Okay so, from Nashville to Washington there are 666miles (1070km) – 10 hours driving. So needless to say, the trip was quite long to get there! Especially when you consider the fact that Steph did the whole thing. Yeah.. I was still feeling pretty sick so I stayed on zombie mode in the car next to him. At least I didn’t bother him much! Anyways, we spent a night in a reallllllly weird place in the middle of nowhere, with police cars cruising around and a bunch of guys waking us up in the middle of the night as they were playing football on the parking lot (and hitting the car of course.) Great.
But eventually, we did make it to Washington. After reading a couple of articles about the city, it was clear that there wasn’t much to do except for the political and historical landmarks plus a bunch of museums. So we decided to be super efficient for the afternoon. We parked right by the White House – almost feeling like we were in an episode of Homeland with all the security cars driving around. We then went ahead to take a look at the famous building – it looked smaller in real life than in the movies, that’s for sure. We did wonder how often they get the walls painted for them to stay so white… Any thoughts? Like real tourists, we took some photos – with our Crapules stuff of course! As we were taking them we couldn’t help but notice the insane level of security, I mean, snipers on the roof! We were also trying to imagine who among the crowd of tourists were actually undercover spies. It is the White House after all! We did have the impression that it looked different in our mind, so we walked to the back to see it from the other side. And that’s where we recognized the bow of the Southern façade! Unfortunately there is a huge grass area right after the gate, so we couldn’t see this side up close, but still!
Once we agreed we had enough touristy photos with Obama’s house, we decided to go the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. For those of you with the same references as me, it’s where Captain America is jogging in the morning in Captain America 2. Anyhow, the Abe Lincoln statue was really impressive and imposing. It’s only a shame the room is packed with tourists, we struggled to get a good shot. We had a lot more fun posing in front of the National Monument obelisk. The reflection in the water is a big plus! We were really lucky that day, unlike the previous ones, it was surprisingly warm and sunny! As we were leaving to go back to the car, a huge helicopter flew above our heads and we like to think that Obama was in it. Because why not! Our Washington visit over, we continued driving up towards the long awaited stop in New York.
This city is pretty much a gigantic hub of urban areas and industries. Just arriving on one of the 10 lanes of the highway and 2 minutes of traffic gives an idea of how busy LA is. We were lucky to join Mala at her house, after she kindly offered to host us during our stay here. We arrived at her very nice apartment (boy did it change from our home in the car!) and the three of us headed out for a visit of Santa Monica. Mala showed us the very hipster Abbott Kinney street with its spacious and beautifully designed shops and coffee places. Loved the vibe in this street, as well as the long hair, piercings and round glasses of the people walking around! We then headed to the beach for a stroll towards the Santa Monica Pier. On our way we got impressed by the guys making loops on the rings of the open air gym. Steph was game and proved that the paddling sessions from surfing were well worth it! It was crazy warm so we indulged in some frozen yogurt at Yogurtland – we had never tried this one and we were not disappointed! We were like kids in Disneyland trying all the different flavours and topping our yogurts with caramel, candy, almonds and strawberries!
Afterwards, it was time for a well deserved break back at the apartment before heading out again to join Mala’s super nice friends for tacos at a Mexican Restaurant and a movie at their place. We got some delicious tacos and though they got a few orders wrong (when I ask for “no cilantro” it also means don’t put the green sauce that has cilantro on my taco), it was excellent! Back at their place, we sipped some wine and enjoyed sour keys while watching the indie movie “Frank”. Love watching movies that are a little weird, unique and far-fetched and this was one of them! And with Michael Fassbender as Frank, well you simply can’t go wrong. We then enjoyed a night in the first REAL bed of the trip, it was quite something – thanks again Steve for letting us stay in your room you have no idea how happy it made us!
On the Sunday, we figured it would be better to leave touristy things for the week and we headed to Runyon Canyon for a very hot hike. The sun was so strong as we climbed above the Hollywood hills to find a panoramic view of LA at the top. We get it, it’s the equivalent of the gym for people here! They all come in Nike’s, mini shorts and ponytails to jog or walk to the top while calculating their speed and calories lost. Well, let’s just say around noon was probably the best time for that in this crazy heat. There really is only summer in California. We then took a drive on the iconic Mulholland Drive and opted out of a walk on the Walk of Fame of Hollywood since both of us had already been there. Instead, we headed to Venice Beach! Why? Because one cannot be in LA without checking out people dancing to hip hop on skates! Where else do you get to see that? We cruised around on our longboards and also stopped at the skatepark to watch some skills. Venice was fun for the music and the dancers, but in all honesty it was so crowded that we were happy to sneak out of the busyness to go back to the apartment. In the evening, Steve and his girlfriend came over for dinner. Steph, aka the Chef, cooked some absolutely delicious traditional French crepes for all of us, savoury and sweet – YUM.
The next day, we were ready for a day full of adventures at Universal Studios, the ONE thing that we HAD to do in LA. It was a crazy fun day as we ran from one ride to the other, catching shows in between. Our favourites?
- Ride: Transformers! By far the coolest, as it combines roller coaster, real setting and 3D – you really feel like you’re fighting robots in there. The Mummy was awesome sensations-wise but way too short. And well, we have to mention Jurassic Park – because it really freaked us (me) out. Hey, there was a tyrannosaur guys, okay?!
- The Sets: We obviously took the world famous studio tour in the open air bus to discover the world of movie sets. And we know why this is a must-do. We got to watch a water disaster, say hi to Jaws’s shark, be in an earthquake in the subway, encounter King Kong in the wilderness, drive through the incredible set from War of the Worlds and look at movie iconic cars.
- Shows: The visual effects show was fun to watch for insights on the how-to secrets of some scenes, with a touch of humour. But we finished our day with the Waterworld performance, which basically replays a scene of the movie. Backflips, jet ski freestyle, fights, jumps, fire… Mindblowing! Steph now wants to change jobs and play one of the guys in that show for a living.
- And: back in Santa Cruz, I asked Steph to win a Minion for me and he didn’t succeed; so obviously I put him to the challenge again! He had to shoot basketballs in a net and if he scored twice, he could pick a Minion. Aaaaand….. HE WON!!! Needless to say, I was a little kid with my new toy! We are now road tripping with a minion.
As you might be able to tell, we spent the entire day in Universal Studios. So right after, as we hadn’t eaten anything, we rushed to Taco Bell – typical.
In the evening, it was our last night with Mala and she had a friend over. So Steph put together another delicious meal of pasta, cream and shallots. YUM.
It was time to continue going further South and say goodbye to Mala. Thanks again Mala for your hospitality, we are so grateful!
We first headed to Beverly Hills because I wanted to see some crazy huge houses. Well that was a stupid idea, they all had immense fences, we only managed to spot a few from afar and the intriguing spots had way too much security. No, we didn’t see Jennifer Lawrence. *Sigh*. To make up for it, we had coffee at a lovely TOMS shop/coffeeplace in Abbott Kinney to enjoy their super chill outdoor patio. And we figured we could leave LA on that mocha coffee note and return to the beach life down the coast.
We left the long stretches of highway down the coast and its isolated beaches to find the city of the flower power. We reached it from the North on a Friday afternoon, taking the Golden Gate Bridge, like one should. #hellyeah. And I was driving!! (Anyone who knows my driving skills knows how impressive that is.) Steph didn’t leave me behind the wheel for too long though, we’ll say. Anyways, our first stop was obviously the viewpoint right after the bridge to get a sunny touristy shot in front of the world famous landmark. As we were watching the view, some people whispered to us “Hey, there are naked people down there, check it out!” Oh yes, there sure were some naked people on the beach down below. Well we did arrive during the heat wave.Welcome to Hippie town!
We had a bit of time, so we headed to the crowded Pier 39 for a bit of long boarding along the port, Alcatraz watching and possibly some ice cream… We then drove to Lombard Street to test Steph’s piloting skills in the famous downhill zig zag street. Ea-sy.
Later, we headed towards Berkeley, taking the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, which gave us a pretty intense city reality check. Here’s a few numbers to get some perspective: 7810m/25623ft long, 2 decks of 5 lanes each, 17.5m/57.5ft large… Guinness World Records say it’s the widest bridge in the world and we believe it! Heavy traffic on such a monster of a bridge is a pretty insane experience. Especially when you’re not 100% where you’re headed. Thank God for Google Maps!
We were headed to Berkeley to join Duke – also known as Nico, a friend from France who lives there – who had kindly offered us to stay at his place. After a stop in a random coffee shop in a very Hastings-like street of Berkeley, we joined him and his coworkers at his CEO’s house up on a hill. As soon as we entered the house, we were like “WOW!”: a minimalist house with an incredible view of the city and its night lights. We enjoyed fun drinks and great conversation with the whole team of Five.com, a startup working on a unique conversation app. Every member had just been freshly named cofounder so it was definitely the right night to discover a bit of their tech startup world! Kyle also introduced us to a song that would be stuck in our heads for the next 3 days: “About a week ago, week ago…” Thanks for that! After a couple of beers, we also learned that we were going to sleep in the living room at Duke’s place next to a snake. In a vivarium. But an ACTUAL snake. I honestly thought it was a joke at first. But when we reached his super cool house, Duke gave us a quick tour and introduced us to his roommates (human and reptile), and it proved to be very real…
The following day was true Californian fun with a barbecue, a big surf session in Pacifica, a skateboard session and then some beers in the extremely very hot tub in Duke’s garden. Told you it was a super cool house! All of this with Duke, his roommate Ben and two of his coworkers: Kyle and Nils. Quite the boys crowd hey! Though the day activities were lots of fun, sipping some coronas in a 104 Farenheit jacuzzi was VERY enjoyable. And VERY warm. Let’s just say we were off to bed very quickly after that!
Sunday called for some actual visiting of the city, so we did it ALL:
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Yet another view of the Golden Gate
- Walking down Lombard street
- Strolling through Chinatown and running into a dragon
- Stopping at Chipotle for lunch: yes we have a list of fast food places to hit, this one has been crossed off the list. And it’s burrito was definitely approved!
- Niketown, because why not
- Taking the cable car: that was realllllly cool. Best way to go up and down the cutest streets of SF is perched on the side of the wagon!
- Walking up and down the street, then up and down, and then up and down.
- Walk along the entire Embarcadero. Yes, that’s a lot of walking.
We even got to catch up with Hedi, Steph’s old classmate from Hetic, over some drinks downtown to chat about the startup community, work in North America, West Coast habits and life. He too is working on a soon to be released app with his team, confirming that SF is the ultimate tech startup hub.
The next days were a lot more chill as we failed getting the morning tickets for Alcatraz two days in a row (the only ones you can get without a reservation weeks in advance.) I guess we didn’t earn it as much as the people who were standing in line at 5am. Who are you people?! But it left us with lots of time to find the very best view of the Golden Gate Bridge in a sea of fog all the way up the hill on the North Side, find the cutest houses of the city on Alamo Square, picnic at the Golden Gate Park, watch the view from Twin Peaks and hang out with Duke and his roommates Ben, Paul and Alex over hot dogs and beers to share road trip stories.
Every time we hit a new city, we can’t help but wonder if that would be a place we’d like to live in. We thought about it more than once in the fog city that unites architectural beauty, cultural diversity, West Coast freedom, tech and startup communities, outdoor activities and vibrant city life. Though very busy (yes the hours stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge kind of traumatized us) and Vancouver-like (enough with the vegan yogis already!), SF is just so very unique in its character. So maybe..?
Duke, thanks again so much for inviting us in your lively home, we had a blast during our stay! Rock out the surf and the app-creating! Peace.
“I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing in the streets, for I know that the streets of San Francisco are Free.” - Luisa Tetrazzini
We arrived in Portland under a Vancouver-like rain. Finding ourselves on Burnside Street, we randomly spotted Voodoo Doughnuts – one of the stops on our to do list. We jumped out of the car to enter the pink and psychedelic atmosphere of the shop to order some impressive and multi-flavoured doughnuts – proof below. High on sugar, we went to explore Powell’s Bookstore through endless shelves, floors and pages. Definitely the kind of place where you want to grab a pile of books, sit in a corner and spend a rainy afternoon with a good cup of coffee. It would have been really hard to leave the store empty handed so we both picked a book for the trip. Any guesses on what Steph got? Want a hint? Surf. Another hint? California. Yeah, he got Surfing California by Bank Wright, following Peter’s advice of course. By now I think we’ve established Steph’s number 1 priority on this trip, right?
Obviously, we were really late on the writing/developing/finalizing of our blog (sorry for the delay guys!) so we spent the night in Starbucks working on it. Steph coded, I wrote. After a night spent on the parking lot of Walmart (and not the first one, believe me), we continued working on the blog at the library as it was raining more than ever. And as soon as the weather cleared up, we drove to the Burnside Skatepark, a world renowned skatepark - thanks to Tony Hawk - under the Burnside bridge. We watched the boys crowd take turns in jumps, tricks and rides for a little while, appreciating the urban atmosphere of the spot. We then headed to Alberta Street for a walk along the cute shops, stylish urban art and edgy coffee shops. Our very first stop? The ice-cream place Salt and Straw, of course. Home made ice cream and the smell of freshly baked waffle cones: it was basically Disneyland. I bet you’re curious about what we got now, huh? I went for sea salt and caramel and Steph for peach and walnuts – and yes, it was as good as it sounds. Do I talk too much about food?
After strolling through the street, we went for locally crafted beers and cider with Philou, a Belgian snowboarder Steph had met on a previous trip to Oregon, and his friend. It was definitely lots of fun to chat about travels and life on the cozy outdoor patio of Cruzroom.
On our last day in the city, we went for a walk around Mount Tabor before heading to the Kennedy School, a renovated elementary school turned into a hotel, brewery, restaurant, bar and theater. It’s hard to describe the school in just a few words as it conveys so many different atmospheres at once. On one hand, you can’t escape the educational and dorm-like vibe as you walk past old classrooms and student photographs. On the other hand, you feel like you’ve entered a sort of Tim Burton like Budapest Hotel with hallways packed with colourful fairytale inspired paintings and sayings on the walls. A brewer walked us around the local brewery and the many many steps that involve beer-making. I insist on many, because I sure would get mixed up among the 20 things to do and the order in which they go! We were visiting the school too early to be able to go in the Cigar and Whiskey room but we made up for it by sitting down at the German like bistro for a local fresh hops beer and apple cider.
We then continued our visit with the Portland Art Museum downtown. The highlight was definitely the temporary exhibition “This is War” with illustrations, posters and sketches from the Great War. It unveiled the darkness of warfronts and the rise of woman power. The rest of the museum walked us through the main historic and artistic movements of the 20th century in just the right amount. Not too big, not too little, the museum allowed us to take a walk through the exhibitions without having to go through millions of hallways and rooms like most places. I even got a picture with my favorite number, yay!
We finished our Portland experience by taking the elevator up the Pink Building (I guess that’s what we’ll call it) for a panoramic view of the city. Definitely one the places with the coolest vibes, most hipsterish outfits and unique local spots.
We left rainy Bellingham on a Friday morning to go looking for the sun. After a quick stop at Wallmart to get some pizza-flavored Pringles (yes that’s a thing) we headed towards Seattle. We had already spent a weekend there last year following Sam’s great tips for burritos, bars, museums and places to hang out. So we decided to do the one thing we hadn’t done: the Great Wheel.
Not only was Seattle extremely sunny and hot, but being end of September allowed us to avoid never ending lines and we were in our own little cabin on the wheel in a matter of minutes. Definitely a fun activity to get a new perspective on the city, especially on such a beautiful day. Plus, we got to play with Hyperlapse, our new favourite Instagram toy.