Our trip begins with two very pleasant days in LA. It is our second visit to a city that everyone seems to have nothing but bad words to say about, but once again we have a ball.
Even after a lengthy wait to clear customs and immigration at LAX, we arrive at our hotel in Santa Monica several hours prior to leaving Melbourne (thank you, the international dateline), and head out to explore. We spend our first day wandering in and out of the shops and spending some US$ travellers cheques left over from our 2008 trip to South America–this was our emergency fund, but as we never had an emergency we now have a small present from the us of five years ago.
Every time we produce one of these relics it sends the shop assistant into a spin. “Travellers Cheques? No one uses those anymore”. Each store somehow has a different procedure for cashing them, but one by one they accept them and we leave each store with free stuff, and free US$.
As the sun sets we walk out to the beach–past the wooden Baywatch huts–and down to the end of the pier, past the rickety funfair, past a caricature artist who shouts an offer to “make me smaller” and Sal taller, and a guy dressed as Uncle Sam playing music and pulling funny faces. We stick around to watch the sunset before heading for dinner at the quite excellent Tar & Roses, where we sit at the bar eating beautiful glazed ribs, lamb belly and roasted chicken.
Later we retire to a bar called Chloe where we help the barman–an impossibly handsome young man with a floppy fringe that seems as if it is straight out of a daytime soap or some teen pop band–to name a new cocktail, and chat to his girlfriend about her love of Top Gear and her plans to visit the UK to see it being filmed.
On our second day we collect our convertible from the hotel a few blocks away, and set out to drive the city–first to Rodeo Drive, where the shop assistants are all too friendly for us to have the opportunity to say “you work on comission, right? Big mistake…”, and then on into the hills, along Mullholland and Ventura, past the lookout down to the city and the Hollywood Bowl, where we hear a tour guide point out the alleged houses of Meg Ryan and Ice T.
We travel on to Sunset, along Hollywood past the Chinese theatre and the stars, before looping back to Venice, to the indie boutiques of Abbot Kinney, which reminded us of Brunswick or Smith Streets. All the while ignoring the Tom Tom’s insistence that we take the shortest route–the freeway–instead choosing the suburban back streets where we admire the large Spanish style houses and manicured lawns. I had been nervous about driving in LA but it turns out to be easy and fun. Having the top down on a sunny day probably doesn’t hurt.