It’s a long way to the other side of the world but after thirteen and a half hours on one of Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777s, I stepped out at LAX; the Los Angeles International Airport. My 2014 Excellent Adventure in America was beginning on the 12th June with five days in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Founded in 1781, the city and surrounding area holds well over half the population of Australia.
Fortunately for me, my very own angel, the lovely Ann Ferreri, met me at the airport. Ann, an LA local, is a close friend of Jo and Don Hearn from Restdown Winery near Barham. I had met Ann eighteen months earlier when she had been out for her biennial trip to Australia and fortuitously ended up on my riverbank for brunch one day.
Ann took me to her lovely 1940s apartment in West Los Angeles and left me to relax for the day while she was a work. The seventeen-hour time difference between Barham and LA, made it hard for me to stay awake; it might have been 8.30 Thursday morning in LA but it was already 1.30am on Friday in Barham. I set my alarm and had a nap for an hour and a half before getting up and going for a walk for an hour or so, to get a local SIM card for my phone.
Ann arrived home from work around 5.30pm; being a Thursday, I introduced Ann to the concept of LHHH (Ladies Happy Hour and a Half) and we enjoyed a bottle of Californian red and some delicious cheeses and snacks.
The next day Ann worked until 1.30pm. I took myself off for a morning walk to see the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (made famous by the 1987 film, Pretty Woman) and strolled along Rodeo Drive – the place to go if you feel like picking up a trinket at Tiffany’s or decking yourself out in jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels or perhaps the latest fashion from Versace... I settled for an enjoyable hour of window-shopping. Along the way I passed a Bugatti Veyron – the fastest street-legal production car in the world. With a top speed of over 400 km/hr, you can snap one of these babies up in Australia for around $4 million, give or take.
For the afternoon, Ann took me to the Getty Center, where we enjoyed an informative tour of the grounds with our knowledgeable tour guide, Hope.
|The Getty Center|
An architecturally amazing museum complex, the Getty Center is mostly clad in an Italian imported limestone known as travertine. Set up in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking LA (near Bel Air) the center was designed by architect Richard Meier and cost a staggering US$1.3 billion and eight years to build; it first opened to the public in December 1997.
Well over one million people visit the Getty Center each year to marvel at the architecture, landscaped grounds and vast collections of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs.
That night, Ann took me out to the beachfront city of Santa Monica to dine with her friends, Bob and Pamela at Chez Jay, an historical landmark well known for its great food, generous drinks and comfortable atmosphere. On Ann’s recommendation, I enjoyed a delicious shrimp curry.
The next morning we drove into downtown LA for an architectural walking tour of the city. Afterwards we stopped for lunch at Papa Cristo’s in the Byzantine-Latino quarter. Voted best Greek restaurant in LA, this bustling taverna-styled eatery and market serves an extensive array of traditional Greek and Mediterranean foods.
|Buildings in Downtown LA|
Vivoli Café on Sunset Boulevard was the setting for our Saturday night dinner with Ann’s friends: Lydia and Danny, Sean and Sebastian. I enjoyed Capesante e Gamberi; an exquisite meal of pan-fried scallops and shrimps with fresh lemon, white wine, and garlic sauce followed by Mattonellina de Cioccolato; a luxurious dark chocolate terrine finished with candied orange liqueur sauce… the most magnificent chocolate dessert I’ve ever tasted... and I’ve tasted a few!
Sunday was Father’s Day in the United States and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills hosts an impressive annual car show, the Rodeo Drive Concours D’elegance. Filled with Maseratis, Ferraris, Mustangs and more - Ann and I went down there so I could get some photographs to show Max, Sam and Henry.
|Rodeo Drive Concours D'elegance|
Later that afternoon, Ann drove me out to the Griffith Observatory. Set on the south-facing side of Mount Hollywood, it overlooks the sprawling city of Los Angeles. Opened in 1935, the land and funds to build the observatory were donated by Welsh-American industrialist and philanthropist, Griffith J. Griffith (1850 – 1919), who’s objective was to make astronomy accessible to the public instead of it being restricted to the scientific community.
|About to visit the Griffith Observatory|
From the observatory, you can also look up to the iconic Hollywood sign that is recognised the world over. Originally created in 1923 as an advertisement for a local real estate development, it sits on the side of Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills.
|Looking across to the Hollywood sign|
That night, I booked a flight up to San Francisco for early Tuesday morning. Ann returned to work Monday and although I had grand plans to do some more touring around LA, I ended up dedicating the day to resting and reading… an important component of my excellent adventuring schedule…