Sitting in Los Angeles airport waiting for our flight to Miami. It’s been a long day. Crossed the dateline, city tour of LA with the lovely Tony who guided us with a smile around the sights. Huge six lane freeways, triple decker fly overs, crazy drivers… I was surprised by rise the majority of LA is – residential areas are much like NZ with single storey town houses although the sprawl of suburbia spreads further. Through the haze we could see some mirrored glass towers in the distance with the hills behind. The Hollywood sign was elusive and proved difficult to photograph as it slipped behind billboards and trees as we spotted along the road.
Los Angeles is a city of surprises; beautiful, old (well in US terms but not European – stone buildings with intricate carvings, mixed with stunning modern glass, concrete and metal designs. The European, especially Spanish, influence is clear. You can imagine the immigrants from long ago coming over from Spain, Italy, France and England with their skills and artistry and recreating familiar images from home. But there is also the dirt and the rubbish which seems to be all over and we were shocked by the number of down and outs that were quite evident, even in seemingly affluent areas of the city, but especially in Broadway and Santa Monica where we had chance to get out of the bus and explore. Huge multi-million dollar houses nestled in the hillside and on main streets rubbed shoulders with the old and run down. Advertising everywhere, massive billboards and cars – flash and expensive and seemingly only driven by young men wearing shades and looking very cool! They zipped in and out, cut across lanes and in front of the bus, squeezing through gaps and generally uncaring about coming off worse in an argument with a bus! Tony told us that they don’t worry about getting bumped as they will just sue the bus company. That led to an interesting discussion with him about the litigation culture and gun laws, racism, the power of police and a whole lot more.
Tony stopped to let us hop off the bus to take photos and stretch our legs – we needed it after 14 hours on a plane. So in brief, what were the take away moments of LA?
Walt Disney Concert Hall – a stunning burnished metal building that had to be made less shiny because the reflections were too much for local residents and drivers.
The oldest street in LA – hispanic kitchness but pretty and full of character all the same. I bought a ¨Dia de los Muertos´ tee-shirt from one of the many stalls selling all things ¨Mexicana¨ – had to get something from LA!
Following the Broadway stars – we spent half an hour ‘star gazing’ and like kids were delighted whenn we saw names we recognised both from the past and the present and then posed for photos with them! I definitely got a bit carried away with the photos! But was delighted that Winnie the Pooh was there and we had to find Peter Jackson as he had only just had his star put there.
No beer allowed on this trip but we couldn’t resist going into the ‘Rusty Mullet’ for a soft drink – definitely a bar with character!
Dinner was out at Santa Monica Beach. the sun was already going down as we arrived at 5.30pm and it went dark very quickly. Whilst most of the girls headed to the bright lights of the Ferris Wheels and hotdog stalls onthe pier, our stomachs led us in nsearch of more substantial fare. Third Street (and first and second for that matter ) could have been any street in any retail district in any western country. However, as the darkeness fell and the festive Christmas lights shone brighter it had an undeniable charm. Of course, we had a burger in the US of A and an excellent one it was too from ‘La Cucina’ – a traditional Italian place serving American food! We juts had time to run down to put our feet on the beach (just to say we had done it!), peer at the pier from afar and get back toi the bus.
Tony, our bus driver was one of those special souls who clearly loves his job; he went out of his way to make our tour special. He was genuinely upset when roadworks or other building projects stopped him from being able to pull in and let us jump ut to get better photos. He also had a treasure trove of stories to embellish the banal.
Back at LA airport with 5 hours to kill until our flight to Miami …..