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California on Film…

California on Film…

To me, “home” is defined more by emotions rather than by geographic location. Theoretically, there have been many places that I used to call home throughout the past 30 years. Born in Stuttgart, moved several times within small villages. Next was Bavaria and then California. Where we spent 5 years. Then my dad’s work brought us to Austria, where I finished school in the mountains before choosing Vienna as my home a decade ago. The mountains are home because my parents live there, Vienna is home because Mike and I created our own life here. And then there is California, where the air always feels like home.

California Travel Guide: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach + West Hollywood - Bikinis & Passports

For our family vacation (party of 8: parents, siblings + partners) in September, we decided to go “home” instead of somewhere new. We skipped the fancy hotels in lieu of a costal beach house close to the sand. We traded countless meals in restaurants for BBQ parties with friends and exchanged sightseeing for endless beach walks, good books and naps. In other words: The perfect holiday!

California Travel Guide: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach + West Hollywood - Bikinis & Passports

Did you know:

You can compensate for your flight-related CO2 emissions thanks to KLM’s CO2ZERO compensation service, which you can select when you book your flight and manage this option via MyTrip on their website or the KLM app.

*disclaimer: our flights were provided by KLM/airfrance

Thanks to KLM and Air France, the 15-hour journey from Vienna to Los Angeles was a breeze (KLM: “We’ll make sure your flight flies by!”) and once we arrived, I decided to slow down in all aspects. Hence, I never brought my big DSLR camera anywhere. I didn’t want to experience our family time through a lens. I wanted to be present. For the first time ever, I only shot on film (+ a bit of iPhone footage). Not 200 snaps of the exact same shot. No time spent setting up the manual mode. And no staging things for the perfect angle! I went through about five rolls of film and only captured spontaneous moments with a single “click”.

California is home to us, so it was not a typical vacation. Which is why this is not a typical California travel guide. But, of course, it does include a few favorite memories, foodie spots, beaches and impressions from Southern California that I have been meaning to share with you, now that I had all of the film developed.

California Travel Guide: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach + West Hollywood - Bikinis & Passports

California Travel Guide: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach + West Hollywood - Bikinis & Passports
Lido Marina

Newport Beach

  • Lido Marina Village with a Malibu Farm Café, Bear Flag Fish Co. (poke bowls), cute little stores + Honor Coffee Roasters
  • Fashion Island for outdoor shopping with a huge Lululemon and Whole Foods
  • South Coast Plaza also for shopping (indoor) with an entire wing dedicated to interior stores such as CB2, West Elm, …
  • Balboa Island, which is super cute to explore with bikes or paddle around in kayaks
  • Newport Island for beach days (our beach rental was on 41st Street with an ocean view)
  • Crystal Cove State Beach is one of my favorite beaches in all of Orange County
  • Hardtfit for an intense workout where pilates on the reformer meets high intensity cardio on the rowing machine

Laguna Beach

  • Zinc Café for morning coffee or breakfast with friends (they also have a Newport location on PCH)
  • Victoria Beach is a favorite amongst locals. Small and really beautiful with impressive houses along the sand to drool over
  • Pearl St. Beach is another personal favorite of mine and where we always used to go back in the days
  • 180blū is an oceanfront haunt with fire pits & couches serving small plates, desserts & craft cocktails located at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, overlooking Salt Creek Beach. Theoretically not Laguna Beach anymore but just a few minutes south on PCH.
  • South of Nick’s is great for Mexican food, but so is the Coyote Grill (super casual + affordable) where we had pitchers of margaritas, chips & salsa on our last night with a big group of friends.
  • Hotel Joaquin was on my bucketlist, but since we had the house, there was no need for a hotel.

California Travel Guide: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach + West Hollywood - Bikinis & Passports

West Hollywood (my favorite neighborhood in L.A.)

  • Melrose Place is a little sidestreet of the famous Melrose Ave and such a great spot with a Glossier store, Alfred’s Coffee, a Zimmermann boutique, The Row and The RealReal is just around the corner on Melrose Avenue.
  • Nic’s on Beverly is a plant-based restaurant and cocktail bar focused on California cuisine serving a littlebit of everything you’d hope to find on a Los Angeles. (Technically in Beverly Grove but bordering West Hollywood)
  • Gracias Madra = another plant-based restaurant that comes highly recommended. If you are looking for vegan Mexican food in Los Angeles – this is your spot!
  • Basecoat on Fairfax is definitely the prettiest nail salon I have ever been to and I love that they offer non-toxic polishes. It was not the best manicure I ever had but a fun girls outing and lasted well!
  • The Fairfax Fleamarket takes place on Sundays, starting at 9am and is worth a visit if you are a treasure hunter. I generally find fleamarkets a bit overwhelming but my sister scored a beautiful hat and we spotted some vintage Dior and Saint Laurent silk scarves.
  • Runyon Canyon is a must early mornings to make use of the jetlag and if you leave early enough (shortly after 6am) you will make it to the top just in time to see the sun rising over sleepy Los Angeles.
  • For breakfast favorites like The Hart & The Hunter or Backyard Bowls, be sure to check out this post.
  • 1Hotel (used to be the Jeremy) is my personal favorite spot to spend the night in Los Angeles with a great location on Sunset Blvd.

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  • Sally
    5 years ago

    What a beautiful experience Vicky… I have to say you guys have an incredible family and how you guys always try to spend time todether I find it beautiful.

    Pure admiration


    • VICKY
      5 years ago

      Hi Sally!
      Thanks so much for the kind words – I am so thankful to have such a strong bond with my family, I know it is definitely not something to be taken for granted.
      xx Vicky

  • 5 years ago

    Wow, so tolle Bilder! Das sieht echt traumhaft aus. <3
    Liebe Grüße, Sandra /

  • Jana
    5 years ago

    Dear Vicky

    I really like your approach to photography for those family holidays, though I personally find myself taking way more time to adjust the settings when shooting film 😅

    Would you share what camera and what kind of film you used for the pictures and did you scan them yourself or did you get your negatives scanned professionally?


    • VICKY
      5 years ago

      Hi Jana,
      I use a point and shoot, that’s probably why 🙂 The Yashica T4. And I have the film developed at a lab here in Vienna.
      xx Vicky

  • Tatjana
    5 years ago

    In what area did you rent the beach house at? And through what platform? Love all the recommendations!

    • VICKY
      5 years ago

      Hi Tatjana,
      we stayed on Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach and I think my dad booked the house through beachview rentals or something similar to that.
      xx Vicky

  • 5 years ago

    This post of California is really making me want to go even more! Everytime I remind myself that I haven’t been since I was a child makes me shake my head. Which to me, means I haven’t really been.

  • […] their Malibu and Newport Beach locations for a healthy brunch or lunch by the water. (More in my California Travel Guide). Bringing the best of the Californian Coast home to everywhere else in the world, this cookbook is […]

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