Friday, September 18, 2015

Fri 18 Sept - Last day in L.A.

After our experience both on entry at LAX and with the traffic yesterday we did a few admin things first thing this morning to try and smooth our departure tonight. 

Lisa changed our shuttle time to 30 minutes earlier to allow more contingency to get to the airport. We both hate last minute rushing and this might have us way too early for check in but at least we won't be late. 

Di called the Australian Consulate to check up on her passport after being directed to them by the Australian Passport office. They confirmed that there is NO FLAG or issue with Di's passport at all on Australia's records. WTF? But also what a relief. 

Before we leave the Bonaventure, a few photos of the amazing interior. For fans of "True Lies" the movie with Arnie you may recognise the elevators and ponds in the foyer (Arnie rode a horse through the ponds into the elevator). 

We had arranged a 1pm checkout so headed out for a short wander and explore in downtown. It's architecturally very interesting. It was also a beautiful day to be outside. 

First stop Angels Flight and Grand Central Markets.  Angels flight is a tiny furnicular that is currently closed, which saves you a walk up Bunker Hill. 

The markets are a great foodie dining place and also many wonderful Mexican ingredients (and others). 

More than 13 types of chillies here 

We loved these two business names...

Then we found the Bradbury building which is well known because it was designed by George Wyman who was not a trained architect. The story goes that he only took the commission for the work after receiving a message from his dead brother via a Ouiji Board. It now houses LAPD Internal Affairs which seems sort of an interesting mix when you think it was the home base of Harrison Ford's character in the movie Blade Runner. It is lovely. 

But not the only nice building in downtown. Architecturally more interesting than most people credit.

Then a bit more wandering towards City Hall and the Disney Music Centre before meandering back to the hotel.  On the way we also passed the new Pop Art Museum, a modern white cube, which opens on Sunday, damn!

For Di it was time enough for a swim before packing, checking out and snacking.

Lisa also packed and checked out with Di but opted to have a quiet, restful afternoon around the hotel.  It had been quite a long time on the road for her (3 weeks now and not yet home). Her afternoon worked out quite nicely, as she sat with a book, outside at an upstairs bar and sipped a Happy Hour Margarita. Very civilised. 

Di opted for a quiet afternoon as well but in a different way - sshh at LA City Library. What a great place, like most good quality libraries. It's a lovely building with a mix of old and new sections. 

Just off a corridor were a few old photos and display of Bunker Hill before it was largely demolished.  Again what a shame...but there was a reason for it. It had become a ghetto and very run down and the buildings were falling down too. 

This quote from Raymond Chandler gives you some sense of what happened in the area..

And modern progress moved in. Including our hotel!

The library also 
had a temporary display of old menus of dining places in LA (Di's kind of exhibition!). 

It then inspired Di to go find some cookbooks.  One in particular by Sylvia Woods, of Harlem, where Di and Hans had eaten in 2013 (and Barack Obama ate there too).  Some photos taken of recipes to try at home (IF Di can get the ingredients). 

And for those who know Di she was instantly attracted to this cookbook too. 

A late light lunch and then back to the Bonaventure lobby to blog and wait, wait, wait and then the joys of LAX.  The upside is that we will soon be on our way home and we are looking forward to sleeping in our own beds, and for Lisa seeing her cute dog, Lucky. She's been missing him.

Bon Voyage. 

Thur 17 Sept - L.A. Iconic locations

A blue sky LA day and Di and Lisa were set to explore quite a distance. 

After seeking breakfast and coffee at the food court across the road we headed out by metro to Hollywood to the walk of fame and to see "the sign".  No issue with metro in LA - all smooth sailing and we were soon there.  

The walk of fame has thousands of stars on it and goes a long distance. 

You look at all the famous names as you walk so it's very easy to bump into people and things with your head down.  You do need to look up too as the old Art Deco buildings are also interesting.  
Many lovely buildings are old theatres - heaps on Hollywood boulevard. 

This sign caught Di's eye for a building called Kress, who was the inventor of the first front hook bras and push up bras (something for the ladies!)

Looking down, you can go crazy taking photos of the stars... But the Governator deserved a photo.

As you approach The Dolby theatre and Grauman's Chinese theatre there are more and more characters dressed up for photo ops (with a tip of course).  This guy made us laugh as he sneaked up behind us. Very cute...the one on the right.

And lots and lots of tourists too but we are all there for the same thing. The Hollywood sign, the Academy Awards location and famous foot prints and handprints.  A selection of photos below. 
Grauman's from across the street 

 Merryl's skinny little feet...

Aahh Hugh...

The top of the Dolby theatre with the Hollywood sign in the distance. 

Proof Lisa was in Hollywood.

From here Lisa suggested a hop on hop off bus to take us via Beverly Hills to Santa Monica.  It came with commentary as we drove along and was a good idea as we learned a few fun facts. Not ideal for photos.

Our main destination for the day, the beach. It's quite a distance so all up took us more than an hour to get there from Hollywood so we opted for a nice lunch in the plaza before exploring more.  Di has been eyeing off cheesecake for a week now and caved in...delicious. 

Finally the pier and the beach - lovely and popular today. Lisa loves the beach and smiled the whole time. 

Looking north towards Malibu the mountains really hug the coast. Very scenic. 

We turned south and promenaded to Venice Beach. By fluke we also passed Hotel can check out anytime you like...

Fantastic weather- an ocean breeze and blue skies.  Lovely day for a wander. Not crowded at all once you're away from the pier. 

We reached Venice and needed a quick refreshment. This bar had Corona's on a Happy Hour special, a busker outside (a cool dude playing blues) and a view of the beach. Easy choice. 

Then onto the Venice Boardwalk with all the eccentricities. So much fun, colour and movement. 

A special mention to the Green Doctors who provide "medical" marijuana, after a formal evaluation. Hence the people inside filling out forms. Not for us. We'll stick to alcohol.

And our favourite of the day...Lisa!  Wearing a bikini. We laughed, patted the dog and chatted with the owner for a whole about red cattle dogs and the movie Red Dog.  And of course we tipped Lisa!

Realising it would take a while or get back to our hotel we left Venice around 5ish to go back to Santa Monica. 

Di had researched the metro buses back to down and there were several that went direct rather than take hop on hop off to Beverly Hills, then to Hollywood, then train.  Estimates on google was 59 minutes (see evidence below). Ha!  NOT in LA peak hour traffic. Try 2 hours on a bus.  Even the driver was shaking her head. Di and Lisa had to get off for a quick bathroom break at one point and caught the following bus but still it was 2 hours in total. With at least one crazy muttering guy on each bus. The first one sat right behind us. He sounded educated and articulate and spent the whole timer citing facts about everything from Taylor Swift to the Academy Awards to a salad bar chain.  The second guy was silently talking to the floor (perhaps an imaginary dog?). A third guy was wearing a hospital wrist band and Di heard him mention to the driver he'd just had an operation and was in lots of pain. It appears social services are struggling to keep up (as with everywhere when dealing with mental health issues, and Australia is no shining light.)

The bus finally reached Santa Monica Vermont station and we have never been soo happy to see a train station!

10 minutes and we were back downtown and back to our hotel at 8.15. A quick change and out for dinner but no photos after such a big day. 

Good night. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wed 16 Sept - Oaxaca to L.A. a travelling day with some lowlights...

Today was a bit tough for us and made memorable for some "wrong" reasons. 

Getting to our 6.30am plane at Oaxaca meant a 4am wake up and 4.45 taxi collection.  The problem is the 2 hour time difference with L.A. (Making it a 2am wake up L.A. time).  But we were doing ok despite a short amount of sleep.  Taxi arrived on time, no check out issues and the highlight was Lisa getting everything in her bags.  No overweight bag issue either. Well done!

We waited at the airport and when the snack bar opened at 5.45 we grabbed a hot drink each which helped revive us a little before we boarded our AeroMexico plane to Mexico City. A photo,of our plane. We've had no issues with flying AeroMexico, we both think they were good. 

It was a smooth flight and Di took a few photos, and liked the "smoking mountain top" that appeared in the clouds as we approached Mexico City. 

The switch over at Mexico City also went smoothly and we used the last of our Mexcian Pesos to buy a drink and a snack each. And waited again for about an hour.

This was a longer flight - more than 4 hours - as you easily  forget that Mexico is quite a "long country" and Mexico City is quite a distance East. Again the flight went fine and then we arrived in LAX terminal 2....

Well, what can we say about how bad the airport is? It really seems almost deliberate to make Visitors feel unwelcome.

Two planes arrived at once, lots of Visitors and only 2 immigration counters open for about 200 people. Then one guy went to lunch. So we queued for at least 45 minutes and then...Di's passport rejected. Di was taken for a second inspection which, we were told, could take another 1 hour,  mostly waiting as again only 1 guy was actioning these.  

It was very frustrating, but a learning experience. Some thing out of the Border Control TV show. The stories Di heard while waiting. A Mexican girl arriving here for 3 months with no plans and no means of support herself, when asked about savings said "she did not believe in savings". The Border guy said "if we find you've worked here you can never come back".   An older South American lady who seemed to be trying to get her medical treatment in USA with no health insurance cover (same story as the young girl) and then a young guy who had the bad luck to have the same name as someone on a "banned list". And Di.

Sorry no photos allowed. 

Lisa and Di agreed to meet at 2pm latest at the Super Shuttle pick-up and if Di was not yet there Lisa was to continue to our hotel, the Westin Bonaventure without her and Di would catch up (Di was confident she would be passed eventually).  

Now Part 2 of the bad news...
Unfortunately during this time and all the confusion Lisa lost her camera. She put it down, missed picking it up and it's gone.  She tried several options including lost property and begging a customs lady to do some checking but to no avail.  Not service oriented in LAX so sadly a very good camera is gone. 

Di finally sorted out her passport issue, but will probably need to call the Australian Consulate before leaving.  It turns out the Australia Government reported Di's passport lost or stolen and basically "suspended".  Di has NEVER lost or had a passport stolen. Seems to be a bureaucratic bungle by Australian public service. Are we surprised?

We finally met up at about 1.45pm and left LAX on the Super Shuttle 2.5 hours after landing. Yuck.

The good news, the iconic Westin Bonaventure is our hotel for the next 2 nights and still looks amazing. 

We checked in, Di did a quick scout of our location and then on returning we both went for a swim at the pool. Above is the view from the pool. We are in a room on the 20th floor. 

View from Di's pool lounge whilst we waiting for our cocktails to arrive.  Our day was finally getting better. 

Evidence that Lisa also swam, but then she tried to hide...

We soon felt much much, much better... Especially with a margarita for Lisa and Pina Colada for Di. 

Around 6pm we found a local bar for dinner and enjoyed a happy hour deal of a glass of Cabernet and a good meal. After several weeks we got to eat a meal that needs a knife to cut it (in Mexico there are lots of finger foods or soft foods).  Steak and mash for Di, garlic sauce roast chicken for Lisa and a chatty friendly waiter.  Perfect.  

Just what we needed and we would normally have lingered but we hit the wall after such an early start. Don't look at this photo from the bar too closely as we were both really really tired..

By 8.30 we were tucked into our very comfy beds after a very tiring day of sort of doing nothing. 

Good night.