Hello LA! #ourUSAadventure
Unless you have been living under a rock or just trying to ignore me, you would be aware that I’ve been Stateside with the family in recent weeks. I’ve shared photos on social media and have been passing on my hints and tips for family travel via my A to Z posts but I haven’t really shared a lot of details of what our trip entailed. So here’s a quick overview (with more gratuitous photos!) of the LA leg of #ourUSAadventure.
We left Australia bright and early on a Sunday morning. By bright and early, I mean we left the house at 4am in total and utter darkness. Despite our best efforts to leave as quickly and as quietly as possible, we set our car alarm off and no doubt woke the neighbourhood in the process. Thank goodness we were clearing out for three weeks…no need to face the neighbours in the morning!
The plane trip was long – 13 hours long. We had brought along books to read and colouring-in activities and iPads and iPods but it was still a long and tedious flight. Thank goodness for the entertainment system – it kept me a little sane throughout. But it’s impossible to sleep on a plane when sitting in a packed economy section, however desperately you try. Unsurprisingly, we were all a little tired and grumpy and less than glamorous by the end of it.
Highlights of the flight included Gilbert losing a tooth during takeoff and completely melting down (that was a whole lot of fun…not); sitting near the human Gobbledock (a man who could not get enough of potato chips throughout the entire flight and kept asking for them from cabin crew over and over and over again); catching up on music that everyone else heard a year ago because I insist on listening to AM radio at home (including Sia, Sam Smith & Pharrell Williams); and developing very impressive cankles after hours in the air – they rivalled my pregnancy cankles, which is quite a feat!
Thankfully we did arrive in LA (swollen and toothless but otherwise in one piece!) and had our first celebrity encounter when Jamie Durie was in our line at passport control. After collecting our luggage (it all arrived for once – yay!) we met with our affable shuttle bus driver and got our first glimpse of sunny LA. He entertained us with modern US hip-hop on the radio (my kind of music!) and shared some fascinating sightseeing tidbits before dropping us at our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express Hollywood.
It was too early to check in so we dropped off our bags and headed out into the sunshine. We had plans to visit Griffith Observatory but after walking around for a couple of hours and struggling to find a straightforward public transport option to take us there, we did what all Americans do – we headed to Starbucks for a caffeine hit to combat the jetlag. I still don’t get Starbucks – they didn’t even have any non-coffee choices on their menu board so I ended up having a flavoured milk popper, with the kids.
I know how to rock it in LA…
We finally decided not to try to get to the observatory and instead we boarded a double decker hop on-hop off bus to take a two hour tour of Hollywood and it’s surrounds. It was a lot of fun. We sat downstairs to prevent Gilbert getting too much sun and relaxed as we listened to commentary on all the places to be and see and do in LA. Unfortunately we may have relaxed a little too much – we all fell asleep at different times on the tour. I blame jetlag – we are not normally the sort of family to fall asleep on public transport!
When we arrived back on Hollywood Blvd it was only a short walk back to the hotel. En route we grabbed a few microwaveable meals and ended up eating before 5pm – considering we had been going since 4am the day before (AUS time) we were well and truly ready to crash. And crash we did. Except for the many times the kids woke during the night, disorientated as they were in a strange place and in an odd time zone.
Despite the night wakings we didn’t fully wake up until 9am the next morning which was slightly problematic as the hotel’s breakfast service ended at 9.30am. You have honestly never seen a family wake up, dress and get themselves ready to eat quite that fast before! The buffet gave us our first glimpse into US food. The bacon is thin and crispy – nothing like the sweet shortcut goodness that we love back home. Coffee is plentiful but tea is sort of an afterthought – you need to search for it and often ask for it specifically before you can finally sip a refreshing brew.
The highlight of the hotel’s breakfast was the automated pancake making machine. I was completely sold on it and I would love one for home. One touch of a button and a couple of minutes of waiting and you had two perfect pancakes on your plate -just the thing for a non-cook like myself. The kids thought it was awesome too. After they had their fill of pancakes and we munched down on eggs and crispy bacon strips we headed back to the double decker sight seeing bus and decided to give it another go, this time with the aim of NOT falling asleep.
We did manage to stay awake and had THE best day. Sunny and warm, we braved the top of the bus this time to grab some snaps and see the sights. Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Century City, Brentwood and Santa Monica cruised past and it was surprisingly exciting to grab glimpses of famous landmarks and street signs such as Rodeo Dr, Santa Monica Blvd, Sunset Blvd and Melrose Av (sadly we did not see Melrose Pl).
We ended up stopping off at Santa Monica to spend a few hours at the famous amusement pier. It is a must-do in LA. The smell of the salt in the air, the end of the iconic Route 66, the beauty of the old wooden pier, not the mention the amusement park itself and the many restaurants and shops, make this a great family destination and worth the bus trip out there.
We walked the pier, bought some souvenirs and took in the beauty of the beach before giving into the kids and taking them to Pacific Park, home of the iconic ferris wheel as well as a host of other amusement rides. It doesn’t cost anything to enter but you do need to buy tickets to go on the ride or to play the games. The kids all got to pick one ride to go on and we then all went on the ferris wheel together as a family. Gilbert chose a pirate ship ride (ever since he did the one at Luna Park he is obsessed with them!), Matilda did a mini hair-raiser frog hop ride and Delilah chose a teacup-like ride called dipping dots.
We then got in line for the iconic ferris wheel which is the real drawcard of Pacific Park. The views from the top are amazing – you can see all the way up and down the Californian coast. The kids were a little scared to begin with but they became a little more relaxed as we continued our journey up and down. Just hold onto your hats – Delilah lost hers from a gust of wind and mine then quickly followed. Happily, Delilah was reunited with her hat (it is a Frozen hat so tragedy would have ensued had it not been returned) but mine is sadly still somewhere out there on the west coast…
After having fun at Pacific Park we dined at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, famous from the movie, Forrest Gump. They were able to cater to our gluten free dietary requirements and our meals were very moreish. The kids meals were great too – they came in little cardboard boats and were very cute. It was a ideal first time dining experience for us in the US and we would definitely head back there again.
Sadly, we could not stay much longer in Santa Monica as we had to meet up with the bus to return to Hollywood. After a bit of a wait we ended up having to be separated on the way back but we still took in the sights as the sun starting sinking down in the west. It was nearly dark when we arrived back in Hollywood, to be greeted by crowds of excited people. Sadly, they were not there to greet us – they were there instead to see the stars of Avengers: Age of Ultron for the world premiere.
The crush of people was crazy and it was hard to get close enough to have a look ourselves. I would have loved to have stuck around to catch a glimpse of the stars but the kids were over it and we had an early start the next morning so we headed back to our hotel. Another easy microwave meal night was all we needed after our big lunch out and we settled down for the night. Besides we needed to get up extra early to check-in at LAX for our next leg of our adventure – Orlando and the magical world of Disney!
Stay tuned for the next instalment as we travel from LA to Orlando and discover the joy and wonder of all things Disney!