Monthly Archives: October 2019

USA 2019: (Long) Day 22

Los Angeles, CA – Tuesday 29 October

Downtown on the left, Normandie Avenue in the centre

Since the Getty Fire has indeed thwarted my plans to see the Getty (ah well, I’m not much of a one for art anyway), I spent the day in Griffith Park instead. It was far too hot for me to be enthused about hiking four miles to see the Hollywood sign at close quarters, but I climbed the adjoining mountain and got some great LA panoramas from there. You can definitely see that legendary smog from up here, though.

Tonight, I’m flying the red-eye to New York (9.40PM Pacific Time -> 6AM Eastern Standard Time). What seemed like a great money-saving idea (no need to pay for tonight in a hotel!) at my desk in England seems rather less so on the day/night … but we shall see.

Postscript – how did LA without a car work out?

Days = 5

Total spent on Uber/Lyft = $211

Total spent on five day metro pass = $27

Total = $238

vs approximately $200 for a rental car, plus insurance, plus gas, plus the quite high cost of parking at some of the places I visited.

So I came out (slightly) ahead financially. On the upside, I didn’t have to worry about the lunchtime martinis. On the downside, I’d definitely have taken a spin round more of the city if I’d had my own wheels. Overall, though, I’d done enough driving on this trip already that I’m quite pleased I decided to stop. It is meant to be a holiday, after all, and solo driving is quite wearing. Most of the time, I avoided the worst of the LA traffic, but getting to the airport tonight would have been torturous behind the wheel.

In order to make the numbers work, it’s worth noting that about a third of the Uber/Lyft rides were shared rather than solo. Most of the drivers were great, one or two were complete maniacs, and only one had an unhealthy interest in both Brexit and the royal family.

USA 2019: Day 21

Los Angeles, CA – Monday 28 October

If you squint a bit, you can see the Hollywood sign from my hotel balcony

A bit of a rest day today – lots of tourist attractions in LA close on Mondays, so I went and had a wander round The Original Farmers’ Market – including a doughnut at Bob’s and a delicious, if overpriced, corned beef sandwhich (world famous, apparently).

For the first time this trip, the wildfires may end up affecting my plans, as the Getty Fire looks set to prevent me visiting, er, The Getty tomorrow. Plan B in the works…

USA 2019: Day 20

Los Angeles, CA – Sunday 27 October

I took a trip out to Pasadena today, made famous (among other things) by The Big Bang Theory (they’ve even named a street after it). And, as it happens, I had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, the interior of which looks rather different from its televised incarnation.

On the way back, I had a wander round Downtown LA, including passing the courthouse and the PAB, and finishing up at The Last Bookstore, where I broke my self-imposed rule about not buying any more books until I’ve read all the ones I currently own:

A very LA story…

USA 2019: Day 19

Los Angeles, CA – Saturday 26 October

When you think you’ve run out of martni, there’s more in the shaker!

Today’s trip was to Hollywood Boulevard. As part of touring the locations visited by the characters in Michael Connelly’s crime novels (and because it was in the guide book), I had lunch at the Musso & Frank Grill, which was delicious, and very atmospheric. It was also the most I’ve spent on lunch in, er, ever, but well worth it for the experience.

Most of the names in the sidewalk stars meant little to me, but I did managed to find James Dean, and another more recent actor who I’ve always admired:

I rather enjoyed The Mysteries of Laura until they cancelled it.

(insert photo of Debra Messing’s star here)

USA 2019: Day 18

Los Angeles, CA – Friday 25 October

Endeavour at the Science Center in LA

Today’s desitnation was the California Science Center, wherein lies the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I must admit I was expecting it to be a bit bigger in real life, but if you think about how they used to fly them around on top of a modified 747, it makes sense. It was also a bit tattier than I imagined it, but I suppose going to space and back 25 times is quite rough on the paintwork.

I enjoyed seeing it (and the rest of the exhibits), but a small part of me wonders whether spending $200 million to transport and exhibit it was the best possible use of the dosh.

USA 2019: Day 17

Los Angeles, CA – Thursday 24 October

HQ for the next five nights

I flew out of Vegas on Southwest Airlines this morning, back over to LA to spend an extra-long weekend. I’m pleased to say I made it out of Sin City without doing any gambling – given my ongoing battle to control my weight, I suspect mine is the sort of personality which would chase its losses if given the chance to.

Southwest could definitely teach most of the short haul carriers in Europe a thing or two – I arrived at McCarran International Airport with just under an hour to go before the flight, self-labelled and handed over my checked baggage on the sidewalk outside the terminal, breezed through security, and just had time to grab a sandwich before take off. We arrived early, and I only had to wait 90 seconds before the bags arrived on the carousel. I can’t ever remember flying around Europe going that smoothly.

So far, I’m pleased with the Aventura Hotel in LA – reasonably handy for all the places I want to visit, and almost brand new, which means clean, done up to a nice standard, and featuring a decent sized TV and USB charging sockets.

My planned five nights here is the longest in-one-place stay of the trip, and it’s nice to be somewhere long enough to make it worthwhile unpacking.

There’s also a KFC a couple of blocks over (well, I’m planning on visiting some famous but pricey Hollywood restaurants, so the daily average spend has to be dragged back down somehow…).

USA 2019: Day 16

The Grand Canyon, AZ – Wednesday 23 October

The main reason for flying over to Las Vegas for a couple of nights was to visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, both of which are possible to cover in one (long) day trip from LV.

I got picked up at 0545(!) from my hotel, then we drove out to the Grand Canyon – in the past 24 hours, adding Nevada and Arizona to the list has doubled the number of US states I’ve visited.

First stop was the Hoover Dam, which is, erm, big. I was surprised how little water there was in the lake, though.

Hoover Dam (intake towers on the right, dam in the middle)

It surprised me to learn that, in the land of pure capitalism, the dam was both built by the government, and remains owned and operated by the government to this day.

And then, a mere four hours’ drive further on (we had a good tour guide who kept us entertained on the bus though) – the Grand Canyon.

Pictures, especially those taken on a mobile phone by me, cannot convey the sheer size of this hole in the ground, but here’s the best one I managed:

The Grand Canyon, seen from the south rim near the village

All in all, a grand day out. (See what I did there?)

USA 2019: Day 15

Santa Monica, CA / Las Vegas, NV – Tuesday 22 October

Pacific Coast Highway, Day 4 – Santa Barbara to LA

Santa Monica

And so my PCH drive finished up on the beach in Santa Monica. The final stretch of the PCH didn’t measure up to Carmel->SLO, but it was mostly costal and mostly very pretty. Malibu is now a place to me, not just a name on a drinks bottle, and I’ve visited the Santa Monica Pier (and a pizza joint just behind it).

Since I’m dropping the rental car off at LAX anyway, I decided to fly over to Las Vegas for 48 hours before returning to spend time in LA. The 45 minutes it took for me to drive eight miles from the beach to the airport rather cemented in my mind the decision I’ve made to do without a car during my time in LA. Yes, the car is king here, but they have the bones of a light rail system – plus, factoring in the cost of parking, car rental and gas, I can afford a few Ubers and not have to worry about drinking beer with my lunch.

Incidentally, based on a sample of three, all bartenders in the USA think I’m under 21*, and only two thirds of them are willing to accept a UK driving licence as proof of age. If in doubt, carry your passport around (or take a break from the sauce).

I flew Southwest Airlines over to Vegas, and today finished up in my hotel (the Golden Nugget Casino) just after 10pm.

*The author was 31 years old in 2019, but will admit he looks quite boyish when clean-shaven.

USA 2019: Day 14

Santa Barbara, CA – Monday 21 October

Pacific Coast Highway, Day 3 – SLO to Santa Barbara

I’m definitely in southern California now – the weather is noticeably hotter and the sun brighter, so it’s sun cream and shades all the way.

Today’s chunk of the PCH was a little less on the costal or picturesque side, so I drove it a bit faster and with fewer stops, and spent more time in Santa Barbara. There’s a pier with ice cream, and it also sold me a few post cards.

View from the courtyard of my hotel, looking directly up

USA 2019: Day 13

San Luis Obispo, CA – Sunday 20 October

Pacific Coast Highway, Day 2 – Carmel to SLO

Today’s drive was the most stunning section of the PCH for me – the road was right next to the water most of the way down, and this section includes Big Sur (which is a river, not a mountain as I’d always vaguely assumed).

Big Sur

Being a Sunday, the journey was not without traffic (at one vista point, it seemed like every other car in California besides mine was a convertible Mustang) – but still good fun.

My hotel in SLO was somewhat out of town, and the combination of heat and long drive meant I was content to have a burrito next door and collapse into it rather than going exploring.