LA is LA. In many ways, the initials speak for themselves. Some may like it, with its grandiose associations and booming metropolis. Others, like myself, aren’t its number one fan.
So, when faced with a quick two-day trip to the City of Angels, I decided to change it up from my usual go-to digs and head out to Santa Monica. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely still LA, in every shape and form. Although, being by the coast somewhat mitigates the hustle and bustle that is the big city and replaces it with a calming surf vibe that blows in with that crisp onshore wind.
With one day completely booked and another entirely free, I searched for an out, some way of maximising the 24 degree December weather - a nice change from the 2 degrees in my home of Vancouver.
Pressed for time but with an acute desire to explore as much of the famed Californian coast as possible, I arranged a 2014 V6 Ford Mustang convertible for the day from California Rent-A-Car.
For what worked out to be around $170 AUD, each dollar was ridiculously well spent. My man Lucas and I rolled through the surprisingly empty post-rush hour streets of Santa Monica on the balmy Monday morning. The palm trees hypnotically blurred past us as we turned onto Highway 1 and pulled over to pop the roof down.
Despite the cheesy, almost tacky impression you may get when you see a Mustang drive past on the street, being behind the wheel of America's finest pony – in California of all places – will undoubtedly get your heart pumping.
The top was down, the highway was clear. The needle on the dash of the powerful 3.7 litre V6 burst from its starting line, as did we from the shoulder lane.
The Rolling Stone’s ‘Brown Sugar’ battled for supremacy with the rush of air that flew past us as we pinned along the Pacific Coast Highway for Malibu, our first stop of the day.
Lily’s Café and Pastries just south of Zuma beach do a killer breakfast burrito. Grab one to go and park yourself a little further up the road to watch the morning surfers get a few turns in while munching on one of the best breakfast feeds you’ll have in a while.
After a two hour drive, you’ll find yourself at Santa Barbara, almost worth a few days in itself. The relaxed, sun-kissed terracotta town at the foothills of steep cliffs bordering the expansive Pacific Ocean was the exact escape I needed.
There’s no rush either, with an easy and effortless meander back down to the big city. I’d recommend you take the high road through the hills of Malibu on the way back to properly put the ‘Stang through its paces around some tight turns.
Next time you’re in La La Land and someone suggests you should check out the Hollywood sign or Robert Downey Jr.’s house, toss it aside and get yourself into one of the most stereotypical American scenes possible - cruising northbound along Highway 1 with the top down, the city chaos in your rear-view mirror, and Mick Jagger taking you all the way to Santa Barbara and back.
Who knows, maybe a breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally, might reignite your love for the Golden State.