‘California Dreamin’ on such a Winter’s Day’

As I sit here on a gloomy afternoon thinking back to my amazing summer spent in California, I have never related to a song so much.

After spending six weeks working as a camp counsellor at a summer camp in Berkeley, just outside of San Francisco with weekend trips to Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Grand Canyon and a quick trip to cheer on The Notorious Conor McGregor in Viva Las Vegas, myself and seven other girls set off to explore what else the West Coast had to offer.

‘You stay classy San Diego’

San Diego bound on a dismal night bus, we finally arrived at those white sandy beaches which helped us all recover from singing “There is only one Conor McGregor” for four days straight. We stayed in an Air BnB in the Pacific Beach area of the city which I thoroughly recommend as there are loads of bars, restaurants and shops there. With San Diego being a short car journey from the Mexican border, the Mexican influence on the food, drink and culture here was evident. This was a welcomed change to experience authentic Mexican burritos and margaritas, I recommend the Baja Beach Café for amazing food and views of the Pacific Ocean. After a few days recovering on the beautiful beaches we explored Balboa Park in the scorching California sun, this is an urban culture park filled with green gardens, museums, theatres and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.  Our time in San Diego was completed with a ferry trip to Coronado, an island where you can take in the stunning city skyline.

We picked up the cars at the airport and got on the road, automatic cars are an absolute joy to drive, they are literally a large go- kart. We rented from Foxes Rent a car and I would highly recommend.

Traveller’s Tip: If you wish to rent a car in the US, you will need a credit card. However, some companies do let you use a debit card but they will charge you a very high deposit. ($400 instead of $100). Being a driver under 25, you will also be charged a daily young driver fee usually around $20 extra per day. On the plus side “gas” is exceptionally cheap!

‘Driving down the 101, California here we come’

The scenic two-hour drive along the famous Highway 1 was simply breath-taking, driving through famous towns such as Laguna Beach and Newport before stopping off for yet another beach day at Huntington Beach where we watched numerous surfing competitions in awe of their skills. That night we headed further north and stayed in a motel in downtown L.A.

‘City Of Stars, are you shining just for me?’

Having heard such mixed reviews about L.A, I was so glad we stopped as I absolutely loved it, however one day was enough. A quick visit to the Hollywood walk of fame and a tour of Beverly Hills to see where all the filthy rich and famous lived. Did you know that Leonardo DiCaprio and Kanye West are neighbours? Well according to our tour guide they are!

Travellers Tip: Bus tours can be very easily haggled down, especially by Irish charm. We got ours down from $50 to $15 each, this is when travelling in a large group has its perks.

Once we had visited all the “vibey” Instagram famous walls on Melrose Av, we then ventured on a hike to the Griffith Observatory. This is a must see in L.A as the views are simply breath-taking. I recommend heading up just before sunset as you get to see the city both in the day light and in the street lights.

Quick stops in Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu; all beautiful seaside towns but an hour or two is plenty of time to explore. We stayed in the Kardashians home town of Calabasas but with no sightings we headed further north to Santa Barbara, yet another glorious seaside town.


‘If you’re going to San Francisco’

Now our last day travelling in California we were San Francisco bound, the city we called home for the summer. We travelled further up the Pacific Coastal Highway as far as we could as part of the road was closed due to high levels of winter rainfall resulting in a landslide and a broken bridge, so we took a detour via Monterey and headed in the direction of the Big Sur. Taking in the last of the rugged coastline and the soaring palm trees we parked up and finished our West Coast road trip. Now to finish up our state-side summer in style we headed for ‘New York, New York’.



Carla McCloskey is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-mccloskey-14a47b10b/  and on Twitter @Carla_Mac12