Interview with Becky Padmore from Global Grasshopper
A lot of car rental in the USA is expressly for road trips – that American classic, which lets you experience a flicker of the freedom that is still a cornerstone of America’s self-definition. Road trips also let you explore a diverse range of spectacular scenery, not to mention cuisine, as you traverse the state lines. We asked consummate road-tripper Becky Padmore, a UK travel blogger who runs Global Grasshopper with her husband Gray, to tell us about their recent drive through Southern California.
CHM: Southern Californian countryside is undeniably beautiful - pelicans flying along Paradise Cove, the arid national parks - but what did you make of LA? Did you find beauty there too, or did you find yourself itching to get out of Hollywood and onto the open road?
B&G: So many people are down on Los Angeles as a travel destination but we actually love the place. It’s like the opposite of London (where we’re based when we’re not travelling) - the sun is always shining, the ocean is on your doorstep and people actually talk to you! The city offers a great lifestyle and we loved watching the sun set at Griffith Observatory, trying out all the different foods at the farmer’s market and vintage store shopping in the Los Feliz neighbourhood.
Did you have any moments when you suddenly recognised your surroundings from a favourite film or music video?
Yes, plenty, but not always suddenly - some actually intentionally! We’re fans of the Swingers movie and went on a pilgrimage to the very cool Dresden Rooms (in Los Feliz) where the gang in the film used to hang out. I also loved the wine tasting road trip film Sideways, so Napa Valley was pretty special to us too.
When we went to Santa Monica we also half expected to see Pammy and the Hoff run out of one of the lifeguard towers, but I think everyone probably does when they first visit!
Car seems to be king in the States, with road trips occupying the same - if rather more adventurous - classic status as bucket & spade holidays in Britain. What makes America so good for driving through?
Without a doubt the amazingly beautiful coastal roads, which I’m sure we’d never get fed up of driving along. Also the roads are wide, long and even when driving through the desert you’ll probably come across some pretty interesting stops along the way (ghost towns, large beer-can houses, the world’s largest thermometer... the list goes on). Obviously films and literature also help to create the romantic image of the American road-trip.
When you're on the road do you have much time to get to know the people? Is this a priority on your travels, or are you more passionate about discovering the land itself?
Meeting new people is always a great part of travelling and that’s part of the reason why we love California so much - people are so much more open to talking to new people there. It’s great stopping where we want and having a chat to the people we meet; some inns even offer wine and snacks to welcome new guests and it’s details like this California seems to do so well!
How much of your trips do you document and how much do you just soak up to remember? Do you think it's possible to go too far in either direction?
We try to get the balance right, but as travel bloggers it can be pretty difficult to switch off! We’ll take photographs and video footage pretty much everywhere, but I draw the line at taking notes. I tend to write all the articles from recent memory. It’s definitely possible to go too far in either direction - not enough and you’ll fail to get good material and too much it will spoil your enjoyment of the trip.
Did you ever get bored of just staring out of the window? Obviously this is something the driver just has to put up with, but what about as a passenger? Did you take anything to keep yourself entertained in case of scenery-fatigue?
I’m lucky and I never suffer from scenery fatigue. I remember our first California road trip I was practically glued to the window almost for the whole entire journey – everything was so new and different to the UK I didn’t want to miss any of it!
Because we speak a similar language, Brits can sometimes turn up in America expecting it to be a big version of the UK - the reality is something of a shock. Apart from the massive bottles of milk and distinct lack of cheddar, is there anything you'd advise first-time visitors to prepare for?
The lifestyle in California is much more relaxed. Just be prepared that people will start conversations with you at gas stations, over a fast food counter and even walking down the street. Don’t worry - they’re not being weird or overly familiar - they will be genuinely interested in getting to know you.
You’ll also have choice and plenty of it - as well as the portions being bigger, if you can think of a restaurant or a type of food you would like there will be generally somewhere catering to your tastes.
Oh, and if you visit Los Angeles no one walks anywhere; they’ll take their car even if they have to travel only a few blocks.
And finally, if you had to recommend an optimum route through California with only a week to do it, where is unmissable?
That’s a tough one as there are so many gorgeous places to visit in California. I would say start in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, head up the coast to Malibu and visit some of the beautiful coves there (Paradise Cove and El Matador beach), carry on further up the Pacific Highway to include Santa Barbara, Avila beach, Monterey bay, Carmel-on-Sea and then end in San Francisco.
If you have time you should really try and visit Napa Valley, California’s gorgeous wine region. Like us, you’ll probably love it so much you’ll want to go back and fill in all the places you missed!
You can see pictures of Becky & Gray’s California roadtrip here and here.