Hello. It’s been a while since my last post. Over a year in fact but I’m back now.
Our holiday this year was later in the summer than usual as Todd (formerly known on this blog as Greg) graduated from the University of Leeds in July and we weren’t going to miss that.
This year, we started our holiday in Los Angeles. A place we had never been to before. We were staying for a few days before continuing our adventure in Hawaii. We’d not been there either. So, full of excitement and anticipation we left for Heathrow.
We checked in our luggage and got our boarding passes, went through security with no issues and headed straight to the Virgin lounge where we indulged in good food, fine wines and cold beers.
It was while we were here that my brain had one of its primeval, fight or flight moments. The eye is drawn to movement, especially when seen out of the corner of the eye. You know the kind of thing, “Predator, food or safe?”
I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. My brain instantly and correctly saw this as my own reflection and of no danger whatsoever. It also, incorrectly, identified me as this:
I hate my brain. For a start my belly button is an innee not an outtee!
Our flight was called and we wandered off to the gate to board. Which prompts the question of why is your boarding gate a million miles away? It is always a 15 to 20 minute walk.
We boarded the aircraft and turned left whereupon we were offered a choice between champagne or orange juice. Determined to get our moneys worth, we had champagne. We found our seats and settled down for a 10 hour flight. I can tell you now that flying business, or “Upper” as Virgin call it is no hardship at all, even for 10 hours. Your own seat that turns into a bed, plenty of leg room, more privacy, better food and movies and plenty to drink as long as you’re not stupid about it. There’s a bar if you fancy propping it up or you can have drinks brought to your seat. Fantastic!
We landed at LAX and prepared to face US Immigration.
Which turned out not to be as bad as expected. While not exactly sailing through, it didn’t take long and the staff were reasonably good humoured. What happened next however, was a bit of a problem. Our instruction were to leave the Terminal, find the black and white ‘Super Shuttle’ lollipop, announce ourselves to the member of staff there and 15 to 30 minutes later we would be on our way to our hotel. We did all that and then after about 20 minutes asked when our shuttle would arrive. We’d seen half a dozen come and go with a single person or a couple getting in. Turns out we’d been cancelled! The guy tried to resolve the issue and judging by the look on his face he was dealing with an imbecile. Eventually, after being cancelled several times, including one as our shuttle bus pulled up that caused some mutterings among us, we got on board our bus that we shared with another pair of people. We pulled into the traffic and believe me when I say traffic outside the LAX terminals is horrendous. I’m not sure how many lanes there are – 6 possibly 8, but it crawls along and every lane is absolutely heaving with cars, trucks, vans, lorries, motorcycles and buses.
Finally, we arrived at our hotel, the Andaz in West Hollywood. It was on the famous Sunset Strip, part of Sunset Boulevard and what an hotel it was. PIL nailed this. It was lovely.
We were welcomed by the staff, offered complimentary wine, that we gratefully accepted and wandered up to our rooms which were very plush.
Turns out the Andaz has quite a rock n roll history. Little Richard lived there for about 20 years. When The Doors were the house band at Whiskey a Go Go, which is a hundred yards down the road from the hotel, Jim Morrison lived there until he got chucked out for dangling off his balcony by his finger tips. Axel Rose set off the fire alarms when he decided to have a barbecue on his balcony. The two Keiths, Richards and Moon are alleged to have lobbed their TVs out of the windows of their rooms. Richard Cole, Led Zeppelins manager used to ride his motor bike in the corridors. Robert Plant, the vocalist from Led Zeppelin is also said to have screamed from his balcony, “I am a golden god”, which probably explains why they only played stadiums as they were the only venues with room for his ego!
Those days are long gone now but there are a few hints about its history dotted around.
The following morning after a wonderful breakfast, we all headed off in an uber to Santa Monica beach. Los Angeles covers a huge area and it took a while to get there but it was worth it. The beach is brilliant and the pier is really nice. I never realised that the famous Route 66 ended at the pier (or started depending on your viewpoint). They were filming an episode of a tv programme (911?) on the pier but it didn’t interfere with us or anyone else enjoying themselves there. We meandered up and down the pier, popped into a few shops and cafes, took photographs and generally made like tourists. We walked on the beach or rather we tippy toed across it going “ooh aah ooh aah ooh aah” ‘cos the sand was bloody hot. The sea looked very inviting but I couldn’t help but think ‘shark’ and so we decided against a swim. We figured out that Venice Beach was just down the beach aways and within walking distance, so off we went, looking forward to seeing all the cool hipsters gliding about on roller skates and skate boards. Instead we found a bit of a dump! Lots of homeless people lying under tents made from sheets of plastic, litter, tatty shops selling tatty goods. I think that’s what surprised us. We’d seen some homeless people at Santa Monica but there seemed to be an awful lot centred on Venice Beach. It was not really what we expected, especially in California. We’d all seen plenty of homeless people begging in London and some in Canterbury but the sense of despair we felt here and the numbers we saw was quite depressing. Despite this, we had an excellent time at the beach both of which were spotlessly clean.
We took in a walking, guided tour in Griffith Park where the Hollywood sign is although you can’t get too close to it simply because there aren’t any roads or paths the public can use that lead up to it or even get close. What we did get though was an excellent guided tour, magnificent views across Los Angeles and a bit dusty. Our guide told us about the wild life to be found in the park, mostly coyotes and a huge variety of birds. She forgot to mention the rattle snakes! Not that we saw any but it would of been nice to be aware of them. Not that I’m worried about snakes, I quite like them. Apparently during the course of our walk we bumped into the actress Andie MacDowell who was walking her dog. We went to the Observatory which was cool.
It goes without saying that we had a shopping trip to Rodeo Drive. Caitlin (CJ) was in her element and led the rush to the Louis Vuitton shop. It has to be said that the attitude of the shop staff to 5 scruffy looking Brit tourists was first class and very welcoming. If we had gone into similar shops in London looking like we did, the staff would have been looking down their collective noses at us.
The other very important part of our trip to Rodeo Drive was that nearby was The Cheesecake Factory! Oh goodness me! What a wonderful place this is. We had been to one in Florida and didn’t want to miss out on another visit. The menu consisted of a list of two or three mains which were jolly nice if you like burgers and fries (which we do). The rest of the menu consists of a list of about 750 million different cheesecakes . Oh joy of joys. It’s not just a pokey little portion that you get in most places. What you get is a great big fuck off slab of cheesecake! Heaven! Plus, if you can’t finish it, which is highly likely unless you’re a fat bastard, they give you a doggy box to put the left overs in to take with you. Brilliant. Heart disease in a take away box.
Mostly though, we did what we love to do and are experts in – doing bugger all. The Andaz had a roof top pool and bar where we spent some considerable time lazing about and drinking and just chilling out in the sunshine. The view from there across LA was quite incredible if somewhat hazy sometimes.
Apart from lazing about and drink superb Californian wines we also stuffed our faces with food. Simple stuff that as tourists we were duty bound to do. We went to an ‘In n Out’ which is similar to McDonalds except they make to order rather than having stuff sitting under a hot lamp. It was rammed solid, absolutely manic in there. We loved it but unfortunately for us we were behind a coach load of Chinese tourists. 32 of the buggers I think so we had a bit of a wait but we didn’t mind. It gave the boys a chance to grab a table outside and while it was nothing special it was an experience. (As a by the by, Chinese tourists are the worlds worst. They go everywhere in groups of a million, shouting and hollering and getting in the way of everyone else. They are a complete pain in the arse! They were a bloody nuisance in Kenya last year too)
We went to Wahlburgers which is owned by the famous acting family. We had a meal at the Riot House which is the Andaz restaurant. We also went to the Saddle Ranch Chop House which was an absolute blast. Saddle Ranch knows exactly what it is – a raucous cowboy themed place just a couple of doors down from the Andaz. We loved it! It’s even got a mechanical bull there. We didn’t attempt it as I could see me either breaking a limb or vomiting all over the place. Other people did though and it was brilliant. Green Day playing American Idiot on the tv screens, noise, laughter and just a heap of people having a great time. The ribs that Elliott and I had looked like they had come from episode of the Flintstones! They were huge!
There was a huge array of restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. There was Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, Vegan, posh and not so posh. Whatever you fancied, it was catered for. Thoroughly recommend West Hollywood for food.
Eventually though it was time to go. Our Super Shuttle to take us back to LAX was booked for 3.30 am and we decided to give it until 3.40 and if it hadn’t arrived we were getting an uber! As it happened, it arrived at 3.20 and shortly afterwards we were on our way to start the next part of our adventure in the most isolated population center on the face of the earth. 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.
The story of that part of our adventure will be along shortly.
Have a brilliant day wherever you may be.
More Dick soon.