Arriving in America: 5 days in Los Angeles

After a long, but fairly easy, 12 hour flight we landed in Los Angeles 2 hours before we took off!  Needless to say our heads were on backwards! The boys called it time travel, I called it messing with my head! But we’re going to be spending 5 days in Los Angeles to get readjusted to the time zone.

Plus it just so happens to be Ethans 11th birthday!!

I didn’t have any expectations as America isn’t really a country we’ve included in our trip. It’s purely a stopover and, ok, I’m slightly intrigued whether the America that is portrayed in our news at home is the real one!

Arriving in Los Angeles

So it was time to see what the ‘City of dreams’ is really like! It didn’t start off well as we were greeted by more than aggressive, narky and downright rude staff at immigration. This was preceded by a painful 2 hour queue for immigration!!

But we were tired, so I put our first impression down to that. 

Renting a car

You definitely need a car in LA for getting around, the distance between sites and because they have a poor transport system.

We organised our car hire through thrifty as there was a free shuttle that collected you from the airport departures.  

We got on and immediately an argument ensured between the driver and a passenger about where a bag went. It was a loud and passionate standoff – neither making any compromise.  There was no need And yet, their stiff politeness ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ or ‘thank you’ were all in an abrupt manner, making it ok to speak to each other in their raised tones. Whhaaatt!  Maybe their tired too??! 

We managed to get to the desk and organise our car. We were directed towards the vehicles and told ‘pick a compact one’ (whatever that is). No direction, no help. Obviously we ended up going the wrong way and even though there were a few staff no-one gave any assistance. 

Hang on..  I thought America was all about amazing customer service?! Eventually we found a car and before we could leave needed to have it checked. We smiled at the lady at the gate, unreciprocated she barked ‘mileage’. Having never been in the car before, we had no idea how to search for mileage!! With a sigh she got the information she needed and we were on our way…

Welcome to America!!!! 😳

Note: we never came across a toll when we were driving around. But parking can be very expensive. always research beforehand places to park and costs. 

 

Where to stay in Los Angeles

The choice is endless, but we kept reading you need to pick the right area due to safety. Plus the price was a big factor… America is expensive!! 

We eventually decided on a place out to the north east near Pasadena.  We had a car so getting around wouldn’t be an issue! 

We stayed at Titta inn. In fact, this was a great place to stay and the staff were all very delightful. A welcome change to what we had experienced so far!   

The room was comfortable with 2 queen size beds, air conditioning, large bathroom (with bath!!) and TV with a million channels 😂.  It’s the little things that excite the boys. Plus there was free coffee, fruit and sweets 24/7 in the dining area! 

There’s also parking in site so it was easy to get in and out. The area seemed nice, no issues with safety and nearby were plenty of shops and supermarkets. Luckily, as our hotel had a microwave we were able to have a couple of TV dinners!

 

Tipping in America

Supposedly there are rules. We had no idea what they were but were told if you buy something from someone – you tip! The normal is supposed to be about 10%, but we found the standard on credit card machines to be more like 15%. 

I certainly wouldn’t pay for any of the customer service we’d had so far!!! 

Oh and supposedly the rule is even if it’s bad service – you still tip!?! Whaatttt! I just can’t get my head around it. 

 

Things to do in Los Angeles

As we had the car we had easy access to the area, which was a blessing as sometimes, as we would drive to our destination – take one look and then leave!  Here are some of the places on our trip:

Venice canals 

We read this was a nice area to wander around. But in all honesty, it’s no Venice. It was a range of art Deco and modern housing built next to a series of about 3 canals. When we went the canals were fairly empty and aside a couple of cute bridges we just strolled through. 

Venice beach

We wandered through to the beach for a peek but actually the boys found a family with 3 other boys and started playing with them. So, we just stopped for a while. Completely unplanned and so no suntan lotion, no swimming clothes and hardly any water! We therefore couldn’t stop long, but it felt an ok area.

Only later I spoke to someone who said that Venice beach is not safe – I never actually got that vibe – even when we saw someone being arrested! 

Hollywood

What’s your dream??

We arrived with no expectations and when we saw the Hollywood sign & just drove up the hill until we were close enough to get a picture. It’s clearly the thing to do as you can’t actually get close to the sign. This is a neighborhood though so a busy route. 

We then drove through the nearby town where the walk of fame is. A series of tiled stars on the floor naming celebrities. We didn’t get out, the area didn’t look that great and so we hung out heads out of the window and spotted the stars from afar! It’s not really the done thing but… meh! 

 

Long beach

This felt like a nice area with nice tree lined streets & typical American houses. We passed a huge mall on the way if you fancy a bit of shopping. 

We stopped near a grassy area and had views across the bay and down to the beach. The area is a shipping port so interesting to see the comings and goings. As for the beach, it was huge! A bit too big to be able to say it was a nice beach. But we stopped for a short stroll along the pier there.  

Around the area there is also a huge aquarium, which – although expensive, had good reviews.

 

Santa Monica pier

We visited later afternoon/early evening to watch the sunset behind Santa Monica pier. To be fair sunset is as late as we are able to stay awake at the moment! 

The beach area behind the pier is known as muscle beach and there were bars, rings and apparatus to work out on. Which is what most people were doing – so the boys joined in flexing their muscles!! A fascinating place to people watch. 

There is a path which stretches a long way down the coast and is well known for cyclists, rollerblading, walking, scooting, skateboarding.. anything you want (except cars!).  Very busy area.

You then cross to the beach, which the boys enjoyed playing in to cool off. There were the famous lifeguard huts all along and manned even at this time of the year! 

While we were at Santa Monica there was a twilight festival with music and comedians at the pier. Plenty of people had gathered with picnic blankets on the beach to hear the tunes. We would have stayed to watch but tiredness beat us! 

 

California Science Centre

Our favourite place.. and it’s free (although parking was $12!). The boys were greeted at the front door with a huge black bird – the excitement was palpable!

We were given a map and wandered through the 3 floors viewing space exploration, earthquakes, desert animals, an aquarium with the biggest sea bass I’ve ever seen, touch tanks and seeing the space shuttle, Endeavour!

Amazing to see a space shuttle up so close and read about her missions!!

They had some simulators, 3D movies and special exhibitions which cost extra, but we were happy with exploring. The staff were really lovely and engaging too! Perfect birthday for Ethan! 

Click here for information about what’s on. https://californiasciencecenter.org/ 

 

Other places to visit

Griffin observatory – sadly, we left this until our last day just when jetlag and illness defeated us! I just didn’t have the energy to go. But most people we spoke to have raved about the views and walks around this area!

National History Museum – next door to the science museum we did consider visiting this too. It costs $14 per adult and $6 per child which isn’t too bad. But as we spent too long in the science centre we didn’t have time! 

Note: It’s free museum admission the first Tuesday of every month (except July and August) and free museum admission every Tuesday in September. Read here for more information https://nhm.org/plan-your-visit/museum-free-days-admission-and-hours

 

Places to eat in Los Angeles

I’m not even going to try and recommend places to eat. It depends on where you are based and what you fancy. But needless to say you can get anything and everything you want in LA!  And it will be BIG. They don’t do things by half in America.

 

Conclusion

Wow! I mean, where did the heart go?! I don’t think that Los Angeles is a true reflection of America as a whole but there’s an underlying bubbling that has niggled me. It’s almost like I need to go back and find the real America. The one where hope, happiness & kindness still exist.  I know it’s out there as we’ve met some lovely people from the USA along our travels.  But where did Los Angeles go wrong?! 

In social media I described Los Angeles as a huge Jigsaw puzzle, which I stand by.  In downtown LA one street is filled with coffee shops and boutiques and the next is grim with down and outs, dirt and grime. It doesn’t feel safe here.  Sadly the city is in disarray, in need of modernisation and too much homelessness. It was very sad to see.

We had a car during our stay, which is essential in my view as the ‘main sites’ are so spread out, transport links are not great & taxis are expensive.  The beaches are ok, not a patch on Australian ones! I sooo wanted my Baywatch moment – but it didn’t happen 😂. But it could be so much more!

We’ve seen many places on our travels but I have to say Los Angeles is one of my least favourite. And yet, it has so much potential! Maybe when the government have stopped fighting amongst themselves (same for the UK!!) they can start to invest their time in the people and places. 

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