After the relatively relaxed environment that is Hawaii, we did not necessarily expect to be wowed by the hustle and bustle of LA. I think we both had some pre-conceptions of the place that limited our excitement for the week ahead and how the kids might react to such a big and sprawling city.
From the moment we woke up on the first day though in our lovely hotel and ventured out into the very quiet, clean and pretty residential area of West Hollywood we started to feel that this might be a place for us to enjoy after all.
For me, our first full day in LA was our best day in LA. We kept it simple and low key (knowing the kids were jumping forward another 3 hours in time) by catching a public bus down to Santa Monica Beach and we spent the whole day there. It was on our Taxi drivers advice from the airport the night before after he told us it was his favourite place in LA to take his grandkids.
It is a fantastic place.
There is a broad boulevard along the esplanade with petangue pits, food vans and buskers.
I quickly got into the American cuisine of hot dogs, although to the credit of USA we have been pleasantly surprised by how healthy the American food has become, or perhaps it always has been but we haven’t noticed, all places we have come across have used fresh, healthy ingredients and almost always offer healthy options instead of chips etc., now all they have to do is learn to make coffee!
Ari has continued his friend making mission. He took it to a new level here in ‘photo bombing’ some young girls who were trying to take each others photo’s amongst the gardens. He simply kept standing right in front of them, facing THEIR camera, lining himself up for the shot and giving his cheesiest grin, and moving closer and closer to the subject as the photographer tried to re-align themselves. He had ran quite a way ahead of us and was doing this solo while we were cracking up with laughter some way back. He then moved on to a Uni student who was parading her pet snakes around, showing little fear of them and telling her all about the carpet snakes he has seen at our place.
Santa Monica beach is huge, it is extremely wide and has a large pier with a fair ground over the water. The kids loved it, there were some small rides for Ari and a lovely old 1920’s carousel that Tess adored, it is fully hand carved and housed in a 1916 building with an old style soda shop and ice cream parlour.
The pier also has restaurants, like Bubba Gump Shrimp (a chain after the Forest Gump Movie), penny slot machines and stalls.
After touring the pier and rides we relaxed, and played, on the beach for quite some time. There is a Muscle Beach style outdoor exercise area which offered some amusement too.
This day was a real highlight, the kids loved it and noticeably appreciated the down time in a big city. In retrospect, it reinforced for us that they’ll get more joy out of the simple days of this trip than the big events.
Building on the success of our first day, we kept most days fairly low key in LA whilst still seeing most of what we wanted to see. We did of course briefly visit the likes of Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame (the Stars on the footpath); we spent small amounts of very enjoyable time around the lovely roof top pool and spa of the hotel, overlooking the suburbs, which gave Ari much joy; we visited the La Brea Tar Pits where the largest collection of Ice Age Fossils is still being pulled from the pits and displayed in the Museum, it is in the main Museum area of town where a couple of sculptures caught our eye, one was an actual section of the Berlin Wall, with original intact graffiti from pre-domolition; we walked the local streets of West Hollywood and found some good local eateries too, the people around this area, particularly the guys, paid a lot of attention to the kids which was really nice.
Skye spent her Birthday in LA. She put together a simple wish list of things to see and do for the day which we successfully completed with two happy kids for most of the day (believe me, successfully completing any list of any kind with the two kids in foreign areas is not as easy as it sounds). The day included a roof top swim, a visit to the new local library which has a great kids story room where two ladies took turns reading to the kids, lunch, a play with the kids in a great park, an expedition to find a Cupcake ATM (actually ACM, Automatic Cupcake Machine) for Birthday Cakes which were amazingly good (Skye went for Chocolate with Vanilla, I had a S’mores Cupcake, which has a graham cracker on the bottom, belgian chocolate cake with ganache filling and toasted marshmallow frosting, sooo good), we ended the day with room service dinner. I think she really enjoyed her Birthday and hopefully it will be one to remember.
We left Disneyland until our last day in LA. It was full on. We hired a car to drive there as we stayed too far for a Taxi and the Disney Shuttles from where we were take about 2 hours because of a transport change from a shuttle to a bus half way, leaving at 7am and returning about 9pm, which didn’t sound like fun with/for the kids. The drive only took us about 45 minutes and was easy. The car park entrance alone was 10 lanes wide and every lane was backed up. They really had their system sorted though, getting us in quickly, showing us to a parking spot and then shuttling us to the Disney entrance all in under half an hour. The number of cars gave us some insight into the crowds ahead. I think Disney was something we had to do whilst in LA with the Kids (or at least I had to, because I had such fond memories of it from when I was a kid). We had to get through some initial disappointments with Ari because the poor thing was just 1cm too small for all the big rides that caught his attention. He was most attracted to Space Mountain, so I took the punt and smuggled him past the first two check points, he wore his hat and used his best ‘casual walk’ past the ‘guards’, but then after waiting ages in the cue and getting to the door of our space shuttle he was pulled out for a final height check and we were knocked back, he was pretty heart broken but handled it well, with no tears. The guy who pulled him out felt sorry for us and gave us some VIP passes which got us all to the front of the line for any two other rides of our choice, which was a god send when each ride was almost an hours wait. Poor Tess screamed through every ride we tried to take her on, except for the Submarines, which only scared her briefly when some Volcano’s exploded, and the Carousel. Ari got the bejeebers scared out of him on a Snow White Ride, by the Wicked Witch, and then even more so in the Haunted House with me, but told me he had enough Bejeebers left to give the Haunted House another go with Mum, he gave her a non stop running commentary the whole way through and came out very proud of himself for still having some bejeebers left.
So that is a little bit about our time in Hollywood. Next stop, New York, New Yorrrrk…..