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California: Metropolises

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Route 66 Hollywood Express Tour: What to Do, Point Dume in Malibu and ''Planet of the Apes'': The Meaning, San Francisco: Hippie Counterculture, Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39 Sea Lions.

lights of los angeles by night
Los Angeles

Los Angeles + Hollywood

The little story of roadtrippin'

For more than a century, the Pacific Coast has been the ultimate goal of any self-respecting American road trip. You may be surprised to hear, however, that the first American crossing was made in the other direction, from San Francisco to New York, in 1903. Read how to prepare for a road trip.

However, it was not until 1930 that Americans could enjoy their first paved road, which started from Chicago and went all the way to Santa Monica. The popular Route 66 was born. And, with it, a whole generation of explorers took the wheel to discover the United States or for a new departure in the West. Today, the road technically no longer exists as it was, segments having been rerouted. However, it remains historic and panels commemorate its importance in a few places such as a museum.

Although I did not take this route to get to Hollywood, it is an understatement to say that I was looking forward to getting there and maybe feeling all that these people felt by accomplishing this feat. It was not the first time I had crossed the continent from east to west (first time in Canada), so I already knew this feeling, but each experience is different! It was my second time visiting Hollywood, so I already knew it wasn't like you see in the movies, I had no illusions. Driving in Los Angeles is hell. My polite little Canadian behavior was no match for it. I survived, long live the GPS.


Finally parked, I obviously wanted to film the sign of the large Hollywood letters. I liked the little mountain walk to get to the Griffith Observatory. And even, if you are not tired, I strongly advise you to go there for the sunset, it was really incredible to see all the lights of Los Angeles lit from above. You can't see the stars anymore as long as there is light pollution, but that's because they are on the streets!

This is the thing I enjoyed watching the most during my two visits to Hollywood (once in 2010, once in 2016): searching for my favorite celebrities on the Walk of Fame. There are so many (nearly 2500) that very often, we don't even know who is displayed, but I find it fascinating all the same. It's incredible because if you think about it properly, you spend half of your visit with your eyes on the ground!

alfred hitchcock star walk of fame hollywood
I found the star of one of my favorite director!

You don't have to worry too much about it, because public entertainers will often make you look up, dressed up as the most famous characters of the time like Elvis, Hulk, Avatar, Mickey Mouse… for a small amount of money, they will let you take a picture with them.

We then headed to Beverly Hills. This neighborhood will be interesting if you like to shop for designer items and clothes that are extremely expensive, otherwise it looks like any affluent neighborhood in North America.

What I believe is that to get the full Hollywood Blvrd experience, you have to plan to come to a big event, something like that. Because otherwise, it's not as impressive as you think. It is also necessary to have planned a good budget to be able to afford all the activities offered.

Malibu Beach

malibu beach with cactus
Malibu Beach

We finally reach the Pacific Ocean heading towards Malibu. This road that runs along the coast is magnificent. I had chosen the Malibu beach for one of the scenes of my first film (NOMADES) to make two references. The first, at the Statue of Liberty that I had seen in New York during this same shoot. In the film Planet of the Apes (1968), the final scene takes place in Point Dume (Malibu). The Statue of Liberty is half buried there, and lets us guess that the character was all this time on Earth and that the planet was probably the victim of some apocalypse (the reason is not given, but it is suggested a nuclear disaster). Director Franklin J. Schaffner undoubtedly wanted to send us an important message with this ending, using the quintessential icon of the new world and the American dream.

couple walking on malibu beach
In the distance, Point Dume, location of the final scene of ''Planet of the Apes'' (1968)

The second reference I wanted to make: the film having been released elsewhere during the hippie years, the team probably wanted to criticize, like the young people of this movement, our tendency to overconsumption and the importance of taking action immediately to avoid a next disaster, theme that I explored then in my idea that travelers had become ''neo-hippies''. In any case, it is a very pleasant place to visit. It is also possible to climb on the tip of the small cliff cut by the ocean over time and take superb shots there.

San Francisco

Core of the hippie movement, you can imagine that by making a film that has the theme of "neo-hippies", I had to visit the city of San Francisco to see where the movement had started. Along with New Orleans, it is my favorite city in the United States.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

It all starts near this legendary bridge and is on the list of marvels of modern architecture. Its construction was quite a challenge. Firstly because the opposing currents in this strait are found there, and the divers had to find a way to navigate to the bottom of the passage at 30 meters deep to lay dynamite there.

Then imagine that the stages of construction of the pillars which were to hold the bridge had to be laid more than once because of the water and the fog which made the task almost impossible to do. I guess these are the challenges one would expect to be able to build the longest suspension bridge in the the time. Today it has been surpassed several times and the latest is Turkey's Dardanelles Bridge across the Sea of Marmara (completed in 2022).

Golden Gate Bridge Overlook
Golden Gate Overlook

In Golden Gate Park, the incredible event of Human Be-In on January 14, 1967 marks the beginning of the Summer of Love. So, several free services were offered there such as a medical center, food and a general store. They also gave away drugs for free, which gave the government the chance to point the finger and take action to stop this great initiative.

Thousands of young people from all over the world gathered for this social freedom event by showing the general public the protest movement of the overconsumption society.

The authorities were determined to stop this rally, but that only brought more attention to the phenomenon, which made it popular. In all, 200,000 young people had migrated to the neighborhood and surrounding areas. The government also started to use the media to show only the bad experiences that took place during the summer of 1967 (overdoses, badtrips, etc.). This has led History to ban LSD and magic mushrooms, among other things... and which has unfortunately slowed down medicinal and psychological research on this subject.


I drove to the Haight-Ashbury corner to observe how 1967's "Summer of Love" had lingered on the streets. The event must have been downright impressive. Eccentricity is in the spotlight, as well as Victorian civil architecture. The LGBTQ+ community is one of the largest in the world. I walked into a store that sold jewelry for transgender shows, just out of curiosity. It shone everywhere!

two fake legs coming out of a wall
An original storefront

Pier 39

pier 39 san francisco
Pier 39 à San Francisco

There was also the Fisherman's Wharf district, very close to the port, which had caught my attention for something rather particular. At Pier 39, we can observe a flock of California sea lions and sea lions that have bred there. Food being abundant in this important port, one could say that they had a nose. They appeared in 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale). After much debate, the specialists decided that it would probably be best for them to leave them in their new home, the old one having probably been destroyed due to the earthquake. Watch them live:

sea lions on a deck with tourists pier 39
The stars of Pier 39

Leave everything and travel, become a nomad. Many people dream of it, but many also fear doing it. Be inspired by the adventures of an independent travel filmmaker who challenged herself to make 10 travel films around the world and become a full-time nomad.

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