Hello! Now I know what you’re thinking – since when does Susie have a Northern Irish accent? Well, let me introduce myself. I’m Grace, and Susie and I became friends in our first year of studying together at Trinity College Dublin. I remember when Susie told me she’d be going away to UCLA for the next year. In that moment I was certain of two things, one, that I would miss her terribly, and two, that I would just have to go over and visit! That day finally arrived on Monday 26th February 2018, conveniently just two weeks after my 21st birthday, when I hopped off the plane at LAX ready for a ‘Party in the USA.’ My bleary-eyed first impressions from that evening amounted to: UCLA is much bigger than Trinity, the food is delicious, and the blonde streaks that the sun has added to Susie’s hair look fabulous!
Thanks to jet-lag, we were awake bright and early and ready to take over the city of angels. Susie was working at her internship, so after a wonderful omelette breakfast in UCLA, we headed off down Sunset Boulevard, where her office is located. While Susie went in for a day of work, I spent the morning on a Hollywood bus tour, the highlight of which was seeing the beautiful homes of some of my favourite stars in Beverly Hills. I even spotted the perfect house for myself, ideally positioned with a view of not just the LA skyline, but the homes of Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. My tour ended just in time to meet Susie on her lunch break, when we walked round the corner to Hollywood Boulevard. We were particularly excited to see the preparations outside the Dolby Theatre for the 90th Academy Awards which would take place at the weekend. With much of the boulevard closed off for this weekend, crowds were low, and it was the perfect opportunity to explore the pink stars on the Walk of Fame, and the handprints outside the Chinese Theatre. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, Susie had to go back to the office, very dangerously leaving me alone in the shops – much to my bank account’s disapproval! We reunited in the evening for Taco Tuesday, a concept which I have decided must be introduced to Ireland. We met some of Susie’s friends at a gorgeously coloured restaurant called Pink Taco, where we enjoyed their namesake cuisine as well as a few frozen strawberry margaritas. It was only my first day in Los Angeles, and I thought it just couldn’t get any better!
I was wrong. Today took ‘better’ to whole new level, because we were off to Disneyland! As a self-confessed Disney princess, visiting the original Disneyland park had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris quite a few times, but Susie had never experienced a Disney day before. I had warned her that there was likely to be lots of singing, squeals, and maybe even tears on my end, but thankfully, she wasn’t deterred. In my element wearing a tiara and being called ‘Princess Grace’ by the Disney cast members, I had brought Susie a pair of Minnie Mouse ears to wear in the park, which she was initially sceptical of. However, after just a few hours in the Disney bubble, Susie was wearing her ears, a matching Disneyland jersey to mine, and grinning like a Cheshire Cat in front of the castle! Whilst I was caught up in the magic of it all, Susie really appreciated the ‘production value’ of the place, as all the shows and rides are remarkably executed. Our highlights included Cars Land, a recreation of Radiator Springs from the famous Pixar movie with a thrilling car race ride, the Pirates of the Caribbean dark ride, and the brand new Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout attraction. Both of us were mesmerised by the night time spectaculars Fantasmic and World of Color, which use fountains, fireworks and even a massive pirate ship to depict classic Disney moments. We even got to meet some of the famous characters in the flesh, such as Moana, Anna and Elsa, and Minnie Mouse. We were having such a magical time that we didn’t even stop to eat properly, instead, surviving on a combination of pixie dust and a few too many churros. Needless to say, we slept very well when we finally got back to campus late that night.
While Susie had a few classes to go to in the morning, I headed off to explore Westwood, the town where UCLA campus is situated in, which incidentally, happens to have some of the best shops in LA! I noticed that around campus, the students proudly wear their UCLA jumpers, hats, sports gear etc, which isn’t a tradition that Trinity shares. I was determined to fit in with the UCLA crowd, and so bought myself a cap and UCLA jersey to fully immerse myself in the college experience. That afternoon, we visited Santa Monica pier, the most exciting part of which was going on the famous Ferris Wheel. The view from up there, right over the Pacific Ocean is incredible. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so we each bought (another!) churro and claimed a spot on the beach to relax. We were so tired after our exciting day at Disneyland, that we both felt very content lying on the sand, chatting, and snoozing. A brief walk along the streets as the sun set lead us to a British candy shop, where Susie was ecstatic to discover Cadbury’s chocolate, and the Cabo Cantina bar, where we shared a margarita about the same size of my head. That night, I had my first experience of a real American Frat party, and I can confirm, everything you see in the movies is true! I had a great night, and it was a lovely opportunity to get to know some of Susie’s friends.
Today, there was highly unusual occurrence in LA – it rained! I was accused of bringing the cold Irish weather over to the golden state, but nonetheless, I was just glad to be missing the ‘Beast from the East’ snow storm which trapped many people in their homes back across the Atlantic. With Susie working at her internship again, I went for breakfast at her sorority house with the lovely Yaz, (Susie’s roommate) which is just like stepping into an Instagram showroom. Unlike the sticky frat houses, the Theta sorority house is a gorgeous oasis of calm in the hustle and bustle of college, and I can now see why the Greek life appeals to so many students. Avoiding the rain, I spent the day at The Grove shopping complex, a popular spot from ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians,’ stocking up on some American treats for friends and family back in Ireland. That night we had a very exciting visitor, in the form of Susie’s Dad, Miles. As he was in the States on business, he flew down to catch up with his California girl for just 24 hours. We had the most delicious meal together in the Skylight Gardens, before retiring for some much needed sleep.
If Disneyland was the first day we were treated like princesses, then today was the second of the week. After a tour of the vast UCLA campus, and an equally vast breakfast that included French toast, omelettes, waffles and even M&Ms, we went to the gorgeous Getty museum. This place is worth seeing for the view alone, never mind the fabulous artwork inside. Feeling suitably cultured, Miles kick-started the mission to spot some celebrities in town for the Oscars by taking us to the Beverly Hills hotel. Known affectionately as the ‘pink palace,’ I can see why Elizabeth Taylor chose to spend 6 of her 8 honeymoons here! Susie and I enjoyed a divine hot chocolate, while Miles looked very LA with a lavender-coloured smoothie (and yes, he did inspire a few other customers to order the same!) Unfortunately, we had no success in the star-spotting mission here, so Miles suggested we go to the Chateau Marmont and try our luck. This turned out to be one of the highlights of my week in LA. As we were led to our table, it was taken by another of the Chateau’s patrons – none other than Christopher Walken. We were instead seated beside a group of makeup artists and assistants, who were having a very interesting discussion about hairstyles and after parties for the following night’s Oscars ceremony. I met Lauren Conrad in the bathroom, and we also spotted Margot Robbie and Sarah Silverman dining in the restaurant. To top it all off, the food was spectacular. My fluffy blueberry pancakes were my favourite thing I ate all week! After saying a sad goodbye to Miles, now a core member of Team Susie and Grace take LA, we decided that we’d stay in that night. We ordered a big peperoni pizza and watched a very funny film called ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople,’ and tried to get a bit of sleep before another early start the next day.
As they say in LA, happy Oscars day! The sun was well and truly shining again, and we were of to Universal Studios Hollywood. Susie has a season pass for this theme park, and is a total pro when it comes to the best spots. We went first to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is just astounding. There’s something so lovely about seeing Hogwarts, a place you’ve only read about and seen in the movies, looming right in front of you and inviting you inside. The Harry Potter ride was amazing, and although the wait to go on is usually over an hour, we had a bit of luck at the end of the day when there was no queue, and went on the attraction three times in a row! The studio tour at Universal is a must do for anyone visiting LA – it is so cool to see the sets of familiar films and television shows, and thankfully a film-buff like Susie was happy to go on it for her third time with me. I just loved the Animal Actors show. We had grabbed some food and drink before watching, and it was just a pleasure to enjoy some snacks while adorable little dogs did tricks in front of you. We didn’t stick around for the evening in Universal, as Susie’s sorority was hosting a date party. I stood in for Susie’s ‘date’ and had a fabulous night. By this stage I had gotten to know some of Susie’s friends and it was lovely to spend my last night dancing in Downtown in LA with them all!
It was with a heavy heart that I woke up on Monday – my last day in Los Angeles. I didn’t need to leave for the airport until 4pm, so we spent the day packing in a few last minute activities. We went to Venice beach for the morning, which was such a beautiful and fascinating place. Susie brought her ukulele, and we sat on the beach chatting, singing and recalling our highlights of the week. I even went into the Pacific Ocean, just up to my knees though! From this beautiful setting we FaceTimed our good friend Izzy to tell her what we’d been up to. Next up was Melrose Avenue, a famous street for shopping boutiques and beautiful wall art, where we enjoyed our last supper of possibly the healthiest meal I ate in California, a fresh sandwich and side salad. We then traipsed back to UCLA campus, to get all packed up and say goodbye. Having lived on Cloud 9 all week, it was a sad moment to leave Susie and watch my last LA sunset from the airport window. I left LA with nearly 8kg more in my suitcase than I arrived with – a testament to the quality of shops in the area! To all you Susie fans out there, you’ll be glad to know that life in California suits her almost as much as the blonde in her hair. I was so lucky to spend the week with the best tour guide, hostess and friend – thanks for having me, Susie!