, May 27th: All Aboard

Today we drove down to San Pedro to visit the USS Iowa, a battleship of the Iowa class. She is the last battleship that could technically still be re-activated by the Navy.

The tour onboard was self-guided with volunteers spread throughout the ship telling the history of the ship. There were some sections of the ship we couldn’t see unfortunately, as the inside of a gun tower or the engine rooms.

We then went on to walk to the piers in San Pedro. We were surprised to see lots and lots of small restaurants and food stands with all sorts of seafood and tons of people. We had a quick snack before boarding a ship for a two-hour whale watching tour. We were lucky enough to see a humpback whale as well as several dolphins and a couple sea lions.

I really enjoyed that part, standing at the railing on the bow of the ship, going up and down. It was just a tad too windy for my taste but I’m willing to do that again any time.

From San Pedro we drove to Santa Monica and walked along the beach, Tim partly in the pacific, and down the Santa Monica Pier. Even though it was windy, and not very warm that day, there were still lots of people actually going into the pacific. I’d love to come back here when the weather’s a bit better. Maybe another time.

For dinner, we went to Tam O’Shanter, the casual dining spot belonging to Lawry’s the Prime Rib. Tam O’Shanter looks like an old-timey Scottish pub and I went for the prime rib, which was really awesome. Together with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and gravy. If you happen to be in LA, I would highly recommend going there and enjoy a very tasty cut of meat.

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We then went on and drove along Mulholland Drive for a while, getting some nice looks over LA at night but since all the vantage points up there close at sundown we weren’t really able to get some good pictures in before going back to our Airbnb.

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Photo by Sebastian

Day 23, May 26th: To Stars Hollow!

Today we got up early, again, since we had a tour at Warner Brothers booked for 8:30 am. The tour itself was pretty cool. We saw a lot of outside sets where different movies and TV shows were filmed (e.g. Spiderman, HIMYM, TBBT, Jurassic Park) as well as the outsides of different sound stages, where the inside sets usually are built and shot. Most amazing, at least to me, was probably all the Gilmore Girls sets we saw, like the gazebo, Luke’s Diner, Lorelai’s/Sookie’s house (the house is actually either or, depending on which side is filmed) as well as Miss Pattie’s school.

We only went into one sound stage, even though we passed several of them (for example the ones where Friends and Two and a half men were shot) but we saw the insides of the stage where The Big Bang Theory is being filmed. I have to say the sets look a lot bigger on TV as they really (the trick is slanted angles to make everything appear bigger) but seeing the set was really cool. The only set you could actually see was Penny’s and Leonard’s/Sheldon’s apartment with the piece of hallway between them. All the other sets are being built in the stage as needed. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures there but still. Being able to say “I’ve seen the real thing!” is pretty awesome in my mind.

Other than that, we saw some exhibitions about Batman and various other DC Comics, since Warner owns them, and took a little look behind the scenes of how movies are made. All in all, I think it was a very interesting experience but I’m not entirely sure if it’s worth the 60 bucks it’d usually cost.

After Warner Brother’s we went to Universal Studios. I wanted to get a Donut at Voodoo Doughnuts, which is originally from Portland, Oregon and was featured in an episode of Man v Food. Since there was a rather long line we skipped it, for now, and went straight to the park.

We did the studio tour there, which took about an hour, and saw some more outdoor sets. The Universal tour also includes some more action-like stuff, an “earthquake” in a subway station for example, or a car chase. But, all in all, I thought the tour at Warner Brother’s was a lot better.

We went ahead and did some of the rides but, at least to me, Universal isn’t that spectacular. I mean, yes. We saw the Water World stunt show and that was amazing but there just aren’t that many rides to actually go on. We only did one of the roller coasters, the smaller Harry Potter one since we didn’t feel like waiting in line for the bigger one for two hours, and the Jurassic Park water ride.

After we left the actual park we walked down Universal City Walk and I did get in line at Voodoo Doughnuts (which actually got a lot longer by the time I was in). I got the Bacon Maple Bar. You know, I needed a comparison to the one from Dallas, and the Voodoo Doughnuts one was a lot better. I’d definitely order it again. I also got a jelly filled voodoo doll and that was great too.

Afterwards we went ahead and had dinner at the Hard Rock Café, where we enjoyed our meal on the patio in the sun, which was really nice.

Our last stop for the day was at a Ralphs, the supermarket chain featured in The Big Lebowski, to grab some more drinks for the evening before calling it a night.

Day 22, May 25th: You Got Hustled

Today was the day of our last big drive, from San Francisco, or, to be more precise, Oakland, to LA. We got up early, packed our stuff, and hit the road.

Instead of going back on the 101 in San Francisco we figured it would save us some time, and inner city traffic, if we take the I 880 south to San Jose where we ultimately got back on the 101. Since the nicest part of the CA 1 was blocked due to a massive landslide while we were there we stayed on the 101 all the way down to LA.

The CA 1 was closed anyways for the danger of landslides after heavy rainfalls at the beginning of the year but now it will be closed for several months for sure.

Once we were in LA we unpacked our stuff and then went ahead and walked towards Hollywood Blvd. Our Airbnb was really great, modern, looking good and in a pretty neat location, just a couple minutes away from the main tourist strip.

Once we were on the boulevard we just kind of strolled down there, stretching our legs, getting some steps in. Hollywood Blvd is, well, interesting… A lot of impersonators there for photos, which cost you of course, as well as young, aspiring “hip hop artists” who sure as hell will be unbelievably famous in the near future! They offer you CDs and, as soon as you accept one of these CDs that they basically shove in your face, they demand a $5 donation from you (no, I didn’t not accept one of these nifty CDs and I will surely protect the identity of the victim).

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After this rather “cheerful” event we went back home and pretty much called it for the day after we picked up some snacks and beers at a nearby 7-Eleven.

Day 21, May 24th: I’m Running out of Titles

 

Another day, another walk to the subway and ride to SF!

While Tim was exploring SF the other day he figured out the whole public transport stuff so we decided to use the buses as well today. But first we walked to Union Square and then to the nearest Cable Car end point, which was packed, so we walked to the next stop.

Surprisingly, the next Cable Car that came along wasn’t that packed so we hopped aboard. Technically it was the wrong one, we wanted to hop on the one that went to the Hyde Street Pier but we ended up at Fisherman’s Wharf anyways.

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Photo by Sebastian

We got a quick snack and I opted for clam chowder in a bread bowl from Boudin Bakery. I was told that is kind of a must have if you’re in SF. Chowder and the bread were good for a snack, I can recommend them (if you happen to like clam chowder that is).

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We took a bus towards the Golden Gate Bridge and walked along the beach towards Fort Point. From Fort Point we made our way up to the visitor center and walked to the first pillar.

We were really lucky since there was no fog that day, we could see the whole thing! It was overcast though and very windy but hey, we saw the whole damn thing! Awesome!

We then took a bus to Golden Gate Park, which we crossed briefly, and then went for some froyo and coffee before driving back to the city. We caught another Cable Car ride and ended up at the right place this time, Hyde Street Pier. That ride is pretty cool since the one street you drive down you have a straight look at Alcatraz.

From Hyde Street Pier we walked along Fisherman’s Wharf to Pier 39. At Pier 39 you can find lots of little shops and restaurants, as well as a colony of sea lions.

We decided to get some food there and opted for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, which is alright, nothing special.